The Antiquary, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 36

Crabbed age and youth

Cannot live together:—

Youth is full of pleasance,

Age is full of care;

Youth like summer morn,

Age like winter weather;

Youth like summer brave,

Age like winter bare.

Shakspeare.

In the morning of the following day, the Antiquary, who was something of a sluggard, was summoned from his bed a full hour earlier than his custom by Caxon. “What’s the matter now?” he exclaimed, yawning and stretching forth his hand to the huge gold repeater, which, bedded upon his India silk handkerchief, was laid safe by his pillow —“what’s the matter now, Caxon? — it can’t be eight o’clock yet.”

“Na, sir — but my lord’s man sought me out, for he fancies me your honour’s valley-de-sham — and sae I am, there’s nae doubt o’t, baith your honour’s and the minister’s — at least ye hae nae other that I ken o’— and I gie a help to Sir Arthur too, but that’s mair in the way o’ my profession.”

“Well, well — never mind that,” said the Antiquary —“happy is he that is his own valley-de-sham, as you call it — But why disturb my morning’s rest?”

“Ou, sir, the great man’s been up since peep o’ day, and he’s steered the town to get awa an express to fetch his carriage, and it will be here briefly, and he wad like to see your honour afore he gaes awa.”

“Gadso!” ejaculated Oldbuck, “these great men use one’s house and time as if they were their own property. Well, it’s once and away. Has Jenny come to her senses yet, Caxon?”

“Troth, sir, but just middling,” replied the barber; “she’s been in a swither about the jocolate this morning, and was like to hae toomed it a’ out into the slap-bason, and drank it hersell in her ecstacies — but she’s won ower wi’t, wi’ the help o’ Miss M’Intyre.”

“Then all my womankind are on foot and scrambling, and I must enjoy my quiet bed no longer, if I would have a well-regulated house — Lend me my gown. And what are the news at Fairport?”

“Ou, sir, what can they be about but this grand news o’ my lord,” answered the old man, “that hasna been ower the door-stane, they threep to me, for this twenty years — this grand news of his coming to visit your honour?”

“Aha!” said Monkbarns; “and what do they say of that, Caxon?”

“‘Deed, sir, they hae various opinions. Thae fallows, that are the democraws, as they ca’ them, that are again’ the king and the law, and hairpowder and dressing o’ gentlemen’s wigs — a wheen blackguards — they say he’s come doun to speak wi’ your honour about bringing doun his hill lads and Highland tenantry to break up the meetings of the Friends o’ the People; — and when I said your honour never meddled wi’ the like o’ sic things where there was like to be straiks and bloodshed, they said, if ye didna, your nevoy did, and that he was weel ken’d to be a kingsman that wad fight knee-deep, and that ye were the head and he was the hand, and that the Yerl was to bring out the men and the siller.”

“Come,” said the Antiquary, laughing —“I am glad the war is to cost me nothing but counsel.”

“Na, na,” said Caxon —“naebody thinks your honour wad either fight yoursell, or gie ony feck o’ siller to ony side o’ the question.”

“Umph! well, that’s the opinion of the democraws, as you call them — What say the rest o’ Fairport?”

“In troth,” said the candid reporter, “I canna say it’s muckle better. Captain Coquet, of the volunteers — that’s him that’s to be the new collector — and some of the other gentlemen of the Blue and a’ Blue Club, are just saying it’s no right to let popists, that hae sae mony French friends as the Yerl of Glenallan, gang through the country, and — but your honour will maybe be angry?”

“Not I, Caxon,” said Oldbuck; “fire away as if you were Captain Coquet’s whole platoon — I can stand it.”

“Weel then, they say, sir, that as ye didna encourage the petition about the peace, and wadna petition in favour of the new tax, and as you were again’ bringing in the yeomanry at the meal mob, but just for settling the folk wi’ the constables — they say ye’re no a gude friend to government; and that thae sort o’ meetings between sic a powerfu’ man as the Yerl, and sic a wise man as you — Od they think they suld be lookit after; and some say ye should baith be shankit aff till Edinburgh Castle.”

“On my word,” said the Antiquary, “I am infinitely obliged to my neighbours for their good opinion of me! And so I, that have never interfered with their bickerings, but to recommend quiet and moderate measures, am given up on both sides as a man very likely to commit high treason, either against King or People? — Give me my coat, Caxon — give me my coat; — it’s lucky I live not in their report. Have you heard anything of Taffril and his vessel?”

Caxon’s countenance fell. —“Na, sir, and the winds hae been high, and this is a fearfu’ coast to cruise on in thae eastern gales — the headlands rin sae far out, that a veshel’s embayed afore I could sharp a razor; and then there’s nae harbour or city of refuge on our coast — a’ craigs and breakers; — a veshel that rins ashore wi’ us flees asunder like the powther when I shake the pluff — and it’s as ill to gather ony o’t again. I aye tell my daughter thae things when she grows wearied for a letter frae Lieutenant Taffril — It’s aye an apology for him. Ye sudna blame him, says I, hinny, for ye little ken what may hae happened.”

“Ay, ay, Caxon, thou art as good a comforter as a valet-de-chambre. — Give me a white stock, man — dye think I can go down with a handkerchief about my neck when I have company?”

“Dear sir, the Captain says a three-nookit hankercher is the maist fashionable overlay, and that stocks belang to your honour and me that are auld warld folk. I beg pardon for mentioning us twa thegither, but it was what he said.”

“The Captain’s a puppy, and you are a goose, Caxon.”

“It’s very like it may be sae,” replied the acquiescent barber: “I am sure your honour kens best.”

Before breakfast, Lord Glenallan, who appeared in better spirits than he had evinced in the former evening, went particularly through the various circumstances of evidence which the exertions of Oldbuck had formerly collected; and pointing out the means which he possessed of completing the proof of his marriage, expressed his resolution instantly to go through the painful task of collecting and restoring the evidence concerning the birth of Eveline Neville, which Elspeth had stated to be in his mother’s possession.

“And yet, Mr. Oldbuck,” he said, “I feel like a man who receives important tidings ere he is yet fully awake, and doubt whether they refer to actual life, or are not rather a continuation of his dream. This woman — this Elspeth — she is in the extremity of age, and approaching in many respects to dotage. Have I not — it is a hideous question — have I not been hasty in the admission of her present evidence, against that which she formerly gave me to a very — very different purpose?”

Mr. Oldbuck paused a moment, and then answered with firmness —“No, my lord; I cannot think you have any reason to suspect the truth of what she has told you last, from no apparent impulse but the urgency of conscience. Her confession was voluntary, disinterested, distinct, consistent with itself, and with all the other known circumstances of the case. I would lose no time, however, in examining and arranging the other documents to which she has referred; and I also think her own statement should be taken down, if possible in a formal manner. We thought of setting about this together. But it will be a relief to your lordship, and moreover have a more impartial appearance, were I to attempt the investigation alone in the capacity of a magistrate. I will do this — at least I will attempt it, so soon as I shall see her in a favourable state of mind to undergo an examination.”

Lord Glenallan wrung the Antiquary’s hand in token of grateful acquiescence. “I cannot express to you,” he said, “Mr. Oldbuck, how much your countenance and cooperation in this dark and most melancholy business gives me relief and confidence. I cannot enough applaud myself for yielding to the sudden impulse which impelled me, as it were, to drag you into my confidence, and which arose from the experience I had formerly of your firmness in discharge of your duty as a magistrate, and as a friend to the memory of the unfortunate. Whatever the issue of these matters may prove — and I would fain hope there is a dawn breaking on the fortunes of my house, though I shall not live to enjoy its light — but whatsoever be the issue, you have laid my family and me under the most lasting obligation.”

“My lord,” answered the Antiquary, “I must necessarily have the greatest respect for your lordship’s family, which I am well aware is one of the most ancient in Scotland, being certainly derived from Aymer de Geraldin, who sat in parliament at Perth, in the reign of Alexander II., and who by the less vouched, yet plausible tradition of the country, is said to have been descended from the Marmor of Clochnaben. Yet, with all my veneration for your ancient descent, I must acknowledge that I find myself still more bound to give your lordship what assistance is in my limited power, from sincere sympathy with your sorrows, and detestation at the frauds which have so long been practised upon you. — But, my lord, the matin meal is, I see, now prepared — Permit me to show your lordship the way through the intricacies of my cenobitium, which is rather a combination of cells, jostled oddly together, and piled one upon the top of the other, than a regular house. I trust you will make yourself some amends for the spare diet of yesterday.”

But this was no part of Lord Glenallan’s system. Having saluted the company with the grave and melancholy politeness which distinguished his manners, his servant placed before him a slice of toasted bread, with a glass of fair water, being the fare on which he usually broke his fast. While the morning’s meal of the young soldier and the old Antiquary was despatched in much more substantial manner, the noise of wheels was heard.

“Your lordship’s carriage, I believe,” said Oldbuck, stepping to the window. “On my word, a handsome quadriga, — for such, according to the best scholium, was the vox signata of the Romans for a chariot which, like that of your lordship, was drawn by four horses.”

“And I will venture to say,” cried Hector, eagerly gazing from the window, “that four handsomer or better-matched bays never were put in harness — What fine forehands! — what capital chargers they would make! — Might I ask if they are of your lordship’s own breeding?”

“I— I— rather believe so,” said Lord Glenallan; “but I have been so negligent of my domestic matters, that I am ashamed to say I must apply to Calvert” (looking at the domestic).

“They are of your lordship’s own breeding,” said Calvert, “got by Mad Tom out of Jemina and Yarico, your lordship’s brood mares.”

“Are there more of the set?” said Lord Glenallan.

“Two, my lord — one rising four, the other five off this grass, both very handsome.”

“Then let Dawkins bring them down to Monkbarns tomorrow,” said the Earl —“I hope Captain M’Intyre will accept them, if they are at all fit for service.”

Captain M’Intyre’s eyes sparkled, and he was profuse in grateful acknowledgments; while Oldbuck, on the other hand, seizing the Earl’s sleeve, endeavoured to intercept a present which boded no good to his corn-chest and hay-loft.

“My lord — my lord — much obliged — much obliged — But Hector is a pedestrian, and never mounts on horseback in battle — he is a Highland soldier, moreover, and his dress ill adapted for cavalry service. Even Macpherson never mounted his ancestors on horseback, though he has the impudence to talk of their being car-borne — and that, my lord, is what is running in Hector’s head — it is the vehicular, not the equestrian exercise, which he envies —

Sunt quos curriculo pulverem Olympicum

Collegisse juvat.

His noddle is running on a curricle, which he has neither money to buy, nor skill to drive if he had it; and I assure your lordship, that the possession of two such quadrupeds would prove a greater scrape than any of his duels, whether with human foe or with my friend the phoca.

“You must command us all at present, Mr. Oldbuck,” said the Earl politely; “but I trust you will not ultimately prevent my gratifying my young friend in some way that may afford him pleasure.”

“Anything useful, my lord,” said Oldbuck, “but no curriculum — I protest he might as rationally propose to keep a quadriga at once — And now I think of it, what is that old post-chaise from Fairport come jingling here for? — I did not send for it.”

I did, sir,” said Hector, rather sulkily, for he was not much gratified by his uncle’s interference to prevent the Earl’s intended generosity, nor particularly inclined to relish either the disparagement which he cast upon his skill as a charioteer, or the mortifying allusion to his bad success in the adventures of the duel and the seal.

“You did, sir?” echoed the Antiquary, in answer to his concise information. “And pray, what may be your business with a post-chaise? Is this splendid equipage — this biga, as I may call it — to serve for an introduction to a quadriga or a curriculum?”

“Really, sir,” replied the young soldier, “if it be necessary to give you such a specific explanation, I am going to Fairport on a little business.”

“Will you permit me to inquire into the nature of that business, Hector?” answered his uncle, who loved the exercise of a little brief authority over his relative. “I should suppose any regimental affairs might be transacted by your worthy deputy the sergeant — an honest gentleman, who is so good as to make Monkbarns his home since his arrival among us — I should, I say, suppose that he may transact any business of yours, without your spending a day’s pay on two dog-horses, and such a combination of rotten wood, cracked glass, and leather — such a skeleton of a post-chaise, as that before the door.”

“It is not regimental business, sir, that calls me; and, since you insist upon knowing, I must inform you Caxon has brought word this morning that old Ochiltree, the beggar, is to be brought up for examination today, previous to his being committed for trial; and I’m going to see that the poor old fellow gets fair play — that’s all.”

“Ay? — I heard something of this, but could not think it serious. And pray, Captain Hector, who are so ready to be every man’s second on all occasions of strife, civil or military, by land, by water, or on the sea-beach, what is your especial concern with old Edie Ochiltree?”

“He was a soldier in my father’s company, sir,” replied Hector; “and besides, when I was about to do a very foolish thing one day, he interfered to prevent me, and gave me almost as much good advice, sir, as you could have done yourself.”

“And with the same good effect, I dare be sworn for it — eh, Hector? — Come, confess it was thrown away.”

“Indeed it was, sir; but I see no reason that my folly should make me less grateful for his intended kindness.”

“Bravo, Hector! that’s the most sensible thing I ever heard you say. But always tell me your plans without reserve — why, I will go with you myself, man. I am sure the old fellow is not guilty, and I will assist him in such a scrape much more effectually than you can do. Besides, it will save thee half-a-guinea, my lad — a consideration which I heartily pray you to have more frequently before your eyes.”

Lord Glenallan’s politeness had induced him to turn away and talk with the ladies, when the dispute between the uncle and nephew appeared to grow rather too animated to be fit for the ear of a stranger, but the Earl mingled again in the conversation when the placable tone of the Antiquary expressed amity. Having received a brief account of the mendicant, and of the accusation brought against him, which Oldbuck did not hesitate to ascribe to the malice of Dousterswivel, Lord Glenallan asked, whether the individual in question had not been a soldier formerly? — He was answered in the affirmative.

“Had he not,” continued his Lordship, “a coarse blue coat, or gown, with a badge? — was he not a tall, striking-looking old man, with grey beard and hair, who kept his body remarkably erect, and talked with an air of ease and independence, which formed a strong contrast to his profession?”

“All this is an exact picture of the man,” refumed Oldbuck.

“Why, then,” continued Lord Glenallan, “although I fear I can be of no use to him in his present condition, yet I owe him a debt of gratitude for being the first person who brought me some tidings of the utmost importance. I would willingly offer him a place of comfortable retirement, when he is extricated from his present situation.”

“I fear, my lord,” said Oldbuck, “he would have difficulty in reconciling his vagrant habits to the acceptance of your bounty, at least I know the experiment has been tried without effect. To beg from the public at large he considers as independence, in comparison to drawing his whole support from the bounty of an individual. He is so far a true philosopher, as to be a contemner of all ordinary rules of hours and times. When he is hungry he eats; when thirsty he drinks; when weary he sleeps; and with such indifference with respect to the means and appliances about which we make a fuss, that I suppose he was never ill dined or ill lodged in his life. Then he is, to a certain extent, the oracle of the district through which he travels — their genealogist, their newsman, their master of the revels, their doctor at a pinch, or their divine; — I promise you he has too many duties, and is too zealous in performing them, to be easily bribed to abandon his calling. But I should be truly sorry if they sent the poor light-hearted old man to lie for weeks in a jail. I am convinced the confinement would break his heart.”

Thus finished the conference. Lord Glenallan, having taken leave of the ladies, renewed his offer to Captain M’Intyre of the freedom of his manors for sporting, which was joyously accepted,

“I can only add,” he said, “that if your spirits are not liable to be damped by dull company, Glenallan House is at all times open to you. On two days of the week, Friday and Saturday, l keep my apartment, which will be rather a relief to you, as you will be left to enjoy the society of my almoner, Mr. Gladsmoor, who is a scholar and a man of the world.”

Hector, his heart exulting at the thoughts of ranging through the preserves of Glenallan House, and over the well-protected moors of Clochnaben — nay, joy of joys! the deer-forest of Strath-Bonnel — made many acknowledgements of the honour and gratitude he felt. Mr. Oldbuck was sensible of the Earl’s attention to his nephew; Miss M’Intyre was pleased because her brother was gratified; and Miss Griselda Oldbuck looked forward with glee to the potting of whole bags of moorfowl and black-game, of which Mr. Blattergowl was a professed admirer. Thus — which is always the case when a man of rank leaves a private family where he has studied to appear obliging — all were ready to open in praise of the Earl as soon as he had taken his leave, and was wheeled off in his chariot by the four admired bays. But the panegyric was cut short, for Oldbuck and his nephew deposited themselves in the Fairport hack, which, with one horse trotting, and the other urged to a canter, creaked, jingled, and hobbled towards that celebrated seaport, in a manner that formed a strong contrast to the rapidity and smoothness with which Lord Glenallan’s equipage had seemed to vanish from their eyes.

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