Now, Billy Berwick, keep good heart,
And of they talking let me be;
But if thou art a man, as I am sure thou art,
Come over the dike and fight with me.
THE Master of Ravenswood had mounted the ambling hackney which he before rode, on finding the accident which had happened to his led horse, and, for the animal’s ease, was proceeding at a slow pace from the Tod’s Den towards his old tower of Wolf’s Crag, when he heard the galloping of a horse behind him, and, looking back, perceived that he was pursued by young Bucklaw, who had been delayed a few minutes in the pursuit by the irresistable temptation of giving the hostler at the Tod’s Den some recipe for treating the lame horse. This brief delay he had made up by hard galloping, and now overtook the Master where the road traversed a waste moor. “Halt, sir,” cried Bucklaw; “I am no political agent — no Captain Craigengelt, whose life is too important to be hazarded in defence of his honour. I am Frank Hayston of Bucklaw, and no man injures me by word, deed, sign, or look, but he must render me an account of it.”
“This is all very well, Mr. Hayston of Bucklaw,” replied the Master of Ravenswood, in a tone the most calm and indifferent; “but I have no quarrel with you, and desire to have none. Our roads homeward, as well as our roads through life, lie in different directions; there is no occasion for us crossing each other.”
“Is there not?” said Bucklaw, impetuously. “By Heaven! but I say that there is, though: you called us intriguing adventurers.”
“Be correct in your recollection, Mr. Hayston; it was to your companion only I applied that epithet, and you know him to be no better.”
“And what then? He was my companion for the time, and no man shall insult my companion, right or wrong, while he is in my company.”
“Then, Mr. Hayston,” replied Ravenswood, with the same composure, “you should choose your society better, or you are like to have much work in your capacity of their champion. Go home, sir; sleep, and have more reason in your wrath tomorrow.”
“Not so, Master, you have mistaken your man; high airs and wise saws shall not carry it off thus. Besides, you termed me bully, and you shall retract the word before we part.”
“Faith, scarcely,” said Ravenswood, “unless you show me better reason for thinking myself mistaken than you are now producing.”
“Then, Master,” said Bucklaw, “though I should be sorry to offer it to a man of your quality, if you will not justify your incivility, or retract it, or name a place of meeting, you must here undergo the hard word and the hard blow.”
“Neither will be necessary,” said Ravenswood; “I am satisfied with what I have done to avoid an affair with you. If you are serious, this place will serve as well as another.”
“Dismount then, and draw,” said Bucklaw, setting him an example. “I always thought and said you were a pretty man; I should be sorry to report you otherwise.”
“You shall have no reason, sir,” said Ravenswood, alighting, and putting himself into a posture of defence.
Their swords crossed, and the combat commenced with great spirit on the part of Bucklaw, who was well accustomed to affairs of the kind, and distinguished by address and dexterity at his weapon. In the present case, however, he did not use his skill to advantage; for, having lost temper at the cool and contemptuous manner in which the Master of Ravenswood had long refused, and at length granted, him satisfaction, and urged by his impatience, he adopted the part of an assailant with inconsiderate eagerness. The Master, with equal skill, and much greater composure, remained chiefly on the defensive, and even declined to avail himself of one or two advantages afforded him by the eagerness of his adversary. At length, in a desperate lunge, which he followed with an attempt to close, Bucklaw’s foot slipped, and he fell on the short grassy turf on which they were fighting. “Take your life, sir,” said the Master of Ravenswood, “and mend it if you can.”
“It would be but a cobbled piece of work, I fear,” said Bucklaw, rising slowly and gathering up his sword, much less disconcerted with the issue of the combat than could have been expected from the impetuosity of his temper. “I thank you for my life, Master,” he pursued. “There is my hand; I bear no ill-will to you, either for my bad luck or your better swordsmanship.”
The Master looked steadily at him for an instant, then extended his hand to him. “Bucklaw,” he said, “you are a generous fellow, and I have done you wrong. I heartily ask your pardon for the expression which offended you; it was hastily and incautiously uttered, and I am convinced it is totally misapplied.”
“Are you indeed, Master?” said Bucklaw, his face resuming at once its natural expression of light-hearted carelessness and audacity; “that is more than I expected of you; for, Master, men say you are not ready to retract your opinion and your language.”
“Not when I have well considered them,” said the Master.
“Then you are a little wiser than I am, for I always give my friend satisfaction first, and explanation afterwards. If one of us falls, all accounts are settled; if not, men are never so ready for peace as after war. But what does that bawling brat of a boy want?” said Bucklaw. “I wish to Heaven he had come a few minutes sooner! and yet it must have been ended some time, and perhaps this way is as well as any other.”
As he spoke, the boy he mentioned came up, cudgelling an ass, on which he was mounted, to the top of its speed, and sending, like one of Ossian’s heroes, his voice before him: “Gentlemen — gentlemen, save yourselves! for the gudewife bade us tell ye there were folk in her house had taen Captain Craigengelt, and were seeking for Bucklaw, and that ye behoved to ride for it.” “By my faith, and that’s very true, my man” said Bucklaw; “and there’s a silver sixpence for your news, and I would give any man twice as much would tell me which way I should ride.”
“That will I, Bucklaw,” said Ravenswood; “ride home to Wolf’s Crag with me. There are places in the old tower where you might lie hid, were a thousand men to seek you.”
“But that will bring you into trouble yourself, Master; and unless you be in the Jacobite scrape already, it is quite needless for me to drag you in.”
“Not a whit; I have nothing to fear.”
“Then I will ride with you blythely, for, to say the truth, I do not know the rendezvous that Craigie was to guide us to this night; and I am sure that, if he is taken, he will tell all the truth of me, and twenty lies of you, in order to save himself from the withie.”
They mounted and rode off in company accordingly, striking off the ordinary road, and holding their way by wild moorish unfrequented paths, with which the gentlemen were well acquainted from the exercise of the chase, but through which others would have had much difficulty in tracing their course. They rode for some time in silence, making such haste as the condition of Ravenswood’s horse permitted, until night having gradually closed around them, they discontinued their speed, both from the difficulty of discovering their path, and from the hope that they were beyond the reach of pursuit or observation.
“And now that we have drawn bridle a bit,” said Bucklaw, “I would fain ask you a question, Master.”
“Ask and welcome,” said Ravenswood, “but forgive not answering it, unless I think proper.”
“Well, it is simply this,” answered his late antagonist “What, in the name of old Sathan, could make you, who stand so highly on your reputation, think for a moment of drawing up with such a rogue as Craigengelt, and such a scapegrace as folk call Bucklaw?”
“Simply, because I was desperate, and sought desperate associates.”
“And what made you break off from us at the nearest?” again demanded Bucklaw.
“Because I had changed my mind,” said the Master, “and renounced my enterprise, at least for the present. And now that I have answered your questions fairly and frankly, tell me what makes you associate with Craigengelt, so much beneath you both in birth and in spirit?”
“In plain terms,” answered Bucklaw, “because I am a fool, who have gambled away my land in thse times. My grand-aunt, Lady Girnington, has taen a new tack of life, I think, and I could only hope to get something by a change of government. Craigie was a sort of gambling acquaintance; he saw my condition, and, as the devil is always at one’s elbow, told me fifty lies about his credentials from Versailles, and his interest at Saint Germains, promised me a captain’s commission at Paris, and I have been ass enough to put my thumb under his belt. I dare say, by this time, he has told a dozen pretty stories of me to the government. And this is what I have got by wine, women, and dice, cocks, dogs, and horses.”
“Yes, Bucklaw,” said the Master, “you have indeed nourished in your bosom the snakes that are now stinging you.”
“That’s home as well as true, Master,” replied his companion; “but, by your leave, you have nursed in your bosom one great goodly snake that has swallowed all the rest, and is as sure to devour you as my half-dozen are to make a meal on all that’s left of Bucklaw, which is but what lies between bonnet and boot-heel.”
“I must not,” answered the Master of Ravenswood, “challenge the freedom of speech in which I have set example. What, to speak without a metaphor, do you call this monstrous passion which you charge me with fostering?”
“Revenge, my good sir — revenge; which, if it be as gentle manlike a sin as wine and wassail, with their et coeteras, is equally unchristian, and not so bloodless. It is better breaking a park-pale to watch a doe or damsel than to shoot an old man.”
“I deny the purpose,” said the Master of Ravenswood. “On my soul, I had no such intention; I meant but to confront the oppressor ere I left my native land, and upbraid him with his tyranny and its consequences. I would have stated my wrongs so that they would have shaken his soul within him.”
“Yes,” answered Bucklaw, “and he would have collared you, and cried ‘help,’ and then you would have shaken the soul OUT of him, I suppose. Your very look and manner would have frightened the old man to death.”
“Consider the provocation,” answered Ravenswood —“consider the ruin and death procured and caused by his hard-hearted cruelty — an ancient house destroyed, an affectionate father murdered! Why, in our old Scottish days, he that sat quiet under such wrongs would have been held neither fit to back a friend nor face a foe.”
“Well, Master, I am glad to see that the devil deals as cunningly with other folk as he deals with me; for whenever I am about to commit any folly, he persuades me it is the most necessary, gallant, gentlemanlike thing on earth, and I am up to saddlegirths in the bog before I see that the ground is soft. And you, Master, might have turned out a murd —— a homicide, just out of pure respect for your father’s memory.”
“There is more sense in your language, Bucklaw,” replied the Master, “than might have been expected from your conduct. It is too true, our vices steal upon us in forms outwardly as fair as those of the demons whom the superstitious represent as intriguing with the human race, and are not discovered in their native hideousness until we have clasped them in our arms.”
“But we may throw them from us, though,” said Bucklaw, “and that is what I shall think of doing one of these days — that is, when old Lady Girnington dies.”
“Did you ever hear the expression of the English divine?” said Ravenswood —”‘Hell is paved with good intentions,’— as much as to say, they are more often formed than executed.”
“Well,” replied Bucklaw, “but I will begin this blessed night, and have determined not to drink above one quart of wine, unless your claret be of extraordinary quality.”
“You will find little to tempt you at Wolf’s Crag,” said the Master. “I know not that I can promise you more than the shelter of my roof; all, and more than all, our stock of wine and provisions was exhausted at the late occasion.”
“Long may it be ere provision is needed for the like purpose,” answered Bucklaw; “but you should not drink up the last flask at a dirge; there is ill luck in that.”
“There is ill luck, I think, in whatever belongs to me,” said Ravenswood. “But yonder is Wolf’s Crag, and whatever it still contains is at your service.”
The roar of the sea had long announced their approach to the cliffs, on the summit of which, like the nest of some sea-eagle, the founder of the fortalice had perched his eyrie. The pale moon, which had hitherto been contending with flitting clouds, now shone out, and gave them a view of the solitary and naked tower, situated on a projecting cliff that beetled on the German Ocean. On three sides the rock was precipitous; on the fourth, which was that towards the land, it had been originally fenced by an artificial ditch and drawbridge, but the latter was broken down and ruinous, and the former had been in part filled up, so as to allow passage for a horseman into the narrow courtyard, encircled on two sides with low offices and stables, partly ruinous, and closed on the landward front by a low embattled wall, while the remaining side of the quadrangle was occupied by the tower itself, which, tall and narrow, and built of a greyish stone, stood glimmering in the moonlight, like the sheeted spectre of some huge giant. A wilder or more disconsolate dwelling it was perhaps difficult to conceive. The sombrous and heavy sound of the billows, successively dashing against the rocky beach at a profound distance beneath, was to the ear what the landscape was to the eye — a symbol of unvaried and monotonous melancholy, not unmingled with horror.
Although the night was not far advanced, there was no sign of living inhabitant about this forlorn abode, excepting that one, and only one, of the narrow and stanchelled windows which appeared at irregular heights and distances in the walls of the building showed a small glimmer of light.
“There,” said Ravenswood, “sits the only male domestic that remains to the house of Ravenswood; and it is well that he does remain there, since otherwise we had little hope to find either light or fire. But follow me cautiously; the road is narrow, and admits only one horse in front.”
In effect, the path led along a kind of isthmus, at the peninsular extremity of which the tower was situated, with that exclusive attention to strength and security, in preference to every circumstances of convenience, which dictated to the Scottish barons the choice of their situations, as well as their style of building.
By adopting the cautious mode of approach recommended by the proprietor of this wild hold, they entered the courtyard in safety. But it was long ere the efforts of Ravenswood, though loudly exerted by knocking at the low-browed entrance, and repeated shouts to Caleb to open the gate and admit them, received any answer.
“The old man must be departed,” he began to say, “or fallen into some fit; for the noise I have made would have waked the seven sleepers.”
At length a timid and hesitating voice replied: “Master — Master of Ravenswood, is it you?”
“Yes, it is I, Caleb; open the door quickly.”
“But it is you in very blood and body? For I would sooner face fifty deevils as my master’s ghaist, or even his wraith; wherefore, aroint ye, if ye were ten times my master, unless ye come in bodily shape, lith and limb.” “It is I, you old fool,” answered Ravenswood, “in bodily shape and alive, save that I am half dead with cold.”
The light at the upper window disappeared, and glancing from loophole to loophole in slow succession, gave intimation that the bearer was in the act of descending, with great deliberation, a winding staircase occupying one of the turrets which graced the angles of the old tower. The tardiness of his descent extracted some exclamations of impatience from Ravenswood, and several oaths from his less patient and more mecurial companion. Caleb again paused ere he unbolted the door, and once more asked if they were men of mould that demanded entrance at this time of night.
“Were I near you, you old fool,” said Bucklaw, “I would give you sufficient proofs of MY bodily condition.”
“Open the gate, Caleb,” said his master, in a more soothing tone, partly from his regard to the ancient and faithful seneschal, partly perhaps because he thought that angry words would be thrown away, so long as Caleb had a stout iron-clenched oaken door betwixt his person and the speakers.
At length Caleb, with a trembling hand, undid the bars, opened the heavy door, and stood before them, exhibiting his thin grey hairs, bald forehead, and sharp high features, illuminated by a quivering lamp which he held in one hand, while he shaded and protected its flame with the other. The timorous, courteous glance which he threw around him, the effect of the partial light upon his white hair and illumined features, might have made a good painting; but our travellers were too impatient for security against the rising storm to permit them to indulge themselves in studying the picturesque. “Is it you, my dear master? — is it you yourself, indeed?” exclaimed the old domestic. “I am wae ye suld hae stude waiting at your ain gate; but wha wad hae thought o’ seeing ye sae sune, and a strange gentleman with a —(Here he exclaimed apart, as it were, and to some inmate of the tower, in a voice not meant to be heard by those in the court)— Mysie — Mysie, woman! stir for dear life, and get the fire mended; take the auld three-legged stool, or ony thing that’s readiest that will make a lowe. I doubt we are but puirly provided, no expecting ye this some months, when doubtless ye was hae been received conform till your rank, as gude right is; but natheless ——”
“Natheless, Caleb,” said the Master, “we must have our horses put up, and ourselves too, the best way we can. I hope you are not sorry to see me sooner than you expected?”
“Sorry, my lord! I am sure ye sall aye be my lord wi’ honest folk, as your noble ancestors hae been these three hundred years, and never asked a Whig’s leave. Sorry to see the Lord of Ravenswood at ane o’ his ain castles! (Then again apart to his unseen associate behind the screen) Mysie, kill the brood-hen without thinking twice on it; let them care that come ahint. No to say it’s our best dwelling,” he added, turning to Bucklaw; “but just a strength for the Lord of Ravenswood to flee until — that is, no to FLEE, but to retreat until in troublous times, like the present, when it was ill convenient for him to live farther in the country in ony of his better and mair principal manors; but, for its antiquity, maist folk think that the outside of Wolf’s Crag is worthy of a large perusal.”
“And you are determined we shall have time to make it,” said Ravenswood, somewhat amused with the shifts the old man used to detain them without doors until his confederate Mysie had made her preparations within.
“Oh, never mind the outside of the house, my good friend,” said Bucklaw; “let’s see the inside, and let our horses see the stable, that’s all.” “Oh yes, sir — ay, sir — unquestionably, sir — my lord and ony of his honourable companions ——”
“But our horses, my friend — our horses; they will be dead-founded by standing here in the cold after riding hard, and mine is too good to be spoiled; therefore, once more, our horses!” exclaimed Bucklaw.
“True — ay — your horses — yes — I will call the grooms”; and sturdily did Caleb roar till the old tower rang again: “John — William — Saunders! The lads are gane out, or sleeping,” he observed, after pausing for an answer, which he knew that he had no human chance of receiving. “A’ gaes wrang when the Master’s out-bye; but I’ll take care o’ your cattle mysell.”
“I think you had better,” said Ravenswood, “otherwise I see little chance of their being attended to at all.”
“Whisht, my lord — whisht, for God’s sake,” said Caleb, in an imploring tone, and apart to his master; “if ye dinna regard your ain credit, think on mine; we’ll hae hard eneugh wark to make a decent night o’t, wi’ a’ the lees I can tell.”
“Well, well, never mind,” said his master; “go to the stable. There is hay and corn, I trust?”
“Ou ay, plenty of hay and corn”; this was uttered boldly and aloud, and, in a lower tone, “there was some half fous o’ aits, and soem taits o’ meadow-hay, left after the burial.”
“Very well,” said Ravenswood, taking the lamp from his domestic’s unwilling hand, “I will show the stranger upstairs myself.”
“I canna think o’ that, my lord; if ye wad but have five minutes, or ten minutes, or, at maist, a quarter of an hour’s patience, and look at the fine moonlight prospect of the Bass and North Berwick Law till I sort the horses, I would marshal ye up, as reason is ye suld be marshalled, your lordship and your honourable visitor. And I hae lockit up the siller candlesticks, and the lamp is not fit ——”
“It will do very well in the mean time,” said Ravenswood, “and you will have no difficulty for want of light in the stable, for, if I recollect, half the roof is off.”
“Very true, my lord,” replied the trusty adherent, and with ready wit instantly added, “and the lazy sclater loons have never come to put it on a’ this while, your lordship.”
“If I were disposed to jest at the calamities of my house,” said Ravenswood, as he led the way upstairs, “poor old Caleb would furnish me with ample means. His passion consists in representing things about our miserable menage, not as they are, but as, in his opinion, they ought to be; and, to say the truth, I have been often diverted with the poor wretch’s expedients to supply what he though was essential for the credit of the family, and his still more generous apologies for the want of those articles for which his ingenuity could discover no substitute. But though the tower is none of the largest, I shall have some trouble without him to find the apartment in which there is a fire.”
As he spoke thus, he opened the door of the hall. “Here, at least,” he said, “there is neither hearth nor harbour.”
It was indeed a scene of desolation. A large vaulted room, the beams of which, combined like those of Westminster Hall, were rudely carved at the extremities, remained nearly in the situation in which it had been left after the entertainment at at Allan Lord Ravenswood’s funeral. Overturned pitchers, and black-jacks, and pewter stoups, and flagons still cumbered the large oaken table; glasses, those more perishable implements of conviviality, many of which had been voluntarily sacrificed by the guests in their enthusiastic pledges to favourite toasts, strewed the stone floor with their fragments. As for the articles of plate, lent for the purpose by friends and kinsfolk, those had been carefully withdrawn so soon as the ostentatious display of festivity, equally unnecessary and strangely timed, had been made and ended. Nothing, in short, remained that indicated wealth; all the signs were those of recent wastefulness and present desolation. The black cloth hangings, which, on the late mournful occasion, replaced the tattered moth-eaten tapestries, had been partly pulled down, and, dangling from the wall in irregular festoons, disclosed the rough stonework of the building, unsmoothed either by plaster or the chisel. The seats thrown down, or left in disorder, intimated the careless confusion which had concluded the mournful revel. “This room,” said Ravenswood, holding up the lamp —“this room, Mr. Hayston, was riotous when it should have been sad; it is a just retribution that it should now be sad when it ought to be cheerful.”
They left this disconsolate apartment, and went upstairs, where, after opening one or two doors in vain, Ravenswood led the way into a little matted ante-room, in which, to their great joy, they found a tolerably good fire, which Mysie, by some such expedient as Caleb had suggested, had supplied with a reasonable quantity of fuel. Glad at the heart to see more of comfort than the castle had yet seemed to offer, Bucklaw rubbed his hands heartily over the fire, and now listened with more complacency to the apologies which the Master of Ravenswood offered. “Comfort,” he said, “I cannot provide for you, for I have it not for myself; it is long since these walls have known it, if, indeed, they were ever acquainted with it. Shelter and safety, I think, I can promise you.”
“Excellent matters, Master,” replied Bucklaw, “and, with a mouthful of food and wine, positively all I can require tonight.”
“I fear,” said the Master, “your supper will be a poor one; I hear the matter in discussion betwixt Caleb and Mysie. Poor Balderstone is something deaf, amongst his other accomplishments, so that much of what he means should be spoken aside is overheard by the whole audience, and especially by those from whom he is most anxious to conceal his private manoeuvres. Hark!”
They listened, and heard the old domestic’s voice in conversation with Mysie to the following effect:
“Just mak the best o’t — make the besto’t, woman; it’s easy to put a fair face on ony thing.”
“But the auld brood-hen? She’ll be as teugh as bow-strings and bend-leather!”
“Say ye made a mistake — say ye made a mistake, Mysie,” replied the faithful seneschal, in a soothing and undertoned voice; “tak it a’ on yoursell; never let the credit o’ the house suffer.”
“But the brood-hen,” remonstrated Mysie —“ou, she’s sitting some gate aneath the dais in the hall, and I am feared to gae in in the dark for the dogle; and if I didna see the bogle, I could as ill see the hen, for it’s pit-mirk, and there’s no another light in the house, save that very blessed lamp whilk the Master has in his ain hand. And if I had the hen, she’s to pu’, and to draw, and to dress; how can I do that, and them sitting by the only fire we have?”
“Weel, weel, Mysie,” said the butler, “bide ye there a wee, and I’ll try to get the lamp wiled away frae them.”
Accordingly, Caleb Balderstone entered the apartment, little aware that so much of his by-play had been audible there. “Well, Caleb, my old friend, is there any chance of supper?” said the Master of Ravenswood.
“CHANCE of supper, your lordship?” said Caleb, with an emphasis of strong scorn at the implied doubt. “How should there be ony question of that, and us in your lordship’s house? Chance of supper, indeed! But ye’ll no be for butcher-meat? There’s walth o’ fat poultry, ready either for spit or brander. The fat capon, Mysie!” he added, calling out as boldly as if such a thing had been in existence.
“Quite unnecessary,” said Bucklaw, who deemed himself bound in courtesy to relieve some part of the anxious butler’s perplexity, “if you have anything cold, or a morsel of bread.”
“The best of bannocks!” exclaimed Caleb, much relieve; “and, for cauld meat, a’ that we hae is cauld eneugh — how-beit, maist of the cauld meat and pastry was gien to the poor folk after the ceremony of interment, as gude reason was; nevertheless ——”
“Come, Caleb,” said the Master of Ravenswood, “I must cut this matter short. This is the young Laird of Bucklaw; he is under hiding, and therefore, you know ——”
“He’ll be nae nicer than your lordship’s honour, I’se warrant,” answered Caleb, cheerfully, with a nod of intelligence; “I am sorry that the gentleman is under distress, but I am blythe that he canna say muckle agane our housekeeping, for I believe his ain pinches may matach ours; no that we are pinched, thank God,” he added, retracting the admission which he had made in his first burst of joy, “but nae doubt we are waur aff than we hae been, or suld be. And for eating — what signifies telling a lee? there’s just the hinder end of the mutton-ham that has been but three times on the table, and the nearer the bane the sweeter, as your honours weel ken; and — there’s the heel of the ewe-milk kebbuck, wi’ a bit of nice butter, and — and — that’s a’ that’s to trust to.” And with great alacrity he produced his slender stock of provisions, and placed them with much formality upon a small round table betwixt the two gentlemen, who were not deterred either by the homely quality or limited quantity of the repast from doing it full justice. Caleb in the mean while waited on them with grave officiousness, as if anxious to make up, by his own respectful assiduity, for the want of all other attendance.
But, alas! how little on such occasions can form, however anxiously and scrupulously observed, supply the lack of substantial fare! Bucklaw, who had eagerly eaten a considerable portion of the thrice-sacked mutton-ham, now began to demand ale.
“I wadna just presume to recommend our ale,” said Caleb; “the maut was ill made, and there was awfu’ thunner last week; but siccan water as the Tower well has ye’ll seldome see, Bucklaw, and that I’se engage for.”
“But if your ale is bad, you can let us have some wine,” said Bucklaw, making a grimace at the mention of the pure element which Caleb so earnestly recommended.
“Wine!” answered Caleb, undauntedly, “eneugh of wine! It was but twa days syne — wae’s me for the cause — there was as much wine drunk in this house as would have floated a pinnace. There never was lack of wine at Wolf’s Crag.”
“Do fetch us some then,” said the master, “instead of talking about it.” And Caleb boldly departed.
Every expended butt in the old cellar did he set a-tilt, and shake with the desperate expectation of collecting enough of the grounds of claret to fill the large pewter measure which he carred in his hand. Alas! each had been too devoutly drained; and, with all the squeezing and manoeuvring which his craft as a butler suggested, he could only collect about half a quart that seemed presentable. Still, however, Caleb was too good a general to renounce the field without a strategem to cover his retreat. He undauntedly threw down an empty flagon, as if he had stumbled at the entrance of the apartment, called upon Mysie to wipe up the wine that had never been spilt, and placing the other vessel on the table, hoped there was still enough left for their honours. There was indeed; for even Bucklaw, a sworn friend to the grape, found no encouragement to renew his first attack upon the vintage of Wolf’s Crag, but contented himself, however reluctantly, with a draught of fair water. Arrangements were now made for his repose; and as the secret chamber was assigned for this purpose, it furnished Caleb with a first-rate and most plausible apology for all deficiencies of furniture, bedding, etc.
“For wha,” said he, “would have thought of the secret chaumer being needed? It has not been used since the time of the Gowrie Conspiracy, and I durst never let a woman ken of the entrance to it, or your honour will allow that it wad not hae been a secret chaumer lang.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00