The Antiquary, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 25

— See thou shake the bags

Of hoarding abbots; angels imprisoned

Set thou at liberty —

Bell, book, and candle, shall not drive me back,

If gold and silver beckon to come on.

King John.

The night set in stormy, with wind and occasional showers of rain. “Eh, sirs,” said the old mendicant, as he took his place on the sheltered side of the large oak-tree to wait for his associate —“Eh, sirs, but human nature’s a wilful and wilyard thing! — Is it not an unco lucre o’ gain wad bring this Dousterdivel out in a blast o’ wind like this, at twal o’clock at night, to thir wild gousty wa’s? — and amna I a bigger fule than himsell to bide here waiting for him?”

Having made these sage reflections, he wrapped himself close in his cloak, and fixed his eye on the moon as she waded amid the stormy and dusky clouds, which the wind from time to time drove across her surface. The melancholy and uncertain gleams that she shot from between the passing shadows fell full upon the rifted arches and shafted windows of the old building, which were thus for an instant made distinctly visible in their ruinous state, and anon became again a dark, undistinguished, and shadowy mass. The little lake had its share of these transient beams of light, and showed its waters broken, whitened, and agitated under the passing storm, which, when the clouds swept over the moon, were only distinguished by their sullen and murmuring plash against the beach. The wooded glen repeated, to every successive gust that hurried through its narrow trough, the deep and various groan with which the trees replied to the whirlwind, and the sound sunk again, as the blast passed away, into a faint and passing murmur, resembling the sighs of an exhausted criminal after the first pangs of his torture are over. In these sounds, superstition might have found ample gratification for that State of excited terror which she fears and yet loves. But such feeling is made no part of Ochiltree’s composition. His mind wandered back to the scenes of his youth.

“I have kept guard on the outposts baith in Germany and America,” he said to himself, “in mony a waur night than this, and when I ken’d there was maybe a dozen o’ their riflemen in the thicket before me. But I was aye gleg at my duty — naebody ever catched Edie sleeping.”

As he muttered thus to himself, he instinctively shouldered his trusty pike-staff, assumed the port of a sentinel on duty, and, as a step advanced towards the tree, called, with a tone assorting better with his military reminiscences than his present state —“Stand! who goes there?”

“De devil, goot Edie,” answered Dousterswivel, “why does you speak so loud as a baarenhauter, or what you call a factionary — I mean a sentinel?”

“Just because I thought I was a sentinel at that moment,” answered the mendicant. “Here’s an awsome night! Hae ye brought the lantern and a pock for the siller?”

“Ay-ay, mine goot friend,” said the German, “here it is — my pair of what you call saddlebag; one side will be for you, one side for me; — I will put dem on my horse to save you de trouble, as you are old man.”

“Have you a horse here, then?” asked Edie Ochiltree.

“O yes, mine friend — tied yonder by de stile,” responded the adept.

“Weel, I hae just ae word to the bargain — there sall nane o’ my gear gang on your beast’s back.”

“What was it as you would be afraid of?” said the foreigner.

“Only of losing sight of horse, man, and money,” again replied the gaberlunzie.

“Does you know dat you make one gentlemans out to be one great rogue?”

“Mony gentlemen,” replied Ochiltree, “can make that out for themselves — But what’s the sense of quarrelling? — If ye want to gang on, gang on — if no — I’ll gae back to the gude ait-straw in Ringan Aikwood’s barn that I left wi’ right ill-will e’now, and I’ll pit back the pick and shule whar I got them.”

Dousterswivel deliberated a moment, whether, by suffering Edie to depart, he might not secure the whole of the expected wealth for his own exclusive use. But the want of digging implements, the uncertainty whether, if he had them, he could clear out the grave to a sufficient depth without assistance, and, above all, the reluctance which he felt, owing to the experience of the former night, to venture alone on the terrors of Misticot’s grave, satisfied him the attempt would be hazardous. Endeavouring, therefore, to assume his usual cajoling tone, though internally incensed, he begged “his goot friend Maister Edie Ochiltrees would lead the way, and assured him of his acquiescence in all such an excellent friend could propose.”

“Aweel, aweel, then,” said Edie, “tak gude care o’ your feet amang the lang grass and the loose stones. I wish we may get the light keepit in neist, wi’ this fearsome wind — but there’s a blink o’ moonlight at times.”

Thus saying, old Edie, closely accompanied by the adept, led the way towards the ruins, but presently made a full halt in front of them.

“Ye’re a learned man, Mr. Dousterdeevil, and ken muckle o’ the marvellous works o’ nature — Now, will ye tell me ae thing? — D’ye believe in ghaists and spirits that walk the earth? — d’ye believe in them, ay or no?”

“Now, goot Mr. Edie,” whispered Dousterswivel, in an expostulatory tone of voice, “is this a times or a places for such a questions?”

“Indeed is it, baith the tane and the t’other, Mr. Dustanshovel; for I maun fairly tell ye, there’s reports that auld Misticot walks. Now this wad be an uncanny night to meet him in, and wha kens if he wad be ower weel pleased wi’ our purpose of visiting his pose?”

Alle guten Geister“— muttered the adept, the rest of the conjuration being lost in a tremulous warble of his voice — “I do desires you not to speak so, Mr. Edie; for, from all I heard dat one other night, I do much believes”—

“Now I,” said Ochiltree, entering the chancel, and flinging abroad his arm with an air of defiance, “I wadna gie the crack o’ my thumb for him were he to appear at this moment: he’s but a disembodied spirit, as we are embodied anes.”

“For the lofe of heavens,” said Dousterswivel, “say nothing at all neither about somebodies or nobodies!”

“Aweel,” said the beggar (expanding the shade of the lantern), “here’s the stane, and, spirit or no spirit, I’se be a wee bit deeper in the grave;” and he jumped into the place from which the precious chest had that morning been removed. After striking a few strokes, he tired, or affected to tire, and said to his companion, “I’m auld and failed now, and canna keep at it — time about’s fair play, neighbour; ye maun get in and tak the shule a bit, and shule out the loose earth, and then I’ll tak turn about wi’ you.”

Dousterswivel accordingly took the place which the beggar had evacuated, and toiled with all the zeal that awakened avarice, mingled with the anxious wish to finish the undertaking and leave the place as soon as possible, could inspire in a mind at once greedy, suspicious, and timorous.

Edie, standing much at his ease by the side of the hole, contented himself with exhorting his associate to labour hard. “My certie! few ever wrought for siccan a day’s wage; an it be but — say the tenth part o’ the size o’ the kist, No. I., it will double its value, being filled wi’ gowd instead of silver. Od, ye work as if ye had been bred to pick and shule — ye could win your round half-crown ilka day. Tak care o’ your taes wi’ that stane!” giving a kick to a large one which the adept had heaved out with difficulty, and which Edie pushed back again to the great annoyance of his associate’s shins.

Thus exhorted by the mendicant, Dousterswivel struggled and laboured among the stones and stiff clay, toiling like a horse, and internally blaspheming in German. When such an unhallowed syllable escaped his lips, Edie changed his battery upon him.

“O dinna swear! dinna swear! Wha kens whals listening! — Eh! gude guide us, what’s you! — Hout, it’s just a branch of ivy flightering awa frae the wa’; when the moon was in, it lookit unco like a dead man’s arm wi’ a taper in’t — I thought it was Misticot himsell. But never mind, work you away — fling the earth weel up by out o’ the gate — Od, if ye’re no as clean a worker at a grave as Win Winnet himsell! What gars ye stop now? — ye’re just at the very bit for a chance.”

“Stop!” said the German, in a tone of anger and disappointment, “why, I am down at de rocks dat de cursed ruins (God forgife me!) is founded upon.”

“Weel,” said the beggar, “that’s the likeliest bit of ony. It will be but a muckle through-stane laid doun to kiver the gowd — tak the pick till’t, and pit mair strength, man — ae gude down-right devvel will split it, I’se warrant ye — Ay, that will do Od, he comes on wi’ Wallace’s straiks!”

In fact, the adept, moved by Edie’s exhortations, fetched two or three desperate blows, and succeeded in breaking, not indeed that against which he struck, which, as he had already conjectured, was the solid rock, but the implement which he wielded, jarring at the same time his arms up to the shoulder-blades.

“Hurra, boys! — there goes Ringan’s pick-axe!” cried Edie “it’s a shame o’ the Fairport folk to sell siccan frail gear. Try the shule — at it again, Mr. Dusterdeevil.”

The adept, without reply, scrambled out of the pit, which was now about six feet deep, and addressed his associate in a voice that trembled with anger. “Does you know, Mr. Edies Ochiltrees, who it is you put off your gibes and your jests upon?”

“Brawly, Mr. Dusterdeevil — brawly do I ken ye, and has done mony a day; but there’s nae jesting in the case, for I am wearying to see ae our treasures; we should hae had baith ends o’ the pockmanky filled by this time — I hope it’s bowk eneugh to haud a’ the gear?”

“Look you, you base old person,” said the incensed philosopher, “if you do put another jest upon me, I will cleave your skull-piece with this shovels!”

“And whare wad my hands and my pike-staff be a’ the time?” replied Edie, in a tone that indicated no apprehension. “Hout, tout, Maister Dusterdeevil, I haena lived sae lang in the warld neither, to be shuled out o’t that gate. What ails ye to be cankered, man, wi’ your friends? I’ll wager I’ll find out the treasure in a minute;” and he jumped into the pit, and took up the spade.

“I do swear to you,” said the adept, whose suspicions were now fully awake, “that if you have played me one big trick, I will give you one big beating, Mr. Edies.”

“Hear till him now!” said Ochiltree, “he kens how to gar folk find out the gear — Od, I’m thinking he’s been drilled that way himsell some day.”

At this insinuation, which alluded obviously to the former scene betwixt himself and Sir Arthur, the philosopher lost the slender remnant of patience he had left, and being of violent passions, heaved up the truncheon of the broken mattock to discharge it upon the old man’s head. The blow would in all probability have been fatal, had not he at whom it was aimed exclaimed in a stern and firm voice, “Shame to ye, man! — do ye think Heaven or earth will suffer ye to murder an auld man that might be your father? — Look behind ye, man!”

Dousterswivel turned instinctively, and beheld, to his utter astonishment, a tall dark figure standing close behind him. The apparition gave him no time to proceed by exorcism or otherwise, but having instantly recourse to the voie de fait, took measure of the adept’s shoulders three or four times with blows so substantial, that he fell under the weight of them, and remained senseless for some minutes between fear and stupefaction. When he came to himself, he was alone in the ruined chancel, lying upon the soft and damp earth which had been thrown out of Misticot’s grave. He raised himself with a confused sensation of anger, pain, and terror, and it was not until he had sat upright for some minutes, that he could arrange his ideas sufficiently to recollect how he came there, or with what purpose. As his recollection returned, he could have little doubt that the bait held out to him by Ochiltree, to bring him to that solitary spot, the sarcasms by which he had provoked him into a quarrel, and the ready assistance which he had at hand for terminating it in the manner in which it had ended, were all parts of a concerted plan to bring disgrace and damage on Herman Dousterswivel. He could hardly suppose that he was indebted for the fatigue, anxiety, and beating which he had undergone, purely to the malice of Edie Ochiltree singly, but concluded that the mendicant had acted a part assigned to him by some person of greater importance. His suspicions hesitated between Oldbuck and Sir Arthur Wardour. The former had been at no pains to conceal a marked dislike of him — but the latter he had deeply injured; and although he judged that Sir Arthur did not know the extent of his wrongs towards him, yet it was easy to suppose he had gathered enough of the truth to make him desirous of revenge. Ochiltree had alluded to at least one circumstance which the adept had every reason to suppose was private between Sir Arthur and himself, and therefore must have been learned from the former. The language of Oldbuck also intimated a conviction of his knavery, which Sir Arthur heard without making any animated defence. Lastly, the way in which Dousterswivel supposed the Baronet to have exercised his revenge, was not inconsistent with the practice of other countries with which the adept was better acquainted than with those of North Britain. With him, as with many bad men, to suspect an injury, and to nourish the purpose of revenge, was one and the same movement. And before Dousterswivel had fairly recovered his legs, he had mentally sworn the ruin of his benefactor, which, unfortunately, he possessed too much the power of accelerating.

But although a purpose of revenge floated through his brain, it was no time to indulge such speculations. The hour, the place, his own situation, and perhaps the presence or near neighbourhood of his assailants, made self-preservation the adept’s first object. The lantern had been thrown down and extinguished in the scuffle. The wind, which formerly howled so loudly through the aisles of the ruin, had now greatly fallen, lulled by the rain, which was descending very fast. The moon, from the same cause, was totally obscured, and though Dousterswivel had some experience of the ruins, and knew that he must endeavour to regain the eastern door of the chancel, yet the confusion of his ideas was such, that he hesitated for some time ere he could ascertain in what direction he was to seek it. In this perplexity, the suggestions of superstition, taking the advantage of darkness and his evil conscience, began again to present themselves to his disturbed imagination. “But bah!” quoth he valiantly to himself, “it is all nonsense all one part of de damn big trick and imposture. Devil! that one thick-skulled Scotch Baronet, as I have led by the nose for five year, should cheat Herman Dousterswivel!”

As he had come to this conclusion, an incident occurred which tended greatly to shake the grounds on which he had adopted it. Amid the melancholy sough of the dying wind, and the plash of the rain-drops on leaves and stones, arose, and apparently at no great distance from the listener, a strain of vocal music so sad and solemn, as if the departed spirits of the churchmen who had once inhabited these deserted rains were mourning the solitude and desolation to which their hallowed precincts had been abandoned. Dousterswivel, who had now got upon his feet, and was groping around the wall of the chancel, stood rooted to the ground on the occurrence of this new phenomenon. Each faculty of his soul seemed for the moment concentred in the sense of hearing, and all rushed back with the unanimous information, that the deep, wild, and prolonged chant which he now heard, was the appropriate music of one of the most solemn dirges of the Church of Rome. Why performed in such a solitude, and by what class of choristers, were questions which the terrified imagination of the adept, stirred with all the German superstitions of nixies, oak-kings, wer-wolves, hobgoblins, black spirits and white, blue spirits and grey, durst not even attempt to solve.

Another of his senses was soon engaged in the investigation. At the extremity of one of the transepts of the church, at the bottom of a few descending steps, was a small iron-grated door, opening, as far as he recollected, to a sort of low vault or sacristy. As he cast his eye in the direction of the sound, he observed a strong reflection of red light glimmering through these bars, and against the steps which descended to them. Dousterswivel stood a moment uncertain what to do; then, suddenly forming a desperate resolution, he moved down the aisle to the place from which the light proceeded.

The Funeral of the Countess
“The Funeral of the Countess”
Drawing by A. H. Tourrier; etching by V. Focillon

Fortified with the sign of the cross, and as many exorcisms as his memory could recover, he advanced to the grate, from which, unseen, he could see what passed in the interior of the vault. As he approached with timid and uncertain steps, the chant, after one or two wild and prolonged cadences, died away into profound silence. The grate, when he reached it, presented a singular spectacle in the interior of the sacristy. An open grave, with four tall flambeaus, each about six feet high, placed at the four corners — a bier, having a corpse in its shroud, the arms folded upon the breast, rested upon tressels at one side of the grave, as if ready to be interred — a priest, dressed in his cope and stole, held open the service book — another churchman in his vestments bore a holy-water sprinkler, and two boys in white surplices held censers with incense — a man, of a figure once tall and commanding, but now bent with age or infirmity, stood alone and nearest to the coffin, attired in deep mourning — such were the most prominent figures of the group. At a little distance were two or three persons of both sexes, attired in long mourning hoods and cloaks; and five or six others in the same lugubrious dress, still farther removed from the body, around the walls of the vault, stood ranged in motionless order, each bearing in his hand a huge torch of black wax. The smoky light from so many flambeaus, by the red and indistinct atmosphere which it spread around, gave a hazy, dubious, and as it were phantom-like appearance to the outlines of this singular apparition, The voice of the priest — loud, clear, and sonorous — now recited, from the breviary which he held in his hand, those solemn words which the ritual of the Catholic church has consecrated to the rendering of dust to dust. Meanwhile, Dousterswivel, the place, the hour, and the surprise considered, still remained uncertain whether what he saw was substantial, or an unearthly representation of the rites to which in former times these walls were familiar, but which are now rarely practised in Protestant countries, and almost never in Scotland. He was uncertain whether to abide the conclusion of the ceremony, or to endeavour to regain the chancel, when a change in his position made him visible through the grate to one of the attendant mourners. The person who first espied him indicated his discovery to the individual who stood apart and nearest the coffin, by a sign, and upon his making a sign in reply, two of the group detached themselves, and, gliding along with noiseless steps, as if fearing to disturb the service, unlocked and opened the grate which separated them from the adept. Each took him by an arm, and exerting a degree of force, which he would have been incapable of resisting had his fear permitted him to attempt opposition, they placed him on the ground in the chancel, and sat down, one on each side of him, as if to detain him. Satisfied he was in the power of mortals like himself, the adept would have put some questions to them; but while one pointed to the vault, from which the sound of the priest’s voice was distinctly heard, the other placed his finger upon his lips in token of silence, a hint which the German thought it most prudent to obey. And thus they detained him until a loud Alleluia, pealing through the deserted arches of St. Ruth, closed the singular ceremony which it had been his fortune to witness.

When the hymn had died away with all its echoes, the voice of one of the sable personages under whose guard the adept had remained, said, in a familiar tone and dialect, “Dear sirs, Mr. Dousterswivel, is this you? could not ye have let us ken an ye had wussed till hae been present at the ceremony? — My lord couldna tak it weel your coming blinking and jinking in, in that fashion.”

“In de name of all dat is gootness, tell me what you are?” interrupted the German in his turn.

“What I am? why, wha should I be but Ringan Aikwood, the Knockwinnock poinder? — and what are ye doing here at this time o’ night, unless ye were come to attend the leddy’s burial?”

“I do declare to you, mine goot Poinder Aikwood,” said the German, raising himself up, “that I have been this vary nights murdered, robbed, and put in fears of my life.”

“Robbed! wha wad do sic a deed here? — Murdered! od ye speak pretty blithe for a murdered man — Put in fear! what put you in fear, Mr. Dousterswivel?”

“I will tell you, Maister Poinder Aikwood Ringan, just dat old miscreant dog villain blue-gown, as you call Edie Ochiltrees.”

“I’ll neer believe that,” answered Ringan; —“Edie was ken’d to me, and my father before me, for a true, loyal, and sooth-fast man; and, mair by token, he’s sleeping up yonder in our barn, and has been since ten at e’en — Sae touch ye wha liket, Mr. Dousterswivel, and whether onybody touched ye or no, I’m sure Edie’s sackless.”

“Maister Ringan Aikwood Poinders, I do not know what you call sackless — but let alone all de oils and de soot dat you say he has, and I will tell you I was dis night robbed of fifty pounds by your oil and sooty friend, Edies Ochiltree; and he is no more in your barn even now dan I ever shall be in de kingdom of heafen.”

“Weel, sir, if ye will gae up wi’ me, as the burial company has dispersed, we’se mak ye down a bed at the lodge, and we’se see if Edie’s at the barn. There was twa wild-looking chaps left the auld kirk when we were coming up wi’ the corpse, that’s certain; and the priest, wha likes ill that ony heretics should look on at our church ceremonies, sent twa o’ the riding saulies after them; sae we’ll hear a’ about it frae them.”

Thus speaking, the kindly apparition, with the assistance of the mute personage, who was his son, disencumbered himself of his cloak, and prepared to escort Dousterswivel to the place of that rest which the adept so much needed.

“I will apply to the magistrates tomorrow,” said the adept; “oder, I will have de law put in force against all the peoples.”

While he thus muttered vengeance against the cause of his injury, he tottered from among the ruins, supporting himself on Ringan and his son, whose assistance his state of weakness rendered very necessary.

When they were clear of the priory, and had gained the little meadow in which it stands, Dousterswivel could perceive the torches which had caused him so much alarm issuing in irregular procession from the ruins, and glancing their light, like that of the ignis fatuus, on the banks of the lake. After moving along the path for some short space with a fluctuating and irregular motion, the lights were at once extinguished.

“We aye put out the torches at the Halie-cross Well on sic occasions,” said the forester to his guest. And accordingly no farther visible sign of the procession offered itself to Dousterswivel, although his ear could catch the distant and decreasing echo of horses’ hoofs in the direction towards which the mourners had bent their course.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/antiquary/chapter25.html

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