The Antiquary, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 44

Nay, if she love me not, I care not for her:

Shall I look pale because the maiden blooms

Or sigh because she smiles, and smiles on others

Not I, by Heaven! — I hold my peace too dear,

To let it, like the plume upon her cap,

Shake at each nod that her caprice shall dictate.

Old Play.

“Hector,” said his uncle to Captain M’Intyre, in the course of their walk homeward, “I am sometimes inclined to suspect that, in one respect, you are a fool.”

“If you only think me so in one respect, sir, I am sure you do me more grace than I expected or deserve.”

“I mean in one particular par excellence,“ answered the Antiquary. “I have sometimes thought that you have cast your eyes upon Miss Wardour.”

“Well, sir,” said M’Intyre, with much composure.

“Well, sir,” echoed his uncle —“Deuce take the fellow! he answers me as if it were the most reasonable thing in the world, that he, a captain in the array, and nothing at all besides, should marry the daughter of a baronet.”

“I presume to think, sir,” said the young Highlander, “there would be no degradation on Miss Wardour’s part in point of family.”

“O, Heaven forbid we should come on that topic! — No, no, equal both — both on the table-land of gentility, and qualified to look down on every roturier in Scotland.”

“And in point of fortune we are pretty even, since neither of us have got any,” continued Hector. “There may be an error, but I cannot plead guilty to presumption.”

“But here lies the error, then, if you call it so,” replied his uncle: “she won’t have you, Hector.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“It is very sure, Hector; and to make it double sure, I must inform you that she likes another man. She misunderstood some words I once said to her, and I have since been able to guess at the interpretation she put on them. At the time I was unable to account for her hesitation and blushing; but, my poor Hector, I now understand them as a death-signal to your hopes and pretensions. So I advise you to beat your retreat and draw off your forces as well as you can, for the fort is too well garrisoned for you to storm it.”

“I have no occasion to beat any retreat, uncle,” said Hector, holding himself very upright, and marching with a sort of dogged and offended solemnity; “no man needs to retreat that has never advanced. There are women in Scotland besides Miss Wardour, of as good family”—

“And better taste,” said his uncle; “doubtless there are, Hector; and though I cannot say but that she is one of the most accomplished as well as sensible girls I have seen, yet I doubt, much of her merit would be cast away on you. A showy figure, now, with two cross feathers above her noddle — one green, one blue; who would wear a riding-habit of the regimental complexion, drive a gig one day, and the next review the regiment on the grey trotting pony which dragged that vehicle, hoc erat in votis; — these are the qualities that would subdue you, especially if she had a taste for natural history, and loved a specimen of a phoca.

“It’s a little hard, sir,” said Hector, “I must have that cursed seal thrown into my face on all occasions — but I care little about it — and I shall not break my heart for Miss Wardour. She is free to choose for herself, and I wish her all happiness.”

“Magnanimously resolved, thou prop of Troy! Why, Hector, I was afraid of a scene. Your sister told me you were desperately in love with Miss Wardour.”

“Sir,” answered the young man, “you would not have me desperately in love with a woman that does not care about me?”

“Well, nephew,” said the Antiquary, more seriously, “there is doubtless much sense in what you say; yet I would have given a great deal, some twenty or twenty-five years since, to have been able to think as you do.”

“Anybody, I suppose, may think as they please on such subjects,” said Hector.

“Not according to the old school,” said Oldbuck; “but, as I said before, the practice of the modern seems in this case the most prudential, though, I think, scarcely the most interesting. But tell me your ideas now on this prevailing subject of an invasion. The cry is still, They come.”

Hector, swallowing his mortification, which he was peculiarly anxious to conceal from his uncle’s satirical observation, readily entered into a conversation which was to turn the Antiquary’s thoughts from Miss Wardour and the seal. When they reached Monkbarns, the communicating to the ladies the events which had taken place at the castle, with the counter-information of how long dinner had waited before the womankind had ventured to eat it in the Antiquary’s absence, averted these delicate topics of discussion.

The next morning the Antiquary arose early, and, as Caxon had not yet made his appearance, he began mentally to feel the absence of the petty news and small talk of which the ex-peruquier was a faithful reporter, and which habit had made as necessary to the Antiquary as his occasional pinch of snuff, although he held, or affected to hold, both to be of the same intrinsic value. The feeling of vacuity peculiar to such a deprivation, was alleviated by the appearance of old Ochiltree, sauntering beside the clipped yew and holly hedges, with the air of a person quite at home. Indeed, so familiar had he been of late, that even Juno did not bark at him, but contented herself with watching him with a close and vigilant eye. Our Antiquary stepped out in his night-gown, and instantly received and returned his greeting.

“They are coming now, in good earnest, Monkbarns. I just cam frae Fairport to bring ye the news, and then I’ll step away back again. The Search has just come into the bay, and they say she’s been chased by a French fleet.

“The Search?” said Oldbuck, reflecting a moment. “Oho!”

“Ay, ay, Captain Taffril’s gun-brig, the Search.”

“What? any relation to Search, No. II.?“ said Oldbuck, catching at the light which the name of the vessel seemed to throw on the mysterious chest of treasure.

The mendicant, like a man detected in a frolic, put his bonnet before his face, yet could not help laughing heartily. —“The deil’s in you, Monkbarns, for garring odds and evens meet. Wha thought ye wad hae laid that and that thegither? Od, I am clean catch’d now.”

“I see it all,” said Oldbuck, “as plain as the legend on a medal of high preservation — the box in which the’ bullion was found belonged to the gun-brig, and the treasure to my phoenix?”—(Edie nodded assent) — “and was buried there that Sir Arthur might receive relief in his difficulties?”

“By me,” said Edie, “and twa o’ the brig’s men — but they didna ken its contents, and thought it some bit smuggling concern o’ the Captain’s. I watched day and night till I saw it in the right hand; and then, when that German deevil was glowering at the lid o’ the kist (they liked mutton weel that licked where the yowe lay), I think some Scottish deevil put it into my head to play him yon ither cantrip. Now, ye see, if I had said mair or less to Bailie Littlejohn, I behoved till hae come out wi’ a’ this story; and vexed would Mr. Lovel hae been to have it brought to light — sae I thought I would stand to onything rather than that.”

“I must say he has chosen his confidant well,” said Oldbuck, “though somewhat strangely.”

“I’ll say this for mysell, Monkbarns,” answered the mendicant, “that I am the fittest man in the haill country to trust wi’ siller, for I neither want it, nor wish for it, nor could use it if I had it. But the lad hadna muckle choice in the matter, for he thought he was leaving the country for ever (I trust he’s mistaen in that though); and the night was set in when we learned, by a strange chance, Sir Arthur’s sair distress, and Lovel was obliged to be on board as the day dawned. But five nights afterwards the brig stood into the bay, and I met the boat by appointment, and we buried the treasure where ye fand it.”

“This was a very romantic, foolish exploit,” said Oldbuck: “why not trust me, or any other friend?”

“The blood o’ your sister’s son,” replied Edie, “was on his hands, and him maybe dead outright — what time had he to take counsel? — or how could he ask it of you, by onybody?”

“You are right. But what if Dousterswivel had come before you?”

“There was little fear o’ his coming there without Sir Arthur: he had gotten a sair gliff the night afore, and never intended to look near the place again, unless he had been brought there sting and ling. He ken’d weel the first pose was o’ his ain hiding, and how could he expect a second? He just havered on about it to make the mair o’ Sir Arthur.”

“Then how,” said Oldbuck, “should Sir Arthur have come there unless the German had brought him?”

“Umph!” answered Edie drily. “I had a story about Misticot wad hae brought him forty miles, or you either. Besides, it was to be thought he would be for visiting the place he fand the first siller in-he ken’d na the secret o’ that job. In short, the siller being in this shape, Sir Arthur in utter difficulties, and Lovel determined he should never ken the hand that helped him — for that was what he insisted maist upon — we couldna think o’ a better way to fling the gear in his gate, though we simmered it and wintered it e’er sae lang. And if by ony queer mischance Doustercivil had got his claws on’t, I was instantly to hae informed you or the Sheriff o’ the haill story.”

“Well, notwithstanding all these wise precautions, I think your contrivance succeeded better than such a clumsy one deserved, Edie. But how the deuce came Lovel by such a mass of silver ingots?”

“That’s just what I canna tell ye — But they were put on board wi’ his things at Fairport, it’s like, and we stowed them into ane o’ the ammunition-boxes o’ the brig, baith for concealment and convenience of carriage.”

“Lord!” said Oldbuck, his recollection recurring to the earlier part of his acquaintance with Lovel; “and this young fellow, who was putting hundreds on so strange a hazard, I must be recommending a subscription to him, and paying his bill at the Ferry! I never will pay any person’s bill again, that’s certain. — And you kept up a constant correspondence with Lovel, I suppose?”

“I just gat ae bit scrape o’ a pen frae him, to say there wad, as yesterday fell, be a packet at Tannonburgh, wi’ letters o’ great consequence to the Knockwinnock folk; for they jaloused the opening of our letters at Fairport — And that’s a’s true; I hear Mrs. Mailsetter is to lose her office for looking after other folk’s business and neglecting her ain.”

“And what do you expect now, Edie, for being the adviser, and messenger, and guard, and confidential person in all these matters?”

“Deil haet do I expect — excepting that a’ the gentles will come to the gaberlunzie’s burial; and maybe ye’ll carry the head yoursell, as ye did puir Steenie Mucklebackit’s. — What trouble was’t to me? I was ganging about at ony rate — Oh, but I was blythe when I got out of Prison, though; for I thought, what if that weary letter should come when I am closed up here like an oyster, and a’ should gang wrang for want o’t? and whiles I thought I maun mak a clean breast and tell you a’ about it; but then I couldna weel do that without contravening Mr. Lovel’s positive orders; and I reckon he had to see somebody at Edinburgh afore he could do what he wussed to do for Sir Arthur and his family.”

“Well, and to your public news, Edie — So they are still coming are they?”

“Troth they say sae, sir; and there’s come down strict orders for the forces and volunteers to be alert; and there’s a clever young officer to come here forthwith, to look at our means o’ defence — I saw the Bailies lass cleaning his belts and white breeks — I gae her a hand, for ye maun think she wasna ower clever at it, and sae I gat a’ the news for my pains.”

“And what think you, as an old soldier?”

“Troth I kenna — an they come so mony as they speak o’, they’ll be odds against us. But there’s mony yauld chields amang thae volunteers; and I mauna say muckle about them that’s no weel and no very able, because I am something that gate mysell — But we’se do our best.”

“What! so your martial spirit is rising again, Edie?

Even in our ashes glow their wonted fires!

I would not have thought you, Edie, had so much to fight for?”

Me no muckle to fight for, sir? — isna there the country to fight for, and the burnsides that I gang daundering beside, and the hearths o’the gudewives that gie me my bit bread, and the bits o’ weans that come toddling to play wi’ me when I come about a landward town? — Deil!” he continued, grasping his pike-staff with great emphasis, “an I had as gude pith as I hae gude-will, and a gude cause, I should gie some o’ them a day’s kemping.”

“Bravo, bravo, Edie! The country’s in little ultimate danger, when the beggar’s as ready to fight for his dish as the laird for his land.”

Their further conversation reverted to the particulars of the night passed by the mendicant and Lovel in the ruins of St. Ruth; by the details of which the Antiquary was highly amused.

“I would have given a guinea,” he said, “to have seen the scoundrelly German under the agonies of those terrors, which it is part of his own quackery to inspire into others; and trembling alternately for the fury of his patron, and the apparition of some hobgoblin.”

“Troth,” said the beggar, “there was time for him to be cowed; for ye wad hae thought the very spirit of Hell-in-Harness had taken possession o’ the body o’ Sir Arthur. But what will come o’ the land-louper?”

“I have had a letter this morning, from which I understand he has acquitted you of the charge he brought against you, and offers to make such discoveries as will render the settlement of Sir Arthur’s affairs a more easy task than we apprehended — So writes the Sheriff; and adds, that he has given some private information of importance to Government, in consideration of which, I understand he will be sent back to play the knave in his own country.”

“And a’ the bonny engines, and wheels, and the coves, and sheughs, doun at Glenwithershins yonder, what’s to come o’ them?” said Edie.

“I hope the men, before they are dispersed, will make a bonfire of their gimcracks, as an army destroy their artillery when forced to raise a siege. And as for the holes, Edie, I abandon them as rat-traps, for the benefit of the next wise men who may choose to drop the substance to snatch at a shadow.”

“Hech, sirs! guide us a’! to burn the engines? that’s a great waste — Had ye na better try to get back part o’ your hundred pounds wi’ the sale o’ the materials?” he continued, with a tone of affected condolence.

“Not a farthing,” said the Antiquary, peevishly, taking a turn from him, and making a step or two away. Then returning, half-smiling at his own pettishness, he said, “Get thee into the house, Edie, and remember my counsel, never speak to me about a mine, nor to my nephew Hector about a phoca, that is a sealgh, as you call it.”

“I maun be ganging my ways back to Fairport,” said the wanderer; “I want to see what they’re saying there about the invasion; — but I’ll mind what your honour says, no to speak to you about a sealgh, or to the Captain about the hundred pounds that you gied to Douster”—

“Confound thee! — I desired thee not to mention that to me.”

“Dear me!” said Edie, with affected surprise; “weel, I thought there was naething but what your honour could hae studden in the way o’ agreeable conversation, unless it was about the Praetorian yonder, or the bodle that the packman sauld to ye for an auld coin.”

“Pshaw! pshaw!” said the Antiquary, turning from him hastily, and retreating into the house.

The mendicant looked after him a moment, and with a chuckling laugh, such as that with which a magpie or parrot applauds a successful exploit of mischief, he resumed once more the road to Fairport. His habits had given him a sort of restlessness, much increased by the pleasure he took in gathering news; and in a short time he had regained the town which he left in the morning, for no reason that he knew himself, unless just to “hae a bit crack wi’ Monkbarns.”

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