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Red Cap Tales Part 39

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"Call Miss Neville," she continued; "what do you mean by Lady Geraldin?

I said Eveline Neville. There's no Lady Geraldin. But tell her to change her wet gown and not to look so pale. Bairn--what should she do wi' a bairn? She has nane, I trow! Teresa--Teresa--my lady calls us! Bring a candle! The grand staircase is as black before me as a Yule midnight!

Coming, my lady, we are coming!"

With these words, and as if following in the train of her mistress, old Elspeth, once of the Craigburnfoot, sunk back on the settle, and from thence sidelong to the floor.

III. THE HEIR OF GLENALLAN

Meanwhile doom was coming fast upon poor Sir Arthur Wardour. He seemed to be utterly ruined. The treachery of Dousterswivel, the pressing and extortionate demands of a firm called Goldiebirds, who held a claim over his estate, the time-serving of his own lawyers, at last brought the officers of the law down upon him. He found himself arrested for debt in his own house. He was about to be sent to prison, when Edie Ochiltree, who in his day had been deep in many plots, begged that he might be allowed to drive over to Tannanburgh, and promised that he would certainly bring back some good news from the post-office there.

It was all that Oldbuck, with his best tact and wisdom, could do to keep Hector MacIntyre from a.s.saulting the officers of the law during the absence of Edie. Two long hours they waited. The carriage had already been ordered round to the door to convey Sir Arthur to prison. Miss Wardour was in agony, her father desperate with shame and grief, when Edie arrived triumphantly grasping a packet. He delivered it forthwith to the Antiquary. For Sir Arthur, knowing his own weakness, had put himself unreservedly into the hands of his abler friend. The packet, being opened, was found to contain a writ stopping the proceedings, a letter of apology from the lawyers who had been most troublesome, and a note from Captain Wardour, Sir Arthur's son, enclosing a thousand pounds for his father's immediate needs. It also declared that ere long he himself would come to the castle along with a distinguished officer, Major Neville, who had been appointed to report to the War Office concerning the state of the defences of the country.

"Thus," said the Antiquary, summing up the situation, "was the last siege of Knockwinnock House laid by Saunders Sweepclean, the bailiff, and raised by Edie Ochiltree, the King's Blue-Gown!"

There was, at the time when the story of the Antiquary and his doings draws to a close, a daily expectation of a French invasion. Beacons had been prepared on every hill and headland, and men were set to watch. One of these beacons had been intrusted to old Caxon the hairdresser, and one night he saw, directly in the line of the hill to the south which he was to watch, a flame start suddenly up. It was undoubtedly the token agreed upon to warn the country of the landing of the French.

He lighted his beacon accordingly. It threw up to the sky a long wavering train of light, startling the sea-fowl from their nests, and reddening the sea beneath the cliffs. Caxon's brother warders, equally zealous, caught and repeated the signal. The district was soon awake and alive with the tidings of invasion.

[Ill.u.s.tration: "ONE night he saw, directly in the line of the hill to the south which he was to watch, a flame start suddenly up. It was undoubtedly the token agreed upon to warn the country of the landing of the French.

"He lighted his beacon accordingly."]

From far and near the Lowland burghers, the country lairds, the Highland chiefs and clans responded to the summons. They had been drilling for long, and now in the dead of the night they marched with speed upon Fairport, eager to defend that point of probable attack.

Last of all the Earl of Glenallan came in with a splendidly mounted squadron of horse, raised among his Lowland tenants, and five hundred Highland clansmen with their pipes playing stormily in the van.

Presently also Captain Wardour arrived in a carriage drawn by four horses, bringing with him Major Neville, the distinguished officer appointed to the command of the district. The magistrates a.s.sembled at the door of their town-house to receive him. The volunteers, the yeomanry, the Glenallan clansmen--all were there awaiting the great man.

What was the astonishment of the people of Fairport, and especially of the Antiquary, to see descend from the open door of the carriage,--who but the quiet Mr. Lovel.

He had brought with him the news that the alarm of invasion was false.

The beacon which Caxon had seen was only the burning of the mining machinery in Glen Withershins which had been ordered by Oldbuck and Sir Arthur to make a final end of Dousterswivel's plots and deceits.

But there was yet further and more interesting private news. The proofs that Lovel was indeed the son of the Earl of Glenallan were found to be overwhelming. His heirship to the t.i.tle had been fully made out. The chaplain who had performed his father's wedding had returned from abroad, exiled by the French Revolution. The witnesses also had been found. Most decisive of all, among the papers of the Earl's late brother, there was discovered a duly authenticated account of his carrying off the child, and of how he had had him educated and pushed on in the army.

So that very night the Antiquary enjoyed in some degree the crowning pleasure of his whole life, in bringing together father and son for the first time. That is, if the marriage which took place soon after between his young friend Lovel (or Lord William Geraldin) and Miss Isabella Wardour of Knockwinnock Castle did not turn out to be a yet greater pleasure. Old Edie still travels from farm to farm, but mostly now confines himself to the short round between Monkbarns and Knockwinnock.

It is reported, however, that he means soon to settle with old Caxon, who, since the marriage of his daughter to Lieutenant Taffril, has been given a cottage near the three wigs which he still keeps in order in the parish,--the minister's, Sir Arthur's, and best of all, that of our good and well-beloved Antiquary.

THE END OF THE LAST TALE FROM "THE ANTIQUARY."

"Now," said Sweetheart, nodding particular approval, "that is the way a story ought to end up--everything going on from chapter to chapter, with no roundabouts, and everything told about everybody right to the very end!"

"Hum," said Hugh John, with a curl of his nose; "well, that's done with! But it was good about the Storm and the Duel! The rest was--"

"Hush," said Sweetheart, "remember, it was written by Sir Walter."

"Sir," said I to Hugh John, heavily parental, "_The Antiquary_ may not now be much to your taste, but the day will come when you may probably prefer it to all the rest put together."

At these words the young man a.s.sumed the expression common to boys who are bound to receive the wholesome advice of their elders, yet who do so with silent but respectful doubt, if not with actual disbelief.

"Well," he said, after a long pause, "anyway, the Duel _was_ good. And I'd jolly well like to find a treasure in Misticot's grave. Can we have another snow fight?"

THE END OF THE FIRST SERIES OF RED CAP TALES FROM THE TREASURE-CHEST OF THE WIZARD OF THE NORTH.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] These were Scottish children to whom the stories were retold, and they understood the Scottish tongue. So the dialect parts were originally told in that speech. Now, however, in pity for children who have the misfortune to inherit only English, I have translated all the hard words and phrases as best I could. But the old is infinitely better, and my only hope and aim is, that the retelling of these stories by the living voice may send every reader, every listener, to the Master of Romance himself. If I succeed in this, my tale-telling shall not have been in vain.

[2] _i.e._ scarecrow.

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Red Cap Tales Part 39 summary

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