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Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott vol i Chapter seventh

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

  _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.”

“And Rashleigh?”

“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 distinctly.”

“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 hours.”

“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 me.”

“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 opinion!”

“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 accused!”

“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 accommodating.”

“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 nephew.”

“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 stop me.”

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 rencontre.

“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 the bottom.”

“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. Osbaldistone?”

“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 herself.”

“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 Justice.”

“Had we not better call a servant?”

“Oh, by no means; I know the way to his den--we must burst on him suddenly--follow me.”

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 sing?”

“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.

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 religion.

“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 days.”

“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 executed.”

“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-- Push about the bottle--Mr. Osbaldistone, help yourself.”

Jobson, however, was determined that Morris should not back out of the scrape so easily. “What do you mean, Mr. Morris?--Here is your own declaration--the ink scarce dried--and you would retract it in this scandalous manner!”

“How do I know,” whispered the other in a tremulous tone, “how many rogues are in the house to back him? I have read of such things in Johnson's Lives of the Highwaymen. I protest the door opens”--

And it did open, and Diana Vernon entered--“You keep fine order here, Justice--not a servant to be seen or heard of.”

“Ah!” said the Justice, starting up with an alacrity which showed that he was not so engrossed by his devotions to Themis or Comus, as to forget what was due to beauty--“Ah, ha! Die Vernon, the heath-bell of Cheviot, and the blossom of the Border, come to see how the old bachelor keeps house? Art welcome, girl, as flowers in May.”

“A fine, open, hospitable house you do keep, Justice, that must be allowed--not a soul to answer a visitor.”

“Ah, the knaves! they reckoned themselves secure of me for a couple of hours--But why did you not come earlier?--Your cousin Rashleigh dined here, and ran away like a poltroon after the first bottle was out--But you have not dined--we'll have something nice and ladylike--sweet and pretty like yourself, tossed up in a trice.”

“I may eat a crust in the ante-room before I set out,” answered Miss Vernon--“I have had a long ride this morning; but I can't stay long, Justice--I came with my cousin, Frank Osbaldistone, there, and I must show him the way back again to the Hall, or he'll lose himself in the wolds.”

“Whew! sits the wind in that quarter?” inquired the Justice--

  “She showed him the way, she showed him the way,
She showed him the way to woo.

What! no luck for old fellows, then, my sweet bud of the wilderness?”

“None whatever, Squire Inglewood; but if you will be a good kind Justice, and despatch young Frank's business, and let us canter home again, I'll bring my uncle to dine with you next week, and we'll expect merry doings.”

“And you shall find them, my pearl of the Tyne--Zookers, lass, I never envy these young fellows their rides and scampers, unless when you come across me. But I must not keep you just now, I suppose?--I am quite satisfied with Mr. Francis Osbaldistone's explanation--here has been some mistake, which can be cleared at greater leisure.”

“Pardon me, sir,” said I; “but I have not heard the nature of the accusation yet.”

“Yes, sir,” said the clerk, who, at the appearance of Miss Vernon, had given up the matter in despair, but who picked up courage to press farther investigation on finding himself supported from a quarter whence assuredly he expected no backing--“Yes, sir, and Dalton saith, That he who is apprehended as a felon shall not be discharged upon any man's discretion, but shall be held either to bail or commitment, paying to the clerk of the peace the usual fees for recognisance or commitment.”

The Justice, thus goaded on, gave me at length a few words of explanation.

It seems the tricks which I had played to this man Morris had made a strong impression on his imagination; for I found they had been arrayed against me in his evidence, with all the exaggerations which a timorous and heated imagination could suggest. It appeared also, that on the day he parted from me, he had been stopped on a solitary spot and eased of his beloved travelling-companion, the portmanteau, by two men, well mounted and armed, having their faces covered with vizards.

One of them, he conceived, had much of my shape and air, and in a whispering conversation which took place betwixt the freebooters, he heard the other apply to him the name of Osbaldistone. The declaration farther set forth, that upon inquiring into the principles of the family so named, he, the said declarant, was informed that they were of the worst description, the family, in all its members, having been Papists and Jacobites, as he was given to understand by the dissenting clergyman at whose house he stopped after his rencontre, since the days of William the Conqueror.

Upon all and each of these weighty reasons, he charged me with being accessory to the felony committed upon his person; he, the said declarant, then travelling in the special employment of Government, and having charge of certain important papers, and also a large sum in specie, to be paid over, according to his instructions, to certain persons of official trust and importance in Scotland.

Having heard this extraordinary accusation, I replied to it, that the circumstances on which it was founded were such as could warrant no justice, or magistrate, in any attempt on my personal liberty. I admitted that I had practised a little upon the terrors of Mr. Morris, while we travelled together, but in such trifling particulars as could have excited apprehension in no one who was one whit less timorous and jealous than himself. But I added, that I had never seen him since we parted, and if that which he feared had really come upon him, I was in nowise accessory to an action so unworthy of my character and station in life. That one of the robbers was called Osbaldistone, or that such a name was mentioned in the course of the conversation betwixt them, was a trifling circumstance, to which no weight was due. And concerning the disaffection alleged against me, I was willing to prove, to the satisfaction of the Justice, the clerk, and even the witness himself, that I was of the same persuasion as his friend the dissenting clergyman; had been educated as a good subject in the principles of the Revolution, and as such now demanded the personal protection of the laws which had been assured by that great event.

The Justice fidgeted, took snuff, and seemed considerably embarrassed, while Mr. Attorney Jobson, with all the volubility of his profession, ran over the statute of the 34 Edward III., by which justices of the peace are allowed to arrest all those whom they find by indictment or suspicion, and to put them into prison. The rogue even turned my own admissions against me, alleging, “that since I had confessedly, upon my own showing, assumed the bearing or deportment of a robber or malefactor, I had voluntarily subjected myself to the suspicions of which I complained, and brought myself within the compass of the act, having wilfully clothed my conduct with all the colour and livery of guilt.”

I combated both his arguments and his jargon with much indignation and scorn, and observed, “That I should, if necessary, produce the bail of my relations, which I conceived could not be refused, without subjecting the magistrate in a misdemeanour.”

“Pardon me, my good sir--pardon me,” said the insatiable clerk; “this is a case in which neither bail nor mainprize can be received, the felon who is liable to be committed on heavy grounds of suspicion, not being replevisable under the statute of the 3d of King Edward, there being in that act an express exception of such as be charged of commandment, or force, and aid of felony done;” and he hinted that his worship would do well to remember that such were no way replevisable by common writ, nor without writ.

At this period of the conversation a servant entered, and delivered a letter to Mr. Jobson. He had no sooner run it hastily over, than he exclaimed, with the air of one who wished to appear much vexed at the interruption, and felt the consequence attached to a man of multifarious avocations--“Good God!--why, at this rate, I shall have neither time to attend to the public concerns nor my own--no rest--no quiet--I wish to Heaven another gentleman in our line would settle here!”

“God forbid!” said the Justice in a tone of _sotto-voce_ deprecation; “some of us have enough of one of the tribe.”

“This is a matter of life and death, if your worship pleases.”

“In God's name! no more justice business, I hope,” said the alarmed magistrate.

“No--no,” replied Mr. Jobson, very consequentially; “old Gaffer Rutledge of Grime's-hill is subpoenaed for the next world; he has sent an express for Dr. Kill-down to put in bail--another for me to arrange his worldly affairs.”

“Away with you, then,” said Mr. Inglewood, hastily; “his may not be a replevisable case under the statute, you know, or Mr. Justice Death may not like the doctor for a _main pernor,_ or bailsman.”

“And yet,” said Jobson, lingering as he moved towards the door, “if my presence here be necessary--I could make out the warrant for committal in a moment, and the constable is below--And you have heard,” he said, lowering his voice, “Mr. Rashleigh's opinion”--the rest was lost in a whisper.

The Justice replied aloud, “I tell thee no, man, no--we'll do nought till thou return, man; 'tis but a four-mile ride--Come, push the bottle, Mr. Morris--Don't be cast down, Mr. Osbaldistone--And you, my rose of the wilderness--one cup of claret to refresh the bloom of your cheeks.”

Diana started, as if from a reverie, in which she appeared to have been plunged while we held this discussion. “No, Justice--I should be afraid of transferring the bloom to a part of my face where it would show to little advantage; but I will pledge you in a cooler beverage;” and filling a glass with water, she drank it hastily, while her hurried manner belied her assumed gaiety.

I had not much leisure to make remarks upon her demeanour, however, being full of vexation at the interference of fresh obstacles to an instant examination of the disgraceful and impertinent charge which was brought against me. But there was no moving the Justice to take the matter up in absence of his clerk, an incident which gave him apparently as much pleasure as a holiday to a schoolboy. He persisted in his endeavours to inspire jollity into a company, the individuals of which, whether considered with reference to each other, or to their respective situations, were by no means inclined to mirth. “Come, Master Morris, you're not the first man that's been robbed, I trow--grieving ne'er brought back loss, man. And you, Mr. Frank Osbaldistone, are not the first bully-boy that has said stand to a true man. There was Jack Winterfield, in my young days, kept the best company in the land--at horse-races and cock-fights who but he--hand and glove was I with Jack. Push the bottle, Mr. Morris, it's dry talking--Many quart bumpers have I cracked, and thrown many a merry main with poor Jack--good family--ready wit--quick eye--as honest a fellow, barring the deed he died for--we'll drink to his memory, gentlemen--Poor Jack Winterfield--And since we talk of him, and of those sort of things, and since that d--d clerk of mine has taken his gibberish elsewhere, and since we're snug among ourselves, Mr. Osbaldistone, if you will have my best advice, I would take up this matter--the law's hard--very severe--hanged poor Jack Winterfield at York, despite family connections and great interest, all for easing a fat west-country grazier of the price of a few beasts--Now, here is honest Mr. Morris, has been frightened, and so forth--D--n it, man, let the poor fellow have back his portmanteau, and end the frolic at once.”

Morris's eyes brightened up at this suggestion, and he began to hesitate forth an assurance that he thirsted for no man's blood, when I cut the proposed accommodation short, by resenting the Justice's suggestion as an insult, that went directly to suppose me guilty of the very crime which I had come to his house with the express intention of disavowing. We were in this awkward predicament when a servant, opening the door, announced, “A strange gentleman to wait upon his honour;” and the party whom he thus described entered the room without farther ceremony.

Go to voli chapters 9 & 10