The Bride of Lammermoor HTML version

Chapter 12
"Now dame," quoth he, "Je vous dis sans doute,
Had I nought of a capon but the liver,
And of your white bread nought but a shiver,
And after that a roasted pigge's head
(But I ne wold for me no beast were dead),
Then had I with you homely sufferaunce."
CHAUCER, Sumner's Tale.
IT was not without some secret misgivings that Caleb set out upon his
exploratory expedition. In fact, it was attended with a treble difficulty. He dared
not tell his mast the offence which he had that morning given to Bucklaw, just for
the honour of the family; he dared not acknowledge he had been too hasty in
refusing the purse; and, thirdly, he was somewhat apprehensive of unpleasant
consequences upon his meeting Hayston under the impression of an affront, and
probably by this time under the influence also of no small quantity of brandy.
Caleb, to do him justice, was as bold as any lion where the honour of the family
of Ravenswood was concerned; but his was that considerate valour which does
not delight in unnecessary risks. This, however, was a secondary consideration;
the main point was to veil the indigence of the housekeeping at the castle, and to
make good his vaunt of the cheer which his resources could procure, without
Lockhard's assistance, and without supplies from his master. This was as prime
a point of honour with him as with the generous elephant with whom we have
already compared him, who, being overtasked, broke his skull through the
desperate exertions which he made to discharge his duty, when he perceived
they were bringing up another to his assistance.
The village which they now approached had frequently afforded the distressed
butler resources upon similar emergencies; but his relations with it had been of
late much altered.
It was a little hamlet which straggled along the side of a creek formed by the
discharge of a small brook into the sea, and was hidden from the castle, to which
it had been in former times an appendage, by the entervention of the shoulder of
a hill forming a projecting headland. It was called Wolf's Hope (i.e. Wolf's Haven),
and the few inhabitants gained a precarious subsistence by manning two or three
fishing-boats in the herring season, and smuggling gin and brandy during the
winter months. They paid a kind of hereditary respect to the Lords of
Ravenswood; but, in the difficulties of the family, most of the inhabitants of Wolf's
Hope had contrived to get feu-rights to their little possessions, their huts, kail-
yards, and rights of commonty, so that they were emancipated from the chains of
feudal dependence, and free from the various exactions with which, under every
possible pretext, or without any pretext at all, the Scottish landlords of the period,
themselves in great poverty, were wont to harass their still poorer tenants at will.
They might be, on the whole, termed independent, a circumstance peculiarly
galling to Caleb, who had been wont to exercise over them the same sweeping
authority in levying contributions which was exercised in former times in England,