The Fortunes of Nigel, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 14

Bingo, why, Bingo! hey, boy — here, sir, here! —

He’s gone and off, but he’ll be home before us; —

’Tis the most wayward cur e’er mumbled bone,

Or dogg’d a master’s footstep. — Bingo loves me

Better than ever beggar loved his alms;

Yet, when he takes such humour, you may coax

Sweet Mistress Fantasy, your worship’s mistress,

Out of her sullen moods, as soon as Bingo.

The Dominie And His Dog.

Richie Moniplies was as good as his word. Two or three mornings after the young lord had possessed himself of his new lodgings, he appeared before Nigel, as he was preparing to dress, having left his pillow at an hour much later than had formerly been his custom.

As Nigel looked upon his attendant, he observed there was a gathering gloom upon his solemn features, which expressed either additional importance, or superadded discontent, or a portion of both.

“How now,” he said, “what is the matter this morning, Richie, that you have made your face so like the grotesque mask on one of the spouts yonder?” pointing to the Temple Church, of which Gothic building they had a view from the window.

Richie swivelled his head a little to the right with as little alacrity as if he had the crick in his neck, and instantly resuming his posture, replied — “Mask here, mask there — it were nae such matters that I have to speak anent.”

“And what matters have you to speak anent, then?” said his master, whom circumstances had inured to tolerate a good deal of freedom from his attendant.

“My lord,”— said Richie, and then stopped to cough and hem, as if what he had to say stuck somewhat in his throat.

“I guess the mystery,” said Nigel, “you want a little money, Richie; will five pieces serve the present turn?”

“My lord,” said Richie, “I may, it is like, want a trifle of money; and I am glad at the same time, and sorry, that it is mair plenty with your lordship than formerly.”

“Glad and sorry, man!” said Lord Nigel, “why, you are reading riddles to me, Richie.”

“My riddle will be briefly read,” said Richie; “I come to crave of your lordship your commands for Scotland.”

“For Scotland! — why, art thou mad, man?” said Nigel; “canst thou not tarry to go down with me?”

“I could be of little service,” said Richie, “since you purpose to hire another page and groom.”

“Why, thou jealous ass,” said the young lord, “will not thy load of duty lie the lighter? — Go, take thy breakfast, and drink thy ale double strong, to put such absurdities out of thy head — I could be angry with thee for thy folly, man — but I remember how thou hast stuck to me in adversity.”

“Adversity, my lord, should never have parted us,” said Richie; “methinks, had the warst come to warst, I could have starved as gallantly as your lordship, or more so, being in some sort used to it; for, though I was bred at a flasher’s stall, I have not through my life had a constant intimacy with collops.”

“Now, what is the meaning of all this trash?” said Nigel; “or has it no other end than to provoke my patience? You know well enough, that, had I twenty serving-men, I would hold the faithful follower that stood by me in my distress the most valued of them all. But it is totally out of reason to plague me with your solemn capriccios.”

“My lord,” said Richie, “in declaring your trust in me, you have done what is honourable to yourself, if I may with humility say so much, and in no way undeserved on my side. Nevertheless, we must part.”

“Body of me, man, why?” said Lord Nigel; “what reason can there be for it, if we are mutually satisfied?”

“My lord,” said Richie Moniplies, “your lordship’s occupations are such as I cannot own or countenance by my presence.”

“How now, sirrah!” said his master, angrily.

“Under favour, my lord,” replied his domestic, “it is unequal dealing to be equally offended by my speech and by my silence. If you can hear with patience the grounds of my departure, it may be, for aught I know, the better for you here and hereafter — if not, let me have my license of departure in silence, and so no more about it.”

“Go to, sir!” said Nigel; “speak out your mind — only remember to whom you speak it.”

“Weel, weel, my lord — I speak it with humility;” (never did Richie look with more starched dignity than when he uttered the word;) “but do you think this dicing and card-shuffling, and haunting of taverns and playhouses, suits your lordship — for I am sure it does not suit me?”

“Why, you are not turned precisian or puritan, fool?” said Lord Glenvarloch, laughing, though, betwixt resentment and shame, it cost him some trouble to do so.

“My lord,” replied the follower, “I ken the purport of your query. I am, it may be, a little of a precisian, and I wish to Heaven I was mair worthy of the name; but let that be a pass-over. — I have stretched the duties of a serving-man as far as my northern conscience will permit. I can give my gude word to my master, or to my native country, when I am in a foreign land, even though I should leave downright truth a wee bit behind me. Ay, and I will take or give a slash with ony man that speaks to the derogation of either. But this chambering, dicing, and play-haunting, is not my element — I cannot draw breath in it — and when I hear of your lordship winning the siller that some poor creature may full sairly miss — by my saul, if it wad serve your necessity, rather than you gained it from him, I wad take a jump over the hedge with your lordship, and cry ‘Stand!’ to the first grazier we met that was coming from Smithfield with the price of his Essex calves in his leathern pouch!”

“You are a simpleton,” said Nigel, who felt, however, much conscience-struck; “I never play but for small sums.”

“Ay, my lord,” replied the unyielding domestic, “and — still with reverence — it is even sae much the waur. If you played with your equals, there might be like sin, but there wad be mair warldly honour in it. Your lordship kens, or may ken, by experience of your ain, whilk is not as yet mony weeks auld, that small sums can ill be missed by those that have nane larger; and I maun e’en be plain with you, that men notice it of your lordship, that ye play wi’ nane but the misguided creatures that can but afford to lose bare stakes.”

“No man dare say so!” replied Nigel, very angrily. “I play with whom I please, but I will only play for what stake I please.”

“That is just what they say, my lord,” said the unmerciful Richie, whose natural love of lecturing, as well as his bluntness of feeling, prevented him from having any idea of the pain which he was inflicting on his master; “these are even their own very words. It was but yesterday your lordship was pleased, at that same ordinary, to win from yonder young hafflins gentleman, with the crimson velvet doublet, and the cock’s feather in his beaver — him, I mean, who fought with the ranting captain — a matter of five pounds, or thereby. I saw him come through the hall; and, if he was not cleaned out of cross and pile, I never saw a ruined man in my life.”

“Impossible!” said Lord Glenvarloch —“Why, who is he? he looked like a man of substance.”

“All is not gold that glistens, my lord,” replied Richie; “‘broidery and bullion buttons make bare pouches. And if you ask who he is — maybe I have a guess, and care not to tell.”

“At least, if I have done any such fellow an injury,” said the Lord Nigel, “let me know how I can repair it.”

“Never fash your beard about that, my lord — with reverence always,” said Richie — “he shall be suitably cared after. Think on him but as ane wha was running post to the devil, and got a shouldering from your lordship to help him on his journey. But I will stop him, if reason can; and so your lordship needs asks nae mair about it, for there is no use in your knowing it, but much the contrair.”

“Hark you, sirrah,” said his master, “I have borne with you thus far, for certain reasons; but abuse my good-nature no farther — and since you must needs go, why, go a God’s name, and here is to pay your journey.” So saying, he put gold into his hand, which Richie told over piece by piece, with the utmost accuracy.

“Is it all right — or are they wanting in weight — or what the devil keeps you, when your hurry was so great five minutes since?” said the young lord, now thoroughly nettled at the presumptuous precision with which Richie dealt forth his canons of morality.

“The tale of coin is complete,” said Richie, with the most imperturbable gravity; “and, for the weight, though they are sae scrupulous in this town, as make mouths at a piece that is a wee bit light, or that has been cracked within the ring, my sooth, they will jump at them in Edinburgh like a cock at a grosart. Gold pieces are not so plenty there, the mair the pity!”

“The more is your folly, then,” said Nigel, whose anger was only momentary, “that leave the land where there is enough of them.”

“My lord,” said Richie, “to be round with you, the grace of God is better than gold pieces. When Goblin, as you call yonder Monsieur Lutin — and you might as well call him Gibbet, since that is what he is like to end in — shall recommend a page to you, ye will hear little such doctrine as ye have heard from me. — And if they were my last words,” he said, raising his voice, “I would say you are misled, and are forsaking the paths which your honourable father trode in; and, what is more, you are going — still under correction — to the devil with a dishclout, for ye are laughed at by them that lead you into these disordered bypaths.”

“Laughed at!” said Nigel, who, like others of his age, was more sensible to ridicule than to reason —“Who dares laugh at me?”

“My lord, as sure as I live by bread — nay, more, as I am a true man — and, I think, your lordship never found Richie’s tongue bearing aught but the truth — unless that your lordship’s credit, my country’s profit, or, it may be, some sma’ occasion of my ain, made it unnecessary to promulgate the haill veritie — I say then, as I am a true man, when I saw that puir creature come through the ha’, at that ordinary, whilk is accurst (Heaven forgive me for swearing!) of God and man, with his teeth set, and his hands clenched, and his bonnet drawn over his brows like a desperate man, Goblin said to me, ‘There goes a dunghill chicken, that your master has plucked clean enough; it will be long ere his lordship ruffle a feather with a cock of the game.’ And so, my lord, to speak it out, the lackeys, and the gallants, and more especially your sworn brother, Lord Dalgarno, call you the sparrow-hawk. — I had some thought to have cracked Lutin’s pate for the speech, but, after a’, the controversy was not worth it.”

“Do they use such terms of me?” said Lord Nigel. “Death and the devil!”

“And the devil’s dam, my lord,” answered Richie; “they are all three busy in London. — And, besides, Lutin and his master laughed at you, my lord, for letting it be thought that — I shame to speak it — that ye were over well with the wife of the decent honest man whose house you but now left, as not sufficient for your new bravery, whereas they said, the licentious scoffers, that you pretended to such favour when you had not courage enough for so fair a quarrel, and that the sparrow-hawk was too craven-crested to fly at the wife of a cheesemonger.”— He stopped a moment, and looked fixedly in his master’s face, which was inflamed with shame and anger, and then proceeded. “My lord, I did you justice in my thought, and myself too; for, thought I, he would have been as deep in that sort of profligacy as in others, if it hadna been Richie’s four quarters.”

“What new nonsense have you got to plague me with?” said Lord Nigel. “But go on, since it is the last time I am to be tormented with your impertinence — go on, and make the most of your time.”

“In troth,” said Richie, “and so will I even do. And as Heaven has bestowed on me a tongue to speak and to advise ——”

“Which talent you can by no means be accused of suffering to remain idle,” said Lord Glenvarloch, interrupting him.

“True, my lord,” said Richie, again waving his hand, as if to bespeak his master’s silence and attention; “so, I trust, you will think some time hereafter. And, as I am about to leave your service, it is proper that ye suld know the truth, that ye may consider the snares to which your youth and innocence may be exposed, when aulder and doucer heads are withdrawn from beside you. — There has been a lusty, good-looking kimmer, of some forty, or bygane, making mony speerings about you, my lord.”

“Well, sir, what did she want with me?” said Lord Nigel.

“At first, my lord,” replied his sapient follower, “as she seemed to be a well-fashioned woman, and to take pleasure in sensible company, I was no way reluctant to admit her to my conversation.”

“I dare say not,” said Lord Nigel; “nor unwilling to tell her about my private affairs.”

“Not I, truly, my lord,” said the attendant; —“for, though she asked me mony questions about your fame, your fortune, your business here, and such like, I did not think it proper to tell her altogether the truth thereanent.”

“I see no call on you whatever,” said Lord Nigel, “to tell the woman either truth or lies upon what she had nothing to do with.”

“I thought so, too, my lord,” replied Richie, “and so I told her neither.”

“And what did you tell her, then, you eternal babbler?” said his master, impatient of his prate, yet curious to know what it was all to end in.

“I told her,” said Richie, “about your warldly fortune, and sae forth, something whilk is not truth just at this time; but which hath been truth formerly, suld be truth now, and will be truth again — and that was, that you were in possession of your fair lands, whilk ye are but in right of as yet. Pleasant communing we had on that and other topics, until she showed the cloven foot, beginning to confer with me about some wench that she said had a good-will to your lordship, and fain she would have spoken with you in particular anent it; but when I heard of such inklings, I began to suspect she was little better than — whew! “— Here he concluded his narrative with a low, but very expressive whistle.

“And what did your wisdom do in these circumstances?” said Lord Nigel, who, notwithstanding his former resentment, could now scarcely forbear laughing.

“I put on a look, my lord,” replied Richie, bending his solemn brows, “that suld give her a heartscald of walking on such errands. I laid her enormities clearly before her, and I threatened her, in sae mony words, that I would have her to the ducking-stool; and she, on the contrair part, miscawed me for a forward northern tyke — and so we parted never to meet again, as I hope and trust. And so I stood between your lordship and that temptation, which might have been worse than the ordinary, or the playhouse either; since you wot well what Solomon, King of the Jews, sayeth of the strange woman — for, said I to mysell, we have taken to dicing already, and if we take to drabbing next, the Lord kens what we may land in!”

“Your impertinence deserves correction, but it is the last which, for a time at least, I shall have to forgive — and I forgive it,” said Lord Glenvarloch; “and, since we are to part, Richie, I will say no more respecting your precautions on my account, than that I think you might have left me to act according to my own judgment.”

“Mickle better not,” answered Richie —“mickle better not; we are a’ frail creatures, and can judge better for ilk ither than in our ain cases. And for me, even myself, saving that case of the Sifflication, which might have happened to ony one, I have always observed myself to be much more prudential in what I have done in your lordship’s behalf, than even in what I have been able to transact for my own interest — whilk last, I have, indeed, always postponed, as in duty I ought.”

“I do believe thou hast,” said Lord Nigel, “having ever found thee true and faithful. And since London pleases you so little, I will bid you a short farewell; and you may go down to Edinburgh until I come thither myself, when I trust you will re-enter into my service.”

“Now, Heaven bless you, my lord,” said Richie Moniplies, with uplifted eyes; “for that word sounds more like grace than ony has come out of your mouth this fortnight. — I give you godd’en, my lord.”

So saying, he thrust forth his immense bony hand, seized on that of Lord Glenvarloch, raised it to his lips, then turned short on his heel, and left the room hastily, as if afraid of showing more emotion than was consistent with his ideas of decorum. Lord Nigel, rather surprised at his sudden exit, called after him to know whether he was sufficiently provided with money; but Richie, shaking his head, without making any other answer, ran hastily down stairs, shut the street-door heavily behind him, and was presently seen striding along the Strand.

His master almost involuntarily watched and distinguished the tall raw-boned figure of his late follower, from the window, for some time, until he was lost among the crowd of passengers. Nigel’s reflections were not altogether those of self-approval. It was no good sign of his course of life, (he could not help acknowledging this much to himself,) that so faithful an adherent no longer seemed to feel the same pride in his service, or attachment to his person, which he had formerly manifested. Neither could he avoid experiencing some twinges of conscience, while he felt in some degree the charges which Richie had preferred against him, and experienced a sense of shame and mortification, arising from the colour given by others to that, which he himself would have called his caution and moderation in play. He had only the apology, that it had never occurred to himself in this light.

Then his pride and self-love suggested, that, on the other hand, Richie, with all his good intentions, was little better than a conceited, pragmatical domestic, who seemed disposed rather to play the tutor than the lackey, and who, out of sheer love, as he alleged, to his master’s person, assumed the privilege of interfering with, and controlling, his actions, besides rendering him ridiculous in the gay world, from the antiquated formality, and intrusive presumption, of his manners.

Nigel’s eyes were scarce turned from the window, when his new landlord entering, presented to him a slip of paper, carefully bound round with a string of flox-silk and sealed —-it had been given in, he said, by a woman, who did not stop an instant. The contents harped upon the same string which Richie Moniplies had already jarred. The epistle was in the following words:

For the Right Honourable hands of Lord Glenvarloch, “These, from a friend unknown:—

“MY LORD,

“You are trusting to an unhonest friend, and diminishing an honest reputation. An unknown but real friend of your lordship will speak in one word what you would not learn from flatterers in so many days, as should suffice for your utter ruin. He whom you think most true — I say your friend Lord Dalgarno — is utterly false to you, and doth but seek, under pretence of friendship, to mar your fortune, and diminish the good name by which you might mend it. The kind countenance which he shows to you, is more dangerous than the Prince’s frown; even as to gain at Beaujeu’s ordinary is more discreditable than to lose. Beware of both. — And this is all from your true but nameless friend,

IGNOTO.”

Lord Glenvarloch paused for an instant, and crushed the paper together — then again unfolded and read it with attention — bent his brows — mused for a moment, and then tearing it to fragments, exclaimed —“Begone for a vile calumny! But I will watch — I will observe —”

Thought after thought rushed on him; but, upon the whole, Lord Glenvarloch was so little satisfied with the result of his own reflections, that he resolved to dissipate them by a walk in the Park, and, taking his cloak and beaver, went thither accordingly.

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