Rob Roy, Complete, Illustrated
Sir Walter Scott
Part 3 out of 10
terrible bugbears which haunted his imagination for a moment ceased to
occupy his attention. But every accidental association recalled them. An
open heath, a close plantation, were alike subjects of apprehension; and
the whistle of a shepherd lad was instantly converted into the signal of
a depredator. Even the sight of a gibbet, if it assured him that one
robber was safely disposed of by justice, never failed to remind him how
many remained still unhanged.
I should have wearied of this fellow's company, had I not been still more
tired of my own thoughts. Some of the marvellous stories, however, which
he related, had in themselves a cast of interest, and another whimsical
point of his peculiarities afforded me the occasional opportunity of
amusing myself at his expense. Among his tales, several of the
unfortunate travellers who fell among thieves, incurred that calamity
from associating themselves on the road with a well-dressed and
entertaining stranger, in whose company they trusted to find protection
as well as amusement; who cheered their journey with tale and song,
protected them against the evils of over-charges and false reckonings,
until at length, under pretext of showing a near path over a desolate
common, he seduced his unsuspicious victims from the public road into
some dismal glen, where, suddenly blowing his whistle, he assembled his
comrades from their lurking-place, and displayed himself in his true
colours--the captain, namely, of the band of robbers to whom his unwary
fellow-travellers had forfeited their purses, and perhaps their lives.
Towards the conclusion of such a tale, and when my companion had wrought
himself into a fever of apprehension by the progress of his own
narrative, I observed that he usually eyed me with a glance of doubt and
suspicion, as if the possibility occurred to him, that he might, at that
very moment, be in company with a character as dangerous as that which
his tale described. And ever and anon, when such suggestions pressed
themselves on the mind of this ingenious self-tormentor, he drew off from
me to the opposite side of the high-road, looked before, behind, and
around him, examined his arms, and seemed to prepare himself for flight
or defence, as circumstances might require.
The suspicion implied on such occasions seemed to me only momentary, and
too ludicrous to be offensive. There was, in fact, no particular
reflection on my dress or address, although I was thus mistaken for a
robber. A man in those days might have all the external appearance of a
gentleman, and yet turn out to be a highwayman. For the division of
labour in every department not having then taken place so fully as since
that period, the profession of the polite and accomplished adventurer,
who nicked you out of your money at White's, or bowled you out of it at
Marylebone, was often united with that of the professed ruffian, who on
Bagshot Heath, or Finchley Common, commanded his brother beau to stand
and deliver. There was also a touch of coarseness and hardness about the
manners of the times, which has since, in a great degree, been softened
and shaded away. It seems to me, on recollection, as if desperate men had
less reluctance then than now to embrace the most desperate means of
retrieving their fortune. The times were indeed past, when Anthony-a-Wood
mourned over the execution of two men, goodly in person, and of
undisputed courage and honour, who were hanged without mercy at Oxford,
merely because their distress had driven them to raise contributions on
the highway. We were still farther removed from the days of "the mad
Prince and Poins." And yet, from the number of unenclosed and extensive
heaths in the vicinity of the metropolis, and from the less populous
state of remote districts, both were frequented by that species of
mounted highwaymen, that may possibly become one day unknown, who carried
on their trade with something like courtesy; and, like Gibbet in the
Beaux Stratagem, piqued themselves on being the best behaved men on the
road, and on conducting themselves with all appropriate civility in the
exercise of their vocation. A young man, therefore, in my circumstances
was not entitled to be highly indignant at the mistake which confounded
him with this worshipful class of depredators.
Neither was I offended. On the contrary, I found amusement in alternately
exciting, and lulling to sleep, the suspicions of my timorous companion,
and in purposely so acting as still farther to puzzle a brain which
nature and apprehension had combined to render none of the clearest. When
my free conversation had lulled him into complete security, it required
only a passing inquiry concerning the direction of his journey, or the
nature of the business which occasioned it, to put his suspicions once
more in arms. For example, a conversation on the comparative strength and
activity of our horses, took such a turn as follows:--
"O sir," said my companion, "for the gallop I grant you; but allow me to
say, your horse (although he is a very handsome gelding--that must be
owned,) has too little bone to be a good roadster. The trot, sir"
(striking his Bucephalus with his spurs),--"the trot is the true pace for
a hackney; and, were we near a town, I should like to try that
daisy-cutter of yours upon a piece of level road (barring canter) for a
quart of claret at the next inn."
"Content, sir," replied I; "and here is a stretch of ground very
"Hem, ahem," answered my friend with hesitation; "I make it a rule of
travelling never to blow my horse between stages; one never knows what
occasion he may have to put him to his mettle: and besides, sir, when I
said I would match you, I meant with even weight; you ride four stone
lighter than I."
"Very well; but I am content to carry weight. Pray, what may that
portmanteau of yours weigh?"
"My p-p-portmanteau?" replied he, hesitating--"O very little--a
feather--just a few shirts and stockings."
"I should think it heavier, from its appearance. I'll hold you the quart
of claret it makes the odds betwixt our weight."
"You're mistaken, sir, I assure you--quite mistaken," replied my friend,
edging off to the side of the road, as was his wont on these alarming
"Well, I am willing to venture the wine; or, I will bet you ten pieces to
five, that I carry your portmanteau on my croupe, and out-trot you into
This proposal raised my friend's alarm to the uttermost. His nose changed
from the natural copper hue which it had acquired from many a comfortable
cup of claret or sack, into a palish brassy tint, and his teeth chattered
with apprehension at the unveiled audacity of my proposal, which seemed
to place the barefaced plunderer before him in full atrocity. As he
faltered for an answer, I relieved him in some degree by a question
concerning a steeple, which now became visible, and an observation that
we were now so near the village as to run no risk from interruption on
the road. At this his countenance cleared up: but I easily perceived that
it was long ere he forgot a proposal which seemed to him so fraught with
suspicion as that which I had now hazarded. I trouble you with this
detail of the man's disposition, and the manner in which I practised upon
it, because, however trivial in themselves, these particulars were
attended by an important influence on future incidents which will occur
in this narrative. At the time, this person's conduct only inspired me
with contempt, and confirmed me in an opinion which I already
entertained, that of all the propensities which teach mankind to torment
themselves, that of causeless fear is the most irritating, busy, painful,
The Scots are poor, cries surly English pride.
True is the charge; nor by themselves denied.
Are they not, then, in strictest reason clear,
Who wisely come to mend their fortunes here?
There was, in the days of which I write, an old-fashioned custom on the
English road, which I suspect is now obsolete, or practised only by the
vulgar. Journeys of length being made on horseback, and, of course, by
brief stages, it was usual always to make a halt on the Sunday in some
town where the traveller might attend divine service, and his horse have
the benefit of the day of rest, the institution of which is as humane to
our brute labourers as profitable to ourselves. A counterpart to this
decent practice, and a remnant of old English hospitality, was, that the
landlord of a principal inn laid aside his character of a publican on the
seventh day, and invited the guests who chanced to be within his walls to
take a part of his family beef and pudding. This invitation was usually
complied with by all whose distinguished rank did not induce them to
think compliance a derogation; and the proposal of a bottle of wine after
dinner, to drink the landlord's health, was the only recompense ever
offered or accepted.
I was born a citizen of the world, and my inclination led me into all
scenes where my knowledge of mankind could be enlarged; I had, besides,
no pretensions to sequester myself on the score of superior dignity, and
therefore seldom failed to accept of the Sunday's hospitality of mine
host, whether of the Garter, Lion, or Bear. The honest publican, dilated
into additional consequence by a sense of his own importance, while
presiding among the guests on whom it was his ordinary duty to attend,
was in himself an entertaining, spectacle; and around his genial orbit,
other planets of inferior consequence performed their revolutions. The
wits and humorists, the distinguished worthies of the town or village,
the apothecary, the attorney, even the curate himself, did not disdain to
partake of this hebdomadal festivity. The guests, assembled from
different quarters, and following different professions, formed, in
language, manners, and sentiments, a curious contrast to each other, not
indifferent to those who desired to possess a knowledge of mankind in its
It was on such a day, and such an occasion, that my timorous acquaintance
and I were about to grace the board of the ruddy-faced host of the Black
Bear, in the town of Darlington, and bishopric of Durham, when our
landlord informed us, with a sort of apologetic tone, that there was a
Scotch gentleman to dine with us.
"A gentleman!--what sort of a gentleman?" said my companion somewhat
hastily--his mind, I suppose, running on gentlemen of the pad, as they
were then termed.
"Why, a Scotch sort of a gentleman, as I said before," returned mine
host; "they are all gentle, ye mun know, though they ha' narra shirt to
back; but this is a decentish hallion--a canny North Briton as e'er
cross'd Berwick Bridge--I trow he's a dealer in cattle."
"Let us have his company, by all means," answered my companion; and then,
turning to me, he gave vent to the tenor of his own reflections. "I
respect the Scotch, sir; I love and honour the nation for their sense of
morality. Men talk of their filth and their poverty: but commend me to
sterling honesty, though clad in rags, as the poet saith. I have been
credibly assured, sir, by men on whom I can depend, that there was never
known such a thing in Scotland as a highway robbery."
"That's because they have nothing to lose," said mine host, with the
chuckle of a self-applauding wit.
"No, no, landlord," answered a strong deep voice behind him, "it's e'en
because your English gaugers and supervisors,* that you have sent down
benorth the Tweed, have taen up the trade of thievery over the heads of
the native professors."
* The introduction of gaugers, supervisors, and examiners, was one of the
great complaints of the Scottish nation, though a natural consequence of
"Well said, Mr. Campbell," answered the landlord; "I did not think
thoud'st been sae near us, mon. But thou kens I'm an outspoken Yorkshire
tyke. And how go markets in the south?"
"Even in the ordinar," replied Mr. Campbell; "wise folks buy and sell,
and fools are bought and sold."
"But wise men and fools both eat their dinner," answered our jolly
entertainer; "and here a comes--as prime a buttock of beef as e'er hungry
men stuck fork in."
So saying, he eagerly whetted his knife, assumed his seat of empire at
the head of the board, and loaded the plates of his sundry guests with
his good cheer.
This was the first time I had heard the Scottish accent, or, indeed, that
I had familiarly met with an individual of the ancient nation by whom it
was spoken. Yet, from an early period, they had occupied and interested
my imagination. My father, as is well known to you, was of an ancient
family in Northumberland, from whose seat I was, while eating the
aforesaid dinner, not very many miles distant. The quarrel betwixt him
and his relatives was such, that he scarcely ever mentioned the race from
which he sprung, and held as the most contemptible species of vanity, the
weakness which is commonly termed family pride. His ambition was only to
be distinguished as William Osbaldistone, the first, at least one of the
first, merchants on Change; and to have proved him the lineal
representative of William the Conqueror would have far less flattered his
vanity than the hum and bustle which his approach was wont to produce
among the bulls, bears, and brokers of Stock-alley. He wished, no doubt,
that I should remain in such ignorance of my relatives and descent as
might insure a correspondence between my feelings and his own on this
subject. But his designs, as will happen occasionally to the wisest,
were, in some degree at least, counteracted by a being whom his pride
would never have supposed of importance adequate to influence them in any
way. His nurse, an old Northumbrian woman, attached to him from his
infancy, was the only person connected with his native province for whom
he retained any regard; and when fortune dawned upon him, one of the
first uses which he made of her favours, was to give Mabel Rickets a
place of residence within his household. After the death of my mother,
the care of nursing me during my childish illnesses, and of rendering all
those tender attentions which infancy exacts from female affection,
devolved on old Mabel. Interdicted by her master from speaking to him on
the subject of the heaths, glades, and dales of her beloved
Northumberland, she poured herself forth to my infant ear in descriptions
of the scenes of her youth, and long narratives of the events which
tradition declared to have passed amongst them. To these I inclined my
ear much more seriously than to graver, but less animated instructors.
Even yet, methinks I see old Mabel, her head slightly agitated by the
palsy of age, and shaded by a close cap, as white as the driven
snow,--her face wrinkled, but still retaining the healthy tinge which it had
acquired in rural labour--I think I see her look around on the brick
walls and narrow street which presented themselves before our windows,
as she concluded with a sigh the favourite old ditty, which I then
preferred, and--why should I not tell the truth?--which I still prefer
to all the opera airs ever minted by the capricious brain of an Italian
Oh, the oak, the ash, and the bonny ivy tree,
They flourish best at home in the North Countrie!
Now, in the legends of Mabel, the Scottish nation was ever freshly
remembered, with all the embittered declamation of which the narrator was
capable. The inhabitants of the opposite frontier served in her
narratives to fill up the parts which ogres and giants with seven-leagued
boots occupy in the ordinary nursery tales. And how could it be
otherwise? Was it not the Black Douglas who slew with his own hand the
heir of the Osbaldistone family the day after he took possession of his
estate, surprising him and his vassals while solemnizing a feast suited
to the occasion? Was it not Wat the Devil, who drove all the year-old
hogs off the braes of Lanthorn-side, in the very recent days of my
grandfather's father? And had we not many a trophy, but, according to old
Mabel's version of history, far more honourably gained, to mark our
revenge of these wrongs? Did not Sir Henry Osbaldistone, fifth baron of
the name, carry off the fair maid of Fairnington, as Achilles did his
Chryseis and Briseis of old, and detain her in his fortress against all
the power of her friends, supported by the most mighty Scottish chiefs of
warlike fame? And had not our swords shone foremost at most of those
fields in which England was victorious over her rival? All our family
renown was acquired--all our family misfortunes were occasioned--by the
Warmed by such tales, I looked upon the Scottish people during my
childhood, as a race hostile by nature to the more southern inhabitants
of this realm; and this view of the matter was not much corrected by the
language which my father sometimes held with respect to them. He had
engaged in some large speculations concerning oak-woods, the property of
Highland proprietors, and alleged, that he found them much more ready to
make bargains, and extort earnest of the purchase-money, than punctual in
complying on their side with the terms of the engagements. The Scottish
mercantile men, whom he was under the necessity of employing as a sort of
middle-men on these occasions, were also suspected by my father of having
secured, by one means or other, more than their own share of the profit
which ought to have accrued. In short, if Mabel complained of the
Scottish arms in ancient times, Mr. Osbaldistone inveighed no less
against the arts of these modern Sinons; and between them, though without
any fixed purpose of doing so, they impressed my youthful mind with a
sincere aversion to the northern inhabitants of Britain, as a people
bloodthirsty in time of war, treacherous during truce, interested,
selfish, avaricious, and tricky in the business of peaceful life, and
having few good qualities, unless there should be accounted such, a
ferocity which resembled courage in martial affairs, and a sort of wily
craft which supplied the place of wisdom in the ordinary commerce of
mankind. In justification, or apology, for those who entertained such
prejudices, I must remark, that the Scotch of that period were guilty of
similar injustice to the English, whom they branded universally as a race
of purse-proud arrogant epicures. Such seeds of national dislike remained
between the two countries, the natural consequences of their existence as
separate and rival states. We have seen recently the breath of a
demagogue blow these sparks into a temporary flame, which I sincerely
hope is now extinguished in its own ashes. *
* This seems to have been written about the time of Wilkes and Liberty.
It was, then, with an impression of dislike, that I contemplated the
first Scotchman I chanced to meet in society. There was much about him
that coincided with my previous conceptions. He had the hard features and
athletic form said to be peculiar to his country, together with the
national intonation and slow pedantic mode of expression, arising from a
desire to avoid peculiarities of idiom or dialect. I could also observe
the caution and shrewdness of his country in many of the observations
which he made, and the answers which he returned. But I was not prepared
for the air of easy self-possession and superiority with which he seemed
to predominate over the company into which he was thrown, as it were by
accident. His dress was as coarse as it could be, being still decent;
and, at a time when great expense was lavished upon the wardrobe, even of
the lowest who pretended to the character of gentleman, this indicated
mediocrity of circumstances, if not poverty. His conversation intimated
that he was engaged in the cattle trade, no very dignified professional
pursuit. And yet, under these disadvantages, he seemed, as a matter of
course, to treat the rest of the company with the cool and condescending
politeness which implies a real, or imagined, superiority over those
towards whom it is used. When he gave his opinion on any point, it was
with that easy tone of confidence used by those superior to their society
in rank or information, as if what he said could not be doubted, and was
not to be questioned. Mine host and his Sunday guests, after an effort or
two to support their consequence by noise and bold averment, sunk
gradually under the authority of Mr. Campbell, who thus fairly possessed
himself of the lead in the conversation. I was tempted, from curiosity,
to dispute the ground with him myself, confiding in my knowledge of the
world, extended as it was by my residence abroad, and in the stores with
which a tolerable education had possessed my mind. In the latter respect
he offered no competition, and it was easy to see that his natural powers
had never been cultivated by education. But I found him much better
acquainted than I was myself with the present state of France, the
character of the Duke of Orleans, who had just succeeded to the regency
of that kingdom, and that of the statesmen by whom he was surrounded; and
his shrewd, caustic, and somewhat satirical remarks, were those of a man
who had been a close observer of the affairs of that country.
On the subject of politics, Campbell observed a silence and moderation
which might arise from caution. The divisions of Whig and Tory then shook
England to her very centre, and a powerful party, engaged in the Jacobite
interest, menaced the dynasty of Hanover, which had been just established
on the throne. Every alehouse resounded with the brawls of contending
politicians, and as mine host's politics were of that liberal description
which quarrelled with no good customer, his hebdomadal visitants were
often divided in their opinion as irreconcilably as if he had feasted the
Common Council. The curate and the apothecary, with a little man, who
made no boast of his vocation, but who, from the flourish and snap of his
fingers, I believe to have been the barber, strongly espoused the cause
of high church and the Stuart line. The excise-man, as in duty bound, and
the attorney, who looked to some petty office under the Crown, together
with my fellow-traveller, who seemed to enter keenly into the contest,
staunchly supported the cause of King George and the Protestant
succession. Dire was the screaming--deep the oaths! Each party appealed
to Mr. Campbell, anxious, it seemed, to elicit his approbation.
"You are a Scotchman, sir; a gentleman of your country must stand up for
hereditary right," cried one party.
"You are a Presbyterian," assumed the other class of disputants; "you
cannot be a friend to arbitrary power."
"Gentlemen," said our Scotch oracle, after having gained, with some
difficulty, a moment's pause, "I havena much dubitation that King George
weel deserves the predilection of his friends; and if he can haud the
grip he has gotten, why, doubtless, he may made the gauger, here, a
commissioner of the revenue, and confer on our friend, Mr. Quitam, the
preferment of solicitor-general; and he may also grant some good deed or
reward to this honest gentleman who is sitting upon his portmanteau,
which he prefers to a chair: And, questionless, King James is also a
grateful person, and when he gets his hand in play, he may, if he be so
minded, make this reverend gentleman archprelate of Canterbury, and Dr.
Mixit chief physician to his household, and commit his royal beard to the
care of my friend Latherum. But as I doubt mickle whether any of the
competing sovereigns would give Rob Campbell a tass of aquavitae, if he
lacked it, I give my vote and interest to Jonathan Brown, our landlord,
to be the King and Prince of Skinkers, conditionally that he fetches us
another bottle as good as the last."
This sally was received with general applause, in which the landlord
cordially joined; and when he had given orders for fulfilling the
condition on which his preferment was to depend, he failed not to
acquaint them, "that, for as peaceable a gentleman as Mr. Campbell was,
he was, moreover, as bold as a lion--seven highwaymen had he defeated
with his single arm, that beset him as he came from Whitson-Tryste."
"Thou art deceived, friend Jonathan," said Campbell, interrupting him;
"they were but barely two, and two cowardly loons as man could wish to
"And did you, sir, really," said my fellow-traveller, edging his chair (I
should have said his portmanteau) nearer to Mr. Campbell, "really and
actually beat two highwaymen yourself alone?"
"In troth did I, sir," replied Campbell; "and I think it nae great thing
to make a sang about."
"Upon my word, sir," replied my acquaintance, "I should be happy to have
the pleasure of your company on my journey--I go northward, sir."
This piece of gratuitous information concerning the route he proposed to
himself, the first I had heard my companion bestow upon any one, failed
to excite the corresponding confidence of the Scotchman.
"We can scarce travel together," he replied, drily. "You, sir, doubtless,
are well mounted, and I for the present travel on foot, or on a Highland
shelty, that does not help me much faster forward."
So saying, he called for a reckoning for the wine, and throwing down the
price of the additional bottle which he had himself introduced, rose as
if to take leave of us. My companion made up to him, and taking him by
the button, drew him aside into one of the windows. I could not help
overhearing him pressing something--I supposed his company upon the
journey, which Mr. Campbell seemed to decline.
"I will pay your charges, sir," said the traveller, in a tone as if he
thought the argument should bear down all opposition.
"It is quite impossible," said Campbell, somewhat contemptuously; "I have
business at Rothbury."
"But I am in no great hurry; I can ride out of the way, and never miss a
day or so for good company."
"Upon my faith, sir," said Campbell, "I cannot render you the service you
seem to desiderate. I am," he added, drawing himself up haughtily,
"travelling on my own private affairs, and if ye will act by my
advisement, sir, ye will neither unite yourself with an absolute stranger
on the road, nor communicate your line of journey to those who are asking
ye no questions about it." He then extricated his button, not very
ceremoniously, from the hold which detained him, and coming up to me as
the company were dispersing, observed, "Your friend, sir, is too
communicative, considering the nature of his trust."
"That gentleman," I replied, looking towards the traveller, "is no friend
of mine, but an acquaintance whom I picked up on the road. I know neither
his name nor business, and you seem to be deeper in his confidence than I
"I only meant," he replied hastily, "that he seems a thought rash in
conferring the honour of his company on those who desire it not."
"The gentleman," replied I, "knows his own affairs best, and I should be
sorry to constitute myself a judge of them in any respect."
Mr. Campbell made no farther observation, but merely wished me a good
journey, and the party dispersed for the evening.
Next day I parted company with my timid companion, as I left the great
northern road to turn more westerly in the direction of Osbaldistone
Manor, my uncle's seat. I cannot tell whether he felt relieved or
embarrassed by my departure, considering the dubious light in which he
seemed to regard me. For my own part, his tremors ceased to amuse me,
and, to say the truth, I was heartily glad to get rid of him.
How melts my beating heart as I behold
Each lovely nymph, our island's boast and pride,
Push on the generous steed, that sweeps along
O'er rough, o'er smooth, nor heeds the steepy hill,
Nor falters in the extended vale below!
I approached my native north, for such I esteemed it, with that
enthusiasm which romantic and wild scenery inspires in the lovers of
nature. No longer interrupted by the babble of my companion, I could now
remark the difference which the country exhibited from that through which
I had hitherto travelled. The streams now more properly deserved the
name, for, instead of slumbering stagnant among reeds and willows, they
brawled along beneath the shade of natural copsewood; were now hurried
down declivities, and now purled more leisurely, but still in active
motion, through little lonely valleys, which, opening on the road from
time to time, seemed to invite the traveller to explore their recesses.
The Cheviots rose before me in frowning majesty; not, indeed, with the
sublime variety of rock and cliff which characterizes mountains of the
primary class but huge, round-headed, and clothed with a dark robe of
russet, gaining, by their extent and desolate appearance, an influence
upon the imagination, as a desert district possessing a character of its
The abode of my fathers, which I was now approaching, was situated in a
glen, or narrow valley, which ran up among those hills. Extensive
estates, which once belonged to the family of Osbaldistone, had been long
dissipated by the misfortunes or misconduct of my ancestors; but enough
was still attached to the old mansion, to give my uncle the title of a
man of large property. This he employed (as I was given to understand by
some inquiries which I made on the road) in maintaining the prodigal
hospitality of a northern squire of the period, which he deemed essential
to his family dignity.
From the summit of an eminence I had already had a distant view of
Osbaldistone Hall, a large and antiquated edifice, peeping out from a
Druidical grove of huge oaks; and I was directing my course towards it,
as straightly and as speedily as the windings of a very indifferent road
would permit, when my horse, tired as he was, pricked up his ears at the
enlivening notes of a pack of hounds in full cry, cheered by the
occasional bursts of a French horn, which in those days was a constant
accompaniment to the chase. I made no doubt that the pack was my uncle's,
and drew up my horse with the purpose of suffering the hunters to pass
without notice, aware that a hunting-field was not the proper scene to
introduce myself to a keen sportsman, and determined when they had passed
on, to proceed to the mansion-house at my own pace, and there to await
the return of the proprietor from his sport. I paused, therefore, on a
rising ground, and, not unmoved by the sense of interest which that
species of silvan sport is so much calculated to inspire (although my
mind was not at the moment very accessible to impressions of this
nature), I expected with some eagerness the appearance of the huntsmen.
The fox, hard run, and nearly spent, first made his appearance from the
copse which clothed the right-hand side of the valley. His drooping
brush, his soiled appearance, and jaded trot, proclaimed his fate
impending; and the carrion crow, which hovered over him, already
considered poor Reynard as soon to be his prey. He crossed the stream
which divides the little valley, and was dragging himself up a ravine on
the other side of its wild banks, when the headmost hounds, followed by
the rest of the pack in full cry, burst from the coppice, followed by the
huntsman and three or four riders. The dogs pursued the trace of Reynard
with unerring instinct; and the hunters followed with reckless haste,
regardless of the broken and difficult nature of the ground. They were
tall, stout young men, well mounted, and dressed in green and red, the
uniform of a sporting association, formed under the auspices of old Sir
Hildebrand Osbaldistone.--"My cousins!" thought I, as they swept past me.
The next reflection was, what is my reception likely to be among these
worthy successors of Nimrod? and how improbable is it that I, knowing
little or nothing of rural sports, shall find myself at ease, or happy,
in my uncle's family. A vision that passed me interrupted these
It was a young lady, the loveliness of whose very striking features was
enhanced by the animation of the chase and the glow of the exercise,
mounted on a beautiful horse, jet black, unless where he was flecked by
spots of the snow-white foam which embossed his bridle. She wore, what
was then somewhat unusual, a coat, vest, and hat, resembling those of a
man, which fashion has since called a riding habit. The mode had been
introduced while I was in France, and was perfectly new to me. Her long
black hair streamed on the breeze, having in the hurry of the chase
escaped from the ribbon which bound it. Some very broken ground, through
which she guided her horse with the most admirable address and presence
of mind, retarded her course, and brought her closer to me than any of
the other riders had passed. I had, therefore, a full view of her
uncommonly fine face and person, to which an inexpressible charm was
added by the wild gaiety of the scene, and the romance of her singular
dress and unexpected appearance. As she passed me, her horse made, in his
impetuosity, an irregular movement, just while, coming once more upon
open ground, she was again putting him to his speed. It served as an
apology for me to ride close up to her, as if to her assistance. There
was, however, no cause for alarm; it was not a stumble, nor a false step;
and, if it had, the fair Amazon had too much self-possession to have been
deranged by it. She thanked my good intentions, however, by a smile, and
I felt encouraged to put my horse to the same pace, and to keep in her
immediate neighbourhood. The clamour of "Whoop! dead! dead!"--and the
corresponding flourish of the French horn, soon announced to us that
there was no more occasion for haste, since the chase was at a close. One
of the young men whom we had seen approached us, waving the brush of the
fox in triumph, as if to upbraid my fair companion,
"I see," she replied,--"I see; but make no noise about it: if Phoebe,"
she said, patting the neck of the beautiful animal on which she rode,
"had not got among the cliffs, you would have had little cause for
They met as she spoke, and I observed them both look at me, and converse
a moment in an under-tone, the young lady apparently pressing the
sportsman to do something which he declined shyly, and with a sort of
sheepish sullenness. She instantly turned her horse's head towards me,
saying,--"Well, well, Thornie, if you won't, I must, that's all.--Sir,"
she continued, addressing me, "I have been endeavouring to persuade this
cultivated young gentleman to make inquiry of you whether, in the course
of your travels in these parts, you have heard anything of a friend of
ours, one Mr. Francis Osbaldistone, who has been for some days expected
at Osbaldistone Hall?"
I was too happy to acknowledge myself to be the party inquired after, and
to express my thanks for the obliging inquiries of the young lady.
"In that case, sir," she rejoined, "as my kinsman's politeness seems to
be still slumbering, you will permit me (though I suppose it is highly
improper) to stand mistress of ceremonies, and to present to you young
Squire Thorncliff Osbaldistone, your cousin, and Die Vernon, who has also
the honour to be your accomplished cousin's poor kinswoman."
There was a mixture of boldness, satire, and simplicity in the manner in
which Miss Vernon pronounced these words. My knowledge of life was
sufficient to enable me to take up a corresponding tone as I expressed my
gratitude to her for her condescension, and my extreme pleasure at having
met with them. To say the truth, the compliment was so expressed, that
the lady might easily appropriate the greater share of it, for Thorncliff
seemed an arrant country bumpkin, awkward, shy, and somewhat sulky
withal. He shook hands with me, however, and then intimated his intention
of leaving me that he might help the huntsman and his brothers to couple
up the hounds,--a purpose which he rather communicated by way of
information to Miss Vernon than as apology to me.
"There he goes," said the young lady, following him with eyes in which
disdain was admirably painted--"the prince of grooms and cock-fighters,
and blackguard horse-coursers. But there is not one of them to mend
another.--Have you read Markham?" said Miss Vernon.
"Read whom, ma'am?--I do not even remember the author's name."
"O lud! on what a strand are you wrecked!" replied the young lady. "A
poor forlorn and ignorant stranger, unacquainted with the very Alcoran of
the savage tribe whom you are come to reside among--Never to have heard
of Markham, the most celebrated author on farriery! then I fear you are
equally a stranger to the more modern names of Gibson and Bartlett?"
"I am, indeed, Miss Vernon."
"And do you not blush to own it?" said Miss Vernon. "Why, we must
forswear your alliance. Then, I suppose, you can neither give a ball, nor
a mash, nor a horn!"
"I confess I trust all these matters to an ostler, or to my groom."
"Incredible carelessness!--And you cannot shoe a horse, or cut his mane
and tail; or worm a dog, or crop his ears, or cut his dew-claws; or
reclaim a hawk, or give him his casting-stones, or direct his diet when
he is sealed; or"--
"To sum up my insignificance in one word," replied I, "I am profoundly
ignorant in all these rural accomplishments."
"Then, in the name of Heaven, Mr. Francis Osbaldistone, what _can_ you
"Very little to the purpose, Miss Vernon; something, however, I can
pretend to--When my groom has dressed my horse I can ride him, and when
my hawk is in the field, I can fly him."
"Can you do this?" said the young lady, putting her horse to a canter.
There was a sort of rude overgrown fence crossed the path before us, with
a gate composed of pieces of wood rough from the forest; I was about to
move forward to open it, when Miss Vernon cleared the obstruction at a
flying leap. I was bound in point of honour to follow, and was in a
moment again at her side. "There are hopes of you yet," she said. "I was
afraid you had been a very degenerate Osbaldistone. But what on earth
brings you to Cub-Castle?--for so the neighbours have christened this
hunting-hall of ours. You might have stayed away, I suppose, if you
I felt I was by this time on a very intimate footing with my beautiful
apparition, and therefore replied, in a confidential under-tone--"Indeed,
my dear Miss Vernon, I might have considered it as a sacrifice to be a
temporary resident in Osbaldistone Hall, the inmates being such as you
describe them; but I am convinced there is one exception that will make
amends for all deficiencies."
"O, you mean Rashleigh?" said Miss Vernon.
"Indeed I do not; I was thinking--forgive me--of some person much nearer
"I suppose it would be proper not to understand your civility?--But that
is not my way--I don't make a courtesy for it because I am sitting on
horseback. But, seriously, I deserve your exception, for I am the only
conversable being about the Hall, except the old priest and Rashleigh."
"And who is Rashleigh, for Heaven's sake?"
"Rashleigh is one who would fain have every one like him for his own
sake. He is Sir Hildebrand's youngest son--about your own age, but not
so--not well looking, in short. But nature has given him a mouthful of
common sense, and the priest has added a bushelful of learning; he is
what we call a very clever man in this country, where clever men are
scarce. Bred to the church, but in no hurry to take orders."
"To the Catholic Church?"
"The Catholic Church? what Church else?" said the young lady. "But I
forgot--they told me you are a heretic. Is that true, Mr. Osbaldistone?"
"I must not deny the charge."
"And yet you have been abroad, and in Catholic countries?"
"For nearly four years."
"You have seen convents?"
"Often; but I have not seen much in them which recommended the Catholic
"Are not the inhabitants happy?"
"Some are unquestionably so, whom either a profound sense of devotion, or
an experience of the persecutions and misfortunes of the world, or a
natural apathy of temper, has led into retirement. Those who have adopted
a life of seclusion from sudden and overstrained enthusiasm, or in hasty
resentment of some disappointment or mortification, are very miserable.
The quickness of sensation soon returns, and like the wilder animals in a
menagerie, they are restless under confinement, while others muse or
fatten in cells of no larger dimensions than theirs."
"And what," continued Miss Vernon, "becomes of those victims who are
condemned to a convent by the will of others? what do they resemble?
especially, what do they resemble, if they are born to enjoy life, and
feel its blessings?"
"They are like imprisoned singing-birds," replied I, "condemned to wear
out their lives in confinement, which they try to beguile by the exercise
of accomplishments which would have adorned society had they been left at
"I shall be," returned Miss Vernon--"that is," said she, correcting
herself--"I should be rather like the wild hawk, who, barred the free
exercise of his soar through heaven, will dash himself to pieces against
the bars of his cage. But to return to Rashleigh," said she, in a more
lively tone, "you will think him the pleasantest man you ever saw in your
life, Mr. Osbaldistone,--that is, for a week at least. If he could find
out a blind mistress, never man would be so secure of conquest; but the
eye breaks the spell that enchants the ear.--But here we are in the court
of the old hall, which looks as wild and old-fashioned as any of its
inmates. There is no great toilette kept at Osbaldistone Hall, you must
know; but I must take off these things, they are so unpleasantly
warm,--and the hat hurts my forehead, too," continued the lively girl,
taking it off, and shaking down a profusion of sable ringlets, which,
half laughing, half blushing, she separated with her white slender
fingers, in order to clear them away from her beautiful face and
piercing hazel eyes. If there was any coquetry in the action, it was
well disguised by the careless indifference of her manner. I could not
help saying, "that, judging of the family from what I saw, I should
suppose the toilette a very unnecessary care."
"That's very politely said--though, perhaps, I ought not to understand in
what sense it was meant," replied Miss Vernon; "but you will see a better
apology for a little negligence when you meet the Orsons you are to live
amongst, whose forms no toilette could improve. But, as I said before,
the old dinner-bell will clang, or rather clank, in a few minutes--it
cracked of its own accord on the day of the landing of King Willie, and
my uncle, respecting its prophetic talent, would never permit it to be
mended. So do you hold my palfrey, like a duteous knight, until I send
some more humble squire to relieve you of the charge."
She threw me the rein as if we had been acquainted from our childhood,
jumped from her saddle, tripped across the courtyard, and entered at a
side-door, leaving me in admiration of her beauty, and astonished with
the over-frankness of her manners, which seemed the more extraordinary at
a time when the dictates of politeness, flowing from the court of the
Grand Monarque Louis XIV., prescribed to the fair sex an unusual severity
of decorum. I was left awkwardly enough stationed in the centre of the
court of the old hall, mounted on one horse, and holding another in my
The building afforded little to interest a stranger, had I been disposed
to consider it attentively; the sides of the quadrangle were of various
architecture, and with their stone-shafted latticed windows, projecting
turrets, and massive architraves, resembled the inside of a convent, or
of one of the older and less splendid colleges of Oxford. I called for a
domestic, but was for some time totally unattended to; which was the more
provoking, as I could perceive I was the object of curiosity to several
servants, both male and female, from different parts of the building, who
popped out their heads and withdrew them, like rabbits in a warren,
before I could make a direct appeal to the attention of any individual.
The return of the huntsmen and hounds relieved me from my embarrassment,
and with some difficulty I got one down to relieve me of the charge of
the horses, and another stupid boor to guide me to the presence of Sir
Hildebrand. This service he performed with much such grace and good-will,
as a peasant who is compelled to act as guide to a hostile patrol; and in
the same manner I was obliged to guard against his deserting me in the
labyrinth of low vaulted passages which conducted to "Stun Hall," as he
called it, where I was to be introduced to the gracious presence of my
We did, however, at length reach a long vaulted room, floored with stone,
where a range of oaken tables, of a weight and size too massive ever to
be moved aside, were already covered for dinner. This venerable
apartment, which had witnessed the feasts of several generations of the
Osbaldistone family, bore also evidence of their success in field sports.
Huge antlers of deer, which might have been trophies of the hunting of
Chevy Chace, were ranged around the walls, interspersed with the stuffed
skins of badgers, otters, martins, and other animals of the chase. Amidst
some remnants of old armour, which had, perhaps, served against the
Scotch, hung the more valued weapons of silvan war, cross-bows, guns of
various device and construction, nets, fishing-rods, otter-spears,
hunting-poles, with many other singular devices, and engines for taking
or killing game. A few old pictures, dimmed with smoke, and stained with
March beer, hung on the walls, representing knights and ladies, honoured,
doubtless, and renowned in their day; those frowning fearfully from huge
bushes of wig and of beard; and these looking delightfully with all their
might at the roses which they brandished in their hands.
I had just time to give a glance at these matters, when about twelve
blue-coated servants burst into the hall with much tumult and talk, each
rather employed in directing his comrades than in discharging his own
duty. Some brought blocks and billets to the fire, which roared, blazed,
and ascended, half in smoke, half in flame, up a huge tunnel, with an
opening wide enough to accommodate a stone seat within its ample vault,
and which was fronted, by way of chimney-piece, with a huge piece of
heavy architecture, where the monsters of heraldry, embodied by the art
of some Northumbrian chisel, grinned and ramped in red free-stone, now
japanned by the smoke of centuries. Others of these old-fashioned
serving-men bore huge smoking dishes, loaded with substantial fare;
others brought in cups, flagons, bottles, yea barrels of liquor. All
tramped, kicked, plunged, shouldered, and jostled, doing as little
service with as much tumult as could well be imagined. At length, while
the dinner was, after various efforts, in the act of being arranged upon
the board, "the clamour much of men and dogs," the cracking of whips,
calculated for the intimidation of the latter, voices loud and high,
steps which, impressed by the heavy-heeled boots of the period, clattered
like those in the statue of the _Festin de Pierre,_* announced the
arrival of those for whose benefit the preparations were made.
* Now called Don Juan.
The hubbub among the servants rather increased than diminished as this
crisis approached. Some called to make haste,--others to take
time,--some exhorted to stand out of the way, and make room for Sir
Hildebrand and the young squires,--some to close round the table and be
_in_ the way,--some bawled to open, some to shut, a pair of
folding-doors which divided the hall from a sort of gallery, as I
afterwards learned, or withdrawing-room, fitted up with black wainscot.
Opened the doors were at length, and in rushed curs and men,--eight
dogs, the domestic chaplain, the village doctor, my six cousins, and my
The rude hall rocks--they come, they come,--
The din of voices shakes the dome;--
In stalk the various forms, and, drest
In varying morion, varying vest,
All march with haughty step--all proudly shake the crest.
If Sir Hildebrand Osbaldistone was in no hurry to greet his nephew, of
whose arrival he must have been informed for some time, he had important
avocations to allege in excuse. "Had seen thee sooner, lad," he
exclaimed, after a rough shake of the hand, and a hearty welcome to
Osbaldistone Hall, "but had to see the hounds kennelled first. Thou art
welcome to the Hall, lad--here is thy cousin Percie, thy cousin Thornie,
and thy cousin John--your cousin Dick, your cousin Wilfred, and--stay,
where's Rashleigh?--ay, here's Rashleigh--take thy long body aside
Thornie, and let's see thy brother a bit--your cousin Rashleigh. So, thy
father has thought on the old Hall, and old Sir Hildebrand at
last--better late than never--Thou art welcome, lad, and there's enough.
Where's my little Die?--ay, here she comes--this is my niece Die, my
wife's brother's daughter--the prettiest girl in our dales, be the other
who she may--and so now let's to the sirloin."--
To gain some idea of the person who held this language, you must suppose,
my dear Tresham, a man aged about sixty, in a hunting suit which had once
been richly laced, but whose splendour had been tarnished by many a
November and December storm. Sir Hildebrand, notwithstanding the
abruptness of his present manner, had, at one period of his life, known
courts and camps; had held a commission in the army which encamped on
Hounslow Heath previous to the Revolution--and, recommended perhaps by
his religion, had been knighted about the same period by the unfortunate
and ill-advised James II. But the Knight's dreams of further preferment,
if he ever entertained any, had died away at the crisis which drove his
patron from the throne, and since that period he had spent a sequestered
life upon his native domains. Notwithstanding his rusticity, however, Sir
Hildebrand retained much of the exterior of a gentleman, and appeared
among his sons as the remains of a Corinthian pillar, defaced and
overgrown with moss and lichen, might have looked, if contrasted with the
rough unhewn masses of upright stones in Stonhenge, or any other
Druidical temple. The sons were, indeed, heavy unadorned blocks as the
eye would desire to look upon. Tall, stout, and comely, all and each of
the five eldest seemed to want alike the Promethean fire of intellect,
and the exterior grace and manner, which, in the polished world,
sometimes supply mental deficiency. Their most valuable moral quality
seemed to be the good-humour and content which was expressed in their
heavy features, and their only pretence to accomplishment was their
dexterity in field sports, for which alone they lived. The strong Gyas,
and the strong Cloanthus, are not less distinguished by the poet, than
the strong Percival, the strong Thorncliff, the strong John, Richard, and
Wilfred Osbaldistones, were by outward appearance.
But, as if to indemnify herself for a uniformity so uncommon in her
productions, Dame Nature had rendered Rashleigh Osbaldistone a striking
contrast in person and manner, and, as I afterwards learned, in temper
and talents, not only to his brothers, but to most men whom I had
hitherto met with. When Percie, Thornie, and Co. had respectively nodded,
grinned, and presented their shoulder rather than their hand, as their
father named them to their new kinsman, Rashleigh stepped forward, and
welcomed me to Osbaldistone Hall, with the air and manner of a man of the
world. His appearance was not in itself prepossessing. He was of low
stature, whereas all his brethren seemed to be descendants of Anak; and
while they were handsomely formed, Rashleigh, though strong in person,
was bull-necked and cross-made, and from some early injury in his youth
had an imperfection in his gait, so much resembling an absolute halt,
that many alleged that it formed the obstacle to his taking orders; the
Church of Rome, as is well known, admitting none to the clerical
profession who labours under any personal deformity. Others, however,
ascribed this unsightly defect to a mere awkward habit, and contended
that it did not amount to a personal disqualification from holy orders.
The features of Rashleigh were such, as, having looked upon, we in vain
wish to banish from our memory, to which they recur as objects of painful
curiosity, although we dwell upon them with a feeling of dislike, and
even of disgust. It was not the actual plainness of his face, taken
separately from the meaning, which made this strong impression. His
features were, indeed, irregular, but they were by no means vulgar; and
his keen dark eyes, and shaggy eyebrows, redeemed his face from the
charge of commonplace ugliness. But there was in these eyes an expression
of art and design, and, on provocation, a ferocity tempered by caution,
which nature had made obvious to the most ordinary physiognomist, perhaps
with the same intention that she has given the rattle to the poisonous
snake. As if to compensate him for these disadvantages of exterior,
Rashleigh Osbaldistone was possessed of a voice the most soft, mellow,
and rich in its tones that I ever heard, and was at no loss for language
of every sort suited to so fine an organ. His first sentence of welcome
was hardly ended, ere I internally agreed with Miss Vernon, that my new
kinsman would make an instant conquest of a mistress whose ears alone
were to judge his cause. He was about to place himself beside me at
dinner, but Miss Vernon, who, as the only female in the family, arranged
all such matters according to her own pleasure, contrived that I should
sit betwixt Thorncliff and herself; and it can scarce be doubted that I
favoured this more advantageous arrangement.
"I want to speak with you," she said, "and I have placed honest Thornie
betwixt Rashleigh and you on purpose. He will be like--
Feather-bed 'twixt castle wall
And heavy brunt of cannon ball,
while I, your earliest acquaintance in this intellectual family, ask of
you how you like us all?"
"A very comprehensive question, Miss Vernon, considering how short while
I have been at Osbaldistone Hall."
"Oh, the philosophy of our family lies on the surface--there are minute
shades distinguishing the individuals, which require the eye of an
intelligent observer; but the species, as naturalists I believe call it,
may be distinguished and characterized at once."
"My five elder cousins, then, are I presume of pretty nearly the same
"Yes, they form a happy compound of sot, gamekeeper, bully, horse-jockey,
and fool; but as they say there cannot be found two leaves on the same
tree exactly alike, so these happy ingredients, being mingled in somewhat
various proportions in each individual, make an agreeable variety for
those who like to study character."
"Give me a sketch, if you please, Miss Vernon."
"You shall have them all in a family-piece, at full length--the favour is
too easily granted to be refused. Percie, the son and heir, has more of
the sot than of the gamekeeper, bully, horse-jockey, or fool--My precious
Thornie is more of the bully than the sot, gamekeeper, jockey, or
fool--John, who sleeps whole weeks amongst the hills, has most of the
gamekeeper--The jockey is powerful with Dickon, who rides two hundred
miles by day and night to be bought and sold at a horse-race--And the
fool predominates so much over Wilfred's other qualities, that he may be
termed a fool positive."
"A goodly collection, Miss Vernon, and the individual varieties belong to
a most interesting species. But is there no room on the canvas for Sir
"I love my uncle," was her reply: "I owe him some kindness (such it was
meant for at least), and I will leave you to draw his picture yourself,
when you know him better."
"Come," thought I to myself, "I am glad there is some forbearance. After
all, who would have looked for such bitter satire from a creature so
young, and so exquisitely beautiful?"
"You are thinking of me," she said, bending her dark eyes on me, as if
she meant to pierce through my very soul.
"I certainly was," I replied, with some embarrassment at the determined
suddenness of the question, and then, endeavouring to give a
complimentary turn to my frank avowal--"How is it possible I should think
of anything else, seated as I have the happiness to be?"
She smiled with such an expression of concentrated haughtiness as she
alone could have thrown into her countenance. "I must inform you at once,
Mr. Osbaldistone, that compliments are entirely lost upon me; do not,
therefore, throw away your pretty sayings--they serve fine gentlemen who
travel in the country, instead of the toys, beads, and bracelets, which
navigators carry to propitiate the savage inhabitants of newly-discovered
lands. Do not exhaust your stock in trade;--you will find natives in
Northumberland to whom your fine things will recommend you--on me they
would be utterly thrown away, for I happen to know their real value."
I was silenced and confounded.
"You remind me at this moment," said the young lady, resuming her lively
and indifferent manner, "of the fairy tale, where the man finds all the
money which he had carried to market suddenly changed into pieces of
slate. I have cried down and ruined your whole stock of complimentary
discourse by one unlucky observation. But come, never mind it--You are
belied, Mr. Osbaldistone, unless you have much better conversation than
these _fadeurs,_ which every gentleman with a toupet thinks himself
obliged to recite to an unfortunate girl, merely because she is dressed
in silk and gauze, while he wears superfine cloth with embroidery. Your
natural paces, as any of my five cousins might say, are far preferable to
your complimentary amble. Endeavour to forget my unlucky sex; call me Tom
Vernon, if you have a mind, but speak to me as you would to a friend and
companion; you have no idea how much I shall like you."
"That would be a bribe indeed," returned I.
"Again!" replied Miss Vernon, holding up her finger; "I told you I would
not bear the shadow of a compliment. And now, when you have pledged my
uncle, who threatens you with what he calls a brimmer, I will tell you
what you think of me."
The bumper being pledged by me, as a dutiful nephew, and some other
general intercourse of the table having taken place, the continued and
business-like clang of knives and forks, and the devotion of cousin
Thorncliff on my right hand, and cousin Dickon, who sate on Miss Vernon's
left, to the huge quantities of meat with which they heaped their plates,
made them serve as two occasional partitions, separating us from the rest
of the company, and leaving us to our _tete-a-tete._ "And now," said
I, "give me leave to ask you frankly, Miss Vernon, what you suppose I am
thinking of you!--I could tell you what I really _do_ think, but you have
"I do not want your assistance. I am conjuror enough to tell your
thoughts without it. You need not open the casement of your bosom; I see
through it. You think me a strange bold girl, half coquette, half romp;
desirous of attracting attention by the freedom of her manners and
loudness of her conversation, because she is ignorant of what the
Spectator calls the softer graces of the sex; and perhaps you think I
have some particular plan of storming you into admiration. I should be
sorry to shock your self-opinion, but you were never more mistaken. All
the confidence I have reposed in you, I would have given as readily to
your father, if I thought he could have understood me. I am in this happy
family as much secluded from intelligent listeners as Sancho in the
Sierra Morena, and when opportunity offers, I must speak or die. I assure
you I would not have told you a word of all this curious intelligence,
had I cared a pin who knew it or knew it not."
"It is very cruel in you, Miss Vernon, to take away all particular marks
of favour from your communications, but I must receive them on your own
terms.--You have not included Mr. Rashleigh Osbaldistone in your domestic
She shrunk, I thought, at this remark, and hastily answered, in a much
lower tone, "Not a word of Rashleigh! His ears are so acute when his
selfishness is interested, that the sounds would reach him even through
the mass of Thorncliff's person, stuffed as it is with beef,
venison-pasty, and pudding."
"Yes," I replied; "but peeping past the living screen which divides us,
before I put the question, I perceived that Mr. Rashleigh's chair was
empty--he has left the table."
"I would not have you be too sure of that," Miss Vernon replied. "Take my
advice, and when you speak of Rashleigh, get up to the top of
Otterscope-hill, where you can see for twenty miles round you in every
direction--stand on the very peak, and speak in whispers; and, after all,
don't be too sure that the bird of the air will not carry the matter,
Rashleigh has been my tutor for four years; we are mutually tired of each
other, and we shall heartily rejoice at our approaching separation."
"Mr. Rashleigh leaves Osbaldistone Hall, then?"
"Yes, in a few days;--did you not know that?--your father must keep his
resolutions much more secret than Sir Hildebrand. Why, when my uncle was
informed that you were to be his guest for some time, and that your
father desired to have one of his hopeful sons to fill up the lucrative
situation in his counting-house which was vacant by your obstinacy, Mr.
Francis, the good knight held a _cour ple'nie're_ of all his family,
including the butler, housekeeper, and gamekeeper. This reverend assembly
of the peers and household officers of Osbaldistone Hall was not
convoked, as you may suppose, to elect your substitute, because, as
Rashleigh alone possessed more arithmetic than was necessary to calculate
the odds on a fighting cock, none but he could be supposed qualified for
the situation. But some solemn sanction was necessary for transforming
Rashleigh's destination from starving as a Catholic priest to thriving as
a wealthy banker; and it was not without some reluctance that the
acquiescence of the assembly was obtained to such an act of degradation."
"I can conceive the scruples--but how were they got over?"
"By the general wish, I believe, to get Rashleigh out of the house,"
replied Miss Vernon. "Although youngest of the family, he has somehow or
other got the entire management of all the others; and every one is
sensible of the subjection, though they cannot shake it off. If any one
opposes him, he is sure to rue having done so before the year goes about;
and if you do him a very important service, you may rue it still more."
"At that rate," answered I, smiling, "I should look about me; for I have
been the cause, however unintentionally, of his change of situation."
"Yes; and whether he regards it as an advantage or disadvantage, he will
owe you a grudge for it--But here comes cheese, radishes, and a bumper to
church and king, the hint for chaplains and ladies to disappear; and I,
the sole representative of womanhood at Osbaldistone Hall, retreat, as in
She vanished as she spoke, leaving me in astonishment at the mingled
character of shrewdness, audacity, and frankness, which her conversation
displayed. I despair conveying to you the least idea of her manner,
although I have, as nearly as I can remember, imitated her language. In
fact, there was a mixture of untaught simplicity, as well as native
shrewdness and haughty boldness, in her manner, and all were modified and
recommended by the play of the most beautiful features I had ever beheld.
It is not to be thought that, however strange and uncommon I might think
her liberal and unreserved communications, a young man of two-and-twenty
was likely to be severely critical on a beautiful girl of eighteen, for
not observing a proper distance towards him. On the contrary, I was
equally diverted and flattered by Miss Vernon's confidence, and that
notwithstanding her declaration of its being conferred on me solely
because I was the first auditor who occurred, of intelligence enough to
comprehend it. With the presumption of my age, certainly not diminished
by my residence in France, I imagined that well-formed features, and a
handsome person, both which I conceived myself to possess, were not
unsuitable qualifications for the confidant of a young beauty. My vanity
thus enlisted in Miss Vernon's behalf, I was far from judging her with
severity, merely for a frankness which I supposed was in some degree
justified by my own personal merit; and the feelings of partiality, which
her beauty, and the singularity of her situation, were of themselves
calculated to excite, were enhanced by my opinion of her penetration and
judgment in her choice of a friend.
After Miss Vernon quitted the apartment, the bottle circulated, or rather
flew, around the table in unceasing revolution. My foreign education had
given me a distaste to intemperance, then and yet too common a vice among
my countrymen. The conversation which seasoned such orgies was as little
to my taste, and if anything could render it more disgusting, it was the
relationship of the company. I therefore seized a lucky opportunity, and
made my escape through a side door, leading I knew not whither, rather
than endure any longer the sight of father and sons practising the same
degrading intemperance, and holding the same coarse and disgusting
conversation. I was pursued, of course, as I had expected, to be
reclaimed by force, as a deserter from the shrine of Bacchus. When I
heard the whoop and hollo, and the tramp of the heavy boots of my
pursuers on the winding stair which I was descending, I plainly foresaw I
should be overtaken unless I could get into the open air. I therefore
threw open a casement in the staircase, which looked into an
old-fashioned garden, and as the height did not exceed six feet, I jumped
out without hesitation, and soon heard far behind the "hey whoop! stole
away! stole away!" of my baffled pursuers. I ran down one alley, walked
fast up another; and then, conceiving myself out of all danger of
pursuit, I slackened my pace into a quiet stroll, enjoying the cool air
which the heat of the wine I had been obliged to swallow, as well as that
of my rapid retreat, rendered doubly grateful.
As I sauntered on, I found the gardener hard at his evening employment,
and saluted him, as I paused to look at his work.
"Good even, my friend."
"Gude e'en--gude e'en t'ye," answered the man, without looking up, and in
a tone which at once indicated his northern extraction.
"Fine weather for your work, my friend."
"It's no that muckle to be compleened o'," answered the man, with that
limited degree of praise which gardeners and farmers usually bestow on
the very best weather. Then raising his head, as if to see who spoke to
him, he touched his Scotch bonnet with an air of respect, as he observed,
"Eh, gude safe us!--it's a sight for sair een, to see a gold-laced
jeistiecor in the Ha'garden sae late at e'en."
"A gold-laced what, my good friend?"
"Ou, a jeistiecor*--that's a jacket like your ain, there. They
* Perhaps from the French _Juste-au-corps._
hae other things to do wi' them up yonder--unbuttoning them to make room
for the beef and the bag-puddings, and the claret-wine, nae doubt--that's
the ordinary for evening lecture on this side the border."
"There's no such plenty of good cheer in your country, my good friend," I
replied, "as to tempt you to sit so late at it."
"Hout, sir, ye ken little about Scotland; it's no for want of gude
vivers--the best of fish, flesh, and fowl hae we, by sybos, ingans,
turneeps, and other garden fruit. But we hae mense and discretion, and
are moderate of our mouths;--but here, frae the kitchen to the ha', it's
fill and fetch mair, frae the tae end of the four-and-twenty till the
tother. Even their fast days--they ca' it fasting when they hae the best
o' sea-fish frae Hartlepool and Sunderland by land carriage, forbye
trouts, grilses, salmon, and a' the lave o't, and so they make their very
fasting a kind of luxury and abomination; and then the awfu' masses and
matins of the puir deceived souls--But I shouldna speak about them, for
your honour will be a Roman, I'se warrant, like the lave."
"Not I, my friend; I was bred an English presbyterian, or dissenter."
"The right hand of fellowship to your honour, then," quoth the gardener,
with as much alacrity as his hard features were capable of expressing,
and, as if to show that his good-will did not rest on words, he plucked
forth a huge horn snuff-box, or mull, as he called it, and proffered a
pinch with a most fraternal grin.
Having accepted his courtesy, I asked him if he had been long a domestic
at Osbaldistone Hall.
"I have been fighting with wild beasts at Ephesus," said he, looking
towards the building, "for the best part of these four-and-twenty years,
as sure as my name's Andrew Fairservice."
"But, my excellent friend, Andrew Fairservice, if your religion and your
temperance are so much offended by Roman rituals and southern
hospitality, it seems to me that you must have been putting yourself to
an unnecessary penance all this while, and that you might have found a
service where they eat less, and are more orthodox in their worship. I
dare say it cannot be want of skill which prevented your being placed
more to your satisfaction."
"It disna become me to speak to the point of my qualifications," said
Andrew, looking round him with great complacency; "but nae doubt I should
understand my trade of horticulture, seeing I was bred in the parish of
Dreepdaily, where they raise lang-kale under glass, and force the early
nettles for their spring kale. And, to speak truth, I hae been flitting
every term these four-and-twenty years; but when the time comes, there's
aye something to saw that I would like to see sawn,--or something to maw
that I would like to see mawn,--or something to ripe that I would like to
see ripen,--and sae I e'en daiker on wi' the family frae year's end to
year's end. And I wad say for certain, that I am gaun to quit at
Cannlemas, only I was just as positive on it twenty years syne, and I
find mysell still turning up the mouls here, for a' that. Forbye that, to
tell your honour the evendown truth, there's nae better place ever
offered to Andrew. But if your honour wad wush me to ony place where I
wad hear pure doctrine, and hae a free cow's grass, and a cot, and a
yard, and mair than ten punds of annual fee, and where there's nae leddy
about the town to count the apples, I'se hold mysell muckle indebted
"Bravo, Andrew! I perceive you'll lose no preferment for want of asking
"I canna see what for I should," replied Andrew; "it's no a generation to
wait till ane's worth's discovered, I trow."
"But you are no friend, I observe, to the ladies."
"Na, by my troth, I keep up the first gardener's quarrel to them. They're
fasheous bargains--aye crying for apricocks, pears, plums, and apples,
summer and winter, without distinction o' seasons; but we hae nae slices
o' the spare rib here, be praised for't! except auld Martha, and she's
weel eneugh pleased wi' the freedom o' the berry-bushes to her sister's
weans, when they come to drink tea in a holiday in the housekeeper's
room, and wi' a wheen codlings now and then for her ain private supper."
"You forget your young mistress."
"What mistress do I forget?--whae's that?"
"Your young mistress, Miss Vernon."
"What! the lassie Vernon?--She's nae mistress o' mine, man. I wish she
was her ain mistress; and I wish she mayna be some other body's mistress
or it's lang--She's a wild slip that."
"Indeed!" said I, more interested than I cared to own to myself, or to
show to the fellow--"why, Andrew, you know all the secrets of this
"If I ken them, I can keep them," said Andrew; "they winna work in my
wame like harm in a barrel, I'se warrant ye. Miss Die is--but it's
neither beef nor brose o' mine."
And he began to dig with a great semblance of assiduity.
"What is Miss Vernon, Andrew? I am a friend of the family, and should
like to know."
"Other than a gude ane, I'm fearing," said Andrew, closing one eye hard,
and shaking his head with a grave and mysterious look--"something
glee'd--your honour understands me?"
"I cannot say I do," said I, "Andrew; but I should like to hear you
explain yourself;" and therewithal I slipped a crown-piece into Andrew's
horn-hard hand. The touch of the silver made him grin a ghastly smile, as
he nodded slowly, and thrust it into his breeches pocket; and then, like
a man who well understood that there was value to be returned, stood up,
and rested his arms on his spade, with his features composed into the
most important gravity, as for some serious communication.
"Ye maun ken, then, young gentleman, since it imports you to know, that
Miss Vernon is"--
Here breaking off, he sucked in both his cheeks, till his lantern jaws
and long chin assumed the appearance of a pair of nut-crackers; winked
hard once more, frowned, shook his head, and seemed to think his
physiognomy had completed the information which his tongue had not fully
"Good God!" said I--"so young, so beautiful, so early lost!"
"Troth ye may say sae--she's in a manner lost, body and saul; forby being
a Papist, I'se uphaud her for"--and his northern caution prevailed, and
he was again silent.
"For what, sir?" said I sternly. "I insist on knowing the plain meaning
of all this."
"On, just for the bitterest Jacobite in the haill shire."
"Pshaw! a Jacobite?--is that all?"
Andrew looked at me with some astonishment, at hearing his information
treated so lightly; and then muttering, "Aweel, it's the warst thing I
ken aboot the lassie, howsoe'er," he resumed his spade, like the king of
the Vandals, in Marmontel's late novel.
_Bardolph._--The sheriff, with a monstrous watch, is at the door.
Henry IV. _First Part._
I found out with some difficulty the apartment which was destined for my
accommodation; and having secured myself the necessary good-will and
attention from my uncle's domestics, by using the means they were most
capable of comprehending, I secluded myself there for the remainder of
the evening, conjecturing, from the fair way in which I had left my new
relatives, as well as from the distant noise which continued to echo from
the stone-hall (as their banqueting-room was called), that they were not
likely to be fitting company for a sober man.
"What could my father mean by sending me to be an inmate in this strange
family?" was my first and most natural reflection. My uncle, it was
plain, received me as one who was to make some stay with him, and his
rude hospitality rendered him as indifferent as King Hal to the number of
those who fed at his cost. But it was plain my presence or absence would
be of as little importance in his eyes as that of one of his blue-coated
serving-men. My cousins were mere cubs, in whose company I might, if I
liked it, unlearn whatever decent manners, or elegant accomplishments, I
had acquired, but where I could attain no information beyond what
regarded worming dogs, rowelling horses, and following foxes. I could
only imagine one reason, which was probably the true one. My father
considered the life which was led at Osbaldistone Hall as the natural and
inevitable pursuits of all country gentlemen, and he was desirous, by
giving me an opportunity of seeing that with which he knew I should be
disgusted, to reconcile me, if possible, to take an active share in his
own business. In the meantime, he would take Rashleigh Osbaldistone into
the counting-house. But he had an hundred modes of providing for him, and
that advantageously, whenever he chose to get rid of him. So that,
although I did feel a certain qualm of conscience at having been the
means of introducing Rashleigh, being such as he was described by Miss
Vernon, into my father's business--perhaps into his confidence--I subdued
it by the reflection that my father was complete master of his own
affairs--a man not to be imposed upon, or influenced by any one--and that
all I knew to the young gentleman's prejudice was through the medium of a
singular and giddy girl, whose communications were made with an
injudicious frankness, which might warrant me in supposing her
conclusions had been hastily or inaccurately formed. Then my mind
naturally turned to Miss Vernon herself; her extreme beauty; her very
peculiar situation, relying solely upon her reflections, and her own
spirit, for guidance and protection; and her whole character offering
that variety and spirit which piques our curiosity, and engages our
attention in spite of ourselves. I had sense enough to consider the
neighbourhood of this singular young lady, and the chance of our being
thrown into very close and frequent intercourse, as adding to the
dangers, while it relieved the dulness, of Osbaldistone Hall; but I could
not, with the fullest exertion of my prudence, prevail upon myself to
regret excessively this new and particular hazard to which I was to be
exposed. This scruple I also settled as young men settle most
difficulties of the kind--I would be very cautious, always on my guard,
consider Miss Vernon rather as a companion than an intimate; and all
would do well enough. With these reflections I fell asleep, Miss Vernon,
of course, forming the last subject of my contemplation.
Whether I dreamed of her or not, I cannot satisfy you, for I was tired
and slept soundly. But she was the first person I thought of in the
morning, when waked at dawn by the cheerful notes of the hunting horn. To
start up, and direct my horse to be saddled, was my first movement; and
in a few minutes I was in the court-yard, where men, dogs, and horses,
were in full preparation. My uncle, who, perhaps, was not entitled to
expect a very alert sportsman in his nephew, bred as he had been in
foreign parts, seemed rather surprised to see me, and I thought his
morning salutation wanted something of the hearty and hospitable tone
which distinguished his first welcome. "Art there, lad?--ay, youth's aye
rathe--but look to thysell--mind the old song, lad--
He that gallops his horse on Blackstone edge
May chance to catch a fall."
I believe there are few young men, and those very sturdy moralists, who
would not rather be taxed with some moral peccadillo than with want of
knowledge in horsemanship. As I was by no means deficient either in skill
or courage, I resented my uncle's insinuation accordingly, and assured
him he would find me up with the hounds.
"I doubtna, lad," was his reply; "thou'rt a rank rider, I'se warrant
thee--but take heed. Thy father sent thee here to me to be bitted, and I
doubt I must ride thee on the curb, or we'll hae some one to ride thee on
the halter, if I takena the better heed."
As this speech was totally unintelligible to me--as, besides, it did not
seem to be delivered for my use, or benefit, but was spoken as it were
aside, and as if expressing aloud something which was passing through the
mind of my much-honoured uncle, I concluded it must either refer to my
desertion of the bottle on the preceding evening, or that my uncle's
morning hours being a little discomposed by the revels of the night
before, his temper had suffered in proportion. I only made the passing
reflection, that if he played the ungracious landlord, I would remain the
shorter while his guest, and then hastened to salute Miss Vernon, who
advanced cordially to meet me. Some show of greeting also passed between
my cousins and me; but as I saw them maliciously bent upon criticising my
dress and accoutrements, from the cap to the stirrup-irons, and sneering
at whatever had a new or foreign appearance, I exempted myself from the
task of paying them much attention; and assuming, in requital of their
grins and whispers, an air of the utmost indifference and contempt, I
attached myself to Miss Vernon, as the only person in the party whom I
could regard as a suitable companion. By her side, therefore, we sallied
forth to the destined cover, which was a dingle or copse on the side of
an extensive common. As we rode thither, I observed to Diana, "that I did
not see my cousin Rashleigh in the field;" to which she replied,--"O
no--he's a mighty hunter, but it's after the fashion of Nimrod, and his
game is man."
The dogs now brushed into the cover, with the appropriate encouragement
from the hunters--all was business, bustle, and activity. My cousins were
soon too much interested in the business of the morning to take any
further notice of me, unless that I overheard Dickon the horse-jockey
whisper to Wilfred the fool--"Look thou, an our French cousin be nat off
a' first burst."
To which Wilfred answered, "Like enow, for he has a queer outlandish
binding on's castor."
Thorncliff, however, who in his rude way seemed not absolutely insensible
to the beauty of his kinswoman, appeared determined to keep us company
more closely than his brothers,--perhaps to watch what passed betwixt
Miss Vernon and me--perhaps to enjoy my expected mishaps in the chase. In
the last particular he was disappointed. After beating in vain for the
greater part of the morning, a fox was at length found, who led us a
chase of two hours, in the course of which, notwithstanding the
ill-omened French binding upon my hat, I sustained my character as a
horseman to the admiration of my uncle and Miss Vernon, and the secret
disappointment of those who expected me to disgrace it. Reynard, however,
proved too wily for his pursuers, and the hounds were at fault. I could
at this time observe in Miss Vernon's manner an impatience of the close
attendance which we received from Thorncliff Osbaldistone; and, as that
active-spirited young lady never hesitated at taking the readiest means
to gratify any wish of the moment, she said to him, in a tone of
reproach--"I wonder, Thornie, what keeps you dangling at my horse's
crupper all this morning, when you know the earths above Woolverton-mill
are not stopt."
"I know no such an thing then, Miss Die, for the miller swore himself as
black as night, that he stopt them at twelve o'clock midnight that was."
"O fie upon you, Thornie! would you trust to a miller's word?--and these
earths, too, where we lost the fox three times this season! and you on
your grey mare, that can gallop there and back in ten minutes!"
"Well, Miss Die, I'se go to Woolverton then, and if the earths are not
stopt, I'se raddle Dick the miller's bones for him."
"Do, my dear Thornie; horsewhip the rascal to purpose--via--fly away, and
about it;"--Thorncliff went off at the gallop--"or get horsewhipt
yourself, which will serve my purpose just as well.--I must teach them
all discipline and obedience to the word of command. I am raising a
regiment, you must know. Thornie shall be my sergeant-major, Dickon my
riding-master, and Wilfred, with his deep dub-a-dub tones, that speak but
three syllables at a time, my kettle-drummer."
"Rashleigh shall be my scout-master." "And will you find no employment
for me, most lovely colonel?"
"You shall have the choice of being pay-master, or plunder-master, to the
corps. But see how the dogs puzzle about there. Come, Mr. Frank, the
scent's cold; they won't recover it there this while; follow me, I have a
view to show you."
And in fact, she cantered up to the top of a gentle hill, commanding an
extensive prospect. Casting her eyes around, to see that no one was near
us, she drew up her horse beneath a few birch-trees, which screened us
from the rest of the hunting-field--"Do you see yon peaked, brown, heathy
hill, having something like a whitish speck upon the side?"
"Terminating that long ridge of broken moorish uplands?--I see it
"That whitish speck is a rock called Hawkesmore-crag, and Hawkesmore-crag
is in Scotland."
"Indeed! I did not think we had been so near Scotland."
"It is so, I assure you, and your horse will carry you there in two
"I shall hardly give him the trouble; why, the distance must be eighteen
miles as the crow flies."
"You may have my mare, if you think her less blown--I say, that in two
hours you may be in Scotland."
"And I say, that I have so little desire to be there, that if my horse's
head were over the Border, I would not give his tail the trouble of
following. What should I do in Scotland?"
"Provide for your safety, if I must speak plainly. Do you understand me
now, Mr. Frank?"
"Not a whit; you are more and more oracular."
"Then, on my word, you either mistrust me most unjustly, and are a better
dissembler than Rashleigh Osbaldistone himself, or you know nothing of
what is imputed to you; and then no wonder you stare at me in that grave
manner, which I can scarce see without laughing."
"Upon my word of honour, Miss Vernon," said I, with an impatient feeling
of her childish disposition to mirth, "I have not the most distant
conception of what you mean. I am happy to afford you any subject of
amusement, but I am quite ignorant in what it consists."
"Nay, there's no sound jest after all," said the young lady, composing
herself; "only one looks so very ridiculous when he is fairly perplexed.
But the matter is serious enough. Do you know one Moray, or Morris, or
some such name?"
"Not that I can at present recollect."
"Think a moment. Did you not lately travel with somebody of such a name?"
"The only man with whom I travelled for any length of time was a fellow
whose soul seemed to lie in his portmanteau."
"Then it was like the soul of the licentiate Pedro Garcias, which lay
among the ducats in his leathern purse. That man has been robbed, and he
has lodged an information against you, as connected with the violence
done to him."
"You jest, Miss Vernon!"
"I do not, I assure you--the thing is an absolute fact."
"And do you," said I, with strong indignation, which I did not attempt to
suppress, "do you suppose me capable of meriting such a charge?"
"You would call me out for it, I suppose, had I the advantage of being a
man--You may do so as it is, if you like it--I can shoot flying, as well
as leap a five-barred gate."
"And are colonel of a regiment of horse besides," replied I, reflecting
how idle it was to be angry with her--"But do explain the present jest to
"There's no jest whatever," said Diana; "you are accused of robbing this
man, and my uncle believes it as well as I did."
"Upon my honour, I am greatly obliged to my friends for their good
"Now do not, if you can help it, snort, and stare, and snuff the wind,
and look so exceedingly like a startled horse--There's no such offence as
you suppose--you are not charged with any petty larceny or vulgar
felony--by no means. This fellow was carrying money from Government, both
specie and bills, to pay the troops in the north; and it is said he has
been also robbed of some despatches of great consequence."
"And so it is high treason, then, and not simple robbery, of which I am
"Certainly--which, you know, has been in all ages accounted the crime of
a gentleman. You will find plenty in this country, and one not far from
your elbow, who think it a merit to distress the Hanoverian government by
every means possible."
"Neither my politics nor my morals, Miss Vernon, are of a description so
"I really begin to believe that you are a Presbyterian and Hanoverian in
good earnest. But what do you propose to do?"
"Instantly to refute this atrocious calumny.--Before whom," I asked, "was
this extraordinary accusation laid."
"Before old Squire Inglewood, who had sufficient unwillingness to receive
it. He sent tidings to my uncle, I suppose, that he might smuggle you
away into Scotland, out of reach of the warrant. But my uncle is sensible
that his religion and old predilections render him obnoxious to
Government, and that, were he caught playing booty, he would be disarmed,
and probably dismounted (which would be the worse evil of the two), as a
Jacobite, papist, and suspected person."*
* On occasions of public alarm, in the beginning of the eighteenth
century, the horses of the Catholics were often seized upon, as they were
always supposed to be on the eve of rising in rebellion.
"I can conceive that, sooner than lose his hunters, he would give up his
"His nephew, nieces, sons--daughters, if he had them, and whole
generation," said Diana;--"therefore trust not to him, even for a single
moment, but make the best of your way before they can serve the warrant."
"That I shall certainly do; but it shall be to the house of this Squire
Inglewood--Which way does it lie?"
"About five miles off, in the low ground, behind yonder plantations--you
may see the tower of the clock-house."
"I will be there in a few minutes," said I, putting my horse in motion.
"And I will go with you, and show you the way," said Diana, putting her
palfrey also to the trot.
"Do not think of it, Miss Vernon," I replied. "It is not--permit me the
freedom of a friend--it is not proper, scarcely even delicate, in you to
go with me on such an errand as I am now upon."
"I understand your meaning," said Miss Vernon, a slight blush crossing
her haughty brow;--"it is plainly spoken;" and after a moment's pause she
added, "and I believe kindly meant."
"It is indeed, Miss Vernon. Can you think me insensible of the interest
you show me, or ungrateful for it?" said I, with even more earnestness
than I could have wished to express. "Yours is meant for true kindness,
shown best at the hour of need. But I must not, for your own sake--for
the chance of misconstruction--suffer you to pursue the dictates of your
generosity; this is so public an occasion--it is almost like venturing
into an open court of justice."
"And if it were not almost, but altogether entering into an open court of
justice, do you think I would not go there if I thought it right, and
wished to protect a friend? You have no one to stand by you--you are a
stranger; and here, in the outskirts of the kingdom, country justices do
odd things. My uncle has no desire to embroil himself in your affair;
Rashleigh is absent, and were he here, there is no knowing which side he
might take; the rest are all more stupid and brutal one than another. I
will go with you, and I do not fear being able to serve you. I am no fine
lady, to be terrified to death with law-books, hard words, or big wigs."
"But my dear Miss Vernon"--
"But my dear Mr. Francis, be patient and quiet, and let me take my own
way; for when I take the bit between my teeth, there is no bridle will
Flattered with the interest so lovely a creature seemed to take in my
fate, yet vexed at the ridiculous appearance I should make, by carrying a
girl of eighteen along with me as an advocate, and seriously concerned
for the misconstruction to which her motives might be exposed, I
endeavoured to combat her resolution to accompany me to Squire
Inglewood's. The self-willed girl told me roundly, that my dissuasions
were absolutely in vain; that she was a true Vernon, whom no
consideration, not even that of being able to do but little to assist
him, should induce to abandon a friend in distress; and that all I could
say on the subject might be very well for pretty, well-educated,
well-behaved misses from a town boarding-school, but did not apply to
her, who was accustomed to mind nobody's opinion but her own.
While she spoke thus, we were advancing hastily towards Inglewood Place,
while, as if to divert me from the task of further remonstrance, she drew
a ludicrous picture of the magistrate and his clerk.--Inglewood
was--according to her description--a white-washed Jacobite; that is, one
who, having been long a non-juror, like most of the other gentlemen of the
country, had lately qualified himself to act as a justice, by taking the
oaths to Government. "He had done so," she said, "in compliance with the
urgent request of most of his brother squires, who saw, with regret, that
the palladium of silvan sport, the game-laws, were likely to fall into
disuse for want of a magistrate who would enforce them; the nearest
acting justice being the Mayor of Newcastle, and he, as being rather
inclined to the consumption of the game when properly dressed, than to
its preservation when alive, was more partial, of course, to the cause of
the poacher than of the sportsman. Resolving, therefore, that it was
expedient some one of their number should sacrifice the scruples of
Jacobitical loyalty to the good of the community, the Northumbrian
country gentlemen imposed the duty on Inglewood, who, being very inert in
most of his feelings and sentiments, might, they thought, comply with any
political creed without much repugnance. Having thus procured the body of
justice, they proceeded," continued Miss Vernon, "to attach to it a
clerk, by way of soul, to direct and animate its movements. Accordingly
they got a sharp Newcastle attorney, called Jobson, who, to vary my
metaphor, finds it a good thing enough to retail justice at the sign of
Squire Inglewood, and, as his own emoluments depend on the quantity of
business which he transacts, he hooks in his principal for a great deal
more employment in the justice line than the honest squire had ever
bargained for; so that no apple-wife within the circuit of ten miles can
settle her account with a costermonger without an audience of the
reluctant Justice and his alert clerk, Mr. Joseph Jobson. But the most
ridiculous scenes occur when affairs come before him, like our business
of to-day, having any colouring of politics. Mr. Joseph Jobson (for
which, no doubt, he has his own very sufficient reasons) is a prodigious
zealot for the Protestant religion, and a great friend to the present
establishment in church and state. Now, his principal, retaining a sort
of instinctive attachment to the opinions which he professed openly until
he relaxed his political creed with the patriotic view of enforcing the
law against unauthorized destroyers of black-game, grouse, partridges,
and hares, is peculiarly embarrassed when the zeal of his assistant
involves him in judicial proceedings connected with his earlier faith;
and, instead of seconding his zeal, he seldom fails to oppose to it a
double dose of indolence and lack of exertion. And this inactivity does
not by any means arise from actual stupidity. On the contrary, for one
whose principal delight is in eating and drinking, he is an alert,
joyous, and lively old soul, which makes his assumed dulness the more
diverting. So you may see Jobson on such occasions, like a bit of a
broken down blood-tit condemned to drag an overloaded cart, puffing,
strutting, and spluttering, to get the Justice put in motion, while,
though the wheels groan, creak, and revolve slowly, the great and
preponderating weight of the vehicle fairly frustrates the efforts of the
willing quadruped, and prevents its being brought into a state of actual
progression. Nay more, the unfortunate pony, I understand, has been heard
to complain that this same car of justice, which he finds it so hard to
put in motion on some occasions, can on others run fast enough down hill
of its own accord, dragging his reluctant self backwards along with it,
when anything can be done of service to Squire Inglewood's quondam
friends. And then Mr. Jobson talks big about reporting his principal to
the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if it were not for his
particular regard and friendship for Mr. Inglewood and his family."
As Miss Vernon concluded this whimsical description, we found ourselves
in front of Inglewood Place, a handsome, though old-fashioned building.
which showed the consequence of the family.
"Sir," quoth the Lawyer, "not to flatter ye,
You have as good and fair a battery
As heart could wish, and need not shame
The proudest man alive to claim."
Our horses were taken by a servant in Sir Hildebrand's livery, whom we
found in the court-yard, and we entered the house. In the entrance-hall I
was somewhat surprised, and my fair companion still more so, when we met
Rashleigh Osbaldistone, who could not help showing equal wonder at our
"Rashleigh," said Miss Vernon, without giving him time to ask any
question, "you have heard of Mr. Francis Osbaldistone's affair, and you
have been talking to the Justice about it?"
"Certainly," said Rashleigh, composedly--"it has been my business here.--
I have been endeavouring," he said, with a bow to me, "to render my
cousin what service I can. But I am sorry to meet him here."
"As a friend and relation, Mr. Osbaldistone, you ought to have been sorry
to have met me anywhere else, at a time when the charge of my reputation
required me to be on this spot as soon as possible."
"True; but judging from what my father said, I should have supposed a
short retreat into Scotland--just till matters should be smoothed over in
a quiet way"--
I answered with warmth, "That I had no prudential measures to observe,
and desired to have nothing smoothed over;--on the contrary, I was come
to inquire into a rascally calumny, which I was determined to probe to
"Mr. Francis Osbaldistone is an innocent man, Rashleigh," said Miss
Vernon, "and he demands an investigation of the charge against him, and I
intend to support him in it."
"You do, my pretty cousin?--I should think, now, Mr. Francis Osbaldistone
was likely to be as effectually, and rather more delicately, supported by
my presence than by yours."
"Oh, certainly; but two heads are better than one, you know."
"Especially such a head as yours, my pretty Die," advancing and taking
her hand with a familiar fondness, which made me think him fifty times
uglier than nature had made him. She led him, however, a few steps aside;
they conversed in an under voice, and she appeared to insist upon some
request which he was unwilling or unable to comply with. I never saw so
strong a contrast betwixt the expression of two faces. Miss Vernon's,
from being earnest, became angry; her eyes and cheeks became more
animated, her colour mounted, she clenched her little hand, and stamping
on the ground with her tiny foot, seemed to listen with a mixture of
contempt and indignation to the apologies, which, from his look of civil
deference, his composed and respectful smile, his body rather drawing
back than advanced, and other signs of look and person, I concluded him
to be pouring out at her feet. At length she flung away from him, with "I
_will_ have it so."
"It is not in my power--there is no possibility of it.--Would you think
it, Mr. Osbaldistone?" said he, addressing me--
"You are not mad?" said she, interrupting him.
"Would you think it?" said he, without attending to her hint--"Miss
Vernon insists, not only that I know your innocence (of which, indeed, it
is impossible for any one to be more convinced), but that I must also be
acquainted with the real perpetrators of the outrage on this fellow--if
indeed such an outrage has been committed. Is this reasonable, Mr.
"I will not allow any appeal to Mr. Osbaldistone, Rashleigh," said the
young lady; "he does not know, as I do, the incredible extent and
accuracy of your information on all points."
"As I am a gentleman, you do me more honour than I deserve."
"Justice, Rashleigh--only justice:--and it is only justice which I expect
at your hands."
"You are a tyrant, Diana," he answered, with a sort of sigh--"a
capricious tyrant, and rule your friends with a rod of iron. Still,
however, it shall be as you desire. But you ought not to be here--you
know you ought not;--you must return with me."
Then turning from Diana, who seemed to stand undecided, he came up to me
in the most friendly manner, and said, "Do not doubt my interest in what
regards you, Mr. Osbaldistone. If I leave you just at this moment, it is
only to act for your advantage. But you must use your influence with your
cousin to return; her presence cannot serve you, and must prejudice
"I assure you, sir," I replied, "you cannot be more convinced of this
than I; I have urged Miss Vernon's return as anxiously as she would
permit me to do."
"I have thought on it," said Miss Vernon after a pause, "and I will not
go till I see you safe out of the hands of the Philistines. Cousin
Rashleigh, I dare say, means well; but he and I know each other well.
Rashleigh, I will not go;--I know," she added, in a more soothing tone,
"my being here will give you more motive for speed and exertion."
"Stay then, rash, obstinate girl," said Rashleigh; "you know but too well
to whom you trust;" and hastening out of the hall, we heard his horse's
feet a minute afterwards in rapid motion.
"Thank Heaven he is gone!" said Diana. "And now let us seek out the
"Had we not better call a servant?"
"Oh, by no means; I know the way to his den--we must burst on him
I did follow her accordingly, as she tripped up a few gloomy steps,
traversed a twilight passage, and entered a sort of ante-room, hung round
with old maps, architectural elevations, and genealogical trees. A pair
of folding-doors opened from this into Mr. Inglewood's sitting apartment,
from which was heard the fag-end of an old ditty, chanted by a voice
which had been in its day fit for a jolly bottle-song.
"O, in Skipton-in-Craven
Is never a haven,
But many a day foul weather;
And he that would say
A pretty girl nay,
I wish for his cravat a tether."
"Heyday!" said Miss Vernon, "the genial Justice must have dined
already--I did not think it had been so late."
It was even so. Mr. Inglewood's appetite having been sharpened by his
official investigations, he had antedated his meridian repast, having
dined at twelve instead of one o'clock, then the general dining hour in
England. The various occurrences of the morning occasioned our arriving
some time after this hour, to the Justice the most important of the
four-and-twenty, and he had not neglected the interval.
"Stay you here," said Diana. "I know the house, and I will call a
servant; your sudden appearance might startle the old gentleman even to
choking;" and she escaped from me, leaving me uncertain whether I ought
to advance or retreat. It was impossible for me not to hear some part of
what passed within the dinner apartment, and particularly several
apologies for declining to sing, expressed in a dejected croaking voice,
the tones of which, I conceived, were not entirely new to me.
"Not sing, sir? by our Lady! but you must--What! you have cracked my
silver-mounted cocoa-nut of sack, and tell me that you cannot sing!--Sir,
sack will make a cat sing, and speak too; so up with a merry stave, or
trundle yourself out of my doors!--Do you think you are to take up all my
valuable time with your d-d declarations, and then tell me you cannot
"Your worship is perfectly in rule," said another voice, which, from its
pert conceited accent, might be that of the cleric, "and the party must
be conformable; he hath _canet_ written on his face in court hand."
"Up with it then," said the Justice, "or by St. Christopher, you shall
crack the cocoa-nut full of salt-and-water, according to the statute for
such effect made and provided."
Thus exhorted and threatened, my quondam fellow-traveller, for I could no
longer doubt that he was the recusant in question, uplifted, with a voice
similar to that of a criminal singing his last psalm on the scaffold, a
most doleful stave to the following effect:--
"Good people all, I pray give ear,
A woeful story you shall hear,
'Tis of a robber as stout as ever
Bade a true man stand and deliver.
With his foodle doo fa loodle loo.
"This knave, most worthy of a cord,
Being armed with pistol and with sword,
'Twixt Kensington and Brentford then
Did boldly stop six honest men.
With his foodle doo, etc.
"These honest men did at Brentford dine,
Having drank each man his pint of wine,
When this bold thief, with many curses,
Did say, You dogs, your lives or purses.
With his foodle doo," etc.
I question if the honest men, whose misfortune is commemorated in this
pathetic ditty, were more startled at the appearance of the bold thief
than the songster was at mine; for, tired of waiting for some one to
announce me, and finding my situation as a listener rather awkward, I
presented myself to the company just as my friend Mr. Morris, for such,
it seems, was his name, was uplifting the fifth stave of his doleful
ballad. The high tone with which the tune started died away in a quaver
of consternation on finding himself so near one whose character he
supposed to be little less suspicious than that of the hero of his
madrigal, and he remained silent, with a mouth gaping as if I had brought
the Gorgon's head in my hand.
The Justice, whose eyes had closed under the influence of the somniferous
lullaby of the song, started up in his chair as it suddenly ceased, and
stared with wonder at the unexpected addition which the company had
received while his organs of sight were in abeyance. The clerk, as I
conjectured him to be from his appearance, was also commoved; for,
sitting opposite to Mr. Morris, that honest gentleman's terror
communicated itself to him, though he wotted not why.
[Illustration: Frank at Judge Inglewood's--104]
I broke the silence of surprise occasioned by my abrupt entrance.--"My
name, Mr. Inglewood, is Francis Osbaldistone; I understand that some
scoundrel has brought a complaint before you, charging me with being
concerned in a loss which he says he has sustained."
"Sir," said the Justice, somewhat peevishly, "these are matters I never
enter upon after dinner;--there is a time for everything, and a justice
of peace must eat as well as other folks."
The goodly person of Mr. Inglewood, by the way, seemed by no means to
have suffered by any fasts, whether in the service of the law or of
"I beg pardon for an ill-timed visit, sir; but as my reputation is
concerned, and as the dinner appears to be concluded"--
"It is not concluded, sir," replied the magistrate; "man requires
digestion as well as food, and I protest I cannot have benefit from my
victuals unless I am allowed two hours of quiet leisure, intermixed with
harmless mirth, and a moderate circulation of the bottle."
"If your honour will forgive me," said Mr. Jobson, who had produced and
arranged his writing implements in the brief space that our conversation
afforded; "as this is a case of felony, and the gentleman seems something
impatient, the charge is _contra pacem domini regis_"--
"D--n _dominie regis!_" said the impatient Justice--"I hope it's no
treason to say so; but it's enough to made one mad to be worried in this
way. Have I a moment of my life quiet for warrants, orders, directions,
acts, bails, bonds, and recognisances?--I pronounce to you, Mr. Jobson,
that I shall send you and the justiceship to the devil one of these
"Your honour will consider the dignity of the office one of the quorum
and custos rotulorum, an office of which Sir Edward Coke wisely saith,
The whole Christian world hath not the like of it, so it be duly
"Well," said the Justice, partly reconciled by this eulogium on the
dignity of his situation, and gulping down the rest of his
dissatisfaction in a huge bumper of claret, "let us to this gear then,
and get rid of it as fast as we can.--Here you, sir--you, Morris--you,
knight of the sorrowful countenance--is this Mr. Francis Osbaldistone the
gentleman whom you charge with being art and part of felony?"
"I, sir?" replied Morris, whose scattered wits had hardly yet reassembled
themselves; "I charge nothing--I say nothing against the gentleman,"
"Then we dismiss your complaint, sir, that's all, and a good riddance--
Back to Full Books