"On my word—on my honour," said Lord Glenvarloch—
"Nay, nay, make no words of the matter," said Lord Dalgarno; "I am no tell-tale, nor shall I cross your walk; there is game enough in the forest, thank Heaven, and I can strike a doe for myself."
All this he said in so significant a manner, and the explanation which he had adopted seemed to put Lord Glenvarloch's gallantry on so respectable a footing, that Nigel ceased to try to undeceive him; and less ashamed, perhaps, (for such is human weakness,) of supposed vice than of real poverty, changed the discourse to something else, and left poor Dame Nelly's reputation and his own at the mercy of the young courtier's misconstruction.
He offered refreshments with some hesitation. Lord Dalgarno had long since breakfasted, but had just come from playing a set of tennis, he said, and would willingly taste a cup of the pretty hostess's single beer. This was easily procured, was drunk, was commended, and, as the hostess failed not to bring the cup herself, Lord Dalgarno profited by the opportunity to take a second and more attentive view of her, and then gravely drank to her husband's health, with an almost imperceptible nod to Lord Glenvarloch. Dame Nelly was much honoured, smoothed her apron down with her hands, and said
"Her John was greatly and truly honoured by their lordships—he was a kind painstaking man for his family, as was in the alley, or indeed, as far north as Paul's Chain."
She would have proceeded probably to state the difference betwixt their ages, as the only alloy to their nuptial happiness; but her lodger, who had no mind to be farther exposed to his gay friend's raillery, gave her, contrary to his wont, a signal to leave the room.
Lord Dalgarno looked after her, and then looked at Glenvarloch, shook his head, and repeated the well-known lines—
"'My lord, beware of jealousy— It is the green-eyed monster which doth make The meat it feeds on.'
"But come," he said, changing his tone, "I know not why I should worry you thus—I who have so many follies of my own, when I should rather make excuse for being here at all, and tell you wherefore I came."
So saying, he reached a seat, and, placing another for Lord Glenvarloch, in spite of his anxious haste to anticipate this act of courtesy, he proceeded in the same tone of easy familiarity:—
"We are neighbours, my lord, and are just made known to each other. Now, I know enough of the dear North, to be well aware that Scottish neighbours must be either dear friends or deadly enemies—must either walk hand-in-hand, or stand sword-point to sword-point; so I choose the hand-in-hand, unless you should reject my proffer."
"How were it possible, my lord," said Lord Glenvarloch, "to refuse what is offered so frankly, even if your father had not been a second father to me?"—And, as he took Lord Dalgarno's hand, he added—"I have, I think, lost no time, since, during one day's attendance at Court, I have made a kind friend and a powerful enemy."
"The friend thanks you," replied Lord Dalgarno, "for your just opinion; but, my dear Glenvarloch—or rather, for titles are too formal between us of the better file—what is your Christian name?"
"Nigel," replied Lord Glenvarloch.
"Then we will be Nigel and Malcolm to each other," said his visitor, "and my lord to the plebeian world around us. But I was about to ask you whom you suppose your enemy?"
"No less than the all-powerful favourite, the great Duke of Buckingham."
"You dream! What could possess you with such an opinion?" said Dalgarno.
"He told me so himself," replied Glenvarloch; "and, in so doing, dealt frankly and honourably with me."
"O, you know him not yet," said his companion; "the duke is moulded of an hundred noble and fiery qualities, that prompt him, like a generous horse, to spring aside in impatience at the least obstacle to his forward course. But he means not what he says in such passing heats—I can do more with him, I thank Heaven, than most who are around him; you shall go visit him with me, and you will see how you shall be received."
"I told you, my lord," said Glenvarloch firmly, and with some haughtiness, "the Duke of Buckingham, without the least offence, declared himself my enemy in the face of the Court; and he shall retract that aggression as publicly as it was given, ere I will make the slightest advance towards him."
"You would act becomingly in every other case," said Lord Dalgarno, "but here you are wrong. In the Court horizon Buckingham is Lord of the Ascendant, and as he is adverse or favouring, so sinks or rises the fortune of a suitor. The king would bid you remember your Phaedrus,
'Arripiens geminas, ripis cedentibus, ollas—'
and so forth. You are the vase of earth; beware of knocking yourself against the vase of iron."
"The vase of earth," said Glenvarloch, "will avoid the encounter, by getting ashore out of the current—I mean to go no more to Court."
"O, to Court you necessarily must go; you will find your Scottish suit move ill without it, for there is both patronage and favour necessary to enforce the sign-manual you have obtained. Of that we will speak more hereafter; but tell me in the meanwhile, my dear Nigel, whether you did not wonder to see me here so early?"
"I am surprised that you could find me out in this obscure corner," said Lord Glenvarloch.
"My page Lutin is a very devil for that sort of discovery," replied Lord Dalgarno; "I have but to say, 'Goblin, I would know where he or she dwells,' and he guides me thither as if by art magic."
"I hope he waits not now in the street, my lord," said Nigel; "I will send my servant to seek him."
"Do not concern yourself—he is by this time," said Lord Dalgarno, "playing at hustle-cap and chuck-farthing with the most blackguard imps upon the wharf, unless he hath foregone his old customs."
"Are you not afraid," said Lord Glenvarloch, "that in such company his morals may become depraved?"
"Let his company look to their own," answered Lord Dalgarno, cooly; "for it will be a company of real fiends in which Lutin cannot teach more mischief than he can learn: he is, I thank the gods, most thoroughly versed in evil for his years. I am spared the trouble of looking after his moralities, for nothing can make them either better or worse."
"I wonder you can answer this to his parents, my lord," said Nigel.
"I wonder where I should find his parents," replied his companion, "to render an account to them."
"He may be an orphan," said Lord Nigel; "but surely, being a page in your lordship's family, his parents must be of rank."
"Of as high rank as the gallows could exalt them to," replied Lord Dalgarno, with the same indifference; "they were both hanged, I believe—at least the gipsies, from whom I bought him five years ago, intimated as much to me.—You are surprised at this, now. But is it not better that, instead of a lazy, conceited, whey-faced slip of gentility, to whom, in your old-world idea of the matter, I was bound to stand Sir Pedagogue, and see that he washed his hands and face, said his prayers, learned his acddens, spoke no naughty words, brushed his hat, and wore his best doublet only on Sunday,—that, instead of such a Jacky Goodchild, I should have something like this?"
He whistled shrill and clear, and the page he spoke of darted into the room, almost with the effect of an actual apparition. From his height he seemed but fifteen, but, from his face, might be two or even three years older, very neatly made, and richly dressed; with a thin bronzed visage, which marked his gipsy descent, and a pair of sparkling black eyes, which seemed almost to pierce through those whom he looked at.
"There he is," said Lord Dalgarno, "fit for every element—prompt to execute every command, good, bad, or indifferent—unmatched in his tribe, as rogue, thief, and liar."
"All which qualities," said the undaunted page, "have each in turn stood your lordship in stead."
"Out, you imp of Satan!" said his master; "vanish-begone-or my conjuring rod goes about your ears." The boy turned, and disappeared as suddenly as he had entered. "You see," said Lord Dalgarno, "that, in choosing my household, the best regard I can pay to gentle blood is to exclude it from my service—that very gallows—bird were enough to corrupt a whole antechamber of pages, though they were descended from kings and kaisers."
"I can scarce think that a nobleman should need the offices of such an attendant as your goblin," said Nigel; "you are but jesting with my inexperience."
"Time will show whether I jest or not, my dear Nigel," replied Dalgarno; "in the meantime, I have to propose to you to take the advantage of the flood-tide, to run up the river for pastime; and at noon I trust you will dine with me."
Nigel acquiesced in a plan which promised so much amusement; and his new friend and he, attended by Lutin and Moniplies, who greatly resembled, when thus associated, the conjunction of a bear and a monkey, took possession of Lord Dalgarno's wherry, which, with its badged watermen, bearing his lordship's crest on their arms, lay in readiness to receive them. The air was delightful upon the river; and the lively conversation of Lord Dalgarno added zest to the pleasures of the little voyage. He could not only give an account of the various public buildings and noblemen's houses which they passed in ascending the Thames, but knew how to season his information with abundance of anecdote, political innuendo, and personal scandal; if he had not very much wit, he was at least completely master of the fashionable tone, which in that time, as in ours, more than amply supplies any deficiency of the kind.
It was a style of conversation entirely new to his companion, as was the world which Lord Dalgarno opened to his observation; and it is no wonder that Nigel, notwithstanding his natural good sense and high spirit, admitted, more readily than seemed consistent with either, the tone of authoritative instruction which his new friend assumed towards him. There would, indeed, have been some difficulty in making a stand. To attempt a high and stubborn tone of morality, in answer to the light strain of Lord Dalgarno's conversation, which kept on the frontiers between jest and earnest, would have seemed pedantic and ridiculous; and every attempt which Nigel made to combat his companion's propositions, by reasoning as jocose as his own, only showed his inferiority in that gay species of controversy. And it must be owned, besides, though internally disapproving much of what he heard, Lord Glenvarloch, young as he was in society, became less alarmed by the language and manners of his new associate, than in prudence he ought to have been.
Lord Dalgarno was unwilling to startle his proselyte, by insisting upon any topic which appeared particularly to jar with his habits or principles; and he blended his mirth and his earnest so dexterously, that it was impossible for Nigel to discover how far he was serious in his propositions, or how far they flowed from a wild and extravagant spirit of raillery. And, ever and anon, those flashes of spirit and honour crossed his conversation, which seemed to intimate, that, when stirred to action by some adequate motive, Lord Dalgarno would prove something very different from the court-haunting and ease-loving voluptuary, which he was pleased to represent as his chosen character.
As they returned down the river, Lord Glenvarloch remarked, that the boat passed the mansion of Lord Huntinglen, and noticed the circumstance to Lord Dalgarno, observing, that he thought they were to have dined there. "Surely no," said the young nobleman, "I have more mercy on you than to gorge you a second time with raw beef and canary wine. I propose something better for you, I promise you, than such a second Scythian festivity. And as for my father, he proposes to dine to-day with my grave, ancient Earl of Northampton, whilome that celebrated putter-down of pretended prophecies, Lord Henry Howard."
"And do you not go with him?" said his companion.
"To what purpose?" said Lord Dalgarno. "To hear his wise lordship speak musty politics in false Latin, which the old fox always uses, that he may give the learned Majesty of England an opportunity of correcting his slips in grammar? That were a rare employment!"
"Nay," said Lord Nigel, "but out of respect, to wait on my lord your father."
"My lord my father," replied Lord Dalgarno, "has blue-bottles enough to wait on him, and can well dispense with such a butterfly as myself. He can lift the cup of sack to his head without my assistance; and, should the said paternal head turn something giddy, there be men enough to guide his right honourable lordship to his lordship's right honourable couch.—Now, do not stare at me, Nigel, as if my words were to sink the boat with us. I love my father—I love him dearly—and I respect him, too, though I respect not many things; a trustier old Trojan never belted a broadsword by a loop of leather. But what then? He belongs to the old world, I to the new. He has his follies, I have mine; and the less either of us sees of the other's peccadilloes, the greater will be the honour and respect—that, I think, is the proper phrase—I say the respect in which we shall hold each other. Being apart, each of us is himself, such as nature and circumstances have made him; but, couple us up too closely together, you will be sure to have in your leash either an old hypocrite or a young one, or perhaps both the one and t'other."
As he spoke thus, the boat put into the landing-place at Blackfriars. Lord Dalgarno sprung ashore, and, flinging his cloak and rapier to his page, recommended to his companion to do the like. "We are coming among a press of gallants," he said; "and, if we walked thus muffled, we shall look like your tawny-visaged Don, who wraps him close in his cloak, to conceal the defects of his doublet."
"I have known many an honest man do that, if it please your lordship," said Richie Moniplies, who had been watching for an opportunity to intrude himself on the conversation, and probably remembered what had been his own condition, in respect to cloak and doublet, at a very recent period.
Lord Dalgarno stared at him, as if surprised at his assurance; but immediately answered, "You may have known many things, friend; but, in the meanwhile, you do not know what principally concerns your master, namely, how to carry his cloak, so as to show to advantage the gold- laced seams, and the lining of sables. See how Lutin holds the sword, with his cloak cast partly over it, yet so as to set off the embossed hilt, and the silver work of the mounting.—Give your familiar your sword, Nigel," he continued, addressing Lord Glenvarloch, "that he may practise a lesson in an art so necessary."
"Is it altogether prudent," said Nigel, unclasping his weapon, and giving it to Richie, "to walk entirely unarmed?"
"And wherefore not?" said his companion. "You are thinking now of Auld Reekie, as my father fondly calls your good Scottish capital, where there is such bandying of private feuds and public factions, that a man of any note shall not cross your High Street twice, without endangering his life thrice. Here, sir, no brawling in the street is permitted. Your bull-headed citizen takes up the case so soon as the sword is drawn, and clubs is the word."
"And a hard word it is," said Richie, "as my brain-pan kens at this blessed moment."
"Were I your master, sirrah," said Lord Dalgarno, "I would make your brain-pan, as you call it, boil over, were you to speak a word in my presence before you were spoken to."
Richie murmured some indistinct answer, but took the hint, and ranked himself behind his master along with Lutin, who failed not to expose his new companion to the ridicule of the passers-by, by mimicking, as often as he could do so unobserved by Richie, his stiff and upright stalking gait and discontented physiognomy.
"And tell me now, my dear Malcolm," said Nigel, "where we are bending our course, and whether we shall dine at an apartment of yours?"
"An apartment of mine—yes, surely," answered Lord Dalgarno, "you shall dine at an apartment of mine, and an apartment of yours, and of twenty gallants besides; and where the board shall present better cheer, better wine, and better attendance, than if our whole united exhibitions went to maintain it. We are going to the most noted ordinary of London."
"That is, in common language, an inn, or a tavern," said Nigel.
"An inn, or a tavern, my most green and simple friend!" exclaimed Lord Dalgarno. "No, no—these are places where greasy citizens take pipe and pot, where the knavish pettifoggers of the law spunge on their most unhappy victims—where Templars crack jests as empty as their nuts, and where small gentry imbibe such thin potations, that they get dropsies instead of getting drunk. An ordinary is a late-invented institution, sacred to Bacchus and Comus, where the choicest noble gallants of the time meet with the first and most ethereal wits of the age,—where the wine is the very soul of the choicest grape, refined as the genius of the poet, and ancient and generous as the blood of the nobles. And then the fare is something beyond your ordinary gross terrestrial food! Sea and land are ransacked to supply it; and the invention of six ingenious cooks kept eternally upon the rack to make their art hold pace with, and if possible enhance, the exquisite quality of the materials."
"By all which rhapsody," said Lord Glenvarloch, "I can only understand, as I did before, that we are going to a choice tavern, where we shall be handsomely entertained, on paying probably as handsome a reckoning."
"Reckoning!" exclaimed Lord Dalgarno in the same tone as before, "perish the peasantly phrase! What profanation! Monsieur le Chevalier de Beaujeu, pink of Paris and flower of Gascony—he who can tell the age of his wine by the bare smell, who distils his sauces in an alembic by the aid of Lully's philosophy—who carves with such exquisite precision, that he gives to noble, knight and squire, the portion of the pheasant which exactly accords with his rank—nay, he who shall divide a becafico into twelve parts with such scrupulous exactness, that of twelve guests not one shall have the advantage of the other in a hair's breadth, or the twentieth part of a drachm, yet you talk of him and of a reckoning in the same breath! Why, man, he is the well-known and general referee in all matters affecting the mysteries of Passage, Hazard, In and In, Penneeck, and Verquire, and what not—why, Beaujeu is King of the Card-pack, and Duke of the Dice- box—HE call a reckoning like a green-aproned, red-nosed son of the vulgar spigot! O, my dearest Nigel, what a word you have spoken, and of what a person! That you know him not, is your only apology for such blasphemy; and yet I scarce hold it adequate, for to have been a day in London and not to know Beaujeu, is a crime of its own kind. But you shall know him this blessed moment, and shall learn to hold yourself in horror for the enormities you have uttered."
"Well, but mark you," said Nigel, "this worthy chevalier keeps not all this good cheer at his own cost, does he?"
"No, no," answered Lord Dalgarno; "there is a sort of ceremony which my chevalier's friends and intimates understand, but with which you have no business at present. There is, as majesty might say, a symbolum to be disbursed—in other words, a mutual exchange of courtesies take place betwixt Beaujeu and his guests. He makes them a free present of the dinner and wine, as often as they choose to consult their own felicity by frequenting his house at the hour of noon, and they, in gratitude, make the chevalier a present of a Jacobus. Then you must know, that, besides Comus and Bacchus, that princess of sublunary affairs, the Diva Fortuna, is frequently worshipped at Beaujeu's, and he, as officiating high-priest, hath, as in reason he should, a considerable advantage from a share of the sacrifice."
"In other words," said Lord Glenvarloch, "this man keeps a gaming- house."
"A house in which you may certainly game," said Lord Dalgarno, "as you may in your own chamber if you have a mind; nay, I remember old Tom Tally played a hand at put for a wager with Quinze le Va, the Frenchman, during morning prayers in St. Paul's; the morning was misty, and the parson drowsy, and the whole audience consisted of themselves and a blind woman, and so they escaped detection."
"For all this, Malcolm," said the young lord, gravely, "I cannot dine with you to-day, at this same ordinary."
"And wherefore, in the name of heaven, should you draw back from your word?" said Lord Dalgarno.
"I do not retract my word, Malcolm; but I am bound, by an early promise to my father, never to enter the doors of a gaming-house."
"I tell you this is none," said Lord Dalgarno; "it is but, in plain terms, an eating-house, arranged on civiller terms, and frequented by better company, than others in this town; and if some of them do amuse themselves with cards and hazard, they are men of honour, and who play as such, and for no more than they can well afford to lose. It was not, and could not be, such houses that your father desired you to avoid. Besides, he might as well have made you swear you would never take accommodation of an inn, tavern, eating-house, or place of public reception of any kind; for there is no such place of public resort but where your eyes may be contaminated by the sight of a pack of pieces of painted pasteboard, and your ears profaned by the rattle of those little spotted cubes of ivory. The difference is, that where we go, we may happen to see persons of quality amusing themselves with a game; and in the ordinary houses you will meet bullies and sharpers, who will strive either to cheat or to swagger you out of your money."
"I am sure you would not willingly lead me to do what is wrong," said Nigel; "but my father had a horror for games of chance, religious I believe, as well as prudential. He judged from I know not what circumstance, a fallacious one I should hope, that I should have a propensity to such courses, and I have told you the promise which he exacted from me."
"Now, by my honour," said Dalgarno, "what you have said affords the strongest reason for my insisting that you go with me. A man who would shun any danger, should first become acquainted with its real bearing and extent, and that in the company of a confidential guide and guard. Do you think I myself game? Good faith, my father's oaks grow too far from London, and stand too fast rooted in the rocks of Perthshire, for me to troll them down with a die, though I have seen whole forests go down like nine-pins. No, no—these are sports for the wealthy Southron, not for the poor Scottish noble. The place is an eating- house, and as such you and I will use it. If others use it to game in, it is their fault, but neither that of the house nor ours."
Unsatisfied with this reasoning, Nigel still insisted upon the promise he had given to his father, until his companion appeared rather displeased, and disposed to impute to him injurious and unhandsome suspicions. Lord Glenvarloch could not stand this change of tone. He recollected that much was due from him to Lord Dalgarno, on account of his father's ready and efficient friendship, and something also on account of the frank manner in which the young man himself had offered him his intimacy. He had no reason to doubt his assurances, that the house where they were about to dine did not fall under the description of places which his father's prohibition referred; and finally, he was strong in his own resolution to resist every temptation to join in games of chance. He therefore pacified Lord Dalgarno, by intimating his willingness to go along with him; and, the good-humour of the young courtier instantaneously returning, he again ran on in a grotesque and rodomontade account of the host, Monsieur de Beaujeu, which he did not conclude until they had reached the temple of hospitality over which that eminent professor presided.
——This is the very barn-yard, Where muster daily the prime cocks o' the game, Ruffle their pinions, crow till they are hoarse, And spar about a barleycorn. Here too chickens, The callow, unfledged brood of forward folly, Learn first to rear the crest, and aim the spur, And tune their note like full-plumed Chanticleer. The Bear-Garden.
The Ordinary, now an ignoble sound, was in the days of James, a new institution, as fashionable among the youth of that age as the first- rate modern club-houses are amongst those of the present day. It differed chiefly, in being open to all whom good clothes and good assurance combined to introduce there. The company usually dined together at an hour fixed, and the manager of the establishment presided as master of the ceremonies.
Monsieur le Chevalier, (as he qualified himself,) Saint Priest de Beaujeu, was a sharp, thin Gascon, about sixty years old, banished from his own country, as he said, on account of an affair of honour, in which he had the misfortune to kill his antagonist, though the best swordsman in the south of France. His pretensions to quality were supported by a feathered hat, a long rapier, and a suit of embroidered taffeta, not much the worse for wear, in the extreme fashion of the Parisian court, and fluttering like a Maypole with many knots of ribbon, of which it was computed he bore at least five hundred yards about his person. But, notwithstanding this profusion of decoration, there were many who thought Monsieur le Chevalier so admirably calculated for his present situation, that nature could never have meant to place him an inch above it. It was, however, part of the amusement of the place, for Lord Dalgarno and other young men of quality to treat Monsieur de Beaujeu with a great deal of mock ceremony, which being observed by the herd of more ordinary and simple gulls, they paid him, in clumsy imitation, much real deference. The Gascon's natural forwardness being much enhanced by these circumstances, he was often guilty of presuming beyond the limits of his situation, and of course had sometimes the mortification to be disagreeably driven back into them.
When Nigel entered the mansion of this eminent person, which had been but of late the residence of a great Baron of Queen Elizabeth's court, who had retired to his manors in the country on the death of that princess, he was surprised at the extent of the accommodation which it afforded, and the number of guests who were already assembled. Feathers waved, spurs jingled, lace and embroidery glanced everywhere; and at first sight, at least, it certainly made good Lord Dalgarno's encomium, who represented the company as composed almost entirely of youth of the first quality. A more close review was not quite so favourable. Several individuals might be discovered who were not exactly at their ease in the splendid dresses which they wore, and who, therefore, might be supposed not habitually familiar with such finery. Again, there were others, whose dress, though on a general view it did not seem inferior to that of the rest of the company, displayed, on being observed more closely, some of these petty expedients, by which vanity endeavours to disguise poverty.
Nigel had very little time to make such observations, for the entrance of Lord Dalgarno created an immediate bustle and sensation among the company, as his name passed from one mouth to another. Some stood forward to gaze, others stood back to make way—those of his own rank hastened to welcome him—those of inferior degree endeavoured to catch some point of his gesture, or of his dress, to be worn and practised upon a future occasion, as the newest and most authentic fashion.
The genius loci, the Chevalier himself, was not the last to welcome this prime stay and ornament of his establishment. He came shuffling forward with a hundred apish conges and chers milors, to express his happiness at seeing Lord Dalgarno again.—"I hope you do bring back the sun with you, Milor—You did carry away the sun and moon from your pauvre Chevalier when you leave him for so long. Pardieu, I believe you take them away in your pockets."
"That must have been because you left me nothing else in them, Chevalier," answered Lord Dalgarno; but Monsieur le Chevalier, I pray you to know my countryman and friend, Lord Glenvarloch!"
"Ah, ha! tres honore—Je m'en souviens,—oui. J'ai connu autrefois un Milor Kenfarloque en Ecosse. Yes, I have memory of him—le pere de milor apparemment-we were vera intimate when I was at Oly Root with Monsieur de la Motte—I did often play at tennis vit Milor Kenfarloque at L'Abbaie d'Oly Root—il etoit meme plus fort que moi—Ah le beaucoup de revers qu'il avoit!—I have memory, too that he was among the pretty girls—ah, un vrai diable dechaine—Aha! I have memory—"
"Better have no more memory of the late Lord Glenvarloch," said Lord Dalgarno, interrupting the Chevalier without ceremony; who perceived that the encomium which he was about to pass on the deceased was likely to be as disagreeable to the son as it was totally undeserved by the father, who, far from being either a gamester or libertine, as the Chevalier's reminiscences falsely represented him, was, on the contrary, strict and severe in his course of life, almost to the extent of rigour.
"You have the reason, milor," answered the Chevalier, "you have the right—Qu'est ce que nous avons a faire avec le temps passe?—the time passed did belong to our fathers—our ancetres—very well—the time present is to us—they have their pretty tombs with their memories and armorials, all in brass and marbre—we have the petits plats exquis, and the soupe-a-Chevalier, which I will cause to mount up immediately."
So saying, he made a pirouette on his heel, and put his attendants in motion to place dinner on the table. Dalgarno laughed, and, observing his young friend looked grave, said to him, in a tone of reproach-Why, what!-you are not gull enough to be angry with such an ass as that?"
"I keep my anger, I trust, for better purposes," said Lord Glenvarloch; "but I confess I was moved to hear such a fellow mention my father's name—and you, too, who told me this was no gaming-house, talked to him of having left it with emptied pockets."
"Pshaw, man!" said Lord Dalgarno, "I spoke but according to the trick of the time; besides, a man must set a piece or two sometimes, or he would be held a cullionly niggard. But here comes dinner, and we will see whether you like the Chevalier's good cheer better than his conversation."
Dinner was announced accordingly, and the two friends, being seated in the most honourable station at the board, were ceremoniously attended to by the Chevalier, who did the honours of his table to them and to the other guests, and seasoned the whole with his agreeable conversation. The dinner was really excellent, in that piquant style of cookery which the French had already introduced, and which the home-bred young men of England, when they aspired to the rank of connoisseurs and persons of taste, were under the necessity of admiring. The wine was also of the first quality, and circulated in great variety, and no less abundance. The conversation among so many young men was, of course, light, lively, and amusing; and Nigel, whose mind had been long depressed by anxiety and misfortune, naturally found himself at ease, and his spirits raised and animated.
Some of the company had real wit, and could use it both politely and to advantage; others were coxcombs, and were laughed at without discovering it; and, again, others were originals, who seemed to have no objection that the company should be amused with their folly instead of their wit. And almost all the rest who played any prominent part in the conversation had either the real tone of good society which belonged to the period, or the jargon which often passes current for it.
In short, the company and conversation was so agreeable, that Nigel's rigour was softened by it, even towards the master of ceremonies, and he listened with patience to various details which the Chevalier de Beaujeu, seeing, as he said, that Milor's taste lay for the "curieux and Futile," chose to address to him in particular, on the subject of cookery. To gratify, at the same time, the taste for antiquity, which he somehow supposed that his new guest possessed, he launched out in commendation of the great artists of former days, particularly one whom he had known in his youth, "Maitre de Cuisine to the Marechal Strozzi—tres bon gentilhomme pourtant;" who had maintained his master's table with twelve covers every day during the long and severe blockade of le petit Leyth, although he had nothing better to place on it than the quarter of a carrion-horse now and then, and the grass and weeds that grew on the ramparts. "Despardieux c'dtoit un homme superbe! With one tistle-head, and a nettle or two, he could make a soupe for twenty guests—an haunch of a little puppy-dog made a roti des plus excellens; but his coupe de maitre was when the rendition— what you call the surrender, took place and appened; and then, dieu me damme, he made out of the hind quarter of one salted horse, forty-five couverts; that the English and Scottish officers and nobility, who had the honour to dine with Monseigneur upon the rendition, could not tell what the devil any of them were made upon at all.
The good wine had by this time gone so merrily round, and had such genial effect on the guests, that those of the lower end of the table, who had hitherto been listeners, began, not greatly to their own credit, or that of the ordinary, to make innovations.
"You speak of the siege of Leith," said a tall, raw-boned man, with thick mustaches turned up with a military twist, a broad buff belt, a long rapier, and other outward symbols of the honoured profession, which lives by killing other people—"you talk of the siege of Leith, and I have seen the place—a pretty kind of a hamlet it is, with a plain wall, or rampart, and a pigeon-house or so of a tower at every angle. Uds daggers and scabbards, if a leaguer of our days had been twenty-four hours, not to say so many months, before it, without carrying the place and all its cocklofts, one after another, by pure storm, they would have deserved no better grace than the Provost- Marshal gives when his noose is reeved."
"Saar," said the Chevalier, "Monsieur le Capitaine, I vas not at the siege of the petit Leyth, and I know not what you say about the cockloft; but I will say for Monseigneur de Strozzi, that he understood the grande guerre, and was grand capitaine—plus grand— that is more great, it may be, than some of the capitaines of Angleterre, who do speak very loud—tenez, Monsieur, car c'est a vous!"
"O Monsieur." answered the swordsman, "we know the Frenchman will fight well behind his barrier of stone, or when he is armed with back, breast, and pot."
"Pot!" exclaimed the Chevalier, "what do you mean by pot—do you mean to insult me among my noble guests? Saar, I have done my duty as a pauvre gentilhomme under the Grand Henri Quatre, both at Courtrai and Yvry, and, ventre saint gris! we had neither pot nor marmite, but did always charge in our shirt."
"Which refutes another base scandal," said Lord Dalgarno, laughing, "alleging that linen was scarce among the French gentlemen-at-arms."
"Gentlemen out at arms and elbows both, you mean, my lord," said the captain, from the bottom of the table." Craving your lordship's pardon, I do know something of these same gens-d'armes."
"We will spare your knowledge at present, captain, and save your modesty at the same time the trouble of telling us how that knowledge was acquired," answered Lord Dalgarno, rather contemptuously.
"I need not speak of it, my lord," said the man of war; "the world knows it—all perhaps, but the men of mohair—the poor sneaking citizens of London, who would see a man of valour eat his very hilts for hunger, ere they would draw a farthing from their long purses to relieve them. O, if a band of the honest fellows I have seen were once to come near that cuckoo's nest of theirs!"
"A cuckoo's nest!-and that said of the city of London!" said a gallant who sat on the opposite side of the table, and who, wearing a splendid and fashionable dress, seemed yet scarce at home in it—"I will not brook to hear that repeated."
"What!" said the soldier, bending a most terrific frown from a pair of broad black eyebrows, handling the hilt of his weapon with one hand, and twirling with the other his huge mustaches; "will you quarrel for your city?"
"Ay, marry will I," replied the other. "I am a citizen, I care not who knows it; and he who shall speak a word in dispraise of the city, is an ass and a peremptory gull, and I will break his pate, to teach him sense and manners."
The company, who probably had their reasons for not valuing the captain's courage at the high rate which he himself put upon it, were much entertained at the manner in which the quarrel was taken up by the indignant citizen; and they exclaimed on all sides, "Well run, Bow-bell!"—"Well crowed, the cock of Saint Paul's!"—"Sound a charge there, or the soldier will mistake his signals, and retreat when he should advance."
"You mistake me, gentlemen," said the captain, looking round with an air of dignity. "I will but inquire whether this cavaliero citizen is of rank and degree fitted to measure swords with a man of action; (for, conceive me, gentlemen, it is not with every one that I can match myself without loss of reputation;) and in that case he shall soon hear from me honourably, by way of cartel."
"You shall feel me most dishonourably in the way of cudgel," said the citizen, starting up, and taking his sword, which he had laid in a corner. "Follow me."
"It is my right to name the place of combat, by all the rules of the sword," said the captain; "and I do nominate the Maze, in Tothill- Fields, for place—two gentlemen, who shall be indifferent judges, for witnesses;—and for time—let me say this day fortnight, at daybreak."
"And I," said the citizen, "do nominate the bowling-alley behind the house for place, the present good company for witnesses, and for time the present moment."
So saying, he cast on his beaver, struck the soldier across the shoulders with his sheathed sword, and ran down stairs. The captain showed no instant alacrity to follow him; yet, at last, roused by the laugh and sneer around him, he assured the company, that what he did he would do deliberately, and, assuming his hat, which he put on with the air of Ancient Pistol, he descended the stairs to the place of combat, where his more prompt adversary was already stationed, with his sword unsheathed. Of the company, all of whom seemed highly delighted with the approaching fray, some ran to the windows which overlooked the bowling-alley, and others followed the combatants down stairs. Nigel could not help asking Dalgarno whether he would not interfere to prevent mischief.
"It would be a crime against the public interest," answered his friend; "there can no mischief happen between two such originals, which will not be a positive benefit to society, and particularly to the Chevalier's establishment, as he calls it. I have been as sick of that captain's buff belt, and red doublet, for this month past, as e'er I was of aught; and now I hope this bold linendraper will cudgel the ass out of that filthy lion's hide. See, Nigel, see the gallant citizen has ta'en his ground about a bowl's-cast forward, in the midst of the alley—the very model of a hog in armour. Behold how he prances with his manly foot, and brandishes his blade, much as if he were about to measure forth cambric with it. See, they bring on the reluctant soldado, and plant him opposite to his fiery antagonist, twelve paces still dividing them—Lo, the captain draws his tool, but, like a good general, looks over his shoulder to secure his retreat, in case the worse come on't. Behold the valiant shop-keeper stoops his head, confident, doubtless, in the civic helmet with which his spouse has fortified his skull—Why, this is the rarest of sport. By Heaven, he will run a tilt at him, like a ram."
It was even as Lord Dalgarno had anticipated; for the citizen, who seemed quite serious in his zeal for combat, perceiving that the man of war did not advance towards him, rushed onwards with as much good fortune as courage, beat down the captain's guard, and, pressing on, thrust, as it seemed, his sword clear through the body of his antagonist, who, with a deep groan, measured his length on the ground. A score of voices cried to the conqueror, as he stood fixed in astonishment at his own feat, "Away, away with you!—fly, fly—fly by the back door!—get into the Whitefriars, or cross the water to the Bankside, while we keep off the mob and the constables." And the conqueror, leaving his vanquished foeman on the ground, fled accordingly, with all speed.
"By Heaven," said Lord Dalgarno, "I could never have believed that the fellow would have stood to receive a thrust—he has certainly been arrested by positive terror, and lost the use of his limbs. See, they are raising him."
Stiff and stark seemed the corpse of the swordsman, as one or two of the guests raised him from the ground; but, when they began to open his waistcoat to search for the wound which nowhere existed, the man of war collected, his scattered spirits; and, conscious that the ordinary was no longer a stage on which to display his valour, took to his heels as fast as he could run, pursued by the laughter and shouts of the company.
"By my honour," said Lord Dalgarno, "he takes the same course with his conqueror. I trust in heaven he will overtake him, and then the valiant citizen will suppose himself haunted by the ghost of him he has slain."
"Despardieux, milor," said the Chevalier, "if he had stayed one moment, he should have had a torchon—what you call a dishclout, pinned to him for a piece of shroud, to show he be de ghost of one grand fanfaron."
"In the meanwhile," said Lord Dalgarno, "you will oblige us, Monsieur le Chevalier, as well as maintain your own honoured reputation, by letting your drawers receive the man-at-arms with a cudgel, in case he should venture to come way again."
"Ventre saint gris, milor," said the Chevalier, "leave that to me.— Begar, the maid shall throw the wash-sud upon the grand poltron!"
When they had laughed sufficiently at this ludicrous occurrence, the party began to divide themselves into little knots—some took possession of the alley, late the scene of combat, and put the field to its proper use of a bowling-ground, and it soon resounded with all the terms of the game, as "run, run-rub, rub—hold bias, you infernal trundling timber!" thus making good the saying, that three things are thrown away in a bowling-green, namely, time, money, and oaths. In the house, many of the gentlemen betook themselves to cards or dice, and parties were formed at Ombre, at Basset, at Gleek, at Primero, and other games then in fashion; while the dice were used at various games, both with and without the tables, as Hazard, In-and-in, Passage, and so forth. The play, however, did not appear to be extravagantly deep; it was certainly conducted with great decorum and fairness; nor did there appear any thing to lead the young Scotsman in the least to doubt his companion's assurance, that the place was frequented by men of rank and quality, and that the recreations they adopted were conducted upon honourable principles.
Lord Dalgarno neither had proposed play to his friend, nor joined in the amusement himself, but sauntered from one table to another, remarking the luck of the different players, as well as their capacity to avail themselves of it, and exchanging conversation with the highest and most respectable of the guests. At length, as if tired of what in modern phrase would have been termed lounging, he suddenly remembered that Burbage was to act Shakespeare's King Richard, at the Fortune, that afternoon, and that he could not give a stranger in London, like Lord Glenvarloch, a higher entertainment than to carry him to that exhibition; "unless, indeed," he added, in a whisper, "there is paternal interdiction of the theatre as well as of the ordinary."
"I never heard my father speak of stage-plays," said Lord Glenvarloch, "for they are shows of a modern date, and unknown in Scotland. Yet, if what I have heard to their prejudice be true, I doubt much whether he would have approved of them."
"Approved of them!" exclaimed Lord Dalgarno—"why, George Buchanan wrote tragedies, and his pupil, learned and wise as himself, goes to see them, so it is next door to treason to abstain; and the cleverest men in England write for the stage, and the prettiest women in London resort to the playhouses, and I have a brace of nags at the door which will carry us along the streets like wild-fire, and the ride will digest our venison and ortolans, and dissipate the fumes of the wine, and so let's to horse—Godd'en to you, gentlemen—Godd'en, Chevalier de la Fortune."
Lord Dalgarno's grooms were in attendance with two horses, and the young men mounted, the proprietor upon a favourite barb, and Nigel upon a high-dressed jennet, scarce less beautiful. As they rode towards the theatre, Lord Dalgarno endeavoured to discover his friend's opinion of the company to which he had introduced him, and to combat the exceptions which he might suppose him to have taken. "And wherefore lookest thou sad," he said, "my pensive neophyte? Sage son of the Alma Mater of Low-Dutch learning, what aileth thee? Is the leaf of the living world which we have turned over in company, less fairly written than thou hadst been taught to expect? Be comforted, and pass over one little blot or two; thou wilt be doomed to read through many a page, as black as Infamy, with her sooty pinion, can make them. Remember, most immaculate Nigel, that we are in London, not Leyden— that we are studying life, not lore. Stand buff against the reproach of thine over-tender conscience, man, and when thou summest up, like a good arithmetician, the actions of the day, before you balance the account on your pillow, tell the accusing spirit, to his brimstone beard, that if thine ears have heard the clatter of the devil's bones, thy hand hath not trowled them—that if thine eye hath seen the brawling of two angry boys, thy blade hath not been bared in their fray."
"Now, all this may be wise and witty," replied Nigel; "yet I own I cannot think but that your lordship, and other men of good quality with whom we dined, might have chosen a place of meeting free from the intrusion of bullies, and a better master of your ceremonial than yonder foreign adventurer."
"All shall be amended, Sancte Nigelle, when thou shalt come forth a new Peter the Hermit, to preach a crusade against dicing, drabbing, and company-keeping. We will meet for dinner in Saint Sepulchre's Church; we will dine in the chancel, drink our flask in the vestry, the parson shall draw every cork, and the clerk say amen to every health. Come man, cheer up, and get rid of this sour and unsocial humour. Credit me, that the Puritans who object to us the follies and the frailties incident to human nature, have themselves the vices of absolute devils, privy malice and backbiting hypocrisy, and spiritual pride in all its presumption. There is much, too' in life which we must see, were it only to learn to shun it. Will Shakespeare, who lives after death, and who is presently to afford thee such pleasure as none but himself can confer, has described the gallant Falconbridge as calling that man
——' a bastard to the time, That doth not smack of observation; Which, though I will not practise to deceive, Yet, to avoid deceit, I mean to learn."
But here we are at the door of the Fortune, where we shall have matchless Will speaking for himself.—Goblin, and you other lout, leave the horses to the grooms, and make way for us through the press."
They dismounted, and the assiduous efforts of Lutin, elbowing, bullying, and proclaiming his master's name and title, made way through a crowd of murmuring citizens, and clamorous apprentices, to the door, where Lord Dalgarno speedily procured a brace of stools upon the stage for his companion and himself, where, seated among other gallants of the same class, they had an opportunity of displaying their fair dresses and fashionable manners, while they criticised the piece during its progress; thus forming, at the same time, a conspicuous part of the spectacle, and an important proportion of the audience.
Nigel Olifaunt was too eagerly and deeply absorbed in the interest of the scene, to be capable of playing his part as became the place where he was seated. He felt all the magic of that sorcerer, who had displayed, within the paltry circle of a wooden booth, the long wars of York and Lancaster, compelling the heroes of either line to stalk across the scene in language and fashion as they lived, as if the grave had given up the dead for the amusement and instruction of the living. Burbage, esteemed the best Richard until Garrick arose, played the tyrant and usurper with such truth and liveliness, that when the Battle of Bosworth seemed concluded by his death, the ideas of reality and deception were strongly contending in Lord Glenvarloch's imagination, and it required him to rouse himself from his reverie, so strange did the proposal at first sound when his companion declared King Richard should sup with them at the Mermaid.
They were joined, at the same time, by a small party of the gentlemen with whom they had dined, which they recruited by inviting two or three of the most accomplished wits and poets, who seldom failed to attend the Fortune Theatre, and were even but too ready to conclude a day of amusement with a night of pleasure. Thither the whole party adjourned, and betwixt fertile cups of sack, excited spirits, and the emulous wit of their lively companions, seemed to realise the joyous boast of one of Ben Jonson's contemporaries, when reminding the bard of
"Those lyric feasts, Where men such clusters had, As made them nobly wild, not mad; While yet each verse of thine Outdid the meat, outdid the frolic wine."
Let the proud salmon gorge the feather'd hook, Then strike, and then you have him—He will wince; Spin out your line that it shall whistle from you Some twenty yards or so, yet you shall have him— Marry! you must have patience—the stout rock Which is his trust, hath edges something sharp; And the deep pool hath ooze and sludge enough To mar your fishing—'less you are more careful. Albion, or the Double Kings.
It is seldom that a day of pleasure, upon review, seems altogether so exquisite as the partaker of the festivity may have felt it while passing over him. Nigel Olifaunt, at least, did not feel it so, and it required a visit from his new acquaintance, Lord Dalgarno, to reconcile him entirely to himself. But this visit took place early after breakfast, and his friend's discourse was prefaced with a question, How he liked the company of the preceding evening?
"Why, excellently well," said Lord Glenvarloch; "only I should have liked the wit better had it appeared to flow more freely. Every man's invention seemed on the stretch, and each extravagant simile seemed to set one half of your men of wit into a brown study to produce something which should out-herod it."
"And wherefore not?" said Lord Dalgarno, "or what are these fellows fit for, but to play the intellectual gladiators before us? He of them who declares himself recreant, should, d—n him, be restricted to muddy ale, and the patronage of the Waterman's Company. I promise you, that many a pretty fellow has been mortally wounded with a quibble or a carwitchet at the Mermaid, and sent from thence, in a pitiable estate, to Wit's hospital in the Vintry, where they languish to this day amongst fools and aldermen."
"It may be so," said Lord Nigel; "yet I could swear by my honour, that last night I seemed to be in company with more than one man whose genius and learning ought either to have placed him higher in our company, or to have withdrawn him altogether from a scene, where, sooth to speak, his part seemed unworthily subordinate."
"Now, out upon your tender conscience," said Lord Dalgarno; "and the fico for such outcasts of Parnassus! Why, these are the very leavings of that noble banquet of pickled herrings and Rhenish, which lost London so many of her principal witmongers and bards of misrule. What would you have said had you seen Nash or Green, when you interest yourself about the poor mimes you supped with last night? Suffice it, they had their drench and their doze, and they drank and slept as much as may save them from any necessity of eating till evening, when, if they are industrious, they will find patrons or players to feed them. [Footnote: The condition of men of wit and talents was never more melancholy than about this period. Their lives were so irregular, and their means of living so precarious, that they were alternately rioting in debauchery, or encountering and struggling with the meanest necessities. Two or three lost their lives by a surfeit brought on by that fatal banquet of Rhenish wine and pickled herrings, which is familiar to those who study the lighter literature of that age. The whole history is a most melancholy picture of genius, degraded at once by its own debaucheries, and the patronage of heartless rakes and profligates.] For the rest of their wants, they can be at no loss for cold water while the New River head holds good; and your doublets of Parnassus are eternal in duration."
"Virgil and Horace had more efficient patronage," said Nigel.
"Ay," replied his countryman, "but these fellows are neither Virgil nor Horace; besides, we have other spirits of another sort, to whom I will introduce you on some early occasion. Our Swan of Avon hath sung his last; but we have stout old Ben, with as much learning and genius as ever prompted the treader of sock and buskin. It is not, however, of him I mean now to speak; but I come to pray you, of dear love, to row up with me as far as Richmond, where two or three of the gallants whom you saw yesterday, mean to give music and syllabubs to a set of beauties, with some curious bright eyes among them—such, I promise you, as might win an astrologer from his worship of the galaxy. My sister leads the bevy, to whom I desire to present you. She hath her admirers at Court; and is regarded, though I might dispense with sounding her praise, as one of the beauties of the time."
There was no refusing an engagement, where the presence of the party invited, late so low in his own regard, was demanded by a lady of quality, one of the choice beauties of the time. Lord Glenvarloch accepted, as was inevitable, and spent a lively day among the gay and the fair. He was the gallant in attendance, for the day, upon his friend's sister, the beautiful Countess of Blackchester, who aimed at once at superiority in the realms of fashion, of power, and of wit.
She was, indeed, considerably older than her brother, and had probably completed her six lustres; but the deficiency in extreme youth was more than atoned for, in the most precise and curious accuracy in attire, an early acquaintance with every foreign mode, and a peculiar gift in adapting the knowledge which she acquired, to her own particular features and complexion. At Court, she knew as well as any lady in the circle, the precise tone, moral, political, learned, or jocose, in which it was proper to answer the monarch, according to his prevailing humour; and was supposed to have been very active, by her personal interest, in procuring her husband a high situation, which the gouty old viscount could never have deserved by any merit of his own commonplace conduct and understanding.
It was far more easy for this lady than for her brother, to reconcile so young a courtier as Lord Glenvarloch to the customs and habits of a sphere so new to him. In all civilised society, the females of distinguished rank and beauty give the tone to manners, and, through these, even to morals. Lady Blackchester had, besides, interest either in the Court, or over the Court, (for its source could not be well traced,) which created friends, and overawed those who might have been disposed to play the part of enemies.
At one time, she was understood to be closely leagued with the Buckingham family, with whom her brother still maintained a great intimacy; and, although some coldness had taken place betwixt the Countess and the Duchess of Buckingham, so that they were little seen together, and the former seemed considerably to have withdrawn herself into privacy, it was whispered that Lady Blackchester's interest with the great favourite was not diminished in consequence of her breach with his lady.
Our accounts of the private Court intrigues of that period, and of the persons to whom they were intrusted, are not full enough to enable us to pronounce upon the various reports which arose out of the circumstances we have detailed. It is enough to say, that Lady Blackchester possessed great influence on the circle around her, both from her beauty, her abilities, and her reputed talents for Court intrigue; and that Nigel Olifaunt was not long of experiencing its power, as he became a slave in some degree to that species of habit, which carries so many men into a certain society at a certain hour, without expecting or receiving any particular degree of gratification, or even amusement.
His life for several weeks may be thus described. The ordinary was no bad introduction to the business of the day; and the young lord quickly found, that if the society there was not always irreproachable, still it formed the most convenient and agreeable place of meeting with the fashionable parties, with whom he visited Hyde Park, the theatres, and other places of public resort, or joined the gay and glittering circle which Lady Blackchester had assembled around her. Neither did he entertain the same scrupulous horror which led him originally even to hesitate entering into a place where gaming was permitted; but, on the contrary, began to admit the idea, that as there could be no harm done in beholding such recreation when only indulged in to a moderate degree, so, from a parity of reasoning, there could be no objection to joining in it, always under the same restrictions. But the young lord was a Scotsman, habituated to early reflection, and totally unaccustomed to any habit which inferred a careless risk or profuse waste of money. Profusion was not his natural vice, or one likely to be acquired in the course of his education; and, in all probability, while his father anticipated with noble horror the idea of his son approaching the gaming-table, he was more startled at the idea of his becoming a gaining than a losing adventurer. The second, according to his principles, had a termination, a sad one indeed, in the loss of temporal fortune—the first quality went on increasing the evil which he dreaded, and perilled at once both body and soul.
However the old lord might ground his apprehension, it was so far verified by his son's conduct, that, from an observer of the various games of chance which he witnessed, he came, by degrees, by moderate hazards, and small bets or wagers, to take a certain interest in them. Nor could it be denied, that his rank and expectations entitled him to hazard a few pieces (for his game went no deeper) against persons, who, from the readiness with which they staked their money, might be supposed well able to afford to lose it.
It chanced, or, perhaps, according to the common belief, his evil genius had so decreed, that Nigel's adventures were remarkably successful. He was temperate, cautious, cool-headed, had a strong memory, and a ready power of calculation; was besides, of a daring and intrepid character, one upon whom no one that had looked even slightly, or spoken to though but hastily, would readily have ventured to practise any thing approaching to trick, or which required to be supported by intimidation. While Lord Glenvarloch chose to play, men played with him regularly, or, according to the phrase, upon the square; and, as he found his luck change, or wished to hazard his good fortune no farther, the more professed votaries of fortune, who frequented the house of Monsieur le Chevalier de Saint Priest Beaujeu, did not venture openly to express their displeasure at his rising a winner. But when this happened repeatedly, the gamesters murmured amongst themselves equally at the caution and the success of the young Scotsman; and he became far from being a popular character among their society.
It was no slight inducement to the continuance of this most evil habit, when it was once in some degree acquired, that it seemed to place Lord Glenvarloch, haughty as he naturally was, beyond the necessity of subjecting himself to farther pecuniary obligations, which his prolonged residence in London must otherwise have rendered necessary. He had to solicit from the ministers certain forms of office, which were to render his sign-manual effectually useful; and these, though they could not be denied, were delayed in such a manner, as to lead Nigel to believe there was some secret opposition, which occasioned the demur in his business. His own impulse was, to have appeared at Court a second time, with the king's sign-manual in his pocket, and to have appealed to his Majesty himself, whether the delay of the public officers ought to render his royal generosity unavailing. But the Lord Huntinglen, that good old peer, who had so frankly interfered in his behalf on a former occasion, and whom he occasionally visited, greatly dissuaded him from a similar adventure, and exhorted him quietly to await the deliverance of the ministers, which should set him free from dancing attendance in London.
Lord Dalgarno joined his father in deterring his young friend from a second attendance at Court, at least till he was reconciled with the Duke of Buckingham—"a matter in which," he said, addressing his father, "I have offered my poor assistance, without being able to prevail on Lord Nigel to make any—not even the least—submission to the Duke of Buckingham."
"By my faith, and I hold the laddie to be in the right on't, Malcom!" answered the stout old Scots lord.—"What right hath Buckingham, or, to speak plainly, the son of Sir George Villiers, to expect homage and fealty from one more noble than himself by eight quarters? I heard him myself, on no reason that I could perceive, term Lord Nigel his enemy; and it will never be by my counsel that the lad speaks soft word to him, till he recalls the hard one."
"That is precisely my advice to Lord Glenvarloch," answered Lord Dalgarno; "but then you will admit, my dear father, that it would be the risk of extremity for our friend to return into the presence, the duke being his enemy—better to leave it with me to take off the heat of the distemperature, with which some pickthanks have persuaded the duke to regard our friend."
"If thou canst persuade Buckingham of his error, Malcolm," said his father, "for once I will say there hath been kindness and honesty in Court service. I have oft told your sister and yourself, that in the general I esteem it as lightly as may be."
"You need not doubt my doing my best in Nigel's case," answered Lord Dalgarno; "but you must think, my dear father, I must needs use slower and gentler means than those by which you became a favourite twenty years ago."
"By my faith, I am afraid thou wilt," answered his father.—"I tell thee, Malcolm, I would sooner wish myself in the grave, than doubt thine honesty or honour; yet somehow it hath chanced, that honest, ready service, hath not the same acceptance at Court which it has in my younger time—and yet you rise there."
"O, the time permits not your old-world service," said Lord Dalgarno; "we have now no daily insurrections, no nightly attempts at assassination, as were the fashion in the Scottish Court. Your prompt and uncourteous sword-in-hand attendance on the sovereign is no longer necessary, and would be as unbeseeming as your old-fashioned serving- men, with their badges, broadswords, and bucklers, would be at a court-mask. Besides, father, loyal haste hath its inconveniences. I have heard, and from royal lips too, that when you stuck your dagger into the traitor Ruthven, it was with such little consideration, that the point ran a quarter of an inch into the royal buttock. The king never talks of it but he rubs the injured part, and quotes his 'infandum———-renovare dolorem.' But this comes of old fashions, and of wearing a long Liddesdale whinger instead of a poniard of Parma. Yet this, my dear father, you call prompt and valiant service. The king, I am told, could not sit upright for a fortnight, though all the cushions in Falkland were placed in his chair of state, and the Provost of Dunfermline's borrowed to the boot of all."
"It is a lie," said the old earl, "a false lie, forge it who list!—It is true I wore a dagger of service by my side, and not a bodkin like yours, to pick one's teeth withal—and for prompt service—Odds nouns! it should be prompt to be useful when kings are crying treason and murder with the screech of a half-throttled hen. But you young courtiers know nought of these matters, and are little better than the green geese they bring over from the Indies, whose only merit to their masters is to repeat their own words after them—a pack of mouthers, and flatterers, and ear-wigs.—Well, I am old and unable to mend, else I would break all off, and hear the Tay once more flinging himself over the Campsie Linn."
"But there is your dinner-bell, father," said Lord Dalgarno, "which, if the venison I sent you prove seasonable, is at least as sweet a sound."
"Follow me, then, youngsters, if you list," said the old earl; and strode on from the alcove in which this conversation was held, towards the house, followed by the two young men.
In their private discourse, Lord Dalgarno had little trouble in dissuading Nigel from going immediately to Court; while, on the other hand, the offers he made him of a previous introduction to the Duke of Buckingham, were received by Lord Glenvarloch with a positive and contemptuous refusal. His friend shrugged his shoulders, as one who claims the merit of having given to an obstinate friend the best counsel, and desires to be held free of the consequences of his pertinacity.
As for the father, his table indeed, and his best liquor, of which he was more profuse than necessary, were at the command of his young friend, as well as his best advice and assistance in the prosecution of his affairs. But Lord Huntinglen's interest was more apparent than real; and the credit he had acquired by his gallant defence of the king's person, was so carelessly managed by himself, and so easily eluded by the favourites and ministers of the sovereign, that, except upon one or two occasions, when the king was in some measure taken by surprise, as in the case of Lord Glenvarloch, the royal bounty was never efficiently extended either to himself or to his friends.
"There never was a man," said Lord Dalgarno, whose shrewder knowledge of the English Court saw where his father's deficiency lay, "that had it so perfectly in his power to have made his way to the pinnacle of fortune as my poor father. He had acquired a right to build up a staircase, step by step, slowly and surely, letting every boon, which he begged year after year, become in its turn the resting-place for the next annual grant. But your fortunes shall not shipwreck upon the same coast, Nigel," he would conclude. "If I have fewer means of influence than my father has, or rather had, till he threw them away for butts of sack, hawks, hounds, and such carrion, I can, far better than he, improve that which I possess; and that, my dear Nigel, is all engaged in your behalf. Do not be surprised or offended that you now see me less than formerly. The stag-hunting is commenced, and the prince looks that I should attend him more frequently. I must also maintain my attendance on the duke, that I may have an opportunity of pleading your cause when occasion shall permit."
"I have no cause to plead before the duke," said Nigel, gravely; "I have said so repeatedly."
"Why, I meant the phrase no otherwise, thou churlish and suspicious disputant," answered Dalgarno, "than as I am now pleading the duke's cause with thee. Surely I only mean to claim a share in our royal master's favourite benediction, Beati Pacifici."
Upon several occasions, Lord Glenvarloch's conversations, both with the old earl and his son, took a similar turn and had a like conclusion. He sometimes felt as if, betwixt the one and the other, not to mention the more unseen and unboasted, but scarce less certain influence of Lady Blackchester, his affair, simple as it had become, might have been somehow accelerated. But it was equally impossible to doubt the rough honesty of the father, and the eager and officious friendship of Lord Dalgarno; nor was it easy to suppose that the countenance of the lady, by whom he was received with such distinction, would be wanting, could it be effectual in his service.
Nigel was further sensible of the truth of what Lord Dalgarno often pointed out, that the favourite being supposed to be his enemy, every petty officer, through whose hands his affair must necessarily pass, would desire to make a merit of throwing obstacles in his way, which he could only surmount by steadiness and patience, unless he preferred closing the breach, or, as Lord Dalgarno called it, making his peace with the Duke of Buckingham.
Nigel might, and doubtless would, have had recourse to the advice of his friend George Heriot upon this occasion, having found it so advantageous formerly; but the only time he saw him after their visit to Court, he found the worthy citizen engaged in hasty preparations for a journey to Paris, upon business of great importance in the way of his profession, and by an especial commission from the Court and the Duke of Buckingham, which was likely to be attended with considerable profit. The good man smiled as he named the Duke of Buckingham. He had been, he said, pretty sure that his disgrace in that quarter would not be of long duration. Lord Glenvarloch expressed himself rejoiced at that reconciliation, observing, that it had been a most painful reflection to him, that Master Heriot should, in his behalf, have incurred the dislike, and perhaps exposed himself to the ill offices, of so powerful a favourite.
"My lord," said Heriot, "for your father's son I would do much; and yet truly, if I know myself, I would do as much and risk as much, for the sake of justice, in the case of a much more insignificant person, as I have ventured for yours. But as we shall not meet for some time, I must commit to your own wisdom the farther prosecution of this matter."
And thus they took a kind and affectionate leave of each other.
There were other changes in Lord Glenvarloch's situation, which require to be noticed. His present occupations, and the habits of amusement which he had acquired, rendered his living so far in the city a considerable inconvenience. He may also have become a little ashamed of his cabin on Paul's Wharf, and desirous of being lodged somewhat more according to his quality. For this purpose, he had hired a small apartment near the Temple. He was, nevertheless, almost sorry for what he had done, when he observed that his removal appeared to give some pain to John Christie, and a great deal to his cordial and officious landlady. The former, who was grave and saturnine in every thing he did, only hoped that all had been to Lord Glenvarloch's mind, and that he had not left them on account of any unbeseeming negligence on their part. But the tear twinkled in Dame Nelly's eye, while she recounted the various improvements she had made in the apartment, of express purpose to render it more convenient to his lordship.
"There was a great sea-chest," she said, "had been taken upstairs to the shopman's garret, though it left the poor lad scarce eighteen inches of opening to creep betwixt it and his bed; and Heaven knew— she did not—whether it could ever be brought down that narrow stair again. Then the turning the closet into an alcove had cost a matter of twenty round shillings; and to be sure, to any other lodger but his lordship, the closet was more convenient. There was all the linen, too, which she had bought on purpose—But Heaven's will be done—she was resigned."
Everybody likes marks of personal attachment; and Nigel, whose heart really smote him,, as if in his rising fortunes he were disdaining the lowly accommodations and the civilities of the humble friends which had been but lately actual favours, failed not by every assurance in his power, and by as liberal payment as they could be prevailed upon to accept, to alleviate the soreness of their feelings at his departure; and a parting kiss from the fair lips of his hostess sealed his forgiveness.
Richie Moniplies lingered behind his master, to ask whether, in case of need, John Christie could help a canny Scotsman to a passage back to his own country; and receiving assurance of John's interest to that effect, he said at parting, he would remind him of his promise soon.— "For," said he, "if my lord is not weary of this London life, I ken one that is, videlicet, mysell; and I am weel determined to see Arthur's Seat again ere I am many weeks older."
Bingo, why, Bingo! hey, boy—here, sir, here!— He's gone and off, but he'll be home before us;— 'Tis the most wayward cur e'er mumbled bone, Or dogg'd a master's footstep.—Bingo loves me Better than ever beggar loved his alms; Yet, when he takes such humour, you may coax Sweet Mistress Fantasy, your worship's mistress, Out of her sullen moods, as soon as Bingo. The Dominie And His Dog.
Richie Moniplies was as good as his word. Two or three mornings after the young lord had possessed himself of his new lodgings, he appeared before Nigel, as he was preparing to dress, having left his pillow at an hour much later than had formerly been his custom.
As Nigel looked upon his attendant, he observed there was a gathering gloom upon his solemn features, which expressed either additional importance, or superadded discontent, or a portion of both.
"How now," he said, "what is the matter this morning, Richie, that you have made your face so like the grotesque mask on one of the spouts yonder?" pointing to the Temple Church, of which Gothic building they had a view from the window.
Richie swivelled his head a little to the right with as little alacrity as if he had the crick in his neck, and instantly resuming his posture, replied,—"Mask here, mask there—it were nae such matters that I have to speak anent."
"And what matters have you to speak anent, then?" said his master, whom circumstances had inured to tolerate a good deal of freedom from his attendant.
"My lord,"—said Richie, and then stopped to cough and hem, as if what he had to say stuck somewhat in his throat.
"I guess the mystery," said Nigel, "you want a little money, Richie; will five pieces serve the present turn?"
"My lord," said Richie, "I may, it is like, want a trifle of money; and I am glad at the same time, and sorry, that it is mair plenty with your lordship than formerly."
"Glad and sorry, man!" said Lord Nigel, "why, you are reading riddles to me, Richie."
"My riddle will be briefly read," said Richie; "I come to crave of your lordship your commands for Scotland."
"For Scotland!—why, art thou mad, man?" said Nigel; "canst thou not tarry to go down with me?"
"I could be of little service," said Richie, "since you purpose to hire another page and groom."
"Why, thou jealous ass," said the young lord, "will not thy load of duty lie the lighter?—Go, take thy breakfast, and drink thy ale double strong, to put such absurdities out of thy head—I could be angry with thee for thy folly, man—but I remember how thou hast stuck to me in adversity."
"Adversity, my lord, should never have parted us," said Richie; "methinks, had the warst come to warst, I could have starved as gallantly as your lordship, or more so, being in some sort used to it; for, though I was bred at a flasher's stall, I have not through my life had a constant intimacy with collops."
"Now, what is the meaning of all this trash?" said Nigel; "or has it no other end than to provoke my patience? You know well enough, that, had I twenty serving-men, I would hold the faithful follower that stood by me in my distress the most valued of them all. But it is totally out of reason to plague me with your solemn capriccios."
"My lord," said Richie, "in declaring your trust in me, you have done what is honourable to yourself, if I may with humility say so much, and in no way undeserved on my side. Nevertheless, we must part."
"Body of me, man, why?" said Lord Nigel; "what reason can there be for it, if we are mutually satisfied?"
"My lord," said Richie Moniplies, "your lordship's occupations are such as I cannot own or countenance by my presence."
"How now, sirrah!" said his master, angrily.
"Under favour, my lord," replied his domestic, "it is unequal dealing to be equally offended by my speech and by my silence. If you can hear with patience the grounds of my departure, it may be, for aught I know, the better for you here and hereafter—if not, let me have my license of departure in silence, and so no more about it."
"Go to, sir!" said Nigel; "speak out your mind—only remember to whom you speak it."
"Weel, weel, my lord—I speak it with humility;" (never did Richie look with more starched dignity than when he uttered the word;) "but do you think this dicing and card-shuffling, and haunting of taverns and playhouses, suits your lordship—for I am sure it does not suit me?"
"Why, you are not turned precisian or puritan, fool?" said Lord Glenvarloch, laughing, though, betwixt resentment and shame, it cost him some trouble to do so.
"My lord," replied the follower, "I ken the purport of your query. I am, it may be, a little of a precisian, and I wish to Heaven I was mair worthy of the name; but let that be a pass-over.—I have stretched the duties of a serving-man as far as my northern conscience will permit. I can give my gude word to my master, or to my native country, when I am in a foreign land, even though I should leave downright truth a wee bit behind me. Ay, and I will take or give a slash with ony man that speaks to the derogation of either. But this chambering, dicing, and play-haunting, is not my element—I cannot draw breath in it—and when I hear of your lordship winning the siller that some poor creature may full sairly miss—by my saul, if it wad serve your necessity, rather than you gained it from him, I wad take a jump over the hedge with your lordship, and cry 'Stand!' to the first grazier we met that was coming from Smithfield with the price of his Essex calves in his leathern pouch!"
"You are a simpleton," said Nigel, who felt, however, much conscience- struck; "I never play but for small sums."
"Ay, my lord," replied the unyielding domestic, "and—still with reverence—it is even sae much the waur. If you played with your equals, there might be like sin, but there wad be mair warldly honour in it. Your lordship kens, or may ken, by experience of your ain, whilk is not as yet mony weeks auld, that small sums can ill be missed by those that have nane larger; and I maun e'en be plain with you, that men notice it of your lordship, that ye play wi' nane but the misguided creatures that can but afford to lose bare stakes."
"No man dare say so!" replied Nigel, very angrily. "I play with whom I please, but I will only play for what stake I please."
"That is just what they say, my lord," said the unmerciful Richie, whose natural love of lecturing, as well as his bluntness of feeling, prevented him from having any idea of the pain which he was inflicting on his master; "these are even their own very words. It was but yesterday your lordship was pleased, at that same ordinary, to win from yonder young hafflins gentleman, with the crimson velvet doublet, and the cock's feather in his beaver—him, I mean, who fought with the ranting captain—a matter of five pounds, or thereby. I saw him come through the hall; and, if he was not cleaned out of cross and pile, I never saw a ruined man in my life."
"Impossible!" said Lord Glenvarloch—"Why, who is he? he looked like a man of substance."
"All is not gold that glistens, my lord," replied Richie; "'broidery and bullion buttons make bare pouches. And if you ask who he is—maybe I have a guess, and care not to tell."
"At least, if I have done any such fellow an injury," said the Lord Nigel, "let me know how I can repair it."
"Never fash your beard about that, my lord,—with reverence always," said Richie,—"he shall be suitably cared after. Think on him but as ane wha was running post to the devil, and got a shouldering from your lordship to help him on his journey. But I will stop him, if reason can; and so your lordship needs asks nae mair about it, for there is no use in your knowing it, but much the contrair."
"Hark you, sirrah," said his master, "I have borne with you thus far, for certain reasons; but abuse my good-nature no farther—and since you must needs go, why, go a God's name, and here is to pay your journey." So saying, he put gold into his hand, which Richie told over piece by piece, with the utmost accuracy.
"Is it all right—or are they wanting in weight—or what the devil keeps you, when your hurry was so great five minutes since?" said the young lord, now thoroughly nettled at the presumptuous precision with which Richie dealt forth his canons of morality.
"The tale of coin is complete," said Richie, with the most imperturbable gravity; "and, for the weight, though they are sae scrupulous in this town, as make mouths at a piece that is a wee bit light, or that has been cracked within the ring, my sooth, they will jump at them in Edinburgh like a cock at a grosart. Gold pieces are not so plenty there, the mair the pity!"
"The more is your folly, then," said Nigel, whose anger was only momentary, "that leave the land where there is enough of them."
"My lord," said Richie, "to be round with you, the grace of God is better than gold pieces. When Goblin, as you call yonder Monsieur Lutin,—and you might as well call him Gibbet, since that is what he is like to end in,—shall recommend a page to you, ye will hear little such doctrine as ye have heard from me.—And if they were my last words," he said, raising his voice, "I would say you are misled, and are forsaking the paths which your honourable father trode in; and, what is more, you are going—still under correction—to the devil with a dishclout, for ye are laughed at by them that lead you into these disordered bypaths."
"Laughed at!" said Nigel, who, like others of his age, was more sensible to ridicule than to reason—"Who dares laugh at me?"
"My lord, as sure as I live by bread—nay, more, as I am a true man— and, I think, your lordship never found Richie's tongue bearing aught but the truth—unless that your lordship's credit, my country's profit, or, it may be, some sma' occasion of my ain, made it unnecessary to promulgate the haill veritie,—I say then, as I am a true man, when I saw that puir creature come through the ha', at that ordinary, whilk is accurst (Heaven forgive me for swearing!) of God and man, with his teeth set, and his hands clenched, and his bonnet drawn over his brows like a desperate man, Goblin said to me, 'There goes a dunghill chicken, that your master has plucked clean enough; it will be long ere his lordship ruffle a feather with a cock of the game.' And so, my lord, to speak it out, the lackeys, and the gallants, and more especially your sworn brother, Lord Dalgarno, call you the sparrow-hawk.—I had some thought to have cracked Lutin's pate for the speech, but, after a', the controversy was not worth it."