Peveril of the Peak, by Walter Scott

Chapter 26

Necessity — thou best of peacemakers,

As well as surest prompter of invention —

Help us to composition!


While the fire continued, the two parties laboured in active union, like the jarring factions of the Jews during the siege of Jerusalem, when compelled to unite in resisting an assault of the besiegers. But when the last bucket of water had hissed on the few embers that continued to glimmer — when the sense of mutual hostility, hitherto suspended by a feeling of common danger, was in its turn rekindled — the parties, mingled as they had hitherto been in one common exertion, drew off from each other, and began to arrange themselves at opposite sides of the hall, and handle their weapons, as if for a renewal of the fight.

Bridgenorth interrupted any farther progress of this menaced hostility. “Julian Peveril,” he said, “thou art free to walk thine own path, since thou wilt not walk with me that road which is more safe, as well as more honourable. But if you do by my counsel, you will get soon beyond the British seas.”

“Ralph Bridgenorth,” said one of his friends, “this is but evil and feeble conduct on thine own part. Wilt thou withhold thy hand from the battle, to defend, from these sons of Belial, the captive of thy bow and of thy spear? Surely we are enow to deal with them in the security of the old serpent, until we essay whether the Lord will not give us victory therein.”

A hum of stern assent followed; and had not Ganlesse now interfered, the combat would probably have been renewed. He took the advocate for war apart into one of the window recesses, and apparently satisfied his objections; for as he returned to his companions, he said to them, “Our friend hath so well argued this matter, that, verily, since he is of the same mind with the worthy Major Bridgenorth, I think the youth may be set at liberty.”

As no farther objection was offered, it only remained with Julian to thank and reward those who had been active in his assistance. Having first obtained from Bridgenorth a promise of indemnity to them for the riot they had committed, a few kind words conveyed his sense of their services; and some broad pieces, thrust into the hand of Lance Outram, furnished the means for affording them a holiday. They would have remained to protect him, but, fearful of farther disorder, and relying entirely on the good faith of Major Bridgenorth, he dismissed them all except Lance, whom he detained to attend upon him for a few minutes, till he should depart from Moultrassie. But ere leaving the Hall, he could not repress his desire to speak with Bridgenorth in secret; and advancing towards him, he expressed such a desire.

Tacitly granting what was asked of him, Bridgenorth led the way to a small summer saloon adjoining to the Hall, where, with his usual gravity and indifference of manner, he seemed to await in silence what Peveril had to communicate.

Julian found it difficult, where so little opening was afforded him, to find a tone in which to open the subjects he had at heart, that should be at once dignified and conciliating. “Major Bridgenorth,” he said at length, “you have been a son, and an affectionate one — You may conceive my present anxiety — My father! — What has been designed for him?”

“What the law will,” answered Bridgenorth. “Had he walked by the counsels which I procured to be given to him, he might have dwelt safely in the house of his ancestors. His fate is now beyond my control — far beyond yours. It must be with him as his country decide.”

“And my mother?” said Peveril.

“Will consult, as she has ever done, her own duty; and create her own happiness by doing so,” replied Bridgenorth. “Believe, my designs towards your family are better than they may seem through the mist which adversity has spread around your house. I may triumph as a man; but as a man I must also remember, in my hour, that mine enemies have had theirs. — Have you aught else to say?” he added, after a momentary pause. “You have rejected once, yea, and again, the hand I stretched out to you. Methinks little more remains between us.”

These words, which seemed to cut short farther discussion, were calmly spoken; so that though they appeared to discourage farther question, they could not interrupt that which still trembled on Julian’s tongue. He made a step or two towards the door; then suddenly returned. “Your daughter?” he said —“Major Bridgenorth — I should ask — I do ask forgiveness for mentioning her name — but may I not inquire after her? — May I not express my wishes for her future happiness?”

“Your interest in her is but too flattering,” said Bridgenorth; “but you have already chosen your part; and you must be, in future, strangers to each other. I may have wished it otherwise, but the hour of grace is passed, during which your compliance with my advice might — I will speak it plainly — have led to your union. For her happiness — if such a word belongs to mortal pilgrimage — I shall care for it sufficiently. She leaves this place today, under the guardianship of a sure friend.”

“Not of ——?” exclaimed Peveril, and stopped short; for he felt he had no right to pronounce the name which came to his lips.

“Why do you pause?” said Bridgenorth; “a sudden thought is often a wise, almost always an honest one. With whom did you suppose I meant to entrust my child, that the idea called forth so anxious an expression?”

“Again I should ask your forgiveness,” said Julian, “for meddling where I have little right to interfere. But I saw a face here that is known to me — the person calls himself Ganlesse — Is it with him that you mean to entrust your daughter?”

“Even to the person who call himself Ganlesse,” said Bridgenorth, without expressing either anger or surprise.

“And do you know to whom you commit a charge so precious to all who know her, and so dear to yourself?” said Julian.

“Do you know, who ask me the question?” answered Bridgenorth.

“I own I do not,” answered Julian; “but I have seen him in a character so different from that he now wears, that I feel it my duty to warn you, how you entrust the charge of your child to one who can alternately play the profligate or the hypocrite, as it suits his own interest or humour.”

Bridgenorth smiled contemptuously. “I might be angry,” he said, “with the officious zeal which supposes that its green conceptions can instruct my grey hairs; but, good Julian, I do but only ask from you the liberal construction, that I, who have had much converse with mankind, know with whom I trust what is dearest to me. He of whom thou speakest hath one visage to his friends, though he may have others to the world, living amongst those before whom honest features should be concealed under a grotesque vizard; even as in the sinful sports of the day, called maskings and mummeries, where the wise, if he show himself at all, must be contented to play the apish and fantastic fool.”

“I would only pray your wisdom to beware,” said Julian, “of one, who, as he has a vizard for others, may also have one which can disguise his real features from you yourself.”

“This is being over careful, young man,” replied Bridgenorth, more shortly than he had hitherto spoken; “if you would walk by my counsel, you will attend to your own affairs, which, credit me, deserve all your care, and leave others to the management of theirs.”

This was too plain to be misunderstood; and Peveril was compelled to take his leave of Bridgenorth, and of Moultrassie Hall, without farther parley or explanation. The reader may imagine how oft he looked back, and tried to guess, amongst the lights which continued to twinkle in various parts of the building, which sparkle it was that gleamed from the bower of Alice. When the road turned into another direction, he sunk into deep reverie, from which he was at length roused by the voice of Lance, who demanded where he intended to quarter for the night. He was unprepared to answer the question, but the honest keeper himself prompted a solution of the problem, by requesting that he would occupy a spare bed in the Lodge; to which Julian willingly agreed. The rest of the inhabitants had retired to rest when they entered; but Dame Ellesmere, apprised by a messenger of her nephew’s hospitable intent, had everything in the best readiness she could, for the son of her ancient patron. Peveril betook himself to rest; and, notwithstanding so many subjects of anxiety, slept soundly till the morning was far advanced.

His slumbers were first broken by Lance, who had been long up, and already active in his service. He informed him, that his horse, arms, and small cloak-bag had been sent from the Castle by one of Major Bridgenorth’s servants, who brought a letter, discharging from the Major’s service the unfortunate Deborah Debbitch, and prohibiting her return to the Hall. The officer of the House of Commons, escorted by a strong guard, had left Martindale Castle that morning early, travelling in Sir Geoffrey’s carriage — his lady being also permitted to attend on him. To this he had to add, that the property at the Castle was taken possession of by Master Win-the-fight, the attorney, from Chesterfield, with other officers of law, in name of Major Bridgenorth, a large creditor of the unfortunate knight.

Having told these Job’s tidings, Lance paused; and, after a moment’s hesitation, declared he was resolved to quit the country, and go up to London along with his young master. Julian argued the point with him; and insisted he had better stay to take charge of his aunt, in case she should be disturbed by these strangers. Lance replied, “She would have one with her, who would protect her well enough; for there was wherewithal to buy protection amongst them. But for himself, he was resolved to follow Master Julian to the death.”

Julian heartily thanked him for his love.

“Nay, it is not altogether out of love neither,” said Lance, “though I am as loving as another; but it is, as it were, partly out of fear, lest I be called over the coals for last night’s matter; for as for the miners, they will never trouble them, as the creatures only act after their kind.”

“I will write in your behalf to Major Bridgenorth, who is bound to afford you protection, if you have such fear,” said Julian.

“Nay, for that matter, it is not altogether fear, more than altogether love,” answered the enigmatical keeper, “although it hath a tasting of both in it. And, to speak plain truth, thus it is — Dame Debbitch and Naunt Ellesmere have resolved to set up their horses together, and have made up all their quarrels. And of all ghosts in the world, the worst is, when an old true-love comes back to haunt a poor fellow like me. Mistress Deborah, though distressed enow for the loss of her place, has been already speaking of a broken sixpence, or some such token, as if a man could remember such things for so many years, even if she had not gone over seas, like woodcock, in the meanwhile.”

Julian could scarce forbear laughing. “I thought you too much of a man, Lance, to fear a woman marrying you whether you would or no.”

“It has been many an honest man’s luck, for all that,” said Lance; “and a woman in the very house has so many deuced opportunities. And then there would be two upon one; for Naunt, though high enough when any of your folks are concerned, hath some look to the main chance; and it seems Mistress Deb is as rich as a Jew.”

“And you, Lance,” said Julian, “have no mind to marry for cake and pudding.”

“No, truly, master,” answered Lance, “unless I knew of what dough they were baked. How the devil do I know how the jade came by so much? And then if she speaks of tokens and love-passages, let her be the same tight lass I broke the sixpence with, and I will be the same true lad to her. But I never heard of true love lasting ten years; and hers, if it lives at all, must be nearer twenty.”

“Well, then, Lance,” said Julian, “since you are resolved on the thing, we will go to London together; where, if I cannot retain you in my service, and if my father recovers not these misfortunes, I will endeavour to promote you elsewhere.”

“Nay, nay,” said Lance, “I trust to be back to bonny Martindale before it is long, and to keep the greenwood, as I have been wont to do; for, as to Dame Debbitch, when they have not me for their common butt, Naunt and she will soon bend bows on each other. So here comes old Dame Ellesmere with your breakfast. I will but give some directions about the deer to Rough Ralph, my helper, and saddle my forest pony, and your honour’s horse, which is no prime one, and we will be ready to trot.”

Julian was not sorry for this addition to his establishment; for Lance had shown himself, on the preceding evening, a shrewd and bold fellow, and attached to his master. He therefore set himself to reconcile his aunt to parting with her nephew for some time. Her unlimited devotion for “the family,” readily induced the old lady to acquiesce in his proposal, though not without a gentle sigh over the ruins of a castle in the air, which was founded on the well-saved purse of Mistress Deborah Debbitch. “At any rate,” she thought, “it was as well that Lance should be out of the way of that bold, long-legged, beggarly trollop, Cis Sellok.” But to poor Deb herself, the expatriation of Lance, whom she had looked to as a sailor to a port under his lee, for which he can run, if weather becomes foul, was a second severe blow, following close on her dismissal from the profitable service of Major Bridgenorth.

Julian visited the disconsolate damsel, in hopes of gaining some light upon Bridgenorth’s projects regarding his daughter — the character of this Ganlesse — and other matters, with which her residence in the family might have made her acquainted; but he found her by far too much troubled in mind to afford him the least information. The name of Ganlesse she did not seem to recollect — that of Alice rendered her hysterical — that of Bridgenorth, furious. She numbered up the various services she had rendered in the family — and denounced the plague of swartness to the linen — of leanness to the poultry — of dearth and dishonour to the housekeeping — and of lingering sickness and early death to Alice; — all which evils, she averred, had only been kept off by her continued, watchful, and incessant cares. — Then again turning to the subject of the fugitive Lance, she expressed such a total contempt of that mean-spirited fellow, in a tone between laughing and crying, as satisfied Julian it was not a topic likely to act as a sedative; and that, therefore, unless he made a longer stay than the urgent state of his affairs permitted, he was not likely to find Mistress Deborah in such a state of composure as might enable him to obtain from her any rational or useful information.

Lance, who good-naturedly took upon himself the whole burden of Dame Debbitch’s mental alienation, or “taking on,” as such fits of passio hysterica are usually termed in the country, had too much feeling to present himself before the victim of her own sensibility, and of his obduracy. He therefore intimated to Julian, by his assistant Ralph, that the horses stood saddled behind the Lodge, and that all was ready for their departure.

Julian took the hint, and they were soon mounted, and clearing the road, at a rapid trot, in the direction of London; but not by the most usual route. Julian calculated that the carriage in which his father was transported would travel slowly; and it was his purpose, if possible, to get to London before it should arrive there, in order to have time to consult, with the friends of his family, what measures should be taken in his father’s behalf.

In this manner they advanced a day’s journey towards London; at the conclusion of which, Julian found his resting-place in a small inn upon the road. No one came, at the first call, to attend upon the guests and their horses, although the house was well lighted up; and there was a prodigious chattering in the kitchen, such as can only be produced by a French cook when his mystery is in the very moment of projection. It instantly occurred to Julian — so rare was the ministry of these Gallic artists at that time — that the clamour he heard must necessarily be produced by the Sieur Chaubert, on whose plats he had lately feasted, along with Smith and Ganlesse.

One, or both of these, were therefore probably in the little inn; and if so, he might have some opportunity to discover their real purpose and character. How to avail himself of such a meeting he knew not; but chance favoured him more than he could have expected.

“I can scarce receive you, gentlefolks,” said the landlord, who at length appeared at the door; “here be a sort of quality in my house to-night, whom less than all will not satisfy; nor all neither, for that matter.”

“We are but plain fellows, landlord,” said Julian; “we are bound for Moseley-market, and can get no farther to-night. Any hole will serve us, no matter what.”

“Why,” said the honest host, “if that be the case, I must e’en put one of you behind the bar, though the gentlemen have desired to be private; the other must take heart of grace and help me at the tap.”

“The tap for me,” said Lance, without waiting his master’s decision. “It is an element which I could live and die in.”

“The bar, then, for me,” said Peveril; and stepping back, whispered to Lance to exchange cloaks with him, desirous, if possible, to avoid being recognised.

The exchange was made in an instant; and presently afterwards the landlord brought a light; and as he guided Julian into his hostelry, cautioned him to sit quiet in the place where he should stow him; and if he was discovered, to say that he was one of the house, and leave him to make it good. “You will hear what the gallants say,” he added; “but I think thou wilt carry away but little on it; for when it is not French, it is Court gibberish; and that is as hard to construe.”

The bar, into which our hero was inducted on these conditions, seemed formed, with respect to the public room, upon the principle of a citadel, intended to observe and bridle a rebellious capital. Here sat the host on the Saturday evenings, screened from the observation of his guests, yet with the power of observing both their wants and their behaviour, and also that of overhearing their conversation — a practice which he was much addicted to, being one of that numerous class of philanthropists, to whom their neighbours’ business is of as much consequence, or rather more, than their own.

Here he planted his new guest, with a repeated caution not to disturb the gentlemen by speech or motion; and a promise that he should be speedily accommodated with a cold buttock of beef, and a tankard of home-brewed. And here he left him with no other light than that which glimmered from the well-illuminated apartment within, through a sort of shuttle which accommodated the landlord with a view into it.

This situation, inconvenient enough in itself, was, on the present occasion, precisely what Julian would have selected. He wrapped himself in the weather-beaten cloak of Lance Outram, which had been stained, by age and weather, into a thousand variations from its original Lincoln green; and with as little noise as he could, set himself to observe the two inmates, who had engrossed to themselves the whole of the apartment, which was usually open to the public. They sat by a table well covered with such costly rarities, as could only have been procured by much forecast, and prepared by the exquisite Mons. Chaubert; to which both seemed to do much justice.

Julian had little difficulty in ascertaining, that one of the travellers was, as he had anticipated, the master of the said Chaubert, or, as he was called by Ganlesse, Smith; the other, who faced him, he had never seen before. This last was dressed like a gallant of the first order. His periwig, indeed, as he travelled on horseback, did not much exceed in size the bar-wig of a modern lawyer; but then the essence which he shook from it with every motion, impregnated a whole apartment, which was usually only perfumed by that vulgar herb, tobacco. His riding-coat was laced in the newest and most courtly style; and Grammont himself might have envied the embroidery of his waistcoat, and the peculiar cut of his breeches, which buttoned above the knee, permitting the shape of a very handsome leg to be completely seen. This, by the proprietor thereof, had been stretched out upon a stool, and he contemplated its proportions, from time to time, with infinite satisfaction.

The conversation between these worthies was so interesting, that we propose to assign to it another chapter.

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