Glen Discovery in GlenLyon
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Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott vol i Chapters fifteenth and sixteenth

Project Gutenberg's Rob Roy, Complete, by Sir Walter Scott

  Whence, and what art you?

After exhausting a sleepless night in meditating on the intelligence I had received, I was at first inclined to think that I ought, as speedily as possible, to return to London, and by my open appearance repel the calumny which had been spread against me. But I hesitated to take this course on recollection of my father's disposition, singularly absolute in his decisions as to all that concerned his family. He was most able, certainly, from experience, to direct what I ought to do, and from his acquaintance with the most distinguished Whigs then in power, had influence enough to obtain a hearing for my cause. So, upon the whole, I judged it most safe to state my whole story in the shape of a narrative, addressed to my father; and as the ordinary opportunities of intercourse between the Hall and the post-town recurred rarely, I determined to ride to the town, which was about ten miles' distance, and deposit my letter in the post-office with my own hands.

Indeed I began to think it strange that though several weeks had elapsed since my departure from home, I had received no letter, either from my father or Owen, although Rashleigh had written to Sir Hildebrand of his safe arrival in London, and of the kind reception he had met with from his uncle. Admitting that I might have been to blame, I did not deserve, in my own opinion at least, to be so totally forgotten by my father; and I thought my present excursion might have the effect of bringing a letter from him to hand more early than it would otherwise have reached me. But before concluding my letter concerning the affair of Morris, I failed not to express my earnest hope and wish that my father would honour me with a few lines, were it but to express his advice and commands in an affair of some difficulty, and where my knowledge of life could not be supposed adequate to my own guidance. I found it impossible to prevail on myself to urge my actual return to London as a place of residence, and I disguised my unwillingness to do so under apparent submission to my father's will, which, as I imposed it on myself as a sufficient reason for not urging my final departure from Osbaldistone Hall, would, I doubted not, be received as such by my parent. But I begged permission to come to London, for a short time at least, to meet and refute the infamous calumnies which had been circulated concerning me in so public a manner. Having made up my packet, in which my earnest desire to vindicate my character was strangely blended with reluctance to quit my present place of residence, I rode over to the post-town, and deposited my letter in the office. By doing so, I obtained possession, somewhat earlier than I should otherwise have done, of the following letter from my friend Mr. Owen:--

“Dear Mr. Francis,

“Yours received per favour of Mr. R. Osbaldistone, and note the contents. Shall do Mr. R. O. such civilities as are in my power, and have taken him to see the Bank and Custom-house. He seems a sober, steady young gentleman, and takes to business; so will be of service to the firm. Could have wished another person had turned his mind that way; but God's will be done. As cash may be scarce in those parts, have to trust you will excuse my enclosing a goldsmith's bill at six days' sight, on Messrs. Hooper and Girder of Newcastle, for L100, which I doubt not will be duly honoured.--I remain, as in duty bound, dear Mr. Frank, your very respectful and obedient servant,

“Joseph Owen.

“_Postscriptum._--Hope you will advise the above coming safe to hand. Am sorry we have so few of yours. Your father says he is as usual, but looks poorly.”

From this epistle, written in old Owen's formal style, I was rather surprised to observe that he made no acknowledgment of that private letter which I had written to him, with a view to possess him of Rashleigh's real character, although, from the course of post, it seemed certain that he ought to have received it. Yet I had sent it by the usual conveyance from the Hall, and had no reason to suspect that it could miscarry upon the road. As it comprised matters of great importance both to my father and to myself, I sat down in the post-office and again wrote to Owen, recapitulating the heads of my former letter, and requesting to know, in course of post, if it had reached him in safety. I also acknowledged the receipt of the bill, and promised to make use of the contents if I should have any occasion for money. I thought, indeed, it was odd that my father should leave the care of supplying my necessities to his clerk; but I concluded it was a matter arranged between them. At any rate, Owen was a bachelor, rich in his way, and passionately attached to me, so that I had no hesitation in being obliged to him for a small sum, which I resolved to consider as a loan, to be returned with my earliest ability, in case it was not previously repaid by my father; and I expressed myself to this purpose to Mr. Owen. A shopkeeper in a little town, to whom the post-master directed me, readily gave me in gold the amount of my bill on Messrs. Hooper and Girder, so that I returned to Osbaldistone Hall a good deal richer than I had set forth. This recruit to my finances was not a matter of indifference to me, as I was necessarily involved in some expenses at Osbaldistone Hall; and I had seen, with some uneasy impatience, that the sum which my travelling expenses had left unexhausted at my arrival there was imperceptibly diminishing. This source of anxiety was for the present removed. On my arrival at the Hall I found that Sir Hildebrand and all his offspring had gone down to the little hamlet, called Trinlay-knowes, “to see,” as Andrew Fairservice expressed it, “a wheen midden cocks pike ilk ither's barns out.”

“It is indeed a brutal amusement, Andrew; I suppose you have none such in Scotland?”

“Na, na,” answered Andrew boldly; then shaded away his negative with, “unless it be on Fastern's-e'en, or the like o' that--But indeed it's no muckle matter what the folk do to the midden pootry, for they had siccan a skarting and scraping in the yard, that there's nae getting a bean or pea keepit for them.--But I am wondering what it is that leaves that turret-door open;--now that Mr. Rashleigh's away, it canna be him, I trow.”

The turret-door to which he alluded opened to the garden at the bottom of a winding stair, leading down from Mr. Rashleigh's apartment. This, as I have already mentioned, was situated in a sequestered part of the house, communicating with the library by a private entrance, and by another intricate and dark vaulted passage with the rest of the house. A long narrow turf walk led, between two high holly hedges, from the turret-door to a little postern in the wall of the garden. By means of these communications Rashleigh, whose movements were very independent of those of the rest of his family, could leave the Hall or return to it at pleasure, without his absence or presence attracting any observation. But during his absence the stair and the turret-door were entirely disused, and this made Andrew's observation somewhat remarkable.

“Have you often observed that door open?” was my question.

“No just that often neither; but I hae noticed it ance or twice. I'm thinking it maun hae been the priest, Father Vaughan, as they ca' him. Ye'll no catch ane o' the servants gauging up that stair, puir frightened heathens that they are, for fear of bogles and brownies, and lang-nebbit things frae the neist warld. But Father Vaughan thinks himself a privileged person--set him up and lay him down!--I'se be caution the warst stibbler that ever stickit a sermon out ower the Tweed yonder, wad lay a ghaist twice as fast as him, wi' his holy water and his idolatrous trinkets. I dinna believe he speaks gude Latin neither; at least he disna take me up when I tell him the learned names o' the plants.”

Of Father Vaughan, who divided his time and his ghostly care between Osbaldistone Hall and about half a dozen mansions of Catholic gentlemen in the neighbourhood, I have as yet said nothing, for I had seen but little. He was aged about sixty--of a good family, as I was given to understand, in the north--of a striking and imposing presence, grave in his exterior, and much respected among the Catholics of Northumberland as a worthy and upright man. Yet Father Vaughan did not altogether lack those peculiarities which distinguish his order. There hung about him an air of mystery, which, in Protestant eyes, savoured of priestcraft. The natives (such they might be well termed) of Osbaldistone Hall looked up to him with much more fear, or at least more awe, than affection. His condemnation of their revels was evident, from their being discontinued in some measure when the priest was a resident at the Hall. Even Sir Hildebrand himself put some restraint upon his conduct at such times, which, perhaps, rendered Father Vaughan's presence rather irksome than otherwise. He had the well-bred, insinuating, and almost flattering address peculiar to the clergy of his persuasion, especially in England, where the lay Catholic, hemmed in by penal laws, and by the restrictions of his sect and recommendation of his pastor, often exhibits a reserved, and almost a timid manner in the society of Protestants; while the priest, privileged by his order to mingle with persons of all creeds, is open, alert, and liberal in his intercourse with them, desirous of popularity, and usually skilful in the mode of obtaining it.

Father Vaughan was a particular acquaintance of Rashleigh's, otherwise, in all probability, he would scarce have been able to maintain his footing at Osbaldistone Hall. This gave me no desire to cultivate his intimacy, nor did he seem to make any advances towards mine; so our occasional intercourse was confined to the exchange of mere civility. I considered it as extremely probable that Mr. Vaughan might occupy Rashleigh's apartment during his occasional residence at the Hall; and his profession rendered it likely that he should occasionally be a tenant of the library. Nothing was more probable than that it might have been his candle which had excited my attention on a preceding evening. This led me involuntarily to recollect that the intercourse between Miss Vernon and the priest was marked with something like the same mystery which characterised her communications with Rashleigh. I had never heard her mention Vaughan's name, or even allude to him, excepting on the occasion of our first meeting, when she mentioned the old priest and Rashleigh as the only conversable beings, besides herself, in Osbaldistone Hall. Yet although silent with respect to Father Vaughan, his arrival at the Hall never failed to impress Miss Vernon with an anxious and fluttering tremor, which lasted until they had exchanged one or two significant glances.

Whatever the mystery might be which overclouded the destinies of this beautiful and interesting female, it was clear that Father Vaughan was implicated in it; unless, indeed, I could suppose that he was the agent employed to procure her settlement in the cloister, in the event of her rejecting a union with either of my cousins,--an office which would sufficiently account for her obvious emotion at his appearance. As to the rest, they did not seem to converse much together, or even to seek each other's society. Their league, if any subsisted between them, was of a tacit and understood nature, operating on their actions without any necessity of speech. I recollected, however, on reflection, that I had once or twice discovered signs pass betwixt them, which I had at the time supposed to bear reference to some hint concerning Miss Vernon's religious observances, knowing how artfully the Catholic clergy maintain, at all times and seasons, their influence over the minds of their followers. But now I was disposed to assign to these communications a deeper and more mysterious import. Did he hold private meetings with Miss Vernon in the library? was a question which occupied my thoughts; and if so, for what purpose? And why should she have admitted an intimate of the deceitful Rashleigh to such close confidence?

These questions and difficulties pressed on my mind with an interest which was greatly increased by the impossibility of resolving them. I had already begun to suspect that my friendship for Diana Vernon was not altogether so disinterested as in wisdom it ought to have been. I had already felt myself becoming jealous of the contemptible lout Thorncliff, and taking more notice, than in prudence or dignity of feeling I ought to have done, of his silly attempts to provoke me. And now I was scrutinising the conduct of Miss Vernon with the most close and eager observation, which I in vain endeavoured to palm on myself as the offspring of idle curiosity. All these, like Benedick's brushing his hat of a morning, were signs that the sweet youth was in love; and while my judgment still denied that I had been guilty of forming an attachment so imprudent, she resembled those ignorant guides, who, when they have led the traveller and themselves into irretrievable error, persist in obstinately affirming it to be impossible that they can have missed the way.


  It happened one day about noon, going to my boat, I was exceedingly
surprised with the print of a man's naked foot on the shore, which
was very plain to be seen on the sand.
Robinson Crusoe.


With the blended feelings of interest and jealousy which were engendered by Miss Vernon's singular situation, my observations of her looks and actions became acutely sharpened, and that to a degree which, notwithstanding my efforts to conceal it, could not escape her penetration. The sense that she was observed, or, more properly speaking, that she was watched by my looks, seemed to give Diana a mixture of embarrassment, pain, and pettishness. At times it seemed that she sought an opportunity of resenting a conduct which she could not but feel as offensive, considering the frankness with which she had mentioned the difficulties that surrounded her. At other times she seemed prepared to expostulate upon the subject. But either her courage failed, or some other sentiment impeded her seeking an _e'claircissement._ Her displeasure evaporated in repartee, and her expostulations died on her lips. We stood in a singular relation to each other,--spending, and by mutual choice, much of our time in close society with each other, yet disguising our mutual sentiments, and jealous of, or offended by, each other's actions. There was betwixt us intimacy without confidence;--on one side, love without hope or purpose, and curiosity without any rational or justifiable motive; and on the other, embarrassment and doubt, occasionally mingled with displeasure. Yet I believe that this agitation of the passions (such is the nature of the human bosom), as it continued by a thousand irritating and interesting, though petty circumstances, to render Miss Vernon and me the constant objects of each other's thoughts, tended, upon the whole, to increase the attachment with which we were naturally disposed to regard each other. But although my vanity early discovered that my presence at Osbaldistone Hall had given Diana some additional reason for disliking the cloister, I could by no means confide in an affection which seemed completely subordinate to the mysteries of her singular situation. Miss Vernon was of a character far too formed and determined, to permit her love for me to overpower either her sense of duty or of prudence, and she gave me a proof of this in a conversation which we had together about this period.

We were sitting together in the library. Miss Vernon, in turning over a copy of the Orlando Furioso, which belonged to me, shook a piece of writing paper from between the leaves. I hastened to lift it, but she prevented me.--“It is verse,” she said, on glancing at the paper; and then unfolding it, but as if to wait my answer before proceeding--“May I take the liberty?--Nay, nay, if you blush and stammer, I must do violence to your modesty, and suppose that permission is granted.”

“It is not worthy your perusal--a scrap of a translation--My dear Miss Vernon, it would be too severe a trial, that you, who understand the original so well, should sit in judgment.”

“Mine honest friend,” replied Diana, “do not, if you will be guided by my advice, bait your hook with too much humility; for, ten to one, it will not catch a single compliment. You know I belong to the unpopular family of Tell-truths, and would not flatter Apollo for his lyre.”

She proceeded to read the first stanza, which was nearly to the following purpose:--

  “Ladies, and knights, and arms, and love's fair flame,
Deeds of emprize and courtesy, I sing;
What time the Moors from sultry Africk came,
Led on by Agramant, their youthful king--
He whom revenge and hasty ire did bring
O'er the broad wave, in France to waste and war;
Such ills from old Trojano's death did spring,
Which to avenge he came from realms afar,
And menaced Christian Charles, the Roman Emperor.
Of dauntless Roland, too, my strain shall sound,
In import never known in prose or rhyme,
How He, the chief, of judgment deemed profound,
For luckless love was crazed upon a time”--


“There is a great deal of it,” said she, glancing along the paper, and interrupting the sweetest sounds which mortal ears can drink in,--those of a youthful poet's verses, namely, read by the lips which are dearest to him.

“Much more than ought to engage your attention, Miss Vernon,” I replied, something mortified; and I took the verses from her unreluctant hand-- “And yet,” I continued, “shut up as I am in this retired situation, I have felt sometimes I could not amuse myself better than by carrying on--merely for my own amusement, you will of course understand--the version of this fascinating author, which I began some months since when I was on the banks of the Garonne.”

“The question would only be,” said Diana, gravely, “whether you could not spend your time to better purpose?”

“You mean in original composition?” said I, greatly flattered--“But, to say truth, my genius rather lies in finding words and rhymes than ideas; and therefore I am happy to use those which Ariosto has prepared to my hand. However, Miss Vernon, with the encouragement you give”--

“Pardon me, Frank--it is encouragement not of my giving, but of your taking. I meant neither original composition nor translation, since I think you might employ your time to far better purpose than in either. You are mortified,” she continued, “and I am sorry to be the cause.”

“Not mortified,--certainly not mortified,” said I, with the best grace I could muster, and it was but indifferently assumed; “I am too much obliged by the interest you take in me.”

“Nay, but,” resumed the relentless Diana, “there is both mortification and a little grain of anger in that constrained tone of voice; do not be angry if I probe your feelings to the bottom--perhaps what I am about to say will affect them still more.”

I felt the childishness of my own conduct, and the superior manliness of Miss Vernon's, and assured her, that she need not fear my wincing under criticism which I knew to be kindly meant.

“That was honestly meant and said,” she replied; “I knew full well that the fiend of poetical irritability flew away with the little preluding cough which ushered in the declaration. And now I must be serious--Have you heard from your father lately?”

“Not a word,” I replied; “he has not honoured me with a single line during the several months of my residence here.”

“That is strange!--you are a singular race, you bold Osbaldistones. Then you are not aware that he has gone to Holland, to arrange some pressing affairs which required his own immediate presence?”

“I never heard a word of it until this moment.”

“And farther, it must be news to you, and I presume scarcely the most agreeable, that he has left Rashleigh in the almost uncontrolled management of his affairs until his return.”

I started, and could not suppress my surprise and apprehension.

“You have reason for alarm,” said Miss Vernon, very gravely; “and were I you, I would endeavour to meet and obviate the dangers which arise from so undesirable an arrangement.”

“And how is it possible for me to do so?”

“Everything is possible for him who possesses courage and activity,” she said, with a look resembling one of those heroines of the age of chivalry, whose encouragement was wont to give champions double valour at the hour of need; “and to the timid and hesitating, everything is impossible, because it seems so.”

“And what would you advise, Miss Vernon?” I replied, wishing, yet dreading, to hear her answer.

She paused a moment, then answered firmly--“That you instantly leave Osbaldistone Hall, and return to London. You have perhaps already,” she continued, in a softer tone, “been here too long; that fault was not yours. Every succeeding moment you waste here will be a crime. Yes, a crime: for I tell you plainly, that if Rashleigh long manages your father's affairs, you may consider his ruin as consummated.”

“How is this possible?”

“Ask no questions,” she said; “but believe me, Rashleigh's views extend far beyond the possession or increase of commercial wealth: he will only make the command of Mr. Osbaldistone's revenues and property the means of putting in motion his own ambitious and extensive schemes. While your father was in Britain this was impossible; during his absence, Rashleigh will possess many opportunities, and he will not neglect to use them.”

“But how can I, in disgrace with my father, and divested of all control over his affairs, prevent this danger by my mere presence in London?”

“That presence alone will do much. Your claim to interfere is a part of your birthright, and it is inalienable. You will have the countenance, doubtless, of your father's head-clerk, and confidential friends and partners. Above all, Rashleigh's schemes are of a nature that”--(she stopped abruptly, as if fearful of saying too much)--“are, in short,” she resumed, “of the nature of all selfish and unconscientious plans, which are speedily abandoned as soon as those who frame them perceive their arts are discovered and watched. Therefore, in the language of your favourite poet--

  To horse! to horse! Urge doubts to those that fear.”

A feeling, irresistible in its impulse, induced me to reply--“Ah! Diana, can _you_ give me advice to leave Osbaldistone Hall?--then indeed I have already been a resident here too long!

Miss Vernon coloured, but proceeded with great firmness--“Indeed, I do give you this advice--not only to quit Osbaldistone Hall, but never to return to it more. You have only one friend to regret here,” she continued, forcing a smile, “and she has been long accustomed to sacrifice her friendships and her comforts to the welfare of others. In the world you will meet a hundred whose friendship will be as disinterested--more useful--less encumbered by untoward circumstances--less influenced by evil tongues and evil times.”

“Never!” I exclaimed, “never!--the world can afford me nothing to repay what I must leave behind me.” Here I took her hand, and pressed it to my lips.

“This is folly!” she exclaimed--“this is madness!” and she struggled to withdraw her hand from my grasp, but not so stubbornly as actually to succeed until I had held it for nearly a minute. “Hear me, sir!” she said, “and curb this unmanly burst of passion. I am, by a solemn contract, the bride of Heaven, unless I could prefer being wedded to villany in the person of Rashleigh Osbaldistone, or brutality in that of his brother. I am, therefore, the bride of Heaven,--betrothed to the convent from the cradle. To me, therefore, these raptures are misapplied--they only serve to prove a farther necessity for your departure, and that without delay.” At these words she broke suddenly off, and said, but in a suppressed tone of voice, “Leave me instantly--we will meet here again, but it must be for the last time.”

My eyes followed the direction of hers as she spoke, and I thought I saw the tapestry shake, which covered the door of the secret passage from Rashleigh's room to the library. I conceived we were observed, and turned an inquiring glance on Miss Vernon.

“It is nothing,” said she, faintly; “a rat behind the arras.”

“Dead for a ducat,” would have been my reply, had I dared to give way to the feelings which rose indignant at the idea of being subjected to an eaves-dropper on such an occasion. Prudence, and the necessity of suppressing my passion, and obeying Diana's reiterated command of “Leave me! leave me!” came in time to prevent my rash action. I left the apartment in a wild whirl and giddiness of mind, which I in vain attempted to compose when I returned to my own.

A chaos of thoughts intruded themselves on me at once, passing hastily through my brain, intercepting and overshadowing each other, and resembling those fogs which in mountainous countries are wont to descend in obscure volumes, and disfigure or obliterate the usual marks by which the traveller steers his course through the wilds. The dark and undefined idea of danger arising to my father from the machinations of such a man as Rashleigh Osbaldistone--the half declaration of love that I had offered to Miss Vernon's acceptance--the acknowledged difficulties of her situation, bound by a previous contract to sacrifice herself to a cloister or to an ill-assorted marriage,--all pressed themselves at once upon my recollection, while my judgment was unable deliberately to consider any of them in their just light and bearings. But chiefly and above all the rest, I was perplexed by the manner in which Miss Vernon had received my tender of affection, and by her manner, which, fluctuating betwixt sympathy and firmness, seemed to intimate that I possessed an interest in her bosom, but not of force sufficient to counterbalance the obstacles to her avowing a mutual affection. The glance of fear, rather than surprise, with which she had watched the motion of the tapestry over the concealed door, implied an apprehension of danger which I could not but suppose well grounded; for Diana Vernon was little subject to the nervous emotions of her sex, and totally unapt to fear without actual and rational cause. Of what nature could those mysteries be, with which she was surrounded as with an enchanter's spell, and which seemed continually to exert an active influence over her thoughts and actions, though their agents were never visible? On this subject of doubt my mind finally rested, as if glad to shake itself free from investigating the propriety or prudence of my own conduct, by transferring the inquiry to what concerned Miss Vernon. I will be resolved, I concluded, ere I leave Osbaldistone Hall, concerning the light in which I must in future regard this fascinating being, over whose life frankness and mystery seem to have divided their reign,--the former inspiring her words and sentiments--the latter spreading in misty influence over all her actions.

Joined to the obvious interests which arose from curiosity and anxious passion, there mingled in my feelings a strong, though unavowed and undefined, infusion of jealousy. This sentiment, which springs up with love as naturally as the tares with the wheat, was excited by the degree of influence which Diana appeared to concede to those unseen beings by whom her actions were limited. The more I reflected upon her character, the more I was internally though unwillingly convinced, that she was formed to set at defiance all control, excepting that which arose from affection; and I felt a strong, bitter, and gnawing suspicion, that such was the foundation of that influence by which she was overawed.

These tormenting doubts strengthened my desire to penetrate into the secret of Miss Vernon's conduct, and in the prosecution of this sage adventure, I formed a resolution, of which, if you are not weary of these details, you will find the result in the next chapter.

Go to voli chapters 17 & 18