Old Mortality, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 9

I am a son of Mars who have been in many wars,

And show my cuts and scars wherever I come;

This here was for a wench, and that other in a trench,

When welcoming the French at the sound of the drum.

Burns.

“Don’t be too much cast down,” said Sergeant Bothwell to his prisoner as they journeyed on towards the head-quarters; “you are a smart pretty lad, and well connected; the worst that will happen will be strapping up for it, and that is many an honest fellow’s lot. I tell you fairly your life’s within the compass of the law, unless you make submission, and get off by a round fine upon your uncle’s estate; he can well afford it.”

“That vexes me more than the rest,” said Henry. “He parts with his money with regret; and, as he had no concern whatever with my having given this person shelter for a night, I wish to Heaven, if I escape a capital punishment, that the penalty may be of a kind I could bear in my own person.”

“Why, perhaps,” said Bothwell, “they will propose to you to go into one of the Scotch regiments that are serving abroad. It’s no bad line of service; if your friends are active, and there are any knocks going, you may soon get a commission.”

“I am by no means sure,” answered Morton, “that such a sentence is not the best thing that can happen to me.”

“Why, then, you are no real whig after all?” said the sergeant.

“I have hitherto meddled with no party in the state,” said Henry, “but have remained quietly at home; and sometimes I have had serious thoughts of joining one of our foreign regiments.”

“Have you?” replied Bothwell; “why, I honour you for it; I have served in the Scotch French guards myself many a long day; it’s the place for learning discipline, d — n me. They never mind what you do when you are off duty; but miss you the roll-call, and see how they’ll arrange you — D— n me, if old Captain Montgomery didn’t make me mount guard upon the arsenal in my steel-back and breast, plate-sleeves and head-piece, for six hours at once, under so burning a sun, that gad I was baked like a turtle at Port Royale. I swore never to miss answering to Francis Stewart again, though I should leave my hand of cards upon the drum-head — Ah! discipline is a capital thing.”

“In other respects you liked the service?” said Morton,

“Par excellence,” said Bothwell; “women, wine, and wassail, all to be had for little but the asking; and if you find it in your conscience to let a fat priest think he has some chance to convert you, gad he’ll help you to these comforts himself, just to gain a little ground in your good affection. Where will you find a crop-eared whig parson will be so civil?”

“Why, nowhere, I agree with you,” said Henry; “but what was your chief duty?”

“To guard the king’s person,” said Bothwell, “to look after the safety of Louis le Grand, my boy, and now and then to take a turn among the Huguenots (protestants, that is.) And there we had fine scope; it brought my hand pretty well in for the service in this country. But, come, as you are to be a bon camerado, as the Spaniards say, I must put you in cash with some of your old uncle’s broad-pieces. This is cutter’s law; we must not see a pretty fellow want, if we have cash ourselves.”

Thus speaking, he pulled out his purse, took out some of the contents, and offered them to Henry without counting them. Young Morton declined the favour; and, not judging it prudent to acquaint the sergeant, notwithstanding his apparent generosity, that he was actually in possession of some money, he assured him he should have no difficulty in getting a supply from his uncle.

“Well,” said Bothwell, “in that case these yellow rascals must serve to ballast my purse a little longer. I always make it a rule never to quit the tavern (unless ordered on duty) while my purse is so weighty that I can chuck it over the signpost. 13 When it is so light that the wind blows it back, then, boot and saddle — we must fall on some way of replenishing. — But what tower is that before us, rising so high upon the steep bank, out of the woods that surround it on every side?”

“It is the tower of Tillietudlem,” said one of the soldiers. “Old Lady Margaret Bellenden lives there. She’s one of the best affected women in the country, and one that’s a soldier’s friend. When I was hurt by one of the d — d whig dogs that shot at me from behind a fauld-dike, I lay a month there, and would stand such another wound to be in as good quarters again.”

“If that be the case,” said Bothwell, “I will pay my respects to her as we pass, and request some refreshment for men and horses; I am as thirsty already as if I had drunk nothing at Milnwood. But it is a good thing in these times,” he continued, addressing himself to Henry, “that the King’s soldier cannot pass a house without getting a refreshment. In such houses as Tillie — what d’ye call it? you are served for love; in the houses of the avowed fanatics you help yourself by force; and among the moderate presbyterians and other suspicious persons, you are well treated from fear; so your thirst is always quenched on some terms or other.”

“And you purpose,” said Henry, anxiously, “to go upon that errand up to the tower younder?”

“To be sure I do,” answered Bothwell. “How should I be able to report favourably to my officers of the worthy lady’s sound principles, unless I know the taste of her sack, for sack she will produce — that I take for granted; it is the favourite consoler of your old dowager of quality, as small claret is the potation of your country laird.”

“Then, for heaven’s sake,” said Henry, “if you are determined to go there, do not mention my name, or expose me to a family that I am acquainted with. Let me be muffled up for the time in one of your soldier’s cloaks, and only mention me generally as a prisoner under your charge.”

“With all my heart,” said Bothwell; “I promised to use you civilly, and I scorn to break my word. — Here, Andrews, wrap a cloak round the prisoner, and do not mention his name, nor where we caught him, unless you would have a trot on a horse of wood.” 14

They were at this moment at an arched gateway, battlemented and flanked with turrets, one whereof was totally ruinous, excepting the lower story, which served as a cow-house to the peasant, whose family inhabited the turret that remained entire. The gate had been broken down by Monk’s soldiers during the civil war, and had never been replaced, therefore presented no obstacle to Bothwell and his party. The avenue, very steep and narrow, and causewayed with large round stones, ascended the side of the precipitous bank in an oblique and zigzag course, now showing now hiding a view of the tower and its exterior bulwarks, which seemed to rise almost perpendicularly above their heads. The fragments of Gothic defences which it exhibited were upon such a scale of strength, as induced Bothwell to exclaim, “It’s well this place is in honest and loyal hands. Egad, if the enemy had it, a dozen of old whigamore wives with their distaffs might keep it against a troop of dragoons, at least if they had half the spunk of the old girl we left at Milnwood. Upon my life,” he continued, as they came in front of the large double tower and its surrounding defences and flankers, “it is a superb place, founded, says the worn inscription over the gate — unless the remnant of my Latin has given me the slip — by Sir Ralph de Bellenden in 1350 — a respectable antiquity. I must greet the old lady with due honour, though it should put me to the labour of recalling some of the compliments that I used to dabble in when I was wont to keep that sort of company.”

As he thus communed with himself, the butler, who had reconnoitred the soldiers from an arrowslit in the wall, announced to his lady, that a commanded party of dragoons, or, as he thought, Life-Guardsmen, waited at the gate with a prisoner under their charge.

“I am certain,” said Gudyill, “and positive, that the sixth man is a prisoner; for his horse is led, and the two dragoons that are before have their carabines out of their budgets, and rested upon their thighs. It was aye the way we guarded prisoners in the days of the great Marquis.”

“King’s soldiers?” said the lady; “probably in want of refreshment. Go, Gudyill, make them welcome, and let them be accommodated with what provision and forage the Tower can afford. — And stay, tell my gentlewoman to bring my black scarf and manteau. I will go down myself to receive them; one cannot show the King’s Life-Guards too much respect in times when they are doing so much for royal authority. And d’ye hear, Gudyill, let Jenny Dennison slip on her pearlings to walk before my niece and me, and the three women to walk behind; and bid my niece attend me instantly.”

Fully accoutred, and attended according to her directions, Lady Margaret now sailed out into the court-yard of her tower with great courtesy and dignity. Sergeant Bothwell saluated the grave and reverend lady of the manor with an assurance which had something of the light and careless address of the dissipated men of fashion in Charles the Second’s time, and did not at all savour of the awkward or rude manners of a non-commissioned officer of dragoons. His language, as well as his manners, seemed also to be refined for the time and occasion; though the truth was, that, in the fluctuations of an adventurous and profligate life, Bothwell had sometimes kept company much better suited to his ancestry than to his present situation of life. To the lady’s request to know whether she could be of service to them, he answered, with a suitable bow, “That as they had to march some miles farther that night, they would be much accommodated by permission to rest their horses for an hour before continuing their journey.”

“With the greatest pleasure,” answered Lady Margaret; “and I trust that my people will see that neither horse nor men want suitable refreshment.”

“We are well aware, madam,” continued Bothwell, “that such has always been the reception, within the walls of Tillietudlem, of those who served the King.”

“We have studied to discharge our duty faithfully and loyally on all occasions, sir,” answered Lady Margaret, pleased with the compliment, “both to our monarchs and to their followers, particularly to their faithful soldiers. It is not long ago, and it probably has not escaped the recollection of his sacret majesty, now on the throne, since he himself honoured my poor house with his presence and breakfasted in a room in this castle, Mr Sergeant, which my waiting-gentlewoman shall show you; we still call it the King’s room.”

Bothwell had by this time dismounted his party, and committed the horses to the charge of one file, and the prisoner to that of another; so that he himself was at liberty to continue the conversation which the lady had so condescendingly opened.

“Since the King, my master, had the honour to experience your hospitality, I cannot wonder that it is extended to those that serve him, and whose principal merit is doing it with fidelity. And yet I have a nearer relation to his majesty than this coarse red coat would seem to indicate.”

“Indeed, sir? Probably,” said Lady Margaret, “you have belonged to his household?”

“Not exactly, madam, to his household, but rather to his house; a connexion through which I may claim kindred with most of the best families in Scotland, not, I believe, exclusive of that of Tillietudlem.”

“Sir?” said the old lady, drawing herself up with dignity at hearing what she conceived an impertinent jest, “I do not understand you.”

“It’s but a foolish subject for one in my situation to talk of, madam,” answered the trooper; “but you must have heard of the history and misfortunes of my grandfather Francis Stewart, to whom James I., his cousin-german, gave the title of Bothwell, as my comrades give me the nickname. It was not in the long run more advantageous to him than it is to me.”

“Indeed?” said Lady Margaret, with much sympathy and surprise; “I have indeed always understood that the grandson of the last Earl was in necessitous circumstances, but I should never have expected to see him so low in the service. With such connexions, what ill fortune could have reduced you”—

“Nothing much out of the ordinary course, I believe, madam,” said Bothwell, interrupting and anticipating the question. “I have had my moments of good luck like my neighbours — have drunk my bottle with Rochester, thrown a merry main with Buckingham, and fought at Tangiers side by side with Sheffield. But my luck never lasted; I could not make useful friends out of my jolly companions — Perhaps I was not sufficiently aware,” he continued, with some bitterness, “how much the descendant of the Scottish Stewarts was honoured by being admitted into the convivialities of Wilmot and Villiers.”

“But your Scottish friends, Mr Stewart, your relations here, so numerous and so powerful?”

“Why, ay, my lady,” replied the sergeant, “I believe some of them might have made me their gamekeeper, for I am a tolerable shot — some of them would have entertained me as their bravo, for I can use my sword well — and here and there was one, who, when better company was not to be had, would have made me his companion, since I can drink my three bottles of wine. — But I don’t know how it is — between service and service among my kinsmen, I prefer that of my cousin Charles as the most creditable of them all, although the pay is but poor, and the livery far from splendid.”

“It is a shame, it is a burning scandal!” said Lady Margaret. “Why do you not apply to his most sacred majesty? he cannot but be surprised to hear that a scion of his august family”—

“I beg your pardon, madam,” interrupted the sergeant, “I am but a blunt soldier, and I trust you will excuse me when I say, his most sacred majesty is more busy in grafting scions of his own, than with nourishing those which were planted by his grandfather’s grandfather.”

“Well, Mr Stewart,” said Lady Margaret, “one thing you must promise me — remain at Tillietudlem to-night; tomorrow I expect your commanding-officer, the gallant Claverhouse, to whom king and country are so much obliged for his exertions against those who would turn the world upside down. I will speak to him on the subject of your speedy promotion; and I am certain he feels too much, both what is due to the blood which is in your veins, and to the request of a lady so highly distinguished as myself by his most sacred majesty, not to make better provision for you than you have yet received.”

“I am much obliged to your ladyship, and I certainly will remain her with my prisoner, since you request it, especially as it will be the earliest way of presenting him to Colonel Grahame, and obtaining his ultimate orders about the young spark.”

“Who is your prisoner, pray you?” said Lady Margaret.

“A young fellow of rather the better class in this neighbourhood, who has been so incautious as to give countenance to one of the murderers of the primate, and to facilitate the dog’s escape.”

“O, fie upon him!” said Lady Margaret; “I am but too apt to forgive the injuries I have received at the hands of these rogues, though some of them, Mr Stewart, are of a kind not like to be forgotten; but those who would abet the perpetrators of so cruel and deliberate a homicide on a single man, an old man, and a man of the Archbishop’s sacred profession — O fie upon him! If you wish to make him secure, with little trouble to your people, I will cause Harrison, or Gudyill, look for the key of our pit, or principal dungeon. It has not been open since the week after the victory of Kilsythe, when my poor Sir Arthur Bellenden put twenty whigs into it; but it is not more than two stories beneath ground, so it cannot be unwholesome, especially as I rather believe there is somewhere an opening to the outer air.”

“I beg your pardon, madam,” answered the sergeant; “I daresay the dungeon is a most admirable one; but I have promised to be civil to the lad, and I will take care he is watched, so as to render escape impossible. I’ll set those to look after him shall keep him as fast as if his legs were in the boots, or his fingers in the thumbikins.”

“Well, Mr Stewart,” rejoined the lady, “you best know your own duty. I heartily wish you good evening, and commit you to the care of my steward, Harrison. I would ask you to keep ourselves company, but a — a — a —”

“O, madam, it requires no apology; I am sensible the coarse red coat of King Charles II. does and ought to annihilate the privileges of the red blood of King James V.”

“Not with me, I do assure you, Mr Stewart; you do me injustice if you think so. I will speak to your officer tomorrow; and I trust you shall soon find yourself in a rank where there shall be no anomalies to be reconciled.”

“I believe, madam,” said Bothwell, “your goodness will find itself deceived; but I am obliged to you for your intention, and, at all events, I will have a merry night with Mr Harrison.”

Lady Margaret took a ceremonious leave, with all the respect which she owed to royal blood, even when flowing in the veins of a sergeant of the Life-Guards; again assuring Mr Stewart, that whatever was in the Tower of Tillietudlem was heartily at his service and that of his attendants.

Sergeant Bothwell did not fail to take the lady at her word, and readily forgot the height from which his family had descended, in a joyous carousal, during which Mr Harrison exerted himself to produce the best wine in the cellar, and to excite his guest to be merry by that seducing example, which, in matters of conviviality, goes farther than precept. Old Gudyill associated himself with a party so much to his taste, pretty much as Davy, in the Second Part of Henry the Fourth, mingles in the revels of his master, Justice Shallow. He ran down to the cellar at the risk of breaking his neck, to ransack some private catacomb, known, as he boasted, only to himself, and which never either had, or should, during his superintendence, renden forth a bottle of its contents to any one but a real king’s friend.

“When the Duke dined here,” said the butler, seating himself at a distance from the table, being somewhat overawed by Bothwell’s genealogy, but yet hitching his seat half a yard nearer at every clause of his speech, “my leddy was importunate to have a bottle of that Burgundy,”—(here he advanced his seat a little,)—“but I dinna ken how it was, Mr Stewart, I misdoubted him. I jaloused him, sir, no to be the friend to government he pretends: the family are not to lippen to. That auld Duke James lost his heart before he lost his head; and the Worcester man was but wersh parritch, neither gude to fry, boil, nor sup cauld.” (With this witty observation, he completed his first parallel, and commenced a zigzag after the manner of an experienced engineer, in order to continue his approaches to the table.) “Sae, sir, the faster my leddy cried ‘Burgundy to his Grace — the auld Burgundy — the choice Burgundy — the Burgundy that came ower in the thirty-nine’— the mair did I say to mysell, Deil a drap gangs down his hause unless I was mair sensible o’ his principles; sack and claret may serve him. Na, na, gentlemen, as lang as I hae the trust o’butler in this house o’Tillietudlem, I’ll tak it upon me to see that nae disloyal or doubtfu’ person is the better o’ our binns. But when I can find a true friend to the king and his cause, and a moderate episcopacy; when I find a man, as I say, that will stand by church and crown as I did mysell in my master’s life, and all through Montrose’s time, I think there’s naething in the cellar ower gude to be spared on him.”

By this time he had completed a lodgment in the body of the place, or, in other words, advanced his seat close to the table.

“And now, Mr Francis Stewart of Bothwell, I have the honour to drink your gude health, and a commission t’ye, and much luck may ye have in raking this country clear o’whigs and roundheads, fanatics and Covenanters.”

Bothwell, who, it may well be believed, had long ceased to be very scrupulous in point of society, which he regulated more by his convenience and station in life than his ancestry, readily answered the butler’s pledge, acknowledging, at the same time, the excellence of the wine; and Mr Gudyill, thus adopted a regular member of the company, continued to furnish them with the means of mirth until an early hour in the next morning.

13 A Highland laird, whose peculiarities live still in the recollection of his countrymen, used to regulate his residence at Edinburgh in the following manner: Every day he visited the Water-gate, as it is called, of the Canongate, over which is extended a wooden arch. Specie being then the general currency, he threw his purse over the gate, and as long as it was heavy enough to be thrown over, he continued his round of pleasure in the metropolis; when it was too light, he thought it time to retire to the Highlands. Query — How often would he have repeated this experiment at Temple Bar?

14 Wooden Mare. The punishment of riding the wooden mare was, in the days of Charles and long after, one of the various and cruel modes of enforcing military discipline. In front of the old guard-house in the High Street of Edinburgh, a large horse of this kind was placed, on which now and then, in the more ancient times, a veteran might be seen mounted, with a firelock tied to each foot, atoning for some small offence.

There is a singular work, entitled Memoirs of Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester, (son of Queen Anne,) from his birth to his ninth year, in which Jenkin Lewis, an honest Welshman in attendance on the royal infant’s person, is pleased to record that his Royal Highness laughed, cried, crow’d, and said Gig and Dy, very like a babe of plebeian descent. He had also a premature taste for the discipline as well as the show of war, and had a corps of twenty-two boys, arrayed with paper caps and wooden swords. For the maintenance of discipline in this juvenile corps, a wooden horse was established in the Presence-chamber, and was sometimes employed in the punishment of offences not strictly military. Hughes, the Duke’s tailor, having made him a suit of clothes which were too tight, was appointed, in an order of the day issued by the young prince, to be placed on this penal steed. The man of remnants, by dint of supplication and mediation, escaped from the penance, which was likely to equal the inconveniences of his brother artist’s equestrian trip to Brentford. But an attendant named Weatherly, who had presumed to bring the young Prince a toy, (after he had discarded the use of them,) was actually mounted on the wooden horse without a saddle, with his face to the tail, while he was plied by four servants of the household with syringes and squirts, till he had a thorough wetting. “He was a waggish fellow,” says Lewis, “and would not lose any thing for the joke’s sake when he was putting his tricks upon others, so he was obliged to submit cheerfully to what was inflicted upon him, being at our mercy to play him off well, which we did accordingly.” Amid much such nonsense, Lewis’s book shows that this poor child, the heir of the British monarchy, who died when he was eleven years old, was, in truth, of promising parts, and of a good disposition. The volume, which rarely occurs, is an octavo, published in 1789, the editor being Dr Philip Hayes of Oxford.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/mortality/chapter9.html

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