HotFreeBooks.com
The Fortunes of Nigel
by Sir Walter Scott
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

CHAPTER II

This, sir, is one among the Seignory, Has wealth at will, and will to use his wealth, And wit to increase it. Marry, his worst folly Lies in a thriftless sort of charity, That goes a-gadding sometimes after objects, Which wise men will not see when thrust upon them. The Old Couple.

The ancient gentleman bustled about his shop, in pettish displeasure at being summoned hither so hastily, to the interruption of his more abstract studies; and, unwilling to renounce the train of calculation which he had put in progress, he mingled whimsically with the fragments of the arithmetical operation, his oratory to the passengers, and angry reflections on his idle apprentices. "What d'ye lack, sir? Madam, what d'ye lack—clocks for hall or table—night- watches—day watches?—Locking wheel being 48—the power of retort 8 —the striking pins are 48—What d'ye lack, honoured sir?—The quotient—the multiplicand—That the knaves should have gone out this blessed minute!—the acceleration being at the rate of 5 minutes, 55 seconds, 53 thirds, 59 fourths—I will switch them both when they come back—I will, by the bones of the immortal Napier!"

Here the vexed philosopher was interrupted by the entrance of a grave citizen of a most respectable appearance, who, saluting him familiarly by the name of "Davie, my old acquaintance," demanded what had put him so much out of sorts, and gave him at the same time a cordial grasp of his hand.

The stranger's dress was, though grave, rather richer than usual. His paned hose were of black velvet, lined with purple silk, which garniture appeared at the slashes. His doublet was of purple cloth, and his short cloak of black velvet, to correspond with his hose; and both were adorned with a great number of small silver buttons richly wrought in filigree. A triple chain of gold hung round his neck; and, in place of a sword or dagger, he wore at his belt an ordinary knife for the purpose of the table, with a small silver case, which appeared to contain writing materials. He might have seemed some secretary or clerk engaged in the service of the public, only that his low, flat, and unadorned cap, and his well-blacked, shining shoes, indicated that he belonged to the city. He was a well-made man, about the middle size, and seemed in firm health, though advanced in years. His looks expressed sagacity and good-humour: and the air of respectability which his dress announced, was well supported by his clear eye, ruddy cheek, and grey hair. He used the Scottish idiom in his first address, but in such a manner that it could hardly be distinguished whether he was passing upon his friend a sort of jocose mockery, or whether it was his own native dialect, for his ordinary discourse had little provincialism.

In answer to the queries of his respectable friend, Ramsay groaned heavily, answering by echoing back the question, "What ails me, Master George? Why, every thing ails me! I profess to you that a man may as well live in Fairyland as in the Ward of Farringdon-Without. My apprentices are turned into mere goblins—they appear and disappear like spunkies, and have no more regularity in them than a watch without a scapement. If there is a ball to be tossed up, or a bullock to be driven mad, or a quean to be ducked for scolding, or a head to be broken, Jenkin is sure to be at the one end or the other of it, and then away skips Francis Tunstall for company. I think the prize- fighters, bear-leaders, and mountebanks, are in a league against me, my dear friend, and that they pass my house ten times for any other in the city. Here's an Italian fellow come over, too, that they call Punchinello; and, altogether——"

"Well," interrupted Master George, "but what is all this to the present case?"

"Why," replied Ramsay, "here has been a cry of thieves or murder, (I hope that will prove the least of it amongst these English pock- pudding swine!) and I have been interrupted in the deepest calculation ever mortal man plunged into, Master George."

"What, man!" replied Master George, "you must take patience—You are a man that deals in time, and can make it go fast and slow at pleasure; you, of all the world, have least reason to complain, if a little of it be lost now and then.—But here come your boys, and bringing in a slain man betwixt them, I think—here has been serious mischief, I am afraid."

"The more mischief the better sport," said the crabbed old watchmaker. "I am blithe, though, that it's neither of the twa loons themselves.— What are ye bringing a corpse here for, ye fause villains?" he added, addressing the two apprentices, who, at the head of a considerable mob of their own class, some of whom bore evident marks of a recent fray, were carrying the body betwixt them.

"He is not dead yet, sir," answered Tunstall.

"Carry him into the apothecary's, then," replied his master. "D'ye think I can set a man's life in motion again, as if he were a clock or a timepiece?"

"For godsake, old friend," said his acquaintance, "let us have him here at the nearest—he seems only in a swoon."

"A swoon?" said Ramsay, "and what business had he to swoon in the streets? Only, if it will oblige my friend Master George, I would take in all the dead men in St. Dunstan's parish. Call Sam Porter to look after the shop." So saying, the stunned man, being the identical Scotsman who had passed a short time before amidst the jeers of the apprentices, was carried into the back shop of the artist, and there placed in an armed chair till the apothecary from over the way came to his assistance. This gentleman, as sometimes happens to those of the learned professions, had rather more lore than knowledge, and began to talk of the sinciput and occiput, and cerebrum and cerebellum, until he exhausted David Ramsay's brief stock of patience.

"Bell-um! bell-ell-um!" he repeated, with great indignation; "What signify all the bells in London, if you do not put a plaster on the child's crown?"

Master George, with better-directed zeal, asked the apothecary whether bleeding might not be useful; when, after humming and hawing for a moment, and being unable, upon the spur of the occasion, to suggest any thing else, the man of pharmacy observed, that it would, at all events, relieve the brain or cerebrum, in case there was a tendency to the depositation of any extravasated blood, to operate as a pressure upon that delicate organ.

Fortunately he was adequate to performing this operation; and, being powerfully aided by Jenkin Vincent (who was learned in all cases of broken heads) with plenty of cold water, and a little vinegar, applied according to the scientific method practised by the bottle-holders in a modern ring, the man began to raise himself on his chair, draw his cloak tightly around him, and look about like one who struggles to recover sense and recollection.

"He had better lie down on the bed in the little back closet," said Mr. Ramsay's visitor, who seemed perfectly familiar with the accommodations which the house afforded.

"He is welcome to my share of the truckle," said Jenkin,—for in the said back closet were the two apprentices accommodated in one truckle- bed,—"I can sleep under the counter."

"So can I," said Tunstall, "and the poor fellow can have the bed all night."

"Sleep," said the apothecary, "is, in the opinion of Galen, a restorative and febrifuge, and is most naturally taken in a truckle- bed."

"Where a better cannot be come by,"—said Master George; "but these are two honest lads, to give up their beds so willingly. Come, off with his cloak, and let us bear him to his couch—I will send for Dr. Irving, the king's chirurgeon—he does not live far off, and that shall be my share of the Samaritan's duty, neighbour Ramsay."

"Well, sir," said the apothecary, "it is at your pleasure to send for other advice, and I shall not object to consult with Dr. Irving or any other medical person of skill, neither to continue to furnish such drugs as may be needful from my pharmacopeia. However, whatever Dr. Irving, who, I think, hath had his degrees in Edinburgh, or Dr. Any- one-beside, be he Scottish or English, may say to the contrary, sleep, taken timeously, is a febrifuge, or sedative, and also a restorative."

He muttered a few more learned words, and concluded by informing Ramsay's friend in English far more intelligible than his Latin, that he would look to him as his paymaster, for medicines, care, and attendance, furnished, or to be furnished, to this party unknown.

Master George only replied by desiring him to send his bill for what he had already to charge, and to give himself no farther trouble unless he heard from him. The pharmacopolist, who, from discoveries made by the cloak falling a little aside, had no great opinion of the faculty of this chance patient to make reimbursement, had no sooner seen his case espoused by a substantial citizen, than he showed some reluctance to quit possession of it, and it needed a short and stern hint from Master George, which, with all his good-humour, he was capable of expressing when occasion required, to send to his own dwelling this Esculapius of Temple Bar.

When they were rid of Mr. Raredrench, the charitable efforts of Jenkin and Francis, to divest the patient of his long grey cloak, were firmly resisted on his own part.—"My life suner—my life suner," he muttered in indistinct murmurs. In these efforts to retain his upper garment, which was too tender to resist much handling, it gave way at length with a loud rent, which almost threw the patient into a second syncope, and he sat before them in his under garments, the looped and repaired wretchedness of which moved at once pity and laughter, and had certainly been the cause of his unwillingness to resign the mantle, which, like the virtue of charity, served to cover so many imperfections.

The man himself cast his eyes on his poverty-struck garb, and seemed so much ashamed of the disclosure, that, muttering between his teeth, that he would be too late for his appointment, he made an effort to rise and leave the shop, which was easily prevented by Jenkin Vincent and his comrade, who, at the nod of Master George, laid hold of and detained him in his chair.

The patient next looked round him for a moment, and then said faintly, in his broad northern language—"What sort of usage ca' ye this, gentlemen, to a stranger a sojourner in your town? Ye hae broken my head—ye hae riven my cloak, and now ye are for restraining my personal liberty! They were wiser than me," he said, after a moment's pause, "that counselled me to wear my warst claithing in the streets of London; and, if I could have got ony things warse than these mean garments,"—("which would have been very difficult," said Jin Vin, in a whisper to his companion,)—"they would have been e'en ower gude for the grips o' men sae little acquented with the laws of honest civility."

"To say the truth," said Jenkin, unable to forbear any longer, although the discipline of the times prescribed to those in his situation a degree of respectful distance and humility in the presence of parents, masters, or seniors, of which the present age has no idea— "to say the truth, the good gentleman's clothes look as if they would not brook much handling."

"Hold your peace, young man," said Master George, with a tone of authority; "never mock the stranger or the poor—the black ox has not trod on your foot yet—you know not what lands you may travel in, or what clothes you may wear, before you die."

Vincent held down his head and stood rebuked, but the stranger did not accept the apology which was made for him.

"I am a stranger, sir," said he, "that is certain; though methinks, that, being such, I have been somewhat familiarly treated in this town of yours; but, as for my being poor, I think I need not be charged with poverty, till I seek siller of somebody."

"The dear country all over," said Master George, in a whisper, to David Ramsay, "pride and poverty."

But David had taken out his tablets and silver pen, and, deeply immersed in calculations, in which he rambled over all the terms of arithmetic, from the simple unit to millions, billions, and trillions, neither heard nor answered the observation of his friend, who, seeing his abstraction, turned again to the Scot.

"I fancy now, Jockey, if a stranger were to offer you a noble, you would chuck it back at his head?"

"Not if I could do him honest service for it, sir," said the Scot; "I am willing to do what I may to be useful, though I come of an honourable house, and may be said to be in a sort indifferently weel provided for."

"Ay!" said the interrogator, "and what house may claim the honour of your descent?"

"An ancient coat belongs to it, as the play says," whispered Vincent to his companion.

"Come, Jockey, out with it," continued Master George, observing that the Scot, as usual with his countrymen, when asked a blunt, straightforward question, took a little time before answering it.

"I am no more Jockey, sir, than you are John," said the stranger, as if offended at being addressed by a name, which at that time was used, as Sawney now is, for a general appellative of the Scottish nation. "My name, if you must know it, is Richie Moniplies; and I come of the old and honourable house of Castle Collop, weel kend at the West-Port of Edinburgh."

"What is that you call the West-Port?" proceeded the interrogator.

"Why, an it like your honour," said Richie, who now, having recovered his senses sufficiently to observe the respectable exterior of Master George, threw more civility into his manner than at first, "the West- Port is a gate of our city, as yonder brick arches at Whitehall form the entrance of the king's palace here, only that the West-Port is of stonern work, and mair decorated with architecture and the policy of bigging."

"Nouns, man, the Whitehall gateways were planned by the great Holbein," answered Master George; "I suspect your accident has jumbled your brains, my good friend. I suppose you will tell me next, you have at Edinburgh as fine a navigable river as the Thames, with all its shipping?" "The Thames!" exclaimed Richie, in a tone of ineffable contempt—"God bless your honour's judgment, we have at Edinburgh the Water-of-Leith and the Nor-loch!"

"And the Pow-Burn, and the Quarry-holes, and the Gusedub, ye fause loon!" answered Master George, speaking Scotch with a strong and natural emphasis; "it is such land-loupers as you, that, with your falset and fair fashions, bring reproach on our whole country."

"God forgie me, sir," said Richie, much surprised at finding the supposed southron converted into a native Scot, "I took your honour for an Englisher! But I hope there was naething wrang in standing up for ane's ain country's credit in a strange land, where all men cry her down?"

"Do you call it for your country's credit, to show that she has a lying, puffing rascal, for one of her children?" said Master George. "But come, man, never look grave on it,—as you have found a countryman, so you have found a friend, if you deserve one—and especially if you answer me truly."

"I see nae gude it wad do me to speak ought else but truth," said the worthy North Briton.

"Well, then—to begin," said Master George, "I suspect you are a son of old Mungo Moniplies, the flesher, at the West-Port."

"Your honour is a witch, I think," said Richie, grinning.

"And how dared you, sir, to uphold him for a noble?"

"I dinna ken, sir," said Richie, scratching his head; "I hear muckle of an Earl of Warwick in these southern parts,—Guy, I think his name was,—and he has great reputation here for slaying dun cows, and boars, and such like; and I am sure my father has killed more cows and boars, not to mention bulls, calves, sheep, ewes, lambs, and pigs, than the haill Baronage of England."

"Go to! you are a shrewd knave," said Master George; "charm your tongue, and take care of saucy answers. Your father was an honest burgher, and the deacon of his craft: I am sorry to see his son in so poor a coat."

"Indifferent, sir," said Richie Moniplies, looking down on his garments—"very indifferent; but it is the wonted livery of poor burghers' sons in our country—one of Luckie Want's bestowing upon us —rest us patient! The king's leaving Scotland has taken all custom frae Edinburgh; and there is hay made at the Cross, and a dainty crop of fouats in the Grass-market. There is as much grass grows where my father's stall stood, as might have been a good bite for the beasts he was used to kill."

"It is even too true," said Master George; "and while we make fortunes here, our old neighbours and their families are starving at home. This should be thought upon oftener.—And how came you by that broken head, Richie?—tell me honestly."

"Troth, sir, I'se no lee about the matter," answered Moniplies. "I was coming along the street here, and ilk ane was at me with their jests and roguery. So I thought to mysell, ye are ower mony for me to mell with; but let me catch ye in Barford's Park, or at the fit of the Vennel, I could gar some of ye sing another sang. Sae ae auld hirpling deevil of a potter behoved just to step in my way and offer me a pig, as he said, just to put my Scotch ointment in, and I gave him a push, as but natural, and the tottering deevil coupit ower amang his ain pigs, and damaged a score of them. And then the reird raise, and hadna these twa gentlemen helped me out of it, murdered I suld hae been, without remeid. And as it was, just when they got haud of my arm to have me out of the fray, I got the lick that donnerit me from a left- handed lighterman."

Master George looked to the apprentices as if to demand the truth of this story.

"It is just as he says, sir," replied Jenkin; "only I heard nothing about pigs.—The people said he had broke some crockery, and that—I beg pardon, sir—nobody could thrive within the kenning of a Scot."

"Well, no matter what they said, you were an honest fellow to help the weaker side.—And you, sirrah," continued Master George, addressing his countryman, "will call at my house to-morrow morning, agreeable to this direction."

"I will wait upon your honour," said the Scot, bowing very low; "that is, if my honourable master will permit me."

"Thy master?" said George,—"Hast thou any other master save Want, whose livery you say you wear?"

"Troth, in one sense, if it please your honour, I serve twa masters," said Richie; "for both my master and me are slaves to that same beldam, whom we thought to show our heels to by coming off from Scotland. So that you see, sir, I hold in a sort of black ward tenure, as we call it in our country, being the servant of a servant."

"And what is your master's name?" said Master George; and observing that Richie hesitated, he added, "Nay, do not tell me, if it is a secret."

"A secret that there is little use in keeping," said Richie; "only ye ken that our northern stomachs are ower proud to call in witnesses to our distress. No that my master is in mair than present pinch, sir," he added, looking towards the two English apprentices, "having a large sum in the Royal Treasury—that is," he continued, in a whisper to Master George,—"the king is owing him a lot of siller; but it's ill getting at it, it's like.—My master is the young Lord Glenvarloch."

Master George testified surprise at the name.—"You one of the young Lord Glenvarloch's followers, and in such a condition?"

"Troth, and I am all the followers he has, for the present that is; and blithe wad I be if he were muckle better aff than I am, though I were to bide as I am."

"I have seen his father with four gentlemen and ten lackeys at his heels," said Master George, "rustling in their laces and velvets. Well, this is a changeful world, but there is a better beyond it.—The good old house of Glenvarloch, that stood by king and country five hundred years!"

"Your honour may say a thousand," said the follower.

"I will say what I know to be true, friend," said the citizen, "and not a word more.—You seem well recovered now—can you walk?"

"Bravely, sir," said Richie; "it was but a bit dover. I was bred at the West-Port, and my cantle will stand a clour wad bring a stot down."

"Where does your master lodge?"

"We pit up, an it like your honour," replied the Scot, "in a sma' house at the fit of ane of the wynds that gang down to the water-side, with a decent man, John Christie, a ship-chandler, as they ca't. His father came from Dundee. I wotna the name of the wynd, but it's right anent the mickle kirk yonder; and your honour will mind, that we pass only by our family-name of simple Mr. Nigel Olifaunt, as keeping ourselves retired for the present, though in Scotland we be called the Lord Nigel."

"It is wisely done of your master," said the citizen. "I will find out your lodgings, though your direction be none of the clearest." So saying, and slipping a piece of money at the same time into Richie Moniplies's hand, he bade him hasten home, and get into no more affrays.

"I will take care of that now, sir," said Richie, with a look of importance, "having a charge about me. And so, wussing ye a' weel, with special thanks to these twa young gentlemen——"

"I am no gentleman," said Jenkin, flinging his cap on his head; "I am a tight London 'prentice, and hope to be a freeman one day. Frank may write himself gentleman, if he will."

"I was a gentleman once," said Tunstall, "and I hope I have done nothing to lose the name of one."

"Weel, weel, as ye list," said Richie Moniplies; "but I am mickle beholden to ye baith—and I am not a hair the less like to bear it in mind that I say but little about it just now.—Gude-night to you, my kind countryman." So saying, he thrust out of the sleeve of his ragged doublet a long bony hand and arm, on which the muscles rose like whip- cord. Master George shook it heartily, while Jenkin and Frank exchanged sly looks with each other.

Richie Moniplies would next have addressed his thanks to the master of the shop, but seeing him, as he afterwards said, "scribbling on his bit bookie, as if he were demented," he contented his politeness with "giving him a hat," touching, that is, his bonnet, in token of salutation, and so left the shop.

"Now, there goes Scotch Jockey, with all his bad and good about him," said Master George to Master David, who suspended, though unwillingly, the calculations with which he was engaged, and keeping his pen within an inch of the tablets, gazed on his friend with great lack-lustre eyes, which expressed any thing rather than intelligence or interest in the discourse addressed to him.—"That fellow," proceeded Master George, without heeding his friend's state of abstraction, "shows, with great liveliness of colouring, how our Scotch pride and poverty make liars and braggarts of us; and yet the knave, whose every third word to an Englishman is a boastful lie, will, I warrant you, be a true and tender friend and follower to his master, and has perhaps parted with his mantle to him in the cold blast, although he himself walked in cuerpo, as the Don says.—Strange! that courage and fidelity—for I will warrant that the knave is stout—should have no better companion than this swaggering braggadocio humour.—But you mark me not, friend Davie."

"I do—I do, most heedfully," said Davie.—"For, as the sun goeth round the dial-plate in twenty-four hours, add, for the moon, fifty minutes and a half——"

"You are in the seventh heavens, man," said his companion.

"I crave your pardon," replied Davie.—"Let the wheel A go round in twenty-four hours—I have it—and the wheel B in twenty-four hours, fifty minutes and a half—fifty-seven being to fifty-four, as fifty- nine to twenty-four hours, fifty minutes and a half, or very nearly,— I crave your forgiveness, Master George, and heartily wish you good- even."

"Good-even?" said Master George; "why, you have not wished me good-day yet. Come, old friend, lay by these tablets, or you will crack the inner machinery of your skull, as our friend yonder has got the outer-case of his damaged.—Good-night, quotha! I mean not to part with you so easily. I came to get my four hours' nunchion from you, man, besides a tune on the lute from my god-daughter, Mrs. Marget."

"Good faith! I was abstracted, Master George—but you know me. Whenever I get amongst the wheels," said Mr. Ramsay, "why, 'tis——"

"Lucky that you deal in small ones," said his friend; as, awakened from his reveries and calculations, Ramsay led the way up a little back-stair to the first storey, occupied by his daughter and his little household.

The apprentices resumed their places in the front-shop, and relieved Sam Porter; when Jenkin said to Tunstall—"Didst see, Frank, how the old goldsmith cottoned in with his beggarly countryman? When would one of his wealth have shaken hands so courteously with a poor Englishman?—Well, I'll say that for the best of the Scots, that they will go over head and ears to serve a countryman, when they will not wet a nail of their finger to save a Southron, as they call us, from drowning. And yet Master George is but half-bred Scot neither in that respect; for I have known him do many a kind thing to the English too."

"But hark ye, Jenkin," said Tunstall, "I think you are but half-bred English yourself. How came you to strike on the Scotsman's side after all?"

"Why, you did so, too," answered Vincent.

"Ay, because I saw you begin; and, besides, it is no Cumberland fashion to fall fifty upon one," replied Tunstall.

"And no Christ Church fashion neither," said Jenkin. "Fair play and Old England for ever!—Besides, to tell you a secret, his voice had a twang in it—in the dialect I mean—reminded me of a little tongue, which I think sweeter—sweeter than the last toll of St. Dunstan's will sound, on the day that I am shot of my indentures—Ha!—you guess who I mean, Frank?"

"Not I, indeed," answered Tunstall.—"Scotch Janet, I suppose, the laundress."

"Off with Janet in her own bucking-basket!—No, no, no!—You blind buzzard,—do you not know I mean pretty Mrs. Marget?"

"Umph!" answered Tunstall, dryly.

A flash of anger, not unmingled with suspicion, shot from Jenkin's keen black eyes.

"Umph!—and what signifies umph? I am not the first 'prentice has married his master's daughter, I suppose?"

"They kept their own secret, I fancy," said Tunstall, "at least till they were out of their time."

"I tell you what it is, Frank," answered Jenkin, sharply, "that may be the fashion of you gentlefolks, that are taught from your biggin to carry two faces under the same hood, but it shall never be mine."

"There are the stairs, then," said Tunstall, coolly; "go up and ask Mrs. Marget of our master just now, and see what sort of a face he will wear under his hood."

"No, I wonnot," answered Jenkin; "I am not such a fool as that neither. But I will take my own time; and all the Counts in Cumberland shall not cut my comb, and this is that which you may depend upon."

Francis made no reply; and they resumed their usual attention to the business of the shop, and their usual solicitations to the passengers.



CHAPTER III

Bobadil. I pray you, possess no gallant of your acquaintance with a knowledge of my lodging. Master Matthew. Who, I, sir?—Lord, sir! Ben Jonson.

The next morning found Nigel Olifaunt, the young Lord of Glenvarloch, seated, sad and solitary, in his little apartment, in the mansion of John Christie, the ship-chandler; which that honest tradesman, in gratitude perhaps to the profession from which he derived his chief support, appeared to have constructed as nearly as possible upon the plan of a ship's cabin.

It was situated near to Paul's Wharf, at the end of one of those intricate and narrow lanes, which, until that part of the city was swept away by the Great Fire in 1666, constituted an extraordinary labyrinth of small, dark, damp, and unwholesome streets and alleys, in one corner or other of which the plague was then as surely found lurking, as in the obscure corners of Constantinople in our own time. But John Christie's house looked out upon the river, and had the advantage, therefore, of free air, impregnated, however, with the odoriferous fumes of the articles in which the ship-chandler dealt, with the odour of pitch, and the natural scent of the ooze and sludge left by the reflux of the tide.

Upon the whole, except that his dwelling did not float with the flood- tide, and become stranded with the ebb, the young lord was nearly as comfortably accommodated as he was while on board the little trading brig from the long town of Kirkaldy, in Fife, by which he had come a passenger to London. He received, however, every attention which could be paid him by his honest landlord, John Christie; for Richie Moniplies had not thought it necessary to preserve his master's incognito so completely, but that the honest ship-chandler could form a guess that his guest's quality was superior to his appearance.

As for Dame Nelly, his wife, a round, buxom, laughter-loving dame, with black eyes, a tight well-laced bodice, a green apron, and a red petticoat edged with a slight silver lace, and judiciously shortened so as to show that a short heel, and a tight clean ankle, rested upon her well-burnished shoe,—she, of course, felt interest in a young man, who, besides being very handsome, good-humoured, and easily satisfied with the accommodations her house afforded, was evidently of a rank, as well as manners, highly superior to the skippers (or Captains, as they called themselves) of merchant vessels, who were the usual tenants of the apartments which she let to hire; and at whose departure she was sure to find her well-scrubbed floor soiled with the relics of tobacco, (which, spite of King James's Counterblast, was then forcing itself into use,) and her best curtains impregnated with the odour of Geneva and strong waters, to Dame Nelly's great indignation; for, as she truly said, the smell of the shop and warehouse was bad enough without these additions.

But all Mr. Olifaunt's habits were regular and cleanly, and his address, though frank and simple, showed so much of the courtier and gentleman, as formed a strong contrast with the loud halloo, coarse jests, and boisterous impatience of her maritime inmates. Dame Nelly saw that her guest was melancholy also, notwithstanding his efforts to seem contented and cheerful; and, in short, she took that sort of interest in him, without being herself aware of the extent, which an unscrupulous gallant might have been tempted to improve to the prejudice of honest John, who was at least a score of years older than his helpmate. Olifaunt, however, had not only other matters to think of, but would have regarded such an intrigue, had the idea ever occurred to him, as an abominable and ungrateful encroachment upon the laws of hospitality, his religion having been by his late father formed upon the strict principles of the national faith, and his morality upon those of the nicest honour. He had not escaped the predominant weakness of his country, an overweening sense of the pride of birth, and a disposition to value the worth and consequence of others according to the number and the fame of their deceased ancestors; but this pride of family was well subdued, and in general almost entirely concealed, by his good sense and general courtesy.

Such as we have described him, Nigel Olifaunt, or rather the young Lord Glenvarloch, was, when our narrative takes him up, under great perplexity respecting the fate of his trusty and only follower, Richard Moniplies, who had been dispatched by his young master, early the preceding morning, as far as the court at Westminster, but had not yet returned. His evening adventures the reader is already acquainted with, and so far knows more of Richie than did his master, who had not heard of him for twenty-four hours.

Dame Nelly Christie, in the meantime, regarded her guest with some anxiety, and a great desire to comfort him, if possible. She placed on the breakfast-table a noble piece of cold powdered beef, with its usual guards of turnip and carrot, recommended her mustard as coming direct from her cousin at Tewkesbury, and spiced the toast with her own hands—and with her own hands, also, drew a jug of stout and nappy ale, all of which were elements of the substantial breakfast of the period.

When she saw that her guest's anxiety prevented him from doing justice to the good cheer which she set before him, she commenced her career of verbal consolation with the usual volubility of those women in her station, who, conscious of good looks, good intentions, and good lungs, entertain no fear either of wearying themselves or of fatiguing their auditors.

"Now, what the good year! are we to send you down to Scotland as thin as you came up?—I am sure it would be contrary to the course of nature. There was my goodman's father, old Sandie Christie, I have heard he was an atomy when he came up from the North, and I am sure he died, Saint Barnaby was ten years, at twenty stone weight. I was a bare-headed girl at the time, and lived in the neighbourhood, though I had little thought of marrying John then, who had a score of years the better of me—but he is a thriving man and a kind husband—and his father, as I was saying, died as fat as a church-warden. Well, sir, but I hope I have not offended you for my little joke—and I hope the ale is to your honour's liking,—and the beef—and the mustard?"

"All excellent—all too good," answered Olifaunt; "you have every thing so clean and tidy, dame, that I shall not know how to live when I go back to my own country—if ever I go back there."

This was added as it seemed involuntarily, and with a deep sigh.

"I warrant your honour go back again if you like it," said the dame: "unless you think rather of taking a pretty well-dowered English lady, as some of your countryfolk have done. I assure you, some of the best of the city have married Scotsmen. There was Lady Trebleplumb, Sir Thomas Trebleplumb the great Turkey merchant's widow, married Sir Awley Macauley, whom your honour knows, doubtless; and pretty Mistress Doublefee, old Sergeant Doublefee's daughter, jumped out of window, and was married at May-fair to a Scotsman with a hard name; and old Pitchpost the timber merchant's daughters did little better, for they married two Irishmen; and when folks jeer me about having a Scotsman for lodger, meaning your honour, I tell them they are afraid of their daughters and their mistresses; and sure I have a right to stand up for the Scots, since John Christie is half a Scotsman, and a thriving man, and a good husband, though there is a score of years between us; and so I would have your honour cast care away, and mend your breakfast with a morsel and a draught."

"At a word, my kind hostess, I cannot," said Olifaunt; "I am anxious about this knave of mine, who has been so long absent in this dangerous town of yours."

It may be noticed in passing that Dame Nelly's ordinary mode of consolation was to disprove the existence of any cause for distress; and she is said to have carried this so far as to comfort a neighbour, who had lost her husband, with the assurance that the dear defunct would be better to-morrow, which perhaps might not have proved an appropriate, even if it had been a possible, mode of relief.

On this occasion she denied stoutly that Richie had been absent altogether twenty hours; and as for people being killed in the streets of London, to be sure two men had been found in Tower-ditch last week, but that was far to the east, and the other poor man that had his throat cut in the fields, had met his mishap near by Islington; and he that was stabbed by the young Templar in a drunken frolic, by Saint Clement's in the Strand, was an Irishman. All which evidence she produced to show that none of these casualties had occurred in a case exactly parallel with that of Richie, a Scotsman, and on his return from Westminster.

"My better comfort is, my good dame," answered Olifaunt, "that the lad is no brawler or quarreller, unless strongly urged, and that he has nothing valuable about him to any one but me."

"Your honour speaks very well," retorted the inexhaustible hostess, who protracted her task of taking away, and putting to rights, in order that she might prolong her gossip. "I'll uphold Master Moniplies to be neither reveller nor brawler, for if he liked such things, he might be visiting and junketing with the young folks about here in the neighbourhood, and he never dreams of it; and when I asked the young man to go as far as my gossip's, Dame Drinkwater, to taste a glass of aniseed, and a bit of the groaning cheese,—for Dame Drinkwater has had twins, as I told your honour, sir,—and I meant it quite civilly to the young man, but he chose to sit and keep house with John Christie; and I dare say there is a score of years between them, for your honour's servant looks scarce much older than I am. I wonder what they could have to say to each other. I asked John Christie, but he bid me go to sleep."

"If he comes not soon," said his master, "I will thank you to tell me what magistrate I can address myself to; for besides my anxiety for the poor fellow's safety, he has papers of importance about him."

"O! your honour may be assured he will be back in a quarter of an hour," said Dame Nelly; "he is not the lad to stay out twenty-four hours at a stretch. And for the papers, I am sure your honour will pardon him for just giving me a peep at the corner, as I was giving him a small cup, not so large as my thimble, of distilled waters, to fortify his stomach against the damps, and it was directed to the King's Most Excellent Majesty; and so doubtless his Majesty has kept Richie out of civility to consider of your honour's letter, and send back a fitting reply."

Dame Nelly here hit by chance on a more available topic of consolation than those she had hitherto touched upon; for the youthful lord had himself some vague hopes that his messenger might have been delayed at Court until a fitting and favourable answer should be dispatched back to him. Inexperienced, however, in public affairs as he certainly was, it required only a moment's consideration to convince him of the improbability of an expectation so contrary to all he had heard of etiquette, as well as the dilatory proceedings in a court suit, and he answered the good-natured hostess with a sigh, that he doubted whether the king would even look on the paper addressed to him, far less take it into his immediate consideration.

"Now, out upon you for a faint-hearted gentleman!" said the good dame; "and why should he not do as much for us as our gracious Queen Elizabeth? Many people say this and that about a queen and a king, but I think a king comes more natural to us English folks; and this good gentleman goes as often down by water to Greenwich, and employs as many of the barge-men and water-men of all kinds; and maintains, in his royal grace, John Taylor, the water-poet, who keeps both a sculler and a pair of oars. And he has made a comely Court at Whitehall, just by the river; and since the king is so good a friend to the Thames, I cannot see, if it please your honour, why all his subjects, and your honour in specialty, should not have satisfaction by his hands."

"True, dame—true,—let us hope for the best; but I must take my cloak and rapier, and pray your husband in courtesy to teach me the way to a magistrate."

"Sure, sir," said the prompt dame, "I can do that as well as he, who has been a slow man of his tongue all his life, though I will give him his due for being a loving husband, and a man as well to pass in the world as any betwixt us and the top of the lane. And so there is the sitting alderman, that is always at the Guildhall, which is close by Paul's, and so I warrant you he puts all to rights in the city that wisdom can mend; and for the rest there is no help but patience. But I wish I were as sure of forty pounds as I am that the young man will come back safe and sound."

Olifaunt, in great and anxious doubt of what the good dame so strongly averred, flung his cloak on one shoulder, and was about to belt on his rapier, when first the voice of Richie Moniplies on the stair, and then that faithful emissary's appearance in the chamber, put the matter beyond question. Dame Nelly, after congratulating Moniplies on his return, and paying several compliments to her own sagacity for having foretold it, was at length pleased to leave the apartment. The truth was, that, besides some instinctive feelings of good breeding which combated her curiosity, she saw there was no chance of Richie's proceeding in his narrative while she was in the room, and she therefore retreated, trusting that her own address would get the secret out of one or other of the young men, when she should have either by himself.

"Now, in Heaven's name, what is the matter?" said Nigel Olifaunt.— "Where have you been, or what have you been about? You look as pale as death. There is blood on your hand, and your clothes are torn. What barns-breaking have you been at? You have been drunk, Richard, and fighting."

"Fighting I have been," said Richard, "in a small way; but for being drunk, that's a job ill to manage in this town, without money to come by liquor; and as for barns-breaking, the deil a thing's broken but my head. It's not made of iron, I wot, nor my claithes of chenzie-mail; so a club smashed the tane, and a claught damaged the tither. Some misleard rascals abused my country, but I think I cleared the causey of them. However, the haill hive was ower mony for me at last, and I got this eclipse on the crown, and then I was carried, beyond my kenning, to a sma' booth at the Temple Port, whare they sell the whirligigs and mony-go-rounds that measure out time as a man wad measure a tartan web; and then they bled me, wold I nold I, and were reasonably civil, especially an auld country-man of ours, of whom more hereafter."

"And at what o'clock might this be?" said Nigel.

"The twa iron carles yonder, at the kirk beside the Port, were just banging out sax o' the clock."

"And why came you not home as soon as you recovered?" said Nigel.

"In troth, my lord, every why has its wherefore, and this has a gude ane," answered his follower. "To come hame, I behoved to ken whare hame was; now, I had clean tint the name of the wynd, and the mair I asked, the mair the folk leugh, and the farther they sent me wrang; sae I gave it up till God should send daylight to help me; and as I saw mysell near a kirk at the lang run, I e'en crap in to take up my night's quarters in the kirkyard."

"In the churchyard?" said Nigel—"But I need not ask what drove you to such a pinch."

"It wasna sae much the want o' siller, my Lord Nigel," said Richie, with an air of mysterious importance, "for I was no sae absolute without means, of whilk mair anon; but I thought I wad never ware a saxpence sterling on ane of their saucy chamberlains at a hostelry, sae lang as I could sleep fresh and fine in a fair, dry, spring night. Mony a time, when I hae come hame ower late, and faund the West-Port steekit, and the waiter ill-willy, I have garr'd the sexton of Saint Cuthbert's calf-ward serve me for my quarters. But then there are dainty green graffs in Saint Cuthbert's kirkyard, whare ane may sleep as if they were in a down-bed, till they hear the lavrock singing up in the air as high as the Castle; whereas, and behold, these London kirkyards are causeyed with through-stanes, panged hard and fast thegither; and my cloak being something threadbare, made but a thin mattress, so I was fain to give up my bed before every limb about me was crippled. Dead folks may sleep yonder sound enow, but deil haet else."

"And what became of you next?" said his master.

"I just took to a canny bulkhead, as they ca' them here; that is, the boards on the tap of their bits of outshots of stalls and booths, and there I sleepit as sound as if I was in a castle. Not but I was disturbed with some of the night-walking queans and swaggering billies, but when they found there was nothing to be got by me but a slash of my Andrew Ferrara, they bid me good-night for a beggarly Scot; and I was e'en weel pleased to be sae cheap rid of them. And in the morning, I cam daikering here, but sad wark I had to find the way, for I had been east as far as the place they ca' Mile-End, though it is mair like sax-mile-end."

"Well, Richie," answered Nigel, "I am glad all this has ended so well —go get something to eat. I am sure you need it."

"In troth do I, sir," replied Moniplies; "but, with your lordship's leave—"

"Forget the lordship for the present, Richie, as I have often told you before."

"Faith," replied Richie, "I could weel forget that your honour was a lord, but then I behoved to forget that I am a lord's man, and that's not so easy. But, however," he added, assisting his description with the thumb and the two forefingers of his right hand, thrust out after the fashion of a bird's claw, while the little finger and ring-finger were closed upon the palm, "to the Court I went, and my friend that promised me a sight of his Majesty's most gracious presence, was as gude as his word, and carried me into the back offices, where I got the best breakfast I have had since we came here, and it did me gude for the rest of the day; for as to what I have eaten in this accursed town, it is aye sauced with the disquieting thought that it maun be paid for. After a', there was but beef banes and fat brose; but king's cauff, your honour kens, is better than ither folk's corn; at ony rate, it was a' in free awmous.—But I see," he added, stopping short, "that your honour waxes impatient."

"By no means, Richie," said the young nobleman, with an air of resignation, for he well knew his domestic would not mend his pace for goading; "you have suffered enough in the embassy to have a right to tell the story in your own way. Only let me pray for the name of the friend who was to introduce you into the king's presence. You were very mysterious on the subject, when you undertook, through his means, to have the Supplication put into his Majesty's own hands, since those sent heretofore, I have every reason to think, went no farther than his secretary's."

"Weel, my lord," said Richie, "I did not tell you his name and quality at first, because I thought you would be affronted at the like of him having to do in your lordship's affairs. But mony a man climbs up in Court by waur help. It was just Laurie Linklater, one of the yeomen of the kitchen, that was my father's apprentice lang syne."

"A yeoman in the kitchen—a scullion!" exclaimed Lord Nigel, pacing the room in displeasure.

"But consider, sir," said Richie, composedly, "that a' your great friends hung back, and shunned to own you, or to advocate your petition; and then, though I am sure I wish Laurie a higher office, for your lordship's sake and for mine, and specially for his ain sake, being a friendly lad, yet your lordship must consider, that a scullion, if a yeoman of the king's most royal kitchen may be called a scullion, may weel rank with a master-cook elsewhere; being that king's cauff, as I said before, is better than—"

"You are right, and I was wrong," said the young nobleman. "I have no choice of means of making my case known, so that they be honest."

"Laurie is as honest a lad as ever lifted a ladle," said Richie; "not but what I dare to say he can lick his fingers like other folk, and reason good. But, in fine, for I see your honour is waxing impatient, he brought me to the palace, where a' was astir for the king going out to hunt or hawk on Blackheath, I think they ca'd it. And there was a horse stood with all the quarries about it, a bonny grey as ever was foaled; and the saddle and the stirrups, and the curb and bit, o' burning gowd, or silver gilded at least; and down, sir, came the king, with all his nobles, dressed out in his hunting-suit of green, doubly laced, and laid down with gowd. I minded the very face o' him, though it was lang since I saw him. But my certie, lad, thought I, times are changed since ye came fleeing down the back stairs of auld Holyrood House, in grit fear, having your breeks in your hand without time to put them on, and Frank Stewart, the wild Earl of Bothwell, hard at your haunches; and if auld Lord Glenvarloch hadna cast his mantle about his arm, and taken bluidy wounds mair than ane in your behalf, you wald not have craw'd sae crouse this day; and so saying, I could not but think your lordship's Sifflication could not be less than most acceptable; and so I banged in among the crowd of lords. Laurie thought me mad, and held me by the cloak-lap till the cloth rave in his hand; and so I banged in right before the king just as he mounted, and crammed the Sifflication into his hand, and he opened it like in amaze; and just as he saw the first line, I was minded to make a reverence, and I had the ill luck to hit his jaud o' a beast on the nose with my hat, and scaur the creature, and she swarved aside, and the king, that sits na mickle better than a draff-pock on the saddle, was like to have gotten a clean coup, and that might have cost my craig a raxing-and he flung down the paper amang the beast's feet, and cried, 'Away wi' the fause loon that brought it!' And they grippit me, and cried treason; and I thought of the Ruthvens that were dirked in their ain house, for, it may be, as small a forfeit. However, they spak only of scourging me, and had me away to the porter's lodge to try the tawse on my back, and I was crying mercy as loud as I could; and the king, when he had righted himself on the saddle, and gathered his breath, cried to do me nae harm; for, said he, he is ane of our ain Norland stots, I ken by the rowt of him,—and they a' laughed and rowted loud eneugh. And then he said, 'Gie him a copy of the Proclamation, and let him go down to the North by the next light collier, before waur come o't.' So they let me go, and rode out, a sniggering, laughing, and rounding in ilk ither's lugs. A sair life I had wi' Laurie Linklater; for he said it wad be the ruin of him. And then, when I told him it was in your matter, he said if he had known before he would have risked a scauding for you, because he minded the brave old lord, your father. And then he showed how I suld have done, —and that I suld have held up my hand to my brow, as if the grandeur of the king and his horse-graith thegither had casten the glaiks in my een, and mair jackanape tricks I suld hae played, instead of offering the Sifflication, he said, as if I had been bringing guts to a bear. [Footnote: I am certain this prudential advice is not original on Mr. Linklater's part, but I am not at present able to produce my authority. I think it amounted to this, that James flung down a petition presented by some supplicant who paid no compliments to his horse, and expressed no admiration at the splendour of his furniture, saying, "Shall a king cumber himself about the petition of a beggar, while the beggar disregards the king's splendour?" It is, I think, Sir John Harrington who recommends, as a sure mode to the king's favour, to praise the paces of the royal palfrey.]

'For,' said he, 'Richie, the king is a weel-natured and just man of his ain kindly nature, but he has a wheen maggots that maun be cannily guided; and then, Richie,' says he, in a very laigh tone, 'I would tell it to nane but a wise man like yoursell, but the king has them about him wad corrupt an angel from heaven; but I could have gi'en you avisement how to have guided him, but now it's like after meat mustard.'—'Aweel, aweel, Laurie,' said I, 'it may be as you say', but since I am clear of the tawse and the porter's lodge, sifflicate wha like, deil hae Richie Moniplies if he come sifflicating here again.'— And so away I came, and I wasna far by the Temple Port, or Bar, or whatever they ca' it, when I met with the misadventure that I tauld you of before."

"Well, my honest Richie," said Lord Nigel, "your attempt was well meant, and not so ill conducted, I think, as to have deserved so bad an issue; but go to your beef and mustard, and we'll talk of the rest afterwards."

"There is nae mair to be spoken, sir," said his follower, "except that I met ane very honest, fair-spoken, weel-put-on gentleman, or rather burgher, as I think, that was in the whigmaleery man's back-shop; and when he learned wha I was, behold he was a kindly Scot himsell, and, what is more, a town's-bairn o' the gude town, and he behoved to compel me to take this Portugal piece, to drink, forsooth—my certie, thought I, we ken better, for we will eat it—and he spoke of paying your lordship a visit."

"You did not tell him where I lived, you knave?" said the Lord Nigel, angrily. "'Sdeath! I shall have every clownish burgher from Edinburgh come to gaze on my distress, and pay a shilling for having seen the motion of the Poor Noble!"

"Tell him where you lived?" said Richie, evading the question; "How could I tell him what I kendna mysell? If I had minded the name of the wynd, I need not have slept in the kirkyard yestreen."

"See, then, that you give no one notice of our lodging," said the young nobleman; "those with whom I have business I can meet at Paul's, or in the Court of Requests."

"This is steeking the stable-door when the steed is stolen," thought Richie to himself; "but I must put him on another pin."

So thinking, he asked the young lord what was in the Proclamation which he still held folded in his hand; "for, having little time to spell at it," said he, "your lordship well knows I ken nought about it but the grand blazon at the tap—the lion has gotten a claught of our auld Scottish shield now, but it was as weel upheld when it had a unicorn on ilk side of it."

Lord Nigel read the Proclamation, and he coloured deep with shame and indignation as he read; for the purport was, to his injured feelings, like the pouring of ardent spirits upon a recent wound.

"What deil's in the paper, my lord?" said Richie, unable to suppress his curiosity as he observed his master change colour; "I wadna ask such a thing, only the Proclamation is not a private thing, but is meant for a' men's hearing."

"It is indeed meant for all men's hearing," replied Lord Nigel, "and it proclaims the shame of our country, and the ingratitude of our Prince."

"Now the Lord preserve us! and to publish it in London, too!" ejaculated Moniplies.

"Hark ye, Richard," said Nigel Olifaunt, "in this paper the Lords of the Council set forth, that, 'in consideration of the resort of idle persons of low condition forth from his Majesty's kingdom of Scotland to his English Court—filling the same with their suits and supplications, and dishonouring the royal presence with their base, poor, and beggarly persons, to the disgrace of their country in the estimation of the English; these are to prohibit the skippers, masters of vessels and others, in every part of Scotland, from bringing such miserable creatures up to Court under pain of fine and impisonment."'

"I marle the skipper took us on board," said Richie.

"Then you need not marvel how you are to get back again," said Lord Nigel, "for here is a clause which says, that such idle suitors are to be transported back to Scotland at his Majesty's expense, and punished for their audacity with stripes, stocking, or incarceration, according to their demerits—that is to say, I suppose, according to the degree of their poverty, for I see no other demerit specified."

"This will scarcely," said Richie, "square with our old proverb—

A King's face Should give grace—

But what says the paper farther, my lord?"

"O, only a small clause which especially concerns us, making some still heavier denunciations against those suitors who shall be so bold as to approach the Court, under pretext of seeking payment of old debts due to them by the king, which, the paper states, is, of all species of importunity, that which is most odious to his Majesty."

"The king has neighbours in that matter," said Richie; "but it is not every one that can shift off that sort of cattle so easily as he does."

Their conversation was here interrupted by a knocking at the door. Olifaunt looked out at the window, and saw an elderly respectable person whom he knew not. Richie also peeped, and recognised, but, recognising, chose not to acknowledge, his friend of the preceding evening. Afraid that his share in the visit might be detected, he made his escape out of the apartment under pretext of going to his breakfast; and left their landlady the task of ushering Master George into Lord Nigel's apartment, which she performed with much courtesy.



CHAPTER IV

Ay, sir, the clouted shoe hath oft times craft in't, As says the rustic proverb; and your citizen, In's grogram suit, gold chain, and well-black'd shoes, Bears under his flat cap ofttimes a brain Wiser than burns beneath the cap and feather, Or seethes within the statesman's velvet nightcap. Read me my Riddle.

The young Scottish nobleman received the citizen with distant politeness, expressing that sort of reserve by which those of the higher ranks are sometimes willing to make a plebeian sensible that he is an intruder. But Master George seemed neither displeased nor disconcerted. He assumed the chair, which, in deference to his respectable appearance, Lord Nigel offered to him, and said, after a moment's pause, during which he had looked attentively at the young man, with respect not unmingled with emotion—"You will forgive me for this rudeness, my lord; but I was endeavouring to trace in your youthful countenance the features of my good old lord, your excellent father."

There was a moment's pause ere young Glenvarloch replied, still with a reserved manner,—"I have been reckoned like my father, sir; and am happy to see any one that respects his memory. But the business which calls me to this city is of a hasty as well as a private nature, and—"

"I understand the hint, my lord," said Master George, "and would not be guilty of long detaining you from business, or more agreeable conversation. My errand is almost done when I have said that my name is George Heriot, warmly befriended, and introduced into the employment of the Royal Family of Scotland, more than twenty years since, by your excellent father; and that, learning from a follower of yours that your lordship was in this city in prosecution of some business of importance, it is my duty,—it is my pleasure,—to wait on the son of my respected patron; and, as I am somewhat known both at the Court, and in the city, to offer him such aid in the furthering of his affairs as my credit and experience may be able to afford."

"I have no doubt of either, Master Heriot," said Lord Nigel, "and I thank you heartily for the good-will with which you have placed them at a stranger's disposal; but my business at Court is done and ended, and I intend to leave London and, indeed, the island, for foreign travel and military service. I may add, that the suddenness of my departure occasions my having little time at my disposal."

Master Heriot did not take the hint, but sat fast, with an embarrassed countenance however, like one who had something to say that he knew not exactly how to make effectual. At length he said, with a dubious smile, "You are fortunate, my lord, in having so soon dispatched your business at Court. Your talking landlady informs me you have been but a fortnight in this city. It is usually months and years ere the Court and a suitor shake hands and part."

"My business," said Lord Nigel, with a brevity which was intended to stop further discussion, "was summarily dispatched."

Still Master Heriot remained seated, and there was a cordial good- humour added to the reverence of his appearance, which rendered it impossible for Lord Nigel to be more explicit in requesting his absence.

"Your lordship has not yet had time," said the citizen, still attempting to sustain the conversation, "to visit the places of amusement,—the playhouses, and other places to which youth resort. But I see in your lordship's hand one of the new-invented plots of the piece, [Footnote: Meaning, probably, playbills.] which they hand about of late—May I ask what play?"

"Oh! a well-known piece," said Lord Nigel, impatiently throwing down the Proclamation, which he had hitherto been twisting to and fro in his hand,—"an excellent and well-approved piece—A New Way to Pay Old Debts."

Master Heriot stooped down, saying, "Ah! my old acquaintance, Philip Massinger;" but, having opened the paper and seen the purport, he looked at Lord Nigel with surprise, saying, "I trust your lordship does not think this prohibition can extend either to your person or your claims?" "I should scarce have thought so myself," said the young nobleman; "but so it proves. His Majesty, to close this discourse at once, has been pleased to send me this Proclamation, in answer to a respectful Supplication for the repayment of large loans advanced by my father for the service of the State, in the king's utmost emergencies."

"It is impossible!" said the citizen—"it is absolutely impossible!— If the king could forget what was due to your father's memory, still he would not have wished—would not, I may say, have dared—to be so flagrantly unjust to the memory of such a man as your father, who, dead in the body, will long live in the memory of the Scottish people." "I should have been of your opinion," answered Lord Nigel, in the same tone as before; "but there is no fighting with facts."

"What was the tenor of this Supplication?" said Heriot; "or by whom was it presented? Something strange there must have been in the contents, or else—"

"You may see my original draught," said the young lord, taking it out of a small travelling strong-box; "the technical part is by my lawyer in Scotland, a skilful and sensible man; the rest is my own, drawn, I hope, with due deference and modesty."

Master Heriot hastly cast his eye over the draught. "Nothing," he said, "can be more well-tempered and respectful. Is it possible the king can have treated this petition with contempt?"

"He threw it down on the pavement," said the Lord of Glenvarloch, "and sent me for answer that Proclamation, in which he classes me with the paupers and mendicants from Scotland, who disgrace his Court in the eyes of the proud English—that is all. Had not my father stood by him with heart, sword, and fortune, he might never have seen the Court of England himself."

"But by whom was this Supplication presented, my lord?" said Heriot; "for the distaste taken at the messenger will sometimes extend itself to the message."

"By my servant," said the Lord Nigel; "by the man you saw, and, I think, were kind to."

"By your servant, my lord?" said the citizen; "he seems a shrewd fellow, and doubtless a faithful; but surely—"

"You would say," said Lord Nigel, "he is no fit messenger to a king's presence?—Surely he is not; but what could I do? Every attempt I had made to lay my case before the king had miscarried, and my petitions got no farther than the budgets of clerks and secretaries; this fellow pretended he had a friend in the household that would bring him to the king's presence,—and so—"

"I understand," said Heriot; "but, my lord, why should you not, in right of your rank and birth, have appeared at Court, and required an audience, which could not have been denied to you?"

The young lord blushed a little, and looked at his dress, which was very plain; and, though in perfect good order, had the appearance of having seen service.

"I know not why I should be ashamed of speaking the truth," he said, after a momentary hesitation,—"I had no dress suitable for appearing at Court. I am determined to incur no expenses which I cannot discharge; and I think you, sir, would not advise me to stand at the palace-door, in person, and deliver my petition, along with those who are in very deed pleading their necessity, and begging an alms."

"That had been, indeed, unseemly," said the citizen; "but yet, my lord, my mind runs strangely that there must be some mistake.—Can I speak with your domestic?"

"I see little good it can do," answered the young lord, "but the interest you take in my misfortunes seems sincere, and therefore——" He stamped on the floor, and in a few seconds afterwards Moniplies appeared, wiping from his beard and mustaches the crumbs of bread, and the froth of the ale-pot, which plainly showed how he had been employed.—"Will your lordship grant permission," said Heriot, "that I ask your groom a few questions?" "His lordship's page, Master George," answered Moniplies, with a nod of acknowledgment, "if you are minded to speak according to the letter."

"Hold your saucy tongue," said his master, "and reply distinctly to the questions you are to be asked."

"And truly, if it like your pageship," said the citizen, "for you may remember I have a gift to discover falset."

"Weel, weel, weel," replied the domestic, somewhat embarrassed, in spite of his effrontery—"though I think that the sort of truth that serves my master, may weel serve ony ane else."

"Pages lie to their masters by right of custom," said the citizen; "and you write yourself in that band, though I think you be among the oldest of such springalds; but to me you must speak truth, if you would not have it end in the whipping-post."

"And that's e'en a bad resting-place," said the well-grown page; "so come away with your questions, Master George."

"Well, then," demanded the citizen, "I am given to understand that you yesterday presented to his Majesty's hand a Supplication, or petition, from this honourable lord, your master."

"Troth, there's nae gainsaying that, sir," replied Moniplies; "there were enow to see it besides me."

"And you pretend that his Majesty flung it from him with contempt?" said the citizen. "Take heed, for I have means of knowing the truth; and you were better up to the neck in the Nor-Loch, which you like so well, than tell a leasing where his Majesty's name is concerned."

"There is nae occasion for leasing-making about the matter," answered Moniplies, firmly; "his Majesty e'en flung it frae him as if it had dirtied his fingers."

"You hear, sir," said Olifaunt, addressing Heriot.

"Hush!" said the sagacious citizen; "this fellow is not ill named—he has more plies than one in his cloak. Stay, fellow," for Moniplies, muttering somewhat about finishing his breakfast, was beginning to shamble towards the door, "answer me this farther question—When you gave your master's petition to his Majesty, gave you nothing with it?"

"Ou, what should I give wi' it, ye ken, Master George?"

"That is what I desire and insist to know," replied his interrogator.

"Weel, then—I am not free to say, that maybe I might not just slip into the king's hand a wee bit Sifflication of mine ain, along with my lord's—just to save his Majesty trouble—and that he might consider them baith at ance."

"A supplication of your own, you varlet!" said his master.

"Ou dear, ay, my lord," said Richie—"puir bodies hae their bits of sifflications as weel as their betters."

"And pray, what might your worshipful petition import?" said Master Heriot.—"Nay, for Heaven's sake, my lord, keep your patience, or we shall never learn the truth of this strange matter.—Speak out, sirrah, and I will stand your friend with my lord."

"It's a lang story to tell—but the upshot is, that it's a scrape of an auld accompt due to my father's yestate by her Majesty the king's maist gracious mother, when she lived in the Castle, and had sundry providings and furnishings forth of our booth, whilk nae doubt was an honour to my father to supply, and whilk, doubtless, it will be a credit to his Majesty to satisfy, as it will be grit convenience to me to receive the saam."

"What string of impertinence is this?" said his master.

"Every word as true as e'er John Knox spoke," said Richie; "here's the bit double of the Sifflication."

Master George took a crumpled paper from the fellow's hand, and said, muttering betwixt his teeth—"'Humbly showeth—um—um—his Majesty's maist gracious mother—um—um—justly addebted and owing the sum of fifteen merks—the compt whereof followeth—Twelve nowte's feet for jellies—ane lamb, being Christmas—ane roasted capin in grease for the privy chalmer, when my Lord of Bothwell suppit with her Grace.'—I think, my lord, you can hardly be surprised that the king gave this petition a brisk reception; and I conclude, Master Page, that you took care to present your own Supplication before your master's?"

"Troth did I not," answered Moniplies. "I thought to have given my lord's first, as was reason gude; and besides that, it wad have redd the gate for my ain little bill. But what wi' the dirdum an' confusion, an' the loupin here and there of the skeigh brute of a horse, I believe I crammed them baith into his hand cheek-by-jowl, and maybe my ain was bunemost; and say there was aught wrang, I am sure I had a' the fright and a' the risk—"

"And shall have all the beating, you rascal knave," said Nigel; "am I to be insulted and dishonoured by your pragmatical insolence, in blending your base concerns with mine?"

"Nay, nay, nay, my lord," said the good-humoured citizen, interposing, "I have been the means of bringing the fellow's blunder to light— allow me interest enough with your lordship to be bail for his bones. You have cause to be angry, but still I think the knave mistook more out of conceit than of purpose; and I judge you will have the better service of him another time, if you overlook this fault—Get you gone, sirrah—I'll make your peace."

"Na, na," said Moniplies, keeping his ground firmly, "if he likes to strike a lad that has followed him for pure love, for I think there has been little servant's fee between us, a' the way frae Scotland, just let my lord be doing, and see the credit he will get by it—and I would rather (mony thanks to you though, Master George) stand by a lick of his baton, than it suld e'er be said a stranger came between us."

"Go, then," said his master, "and get out of my sight."

"Aweel I wot that is sune done," said Moniplies, retiring slowly; "I did not come without I had been ca'd for—and I wad have been away half an hour since with my gude will, only Maister George keepit me to answer his interrogation, forsooth, and that has made a' this stir."

And so he made his grumbling exit, with the tone much rather of one who has sustained an injury, than who has done wrong.

"There never was a man so plagued as I am with a malapert knave!—The fellow is shrewd, and I have found him faithful—I believe he loves me, too, and he has given proofs of it—but then he is so uplifted in his own conceit, so self-willed, and so self-opinioned, that he seems to become the master and I the man; and whatever blunder he commits, he is sure to make as loud complaints, as if the whole error lay with me, and in no degree with himself."

"Cherish him, and maintain him, nevertheless," said the citizen; "for believe my grey hairs, that affection and fidelity are now rarer qualities in a servitor, than when the world was younger. Yet, trust him, my good lord, with no commission above his birth or breeding, for you see yourself how it may chance to fall."

"It is but too evident, Master Heriot," said the young nobleman; "and I am sorry I have done injustice to my sovereign, and your master. But I am, like a true Scotsman, wise behind hand—the mistake has happened—my Supplication has been refused, and my only resource is to employ the rest of my means to carry Moniplies and myself to some counter-scarp, and die in the battle-front like my ancestors."

"It were better to live and serve your country like your noble father, my lord," replied Master George. "Nay, nay, never look down or shake your head—the king has not refused your Supplication, for he has not seen it—you ask but justice, and that his place obliges him to give to his subjects—ay, my lord, and I will say that his natural temper doth in this hold bias with his duty."

"I were well pleased to think so, and yet——" said Nigel Olifaunt,— "I speak not of my own wrongs, but my country hath many that are unredressed."

"My lord," said Master Heriot, "I speak of my royal master, not only with the respect due from a subject—the gratitude to be paid by a favoured servant, but also with the frankness of a free and loyal Scotsman. The king is himself well disposed to hold the scales of justice even; but there are those around him who can throw without detection their own selfish wishes and base interests into the scale. You are already a sufferer by this, and without your knowing it."

"I am surprised, Master Heriot," said the young lord, "to hear you, upon so short an acquaintance, talk as if you were familiarly acquainted with my affairs."

"My lord," replied the goldsmith, "the nature of my employment affords me direct access to the interior of the palace; I am well known to be no meddler in intrigues or party affairs, so that no favourite has as yet endeavoured to shut against me the door of the royal closet; on the contrary, I have stood well with each while he was in power, and I have not shared the fall of any. But I cannot be thus connected with the Court, without hearing, even against my will, what wheels are in motion, and how they are checked or forwarded. Of course, when I choose to seek such intelligence, I know the sources in which it is to be traced. I have told you why I was interested in your lordship's fortunes. It was last night only that I knew you were in this city, yet I have been able, in coming hither this morning, to gain for you some information respecting the impediments to your suit."

"Sir, I am obliged by your zeal, however little it may be merited," answered Nigel, still with some reserve; "yet I hardly know how I have deserved this interest."

"First let me satisfy you that it is real," said the citizen; "I blame you not for being unwilling to credit the fair professions of a stranger in my inferior class of society, when you have met so little friendship from relations, and those of your own rank, bound to have assisted you by so many ties. But mark the cause. There is a mortgage over your father's extensive estate, to the amount of 40,000 merks, due ostensibly to Peregrine Peterson, the Conservator of Scottish Privileges at Campvere."

"I know nothing of a mortgage," said the young lord; "but there is a wadset for such a sum, which, if unredeemed, will occasion the forfeiture of my whole paternal estate, for a sum not above a fourth of its value—and it is for that very reason that I press the king's government for a settlement of the debts due to my father, that I may be able to redeem my land from this rapacious creditor."

"A wadset in Scotland," said Heriot, "is the same with a mortgage on this side of the Tweed; but you are not acquainted with your real creditor. The Conservator Peterson only lends his name to shroud no less a man than the Lord Chancellor of Scotland, who hopes, under cover of this debt, to gain possession of the estate himself, or perhaps to gratify a yet more powerful third party. He will probably suffer his creature Peterson to take possession, and when the odium of the transaction shall be forgotten, the property and lordship of Glenvarloch will be conveyed to the great man by his obsequious instrument, under cover of a sale, or some similar device."

"Can this be possible?" said Lord Nigel; "the Chancellor wept when I took leave of him—called me his cousin—even his son—furnished me with letters, and, though I asked him for no pecuniary assistance, excused himself unnecessarily for not pressing it on me, alleging the expenses of his rank and his large family. No, I cannot believe a nobleman would carry deceit so far."

"I am not, it is true, of noble blood," said the citizen; "but once more I bid you look on my grey hairs, and think what can be my interest in dishonouring them with falsehood in affairs in which I have no interest, save as they regard the son of my benefactor. Reflect also, have you had any advantage from the Lord Chancellor's letters?"

"None," said Nigel Olifaunt, "except cold deeds and fair words. I have thought for some time, their only object was to get rid of me—one yesterday pressed money on me when I talked of going abroad, in order that I might not want the means of exiling myself."

"Right," said Heriot; "rather than you fled not, they would themselves furnish wings for you to fly withal."

"I will to him this instant," said the incensed youth, "and tell him my mind of his baseness."

"Under your favour," said Heriot, detaining him, "you shall not do so. By a quarrel you would become the ruin of me your informer; and though I would venture half my shop to do your lordship a service, I think you would hardly wish me to come by damage, when it can be of no service to you."

The word shop sounded harshly in the ear of the young nobleman, who replied hastily—"Damage, sir?—so far am I from wishing you to incur damage, that I would to Heaven you would cease your fruitless offers of serving one whom there is no chance of ultimately assisting!"

"Leave me alone for that," said the citizen: "you have now erred as far on the bow-hand. Permit me to take this Supplication—I will have it suitably engrossed, and take my own time (and it shall be an early one) for placing it, with more prudence, I trust, than that used by your follower, in the king's hand—I will almost answer for his taking up the matter as you would have him—but should he fail to do so, even then I will not give up the good cause."

"Sir," said the young nobleman, "your speech is so friendly, and my own state so helpless, that I know not how to refuse your kind proffer, even while I blush to accept it at the hands of a stranger."

"We are, I trust, no longer such," said the goldsmith; "and for my guerdon, when my mediation proves successful, and your fortunes are re-established, you shall order your first cupboard of plate from George Heriot."

"You would have a bad paymaster, Master Heriot," said Lord Nigel.

"I do not fear that," replied the goldsmith; "and I am glad to see you smile, my lord—methinks it makes you look still more like the good old lord your father; and it emboldens me, besides, to bring out a small request—that you would take a homely dinner with me to-morrow. I lodge hard by in Lombard Street. For the cheer, my lord, a mess of white broth, a fat capon well larded, a dish of beef collops for auld Scotland's sake, and it may be a cup of right old wine, that was barrelled before Scotland and England were one nation—Then for company, one or two of our own loving countrymen—and maybe my housewife may find out a bonny Scots lass or so."

"I would accept your courtesy, Master Heriot," said Nigel, "but I hear the city ladies of London like to see a man gallant—I would not like to let down a Scottish nobleman in their ideas, as doubtless you have said the best of our poor country, and I rather lack the means of bravery for the present."

"My lord, your frankness leads me a step farther," said Master George. "I—I owed your father some monies; and—nay, if your lordship looks at me so fixedly, I shall never tell my story—and, to speak plainly, for I never could carry a lie well through in my life—it is most fitting, that, to solicit this matter properly, your lordship should go to Court in a manner beseeming your quality. I am a goldsmith, and live by lending money as well as by selling plate. I am ambitious to put an hundred pounds to be at interest in your hands, till your affairs are settled."

"And if they are never favourably settled?" said Nigel.

"Then, my lord," returned the citizen, "the miscarriage of such a sum will be of little consequence to me, compared with other subjects of regret."

"Master Heriot," said the Lord Nigel, "your favour is generously offered, and shall be frankly accepted. I must presume that you see your way through this business, though I hardly do; for I think you would be grieved to add any fresh burden to me, by persuading me to incur debts which I am not likely to discharge. I will therefore take your money, under the hope and trust that you will enable me to repay you punctually."

"I will convince you, my lord," said the goldsmith, "that I mean to deal with you as a creditor from whom I expect payment; and therefore, you shall, with your own good pleasure, sign an acknowledgment for these monies, and an obligation to content and repay me."

He then took from his girdle his writing materials, and, writing a few lines to the purport he expressed, pulled out a small bag of gold from a side-pouch under his cloak, and, observing that it should contain an hundred pounds, proceeded to tell out the contents very methodically upon the table. Nigel Olifaunt could not help intimating that this was an unnecessary ceremonial, and that he would take the bag of gold on the word of his obliging creditor; but this was repugnant to the old man's forms of transacting business.

"Bear with me," he said, "my good lord,—we citizens are a wary and thrifty generation; and I should lose my good name for ever within the toll of Paul's, were I to grant quittance, or take acknowledgment, without bringing the money to actual tale. I think it be right now— and, body of me," he said, looking out at the window, "yonder come my boys with my mule; for I must Westward Hoe. Put your monies aside, my lord; it is not well to be seen with such goldfinches chirping about one in the lodgings of London. I think the lock of your casket be indifferent good; if not, I can serve you at an easy rate with one that has held thousands;—it was the good old Sir Faithful Frugal's;— his spendthrift son sold the shell when he had eaten the kernel—and there is the end of a city-fortune."

"I hope yours will make a better termination, Master Heriot," said the Lord Nigel.

"I hope it will, my lord," said the old man, with a smile; "but," to use honest John Bunyan's phrase—'therewithal the water stood in his eyes,' "it has pleased God to try me with the loss of two children; and for one adopted shild who ives—Ah! woe is me! and well-a-day!— But I am patient and thankful; and for the wealth God has sent me, it shall not want inheritors while there are orphan lads in Auld Reekie.—I wish you good-morrow, my lord."

"One orphan has cause to thank you already," said Nigel, as he attended him to the door of his chamber, where, resisting further escort, the old citizen made his escape.

As, in going downstairs, he passed the shop where Dame Christie stood becking, he made civil inquiries after her husband. The dame of course regretted his absence; but he was down, she said, at Deptford, to settle with a Dutch ship-master.

"Our way of business, sir," she said, "takes him much from home, and my husband must be the slave of every tarry jacket that wants but a pound of oakum."

"All business must be minded, dame," said the goldsmith. "Make my remembrances—George Heriot, of Lombard Street's remembrances—to your goodman. I have dealt with him—he is just and punctual—true to time and engagements;—be kind to your noble guest, and see he wants nothing. Though it be his pleasure at present to lie private and retired, there be those that care for him, and I have a charge to see him supplied; so that you may let me know by your husband, my good dame, how my lord is, and whether he wants aught."

"And so he is a real lord after all?" said the good dame. "I am sure I always thought he looked like one. But why does he not go to Parliament, then?"

"He will, dame," answered Heriot, "to the Parliament of Scotland, which is his own country."

"Oh! he is but a Scots lord, then," said the good dame; "and that's the thing makes him ashamed to take the title, as they say."

"Let him not hear you say so, dame," replied the citizen.

"Who, I, sir?" answered she; "no such matter in my thought, sir. Scot or English, he is at any rate a likely man, and a civil man; and rather than he should want any thing, I would wait upon him myself, and come as far as Lombard Street to wait upon your worship too."

"Let your husband come to me, good dame," said the goldsmith, who, with all his experience and worth, was somewhat of a formalist and disciplinarian. "The proverb says, 'House goes mad when women gad;' and let his lordship's own man wait upon his master in his chamber—it is more seemly. God give ye good-morrow."

"Good-morrow to your worship," said the dame, somewhat coldly; and, so soon as the adviser was out of hearing, was ungracious enough to mutter, in contempt of his council, "Marry quep of your advice, for an old Scotch tinsmith, as you are! My husband is as wise, and very near as old, as yourself; and if I please him, it is well enough; and though he is not just so rich just now as some folks, yet I hope to see him ride upon his moyle, with a foot-cloth, and have his two blue-coats after him, as well as they do."



CHAPTER V

Wherefore come ye not to court? Certain 'tis the rarest sport; There are silks and jewels glistening, Prattling fools and wise men listening, Bullies among brave men justling, Beggars amongst nobles bustling; Low-breath'd talkers, minion lispers, Cutting honest throats by whispers; Wherefore come ye not to court? Skelton swears 'tis glorious sport. Skelton Skeltonizeth.

It was not entirely out of parade that the benevolent citizen was mounted and attended in that manner, which, as the reader has been informed, excited a gentle degree of spleen on the part of Dame Christie, which, to do her justice, vanished in the little soliloquy which we have recorded. The good man, besides the natural desire to maintain the exterior of a man of worship, was at present bound to Whitehall in order to exhibit a piece of valuable workmanship to King James, which he deemed his Majesty might be pleased to view, or even to purchase. He himself was therefore mounted upon his caparisoned mule, that he might the better make his way through the narrow, dirty, and crowded streets; and while one of his attendants carried under his arm the piece of plate, wrapped up in red baize, the other two gave an eye to its safety; for such was then the state of the police of the metropolis, that men were often assaulted in the public street for the sake of revenge or of plunder; and those who apprehended being beset, usually endeavoured, if their estate admitted such expense, to secure themselves by the attendance of armed followers. And this custom, which was at first limited to the nobility and gentry, extended by degrees to those citizens of consideration, who, being understood to travel with a charge, as it was called, might otherwise have been selected as safe subjects of plunder by the street-robber.

As Master George Heriot paced forth westward with this gallant attendance, he paused at the shop door of his countryman and friend, the ancient horologer, and having caused Tunstall, who was in attendance, to adjust his watch by the real time, he desired to speak with his master; in consequence of which summons, the old Time-meter came forth from his den, his face like a bronze bust, darkened with dust, and glistening here and there with copper filings, and his senses so bemused in the intensity of calculation, that he gazed on his friend the goldsmith for a minute before he seemed perfectly to comprehend who he was, and heard him express his invitation to David Ramsay, and pretty Mistress Margaret, his daughter, to dine with him next day at noon, to meet with a noble young countrymen, without returning any answer.

"I'll make thee speak, with a murrain to thee," muttered Heriot to himself; and suddenly changing his tone, he said aloud,—"I pray you, neighbour David, when are you and I to have a settlement for the bullion wherewith I supplied you to mount yonder hall-clock at Theobald's, and that other whirligig that you made for the Duke of Buckingham? I have had the Spanish house to satisfy for the ingots, and I must needs put you in mind that you have been eight months behind-hand."

There is something so sharp and aigre in the demand of a peremptory dun, that no human tympanum, however inaccessible to other tones, can resist the application. David Ramsay started at once from his reverie, and answered in a pettish tone, "Wow, George, man, what needs aw this din about sax score o' pounds? Aw the world kens I can answer aw claims on me, and you proffered yourself fair time, till his maist gracious Majesty and the noble Duke suld make settled accompts wi' me; and ye may ken, by your ain experience, that I canna gang rowting like an unmannered Highland stot to their doors, as ye come to mine."

Heriot laughed, and replied, "Well, David, I see a demand of money is like a bucket of water about your ears, and makes you a man of the world at once. And now, friend, will you tell me, like a Christian man, if you will dine with me to-morrow at noon, and bring pretty Mistress Margaret, my god-daughter, with you, to meet with our noble young countryman, the Lord of Glenvarloch?"

"The young Lord of Glenvarloch!" said the old mechanist; "wi' aw my heart, and blithe I will be to see him again. We have not met these forty years—he was twa years before me at the humanity classes—he is a sweet youth."

"That was his father—his father—his father!—you old dotard Dot-and- carry-one that you are," answered the goldsmith. "A sweet youth he would have been by this time, had he lived, worthy nobleman! This is his son, the Lord Nigel."

"His son!" said Ramsay; "maybe he will want something of a chronometer, or watch—few gallants care to be without them now-a- days."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse