The Antiquary, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 9

“Be brave,” she cried, “you yet may be our guest,

Our haunted room was ever held the best.

If, then, your valour can the sight sustain

Of rustling curtains and the clinking chain

If your courageous tongue have powers to talk,

When round your bed the horrid ghost shall walk

If you dare ask it why it leaves its tomb,

I’ll see your sheets well air’d, and show the Room.”

True Story.

The reached the room in which they had dined, and were clamorously welcomed by Miss Oldbuck.

“Where’s the younger womankind?” said the Antiquary.

“Indeed, brother, amang a’ the steery, Maria wadna be guided by me she set away to the Halket-craig-head — I wonder ye didna see her.”

“Eh! — what — what’s that you say, sister? — did the girl go out in a night like this to the Halket-head? — Good God! the misery of the night is not ended yet!”

“But ye winna wait, Monkbarns — ye are so imperative and impatient”—

“Tittle-tattle, woman,” said the impatient and agitated Antiquary, “where is my dear Mary?”

“Just where ye suld be yoursell, Monkbarns — up-stairs, and in her warm bed.”

“I could have sworn it,” said Oldbuck laughing, but obviously much relieved —“I could have sworn it; — the lazy monkey did not care if we were all drowned together. Why did you say she went out?”

“But ye wadna wait to hear out my tale, Monkbarns — she gaed out, and she came in again with the gardener sae sune as she saw that nane o’ ye were clodded ower the Craig, and that Miss Wardour was safe in the chariot; she was hame a quarter of an hour syne, for it’s now ganging ten — sair droukit was she, puir thing, sae I e’en put a glass o’ sherry in her water-gruel.”

“Right, Grizel, right — let womankind alone for coddling each other. But hear me, my venerable sister — start not at the word venerable; it implies many praiseworthy qualities besides age; though that too is honourable, albeit it is the last quality for which womankind would wish to be honoured — But perpend my words: let Lovel and me have forthwith the relics of the chicken-pie, and the reversion of the port.”

“The chicken-pie! the port! — ou dear! brother — there was but a wheen banes, and scarce a drap o’ the wine.”

The Antiquary’s countenance became clouded, though he was too well bred to give way, in the presence of a stranger, to his displeased surprise at the, disappearance of the viands on which he had reckoned with absolute certainty. But his sister understood these looks of ire. “Ou dear! Monkbarns, what’s the use of making a wark?”

“I make no wark, as ye call it, woman.”

“But what’s the use o’ looking sae glum and glunch about a pickle banes? — an ye will hae the truth, ye maun ken the minister came in, worthy man — sair distressed he was, nae doubt, about your precarious situation, as he ca’d it (for ye ken how weel he’s gifted wi’ words), and here he wad bide till he could hear wi’ certainty how the matter was likely to gang wi’ ye a’— He said fine things on the duty of resignation to Providence’s will, worthy man! that did he.”

Oldbuck replied, catching the same tone, “Worthy man! — he cared not how soon Monkbarns had devolved on an heir-female, I’ve a notion; — and while he was occupied in this Christian office of consolation against impending evil, I reckon that the chicken-pie and my good port disappeared?”

“Dear brother, how can you speak of sic frivolities, when you have had sic an escape from the craig?”

“Better than my supper has had from the minister’s craig, Grizzle — it’s all discussed, I suppose?”

“Hout, Monkbarns, ye speak as if there was nae mair meat in the house — wad ye not have had me offer the honest man some slight refreshment after his walk frae the manse?”

Oldbuck half-whistled, half-hummed, the end of the old Scottish ditty,

O, first they eated the white puddings,

And then they eated the black, O,

And thought the gudeman unto himsell,

The deil clink down wi’ that, O!

His sister hastened to silence his murmurs, by proposing some of the relies of the dinner. He spoke of another bottle of wine, but recommended in preference a glass of brandy which was really excellent. As no entreaties could prevail on Lovel to indue the velvet night-cap and branched morning-gown of his host, Oldbuck, who pretended to a little knowledge of the medical art, insisted on his going to bed as soon as possible, and proposed to despatch a messenger (the indefatigable Caxon) to Fairport early in the morning, to procure him a change of clothes.

This was the first intimation Miss Oldbuck had received that the young stranger was to be their guest for the night; and such was the surprise with which she was struck by a proposal so uncommon, that, had the superincumbent weight of her bead-dress, such as we before described, been less preponderant, her grey locks must have started up on end, and hurled it from its position.

“Lord haud a care o’ us!” exclaimed the astounded maiden.

“What’s the matter now, Grizel?”

“Wad ye but just speak a moment, Monkbarns?”

“Speak! — what should I speak about? I want to get to my bed — and this poor young fellow — let a bed be made ready for him instantly.”

“A bed? — The Lord preserve us!” again ejaculated Grizel.

“Why, what’s the matter now? — are there not beds and rooms enough in the house? — was it not an ancient hospitium, in which, I am warranted to say, beds were nightly made down for a score of pilgrims?”

“O dear, Monkbarns! wha kens what they might do lang syne? — but in our time — beds — ay, troth, there’s beds enow sic as they are — and rooms enow too — but ye ken yoursell the beds haena been sleepit in, Lord kens the time, nor the rooms aired. — If I had kenn’d, Mary and me might hae gaen down to the manse — Miss Beckie is aye fond to see us —(and sae is the minister, brother)— But now, gude save us!”—

“Is there not the Green Room, Grizel?”

“Troth is there, and it is in decent order too, though naebody has sleepit there since Dr. Heavysterne, and”—

“And what?”

“And what! I am sure ye ken yoursell what a night he had — ye wadna expose the young gentleman to the like o’ that, wad ye?”

Lovel interfered upon hearing this altercation, and protested he would far rather walk home than put them to the least inconvenience — that the exercise would be of service to him — that he knew the road perfectly, by night or day, to Fairport — that the storm was abating, and so forth — adding all that civility could suggest as an excuse for escaping from a hospitality which seemed more inconvenient to his host than he could possibly have anticipated. But the howling of the wind, and the pattering of the rain against the windows, with his knowledge of the preceding fatigues of the evening, must have prohibited Oldbuck, even had he entertained less regard for his young friend than he really felt, from permitting him to depart. Besides, he was piqued in honour to show that he himself was not governed by womankind —“Sit ye down, sit ye down, sit ye down, man,” he reiterated; —“an ye part so, I would I might never draw a cork again, and here comes out one from a prime bottle of — strong ale — right anno domini — none of your Wassia Quassia decoctions, but brewed of Monkbarns barley — John of the Girnel never drew a better flagon to entertain a wandering minstrel, or palmer, with the freshest news from Palestine. — And to remove from your mind the slightest wish to depart, know, that if you do so, your character as a gallant knight is gone for ever. Why, ’tis an adventure, man, to sleep in the Green Room at Monkbarns. — Sister, pray see it got ready — And, although the bold adventurer, Heavysterne, dree’d pain and dolour in that charmed apartment, it is no reason why a gallant knight like you, nearly twice as tall, and not half so heavy, should not encounter and break the spell.”

“What! a haunted apartment, I suppose?”

“To be sure, to be sure — every mansion in this country of the slightest antiquity has its ghosts and its haunted chamber, and you must not suppose us worse off than our neighbours. They are going, indeed, somewhat out of fashion. I have seen the day, when if you had doubted the reality of a ghost in an old manor-house you ran the risk of being made a ghost yourself, as Hamlet says. — Yes, if you had challenged the existence of Redcowl in the Castle of Glenstirym, old Sir Peter Pepperbrand would have had ye out to his court-yard, made you betake yourself to your weapon, and if your trick of fence were not the better, would have sticked you like a paddock, on his own baronial midden-stead. I once narrowly escaped such an affray — but I humbled myself, and apologised to Redcowl; for, even in my younger days, I was no friend to the monomachia, or duel, and would rather walk with Sir Priest than with Sir Knight — I care not who knows so much of my valour. Thank God, I am old now, and can indulge my irritabilities without the necessity of supporting them by cold steel.”

Here Miss Oldbuck re-entered, with a singularly sage expression of countenance. —“Mr. Lovel’s bed’s ready, brother — clean sheets — weel aired — a spunk of fire in the chimney — I am sure, Mr. Lovel,” (addressing him), “it’s no for the trouble — and I hope you will have a good night’s rest — But”—

“You are resolved,” said the Antiquary, “to do what you can to prevent it.”

“Me? — I am sure I have said naething, Monkbarns.”

“My dear madam,” said Lovel, “allow me to ask you the meaning of your obliging anxiety on my account.”

“Ou, Monkbarns does not like to hear of it — but he kens himsell that the room has an ill name. It’s weel minded that it was there auld Rab Tull the town-clerk was sleeping when he had that marvellous communication about the grand law-plea between us and the feuars at the Mussel-craig. — It had cost a hantle siller, Mr. Lovel; for law-pleas were no carried on without siller lang syne mair than they are now — and the Monkbarns of that day — our gudesire, Mr. Lovel, as I said before — was like to be waured afore the Session for want of a paper — Monkbarns there kens weel what paper it was, but I’se warrant he’ll no help me out wi’ my tale — but it was a paper of great significance to the plea, and we were to be waured for want o’t. Aweel, the cause was to come on before the fifteen — in presence, as they ca’t — and auld Rab Tull, the town-clerk, he cam ower to make a last search for the paper that was wanting, before our gudesire gaed into Edinburgh to look after his plea — so there was little time to come and gang on. He was but a doited snuffy body, Rab, as I’ve heard — but then he was the town-clerk of Fairport, and the Monkbarns heritors aye employed him on account of their connection wi’ the burgh, ye ken.”

“Sister Grizel, this is abominable,” interrupted Oldbuck; “I vow to Heaven ye might have raised the ghosts of every abbot of Trotcosey, since the days of Waldimir, in the time you have been detailing the introduction to this single spectre. — Learn to be succinct in your narrative. — Imitate the concise style of old Aubrey, an experienced ghost-seer, who entered his memoranda on these subjects in a terse business-like manner; exempli gratia — At Cirencester, 5th March, 1670, was an apparition. — Being demanded whether good spirit or bad, made no answer, but instantly disappeared with a curious perfume, and a melodious twang’— Vide his Miscellanies, p. eighteen, as well as I can remember, and near the middle of the page.”

“O, Monkbarns, man! do ye think everybody is as book-learned as yoursell? — But ye like to gar folk look like fools — ye can do that to Sir Arthur, and the minister his very sell.”

“Nature has been beforehand with me, Grizel, in both these instances, and in another which shall be nameless — but take a glass of ale, Grizel, and proceed with your story, for it waxes late.”

“Jenny’s just warming your bed, Monkbarns, and ye maun e’en wait till she’s done. — Weel, I was at the search that our gudesire, Monkbarns that then was, made wi’ auld Rab Tull’s assistance; — but ne’er-be-licket could they find that was to their purpose. Aud sae, after they bad touzled out mony a leather poke-full o’ papers, the town-clerk had his drap punch at e’en to wash the dust out of his throat — we never were glass-breakers in this house, Mr. Lovel, but the body bad got sic a trick of sippling and tippling wi’ the bailies and deacons when they met (which was amaist ilka night) concerning the common gude o’ the burgh, that he couldna weel sleep without it — But his punch he gat, and to bed he gaed; and in the middle of the night he got a fearfu’ wakening! — he was never just himsell after it, and he was strucken wi’ the dead palsy that very day four years. He thought, Mr. Lovel, that he heard the curtains o’ his bed fissil, and out he lookit, fancying, puir man, it might hae been the cat — But he saw — God hae a care o’ us! it gars my flesh aye creep, though I hae tauld the story twenty times — he saw a weel-fa’ard auld gentleman standing by his bedside, in the moonlight, in a queer-fashioned dress, wi’ mony a button and band-string about it, and that part o’ his garments which it does not become a leddy to particulareeze, was baith side and wide, and as mony plies o’t as of ony Hamburgh skipper’s — He had a beard too, and whiskers turned upwards on his upper-lip, as lang as baudrons’— and mony mair particulars there were that Rab Tull tauld o’, but they are forgotten now — it’s an auld story. Aweel, Rab was a just-living man for a country writer — and he was less feared than maybe might just hae been expected; and he asked in the name o’ goodness what the apparition wanted — and the spirit answered in an unknown tongue. Then Rab said he tried him wi’ Erse, for he cam in his youth frae the braes of Glenlivat — but it wadna do. Aweel, in this strait, he bethought him of the twa or three words o’ Latin that he used in making out the town’s deeds, and be had nae sooner tried the spirit wi’ that, than out cam sic a blatter o’ Latin about his lugs, that poor Rab Tull, wha was nae great scholar, was clean overwhelmed. Od, but he was a bauld body, and he minded the Latin name for the deed that he was wanting. It was something about a cart, I fancy, for the ghaist cried aye, Carter, carter —”

Carta, you transformer of languages!” cried Oldbuck; —“if my ancestor had learned no other language in the other world, at least he would not forget the Latinity for which he was so famous while in this.”

“Weel, weel, carta be it then, but they ca’d it carter that tell’d me the story. It cried aye carta, if sae be that it was carta, and made a sign to Rab to follow it. Rab Tull keepit a Highland heart, and banged out o’ bed, and till some of his readiest claes — and he did follow the thing up stairs and down stairs to the place we ca’ the high dow-cot —(a sort of a little tower in the corner of the auld house, where there was a Tickle o’ useless boxes and trunks)— and there the ghaist gae Rab a kick wi’ the tae foot, and a kick wi’ the tother, to that very auld east-country tabernacle of a cabinet that my brother has standing beside his library table, and then disappeared like a fuff o’ tobacco, leaving Rab in a very pitiful condition.”

Tenues secessit in auras,“ quoth Oldbuck. “Marry, sir, mansit odor — But, sure enough, the deed was there found in a drawer of this forgotten repository, which contained many other curious old papers, now properly labelled and arranged, and which seemed to have belonged to my ancestor, the first possessor of Monkbarns. The deed, thus strangely recovered, was the original Charter of Erection of the Abbey, Abbey Lands, and so forth, of Trotcosey, comprehending Monkbarns and others, into a Lordship of Regality in favour of the first Earl of Glengibber, a favourite of James the Sixth. It is subscribed by the King at Westminster, the seventeenth day of January, A. D. one thousand six hundred and twelve — thirteen. It’s not worth while to repeat the witnesses’ names.”

“I would rather,” said Lovel with awakened curiosity, “I would rather hear your opinion of the way in which the deed was discovered.”

“Why, if I wanted a patron for my legend, I could find no less a one than Saint Augustine, who tells the story of a deceased person appearing to his son, when sued for a debt which had been paid, and directing him where, to find the discharge.11

But I rather opine with Lord Bacon, who says that imagination is much akin to miracle-working faith. There was always some idle story of the room being haunted by the spirit of Aldobrand Oldenbuck, my great-great-great-grandfather — it’s a shame to the English language that, we have not a less clumsy way of expressing a relationship of which we have occasion to think and speak so frequently. He was a foreigner, and wore his national dress, of which tradition had preserved an accurate description; and indeed there is a print of him, supposed to be by Reginald Elstracke, pulling the press with his own hand, as it works off the sheets of his scarce edition of the Augsburg Confession. He was a chemist as well as a good mechanic, and either of these qualities in this country was at that time sufficient to constitute a white witch at least. This superstitious old writer had heard all this, and probably believed it, and in his sleep the image and idea of my ancestor recalled that of his cabinet, which, with the grateful attention to antiquities and the memory of our ancestors not unusually met with, had been pushed into the pigeon-house to be out of the way — Add a quantum sufficit of exaggeration, and you have a key to the whole mystery.”

“O brother! brother! but Dr. Heavysterne, brother — whose sleep was so sore broken, that he declared he wadna pass another night in the Green Room to get all Monkbarns, so that Mary and I were forced to yield our”—

“Why, Grizel, the doctor is a good, honest, pudding-headed German, of much merit in his own way, but fond of the mystical, like many of his countrymen. You and he had a traffic the whole evening in which you received tales of Mesmer, Shropfer, Cagliostro, and other modern pretenders to the mystery of raising spirits, discovering hidden treasure, and so forth, in exchange for your legends of the green bedchamber; — and considering that the Illustrissimus ate a pound and a half of Scotch collops to supper, smoked six pipes, and drank ale and brandy in proportion, I am not surprised at his having a fit of the night-mare. But everything is now ready. Permit me to light you to your apartment, Mr. Lovel — I am sure you have need of rest — and I trust my ancestor is too sensible of the duties of hospitality to interfere with the repose which you have so well merited by your manly and gallant behaviour.”

So saying, the Antiquary took up a bedroom candlestick of massive silver and antique form, which, he observed, was wrought out of the silver found in the mines of the Harz mountains, and had been the property of the very personage who had supplied them with a subject for conversation. And having so said, he led the way through many a dusky and winding passage, now ascending, and anon descending again, until he came to the apartment destined for his young guest.

11 Note D. Mr. Rutherford’s dream.

The legend of Mrs. Grizel Oldbuck was partly taken from an extraordinary story which happened about seventy years since, in the South of Scotland, so peculiar in its circumstances that it merits being mentioned in this place. Mr. Rutherfurd of Bowland, a gentleman of landed property in the vale of Gala, was prosecuted for a very considerable sum, the accumulated arrears of teind (or tithe) for which he was said to be indebted to a noble family, the titulars (lay impropriators of the tithes). Mr. Rutherfurd was strongly impressed with the belief that his father had, by a form of process peculiar to the law of Scotland, purchased these lands from the titular, and therefore that the present prosecution was groundless. But, after an industrious search among his father’s papers, an investigation of the public records, and a careful inquiry among all persons who had transacted law business for his father, no evidence could be recovered to support his defence. The period was now near at hand when he conceived the loss of his lawsuit to be inevitable, and he had formed his determination to ride to Edinburgh next day, and make the best bargain he could in the way of compromise. He went to bed with this resolution and, with all the circumstances of the case floating upon his mind, had a dream to the following purpose:— His father, who had been many years dead, appeared to him, he thought, and asked him why he was disturbed in his mind. In dreams men are not surprised at such apparitions. Mr. Rutherfurd thought that he informed his father of the cause of his distress, adding that the payment of a considerable sum of money was the more unpleasant to him, because he had a strong consciousness that it was not due, though he was unable to recover any evidence in support of his belief, “You are right, my son,” replied the paternal shade; “I did acquire right to these teinds, for payment of which you are now prosecuted. The papers relating to the transaction are in the hands of Mr. — a writer (or attorney), who is now retired from professional business, and resides at Inveresk, near Edinburgh. He was a person whom I employed on that occasion for a particular reason, but who never on any other occasion transacted business on my account. It is very possible,” pursued the vision, “that Mr. — may have forgotten a matter which is now of a very old date; but you may call it to his recollection by this token, that when I came to pay his account, there was difficulty in getting change for a Portugal piece of gold, and that we were forced to drink out the balance at a tavern.”

Mr. Rutherfurd awakened in the morning with all the words of the vision imprinted on his mind, and thought it worth while to ride across the country to Inveresk, instead of going straight to Edinburgh. When he came there he waited on the gentleman mentioned in the dream, a very old man; without saying anything of the vision, he inquired whether he remembered having conducted such a matter for his deceased father. The old gentleman could not at first bring the circumstance to his recollection, but on mention of the Portugal piece of gold, the whole returned upon his memory; he made an immediate search for the papers, and recovered them — so that Mr. Rutherfurd carried to Edinburgh the documents necessary to gain the cause which he was on the verge of losing.

The author has often heard this story told by persons who had the best access to know the facts, who were not likely themselves to be deceived, and were certainly incapable of deception. He cannot therefore refuse to give it credit, however extraordinary the circumstances may appear. The circumstantial character of the information given in the dream, takes it out of the general class of impressions of the kind which are occasioned by the fortuitous coincidence of actual events with our sleeping thoughts. On the other hand, few will suppose that the laws of nature were suspended, and a special communication from the dead to the living permitted, for the purpose of saving Mr. Rutherfurd a certain number of hundred pounds. The author’s theory is, that the dream was only the recapitulation of information which Mr. Rutherfurd had really received from his father while in life, but which at first he merely recalled as a general impression that the claim was settled. It is not uncommon for persons to recover, during sleep, the thread of ideas which they have lost during their waking hours.

It may be added, that this remarkable circumstance was attended with bad consequences to Mr. Rutherfurd; whose health and spirits were afterwards impaired by the attention which he thought himself obliged to pay to the visions of the night.

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