« PreviousContinue »
"In a darkened apartment, where salves and medicines showed that the leech had been busy in his craft, a tall thin form lay on a bed, arrayed in a night-gown belted around him, with pain on his brow, and a thousand stormy passions agitating his bosom. Every thing in the apartment indicated a man of opulence and of expense. Henbane Dwining, the apothecary, who seemed to have the care of the patient, stole with a crafty and cat-like step from one corner of the room to the other, busying himself with mixing medicines and preparing dressings. The sick man groaned once or twice, on which the leech, advancing to his bed-side, asked whether these sounds were a token of the pain of his body, or of the distress of his mind.
Of both, thou poisoning varlet,' said Sir John Ramorny; and of being encumbered with thy accursed company.'
'If that is all, I can relieve your knighthood of one of these ills, by removing myself elsewhere. Thanks to the feuds of this boisterous time, had I twenty hands, instead of these too poor servants of my art, (displaying his skinny palms) there is enough of employment for them; well requited employment too, where thanks and crowns contend which shall best pay my services; while you, Sir John, wreak upon your chirurgeon the anger you ought only to bear against the author of your wound.'
'Villain, it is beneath me to reply to thee,' said the patient; 'but every word of thy malignant tongue is a dirk, inflicting wounds which set all the medicines of Arabia at defiance.'
'Sir John, I understand you not; but if you give way to these tempestuous fits of rage, it is impossible but fever and inflammation must be the result.'
Why then dost thou speak in a sense to chafe my blood? Why dost thou name the supposition of thy worthless self having more hands than nature gave thee, while I, a knight and gentleman, am mutilated like a cripple?'
'Sir John,' replied the chirurgeon, 'I am no divine, nor a mainly obstinate believer in some things which divines tell us. Yet I may remind you that you have been kindly dealt with; for if the blow which has done you this injury had lighted on your neck, as it was aimed, it would have swept your head from your shoulders, instead of amputating a less considerable member.'
'I wish it had, Dwining-I wish it had lighted as it was addressed I should not then have seen a policy, which had spun a web so fine as mine, burst through the brute force of a drunken churl. I should not have been reserved to see horses which I must not mount-lists which I must no longer enter-splendours which I cannot hope to share-or battles which I must not take part in. I should not, with a man's passions for power and for strife, be set to keep place among the women, despised by them, too, as a miserable, impotent cripple, unable to aim at obtaining the favour of the sex.'
'Supposing all this to be so, I will yet pray of your knighthood to remark,' replied Dwining, still busying himself with arranging the dressings of the wounds, 'that your eyes, which you must have lost with your head, may, being spared to you, present as rich a prospect of
pleasure as either ambition, or victory in the lists or in the field, or the love of woman itself, could have proposed to you.'
'My sense is too dull to catch thy meaning, leech,' replied Ramorny. What is this precious spectacle reserved to me in such a shipwreck?'
The dearest that mankind knows' replied Dwining; and then, in the accent of a lover who utters the name of his beloved mistress, and expresses his passion for her in the very tone of his voice, he added the word REVENGE!'
The patient had raised himself on his couch to listen with some anxiety for the solution of the physician's enigma. He laid himself down again as he heard it explained, and after a short pause, asked In what Christian college learned you this morality, good Master Dwining?'
In no Christian college,' answered his physician; for though it is privately received in most, it is openly and manfully adopted in none. But I have studied among the sages of Granada, where the fiery-souled Moor lifts high his deadly dagger as it drops with his enemy's blood, and avows the doctrine which the pallid Christian practises, though coward-like he dare not name it.'
'Thou art then a more high-souled villain than I deemed thee,' said Ramorny.
'Let that pass,' answered Dwining. The waters that are stillest, are also the deepest; and the foe is most to be dreaded who never threatens till he strikes. You knights and men-at-arms, go straight to your purpose with sword in hand. We, who are clerks, win our access with a noiseless step and an indirect approach, but attain our object not less surely.'
'And I,' said the knight, 'who have trod to my revenge with a mailed foot, which made all echo around it, must now use such a slipper as thine? Ha!' pp. 215-218.
The malignant Pottingar then proposes to him to assassinate the Smith. It is determined upon, and Ramorny bids his page fetch in Bonthron if he be sober. This brutal wretch, a huge misshapen monster, kept by his master like a bloodhound for such purposes, is introduced and instructed in his present business. The conversation between Ramorny and Henbane Dwining then proceeds in the same strain as before.
"But my hand-the loss of my hand-'
It may be kept secret for a time,' said the mediciner; 'I have possessed two or three tattling fools, in deep confidence, that the hand which was found was that of your knighthood's groom, Black Quentin, and your knighthood knows that he is parted for Fife, in such sort as to make it generally believed.'
'I know well enough,' said Ramorny, 'that the rumour may stifle the truth for a short time. But what avails this brief delay ?"
'It may be concealed till your knighthood retires for a time from the court, and then, when new accidents have darkened the recollection of the present stir, it may be imputed to a wound received from the shiv
ering of a spear, or from a cross-bow bolt. Your slave will find a suitable device, and stand for the truth of it.'
"The thought maddens me,' said Ramorny, with another groan of mental and bodily agony. Yet I see no better remedy.'
'There is none other,' said the leech, to whose evil nature his patron's distress was delicious nourishment. 'In the meanwhile it is believed you are confined by the consequences of some bruises, aiding the sense of displeasure at the Prince's having consented to dismiss you from his household, at the remonstrance of Albany; which is publicly known.' 'Villain, thou rackest me,' said the patient.
Upon the whole, therefore,' said Dwining, 'your knighthood has escaped well, and saving the lack of your hand, a mischance beyond remedy, you ought rather to rejoice than to complain; for no barber-chirurgeon in France or England could have more ably performed the operation than this churl with one downright blow.'
'I understand my obligation fully,' said Ramorny, struggling with his anger, and affecting composure; and if Bonthron pays him not with a blow equally downright, and rendering the aid of the leech unnecessary, say that John of Ramorny cannot requite an obligation.'
That is said like yourself, noble knight,' answered the mediciner. And let me further say, that the operator's skill must have been vain, and the hæmorrhage must have drained your life-veins, but for the bandages, the cautery, and the styptics, applied by the good monks, and the poor services of your humble vassal, Henbane Dwining.'
'Peace,' exclaimed the patient, with thy ill-omened voice, and worse-omened name!-Methinks, as thou mentioned the tortures I have undergone, my tingling nerves stretch and contract themselves as if they still actuated the fingers that could clutch a dagger.'
That,' explained the leech, may it please your knighthood, is a phenomenon well known to our profession There have been those among the ancient sages who have thought that there still remained a sympathy between the severed nerves, and those belonging to the amputated limb; and that the severed fingers are seen to quiver and strain as corresponding with the impulse which proceeds from their sympathy with the energies of the living system. Could we recover the hand from the Cross, or from the custody of the Black Douglas, I would be pleased to observe this wonderful operation of occult sympathies. But I fear me, one might as safely go to wrest the joint from the talons of an hungry eagle.'
'And thou may'st as safely break thy malignant jests on a wounded lion, as on John of Ramorny!' said the knight, raising himself in uncontrollable indignation. Caitiff, proceed to thy duty; and remember, that if my hand can no longer clasp a dagger, I can command an hundred.'
The sight of one drawn and brandished in anger were sufficient,' said Dwining, to consume the vital powers of your chirurgeon. But who then,' he added, in a tone partly insinuating, partly jeering, who then would relieve the fiery and scorching pain which my patron now suffers, and which renders him exasperated even with his poor servant
for quoting the rules of healing, so contemptible, doubtless, compared with the power of inflicting wounds ?'
Then, as daring no longer to trifle with the mood of his dangerous patient, the leech addressed himself seriously to salving the wound, and applied a fragrant balm, the odour of which was diffused through the apartment, while it communicated a refreshing coolness, instead of the burning heat; a change so gratifying to the fevered patient, that, as he had before groaned with agony, he could not now help sighing for pleasure, as he sunk back on his couch, to enjoy the ease which the dressing bestowed.'" pp. 224-226.
This character and situation strike us as, with a single exception that shall be mentioned hereafter, the strongest conception in the present volume, and one of the strongest that are to be found in any work of fiction. Such an accident as had befallen Ramorny, would be at any time, a source of the acutest misery to a sensitive and proud mind. In general, those who have not experienced similar misfortunes, are unable to conceive the mortification, and even the madness which they may occasion, when the temper of the sufferer happens to be an irritable one. Lord Byron's sensibility upon this subject is well known, and Sir Walter Scott saw into the very bottom of the human heart, when he drew the Black Dwarf-a character, however, which has generally been considered, we believe, as altogether extravagant and monstrous. But in the age of knighthood and anarchy-when personal prowess was the highest honor of a gentleman, and arms the only protection of the citizen-such a man as Ramorny to be a maimed cripple-to have his right hand chopped off-and that by a churl's sword in a midnight brawl!
It was Shrovetide, or as it was called in Scotland, Fastern's E'en, and the revellings in anticipation of Lent, which were at that time common all over Europe, were going on in the "fair city." A party of morrice dancers, fantastically accoutred, met before the house of the Glover, who venturing forth to return their civilities, soon recognised the conceited tone of the bonnet-maker, though attempted to be disguised in an artificial squeak. The party breaking up, Old Simon forces Proudfute into his house, to have some conversation with him, in the course of which he gets out of him what he knows about the adventure of the glee-woman, and informs him of the mischief it had made between Catharine and the Smith. Alarmed, however, upon a little reflection, at the risk he was running by speaking so freely of that redoubtable personage, the craven bonnet-maker determines to lose no time in proceeding to VOL. II. NO. 3. 31
Gow's, and making his peace with him by a timely explanation of the matter. On his way thither, he encounters Rothsay, enacting "The Emperor of the Mimes," with a party of mummers. Proudfute, revealed to them by the light of their torches, is very roughly handled, but is at length permitted to make his escape, and arrives at the Smith's door, where he raps violently and supplicates for admission in a paroxysm of fright. Henry Gow sat brooding over his unfortunate misunderstanding with his mistress, and was in no mood to put up with the impertinencies of the guest who now sought to disturb his solitude. Yielding, however, to his importunities, he gave him admittance, and for some time bore with his coxcomical airs and stupid swaggering with exemplary patience, but when Proudfute came to touch upon the matter of the glee-woman, and to disclose what he had himself unconsciously done to confirm the Glover and his daughter in their unfavourable opinion of the transaction, his host threatens to put him out of the door, head and shoulders, if he do not make a precipitate retreat. The wretched bonnet-maker, haunted with the fear of "Mad Robin of Rothsay," and "roaring Ramorny," begs the Smith to accompany him to his house. This Henry refuses to do, but allows him to wear his buff-coat and cap of steel, in which he struts off, imitating as near as possible, the gait and bearing of their owner, and whistling one of his favourite airs; but as he turns the corner where the wynd communicates with the High-street, he receives a blow behind, and falls dead upon the spot. His death not only relieves the reader from a most disagreeable personage, but gives a new turn to the whole story, and brings on a train of incidents of the most interesting and striking character.
The Prince, with his revellers, missing Ramorny, proceeded to his house, and finding the doors barred up, broke into it by main force. It is determined, that Ramorny, ill as he is, shall quaff a goblet of wine, but his page assuring them that it would prove fatal to him, the Emperor of the Mimes generously proposes a vicarious compotation, and call upon the page himself to be the substitute. He declines the service, but points to one who would willingly perform it.
"Whom have we here?' said the Prince, a butcher-and I think fresh from his office. Do butchers ply their craft on Fastern's Eve? Foh, how he smells of blood!'
This was spoken of Bonthron, who, partly surprised at the tumult in the house, where he had expected to find all dark and silent, and partly stupid through the wine, which the wretch had drunk in great quantities, stood in the threshold of the door, staring at the scene before him, with his buff-coat splashed with blood, and a bloody axe in his hand,