Kenilworth by Walter Scott - HTML preview
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Far in the lane a lonely hut he found,
No tenant ventured on the unwholesome ground: Here smokes his forge, he bares his sinewy arm, And early strokes the sounding anvil warm; Around his shop the steely sparkles flew, As for the steed he shaped the bending shoe.
As it was deemed proper by the traveller himself, as well as by Giles Gosling, that Tressilian should avoid being seen in the neighbourhood of Cumnor by those whom accident might make early risers, the landlord had given him a route, consisting of various byways and lanes, which he was to follow in succession, and which, all the turns and short-cuts duly observed, was to conduct him to the public road to Marlborough.
But, like counsel of every other kind, this species of direction is much more easily given than followed; and what betwixt the intricacy of the way, the darkness of the night, Tressilian's ignorance of the country, and the sad and perplexing thoughts with which he had to contend, his journey proceeded so slowly, that morning found him only in the vale of Whitehorse, memorable for the defeat of the Danes in former days, with his horse deprived of a fore-foot shoe, an accident which threatened to put a stop to his journey by laming the animal. The residence of a smith was his first object of inquiry, in which he received little satisfaction from the dullness or sullenness of one or two peasants, early bound for their labour, who gave brief and indifferent answers to his questions on the subject. Anxious, at length, that the partner of his journey should suffer as little as possible from the unfortunate accident, Tressilian dismounted, and led his horse in the direction of a little hamlet, where he hoped either to find or hear tidings of such an artificer as he now wanted. Through a deep and muddy lane, he at length waded on to the place, which proved only an assemblage of five or six miserable huts, about the doors of which one or two persons, whose appearance seemed as rude as that of their dwellings, were beginning the toils of the day. One cottage, however, seemed of rather superior aspect, and the old dame, who was sweeping her threshold, appeared something less rude than her neighbours. To her Tressilian addressed the oftrepeated question, whether there was a smith in this neighbourhood, or any place where he could refresh his horse? The dame looked him in the face with a peculiar expression as she replied, "Smith! ay, truly is there a smith--what wouldst ha' wi' un, mon?"
"To shoe my horse, good dame," answered Tressiliany: you may see that he has thrown a fore-foot shoe."
"Master Holiday!" exclaimed the dame, without returning any direct answer--"Master Herasmus Holiday, come and speak to mon, and please you."
And forth came the honest pedagogue, for such his dress bespoke him. A long, lean, shambling, stooping figure was surmounted by a head thatched with lank, black hair somewhat inclining to grey. His features had the cast of habitual authority, which I suppose Dionysius carried with him from the throne to the schoolmaster's pulpit, and bequeathed as a legacy to all of the same profession, A black buckram cassock was gathered at his middle with a belt, at which hung, instead of knife or weapon, a goodly leathern pen- and-ink case. His ferula was stuck on the other side, like Harlequin's wooden sword; and he carried in his hand the tattered volume which he had been busily perusing.
On seeing a person of Tressilian's appearance, which he was better able to estimate than the country folks had been, the schoolmaster unbonneted, and accosted him with, "SALVE, DOMINE. INTELLIGISNE LINGUAM LATINAM?"
Tressilian mustered his learning to reply, "LINGUAE LATINAE HAUD PENITUS IGNARUS, VENIA TUA, DOMINE ERUDITISSIME, VERNACULAM LIBENTIUS LOQUOR."
The Latin reply had upon the schoolmaster the effect which the mason's sign is said to produce on the brethren of the trowel. He was at once interested in the learned traveller, listened with gravity to his story of a tired horse and a lost shoe, and then replied with solemnity, "It may appear a simple thing, most worshipful, to reply to you that there dwells, within a brief mile of these TUGURIA, the best FABER FERARIUS, the most accomplished blacksmith, that ever nailed iron upon horse. Now, were I to say so, I warrant me you would think yourself COMPOS VOTI, or, as the vulgar have it, a made man.""I should at least," said Tressilian, "have a direct answer to a plain question, which seems difficult to be obtained in this country."
"It is a mere sending of a sinful soul to the evil un," said the old woman, "the sending a living creature to Wayland Smith."
"Peace, Gammer Sludge!" said the pedagogue; "PAUCA VERBA, Gammer Sludge; look to the furmity, Gammer Sludge; CURETUR JENTACULUM, Gammer Sludge; this gentleman is none of thy gossips." Then turning to Tressilian, he resumed his lofty tone, "And so, most worshipful, you would really think yourself FELIX BIS TERQUE should I point out to you the dwelling of this same smith?"
"Sir," replied Tressilian, "I should in that case have all that I want at present--a horse fit to carry me forward;--out of hearing of your learning." The last words he muttered to himself."O CAECA MENS MORTALIUM!" said the learned man "well was it sung by Junius Juvenalis, 'NUMINIBUS VOTA EXAUDITA MALIGNIS!'"
"Learned Magister," said Tressilian, "your erudition so greatly exceeds my poor intellectual capacity that you must excuse my seeking elsewhere for information which I can better understand.""There again now," replied the pedagogue, "how fondly you fly from him that would instruct you! Truly said Quintilian--"
"I pray, sir, let Quintilian be for the present, and answer, in a word and in English, if your learning can condescend so far, whether there is any place here where I can have opportunity to refresh my horse until I can have him shod?"
"Thus much courtesy, sir," said the schoolmaster, "I can readily render you, that although there is in this poor hamlet (NOSTRA PAUPERA REGNA) no regular HOSPITIUM, as my namesake Erasmus calleth it, yet, forasmuch as you are somewhat embued, or at least tinged, as it were, with good letters, I will use my interest with the good woman of the house to accommodate you with a platter of furmity--an wholesome food for which I have found no Latin phrase--your horse shall have a share of the cowhouse, with a bottle of sweet hay, in which the good woman Sludge so much abounds, that it may be said of her cow, FAENUM HABET IN CORNU; and if it please you to bestow on me the pleasure of your company, the banquet shall cost you NE SEMISSEM QUIDEM, so much is Gammer Sludge bound to me for the pains I have bestowed on the top and bottom of her hopeful heir Dickie, whom I have painfully made to travel through the accidence."
"Now, God yield ye for it, Master Herasmus," said the good Gammer, "and grant that little Dickie may be the better for his accident! And for the rest, if the gentleman list to stay, breakfast shall be on the board in the wringing of a dishclout; and for horse-meat, and man's meat, I bear no such base mind as to ask a penny."
Considering the state of his horse, Tressilian, upon the whole, saw no better course than to accept the invitation thus learnedly made and hospitably confirmed, and take chance that when the good pedagogue had exhausted every topic of conversation, he might possibly condescend to tell him where he could find the smith they spoke of. He entered the hut accordingly, and sat down with the learned Magister Erasmus Holiday, partook of his furmity, and listened to his learned account of himself for a good half hour, ere he could get him to talk upon any other topic, The reader will readily excuse our accompanying this man of learning into all the details with which he favoured Tressilian, of which the following sketch may suffice.
He was born at Hogsnorton, where, according to popular saying, the pigs play upon the organ; a proverb which he interpreted allegorically, as having reference to the herd of Epicurus, of which litter Horace confessed himself a porker. His name of Erasmus he derived partly from his father having been the son of a renowned washerwoman, who had held that great scholar in clean linen all the while he was at Oxford; a task of some difficulty, as he was only possessed of two shirts, "the one," as she expressed herself, "to wash the other," The vestiges of one of these CAMICIAE, as Master Holiday boasted, were still in his possession, having fortunately been detained by his grandmother to cover the balance of her bill. But he thought there was a still higher and overruling cause for his having had the name of Erasmus conferred on him--namely, the secret presentiment of his mother's mind that, in the babe to be christened, was a hidden genius, which should one day lead him to rival the fame of the great scholar of Amsterdam. The schoolmaster's surname led him as far into dissertation as his Christian appellative. He was inclined to think that he bore the name of Holiday QUASI LUCUS A NON LUCENDO, because he gave such few holidays to his school. "Hence," said he, "the schoolmaster is termed, classically, LUDI MAGISTER, because he deprives boys of their play." And yet, on the other hand, he thought it might bear a very different interpretation, and refer to his own exquisite art in arranging pageants, morrisdances, May-day festivities, and such-like holiday delights, for which he assured Tressilian he had positively the purest and the most inventive brain in England; insomuch, that his cunning in framing such pleasures had made him known to many honourable persons, both in country and court, and especially to the noble Earl of Leicester. "And although he may now seem to forget me," he said, "in the multitude of state affairs, yet I am well assured that, had he some pretty pastime to array for entertainment of the Queen's Grace, horse and man would be seeking the humble cottage of Erasmus Holiday. PARVO CONTENTUS, in the meanwhile, I hear my pupils parse and construe, worshipful sir, and drive away my time with the aid of the Muses. And I have at all times, when in correspondence with foreign scholars, subscribed myself Erasmus ab Die Fausto, and have enjoyed the distinction due to the learned under that title: witness the erudite Diedrichus Buckerschockius, who dedicated to me under that title his treatise on the letter TAU. In fine, sir, I have been a happy and distinguished man."
"Long may it be so, sir!" said the traveller; "but permit me to ask, in your own learned phrase, QUID HOC AD IPHYCLI BOVES? what has all this to do with the shoeing of my poor nag?"
"FESTINA LENTE," said the man of learning, "we will presently came to that point. You must know that some two or three years past there came to these parts one who called himself Doctor Doboobie, although it may be he never wrote even MAGISTER ARTIUM, save in right of his hungry belly. Or it may be, that if he had any degrees, they were of the devil's giving; for he was what the vulgar call a white witch, a cunning man, and such like.--Now, good sir, I perceive you are impatient; but if a man tell not his tale his own way, how have you warrant to think that he can tell it in yours?""Well, then, learned sir, take your way," answered Tressilian; "only let us travel at a sharper pace, for my time is somewhat of the shortest."
"Well, sir," resumed Erasmus Holiday, with the most provoking perseverance, "I will not say that this same Demetrius for so he wrote himself when in foreign parts, was an actual conjurer, but certain it is that he professed to be a brother of the mystical Order of the Rosy Cross, a disciple of Geber (EX NOMINE CUJUS VENIT VERBUM VERNACULUM, GIBBERISH). He cured wounds by salving the weapon instead of the sore; told fortunes by palmistry; discovered stolen goods by the sieve and shears; gathered the right maddow and the male fern seed, through use of which men walk invisible; pretended some advances towards the panacea, or universal elixir; and affected to convert good lead into sorry silver.""In other words," said Tressilian, "he was a quacksalver and common cheat; but what has all this to do with my nag, and the shoe which he has lost?"
"With your worshipful patience," replied the diffusive man of letters, "you shall understand that presently--PATENTIA then, right worshipful, which word, according to our Marcus Tullius, is 'DIFFICILIUM RERUM DIURNA PERPESSIO.' This same Demetrius Doboobie, after dealing with the country, as I have told you, began to acquire fame INTER MAGNATES, among the prime men of the land, and there is likelihood he might have aspired to great matters, had not, according to vulgar fame (for I aver not the thing as according with my certain knowledge), the devil claimed his right, one dark night, and flown off with Demetrius, who was never seen or heard of afterwards. Now here comes the MEDULLA, the very marrow, of my tale. This Doctor Doboobie had a servant, a poor snake, whom he employed in trimming his furnace, regulating it by just measure--compounding his drugs--tracing his circles--cajoling his patients, ET SIC ET CAETERIS. Well, right worshipful, the Doctor being removed thus strangely, and in a way which struck the whole country with terror, this poor Zany thinks to himself, in the words of Maro, 'UNO AVULSO, NON DEFICIT ALTER;' and, even as a tradesman's apprentice sets himself up in his master's shop when he is dead or hath retired from business, so doth this Wayland assume the dangerous trade of his defunct master. But although, most worshipful sir, the world is ever prone to listen to the pretensions of such unworthy men, who are, indeed, mere SALTIM BANQUI and CHARLATANI, though usurping the style and skill of doctors of medicine, yet the pretensions of this poor Zany, this Wayland, were too gross to pass on them, nor was there a mere rustic, a villager, who was not ready to accost him in the sense of Persius, though in their own rugged words,--DILIUS HELLEBORUM CERTO COMPESCERE PUNCTO NESCIUS EXAMEN? VETAT HOC NATURA VEDENDI;' which I have thus rendered in a poor paraphrase of mine own,--
Wilt thou mix hellebore, who dost not know How many grains should to the mixture go? The art of medicine this forbids, I trow.
Moreover, the evil reputation of the master, and his strange and doubtful end, or at least sudden disappearance, prevented any, excepting the most desperate of men, to seek any advice or opinion from the servant; wherefore, the poor vermin was likely at first to swarf for very hunger. But the devil that serves him, since the death of Demetrius or Doboobie, put him on a fresh device. This knave, whether from the inspiration of the devil, or from early education, shoes horses better than e'er a man betwixt us and Iceland; and so he gives up his practice on the bipeds, the two-legged and unfledged species called mankind, and betakes him entirely to shoeing of horses.""Indeed! and where does he lodge all this time?" said Tressilian. "And does he shoe horses well? Show me his dwelling presently."
The interruption pleased not the Magister, who exclaimed, "O CAECA MENS MORTALIUM!--though, by the way, I used that quotation before. But I would the classics could afford me any sentiment of power to stop those who are so willing to rush upon their own destruction. Hear but, I pray you, the conditions of this man," said he, in continuation, "ere you are so willing to place yourself within his danger--"
"A' takes no money for a's work," said the dame, who stood by, enraptured as it were with the line words and learned apophthegms which glided so fluently from her erudite inmate, Master Holiday. But this interruption pleased not the Magister more than that of the traveller.
"Peace," said he, "Gammer Sludge; know your place, if it be your will. SUFFLAMINA, Gammer Sludge, and allow me to expound this matter to our worshipful guest.--Sir," said he, again addressing Tressilian, "this old woman speaks true, though in her own rude style; for certainly this FABER FERRARIUS, or blacksmith, takes money of no one.""And that is a sure sign he deals with Satan," said Dame Sludge; "since no good Christian would ever refuse the wages of his labour."
"The old woman hath touched it again," said the pedagogue; "REM ACU TETIGIT--she hath pricked it with her needle's point. This Wayland takes no money, indeed; nor doth he show himself to any one."
"And can this madman, for such I hold him," said the traveller, "know aught like good skill of his trade?"
"Oh, sir, in that let us give the devil his due--Mulciber himself, with all his Cyclops, could hardly amend him. But assuredly there is little wisdom in taking counsel or receiving aid from one who is but too plainly in league with the author of evil."
"I must take my chance of that, good Master Holiday," said Tressilian, rising; "and as my horse must now have eaten his provender, I must needs thank you for your good cheer, and pray you to show me this man's residence, that I may have the means of proceeding on my journey.""Ay, ay, do ye show him, Master Herasmus," said the old dame, who was, perhaps, desirous to get her house freed of her guest; "a' must needs go when the devil drives."
"DO MANUS," said the Magister, "I submit--taking the world to witness, that I have possessed this honourable gentleman with the full injustice which he has done and shall do to his own soul, if he becomes thus a trinketer with Satan. Neither will I go forth with our guest myself, but rather send my pupil.--RICARDE! ADSIS, NEBULO."
"Under your favour, not so," answered the old woman; "you may peril your own soul, if you list, but my son shall budge on no such errand. And I wonder at you, Dominie Doctor, to propose such a piece of service for little Dickie."
"Nay, my good Gammer Sludge," answered the preceptor, "Ricardus shall go but to the top of the hill, and indicate with his digit to the stranger the dwelling of Wayland Smith. Believe not that any evil can come to him, he having read this morning, fasting, a chapter of the Septuagint, and, moreover, having had his lesson in the Greek Testament."
"Ay," said his mother, "and I have sewn a sprig of witch's elm in the neck of un's doublet, ever since that foul thief has begun his practices on man and beast in these parts."
"And as he goes oft (as I hugely suspect) towards this conjurer for his own pastime, he may for once go thither, or near it, to pleasure us, and to assist this stranger.--ERGO, HEUS RICARDE! ADSIS, QUAESO, MI DIDASCULE."
The pupil, thus affectionately invoked, at length came stumbling into the room; a queer, shambling, ill-made urchin, who, by his stunted growth, seemed about twelve or thirteen years old, though he was probably, in reality, a year or two older, with a carroty pate in huge disorder, a freckled, sunburnt visage, with a snub nose, a long chin, and two peery grey eyes, which had a droll obliquity of vision, approaching to a squint, though perhaps not a decided one. It was impossible to look at the little man without some disposition to laugh, especially when Gammer Sludge, seizing upon and kissing him, in spite of his struggling and kicking in reply to her caresses, termed him her own precious pearl of beauty.
"RICARDE," said the preceptor, "you must forthwith (which is PROFECTO) set forth so far as the top of the hill, and show this man of worship Wayland Smith's workshop."
"Ay, marry may un," said Dame Sludge; "and you might have thought twice, Master Domine, ere you sent my dainty darling on arrow such errand. It is not for such doings I feed your belly and clothe your back, I warrant you!"
"Pshaw--NUGAE, good Gammer Sludge," answered the preceptor; "I ensure you that Satan, if there be Satan in the case, shall not touch a thread of his garment; for Dickie can say his PATER with the best, and may defy the foul fiend--EUMENIDES, STYGIUMQUE NEFAS."
"Ay, and I, as I said before, have sewed a sprig of the mountain- ash into his collar," said the good woman, "which will avail more than your clerkship, I wus; but for all that, it is ill to seek the devil or his mates either."
"My good boy," said Tressilian, who saw, from a grotesque sneer on Dickie's face, that he was more likely to act upon his own bottom than by the instructions of his elders, "I will give thee a silver groat, my pretty fellow, if you will but guide me to this man's forge."
The boy gave him a knowing side-look, which seemed to promise acquiescence, while at the same time he exclaimed, "I be your guide to Wayland Smith's! Why, man, did I not say that the devil might fly off with me, just as the kite there" (looking to the window) "is flying off with one of grandam's chicks?"
"The kite! the kite!" exclaimed the old woman in return, and forgetting all other matters in her alarm, hastened to the rescue of her chickens as fast as her old legs could carry her."Now for it," said the urchin to Tressilian; "snatch your beaver, get out your horse, and have at the silver groat you spoke of." "Nay, but tarry, tarry," said the preceptor--"SUFFLAMINA, RICARDE!" "Tarry yourself," said Dickie, "and think what answer you are to make to granny for sending me post to the devil."
The teacher, aware of the responsibility he was incurring, bustled up in great haste to lay hold of the urchin and to prevent his departure; but Dickie slipped through his fingers, bolted from the cottage, and sped him to the top of a neighbouring rising ground, while the preceptor, despairing, by well-taught experience, of recovering his pupil by speed of foot, had recourse to the most honied epithets the Latin vocabulary affords to persuade his return. But to MI ANIME, CORCULUM MEUM, and all such classical endearments, the truant turned a deaf ear, and kept frisking on the top of the rising ground like a goblin by moonlight, making signs to his new acquaintance, Tressilian, to follow him.
The traveller lost no time in getting out his horse and departing to join his elvish guide, after half-forcing on the poor, deserted teacher a recompense for the entertainment he had received, which partly allayed that terror he had for facing the return of the old lady of the mansion. Apparently this took place soon afterwards; for ere Tressilian and his guide had proceeded far on their journey, they heard the screams of a cracked female voice, intermingled with the classical objurgations of Master Erasmus Holiday. But Dickie Sludge, equally deaf to the voice of maternal tenderness and of magisterial authority, skipped on unconsciously before Tressilian, only observing that "if they cried themselves hoarse, they might go lick the honey-pot, for he had eaten up all the honeycomb himself on yesterday even."
There entering in, they found the goodman selfe Full busylie unto his work ybent,
Who was to weet a wretched wearish elf, With hollow eyes and rawbone cheeks forspent, As if he had been long in prison pent.
"Because," answered the ugly urchin, "you are the only three ever called me pretty lad. Now my grandam does it because she is parcel blind by age, and whole blind by kindred; and my master, the poor Dominie, does it to curry favour, and have the fullest platter of furmity and the warmest seat by the fire. But what you call me pretty lad for, you know best yourself.""Thou art a sharp wag at least, if not a pretty one. But what do thy playfellows call thee?"
"Hobgoblin," answered the boy readily; "but for all that, I would rather have my own ugly viznomy than any of their jolter-heads, that have no more brains in them than a brickbat.""Then you fear not this smith whom you are going to see?"
"Me fear him!" answered the boy. "If he were the devil folk think him, I would not fear him; but though there is something queer about him, he's no more a devil than you are, and that's what I would not tell to every one."
"And why do you tell it to me, then, my boy?" said Tressilian. "Because you are another guess gentleman than those we see here every day," replied Dickie; "and though I am as ugly as sin, I would not have you think me an ass, especially as I may have a boon to ask of you one day.""And what is that, my lad, whom I must not call pretty?" replied Tressilian. "Oh, if I were to ask it just now," said the boy, "you would deny it me; but I will wait till we meet at court." "At court, Richard! are you bound for court?" said Tressilian.
"Ay, ay, that's just like the rest of them," replied the boy. "I warrant me, you think, what should such an ill-favoured, scrambling urchin do at court? But let Richard Sludge alone; I have not been cock of the roost here for nothing. I will make sharp wit mend foul feature.""But what will your grandam say, and your tutor, Dominie Holiday?"
"E'en what they like," replied Dickie; "the one has her chickens to reckon, and the other has his boys to whip. I would have given them the candle to hold long since, and shown this trumpery hamlet a fair pair of heels, but that Dominie promises I should go with him to bear share in the next pageant he is to set forth, and they say there are to be great revels shortly.""And whereabouts are they to be held, my little friend?" said Tressilian.
"Oh, at some castle far in the north," answered his guide--"a world's breadth from Berkshire. But our old Dominie holds that they cannot go forward without him; and it may be he is right, for he has put in order many a fair pageant. He is not half the fool you would take him for, when he gets to work he understands; and so he can spout verses like a play-actor, when, God wot, if you set him to steal a goose's egg, he would be drubbed by the gander.""And you are to play a part in his next show?" said Tressilian, somewhat interested by the boy's boldness of conversation and shrewd estimate of character.
"In faith," said Richard Sludge, in answer, "he hath so promised me; and if he break his word, it will be the worse for him, for let me take the bit between my teeth, and turn my head downhill, and I will shake him off with a fall that may harm his bones. And I should not like much to hurt him neither," said he, "for the tiresome old fool has painfully laboured to teach me all he could. But enough of that--here are we at Wayland Smith's forge- door."
"You jest, my little friend," said Tressilian; "here is nothing but a bare moor, and that ring of stones, with a great one in the midst, like a Cornish barrow."
"Ay, and that great flat stone in the midst, which lies across the top of these uprights," said the boy, "is Wayland Smith's counter, that you must tell down your money upon."
"Why," said Dickie, with a grin, "you must tie your horse to that upright stone that has the ring in't, and then you must whistle three times, and lay me down your silver groat on that other flat stone, walk out of the circle, sit down on the west side of that little thicket of bushes, and take heed you look neither to right nor to left for ten minutes, or so long as you shall hear the hammer clink, and whenever it ceases, say your prayers for the space you could tell a hundred--or count over a hundred, which will do as well-and then come into the circle; you will find your money gone and your horse shod."
"My money gone to a certainty!" said Tressilian; "but as for the rest--Hark ye, my lad, I am not your school-master, but if you play off your waggery on me, I will take a part of his task off his hands, and punish you to purpose."
"Ay, when you catch me!" said the boy; and presently took to his heels across the heath, with a velocity which baffled every attempt of Tressilian to overtake him, loaded as he was with his heavy boots. Nor was it the least provoking part of the urchin's conduct, that he did not exert his utmost speed, like one who finds himself in danger, or who is frightened, but preserved just such a rate as to encourage Tressilian to continue the chase, and then darted away from him with the swiftness of the wind, when his pursuer supposed he had nearly run him down, doubling at the same time, and winding, so as always to keep near the place from which he started.
This lasted until Tressilian, from very weariness, stood still, and was about to abandon the pursuit with a hearty curse on the ill-favoured urchin, who had engaged him in an exercise so ridiculous. But the boy, who had, as formerly, planted himself on the top of a hillock close in front, began to clap his long, thin hands, point with his skinny fingers, and twist his wild and ugly features into such an extravagant expression of laughter and derision, that Tressilian began half to doubt whether he had not in view an actual hobgoblin.
Provoked extremely, yet at the same time feeling an irresistible desire to laugh, so very odd were the boy's grimaces and gesticulations, the Cornishman returned to his horse, and mounted him with the purpose of pursuing Dickie at more advantage.
The boy no sooner saw him mount his horse, than he holloed out to him that, rather than he should spoil his white-footed nag, he would come to him, on condition he would keep his fingers to himself.
"I will make no conditions with thee, thou ugly varlet!" said Tressilian; "I will have thee at my mercy in a moment."
"Aha, Master Traveller," said the boy, "there is a marsh hard by would swallow all the horses of the Queen's guard. I will into it, and see where you will go then. You shall hear the bittern bump, and the wild-drake quack, ere you get hold of me without my consent, I promise you."
Tressilian looked out, and, from the appearance of the ground behind the hillock, believed it might be as the boy said, and accordingly determined to strike up a peace with so light-footed and ready-witted an enemy. "Come down," he said, "thou mischievous brat! Leave thy mopping and mowing, and, come hither.I will do thee no harm, as I am a gentleman."
The boy answered his invitation with the utmost confidence, and danced down from his stance with a galliard sort of step, keeping his eye at the same time fixed on Tressilian's, who, once more dismounted, stood with his horse's bridle in his hand, breathless, and half exhausted with his fruitless exercise, though not one drop of moisture appeared on the freckled forehead of the urchin, which looked like a piece of dry and discoloured parchment, drawn tight across the brow of a fleshless skull.
"And tell me," said Tressilian, "why you use me thus, thou mischievous imp? or what your meaning is by telling me so absurd a legend as you wished but now to put on me? Or rather show me, in good earnest, this smith's forge, and I will give thee what will buy thee apples through the whole winter."
"Were you to give me an orchard of apples," said Dickie Sludge, "I can guide thee no better than I have done. Lay down the silver token on the flat stone--whistle three times
-then come sit down on the western side of the thicket of gorse. I will sit by you, and give you free leave to wring my head off, unless you hear the smith at work within two minutes after we are seated."
"I may be tempted to take thee at thy word," said Tressilian, "if you make me do aught half so ridiculous for your own mischievous sport; however, I will prove your spell. Here, then, I tie my horse to this upright stone. I must lay my silver groat here, and whistle three times, sayest thou?"
"Ay, but thou must whistle louder than an unfledged ousel," said the boy, as Tressilian, having laid down his money, and half ashamed of the folly he practised, made a careless whistle--"you must whistle louder than that, for who knows where the smith is that you call for? He may be in the King of France's stables for what I know.""Why, you said but now he was no devil," replied Tressilian.
"Man or devil," said Dickie, "I see that I must summon him for you;" and therewithal he whistled sharp and shrill, with an acuteness of sound that almost thrilled through Tressilian's brain. "That is what I call whistling," said he, after he had repeated the signal thrice; "and now to cover, to cover, or Whitefoot will not be shod this day." Tressilian, musing what the upshot of this mummery was to be, yet satisfied there was to be some serious result, by the confidence with which the boy had put himself in his power, suffered himself to be conducted to that side of the little thicket of gorse and brushwood which was farthest from the circle of stones, and there sat down; and as it occurred to him that, after all, this might be a trick for stealing his horse, he kept his hand on the boy's collar, determined to make him hostage for its safety.
"Now, hush and listen," said Dickie, in a low whisper; "you will soon hear the tack of a hammer that was never forged of earthly iron, for the stone it was made of was shot from the moon." And in effect Tressilian did immediately hear the light stroke of a hammer, as when a farrier is at work. The singularity of such a sound, in so very lonely a place, made him involuntarily start; but looking at the boy, and discovering, by the arch malicious expression of his countenance, that the urchin saw and enjoyed his slight tremor, he became convinced that the whole was a concerted stratagem, and determined to know by whom, or for what purpose, the trick was played off.
Accordingly, he remained perfectly quiet all the time that the hammer continued to sound, being about the space usually employed in fixing a horse-shoe. But the instant the sound ceased, Tressilian, instead of interposing the space of time which his guide had required, started up with his sword in his hand, ran round the thicket, and confronted a man in a farrier's leathern apron, but otherwise fantastically attired in a bear-skin dressed with the fur on, and a cap of the same, which almost hid the sooty and begrimed features of the wearer. "Come back, come back!" cried the boy to Tressilian, "or you will be torn to pieces; no man lives that looks on him." In fact, the invisible smith (now fully visible) heaved up his hammer, and showed symptoms of doing battle.
But when the boy observed that neither his own entreaties nor the menaces of the farrier appeared to change Tressilian's purpose, but that, on the contrary, he confronted the hammer with his drawn sword, he exclaimed to the smith in turn, "Wayland, touch him not, or you will come by the worse!--the gentleman is a true gentleman, and a bold.""So thou hast betrayed me, Flibbertigibbet?" said the smith; "it shall be the worse for thee!" "Be who thou wilt," said Tressilian, "thou art in no danger from me, so thou tell me the meaning of this practice, and why thou drivest thy trade in this mysterious fashion."
The smith, however, turning to Tressilian, exclaimed, in a threatening tone, "Who questions the Keeper of the Crystal Castle of Light, the Lord of the Green Lion, the Rider of the Red Dragon? Hence!--avoid thee, ere I summon Talpack with his fiery lance, to quell, crush, and consume!" These words he uttered with violent gesticulation, mouthing, and flourishing his hammer.
"Peace, thou vile cozener, with thy gipsy cant!" replied Tressilian scornfully, "and follow me to the next magistrate, or I will cut thee over the pate."
"Peace, I pray thee, good Wayland!" said the boy. "Credit me, the swaggering vein will not pass here; you must cut boon whids." ["Give good words."--SLANG DIALECT.]
"I think, worshipful sir," said the smith, sinking his hammer, and assuming a more gentle and submissive tone of voice, "that when so poor a man does his day's job, he might be permitted to work it out after his own fashion. Your horse is shod, and your farrier paid-what need you cumber yourself further than to mount and pursue your journey?"
"Nay, friend, you are mistaken," replied Tressilian; "every man has a right to take the mask from the face of a cheat and a juggler; and your mode of living raises suspicion that you are both."
"If you are so determined; sir," said the smith, "I cannot help myself save by force, which I were unwilling to use towards you, Master Tressilian; not that I fear your weapon, but because I know you to be a worthy, kind, and well-accomplished gentleman, who would rather help than harm a poor man that is in a strait."
"Well said, Wayland," said the boy, who had anxiously awaited the issue of their conference. "But let us to thy den, man, for it is ill for thy health to stand here talking in the open air."
"Thou art right, Hobgoblin," replied the smith; and going to the little thicket of gorse on the side nearest to the circle, and opposite to that at which his customer had so lately crouched, he discovered a trap-door curiously covered with bushes, raised it, and, descending into the earth, vanished from their eyes. Notwithstanding Tressilian's curiosity, he had some hesitation at following the fellow into what might be a den of robbers, especially when he heard the smith's voice, issuing from the bowels of the earth, call out, "Flibertigibbet, do you come last, and be sure to fasten the trap!""Have you seen enough of Wayland Smith now?" whispered the urchin to Tressilian, with an arch sneer, as if marking his companion's uncertainty.
"Not yet," said Tressilian firmly; and shaking off his momentary irresolution, he descended into the narrow staircase, to which the entrance led, and was followed by Dickie Sludge, who made fast the trap-door behind him, and thus excluded every glimmer of daylight. The descent, however, was only a few steps, and led to a level passage of a few yards' length, at the end of which appeared the reflection of a lurid and red light. Arrived at this point, with his drawn sword in his hand, Tressilian found that a turn to the left admitted him and Hobgoblin, who followed closely, into a small, square vault, containing a smith's forge, glowing with charcoal, the vapour of which filled the apartment with an oppressive smell, which would have been altogether suffocating, but that by some concealed vent the smithy communicated with the upper air. The light afforded by the red fuel, and by a lamp suspended in an iron chain, served to show that, besides an anvil, bellows, tongs, hammers, a quantity of ready-made horse-shoes, and other articles proper to the profession of a farrier, there were also stoves, alembics, crucibles, retorts, and other instruments of alchemy. The grotesque figure of the smith, and the ugly but whimsical features of the boy, seen by the gloomy and imperfect light of the charcoal fire and the dying lamp, accorded very well with all this mystical apparatus, and in that age of superstition would have made some impression on the courage of most men.
But nature had endowed Tressilian with firm nerves, and his education, originally good, had been too sedulously improved by subsequent study to give way to any imaginary terrors; and after giving a glance around him, he again demanded of the artist who he was, and by what accident he came to know and address him by his name.
"Your worship cannot but remember," said the smith, "that about three years since, upon Saint Lucy's Eve, there came a travelling juggler to a certain hall in Devonshire, and exhibited his skill before a worshipful knight and a fair company.--I see from your worship's countenance, dark as this place is, that my memory has not done me wrong."
"Thou hast said enough," said Tressilian, turning away, as wishing to hide from the speaker the painful train of recollections which his discourse had unconsciously awakened.
"The juggler," said the smith, "played his part so bravely that the clowns and clown-like squires in the company held his art to be little less than magical; but there was one maiden of fifteen, or thereby, with the fairest face I ever looked upon, whose rosy cheek grew pale, and her bright eyes dim, at the sight of the wonders exhibited.""Peace, I command thee, peace!" said Tressilian.
"I mean your worship no offence," said the fellow; "but I have cause to remember how, to relieve the young maiden's fears, you condescended to point out the mode in which these deceptions were practised, and to baffle the poor juggler by laying bare the mysteries of his art, as ably as if you had been a brother of his order.--She was indeed so fair a maiden that, to win a smile of her, a man might well--""Not a word more of her, I charge thee!" said Tressilian. "I do well remember the night you speak of--one of the few happy evenings my life has known."
"She is gone, then," said the smith, interpreting after his own fashion the sigh with which Tressilian uttered these words--"she is gone, young, beautiful, and beloved as she was!
-I crave your worship's pardon--I should have hammered on another theme. I see I have unwarily driven the nail to the quick."
This speech was made with a mixture of rude feeling which inclined Tressilian favourably to the poor artisan, of whom before he was inclined to judge very harshly. But nothing can so soon attract the unfortunate as real or seeming sympathy with their sorrows.
"I think," proceeded Tressilian, after a minute's silence, "thou wert in those days a jovial fellow, who could keep a company merry by song, and tale, and rebeck, as well as by thy juggling tricks--why do I find thee a laborious handicraftsman, plying thy trade in so melancholy a dwelling and under such extraordinary circumstances?"
"My story is not long," said the artist, "but your honour had better sit while you listen to it." So saying, he approached to the fire a three-footed stool, and took another himself; while Dickie Sludge, or Flibbertigibbet, as he called the boy, drew a cricket to the smith's feet, and looked up in his face with features which, as illuminated by the glow of the forge, seemed convulsed with intense curiosity. "Thou too," said the smith to him, "shalt learn, as thou well deservest at my hand, the brief history of my life; and, in troth, it were as well tell it thee as leave thee to ferret it out, since Nature never packed a shrewder wit into a more ungainly casket.--Well, sir, if my poor story may pleasure you, it is at your command, But will you not taste a stoup of liquor? I promise you that even in this poor cell I have some in store.""Speak not of it," said Tressilian, "but go on with thy story, for my leisure is brief." "You shall have no cause to rue the delay," said the smith, "for your horse shall be better fed in the meantime than he hath been this morning, and made fitter for travel." With that the artist left the vault, and returned after a few minutes' interval. Here, also, we pause, that the narrative may commence in another chapter.
I say, my lord, can such a subtilty
(But all his craft ye must not wot of me,
And somewhat help I yet to his working),
That all the ground on which we ben riding,
Till that we come to Canterbury town,
He can all clean turnen so up so down,
And pave it all of silver and of gold.
"I was bred a blacksmith, and knew my art as well as e'er a black-thumbed, leathernaproned, swart-faced knave of that noble mystery. But I tired of ringing hammer-tunes on iron stithies, and went out into the world, where I became acquainted with a celebrated juggler, whose fingers had become rather too stiff for legerdemain, and who wished to have the aid of an apprentice in his noble mystery. I served him for six years, until I was master of my trade--I refer myself to your worship, whose judgment cannot be disputed, whether I did not learn to ply the craft indifferently well?""Excellently," said Tressilian; "but be brief."
"It was not long after I had performed at Sir Hugh Robsart's, in your worship's presence," said the artist, "that I took myself to the stage, and have swaggered with the bravest of them all, both at the Black Bull, the Globe, the Fortune, and elsewhere; but I know not how--apples were so plenty that year that the lads in the twopenny gallery never took more than one bite out of them, and threw the rest of the pippin at whatever actor chanced to be on the stage. So I tired of it--renounced my half share in the company, gave my foil to my comrade, my buskins to the wardrobe, and showed the theatre a clean pair of heels.""Well, friend, and what," said Tressilian, "was your next shift?" "I became," said the smith, "half partner, half domestic to a man of much skill and little substance, who practised the trade of a physicianer." "In other words," said Tressilian, "you were Jack Pudding to a quacksalver."
"Something beyond that, let me hope, my good Master Tressilian," replied the artist; "and yet to say truth, our practice was of an adventurous description, and the pharmacy which I had acquired in my first studies for the benefit of horses was frequently applied to our human patients. But the seeds of all maladies are the same; and if turpentine, tar, pitch, and beef-suet, mingled with turmerick, gum-mastick, and one bead of garlick, can cure the horse that hath been grieved with a nail, I see not but what it may benefit the man that hath been pricked with a sword. But my master's practice, as well as his skill, went far beyond mine, and dealt in more dangerous concerns. He was not only a bold, adventurous practitioner in physic, but also, if your pleasure so chanced to be, an adept who read the stars, and expounded the fortunes of mankind, genethliacally, as he called it, or otherwise. He was a learned distiller of simples, and a profound chemist--made several efforts to fix mercury, and judged himself to have made a fair hit at the philosopher's stone. I have yet a programme of his on that subject, which, if your honour understandeth, I believe you have the better, not only of all who read, but also of him who wrote it."
He gave Tressilian a scroll of parchment, bearing at top and bottom, and down the margin, the signs of the seven planets, curiously intermingled with talismanical characters and scraps of Greek and Hebrew. In the midst were some Latin verses from a cabalistical author, written out so fairly, that even the gloom of the place did not prevent Tressilian from reading them. The tenor of the original ran as follows:-
"Si fixum solvas, faciasque volare solutum, Et volucrem figas, facient te vivere tutum; Si pariat ventum, valet auri pondere centum; Ventus ubi vult spirat--Capiat qui capere potest.""I protest to you," said Tressilian, "all I understand of this jargon is that the last words seem to mean 'Catch who catch can.'"
"That," said the smith, "is the very principle that my worthy friend and master, Doctor Doboobie, always acted upon; until, being besotted with his own imaginations, and conceited of his high chemical skill, he began to spend, in cheating himself, the money which he had acquired in cheating others, and either discovered or built for himself, I could never know which, this secret elaboratory, in which he used to seclude himself both from patients and disciples, who doubtless thought his long and mysterious absences from his ordinary residence in the town of Farringdon were occasioned by his progress in the mystic sciences, and his intercourse with the invisible world. Me also he tried to deceive; but though I contradicted him not, he saw that I knew too much of his secrets to be any longer a safe companion. Meanwhile, his name waxed famous--or rather infamous, and many of those who resorted to him did so under persuasion that he was a sorcerer. And yet his supposed advance in the occult sciences drew to him the secret resort of men too powerful to be named, for purposes too dangerous to be mentioned. Men cursed and threatened him, and bestowed on me, the innocent assistant of his studies, the nickname of the Devil's foot-post, which procured me a volley of stones as soon as ever I ventured to show my face in the street of the village. At length my master suddenly disappeared, pretending to me that he was about to visit his elaboratory in this place, and forbidding me to disturb him till two days were past. When this period had elapsed, I became anxious, and resorted to this vault, where I found the fires extinguished and the utensils in confusion, with a note from the learned Doboobius, as he was wont to style himself, acquainting me that we should never meet again, bequeathing me his chemical apparatus, and the parchment which I have just put into your hands, advising me strongly to prosecute the secret which it contained, which would infallibly lead me to the discovery of the grand magisterium.""And didst thou follow this sage advice?" said Tressilian.
"Worshipful sir, no," replied the smith; "for, being by nature cautious, and suspicious from knowing with whom I had to do, I made so many perquisitions before I ventured even to light a fire, that I at length discovered a small barrel of gunpowder, carefully hid beneath the furnace, with the purpose, no doubt, that as soon as I should commence the grand work of the transmutation of metals, the explosion should transmute the vault and all in it into a heap of ruins, which might serve at once for my slaughter-house and my grave. This cured me of alchemy, and fain would I have returned to the honest hammer and anvil; but who would bring a horse to be shod by the Devil's post? Meantime, I had won the regard of my honest Flibbertigibbet here, he being then at Farringdon with his master, the sage Erasmus Holiday, by teaching him a few secrets, such as please youth at his age; and after much counsel together, we agreed that, since I could get no practice in the ordinary way, I should try how I could work out business among these ignorant boors, by practising upon their silly fears; and, thanks to Flibbertigibbet, who hath spread my renown, I have not wanted custom. But it is won at too great risk, and I fear I shall be at length taken up for a wizard; so that I seek but an opportunity to leave this vault, when I can have the protection of some worshipful person against the fury of the populace, in case they chance to recognize me.""And art thou," said Tressilian, "perfectly acquainted with the roads in this country?" "I could ride them every inch by midnight," answered Wayland Smith, which was the name this adept had assumed. "Thou hast no horse to ride upon," said Tressilian.
"Pardon me," replied Wayland; "I have as good a tit as ever yeoman bestrode; and I forgot to say it was the best part of the mediciner's legacy to me, excepting one or two of the choicest of his medical secrets, which I picked up without his knowledge and against his will."
"Get thyself washed and shaved, then," said Tressilian; "reform thy dress as well as thou canst, and fling away these grotesque trappings; and, so thou wilt be secret and faithful, thou shalt follow me for a short time, till thy pranks here are forgotten. Thou hast, I think, both address and courage, and I have matter to do that may require both."
Wayland Smith eagerly embraced the proposal, and protested his devotion to his new master. In a very few minutes he had made so great an alteration in his original appearance, by change of dress, trimming his beard and hair, and so forth, that Tressilian could not help remarking that he thought he would stand in little need of a protector, since none of his old acquaintance were likely to recognize him. "My debtors would not pay me money," said Wayland, shaking his head; "but my creditors of every kind would be less easily blinded. And, in truth, I hold myself not safe, unless under the protection of a gentleman of birth and character, as is your worship."
So saying, he led the way out of the cavern. He then called loudly for Hobgoblin, who, after lingering for an instant, appeared with the horse furniture, when Wayland closed and sedulously covered up the trap-door, observing it might again serve him at his need, besides that the tools were worth somewhat. A whistle from the owner brought to his side a nag that fed quietly on the common, and was accustomed to the signal.While he accoutred him for the journey, Tressilian drew his own girths tighter, and in a few minutes both were ready to mount. At this moment Sludge approached to bid them farewell.
"You are going to leave me, then, my old playfellow," said the boy; "and there is an end of all our game at bo-peep with the cowardly lubbards whom I brought hither to have their broad- footed nags shed by the devil and his imps?"
"It is even so," said Wayland Smith, "the best friends must part, Flibbertigibbet; but thou, my boy, art the only thing in the Vale of Whitehorse which I shall regret to leave behind me."
"Well, I bid thee not farewell," said Dickie Sludge, "for you will be at these revels, I judge, and so shall I; for if Dominie Holiday take me not thither, by the light of day, which we see not in yonder dark hole, I will take myself there!""In good time," said Wayland; "but I pray you to do nought rashly."
"Nay, now you would make a child, a common child of me, and tell me of the risk of walking without leading-strings. But before you are a mile from these stones, you shall know by a sure token that I have more of the hobgoblin about me than you credit; and I will so manage that, if you take advantage, you may profit by my prank."
"What dost thou mean, boy?" said Tressilian; but Flibbertigibbet only answered with a grin and a caper, and bidding both of them farewell, and, at the same time, exhorting them to make the best of their way from the place, he set them the example by running homeward with the same uncommon velocity with which he had baffled Tressilian's former attempts to get hold of him.
"It is in vain to chase him," said Wayland Smith; "for unless your worship is expert in lark-hunting, we should never catch hold of him--and besides, what would it avail? Better make the best of our way hence, as he advises."
They mounted their horses accordingly, and began to proceed at a round pace, as soon as Tressilian had explained to his guide the direction in which he desired to travel. After they had trotted nearly a mile, Tressilian could not help observing to his companion that his horse felt more lively under him than even when he mounted in the morning.
"Are you avised of that?" said Wayland Smith, smiling. "That is owing to a little secret of mine. I mixed that with an handful of oats which shall save your worship's heels the trouble of spurring these six hours at least. Nay, I have not studied medicine and pharmacy for nought.""I trust," said Tressilian, "your drugs will do my horse no harm?"
"No more than the mare's milk; which foaled him," answered the artist, and was proceeding to dilate on the excellence of his recipe when he was interrupted by an explosion as loud and tremendous as the mine which blows up the rampart of a beleaguered city. The horses started, and the riders were equally surprised. They turned to gaze in the direction from which the thunder-clap was heard, and beheld, just over the spot they had left so recently, a huge pillar of dark smoke rising high into the clear, blue atmosphere. "My habitation is gone to wreck," said Wayland, immediately conjecturing the cause of the explosion. "I was a fool to mention the doctor's kind intentions towards my mansion before that limb of mischief, Flibbertigibbet; I might have guessed he would long to put so rare a frolic into execution. But let us hasten on, for the sound will collect the country to the spot."So saying, he spurred his horse, and Tressilian also quickening his speed, they rode briskly forward.
"This, then, was the meaning of the little imp's token which he promised us?" said Tressilian. "Had we lingered near the spot, we had found it a love-token with a vengeance."
"He would have given us warning," said the smith. "I saw him look back more than once to see if we were off--'tis a very devil for mischief, yet not an ill-natured devil either. It were long to tell your honour how I became first acquainted with him, and how many tricks he played me. Many a good turn he did me too, especially in bringing me customers; for his great delight was to see them sit shivering behind the bushes when they heard the click of my hammer. I think Dame Nature, when she lodged a double quantity of brains in that misshapen head of his, gave him the power of enjoying other people's distresses, as she gave them the pleasure of laughing at his ugliness."
"It may be so," said Tressilian; "those who find themselves severed from society by peculiarities of form, if they do not hate the common bulk of mankind, are at least not altogether indisposed to enjoy their mishaps and calamities."
"But Flibbertigibbet," answered Wayland, "hath that about him which may redeem his turn for mischievous frolic; for he is as faithful when attached as he is tricky and malignant to strangers, and, as I said before, I have cause to say so."
Tressilian pursued the conversation no further, and they continued their journey towards Devonshire without further adventure, until they alighted at an inn in the town of Marlborough, since celebrated for having given title to the greatest general (excepting one) whom Britain ever produced. Here the travellers received, in the same breath, an example of the truth of two old proverbs--namely, that ILL NEWS FLY FAST, and that LISTENERS SELDOM HEAR A GOOD TALE OF THEMSELVES.
The inn-yard was in a sort of combustion when they alighted; insomuch, that they could scarce get man or boy to take care of their horses, so full were the whole household of some news which flew from tongue to tongue, the import of which they were for some time unable to discover. At length, indeed, they found it respected matters which touched them nearly.
"What is the matter, say you, master?" answered, at length, the head hostler, in reply to Tressilian's repeated questions.--"Why, truly, I scarce know myself. But here was a rider but now, who says that the devil hath flown away with him they called Wayland Smith, that won'd about three miles from the Whitehorse of Berkshire, this very blessed morning, in a flash of fire and a pillar of smoke, and rooted up the place he dwelt in, near that old cockpit of upright stones, as cleanly as if it had all been delved up for a cropping."
"Why, then," said an old farmer, "the more is the pity; for that Wayland Smith (whether he was the devil's crony or no I skill not) had a good notion of horses' diseases, and it's to be thought the bots will spread in the country far and near, an Satan has not gien un time to leave his secret behind un.""You may say that, Gaffer Grimesby," said the hostler in return; "I have carried a horse to Wayland Smith myself, for he passed all farriers in this country."
"Did you see him?" said Dame Alison Crane, mistress of the inn bearing that sign, and deigning to term HUSBAND the owner thereof, a mean-looking hop-o'-my-thumb sort or person, whose halting gait, and long neck, and meddling, henpecked insignificance are supposed to have given origin to the celebrated old English tune of "My name hath a lame tame Crane."On this occasion he chirped out a repetition of his wife's question, "Didst see the devil, Jack Hostler, I say?" "And what if I did see un, Master Crane?" replied Jack Hostler, for, like all the rest of the household, he paid as little respect to his master as his mistress herself did.
"Nay, nought, Jack Hostler," replied the pacific Master Crane; "only if you saw the devil, methinks I would like to know what un's like?"
"You will know that one day, Master Crane," said his helpmate, "an ye mend not your manners, and mind your business, leaving off such idle palabras.--But truly, Jack Hostler, I should be glad to know myself what like the fellow was."
"Why, I had schoolmaster to write down ailment o' nag," said Jack Hostler; "and I went wi' the ugliest slip of a boy for my guide as ever man cut out o' lime-tree root to please a child withal.""And what was it?--and did it cure your nag, Jack Hostler?" was uttered and echoed by all who stood around.
"Why, how can I tell you what it was?" said the hostler; "simply it smelled and tasted--for I did make bold to put a pea's substance into my mouth--like hartshorn and savin mixed with vinegar; but then no hartshorn and savin ever wrought so speedy a cure. And I am dreading that if Wayland Smith be gone, the bots will have more power over horse and cattle."
The pride of art, which is certainly not inferior in its influence to any other pride whatever, here so far operated on Wayland Smith, that, notwithstanding the obvious danger of his being recognized, he could not help winking to Tressilian, and smiling mysteriously, as if triumphing in the undoubted evidence of his veterinary skill. In the meanwhile, the discourse continued."E'en let it be so," said a grave man in black, the companion of Gaffer Grimesby; "e'en let us perish under the evil God sends us, rather than the devil be our doctor." "Very true," said Dame Crane; "and I marvel at Jack Hostler that he would peril his own soul to cure the bowels of a nag."
"Very true, mistress," said Jack Hostler, "but the nag was my master's; and had it been yours, I think ye would ha' held me cheap enow an I had feared the devil when the poor beast was in such a taking. For the rest, let the clergy look to it. Every man to his craft, says the proverb--the parson to the prayer- book, and the groom to his curry-comb.
"I vow," said Dame Crane, "I think Jack Hostler speaks like a good Christian and a faithful servant, who will spare neither body nor soul in his master's service. However, the devil has lifted him in time, for a Constable of the Hundred came hither this morning to get old Gaffer Pinniewinks, the trier of witches, to go with him to the Vale of Whitehorse to comprehend Wayland Smith, and put him to his probation. I helped Pinniewinks to sharpen his pincers and his poking-awl, and I saw the warrant from Justice Blindas."
"Pooh--pooh--the devil would laugh both at Blindas and his warrant, constable and witch-finder to boot," said old Dame Crank, the Papist laundress; "Wayland Smith's flesh would mind Pinniewinks' awl no more than a cambric ruff minds a hot piccadilloeneedle. But tell me, gentlefolks, if the devil ever had such a hand among ye, as to snatch away your smiths and your artists from under your nose, when the good Abbots of Abingdon had their own? By Our Lady, no!--they had their hallowed tapers; and their holy water, and their relics, and what not, could send the foulest fiends a-packing. Go ask a heretic parson to do the like. But ours were a comfortable people.""Very true, Dame Crank," said the hostler; "so said Simpkins of Simonburn when the curate kissed his wife,--'They are a comfortable people,' said he." "Silence, thou foul-mouthed vermin," said Dame Crank; "is it fit for a heretic horse-boy like thee to handle such a text as the Catholic clergy?"
"In troth no, dame," replied the man of oats; "and as you yourself are now no text for their handling, dame, whatever may have been the case in your day, I think we had e'en better leave un alone."
At this last exchange of sarcasm, Dame Crank set up her throat, and began a horrible exclamation against Jack Hostler, under cover of which Tressilian and his attendant escaped into the house.
They had no sooner entered a private chamber, to which Goodman Crane himself had condescended to usher them, and dispatched their worthy and obsequious host on the errand of procuring wine and refreshment, than Wayland Smith began to give vent to his self-importance.
"You see, sir," said he, addressing Tressilian, "that I nothing fabled in asserting that I possessed fully the mighty mystery of a farrier, or mareschal, as the French more honourably term us. These dog-hostlers, who, after all, are the better judges in such a case, know what credit they should attach to my medicaments. I call you to witness, worshipful Master Tressilian, that nought, save the voice of calumny and the hand of malicious violence, hath driven me forth from a station in which I held a place alike useful and honoured."
"I bear witness, my friend, but will reserve my listening," answered Tressilian, "for a safer time; unless, indeed, you deem it essential to your reputation to be translated, like your late dwelling, by the assistance of a flash of fire. For you see your best friends reckon you no better than a mere sorcerer."
"Now, Heaven forgive them," said the artist, "who confounded learned skill with unlawful magic! I trust a man may be as skilful, or more so, than the best chirurgeon ever meddled with horse-flesh, and yet may be upon the matter little more than other ordinary men, or at the worst no conjurer.""God forbid else!" said Tressilian. "But be silent just for the present, since here comes mine host with an assistant, who seems something of the least."
Everybody about the inn, Dame Crane herself included, had been indeed so interested and agitated by the story they had heard of Wayland Smith, and by the new, varying, and more marvellous editions of the incident which arrived from various quarters, that mine host, in his righteous determination to accommodate his guests, had been able to obtain the assistance of none of his household, saving that of a little boy, a junior tapster, of about twelve years old, who was called Sampson.
"I wish," he said, apologizing to his guests, as he set down a flagon of sack, and promised some food immediately--"I wish the devil had flown away with my wife and my whole family instead of this Wayland Smith, who, I daresay, after all said and done, was much less worthy of the distinction which Satan has done him.""I hold opinion with you, good fellow," replied Wayland Smith; "and I will drink to you upon that argument."
"Not that I would justify any man who deals with the devil," said mine host, after having pledged Wayland in a rousing draught of sack, "but that--saw ye ever better sack, my masters?--but that, I say, a man had better deal with a dozen cheats and scoundrel fellows, such as this Wayland Smith, than with a devil incarnate, that takes possession of house and home, bed and board."
The poor fellow's detail of grievances was here interrupted by the shrill voice of his helpmate, screaming from the kitchen, to which he instantly hobbled, craving pardon of his guests. He was no sooner gone than Wayland Smith expressed, by every contemptuous epithet in the language, his utter scorn for a nincompoop who stuck his head under his wife's apron-string; and intimated that, saving for the sake of the horses, which required both rest and food, he would advise his worshipful Master Tressilian to push on a stage farther, rather than pay a reckoning to such a mean-spirited, crowtrodden, henpecked coxcomb, as Gaffer Crane.
The arrival of a large dish of good cow-heel and bacon something soothed the asperity of the artist, which wholly vanished before a choice capon, so delicately roasted that the lard frothed on it, said Wayland, like May-dew on a lily; and both Gaffer Crane and his good dame became, in his eyes, very painstaking, accommodating, obliging persons.
According to the manners of the times, the master and his attendant sat at the same table, and the latter observed, with regret, how little attention Tressilian paid to his meal. He recollected, indeed, the pain he had given by mentioning the maiden in whose company he had first seen him; but, fearful of touching upon a topic too tender to be tampered with, he chose to ascribe his abstinence to another cause.
"This fare is perhaps too coarse for your worship," said Wayland, as the limbs of the capon disappeared before his own exertions; "but had you dwelt as long as I have done in yonder dungeon, which Flibbertigibbet has translated to the upper element, a place where I dared hardly broil my food, lest the smoke should be seen without, you would think a fair capon a more welcome dainty."
Allowing, therefore, their horses no more rest than was absolutely necessary for them, they pursued their journey by a forced march as far as Bradford, where they reposed themselves for the night.
The next morning found them early travellers. And, not to fatigue the reader with unnecessary particulars, they traversed without adventure the counties of Wiltshire and Somerset, and about noon of the third day after Tressilian's leaving Cumnor, arrived at Sir Hugh Robsart's seat, called Lidcote Hall, on the frontiers of Devonshire.
Chapter 12Ah me! the flower and blossom of your house, The wind hath blown away to other towers. JOANNA BAILLIE'S FAMILY LEGEND.
The ancient seat of Lidcote Hall was situated near the village of the same name, and adjoined the wild and extensive forest of Exmoor, plentifully stocked with game, in which some ancient rights belonging to the Robsart family entitled Sir Hugh to pursue his favourite amusement of the chase. The old mansion was a low, venerable building, occupying a considerable space of ground, which was surrounded by a deep moat. The approach and drawbridge were defended by an octagonal tower, of ancient brickwork, but so clothed with ivy and other creepers that it was difficult to discover of what materials it was constructed. The angles of this tower were each decorated with a turret, whimsically various in form and in size, and, therefore, very unlike the monotonous stone pepperboxes which, in modern Gothic architecture, are employed for the same purpose. One of these turrets was square, and occupied as a clock-house. But the clock was now standing still; a circumstance peculiarly striking to Tressilian, because the good old knight, among other harmless peculiarities, had a fidgety anxiety about the exact measurement of time, very common to those who have a great deal of that commodity to dispose of, and find it lie heavy upon their hands-- just as we see shopkeepers amuse themselves with taking an exact account of their stock at the time there is least demand for it.
The entrance to the courtyard of the old mansion lay through an archway, surmounted by the foresaid tower; but the drawbridge was down, and one leaf of the iron-studded folding-doors stood carelessly open. Tressilian hastily rode over the drawbridge, entered the court, and began to call loudly on the domestics by their names. For some time he was only answered by the echoes and the howling of the hounds, whose kennel lay at no great distance from the mansion, and was surrounded by the same moat. At length Will Badger, the old and favourite attendant of the knight, who acted alike as squire of his body and superintendent of his sports, made his appearance. The stout, weather-beaten forester showed great signs of joy when he recognized Tressilian.
"Lord love you," he said, "Master Edmund, be it thou in flesh and fell? Then thou mayest do some good on Sir Hugh, for it passes the wit of man--that is, of mine own, and the curate's, and Master Mumblazen's--to do aught wi'un.""Is Sir Hugh then worse since I went away, Will?" demanded Tressilian.
"For worse in body--no; he is much better," replied the domestic; "but he is clean mazed as it were--eats and drinks as he was wont--but sleeps not, or rather wakes not, for he is ever in a sort of twilight, that is neither sleeping nor waking. Dame Swineford thought it was like the dead palsy. But no, no, dame, said I, it is the heart, it is the heart." "Can ye not stir his mind to any pastimes?" said Tressilian.
"He is clean and quite off his sports," said Will Badger; "hath neither touched backgammon or shovel-board, nor looked on the big book of harrowtry wi' Master Mumblazen. I let the clock run down, thinking the missing the bell might somewhat move him--for you know, Master Edmund, he was particular in counting time--but he never said a word on't, so I may e'en set the old chime a- towling again. I made bold to tread on Bungay's tail too, and you know what a round rating that would ha' cost me once a-day; but he minded the poor tyke's whine no more than a madge howlet whooping down the chimney--so the case is beyond me.""Thou shalt tell me the rest within doors, Will. Meanwhile, let this person be ta'en to the buttery, and used with respect. He is a man of art."
"White art or black art, I would," said Will Badger, "that he had any art which could help us.--Here, Tom Butler, look to the man of art;--and see that he steals none of thy spoons, lad," he added in a whisper to the butler, who showed himself at a low window, "I have known as honest a faced fellow have art enough to do that."
He then ushered Tressilian into a low parlour, and went, at his desire, to see in what state his master was, lest the sudden return of his darling pupil and proposed son-in-law should affect him too strongly. He returned immediately, and said that Sir Hugh was dozing in his elbow-chair, but that Master Mumblazen would acquaint Master Tressilian the instant he awaked.
"But it is chance if he knows you," said the huntsman, "for he has forgotten the name of every hound in the pack. I thought, about a week since, he had gotten a favourable turn. 'Saddle me old Sorrel,' said he suddenly, after he had taken his usual night-draught out of the great silver grace-cup, 'and take the hounds to Mount Hazelhurst to-morrow.' Glad men were we all, and out we had him in the morning, and he rode to cover as usual, with never a word spoken but that the wind was south, and the scent would lie. But ere we had uncoupled'the hounds, he began to stare round him, like a man that wakes suddenly out of a dream--turns bridle, and walks back to Hall again, and leaves us to hunt at leisure by ourselves, if we listed.""You tell a heavy tale, Will," replied Tressilian; "but God must help us--there is no aid in man."
"Then you bring us no news of young Mistress Amy? But what need I ask--your brow tells the story. Ever I hoped that if any man could or would track her, it must be you. All's over and lost now. But if ever I have that Varney within reach of a flight- shot, I will bestow a forked shaft on him; and that I swear by salt and bread."
As he spoke, the door opened, and Master Mumblazen appeared--a withered, thin, elderly gentleman, with a cheek like a winter apple, and his grey hair partly concealed by a small, high hat, shaped like a cone, or rather like such a strawberry-basket as London fruiterers exhibit at their windows. He was too sententious a person to waste words on mere salutation; so, having welcomed Tressilian with a nod and a shake of the hand, he beckoned him to follow to Sir Hugh's great chamber, which the good knight usually inhabited. Will Badger followed, unasked, anxious to see whether his master would be relieved from his state of apathy by the arrival of Tressilian.
In a long, low parlour, amply furnished with implements of the chase, and with silvan trophies, by a massive stone chimney, over which hung a sword and suit of armour somewhat obscured by neglect, sat Sir Hugh Robsart of Lidcote, a man of large size, which had been only kept within moderate compass by the constant use of violent exercise, It seemed to Tressilian that the lethargy, under which his old friend appeared to labour, had, even during his few weeks' absence, added bulk to his person--at least it had obviously diminished the vivacity of his eye, which, as they entered, first followed Master Mumblazen slowly to a large oaken desk, on which a ponderous volume lay open, and then rested, as if in uncertainty, on the stranger who had entered along with him. The curate, a grey-headed clergyman, who had been a confessor in the days of Queen Mary, sat with a book in his hand in another recess in the apartment. He, too, signed a mournful greeting to Tressilian, and laid his book aside, to watch the effect his appearance should produce on the afflicted old man.
As Tressilian, his own eyes filling fast with tears, approached more and more nearly to the father of his betrothed bride, Sir Hugh's intelligence seemed to revive. He sighed heavily, as one who awakens from a state of stupor; a slight convulsion passed over his features; he opened his arms without speaking a word, and, as Tressilian threw himself into them, he folded him to his bosom.
"There is something left to live for yet," were the first words he uttered; and while he spoke, he gave vent to his feelings in a paroxysm of weeping, the tears chasing each other down his sunburnt cheeks and long white beard."I ne'er thought to have thanked God to see my master weep," said Will Badger; "but now I do, though I am like to weep for company." "I will ask thee no questions," said the old knight; "no questions--none, Edmund. Thou hast not found her--or so found her, that she were better lost." Tressilian was unable to reply otherwise than by putting his hands before his face.
"It is enough--it is enough. But do not thou weep for her, Edmund. I have cause to weep, for she was my daughter; thou hast cause to rejoice, that she did not become thy wife.--Great God! thou knowest best what is good for us. It was my nightly prayer that I should see Amy and Edmund wedded,--had it been granted, it had now been gall added to bitterness."
"Be comforted, my friend," said the curate, addressing Sir Hugh, "it cannot be that the daughter of all our hopes and affections is the vile creature you would bespeak her." "Oh, no," replied Sir Hugh impatiently, "I were wrong to name broadly the base thing she is become--there is some new court name for it, I warrant me. It is honour enough for the daughter of an old Devonshire clown to be the leman of a gay courtier--of Varney too--of Varney, whose grandsire was relieved by my father, when his fortune was broken, at the battle of--the battle of-- where Richard was slain--out on my memory!-and I warrant none of you will help me--"
"The battle of Bosworth," said Master Mumblazen--"stricken between Richard Crookback and Henry Tudor, grandsire of the Queen that now is, PRIMO HENRICI SEPTIMI; and in the year one thousand four hundred and eighty-five, POST CHRISTUM NATUM."
"Ay, even so," said the old knight; "every child knows it. But my poor head forgets all it should remember, and remembers only what it would most willingly forget. My brain has been at fault, Tressilian, almost ever since thou hast been away, and even yet it hunts counter."
"Your worship," said the good clergyman, "had better retire to your apartment, and try to sleep for a little space. The physician left a composing draught; and our Great Physician has commanded us to use earthly means, that we may be strengthened to sustain the trials He sends us."
"True, true, old friend," said Sir Hugh; "and we will bear our trials manfully--we have lost but a woman.--See, Tressilian,"--he drew from his bosom a long ringlet of glossy hair,-"see this lock! I tell thee, Edmund, the very night she disappeared, when she bid me good even, as she was wont, she hung about my neck, and fondled me more than usual; and I, like an old fool, held her by this lock, until she took her scissors, severed it, and left it in my hand--as all I was ever to see more of her!"
Tressilian was unable to reply, well judging what a complication of feelings must have crossed the bosom of the unhappy fugitive at that cruel moment. The clergyman was about to speak, but Sir Hugh interrupted him.
"I know what you would say, Master Curate,--After all, it is but a lock of woman's tresses; and by woman, shame, and sin, and death came into an innocent world.--And learned Master Mumblazen, too, can say scholarly things of their inferiority.""C'EST L'HOMME," said Master Mumblazen, "QUI SE BAST, ET QUI CONSEILLE."
"True," said Sir Hugh, "and we will bear us, therefore, like men who have both mettle and wisdom in us.--Tressilian, thou art as welcome as if thou hadst brought better news. But we have spoken too long dry-lipped.--Amy, fill a cup of wine to Edmund, and another to me." Then instantly recollecting that he called upon her who could not hear, he shook his head, and said to the clergyman, "This grief is to my bewildered mind what the church of Lidcote is to our park: we may lose ourselves among the briers and thickets for a little space, but from the end of each avenue we see the old grey steeple and the grave of my forefathers. I would I were to travel that road tomorrow!"
Tressilian and the curate joined in urging the exhausted old man to lay himself to rest, and at length prevailed. Tressilian remained by his pillow till he saw that slumber at length sunk down on him, and then returned to consult with the curate what steps should be adopted in these unhappy circumstances.
They could not exclude from these deliberations Master Michael Mumblazen; and they admitted him the more readily, that besides what hopes they entertained from his sagacity, they knew him to be so great a friend to taciturnity, that there was no doubt of his keeping counsel. He was an old bachelor, of good family, but small fortune, and distantly related to the House of Robsart; in virtue of which connection, Lidcote Hall had been honoured with his residence for the last twenty years. His company was agreeable to Sir Hugh, chiefly on account of his profound learning, which, though it only related to heraldry and genealogy, with such scraps of history as connected themselves with these subjects, was precisely of a kind to captivate the good old knight; besides the convenience which he found in having a friend to appeal to when his own memory, as frequently happened, proved infirm and played him false concerning names and dates, which, and all similar deficiencies, Master Michael Mumblazen supplied with due brevity and discretion. And, indeed, in matters concerning the modern world, he often gave, in his enigmatical and heraldic phrase, advice which was well worth attending to, or, in Will Badger's language, started the game while others beat the bush.
"We have had an unhappy time of it with the good knight, Master Edmund," said the curate. "I have not suffered so much since I was torn away from my beloved flock, and compelled to abandon them to the Romish wolves.""That was in TERTIO MARIAE," said Master Mumblazen.
"In the name of Heaven," continued the curate, "tell us, has your time been better spent than ours, or have you any news of that unhappy maiden, who, being for so many years the principal joy of this broken-down house, is now proved our greatest unhappiness? Have you not at least discovered her place of residence?""I have," replied Tressilian. "Know you Cumnor Place, near Oxford?" "Surely," said the clergyman; "it was a house of removal for the monks of Abingdon." "Whose arms," said Master Michael, "I have seen over a stone chimney in the hall,--a cross patonce betwixt four martlets."
"There," said Tressilian, "this unhappy maiden resides, in company with the villain Varney. But for a strange mishap, my sword had revenged all our injuries, as well as hers, on his worthless head."
"Thank God, that kept thine hand from blood-guiltiness, rash young man!" answered the curate. "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, and I will repay it. It were better study to free her from the villain's nets of infamy."
"It is in that I require your aid, my friends," said Tressilian. "I am resolved to accuse this villain, at the very foot of the throne, of falsehood, seduction, and breach of hospitable laws. The Queen shall hear me, though the Earl of Leicester, the villain's patron, stood at her right hand."
"Her Grace," said the curate, "hath set a comely example of continence to her subjects, and will doubtless do justice on this inhospitable robber. But wert thou not better apply to the Earl of Leicester, in the first place, for justice on his servant? If he grants it, thou dost save the risk of making thyself a powerful adversary, which will certainly chance if, in the first instance, you accuse his master of the horse and prime favourite before the Queen."
"My mind revolts from your counsel," said Tressilian. "I cannot brook to plead my noble patron's cause the unhappy Amy's cause-- before any one save my lawful Sovereign. Leicester, thou wilt say, is noble. Be it so; he is but a subject like ourselves, and I will not carry my plaint to him, if I can do better. Still, I will think on what thou hast said; but I must have your assistance to persuade the good Sir Hugh to make me his commissioner and fiduciary in this matter, for it is in his name I must speak, and not in my own. Since she is so far changed as to dote upon this empty profligate courtier, he shall at least do her the justice which is yet in his power."
"Better she died CAELEBS and SINE PROLE," said Mumblazen, with more animation than he usually expressed, "than part, PER PALE, the noble coat of Robsart with that of such a miscreant!"
"If it be your object, as I cannot question," said the clergyman, "to save, as much as is yet possible, the credit of this unhappy young woman, I repeat, you should apply, in the first instance, to the Earl of Leicester. He is as absolute in his household as the Queen in her kingdom, and if he expresses to Varney that such is his pleasure, her honour will not stand so publicly committed."
"You are right, you are right!" said Tressilian eagerly, "and I thank you for pointing out what I overlooked in my haste. I little thought ever to have besought grace of Leicester; but I could kneel to the proud Dudley, if doing so could remove one shade of shame from this unhappy damsel. You will assist me then to procure the necessary powers from Sir Hugh Robsart?"
The curate assured him of his assistance, and the herald nodded assent. "You must hold yourselves also in readiness to testify, in case you are called upon, the openhearted hospitality which our good patron exercised towards this deceitful traitor, and the solicitude with which he laboured to seduce his unhappy daughter.""At first," said the clergyman, "she did not, as it seemed to me, much affect his company; but latterly I saw them often together." "SEIANT in the parlour," said Michael Mumblazen, "and PASSANT in the garden."
"I once came on them by chance," said the priest, "in the South wood, in a spring evening. Varney was muffled in a russet cloak, so that I saw not his face. They separated hastily, as they heard me rustle amongst the leaves; and I observed she turned her head and looked long after him."
"With neck REGUARDANT," said the herald. "And on the day of her flight, and that was on Saint Austen's Eve, I saw Varney's groom, attired in his liveries, hold his master's horse and Mistress Amy's palfrey, bridled and saddled PROPER, behind the wall of the churchyard,"
"And now is she found mewed up in his secret place of retirement," said Tressilian. "The villain is taken in the manner, and I well wish he may deny his crime, that I may thrust conviction down his false throat! But I must prepare for my journey. Do you, gentlemen, dispose my patron to grant me such powers as are needful to act in his name."So saying, Tressilian left the room. "He is too hot," said the curate; "and I pray to God that He may grant him the patience to deal with Varney as is fitting."
"Patience and Varney," said Mumblazen, "is worse heraldry than metal upon metal. He is more false than a siren, more rapacious than a griffin, more poisonous than a wyvern, and more cruel than a lion rampant."
"Yet I doubt much," said the curate, "whether we can with propriety ask from Sir Hugh Robsart, being in his present condition, any deed deputing his paternal right in Mistress Amy to whomsoever--"
"Your reverence need not doubt that," said Will Badger, who entered as he spoke, "for I will lay my life he is another man when he wakes than he has been these thirty days past.""Ay, Will," said the curate, "hast thou then so much confidence in Doctor Diddleum's draught?"
"Not a whit," said Will, "because master ne'er tasted a drop on't, seeing it was emptied out by the housemaid. But here's a gentleman, who came attending on Master Tressilian, has given Sir Hugh a draught that is worth twenty of yon un. I have spoken cunningly with him, and a better farrier or one who hath a more just notion of horse and dog ailment I have never seen; and such a one would never be unjust to a Christian man.""A farrier! you saucy groom--and by whose authority, pray?" said the curate, rising in surprise and indignation; "or who will be warrant for this new physician?"
"For authority, an it like your reverence, he had mine; and for warrant, I trust I have not been five-and-twenty years in this house without having right to warrant the giving of a draught to beast or body--I who can gie a drench, and a ball, and bleed, or blister, if need, to my very self."
The counsellors of the house of Robsart thought it meet to carry this information instantly to Tressilian, who as speedily summoned before him Wayland Smith, and demanded of him (in private, however) by what authority he had ventured to administer any medicine to Sir Hugh Robsart?
"Why," replied the artist, "your worship cannot but remember that I told you I had made more progress into my master's--I mean the learned Doctor Doboobie's--mystery than he was willing to own; and indeed half of his quarrel and malice against me was that, besides that I got something too deep into his secrets, several discerning persons, and particularly a buxom young widow of Abingdon, preferred my prescriptions to his."
"None of thy buffoonery, sir," said Tressilian sternly. "If thou hast trifled with us--much more, if thou hast done aught that may prejudice Sir Hugh Robsart's health, thou shalt find thy grave at the bottom of a tin-mine."
"I know too little of the great ARCANUM to convert the ore to gold," said Wayland firmly. "But truce to your apprehensions, Master Tressilian. I understood the good knight's case from what Master William Badger told me; and I hope I am able enough to administer a poor dose of mandragora, which, with the sleep that must needs follow, is all that Sir Hugh Robsart requires to settle his distraught brains.""I trust thou dealest fairly with me, Wayland?" said Tressilian.
"Most fairly and honestly, as the event shall show," replied the artist. "What would it avail me to harm the poor old man for whom you are interested?--you, to whom I owe it that Gaffer Pinniewinks is not even now rending my flesh and sinews with his accursed pincers, and probing every mole in my body with his sharpened awl (a murrain on the hands which forged it!) in order to find out the witch's mark?--I trust to yoke myself as a humble follower to your worship's train, and I only wish to have my faith judged of by the result of the good knight's slumbers."
Wayland Smith was right in his prognostication. The sedative draught which his skill had prepared, and Will Badger's confidence had administered, was attended with the most beneficial effects. The patient's sleep was long and healthful, and the poor old knight awoke, humbled indeed in thought and weak in frame, yet a much better judge of whatever was subjected to his intellect than he had been for some time past. He resisted for a while the proposal made by his friends that Tressilian should undertake a journey to court, to attempt the recovery of his daughter, and the redress of her wrongs, in so far as they might yet be repaired. "Let her go," he said; "she is but a hawk that goes down the wind; I would not bestow even a whistle to reclaim her." But though he for some time maintained this argument, he was at length convinced it was his duty to take the part to which natural affection inclined him, and consent that such efforts as could yet be made should be used by Tressilian in behalf of his daughter. He subscribed, therefore, a warrant of attorney, such as the curate's skill enabled him to draw up; for in those simple days the clergy were often the advisers of their flock in law as well as in gospel.
All matters were prepared for Tressilian's second departure, within twenty-four hours after he had returned to Lidcote Hall; but one material circumstance had been forgotten, which was first called to the remembrance of Tressilian by Master Mumblazen. "You are going to court, Master Tressilian," said he; "you will please remember that your blazonry must be ARGENT and OR--no other tinctures will pass current." The remark was equally just and embarrassing. To prosecute a suit at court, ready money was as indispensable even in the golden days of Elizabeth as at any succeeding period; and it was a commodity little at the command of the inhabitants of Lidcote Hall. Tressilian was himself poor; the revenues of good Sir Hugh Robsart were consumed, and even anticipated, in his hospitable mode of living; and it was finally necessary that the herald who started the doubt should himself solve it. Master Michael Mumblazen did so by producing a bag of money, containing nearly three hundred pounds in gold and silver of various coinage, the savings of twenty years, which he now, without speaking a syllable upon the subject, dedicated to the service of the patron whose shelter and protection had given him the means of making this little hoard. Tressilian accepted it without affecting a moment's hesitation, and a mutual grasp of the hand was all that passed betwixt them, to express the pleasure which the one felt in dedicating his all to such a purpose, and that which the other received from finding so material an obstacle to the success of his journey so suddenly removed, and in a manner so unexpected.
While Tressilian was making preparations for his departure early the ensuing morning, Wayland Smith desired to speak with him, and, expressing his hope that he had been pleased with the operation of his medicine in behalf of Sir Hugh Robsart, added his desire to accompany him to court. This was indeed what Tressilian himself had several times thought of; for the shrewdness, alertness of understanding, and variety of resource which this fellow had exhibited during the time they had travelled together, had made him sensible that his assistance might be of importance. But then Wayland was in danger from the grasp of law; and of this Tressilian reminded him, mentioning something, at the same time, of the pincers of Pinniewinks and the warrant of Master Justice Blindas. Wayland Smith laughed both to scorn.
"See you, sir!" said he, "I have changed my garb from that of a farrier to a serving-man; but were it still as it was, look at my moustaches. They now hang down; I will but turn them up, and dye them with a tincture that I know of, and the devil would scarce know me again."
He accompanied these words with the appropriate action, and in less than a minute, by setting up, his moustaches and his hair, he seemed a different person from him that had but now entered the room. Still, however, Tressilian hesitated to accept his services, and the artist became proportionably urgent.
"I owe you life and limb," he said, "and I would fain pay a part of the debt, especially as I know from Will Badger on what dangerous service your worship is bound. I do not, indeed, pretend to be what is called a man of mettle, one of those ruffling tear-cats who maintain their master's quarrel with sword and buckler. Nay, I am even one of those who hold the end of a feast better than the beginning of a fray. But I know that I can serve your worship better, in such quest as yours, than any of these sword-and-dagger men, and that my head will be worth an hundred of their hands."
Tressilian still hesitated. He knew not much of this strange fellow, and was doubtful how far he could repose in him the confidence necessary to render him a useful attendant upon the present emergency. Ere he had come to a determination, the trampling of a horse was heard in the courtyard, and Master Mumblazen and Will Badger both entered hastily into Tressilian's chamber, speaking almost at the same moment.
"Here is a serving-man on the bonniest grey tit I ever see'd in my life," said Will Badger, who got the start--"having on his arm a silver cognizance, being a fire-drake holding in his mouth a brickbat, under a coronet of an Earl's degree," said Master Mumblazen, "and bearing a letter sealed of the same."
Tressilian took the letter, which was addressed "To the worshipful Master Edmund Tressilian, our loving kinsman--These-- ride, ride, ride--for thy life, for thy life, for thy life. "He then opened it, and found the following contents:--"MASTER TRESSILIAN, OUR GOOD FRIEND AND COUSIN,
"We are at present so ill at ease, and otherwise so unhappily circumstanced, that we are desirous to have around us those of our friends on whose loving-kindness we can most especially repose confidence; amongst whom we hold our good Master Tressilian one of the foremost and nearest, both in good will and good ability. We therefore pray you, with your most convenient speed, to repair to our poor lodging, at Sayes Court, near Deptford, where we will treat further with you of matters which we deem it not fit to commit unto writing. And so we bid you heartily farewell, being your loving kinsman to command, "RATCLIFFE, EARL OF SUSSEX."
"Send up the messenger instantly, Will Badger," said Tressilian; and as the man entered the room, he exclaimed, "Ah, Stevens, is it you? how does my good lord?" "Ill, Master Tressilian," was the messenger's reply, "and having therefore the more need of good friends around him.""But what is my lord's malady?" said Tressilian anxiously; I heard nothing of his being ill." "I know not, sir," replied the man; "he is very ill at ease. The leeches are at a stand, and many of his household suspect foul practice-witchcraft, or worse." "What are the symptoms?" said Wayland Smith, stepping forward hastily. "Anan?" said the messenger, not comprehending his meaning. "What does he ail?" said Wayland; "where lies his disease?"
The man looked at Tressilian, as if to know whether he should answer these inquiries from a stranger, and receiving a sign in the affirmative, he hastily enumerated gradual loss of strength, nocturnal perspiration, and loss of appetite, faintness, etc."Joined," said Wayland, "to a gnawing pain in the stomach, and a low fever?" "Even so," said the messenger, somewhat surprised.
"I know how the disease is caused," said the artist, "and I know the cause. Your master has eaten of the manna of Saint Nicholas. I know the cure too--my master shall not say I studied in his laboratory for nothing.""How mean you?" said Tressilian, frowning; "we speak of one of the first nobles of England. Bethink you, this is no subject for buffoonery." "God forbid!" said Wayland Smith. "I say that I know this disease, and can cure him. Remember what I did for Sir Hugh Robsart," "We will set forth instantly," said Tressilian. "God calls us."
Accordingly, hastily mentioning this new motive for his instant departure, though without alluding to either the suspicions of Stevens, or the assurances of Wayland Smith, he took the kindest leave of Sir Hugh and the family at Lidcote Hall, who accompanied him with prayers and blessings, and, attended by Wayland and the Earl of Sussex's domestic, travelled with the utmost speed towards London.
Ay, I know you have arsenic,
Vitriol, sal-tartre, argaile, alkaly,
Cinoper: I know all.--This fellow, Captain,
Will come in time to be a great distiller,
And give a say (I will not say directly,
But very near) at the philosopher's stone. THE ALCHEMIST.
Tressilian and his attendants pressed their route with all dispatch. He had asked the smith, indeed, when their departure was resolved on, whether he would not rather choose to avoid Berkshire, in which he had played a part so conspicuous? But Wayland returned a confident answer. He had employed the short interval they passed at Lidcote Hall in transforming himself in a wonderful manner. His wild and overgrown thicket of beard was now restrained to two small moustaches on the upper lip, turned up in a military fashion. A tailor from the village of Lidcote (well paid) had exerted his skill, under his customer's directions, so as completely to alter Wayland's outward man, and take off from his appearance almost twenty years of age. Formerly, besmeared with soot and charcoal, overgrown with hair, and bent double with the nature of his labour, disfigured too by his odd and fantastic dress, he seemed a man of fifty years old. But now, in a handsome suit of Tressilian's livery, with a sword by his side and a buckler on his shoulder, he looked like a gay ruffling serving-man, whose age might be betwixt thirty and thirty-five, the very prime of human life. His loutish, savage- looking demeanour seemed equally changed, into a forward, sharp, and impudent alertness of look and action.
When challenged by Tressilian, who desired to know the cause of a metamorphosis so singular and so absolute, Wayland only answered by singing a stave from a comedy, which was then new, and was supposed, among the more favourable judges, to augur some genius on the part of the author. We are happy to preserve the couplet, which ran exactly thus,-"Ban, ban, ca Caliban-- Get a new master--Be a new man."
Although Tressilian did not recollect the verses, yet they reminded him that Wayland had once been a stage player, a circumstance which, of itself, accounted indifferently well for the readiness with which he could assume so total a change of personal appearance. The artist himself was so confident of his disguise being completely changed, or of his having completely changed his disguise, which may be the more correct mode of speaking, that he regretted they were not to pass near his old place of retreat.
"I could venture," he said, "in my present dress, and with your worship's backing, to face Master Justice Blindas, even on a day of Quarter Sessions; and I would like to know what is become of Hobgoblin, who is like to play the devil in the world, if he can once slip the string, and leave his granny and his dominie.--Ay, and the scathed vault!" he said; "I would willingly have seen what havoc the explosion of so much gunpowder has made among Doctor Demetrius Doboobie's retorts and phials. I warrant me, my fame haunts the Vale of the Whitehorse long after my body is rotten; and that many a lout ties up his horse, lays down his silver groat, and pipes like a sailor whistling in a calm for Wayland Smith to come and shoe his tit for him. But the horse will catch the founders ere the smith answers the call."
In this particular, indeed, Wayland proved a true prophet; and so easily do fables rise, that an obscure tradition of his extraordinary practice in farriery prevails in the Vale of Whitehorse even unto this day; and neither the tradition of Alfred's Victory, nor of the celebrated Pusey Horn, are better preserved in Berkshire than the wild legend of Wayland Smith. [See Note 2, Legend of Wayland Smith.]
The haste of the travellers admitted their making no stay upon their journey, save what the refreshment of the horses required; and as many of the places through which they passed were under the influence of the Earl of Leicester, or persons immediately dependent on him, they thought it prudent to disguise their names and the purpose of their journey. On such occasions the agency of Wayland Smith (by which name we shall continue to distinguish the artist, though his real name was Lancelot Wayland) was extremely serviceable. He seemed, indeed, to have a pleasure in displaying the alertness with which he could baffle investigation, and amuse himself by putting the curiosity of tapsters and inn-keepers on a false scent. During the course of their brief journey, three different and inconsistent reports were circulated by him on their account
-namely, first, that Tressilian was the Lord Deputy of Ireland, come over in disguise to take the Queen's pleasure concerning the great rebel Rory Oge MacCarthy MacMahon; secondly, that the said Tressilian was an agent of Monsieur, coming to urge his suit to the hand of Elizabeth; thirdly, that he was the Duke of Medina, come over, incognito, to adjust the quarrel betwixt Philip and that princess.
Tressilian was angry, and expostulated with the artist on the various inconveniences, and, in particular, the unnecessary degree of attention to which they were subjected by the figments he thus circulated; but he was pacified (for who could be proof against such an argument?) by Wayland's assuring him that a general importance was attached to his own (Tressilian's) striking presence, which rendered it necessary to give an extraordinary reason for the rapidity and secrecy of his journey.
At length they approached the metropolis, where, owing to the more general recourse of strangers, their appearance excited neither observation nor inquiry, and finally they entered London itself.
It was Tressilian's purpose to go down directly to Deptford, where Lord Sussex resided, in order to be near the court, then held at Greenwich, the favourite residence of Elizabeth, and honoured as her birthplace. Still a brief halt in London was necessary; and it was somewhat prolonged by the earnest entreaties of Wayland Smith, who desired permission to take a walk through the city."Take thy sword and buckler, and follow me, then," said Tressilian; "I am about to walk myself, and we will go in company."
This he said, because he was not altogether so secure of the fidelity of his new retainer as to lose sight of him at this interesting moment, when rival factions at the court of Elizabeth were running so high. Wayland Smith willingly acquiesced in the precaution, of which he probably conjectured the motive, but only stipulated that his master should enter the shops of such chemists or apothecaries as he should point out, in walking through Fleet Street, and permit him to make some necessary purchases. Tressilian agreed, and obeying the signal of his attendant, walked successively into more than four or five shops, where he observed that Wayland purchased in each only one single drug, in various quantities. The medicines which he first asked for were readily furnished, each in succession, but those which he afterwards required were less easily supplied; and Tressilian observed that Wayland more than once, to the surprise of the shopkeeper, returned the gum or herb that was offered to him, and compelled him to exchange it for the right sort, or else went on to seek it elsewhere. But one ingredient, in particular, seemed almost impossible to be found. Some chemists plainly admitted they had never seen it; others denied that such a drug existed, excepting in the imagination of crazy alchemists; and most of them attempted to satisfy their customer, by producing some substitute, which, when rejected by Wayland, as not being what he had asked for, they maintained possessed, in a superior degree, the self-same qualities. In general they all displayed some curiosity concerning the purpose for which he wanted it. One old, meagre chemist, to whom the artist put the usual question, in terms which Tressilian neither understood nor could recollect, answered frankly, there was none of that drug in London, unless Yoglan the Jew chanced to have some of it upon hand.
"I thought as much," said Wayland. And as soon as they left the shop, he said to Tressilian, "I crave your pardon, sir, but no artist can work without his tools. I must needs go to this Yoglan's; and I promise you, that if this detains you longer than your leisure seems to permit, you shall, nevertheless, be well repaid by the use I will make of this rare drug. Permit me," he added, "to walk before you, for we are now to quit the broad street and we will make double speed if I lead the way."
Tressilian acquiesced, and, following the smith down a lane which turned to the left hand towards the river, he found that his guide walked on with great speed, and apparently perfect knowledge of the town, through a labyrinth of by-streets, courts, and blind alleys, until at length Wayland paused in the midst of a very narrow lane, the termination of which showed a peep of the Thames looking misty and muddy, which background was crossed saltierwise, as Mr. Mumblazen might have said, by the masts of two lighters that lay waiting for the tide. The shop under which he halted had not, as in modern days, a glazed window, but a paltry canvas screen surrounded such a stall as a cobbler now occupies, having the front open, much in the manner of a fishmonger's booth of the present day. A little old smock-faced man, the very reverse of a Jew in complexion, for he was very soft-haired as well as beardless, appeared, and with many courtesies asked Wayland what he pleased to want. He had no sooner named the drug, than the Jew started and looked surprised. "And vat might your vorship vant vith that drug, which is not named, mein God, in forty years as I have been chemist here?""These questions it is no part of my commission to answer," said Wayland; "I only wish to know if you have what I want, and having it, are willing to sell it?"
"Ay, mein God, for having it, that I have, and for selling it, I am a chemist, and sell every drug." So saying, he exhibited a powder, and then continued, "But it will cost much moneys. Vat I ave cost its weight in gold--ay, gold well-refined--I vilI say six times. It comes from Mount Sinai, where we had our blessed Law given forth, and the plant blossoms but once in one hundred year."
"I do not know how often it is gathered on Mount Sinai," said Wayland, after looking at the drug offered him with great disdain, "but I will wager my sword and buckler against your gaberdine, that this trash you offer me, instead of what I asked for, may be had for gathering any day of the week in the castle ditch of Aleppo.""You are a rude man," said the Jew; "and, besides, I ave no better than that--or if I ave, I will not sell it without order of a physician, or without you tell me vat you make of it."
The artist made brief answer in a language of which Tressilian could not understand a word, and which seemed to strike the Jew with the utmost astonishment. He stared upon Wayland like one who has suddenly recognized some mighty hero or dreaded potentate, in the person of an unknown and unmarked stranger. "Holy Elias!" he exclaimed, when he had recovered the first stunning effects of his surprise; and then passing from his former suspicious and surly manner to the very extremity of obsequiousness, he cringed low to the artist, and besought him to enter his poor house, to bless his miserable threshold by crossing it."Vill you not taste a cup vith the poor Jew, Zacharias Yoglan? --Vill you Tokay ave?--vill you Lachrymae taste?--vill you--" "You offend in your proffers," said Wayland; "minister to me in what I require of you, and forbear further discourse."
The rebuked Israelite took his bunch of keys, and opening with circumspection a cabinet which seemed more strongly secured than the other cases of drugs and medicines amongst which it stood, he drew out a little secret drawer, having a glass lid, and containing a small portion of a black powder. This he offered to Wayland, his manner conveying the deepest devotion towards him, though an avaricious and jealous expression, which seemed to grudge every grain of what his customer was about to possess himself, disputed ground in his countenance with the obsequious deference which he desired it should exhibit.
"Have you scales?" said Wayland.
The Jew hung his head, took from a steel-plated casket a pair of scales beautifully mounted, and said, as he adjusted them for the artist's use, "With these I do mine own experiment--one hair of the high-priest's beard would turn them."
"It suffices," said the artist, and weighed out two drachms for himself of the black powder, which he very carefully folded up, and put into his pouch with the other drugs. He then demanded the price of the Jew, who answered, shaking his head and bowing,
"No price--no, nothing at all from such as you. But you will see the poor Jew again? you will look into his laboratory, where, God help him, he hath dried himself to the substance of the withered gourd of Jonah, the holy prophet. You will ave pity on him, and show him one little step on the great road?"
"Hush!" said Wayland, laying his finger mysteriously on his mouth; "it may be we shall meet again. Thou hast already the SCHAHMAJM, as thine own Rabbis call it--the general creation; watch, therefore, and pray, for thou must attain the knowledge of Alchahest Elixir Samech ere I may commune further with thee." Then returning with a slight nod the reverential congees of the Jew, he walked gravely up the lane, followed by his master, whose first observation on the scene he had just witnessed was, that Wayland ought to have paid the man for his drug, whatever it was.
"I pay him?" said the artist. "May the foul fiend pay me if I do! Had it not been that I thought it might displease your worship, I would have had an ounce or two of gold out of him, in exchange of the same just weight of brick dust.""I advise you to practise no such knavery while waiting upon me," said Tressilian.
"Did I not say," answered the artist, "that for that reason alone I forbore him for the present?--Knavery, call you it? Why, yonder wretched skeleton hath wealth sufficient to pave the whole lane he lives in with dollars, and scarce miss them out of his own iron chest; yet he goes mad after the philosopher's stone. And besides, he would have cheated a poor serving-man, as he thought me at first, with trash that was not worth a penny. Match for match, quoth the devil to the collier; if his false medicine was worth my good crowns, my true brick dust is as well worth his good gold."
"It may be so, for aught I know," said Tressilian, "in dealing amongst Jews and apothecaries; but understand that to have such tricks of legerdemain practised by one attending on me diminishes my honour, and that I will not permit them. I trust thou hast made up thy purchases?"
"I have, sir," replied Wayland; "and with these drugs will I, this very day, compound the true orvietan, that noble medicine which is so seldom found genuine and effective within these realms of Europe, for want of that most rare and precious drug which I got but now from Yoglan." [Orvietan, or Venice treacle, as it was sometimes called, was understood to be a sovereign remedy against poison; and the reader must be contented, for the time he peruses these pages, to hold the same opinion, which was once universally received by the learned as well as the vulgar.]"But why not have made all your purchases at one shop?" said his master; "we have lost nearly an hour in running from one pounder of simples to another." "Content you, sir," said Wayland. "No man shall learn my secret; and it would not be mine long, were I to buy all my materials from one chemist."
They now returned to their inn (the famous Bell-Savage); and while the Lord Sussex's servant prepared the horses for their journey, Wayland, obtaining from the cook the service of a mortar, shut himself up in a private chamber, where he mixed, pounded, and amalgamated the drugs which he had bought, each in its due proportion, with a readiness and address that plainly showed him well practised in all the manual operations of pharmacy.
By the time Wayland's electuary was prepared the horses were ready, and a short hour's riding brought them to the present habitation of Lord Sussex, an ancient house, called Sayes Court, near Deptford, which had long pertained to a family of that name, but had for upwards of a century been possessed by the ancient and honourable family of Evelyn. The present representative of that ancient house took a deep interest in the Earl of Sussex, and had willingly accommodated both him and his numerous retinue in his hospitable mansion. Sayes Court was afterwards the residence of the celebrated Mr. Evelyn, whose "Silva" is still the manual of British planters; and whose life, manners, and principles, as illustrated in his Memoirs, ought equally to be the manual of English gentlemen.