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"Surely not, if it is your honour's pleasure that they suld gang hame; although," added Caleb, "it wadna do them a grain's damage: they wad screigh less the next day, and sleep the sounder at e'en. But just as your honour likes."
Stepping accordingly towards the urchins who manned the knolls near which they stood, Caleb informed them, in an authoritative tone, that their honours Lord Ravenswood and the Marquis of A---- had given orders that the tower was not to be blow up till next day at noon. The boys dispersed upon this comfortable assurance. One or two, however, followed Caleb for more information, particularly the urchin whom he had cheated while officiating as turnspit, who screamed, "Mr. Balderstone!-- Mr. Balderstone! then the castle's gane out like an auld wife's spunk?"
"To be sure it is, callant," said the butler; "do ye think the castle of as great a lord as Lord Ravenswood wad continue in a bleeze, and him standing looking on wi' his ain very een? It's aye right," continued Caleb, shaking off his ragged page, and closing in to his Master, "to train up weans, as the wise man says, in the way they should go, and, aboon a', to teach them respect to their superiors."
"But all this while, Caleb, you have never told me what became of the arms and powder," said Ravenswood.
"Why, as for the arms," said Caleb, "it was just like the bairn's rhyme-- Some gaed east and some gaed west, And some gaed to the craw's nest.
And for the pouther, I e'en changed it, as occasion served, with the skippers o' Dutch luggers and French vessels, for gin and brandy, and is served the house mony a year--a gude swap too, between what cheereth the soul of man and that which hingeth it clean out of his body; forbye, I keepit a wheen pounds of it for yoursell when ye wanted to take the pleasure o' shooting: whiles, in these latter days, I wad hardly hae kenn'd else whar to get pouther for your pleasure. And now that your anger is ower, sir, wasna that weel managed o' me, and arena ye far better sorted doun yonder than ye could hae been in your ain auld ruins up-bye yonder, as the case stands wi' us now? the mair's the pity!"
"I believe you may be right, Caleb; but, before burning down my castle, either in jest or in earnest," said Ravenswood, "I think I had a right to be in the secret."
"Fie for shame, your honour!" replied Caleb; "it fits an auld carle like me weel eneugh to tell lees for the credit of the family, but it wadna beseem the like o' your honour's sell; besides, young folk are no judicious: they cannot make the maist of a bit figment. Now this fire--for a fire it sall be, if I suld burn the auld stable to make it mair feasible--this fire, besides that it will be an excuse for asking ony thing we want through the country, or doun at the haven--this fire will settle mony things on an honourable footing for the family's credit, that cost me telling twenty daily lees to a wheen idle chaps and queans, and, what's waur, without gaining credence." "That was hard indeed, Caleb; but I do not see how this fire should help your veracity or your credit."
"There it is now?" said Caleb; "wasna I saying that young folk had a green judgment? How suld it help me, quotha? It will be a creditable apology for the honour of the family for this score of years to come, if it is weel guided. 'Where's the family pictures?' says ae meddling body. 'The great fire at Wolf's Crag,' answers I. 'Where's the family plate?' says another. 'The great fire,' says I; 'wha was to think of plate, when life and limb were in danger?' 'Where's the wardrobe and the linens?- -where's the tapestries and the decorements?--beds of state, twilts, pands and testors, napery and broidered wark?' 'The fire--the fire--the fire.' Guide the fire weel, and it will serve ye for a' that ye suld have and have not; and, in some sort, a gude excuse is better than the things themselves; for they maun crack and wear out, and be consumed by time, whereas a gude offcome, prudently and creditably handled, may serve a nobleman and his family, Lord kens how lang!"
Ravenswood was too well acquainted with his butler's pertinacity and self-opinion to dispute the point with him any farther. Leaving Caleb, therefore, to the enjoyment of his own successful ingenuity, he returned to the hamlet, where he found the Marquis and the good women of the mansion under some anxiety- -the former on account of his absence, the others for the discredit their cookery might sustain by the delay of the supper. All were now at ease, and heard with pleasure that the fire at the castle had burned out of itself without reaching the vaults, which was the only information that Ravenswood thought it proper to give in public concerning the event of his butler's strategem.
They sat down to an excellent supper. No invitation could prevail on Mr. and Mrs. Girder, even in their own house, to sit down at table with guests of such high quality. They remained standing in the apartment, and acted the part of respectful and careful attendants on the company. Such were the manners of the time. The elder dame, confident through her age and connexion with the Ravenswood family, was less scrupulously ceremonious. She played a mixed part betwixt that of the hostess of an inn and the mistress of a private house, who receives guests above her own degree. She recommended, and even pressed, what she thought best, and was herself easily entreated to take a moderate share of the good cheer, in order to encourage her guests by her own example. Often she interrupted herself, to express her regret that "my lord did not eat; that the Master was pyking a bare bane; that, to be sure, there was naething there fit to set before their honours; that Lord Allan, rest his saul, used to like a pouthered guse, and said it was Latin for a tass o' brandy; that the brandy came frae France direct; for, for a' the English laws and gaugers, the Wolf's Hope brigs hadna forgotten the gate to Dunkirk."
Here the cooper admonished his mother-in-law with his elbow, which procured him the following special notice in the progress of her speech:
"Ye needna be dunshin that gate, John [Gibbie]," continued the old lady; "naebody says that YE ken whar the brandy comes frae; and it wadna be fitting ye should, and you the Queen's cooper; and what signifies't," continued she, addressing Lord Ravenswood, "to king, queen, or kaiser whar an auld wife like me buys her pickle sneeshin, or her drap brandy-wine, to haud her heart up?"
Having thus extricated herself from her supposed false step, Dame Loup-the-Dyke proceeded, during the rest of the evening, to supply, with great animation, and very little assistance from her guests, the funds necessary for the support of the conversation, until, declining any further circulation of their glass, her guests requested her permission to retire to their apartments.
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The Bride of Lammermoor -by- Walter Scott