Old Mortality, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 8

The devil a puritan, or any thing else he is, but a time-server.

Twelfth Night.

It was evening when Mr Henry Morton perceived an old woman, wrapped in her tartan plaid, supported by a stout, stupid-looking fellow, in hoddin-grey, approach the house of Milnwood. Old Mause made her courtesy, but Cuddie took the lead in addressing Morton. Indeed, he had previously stipulated with his mother that he was to manage matters his own way; for though he readily allowed his general inferiority of understanding, and filially submitted to the guidance of his mother on most ordinary occasions, yet he said, “For getting a service, or getting forward in the warld, he could somegate gar the wee pickle sense he had gang muckle farther than hers, though she could crack like ony minister o’ them a’.”

Accordingly, he thus opened the conversation with young Morton: “A braw night this for the rye, your honour; the west park will be breering bravely this e’en.”

“I do not doubt it, Cuddie; but what can have brought your mother — this is your mother, is it not?” (Cuddie nodded.) “What can have brought your mother and you down the water so late?”

“Troth, stir, just what gars the auld wives trot — neshessity, stir — I’m seeking for service, stir.”

“For service, Cuddie, and at this time of the year? how comes that?”

Mause could forbear no longer. Proud alike of her cause and her sufferings, she commenced with an affected humility of tone, “It has pleased Heaven, an it like your honour, to distinguish us by a visitation”—“Deil’s in the wife and nae gude!” whispered Cuddie to his mother, “an ye come out wi’ your whiggery, they’ll no daur open a door to us through the haill country!” Then aloud and addressing Morton, “My mother’s auld, stir, and she has rather forgotten hersell in speaking to my leddy, that canna weel bide to be contradickit, (as I ken nae-body likes it if they could help themsells,) especially by her ain folk — and Mr Harrison the steward, and Gudyill the butler, they’re no very fond o’ us, and it’s ill sitting at Rome and striving wi’ the Pope; sae I thought it best to flit before ill came to waur — and here’s a wee bit line to your honour frae a friend will maybe say some mair about it.”

Morton took the billet, and crimsoning up to the ears, between joy and surprise, read these words: “If you can serve these poor helpless people, you will oblige E. B.”

It was a few instants before he could attain composure enough to ask, “And what is your object, Cuddie? and how can I be of use to you?”

“Wark, stir, wark, and a service, is my object — a bit beild for my mither and mysell — we hae gude plenishing o’ our ain, if we had the cast o’ a cart to bring it down — and milk and meal, and greens enow, for I’m gay gleg at meal-time, and sae is my mither, lang may it be sae — And, for the penny-fee and a’ that, I’ll just leave it to the laird and you. I ken ye’ll no see a poor lad wranged, if ye can help it.”

Morton shook his head. “For the meat and lodging, Cuddie, I think I can promise something; but the penny-fee will be a hard chapter, I doubt.”

“I’ll tak my chance o’t, stir,” replied the candidate for service, “rather than gang down about Hamilton, or ony sic far country.”

“Well; step into the kitchen, Cuddie, and I’ll do what I can for you.”

The negotiation was not without difficulties. Morton had first to bring over the housekeeper, who made a thousand objections, as usual, in order to have the pleasure of being besought and entreated; but, when she was gained over, it was comparatively easy to induce old Milnwood to accept of a servant, whose wages were to be in his own option. An outhouse was, therefore, assigned to Mause and her son for their habitation, and it was settled that they were for the time to be admitted to eat of the frugal fare provided for the family, until their own establishment should be completed. As for Morton, he exhausted his own very slender stock of money in order to make Cuddie such a present, under the name of arles, as might show his sense of the value of the recommendation delivered to him.

“And now we’re settled ance mair,” said: Cuddie to his mother, “and if we’re no sae bien and comfortable as we were up yonder, yet life’s life ony gate, and we’re wi’ decent kirk-ganging folk o’ your ain persuasion, mither; there will be nae quarrelling about that.”

“Of my persuasion, hinnie!” said the too-enlightened Mause; “wae’s me for thy blindness and theirs. O, Cuddie, they are but in the court of the Gentiles, and will ne’er win farther ben, I doubt; they are but little better than the prelatists themsells. They wait on the ministry of that blinded man, Peter Poundtext, ance a precious teacher of the Word, but now a backsliding pastor, that has, for the sake of stipend and family maintenance, forsaken the strict path, and gane astray after the black Indulgence. O, my son, had ye but profited by the gospel doctrines ye hae heard in the Glen of Bengonnar, frae the dear Richard Rumbleberry, that sweet youth, who suffered martyrdom in the Grassmarket, afore Candlemas! Didna ye hear him say, that Erastianism was as bad as Prelacy, and that the Indulgence was as bad as Erastianism?”

“Heard ever ony body the like o’ this!” interrupted Cuddie; “we’ll be driven out o’ house and ha’ again afore we ken where to turn oursells. Weej, mither, I hae just ae word mair — An I hear ony mair o’ your din — afore folk, that is, for I dinna mind your clavers mysell, they aye set me sleeping — but if I hear ony mair din afore folk, as I was saying, about Poundtexts and Rumbleberries, and doctrines and malignants, I’se e’en turn a single sodger mysell, or maybe a sergeant or a captain, if ye plague me the mair, and let Rumbleberry and you gang to the deil thegither. I ne’er gat ony gude by his doctrine, as ye ca’t, but a sour fit o’ the batts wi’ sitting amang the wat moss-hags for four hours at a yoking, and the leddy cured me wi’ some hickery-pickery; mair by token, an she had kend how I came by the disorder, she wadna hae been in sic a hurry to mend it.”

Although groaning in spirit over the obdurate and impenitent state, as she thought it, of her son Cuddie, Mause durst neither urge him farther on the topic, nor altogether neglect the warning he had given her. She knew the disposition of her deceased helpmate, whom this surviving pledge of their union greatly resembled, and remembered, that although submitting implicitly in most things to her boast of superior acuteness, he used on certain occasions, when driven to extremity, to be seized with fits of obstinacy, which neither remonstrance, flattery, nor threats, were capable of overpowering. Trembling, therefore, at the very possibility of Cuddie’s fulfilling his threat, she put a guard over her tongue, and even when Poundtext was commended in her presence, as an able and fructifying preacher, she had the good sense to suppress the contradiction which thrilled upon her tongue, and to express her sentiments no otherwise than by deep groans, which the hearers charitably construed to flow from a vivid recollection of the more pathetic parts of his homilies. How long she could have repressed her feelings it is difficult to say. An unexpected accident relieved her from the necessity.

The Laird of Milnwood kept up all old fashions which were connected with economy. It was, therefore, still the custom in his house, as it had been universal in Scotland about fifty years before, that the domestics, after having placed the dinner on the table, sate down at the lower end of the board, and partook of the share which was assigned to them, in company with their masters. On the day, therefore, after Cuddie’s arrival, being the third from the opening of this narrative, old Robin, who was butler, valet-de-chambre, footman, gardener, and what not, in the house of Milnwood, placed on the table an immense charger of broth, thickened with oatmeal and colewort, in which ocean of liquid was indistinctly discovered, by close observers, two or three short ribs of lean mutton sailing to and fro. Two huge baskets, one of bread made of barley and pease, and one of oat-cakes, flanked this standing dish. A large boiled salmon would now-a-days have indicated more liberal house-keeping; but at that period salmon was caught in such plenty in the considerable rivers in Scotland, that instead of being accounted a delicacy, it was generally applied to feed the servants, who are said sometimes to have stipulated that they should not be required to eat a food so luscious and surfeiting in its quality above five times a-week. The large black jack, filled with very small beer of Milnwood’s own brewing, was allowed to the company at discretion, as were the bannocks, cakes, and broth; but the mutton was reserved for the heads of the family, Mrs Wilson included: and a measure of ale, somewhat deserving the name, was set apart in a silver tankard for their exclusive use. A huge kebbock, (a cheese, that is, made with ewemilk mixed with cow’s milk,) and a jar of salt butter, were in common to the company.

To enjoy this exquisite cheer, was placed, at the head of the table, the old Laird himself, with his nephew on the one side, and the favourite housekeeper on the other. At a long interval, and beneath the salt of course, sate old Robin, a meagre, half-starved serving-man, rendered cross and cripple by rheumatism, and a dirty drab of a housemaid, whom use had rendered callous to the daily exercitations which her temper underwent at the hands of her master and Mrs Wilson. A barnman, a white-headed cow-herd boy, with Cuddie the new ploughman and his mother, completed the party. The other labourers belonging to the property resided in their own houses, happy at least in this, that if their cheer was not more delicate than that which we have described, they could eat their fill, unwatched by the sharp, envious grey eyes of Milnwood, which seemed to measure the quantity that each of his dependents swallowed, as closely as if their glances attended each mouthful in its progress from the lips to the stomach. This close inspection was unfavourable to Cuddie, who sustained much prejudice in his new master’s opinion, by the silent celerity with which he caused the victuals to disappear before him. And ever and anon Milnwood turned his eyes from the huge feeder to cast indignant glances upon his nephew, whose repugnance to rustic labour was the principal cause of his needing a ploughman, and who had been the direct means of his hiring this very cormorant.

“Pay thee wages, quotha?” said Milnwood to himself — “Thou wilt eat in a week the value of mair than thou canst work for in a month.”

These disagreeable ruminations were interrupted by a loud knocking at the outer-gate. It was a universal custom in Scotland, that, when the family was at dinner, the outer-gate of the courtyard, if there was one, and if not, the door of the house itself, was always shut and locked, and only guests of importance, or persons upon urgent business, sought or received admittance at that time. 11

The family of Milnwood were therefore surprised, and, in the unsettled state of the times, something alarmed, at the earnest and repeated knocking with which the gate was now assailed. Mrs Wilson ran in person to the door, and, having reconnoitred those who were so clamorous for admittance, through some secret aperture with which most Scottish door-ways were furnished for the express purpose, she returned wringing her hands in great dismay, exclaiming, “The red-coats! the red-coats!”

“Robin — Ploughman — what ca’ they ye? — Barnsman — Nevoy Harry — open the door, open the door!” exclaimed old Milnwood, snatching up and slipping into his pocket the two or three silver spoons with which the upper end of the table was garnished, those beneath the salt being of goodly horn. “Speak them fair, sirs — Lord love ye, speak them fair — they winna bide thrawing — we’re a’ harried — we’re a’ harried!”

While the servants admitted the troopers, whose oaths and threats already indicated resentment at the delay they had been put to, Cuddie took the opportunity to whisper to his mother, “Now, ye daft auld carline, mak yoursell deaf — ye hae made us a’ deaf ere now — and let me speak for ye. I wad like ill to get my neck raxed for an auld wife’s clashes, though ye be our mither.”

“O, hinny, ay; I’se be silent or thou sall come to ill,” was the corresponding whisper of Mause “but bethink ye, my dear, them that deny the Word, the Word will deny”— Her admonition was cut short by the entrance of the Life-Guardsmen, a party of four troopers, commanded by Bothwell.

In they tramped, making a tremendous clatter upon the stone-floor with the iron-shod heels of their large jack-boots, and the clash and clang of their long, heavy, basket-hilted broadswords. Milnwood and his housekeeper trembled, from well-grounded apprehensions of the system of exaction and plunder carried on during these domiciliary visits. Henry Morton was discomposed with more special cause, for he remembered that he stood answerable to the laws for having harboured Burley. The widow Mause Headrigg, between fear for her son’s life and an overstrained and enthusiastic zeal, which reproached her for consenting even tacitly to belie her religious sentiments, was in a strange quandary. The other servants quaked for they knew not well what. Cuddie alone, with the look of supreme indifference and stupidity which a Scottish peasant can at times assume as a mask for considerable shrewdness and craft, continued to swallow large spoonfuls of his broth, to command which he had drawn within his sphere the large vessel that contained it, and helped himself, amid the confusion, to a sevenfold portion.

“What is your pleasure here, gentlemen?” said Milnwood, humbling himself before the satellites of power.

“We come in behalf of the king,” answered Bothwell; “why the devil did you keep us so long standing at the door?”

“We were at dinner,” answered Milnwood, “and the door was locked, as is usual in landward towns 12 in this country. I am sure, gentlemen, if I had kend ony servants of our gude king had stood at the door — But wad ye please to drink some ale — or some brandy — or a cup of canary sack, or claret wine?” making a pause between each offer as long as a stingy bidder at an auction, who is loath to advance his offer for a favourite lot.

“Claret for me,” said one fellow.

“I like ale better,” said another, “provided it is right juice of John Barleycorn.”

“Better never was malted,” said Milnwood; “I can hardly say sae muckle for the claret. It’s thin and cauld, gentlemen.”

“Brandy will cure that,” said a third fellow; “a glass of brandy to three glasses of wine prevents the curmurring in the stomach.”

“Brandy, ale, sack, and claret? — we’ll try them all,” said Bothwell, “and stick to that which is best. There’s good sense in that, if the damn’dest whig in Scotland had said it.”

Hastily, yet with a reluctant quiver of his muscles, Milnwood lugged out two ponderous keys, and delivered them to the governante.

“The housekeeper,” said Bothwell, taking a seat, and throwing himself upon it, “is neither so young nor so handsome as to tempt a man to follow her to the gauntrees, and devil a one here is there worth sending in her place. — What’s this? — meat?” (searching with a fork among the broth, and fishing up a cutlet of mutton)—“I think I could eat a bit — why, it’s as tough as if the devil’s dam had hatched it.”

“If there is any thing better in the house, sir,” said Milnwood, alarmed at these symptoms of disapprobation —“No, no,” said Bothwell, “it’s not worth while, I must proceed to business. — You attend Poundtext, the presbyterian parson, I understand, Mr Morton?”

Mr Morton hastened to slide in a confession and apology.

“By the indulgence of his gracious majesty and the government, for I wad do nothing out of law — I hae nae objection whatever to the establishment of a moderate episcopacy, but only that I am a country-bred man, and the ministers are a hamelier kind of folk, and I can follow their doctrine better; and, with reverence, sir, it’s a mair frugal establishment for the country.”

“Well, I care nothing about that,” said Bothwell; “they are indulged, and there’s an end of it; but, for my part, if I were to give the law, never a crop-ear’d cur of the whole pack should bark in a Scotch pulpit. However, I am to obey commands. — There comes the liquor; put it down, my good old lady.”

He decanted about one-half of a quart bottle of claret into a wooden quaigh or bicker, and took it off at a draught.

“You did your good wine injustice, my friend; — it’s better than your brandy, though that’s good too. Will you pledge me to the king’s health?”

“With pleasure,” said Milnwood, “in ale — but I never drink claret, and keep only a very little for some honoured friends.”

“Like me, I suppose,” said Bothwell; and then, pushing the bottle to Henry, he said, “Here, young man, pledge you the king’s health.”

Henry filled a moderate glass in silence, regardless of the hints and pushes of his uncle, which seemed to indicate that he ought to have followed his example, in preferring beer to wine.

“Well,” said Bothwell, “have ye all drank the toast? — What is that old wife about? Give her a glass of brandy, she shall drink the king’s health, by”—“If your honour pleases,” said Cuddie, with great stolidity of aspect, “this is my mither, stir; and she’s as deaf as Corra-linn; we canna mak her hear day nor door; but if your honour pleases, I am ready to drink the king’s health for her in as mony glasses of brandy as ye think neshessary.”

“I dare swear you are,” answered Bothwell; “you look like a fellow that would stick to brandy — help thyself, man; all’s free where’er I come. — Tom, help the maid to a comfortable cup, though she’s but a dirty jilt neither. Fill round once more — Here’s to our noble commander, Colonel Graham of Claverhouse! — What the devil is the old woman groaning for? She looks as very a whig as ever sate on a hill-side — Do you renounce the Covenant, good woman?”

“Whilk Covenant is your honour meaning? Is it the Covenant of Works, or the Covenant of Grace?” said Cuddie, interposing.

“Any covenant; all covenants that ever were hatched,” answered the trooper.

“Mither,” cried Cuddie, affecting to speak as to a deaf person, “the gentleman wants to ken if ye will renunce the Covenant of Works?”

“With all my heart, Cuddie,” said Mause, “and pray that my feet may be delivered from the snare thereof.”

“Come,” said Bothwell, “the old dame has come more frankly off than I expected. Another cup round, and then we’ll proceed to business. — You have all heard, I suppose, of the horrid and barbarous murder committed upon the person of the Archbishop of St Andrews, by ten or eleven armed fanatics?”

All started and looked at each other; at length Milnwood himself answered, “They had heard of some such misfortune, but were in hopes it had not been true.”

“There is the relation published by government, old gentleman; what do you think of it?”

“Think, sir? Wh — wh — whatever the council please to think of it,” stammered Milnwood.

“I desire to have your opinion more explicitly, my friend,” said the dragoon, authoritatively.

Milnwood’s eyes hastily glanced through the paper to pick out the strongest expressions of censure with which it abounded, in gleaning which he was greatly aided by their being printed in italics.

“I think it a — bloody and execrable — murder and parricide — devised by hellish and implacable cruelty — utterly abominable, and a scandal to the land.”

“Well said, old gentleman!” said the querist —“Here’s to thee, and I wish you joy of your good principles. You owe me a cup of thanks for having taught you them; nay, thou shalt pledge me in thine own sack — sour ale sits ill upon a loyal stomach. — Now comes your turn, young man; what think you of the matter in hand?”

“I should have little objection to answer you,” said Henry, “if I knew what right you had to put the question.”

“The Lord preserve us!” said the old housekeeper, “to ask the like o’ that at a trooper, when a’ folk ken they do whatever they like through the haill country wi’ man and woman, beast and body.”

The old gentleman exclaimed, in the same horror at his nephew’s audacity, “Hold your peace, sir, or answer the gentleman discreetly. Do you mean to affront the king’s authority in the person of a sergeant of the Life-Guards?”

“Silence, all of you!” exclaimed Bothwell, striking his hand fiercely on the table —“Silence, every one of you, and hear me! — You ask me for my right to examine you, sir (to Henry); my cockade and my broadsword are my commission, and a better one than ever Old Nol gave to his roundheads; and if you want to know more about it, you may look at the act of council empowering his majesty’s officers and soldiers to search for, examine, and apprehend suspicious persons; and, therefore, once more, I ask you your opinion of the death of Archbishop Sharpe — it’s a new touch-stone we have got for trying people’s metal.”

Henry had, by this time, reflected upon the useless risk to which he would expose the family by resisting the tyrannical power which was delegated to such rude hands; he therefore read the narrative over, and replied, composedly, “I have no hesitation to say, that the perpetrators of this assassination have committed, in my opinion, a rash and wicked action, which I regret the more, as I foresee it will be made the cause of proceedings against many who are both innocent of the deed, and as far from approving it as myself.”

While Henry thus expressed himself, Bothwell, who bent his eyes keenly upon him, seemed suddenly to recollect his features.

“Aha! my friend Captain Popinjay, I think I have seen you before, and in very suspicious company.”

“I saw you once,” answered Henry, “in the public-house of the town of —.”

“And with whom did you leave that public-house, youngster? — Was it not with John Balfour of Burley, one of the murderers of the Archbishop?”

“I did leave the house with the person you have named,” answered Henry, “I scorn to deny it; but, so far from knowing him to be a murderer of the primate, I did not even know at the time that such a crime had been committed.”

“Lord have mercy on me, I am ruined! — utterly ruined and undone!” exclaimed Milnwood. “That callant’s tongue will rin the head aff his ain shoulders, and waste my gudes to the very grey cloak on my back!”

“But you knew Burley,” continued Bothwell, still addressing Henry, and regardless of his uncle’s interruption, “to be an intercommuned rebel and traitor, and you knew the prohibition to deal with such persons. You knew, that, as a loyal subject, you were prohibited to reset, supply, or intercommune with this attainted traitor, to correspond with him by word, writ, or message, or to supply him with meat, drink, house, harbour, or victual, under the highest pains — you knew all this, and yet you broke the law.” (Henry was silent.) “Where did you part from him?” continued Bothwell; “was it in the highway, or did you give him harbourage in this very house?”

“In this house!” said his uncle; “he dared not for his neck bring ony traitor into a house of mine.”

“Dare he deny that he did so?” said Bothwell.

“As you charge it to me as a crime,” said Henry, “you will excuse my saying any thing that will criminate myself.”

“O, the lands of Milnwood! — the bonny lands of Milnwood, that have been in the name of Morton twa hundred years!” exclaimed his uncle; “they are barking and fleeing, outfield and infield, haugh and holme!”

“No, sir,” said Henry, “you shall not suffer on my account. — I own,” he continued, addressing Bothwell, “I did give this man a night’s lodging, as to an old military comrade of my father. But it was not only without my uncle’s knowledge, but contrary to his express general orders. I trust, if my evidence is considered as good against myself, it will have some weight in proving my uncle’s innocence.”

“Come, young man,” said the soldier, in a somewhat milder tone, “you’re a smart spark enough, and I am sorry for you; and your uncle here is a fine old Trojan, kinder, I see, to his guests than himself, for he gives us wine and drinks his own thin ale — tell me all you know about this Burley, what he said when you parted from him, where he went, and where he is likely now to be found; and, d — n it, I’ll wink as hard on your share of the business as my duty will permit. There’s a thousand merks on the murdering whigamore’s head, an I could but light on it — Come, out with it — where did you part with him?”

“You will excuse my answering that question, sir,” said Morton; “the same cogent reasons which induced me to afford him hospitality at considerable risk to myself and my friends, would command me to respect his secret, if, indeed, he had trusted me with any.”

“So you refuse to give me an answer?” said Bothwell.

“I have none to give,” returned Henry.

“Perhaps I could teach you to find one, by tying a piece of lighted match betwixt your fingers,” answered Bothwell.

“O, for pity’s sake, sir,” said old Alison apart to her master, “gie them siller — it’s siller they’re seeking — they’ll murder Mr Henry, and yoursell next!”

Milnwood groaned in perplexity and bitterness of spirit, and, with a tone as if he was giving up the ghost, exclaimed, “If twenty p — p — punds would make up this unhappy matter”—“My master,” insinuated Alison to the sergeant, “would gie twenty punds sterling”—“Punds Scotch, ye b — h!” interrupted Milnwood; for the agony of his avarice overcame alike his puritanic precision and the habitual respect he entertained for his housekeeper.

“Punds sterling,” insisted the housekeeper, “if ye wad hae the gudeness to look ower the lad’s misconduct; he’s that dour ye might tear him to pieces, and ye wad ne’er get a word out o’ him; and it wad do ye little gude, I’m sure, to burn his bonny fingerends.”

“Why,” said Bothwell, hesitating, “I don’t know — most of my cloth would have the money, and take off the prisoner too; but I bear a conscience, and if your master will stand to your offer, and enter into a bond to produce his nephew, and if all in the house will take the test-oath, I do not know but”—“O ay, ay, sir,” cried Mrs Wilson, “ony test, ony oaths ye please!” And then aside to her master, “Haste ye away, sir, and get the siller, or they will burn the house about our lugs.”

Old Milnwood cast a rueful look upon his adviser, and moved off, like a piece of Dutch clockwork, to set at liberty his imprisoned angels in this dire emergency. Meanwhile, Sergeant Bothwell began to put the test-oath with such a degree of solemn reverence as might have been expected, being just about the same which is used to this day in his majesty’s custom-house.

“You — what’s your name, woman?”

“Alison Wilson, sir.”

“You, Alison Wilson, solemnly swear, certify, and declare, that you judge it unlawful for subjects, under pretext of reformation, or any other pretext whatsoever, to enter into Leagues and Covenants”— Here the ceremony was interrupted by a strife between Cuddie and his mother, which, long conducted in whispers, now became audible.

“Oh, whisht, mither, whisht! they’re upon a communing — Oh! whisht, and they’ll agree weel eneuch e’enow.”

“I will not whisht, Cuddie,” replied his mother, “I will uplift my voice and spare not — I will confound the man of sin, even the scarlet man, and through my voice shall Mr Henry be freed from the net of the fowler.”

“She has her leg ower the harrows now,” said Cuddie, “stop her wha can — I see her cocked up behint a dragoon on her way to the Tolbooth — I find my ain legs tied below a horse’s belly — Ay — she has just mustered up her sermon, and there — wi’ that grane — out it comes, and we are a’ruined, horse and foot!”

“And div ye think to come here,” said Mause, her withered hand shaking in concert with her keen, though wrinkled visage, animated by zealous wrath, and emancipated, by the very mention of the test, from the restraints of her own prudence, and Cuddie’s admonition —“Div ye think to come here, wi’ your soul-killing, saint-seducing, conscience-confounding oaths, and tests, and bands — your snares, and your traps, and your gins? — Surely it is in vain that a net is spread in the sight of any bird.”

“Eh! what, good dame?” said the soldier. “Here’s a whig miracle, egad! the old wife has got both her ears and tongue, and we are like to be driven deaf in our turn. — Go to, hold your peace, and remember whom you talk to, you old idiot.”

“Whae do I talk to! Eh, sirs, ower weel may the sorrowing land ken what ye are. Malignant adherents ye are to the prelates, foul props to a feeble and filthy cause, bloody beasts of prey, and burdens to the earth.”

“Upon my soul,” said Bothwell, astonished as a mastiff-dog might be should a hen-partridge fly at him in defence of her young, “this is the finest language I ever heard! Can’t you give us some more of it?”

“Gie ye some mair o’t?” said Mause, clearing her voice with a preliminary cough, “I will take up my testimony against you ance and again. — Philistines ye are, and Edomites — leopards are ye, and foxes — evening wolves, that gnaw not the bones till the morrow — wicked dogs, that compass about the chosen — thrusting kine, and pushing bulls of Bashan — piercing serpents ye are, and allied baith in name and nature with the great Red Dragon; Revelations, twalfth chapter, third and fourth verses.”

Here the old lady stopped, apparently much more from lack of breath than of matter.

“Curse the old hag!” said one of the dragoons, “gag her, and take her to head-quarters.”

“For shame, Andrews,” said Bothwell; “remember the good lady belongs to the fair sex, and uses only the privilege of her tongue. — But, hark ye, good woman, every bull of Bashan and Red Dragon will not be so civil as I am, or be contented to leave you to the charge of the constable and ducking-stool. In the meantime I must necessarily carry off this young man to head-quarters. I cannot answer to my commanding-officer to leave him in a house where I have heard so much treason and fanaticism.”

“Se now, mither, what ye hae dune,” whispered Cuddie; “there’s the Philistines, as ye ca’ them, are gaun to whirry awa’ Mr Henry, and a’ wi’ your nash-gab, deil be on’t!”

“Haud yere tongue, ye cowardly loon,” said the mother, “and layna the wyte on me; if you and thae thowless gluttons, that are sitting staring like cows bursting on clover, wad testify wi’ your hands as I have testified wi’ my tongue, they should never harle the precious young lad awa’ to captivity.”

While this dialogue passed, the soldiers had already bound and secured their prisoner. Milnwood returned at this instant, and, alarmed at the preparations he beheld, hastened to proffer to Bothwell, though with many a grievous groan, the purse of gold which he had been obliged to rummage out as ransom for his nephew. The trooper took the purse with an air of indifference, weighed it in his hand, chucked it up into the air, and caught it as it fell, then shook his head, and said, “There’s many a merry night in this nest of yellow boys, but d — n me if I dare venture for them — that old woman has spoken too loud, and before all the men too. — Hark ye, old gentleman,” to Milnwood, “I must take your nephew to head-quarters, so I cannot, in conscience, keep more than is my due as civility-money;” then opening the purse, he gave a gold piece to each of the soldiers, and took three to himself. “Now,” said he, “you have the comfort to know that your kinsman, young Captain Popinjay, will be carefully looked after and civilly used; and the rest of the money I return to you.”

Milnwood eagerly extended his hand.

“Only you know,” said Bothwell, still playing with the purse, “that every landholder is answerable for the conformity and loyalty of his household, and that these fellows of mine are not obliged to be silent on the subject of the fine sermon we have had from that old puritan in the tartan plaid there; and I presume you are aware that the consequences of delation will be a heavy fine before the council.”

“Good sergeant — worthy captain!” exclaimed the terrified miser, “I am sure there is no person in my house, to my knowledge, would give cause of offence.”

“Nay,” answered Bothwell, “you shall hear her give her testimony, as she calls it, herself. — You fellow,” (to Cuddie,) “stand back, and let your mother speak her mind. I see she’s primed and loaded again since her first discharge.”

“Lord! noble sir,” said Cuddie, “an auld wife’s tongue’s but a feckless matter to mak sic a fash about. Neither my father nor me ever minded muckle what our mither said.”

“Hold your peace, my lad, while you are well,” said Bothwell; “I promise you I think you are slyer than you would like to be supposed. — Come, good dame, you see your master will not believe that you can give us so bright a testimony.”

Mause’s zeal did not require this spur to set her again on full career.

“Woe to the compliers and carnal self-seekers,” she said, “that daub over and drown their consciences by complying with wicked exactions, and giving mammon of unrighteousness to the sons of Belial, that it may make their peace with them! It is a sinful compliance, a base confederacy with the Enemy. It is the evil that Menahem did in the sight of the Lord, when he gave a thousand talents to Pul, King of Assyria, that his hand might be with him; Second Kings, feifteen chapter, nineteen verse. It is the evil deed of Ahab, when he sent money to Tiglath-Peleser; see the saame Second Kings, saxteen and aught. And if it was accounted a backsliding even in godly Hezekiah, that he complied with Sennacherib, giving him money, and offering to bear that which was put upon him, (see the saame Second Kings, aughteen chapter, fourteen and feifteen verses,) even so it is with them that in this contumacious and backsliding generation pays localities and fees, and cess and fines, to greedy and unrighteous publicans, and extortions and stipends to hireling curates, (dumb dogs which bark not, sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber,) and gives gifts to be helps and hires to our oppressors and destroyers. They are all like the casters of a lot with them — like the preparing of a table for the troop, and the furnishing a drink-offering to the number.”

“There’s a fine sound of doctrine for you, Mr Morton! How like you that?” said Bothwell; “or how do you think the Council will like it? I think we can carry the greatest part of it in our heads without a kylevine pen and a pair of tablets, such as you bring to conventicles. She denies paying cess, I think, Andrews?”

“Yes, by G — ” said Andrews; “and she swore it was a sin to give a trooper a pot of ale, or ask him to sit down to a table.”

“You hear,” said Bothwell, addressing Milnwood; “but it’s your own affair;” and he proffered back the purse with its diminished contents, with an air of indifference.

Milnwood, whose head seemed stunned by the accumulation of his misfortunes, extended his hand mechanically to take the purse.

“Are ye mad?” said his housekeeper, in a whisper; “tell them to keep it; — they will keep it either by fair means or foul, and it’s our only chance to make them quiet.”

“I canna do it, Ailie — I canna do it,” said Milnwood, in the bitterness of his heart. “I canna part wi’ the siller I hae counted sae often ower, to thae blackguards.”

“Then I maun do it mysell, Milnwood,” said the housekeeper, “or see a’ gang wrang thegither. — My master, sir,” she said, addressing Bothwell, “canna think o’ taking back ony thing at the hand of an honourable gentleman like you; he implores ye to pit up the siller, and be as kind to his nephew as ye can, and be favourable in reporting our dispositions to government, and let us tak nae wrang for the daft speeches of an auld jaud,” (here she turned fiercely upon Mause, to indulge herself for the effort which it cost her to assume a mild demeanour to the soldiers,) “a daft auld whig randy, that ne’er was in the house (foul fa’ her) till yesterday afternoon, and that sall ne’er cross the door-stane again an anes I had her out o’t.”

“Ay, ay,” whispered Cuddie to his parent, “e’en sae! I kend we wad be put to our travels again whene’er ye suld get three words spoken to an end. I was sure that wad be the upshot o’t, mither.”

“Whisht, my bairn,” said she, “and dinna murmur at the cross — cross their door-stane! weel I wot I’ll ne’er cross their door-stane. There’s nae mark on their threshold for a signal that the destroying angel should pass by. They’ll get a back-cast o’ his hand yet, that think sae muckle o’ the creature and sae little o’ the Creator — sae muckle o’ warld’s gear and sae little o’ a broken covenant — sae muckle about thae wheen pieces o’ yellow muck, and sae little about the pure gold o’ the Scripture — sae muckle about their ain friend and kinsman, and sae little about the elect, that are tried wi’ hornings, harassings, huntings, searchings, chasings, catchings, imprisonments, torturings, banishments, headings, hangings, dismemberings, and quarterings quick, forby the hundreds forced from their ain habitations to the deserts, mountains, muirs, mosses, moss-flows, and peat-hags, there to hear the word like bread eaten in secret.”

“She’s at the Covenant now, sergeant, shall we not have her away?” said one of the soldiers.

“You be d — d!” said Bothwell, aside to him; “cannot you see she’s better where she is, so long as there is a respectable, sponsible, money-broking heritor, like Mr Morton of Milnwood, who has the means of atoning her trespasses? Let the old mother fly to raise another brood, she’s too tough to be made any thing of herself — Here,” he cried, “one other round to Milnwood and his roof-tree, and to our next merry meeting with him! — which I think will not be far distant, if he keeps such a fanatical family.”

He then ordered the party to take their horses, and pressed the best in Milnwood’s stable into the king’s service to carry the prisoner. Mrs Wilson, with weeping eyes, made up a small parcel of necessaries for Henry’s compelled journey, and as she bustled about, took an opportunity, unseen by the party, to slip into his hand a small sum of money. Bothwell and his troopers, in other respects, kept their promise, and were civil. They did not bind their prisoner, but contented themselves with leading his horse between a file of men. They then mounted, and marched off with much mirth and laughter among themselves, leaving the Milnwood family in great confusion. The old Laird himself, overpowered by the loss of his nephew, and the unavailing outlay of twenty pounds sterling, did nothing the whole evening but rock himself backwards and forwards in his great leathern easy-chair, repeating the same lamentation, of “Ruined on a’ sides, ruined on a’ sides — harried and undone — harried and undone — body and gudes, body and gudes!”

Mrs Alison Wilson’s grief was partly indulged and partly relieved by the torrent of invectives with which she accompanied Mause and Cuddie’s expulsion from Milnwood.

“Ill luck be in the graning corse o’ thee! the prettiest lad in Clydesdale this day maun be a sufferer, and a’ for you and your daft whiggery!”

“Gae wa’,” replied Mause; “I trow ye are yet in the bonds of sin, and in the gall of iniquity, to grudge your bonniest and best in the cause of Him that gave ye a’ ye hae — I promise I hae dune as muckle for Mr Harry as I wad do for my ain; for if Cuddie was found worthy to bear testimony in the Grassmarket”—“And there’s gude hope o’t,” said Alison, “unless you and he change your courses.”

“— And if,” continued Mause, disregarding the interruption, “the bloody Doegs and the flattering Ziphites were to seek to ensnare me with a proffer of his remission upon sinful compliances, I wad persevere, natheless, in lifting my testimony against popery, prelacy, antinomianism, erastianism, lapsarianism, sublapsarianism, and the sins and snares of the times — I wad cry as a woman in labour against the black Indulgence, that has been a stumbling-block to professors — I wad uplift my voice as a powerful preacher.”

“Hout tout, mither,” cried Cuddie, interfering and dragging her off forcibly, “dinna deave the gentlewoman wi’ your testimony! ye hae preached eneugh for sax days. Ye preached us out o’ our canny free-house and gude kale-yard, and out o’ this new city o’ refuge afore our hinder end was weel hafted in it; and ye hae preached Mr Harry awa to the prison; and ye hae preached twenty punds out o’ the Laird’s pocket that he likes as ill to quit wi’; and sae ye may haud sae for ae wee while, without preaching me up a ladder and down a tow. Sae, come awa, come awa; the family hae had eneugh o’ your testimony to mind it for ae while.”

So saying he dragged off Mause, the words, “Testimony — Covenant — malignants — indulgence,” still thrilling upon her tongue, to make preparations for instantly renewing their travels in quest of an asylum.

“Ill-fard, crazy, crack-brained gowk, that she is!” exclaimed the housekeeper, as she saw them depart, “to set up to be sae muckle better than ither folk, the auld besom, and to bring sae muckle distress on a douce quiet family! If it hadna been that I am mair than half a gentlewoman by my station, I wad hae tried my ten nails in the wizen’d hide o’ her!”

11 Locking the Door during Dinner. The custom of keeping the door of a house or chateau locked during the time of dinner, probably arose from the family being anciently assembled in the hall at that meal, and liable to surprise. But it was in many instances continued as a point of high etiquette, of which the following is an example:

A considerable landed proprietor in Dumfries-shire, being a bachelor, without near relations, and determined to make his will, resolved previously to visit his two nearest kinsmen, and decide which should be his heir, according to the degree of kindness with which he should be received. Like a good clansman, he first visited his own chief, a baronet in rank, descendant and representative of one of the oldest families in Scotland. Unhappily the dinner-bell had rung, and the door of the castle had been locked before his arrival. The visitor in vain announced his name and requested admittance; but his chief adhered to the ancient etiquette, and would on no account suffer the doors to be unbarred. Irritated at this cold reception, the old Laird rode on to Sanquhar Castle, then the residence of the Duke of Queensberry, who no sooner heard his name, than, knowing well he had a will to make, the drawbridge dropped, and the gates flew open — the table was covered anew — his grace’s bachelor and intestate kinsman was received with the utmost attention and respect; and it is scarcely necessary to add, that upon his death some years after, the visitor’s considerable landed property went to augment the domains of the Ducal House of Queensberry. This happened about the end of the seventeenth century.

12 The Scots retain the use of the word town in its comprehensive Saxon meaning, as a place of habitation. A mansion or a farm house, though solitary, is called the town. A landward town is a dwelling situated in the country.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00