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The Antiquary
by Walter Scott
The original, squashed down to read in about 25 minutes



(1816)



Walter Scott (1771-1832) was a law-clerk and judge, Clerk of Session and Sheriff-Depute of Selkirkshire, one of the leading figures of Scottish Toryism and of the Highland Society. Scott was the first English-language author to achieve international fame, largely with novels of a romantic past.

Abridged: JH

For more works by Walter Scott, see The Index



The Antiquary


I. - Travelling Companions

It was early on a fine summer's day, near the end of the eighteenth century, when a young man of genteel appearance, journeying towards the north-east of Scotland, provided himself with a ticket in one of those public carriages which travel between Edinburgh and the Queensferry, at which place there is a passage-boat for crossing the Firth of Forth.

The young gentleman was soon joined by a companion, a good-looking man of the age of sixty, perhaps older, but his hale complexion and firm step announced that years had not impaired his strength of health. This senior traveller, Mr. Jonathan Oldenbuck (by popular contraction Oldbuck), of Monkbarns, was the owner of a small property in the neighbourhood of a thriving seaport town on the north-eastern coast of Scotland, which we shall denominate Fairport. His tastes were antiquarian, his wishes very moderate. The burghers of the town regarded him with a sort of envy, as one who affected to divide himself from their rank in society, and whose studies and pleasures seemed to them alike incomprehensible. Some habits of hasty irritation he had contracted, partly from an early disappointment in love, but yet more by the obsequious attention paid to him by his maiden sister and his orphan niece.

Mr. Oldbuck, finding his fellow-traveller an interested and intelligent auditor, plunged at once into a sea of discussion concerning urns, vases, and Roman camps, and when they reached Queensferry, and stopped for dinner at the inn, he at once made some advances towards ascertaining the name, destination, and quality of his young companion.

His name, the young gentleman said, was Lovel. His father was a north of England gentleman. He was at present travelling to Fairport, and if he found the place agreeable, might perhaps remain there for some weeks.

"Was Mr. Lovel's excursion solely for pleasure?"

"Not entirely."

"Perhaps on business with some of the commercial people of Fairport?"

"It was partly on business, but had no reference to commerce."

Here he paused, and Mr. Oldbuck, having pushed his inquiries as far as good manners permitted, was obliged to change the conversation.

The mutual satisfaction which they found in each other's society induced Mr. Oldbuck to propose, and Lovel willingly to accept, a scheme for travelling together to the end of their journey. A postchaise having been engaged, they arrived at Fairport about two o'clock on the following day.

Lovel probably expected that his travelling companion would have invited him to dinner on his arrival; but his consciousness of a want of ready preparation for unexpected guests prevented Oldbuck from paying him that attention. He only begged to see him as early as he could make it convenient to call in a forenoon, and recommended him to a widow who had apartments to let.

A few days later, when his baggage had arrived from Edinburgh, Mr. Lovel went forth to pay his respects at Monkbarns, and received a cordial welcome from Mr. Oldbuck. They parted the best of friends, but the antiquary was still at a loss to know what this well-informed young man, without friends, connections, or employment, could have to do as a resident at Fairport. Neither port wine nor whist had apparently any charms for him. A coffee-room was his detestation, and he had as few sympathies with the tea-table. There was never a Master Lovel of whom so little positive was known, but nobody knew any harm of him.

"A decent, sensible lad," said the Laird of Monkbarns to himself, when these particulars of Lovel had been reported to him. "He scorns to enter into the fooleries and nonsense of these idiot people at Fairport. I must do something for him - I must give him a dinner, and I will write to Sir Arthur to come to Monkbarns to meet him. I must consult my womankind."

Accordingly, such consultation having been held, the following letter was sent to Sir Arthur Wardour, of Knockwinnock Castle:

"Dear Sir Arthur, - On Tuesday, the 17th inst, I hold a symposium at Monkbarns, and pray you to assist thereat, at four o'clock precisely. If my fair enemy, Miss Isabel, can and will honour us by accompanying you, my womankind will be but too proud. I have a young acquaintance to make known to you, who is touched with some stain of a better spirit than belong to these giddy-paced times, reveres his elders, and has a pretty notion of the classics. And as such a youth must have a natural contempt for the people about Fairport, I wish to show him some rational as well as worshipful society. I am, dear Sir Arthur, etc., etc."

In reply to this, at her father's request, Miss Wardour intimated, "her own and Sir Arthur's compliments, and that they would have the honour of waiting upon Mr. Oldbuck. Miss Wardour takes this opportunity to renew her hostility with Mr. Oldbuck, on account of his long absence from Knockwinnock, where his visits give so much pleasure."

II. - The Treacherous Sands

Sir Arthur and his daughter had set out, on leaving Monkbarns, to return to Knockwinnock by the turnpike road; but when they discerned Lovel a little before them Miss Wardour immediately proposed to her father that they should take another direction, and walk home by the sands.

Sir Arthur acquiesced willingly, and the two left the high road, and soon attained the side of the ocean. The tide was by no means so far out as they had computed; but this gave them no alarm; there was seldom ten days in the year when it approached so near the cliffs as not to leave a dry passage.

As they advanced together in silence a sudden change of weather made Miss Wardour draw close to her father. As the sun sank the wind rose, and the mass of waters began to lift itself in larger ridges, and sink in deeper furrows. Presently, through the drizzling rain, they saw a figure coming towards them, whom Sir Arthur recognised as the old blue-gowned beggar, Edie Ochiltree.

"Turn back! Turn back!" exclaimed the vagrant. "The tide is running on Halket-head, like the Fall of Fyers! We will maybe get back by Ness Point yet. The Lord help us - it's our only chance! We can but try."

The waves had now encroached so much upon the beach, that the firm and smooth footing which they had hitherto had on the sand must be exchanged for a rougher path close to the foot of the precipice, and in some places even raised upon its lower ledges. It would have been utterly impossible for Sir Arthur Wardour or his daughter to have found their way along these shelves without the guidance and encouragement of the beggar, who had been there before in high tides, though never, he acknowledged, "in sae awsome a night as this."

It was indeed a dreadful evening. The howling of the storm mingled with the shrieks of the sea-fowl. Each minute the raging tide gained ground perceptibly. The three still struggled forward; but at length they paused upon the highest ledge of rock to which they could attain, for it seemed that any farther attempt to advance could only serve to anticipate their fate.

The fearful pause gave Isabella Wardour time to collect the powers of a mind naturally strong and courageous.

"Must we yield life," she said, "without a struggle? Is there no path, however dreadful, by which we could climb the crag?"

"I was a bold cragsman," said Ochiltree, "once in my life; but it's lang syne, and nae mortal could speel them without a rope. But there was a path here ance - His name be praised!" he ejaculated suddenly, "there's ane coming down the crag e'en now! there's ane coming down the crag e'en now!" Then, exalting his voice, he halloo'd out to the daring adventurer such instructions as his former practice forced upon his mind.

The adventurer, following the directions of old Edie, flung him down the end of the rope, which he secured around Miss Wardour. Then, availing himself of the rope, which was made fast at the other end, Ochiltree began to ascent the face of the crag, and after one or two perilous escapes, was safe on the broad flat stone beside our friend Lovel. Their joint strength was able to raise Isabella to the place of safety which they had attained, and the next thing was to raise Sir Arthur beyond the reach of the billows.

The prospect of passing a tempestuous night upon a precipitous piece of rock, where the spray of the billows flew high enough to drench them, filled old Ochiltree with apprehension for Miss Wardour.

"I'll climb up the cliff again," said Lovel, "and call for more assistance."

"If ye gang, I'll gang too," said the bedesman.

"Hark! hark!" said Lovel. "Did I not hear a halloo?"

The unmistakable shout of human voices from above was soon augmented, and the gleam of torches appeared.

On the verge of the precipice an anxious group had now assembled. Oldbuck was the foremost and most earnest, pressing forward with unwonted desperation to the very brink of the crag. Some fishermen had brought with them the mast of a boat, and this was soon sunk in the ground and sufficiently secured. A yard, across the upright mast, and a rope stretched along it, and reeved through a block at each end, formed an extempore crane, which afforded the means of lowering an arm-chair down to the flat shelf on which the sufferers had roosted.

Lovel bound Miss Wardour to the back and arms of the chair, while Ochiltree kept Sir Arthur quiet.

"What are ye doing wi' my bairn? She shall not be separated from me! Isabel, stay with me, I command you!"

"Farewell, my father!" murmured Isabella; "farewell, my - my friends!" and, shutting her eyes, she gave the signal to Lovel, and he to those who were above.

A loud shout announced the success of the experiment. The chair was again lowered, and Sir Arthur made fast in it; and after Sir Arthur had been landed safe and sound, old Ochiltree was brought up; finally Lovel was safely grounded upon the summit of the cliff. As he recovered from a sort of half-swoon, occasioned by the giddiness of the ascent, he cast his eyes eagerly around. The object for which they sought was already in the act of vanishing. Her white garment was just discernible as she followed on the path which her father had taken. She had lingered till she saw the last of their company rescued from danger, but Lovel was not aware that she had expressed in his fate even this degree of interest.

III. - The Duel

Some few weeks after the perilous escape from the tide, Sir Arthur invited Mr. Lovel and the Monkbarns family to join him on a visit to the ruins of a certain priory in the neighbourhood. Lovel at once accepted, and Mr. Oldbuck decided that there would be room for his niece in a postchaise. This niece, Mary M'Intyre, like her brother Hector, was an orphan. They were the offspring of a sister of Monkbarns, who had married one Captain M'Intyre, a Highlander. Both parents being dead, the son and daughter were left to the charge of Mr. Oldbuck. The nephew was now a captain in the army, the niece had her home at Monkbarns.

All went happily at Sir Arthur's party at the ruins, until the unexpected arrival of Hector M'Intyre. This newcomer, a handsome young man about five-and-twenty, had ridden to Monkbarns, and learning his uncle's absence had come straight on to join the company. On his introduction to Lovel the young soldier bowed with more reserve than cordiality, and Lovel was equally frigid and haughty in return.

Miss Wardour's obvious determination not to allow Captain M'Intyre an opportunity for private conversation with her drove Hector to speak to his sister.

"Pray who is this Mr. Lovel, whom our old uncle has at once placed so high in his good graces?"

"If you mean how Mr. Lovel comes to visit at Monkbarns you must ask my uncle; and you must know that Mr. Lovel rendered Miss Wardour and him a service of the most important kind."

"What! that romantic story is true, then? And does the valorous knight aspire to the hand of the young lady whom he redeemed from peril? I did think that she was uncommonly dry to me as we walked together."

"Dear Hector," said his sister, "do not continue to nourish any affection for Miss Wardour. Your perseverance is hopeless. Above all, do not let this violent temper of yours lead you to lose the favour of our uncle, who has hitherto been all that is kind and paternal to us."

Captain M'Intyre promised to behave civilly, and returned to the company.

On Lovel mentioning, in the course of conversation, that he was an officer in a certain regiment, M'Intyre could not refrain from declaring that he knew the officers of that regiment, and had never heard of the name of Lovel.

Lovel blushed deeply, and taking a letter out of an envelope, handed it to M'Intyre. The latter acknowledged the handwriting of General Sir - -, but remarked that the address was missing.

"The address, Captain M'Intyre," answered Lovel, "shall be at your service whenever you choose to inquire after it."

"I certainly shall not fail to do so," rejoined Hector.

The party broke up, Lovel returned to Fairport, and early next morning was waited upon by a military friend of Captain M'Intyre. Upon Lovel declining to give his name the captain insisted on his fighting, and that very evening the duel was arranged to take place in a valley close by the ruins of St. Ruth.

Captain M'Intyre's ball grazed the side of his opponent, but did not draw blood. That of Lovel was more true, and M'Intyre reeled and fell.

The grasp of old Ochiltree, who had appeared on the scene, roused Lovel to movement, and leaving M'Intyre to the care of a surgeon, he followed the bedesman into the recesses of the wood, in order to get away by boat the following morning.

Amid the secret passages of the ruins, well known to Ochiltree, Lovel was to pass the night; but all rest was impossible by the discovery of two human figures, one of whom Lovel made out to be a German named Donsterswivel, a swindling impostor who promised discoveries of gold to Sir Arthur Wardour, gold buried in the ruins, and only to be unearthed by magic and considerable expenditure of ready money.

"That other ane," whispered Edie, "maun be, according to a' likelihood, Sir Arthur Wardour. I ken naebody but himself wad come here at this time wi' that German blackguard."

Donsterswivel, with much talk of planetary influences, and spirits, and "suffumigation," presently set fire to a little pile of chips, and when the flame was at the highest flung in a handful of perfumes, which produced a strong and pungent odour.

A violent explosion of sneezing, which the mendicant was unable to suppress, accompanied by a grunting, half-smothered cough, confounded the two treasure-seekers.

"I was begun to think," said the terrified German, "that this would be bestermost done in de daylight; we was bestermost to go away just now."

"You juggling villain!" said the baronet; "this is some legerdemain trick of yours to get off from the performance of your promise, as you have so often done before. You shall show me that treasure, or confess yourself a knave."

Here Edie, who began to enter into the humour of the scene, uttered an extraordinary howl. Donsterswivel flung himself on his knees. "Dear Sir Arthur, let us go, or let me go!"

"No, you cheating scoundrel!" said the knight, unsheathing his sword. "I will see this treasure before you leave this place, or, by heaven, I'll run this sword through you though all the spirits of the dead should rise around us!"

"For de lofe of heaven, be patient, mine honoured patron; do not speak about de spirits - it makes dem angry."

Donsterswivel at length proceeded to a corner of the building where lay a flat stone upon the ground. With great trepidation he removed the stone, threw out a shovelful or two of earth, and produced a small case or casket. This was at once opened by the baronet, and appeared to be filled with coin.

"This is being indeed in good luck," said Sir Arthur; "and if you think it omens proportional success upon a larger venture, I will hazard the necessary advance."

But the German's guilty conscience and superstitious fears made him anxious to escape, and accordingly he hurried Sir Arthur from the spot.

"Saw onybody e'er the like o' that!" said Edie to Lovel.

"His faith in the fellow is entirely restored," said Lovel, "by this deception, which he had arranged beforehand."

"Ay, ay; trust him for that. He wants to wile him out o' his last guinea, and then escape to his own country, the land-louper."

But thanks to old Edie's efforts, Donsterswivel was checked in his scheme for the plunder of Sir Arthur Wardour.

IV. - The Secret is Disclosed

Captain M'Intyre's wound turned out to be not so dangerous as was at first suspected, and after some six weeks' nursing at Monkbarns, the hot-tempered soldier was once more in full health.

It was during those weeks that the Antiquary met after an interval of more than twenty years, the Earl of Glenallan, a neighbouring laird. Lord Glenallan and Mr. Oldbuck had both loved the same lady, Eveline Neville, and against the commands of the old countess, his mother, Glenallan had married Miss Neville. Driven by the false taunts of the countess to believe, as her husband did, the marriage invalid, the unhappy Eveline had thrown herself from the cliffs into the sea, and the child born to her had been kept in concealment in England by her brother, Geraldin Neville. The countess died, and an old fish woman, once the countess's confidential maid, when dying, demanded to see Lord Glenallan, and on her death-bed told him the truth, and that his child was living.

The scare of a French invasion brought Lord Glenallan, with Mr. Oldbuck, and Sir Arthur Wardour, to Fairport, and to his uncle's surprise and satisfaction, Captain M'Intyre acted as military adviser to the volunteers with remarkable presence of mind, giving instructions calmly and wisely.

The arrival of an officer from headquarters was eagerly expected in Fairport, and at length a cry among the people announced "There's the brave Major Neville come at last!" A postchaise and four drove into the square, amidst the huzzas of the volunteers and inhabitants, and what was the surprise of all present, but most especially that of the Antiquary, when the handsome uniform and military cap disclosed the person and features of the pacific Lovel! A warm embrace was necessary to assure him that his eyes were doing him justice. Sir Arthur was no less surprised to recognise his son, Captain Wardour, as Major Neville's companion.

The first words of the young officers were a positive assurance to all present that their efforts were unnecessary, that what was merely an accidental bonfire had been taken for a beacon.

The Antiquary found his arm pressed by Lord Glenallan, who dragged him aside. "For God's sake, who is that young gentleman who is so strikingly like - - "

"Like the unfortunate Eveline," interrupted Oldbuck. "I felt my heart warm to him from the first. Formerly I would have called him Lovel, but now he turns out to be Major Neville."

"Whom my brother brought up as his natural son - whom he made his heir - the child of my Eveline!"

Mr. Oldbuck at once determined to make further investigation, and returned to Major Neville, who was now arranging for the dispersion of the force which had been assembled.

"Pray, Major Neville, leave this business for a moment to Captain Wardour and to Hector, with whom, I hope, you are thoroughly reconciled" - Neville laughed, and shook hands with Hector across the table - "and grant me a moment's audience."

"You have every claim on me," said Neville, "for having passed myself upon you under a false name. But I am so unfortunate as to have no better right to the name of Neville, than that of Lovel."

"I believe I know more of your birth than you do yourself, and to convince you of it, you were educated and known as a natural son of Geraldin Neville, of Neville's-burg, in Yorkshire."

"I did believe Mr. Geraldin Neville was my father, but during the war in French Flanders, I found in a convent near where we were quartered, a woman who spoke good English - a Spaniard. She discovered who I was, and made herself known to me as the person who had charge of me in my infancy, and intimated that Mr. Geraldin Neville was not my father. The convent was burned by the enemy, and several nuns perished, among others this woman. I wrote to Mr. Neville, and on my return implored him to complete the disclosure. He refused, and, on my importunity, indignantly upbraided me with the favours he had already conferred. We parted in mutual displeasure. I renounced the name of Neville, and assumed that of Lovel. It was at this time, when residing with a friend in the north of England, that I became acquainted with Miss Wardour, and was romantic enough to follow her to Scotland. When I was at Fairport, I received news of Mr. Neville's death. He had made me his heir, but the possession of considerable wealth did not prevent me from remembering Sir Arthur's strong prejudices against illegitimacy. Then came my quarrel with Captain M'Intyre, and my compelled departure from Fairport."

"Well, Major Neville, you must, I believe, exchange both of your aliases for the style and title of the Honourable William Geraldin, commonly called Lord Geraldin."

The Antiquary then went through the strange and melancholy circumstances concerning his mother's death. "And now, my dear sir," said he, in conclusion, "let me have the pleasure of introducing a son to a father."

We will not attempt to describe such a meeting. The proof on all sides was found to be complete, for Mr. Neville had left a distinct account of the whole transaction with his confidential steward in a small packet, which was not to be opened until the death of the old countess.

In the evening of that day, the yeomanry and volunteers of Glenallan drank prosperity to their young master; and a month afterwards, Lord Glenallan was married to Miss Wardour.

Hector is rising rapidly in the army, and rises proportionally high in his uncle's favour.

* * * * *



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