The Bride of Lammermoor HTML version

Chapter 10
With throat unslaked, with black lips baked,
Agape they heard him call;
Gramercy they for joy did grin,
And all at once their breath drew in,
As they had been drinking all!
COLERIDGE'S Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
HAYSTON of Bucklaw was one of the thoughtless class who never hesitate
between their friend and their jest. When it was announced that the principal
persons of the chase had taken their route towards Wolf's Crag, the huntsmen,
as a point of civility, offered to transfer the venison to that mansion; a proffer
which was readily accepted by Bucklaw, who thought much of the astonishment
which their arrival in full body would occasion poor old Caleb Balderstone, and
very little of the dilemma to which he was about to expose his friend the Master,
so ill circumstanced to receive such a party. But in old Caleb he had to do with a
crafty and alert antagonist, prompt at supplying, upon all emergencies, evasions
and excuses suitable, as he thought, to the dignity of the family.
"Praise be blest!" said Caleb to himself, "ae leaf of the muckle gate has been
swung to wi' yestreen's wind, and I think I can manage to shut the ither."
But he was desirous, like a prudent governor, at the same time to get rid, if
possible, of the internal enemy, in which light he considered almost every one
who eat and drank, ere he took measures to exclude those whom their jocund
noise now pronounced to be near at hand. He waited, therefore, with impatience
until his master had shown his two principal guests into the Tower, and then
commenced his operations.
"I think," he said to the stranger menials, "that, as they are bringing the stag's
head to the castle in all honour, we, who are indwellers, should receive them at
the gate."
The unwary grooms had no sooner hurried out, in compliance with this insidous
hint, than, one folding-door of the ancient gate being already closed by the wind,
as has been already intimated, hoenst Caleb lost no time in shutting the other
with a clang, which resounded from donjon-vault to battlement. Having thus
secured the pass, he forthwith indulged the excluded huntsmen in brief parley,
from a small projecting window, or shot-hole, through which, in former days, the
warders were wont to reconnoitre those who presented themselves before the
gates. He gave them to udnerstand, in a short and pity speech, that the gate of
the castle was never on any account opened during meal- times; that his honour,
the Master of Ravenswood, and some guests of quality, had just sat down to
dinner; that there was excellent brandy at the hostler-wife's at Wolf's Hope down
below; and he held out some obscure hint that the reckoning would be
discharged by the Master; but this was uttered in a very dubious and oracular
strain, for, like Louis XIV., Caleb Balderstone hesitated to carry finesse so far as
direct falsehood, and was content to deceive, if possible, without directly lying.