The Fortunes of Nigel, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 8

Ay! mark the matron well — and laugh not, Harry,

At her old steeple-hat and velvet guard —

I’ve call’d her like the ear of Dionysius;

I mean that ear-form’d vault, built o’er his dungeon,

To catch the groans and discontented murmurs

Of his poor bondsmen — Even so doth Martha

Drink up, for her own purpose, all that passes,

Or is supposed to pass, in this wide city —

She can retail it too, if that her profit

Shall call on her to do so; and retail it

For your advantage, so that you can make

Your profit jump with hers.

The Conspiracy.

We must now introduce to the reader’s acquaintance another character, busy and important far beyond her ostensible situation in society — in a word, Dame Ursula Suddlechop, wife of Benjamin Suddlechop, the most renowned barber in all Fleet Street. This dame had her own particular merits, the principal part of which was (if her own report could be trusted) an infinite desire to be of service to her fellow-creatures. Leaving to her thin half-starved partner the boast of having the most dexterous snap with his fingers of any shaver in London, and the care of a shop where starved apprentices flayed the faces of those who were boobies enough to trust them, the dame drove a separate and more lucrative trade, which yet had so many odd turns and windings, that it seemed in many respects to contradict itself.

Its highest and most important duties were of a very secret and confidential nature, and Dame Ursula Suddlechop was never known to betray any transaction intrusted to her, unless she had either been indifferently paid for her service, or that some one found it convenient to give her a double douceur to make her disgorge the secret; and these contingencies happened in so few cases, that her character for trustiness remained as unimpeached as that for honesty and benevolence.

In fact, she was a most admirable matron, and could be useful to the impassioned and the frail in the rise, progress, and consequences of their passion. She could contrive an interview for lovers who could show proper reasons for meeting privately; she could relieve the frail fair one of the burden of a guilty passion, and perhaps establish the hopeful offspring of unlicensed love as the heir of some family whose love was lawful, but where an heir had not followed the union. More than this she could do, and had been concerned in deeper and dearer secrets. She had been a pupil of Mrs. Turner, and learned from her the secret of making the yellow starch, and, it may be, two or three other secrets of more consequence, though perhaps none that went to the criminal extent of those whereof her mistress was accused. But all that was deep and dark in her real character was covered by the show of outward mirth and good-humour, the hearty laugh and buxom jest with which the dame knew well how to conciliate the elder part of her neighbours, and the many petty arts by which she could recommend herself to the younger, those especially of her own sex.

Dame Ursula was, in appearance, scarce past forty, and her full, but not overgrown form, and still comely features, although her person was plumped out, and her face somewhat coloured by good cheer, had a joyous expression of gaiety and good-humour, which set off the remains of beauty in the wane. Marriages, births, and christenings were seldom thought to be performed with sufficient ceremony, for a considerable distance round her abode, unless Dame Ursley, as they called her, was present. She could contrive all sorts of pastimes, games, and jests, which might amuse the large companies which the hospitality of our ancestors assembled together on such occasions, so that her presence was literally considered as indispensable in the families of all citizens of ordinary rank, at such joyous periods. So much also was she supposed to know of life and its labyrinths, that she was the willing confidant of half the loving couples in the vicinity, most of whom used to communicate their secrets to, and receive their counsel from, Dame Ursley. The rich rewarded her services with rings, owches, or gold pieces, which she liked still better; and she very generously gave her assistance to the poor, on the same mixed principles as young practitioners in medicine assist them, partly from compassion, and partly to keep her hand in use.

Dame Ursley’s reputation in the city was the greater that her practice had extended beyond Temple Bar, and that she had acquaintances, nay, patrons and patronesses, among the quality, whose rank, as their members were much fewer, and the prospect of approaching the courtly sphere much more difficult, bore a degree of consequence unknown to the present day, when the toe of the citizen presses so close on the courtier’s heel. Dame Ursley maintained her intercourse with this superior rank of customers, partly by driving a small trade in perfumes, essences, pomades, head-gears from France, dishes or ornaments from China, then already beginning to be fashionable; not to mention drugs of various descriptions, chiefly for the use of the ladies, and partly by other services, more or less connected with the esoteric branches of her profession heretofore alluded to.

Possessing such and so many various modes of thriving, Dame Ursley was nevertheless so poor, that she might probably have mended her own circumstances, as well as her husband’s, if she had renounced them all, and set herself quietly down to the care of her own household, and to assist Benjamin in the concerns of his trade. But Ursula was luxurious and genial in her habits, and could no more have endured the stinted economy of Benjamin’s board, than she could have reconciled herself to the bald chat of his conversation.

It was on the evening of the day on which Lord Nigel Olifaunt dined with the wealthy goldsmith, that we must introduce Ursula Suddlechop upon the stage. She had that morning made a long tour to Westminster, was fatigued, and had assumed a certain large elbow-chair, rendered smooth by frequent use, placed on one side of her chimney, in which there was lit a small but bright fire. Here she observed, betwixt sleeping and waking, the simmering of a pot of well-spiced ale, on the brown surface of which bobbed a small crab-apple, sufficiently roasted, while a little mulatto girl watched, still more attentively, the process of dressing a veal sweetbread, in a silver stewpan which occupied the other side of the chimney. With these viands, doubtless, Dame Ursula proposed concluding the well spent day, of which she reckoned the labour over, and the rest at her own command. She was deceived, however; for just as the ale, or, to speak technically, the lamb’s-wool, was fitted for drinking, and the little dingy maiden intimated that the sweetbread was ready to be eaten, the thin cracked voice of Benjamin was heard from the bottom of the stairs.

“Why, Dame Ursley — why, wife, I say — why, dame — why, love, you are wanted more than a strop for a blunt razor — why, dame —”

“I would some one would draw a razor across thy windpipe, thou bawling ass!” said the dame to herself, in the first moment of irritation against her clamorous helpmate; and then called aloud — “Why, what is the matter, Master Suddlechop? I am just going to slip into bed; I have been daggled to and fro the whole day.”

“Nay, sweetheart, it is not me,” said the patient Benjamin, “but the Scots laundry-maid from neighbour Ramsay’s, who must speak with you incontinent.”

At the word sweetheart, Dame Ursley cast a wistful look at the mess which was stewed to a second in the stewpan, and then replied, with a sigh — “Bid Scots Jenny come up, Master Suddlechop. I shall be very happy to hear what she has to say;” then added in a lower tone, “and I hope she will go to the devil in the flame of a tar-barrel, like many a Scots witch before her!”

The Scots laundress entered accordingly, and having heard nothing of the last kind wish of Dame Suddlechop, made her reverence with considerable respect, and said, her young mistress had returned home unwell, and wished to see her neighbour, Dame Ursley, directly.

“And why will it not do to-morrow, Jenny, my good woman?” said Dame Ursley; “for I have been as far as Whitehall to-day already, and I am well-nigh worn off my feet, my good woman.”

“Aweel!” answered Jenny, with great composure, “and if that sae be sae, I maun take the langer tramp mysell, and maun gae down the waterside for auld Mother Redcap, at the Hungerford Stairs, that deals in comforting young creatures, e’en as you do yoursell, hinny; for ane o’ ye the bairn maun see before she sleeps, and that’s a’ that I ken on’t.”

So saying, the old emissary, without farther entreaty, turned on her heel, and was about to retreat, when Dame Ursley exclaimed — “No, no — if the sweet child, your mistress, has any necessary occasion for good advice and kind tendance, you need not go to Mother Redcap, Janet. She may do very well for skippers’ wives, chandlers’ daughters, and such like; but nobody shall wait on pretty Mistress Margaret, the daughter of his most Sacred Majesty’s horologer, excepting and saving myself. And so I will but take my chopins and my cloak, and put on my muffler, and cross the street to neighbour Ramsay’s in an instant. But tell me yourself, good Jenny, are you not something tired of your young lady’s frolics and change of mind twenty times a-day?”

“In troth, not I,” said the patient drudge, “unless it may be when she is a wee fashious about washing her laces; but I have been her keeper since she was a bairn, neighbour Suddlechop, and that makes a difference.”

“Ay,” said Dame Ursley, still busied putting on additional defences against the night air; “and you know for certain that she has two hundred pounds a-year in good land, at her own free disposal?”

“Left by her grandmother, heaven rest her soul!” said the Scotswoman; “and to a daintier lassie she could not have bequeathed it.”

“Very true, very true, mistress; for, with all her little whims, I have always said Mistress Margaret Ramsay was the prettiest girl in the ward; and, Jenny, I warrant the poor child has had no supper?”

Jenny could not say but it was the case, for, her master being out, the twa ‘prentice lads had gone out after shutting shop, to fetch them home, and she and the other maid had gone out to Sandy MacGivan’s, to see a friend frae Scotland.

“As was very natural, Mrs. Janet,” said Dame Ursley, who found her interest in assenting to all sorts of propositions from all sorts of persons.

“And so the fire went out, too,”— said Jenny.

“Which was the most natural of the whole,” said Dame Suddlechop; “and so, to cut the matter short, Jenny, I’ll carry over the little bit of supper that I was going to eat. For dinner I have tasted none, and it may be my young pretty Mistress Marget will eat a morsel with me; for it is mere emptiness, Mistress Jenny, that often puts these fancies of illness into young folk’s heads.” So saying, she put the silver posset-cup with the ale into Jenny’s hands and assuming her mantle with the alacrity of one determined to sacrifice inclination to duty, she hid the stewpan under its folds, and commanded Wilsa, the little mulatto girl, to light them across the street.

“Whither away, so late?” said the barber, whom they passed seated with his starveling boys round a mess of stockfish and parsnips, in the shop below.

“If I were to tell you, Gaffer,” said the dame, with most contemptuous coolness, “I do not think you could do my errand, so I will e’en keep it to myself.” Benjamin was too much accustomed to his wife’s independent mode of conduct, to pursue his inquiry farther; nor did the dame tarry for farther question, but marched out at the door, telling the eldest of the boys “to sit up till her return, and look to the house the whilst.”

The night was dark and rainy, and although the distance betwixt the two shops was short, it allowed Dame Ursley leisure enough, while she strode along with high-tucked petticoats, to embitter it by the following grumbling reflections —“I wonder what I have done, that I must needs trudge at every old beldam’s bidding, and every young minx’s maggot! I have been marched from Temple Bar to Whitechapel, on the matter of a pinmaker’s wife having pricked her fingers — marry, her husband that made the weapon might have salved the wound. — And here is this fantastic ape, pretty Mistress Marget, forsooth — such a beauty as I could make of a Dutch doll, and as fantastic, and humorous, and conceited, as if she were a duchess. I have seen her in the same day as changeful as a marmozet and as stubborn as a mule. I should like to know whether her little conceited noddle, or her father’s old crazy calculating jolter-pate, breeds most whimsies. But then there’s that two hundred pounds a-year in dirty land, and the father is held a close chuff, though a fanciful — he is our landlord besides, and she has begged a late day from him for our rent; so, God help me, I must be comfortable — besides, the little capricious devil is my only key to get at Master George Heriot’s secret, and it concerns my character to find that out; and so, ANDIAMOS, as the lingua franca hath it.”

Thus pondering, she moved forward with hasty strides until she arrived at the watchmaker’s habitation. The attendant admitted them by means of a pass-key. Onward glided Dame Ursula, now in glimmer and now in gloom, not like the lovely Lady Cristabelle through Gothic sculpture and ancient armour, but creeping and stumbling amongst relics of old machines, and models of new inventions in various branches of mechanics with which wrecks of useless ingenuity, either in a broken or half-finished shape, the apartment of the fanciful though ingenious mechanist was continually lumbered.

At length they attained, by a very narrow staircase, pretty Mistress Margaret’s apartment, where she, the cynosure of the eyes of every bold young bachelor in Fleet Street, sat in a posture which hovered between the discontented and the disconsolate. For her pretty back and shoulders were rounded into a curve, her round and dimpled chin reposed in the hollow of her little palm, while the fingers were folded over her mouth; her elbow rested on a table, and her eyes seemed fixed upon the dying charcoal, which was expiring in a small grate. She scarce turned her head when Dame Ursula entered, and when the presence of that estimable matron was more precisely announced in words by the old Scotswoman, Mistress Margaret, without changing her posture, muttered some sort of answer that was wholly unintelligible.

“Go your ways down to the kitchen with Wilsa, good Mistress Jenny,” said Dame Ursula, who was used to all sorts of freaks, on the part of her patients or clients, whichever they might be termed; “put the stewpan and the porringer by the fireside, and go down below — I must speak to my pretty love, Mistress Margaret, by myself — and there is not a bachelor betwixt this and Bow but will envy me the privilege.”

The attendants retired as directed, and Dame Ursula, having availed herself of the embers of charcoal, to place her stewpan to the best advantage, drew herself as close as she could to her patient, and began in a low, soothing, and confidential tone of voice, to inquire what ailed her pretty flower of neighbours.

“Nothing, dame,” said Margaret somewhat pettishly, and changing her posture so as rather to turn her back upon the kind inquirer.

“Nothing, lady-bird!” answered Dame Suddlechop; “and do you use to send for your friends out of bed at this hour for nothing?”

“It was not I who sent for you, dame,” replied the malecontent maiden.

“And who was it, then?” said Ursula; “for if I had not been sent for, I had not been here at this time of night, I promise you!”

“It was the old Scotch fool Jenny, who did it out of her own head, I suppose,” said Margaret; “for she has been stunning me these two hours about you and Mother Redcap.”

“Me and Mother Redcap!” said Dame Ursula, “an old fool indeed, that couples folk up so. — But come, come, my sweet little neighbour, Jenny is no such fool after all; she knows young folks want more and better advice than her own, and she knows, too, where to find it for them; so you must take heart of grace, my pretty maiden, and tell me what you are moping about, and then let Dame Ursula alone for finding out a cure.”

“Nay, an ye be so wise, Mother Ursula,” replied the girl, “you may guess what I ail without my telling you.”

“Ay, ay, child,” answered the complaisant matron, “no one can play better than I at the good old game of What is my thought like? Now I’ll warrant that little head of yours is running on a new head-tire, a foot higher than those our city dames wear — or you are all for a trip to Islington or Ware, and your father is cross and will not consent — or ——”

“Or you are an old fool, Dame Suddlechop,” said Margaret, peevishly, “and must needs trouble yourself about matters you know nothing of.”

“Fool as much as you will, mistress,” said Dame Ursula, offended in her turn, “but not so very many years older than yourself, mistress.”

“Oh! we are angry, are we?” said the beauty; “and pray, Madam Ursula, how come you, that are not so many years older than me, to talk about such nonsense to me, who am so many years younger, and who yet have too much sense to care about head-gears and Islington?”

“Well, well, young mistress,” said the sage counsellor, rising, “I perceive I can be of no use here; and methinks, since you know your own matters so much better than other people do, you might dispense with disturbing folks at midnight to ask their advice.”

“Why, now you are angry, mother,” said Margaret, detaining her; “this comes of your coming out at eventide without eating your supper — I never heard you utter a cross word after you had finished your little morsel. — Here, Janet, a trencher and salt for Dame Ursula; — and what have you in that porringer, dame? — Filthy clammy ale, as I would live — Let Janet fling it out of the window, or keep it for my father’s morning draught; and she shall bring you the pottle of sack that was set ready for him — good man, he will never find out the difference, for ale will wash down his dusty calculations quite as well as wine.”

“Truly, sweetheart, I am of your opinion,” said Dame Ursula, whose temporary displeasure vanished at once before these preparations for good cheer; and so, settling herself on the great easy-chair, with a three-legged table before her, she began to dispatch, with good appetite, the little delicate dish which she had prepared for herself. She did not, however, fail in the duties of civility, and earnestly, but in vain, pressed Mistress Margaret to partake her dainties. The damsel declined the invitation.

“At least pledge me in a glass of sack,” said Dame Ursula; “I have heard my grandame say, that before the gospellers came in, the old Catholic father confessors and their penitents always had a cup of sack together before confession; and you are my penitent.”

“I shall drink no sack, I am sure,” said Margaret; “and I told you before, that if you cannot find out what ails me, I shall never have the heart to tell it.”

So saying, she turned away from Dame Ursula once more, and resumed her musing posture, with her hand on her elbow, and her back, at least one shoulder, turned towards her confidant.

“Nay, then,” said Dame Ursula, “I must exert my skill in good earnest. — You must give me this pretty hand, and I will tell you by palmistry, as well as any gipsy of them all, what foot it is you halt upon.”

“As if I halted on any foot at all,” said Margaret, something scornfully, but yielding her left hand to Ursula, and continuing at the same time her averted position.

“I see brave lines here,” said Ursula, “and not ill to read neither — pleasure and wealth, and merry nights and late mornings to my Beauty, and such an equipage as shall shake Whitehall. O, have I touched you there? — and smile you now, my pretty one? — for why should not he be Lord Mayor, and go to Court in his gilded caroch, as others have done before him?”

“Lord Mayor? pshaw!” replied Margaret.

“And why pshaw at my Lord Mayor, sweetheart? or perhaps you pshaw at my prophecy; but there is a cross in every one’s line of life as well as in yours, darling. And what though I see a ‘prentice’s flat cap in this pretty palm, yet there is a sparking black eye under it, hath not its match in the Ward of Farringdon-Without.”

“Whom do you mean, dame?” said Margaret coldly.

“Whom should I mean,” said Dame Ursula, “but the prince of ‘prentices, and king of good company, Jenkin Vincent?”

“Out, woman — Jenkin Vincent? — a clown — a Cockney!” exclaimed the indignant damsel.

“Ay, sets the wind in that quarter, Beauty!” quoth the dame; “why, it has changed something since we spoke together last, for then I would have sworn it blew fairer for poor Jin Vin; and the poor lad dotes on you too, and would rather see your eyes than the first glimpse of the sun on the great holiday on May-day.”

“I would my eyes had the power of the sun to blind his, then,” said Margaret, “to teach the drudge his place.”

“Nay,” said Dame Ursula, “there be some who say that Frank Tunstall is as proper a lad as Jin Vin, and of surety he is third cousin to a knighthood, and come of a good house; and so mayhap you may be for northward ho!”

“Maybe I may”— answered Margaret, “but not with my father’s ‘prentice — I thank you, Dame Ursula.”

“Nay, then, the devil may guess your thoughts for me,” said Dame Ursula; “this comes of trying to shoe a filly that is eternally wincing and shifting ground!”

“Hear me, then,” said Margaret, “and mind what I say. — This day I dined abroad —”

“I can tell you where,” answered her counsellor — “with your godfather the rich goldsmith — ay, you see I know something — nay, I could tell you, as I would, with whom, too.”

“Indeed!” said Margaret, turning suddenly round with an accent of strong surprise, and colouring up to the eyes.

“With old Sir Mungo Malagrowther,” said the oracular dame — “he was trimmed in my Benjamin’s shop in his way to the city.”

“Pshaw! the frightful old mouldy skeleton!” said the damsel.

“Indeed you say true, my dear,” replied the confidant — “it is a shame to him to be out of Saint Pancras’s charnel-house, for I know no other place he is fit for, the foul-mouthed old railer. He said to my husband —”

“Somewhat which signifies nothing to our purpose, I dare say,” interrupted Margaret. “I must speak, then. — There dined with us a nobleman —”

“A nobleman! the maiden’s mad!” said Dame Ursula.

“There dined with us, I say,” continued Margaret, without regarding the interruption, “a nobleman — a Scottish nobleman.”

“Now Our Lady keep her!” said the confidant, “she is quite frantic! — heard ever any one of a watchmaker’s daughter falling in love with a nobleman — and a Scots nobleman, to make the matter complete, who are all as proud as Lucifer, and as poor as Job? — A Scots nobleman, quotha? I had lief you told me of a Jew pedlar. I would have you think how all this is to end, pretty one, before you jump in the dark.”

“That is nothing to you, Ursula — it is your assistance,” said Mistress Margaret, “and not your advice, that I am desirous to have, and you know I can make it worth your while.”

“O, it is not for the sake of lucre, Mistress Margaret,” answered the obliging dame; “but truly I would have you listen to some advice — bethink you of your own condition.”

“My father’s calling is mechanical,” said Margaret, “but our blood is not so. I have heard my father say that we are descended, at a distance indeed, from the great Earls of Dalwolsey.”10

“Ay, ay,” said Dame Ursula; “even so — I never knew a Scot of you but was descended, as ye call it, from some great house or other; and a piteous descent it often is — and as for the distance you speak of, it is so great as to put you out of sight of each other. Yet do not toss your pretty head so scornfully, but tell me the name of this lordly northern gallant, and we will try what can be done in the matter.”

“It is Lord Glenvarloch, whom they call Lord Nigel Olifaunt,” said Margaret in a low voice, and turning away to hide her blushes.

“Marry, Heaven forefend!” exclaimed Dame Suddlechop; “this is the very devil, and something worse!”

“How mean you?” said the damsel, surprised at the vivacity of her exclamation.

“Why, know ye not,” said the dame, “what powerful enemies he has at Court? know ye not — But blisters on my tongue, it runs too fast for my wit — enough to say, that you had better make your bridal-bed under a falling house, than think of young Glenvarloch.”

“He IS unfortunate then?” said Margaret; “I knew it — I divined it — there was sorrow in his voice when he said even what was gay — there was a touch of misfortune in his melancholy smile — he had not thus clung to my thoughts had I seen him in all the mid-day glare of prosperity.”

“Romances have cracked her brain!” said Dame Ursula; “she is a castaway girl — utterly distraught — loves a Scots lord — and likes him the better for being unfortunate! Well, mistress, I am sorry this is a matter I cannot aid you in — it goes against my conscience, and it is an affair above my condition, and beyond my management; — but I will keep your counsel.”

“You will not be so base as to desert me, after having drawn my secret from me?” said Margaret, indignantly; “if you do, I know how to have my revenge; and if you do not, I will reward you well. Remember the house your husband dwells in is my father’s property.”

“I remember it but too well, Mistress Margaret,” said Ursula, after a moment’s reflection, “and I would serve you in any thing in my condition; but to meddle with such high matters — I shall never forget poor Mistress Turner, my honoured patroness, peace be with her! — she had the ill-luck to meddle in the matter of Somerset and Overbury, and so the great earl and his lady slipt their necks out of the collar, and left her and some half-dozen others to suffer in their stead. I shall never forget the sight of her standing on the scaffold with the ruff round her pretty neck, all done up with the yellow starch which I had so often helped her to make, and that was so soon to give place to a rough hempen cord. Such a sight, sweetheart, will make one loath to meddle with matters that are too hot or heavy for their handling.”

“Out, you fool!” answered Mistress Margaret; “am I one to speak to you about such criminal practices as that wretch died for? All I desire of you is, to get me precise knowledge of what affair brings this young nobleman to Court.”

“And when you have his secret,” said Ursula, “what will it avail you, sweetheart? — and yet I would do your errand, if you could do as much for me.”

“And what is it you would have of me?” said Mistress Margaret.

“What you have been angry with me for asking before,” answered Dame Ursula. “I want to have some light about the story of your godfather’s ghost, that is only seen at prayers.”

“Not for the world,” said Mistress Margaret, “will I be a spy on my kind godfather’s secrets — No, Ursula — that I will never pry into, which he desires to keep hidden. But thou knowest that I have a fortune, of my own, which must at no distant day come under my own management — think of some other recompense.”

“Ay, that I well know,” said the counsellor —“it is that two hundred per year, with your father’s indulgence, that makes you so wilful, sweetheart.”

“It may be so,”— said Margaret Ramsay; “meanwhile, do you serve me truly, and here is a ring of value in pledge, that when my fortune is in my own hand, I will redeem the token with fifty broad pieces of gold.”

“Fifty broad pieces of gold!” repeated the dame; “and this ring, which is a right fair one, in token you fail not of your word! — Well, sweetheart, if I must put my throat in peril, I am sure I cannot risk it for a friend more generous than you; and I would not think of more than the pleasure of serving you, only Benjamin gets more idle every day, and our family ——”

“Say no more of it,” said Margaret; “we understand each other. And now, tell me what you know of this young man’s affairs, which made you so unwilling to meddle with them?”

“Of that I can say no great matter as yet,” answered Dame Ursula; “only I know, the most powerful among his own countrymen are against him, and also the most powerful at the Court here. But I will learn more of it; for it will be a dim print that I will not read for your sake, pretty Mistress Margaret. Know you where this gallant dwells?”

“I heard by accident,” said Margaret, as if ashamed of the minute particularity of her memory upon such an occasion — “he lodges, I think — at one Christie’s — if I mistake not — at Paul’s Wharf — a ship-chandler’s.”

“A proper lodging for a young baron! — Well, but cheer you up, Mistress Margaret — If he has come up a caterpillar, like some of his countrymen, he may cast his slough like them, and come out a butterfly. — So I drink good-night, and sweet dreams to you, in another parting cup of sack; and you shall hear tidings of me within four-and-twenty hours. And, once more, I commend you to your pillow, my pearl of pearls, and Marguerite of Marguerites!”

So saying, she kissed the reluctant cheek of her young friend, or patroness, and took her departure with the light and stealthy pace of one accustomed to accommodate her footsteps to the purposes of dispatch and secrecy.

Margaret Ramsay looked after her for some time, in anxious silence. “I did ill,” she at length murmured, “to let her wring this out of me; but she is artful, bold and serviceable — and I think faithful — or, if not, she will be true at least to her interest, and that I can command. I would I had not spoken, however — I have begun a hopeless work. For what has he said to me, to warrant my meddling in his fortunes? — Nothing but words of the most ordinary import — mere table-talk, and terms of course. Yet who knows”— she said, and then broke off, looking at the glass the while, which, as it reflected back a face of great beauty, probably suggested to her mind a more favourable conclusion of the sentence than she cared to trust her tongue withal.

10The head of the ancient and distinguished house of Ramsay, and to whom, as their chief, the individuals of that name look as their origin and source of gentry. Allan Ramsay, the pastoral poet, in the same manner, makes

“Dalhousie of an auld descent,

My chief, my stoup, my ornament.”

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