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The Master of Ravenswood, upon this assurance being solemnly reiterated, and notwithstanding his extreme wish to witness the last explosion, which was to ruin to the ground the mansion of his fathers, suffered himself to be dragged onward towards the village of Wolf's Hope, where not only the change-house, but that of our well-known friend the cooper, were all prepared for reception of himself and his noble guest, with a liberality of provision which requires some explanation.
We omitted to mention in its place, that Lockhard having fished out the truth concerning the mode by which Caleb had obtained the supplies for his banquet, the Lord Keeper, amused with the incident, and desirous at the time to gratify Ravenswood, had recommended the cooper of Wolf''s Hope to the official situation under government the prospect of which had reconciled him to the loss of his wild-fowl. Mr. Girder's preferment had occasioned a pleasing surprise to old Caleb; for when, some days after his master's departure, he found himself absolutely compelled, by some necessary business, to visit the fishing hamlet, and was gliding like a ghost past the door of the cooper, for fear of being summoned to give some account of the progress of the solicitation in his favour, or, more probably that the inmates might upbraid him with the false hope he had held out upon the subject, he heard himself, not without some apprehension, summoned at once in treble, tenor, and bass--a trio performed by the voices of Mrs. Girder, old Dame Loup-the-Dyke, and the goodman of the dwelling--"Mr. Caleb!--Mr. Caleb Balderstone! I hope ye arena ganging dry-lipped by our door, and we sae muckle indebted to you?"
This might be said ironically as well as in earnest. Caleb augured the worst, turned a deaf ear to the trio aforesaid, and was moving doggedly on, his ancient castor pulled over his brows, and his eyes bent on the ground, as if to count the flinty pebbles with which the rude pathway was causewayed. But on a sudden he found himself surrounded in his progress, like a stately merchantman in the Gut of Gibraltar (I hope the ladies will excuse the tarpaulin phrase) by three Algerine galleys. "Gude guide us, Mr. Balderstone!" said Mrs. Girder. "Wha wad hae thought it of an auld and kenn'd friend!" said the mother.
"And no sae muckle as stay to receive our thanks," said the cooper himself, "and frae the like o' me that seldom offers them! I am sure I hope there's nae ill seed sawn between us, Mr. Balderstone. Ony man that has said to ye I am no gratefu' for the situation of Queen's cooper, let me hae a whample at him wi' mine eatche, that's a'."
"My good friends--my dear friends," said Caleb, still doubting how the certainty of the matter might stand, "what needs a' this ceremony? Ane tries to serve their friends, and sometimes they may happen to prosper, and sometimes to misgie. Naething I care to be fashed wi' less than thanks; I never could bide them."
"Faith, Mr. Balderstone, ye suld hae been fashed wi' few o' mine," said the downright man of staves and hoops, "if I had only your gude-will to thank ye for: I suld e'en hae set the guse, and the wild deukes, adn the runlet of sack to balance that account. Gude-will, man, is a geizen'd tub, that hauds in nae liquor; but gude deed's like the cask, tight, round, and sound, that will haud liquor for the king."
"Have ye no heard of our letter," said the mother-in-law, "making our John [Gibbie] the Queen's cooper for certain? and scarce a chield that had ever hammered gird upon tub but was applying for it?"
"Have I heard!!!" said Caleb, who now found how the wind set, with an accent of exceeding contempt, at the doubt expressed--"have I heard, quo'she!!!" and as he spoke he changed his shambling, skulking, dodging pace into a manly and authoritative step, readjusted his cocked hat, and suffered his brow to emerge from under it in all the pride of aristocracy, like the sun from behind a cloud.
"To be sure, he canna but hae heard," said the good woman.
"Ay, to be sure it's impossible but I should," said Caleb; "and sae I'll be the first to kiss ye, joe, and wish you, cooper, much joy of your preferment, naething doubting but ye ken wha are your friends, and HAVE helped ye, and CAN help ye. I thought it right to look a wee strange upon it at first," added Caleb, "just to see if ye were made of the right mettle; but ye ring true, lad--ye ring true!"
So saying, with a most lordly air he kissed the women, and abandoned his hand, with an air of serene patronage, to the hearty shake of Mr. Girder's horn-hard palm. Upon this complete, and to Caleb most satisfactory, information he did not, it may readily be believed, hesitate to accept an invitation to a solemn feast, to which were invited, not only all the NOTABLES of the village, but even his ancient antagonist, Mr. Dingwall, himself. At this festivity he was, of course, the most welcome and most honoured guest; and so well did he ply the company with stories of what he could do with his master, his master with the Lord Keeper, the Lord Keeper with the council, and the council with the king [queen], that before the company dismissed (which was, indeed, rather at an early hour than a late one), every man of note in the village was ascending to the top-gallant of some ideal preferment by the ladder of ropes which Caleb had presented to their imagination. Nay, the cunning butler regained in that moment not only all the influence he possessed formerly over the villagers, when the baronial family which he served were at the proudest, but acquired even an accession of importance. The writer--the very attorney himself, such is the thirst of preferment--felt the force of the attraction, and taking an opportunity to draw Caleb into a corner, spoke, with affectionate regret, of the declining health of the sheriff-clerk of the county.
"An excellent man--a most valuable man, Mr. Caleb; but fat sall I say! we are peer feckless bodies, here the day and awa' by cock-screech the morn; and if he failyies, there maun be somebody in his place; and gif that ye could airt it my way, I sall be thankful, man--a gluve stuffed wi gowd nobles; an' hark ye, man something canny till yoursell, and the Wolf's Hope carles to settle kindly wi' the Master of Ravenswood--that is, Lord Ravenswood--God bless his lordship!"
A smile, and a hearty squeeze by the hand, was the suitable answer to this overture; and Caleb made his escape from the jovial party, in order to avoid committing himself by any special promises.
"The Lord be gude to me," said Caleb, when he found himself in the open air, and at liberty to give vent to the self- exultation with which he was, as it were, distended; "did ever ony man see sic a set of green-gaislings? The very pickmaws and solan-geese out-bye yonder at the Bass hae ten times their sense! God, an I had been the Lord High Commissioner to the Estates o' Parliament, they couldna hae beflumm'd me mair; and, to speak Heaven's truth, I could hardly hae beflumm'd them better neither! But the writer--ha! ha! ha!--ah, ha! ha! ha! mercy on me, that I suld live in my auld days to gie the ganag-bye to the very writer! Sheriff-clerk!!! But I hae an auld account to settle wi' the carle; and to make amends for bye-ganes, the office shall just cost him as much time-serving and tide-serving as if he were to get it in gude earnest, of whilk there is sma' appearance, unless the Master learns mair the ways of this warld, whilk it is muckle to be doubted that he never will do."
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The Bride of Lammermoor -by- Walter Scott