The Antiquary, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 6

Moth. By Woden, God of Saxons,

From whence comes Wensday, that is, Wednesday,

Truth is a thing that I will ever keep

Unto thylke day in which I creep into

My sepulcre —

Cartwright’s Ordinary.

Our young friend Lovel, who had received a corresponding invitation, punctual to the hour of appointment, arrived at Monkbarns about five minutes before four o’clock on the 17th of July. The day had been remarkably sultry, and large drops of rain had occasionally fallen, though the threatened showers had as yet passed away.

Mr. Oldbuck received him at the Palmer’s-port in his complete brown suit, grey silk stockings, and wig powdered with all the skill of the veteran Caxon, who having smelt out the dinner, had taken care not to finish his job till the hour of eating approached.

“You are welcome to my symposion, Mr. Lovel. And now let me introduce you to my Clogdogdo’s, as Tom Otter calls them — my unlucky and good-for-nothing womankind — malae bestiae, Mr. Lovel.”

“I shall be disappointed, sir, if I do not find the ladies very undeserving of your satire.”

“Tilley-valley, Mr. Lovel — which, by the way, one commentator derives from tittivillitium, and another from talley-ho — but tilley-valley, I say — a truce with your politeness. You will find them but samples of womankind — But here they be, Mr. Lovel. I present to you in due order, my most discreet sister Griselda, who disdains the simplicity, as well as patience annexed to the poor old name of Grizzel; and my most exquisite niece Maria, whose mother was called Mary, and sometimes Molly.”

The elderly lady rustled in silks and satins, and bore upon her head a structure resembling the fashion in the ladies’ memorandum-book for the year 1770 — a superb piece of architecture, not much less than a modern Gothic castle, of which the curls might represent the turrets, the black pins the chevaux de frise, and the lappets the banners.

The face, which, like that of the ancient statues of Vesta, was thus crowned with towers, was large and long, and peaked at nose and chin, and bore, in other respects, such a ludicrous resemblance to the physiognomy of Mr. Jonathan Oldbuck, that Lovel, had they not appeared at once, like Sebastian and Viola in the last scene of the “Twelfth Night,” might have supposed that the figure before him was his old friend masquerading in female attire. An antique flowered silk gown graced the extraordinary person to whom belonged this unparalleled tete, which her brother was wont to say was fitter for a turban for Mahound or Termagant, than a head-gear for a reasonable creature, or Christian gentlewoman. Two long and bony arms were terminated at the elbows by triple blond ruffles, and being, folded saltire-ways in front of her person, and decorated with long gloves of a bright vermilion colour, presented no bad resemblance to a pair of gigantic lobsters. High-heeled shoes, and a short silk cloak, thrown in easy negligence over her shoulders, completed the exterior of Miss Griselda Oldbuck.

Her niece, the same whom Lovel had seen transiently during his first visit, was a pretty young woman, genteelly dressed according to the fashion of the day, with an air of espieglerie which became her very well, and which was perhaps derived from the caustic humour peculiar to her uncle’s family, though softened by transmission.

Mr. Lovel paid his respects to both ladies, and was answered by the elder with the prolonged courtesy of 1760, drawn from the righteous period,

When folks conceived a grace

Of half an hour’s space,

And rejoiced in a Friday’s capon,

and by the younger with a modern reverence, which, like the festive benediction of a modern divine, was of much shorter duration.

While this salutation was exchanging, Sir Arthur, with his fair daughter hanging upon his arm, having dismissed his chariot, appeared at the garden door, and in all due form paid his respects to the ladies.

“Sir Arthur,” said the Antiquary, “and you, my fair foe, let me make known to you my young friend Mr. Lovel, a gentleman who, during the scarlet-fever which is epidemic at present in this our island, has the virtue and decency to appear in a coat of a civil complexion. You see, however, that the fashionable colour has mustered in his cheeks which appears not in his garments. Sir Arthur, let me present to you a young gentleman, whom your farther knowledge will find grave, wise, courtly, and scholar-like, well seen, deeply read, and thoroughly grounded in all the hidden mysteries of the green-room and stage, from the days of Davie Lindsay down to those of Dibdin — he blushes again, which is a sign of grace.”

“My brother,” said Miss Griselda, addressing Lovel, “has a humorous way of expressing himself, sir; nobody thinks anything of what Monkbarns says — so I beg you will not be so confused for the matter of his nonsense; but you must have had a warm walk beneath this broiling sun — would you take anything? — a glass of balm-wine?”

Ere Lovel could answer, the Antiquary interposed. “Aroint thee, witch! wouldst thou poison my guests with thy infernal decoctions? Dost thou not remember how it fared with the clergyman whom you seduced to partake of that deceitful beverage?”

“O fy, fy, brother! — Sir Arthur, did you ever hear the like? — he must have everything his ain way, or he will invent such stories — But there goes Jenny to ring the old bell to tell us that the dinner is ready.”

Rigid in his economy, Mr. Oldbuck kept no male servant. This he disguised under the pretext that the masculine sex was too noble to be employed in those acts of personal servitude, which, in all early periods of society, were uniformly imposed on the female. “Why,” would he say, “did the boy, Tam Rintherout, whom, at my wise sister’s instigation, I, with equal wisdom, took upon trial — why did he pilfer apples, take birds’ nests, break glasses, and ultimately steal my spectacles, except that he felt that noble emulation which swells in the bosom of the masculine sex, which has conducted him to Flanders with a musket on his shoulder, and doubtless will promote him to a glorious halbert, or even to the gallows? And why does this girl, his full sister, Jenny Rintherout, move in the same vocation with safe and noiseless step — shod, or unshod — soft as the pace of a cat, and docile as a spaniel — Why? but because she is in her vocation. Let them minister to us, Sir Arthur — let them minister, I say — it’s the only thing they are fit for. All ancient legislators, from Lycurgus to Mahommed, corruptly called Mahomet, agree in putting them in their proper and subordinate rank, and it is only the crazy heads of our old chivalrous ancestors that erected their Dulcineas into despotic princesses.”

Miss Wardour protested loudly against this ungallant doctrine; but the bell now rung for dinner.

“Let me do all the offices of fair courtesy to so fair an antagonist,” said the old gentleman, offering his arm. “I remember, Miss Wardour, Mahommed (vulgarly Mahomet) had some hesitation about the mode of summoning his Moslemah to prayer. He rejected bells as used by Christians, trumpets as the summons of the Guebres, and finally adopted the human voice. I have had equal doubt concerning my dinner-call. Gongs, now in present use, seemed a newfangled and heathenish invention, and the voice of the female womankind I rejected as equally shrill and dissonant; wherefore, contrary to the said Mahommed, or Mahomet, I have resumed the bell. It has a local propriety, since it was the conventual signal for spreading the repast in their refectory, and it has the advantage over the tongue of my sister’s prime minister, Jenny, that, though not quite so loud and shrill, it ceases ringing the instant you drop the bell-rope: whereas we know, by sad experience, that any attempt to silence Jenny, only wakes the sympathetic chime of Miss Oldbuck and Mary M’Intyre to join in chorus.”

With this discourse he led the way to his dining-parlour, which Lovel had not yet seen; — it was wainscotted, and contained some curious paintings. The dining-table was attended by Jenny; but an old superintendent, a sort of female butler, stood by the sideboard, and underwent the burden of bearing several reproofs from Mr. Oldbuck, and inuendos, not so much marked, but not less cutting, from his sister.

The dinner was such as suited a professed antiquary, comprehending many savoury specimens of Scottish viands, now disused at the tables of those who affect elegance. There was the relishing Solan goose, whose smell is so powerful that he is never cooked within doors. Blood-raw he proved to be on this occasion, so that Oldbuck half threatened to throw the greasy sea-fowl at the head of the negligent housekeeper, who acted as priestess in presenting this odoriferous offering. But, by good-hap, she had been most fortunate in the hotch-potch, which was unanimously pronounced to be inimitable. “I knew we should succeed here,” said Oldbuck exultingly, “for Davie Dibble, the gardener (an old bachelor like myself), takes care the rascally women do not dishonour our vegetables. And here is fish and sauce, and crappit-heads — I acknowledge our womankind excel in that dish — it procures them the pleasure of scolding, for half an hour at least, twice a-week, with auld Maggy Mucklebackit, our fish-wife. The chicken-pie, Mr. Lovel, is made after a recipe bequeathed to me by my departed grandmother of happy memory — And if you will venture on a glass of wine, you will find it worthy of one who professes the maxim of King Alphonso of Castile — Old wood to burn — old books to read — old wine to drink — and old friends, Sir Arthur — ay, Mr. Lovel, and young friends too, to converse with.”

“And what news do you bring us from Edinburgh, Monkbarns?” said Sir Arthur; “how wags the world in Auld Reekie?”

“Mad, Sir Arthur, mad — irretrievably frantic — far beyond dipping in the sea, shaving the crown, or drinking hellebore. The worst sort of frenzy, a military frenzy, hath possessed man, woman, and child.”

“And high time, I think,” said Miss Wardour, “when we are threatened with invasion from abroad and insurrection at home.”

“O, I did not doubt you would join the scarlet host against me — women, like turkeys, are always subdued by a red rag — But what says Sir Arthur, whose dreams are of standing armies and German oppression?”

“Why, I say, Mr. Oldbuck,” replied the knight, “that so far as I am capable of judging, we ought to resist cum toto corpore regni — as the phrase is, unless I have altogether forgotten my Latin — an enemy who comes to propose to us a Whiggish sort of government, a republican system, and who is aided and abetted by a sort of fanatics of the worst kind in our own bowels. I have taken some measures, I assure you, such as become my rank in the community; for I have directed the constables to take up that old scoundrelly beggar, Edie Ochiltree, for spreading disaffection against church and state through the whole parish. He said plainly to old Caxon, that Willie Howie’s Kilmarnock cowl covered more sense than all the three wigs in the parish — I think it is easy to make out that inuendo — But the rogue shall be taught better manners.”

“O no, my dear sir,” exclaimed Miss Wardour, “not old Edie, that we have known so long; — I assure you no constable shall have my good graces that executes such a warrant.”

“Ay, there it goes,” said the Antiquary; “you, to be a staunch Tory, Sir Arthur, have nourished a fine sprig of Whiggery in your bosom — Why, Miss Wardour is alone sufficient to control a whole quarter-session — a quarter-session? ay, a general assembly or convocation to boot — a Boadicea she — an Amazon, a Zenobia.”

“And yet, with all my courage, Mr. Oldbuck, I am glad to hear our people are getting under arms.”

“Under arms, Lord love thee! didst thou ever read the history of Sister Margaret, which flowed from a head, that, though now old and somedele grey, has more sense and political intelligence than you find now-a-days in the whole synod? Dost thou remember the Nurse’s dream in that exquisite work, which she recounts in such agony to Hubble Bubble? — When she would have taken up a piece of broad-cloth in her vision, lo! it exploded like a great iron cannon; when she put out her hand to save a pirn, it perked up in her face in the form of a pistol. My own vision in Edinburgh has been something similar. I called to consult my lawyer; he was clothed in a dragoon’s dress, belted and casqued, and about to mount a charger, which his writing-clerk (habited as a sharp-shooter) walked to and fro before his door. I went to scold my agent for having sent me to advise with a madman; he had stuck into his head the plume, which in more sober days he wielded between his fingers, and figured as an artillery officer. My mercer had his spontoon in his hand, as if he measured his cloth by that implement, instead of a legitimate yard. The, banker’s clerk, who was directed to sum my cash-account, blundered it three times, being disordered by the recollection of his military tellings-off at the morning-drill. I was ill, and sent for a surgeon —

He came — but valour so had fired his eye,

And such a falchion glittered on his thigh,

That, by the gods, with such a load of steel,

I thought he came to murder — not to heal.

I had recourse to a physician, but he also was practising a more wholesale mode of slaughter than that which his profession had been supposed at all times to open to him. And now, since I have returned here, even our wise neighbours of Fairport have caught the same valiant humour. I hate a gun like a hurt wild duck — I detest a drum like a quaker; — and they thunder and rattle out yonder upon the town’s common, so that every volley and roll goes to my very heart.”

“Dear brother, dinna speak that gate o’ the gentlemen volunteers — I am sure they have a most becoming uniform — Weel I wot they have been wet to the very skin twice last week — I met them marching in terribly doukit, an mony a sair hoast was amang them — And the trouble they take, I am sure it claims our gratitude.”

“And I am sure,” said Miss M’Intyre, “that my uncle sent twenty guineas to help out their equipments.”

“It was to buy liquorice and sugar-candy,” said the cynic, “to encourage the trade of the place, and to refresh the throats of the officers who had bawled themselves hoarse in the service of their country.”

“Take care, Monkbarns! we shall set you down among the black-nebs by and by.”

“No Sir Arthur — a tame grumbler I. I only claim the privilege of croaking in my own corner here, without uniting my throat to the grand chorus of the marsh — Ni quito Rey, ni pongo Rey — I neither make king nor mar king, as Sancho says, but pray heartily for our own sovereign, pay scot and lot, and grumble at the exciseman — But here comes the ewe-milk cheese in good time; it is a better digestive than politics.”

When dinner was over, and the decanters placed on the table, Mr. Oldbuck proposed the King’s health in a bumper, which was readily acceded to both by Lovel and the Baronet, the Jacobitism of the latter being now a sort of speculative opinion merely — the shadow of a shade.

After the ladies had left the apartment, the landlord and Sir Arthur entered into several exquisite discussions, in which the younger guest, either on account of the abstruse erudition which they involved, or for some other reason, took but a slender share, till at length he was suddenly started out of a profound reverie by an unexpected appeal to his judgment.

“I will stand by what Mr. Lovel says; he was born in the north of England, and may know the very spot.”

Sir Arthur thought it unlikely that so young a gentleman should have paid much attention to matters of that sort.

“I am avised of the contrary,” said Oldbuck.

“How say you, Mr. Lovel? — speak up for your own credit, man.”

Lovel was obliged to confess himself in the ridiculous situation of one alike ignorant of the subject of conversation and controversy which had engaged the company for an hour.

“Lord help the lad, his head has been wool-gathering! — I thought how it would be when the womankind were admitted — no getting a word of sense out of a young fellow for six hours after. — Why, man, there was once a people called the Piks”—

“More properly Picts,“ interrupted the Baronet.

“I say the Pikar, Pihar, Piochtar, Piaghter, or Peughtar,” vociferated Oldbuck; “they spoke a Gothic dialect”—

“Genuine Celtic,” again asseverated the knight.

“Gothic! Gothic! I’ll go to death upon it!” counter-asseverated the squire.

“Why, gentlemen,” sad Lovel, “I conceive that is a dispute which may be easily settled by philologists, if there are any remains of the language.”

“There is but one word,” said the Baronet, “but, in spite of Mr. Oldbuck’s pertinacity, it is decisive of the question.”

“Yes, in my favour,” said Oldbuck: “Mr. Lovel, you shall be judge — I have the learned Pinkerton on my side.”

“I, on mine, the indefatigable and erudite Chalmers.”

“Gordon comes into my opinion.”

“Sir Robert Sibbald holds mine.”

“Innes is with me!” vociferated Oldbuck.

“Riston has no doubt!” shouted the Baronet.

“Truly, gentlemen,” said Lovel, “before you muster your forces and overwhelm me with authorities, I should like to know the word in dispute.”

Benval“ said both the disputants at once.

“Which signifies caput valli,“ said Sir Arthur.

“The head of the wall,” echoed Oldbuck.

There was a deep pause. —“It is rather a narrow foundation to build a hypothesis upon,” observed the arbiter.

“Not a whit, not a whit,” said Oldbuck; “men fight best in a narrow ring — an inch is as good as a mile for a home-thrust.”

“It is decidedly Celtic,” said the Baronet; “every hill in the Highlands begins with Ben.

“But what say you to Val, Sir Arthur; is it not decidedly the Saxon wall?

“It is the Roman vallum,“ said Sir Arthur; —“the Picts borrowed that part of the word.”

“No such thing; if they borrowed anything, it must have been your Ben, which they might have from the neighbouring Britons of Strath Cluyd.”

“The Piks, or Picts,” said Lovel, “must have been singularly poor in dialect, since, in the only remaining word of their vocabulary, and that consisting only of two syllables, they have been confessedly obliged to borrow one of them from another language; and, methinks, gentlemen, with submission, the controversy is not unlike that which the two knights fought, concerning the shield that had one side white and the other black. Each of you claim one-half of the word, and seem to resign the other. But what strikes me most, is the poverty of the language which has left such slight vestiges behind it.”

“You are in an error,” said Sir Arthur; “it was a copious language, and they were a great and powerful people; built two steeples — one at Brechin, one at Abernethy. The Pictish maidens of the blood-royal were kept in Edinburgh Castle, thence called Castrum Puellarum.

“A childish legend,” said Oldbuck, “invented to give consequence to trumpery womankind. It was called the Maiden Castle, quasi lucus a non lucendo, because it resisted every attack, and women never do.”

“There is a list of the Pictish kings,” persisted Sir Arthur, “well authenticated from Crentheminachcryme (the, date of whose reign is somewhat uncertain) down to Drusterstone, whose death concluded their dynasty. Half of them have the Celtic patronymic Mac prefixed — Mac, id est filius; — what do you say to that, Mr. Oldbuck? There is Drust Macmorachin, Trynel Maclachlin (first of that ancient clan, as it may be judged), and Gormach Macdonald, Alpin Macmetegus, Drust Mactallargam” (here he was interrupted by a fit of coughing)—“ugh, ugh, ugh — Golarge Macchan — ugh, ugh — Macchanan — ugh — Macchananail, Kenneth — ugh — ugh — Macferedith, Eachan Macfungus — and twenty more, decidedly Celtic names, which I could repeat, if this damned cough would let me.”

“Take a glass of wine, Sir Arthur, and drink down that bead-roll of unbaptized jargon, that would choke the devil — why, that last fellow has the only intelligible name you have repeated — they are all of the tribe of Macfungus — mushroom monarchs every one of them; sprung up from the fumes of conceit, folly, and falsehood, fermenting in the brains of some mad Highland seannachie.”

“I am surprised to hear you, Mr. Oldbuck: you know, or ought to know, that the list of these potentates was copied by Henry Maule of Melguin, from the Chronicles of Loch Leven and St. Andrews, and put forth by him in his short but satisfactory history of the Picts, printed by Robert Freebairn of Edinburgh, and sold by him at his shop in the Parliament Close, in the, year of God seventeen hundred and five, or six, I am not precisely certain which — but I have a copy at home that stands next to my twelvemo copy of the Scots Acts, and ranges on the shelf with them very well. What say you to that, Mr. Oldbuck?”

“Say? — why, I laugh at Harry Maule and his history,” answered Oldbuck, “and thereby comply with his request, of giving it entertainment according to its merits.”

“Do not laugh at a better man than yourself,” said Sir Arthur, somewhat scornfully.

“I do not conceive I do, Sir Arthur, in laughing either at him or his history,”

“Henry Maule of Melgum was a gentleman, Mr. Oldbuck.”

“I presume he had no advantage of me in that particular,” replied the Antiquary, somewhat tartly.

“Permit me, Mr. Oldbuck — he was a gentleman of high family, and ancient descent, and therefore”—

“The descendant of a Westphalian printer should speak of him with deference? Such may be your opinion, Sir Arthur — it is not mine. I conceive that my descent from that painful and industrious typographer, Wolfbrand Oldenbuck, who, in the month of December 1193, under the patronage, as the colophon tells us, of Sebaldus Scheyter and Sebastian Kammermaister, accomplished the printing of the great Chronicle of Nuremberg — I conceive, I say, that my descent from that great restorer of learning is more creditable to me as a man of letters, than if I had numbered in my genealogy all the brawling, bullet-headed, iron-fisted, old Gothic barons since the days of Crentheminachcryme — not one of whom, I suppose, could write his own name.”

“If you mean the observation as a sneer at my ancestry,” said the knight, with an assumption of dignified superiority and composure, “I have the pleasure to inform you, that the name of my ancestor, Gamelyn de Guardover, Miles, is written fairly with his own hand in the earliest copy of the Ragman-roll.”

“Which only serves to show that he was one of the earliest who set the mean example of submitting to Edward I. What have, you to say for the stainless loyalty of your family, Sir Arthur, after such a backsliding as that?”

“It’s enough, sir,” said Sir Arthur, starting up fiercely, and pushing back his chair; “I shall hereafter take care how I honour with my company one who shows himself so ungrateful for my condescension.”

“In that you will do as you find most agreeable, Sir Arthur; — I hope, that as I was not aware of the extent of the obligation which you have done me by visiting my poor house, I may be excused for not having carried my gratitude to the extent of servility.”

“Mighty well — mighty well, Mr. Oldbuck — I wish you a good evening — Mr. a — a — a — Shovel — I wish you a very good evening.”

Out of the parlour door flounced the incensed Sir Arthur, as if the spirit of the whole Round Table inflamed his single bosom, and traversed with long strides the labyrinth of passages which conducted to the drawing-room.

“Did you ever hear such an old tup-headed ass?” said Oldbuck, briefly apostrophizing Lovel. “But I must not let him go in this mad-like way neither.”

So saying, he pushed off after the retreating Baronet, whom he traced by the clang of several doors which he opened in search of the apartment for tea, and slammed with force behind him at every disappointment. “You’ll do yourself a mischief,” roared the Antiquary; “Qui ambulat in tenebris, nescit quo vadit — You’ll tumble down the back-stair.”

Sir Arthur had now got involved in darkness, of which the sedative effect is well known to nurses and governesses who have to deal with pettish children. It retarded the pace of the irritated Baronet, if it did not abate his resentment, and Mr. Oldbuck, better acquainted with the locale, got up with him as he had got his grasp upon the handle of the drawing-room door.

“Stay a minute, Sir Arthur,” said Oldbuck, opposing his abrupt entrance; “don’t be quite so hasty, my good old friend. I was a little too rude with you about Sir Gamelyn — why, he is an old acquaintance of mine, man, and a favourite; he kept company with Bruce and Wallace — and, I’ll be sworn on a black-letter Bible, only subscribed the Ragman-roll with the legitimate and justifiable intention of circumventing the false Southern —’twas right Scottish craft, my good knight — hundreds did it. Come, come, forget and forgive — confess we have given the young fellow here a right to think us two testy old fools.”

“Speak for yourself, Mr. Jonathan Oldbuck,” said Sir Arthur with much majesty.

“A-well, a-well — a wilful man must have his way.”

With that the door opened, and into the drawing-room marched the tall gaunt form of Sir Arthur, followed by Lovel and Mr. Oldbuck, the countenances of all the three a little discomposed.

“I have been waiting for you, sir,” said Miss Wardour, “to propose we should walk forward to meet the carriage, as the evening is so fine.”

Sir Arthur readily assented to this proposal, which suited the angry mood in which he found himself; and having, agreeable to the established custom in cases of pet, refused the refreshment of tea and coffee, he tucked his daughter under his arm; and after taking a ceremonious leave of the ladies, and a very dry one of Oldbuck — off he marched.

“I think Sir Arthur has got the black dog on his back again,” said Miss Oldbuck.

“Black dog! — black devil! — he’s more absurd than womankind — What say you, Lovel? — Why, the lad’s gone too.”

“He took his leave, uncle, while Miss Wardour was putting on her things; but I don’t think you observed him.”

“The devil’s in the people! This is all one gets by fussing and bustling, and putting one’s self out of one’s way in order to give dinners, besides all the charges they are put to! — O Seged, Emperor of Ethiopia!” said he, taking up a cup of tea in the one hand, and a volume of the Rambler in the other — for it was his regular custom to read while he was eating or drinking in presence of his sister, being a practice which served at once to evince his contempt for the society of womankind, and his resolution to lose no moment of instruction — “O Seged, Emperor of Ethiopia! well hast thou spoken — No man should presume to say, This shall be a day of happiness.”

Oldbuck proceeded in his studies for the best part of an hour, uninterrupted by the ladies, who each, in profound silence, pursued some female employment. At length, a light and modest tap was heard at the parlour door. “Is that you, Caxon? — come in, come in, man.”

The old man opened the door, and thrusting in his meagre face, thatched with thin grey locks, and one sleeve of his white coat, said in a subdued and mysterious tone of voice, “I was wanting to speak to you, sir.”

“Come in then, you old fool, and say what you have got to say.”

“I’ll maybe frighten the ladies,” said the ex-friseur.

“Frighten!” answered the Antiquary — “what do you mean? — never mind the ladies. Have you seen another ghaist at the Humlock-knowe?”

“Na, sir — it’s no a ghaist this turn,” replied Caxton; —“but I’m no easy in my mind.”

“Did you ever hear of any body that was?” answered Oldbuck; —“what reason has an old battered powder-puff like you to be easy in your mind, more than all the rest of the world besides?”

“It’s no for mysell, sir; but it threatens an awfu’ night; and Sir Arthur, and Miss Wardour, poor thing”—

“Why, man, they must have met the carriage at the head of the loaning, or thereabouts; they must be home long ago.”

“Na, sir; they didna gang the road by the turnpike to meet the carriage, they gaed by the sands.”

The word operated like electricity on Oldbuck. “The sands!” he exclaimed; “impossible!”

“Ou, sir, that’s what I said to the gardener; but he says he saw them turn down by the Mussel-craig. In troth, says I to him, an that be the case, Davie, I am misdoubting”—

“An almanac! an almanac!” said Oldbuck, starting up in great alarm —“not that bauble!” flinging away a little pocket almanac which his niece offered him. —“Great God! my poor dear Miss Isabella! — Fetch me instantly the Fairport Almanac.”— It was brought, consulted, and added greatly to his agitation. “I’ll go myself — call the gardener and ploughman — bid them bring ropes and ladders — bid them raise more help as they come along — keep the top of the cliffs, and halloo down to them — I’ll go myself.”

“What is the matter?” inquired Miss Oldbuck and Miss M’Intyre.

“The tide! — the tide!” answered the alarmed Antiquary.

“Had not Jenny better — but no, I’ll run myself,” said the younger lady, partaking in all her uncle’s terrors —“I’ll run myself to Saunders Mucklebackit, and make him get out his boat.”

“Thank you, my dear, that’s the wisest word that has been spoken yet — Run! run! — To go by the sands!” seizing his hat and cane; “was there ever such madness heard of!”

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