Old Mortality, Volume 2. eBook: Page2

Walter Scott (2004)


  CHAPTER II.

  Got with much ease--now merrily to horse. Henry IV. Part I.

  With the first peep of day Henry awoke, and found the faithful Cuddiestanding beside him with a portmanteau in his hand.

  "I hae been just putting your honour's things in readiness again ye werewaking," said Cuddie, "as is my duty, seeing ye hae been sae gude as totak me into your service."

  "I take you into my service, Cuddie?" said Morton, "you must bedreaming."

  "Na, na, stir," answered Cuddie; "didna I say when I was tied on thehorse yonder, that if ever ye gat loose I would be your servant, and yedidna say no? and if that isna hiring, I kenna what is. Ye gae me naearles, indeed, but ye had gien me eneugh before at Milnwood."

  "Well, Cuddie, if you insist on taking the chance of my unprosperousfortunes"--

  "Ou ay, I'se warrant us a' prosper weel eneugh," answered Cuddie,cheeringly, "an anes my auld mither was weel putten up. I hae begun thecampaigning trade at an end that is easy eneugh to learn."

  "Pillaging, I suppose?" said Morton, "for how else could you come by thatportmanteau?"

  "I wotna if it's pillaging, or how ye ca't," said Cuddie, "but it comesnatural to a body, and it's a profitable trade. Our folk had tirled thedead dragoons as bare as bawbees before we were loose amaist.--But when Isaw the Whigs a' weel yokit by the lugs to Kettledrummle and the otherchield, I set off at the lang trot on my ain errand and your honour's.Sae I took up the syke a wee bit, away to the right, where I saw themarks o'mony a horsefoot, and sure eneugh I cam to a place where therehad been some clean leatherin', and a' the puir chields were lying therebuskit wi' their claes just as they had put them on that morning--naebodyhad found out that pose o' carcages--and wha suld be in the midst thereof(as my mither says) but our auld acquaintance, Sergeant Bothwell?"

  "Ay, has that man fallen?" said Morton.

  "Troth has he," answered Cuddie; "and his een were open and his browbent, and his teeth clenched thegither, like the jaws of a trap forfoumarts when the spring's doun--I was amaist feared to look at him;however, I thought to hae turn about wi' him, and sae I e'en riped hispouches, as he had dune mony an honester man's; and here's your ainsiller again (or your uncle's, which is the same) that he got at Milnwoodthat unlucky night that made us a' sodgers thegither."

  "There can be no harm, Cuddie," said Morton, "in making use of thismoney, since we know how he came by it; but you must divide with me."

  "Bide a wee, bide a wee," said Cuddie. "Weel, and there's a bit ring hehad hinging in a black ribbon doun on his breast. I am thinking it hasbeen a love-token, puir fallow--there's naebody sae rough but they haeaye a kind heart to the lasses--and there's a book wi'a wheen papers, andI got twa or three odd things, that I'll keep to mysell, forby."

  "Upon my word, you have made a very successful foray for a beginner,"said his new master.

  "Haena I e'en now?" said Cuddie, with great exultation. "I tauld ye Iwasna that dooms stupid, if it cam to lifting things.--And forby, I haegotten twa gude horse. A feckless loon of a Straven weaver, that has lefthis loom and his bein house to sit skirling on a cauld hill-side, hadcatched twa dragoon naigs, and he could neither gar them hup nor wind,sae he took a gowd noble for them baith--I suld hae tried him wi' halfthe siller, but it's an unco ill place to get change in--Ye'll find thesiller's missing out o' Bothwell's purse."

  "You have made a most excellent and useful purchase, Cuddie; but what isthat portmanteau?"

  "The pockmantle?" answered Cuddie, "it was Lord Evandale's yesterday, andit's yours the day. I fand it ahint the bush o' broom yonder--ilka doghas its day--Ye ken what the auld sang says,

  'Take turn about, mither, quo' Tam o' the Linn.'

  "And, speaking o' that, I maun gang and see about my mither, puir auldbody, if your honour hasna ony immediate commands."

  "But, Cuddie," said Morton, "I really cannot take these things from youwithout some recompense."

  "Hout fie, stir," answered Cuddie, "ye suld aye be taking,--forrecompense, ye may think about that some other time--I hae seen gay weelto mysell wi' some things that fit me better. What could I do wi' LordEvandale's braw claes? Sergeant Bothwell's will serve me weel eneugh."

  Not being able to prevail on the self-constituted and disinterestedfollower to accept of any thing for himself out of these warlike spoils,Morton resolved to take the first opportunity of returning LordEvandale's property, supposing him yet to be alive; and, in themeanwhile, did not hesitate to avail himself of Cuddie's prize, so far asto appropriate some changes of linen and other triffling articles amongstthose of more value which the portmanteau contained.

  He then hastily looked over the papers which were found in Bothwell'spocket-book. These were of a miscellaneous description. The roll of histroop, with the names of those absent on furlough, memorandums oftavern-bills, and lists of delinquents who might be made subjects of fineand persecution, first presented themselves, along with a copy of awarrant from the Privy Council to arrest certain persons of distinctiontherein named. In another pocket of the book were one or two commissionswhich Bothwell had held at different times, and certificates of hisservices abroad, in which his courage and military talents were highlypraised. But the most remarkable paper was an accurate account of hisgenealogy, with reference to many documents for establishment of itsauthenticity; subjoined was a list of the ample possessions of theforfeited Earls of Bothwell, and a particular account of the proportionsin which King James VI. had bestowed them on the courtiers and nobilityby whose descendants they were at present actually possessed; beneaththis list was written, in red letters, in the hand of the deceased, HaudImmemor, F. S. E. B. the initials probably intimating Francis Stewart,Earl of Bothwell. To these documents, which strongly painted thecharacter and feelings of their deceased proprietor, were added somewhich showed him in a light greatly different from that in which we havehitherto presented him to the reader.

  In a secret pocket of the book, which Morton did not discover withoutsome trouble, were one or two letters, written in a beautiful femalehand. They were dated about twenty years back, bore no address, and weresubscribed only by initials. Without having time to peruse themaccurately, Morton perceived that they contained the elegant yet fondexpressions of female affection directed towards an object whose jealousythey endeavoured to soothe, and of whose hasty, suspicious, and impatienttemper, the writer seemed gently to complain. The ink of thesemanuscripts had faded by time, and, notwithstanding the great care whichhad obviously been taken for their preservation, they were in one or twoplaces chafed so as to be illegible.

  "It matters not," these words were written on the envelope of that whichhad suffered most, "I have them by heart."

  With these letters was a lock of hair wrapped in a copy of verses,written obviously with a feeling, which atoned, in Morton's opinion, forthe roughness of the poetry, and the conceits with which it abounded,according to the taste of the period:

  Thy hue, dear pledge, is pure and bright, As in that well-remember'dnight, When first thy mystic braid was wove, And first my Agnes whisper'dlove. Since then, how often hast thou press'd The torrid zone of thiswild breast, Whose wrath and hate have sworn to dwell With the first sinwhich peopled hell; A breast whose blood's a troubled ocean, Each throbthe earthquake's wild commotion!--O, if such clime thou canst endure, Yetkeep thy hue unstain'd and pure, What conquest o'er each erring thoughtOf that fierce realm had Agnes wrought! I had not wander'd wild and wide,With such an angel for my guide; Nor heaven nor earth could then reproveme, If she had lived, and lived to love me. Not then this world's wildjoys had been To me one savage hunting-scene, My sole delight theheadlong race, And frantic hurry of the chase, To start, pursue, andbring to bay, Rush in, drag down, and rend my prey, Then from the carcassturn away; Mine ireful mood had sweetness tamed, And soothed each woundwhich pride inflamed;--Yes, God and man might now approve me, If thouhadst lived, and lived to love me!

  As he finished rea
ding these lines, Morton could not forbear reflectingwith compassion on the fate of this singular and most unhappy being, who,it appeared, while in the lowest state of degradation, and almost ofcontempt, had his recollections continually fixed on the high station towhich his birth seemed to entitle him; and, while plunged in grosslicentiousness, was in secret looking back with bitter remorse to theperiod of his youth, during which he had nourished a virtuous, thoughunfortunate attachment.

  "Alas! what are we," said Morton, "that our best and most praiseworthyfeelings can be thus debased and depraved--that honourable pride can sinkinto haughty and desperate indifference for general opinion, and thesorrow of blighted affection inhabit the same bosom which license,revenge, and rapine, have chosen for their citadel? But it is the samethroughout; the liberal principles of one man sink into cold andunfeeling indifference, the religious zeal of another hurries him intofrantic and savage enthusiasm. Our resolutions, our passions, are likethe waves of the sea, and, without the aid of Him who formed the humanbreast, we cannot say to its tides, 'Thus far shall ye come, and nofarther."'

  While he thus moralized, he raised his eyes, and observed that Burleystood before him.

  "Already awake?" said that leader--"It is well, and shows zeal to treadthe path before you.--What papers are these?" he continued.

  Morton gave him some brief account of Cuddie's successful maraudingparty, and handed him the pocket-book of Bothwell, with its contents. TheCameronian leader looked with some attention on such of the papers asrelated to military affairs, or public business; but when he came to theverses, he threw them from him with contempt.

  "I little thought," he said, "when, by the blessing of God, I passed mysword three times through the body of that arch tool of cruelty andpersecution, that a character so desperate and so dangerous could havestooped to an art as trifling as it is profane. But I see that Satan canblend the most different qualities in his well-beloved and chosen agents,and that the same hand which can wield a club or a slaughter-weaponagainst the godly in the valley of destruction, can touch a tinklinglute, or a gittern, to soothe the ears of the dancing daughters ofperdition in their Vanity Fair."

  "Your ideas of duty, then," said Morton, "exclude love of the fine arts,which have been supposed in general to purify and to elevate the mind?"

  "To me, young man," answered Burley, "and to those who think as I do, thepleasures of this world, under whatever name disguised, are vanity, asits grandeur and power are a snare. We have but one object on earth, andthat is to build up the temple of the Lord."

  "I have heard my father observe," replied Morton, "that many who assumedpower in the name of Heaven, were as severe in its exercise, and asunwilling to part with it, as if they had been solely moved by themotives of worldly ambition--But of this another time. Have you succeededin obtaining a committee of the council to be nominated?"

  "I have," answered Burley. "The number is limited to six, of which youare one, and I come to call you to their deliberations."

  Morton accompanied him to a sequestered grassplot, where their colleaguesawaited them. In this delegation of authority, the two principal factionswhich divided the tumultuary army had each taken care to send three oftheir own number. On the part of the Cameronians, were Burley, Macbriar,and Kettledrummle; and on that of the moderate party, Poundtext, HenryMorton, and a small proprietor, called the Laird of Langcale. Thus thetwo parties were equally balanced by their representatives in thecommittee of management, although it seemed likely that those of the mostviolent opinions were, as is usual in such cases, to possess and exertthe greater degree of energy. Their debate, however, was conducted morelike men of this world than could have been expected from their conducton the preceding evening. After maturely considering their means andsituation, and the probable increase of their numbers, they agreed thatthey would keep their position for that day, in order to refresh theirmen, and give time to reinforcements to join them, and that, on the nextmorning, they would direct their march towards Tillietudlem, and summonthat stronghold, as they expressed it, of malignancy. If it was notsurrendered to their summons, they resolved to try the effect of a briskassault; and, should that miscarry, it was settled that they should leavea part of their number to blockade the place, and reduce it, if possible,by famine, while their main body should march forward to driveClaverhouse and Lord Ross from the town of Glasgow. Such was thedetermination of the council of management; and thus Morton's firstenterprise in active life was likely to be the attack of a castlebelonging to the parent of his mistress, and defended by her relative,Major Bellenden, to whom he personally owed many obligations! He feltfully the embarrassment of his situation, yet consoled himself with thereflection, that his newly-acquired power in the insurgent army wouldgive him, at all events, the means of extending to the inmates ofTillietudlem a protection which no other circumstance could have affordedthem; and he was not without hope that he might be able to mediate suchan accommodation betwixt them and the presbyterian army, as should securethem a safe neutrality during the war which was about to ensue.