Rob Roy

by Sir Walter Scott

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Volume II - Chapter Seventh

“Will it please your worship to accept of my poor service? I beseech
     that I may feed upon your bread, though it be the brownest, and
     drink of your drink, though it be of the smallest; for I will do
     your Worship as much service for forty shillings as another man
     shall for three pounds.”
                                      Greene’s Tu Quoque.

I remembered the honest Bailie’s parting charge, but did not conceive there was any incivility in adding a kiss to the half-crown with which I remunerated Mattie’s attendance;—nor did her “Fie for shame, sir!” express any very deadly resentment of the affront. Repeated knocking at Mrs. Flyter’s gate awakened in due order, first, one or two stray dogs, who began to bark with all their might; next two or three night-capped heads, which were thrust out of the neighbouring windows to reprehend me for disturbing the solemnity of the Sunday night by that untimely noise. While I trembled lest the thunders of their wrath might dissolve in showers like that of Xantippe, Mrs. Flyter herself awoke, and began, in a tone of objurgation not unbecoming the philosophical spouse of Socrates, to scold one or two loiterers in her kitchen, for not hastening to the door to prevent a repetition of my noisy summons.

These worthies were, indeed, nearly concerned in the fracas which their laziness occasioned, being no other than the faithful Mr. Fairservice, with his friend Mr. Hammorgaw, and another person, whom I afterwards found to be the town-crier, who were sitting over a cog of ale, as they called it (at my expense, as my bill afterwards informed me), in order to devise the terms and style of a proclamation to be made through the streets the next day, in order that “the unfortunate young gentleman,” as they had the impudence to qualify me, might be restored to his friends without farther delay. It may be supposed that I did not suppress my displeasure at this impertinent interference with my affairs; but Andrew set up such ejaculations of transport at my arrival, as fairly drowned my expressions of resentment. His raptures, perchance, were partly political; and the tears of joy which he shed had certainly their source in that noble fountain of emotion, the tankard. However, the tumultuous glee which he felt, or pretended to feel, at my return, saved Andrew the broken head which I had twice destined him;—first, on account of the colloquy he had held with the precentor on my affairs; and secondly, for the impertinent history he had thought proper to give of me to Mr. Jarvie. I however contented myself with slapping the door of my bedroom in his face as he followed me, praising Heaven for my safe return, and mixing his joy with admonitions to me to take care how I walked my own ways in future. I then went to bed, resolving my first business in the morning should be to discharge this troublesome, pedantic, self-conceited coxcomb, who seemed so much disposed to constitute himself rather a preceptor than a domestic.

Accordingly in the morning I resumed my purpose, and calling Andrew into my apartment, requested to know his charge for guiding and attending me as far as Glasgow. Mr. Fairservice looked very blank at this demand, justly considering it as a presage to approaching dismission.

“Your honour,” he said, after some hesitation, “wunna think—wunna think”—

“Speak out, you rascal, or I’ll break your head,” said I, as Andrew, between the double risk of losing all by asking too much, or a part, by stating his demand lower than what I might be willing to pay, stood gasping in the agony of doubt and calculation.

Out it came with a bolt, however, at my threat; as the kind violence of a blow on the back sometimes delivers the windpipe from an intrusive morsel.—“Aughteen pennies sterling per diem—that is, by the day—your honour wadna think unconscionable.”

“It is double what is usual, and treble what you merit, Andrew; but there’s a guinea for you, and get about your business.”

“The Lord forgi’e us! Is your honour mad?” exclaimed Andrew.

“No; but I think you mean to make me so—I give you a third above your demand, and you stand staring and expostulating there as if I were cheating you. Take your money, and go about your business.”

“Gude safe us!” continued Andrew, “in what can I hae offended your honour? Certainly a’ flesh is but as the flowers of the field; but if a bed of camomile hath value in medicine, of a surety the use of Andrew Fairservice to your honour is nothing less evident—it’s as muckle as your life’s worth to part wi’ me.”

“Upon my honour,” replied I, “it is difficult to say whether you are more knave or fool. So you intend then to remain with me whether I like it or no?”

“Troth, I was e’en thinking sae,” replied Andrew, dogmatically; “for if your honour disna ken when ye hae a gude servant, I ken when I hae a gude master, and the deil be in my feet gin I leave ye—and there’s the brief and the lang o’t besides I hae received nae regular warning to quit my place.”

“Your place, sir!” said I;—“why, you are no hired servant of mine,—you are merely a guide, whose knowledge of the country I availed myself of on my road.”

“I am no just a common servant, I admit, sir,” remonstrated Mr. Fairservice; “but your honour kens I quitted a gude place at an hour’s notice, to comply wi’ your honour’s solicitations. A man might make honestly, and wi’ a clear conscience, twenty sterling pounds per annum, weel counted siller, o’ the garden at Osbaldistone Hall, and I wasna likely to gi’e up a’ that for a guinea, I trow—I reckoned on staying wi’ your honour to the term’s end at the least o’t; and I account my wage, board-wage, fee and bountith,—ay, to that length o’t at the least.”

“Come, come, sir,” replied I, “these impudent pretensions won’t serve your turn; and if I hear any more of them, I shall convince you that Squire Thorncliff is not the only one of my name that can use his fingers.”

While I spoke thus, the whole matter struck me as so ridiculous, that, though really angry, I had some difficulty to forbear laughing at the gravity with which Andrew supported a plea so utterly extravagant. The rascal, aware of the impression he had made on my muscles, was encouraged to perseverance. He judged it safer, however, to take his pretensions a peg lower, in case of overstraining at the same time both his plea and my patience.

“Admitting that my honour could part with a faithful servant, that had served me and mine by day and night for twenty years, in a strange place, and at a moment’s warning, he was weel assured,” he said, “it wasna in my heart, nor in no true gentleman’s, to pit a puir lad like himself, that had come forty or fifty, or say a hundred miles out o’ his road purely to bear my honour company, and that had nae handing but his penny-fee, to sic a hardship as this comes to.”

I think it was you, Will, who once told me, that, to be an obstinate man, I am in certain things the most gullable and malleable of mortals. The fact is, that it is only contradiction which makes me peremptory, and when I do not feel myself called on to give battle to any proposition, I am always willing to grant it, rather than give myself much trouble. I knew this fellow to be a greedy, tiresome, meddling coxcomb; still, however, I must have some one about me in the quality of guide and domestic, and I was so much used to Andrew’s humour, that on some occasions it was rather amusing. In the state of indecision to which these reflections led me, I asked Fairservice if he knew the roads, towns, etc., in the north of Scotland, to which my father’s concerns with the proprietors of Highland forests were likely to lead me. I believe if I had asked him the road to the terrestrial paradise, he would have at that moment undertaken to guide me to it; so that I had reason afterwards to think myself fortunate in finding that his actual knowledge did not fall very much short of that which he asserted himself to possess. I fixed the amount of his wages, and reserved to myself the privilege of dismissing him when I chose, on paying him a week in advance. I gave him finally a severe lecture on his conduct of the preceding day, and then dismissed him rejoicing at heart, though somewhat crestfallen in countenance, to rehearse to his friend the precentor, who was taking his morning draught in the kitchen, the mode in which he had “cuitled up the daft young English squire.”

Agreeable to appointment, I went next to Bailie Nicol Jarvie’s, where a comfortable morning’s repast was arranged in the parlour, which served as an apartment of all hours, and almost all work, to that honest gentleman. The bustling and benevolent magistrate had been as good as his word. I found my friend Owen at liberty, and, conscious of the refreshments and purification of brush and basin, was of course a very different person from Owen a prisoner, squalid, heart-broken, and hopeless. Yet the sense of pecuniary difficulties arising behind, before, and around him, had depressed his spirit, and the almost paternal embrace which the good man gave me, was embittered by a sigh of the deepest anxiety. And when he sate down, the heaviness in his eye and manner, so different from the quiet composed satisfaction which they usually exhibited, indicated that he was employing his arithmetic in mentally numbering up the days, the hours, the minutes, which yet remained as an interval between the dishonour of bills and the downfall of the great commercial establishment of Osbaldistone and Tresham. It was left to me, therefore, to do honour to our landlord’s hospitable cheer—to his tea, right from China, which he got in a present from some eminent ship’s-husband at Wapping—to his coffee, from a snug plantation of his own, as he informed us with a wink, called Saltmarket Grove, in the island of Jamaica—to his English toast and ale, his Scotch dried salmon, his Lochfine herrings, and even to the double-damask table-cloth, “wrought by no hand, as you may guess,” save that of his deceased father the worthy Deacon Jarvie.

Having conciliated our good-humoured host by those little attentions which are great to most men, I endeavoured in my turn to gain from him some information which might be useful for my guidance, as well as for the satisfaction of my curiosity. We had not hitherto made the least allusion to the transactions of the preceding night, a circumstance which made my question sound somewhat abrupt, when, without any previous introduction of the subject, I took advantage of a pause when the history of the table-cloth ended, and that of the napkins was about to commence, to inquire, “Pray, by the by, Mr. Jarvie, who may this Mr. Robert Campbell be, whom we met with last night?”

The interrogatory seemed to strike the honest magistrate, to use the vulgar phrase, “all of a heap,” and instead of answering, he returned the question—“Whae’s Mr. Robert Campbell?—ahem! ahay! Whae’s Mr. Robert Campbell, quo’ he?”

“Yes,” said I, “I mean who and what is he?”

“Why, he’s—ahay!—he’s—ahem!—Where did ye meet with Mr. Robert Campbell, as ye ca’ him?”

“I met him by chance,” I replied, “some months ago in the north of England.”

“Ou then, Mr. Osbaldistone,” said the Bailie, doggedly, “ye’ll ken as muckle about him as I do.”

“I should suppose not, Mr. Jarvie,” I replied;—“you are his relation, it seems, and his friend.”

“There is some cousin-red between us, doubtless,” said the Bailie reluctantly; “but we hae seen little o’ ilk other since Rob gae tip the cattle-line o’ dealing, poor fallow! he was hardly guided by them might hae used him better—and they haena made their plack a bawbee o’t neither. There’s mony ane this day wad rather they had never chased puir Robin frae the Cross o’ Glasgow—there’s mony ane wad rather see him again at the tale o’ three hundred kyloes, than at the head o’ thirty waur cattle.”

“All this explains nothing to me, Mr. Jarvie, of Mr. Campbell’s rank, habits of life, and means of subsistence,” I replied.

“Rank?” said Mr. Jarvie; “he’s a Hieland gentleman, nae doubt—better rank need nane to be;—and for habit, I judge he wears the Hieland habit amang the hills, though he has breeks on when he comes to Glasgow;—and as for his subsistence, what needs we care about his subsistence, sae lang as he asks naething frae us, ye ken? But I hae nae time for clavering about him e’en now, because we maun look into your father’s concerns wi’ all speed.”

So saying, he put on his spectacles, and sate down to examine Mr. Owen’s states, which the other thought it most prudent to communicate to him without reserve. I knew enough of business to be aware that nothing could be more acute and sagacious than the views which Mr. Jarvie entertained of the matters submitted to his examination; and, to do him justice, it was marked by much fairness, and even liberality. He scratched his ear indeed repeatedly on observing the balance which stood at the debit of Osbaldistone and Tresham in account with himself personally.

“It may be a dead loss,” he observed; “and, conscience! whate’er ane o’ your Lombard Street goldsmiths may say to it, it’s a snell ane in the Saut-Market* o’ Glasgow. It will be a heavy deficit—a staff out o’ my bicker, I trow.

* [The Saltmarket. This ancient street, situate in the heart of Glasgow, has of late been almost entirely renovated.]

But what then?—I trust the house wunna coup the crane for a’ that’s come and gane yet; and if it does, I’ll never bear sae base a mind as thae corbies in the Gallowgate—an I am to lose by ye, I’se ne’er deny I hae won by ye mony a fair pund sterling—Sae, an it come to the warst, I’se een lay the head o’ the sow to the tail o’ the grice.” *

* Anglice, the head of the sow to the tail of the pig.

I did not altogether understand the proverbial arrangement with which Mr. Jarvie consoled himself, but I could easily see that he took a kind and friendly interest in the arrangement of my father’s affairs, suggested several expedients, approved several plans proposed by Owen, and by his countenance and counsel greatly abated the gloom upon the brow of that afflicted delegate of my father’s establishment.

As I was an idle spectator on this occasion, and, perhaps, as I showed some inclination more than once to return to the prohibited, and apparently the puzzling subject of Mr. Campbell, Mr. Jarvie dismissed me with little formality, with an advice to “gang up the gate to the college, where I wad find some chields could speak Greek and Latin weel—at least they got plenty o’ siller for doing deil haet else, if they didna do that; and where I might read a spell o’ the worthy Mr. Zachary Boyd’s translation o’ the Scriptures—better poetry need nane to be, as he had been tell’d by them that ken’d or suld hae ken’d about sic things.” But he seasoned this dismission with a kind and hospitable invitation “to come back and take part o’ his family-chack at ane preceesely—there wad be a leg o’ mutton, and, it might be, a tup’s head, for they were in season;” but above all, I was to return at “ane o’clock preceesely—it was the hour he and the deacon his father aye dined at—they pat it off for naething nor for naebody.”


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