But Zustiniani, gratified as he was by the triumph of his new prima donna, was not content with Consuelo's success on the stage; he also wanted her for himself. Consuelo gravely refused the jewels and ornaments he offered her, and the count was strangely annoyed. He was thrilled with unknown emotions by Consuelo's singing, and his patrician soul could not realise that this poor little pupil of Porpora's was not to be won by the ordinary methods, which he had hitherto employed successfully in the conquest of opera singers.
Porpora saved Consuelo from the count's threatening attentions.
The prima donna suddenly disappeared, and it was said she had gone to Vienna, that she had been engaged for the emperor's theatre, and that Porpora was also going there to conduct his new opera.
Count Zustiniani was particularly embarrassed by Consuelo's flight. He had led all Venice to believe this wonderful new singer favoured his addresses. Some, indeed, maintained for a time that, jealous of his treasure, the count had hidden her in one of his country houses. But when they heard Porpora say, with a blunt openness which could never deceive, that he had advised his pupil to go to Germany and wait for him, there was nothing left but to try and find out the motives for this extraordinary decision.
To all inquiries addressed to him Porpora answered that no one should ever know from him where Consuelo was to be found.
In real truth, it was not only Zustiniani who had driven Consuelo away. A youth named Anzoleto, who had grown up in Venice with Consuelo so that the two were as brother and sister, and who lacked both heart and constancy, made life too hard for Consuelo. Anxious to get all the advantages of Consuelo's friendship, and to be known as her betrothed, so that he could procure an engagement in the opera through her generous influence, he yet made love to another singer, a former favourite of Zustiniani's. Learning of Anzoleto's heartless unfaithfulness, and pressed by Zustiniani, Consuelo had turned to her old master for help, and had not been disappointed.
Among the mountains which separate Bohemia from Bavaria stood an old country house, known as the Castle of the Giant, the residence of the Lords of Rudolstadt. A strange mystery reigned over this ancient family. Count Christian Rudolstadt, the head of the house, a widower, his elder sister, the Canoness Wenceslawa, a venerable lady of seventy, and Count Albert, the only son and heir, lived alone with their retainers, never associating with their neighbours. The count's brother, Baron Frederick Rudolstadt, with his daughter Amelia, had for some time past taken up their abode in the Castle of the Giants, and it was the hope of the two brothers that Albert and Amelia would become betrothed. But the silence and gloom of the place were hateful to Amelia, and Albert's deep melancholy and absent-mindedness were not the tokens of a lover.
Albert, in fact, had so brooded over the horrors of the old wars between Catholic and Protestant in Bohemia, that when the fit was on him he believed himself living and acting in those terrible times, and it was this kind of madness in his son which made Count Christian shun all social intercourse. Albert was now thirty, and the doctors had predicted that this year he would either conquer the fancies which took such fierce hold on him, or succumb entirely.
One night, when the family were assembled round the hearth, the castle bell rang, and presently a letter was brought in. It was from Porpora to Count Christian, and the count, having read it, passed it on to Amelia.
It seemed that Christian had written to Porpora, whom he had long known and respected, to ask him to recommend him a companion for Amelia, and the letter now arrived not only recommended Consuelo, but Consuelo herself had brought it.
The old count at once hastened with his niece to welcome Porporpina, as the visitor was called, and the terror which the journey to the castle and the first impressions of the gloomy place had struck upon the young singer only melted at the warmth of Christian's praises of her old master, Porpora.
From the first the whole household treated Consuelo with every kindness, and Amelia very soon confided in her new friend all that she knew of the family history, explaining that her cousin Albert was certainly mad.
Albert himself seemed unaware of Consuelo's presence until one day when he heard her sing. Amelia's singing always made him uneasy and restless, but the first time Consuelo sang—she had chosen a religious piece from Palestrina—Albert suddenly appeared in the room, and remained motionless till the end. Then, falling on his knees, his large eyes swimming in tears, he exclaimed, in Spanish: "Oh, Consuelo, Consuelo! I have at last found thee!"
"Consuelo?" cried the astonished girl, replying in the same language. "Why, senor, do you call me by that name?"
"I call you Consolation, because a consolation has been promised to my desolate life, and because you are that consolation which God at last grants to my solitary and gloomy existence. Consuelo! If you leave me, my life is at an end, and I will never return to earth again!" Saying this he fell at her feet in a swoon; and the two girls, terrified, called the servants to carry him to his room and restore him to consciousness. But hardly had Albert been left alone before his apartment was empty, and he had disappeared.
Days passed, and the anxiety at the castle remained unrelieved. It was not the first time Albert had disappeared, but now his absence was longer than usual. Consuelo found out the secret of his hiding-place—a vaulted hall at the end of a long gallery in a cave in the forest was Albert's hermitage, and a secret passage from the moat of the castle enabled him to pass unseen to his solitude. She traced him to the chamber in the recesses of the cavern.
Already Consuelo had discovered the two natures in Albert—the one wise, the other mad; the one polished, tender, merciful; the other strange, untamed and violent She saw that sympathy and firmness were both needed in dealing with this lonely and unfortunate man—sympathy with his religious mysticism, and firmness in urging him not to yield to the images of his mind.
That Albert was in love with her, Consuelo understood; but to his pleadings she had but one answer:
"Do not speak of love, do not speak of marriage. My past life, my recollections, make the first impossible. The difference in our conditions would render the second humiliating and insupportable to me. Let it be enough that I will be your friend and your consoler, whenever you are disposed to open your heart to me."
And with this Albert, for a time, professed to be content. So determined was he, however, to win Consuelo's heart, that he readily obeyed her advice, and even promised never to return to his hermitage without first asking her to accompany him.
Gentle old Count Christian himself came later to plead his son's cause with Consuelo. Amelia and her father had left the Castle of the Giants, and Christian realised how much Consuelo had already done for the restoration of his son's health.
"You were afraid of me, dear Consuelo," said the old man. "You thought that the old Rudolstadt, with his aristocratic prejudices, would be ashamed to owe his son to you. But you are mistaken, and I go to bring my son to your feet, that together we may bless you for extending his happiness."
"Oh, stop, my dear lord!" said Consuelo, amazed. "I am not free. I have an object, a vocation, a calling. I belong to the art to which I have devoted myself since my childhood. I could only renounce all this—if— if I loved Albert. That is what I must find out. Give me at least a few days, that I may learn whether I have this love for him within my heart."
The arrival of the worthless Anzoleto at the Castle of the Giants drove Consuelo once more to flight. Anzoleto had enjoyed some success at Venice, but having incurred the wrath of Zustiniani, he was escaping to Prague. Passing through Bohemia, the fame of a beautiful singer at the castle of the Rudolstadts came to his ears, and Anzoleto resolved to recover the old place he had once held in Consuelo's heart. He gave himself out as Consuelo's brother, and was at once admitted to the castle and treated kindly. For Consuelo, the only course open now was to flee to Vienna, and take refuge with Porpora, and this she did, leaving in the dead of night, after writing explanations to Christian and Albert.
The greater part of the journey to Vienna was accomplished on foot, and Consuelo had for her travelling companion a humble youth, whose name was Joseph Haydn, and whose great musical genius was yet to be recognized by the world.
Many months had elapsed since Consuelo had seen her master and benefactor, and to the joy which she experienced in pressing old Porpora in her arms a painful feeling soon succeeded. Vexation and sorrow had imprinted their marks on the brow of the old maestro. He looked far older, and the fire of his countenance seemed chilled by age. The unfortunate composer had flattered himself that he would find in Vienna fresh chances of success and fortune; but he was received there with cold esteem, and happier rivals were in possession of the imperial favour and the public admiration. Being neither a flatterer nor an intriguer, Porpora's rough frankness was no passport to influence, and his ill-humour made enemies rather than friends. He held out no hopes to Consuelo.
"There are no ears to listen, no hearts to comprehend you in this place, my child," he said sadly. "If you wish to succeed, you would do well to follow the master to whom they owe their skill and their fortune."
But when Consuelo told him of the proposal made by Count Albert, and of Count Christian's desire for her marriage with his son, the tyrannical old musician at once put his foot down.
"You must not think of the young count!" he said fiercely. "I positively forbid you! Such a union is not suitable. Count Christian would never permit you to become an artist again. I know the unconquerable pride of these nobles, and you cannot hesitate for an instant between the career of nobility and that of art."
So resolute was Porpora that Consuelo should not be tempted from the life he had trained her for, that he did not hesitate to destroy, unread, her letters to the Rudolstadts, and letters from Count Christian and Albert. He even wrote to Christian himself, declaring that Consuelo desired nothing but the career of a public singer.
But when, after many disappointments and rebuffs, Consuelo at last was appointed to take the prima donna's place for six days at the imperial opera house, she was frightened at the prospect of the toils and struggles before her feverish arena of the theatre seemed to her a place of terror and the Castle of the Giants a lost paradise, an abode of peace and virtue.
Consuelo's triumph at the opera had been indisputable. Her voice was sweeter and richer than when she sang in Venice, and a perfect storm of flowers fell upon the stage at the end of the performance. Amid these perfumed gifts Consuelo saw a green branch fall at her feet, and when the curtain was lowered for the last time she picked it up. It was a bunch of cypress, a symbol of grief and despair.
To add to her distress, she was now conscious that her love for Albert was a reality, and no answer had come from him or from Count Christian to the letters she had sent. Twice in the six days at the opera she had caught a glimpse, so it seemed to her, of Count Albert, but on both occasions the figure had melted away without a word, and unobserved by all at the theatre.
No further engagement followed at the opera, and Consuelo's thoughts turned more and more to the Rudolstadts. If only she could hear from Christian or his son, she would know whether she was free to devote herself absolutely to her art. For she had made her promise to Count Christian that she would send him word should she feel sure of being in love with Albert; and now that word had been sent, and no reply had come.
Porpora, with a promise of an engagement at the royal theatre in Berlin, and anxious to take Consuelo with him, had confessed, in answer to her objection to leaving Vienna before hearing from Christian, that letters had come from the Rudolstadts, which he had destroyed.
"The old count was not at all anxious to have a daughter-in-law picked up behind the scenes," said Porpora, "and so the good Albert sets you at liberty."
Consuelo never suspected her master of this profound deceit, and, taking the story he had invented for truth, signed an agreement to go to Berlin for two months.
IV.—The Return to Bohemia
The carriage containing Porpora and Consuelo had reached the city of Prague, and was on the bridge that spans the Moldau, when a horseman approached and looked in at the window, gazing with a tranquil curiosity. Porpora pushed him back, exclaiming:
"How dare you stare at ladies so closely."
The horseman replied in Bohemian, and Consuelo, seeing his face, called out:
"Is it the Baron Frederick of Rudolstadt?"
"Yes, it is I, signora!" replied the baron, in a dejected tone. "The brother of Christian, the uncle of Albert. And in truth, is it you also?"
The baron accompanied them to a hotel, and there explained to Consuelo that he had received a letter from the canoness, his sister, bidding him, at Albert's request, be on the bridge of Prague at seven o'clock that evening.
"The first carriage that passes you will stop; if the first person you see in it can leave for the castle that same evening, Albert, perhaps, will be saved. At least, he says it will give him a hold on eternal life. I do not know what he means, but he has the gift of prophecy and the perception of hidden things. The doctors have given up all hope for his life."
"Is the carriage ready, sir?" Consuelo said, when the latter was finished. "If so I am ready also, and we can set out instantly."
"I shall follow you," said Porpora. "Only we must be in Berlin in a week's time."
The carriage and horses were already in the courtyard, and in a few minutes the baron and Consuelo were on their journey to the castle of the Rudolstadts.
At the doorway of the castle they were met by the aged canoness, who, seizing Consuelo by the arm, said:
"We have not a moment to lose. Albert begins to grow impatient. He has counted the hours and minutes till your arrival, and announced your approach before we heard the sound of the carriage wheels. He was sure of your coming; but, he said, if any accident detained you, it would be too late. Signora, in the name of Heaven, do not oppose any of his wishes; promise all he asks; pretend to love him. Albert's hours are numbered; his life is close. All we ask of you is to soothe his sufferings." Then, as they approached the great saloon, she added, "Take courage, signora. You need not be afraid of surprising him, for he expects you, and has seen you coming hours ago."
The door opened and Consuelo darted forward to her lover. Albert was seated in a large arm-chair before the fire. It was no longer a man, it was a spectre, Consuelo saw. His face, still beautiful, was as a face of marble. There was no smile on his lips, no ray of joy in his eyes. Consuelo knelt before him; he looked fixedly at her, and then, giving a sign to the canoness, she placed his arms on Consuelo's shoulders. Then she made the young girl lay her head on Albert's breast, and the dying man whispered in her ear: "I am happy." With another sign, he made the canoness understand that she and his father were to kiss his betrothed.
"From my very heart!" exclaimed the canoness, with emotion. The old count who had been holding his brother's hand in one of his and Porpora's in the other, left them to embrace Consuelo fervently.
The doctor urged an immediate marriage.
"I can answer positively for nothing," he said, "but I venture to think much good may come of it. Your excellency consented to this marriage formerly——"
"I always consented to it. I never opposed it," said the count. "It was Master Porpora who wrote to say that he would never consent, and that she likewise had renounced all idea. Alas, it was the death-blow to my unhappy child!"
"Do not grieve," murmured Albert to Consuelo. "I have understood for many days now that you were faithful. I know that you have endeavoured to love me, and have succeeded. But we have been deceived, and you must forgive your master, as I forgive him."
Consuelo looked at Porpora, and the old musician reproached himself for homicide, and burst into tears. Only Consuelo's consent was necessary, and this was given.
The marriage was hastened on. Porpora and the doctor served as witnesses. Albert found strength to pronounce a decisive "Yes," and the other responses in the service in a clear voice, and the family from this felt a new hope for his recovery. Hardly had the chaplain recited the closing prayer over the newly-married couple, before Albert arose and threw himself into his father's arms; then, seating himself again in his arm-chair, he pressed Consuelo to his heart, and exclaimed:
"I am saved!"
"It is nature's last effort," said the doctor.
Albert's arms loosed their hold, and fell forward on his knees. His gaze was riveted on Consuelo; gradually the shade crept from his forehead to his lips, and covered his face with a snowy veil.
"It is the hand of Death!" said the doctor, breaking the silence.
Consuelo would take neither her husband's title nor his riches.
"Stay with us, my daughter?" cried the canoness, "for you have a lofty soul and a great heart!"
But Consuelo tore herself away after the funeral, though her heart was wrung with grief. As she crossed the drawbridge with Porpora, Consuelo did not know that already the old count was dead, and that the Castle of the Giants, with its riches and its sufferings, had become the property of the Countess of Rudolstadt.
* * * * *
It was while George Sand was pleading for a separation from her husband, on the ground of incompatibility of temperament, that "Mauprat" was written, and the powerful story, full of storm, sentiment, and passion, bears the marks of its tumultuous birth.
I.—Bernard Mauprat's Childhood
In the district of Varenne, within a gloomy ravine, stands the ruined castle of Roche-Mauprat. It is a place I never pass at night without some feeling of uneasiness; and now I have just learnt its history from Bernard Mauprat, the last of the line.
Bernard Mauprat is eighty-four and no man is more represented in the province. Passing his house with a friend who knew the old man, we ventured to call, and were received with stately welcome. Later Mauprat told us his story in the following words:
There were formerly two branches of the Mauprat family and I belonged to the elder. My grandfather was that Tristan de Mauprat whose crimes are still remembered. My father was his eldest son, and on his death, which occurred at a shooting party, the only living member of the younger branch, the chevalier, Hubert de Mauprat, a widower with an infant daughter, begged that he might be allowed to adopt me, promising to make me his heir. My grandfather refused the offer, and when I was seven years old and my mother died—poisoned some said by my grandfather—I was carried off by that terrible man to his house at Roche-Mauprat. I only knew afterwards that my father was the only son of Tristan's who had married and that consequently I was the heir to the property.
It was a terrible journey I made with my grandfather but more terrible still was the life led at Roche-Mauprat by Tristan and his eight sons. Beset by creditors, the Mauprats with a dozen peasants and poachers defied the civil laws as they had already broken all moral laws. They formed themselves into a body of adventurers, levying blackmail on the small farms of the neighbourhood, intimidating the tax-collectors and at times not hesitating from petty thefts at fairs. Masters and servants were united in bonds of infamy. Debauchery, extortion, fraud, and cruelty were the precept and example of my youth. All notions of justice were scoffed at, and the civilisation, the light of education, and the philosophy of social equality, then spreading in France and preparing the way for the convulsion of the Revolution, found no entrance at Roche-Mauprat.
The eight sons, the pride and strength of old Mauprat, all resembled him in physical vigour, brutality of manners, and in a cunning ill-nature. They gave themselves the airs of knights of the twelfth century. What elsewhere was called assassination and robbery I was taught to call battle and conquest. The frightful tortures heaped upon prisoners by my uncles gave me a horrible uneasiness, but what kept me from admiring the savagery that surrounded me was the ill-usage I received myself. I grew up without conceiving any liking for vice, but a tendency to hatred was fostered. Of virtue or simple human affection I knew nothing, and a blind and brutal anger was nourished in my breast.
As the years went by Roche-Mauprat became more and more isolated. People left the neighbourhood to escape our violent depredations, and in consequence we had to go farther afield for plunder. I joined in the robberies as a soldier serves in a campaign, but on more than one occasion I helped some unfortunate man who had been knocked down to get up and escape.
My grandfather died when I was fifteen. A year later and so threatened were we by crown officers, private creditors and infuriated peasants, that it was a question of either fleeing the country or bracing ourselves for a decisive struggle, and if needs be finding a grave under the ruins of the castle.
II.—Meet my Cousin Edmee
One night, when wind and rain beat fiercely against the old walls of the castle and I sat at supper with my uncles, a horn was heard at the portcullis. I had been drinking heavily, and boasting that I would make a conquest of the first woman brought to Roche-Mauprat—for I had been rallied on my modesty—when a second blast of the horn announced that it was my Uncle Lawrence bringing in a prize.
"If it is a woman," cried my Uncle Antony, as he went out to the portcullis, "I swear by the soul of my father that she shall be yours, and we'll see if your courage is equal to your conceit."
When the door opened again a woman entered, and one of the Mauprats whispered to me that the young lady had lost her way at a wolf hunt and that Lawrence, meeting her in the forest, had promised to escort her to Rochemaure where she had friends. Never having seen the face of one of my uncles, and little dreaming she was near their haunt, for she had never had a glimpse of Roche-Mauprat, she was led into the castle without having the least suspicion of the trap into which she had fallen. When I beheld this woman, so young and so beautiful, with her expression of calm sincerity and goodness, it seemed to me I was dreaming.
My uncles withdrew, for Antony had pledged his word, and I was left alone with the stranger. For a moment I felt more bewildered and stupefied than pleased. With the fumes of wine in my head I could only suppose this lady was some acquaintance of Lawrence's, and that she had been told of my drunken boast and was willing to put my gallantry to the proof. I got up and bolted and double-locked the door.
She was sitting close to the fire, drying her wet garments, without noticing what I had done. I made up my mind to kiss her, but no sooner had she raised her eyes to mine than this familiarity became impossible. All I could say, was:
"Upon my word, mademoiselle, you are a charming creature, and I love you—as true as my name is Bernard Mauprat."
"Bernard Mauprat!" she cried, springing up; "you are Bernard Mauprat, you? In that case learn to whom you are speaking, and change your manners."
"Really!" I said with a grin, "but let my lips meet yours, and you shall see if I am not as nicely mannered as those uncles of mine."
Her lips grew white. Her agony was manifest in every gesture. I shuddered myself, and was in a state of great perplexity.
This woman was beautiful as the day. I do not believe that there has ever lived a woman as lovely as she. And this was the first trial of her life.
She was my young cousin, Edmee de Mauprat, daughter of M. Hubert de Mauprat, the chevalier. She was of my age, for we were both seventeen, and I ought to have protected her against the world at the peril of my life.
"I swear by Christ," she said, taking my hands in hers, "that I am Edmee, your cousin, your prisoner—yes, and your friend, for I have always felt an interest in you."
Her words were cut short by the report of a gun outside; more shots were heard and the alarm trumpet sounded.
I heard my Uncle Lawrence shouting violently at the door. "Where is that coward? Where is that wretched boy? Bernard, the mounted police are attacking us, and you are amusing yourself by making love while our throats are being cut. Come and help us, Bernard."
"May the devil take the lot of you," I cried, "if I believe a single word of all this."
But the shots rang out louder and for half an hour the fighting was most desperate. Our band amounted to twenty-four all told, and the enemy were fifty soldiers in addition to a score of peasants.
As soon as I learnt that we were really being attacked, I had taken my weapons and done what I called my duty, after leaving Edmee locked in the room.
After three assaults had been repulsed there was a long lull, and I returned to my captive. The fear lest my uncles should get possession of Edmee made me mad. I kept on telling her I loved her and wanted her for myself, and seeing what an animal it was she had to deal with, my cousin made up her mind accordingly. She threw her arms round me, and let me kiss her. "Do you love me?" she asked.
From this moment the victory was hers. The wolf in me was conquered, and the man rose in its place.
"Yes, I love you! Yes, I love you!"
"Well, then," she said distractedly, "let us love each other and escape together."
"Yes; let us escape," I answered. "I loathe this house, and I loathe my uncles. I have long wanted to escape. And yet I shall only be hanged, you know." For I knew I had as much to fear from the besiegers as from the besieged.
"They won't hang you," she rejoined with a laugh; "my betrothed is a lieutenant-general."
"Your betrothed!" I burst out in a fit of jealousy. "You are going to be married?"
"And why not?"
"Swear that you will not marry before I die. Swear that you will be mine sooner than this lieutenant-general's," I cried.
Edmee swore as I asked her, and she made me swear in return that her promise should be a secret. Then I clasped her in my arms, and we remained motionless until fresh shots announced that the fight had begun again. Every moment of delay was dangerous now. I seized a torch, and lifting a trap door made her descend with me to the cellar. Thence we passed into a subterranean passage, and finally hurried forth into the open, holding each other's hands as a sign of mutual trust. I found a horse that had belonged to my grandfather in the forest, and this animal carried us some miles from Roche-Mauprat, before it stumbled and threw us. Edmee was unhurt but my ankle was badly sprained. Fortunately we were near a lonely building called Gayeau Tower, the dwelling place of a remarkable man called Patience, a peasant who was both a hermit and a philosopher, and who, like Edmee, was filled with the new social gospel of Rousseau. Between these two a warm friendship existed.
"The lamb in the company of the wolf," cried Patience when he saw us.
"My friend," replied Edmee, "welcome him as you welcome me. I was a prisoner at Roche-Mauprat, and it was he who rescued me."
At that Patience took me by the arm and led me in. A few days later I was carried to the chateau of the chevalier, M. Hubert de Mauprat, at Sainte-Severe, and there I learnt that Roche-Mauprat had been taken, that five of my uncles were dead, and that two, John and Antony, had disappeared.
"Bernard," added the chevalier, "I owe to you the life I hold dearest in the world. All my own life shall be devoted to giving you proofs of my gratitude and esteem. Bernard, we are both of us victims of a vicious family. The wrong that has been done you shall be repaired. They have deprived you of education, but your soul has remained pure. Bernard, you will restore the honour of your family, promise me this."
III.—I Go to America and Return
For a long time I am sure my presence was a source of utter discomfort to the kind and venerable chevalier, and to his daughter. I was boorish and illiterate and Edmee was one of the most perfect women to be found in France. She found her happiness in her own family, and the sweetest simplicity crowned her mental powers and lofty virtues. Brute like, at that time I saw her only with the eyes of the body, and believed I loved her because she was beautiful. Her fiance, M. de la Marche, the lieutenant-general, a shallow and frigid Voltairean, understood her but little better. A day came when I could understand her—the day when M. de la Marche could have understood her would never have come.
The first step was taken on my part when I realised that I was ignorant and savage, and I applied to the Abbe Aubert, the chaplain, whose offices I had hitherto despised, to instruct me. I learnt quickly, and soon vanity at my rapid progress became the bane of my life.
With Edmee I was so passionately in love that jealousy would awaken the old brutality that I thought dead, and I would gladly have killed de la Marche in a duel. Then after an outburst remorse would overtake me.
My cousin at last told me plainly that while she would be true to her word, and not marry anyone before me, she would not marry me, and that on her father's death a convent should be her refuge. I knew my boorishness was responsible for this, and resolved to leave her.
Lafayette was taking out volunteers to help the United States in their war of independence. I told him I would go with him, and crossed hastily into Spain, whence he was going to sail to America.
I left a note to my uncle, and wrote to Edmee that, as far as I was concerned, she was free, and that, while I would not thwart a wish of hers, it was impossible for me to witness a rival's triumph.
Before we sailed came the following reply from Edmee:
"You have done well, Bernard. Go where honour and love of truth call you. Return when your mission is accomplished; you will find me neither married nor in a convent."
I cannot describe the American war. I stayed till peace was declared, and then chafing at my long absence from France, for I was away six years—and more in love with Edmee than ever, at last set sail and in due time landed at Brest.
I had not sent any letter to announce my coming, and when I reached the Chateau of Sainte-Severe I almost feared to cross the threshold. Then I rushed forward and entered the drawing room. The chevalier was asleep and did not wake. Edmee, bending over her tapestry, did not hear my steps.
For a few seconds I stood looking at her, then I fell at her feet without being able to say a word. She uttered no cry, no exclamation of surprise, but took my head in her two arms, and held it for sometime pressed to her bosom. The good chevalier, who had waked with a start, stared at us in astonishment; then he said:
"Well, well! what is the meaning of this?"
He could not see my face, hidden as it was in Edmee's breast. She pushed me towards him, and the old man clasped me in his feeble arms with a burst of generous affection.
Never shall I forget the welcome they gave me. An immense change had taken place in me during those years of the war. I had learnt to bring my instincts and desires into harmony with my affections, my reason, and I had greatly developed my power of acquiring learning.
Edmee was not surprised at my intellectual progress, but she rejoiced at it. I had shown it in my letters, she said.
My good uncle, the chevalier, now took a real liking for me, and where formerly natural generosity and family pride had made him adopt me, a genuine sympathy made him give me his friendship. He did not disguise from me that his great desire, before falling into the sleep that knows no waking, was to see me married to Edmee; and when I told him this was the one wish of my soul, the one thought of my life, he said:
"I know, I know. Everything depends on her, and I think she can no longer have any reasons for hesitation.... At all events," he added, "I cannot see any that she could allege at present."
From these words I concluded that he himself had long been favourable to my suit, and that any obstacle which might exist lay with Edmee. But so much did I stand in awe of Edmee's sensitive pride and her unspeakable goodness that I dared not ask her point-blank to decide my fate. M. de la Marche I knew had left France, and all thought of an engagement on his part with Edmee was at an end. In a proud struggle to conceal the poverty of his estate, all his fortune had gone, and he had not been long in following me to America.
The chevalier insisted on my visiting my property of Roche-Mauprat. Thanks to my uncle, great improvements had been accomplished in my absence, and the land was being well cultivated by good tenants. I knew that I ought not to neglect my duty, and though I had not set foot on the accursed soil since the day I left it with Edmee, I set out and was away two days.
I stayed in the gloomy old house and the only remarkable thing about the visit was that I had a vision of my wicked uncle John Mauprat.
IV.—My Trial and Happiness
We had gone on a hunting party one day after my return, and Edmee and I were separated from the rest. Somehow the old unbridled passions rose up within me and I succeeded in affronting Edmee with my fierce speech. Then I hastened away, ashamed and fearful.
I had not gone more than thirty paces when I heard the report of a gun from the spot where I had left Edmee. I stopped, petrified with horror, and then retraced my steps. Edmee was lying on the ground, rigid and bathed in blood. Patience was standing by her side with his arms crossed on his breast, and his face livid. For myself, I could not understand what was taking place. I fancy that my brain, already bewildered by my previous emotions, must have been paralyzed. I sat down on the ground by Edmee's side. She had been shot in the breast in two places, and the Abbe Aubert was endeavouring to staunch the blood with his handkerchief.
"Dead, dead," said Patience, "and there is the murderer! She said so as she gave up her pure soul to God; and Patience will avenge her! It is very hard but it must be so! It is God's will, since I alone was here to learn the truth!"
"Horrible, horrible!" exclaimed the Abbe.
Edmee was carried away to the chateau, and I followed and for several days remained in a state of prostration. When strength and consciousness returned I learnt that she was not dead, but that everybody believed me guilty of attempted murder. Patience himself told me the only thing for me to do was to leave that part of the country. I swore I was innocent and would not be saddled with the crime.
Then, one evening, I saw mounted police in the courtyard.
"Good!" I said, "let my destiny take its course." But before quitting the house, perhaps forever, I wished to see Edmee again for the last time. I walked straight to her room, and there I found the Abbe and the doctor. I heard the latter declare that the wounds in themselves were not mortal, and the only danger was from a violent disturbance in the brain.
I approached the bed, and took Edmee's cold and lifeless hand. I kissed it a last time, and, without saying a single word to the others, went and gave myself up to the police.
I was immediately thrown into prison and in a few days my trial began at the assizes. I was convicted, but through the efforts of certain friends a revision of my sentence was granted, and I was allowed a new trial.
At this trial Patience appeared and declared that, while he had believed from what Edmee had said that I was guilty, it had come into his head that some other Mauprat might have fired the shot. It appeared that John Mauprat was now living in the neighbourhood, as a penitent Trappist monk, and he had been seen in company with another monk who was not to be found since the attack on Edmee. "So I put myself on the track of this wandering monk," Patience concluded, "and I have discovered who he is. He is the would-be murderer of Edmee de Mauprat, and his name is Antony Mauprat."
It then turned out that Antony's plot was to kill Edmee, get me hanged for the murder, and then, when the chevalier was dead, claim the estates. John Mauprat knew of his brother's intentions but denied all complicity and was eventually sent back to his monastery. Antony was subsequently convicted and broken on the wheel.
But before I was finally acquitted Edmee herself gave evidence for me. She was still far from well but answered clearly all the irritating and maddening questions that were put to her. When she said to the president of the court, "Everything which to you seems inexplicable in my conduct finds its justification in one word: I love him!" I could not help crying out, "Let them take me to the scaffold now; I am king of all the earth."
But as I have said, it was proved that Antony Mauprat was the criminal; and no sooner was I acquitted and set at liberty, with my character completely cleared, than I hastened to Edmee.
I arrived in time to witness my great-uncle's last moments. He recognised me, clasped me to his breast, blessed me at the same time as Edmee, and put my hand into his daughter's.
After we had paid the last tribute of affection to our noble and excellent relative, we left the province for sometime and paid a visit to Switzerland, Patience and the Abbe Aubert bearing us company.
At the end of Edmee's mourning we returned. This was the time that had been fixed for our marriage, which was duly celebrated in the village chapel.
The years of happiness with my wife beggar description. She was the only woman I ever loved, and though she has now been dead ten years I feel her loss as keenly as on the first day, and seek only to make myself worthy of rejoining her in a better world after I have completed my probation here.
* * * * *
Tom Cringle's Log
Michael Scott was a merchant who turned an unquestioned literary faculty to excellent account. Born at Cowlairs, near Glasgow, Scotland, Oct. 30, 1789, at the age of seventeen Scott was sent to Jamaica to manage a small estate of his father's, and a few years later entered business at Kingstown. Both of these occupations necessitated frequent journeys, by land and by sea, and the experiences gained thereby form the basis of "Tom Cringle's Log." The story appeared anonymously at intermittent intervals in "Blackwood's Magazine" (1829-33), being published in book form in 1834. Its authorship was attributed, among others, to Captain Marryatt, and so successfully did Scott himself conceal his identity with it that the secret was not known until after his death, which occurred at Glasgow on November 7, 1835. Of its kind, "Tom Cringle's Log" is a veritable masterpiece. Humour and pathos and gorgeous descriptions are woven into a thrilling narrative. Scott wrote many other things beside "Tom Cringle," but only one story, "The Cruise of the Midge" (1836), is in any way comparable with his first and most famous romance.
I.—The Quenching of the Torch
The evening was closing in dark and rainy, with every appearance of a gale from the westward, and the red and level rays of the setting sun flashed on the black hull and tall spars of his Britannic Majesty's sloop Torch. At the distance of a mile or more lay a long, warlike-looking craft, rolling heavily and silently in the trough of the sea.
A flash was seen; the shot fell short, but close to us, evidently thrown from a heavy cannon.
Mr. Splinter, the first lieutenant, jumped from the gun he stood on, and dived into the cabin to make his report.
Captain Deadeye was a staid, wall-eyed veteran, with his coat of a regular Rodney cut, broad skirts, long waist, and stand-up collar, over which dangled either a queue, or marlinspike with a tuft of oakum at the end of it—it would have puzzled old Nick to say which. His lower spars were cased in tight unmentionables of what had once been white kerseymere, and long boots, the coal-scuttle tops of which served as scuppers to carry off the drainings from his coat-flaps in bad weather; he was, in fact, the "last of the sea-monsters," but, like all his tribe, as brave as steel, and, when put to it, as alert as a cat.
He no sooner heard Splinter's report, than he sprang up the ladder.
"Clear away the larboard guns!" I absolutely jumped off the deck with astonishment—who could have spoken it? The enemy was a heavy American frigate, and it appeared such downright madness to show fight under the very muzzles of her guns, half a broadside from which was sufficient to sink us. It was the captain, however, and there was nothing for it but to obey.
"Now, men, mind your aim; our only chance is to wing him." The men—with cutlasses buckled round their waists, and many with nothing but their trousers on—instinctively cheered. Blaze went our cannonades and long gun in succession, and down came the fore-topsail; the head of the topmast had been shot away. "That will do; now knock off, my boys, and let us run for it. Make all sail."
Jonathan was for an instant paralysed by our impudence; but he yawed and let drive his whole broadside; and fearfully did it transmogrify us. Half an hour before we were as gay a little sloop as ever floated, with a crew of 120 as fine fellows as ever manned a British man-of-war. The iron-shower sped—ten of the 120 never saw the sun rise again; 17 more were wounded, three mortally; our hull and rigging were regularly cut to pieces.
But we had the start, crippled and be-devilled though we were; and as the night fell, we contrived to lose sight of our large friend, and pursue our voyage to Jamaica.
A week later, and the hurricane fell upon us. Our chainplates, strong fastenings, and clenched bolts, drew like pliant wires, shrouds and stays were torn away, and our masts and spars were blown clean out of the ship into the sea. Had we shown a shred of the strongest sail in the vessel, it would have been blown out of the bolt-rope in an instant. With four men at the wheel, one watch at the pumps, and the other clearing the wreck, we had to get her before the wind.
Our spirits were soon dashed, when the old carpenter, one of the coolest and bravest men in the ship, rose through the forehatch pale as a ghost, with his white hairs streaming out in the wind. He did not speak to any of us, but clambered aft, towards the capstan, to which the captain had lashed himself.
"The water is rushing in forward like a mill-stream, sir; she is fast settling down by the head."
The brig, was, indeed, rapidly losing her buoyancy.
"Stand by, to heave the guns overboard."
Too late, too late! Oh, God, that cry! I was stunned and drowning, a chaos of wreck was beneath me and around me and above me, and blue, agonised, gasping faces and struggling arms, and colourless clutching hands, and despairing yells for help, where help was impossible; when I felt a sharp bite on the neck, and breathed again. My Newfoundland dog, Sneezer, had snatched at me, and dragged me out of the eddy of the sinking vessel.
For life, dear life, nearly suffocated, amidst the hissing spray, we reached the cutter, the dog and his helpless master.
* * * * *
For three miserable days I had been exposed, half naked and bareheaded, in an open boat, without water, or food, or shade. The third fierce West Indian noon was long passed, and once more the dry, burning sun sank in the west, like a red hot shield of iron. I glared on the noble dog as he lay at the bottom of the boat, and would have torn at his throat with my teeth, not for food, but that I might drink his hot blood; but as he turned his dull, gray, glazing eye on me, the pulses of my heart stopped, and I fell senseless.
When my recollection returned, I was stretched on some fresh plantain leaves, in a low, smoky hut, with my faithful dog lying beside me, whining and licking my hands and face. Underneath the joists, that bound the rafters of the roof together, lay a corpse, wrapped in a boatsail, on which was clumsily written with charcoal, "The body of John Deadeye, Esq., late commander of his Britannic Majesty's sloop Torch."
There was a fire on the floor, at which Lieutenant Splinter, in his shirt and trousers, drenched, unshorn, and death-like, was roasting a joint of meat, whilst a dwarfish Indian sat opposite to him fanning the flame with a palm-leaf. I had been nourished during my delirium; for the fierceness of my sufferings were assuaged, and I was comparatively strong. I anxiously inquired of the lieutenant the fate of our shipmates.
"All gone down in the old Torch; and had it not been for the launch and our four-footed friend there, I should not have been here to have told it. All that the sharks have left of the captain and five seamen came ashore last night. I have buried the poor fellows on the beach where they lay, as well as I could, with an oar-blade for a shovel, and the bronze ornament there," pointing to the Indian, "for an assistant."
II.—Perils on Land
I was awakened by the low growling and short bark of the dog. The night was far spent, and the amber rays of the yet unrisen sun were shooting up in the east.
"That's a musket shot," said the lieutenant. The Indian crept to the door, and placed his open palms behind his ears. The distant wail of a bugle was heard, then three or four dropping shots again, in rapid succession. Mr. Splinter stooped to go forth, but the Indian caught him by the leg, uttering the single word "Espanoles" (Spaniards).
On the instant a young Indian woman, with a shrieking infant in her arms, rushed to the door. There was a blue gunshot wound in her neck, and her features were sharpened as if in the agony of death. Another shot, and the child's small, shrill cry blended with the mother's death shriek; falling backwards the two rolled over the brow of the hill out of sight. The ball had pierced the heart of the parent through the body of her offspring. By this time a party of Spanish soldiers had surrounded the hut, one of whom, kneeling before the low door, pointed his musket into it. The Indian, who had seen his wife and child shot down before his face, fired his rifle and the man fell dead.
Half a dozen musket balls were now fired at random through the wattles of the hut, while the lieutenant, who spoke Spanish well, sung out lustily that we were English officers who had been shipwrecked.
"Pirates!" growled the officer of the party. "Pirates leagued with Indian bravos; fire the hut, soldiers, and burn the scoundrels!"
There was no time to be lost; Mr. Splinter made a vigorous attempt to get out, in which I seconded him with all the strength that remained to me, but they beat us back again with the butts of their muskets.
"Where are your commissions, your uniforms, if you be British officers?" We had neither, and our fate appeared inevitable.
The doorway was filled with brushwood, fire was set to the hut, and we heard the crackling of the palm thatch, while thick, stifling white smoke burst in upon us through the roof.
"Lend a hand, Tom, now or never." We laid our shoulders to the end wall, and heaved at it with all our might; when we were nearly at our last gasp it gave way, and we rushed headlong into the middle of the party, followed by Sneezer, with his shaggy coat, full of clots of tar, blazing like a torch. He unceremoniously seized, par le queue, the soldier who had throttled me, setting fire to the skirts of his coat, and blowing up his cartridge-box. I believe, under Providence, that the ludicrousness of this attack saved us from being bayoneted on the spot. It gave time for Mr. Splinter to recover his breath, when, being a powerful man, he shook off the two soldiers who had seized him, and dashed into the burning hut again. I thought he was mad, especially when I saw him return with his clothes and hair on fire, dragging out the body of the captain. He unfolded the sail it was wrapped up in, and pointing to the remains of the naval uniform in which the mutilated corpse was dressed, he said sternly to the officer, "We are in your power, and you may murder us if you will; but that was my captain four days ago, and you see at least he was a British officer—satisfy yourself."
The person he addressed, a handsome young Spaniard, shuddered at the horrible spectacle.
When he saw the crown and anchor, and his Majesty's cipher on the appointments of the dead officer, he became convinced of our quality, and changed his tone.
"'Tis true, he is an Englishman. But, gentlemen, were there not three persons in the hut?"
There were, indeed, and the Indian perished in the flames, making no attempt to escape.
The officer, who belonged to the army investing Carthagena, now treated us with great civility; he heard our story, and desired his men to assist us in burying the remains of our late commander.
We stayed that night with the captain of the outpost, who received us very civilly at a temporary guard-house, and apologised for the discomfort under which we must pass the night. He gave us the best he had, and that was bad enough, both of food and wine, before showing us into the hut, where we found a rough deal coffin, lying on the very bench that was to be our bed. This he ordered away with all the coolness in the world, saying, "It was only one of his people who had died that morning of yellow fever."
"Comfortable country this," quoth Splinter, "and a pleasant morning we have had of it, Tom!"
From the Spanish headquarters at Torrecilla we were allowed to go to the village of Turbaco, a few miles distant from the city for change of air.
"Why, Peter," said Mr. Splinter, addressing a negro who sat mending his jacket in one of the enclosures near the water gate of the arsenal, "don't you know me?"
"Cannot say dat I do," rejoined the negro, very gravely. "Have not de honour of your acquaintance, sir."
"Confound you, sir! But I know you well enough, my man; and you can scarcely have forgotten Lieutenant Splinter of the Torch, one would think?"
The name so startled the poor fellow, that in his hurry to unlace his legs, as he sat tailor-fashion, he fairly capsized and toppled down on his nose.
"Eh!—no—yes, him sure enough! And who is de piccaniny hofficer? Oh! I see, Massa Tom Cringle! Where have you dropped from, gentlemen? Where is de old Torch? Many a time hab I, Peter Mangrove, pilot to him Britannic Majesty's squadron, taken de old brig in and through amongst de keys at Port Royal."
"She will never give you that trouble again, my boy—foundered—all hands lost, Peter, but the two you see before you."
"Werry sorry, Massa 'Plinter, werry sorry. What? de black cook's-mate and all? But misfortune can't be help. Stop till I put up my needle, and I will take a turn wid you. Proper dat British hofficers in distress should assist one anoder—we shall consult togeder. How can I serve you?"
"Why, Peter, if you could help us to a passage to Port Royal, it would be serving us most essentially. Here we have been for more than a month, without a single vessel belonging to the station having looked in; our money is running short, and in another six weeks we shall not have a shot left in the locker."
The negro looked steadfastly at us, and then carefully around before he answered.
"You see, Massa 'Plinter, I am desirable to serve you; it is good for me at present to make some friend wid the hofficer of de squadron, being as how dat I am absent widout leave. If you will promise dat you will stand my friends, I will put you in de way of getting a shove across to de east end of Jamaica; and I will go wid you, too, for company. But you must promise dat you will not seek to know more of de vessel, nor of her crew, than dey are willing to tell you, provided you are landed safe."
Mr. Splinter agreed and presently Peter Mangrove went off in a canoe to a large, shallow vessel, to reappear with another blackamoor, of as ungainly an exterior as could well be imagined.
"Pray, sir, are you the master of that vessel?" said the lieutenant.
"No, sir, I am the mate; and I learn you are desirous of a passage to Jamaica." This was spoken with a broad Scotch accent.
"Yes, we do," said I, in very great astonishment; "but we will not sail with the devil; and who ever saw a negro Scotchman before?"
The fellow laughed. "I am black, as you see; so were my father and mother before me. But I was born in the good town of Glasgow, notwithstanding; and many a voyage I have made as cabin-boy and cook with worthy old Jock Hunter. But here comes our captain. Captain Vanderbosh, here are two shipwrecked British officers who wish to be put ashore in Jamaica; will you take them, and what will you charge for their passage?"
The man he spoke to was a sun-burnt, iron-visaged veteran.
"Vy for von hundred thaler I will land dem safe in de bay."
The bargain was ratified, and that same evening we set sail. When off the San Domingo Gate two boats full of men joined us, and our crew was strengthened by about forty as ugly Christians, of all ages and countries, as I ever set eyes on. From the moment they came on board Captain Vanderbosh sank into the petty officer, and the Scottish negro took the command, evincing great coolness, energy, and skill.
When night had fallen the captain made out a sail to windward. Immediately every inch of canvas was close furled, every light carefully extinguished, a hundred and twenty men with cutlasses at quarters, and the ship under bare poles. The strange sail could be seen through the night-glasses; she now burned a blue light—without doubt an old fellow-cruiser of ours, the Spark.
"She is from Santa Martha with a freight of specie, I know," said Williamson. "I will try a brush with her."
"I know the craft," Splinter struck in, "a heavy vessel of her class, and you may depend on hard knocks and small profit if you do take her; while, if she takes you——"
"I'll be hanged if she does," said Williamson, and he grinned at the conceit; "or, rather, I will blow the schooner up with my own hand before I strike; better that than have one's bones bleached in chains on a quay at Port Royal. But you cannot control us, gentlemen; so get down below, and take Peter Mangrove with you. I would not willingly see those come to harm who have trusted me."
However, there was no shot flying as yet, and we stayed on deck. All sail was once more made, and presently the cutter saw us, tacked, and stood towards us. Her commander hailed: "Ho, the brigantine, ahoy! What schooner is that?"
"Spanish schooner, Caridad," sung out Williamson.
"Heave-to, and send your boat on board."
"We have none that will swim, sir."
"Very well, bring to, and I will send mine."
We heard the splash of the jolly-boat touching the water; then the measured stroke of the oars, and a voice calling out, "Give way, my lads."
The character of the vessel we were on board of was now evident; and the bitter reflection that we were, as it were, chained to the stake on board of a pirate, on the eve of a fierce contest with one of our own cruisers, was aggravated by the consideration that a whole boat's crew would be sacrificed before a shot was fired.
The officer in the boat had no sooner sprung on board than he was caught by two strong hands, gagged, and thrown down the main hatchway.
"Heave," cried a voice, "and with a will!" and four cold 32-pound shot were hove at once into the boat alongside, which, crashing through her bottom, swamped her in a moment, precipitating the miserable crew into the boiling sea. Their shrieks rang in my ears as they clung to the oars and some loose planks of the boat.
"Bring up the officer, and take out the gag," said Williamson.
Poor Malcolm, who had been an old messmate of mine, was now dragged to the gangway, his face bleeding, and heavily ironed, when the blackamoor, clapping a pistol to his head, bade him, as he feared instant death, hail the cutter for another boat.
The young midshipman turned his pale mild countenance upwards as he said firmly, "Never!" The miscreant fired, and he fell dead.
"Fire!" The whole broadside was poured in, and we could hear the shot rattle and tear along the cutter's deck, and the shrieks and groans of the wounded.
We now ranged alongside, and close action commenced; never do I expect to see such an infernal scene again. Up to this moment all had been coolness and order on board the pirate; but when the yards locked, the crew broke loose from all control—they ceased to be men—they were demons, for they threw their own dead and wounded indiscriminately down the hatchways, to get clear of them. They had stripped themselves almost naked; and although they fought with the most desperate courage, yelling and cursing, each in his own tongue, yet their very numbers, pent up in a small vessel, were against them. Amidst the fire and smoke we could see that the deck had become a very shamble; and unless they soon carried the cutter by boarding, it was clear that the coolness and discipline of the service must prevail. The pirates seemed aware of this themselves, for they now made a desperate attempt at boarding, led on by the black captain. While the rush forward was being made, by a sudden impulse, Splinter and I, followed by Peter, scrambled from our shelter, and in our haste jumped down, knocking over the man at the wheel.
There was no time to be lost; if any of the crew came aft we were dead men; so we tumbled down through the cabin skylight, and stowed ourselves away in the side berths. The noise on deck soon ceased—the cannon were again plied—gradually the fire slackened, and we could hear that the pirate had scraped clear and escaped. Some time after this, the lieutenant commanding the cutter came down. We both knew him well, and he received us cordially.
In a week we were landed at Port Royal.
* * * * *
I was a midshipman when I began my log, but before I finally left the West Indies I was promoted to the rank of commander, and appointed to the Lotus Leaf, under orders for England.
Before I set sail, however, I was married to my cousin Mary in Jamaica; and when we got to Old England, where the Lotus Leaf was paid off, I settled for a time on shore, the happiest, etc., until some years afterwards, when the wee Cringles began to tumble home so fast that I had to cut and run, and once more betake myself to the salt sea.
* * * * *
SIR WALTER SCOTT
Sir Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh on August 15, 1771. As a child he was feeble and sickly, and very early he was smitten with lameness which remained with him through life, although he matured into a man of robust health. He was educated for the law, which he began to practise in 1792. Although he had fair success in his profession, he soon began to occupy his leisure time with literature, and his first work was published in 1796. The first of the "Waverley" series made its appearance anonymously in 1814. As the series progressed, it became known that Walter Scott was the author of the famous novels, and he became the idol of the hour. In 1820 a baronetcy was bestowed upon him. Six years later he joined an old friend in the establishment of a large printing and publishing business in Edinburgh, but the venture was not successful, and Scott soon found himself a bankrupt. Here his manhood and proud integrity were most nobly shown. With stern and unfaltering resolution, he set himself to the task of paying his debts from the profits of his pen. Within a space of two years he realised for his creditors the amazing sum of nearly forty thousand pounds, but the limits of endurance had been reached, and in 1830 he was smitten down with paralysis, from which he never thoroughly rallied. He died at Abbotsford on September 31, 1832. As a lyrist Scott especially excelled, and as a novelist he takes rank among the foremost. Although many of his works are lax and careless in structure, yet if a final test in greatness in the field of novel writing be the power to vitalise character, very few writers can be held to surpass Sir Walter Scott. According to Basil Hall, "The Antiquary" was Scott's own favourite romance. It was published in May, 1816, the third of the Waverley Novels, and in it the author intended to illustrate the manners of Scotland during the last ten years of the eighteenth century. "I have been more solicitous," he writes, "to describe manners minutely, than to arrange in any case an artificial and combined narrative, and have but to regret that I felt myself unable to unite these two requisites of a good novel." Scott took considerable pains to point out that old Edie Ochiltree, the wandering mendicant with his blue gown, was by no means to be confounded with the utterly degraded class of beings who now practise that wandering trade. Although "The Antiquary" was not so well received on its first appearance as "Waverley" or "Guy Mannering," it soon rose to equal, and with some readers, superior popularity.
It was early on a fine summer's day, near the end of the eighteenth century, when a young man of genteel appearance, journeying towards the north-east of Scotland, provided himself with a ticket in one of those public carriages which travel between Edinburgh and the Queensferry, at which place there is a passage-boat for crossing the Firth of Forth.
The young gentleman was soon joined by a companion, a good-looking man of the age of sixty, perhaps older, but his hale complexion and firm step announced that years had not impaired his strength of health. This senior traveller, Mr. Jonathan Oldenbuck (by popular contraction Oldbuck), of Monkbarns, was the owner of a small property in the neighbourhood of a thriving seaport town on the north-eastern coast of Scotland, which we shall denominate Fairport. His tastes were antiquarian, his wishes very moderate. The burghers of the town regarded him with a sort of envy, as one who affected to divide himself from their rank in society, and whose studies and pleasures seemed to them alike incomprehensible. Some habits of hasty irritation he had contracted, partly from an early disappointment in love, but yet more by the obsequious attention paid to him by his maiden sister and his orphan niece.
Mr. Oldbuck, finding his fellow-traveller an interested and intelligent auditor, plunged at once into a sea of discussion concerning urns, vases, and Roman camps, and when they reached Queensferry, and stopped for dinner at the inn, he at once made some advances towards ascertaining the name, destination, and quality of his young companion.
His name, the young gentleman said, was Lovel. His father was a north of England gentleman. He was at present travelling to Fairport, and if he found the place agreeable, might perhaps remain there for some weeks.
"Was Mr. Lovel's excursion solely for pleasure?"
"Perhaps on business with some of the commercial people of Fairport?"
"It was partly on business, but had no reference to commerce."
Here he paused, and Mr. Oldbuck, having pushed his inquiries as far as good manners permitted, was obliged to change the conversation.
The mutual satisfaction which they found in each other's society induced Mr. Oldbuck to propose, and Lovel willingly to accept, a scheme for travelling together to the end of their journey. A postchaise having been engaged, they arrived at Fairport about two o'clock on the following day.
Lovel probably expected that his travelling companion would have invited him to dinner on his arrival; but his consciousness of a want of ready preparation for unexpected guests prevented Oldbuck from paying him that attention. He only begged to see him as early as he could make it convenient to call in a forenoon, and recommended him to a widow who had apartments to let.
A few days later, when his baggage had arrived from Edinburgh, Mr. Lovel went forth to pay his respects at Monkbarns, and received a cordial welcome from Mr. Oldbuck. They parted the best of friends, but the antiquary was still at a loss to know what this well-informed young man, without friends, connections, or employment, could have to do as a resident at Fairport. Neither port wine nor whist had apparently any charms for him. A coffee-room was his detestation, and he had as few sympathies with the tea-table. There was never a Master Lovel of whom so little positive was known, but nobody knew any harm of him.
"A decent, sensible lad," said the Laird of Monkbarns to himself, when these particulars of Lovel had been reported to him. "He scorns to enter into the fooleries and nonsense of these idiot people at Fairport. I must do something for him—I must give him a dinner, and I will write to Sir Arthur to come to Monkbarns to meet him. I must consult my womankind."
Accordingly, such consultation having been held, the following letter was sent to Sir Arthur Wardour, of Knockwinnock Castle:
"Dear Sir Arthur,—On Tuesday, the 17th inst, I hold a symposium at Monkbarns, and pray you to assist thereat, at four o'clock precisely. If my fair enemy, Miss Isabel, can and will honour us by accompanying you, my womankind will be but too proud. I have a young acquaintance to make known to you, who is touched with some stain of a better spirit than belong to these giddy-paced times, reveres his elders, and has a pretty notion of the classics. And as such a youth must have a natural contempt for the people about Fairport, I wish to show him some rational as well as worshipful society. I am, dear Sir Arthur, etc., etc."
In reply to this, at her father's request, Miss Wardour intimated, "her own and Sir Arthur's compliments, and that they would have the honour of waiting upon Mr. Oldbuck. Miss Wardour takes this opportunity to renew her hostility with Mr. Oldbuck, on account of his long absence from Knockwinnock, where his visits give so much pleasure."
II.—The Treacherous Sands
Sir Arthur and his daughter had set out, on leaving Monkbarns, to return to Knockwinnock by the turnpike road; but when they discerned Lovel a little before them Miss Wardour immediately proposed to her father that they should take another direction, and walk home by the sands.
Sir Arthur acquiesced willingly, and the two left the high road, and soon attained the side of the ocean. The tide was by no means so far out as they had computed; but this gave them no alarm; there was seldom ten days in the year when it approached so near the cliffs as not to leave a dry passage.
As they advanced together in silence a sudden change of weather made Miss Wardour draw close to her father. As the sun sank the wind rose, and the mass of waters began to lift itself in larger ridges, and sink in deeper furrows. Presently, through the drizzling rain, they saw a figure coming towards them, whom Sir Arthur recognised as the old blue-gowned beggar, Edie Ochiltree.
"Turn back! Turn back!" exclaimed the vagrant. "The tide is running on Halket-head, like the Fall of Fyers! We will maybe get back by Ness Point yet. The Lord help us—it's our only chance! We can but try."
The waves had now encroached so much upon the beach, that the firm and smooth footing which they had hitherto had on the sand must be exchanged for a rougher path close to the foot of the precipice, and in some places even raised upon its lower ledges. It would have been utterly impossible for Sir Arthur Wardour or his daughter to have found their way along these shelves without the guidance and encouragement of the beggar, who had been there before in high tides, though never, he acknowledged, "in sae awsome a night as this."
It was indeed a dreadful evening. The howling of the storm mingled with the shrieks of the sea-fowl. Each minute the raging tide gained ground perceptibly. The three still struggled forward; but at length they paused upon the highest ledge of rock to which they could attain, for it seemed that any farther attempt to advance could only serve to anticipate their fate.
The fearful pause gave Isabella Wardour time to collect the powers of a mind naturally strong and courageous.
"Must we yield life," she said, "without a struggle? Is there no path, however dreadful, by which we could climb the crag?"
"I was a bold cragsman," said Ochiltree, "once in my life; but it's lang syne, and nae mortal could speel them without a rope. But there was a path here ance—His name be praised!" he ejaculated suddenly, "there's ane coming down the crag e'en now! there's ane coming down the crag e'en now!" Then, exalting his voice, he halloo'd out to the daring adventurer such instructions as his former practice forced upon his mind.
The adventurer, following the directions of old Edie, flung him down the end of the rope, which he secured around Miss Wardour. Then, availing himself of the rope, which was made fast at the other end, Ochiltree began to ascent the face of the crag, and after one or two perilous escapes, was safe on the broad flat stone beside our friend Lovel. Their joint strength was able to raise Isabella to the place of safety which they had attained, and the next thing was to raise Sir Arthur beyond the reach of the billows.
The prospect of passing a tempestuous night upon a precipitous piece of rock, where the spray of the billows flew high enough to drench them, filled old Ochiltree with apprehension for Miss Wardour.
"I'll climb up the cliff again," said Lovel, "and call for more assistance."
"If ye gang, I'll gang too," said the bedesman.
"Hark! hark!" said Lovel. "Did I not hear a halloo?"
The unmistakable shout of human voices from above was soon augmented, and the gleam of torches appeared.
On the verge of the precipice an anxious group had now assembled. Oldbuck was the foremost and most earnest, pressing forward with unwonted desperation to the very brink of the crag. Some fishermen had brought with them the mast of a boat, and this was soon sunk in the ground and sufficiently secured. A yard, across the upright mast, and a rope stretched along it, and reeved through a block at each end, formed an extempore crane, which afforded the means of lowering an arm-chair down to the flat shelf on which the sufferers had roosted.
Lovel bound Miss Wardour to the back and arms of the chair, while Ochiltree kept Sir Arthur quiet.
"What are ye doing wi' my bairn? She shall not be separated from me! Isabel, stay with me, I command you!"
"Farewell, my father!" murmured Isabella; "farewell, my—my friends!" and, shutting her eyes, she gave the signal to Lovel, and he to those who were above.
A loud shout announced the success of the experiment. The chair was again lowered, and Sir Arthur made fast in it; and after Sir Arthur had been landed safe and sound, old Ochiltree was brought up; finally Lovel was safely grounded upon the summit of the cliff. As he recovered from a sort of half-swoon, occasioned by the giddiness of the ascent, he cast his eyes eagerly around. The object for which they sought was already in the act of vanishing. Her white garment was just discernible as she followed on the path which her father had taken. She had lingered till she saw the last of their company rescued from danger, but Lovel was not aware that she had expressed in his fate even this degree of interest.
Some few weeks after the perilous escape from the tide, Sir Arthur invited Mr. Lovel and the Monkbarns family to join him on a visit to the ruins of a certain priory in the neighbourhood. Lovel at once accepted, and Mr. Oldbuck decided that there would be room for his niece in a postchaise. This niece, Mary M'Intyre, like her brother Hector, was an orphan. They were the offspring of a sister of Monkbarns, who had married one Captain M'Intyre, a Highlander. Both parents being dead, the son and daughter were left to the charge of Mr. Oldbuck. The nephew was now a captain in the army, the niece had her home at Monkbarns.
All went happily at Sir Arthur's party at the ruins, until the unexpected arrival of Hector M'Intyre. This newcomer, a handsome young man about five-and-twenty, had ridden to Monkbarns, and learning his uncle's absence had come straight on to join the company. On his introduction to Lovel the young soldier bowed with more reserve than cordiality, and Lovel was equally frigid and haughty in return.
Miss Wardour's obvious determination not to allow Captain M'Intyre an opportunity for private conversation with her drove Hector to speak to his sister.
"Pray who is this Mr. Lovel, whom our old uncle has at once placed so high in his good graces?"
"If you mean how Mr. Lovel comes to visit at Monkbarns you must ask my uncle; and you must know that Mr. Lovel rendered Miss Wardour and him a service of the most important kind."
"What! that romantic story is true, then? And does the valorous knight aspire to the hand of the young lady whom he redeemed from peril? I did think that she was uncommonly dry to me as we walked together."
"Dear Hector," said his sister, "do not continue to nourish any affection for Miss Wardour. Your perseverance is hopeless. Above all, do not let this violent temper of yours lead you to lose the favour of our uncle, who has hitherto been all that is kind and paternal to us."
Captain M'Intyre promised to behave civilly, and returned to the company.
On Lovel mentioning, in the course of conversation, that he was an officer in a certain regiment, M'Intyre could not refrain from declaring that he knew the officers of that regiment, and had never heard of the name of Lovel.
Lovel blushed deeply, and taking a letter out of an envelope, handed it to M'Intyre. The latter acknowledged the handwriting of General Sir ——, but remarked that the address was missing.
"The address, Captain M'Intyre," answered Lovel, "shall be at your service whenever you choose to inquire after it."
"I certainly shall not fail to do so," rejoined Hector.
The party broke up, Lovel returned to Fairport, and early next morning was waited upon by a military friend of Captain M'Intyre. Upon Lovel declining to give his name the captain insisted on his fighting, and that very evening the duel was arranged to take place in a valley close by the ruins of St. Ruth.
Captain M'Intyre's ball grazed the side of his opponent, but did not draw blood. That of Lovel was more true, and M'Intyre reeled and fell.
The grasp of old Ochiltree, who had appeared on the scene, roused Lovel to movement, and leaving M'Intyre to the care of a surgeon, he followed the bedesman into the recesses of the wood, in order to get away by boat the following morning.
Amid the secret passages of the ruins, well known to Ochiltree, Lovel was to pass the night; but all rest was impossible by the discovery of two human figures, one of whom Lovel made out to be a German named Donsterswivel, a swindling impostor who promised discoveries of gold to Sir Arthur Wardour, gold buried in the ruins, and only to be unearthed by magic and considerable expenditure of ready money.
"That other ane," whispered Edie, "maun be, according to a' likelihood, Sir Arthur Wardour. I ken naebody but himself wad come here at this time wi' that German blackguard."
Donsterswivel, with much talk of planetary influences, and spirits, and "suffumigation," presently set fire to a little pile of chips, and when the flame was at the highest flung in a handful of perfumes, which produced a strong and pungent odour.
A violent explosion of sneezing, which the mendicant was unable to suppress, accompanied by a grunting, half-smothered cough, confounded the two treasure-seekers.
"I was begun to think," said the terrified German, "that this would be bestermost done in de daylight; we was bestermost to go away just now."
"You juggling villain!" said the baronet; "this is some legerdemain trick of yours to get off from the performance of your promise, as you have so often done before. You shall show me that treasure, or confess yourself a knave."
Here Edie, who began to enter into the humour of the scene, uttered an extraordinary howl. Donsterswivel flung himself on his knees. "Dear Sir Arthur, let us go, or let me go!"
"No, you cheating scoundrel!" said the knight, unsheathing his sword. "I will see this treasure before you leave this place, or, by heaven, I'll run this sword through you though all the spirits of the dead should rise around us!"
"For de lofe of heaven, be patient, mine honoured patron; do not speak about de spirits—it makes dem angry."
Donsterswivel at length proceeded to a corner of the building where lay a flat stone upon the ground. With great trepidation he removed the stone, threw out a shovelful or two of earth, and produced a small case or casket. This was at once opened by the baronet, and appeared to be filled with coin.
"This is being indeed in good luck," said Sir Arthur; "and if you think it omens proportional success upon a larger venture, I will hazard the necessary advance."
But the German's guilty conscience and superstitious fears made him anxious to escape, and accordingly he hurried Sir Arthur from the spot.
"Saw onybody e'er the like o' that!" said Edie to Lovel.
"His faith in the fellow is entirely restored," said Lovel, "by this deception, which he had arranged beforehand."
"Ay, ay; trust him for that. He wants to wile him out o' his last guinea, and then escape to his own country, the land-louper."
But thanks to old Edie's efforts, Donsterswivel was checked in his scheme for the plunder of Sir Arthur Wardour.
IV.—The Secret is Disclosed
Captain M'Intyre's wound turned out to be not so dangerous as was at first suspected, and after some six weeks' nursing at Monkbarns, the hot-tempered soldier was once more in full health.
It was during those weeks that the Antiquary met after an interval of more than twenty years, the Earl of Glenallan, a neighbouring laird. Lord Glenallan and Mr. Oldbuck had both loved the same lady, Eveline Neville, and against the commands of the old countess, his mother, Glenallan had married Miss Neville. Driven by the false taunts of the countess to believe, as her husband did, the marriage invalid, the unhappy Eveline had thrown herself from the cliffs into the sea, and the child born to her had been kept in concealment in England by her brother, Geraldin Neville. The countess died, and an old fish woman, once the countess's confidential maid, when dying, demanded to see Lord Glenallan, and on her death-bed told him the truth, and that his child was living.
The scare of a French invasion brought Lord Glenallan, with Mr. Oldbuck, and Sir Arthur Wardour, to Fairport, and to his uncle's surprise and satisfaction, Captain M'Intyre acted as military adviser to the volunteers with remarkable presence of mind, giving instructions calmly and wisely.
The arrival of an officer from headquarters was eagerly expected in Fairport, and at length a cry among the people announced "There's the brave Major Neville come at last!" A postchaise and four drove into the square, amidst the huzzas of the volunteers and inhabitants, and what was the surprise of all present, but most especially that of the Antiquary, when the handsome uniform and military cap disclosed the person and features of the pacific Lovel! A warm embrace was necessary to assure him that his eyes were doing him justice. Sir Arthur was no less surprised to recognise his son, Captain Wardour, as Major Neville's companion.
The first words of the young officers were a positive assurance to all present that their efforts were unnecessary, that what was merely an accidental bonfire had been taken for a beacon.
The Antiquary found his arm pressed by Lord Glenallan, who dragged him aside. "For God's sake, who is that young gentleman who is so strikingly like——"
"Like the unfortunate Eveline," interrupted Oldbuck. "I felt my heart warm to him from the first. Formerly I would have called him Lovel, but now he turns out to be Major Neville."
"Whom my brother brought up as his natural son—whom he made his heir—the child of my Eveline!"
Mr. Oldbuck at once determined to make further investigation, and returned to Major Neville, who was now arranging for the dispersion of the force which had been assembled.
"Pray, Major Neville, leave this business for a moment to Captain Wardour and to Hector, with whom, I hope, you are thoroughly reconciled"—Neville laughed, and shook hands with Hector across the table—"and grant me a moment's audience."
"You have every claim on me," said Neville, "for having passed myself upon you under a false name. But I am so unfortunate as to have no better right to the name of Neville, than that of Lovel."
"I believe I know more of your birth than you do yourself, and to convince you of it, you were educated and known as a natural son of Geraldin Neville, of Neville's-burg, in Yorkshire."
"I did believe Mr. Geraldin Neville was my father, but during the war in French Flanders, I found in a convent near where we were quartered, a woman who spoke good English—a Spaniard. She discovered who I was, and made herself known to me as the person who had charge of me in my infancy, and intimated that Mr. Geraldin Neville was not my father. The convent was burned by the enemy, and several nuns perished, among others this woman. I wrote to Mr. Neville, and on my return implored him to complete the disclosure. He refused, and, on my importunity, indignantly upbraided me with the favours he had already conferred. We parted in mutual displeasure. I renounced the name of Neville, and assumed that of Lovel. It was at this time, when residing with a friend in the north of England, that I became acquainted with Miss Wardour, and was romantic enough to follow her to Scotland. When I was at Fairport, I received news of Mr. Neville's death. He had made me his heir, but the possession of considerable wealth did not prevent me from remembering Sir Arthur's strong prejudices against illegitimacy. Then came my quarrel with Captain M'Intyre, and my compelled departure from Fairport."
"Well, Major Neville, you must, I believe, exchange both of your aliases for the style and title of the Honourable William Geraldin, commonly called Lord Geraldin."
The Antiquary then went through the strange and melancholy circumstances concerning his mother's death. "And now, my dear sir," said he, in conclusion, "let me have the pleasure of introducing a son to a father."
We will not attempt to describe such a meeting. The proof on all sides was found to be complete, for Mr. Neville had left a distinct account of the whole transaction with his confidential steward in a small packet, which was not to be opened until the death of the old countess.
In the evening of that day, the yeomanry and volunteers of Glenallan drank prosperity to their young master; and a month afterwards, Lord Glenallan was married to Miss Wardour.
Hector is rising rapidly in the army, and rises proportionally high in his uncle's favour.
* * * * *
"Guy Mannering, or, the Astrologer," the second of the Waverley series, represents the labour of six weeks. Although the novel was completed in so short a period, neither story—if one or two instances of evidences of haste is ignored—nor characterisation has suffered. For the main theme Scott was indebted to an old legend of the horoscope of a new-born infant. In common with nearly all his tales, several of the characters in "Guy Mannering" were founded on real persons; Meg Merrilies was the prototype of a gipsy named Jennie Gordon, and many of the personal features of Dominie Sampson were obtained from a clergyman who once acted as tutor at Abbotsford. The hero was at once recognised by Hogg, the Ettrick shepherd, as a portrait of Scott himself.
It was in the month of November, 17—, when a young English gentleman, who had just left the University of Oxford, being benighted while sightseeing in Dumfriesshire, sought shelter at Ellangowan, on the very night the heir was born. Our hero, Guy Mannering, entering into the simple humour of Mr. Bertram, his host, agreed to calculate the infant's horoscope by the stars, having in early youth studied with an old clergyman who had a firm belief in astrology.
Mannering had once before tried a similar piece of foolery, at the instance of the young lady to whom he was betrothed, and now found that the result of the scheme in both cases presaged misfortune in the same year to the infant as to her. To the baby, three periods would be particularly hazardous—his fifth, his tenth, his twenty-first year.
He mentally relinquished his art for ever, and to prevent the child being supposed to be the object of evil prediction, he gave the paper into Mr. Bertram's hand, and requested him to keep it for five years with the seal unbroken, after which period he left him at liberty, trusting that the first fatal year being safely overpast, no credit would be paid to its farther contents.
When Mrs. Bertram was able to work again, her first employment was to make a small velvet bag for the scheme of nativity; and though her fingers itched to break the seal, she had the firmness to enclose it in two slips of parchment, and put it in the bag aforesaid, and hang it round the neck of the infant.
It was again in the month of November, more than twenty years after the above incident, that a loud rapping was heard at the door of the Gordon Arms at Kippletringan.
"I wish, madam," said the traveller, entering the kitchen, where several neighbours were assembled, "you would give me leave to warm myself here, for the night is very cold."
His appearance, voice, and manner, produced an instantaneous effect in his favour. The landlady installed her guest comfortably by the fireside, and offered what refreshment her house afforded.
"A cup of tea, ma'am, if you will favour me." Mrs. MacCandlish bustled about, and proceeded in her duties with her best grace, explaining that she had a very nice parlour, and everything agreeable for gentlefolks; but it was bespoke to-night for a gentleman and his daughter, that were going to leave this part of the country.
The sound of wheels was now heard, and the postilion entered. "No, they canna' come at no rate, the laird's sae ill."
"But God help them," said the landlady. "The morn's the term—the very last day they can bide in the house—a' things to be roupit."
"Weel, I tell you, Mr. Bertram canna be moved."
"What Mr. Bertram?" said the stranger. "Not Mr. Bertram of Ellangowan, I hope?"
"Just e'en that same, sir; and if ye be a friend o' his, ye've come at a time when he's sair bested."
"I have been abroad for many years. Is his health so much deranged?"
"Ay, and his affairs an' a'. The creditors have entered into possession o' the estate, and it's for sale. And some that made the maist o' him, they're sairest on him now. I've a sma' matter due mysell, but I'd rather have lost it than gane to turn the auld man out of his house, and him just dying."
"Ay, but," said the parish clerk, "Factor Glossin wants to get rid of the auld laird, and drive on the sale, for fear the heir-male should cast up; for if there's an heir-male, they canna sell the estate for auld Ellangowan's debt."
"He had a son born a good many years ago," said the stranger. "He is dead, I suppose?"
"Dead! I'se warrant him dead lang syne. He hasna' been heard o' these twenty years."
"I wat weel it's no twenty years," said the landlady. "It's no abune seventeen in this very month. It made an unco noise ower a' this country. The bairn disappeared the very day that Supervisor Kennedy came by his end. He was a daft dog! Oh, an' he could ha' handen' off the smugglers! Ye see, sir, there was a king's sloop down in Wigton Bay, and Frank Kennedy, he behoved to have her up to chase Dirk Hatteraick's lugger. He was a daring cheild, and fought his ship till she blew up like peelings of ingans."
"And Mr. Bertram's child," said the stranger, "what is all this to him?"
"Ou, sir, the bairn aye held an unca wark wi' the supervisor, and it was generally thought he went on board the vessel with him."
"No, no; you're clean out there, Luckie! The young laird was stown awa' by a randy gipsy woman they ca'd Meg Merrilies," said the deacon.