The Fortunes of Nigel, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 5

Wherefore come ye not to court?

Certain ’tis the rarest sport;

There are silks and jewels glistening,

Prattling fools and wise men listening,

Bullies among brave men justling,

Beggars amongst nobles bustling;

Low-breath’d talkers, minion lispers,

Cutting honest throats by whispers;

Wherefore come ye not to court?

Skelton swears ’tis glorious sport.

Skelton Skeltonizeth.

It was not entirely out of parade that the benevolent citizen was mounted and attended in that manner, which, as the reader has been informed, excited a gentle degree of spleen on the part of Dame Christie, which, to do her justice, vanished in the little soliloquy which we have recorded. The good man, besides the natural desire to maintain the exterior of a man of worship, was at present bound to Whitehall in order to exhibit a piece of valuable workmanship to King James, which he deemed his Majesty might be pleased to view, or even to purchase. He himself was therefore mounted upon his caparisoned mule, that he might the better make his way through the narrow, dirty, and crowded streets; and while one of his attendants carried under his arm the piece of plate, wrapped up in red baize, the other two gave an eye to its safety; for such was then the state of the police of the metropolis, that men were often assaulted in the public street for the sake of revenge or of plunder; and those who apprehended being beset, usually endeavoured, if their estate admitted such expense, to secure themselves by the attendance of armed followers. And this custom, which was at first limited to the nobility and gentry, extended by degrees to those citizens of consideration, who, being understood to travel with a charge, as it was called, might otherwise have been selected as safe subjects of plunder by the street-robber.

As Master George Heriot paced forth westward with this gallant attendance, he paused at the shop door of his countryman and friend, the ancient horologer, and having caused Tunstall, who was in attendance, to adjust his watch by the real time, he desired to speak with his master; in consequence of which summons, the old Time-meter came forth from his den, his face like a bronze bust, darkened with dust, and glistening here and there with copper filings, and his senses so bemused in the intensity of calculation, that he gazed on his friend the goldsmith for a minute before he seemed perfectly to comprehend who he was, and heard him express his invitation to David Ramsay, and pretty Mistress Margaret, his daughter, to dine with him next day at noon, to meet with a noble young countrymen, without returning any answer.

“I’ll make thee speak, with a murrain to thee,” muttered Heriot to himself; and suddenly changing his tone, he said aloud — “I pray you, neighbour David, when are you and I to have a settlement for the bullion wherewith I supplied you to mount yonder hall-clock at Theobald’s, and that other whirligig that you made for the Duke of Buckingham? I have had the Spanish house to satisfy for the ingots, and I must needs put you in mind that you have been eight months behind-hand.”

There is something so sharp and aigre in the demand of a peremptory dun, that no human tympanum, however inaccessible to other tones, can resist the application. David Ramsay started at once from his reverie, and answered in a pettish tone, “Wow, George, man, what needs aw this din about sax score o’ pounds? Aw the world kens I can answer aw claims on me, and you proffered yourself fair time, till his maist gracious Majesty and the noble Duke suld make settled accompts wi’ me; and ye may ken, by your ain experience, that I canna gang rowting like an unmannered Highland stot to their doors, as ye come to mine.”

Heriot laughed, and replied, “Well, David, I see a demand of money is like a bucket of water about your ears, and makes you a man of the world at once. And now, friend, will you tell me, like a Christian man, if you will dine with me to-morrow at noon, and bring pretty Mistress Margaret, my god-daughter, with you, to meet with our noble young countryman, the Lord of Glenvarloch?”

“The young Lord of Glenvarloch!” said the old mechanist; “wi’ aw my heart, and blithe I will be to see him again. We have not met these forty years — he was twa years before me at the humanity classes — he is a sweet youth.”

“That was his father — his father — his father! — you old dotard Dot-and-carry-one that you are,” answered the goldsmith. “A sweet youth he would have been by this time, had he lived, worthy nobleman! This is his son, the Lord Nigel.”

“His son!” said Ramsay; “maybe he will want something of a chronometer, or watch — few gallants care to be without them now-a-days.”

“He may buy half your stock-in-trade, if ever he comes to his own, for what I know,” said his friend; “but, David, remember your bond, and use me not as you did when my housewife had the sheep’s-head and the cock-a-leeky boiling for you as late as two of the clock afternoon.”

“She had the more credit by her cookery,” answered David, now fully awake; “a sheep’s-head over-boiled, were poison, according to our saying.”

“Well,” answered Master George, “but as there will be no sheep’s-head to-morrow, it may chance you to spoil a dinner which a proverb cannot mend. It may be you may forgather with your friend, Sir Mungo Malagrowther, for I purpose to ask his worship; so, be sure and bide tryste, Davie.”

“That will I— I will be true as a chronometer,” said Ramsay.

“I will not trust you, though,” replied Heriot. —“Hear you, Jenkin boy, tell Scots Janet to tell pretty Mistress Margaret, my god-child, she must put her father in remembrance to put on his best doublet to-morrow, and to bring him to Lombard Street at noon. Tell her they are to meet a brave young Scots lord.”

Jenkin coughed that sort of dry short cough uttered by those who are either charged with errands which they do not like, or hear opinions to which they must not enter a dissent.

“Umph!” repeated Master George — who, as we have already noticed, was something of a martinet in domestic discipline —“what does umph mean? Will you do mine errand or not, sirrah?”

“Sure, Master George Heriot,” said the apprentice, touching his cap, “I only meant, that Mistress Margaret was not likely to forget such an invitation.”

“Why, no,” said Master George; “she is a dutiful girl to her god-father, though I sometimes call her a jill-flirt. — And, hark ye, Jenkin, you and your comrade had best come with your clubs, to see your master and her safely home; but first shut shop, and loose the bull-dog, and let the porter stay in the fore-shop till your return. I will send two of my knaves with you; for I hear these wild youngsters of the Temple are broken out worse and lighter than ever.”

“We can keep their steel in order with good handbats,” said Jenkin; “and never trouble your servants for the matter.”

“Or, if need be,” said Tunstall, “we have swords as well as the Templars.”

“Fie upon it — fie upon it, young man,” said the citizen; —“An apprentice with a sword! — Marry, heaven forefend! I would as soon see him in a hat and feather.”

“Well, sir,” said Jenkin —“we will find arms fitting to our station, and will defend our master and his daughter, if we should tear up the very stones of the pavement.”

“There spoke a London ‘prentice bold,” said the citizen; “and, for your comfort, my lads, you shall crush a cup of wine to the health of the Fathers of the City. I have my eye on both of you — you are thriving lads, each in his own way. — God be wi’ you, Davie. Forget not to-morrow at noon.” And, so saying, he again turned his mule’s head westward, and crossed Temple Bar, at that slow and decent amble, which at once became his rank and civic importance, and put his pedestrian followers to no inconvenience to keep up with him.

At the Temple gate he again paused, dismounted, and sought his way into one of the small booths occupied by scriveners in the neighbourhood. A young man, with lank smooth hair combed straight to his ears, and then cropped short, rose, with a cringing reverence, pulled off a slouched hat, which he would upon no signal replace on his head, and answered with much demonstration of reverence, to the goldsmith’s question of, “How goes business, Andrew?”—“Aw the better for your worship’s kind countenance and maintenance.”

“Get a large sheet of paper, man, and make a new pen, with a sharp neb, and fine hair-stroke. Do not slit the quill up too high, it’s a wastrife course in your trade, Andrew — they that do not mind corn-pickles, never come to forpits. I have known a learned man write a thousand pages with one quill.” 9

“Ah! sir,” said the lad, who listened to the goldsmith, though instructing him in his own trade, with an air of veneration and acquiescence, “how sune ony puir creature like mysell may rise in the world, wi’ the instruction of such a man as your worship!”

“My instructions are few, Andrew, soon told, and not hard to practise. Be honest — be industrious — be frugal — and you will soon win wealth and worship. — Here, copy me this Supplication in your best and most formal hand. I will wait by you till it is done.”

The youth lifted not his eye from the paper, and laid not the pen from his hand, until the task was finished to his employer’s satisfaction. The citizen then gave the young scrivener an angel; and bidding him, on his life, be secret in all business intrusted to him, again mounted his mule, and rode on westward along the Strand.

It may be worth while to remind our readers, that the Temple Bar which Heriot passed, was not the arched screen, or gateway, of the present day; but an open railing, or palisade, which, at night, and in times of alarm, was closed with a barricade of posts and chains. The Strand also, along which he rode, was not, as now, a continued street, although it was beginning already to assume that character. It still might be considered as an open road, along the south side of which stood various houses and hotels belonging to the nobility, having gardens behind them down to the water-side, with stairs to the river, for the convenience of taking boat; which mansions have bequeathed the names of their lordly owners to many of the streets leading from the Strand to the Thames. The north side of the Strand was also a long line of houses, behind which, as in Saint Martin’s Lane, and other points, buildings, were rapidly arising; but Covent Garden was still a garden, in the literal sense of the word, or at least but beginning to be studded with irregular buildings. All that was passing around, however, marked the rapid increase of a capital which had long enjoyed peace, wealth, and a regular government. Houses were rising in every direction; and the shrewd eye of our citizen already saw the period not distant, which should convert the nearly open highway on which he travelled, into a connected and regular street, uniting the Court and the town with the city of London.

He next passed Charing Cross, which was no longer the pleasant solitary village at which the judges were wont to breakfast on their way to Westminster Hall, but began to resemble the artery through which, to use Johnson’s expression “pours the full tide of London population.” The buildings were rapidly increasing, yet certainly gave not even a faint idea of its present appearance.

At last Whitehall received our traveller, who passed under one of the beautiful gates designed by Holbein, and composed of tesselated brick-work, being the same to which Moniplies had profanely likened the West-Port of Edinburgh, and entered the ample precincts of the palace of Whitehall, now full of all the confusion attending improvement. It was just at the time when James — little suspecting that he was employed in constructing a palace, from the window of which his only son was to pass in order that he might die upon a scaffold before it — was busied in removing the ancient and ruinous buildings of De Burgh, Henry VIII., and Queen Elizabeth, to make way for the superb architecture on which Inigo Jones exerted all his genius. The king, ignorant of futurity, was now engaged in pressing on his work; and, for that purpose, still maintained his royal apartments at Whitehall, amidst the rubbish of old buildings, and the various confusion attending the erection of the new pile, which formed at present a labyrinth not easily traversed.

The goldsmith to the Royal Household, and who, if fame spoke true, oftentimes acted as their banker — for these professions were not as yet separated from each other — was a person of too much importance to receive the slightest interruption from sentinel or porter; and, leaving his mule and two of his followers in the outer-court, he gently knocked at a postern-gate of the building, and was presently admitted, while the most trusty of his attendants followed him closely, with the piece of plate under his arm. This man also he left behind him in an ante-room — where three or four pages in the royal livery, but untrussed, unbuttoned, and dressed more carelessly than the place, and nearness to a king’s person, seemed to admit, were playing at dice and draughts, or stretched upon benches, and slumbering with half-shut eyes. A corresponding gallery, which opened from the ante-room, was occupied by two gentlemen-ushers of the chamber, who gave each a smile of recognition as the wealthy goldsmith entered.

No word was spoken on either side; but one of the ushers looked first to Heriot, and then to a little door half-covered by the tapestry, which seemed to say, as plain as a look could, “Lies your business that way?” The citizen nodded; and the court-attendant, moving on tiptoe, and with as much caution as if the floor had been paved with eggs, advanced to the door, opened it gently, and spoke a few words in a low tone. The broad Scottish accent of King James was heard in reply — “Admit him instanter, Maxwell. Have you hairboured sae lang at the Court, and not learned, that gold and silver are ever welcome?”

The usher signed to Heriot to advance, and the honest citizen was presently introduced into the cabinet of the Sovereign.

The scene of confusion amid which he found the king seated, was no bad picture of the state and quality of James’s own mind. There was much that was rich and costly in cabinet pictures and valuable ornaments; but they were arranged in a slovenly manner, covered with dust, and lost half their value, or at least their effect, from the manner in which they were presented to the eye. The table was loaded with huge folios, amongst which lay light books of jest and ribaldry; and, amongst notes of unmercifully long orations, and essays on king-craft, were mingled miserable roundels and ballads by the Royal ‘Prentice, as he styled himself, in the art of poetry, and schemes for the general pacification of Europe, with a list of the names of the king’s hounds, and remedies against canine madness.

The king’s dress was of green velvet, quilted so full as to be dagger-proof — which gave him the appearance of clumsy and ungainly protuberance; while its being buttoned awry, communicated to his figure an air of distortion. Over his green doublet he wore a sad-coloured nightgown, out of the pocket of which peeped his hunting-horn. His high-crowned grey hat lay on the floor, covered with dust, but encircled by a carcanet of large balas rubies; and he wore a blue velvet nightcap, in the front of which was placed the plume of a heron, which had been struck down by a favourite hawk in some critical moment of the flight, in remembrance of which the king wore this highly honoured feather.

But such inconsistencies in dress and appointments were mere outward types of those which existed in the royal character, rendering it a subject of doubt amongst his contemporaries, and bequeathing it as a problem to future historians. He was deeply learned, without possessing useful knowledge; sagacious in many individual cases, without having real wisdom; fond of his power, and desirous to maintain and augment it, yet willing to resign the direction of that, and of himself, to the most unworthy favourites; a big and bold asserter of his rights in words, yet one who tamely saw them trampled on in deeds; a lover of negotiations, in which he was always outwitted; and one who feared war, where conquest might have been easy. He was fond of his dignity, while he was perpetually degrading it by undue familiarity; capable of much public labour, yet often neglecting it for the meanest amusement; a wit, though a pedant; and a scholar, though fond of the conversation of the ignorant and uneducated. Even his timidity of temper was not uniform; and there were moments of his life, and those critical, in which he showed the spirit of his ancestors. He was laborious in trifles, and a trifler where serious labour was required; devout in his sentiments, and yet too often profane in his language; just and beneficent by nature, he yet gave way to the iniquities and oppression of others. He was penurious respecting money which he had to give from his own hand, yet inconsiderately and unboundedly profuse of that which he did not see. In a word, those good qualities which displayed themselves in particular cases and occasions, were not of a nature sufficiently firm and comprehensive to regulate his general conduct; and, showing themselves as they occasionally did, only entitled James to the character bestowed on him by Sully — that he was the wisest fool in Christendom.

That the fortunes of this monarch might be as little of apiece as his character, he, certainly the least able of the Stewarts, succeeded peaceably to that kingdom, against the power of which his predecessors had, with so much difficulty, defended his native throne; and, lastly, although his reign appeared calculated to ensure to Great Britain that lasting tranquillity and internal peace which so much suited the king’s disposition, yet, during that very reign, were sown those seeds of dissension, which, like the teeth of the fabulous dragon, had their harvest in a bloody and universal civil war.

Such was the monarch, who, saluting Heriot by the name of Jingling Geordie, (for it was his well-known custom to give nicknames to all those with whom he was on terms of familiarity,) inquired what new clatter-traps he had brought with him, to cheat his lawful and native Prince out of his siller.

“God forbid, my liege,” said the citizen, “that I should have any such disloyal purpose. I did but bring a piece of plate to show to your most gracious Majesty, which, both for the subject and for the workmanship, I were loath to put into the hands of any subject until I knew your Majesty’s pleasure anent it.”

“Body o’ me, man, let’s see it, Heriot; though, by my saul, Steenie’s service o’ plate was sae dear a bargain, I had ‘maist pawned my word as a Royal King, to keep my ain gold and silver in future, and let you, Geordie, keep yours.”

“Respecting the Duke of Buckingham’s plate,” said the goldsmith, “your Majesty was pleased to direct that no expense should be spared, and —”

“What signifies what I desired, man? when a wise man is with fules and bairns, he maun e’en play at the chucks. But you should have had mair sense and consideration than to gie Babie Charles and Steenie their ain gate; they wad hae floored the very rooms wi’ silver, and I wonder they didna.”

George Heriot bowed, and said no more. He knew his master too well to vindicate himself otherwise than by a distant allusion to his order; and James, with whom economy was only a transient and momentary twinge of conscience, became immediately afterwards desirous to see the piece of plate which the goldsmith proposed to exhibit, and dispatched Maxwell to bring it to his presence. In the meantime he demanded of the citizen whence he had procured it.

“From Italy, may it please your Majesty,” replied Heriot.

“It has naething in it tending to papistrie?” said the king, looking graver than his wont.

“Surely not, please your Majesty,” said Heriot; “I were not wise to bring any thing to your presence that had the mark of the beast.”

“You would be the mair beast yourself to do so,” said the king; “it is weel kend that I wrestled wi’ Dagon in my youth, and smote him on the groundsill of his own temple; a gude evidence that I should be in time called, however unworthy, the Defender of the Faith. — But here comes Maxwell, bending under his burden, like the Golden Ass of Apuleius.”

Heriot hastened to relieve the usher, and to place the embossed salver, for such it was, and of extraordinary dimensions, in a light favourable for his Majesty’s viewing the sculpture.

“Saul of my body, man,” said the king, “it is a curious piece, and, as I think, fit for a king’s chalmer; and the subject, as you say, Master George, vera adequate and beseeming — being, as I see, the judgment of Solomon — a prince in whose paths it weel becomes a’ leeving monarchs to walk with emulation.”

“But whose footsteps,” said Maxwell, “only one of them — if a subject may say so much — hath ever overtaken.”

“Haud your tongue for a fause fleeching loon!” said the king, but with a smile on his face that showed the flattery had done its part. “Look at the bonny piece of workmanship, and haud your clavering tongue. — And whase handiwork may it be, Geordie?”

“It was wrought, sir,” replied the goldsmith, “by the famous Florentine, Benvenuto Cellini, and designed for Francis the First of France; but I hope it will find a fitter master.”

“Francis of France!” said the king; “send Solomon, King of the Jews, to Francis of France! — Body of me, man, it would have kythed Cellini mad, had he never done ony thing else out of the gate. Francis! — why, he was a fighting fule, man — a mere fighting fule — got himsell ta’en at Pavia, like our ain David at Durham lang syne; — if they could hae sent him Solomon’s wit, and love of peace, and godliness, they wad hae dune him a better turn. But Solomon should sit in other gate company than Francis of France.”

“I trust that such will be his good fortune,” said Heriot.

“It is a curious and very artificial sculpture,” said the king, in continuation; “but yet, methinks, the carnifex, or executioner there, is brandishing his gully ower near the king’s face, seeing he is within reach of his weapon. I think less wisdom than Solomon’s wad have taught him that there was danger in edge-tools, and that he wad have bidden the smaik either sheath his shabble, or stand farther back.”

George Heriot endeavoured to alleviate this objection, by assuring the king that the vicinity betwixt Solomon and the executioner was nearer in appearance than in reality, and that the perspective should be allowed for.

“Gang to the deil wi’ your prospective, man,” said the king; “there canna be a waur prospective for a lawful king, wha wishes to reign in luve, and die in peace and honour, than to have naked swords flashing in his een. I am accounted as brave as maist folks; and yet I profess to ye I could never look on a bare blade without blinking and winking. But a’thegither it is a brave piece; — and what is the price of it, man?”

The goldsmith replied by observing, that it was not his own property, but that of a distressed countryman.

“Whilk you mean to mak your excuse for asking the double of its worth, I warrant?” answered the king. “I ken the tricks of you burrows-town merchants, man.”

“I have no hopes of baffling your Majesty’s sagacity,” said Heriot; “the piece is really what I say, and the price a hundred and fifty pounds sterling, if it pleases your Majesty to make present payment.”

“A hundred and fifty punds, man! and as mony witches and warlocks to raise them!” said the irritated Monarch. “My saul, Jingling Geordie, ye are minded that your purse shall jingle to a bonny tune! — How am I to tell you down a hundred and fifty punds for what will not weigh as many merks? and ye ken that my very household servitors, and the officers of my mouth, are sax months in arrear!”

The goldsmith stood his ground against all this objurgation, being what he was well accustomed to, and only answered, that, if his Majesty liked the piece, and desired to possess it, the price could be easily settled. It was true that the party required the money, but he, George Heriot, would advance it on his Majesty’s account, if such were his pleasure, and wait his royal conveniency for payment, for that and other matters; the money, meanwhile, lying at the ordinary usage.

“By my honour,” said James, “and that is speaking like an honest and reasonable tradesman. We maun get another subsidy frae the Commons, and that will make ae compting of it. Awa wi’ it, Maxwell — awa wi’ it, and let it be set where Steenie and Babie Charles shall see it as they return from Richmond. — And now that we are secret, my good auld friend Geordie, I do truly opine, that speaking of Solomon and ourselves, the haill wisdom in the country left Scotland, when we took our travels to the Southland here.”

George Heriot was courtier enough to say, that “the wise naturally follow the wisest, as stags follow their leader.” “Troth, I think there is something in what thou sayest,” said James; “for we ourselves, and those of our Court and household, as thou thyself, for example, are allowed by the English, for as self-opinioned as they are, to pass for reasonable good wits; but the brains of those we have left behind are all astir, and run clean hirdie-girdie, like sae mony warlocks and witches on the Devil’s Sabbath e’en.”

“I am sorry to hear this, my liege,” said Heriot. “May it please your Grace to say what our countrymen have done to deserve such a character?”

“They are become frantic, man — clean brain-crazed,” answered the king. “I cannot keep them out of the Court by all the proclamations that the heralds roar themselves hoarse with. Yesterday, nae farther gane, just as we were mounted, and about to ride forth, in rushed a thorough Edinburgh gutterblood — a ragged rascal, every dud upon whose back was bidding good-day to the other, with a coat and hat that would have served a pease-bogle, and without havings or reverence, thrusts into our hands, like a sturdy beggar, some Supplication about debts owing by our gracious mother, and siclike trash; whereat the horse spangs on end, and, but for our admirable sitting, wherein we have been thought to excel maist sovereign princes, as well as subjects, in Europe, I promise you we would have been laid endlang on the causeway.”

“Your Majesty,” said Heriot, “is their common father, and therefore they are the bolder to press into your gracious presence.”

“I ken I am pater patriae well enough,” said James; “but one would think they had a mind to squeeze my puddings out, that they may divide the inheritance, Ud’s death, Geordie, there is not a loon among them can deliver a Supplication, as it suld be done in the face of majesty.”

“I would I knew the most fitting and beseeming mode to do so,” said Heriot, “were it but to instruct our poor countrymen in better fashions.”

“By my halidome,” said the king, “ye are a ceevileezed fellow, Geordie, and I carena if I fling awa as much time as may teach ye. And, first, see you, sir — ye shall approach the presence of majesty thus — shadowing your eyes with your hand, to testify that you are in the presence of the Vice-gerent of Heaven. — Vera weel, George, that is done in a comely manner. — Then, sir, ye sail kneel, and make as if ye would kiss the hem of our garment, the latch of our shoe, or such like. — Very weel enacted — whilk we, as being willing to be debonair and pleasing towards our lieges, prevent thus — and motion to you to rise; — whilk, having a boon to ask, as yet you obey not, but, gliding your hand into your pouch, bring forth your Supplication, and place it reverentially in our open palm.” The goldsmith, who had complied with great accuracy with all the prescribed points of the ceremonial, here completed it, to James’s no small astonishment, by placing in his hand the petition of the Lord of Glenvarloch. “What means this, ye fause loon?” said he, reddening and sputtering; “hae I been teaching you the manual exercise, that ye suld present your piece at our ain royal body? — Now, by this light, I had as lief that ye had bended a real pistolet against me, and yet this hae ye done in my very cabinet, where nought suld enter but at my ain pleasure.”

“I trust your Majesty,” said Heriot, as he continued to kneel, “will forgive my exercising the lesson you condescended to give me in the behalf of a friend?”

“Of a friend!” said the king; “so much the waur — so much the waur, I tell you. If it had been something to do yoursell good there would have been some sense in it, and some chance that you wad not have come back on me in a hurry; but a man may have a hundred friends, and petitions for every ane of them, ilk ane after other.”

“Your Majesty, I trust,” said Heriot, “will judge me by former experience, and will not suspect me of such presumption.”

“I kenna,” said the placable monarch; “the world goes daft, I think — sed semel insanivimus omnes — thou art my old and faithful servant, that is the truth; and, were’t any thing for thy own behoof, man, thou shouldst not ask twice. But, troth, Steenie loves me so dearly, that he cares not that any one should ask favours of me but himself. — Maxwell,” (for the usher had re-entered after having carried off the plate,) “get into the ante-chamber wi’ your lang lugs. — In conscience, Geordie, I think as that thou hast been mine ain auld fiduciary, and wert my goldsmith when I might say with the Ethnic poet — Non mea renidet in domo lacunar — for, faith, they had pillaged my mither’s auld house sae, that beechen bickers, and treen trenchers, and latten platters, were whiles the best at our board, and glad we were of something to put on them, without quarrelling with the metal of the dishes. D’ye mind, for thou wert in maist of our complots, how we were fain to send sax of the Blue-banders to harry the Lady of Loganhouse’s dowcot and poultry-yard, and what an awfu’ plaint the poor dame made against Jock of Milch, and the thieves of Annandale, wha were as sackless of the deed as I am of the sin of murder?”

“It was the better for Jock,” said Heriot; “for, if I remember weel, it saved him from a strapping up at Dumfries, which he had weel deserved for other misdeeds.”

“Ay, man, mind ye that?” said the king; “but he had other virtues, for he was a tight huntsman, moreover, that Jock of Milch, and could hollow to a hound till all the woods rang again. But he came to an Annandale end at the last, for Lord Torthorwald run his lance out through him. — Cocksnails, man, when I think of those wild passages, in my conscience, I am not sure but we lived merrier in auld Holyrood in those shifting days, than now when we are dwelling at heck and manger. Cantabit vacuus — we had but little to care for.”

“And if your Majesty please to remember,” said the goldsmith, “the awful task we had to gather silver-vessail and gold-work enough to make some show before the Spanish Ambassador.”

“Vera true,” said the king, now in a full tide of gossip, “and I mind not the name of the right leal lord that helped us with every unce he had in his house, that his native Prince might have some credit in the eyes of them that had the Indies at their beck.”

“I think, if your Majesty,” said the citizen, “will cast your eye on the paper in your hand, you will recollect his name.”

“Ay!” said the king, “say ye sae, man? — Lord Glenvarloch, that was his name indeed — Justus et tenax propositi — A just man, but as obstinate as a baited bull. He stood whiles against us, that Lord Randal Olifaunt of Glenvarloch, but he was a loving and a leal subject in the main. But this supplicator maun be his son — Randal has been long gone where king and lord must go, Geordie, as weel as the like of you — and what does his son want with us?”

“The settlement,” answered the citizen, “of a large debt due by your Majesty’s treasury, for money advanced to your Majesty in great State emergency, about the time of the Raid of Ruthven.”

“I mind the thing weel,” said King James —“Od’s death, man, I was just out of the clutches of the Master of Glamis and his complices, and there was never siller mair welcome to a born prince — the mair the shame and pity that crowned king should need sic a petty sum. But what need he dun us for it, man, like a baxter at the breaking? We aught him the siller, and will pay him wi’ our convenience, or make it otherwise up to him, whilk is enow between prince and subject — We are not in meditatione fugae, man, to be arrested thus peremptorily.”

“Alas! an it please your Majesty,” said the goldsmith, shaking his head, “it is the poor young nobleman’s extreme necessity, and not his will, that makes him importunate; for he must have money, and that briefly, to discharge a debt due to Peregrine Peterson, Conservator of the Privileges at Campvere, or his haill hereditary barony and estate of Glenvarloch will be evicted in virtue of an unredeemed wadset.”

“How say ye, man — how say ye?” exclaimed the king, impatiently; “the carle of a Conservator, the son of a Low-Dutch skipper, evict the auld estate and lordship of the house of Olifaunt? — God’s bread, man, that maun not be — we maun suspend the diligence by writ of favour, or otherwise.”

“I doubt that may hardly be,” answered the citizen, “if it please your Majesty; your learned counsel in the law of Scotland advise, that there is no remeid but in paying the money.”

“Ud’s fish,” said the king, “let him keep haud by the strong hand against the carle, until we can take some order about his affairs.”

“Alas!” insisted the goldsmith, “if it like your Majesty, your own pacific government, and your doing of equal justice to all men, has made main force a kittle line to walk by, unless just within the bounds of the Highlands.”

“Well — weel — weel, man,” said the perplexed monarch, whose ideas of justice, expedience, and convenience, became on such occasions strangely embroiled; “just it is we should pay our debts, that the young man may pay his; and he must be paid, and in verbo regis he shall be paid — but how to come by the siller, man, is a difficult chapter — ye maun try the city, Geordie.”

“To say the truth,” answered Heriot, “please your gracious Majesty, what betwixt loans and benevolences, and subsidies, the city is at this present ——”

“Donna tell me of what the city is,” said King James; “our Exchequer is as dry as Dean Giles’s discourses on the penitentiary psalms — Ex nihilo nihil fit — It’s ill taking the breeks aff a wild Highlandman — they that come to me for siller, should tell me how to come by it — the city ye maun try, Heriot; and donna think to be called Jingling Geordie for nothing — and in verbo regis I will pay the lad if you get me the loan — I wonnot haggle on the terms; and, between you and me, Geordie, we will redeem the brave auld estate of Glenvarloch. — But wherefore comes not the young lord to Court, Heriot — is he comely — is he presentable in the presence?”

“No one can be more so,” said George Heriot; “but ——”

“Ay, I understand ye,” said his Majesty —“I understand ye — Res angusta domi — puir lad-puir lad! — and his father a right true leal Scots heart, though stiff in some opinions. Hark ye, Heriot, let the lad have twa hundred pounds to fit him out. And, here — here”—(taking the carcanet of rubies from his old hat)—“ye have had these in pledge before for a larger sum, ye auld Levite that ye are. Keep them in gage, till I gie ye back the siller out of the next subsidy.”

“If it please your Majesty to give me such directions in writing,” said the cautious citizen.

“The deil is in your nicety, George,” said the king; “ye are as preceese as a Puritan in form, and a mere Nullifidian in the marrow of the matter. May not a king’s word serve ye for advancing your pitiful twa hundred pounds?”

“But not for detaining the crown jewels,” said George Heriot.

And the king, who from long experience was inured to dealing with suspicious creditors, wrote an order upon George Heriot, his well-beloved goldsmith and jeweller, for the sum of two hundred pounds, to be paid presently to Nigel Olifaunt, Lord of Glenvarloch, to be imputed as so much debts due to him by the crown; and authorizing the retention of a carcanet of balas rubies, with a great diamond, as described in a Catalogue of his Majesty’s Jewels, to remain in possession of the said George Heriot, advancer of the said sum, and so forth, until he was lawfully contented and paid thereof. By another rescript, his Majesty gave the said George Heriot directions to deal with some of the monied men, upon equitable terms, for a sum of money for his Majesty’s present use, not to be under 50,000 merks, but as much more as could conveniently be procured.

“And has he ony lair, this Lord Nigel of ours?” said the king.

George Heriot could not exactly answer this question; but believed “the young lord had studied abroad.”

“He shall have our own advice,” said the king, “how to carry on his studies to maist advantage; and it may be we will have him come to Court, and study with Steenie and Babie Charles. And, now we think on’t, away — away, George — for the bairns will be coming hame presently, and we would not as yet they kend of this matter we have been treating anent. Propera fedem, O Geordie. Clap your mule between your boughs, and god-den with you.”

Thus ended the conference betwixt the gentle King Jamie and his benevolent jeweller and goldsmith.

9A biblical commentary by Gill, which (if the author’s memory serves him) occupies between five and six hundred printed quarto pages, and must therefore have filled more pages of manuscript than the number mentioned in the text, has this quatrain at the end of the volume —

“With one good pen I wrote this book,

Made of a grey goose quill;

A pen it was when it I took,

And a pen I leave it still.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/nigel/chapter5.html

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