The Fortunes of Nigel, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 9

So pitiful a thing is suitor’s state!

Most miserable man, whom wicked fate

Hath brought to Court to sue, for had I wist,

That few have found, and many a one hath miss’d!

Full little knowest thou, that hast not tried,

What hell it is, in sueing long to bide:

To lose good days that might be better spent;

To waste long nights in pensive discontent;

To speed to-day, to be put back to-morrow;

To feed on hope, to pine with fear and sorrow;

To have thy Prince’s grace, yet want her Peers’;

To have thy asking, yet wait many years;

To fret thy soul with crosses and with cares —

To eat thy heart through comfortless despairs.

To fawn, to crouch, to wait, to ride, to run,

To spend, to give, to want, to be undone.

Mother Hubbard’s Tale.

On the morning of the day on which George Heriot had prepared to escort the young Lord of Glenvarloch to the Court at Whitehall, it may be reasonably supposed, that the young man, whose fortunes were likely to depend on this cast, felt himself more than usually anxious. He rose early, made his toilette with uncommon care, and, being enabled, by the generosity of his more plebeian countryman, to set out a very handsome person to the best advantage, he obtained a momentary approbation from himself as he glanced at the mirror, and a loud and distinct plaudit from his landlady, who declared at once, that, in her judgment, he would take the wind out of the sail of every gallant in the presence — so much had she been able to enrich her discourse with the metaphors of those with whom her husband dealt.

At the appointed hour, the barge of Master George Heriot arrived, handsomely manned and appointed, having a tilt, with his own cipher, and the arms of his company, painted thereupon.

The young Lord of Glenvarloch received the friend, who had evinced such disinterested attachment, with the kind courtesy which well became him.

Master Heriot then made him acquainted with the bounty of his sovereign; which he paid over to his young friend, declining what he had himself formerly advanced to him. Nigel felt all the gratitude which the citizen’s disinterested friendship had deserved, and was not wanting in expressing it suitably.

Yet, as the young and high-born nobleman embarked to go to the presence of his prince, under the patronage of one whose best, or most distinguished qualification, was his being an eminent member of the Goldsmiths’ Incorporation, he felt a little surprised, if not abashed, at his own situation; and Richie Moniplies, as he stepped over the gangway to take his place forward in the boat, could not help muttering — “It was a changed day betwixt Master Heriot and his honest father in the Kraemes; — but, doubtless, there was a difference between clinking on gold and silver, and clattering upon pewter.”

On they glided, by the assistance of the oars of four stout watermen, along the Thames, which then served for the principal high-road betwixt London and Westminster; for few ventured on horseback through the narrow and crowded streets of the city, and coaches were then a luxury reserved only for the higher nobility, and to which no citizen, whatever was his wealth, presumed to aspire. The beauty of the banks, especially on the northern side, where the gardens of the nobility descended from their hotels, in many places, down to the water’s edge, was pointed out to Nigel by his kind conductor, and was pointed out in vain. The mind of the young Lord of Glenvarloch was filled with anticipations, not the most pleasant, concerning the manner in which he was likely to be received by that monarch, in whose behalf his family had been nearly reduced to ruin; and he was, with the usual mental anxiety of those in such a situation, framing imaginary questions from the king, and over-toiling his spirit in devising answers to them.

His conductor saw the labour of Nigel’s mind, and avoided increasing it by farther conversation; so that, when he had explained to him briefly the ceremonies observed at Court on such occasions of presentation, the rest of their voyage was performed in silence.

They landed at Whitehall Stairs, and entered the Palace after announcing their names — the guards paying to Lord Glenvarloch the respect and honours due to his rank.

The young man’s heart beat high and thick within him as he came into the royal apartments. His education abroad, conducted, as it had been, on a narrow and limited scale, had given him but imperfect ideas of the grandeur of a Court; and the philosophical reflections which taught him to set ceremonial and exterior splendour at defiance, proved, like other maxims of mere philosophy, ineffectual, at the moment they were weighed against the impression naturally made on the mind of an inexperienced youth, by the unusual magnificence of the scene. The splendid apartments through which they passed, the rich apparel of the grooms, guards, and domestics in waiting, and the ceremonial attending their passage through the long suite of apartments, had something in it, trifling and commonplace as it might appear to practised courtiers, embarrassing, and even alarming, to one, who went through these forms for the first time, and who was doubtful what sort of reception was to accompany his first appearance before his sovereign.

Heriot, in anxious attention to save his young friend from any momentary awkwardness, had taken care to give the necessary password to the warders, grooms of the chambers, ushers, or by whatever name they were designated; so they passed on without interruption.

In this manner they passed several ante-rooms, filled chiefly with guards, attendants of the Court, and their acquaintances, male and female, who, dressed in their best apparel, and with eyes rounded by eager curiosity to make the most of their opportunity, stood, with beseeming modesty, ranked against the wall, in a manner which indicated that they were spectators, not performers, in the courtly exhibition.

Through these exterior apartments Lord Glenvarloch and his city friend advanced into a large and splendid withdrawing-room, communicating with the presence-chamber, into which ante-room were admitted those only who, from birth, their posts in the state or household, or by the particular grant of the kings, had right to attend the Court, as men entitled to pay their respects to their sovereign.

Amid this favoured and selected company, Nigel observed Sir Mungo Malagrowther, who, avoided and discountenanced by those who knew how low he stood in Court interest and favour, was but too happy in the opportunity of hooking himself upon a person of Lord Glenvarloch’s rank, who was, as yet, so inexperienced as to feel it difficult to shake off an intruder.

The knight forthwith framed his grim features to a ghastly smile, and, after a preliminary and patronising nod to George Heriot, accompanied with an aristocratic wave of the hand, which intimated at once superiority and protection, he laid aside altogether the honest citizen, to whom he owed many a dinner, to attach himself exclusively to the young lord, although he suspected he might be occasionally in the predicament of needing one as much as himself. And even the notice of this original, singular and unamiable as he was, was not entirely indifferent to Lord Glenvarloch, since the absolute and somewhat constrained silence of his good friend Heriot, which left him at liberty to retire painfully to his own agitating reflections, was now relieved; while, on the other hand, he could not help feeling interest in the sharp and sarcastic information poured upon him by an observant, though discontented courtier, to whom a patient auditor, and he a man of title and rank, was as much a prize, as his acute and communicative disposition rendered him an entertaining companion to Nigel Olifaunt. Heriot, in the meantime, neglected by Sir Mungo, and avoiding every attempt by which the grateful politeness of Lord Glenvarloch strove to bring him into the conversation, stood by, with a kind of half smile on his countenance; but whether excited by Sir Mungo’s wit, or arising at his expense, did not exactly appear.

In the meantime, the trio occupied a nook of the ante-room, next to the door of the presence-chamber, which was not yet thrown open, when Maxwell, with his rod of office, came bustling into the apartment, where most men, excepting those of high rank, made way for him. He stopped beside the party in which we are interested, looked for a moment at the young Scots nobleman, then made a slight obeisance to Heriot, and lastly, addressing Sir Mungo Malagrowther, began a hurried complaint to him of the misbehaviour of the gentlemen-pensioners and warders, who suffered all sort of citizens, suitors, and scriveners, to sneak into the outer apartments, without either respect or decency. —“The English,” he said, “were scandalised, for such a thing durst not be attempted in the queen’s days. In her time, there was then the court-yard for the mobility, and the apartments for the nobility; and it reflects on your place, Sir Mungo,” he added, “belonging to the household as you do, that such things should not be better ordered.”

Here Sir Mungo, afflicted, as was frequently the case on such occasions, with one of his usual fits of deafness, answered, “It was no wonder the mobility used freedoms, when those whom they saw in office were so little better in blood and havings than themselves.”

“You are right, sir — quite right,” said Maxwell, putting his hand on the tarnished embroidery on the old knight’s sleeve — “when such fellows see men in office dressed in cast-off suits, like paltry stage-players, it is no wonder the Court is thronged with intruders.”

“Were you lauding the taste of my embroidery, Maister Maxwell?” answered the knight, who apparently interpreted the deputy-chamberlain’s meaning rather from his action than his words; —“it is of an ancient and liberal pattern, having been made by your mother’s father, auld James Stitchell, a master-fashioner of honest repute, in Merlin’s Wynd, whom I made a point to employ, as I am now happy to remember, seeing your father thought fit to intermarry with sic a person’s daughter.”

Maxwell looked stern; but, conscious there was nothing to be got of Sir Mungo in the way of amends, and that prosecuting the quarrel with such an adversary would only render him ridiculous, and make public a mis-alliance of which he had no reason to be proud, he covered his resentment with a sneer; and, expressing his regret that Sir Mungo was become too deaf to understand or attend to what was said to him, walked on, and planted himself beside the folding-doors of the presence-chamber, at which he was to perform the duty of deputy-chamberlain, or usher, so soon as they should be opened.

“The door of the presence is about to open,” said the goldsmith, in a whisper, to his young friend; “my condition permits me to go no farther with you. Fail not to present yourself boldly, according to your birth, and offer your Supplication; which the king will not refuse to accept, and, as I hope, to consider favourably.”

As he spoke, the door of the presence-chamber opened accordingly, and, as is usual on such occasions, the courtiers began to advance towards it, and to enter in a slow, but continuous and uninterrupted stream.

As Nigel presented himself in his turn at the entrance, and mentioned his name and title, Maxwell seemed to hesitate. “You are not known to any one,” he said. “It is my duty to suffer no one to pass to the presence, my lord, whose face is unknown to me, unless upon the word of a responsible person.”

“I came with Master George Heriot,” said Nigel, in some embarrassment at this unexpected interruption.

“Master Heriot’s name will pass current for much gold and silver, my lord,” replied Maxwell, with a civil sneer, “but not for birth and rank. I am compelled by my office to be peremptory. — The entrance is impeded — I am much concerned to say it — your lordship must stand back.”

“What is the matter?” said an old Scottish nobleman, who had been speaking with George Heriot, after he had separated from Nigel, and who now came forward, observing the altercation betwixt the latter and Maxwell.

“It is only Master Deputy-Chamberlain Maxwell,” said Sir Mungo Malagrowther, “expressing his joy to see Lord Glenvarloch at Court, whose father gave him his office — at least I think he is speaking to that purport — for your lordship kens my imperfection.” A subdued laugh, such as the situation permitted, passed round amongst those who heard this specimen of Sir Mungo’s sarcastic temper. But the old nobleman stepped still more forward, saying — “What! — the son of my gallant old opponent, Ochtred Olifaunt — I will introduce him to the presence myself.”

So saying, he took Nigel by the arm, without farther ceremony, and was about to lead him forward, when Maxwell, still keeping his rod across the door, said, but with hesitation and embarrassment —“My lord, this gentleman is not known, and I have orders to be scrupulous.”

“Tutti — taiti, man,” said the old lord, “I will be answerable he is his father’s son, from the cut of his eyebrow — and thou, Maxwell, knewest his father well enough to have spared thy scruples. Let us pass, man.” So saying, he put aside the deputy-chamberlain’s rod, and entered the presence-room, still holding the young nobleman by the arm.

“Why, I must know you, man,” he said; “I must know you. I knew your father well, man, and I have broke a lance and crossed a blade with him; and it is to my credit that I am living to brag of it. He was king’s-man and I was queen’s-man during the Douglas wars — young fellows both, that feared neither fire nor steel; and we had some old feudal quarrels besides, that had come down from father to son, with our seal-rings, two-harided broad-swords, and plate-coats, and the crests on our burgonets.”

“Too loud, my Lord of Huntinglen,” whispered a gentleman of the chamber — “The King! — the King!”

The old earl (for such he proved) took the hint, and was silent; and James, advancing from a side-door, received in succession the compliments of strangers, while a little group of favourite courtiers, or officers of the household, stood around him, to whom he addressed himself from time to time. Some more pains had been bestowed on his toilette than upon the occasion when we first presented the monarch to our readers; but there was a natural awkwardness about his figure which prevented his clothes from sitting handsomely, and the prudence or timidity of his disposition had made him adopt the custom already noticed, of wearing a dress so thickly quilted as might withstand the stroke of a dagger, which added an ungainly stiffness to his whole appearance, contrasting oddly with the frivolous, ungraceful, and fidgeting motions with which he accompanied his conversation. And yet, though the king’s deportment was very undignified, he had a manner so kind, familiar, and good-humoured, was so little apt to veil over or conceal his own foibles, and had so much indulgence and sympathy for those of others, that his address, joined to his learning, and a certain proportion of shrewd mother-wit, failed not to make a favourable impression on those who approached his person.

When the Earl of Huntinglen had presented Nigel to his sovereign, a ceremony which the good peer took upon himself, the king received the young lord very graciously, and observed to his introducer, that he “was fain to see them twa stand side by side; for I trow, my Lord Huntinglen,” continued he, “your ancestors, ay, and e’en your lordship’s self and this lad’s father, have stood front to front at the sword’s point, and that is a worse posture.”

“Until your Majesty,” said Lord Huntinglen, “made Lord Ochtred and me cross palms, upon the memorable day when your Majesty feasted all the nobles that were at feud together, and made them join hands in your presence —”

“I mind it weel,” said the king; “I mind it weel — it was a blessed day, being the nineteen of September, of all days in the year — and it was a blithe sport to see how some of the carles girned as they clapped loofs together. By my saul, I thought some of them, mair special the Hieland chiels, wad have broken out in our own presence; but we caused them to march hand in hand to the Cross, ourselves leading the way, and there drink a blithe cup of kindness with ilk other, to the stanching of feud, and perpetuation of amity. Auld John Anderson was Provost that year — the carle grat for joy, and the bailies and councillors danced bare-headed in our presence like five-year-auld colts, for very triumph.”

“It was indeed a happy day,” said Lord Huntinglen, “and will not be forgotten in the history of your Majesty’s reign.”

“I would not that it were, my lord,” replied the monarch —“I would not that it were pretermitted in our annals. Ay, ay — BEATI PACIFICI. My English lieges here may weel make much of me, for I would have them to know, they have gotten the only peaceable man that ever came of my family. If James with the Fiery Face had come amongst you,” he said, looking round him, “or my great grandsire, of Flodden memory!”

“We should have sent him back to the north again,” whispered one English nobleman.

“At least,” said another, in the same inaudible tone, “we should have had a MAN to our sovereign, though he were but a Scotsman.”

“And now, my young springald,” said the king to Lord Glenvarloch, “where have you been spending your calf-time?”

“At Leyden, of late, may it please your Majesty,” answered Lord Nigel.

“Aha! a scholar,” said the king; “and, by my saul, a modest and ingenuous youth, that hath not forgotten how to blush, like most of our travelled Monsieurs. We will treat him conformably.”

Then drawing himself up, coughing slightly, and looking around him with the conscious importance of superior learning, while all the courtiers who understood, or understood not, Latin, pressed eagerly forward to listen, the sapient monarch prosecuted his inquiries as follows:—

“Hem! hem! salve bis, quaterque salve, glenvarlochides noster! Nuperumne ab lugduno batavorum britanniam rediisti?

The young nobleman replied, bowing low —

Imo, rex augustissime — biennium fere apud lugdunenses Moratus sum.

James proceeded —

Biennium dicis? Bene, bene, optume factum est — non uno Die, quod dicunt — intelligisti, domine glenvarlochiensis? Aha!”

Nigel replied by a reverent bow, and the king, turning to those behind him, said —

Adolescens quidem ingenui vultus ingenuique pudoris.” Then resumed his learned queries. “et quid hodie lugdunenses loquuntur — vossius vester nihilne novi scripsit? — nihil certe, quod doleo, typis recenter editit.”

Valet quidem vossius, rex benevole.” replied Nigel, “ast senex veneratissimus annum agit, ni fallor, septuagesimum.

Virum, mehercle, vix tam grandaevum crediderim,” replied the monarch. “et vorstius iste? — arminii improbi successor aeque ac sectator — herosne adhuc, ut cum homero loquar, <ZOOS ESTI KAI EPI THONI DERKOV>?” text in Greek

Nigel, by good fortune, remembered that Vorstius, the divine last mentioned in his Majesty’s queries about the state of Dutch literature, had been engaged in a personal controversy with James, in which the king had taken so deep an interest, as at length to hint in his public correspondence with the United States, that they would do well to apply the secular arm to stop the progress of heresy by violent measures against the Professor’s person — a demand which their Mighty Mightinesses’ principles of universal toleration induced them to elude, though with some difficulty. Knowing all this, Lord Glenvarloch, though a courtier of only five minutes’ standing, had address enough to reply —

Vivum quidem, haud diu est, hominem videbam — vigere autem quis dicat qui sub fulminibus eloquentiae tuae, rex magne, jamdudum pronus jacet, et prostratus?11

This last tribute to his polemical powers completed James’s happiness, which the triumph of exhibiting his erudition had already raised to a considerable height.

He rubbed his hands, snapped his fingers, fidgeted, chuckled, exclaimed —“Euge! Belle! Optime!” and turning to the Bishops of Exeter and Oxford, who stood behind him, he said. —“Ye see, my lords, no bad specimen of our Scottish Latinity, with which language we would all our subjects of England were as well embued as this, and other youths of honourable birth, in our auld kingdom; also, we keep the genuine and Roman pronunciation, like other learned nations on the continent, sae that we hold communing with any scholar in the universe, who can but speak the Latin tongue; whereas ye, our learned subjects of England, have introduced into your universities, otherwise most learned, a fashion of pronouncing like unto the ‘nippit foot and clippit foot’ of the bride in the fairy tale, whilk manner of speech, (take it not amiss that I be round with you) can be understood by no nation on earth saving yourselves; whereby Latin, quoad anglos, ceaseth to be communis lingua, the general dragoman, or interpreter, between all the wise men of the earth.”

The Bishop of Exeter bowed, as in acquiescence to the royal censure; but he of Oxford stood upright, as mindful over what subjects his see extended, and as being equally willing to become food for fagots in defence of the Latinity of the university, as for any article of his religious creed.

The king, without awaiting an answer from either prelate, proceeded to question Lord Nigel, but in the vernacular tongue — “Weel, my likely Alumnus of the Muses, and what make you so far from the north?”

“To pay my homage to your Majesty,” said the young nobleman, kneeling on one knee, “and to lay before you,” he added, “this my humble and dutiful Supplication.”

The presenting of a pistol would certainly have startled King James more, but could (setting apart the fright) hardly have been more unpleasing to his indolent disposition.

“And is it even so, man?” said he; “and can no single man, were it but for the rarity of the case, ever come up frae Scotland, excepting EX PROPOSITO— on set purpose, to see what he can make out of his loving sovereign? It is but three days syne that we had weel nigh lost our life, and put three kingdoms into dule-weeds, from the over haste of a clumsy-handed peasant, to thrust a packet into our hand, and now we are beset by the like impediment in our very Court. To our Secretary with that gear, my lord — to our Secretary with that gear.”

“I have already offered my humble Supplication to your Majesty’s Secretary of State,” said Lord Glenvarloch —“but it seems ——”

“That he would not receive it, I warrant?” said the king, interrupting him; “bu my saul, our Secretary kens that point of king-craft, called refusing, better than we do, and will look at nothing but what he likes himsell — I think I wad make a better Secretary to him than he to me. — Weel, my lord, you are welcome to London; and, as ye seem an acute and learned youth, I advise ye to turn your neb northward as soon as ye like, and settle yoursell for a while at Saint Andrews, and we will be right glad to hear that you prosper in your studies. — Incumbite Remis Fortiter.

While the king spoke thus, he held the petition of the young lord carelessly, like one who only delayed till the supplicant’s back was turned, to throw it away, or at least lay it aside to be no more looked at. The petitioner, who read this in his cold and indifferent looks, and in the manner in which he twisted and crumpled together the paper, arose with a bitter sense of anger and disappointment, made a profound obeisance, and was about to retire hastily. But Lord Huntinglen, who stood by him, checked his intention by an almost imperceptible touch upon the skirt of his cloak, and Nigel, taking the hint, retreated only a few steps from the royal presence, and then made a pause. In the meantime, Lord Huntinglen kneeled before James, in his turn, and said —“May it please your Majesty to remember, that upon one certain occasion you did promise to grant me a boon every year of your sacred life?”

“I mind it weel, man,” answered James, “I mind it weel, and good reason why — it was when you unclasped the fause traitor Ruthven’s fangs from about our royal throat, and drove your dirk into him like a true subject. We did then, as you remind us, (whilk was unnecessary,) being partly beside ourselves with joy at our liberation, promise we would grant you a free boon every year; whilk promise, on our coming to menseful possession of our royal faculties, we did confirm, restrictive always and conditionaliter, that your lordship’s demand should be such as we, in our royal discretion, should think reasonable.”

“Even so, gracious sovereign,” said the old earl, “and may I yet farther crave to know if I have ever exceeded the bounds of your royal benevolence?”

“By my word, man, no!’” said the king; “I cannot remember you have asked much for yourself, if it be not a dog or a hawk, or a buck out of our park at Theobald’s, or such like. But to what serves this preface?”

“To the boon to which I am now to ask of your Grace,” said Lord Huntinglen; “which is, that your Majesty would be pleased, on the instant, to look at the placet of Lord Glenvarloch, and do upon it what your own just and royal nature shall think meet and just, without reference to your Secretary or any other of your Council.”

“By my saul, my lord, this is strange,” said the king; “ye are pleading for the son of your enemy!”

“Of one who WAS my enemy till your Majesty made him my friend,” answered Lord Huntinglen.

“Weel spoken, my lord!” said the king; “and with, a true Christian spirit. And, respecting the Supplication of this young man, I partly guess where the matter lies; and in plain troth I had promised to George Heriot to be good to the lad — But then, here the shoe pinches. Steenie and Babie Charles cannot abide him — neither can your own son, my lord; and so, methinks, he had better go down to Scotland before he comes toill luck by them.”

“My son, an it please your Majesty, so far as he is concerned, shall not direct my doings,” said the earl, “nor any wild-headed young man of them all.”

“Why, neither shall they mine,” replied the monarch; “by my father’s saul, none of them all shall play Rex with me — I will do what I will, and what I ought, like a free king.”

“Your Majesty will then grant me my boon?” said the Lord Huntinglen.

“Ay, marry will I— marry will I,” said the king; “but follow me this way, man, where we may be more private.”

He led Lord Huntinglen with rather a hurried step through the courtiers, all of whom gazed earnestly on this unwonted scene, as is the fashion of all Courts on similar occasions. The king passed into a little cabinet, and bade, in the first moment, Lord Huntinglen lock or bar the door; but countermanded his direction in the next, saying — “No, no, no — bread o’ life, man, I am a free king — will do what I will and what I should — I am justus et tenax propositi, man — nevertheless, keep by the door, Lord Huntinglen, in case Steenie should come in with his mad humour.”

“O my poor master!” groaned the Earl of Huntinglen. “When you were in your own cold country, you had warmer blood in your veins.”

The king hastily looked over the petition or memorial, every now and then glancing his eye towards the door, and then sinking it hastily on the paper, ashamed that Lord Huntinglen, whom he respected, should suspect him of timidity.

“To grant the truth,” he said, after he had finished his hasty perusal, “this is a hard case; and harder than it was represented to me, though I had some inkling of it before. And so the lad only wants payment of the siller due from us, in order to reclaim his paternal estate? But then, Huntinglen, the lad will have other debts — and why burden himsell with sae mony acres of barren woodland? let the land gang, man, let the land gang; Steenie has the promise of it from our Scottish Chancellor — it is the best hunting-ground in Scotland — and Babie Charles and Steenie want to kill a buck there this next year — they maun hae the land — they maun hae the land; and our debt shall be paid to the young man plack and bawbee, and he may have the spending of it at our Court; or if he has such an eard hunger, wouns! man, we’ll stuff his stomach with English land, which is worth twice as much, ay, ten times as much, as these accursed hills and heughs, and mosses and muirs, that he is sae keen after.”

All this while the poor king ambled up and down the apartment in a piteous state of uncertainty, which was made more ridiculous by his shambling circular mode of managing his legs, and his ungainly fashion on such occasions of fiddling with the bunches of ribbons which fastened the lower part of his dress.

Lord Huntinglen listened with great composure, and answered, “An it please your Majesty, there was an answer yielded by Naboth when Ahab coveted his vineyard —’ The Lord forbid that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.’”

“Ey, my lord — ey, my lord!” ejaculated James, while all the colour mounted both to his cheek and nose; “I hope ye mean not to teach me divinity? Ye need not fear, my lord, that I will shun to do justice to every man; and, since your lordship will give me no help to take up this in a more peaceful manner — whilk, methinks, would be better for the young man, as I said before — why — since it maun be so —‘sdeath, I am a free king, man, and he shall have his money and redeem his land, and make a kirk and a miln of it, an he will.” So saying, he hastily wrote an order on the Scottish Exchequer for the sum in question, and then added, “How they are to pay it, I see not; but I warrant he will find money on the order among the goldsmiths, who can find it for every one but me. — And now you see, my Lord of Huntinglen, that I am neither an untrue man, to deny you the boon whilk I became bound for, nor an Ahab, to covet Naboth’s vineyard; nor a mere nose-of-wax, to be twisted this way and that, by favourites and counsellors at their pleasure. I think you will grant now that I am none of those?”

“You are my own native and noble prince,” said Huntinglen, as he knelt to kiss the royal hand —“just and generous, whenever you listen to the workings of your own heart.”

“Ay, ay,” said the king, laughing good-naturedly, as he raised his faithful servant from the ground, “that is what ye all say when I do any thing to please ye. There — there, take the sign-manual, and away with you and this young fellow. I wonder Steenie and Babie Charles have not broken in on us before now.”

Lord Huntinglen hastened from the cabinet, foreseeing a scene at which he was unwilling to be present, but which sometimes occurred when James roused himself so far as to exert his own free will, of which he boasted so much, in spite of that of his imperious favourite Steenie, as he called the Duke of Buckingham, from a supposed resemblance betwixt his very handsome countenance, and that with which the Italian artists represented the protomartyr Stephen. In fact, the haughty favourite, who had the unusual good fortune to stand as high in the opinion of the heir-apparent as of the existing monarch, had considerably diminished in his respect towards the latter; and it was apparent, to the more shrewd courtiers, that James endured his domination rather from habit, timidity, and a dread of encountering his stormy passions, than from any heartfelt continuation of regard towards him, whose greatness had been the work of his own hands. To save himself the pain of seeing what was likely to take place on the duke’s return, and to preserve the king from the additional humiliation which the presence of such a witness must have occasioned, the earl left the cabinet as speedily as possible, having first carefully pocketed the important sign-manual.

No sooner had he entered the presence-room, than he hastily sought Lord Glenvarloch, who had withdrawn into the embrasure of one of the windows, from the general gaze of men who seemed disposed only to afford him the notice which arises from surprise and curiosity, and, taking him by the arm, without speaking, led him out of the presence-chamber into the first ante-room. Here they found the worthy goldsmith, who approached them with looks of curiosity, which were checked by the old lord, who said hastily, “All is well. — Is your barge in waiting?” Heriot answered in the affirmative. “Then,” said Lord Huntinglen, “you shall give me a cast in it, as the watermen say; and I, in requital, will give you both your dinner; for we must have some conversation together.”

They both followed the earl without speaking, and were in the second ante-room when the important annunciation of the ushers, and the hasty murmur with which all made ample way as the company repeated to each other — “The Duke — the Duke!” made them aware of the approach of the omnipotent favourite.

He entered, that unhappy minion of Court favour, sumptuously dressed in the picturesque attire which will live for ever on the canvas of Vandyke, and which marks so well the proud age, when aristocracy, though undermined and nodding to its fall, still, by external show and profuse expense, endeavoured to assert its paramount superiority over the inferior orders. The handsome and commanding countenance, stately form, and graceful action and manners of the Duke of Buckingham, made him become that picturesque dress beyond any man of his time. At present, however, his countenance seemed discomposed, his dress a little more disordered than became the place, his step hasty, and his voice imperative.

All marked the angry spot upon his brow, and bore back so suddenly to make way for him, that the Earl of Huntinglen, who affected no extraordinary haste on the occasion, with his companions, who could not, if they would, have decently left him, remained as it were by themselves in the middle of the room, and in the very path of the angry favourite. He touched his cap sternly as he looked on Huntinglen, but unbonneted to Heriot, and sunk his beaver, with its shadowy plume, as low as the floor, with a profound air of mock respect. In returning his greeting, which he did simply and unaffectedly, the citizen only said — “Too much courtesy, my lord duke, is often the reverse of kindness.”

“I grieve you should think so, Master Heriot,” answered the duke; “I only meant, by my homage, to claim your protection, sir — your patronage. You are become, I understand, a solicitor of suits — a promoter — an undertaker — a fautor of court suitors of merit and quality, who chance to be pennyless. I trust your bags will bear you out in your new boast.”

“They will bear me the farther, my lord duke,” answered the goldsmith, “that my boast is but small.”

“O, you do yourself less than justice, my good Master Heriot,” continued the duke, in the same tone of irony; “you have a marvellous court-faction, to be the son of an Edinburgh tinker. Have the goodness to prefer me to the knowledge of the high-born nobleman who is honoured and advantaged by your patronage.”

“That shall be my task,” said Lord Huntinglen, with emphasis. “My lord duke, I desire you to know Nigel Olifaunt, Lord Glenvarloch, representative of one of the most ancient and powerful baronial houses in Scotland. — Lord Glenvarloch, I present you to his Grace the Duke of Buckingham, representative of Sir George Villiers, Knight of Brookesby, in the county of Leicester.”

The duke coloured still more high as he bowed to Lord Glenvarloch scornfully, a courtesy which the other returned haughtily, and with restrained indignation. “We know each other, then,” said the duke, after a moment’s pause; and as if he had seen something in the young nobleman which merited more serious notice than the bitter raillery with which he had commenced —“we know each other — and you know me, my lord, for your enemy.”

“I thank you for your plainness, my lord duke,” replied Nigel; “an open enemy is better than a hollow friend.”

“For you, my Lord Huntinglen,” said the duke, “methinks you have but now overstepped the limits of the indulgence permitted to you, as the father of the prince’s friend, and my own.”

“By my word, my lord duke,” replied the earl, “it is easy for any one to outstep boundaries, of the existence of which he was not aware. It is neither to secure my protection nor approbation, that my son keeps such exalted company.”

“O, my lord, we know you, and indulge you,” said the duke; “you are one of those who presume for a life-long upon the merit of one good action.”

“In faith, my lord, and if it be so,” said the old earl, “I have at least the advantage of such as presume more than I do, without having done any action of merit whatever. But I mean not to quarrel with you, my lord — we can neither be friends nor enemies — you have your path, and I have mine.”

Buckingham only replied by throwing on his bonnet, and shaking its lofty plume with a careless and scornful toss of the head. They parted thus; the duke walking onwards through the apartments, and the others leaving the Palace and repairing to Whitehall Stairs, where they embarked on board the barge of the citizen.

11Lest any lady or gentleman should suspect there is aught of mystery concealed under the sentences printed in Italics, they will be pleased to understand that they contain only a few commonplace Latin phrases, relating to the state of letters in Holland, which neither deserve, nor would endure, a literal translation.

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

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