Glen Discovery in GlenLyon
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Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott vol i Chapter fifth

Project Gutenberg's Rob Roy, Complete, by Sir Walter Scott
  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!
The Chase.


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 own.

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 reflections.

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 boasting.”

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 do?”

“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 would?”

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 me.”

“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 religion.”

“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 large.”

“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 hand.

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 uncle.

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 uncle.


  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 character.”

“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 Hildebrand?”

“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 interdicted praise.”

“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 sketches.”

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 duty bound.”

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 t'ye.”

“Bravo, Andrew! I perceive you'll lose no preferment for want of asking patronage.”

“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 family.”

“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 told.

“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.

Go to voli chapters 7 & 8