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"They are no favourites, then, of yours, these Ravenswoods?" said the Master, no much pleased with the passing benediction which was thus bestowed on his family and name.
"I kenna wha should favour them," said the grave-digger; "when they had lands and power, they were ill guides of them baith, and now their head's down, there's few care how lang they may be of lifting it again."
"Indeed!" said Ravenswood; "I never heard that this unhappy family deserved ill-will at the hands of their country. I grant their poverty, if that renders them contemptible."
"It will gang a far way till't" said the sexton of Hermitage, "ye may tak my word for that; at least, I ken naething else that suld mak myself contemptible, and folk are far frae respecting me as they wad do if I lived in a twa-lofted sclated house. But as for the Ravenswoods, I hae seen three generations of them, and deil ane to mend other."
"I thought they had enjoyed a fair character in the country," said their descendant.
"Character! Ou, ye see, sir," said the sexton, "as for the auld gudesire body of a lord, I lived on his land when I was a swanking young chield, and could hae blawn the trumpet wi' ony body, for I had wind eneugh then; and touching this trumpeter Marine that I have heard play afore the lords of the circuit, I wad hae made nae mair o' him than of a bairn and a bawbee whistle. I defy him to hae played 'Boot and saddle,' or 'Horse and away,' or 'Gallants, come trot,' with me; he hadna the tones."
"But what is all this to old Lord Ravenswood, my friend?" said the Master, who, with an anxiety not unnatural in his circumstances, was desirous of prosecuting the musician's first topic--"what had his memory to do with the degeneracy of the trumpet music?"
"Just this, sir," answered the sexton, "that I lost my wind in his service. Ye see I was trumpeter at the castle, and had allowance for blawing at break of day, and at dinner time, and other whiles when there was company about, and it pleased my lord; and when he raised his militia to caper awa' to Bothwell Brig against the wrang-headed westland Whigs, I behoved, reason or name, to munt a horse and caper awa' wi' them."
"And very reasonable," said Ravenswood; "you were his servant and vassal."
"Servitor, say ye?" replied the sexton, "and so I was; but it was to blaw folk to their warm dinner, or at the warst to a decent kirkyard, and no to skirl them awa' to a bluidy braeside, where there was deil a bedral but the hooded craw. But bide ye, ye shall hear what cam o't, and how far I am bund to be bedesman to the Ravenswoods. Till't, ye see, we gaed on a braw simmer morning, twenty-fourth of June, saxteen hundred and se'enty-nine, of a' the days of the month and year--drums beat, guns rattled, horses kicked and trampled. Hackstoun of Rathillet keepit the brig wi' mustket and carabine and pike, sword and scythe for what I ken, and we horsemen were ordered down to cross at the ford,--I hate fords at a' times, let abee when there's thousands of armed men on the other side. There was auld Ravenswood brandishing his Andrew Ferrara at the head, and crying to us to come and buckle to, as if we had been gaun to a fair; there was Caleb Balderstone, that is living yet, flourishing in the rear, and swearing Gog and Magog, he would put steel through the gus of ony man that turned bridle; there was young Allan Ravenswood, that was then Master, wi' a bended pistol in his hand--it was a mercy it gaed na aff!--crying to me, that had scarce as much wind left as serve the necessary purpose of my ain lungs, 'Sound, you poltroon!--sound, you damned cowardly villain, or I will blow your brains out!' and, to be sure, I blew sic points of war that the scraugh of a clockin-hen was music to them."
"Well, sir, cut all this short," said Ravenswood.
"Short! I had like to hae been cut short mysell, in the flower of my youth, as Scripture says; and that's the very thing that I compleen o'. Weel! in to the water we behoved a' to splash, heels ower head, sit or fa'--ae horse driving on anither, as is the way of brute beasts, and riders that hae as little sense; the very bushes on the ither side were ableeze wi' the flashes of the Whig guns; and my horse had just taen the grund, when a blackavised westland carle--I wad mind the face o' him a hundred years yet--an ee like a wild falcon's, and a beard as broad as my shovel--clapped the end o' his lang black gun within a quarter's length of my lug! By the grace o' Mercy, the horse swarved round, and I fell aff at the tae side as the ball whistled by at the tither, and the fell auld lord took the Whig such a swauk wi' his broadsword that he made twa pieces o' his head, and down fell the lurdance wi' a' his bouk abune me."
"You were rather obliged to the old lord, I think," said Ravenswood.
"Was I? my sartie! first for bringing me into jeopardy, would I nould I, and then for whomling a chield on the tap o' me that dang the very wind out of my body? I hae been short- breathed ever since, and canna gang twenty yards without peghing like a miller's aiver."
"You lost, then, your place as trumpeter?" said Ravenswood.
"Lost it! to be sure I lost it," replied the sexton, "for I couldna hae played pew upon a dry hemlock; but I might hae dune weel eneugh, for I keepit the wage and the free house, and little to do but play on the fiddle to them, but for Allan, last Lord Ravenswood, that was far waur than ever his father was."
"What," said the Master, "did my father--I mean, did his father's son--this last Lord Ravenswood, deprive you of what the bounty of his father allowed you?"
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The Bride of Lammermoor -by- Walter Scott