The Clerk stood much astonished at the nature of Meg's accusation, and the pertinacity with which she seemed disposed to insist upon it.
"I have this comfort," she continued, "that whatever has happened, it has been by no fault of mine, Mr. Bindloose; for weel I wot, before that bloodthirsty auld half-pay Philistine, MacTurk, got to speech of him, I clawed his cantle to some purpose with my hearth-besom.—But the poor simple bairn himsell, that had nae mair knowledge of the wickedness of human nature than a calf has of a flesher's gully, he threepit to see the auld hardened bloodshedder, and trysted wi' him to meet wi' some of the gang at an hour certain that same day, and awa he gaed to keep tryst, but since that hour naebody ever has set een on him.—And the mansworn villains now want to put a disgrace on him, and say that he fled the country rather than face them!—a likely story—fled the country for them!—and leave his bill unsettled—him that was sae regular—and his portmantle and his fishing-rod and the pencils and pictures he held sic a wark about!—It's my faithful belief, Mr. Bindloose—and ye may trust me or no as ye like—that he had some foul play between the Cleikum and the Buck-stane. I have thought it, and I have dreamed it, and I will be at the bottom of it, or my name is not Meg Dods, and that I wad have them a' to reckon on.—Ay, ay, that's right, Mr. Bindloose, tak out your pen and inkhorn, and let us set about it to purpose."
With considerable difficulty, and at the expense of much cross-examination, Mr. Bindloose extracted from his client a detailed account of the proceedings of the company at the Well towards Tyrrel, so far as they were known to, or suspected by Meg, making notes, as the examination proceeded, of what appeared to be matter of consequence. After a moment's consideration, he asked the dame the very natural question, how she came to be acquainted with the material fact, that a hostile appointment was made between Captain MacTurk and her lodger, when, according to her own account, it was made intra parietes, and remotis testibus?
"Ay, but we victuallers ken weel eneugh what goes on in our ain houses," said Meg—"And what for no?—If ye maun ken a' about it, I e'en listened through the keyhole of the door."
"And do you say you heard them settle an appointment for a duel?" said the Clerk; "and did you no take ony measures to hinder mischief, Mrs. Dods, having such a respect for this lad as you say you have, Mrs. Dods?—I really wadna have looked for the like o' this at your hands."
"In truth, Mr. Bindloose," said Meg, putting her apron to her eyes, "and that's what vexes me mair than a' the rest, and ye needna say muckle to ane whose heart is e'en the sairer that she has been a thought to blame. But there has been mony a challenge, as they ca' it, passed in my house, when thae daft lads of the Wildfire Club and the Helter-skelter were upon their rambles; and they had aye sense eneugh to make it up without fighting, sae that I really did not apprehend ony thing like mischief.—And ye maun think, moreover, Mr. Bindloose, that it would have been an unco thing if a guest, in a decent and creditable public like mine, was to have cried coward before ony of thae landlouping blackguards that live down at the hottle yonder."
"That is to say, Mrs. Dods, you were desirous your guest should fight for the honour of your house," said Bindloose.
"What for no, Mr. Bindloose?—Isna that kind of fray aye about honour? and what for should the honour of a substantial, four-nooked, sclated house of three stories, no be foughten for, as weel as the credit of ony of these feckless callants that make such a fray about their reputation?—I promise you my house, the Cleikum, stood in the Auld Town of St. Ronan's before they were born, and it will stand there after they are hanged, as I trust some of them are like to be."
"Well, but perhaps your lodger had less zeal for the honour of the house, and has quietly taken himself out of harm's way," said Mr. Bindloose; "for if I understand your story, this meeting never took place."
"Have less zeal!" said Meg, determined to be pleased with no supposition of her lawyer, "Mr. Bindloose, ye little ken him—I wish ye had seen him when he was angry!—I dared hardly face him mysell, and there are no mony folk that I am feared for—Meeting! there was nae meeting, I trow—they never dared to meet him fairly—but I am sure waur came of it than ever would have come of a meeting; for Anthony heard twa shots gang off as he was watering the auld naig down at the burn, and that is not far frae the footpath that leads to the Buck-stane. I was angry at him for no making on to see what the matter was, but he thought it was auld Pirner out wi' the double barrel, and he wasna keen of making himself a witness, in case he suld have been caa'd on in the Poaching Court."
"Well," said the Sheriff-clerk, "and I dare say he did hear a poacher fire a couple of shots—nothing more likely. Believe me, Mrs. Dods, your guest had no fancy for the party Captain MacTurk invited him to—and being a quiet sort of man, he has just walked away to his own home, if he has one—I am really sorry you have given yourself the trouble of this long journey about so simple a matter."
Mrs. Dods remained with her eyes fixed on the ground in a very sullen and discontented posture, and when she spoke, it was in a tone of corresponding displeasure.
"Aweel—aweel—live and learn, they say—I thought I had a friend in you, Mr. Bindloose—I am sure I aye took your part when folk miscaa'd ye, and said ye were this, that, and the other thing, and little better than an auld sneck-drawing loon, Mr. Bindloose.—And ye have aye keepit my penny of money, though, nae doubt, Tam Turnpenny lives nearer me, and they say he allows half a per cent mair than ye do if the siller lies, and mine is but seldom steered."
"But ye have not the Bank's security, madam," said Mr. Bindloose, reddening. "I say harm of nae man's credit—ill would it beseem me—but there is a difference between Tam Turnpenny and the Bank, I trow."
"Weel, weel, Bank here Bank there, I thought I had a friend in you, Mr. Bindloose; and here am I, come from my ain house all the way to yours for sma' comfort, I think."
"My stars, madam," said the perplexed scribe, "what would you have me to do in such a blind story as yours, Mrs. Dods?—Be a thought reasonable—consider that there is no Corpus delicti."
"Corpus delicti? and what's that?" said Meg; "something to be paid for, nae doubt, for your hard words a' end in that.—And what for suld I no have a Corpus delicti, or a Habeas Corpus, or ony other Corpus that I like, sae lang as I am willing to lick and lay down the ready siller?"
"Lord help and pardon us, Mrs. Dods," said the distressed agent, "ye mistake the matter a'thegether! When I say there is no Corpus delicti, I mean to say there is no proof that a crime has been committed."[I-19]
"And does the man say that murder is not a crime, than?" answered Meg, who had taken her own view of the subject far too strongly to be converted to any other—"Weel I wot it's a crime, baith by the law of God and man, and mony a pretty man has been strapped for it."
"I ken all that very weel," answered the writer; "but, my stars, Mrs. Dods, there is nae evidence of murder in this case—nae proof that a man has been slain—nae production of his dead body—and that is what we call the Corpus delicti."
"Weel, than, the deil lick it out of ye," said Meg, rising in wrath, "for I will awa hame again; and as for the puir lad's body, I'll hae it fund, if it cost me turning the earth for three miles round wi' pick and shool—if it were but to give the puir bairn Christian burial, and to bring punishment on MacTurk and the murdering crew at the Waal, and to shame an auld doited fule like yoursell, John Bindloose."
She rose in wrath to call her vehicle; but it was neither the interest nor the intention of the writer that his customer and he should part on such indifferent terms. He implored her patience, and reminded her that the horses, poor things, had just come off their stage—an argument which sounded irresistible in the ears of the old she-publican, in whose early education due care of the post-cattle mingled with the most sacred duties. She therefore resumed her seat again in a sullen mood, and Mr. Bindloose was cudgelling his brains for some argument which might bring the old lady to reason, when his attention was drawn by a noise in the passage.
[I-19] For example, a man cannot be tried for murder merely in the case of the non-appearance of an individual; there must be proof that the party has been murdered.
A PRAISER OF PAST TIMES.
——Now your traveller, He and his toothpick at my worship's mess.
The noise stated at the conclusion of last chapter to have disturbed Mr. Bindloose, was the rapping of one, as in haste and impatience, at the Bank-office door, which office was an apartment of the Banker's house, on the left hand of his passage, as the parlour in which he had received Mrs. Dods was upon the right.
In general, this office was patent to all having business there; but at present, whatever might be the hurry of the party who knocked, the clerks within the office could not admit him, being themselves made prisoners by the prudent jealousy of Mr. Bindloose, to prevent them from listening to his consultation with Mrs. Dods. They therefore answered the angry and impatient knocking of the stranger only with stifled giggling from within, finding it no doubt an excellent joke, that their master's precaution was thus interfering with their own discharge of duty.
With one or two hearty curses upon them, as the regular plagues of his life, Mr. Bindloose darted into the passage, and admitted the stranger into his official apartment. The doors both of the parlour and office remaining open, the ears of Luckie Dods (experienced, as the reader knows, in collecting intelligence) could partly overhear what passed. The conversation seemed to regard a cash transaction of some importance, as Meg became aware when the stranger raised a voice which was naturally sharp and high, as he did when uttering the following words, towards the close of a conversation which had lasted about five minutes—"Premium?—Not a pice, sir—not a courie—not a farthing—premium for a Bank of England bill?—d'ye take me for a fool, sir?—do not I know that you call forty days par when you give remittances to London?"
Mr. Bindloose was here heard to mutter something indistinctly about the custom of the trade.
"Custom!" retorted the stranger, "no such thing—damn'd bad custom, if it is one—don't tell me of customs—'Sbodikins, man, I know the rate of exchange all over the world, and have drawn bills from Timbuctoo—My friends in the Strand filed it along with Bruce's from Gondar—talk to me of premium on a Bank of England post-bill!—What d'ye look at the bill for?—D'ye think it doubtful—I can change it."
"By no means necessary," answered Bindloose, "the bill is quite right; but it is usual to indorse, sir."
"Certainly—reach me a pen—d'ye think I can write with my rattan?—What sort of ink is this?—yellow as curry sauce—never mind—there is my name—Peregrine Touchwood—I got it from the Willoughbies, my Christian name—Have I my full change here?"
"Your full change, sir," answered Bindloose.
"Why, you should give me a premium, friend, instead of me giving you one."
"It is out of our way, I assure you, sir," said the Banker, "quite out of our way—but if you would step into the parlour and take a cup of tea"——
"Why, ay," said the stranger, his voice sounding more distinctly as (talking all the while, and ushered along by Mr. Bindloose) he left the office and moved towards the parlour, "a cup of tea were no such bad thing, if one could come by it genuine—but as for your premium"——So saying, he entered the parlour and made his bow to Mrs. Dods, who, seeing what she called a decent, purpose-like body, and aware that his pocket was replenished with English and Scottish paper currency, returned the compliment with her best curtsy.
Mr. Touchwood, when surveyed more at leisure, was a short, stout, active man, who, though sixty years of age and upwards, retained in his sinews and frame the elasticity of an earlier period. His countenance expressed self-confidence, and something like a contempt for those who had neither seen nor endured so much as he had himself. His short black hair was mingled with grey, but not entirely whitened by it. His eyes were jet-black, deep-set, small, and sparkling, and contributed, with a short turned-up nose, to express an irritable and choleric habit. His complexion was burnt to a brick-colour by the vicissitudes of climate, to which it had been subjected; and his face, which at the distance of a yard or two seemed hale and smooth, appeared, when closely examined, to be seamed with a million of wrinkles, crossing each other in every direction possible, but as fine as if drawn by the point of a very small needle.[I-20] His dress was a blue coat and buff waistcoat, half boots remarkably well blacked, and a silk handkerchief tied with military precision. The only antiquated part of his dress was a cocked hat of equilateral dimensions, in the button-hole of which he wore a very small cockade. Mrs. Dods, accustomed to judge of persons by their first appearance, said, that in the three steps which he made from the door to the tea-table, she recognised, without the possibility of mistake, the gait of a person who was well to pass in the world; "and that," she added with a wink, "is what we victuallers are seldom deceived in. If a gold-laced waistcoat has an empty pouch, the plain swan's-down will be the brawer of the twa."
"A drizzling morning, good madam," said Mr. Touchwood, as with a view of sounding what sort of company he had got into.
"A fine saft morning for the crap, sir," answered Mrs. Dods, with equal solemnity.
"Right, my good madam; soft is the very word, though it has been some time since I heard it. I have cast a double hank about the round world since I last heard of a soft[I-21] morning."
"You will be from these parts, then?" said the writer, ingeniously putting a case, which, he hoped, would induce the stranger to explain himself. "And yet, sir," he added, after a pause, "I was thinking that Touchwood is not a Scottish name, at least that I ken of."
"Scottish name?—no," replied the traveller; "but a man may have been in these parts before, without being a native—or, being a native, he may have had some reason to change his name—there are many reasons why men change their names."
"Certainly, and some of them very good ones," said the lawyer; "as in the common case of an heir of entail, where deed of provision and tailzie is maist ordinarily implemented by taking up name and arms."
"Ay, or in the case of a man having made the country too hot for him under his own proper appellative," said Mr. Touchwood.
"That is a supposition, sir," replied the lawyer, "which it would ill become me to put.—But at any rate, if you knew this country formerly, ye cannot but be marvellously pleased with the change we have been making since the American war—hill-sides bearing clover instead of heather—rents doubled, trebled, quadrupled—the auld reekie dungeons pulled down, and gentlemen living in as good houses as you will see any where in England."
"Much good may it do them, for a pack of fools!" replied Mr. Touchwood, hastily.
"You do not seem much delighted with our improvements, sir?" said the banker, astonished to hear a dissentient voice where he conceived all men were unanimous.
"Pleased!" answered the stranger—"Yes, as much pleased as I am with the devil, who I believe set many of them agoing. Ye have got an idea that every thing must be changed—Unstable as water, ye shall not excel—I tell ye, there have been more changes in this poor nook of yours within the last forty years, than in the great empires of the East for the space of four thousand, for what I know."
"And why not," replied Bindloose, "if they be changes for the better?"
"But they are not for the better," replied Mr. Touchwood, eagerly. "I left your peasantry as poor as rats indeed, but honest and industrious, enduring their lot in this world with firmness, and looking forward to the next with hope—Now they are mere eye-servants—looking at their watches, forsooth, every ten minutes, lest they should work for their master half an instant after loosing-time—And then, instead of studying the Bible on the work days, to kittle the clergymen with doubtful points of controversy on the Sabbath, they glean all their theology from Tom Paine and Voltaire."
"Weel I wot the gentleman speaks truth," said Mrs. Dods. "I fand a bundle of their bawbee blasphemies in my ain kitchen—But I trow I made a clean house of the packman loon that brought them!—No content wi' turning the tawpies' heads wi' ballants, and driving them daft wi' ribands, to cheat them out of their precious souls, and gie them the deevil's ware, that I suld say sae, in exchange for the siller that suld support their puir father that's aff wark and bedridden!"
"Father! madam," said the stranger; "they think no more of their father than Regan or Goneril."
"In gude troth, ye have skeel of our sect, sir," replied the dame; "they are gomerils, every one of them—I tell them sae every hour of the day, but catch them profiting by the doctrine."
"And then the brutes are turned mercenary, madam," said Mr. Touchwood, "I remember when a Scottishman would have scorned to touch a shilling that he had not earned, and yet was as ready to help a stranger as an Arab of the desert. And now, I did but drop my cane the other day as I was riding—a fellow who was working at the hedge made three steps to lift it—I thanked him, and my friend threw his hat on his head, and 'damned my thanks, if that were all'—Saint Giles could not have excelled him."
"Weel, weel," said the banker, "that may be a' as you say, sir, and nae doubt wealth makes wit waver; but the country's wealthy, that cannot be denied, and wealth, sir, ye ken"——
"I know wealth makes itself wings," answered the cynical stranger; "but I am not quite sure we have it even now. You make a great show, indeed, with building and cultivation; but stock is not capital, any more than the fat of a corpulent man is health or strength."
"Surely, Mr. Touchwood," said Bindloose, who felt his own account in the modern improvements, "a set of landlords, living like lairds in good earnest, and tenants with better housekeeping than the lairds used to have, and facing Whitsunday and Martinmas as I would face my breakfast—if these are not signs of wealth, I do not know where to seek for them."
"They are signs of folly, sir," replied Touchwood; "folly that is poor, and renders itself poorer by desiring to be thought rich; and how they come by the means they are so ostentatious of, you, who are a banker, perhaps can tell me better than I can guess."
"There is maybe an accommodation bill discounted now and then, Mr. Touchwood; but men must have accommodation, or the world would stand still—accommodation is the grease that makes the wheels go."
"Ay, makes them go down hill to the devil," answered Touchwood. "I left you bothered about one Ayr bank, but the whole country is an Air bank now, I think—And who is to pay the piper?—But it's all one—I will see little more of it—it is a perfect Babel, and would turn the head of a man who has spent his life with people who love sitting better than running, silence better than speaking, who never eat but when they are hungry, never drink but when thirsty, never laugh without a jest, and never speak but when they have something to say. But here, it is all run, ride, and drive—froth, foam, and flippancy—no steadiness—no character."
"I'll lay the burden of my life," said Dame Dods, looking towards her friend Bindloose, "that the gentleman has been at the new Spaw-waal yonder!"
"Spaw do you call it, madam?—If you mean the new establishment that has been spawned down yonder at St. Ronan's, it is the very fountain-head of folly and coxcombry—a Babel for noise, and a Vanity-fair for nonsense—no well in your swamps tenanted by such a conceited colony of clamorous frogs."
"Sir, sir!" exclaimed Dame Dods, delighted with the unqualified sentence passed upon her fashionable rivals, and eager to testify her respect for the judicious stranger who had pronounced it,—"will you let me have the pleasure of pouring you out a dish of tea?" And so saying, she took bustling possession of the administration which had hitherto remained in the hands of Mr. Bindloose himself.
"I hope it is to your taste, sir," she continued, when the traveller had accepted her courtesy with the grateful acknowledgment, which men addicted to speak a great deal usually show to a willing auditor.
"It is as good as we have any right to expect, ma'am," answered Mr. Touchwood; "not quite like what I have drunk at Canton with old Fong Qua—but the Celestial Empire does not send its best tea to Leadenhall Street, nor does Leadenhall Street send its best to Marchthorn."
"That may be very true, sir," replied the dame; "but I will venture to say that Mr. Bindloose's tea is muckle better than you had at the Spaw-waal yonder."
"Tea, madam!—I saw none—Ash leaves and black-thorn leaves were brought in in painted canisters, and handed about by powder-monkeys in livery, and consumed by those who liked it, amidst the chattering of parrots and the squalling of kittens. I longed for the days of the Spectator, when I might have laid my penny on the bar, and retired without ceremony—But no—this blessed decoction was circulated under the auspices of some half-crazed blue-stocking or other, and we were saddled with all the formality of an entertainment, for this miserable allowance of a cockle-shell full of cat-lap per head."
"Weel, sir," answered Dame Dods, "all I can say is, that if it had been my luck to have served you at the Cleikum Inn, which our folk have kept for these twa generations, I canna pretend to say ye should have had such tea as ye have been used to in foreign parts where it grows, but the best I had I wad have gi'en it to a gentleman of your appearance, and I never charged mair than six-pence in all my time, and my father's before me."
"I wish I had known the Old Inn was still standing, madam," said the traveller; "I should certainly have been your guest, and sent down for the water every morning—the doctors insist I must use Cheltenham, or some substitute, for the bile—though, d—n them, I believe it's only to hide their own ignorance. And I thought this Spaw would have been the least evil of the two; but I have been fairly overreached—one might as well live in the inside of a bell. I think young St. Ronan's must be mad, to have established such a Vanity-fair upon his father's old property."
"Do you ken this St. Ronan's that now is?" enquired the dame.
"By report only," said Mr. Touchwood; "but I have heard of the family, and I think I have read of them, too, in Scottish history. I am sorry to understand they are lower in the world than they have been. This young man does not seem to take the best way to mend matters, spending his time among gamblers and black-legs."
"I should be sorry if it were so," said honest Meg Dods, whose hereditary respect for the family always kept her from joining in any scandal affecting the character of the young Laird—"My forbears, sir, have had kindness frae his; and although maybe he may have forgotten all about it, it wad ill become me to say ony thing of him that should not be said of his father's son."
Mr. Bindloose had not the same motive for forbearance; he declaimed against Mowbray as a thoughtless dissipater of his own fortune, and that of others. "I have some reason to speak," he said, "having two of his notes for L.100 each, which I discounted out of mere kindness and respect for his ancient family, and which he thinks nae mair of retiring, than he does of paying the national debt—And here has he been raking every shop in Marchthorn, to fit out an entertainment for all the fine folk at the Well yonder; and tradesfolk are obliged to take his acceptances for their furnishings. But they may cash his bills that will; I ken ane that will never advance a bawbee on ony paper that has John Mowbray either on the back or front of it. He had mair need to be paying the debts which he has made already, than making new anes, that he may feed fules and flatterers."
"I believe he is likely to lose his preparations, too," said Mr. Touchwood, "for the entertainment has been put off, as I heard, in consequence of Miss Mowbray's illness."
"Ay, ay, puir thing!" said Dame Margaret Dods: "her health has been unsettled for this mony a day."
"Something wrong here, they tell me," said the traveller, pointing to his own forehead significantly.
"God only kens," replied Mrs. Dods; "but I rather suspect the heart than the head—the puir thing is hurried here and there, and down to the Waal, and up again, and nae society or quiet at hame; and a' thing ganging this unthrifty gait—nae wonder she is no that weel settled."
"Well," replied Touchwood, "she is worse they say than she has been, and that has occasioned the party at Shaws-Castle having been put off. Besides, now this fine young lord has come down to the Well, undoubtedly they will wait her recovery."
"A lord!" ejaculated the astonished Mrs. Dods; "a lord come down to the Waal—they will be neither to haud nor to bind now—ance wud and aye waur—a lord!—set them up and shute them forward—a lord!—the Lord have a care o' us!—a lord at the hottle!—Maister Touchwood, it's my mind he will only prove to be a Lord o' Session."
"Nay, not so, my good lady," replied the traveller "he is an English lord, and, as they say, a Lord of Parliament—but some folk pretend to say there is a flaw in the title."
"I'll warrant is there—a dozen of them!" said Meg, with alacrity—for she could by no means endure to think on the accumulation of dignity likely to accrue to the rival establishment, from its becoming the residence of an actual nobleman. "I'll warrant he'll prove a landlouping lord on their hand, and they will be e'en cheap o' the loss—And he has come down out of order it's like, and nae doubt he'll no be lang there before he will recover his health, for the credit of the Spaw."
"Faith, madam, his present disorder is one which the Spaw will hardly cure—he is shot in the shoulder with a pistol-bullet—a robbery attempted, it seems—that is one of your new accomplishments—no such thing happened in Scotland in my time—men would have sooner expected to meet with the phoenix than with a highwayman."
"And where did this happen, if you please, sir?" asked the man of bills.
"Somewhere near the old village," replied the stranger; "and, if I am rightly informed, on Wednesday last."
"This explains your twa shots, I am thinking, Mrs. Dods," said Mr. Bindloose; "your groom heard them on the Wednesday—it must have been this attack on the stranger nobleman."
"Maybe it was, and maybe it was not," said Mrs. Dods; "but I'll see gude reason before I give up my ain judgment in that case.—I wad like to ken if this gentleman," she added, returning to the subject from which Mr. Touchwood's interesting conversation had for a few minutes diverted her thoughts, "has heard aught of Mr. Tirl?"
"If you mean the person to whom this paper relates," said the stranger, taking a printed handbill from his pocket, "I heard of little else—the whole place rang of him, till I was almost as sick of Tyrrel as William Rufus was. Some idiotical quarrel which he had engaged in, and which he had not fought out, as their wisdom thought he should have done, was the principal cause of censure. That is another folly now, which has gained ground among you. Formerly, two old proud lairds, or cadets of good family, perhaps, quarrelled, and had a rencontre, or fought a duel after the fashion of their old Gothic ancestors; but men who had no grandfathers never dreamt of such folly—And here the folk denounce a trumpery dauber of canvass, for such I understand to be this hero's occupation, as if he were a field-officer, who made valour his profession; and who, if you deprived him of his honour, was like to be deprived of his bread at the same time.—Ha, ha, ha! it reminds one of Don Quixote, who took his neighbour, Samson Carrasco, for a knight-errant."
The perusal of this paper, which contained the notes formerly laid before the reader, containing the statement of Sir Bingo, and the censure which the company at the Well had thought fit to pass upon his affair with Mr. Tyrrel, induced Mr. Bindloose to say to Mrs. Dods, with as little exultation on the superiority of his own judgment as human nature would permit,—
"Ye see now that I was right, Mrs. Dods, and that there was nae earthly use in your fashing yoursell wi' this lang journey—The lad had just ta'en the bent rather than face Sir Bingo; and troth, I think him the wiser of the twa for sae doing—There ye hae print for it."
Meg answered somewhat sullenly, "Ye may be mista'en, for a' that, your ainsell, for as wise as ye are, Mr. Bindloose; I shall hae that matter mair strictly enquired into."
This led to a renewal of the altercation concerning the probable fate of Tyrrel, in the course of which the stranger was induced to take some interest in the subject.
At length Mrs. Dods, receiving no countenance from the experienced lawyer for the hypothesis she had formed, rose, in something like displeasure, to order her whiskey to be prepared. But hostess as she was herself, when in her own dominions, she reckoned without her host in the present instance; for the humpbacked postilion, as absolute in his department as Mrs. Dods herself, declared that the cattle would not be fit for the road these two hours yet. The good lady was therefore obliged to wait his pleasure, bitterly lamenting all the while the loss which a house of public entertainment was sure to sustain by the absence of the landlord or landlady, and anticipating a long list of broken dishes, miscalculated reckonings, unarranged chambers, and other disasters, which she was to expect at her return. Mr. Bindloose, zealous to recover the regard of his good friend and client, which he had in some degree forfeited by contradicting her on a favourite subject, did not choose to offer the unpleasing, though obvious topic of consolation, that an unfrequented inn is little exposed to the accidents she apprehended. On the contrary, he condoled with her very cordially, and went so far as to hint, that if Mr. Touchwood had come to Marchthorn with post-horses, as he supposed from his dress, she could have the advantage of them to return with more despatch to St. Ronan's.
"I am not sure," said Mr. Touchwood, suddenly, "but I may return there myself. In that case I will be glad to set this good lady down, and to stay a few days at her house if she will receive me.—I respect a woman like you, ma'am, who pursue the occupation of your father—I have been in countries, ma'am, where people have followed the same trade, from father to son, for thousands of years—And I like the fashion—it shows a steadiness and sobriety of character."
Mrs. Dods put on a joyous countenance at this proposal, protesting that all should be done in her power to make things agreeable; and while her good friend, Mr. Bindloose, expatiated upon the comfort her new guest would experience at the Cleikum, she silently contemplated with delight the prospect of a speedy and dazzling triumph, by carrying off a creditable customer from her showy and successful rival at the Well.
"I shall be easily accommodated, ma'am," said the stranger; "I have travelled too much and too far to be troublesome. A Spanish venta, a Persian khan, or a Turkish caravanserail, is all the same to me—only, as I have no servant—indeed, never can be plagued with one of these idle loiterers,—I must beg you will send to the Well for a bottle of the water on such mornings as I cannot walk there myself—I find it is really of some service to me."
Mrs. Dods readily promised compliance with this reasonable request; graciously conceding, that there "could be nae ill in the water itsell, but maybe some gude—it was only the New Inn, and the daft haverils that they caa'd the Company, that she misliked. Folk had a jest that St. Ronan dookit the Deevil in the Waal, which garr'd it taste aye since of brimstane—but she dared to say that was a' papist nonsense, for she was tell't by him that kend weel, and that was the minister himsell, that St. Ronan was nane of your idolatrous Roman saunts, but a Chaldee," (meaning probably a Culdee,) "whilk was doubtless a very different story."
Matters being thus arranged to the satisfaction of both parties, the post-chaise was ordered, and speedily appeared at the door of Mr. Bindloose's mansion. It was not without a private feeling of reluctance, that honest Meg mounted the step of a vehicle, on the door of which was painted, "FOX INN AND HOTEL, ST. RONAN'S WELL;" but it was too late to start such scruples.
"I never thought to have entered ane o' their hurley-hackets," she said, as she seated herself; "and sic a like thing as it is—scarce room for twa folk!—Weel I wot, Mr. Touchwood, when I was in the hiring line, our twa chaises wad hae carried, ilk ane o' them, four grown folk and as mony bairns. I trust that doited creature Anthony will come awa back wi' my whiskey and the cattle, as soon as they have had their feed.—Are ye sure ye hae room eneugh, sir?—I wad fain hotch mysell farther yont."
"O, ma'am," answered the Oriental, "I am accustomed to all sorts of conveyances—a dooly, a litter, a cart, a palanquin, or a post-chaise, are all alike to me—I think I could be an inside with Queen Mab in a nutshell, rather than not get forward.—Begging you many pardons, if you have no particular objections, I will light my sheroot," &c. &c. &c.
[I-20] This was a peculiarity in the countenance of the celebrated Cossack leader, Platoff.
[I-21] An epithet which expresses, in Scotland, what the barometer calls rainy.
A man he was to all the country dear, And passing rich with forty pounds a-year.
GOLDSMITH'S Deserted Village.
Mrs. Dods's conviction, that her friend Tyrrel had been murdered by the sanguinary Captain MacTurk remained firm and unshaken; but some researches for the supposed body having been found fruitless, as well as expensive, she began to give up the matter in despair. "She had done her duty"—"she left the matter to them that had a charge anent such things"—and "Providence would bring the mystery to light in his own fitting time"—such were the moralities with which the good dame consoled herself; and, with less obstinacy than Mr. Bindloose had expected, she retained her opinion without changing her banker and man of business.
Perhaps Meg's acquiescent inactivity in a matter which she had threatened to probe so deeply, was partly owing to the place of poor Tyrrel being supplied in her blue chamber, and in her daily thoughts and cares, by her new guest, Mr. Touchwood; in possessing whom, a deserter as he was from the Well, she obtained, according to her view of the matter, a decided triumph over her rivals. It sometimes required, however, the full force of this reflection, to induce Meg, old and crabbed as she was, to submit to the various caprices and exactions of attention which were displayed by her new lodger. Never any man talked so much as Touchwood, of his habitual indifference to food, and accommodation in travelling; and probably there never was any traveller who gave more trouble in a house of entertainment. He had his own whims about cookery; and when these were contradicted, especially if he felt at the same time a twinge of incipient gout, one would have thought he had taken his lessons in the pastry-shop of Bedreddin Hassan, and was ready to renew the scene of the unhappy cream-tart, which was compounded without pepper. Every now and then he started some new doctrine in culinary matters, which Mrs. Dods deemed a heresy; and then the very house rang with their disputes. Again, his bed must necessarily be made at a certain angle from the pillow to the footposts; and the slightest deviation from this disturbed, he said, his nocturnal rest, and did certainly ruffle his temper. He was equally whimsical about the brushing of his clothes, the arrangement of the furniture in his apartment, and a thousand minutiae, which, in conversation, he seemed totally to contemn.
It may seem singular, but such is the inconsistency of human nature, that a guest of this fanciful and capricious disposition gave much more satisfaction to Mrs. Dods, than her quiet and indifferent friend, Mr. Tyrrel. If her present lodger could blame, he could also applaud; and no artist, conscious of such skill as Mrs. Dods possessed, is indifferent to the praises of such a connoisseur as Mr. Touchwood. The pride of art comforted her for the additional labour; nor was it a matter unworthy of this most honest publican's consideration, that the guests who give most trouble, are usually those who incur the largest bills, and pay them with the best grace. On this point Touchwood was a jewel of a customer. He never denied himself the gratification of the slightest whim, whatever expense he might himself incur, or whatever trouble he might give to those about him; and all was done under protestation, that the matter in question was the most indifferent thing to him in the world. "What the devil did he care for Burgess's sauces, he that had eat his kouscousou, spiced with nothing but the sand of the desert? only it was a shame for Mrs. Dods to be without what every decent house, above the rank of an alehouse, ought to be largely provided with."
In short, he fussed, fretted, commanded, and was obeyed; kept the house in hot water, and yet was so truly good-natured when essential matters were in discussion, that it was impossible to bear him the least ill-will; so that Mrs. Dods, though in a moment of spleen she sometimes wished him at the top of Tintock,[I-F] always ended by singing forth his praises. She could not, indeed, help suspecting that he was a Nabob, as well from his conversation about foreign parts, as from his freaks of indulgence to himself, and generosity to others,—attributes which she understood to be proper to most "Men of Ind." But although the reader has heard her testify a general dislike to this species of Fortune's favourites, Mrs. Dods had sense enough to know, that a Nabob living in the neighbourhood, who raises the price of eggs and poultry upon the good housewives around, was very different from a Nabob residing within her own gates, drawing all his supplies from her own larder, and paying, without hesitation or question, whatever bills her conscience permitted her to send in. In short, to come back to the point at which we perhaps might have stopped some time since, landlady and guest were very much pleased with each other.
But Ennui finds entrance into every scene, when the gloss of novelty is over; and the fiend began to seize upon Mr. Touchwood just when he had got all matters to his mind in the Cleikum Inn—had instructed Dame Dods in the mysteries of curry and mullegatawny—drilled the chambermaid into the habit of making his bed at the angle recommended by Sir John Sinclair—and made some progress in instructing the humpbacked postilion in the Arabian mode of grooming. Pamphlets and newspapers, sent from London and from Edinburgh by loads, proved inadequate to rout this invader of Mr. Touchwood's comfort; and, at last, he bethought himself of company. The natural resource would have been the Well—but the traveller had a holy shivering of awe, which crossed him at the very recollection of Lady Penelope, who had worked him rather hard during his former brief residence; and although Lady Binks's beauty might have charmed an Asiatic, by the plump graces of its contour, our senior was past the thoughts of a Sultana and a haram. At length a bright idea crossed his mind, and he suddenly demanded of Mrs. Dods, who was pouring out his tea for breakfast, into a large cup of a very particular species of china, of which he had presented her with a service on condition of her rendering him this personal good office,—"Pray, Mrs. Dods, what sort of a man is your minister?"
"He's just a man like other men, Maister Touchwood," replied Meg; "what sort of a man should he be?"
"A man like other men?—ay—that is to say, he has the usual complement of legs and arms, eyes and ears—But is he a sensible man?"
"No muckle o' that, sir," answered Dame Dods; "for if he was drinking this very tea that ye gat doun from London wi' the mail, he wad mistake it for common bohea."
"Then he has not all his organs—wants a nose, or the use of one at least," said Mr. Touchwood; "the tea is right gunpowder—a perfect nosegay."
"Aweel, that may be," said the landlady; "but I have gi'en the minister a dram frae my ain best bottle of real Coniac brandy, and may I never stir frae the bit, if he didna commend my whisky when he set down the glass! There is no ane o' them in the Presbytery but himsell—ay, or in the Synod either—but wad hae kend whisky frae brandy."
"But what sort of man is he?—Has he learning?" demanded Touchwood.
"Learning?—eneugh o' that," answered Meg; "just dung donnart wi' learning—lets a' things about the Manse gang whilk gate they will, sae they dinna plague him upon the score. An awfu' thing it is to see sic an ill-red-up house!—If I had the twa tawpies that sorn upon the honest man ae week under my drilling, I think I wad show them how to sort a lodging!"
"Does he preach well?" asked the guest.
"Oh, weel eneugh, weel eneugh—sometimes he will fling in a lang word or a bit of learning that our farmers and bannet lairds canna sae weel follow—But what of that, as I am aye telling them?—them that pay stipend get aye the mair for their siller."
"Does he attend to his parish?—Is he kind to the poor?"
"Ower muckle o' that, Maister Touchwood—I am sure he makes the Word gude, and turns not away from those that ask o' him—his very pocket is picked by a wheen ne'er-do-weel blackguards, that gae sorning through the country."
"Sorning through the country, Mrs. Dods?—what would you think if you had seen the Fakirs, the Dervises, the Bonzes, the Imaums, the monks, and the mendicants, that I have seen?—But go on, never mind—Does this minister of yours come much into company?"
"Company?—gae wa'," replied Meg, "he keeps nae company at a', neither in his ain house or ony gate else. He comes down in the morning in a lang ragged nightgown, like a potato bogle, and down he sits amang his books; and if they dinna bring him something to eat, the puir demented body has never the heart to cry for aught, and he has been kend to sit for ten hours thegither, black fasting, whilk is a' mere papistrie, though he does it just out o' forget."
"Why, landlady, in that case, your parson is any thing but the ordinary kind of man you described him—Forget his dinner!—the man must be mad—he shall dine with me to-day—he shall have such a dinner as I'll be bound he won't forget in a hurry."
"Ye'll maybe find that easier said than dune," said Mrs. Dods; "the honest man hasna, in a sense, the taste of his mouth—forby, he never dines out of his ain house—that is, when he dines at a'—A drink of milk and a bit of bread serves his turn, or maybe a cauld potato.—It's a heathenish fashion of him, for as good a man as he is, for surely there is nae Christian man but loves his own bowels."
"Why, that may be," answered Touchwood; "but I have known many who took so much care of their own bowels, my good dame, as to have none for any one else.—But come—bustle to the work—get us as good a dinner for two as you can set out—have it ready at three to an instant—get the old hock I had sent me from Cockburn—a bottle of the particular Indian Sherry—and another of your own old claret—fourth bin, you know, Meg.—And stay, he is a priest, and must have port—have all ready, but don't bring the wine into the sun, as that silly fool Beck did the other day.—I can't go down to the larder myself, but let us have no blunders."
"Nae fear, nae fear," said Meg, with a toss of the head, "I need naebody to look into my larder but mysell, I trow—but it's an unco order of wine for twa folk, and ane o' them a minister."
"Why, you foolish person, is there not the woman up the village that has just brought another fool into the world, and will she not need sack and caudle, if we leave some of our wine?"
"A gude ale-posset wad set her better," said Meg; "however, if it's your will, it shall be my pleasure.—But the like of sic a gentleman as yoursell never entered my doors!"
The traveller was gone before she had completed the sentence; and, leaving Meg to bustle and maunder at her leisure, away he marched, with the haste that characterised all his motions when he had any new project in his head, to form an acquaintance with the minister of St. Ronan's, whom, while he walks down the street to the Manse, we will endeavour to introduce to the reader.
The Rev. Josiah Cargill was the son of a small farmer in the south of Scotland; and a weak constitution, joined to the disposition for study which frequently accompanies infirm health, induced his parents, though at the expense of some sacrifices, to educate him for the ministry. They were the rather led to submit to the privations which were necessary to support this expense, because they conceived, from their family traditions, that he had in his veins some portion of the blood of that celebrated Boanerges of the Covenant, Donald Cargill,[I-G] who was slain by the persecutors at the town of Queensferry, in the melancholy days of Charles II., merely because, in the plenitude of his sacerdotal power, he had cast out of the church, and delivered over to Satan by a formal excommunication, the King and Royal Family, with all the ministers and courtiers thereunto belonging. But if Josiah was really derived from this uncompromising champion, the heat of the family spirit which he might have inherited was qualified by the sweetness of his own disposition, and the quiet temper of the times in which he had the good fortune to live. He was characterised by all who knew him as a mild, gentle, and studious lover of learning, who, in the quiet prosecution of his own sole object, the acquisition of knowledge, and especially of that connected with his profession, had the utmost indulgence for all whose pursuits were different from his own. His sole relaxations were those of a retiring, mild, and pensive temper, and were limited to a ramble, almost always solitary, among the woods and hills, in praise of which, he was sometimes guilty of a sonnet, but rather because he could not help the attempt, than as proposing to himself the fame or the rewards which attend the successful poet. Indeed, far from seeking to insinuate his fugitive pieces into magazines and newspapers, he blushed at his poetical attempts even while alone, and, in fact, was rarely so indulgent to his vein as to commit them to paper.
From the same maid-like modesty of disposition, our student suppressed a strong natural turn towards drawing, although he was repeatedly complimented upon the few sketches which he made, by some whose judgment was generally admitted. It was, however, this neglected talent, which, like the swift feet of the stag in the fable, was fated to render him a service which he might in vain have expected from his worth and learning.
My Lord Bidmore, a distinguished connoisseur, chanced to be in search of a private tutor for his son and heir, the Honourable Augustus Bidmore, and for this purpose had consulted the Professor of Theology, who passed before him in review several favourite students, any of whom he conceived well suited for the situation; but still his answer to the important and unlooked-for question, "Did the candidate understand drawing?" was answered in the negative. The Professor, indeed, added his opinion, that such an accomplishment was neither to be desired nor expected in a student of theology; but, pressed hard with this condition as a sine qua non, he at length did remember a dreaming lad about the Hall, who seldom could be got to speak above his breath, even when delivering his essays, but was said to have a strong turn for drawing. This was enough for my Lord Bidmore, who contrived to obtain a sight of some of young Cargill's sketches, and was satisfied that, under such a tutor, his son could not fail to maintain that character for hereditary taste which his father and grandfather had acquired at the expense of a considerable estate, the representative value of which was now the painted canvass in the great gallery at Bidmore-House.
Upon following up the enquiry concerning the young man's character, he was found to possess all the other necessary qualifications of learning and morals, in a greater degree than perhaps Lord Bidmore might have required; and, to the astonishment of his fellow-students, but more especially to his own, Josiah Cargill was promoted to the desired and desirable situation of private tutor to the Honourable Mr. Bidmore.
Mr. Cargill did his duty ably and conscientiously, by a spoiled though good-humoured lad, of weak health and very ordinary parts. He could not, indeed, inspire into him any portion of the deep and noble enthusiasm which characterises the youth of genius; but his pupil made such progress in each branch of his studies as his capacity enabled him to attain. He understood the learned languages, and could be very profound on the subject of various readings—he pursued science, and could class shells, pack mosses, and arrange minerals—he drew without taste, but with much accuracy; and although he attained no commanding height in any pursuit, he knew enough of many studies, literary and scientific, to fill up his time, and divert from temptation a head, which was none of the strongest in point of resistance.
Miss Augusta Bidmore, his lordship's only other child, received also the instructions of Cargill in such branches of science as her father chose she should acquire, and her tutor was capable to teach. But her progress was as different from that of her brother, as the fire of heaven differs from that grosser element which the peasant piles upon his smouldering hearth. Her acquirements in Italian and Spanish literature, in history, in drawing, and in all elegant learning, were such as to enchant her teacher, while at the same time it kept him on the stretch, lest, in her successful career, the scholar should outstrip the master.
Alas! such intercourse, fraught as it is with dangers arising out of the best and kindest, as well as the most natural feelings on either side, proved in the present, as in many other instances, fatal to the peace of the preceptor. Every feeling heart will excuse a weakness, which we shall presently find carried with it its own severe punishment. Cadenus, indeed, believe him who will, has assured us, that, in such a perilous intercourse, he himself preserved the limits which were unhappily transgressed by the unfortunate Vanessa, his more impassioned pupil:—
"The innocent delight he took To see the virgin mind her book, Was but the master's secret joy, In school to hear the finest boy."
But Josiah Cargill was less fortunate, or less cautious. He suffered his fair pupil to become inexpressibly dear to him, before he discovered the precipice towards which he was moving under the direction of a blind and misplaced passion. He was indeed utterly incapable of availing himself of the opportunities afforded by his situation, to involve his pupil in the toils of a mutual passion. Honour and gratitude alike forbade such a line of conduct, even had it been consistent with the natural bashfulness, simplicity, and innocence of his disposition. To sigh and suffer in secret, to form resolutions of separating himself from a situation so fraught with danger, and to postpone from day to day the accomplishment of a resolution so prudent, was all to which the tutor found himself equal; and it is not improbable, that the veneration with which he regarded his patron's daughter, with the utter hopelessness of the passion which he nourished, tended to render his love yet more pure and disinterested.
At length, the line of conduct which reason had long since recommended, could no longer be the subject of procrastination. Mr. Bidmore was destined to foreign travel for a twelvemonth, and Mr. Cargill received from his patron the alternative of accompanying his pupil, or retiring upon a suitable provision, the reward of his past instructions. It can hardly be doubted which he preferred; for while he was with young Bidmore, he did not seem entirely separated from his sister. He was sure to hear of Augusta frequently, and to see some part, at least, of the letters which she was to write to her brother; he might also hope to be remembered in these letters as her "good friend and tutor;" and to these consolations his quiet, contemplative, and yet enthusiastic disposition, clung as to a secret source of pleasure, the only one which life seemed to open to him.
But fate had a blow in store, which he had not anticipated. The chance of Augusta's changing her maiden condition for that of a wife, probable as her rank, beauty, and fortune rendered such an event, had never once occurred to him; and although he had imposed upon himself the unwavering belief that she could never be his, he was inexpressibly affected by the intelligence that she had become the property of another.
The Honourable Mr. Bidmore's letters to his father soon after announced that poor Mr. Cargill had been seized with a nervous fever, and again, that his reconvalescence was attended with so much debility, it seemed both of mind and body, as entirely to destroy his utility as a travelling companion. Shortly after this the travellers separated, and Cargill returned to his native country alone, indulging upon the road in a melancholy abstraction of mind, which he had suffered to grow upon him since the mental shock which he had sustained, and which in time became the most characteristical feature of his demeanour. His meditations were not even disturbed by any anxiety about his future subsistence, although the cessation of his employment seemed to render that precarious. For this, however, Lord Bidmore had made provision; for, though a coxcomb where the fine arts were concerned, he was in other particulars a just and honourable man, who felt a sincere pride in having drawn the talents of Cargill from obscurity, and entertained due gratitude for the manner in which he had achieved the important task intrusted to him in his family.
His lordship had privately purchased from the Mowbray family the patronage or advowson of the living of St. Ronan's, then held by a very old incumbent, who died shortly afterwards; so that upon arriving in England Cargill found himself named to the vacant living. So indifferent, however, did he feel himself towards this preferment, that he might possibly not have taken the trouble to go through the necessary steps previous to his ordination, had it not been on account of his mother, now a widow, and unprovided for, unless by the support which he afforded her. He visited her in her small retreat in the suburbs of Marchthorn, heard her pour out her gratitude to Heaven, that she should have been granted life long enough to witness her son's promotion to a charge, which in her eyes was more honourable and desirable than an Episcopal see—heard her chalk out the life which they were to lead together in the humble independence which had thus fallen on him—he heard all this, and had no power to crush her hopes and her triumph by the indulgence of his own romantic feelings. He passed almost mechanically through the usual forms, and was inducted into the living of St. Ronan's.
Although fanciful and romantic, it was not in Josiah Cargill's nature to yield to unavailing melancholy; yet he sought relief, not in society, but in solitary study. His seclusion was the more complete, that his mother, whose education had been as much confined as her fortunes, felt awkward under her new dignities, and willingly acquiesced in her son's secession from society, and spent her whole time in superintending the little household, and in her way providing for all emergencies, the occurrence of which might call Josiah out of his favourite book-room. As old age rendered her inactive, she began to regret the incapacity of her son to superintend his own household, and talked something of matrimony, and the mysteries of the muckle wheel. To these admonitions Mr. Cargill returned only slight and evasive answers; and when the old lady slept in the village churchyard, at a reverend old age, there was no one to perform the office of superintendent in the minister's family. Neither did Josiah Cargill seek for any, but patiently submitted to all the evils with which a bachelor estate is attended, and which were at least equal to those which beset the renowned Mago-Pico during his state of celibacy.[I-22] His butter was ill churned, and declared by all but himself and the quean who made it, altogether uneatable; his milk was burnt in the pan, his fruit and vegetables were stolen, and his black stockings mended with blue and white thread.
For all these things the minister cared not, his mind ever bent upon far different matters. Do not let my fair readers do Josiah more than justice, or suppose that, like Beltenebros in the desert, he remained for years the victim of an unfortunate and misplaced passion. No—to the shame of the male sex be it spoken, that no degree of hopeless love, however desperate and sincere, can ever continue for years to embitter life. There must be hope—there must be uncertainty—there must be reciprocity, to enable the tyrant of the soul to secure a dominion of very long duration over a manly and well-constituted mind, which is itself desirous to will its freedom. The memory of Augusta had long faded from Josiah's thoughts, or was remembered only as a pleasing, but melancholy and unsubstantial dream, while he was straining forward in pursuit of a yet nobler and coyer mistress, in a word, of Knowledge herself.
Every hour that he could spare from his parochial duties, which he discharged with zeal honourable to his heart and head, was devoted to his studies, and spent among his books. But this chase of wisdom, though in itself interesting and dignified, was indulged to an excess which diminished the respectability, nay, the utility, of the deceived student; and he forgot, amid the luxury of deep and dark investigations, that society has its claims, and that the knowledge which is unimparted, is necessarily a barren talent, and is lost to society, like the miser's concealed hoard, by the death of the proprietor. His studies were also under the additional disadvantage, that, being pursued for the gratification of a desultory longing after knowledge, and directed to no determined object, they turned on points rather curious than useful, and while they served for the amusement of the student himself, promised little utility to mankind at large.
Bewildered amid abstruse researches, metaphysical and historical, Mr. Cargill, living only for himself and his books, acquired many ludicrous habits, which exposed the secluded student to the ridicule of the world, and which tinged, though they did not altogether obscure, the natural civility of an amiable disposition, as well as the acquired habits of politeness which he had learned in the good society that frequented Lord Bidmore's mansion. He not only indulged in neglect of dress and appearance, and all those ungainly tricks which men are apt to acquire by living very much alone, but besides, and especially, he became probably the most abstracted and absent man of a profession peculiarly liable to cherish such habits. No man fell so regularly into the painful dilemma of mistaking, or, in Scottish phrase, miskenning, the person he spoke to, or more frequently enquired of an old maid for her husband, of a childless wife about her young people, of the distressed widower for the spouse at whose funeral he himself had assisted but a fortnight before; and none was ever more familiar with strangers whom he had never seen, or seemed more estranged from those who had a title to think themselves well known to him. The worthy man perpetually confounded sex, age, and calling; and when a blind beggar extended his hand for charity, he has been known to return the civility by taking off his hat, making a low bow, and hoping his worship was well.
Among his brethren, Mr. Cargill alternately commanded respect by the depth of his erudition, and gave occasion to laughter from his odd peculiarities. On the latter occasions he used abruptly to withdraw from the ridicule he had provoked; for notwithstanding the general mildness of his character, his solitary habits had engendered a testy impatience of contradiction, and a keener sense of pain arising from the satire of others, than was natural to his unassuming disposition. As for his parishioners, they enjoyed, as may reasonably be supposed, many a hearty laugh at their pastor's expense, and were sometimes, as Mrs. Dods hinted, more astonished than edified by his learning; for in pursuing a point of biblical criticism, he did not altogether remember that he was addressing a popular and unlearned assembly, not delivering a concio ad clerum—a mistake, not arising from any conceit of his learning, or wish to display it, but from the same absence of mind which induced an excellent divine, when preaching before a party of criminals condemned to death, to break off by promising the wretches, who were to suffer next morning, "the rest of the discourse at the first proper opportunity." But all the neighbourhood acknowledged Mr. Cargill's serious and devout discharge of his ministerial duties; and the poorer parishioners forgave his innocent peculiarities, in consideration of his unbounded charity; while the heritors, if they ridiculed the abstractions of Mr. Cargill on some subjects, had the grace to recollect that they had prevented him from suing an augmentation of stipend, according to the fashion of the clergy around him, or from demanding at their hands a new manse, or the repair of the old one. He once, indeed, wished that they would amend the roof of his book-room, which "rained in"[I-23] in a very pluvious manner; but receiving no direct answer from our friend Meiklewham, who neither relished the proposal nor saw means of eluding it, the minister quietly made the necessary repairs at his own expense, and gave the heritors no farther trouble on the subject.
Such was the worthy divine whom our bon vivant at the Cleikum Inn hoped to conciliate by a good dinner and Cockburn's particular; an excellent menstruum in most cases, but not likely to be very efficacious on the present occasion.
[I-22] Note III.—Mago-Pico.
[I-23] Scottice, for "admitted the rain."
'Twixt us thus the difference trims:— Using head instead of limbs, You have read what I have seen; Using limbs instead of head, I have seen what you have read— Which way does the balance lean?
Our traveller, rapid in all his resolutions and motions, strode stoutly down the street, and arrived at the Manse, which was, as we have already described it, all but absolutely ruinous. The total desolation and want of order about the door, would have argued the place uninhabited, had it not been for two or three miserable tubs with suds, or such like sluttish contents, which were left there, that those who broke their shins among them might receive a sensible proof, that "here the hand of woman had been." The door being half off its hinges, the entrance was for the time protected by a broken harrow, which must necessarily be removed before entry could be obtained. The little garden, which might have given an air of comfort to the old house had it been kept in any order, was abandoned to a desolation, of which that of the sluggard was only a type; and the minister's man, an attendant always proverbial for doing half work, and who seemed in the present instance to do none, was seen among docks and nettles, solacing himself with the few gooseberries which remained on some moss-grown bushes. To him Mr. Touchwood called loudly, enquiring after his master; but the clown, conscious of being taken in flagrant delict, as the law says, fled from him like a guilty thing, instead of obeying his summons, and was soon heard hupping and geeing to the cart, which he had left on the other side of the broken wall.
Disappointed in his application to the man-servant, Mr. Touchwood knocked with his cane, at first gently, then harder, holloaed, bellowed, and shouted, in the hope of calling the attention of some one within doors, but received not a word in reply. At length, thinking that no trespass could be committed upon so forlorn and deserted an establishment, he removed the obstacles to entrance with such a noise as he thought must necessarily have alarmed some one, if there was any live person about the house at all. All was still silent; and, entering a passage where the damp walls and broken flags corresponded to the appearance of things out of doors, he opened a door to the left, which, wonderful to say, still had a latch remaining, and found himself in the parlour, and in the presence of the person whom he came to visit.
Amid a heap of books and other literary lumber, which had accumulated around him, sat, in his well-worn leathern elbow chair, the learned minister of St. Ronan's; a thin, spare man, beyond the middle age, of a dark complexion, but with eyes which, though now obscured and vacant, had been once bright, soft, and expressive, and whose features seemed interesting, the rather that, notwithstanding the carelessness of his dress, he was in the habit of performing his ablutions with Eastern precision; for he had forgot neatness, but not cleanliness. His hair might have appeared much more disorderly, had it not been thinned by time, and disposed chiefly around the sides of his countenance and the back part of his head; black stockings, ungartered, marked his professional dress, and his feet were thrust into the old slipshod shoes, which served him instead of slippers. The rest of his garments, as far as visible, consisted in a plaid nightgown wrapt in long folds round his stooping and emaciated length of body, and reaching down to the slippers aforesaid. He was so intently engaged in studying the book before him, a folio of no ordinary bulk, that he totally disregarded the noise which Mr. Touchwood made in entering the room, as well as the coughs and hems with which he thought it proper to announce his presence.
No notice being taken of these inarticulate signals, Mr. Touchwood, however great an enemy he was to ceremony, saw the necessity of introducing his business, as an apology for his intrusion.
"Hem! sir—Ha, hem!—You see before you a person in some distress for want of society, who has taken the liberty to call on you as a good pastor, who may be, in Christian charity, willing to afford him a little of your company, since he is tired of his own."
Of this speech Mr. Cargill only understood the words "distress" and "charity," sounds with which he was well acquainted, and which never failed to produce some effect on him. He looked at his visitor with lack-lustre eye, and, without correcting the first opinion which he had formed, although the stranger's plump and sturdy frame, as well as his nicely-brushed coat, glancing cane, and, above all, his upright and self-satisfied manner, resembled in no respect the dress, form, or bearing of a mendicant, he quietly thrust a shilling into his hand, and relapsed into the studious contemplation which the entrance of Touchwood had interrupted.
"Upon my word, my good sir," said his visitor, surprised at a degree of absence of mind which he could hardly have conceived possible, "you have entirely mistaken my object."
"I am sorry my mite is insufficient, my friend," said the clergyman, without again raising his eyes, "it is all I have at present to bestow."
"If you will have the kindness to look up for a moment, my good sir," said the traveller, "you may possibly perceive that you labour under a considerable mistake."
Mr. Cargill raised his head, recalled his attention, and, seeing that he had a well-dressed, respectable-looking person before him, he exclaimed in much confusion, "Ha!—yes—on my word, I was so immersed in my book—I believe—I think I have the pleasure to see my worthy friend, Mr. Lavender?"
"No such thing, Mr. Cargill," replied Mr Touchwood. "I will save you the trouble of trying to recollect me—you never saw me before.—But do not let me disturb your studies—I am in no hurry, and my business can wait your leisure."
"I am much obliged," said Mr. Cargill; "have the goodness to take a chair, if you can find one—I have a train of thought to recover—a slight calculation to finish—and then I am at your command."
The visitor found among the broken furniture, not without difficulty, a seat strong enough to support his weight, and sat down, resting upon his cane, and looking attentively at his host, who very soon became totally insensible of his presence. A long pause of total silence ensued, only disturbed by the rustling leaves of the folio from which Mr. Cargill seemed to be making extracts, and now and then by a little exclamation of surprise and impatience, when he dipped his pen, as happened once or twice, into his snuff-box, instead of the inkstandish which stood beside it. At length, just as Mr. Touchwood began to think the scene as tedious as it was singular, the abstracted student raised his head, and spoke as if in soliloquy, "From Acon, Accor, or St. John d'Acre, to Jerusalem, how far?"
"Twenty-three miles north north-west," answered his visitor, without hesitation.
Mr. Cargill expressed no more surprise at a question which he had put to himself being answered by the voice of another, than if he had found the distance on the map, and indeed, was not probably aware of the medium through which his question had been solved; and it was the tenor of the answer alone which he attended to in his reply.—"Twenty-three miles—Ingulphus," laying his hand on the volume, "and Jeffrey Winesauf, do not agree in this."
"They may both be d——d, then, for lying block-heads," answered the traveller.
"You might have contradicted their authority, sir, without using such an expression," said the divine, gravely.
"I cry you mercy, Doctor," said Mr. Touchwood; "but would you compare these parchment fellows with me, that have made my legs my compasses over great part of the inhabited world?"
"You have been in Palestine, then?" said Mr. Cargill, drawing himself upright in his chair, and speaking with eagerness and with interest.
"You may swear that, Doctor, and at Acre too. Why, I was there the month after Boney had found it too hard a nut to crack.—I dined with Sir Sydney's chum, old Djezzar Pacha, and an excellent dinner we had, but for a dessert of noses and ears brought on after the last remove, which spoiled my digestion. Old Djezzar thought it so good a joke, that you hardly saw a man in Acre whose face was not as flat as the palm of my hand—Gad, I respect my olfactory organ, and set off the next morning as fast as the most cursed hard-trotting dromedary that ever fell to poor pilgrim's lot could contrive to tramp."
"If you have really been in the Holy Land, sir," said Mr. Cargill, whom the reckless gaiety of Touchwood's manner rendered somewhat suspicious of a trick, "you will be able materially to enlighten me on the subject of the Crusades."
"They happened before my time, Doctor," replied the traveller.
"You are to understand that my curiosity refers to the geography of the countries where these events took place," answered Mr. Cargill.
"O! as to that matter, you are lighted on your feet," said Mr. Touchwood; "for the time present I can fit you. Turk, Arab, Copt, and Druse, I know every one of them, and can make you as well acquainted with them as myself. Without stirring a step beyond your threshold, you shall know Syria as well as I do.—But one good turn deserves another—in that case, you must have the goodness to dine with me."
"I go seldom abroad, sir," said the minister, with a good deal of hesitation, for his habits of solitude and seclusion could not be entirely overcome, even by the expectation raised by the traveller's discourse; "yet I cannot deny myself the pleasure of waiting on a gentleman possessed of so much experience."
"Well then," said Mr. Touchwood, "three be the hour—I never dine later, and always to a minute—and the place, the Cleikum Inn, up the way; where Mrs. Dods is at this moment busy in making ready such a dinner as your learning has seldom seen, Doctor, for I brought the receipts from the four different quarters of the globe."
Upon this treaty they parted; and Mr. Cargill, after musing for a short while upon the singular chance which had sent a living man to answer those doubts for which he was in vain consulting ancient authorities, at length resumed, by degrees, the train of reflection and investigation which Mr. Touchwood's visit had interrupted, and in a short time lost all recollection of his episodical visitor, and of the engagement which he had formed.
Not so Mr. Touchwood, who, when not occupied with business of real importance, had the art, as the reader may have observed, to make a prodigious fuss about nothing at all. Upon the present occasion, he bustled in and out of the kitchen, till Mrs. Dods lost patience, and threatened to pin the dish-clout to his tail; a menace which he pardoned, in consideration, that in all the countries which he had visited, which are sufficiently civilized to boast of cooks, these artists, toiling in their fiery element, have a privilege to be testy and impatient. He therefore retreated from the torrid region of Mrs. Dods's microcosm, and employed his time in the usual devices of loiterers, partly by walking for an appetite, partly by observing the progress of his watch towards three o'clock, when he had happily succeeded in getting an employment more serious. His table, in the blue parlour, was displayed with two covers, after the fairest fashion of the Cleikum Inn; yet the landlady, with a look "civil but sly," contrived to insinuate a doubt whether the clergyman would come, "when a' was dune."
Mr. Touchwood scorned to listen to such an insinuation until the fated hour arrived, and brought with it no Mr. Cargill. The impatient entertainer allowed five minutes for difference of clocks, and variation of time, and other five for the procrastination of one who went little into society. But no sooner were the last five minutes expended, than he darted off for the Manse, not, indeed, much like a greyhound or a deer, but with the momentum of a corpulent and well-appetized elderly gentleman, who is in haste to secure his dinner. He bounced without ceremony into the parlour, where he found the worthy divine clothed in the same plaid nightgown, and seated in the very elbow-chair, in which he had left him five hours before. His sudden entrance recalled to Mr. Cargill, not an accurate, but something of a general, recollection, of what had passed in the morning, and he hastened to apologize with "Ha!—indeed—already?—upon my word, Mr. A—a—, I mean my dear friend—I am afraid I have used you ill—I forgot to order any dinner—but we will do our best.—Eppie—Eppie!"
Not at the first, second, nor third call, but ex intervallo, as the lawyers express it, Eppie, a bare-legged, shock-headed, thick-ankled, red-armed wench, entered, and announced her presence by an emphatic "What's your wull?"
"Have you got any thing in the house for dinner, Eppie?"
"Naething but bread and milk, plenty o't—what should I have?"
"You see, sir," said Mr. Cargill, "you are like to have a Pythagorean entertainment; but you are a traveller, and have doubtless been in your time thankful for bread and milk."
"But never when there was any thing better to be had," said Mr. Touchwood. "Come, Doctor, I beg your pardon, but your wits are fairly gone a wool-gathering; it was I invited you to dinner, up at the inn yonder, and not you me."
"On my word, and so it was," said Mr. Cargill; "I knew I was quite right—I knew there was a dinner engagement betwixt us, I was sure of that, and that is the main point.—Come, sir, I wait upon you."
"Will you not first change your dress?" said the visitor, seeing with astonishment that the divine proposed to attend him in his plaid nightgown; "why, we shall have all the boys in the village after us—you will look like an owl in sunshine, and they will flock round you like so many hedge-sparrows."
"I will get my clothes instantly," said the worthy clergyman; "I will get ready directly—I am really ashamed to keep you waiting, my dear Mr.—eh—eh—your name has this instant escaped me."
"It is Touchwood, sir, at your service; I do not believe you ever heard it before," answered the traveller.
"True—right—no more I have—well, my good Mr. Touchstone, will you sit down an instant until we see what we can do?—strange slaves we make ourselves to these bodies of ours, Mr. Touchstone—the clothing and the sustaining of them costs us much thought and leisure, which might be better employed in catering for the wants of our immortal spirits."
Mr. Touchwood thought in his heart that never had Bramin or Gymnosophist less reason to reproach himself with excess in the indulgence of the table, or of the toilet, than the sage before him; but he assented to the doctrine, as he would have done to any minor heresy, rather than protract matters by farther discussing the point at present. In a short time the minister was dressed in his Sunday's suit, without any farther mistake than turning one of his black stockings inside out; and Mr. Touchwood, happy as was Boswell when he carried off Dr. Johnson in triumph to dine with Strahan and John Wilkes, had the pleasure of escorting him to the Cleikum Inn.
In the course of the afternoon they became more familiar, and the familiarity led to their forming a considerable estimate of each other's powers and acquirements. It is true, the traveller thought the student too pedantic, too much attached to systems, which, formed in solitude, he was unwilling to renounce, even when contradicted by the voice and testimony of experience; and, moreover, considered his utter inattention to the quality of what he eat and drank, as unworthy of a rational, that is, of a cooking creature, or of a being who, as defined by Johnson, holds his dinner as the most important business of the day. Cargill did not act up to this definition, and was, therefore, in the eyes of his new acquaintance, so far ignorant and uncivilized. What then? He was still a sensible, intelligent man, however abstemious and bookish.
On the other hand, the divine could not help regarding his new friend as something of an epicure or belly-god, nor could he observe in him either the perfect education, or the polished bearing, which mark the gentleman of rank, and of which, while he mingled with the world, he had become a competent judge. Neither did it escape him, that in the catalogue of Mr. Touchwood's defects, occurred that of many travellers, a slight disposition to exaggerate his own personal adventures, and to prose concerning his own exploits. But then, his acquaintance with Eastern manners, existing now in the same state in which they were found during the time of the Crusades, formed a living commentary on the works of William of Tyre, Raymund of Saint Giles, the Moslem annals of Abulfaragi, and other historians of the dark period, with which his studies were at present occupied.
A friendship, a companionship at least, was therefore struck up hastily betwixt these two originals; and to the astonishment of the whole parish of St. Ronan's, the minister thereof was seen once more leagued and united with an individual of his species, generally called among them the Cleikum Nabob. Their intercourse sometimes consisted in long walks, which they took in company, traversing, however, as limited a space of ground, as if it had been actually roped in for their pedestrian exercise. Their parade was, according to circumstances, a low haugh at the nether end of the ruinous hamlet, or the esplanade in the front of the old castle; and, in either case, the direct longitude of their promenade never exceeded a hundred yards. Sometimes, but rarely, the divine took share of Mr. Touchwood's meal, though less splendidly set forth than when he was first invited to partake of it; for, like the owner of the gold cup in Parnell's Hermit, when cured of his ostentation,
——"Still he welcomed, but with less of cost."
On these occasions, the conversation was not of the regular and compacted nature, which passes betwixt men, as they are ordinarily termed, of this world. On the contrary, the one party was often thinking of Saladin and Coeur de Lion, when the other was haranguing on Hyder Ali and Sir Eyre Coote. Still, however, the one spoke, and the other seemed to listen; and, perhaps, the lighter intercourse of society, where amusement is the sole object, can scarcely rest on a safer and more secure basis.
It was on one of the evenings when the learned divine had taken his place at Mr. Touchwood's social board, or rather at Mrs. Dods's,—for a cup of excellent tea, the only luxury which Mr. Cargill continued to partake of with some complacence, was the regale before them,—that a card was delivered to the Nabob.
"Mr. and Miss Mowbray see company at Shaws-Castle on the twentieth current, at two o'clock—a dejeuner—dresses in character admitted—A dramatic picture."
"See company? the more fools they," he continued by way of comment. "See company?—choice phrases are ever commendable—and this piece of pasteboard is to intimate that one may go and meet all the fools of the parish, if they have a mind—in my time they asked the honour, or the pleasure, of a stranger's company. I suppose, by and by, we shall have in this country the ceremonial of a Bedouin's tent, where every ragged Hadgi, with his green turban, comes in slap without leave asked, and has his black paw among the rice, with no other apology than Salam Alicum.—'Dresses in character—Dramatic picture'—what new tomfoolery can that be?—but it does not signify.—Doctor! I say Doctor!—but he is in the seventh heaven—I say, Mother Dods, you who know all the news—Is this the feast that was put off until Miss Mowbray should be better?"
"Troth is it, Maister Touchwood—they are no in the way of giving twa entertainments in one season—no very wise to gie ane maybe—but they ken best."
"I say, Doctor, Doctor!—Bless his five wits, he is charging the Moslemah with stout King Richard—I say, Doctor, do you know any thing of these Mowbrays?"
"Nothing extremely particular," answered Mr. Cargill, after a pause; "it is an ordinary tale of greatness, which blazes in one century, and is extinguished in the next. I think Camden says, that Thomas Mowbray, who was Grand-Marshal of England, succeeded to that high office, as well as to the Dukedom of Norfolk, as grandson of Roger Bigot, in 1301."
"Pshaw, man, you are back into the 14th century—I mean these Mowbrays of St. Ronan's—now, don't fall asleep again until you have answered my question—and don't look so like a startled hare—I am speaking no treason."
The clergyman floundered a moment, as is usual with an absent man who is recovering the train of his ideas, or a somnambulist when he is suddenly awakened, and then answered, still with hesitation,—
"Mowbray of St. Ronan's?—ha—eh—I know—that is—I did know the family."
"Here they are going to give a masquerade, a bal pare, private theatricals, I think, and what not," handing him the card.
"I saw something of this a fortnight ago," said Mr. Cargill; "indeed, I either had a ticket myself, or I saw such a one as that."
"Are you sure you did not attend the party, Doctor?" said the Nabob.
"Who attend? I? you are jesting, Mr. Touchwood."
"But are you quite positive?" demanded Mr. Touchwood, who had observed, to his infinite amusement, that the learned and abstracted scholar was so conscious of his own peculiarities, as never to be very sure on any such subject.
"Positive!" he repeated with embarrassment; "my memory is so wretched that I never like to be positive—but had I done any thing so far out of my usual way, I must have remembered it, one would think—and—I am positive I was not there."
"Neither could you, Doctor," said the Nabob, laughing at the process by which his friend reasoned himself into confidence, "for it did not take place—it was adjourned, and this is the second invitation—there will be one for you, as you had a card to the former.—Come, Doctor, you must go—you and I will go together—I as an Imaum—I can say my Bismillah with any Hadgi of them all—You as a cardinal, or what you like best."
"Who, I?—it is unbecoming my station, Mr. Touchwood," said the clergyman—"a folly altogether inconsistent with my habits."
"All the better—you shall change your habits."
"You had better gang up and see them, Mr. Cargill," said Mrs. Dods; "for it's maybe the last sight ye may see of Miss Mowbray—they say she is to be married and off to England ane of thae odd-come-shortlies, wi' some of the gowks about the Waal down-by."
"Married!" said the clergyman; "it is impossible!"
"But where's the impossibility, Mr. Cargill, when ye see folk marry every day, and buckle them yoursell into the bargain?—Maybe ye think the puir lassie has a bee in her bannet; but ye ken yoursell if naebody but wise folk were to marry, the warld wad be ill peopled. I think it's the wise folk that keep single, like yoursell and me, Mr. Cargill.—Gude guide us!—are ye weel?—will ye taste a drap o' something?"
"Sniff at my ottar of roses," said Mr. Touchwood; "the scent would revive the dead—why, what in the devil's name is the meaning of this?—you were quite well just now."
"A sudden qualm," said Mr. Cargill, recovering himself.
"Oh! Mr. Cargill," said Dame Dods, "this comes of your lang fasts."
"Right, dame," subjoined Mr. Touchwood; "and of breaking them with sour milk and pease bannock—the least morsel of Christian food is rejected by stomach, just as a small gentleman refuses the visit of a creditable neighbour, lest he see the nakedness of the land—ha! ha!"
"And there is really a talk of Miss Mowbray of St Ronan's being married?" said the clergyman.
"Troth is there," said the dame; "it's Trotting Nelly's news; and though she likes a drappie, I dinna think she would invent a lee or carry ane—at least to me, that am a gude customer."
"This must be looked to," said Mr. Cargill, as if speaking to himself.
"In troth, and so it should," said Dame Dods; "it's a sin and a shame if they should employ the tinkling cymbal they ca' Chatterly, and sic a Presbyterian trumpet as yoursell in the land, Mr. Cargill; and if ye will take a fule's advice, ye winna let the multure be ta'en by your ain mill, Mr. Cargill."
"True, true, good Mother Dods," said the Nabob; "gloves and hatbands are things to be looked after, and Mr. Cargill had better go down to this cursed festivity with me, in order to see after his own interest."
"I must speak with the young lady," said the clergyman, still in a brown study.
"Right, right, my boy of black-letter," said the Nabob; "with me you shall go, and we'll bring them to submission to mother-church, I warrant you—Why, the idea of being cheated in such a way, would scare a Santon out of his trance.—What dress will you wear?"
"My own, to be sure," said the divine, starting from his reverie.
"True, thou art right again—they may want to knit the knot on the spot, and who would be married by a parson in masquerade?—We go to the entertainment though—it is a done thing."
The clergyman assented, provided he should receive an invitation; and as that was found at the Manse, he had no excuse for retracting, even if he had seemed to desire one.
Count Basset. We gentlemen, whose carriages run on the four aces, are apt to have a wheel out of order.
The Provoked Husband.
Our history must now look a little backwards; and although it is rather foreign to our natural style of composition, it must speak more in narrative, and less in dialogue, rather telling what happened, than its effects upon the actors. Our purpose, however, is only conditional, for we foresee temptations which may render it difficult for us exactly to keep it.
The arrival of the young Earl of Etherington at the salutiferous fountain of St. Ronan's had produced the strongest sensation; especially, as it was joined with the singular accident of the attempt upon his lordship's person, as he took a short cut through the woods on foot, at a distance from his equipage and servants. The gallantry with which he beat off the highwayman, was only equal to his generosity; for he declined making any researches after the poor devil, although his lordship had received a severe wound in the scuffle.