Part 4 out of 10
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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.
One of the thieves come back again! I'll stand close,
He dares not wrong me now, so near the house,
And call in vain 'tis, till I see him offer it.
"A stranger!" echoed the Justice--"not upon business, I trust, for I'll
His protestation was cut short by the answer of the man himself. "My
business is of a nature somewhat onerous and particular," said my
acquaintance, Mr. Campbell--for it was he, the very Scotchman whom I had
seen at Northallerton--"and I must solicit your honour to give instant
and heedful consideration to it.--I believe, Mr. Morris," he added,
fixing his eye on that person with a look of peculiar firmness and almost
ferocity--"I believe ye ken brawly what I am--I believe ye cannot have
forgotten what passed at our last meeting on the road?" Morris's jaw
dropped--his countenance became the colour of tallow--his teeth
chattered, and he gave visible signs of the utmost consternation. "Take
heart of grace, man," said Campbell, "and dinna sit clattering your jaws
there like a pair of castanets! I think there can be nae difficulty in
your telling Mr. Justice, that ye have seen me of yore, and ken me to be
a cavalier of fortune, and a man of honour. Ye ken fu' weel ye will be
some time resident in my vicinity, when I may have the power, as I will
possess the inclination, to do you as good a turn."
"Sir--sir--I believe you to be a man of honour, and, as you say, a man of
fortune. Yes, Mr. Inglewood," he added, clearing his voice, "I really
believe this gentleman to be so."
"And what are this gentleman's commands with me?" said the Justice,
somewhat peevishly. "One man introduces another, like the rhymes in the
'house that Jack built,' and I get company without either peace or
"Both shall be yours, sir," answered Campbell, "in a brief period of
time. I come to release your mind from a piece of troublesome duty, not
to make increment to it."
"Body o' me! then you are welcome as ever Scot was to England, and that's
not saying much. But get on, man--let's hear what you have got to say at
"I presume, this gentleman," continued the North Briton, "told you there
was a person of the name of Campbell with him, when he had the mischance
to lose his valise?"
"He has not mentioned such a name, from beginning to end of the matter,"
said the Justice.
"Ah! I conceive--I conceive," replied Mr. Campbell;--"Mr. Morris was
kindly afeared of committing a stranger into collision wi' the judicial
forms of the country; but as I understand my evidence is necessary to the
compurgation of one honest gentleman here, Mr. Francis Osbaldistone, wha
has been most unjustly suspected, I will dispense with the precaution. Ye
will therefore" (he added addressing Morris with the same determined look
and accent) "please tell Mr. Justice Inglewood, whether we did not travel
several miles together on the road, in consequence of your own anxious
request and suggestion, reiterated ance and again, baith on the evening
that we were at Northallerton, and there declined by me, but afterwards
accepted, when I overtook ye on the road near Cloberry Allers, and was
prevailed on by you to resign my ain intentions of proceeding to
Rothbury; and, for my misfortune, to accompany you on your proposed
"It's a melancholy truth," answered Morris, holding down his head, as he
gave this general assent to the long and leading question which Campbell
put to him, and seemed to acquiesce in the statement it contained with
"And I presume you can also asseverate to his worship, that no man is
better qualified than I am to bear testimony in this case, seeing that I
was by you, and near you, constantly during the whole occurrence."
"No man better qualified, certainly," said Morris, with a deep and
"And why the devil did you not assist him, then," said the Justice,
"since, by Mr. Morris's account, there were but two robbers; so you were
two to two, and you are both stout likely men?"
"Sir, if it please your worship," said Campbell, "I have been all my life
a man of peace and quietness, noways given to broils or batteries. Mr.
Morris, who belongs, as I understand, or hath belonged, to his Majesty's
army, might have used his pleasure in resistance, he travelling, as I
also understand, with a great charge of treasure; but, for me, who had
but my own small peculiar to defend, and who am, moreover, a man of a
pacific occupation, I was unwilling to commit myself to hazard in the
I looked at Campbell as he muttered these words, and never recollect to
have seen a more singular contrast than that between the strong daring
sternness expressed in his harsh features, and the air of composed
meekness and simplicity which his language assumed. There was even a
slight ironical smile lurking about the corners of his mouth, which
seemed, involuntarily as it were, to intimate his disdain of the quiet
and peaceful character which he thought proper to assume, and which led
me to entertain strange suspicions that his concern in the violence done
to Morris had been something very different from that of a
fellow-sufferer, or even of a mere spectator.
Perhaps some suspicious crossed the Justice's mind at the moment, for he
exclaimed, as if by way of ejaculation, "Body o' me! but this is a
The North Briton seemed to guess at what was passing in his mind; for he
went on, with a change of manner and tone, dismissing from his
countenance some part of the hypocritical affectation of humility which
had made him obnoxious to suspicion, and saying, with a more frank and
unconstrained air, "To say the truth, I am just ane o' those canny folks
wha care not to fight but when they hae gotten something to fight for,
which did not chance to be my predicament when I fell in wi' these loons.
But that your worship may know that I am a person of good fame and
character, please to cast your eye over that billet."
Mr. Inglewood took the paper from his hand, and read, half aloud, "These
are to certify, that the bearer, Robert Campbell of--of some place which
I cannot pronounce," interjected the Justice--"is a person of good
lineage, and peaceable demeanour, travelling towards England on his own
proper affairs, &c. &c. &c. Given under our hand, at our Castle of Inver
"A slight testimonial, sir, which I thought fit to impetrate from that
worthy nobleman" (here he raised his hand to his head, as if to touch his
hat), "MacCallum More."
"MacCallum who, sir?" said the Justice.
"Whom the Southern call the Duke of Argyle."
"I know the Duke of Argyle very well to be a nobleman of great worth and
distinction, and a true lover of his country. I was one of those that
stood by him in 1714, when he unhorsed the Duke of Marlborough out of his
command. I wish we had more noblemen like him. He was an honest Tory in
those days, and hand and glove with Ormond. And he has acceded to the
present Government, as I have done myself, for the peace and quiet of his
country; for I cannot presume that great man to have been actuated, as
violent folks pretend, with the fear of losing his places and regiment.
His testimonial, as you call it, Mr. Campbell, is perfectly satisfactory;
and now, what have you got to say to this matter of the robbery?"
"Briefly this, if it please your worship,--that Mr. Morris might as weel
charge it against the babe yet to be born, or against myself even, as
against this young gentleman, Mr. Osbaldistone; for I am not only free to
depone that the person whom he took for him was a shorter man, and a
thicker man, but also, for I chanced to obtain a glisk of his visage, as
his fause-face slipped aside, that he was a man of other features and
complexion than those of this young gentleman, Mr. Osbaldistone. And I
believe," he added, turning round with a natural, yet somewhat sterner
air, to Mr. Morris, "that the gentleman will allow I had better
opportunity to take cognisance wha were present on that occasion than he,
being, I believe, much the cooler o' the twa."
"I agree to it, sir--I agree to it perfectly," said Morris, shrinking
back as Campbell moved his chair towards him to fortify his appeal--"And
I incline, sir," he added, addressing Mr. Inglewood, "to retract my
information as to Mr. Osbaldistone; and I request, sir, you will permit
him, sir, to go about his business, and me to go about mine also; your
worship may have business to settle with Mr. Campbell, and I am rather in
haste to be gone."
"Then, there go the declarations," said the Justice, throwing them into
the fire--"And now you are at perfect liberty, Mr Osbaldistone. And you,
Mr. Morris, are set quite at your ease."
"Ay," said Campbell, eyeing Morris as he assented with a rueful grin to
the Justice's observations, "much like the ease of a tod under a pair of
harrows--But fear nothing, Mr. Morris; you and I maun leave the house
thegither. I will see you safe--I hope you will not doubt my honour, when
I say sae--to the next highway, and then we part company; and if we do
not meet as friends in Scotland, it will be your ain fault."
With such a lingering look of terror as the condemned criminal throws,
when he is informed that the cart awaits him, Morris arose; but when on
his legs, appeared to hesitate. "I tell thee, man, fear nothing,"
reiterated Campbell; "I will keep my word with you--Why, thou sheep's
heart, how do ye ken but we may can pick up some speerings of your
valise, if ye will be amenable to gude counsel?--Our horses are ready.
Bid the Justice fareweel, man, and show your Southern breeding."
Morris, thus exhorted and encouraged, took his leave, under the escort of
Mr. Campbell; but, apparently, new scruples and terrors had struck him
before they left the house, for I heard Campbell reiterating assurances
of safety and protection as they left the ante-room--"By the soul of my
body, man, thou'rt as safe as in thy father's kailyard--Zounds! that a
chield wi' sic a black beard should hae nae mair heart than a
hen-partridge!--Come on wi' ye, like a frank fallow, anes and for aye."
The voices died away, and the subsequent trampling of their horses
announced to us that they had left the mansion of Justice Inglewood.
The joy which that worthy magistrate received at this easy conclusion of
a matter which threatened him with some trouble in his judicial capacity,
was somewhat damped by reflection on what his clerk's views of the
transaction might be at his return. "Now, I shall have Jobson on my
shoulders about these d--d papers--I doubt I should not have destroyed
them, after all--But hang it! it is only paying his fees, and that will
make all smooth--And now, Miss Die Vernon, though I have liberated all
the others, I intend to sign a writ for committing you to the custody of
Mother Blakes, my old housekeeper, for the evening, and we will send for
my neighbour Mrs. Musgrave, and the Miss Dawkins, and your cousins, and
have old Cobs the fiddler, and be as merry as the maids; and Frank
Osbaldistone and I will have a carouse that will make us fit company for
you in half-an-hour."
"Thanks, most worshipful," returned Miss Vernon; "but, as matters stand,
we must return instantly to Osbaldistone Hall, where they do not know
what has become of us, and relieve my uncle of his anxiety on my cousin's
account, which is just the same as if one of his own sons were
"I believe it truly," said the Justice; "for when his eldest son, Archie,
came to a bad end, in that unlucky affair of Sir John Fenwick's, old
Hildebrand used to hollo out his name as readily as any of the remaining
six, and then complain that he could not recollect which of his sons had
been hanged. So, pray hasten home, and relieve his paternal solicitude,
since go you must. But hark thee hither, heath-blossom," he said, pulling
her towards him by the hand, and in a good-humoured tone of admonition,
"another time let the law take its course, without putting your pretty
finger into her old musty pie, all full of fragments of law gibberish--
French and dog-Latin--And, Die, my beauty, let young fellows show each
other the way through the moors, in case you should lose your own road,
while you are pointing out theirs, my pretty Will o' the Wisp."
With this admonition, he saluted and dismissed Miss Vernon, and took an
equally kind farewell of me.
"Thou seems to be a good tight lad, Mr. Frank, and I remember thy father
too--he was my playfellow at school. Hark thee, lad,--ride early at
night, and don't swagger with chance passengers on the king's highway.
What, man! all the king's liege subjects are not bound to understand
joking, and it's ill cracking jests on matters of felony. And here's poor
Die Vernon too--in a manner alone and deserted on the face of this wide
earth, and left to ride, and run, and scamper, at her own silly pleasure.
Thou must be careful of Die, or, egad, I will turn a young fellow again
on purpose, and fight thee myself, although I must own it would be a
great deal of trouble. And now, get ye both gone, and leave me to my pipe
of tobacco, and my meditations; for what says the song--
The Indian leaf doth briefly burn;
So doth man's strength to weakness turn
The fire of youth extinguished quite,
Comes age, like embers, dry and white.
Think of this as you take tobacco."*
* [The lines here quoted belong to or were altered from a set of verses
at one time very popular in England, beginning, _Tobacco that is withered
quite._ In Scotland, the celebrated Ralph Erskine, author of the _Gospel
Sonnets,_ published what he called "_Smoking Spiritualized,_ in two
parts. The first part being an Old Meditation upon Smoking Tobacco." It
This Indian weed now withered quite,
Tho' green at noon, cut down at night,
Shows thy decay;
All flesh is hay.
Thus thank, and smoke tobacco.]
I was much pleased with the gleams of sense and feeling which escaped
from the Justice through the vapours of sloth and self-indulgence,
assured him of my respect to his admonitions, and took a friendly
farewell of the honest magistrate and his hospitable mansion.
We found a repast prepared for us in the ante-room, which we partook of
slightly, and rejoined the same servant of Sir Hildebrand who had taken
our horses at our entrance, and who had been directed, as he informed
Miss Vernon, by Mr. Rashleigh, to wait and attend upon us home. We rode a
little way in silence, for, to say truth, my mind was too much bewildered
with the events of the morning, to permit me to be the first to break it.
At length Miss Vernon exclaimed, as if giving vent to her own
reflections, "Well, Rashleigh is a man to be feared and wondered at, and
all but loved; he does whatever he pleases, and makes all others his
puppets--has a player ready to perform every part which he imagines, and
an invention and readiness which supply expedients for every emergency."
"You think, then," said I, answering rather to her meaning, than to the
express words she made use of, "that this Mr. Campbell, whose appearance
was so opportune, and who trussed up and carried off my accuser as a
falcon trusses a partridge, was an agent of Mr. Rashleigh
"I do guess as much," replied Diana; "and shrewdly suspect, moreover,
that he would hardly have appeared so very much in the nick of time, if I
had not happened to meet Rashleigh in the hall at the Justice's."
"In that case, my thanks are chiefly due to you, my fair preserver."
"To be sure they are," returned Diana; "and pray, suppose them paid, and
accepted with a gracious smile, for I do not care to be troubled with
hearing them in good earnest, and am much more likely to yawn than to
behave becoming. In short, Mr. Frank, I wished to serve you, and I have
fortunately been able to do so, and have only one favour to ask in
return, and that is, that you will say no more about it.--But who comes
here to meet us, 'bloody with spurring, fiery-red with haste?' It is the
subordinate man of law, I think--no less than Mr. Joseph Jobson."
And Mr. Joseph Jobson it proved to be, in great haste, and, as it
speedily appeared, in most extreme bad humour. He came up to us, and
stopped his horse, as we were about to pass with a slight salutation.
"So, sir--so, Miss Vernon--ay, I see well enough how it is--bail put in
during my absence, I suppose--I should like to know who drew the
recognisance, that's all. If his worship uses this form of procedure
often, I advise him to get another clerk, that's all, for I shall
"Or suppose he get this present clerk stitched to his sleeve, Mr.
Jobson," said Diana; "would not that do as well? And pray, how does
Farmer Rutledge, Mr. Jobson? I hope you found him able to sign, seal, and
This question seemed greatly to increase the wrath of the man of law. He
looked at Miss Vernon with such an air of spite and resentment, as laid
me under a strong temptation to knock him off his horse with the butt-end
of my whip, which I only suppressed in consideration of his
"Farmer Rutledge, ma'am?" said the clerk, as soon as his indignation
permitted him to articulate, "Farmer Rutledge is in as handsome enjoyment
of his health as you are--it's all a bam, ma'am--all a bamboozle and a
bite, that affair of his illness; and if you did not know as much before,
you know it now, ma'am."
"La you there now!" replied Miss Vernon, with an affectation of extreme
and simple wonder, "sure you don't say so, Mr. Jobson?"
"But I _do_ say so, ma'am," rejoined the incensed scribe; "and moreover I
say, that the old miserly clod-breaker called me pettifogger--
pettifogger, ma'am--and said I came to hunt for a job, ma'am--which I
have no more right to have said to me than any other gentleman of my
profession, ma'am--especially as I am clerk to the peace, having and
holding said office under _Trigesimo Septimo Henrici Octavi_ and _Primo
Gulielmi,_ the first of King William, ma'am, of glorious and immortal
memory--our immortal deliverer from papists and pretenders, and wooden
shoes and warming pans, Miss Vernon."
"Sad things, these wooden shoes and warming pans," retorted the young
lady, who seemed to take pleasure in augmenting his wrath;--"and it is a
comfort you don't seem to want a warming pan at present, Mr. Jobson. I am
afraid Gaffer Rutledge has not confined his incivility to language--Are
you sure he did not give you a beating?"
"Beating, ma'am!--no"--(very shortly)--"no man alive shall beat me, I
promise you, ma'am."
"That is according as you happen to merit, sir," said I: "for your mode
of speaking to this young lady is so unbecoming, that, if you do not
change your tone, I shall think it worth while to chastise you myself."
"Chastise, sir? and--me, sir?--Do you know whom you speak to, sir?"
"Yes, sir," I replied; "you say yourself you are clerk of peace to the
county; and Gaffer Rutledge says you are a pettifogger; and in neither
capacity are you entitled to be impertinent to a young lady of fashion."
Miss Vernon laid her hand on my arm, and exclaimed, "Come, Mr.
Osbaldistone, I will have no assaults and battery on Mr. Jobson; I am not
in sufficient charity with him to permit a single touch of your whip--
why, he would live on it for a term at least. Besides, you have already
hurt his feelings sufficiently--you have called him impertinent."
"I don't value his language, Miss," said the clerk, somewhat crestfallen:
"besides, impertinent is not an actionable word; but pettifogger is
slander in the highest degree, and that I will make Gaffer Rutledge know
to his cost, and all who maliciously repeat the same, to the breach of
the public peace, and the taking away of my private good name."
"Never mind that, Mr. Jobson," said Miss Vernon; "you know, where there
is nothing, your own law allows that the king himself must lose his
rights; and for the taking away of your good name, I pity the poor fellow
who gets it, and wish you joy of losing it with all my heart."
"Very well, ma'am--good evening, ma'am--I have no more to say--only there
are laws against papists, which it would be well for the land were they
better executed. There's third and fourth Edward VI., of antiphoners,
missals, grailes, professionals, manuals, legends, pies, portuasses, and
those that have such trinkets in their possession, Miss Vernon--and
there's summoning of papists to take the oaths--and there are popish
recusant convicts under the first of his present Majesty--ay, and there
are penalties for hearing mass--See twenty-third of Queen Elizabeth, and
third James First, chapter twenty-fifth. And there are estates to be
registered, and deeds and wills to be enrolled, and double taxes to be
made, according to the acts in that case made and provided"----
"See the new edition of the Statutes at Large, published under the
careful revision of Joseph Jobson, Gent., Clerk of the Peace," said Miss
"Also, and above all," continued Jobson,--"for I speak to your warning--
you, Diana Vernon, spinstress, not being a _femme couverte,_ and being a
convict popish recusant, are bound to repair to your own dwelling, and
that by the nearest way, under penalty of being held felon to the king--
and diligently to seek for passage at common ferries, and to tarry there
but one ebb and flood; and unless you can have it in such places, to walk
every day into the water up to the knees, assaying to pass over."
"A sort of Protestant penance for my Catholic errors, I suppose," said
Miss Vernon, laughing.--"Well, I thank you for the information, Mr.
Jobson, and will hie me home as fast as I can, and be a better
housekeeper in time coming. Good-night, my dear Mr. Jobson, thou mirror
of clerical courtesy."
"Good-night, ma'am, and remember the law is not to be trifled with."
And we rode on our separate ways.
"There he goes for a troublesome mischief-making tool," said Miss Vernon,
as she gave a glance after him; it is hard that persons of birth and rank
and estate should be subjected to the official impertinence of such a
paltry pickthank as that, merely for believing as the whole world
believed not much above a hundred years ago--for certainly our Catholic
Faith has the advantage of antiquity at least."
"I was much tempted to have broken the rascal's head," I replied.
"You would have acted very like a hasty young man," said Miss Vernon;
"and yet, had my own hand been an ounce heavier than it is, I think I
should have laid its weight upon him. Well, it does not signify
complaining, but there are three things for which I am much to be pitied,
if any one thought it worth while to waste any compassion upon me."
"And what are these three things, Miss Vernon, may I ask?"
"Will you promise me your deepest sympathy, if I tell you?"
"Certainly;--can you doubt it?" I replied, closing my horse nearer to
hers as I spoke, with an expression of interest which I did not attempt
"Well, it is very seducing to be pitied, after all; so here are my three
grievances: In the first place, I am a girl, and not a young fellow, and
would be shut up in a mad-house if I did half the things that I have a
mind to;--and that, if I had your happy prerogative of acting as you
list, would make all the world mad with imitating and applauding me."
"I can't quite afford you the sympathy you expect upon this score," I
replied; "the misfortune is so general, that it belongs to one half of
the species; and the other half"--
"Are so much better cared for, that they are jealous of their
prerogatives," interrupted Miss Vernon--"I forgot you were a party
interested. Nay," she said, as I was going to speak, "that soft smile is
intended to be the preface of a very pretty compliment respecting the
peculiar advantages which Die Vernon's friends and kinsmen enjoy, by her
being born one of their Helots; but spare me the utterance, my good
friend, and let us try whether we shall agree better on the second count
of my indictment against fortune, as that quill-driving puppy would call
it. I belong to an oppressed sect and antiquated religion, and, instead
of getting credit for my devotion, as is due to all good girls beside, my
kind friend, Justice Inglewood, may send me to the house of correction,
merely for worshipping God in the way of my ancestors, and say, as old
Pembroke did to the Abbess of Wilton,* when he usurped her convent and
establishment, 'Go spin, you jade,--Go spin.'"
* Note F. The Abbess of Wilton.
"This is not a cureless evil," said I gravely. "Consult some of our
learned divines, or consult your own excellent understanding, Miss
Vernon; and surely the particulars in which our religious creed differs
from that in which you have been educated"--
"Hush!" said Diana, placing her fore-finger on her mouth,--"Hush! no more
of that. Forsake the faith of my gallant fathers! I would as soon, were I
a man, forsake their banner when the tide of battle pressed hardest
against it, and turn, like a hireling recreant, to join the victorious
"I honour your spirit, Miss Vernon; and as to the inconveniences to which
it exposes you, I can only say, that wounds sustained for the sake of
conscience carry their own balsam with the blow."
"Ay; but they are fretful and irritating, for all that. But I see, hard
of heart as you are, my chance of beating hemp, or drawing out flax into
marvellous coarse thread, affects you as little as my condemnation to
coif and pinners, instead of beaver and cockade; so I will spare myself
the fruitless pains of telling my third cause of vexation."
"Nay, my dear Miss Vernon, do not withdraw your confidence, and I will
promise you, that the threefold sympathy due to your very unusual causes
of distress shall be all duly and truly paid to account of the third,
providing you assure me, that it is one which you neither share with all
womankind, nor even with every Catholic in England, who, God bless you,
are still a sect more numerous than we Protestants, in our zeal for
church and state, would desire them to be."
"It is indeed," said Diana, with a manner greatly altered, and more
serious than I had yet seen her assume, "a misfortune that well merits
compassion. I am by nature, as you may easily observe, of a frank and
unreserved disposition--a plain true-hearted girl, who would willingly
act openly and honestly by the whole world, and yet fate has involved me
in such a series of nets and toils, and entanglements, that I dare hardly
speak a word for fear of consequences--not to myself, but to others."
"That is indeed a misfortune, Miss Vernon, which I do most sincerely
compassionate, but which I should hardly have anticipated."
"O, Mr. Osbaldistone, if you but knew--if any one knew, what difficulty I
sometimes find in hiding an aching heart with a smooth brow, you would
indeed pity me. I do wrong, perhaps, in speaking to you even thus far on
my own situation; but you are a young man of sense and penetration--you
cannot but long to ask me a hundred questions on the events of this day--
on the share which Rashleigh has in your deliverance from this petty
scrape--upon many other points which cannot but excite your attention;
and I cannot bring myself to answer with the necessary falsehood and
finesse--I should do it awkwardly, and lose your good opinion, if I have
any share of it, as well as my own. It is best to say at once, Ask me no
questions,--I have it not in my power to reply to them."
Miss Vernon spoke these words with a tone of feeling which could not but
make a corresponding impression upon me. I assured her she had neither to
fear my urging her with impertinent questions, nor my misconstruing her
declining to answer those which might in themselves be reasonable, or at
"I was too much obliged," I said, "by the interest she had taken in my
affairs, to misuse the opportunity her goodness had afforded me of prying
into hers--I only trusted and entreated, that if my services could at any
time be useful, she would command them without doubt or hesitation."
"Thank you--thank you," she replied; "your voice does not ring the cuckoo
chime of compliment, but speaks like that of one who knows to what he
pledges himself. If--but it is impossible--but yet, if an opportunity
should occur, I will ask you if you remember this promise; and I assure
you, I shall not be angry if I find you have forgotten it, for it is
enough that you are sincere in your intentions just now--much may occur
to alter them ere I call upon you, should that moment ever come, to
assist Die Vernon, as if you were Die Vernon's brother."
"And if I were Die Vernon's brother," said I, "there could not be less
chance that I should refuse my assistance--And now I am afraid I must not
ask whether Rashleigh was willingly accessory to my deliverance?"
"Not of me; but you may ask it of himself, and depend upon it, he will
say _yes;_ for rather than any good action should walk through the world
like an unappropriated adjective in an ill-arranged sentence, he is
always willing to stand noun substantive to it himself."
"And I must not ask whether this Campbell be himself the party who eased
Mr. Morris of his portmanteau,--or whether the letter, which our friend
the attorney received, was not a finesse to withdraw him from the scene
of action, lest he should have marred the happy event of my deliverance?
And I must not ask"--
"You must ask nothing of me," said Miss Vernon; "so it is quite in vain
to go on putting cases. You are to think just as well of me as if I had
answered all these queries, and twenty others besides, as glibly as
Rashleigh could have done; and observe, whenever I touch my chin just so,
it is a sign that I cannot speak upon the topic which happens to occupy
your attention. I must settle signals of correspondence with you, because
you are to be my confidant and my counsellor, only you are to know
nothing whatever of my affairs."
"Nothing can be more reasonable," I replied, laughing; "and the extent of
your confidence will, you may rely upon it, only be equalled by the
sagacity of my counsels."
This sort of conversation brought us, in the highest good-humour with
each other, to Osbaldistone Hall, where we found the family far advanced
in the revels of the evening.
"Get some dinner for Mr. Osbaldistone and me in the library," said Miss
Vernon to a servant.--"I must have some compassion upon you," she added,
turning to me, "and provide against your starving in this mansion of
brutal abundance; otherwise I am not sure that I should show you my
private haunts. This same library is my den--the only corner of the
Hall-house where I am safe from the Ourang-Outangs, my cousins. They
never venture there, I suppose for fear the folios should fall down and
crack their skulls; for they will never affect their heads in any other
way--So follow me."
And I followed through hall and bower, vaulted passage and winding stair,
until we reached the room where she had ordered our refreshments.
In the wide pile, by others heeded not,
Hers was one sacred solitary spot,
Whose gloomy aisles and bending shelves contain
For moral hunger food, and cures for moral pain.
The library at Osbaldistone Hall was a gloomy room, whose antique oaken
shelves bent beneath the weight of the ponderous folios so dear to the
seventeenth century, from which, under favour be it spoken, we have
distilled matter for our quartos and octavos, and which, once more
subjected to the alembic, may, should our sons be yet more frivolous than
ourselves, be still farther reduced into duodecimos and pamphlets. The
collection was chiefly of the classics, as well foreign as ancient
history, and, above all, divinity. It was in wretched order. The priests,
who in succession had acted as chaplains at the Hall, were, for many
years, the only persons who entered its precincts, until Rashleigh's
thirst for reading had led him to disturb the venerable spiders, who had
muffled the fronts of the presses with their tapestry. His destination
for the church rendered his conduct less absurd in his father's eyes,
than if any of his other descendants had betrayed so strange a
propensity, and Sir Hildebrand acquiesced in the library receiving some
repairs, so as to fit it for a sitting-room. Still an air of
dilapidation, as obvious as it was uncomfortable, pervaded the large
apartment, and announced the neglect from which the knowledge which its
walls contained had not been able to exempt it. The tattered tapestry,
the worm-eaten shelves, the huge and clumsy, yet tottering, tables,
desks, and chairs, the rusty grate, seldom gladdened by either sea-coal
or faggots, intimated the contempt of the lords of Osbaldistone Hall for
learning, and for the volumes which record its treasures.
"You think this place somewhat disconsolate, I suppose?" said Diana, as I
glanced my eye round the forlorn apartment; "but to me it seems like a
little paradise, for I call it my own, and fear no intrusion. Rashleigh
was joint proprietor with me, while we were friends."
"And are you no longer so?" was my natural question. Her fore-finger
immediately touched her dimpled chin, with an arch look of prohibition.
"We are still _allies,_" she continued, "bound, like other confederate
powers, by circumstances of mutual interest; but I am afraid, as will
happen in other cases, the treaty of alliance has survived the amicable
dispositions in which it had its origin. At any rate, we live less
together; and when he comes through that door there, I vanish through
this door here; and so, having made the discovery that we two were one
too many for this apartment, as large as it seems, Rashleigh, whose
occasions frequently call him elsewhere, has generously made a cession of
his rights in my favour; so that I now endeavour to prosecute alone the
studies in which he used formerly to be my guide."
"And what are those studies, if I may presume to ask?"
"Indeed you may, without the least fear of seeing my fore-finger raised
to my chin. Science and history are my principal favourites; but I also
study poetry and the classics."
"And the classics? Do you read them in the original?"
"Unquestionably. Rashleigh, who is no contemptible scholar, taught me
Greek and Latin, as well as most of the languages of modern Europe. I
assure you there has been some pains taken in my education, although I
can neither sew a tucker, nor work cross-stitch, nor make a pudding, nor
--as the vicar's fat wife, with as much truth as elegance, good-will, and
politeness, was pleased to say in my behalf--do any other useful thing in
the varsal world."
"And was this selection of studies Rashleigh's choice, or your own, Miss
Vernon?" I asked.
"Um!" said she, as if hesitating to answer my question,--"It's not worth
while lifting my finger about, after all. Why, partly his and partly
mine. As I learned out of doors to ride a horse, and bridle and saddle
him in cue of necessity, and to clear a five-barred gate, and fire a gun
without winking, and all other of those masculine accomplishments that my
brute cousins run mad after, I wanted, like my rational cousin, to read
Greek and Latin within doors, and make my complete approach to the tree
of knowledge, which you men-scholars would engross to yourselves, in
revenge, I suppose, for our common mother's share in the great original
"And Rashleigh indulged your propensity to learning?"
"Why, he wished to have me for his scholar, and he could but teach me
that which he knew himself--he was not likely to instruct me in the
mysteries of washing lace-ruffles, or hemming cambric handkerchiefs, I
"I admit the temptation of getting such a scholar, and have no doubt that
it made a weighty consideration on the tutor's part."
"Oh, if you begin to investigate Rashleigh's motives, my finger touches
my chin once more. I can only be frank where my own are inquired into.
But to resume--he has resigned the library in my favour, and never enters
without leave had and obtained; and so I have taken the liberty to make
it the place of deposit for some of my own goods and chattels, as you may
see by looking round you."
"I beg pardon, Miss Vernon, but I really see nothing around these walls
which I can distinguish as likely to claim you as mistress."
"That is, I suppose, because you neither see a shepherd or shepherdess
wrought in worsted, and handsomely framed in black ebony, or a stuffed
parrot,--or a breeding-cage, full of canary birds,--or a housewife-case,
broidered with tarnished silver,--or a toilet-table with a nest of
japanned boxes, with as many angles as Christmas minced-pies,--or a
broken-backed spinet,--or a lute with three strings,--or rock-work,--or
shell-work,--or needle-work, or work of any kind,--or a lap-dog with a
litter of blind puppies--None of these treasures do I possess," she
continued, after a pause, in order to recover the breath she had lost in
enumerating them--"But there stands the sword of my ancestor Sir Richard
Vernon, slain at Shrewsbury, and sorely slandered by a sad fellow called
Will Shakspeare, whose Lancastrian partialities, and a certain knack at
embodying them, has turned history upside down, or rather inside out;--
and by that redoubted weapon hangs the mail of the still older Vernon,
squire to the Black Prince, whose fate is the reverse of his
descendant's, since he is more indebted to the bard who took the trouble
to celebrate him, for good-will than for talents,--
Amiddes the route you may discern one
Brave knight, with pipes on shield, ycleped Vernon
Like a borne fiend along the plain he thundered,
Prest to be carving throtes, while others plundered.
"Then there is a model of a new martingale, which I invented myself--a
great improvement on the Duke of Newcastle's; and there are the hood and
bells of my falcon Cheviot, who spitted himself on a heron's bill at
Horsely-moss--poor Cheviot, there is not a bird on the perches below, but
are kites and riflers compared to him; and there is my own light
fowling-piece, with an improved firelock; with twenty other treasures,
each more valuable than another--And there, that speaks for itself."
She pointed to the carved oak frame of a full-length portrait by Vandyke,
on which were inscribed, in Gothic letters, the words _Vernon semper
viret._ I looked at her for explanation. "Do you not know," said she,
with some surprise, "our motto--the Vernon motto, where,
Like the solemn vice iniquity,
We moralise two meanings in one word
And do you not know our cognisance, the pipes?" pointing to the armorial
bearings sculptured on the oaken scutcheon, around which the legend was
"Pipes!--they look more like penny-whistles--But, pray, do not be angry
with my ignorance," I continued, observing the colour mount to her
cheeks, "I can mean no affront to your armorial bearings, for I do not
even know my own."
"You an Osbaldistone, and confess so much!" she exclaimed. "Why, Percie,
Thornie, John, Dickon--Wilfred himself, might be your instructor. Even
ignorance itself is a plummet over you."
"With shame I confess it, my dear Miss Vernon, the mysteries couched
under the grim hieroglyphics of heraldry are to me as unintelligible as
those of the pyramids of Egypt."
"What! is it possible?--Why, even my uncle reads Gwillym sometimes of a
winter night--Not know the figures of heraldry!--of what could your
father be thinking?"
"Of the figures of arithmetic," I answered; "the most insignificant unit
of which he holds more highly than all the blazonry of chivalry. But,
though I am ignorant to this inexpressible degree, I have knowledge and
taste enough to admire that splendid picture, in which I think I can
discover a family likeness to you. What ease and dignity in the
attitude!--what richness of colouring--what breadth and depth of shade!"
"Is it really a fine painting?" she asked.
"I have seen many works of the renowned artist," I replied, "but never
beheld one more to my liking!"
"Well, I know as little of pictures as you do of heraldry," replied Miss
Vernon; "yet I have the advantage of you, because I have always admired
the painting without understanding its value."
"While I have neglected pipes and tabors, and all the whimsical
combinations of chivalry, still I am informed that they floated in the
fields of ancient fame. But you will allow their exterior appearance is
not so peculiarly interesting to the uninformed spectator as that of a
fine painting.--Who is the person here represented?"
"My grandfather. He shared the misfortunes of Charles I., and, I am sorry
to add, the excesses of his son. Our patrimonial estate was greatly
impaired by his prodigality, and was altogether lost by his successor, my
unfortunate father. But peace be with them who have got it!--it was lost
in the cause of loyalty."
"Your father, I presume, suffered in the political dissensions of the
"He did indeed;--he lost his all. And hence is his child a dependent
orphan--eating the bread of others--subjected to their caprices, and
compelled to study their inclinations; yet prouder of having had such a
father, than if, playing a more prudent but less upright part, he had
left me possessor of all the rich and fair baronies which his family once
As she thus spoke, the entrance of the servants with dinner cut off all
conversation but that of a general nature.
When our hasty meal was concluded, and the wine placed on the table, the
domestic informed us, "that Mr. Rashleigh had desired to be told when our
dinner was removed."
"Tell him," said Miss Vernon, "we shall be happy to see him if he will
step this way--place another wineglass and chair, and leave the room.--
You must retire with him when he goes away, she continued, addressing
herself to me; "even _my_ liberality cannot spare a gentleman above eight
hours out of the twenty-four; and I think we have been together for at
least that length of time."
"The old scythe-man has moved so rapidly," I answered, "that I could not
count his strides."
"Hush!" said Miss Vernon, "here comes Rashleigh;" and she drew off her
chair, to which I had approached mine rather closely, so as to place a
greater distance between us. A modest tap at the door,--a gentle manner
of opening when invited to enter,--a studied softness and humility of
step and deportment, announced that the education of Rashleigh
Osbaldistone at the College of St. Omers accorded well with the ideas I
entertained of the manners of an accomplished Jesuit. I need not add,
that, as a sound Protestant, these ideas were not the most favourable.
"Why should you use the ceremony of knocking," said Miss Vernon, "when
you knew that I was not alone?"
This was spoken with a burst of impatience, as if she had felt that
Rashleigh's air of caution and reserve covered some insinuation of
impertinent suspicion. "You have taught me the form of knocking at this
door so perfectly, my fair cousin," answered Rashleigh, without change of
voice or manner, "that habit has become a second nature."
"I prize sincerity more than courtesy, sir, and you know I do," was Miss
"Courtesy is a gallant gay, a courtier by name and by profession,"
replied Rashleigh, "and therefore most fit for a lady's bower."
"But Sincerity is the true knight," retorted Miss Vernon, "and therefore
much more welcome, cousin. But to end a debate not over amusing to your
stranger kinsman, sit down, Rashleigh, and give Mr. Francis Osbaldistone
your countenance to his glass of wine. I have done the honours of the
dinner, for the credit of Osbaldistone Hall."
Rashleigh sate down, and filled his glass, glancing his eye from Diana to
me, with an embarrassment which his utmost efforts could not entirely
disguise. I thought he appeared to be uncertain concerning the extent of
confidence she might have reposed in me, and hastened to lead the
conversation into a channel which should sweep away his suspicion that
Diana might have betrayed any secrets which rested between them. "Miss
Vernon," I said, "Mr. Rashleigh, has recommended me to return my thanks
to you for my speedy disengagement from the ridiculous accusation of
Morris; and, unjustly fearing my gratitude might not be warm enough to
remind me of this duty, she has put my curiosity on its side, by
referring me to you for an account, or rather explanation, of the events
of the day."
"Indeed?" answered Rashleigh; "I should have thought" (looking keenly at
Miss Vernon) "that the lady herself might have stood interpreter;" and
his eye, reverting from her face, sought mine, as if to search, from the
expression of my features, whether Diana's communication had been as
narrowly limited as my words had intimated. Miss Vernon retorted his
inquisitorial glance with one of decided scorn; while I, uncertain
whether to deprecate or resent his obvious suspicion, replied, "If it is
your pleasure, Mr. Rashleigh, as it has been Miss Vernon's, to leave me
in ignorance, I must necessarily submit; but, pray, do not withhold your
information from me on the ground of imagining that I have already
obtained any on the subject. For I tell you, as a man of honour, I am as
ignorant as that picture of anything relating to the events I have
witnessed to-day, excepting that I understand from Miss Vernon, that you
have been kindly active in my favour."
"Miss Vernon has overrated my humble efforts," said Rashleigh, "though I
claim full credit for my zeal. The truth is, that as I galloped back to
get some one of our family to join me in becoming your bail, which was
the most obvious, or, indeed, I may say, the only way of serving you
which occurred to my stupidity, I met the man Cawmil--Colville--Campbell,
or whatsoever they call him. I had understood from Morris that he was
present when the robbery took place, and had the good fortune to prevail
on him (with some difficulty, I confess) to tender his evidence in your
exculpation--which I presume was the means of your being released from an
"Indeed?--I am much your debtor for procuring such a seasonable evidence
in my behalf. But I cannot see why (having been, as he said, a
fellow-sufferer with Morris) it should have required much trouble to
persuade him to step forth and bear evidence, whether to convict the
actual robber, or free an innocent person."
"You do not know the genius of that man's country, sir," answered
Rashleigh;--"discretion, prudence, and foresight, are their leading
qualities; these are only modified by a narrow-spirited, but yet ardent
patriotism, which forms as it were the outmost of the concentric bulwarks
with which a Scotchman fortifies himself against all the attacks of a
generous philanthropical principle. Surmount this mound, you find an
inner and still dearer barrier--the love of his province, his village,
or, most probably, his clan; storm this second obstacle, you have a
third--his attachment to his own family--his father, mother, sons,
daughters, uncles, aunts, and cousins, to the ninth generation. It is
within these limits that a Scotchman's social affection expands itself,
never reaching those which are outermost, till all means of discharging
itself in the interior circles have been exhausted. It is within these
circles that his heart throbs, each pulsation being fainter and fainter,
till, beyond the widest boundary, it is almost unfelt. And what is worst
of all, could you surmount all these concentric outworks, you have an
inner citadel, deeper, higher, and more efficient than them all--a
Scotchman's love for himself."
"All this is extremely eloquent and metaphorical, Rashleigh," said Miss
Vernon, who listened with unrepressed impatience; "there are only two
objections to it: first, it is _not_ true; secondly, if true, it is
nothing to the purpose."
"It _is_ true, my fairest Diana," returned Rashleigh; "and moreover, it
is most instantly to the purpose. It is true, because you cannot deny
that I know the country and people intimately, and the character is drawn
from deep and accurate consideration--and it is to the purpose, because
it answers Mr. Francis Osbaldistone's question, and shows why this same
wary Scotchman, considering our kinsman to be neither his countryman, nor
a Campbell, nor his cousin in any of the inextricable combinations by
which they extend their pedigree; and, above all, seeing no prospect of
personal advantage, but, on the contrary, much hazard of loss of time and
delay of business"--
"With other inconveniences, perhaps, of a nature yet more formidable,"
interrupted Miss Vernon.
"Of which, doubtless, there might be many," said Rashleigh, continuing in
the same tone--"In short, my theory shows why this man, hoping for no
advantage, and afraid of some inconvenience, might require a degree of
persuasion ere he could be prevailed on to give his testimony in favour
of Mr. Osbaldistone."
"It seems surprising to me," I observed, "that during the glance I cast
over the declaration, or whatever it is termed, of Mr. Morris, he should
never have mentioned that Campbell was in his company when he met the
"I understood from Campbell, that he had taken his solemn promise not to
mention that circumstance," replied Rashleigh: "his reason for exacting
such an engagement you may guess from what I have hinted--he wished to
get back to his own country, undelayed and unembarrassed by any of the
judicial inquiries which he would have been under the necessity of
attending, had the fact of his being present at the robbery taken air
while he was on this side of the Border. But let him once be as distant
as the Forth, Morris will, I warrant you, come forth with all he knows
about him, and, it may be, a good deal more. Besides, Campbell is a very
extensive dealer in cattle, and has often occasion to send great droves
into Northumberland; and, when driving such a trade, he would be a great
fool to embroil himself with our Northumbrian thieves, than whom no men
who live are more vindictive."
"I dare be sworn of that," said Miss Vernon, with a tone which implied
something more than a simple acquiescence in the proposition.
"Still," said I, resuming the subject, "allowing the force of the reasons
which Campbell might have for desiring that Morris should be silent with
regard to his promise when the robbery was committed, I cannot yet see
how he could attain such an influence over the man, as to make him
suppress his evidence in that particular, at the manifest risk of
subjecting his story to discredit."
Rashleigh agreed with me, that it was very extraordinary, and seemed to
regret that he had not questioned the Scotchman more closely on that
subject, which he allowed looked extremely mysterious. "But," he asked,
immediately after this acquiescence, "are you very sure the circumstance
of Morris's being accompanied by Campbell is really not alluded to in his
"I read the paper over hastily," said I; "but it is my strong impression
that no such circumstance is mentioned;--at least, it must have been
touched on very slightly, since it failed to catch my attention."
"True, true," answered Rashleigh, forming his own inference while he
adopted my words; "I incline to think with you, that the circumstance
must in reality have been mentioned, but so slightly that it failed to
attract your attention. And then, as to Campbell's interest with Morris,
I incline to suppose that it must have been gained by playing upon his
fears. This chicken-hearted fellow, Morris, is bound, I understand, for
Scotland, destined for some little employment under Government; and,
possessing the courage of the wrathful dove, or most magnanimous mouse,
he may have been afraid to encounter the ill-will of such a kill-cow as
Campbell, whose very appearance would be enough to fright him out of his
little wits. You observed that Mr. Campbell has at times a keen and
animated manner--something of a martial cast in his tone and bearing."
"I own," I replied, "that his expression struck me as being occasionally
fierce and sinister, and little adapted to his peaceable professions. Has
he served in the army?"
"Yes--no--not, strictly speaking, _served;_ but he has been, I believe,
like most of his countrymen, trained to arms. Indeed, among the hills,
they carry them from boyhood to the grave. So, if you know anything of
your fellow-traveller, you will easily judge, that, going to such a
country, he will take cue to avoid a quarrel, if he can help it, with any
of the natives. But, come, I see you decline your wine--and I too am a
degenerate Osbaldistone, so far as respects the circulation of the
bottle. If you will go to my room, I will hold you a hand at piquet."
We rose to take leave of Miss Vernon, who had from time to time
suppressed, apparently with difficulty, a strong temptation to break in
upon Rashleigh's details. As we were about to leave the room, the
smothered fire broke forth.
"Mr. Osbaldistone," she said, "your own observation will enable you to
verify the justice, or injustice, of Rashleigh's suggestions concerning
such individuals as Mr. Campbell and Mr. Morris. But, in slandering
Scotland, he has borne false witness against a whole country; and I
request you will allow no weight to his evidence."
"Perhaps," I answered, "I may find it somewhat difficult to obey your
injunction, Miss Vernon; for I must own I was bred up with no very
favourable idea of our northern neighbours."
"Distrust that part of your education, sir," she replied, "and let the
daughter of a Scotchwoman pray you to respect the land which gave her
parent birth, until your own observation has proved them to be unworthy
of your good opinion. Preserve your hatred and contempt for
dissimulation, baseness, and falsehood, wheresoever they are to be met
with. You will find enough of all without leaving England.--Adieu,
gentlemen, I wish you good evening."
And she signed to the door, with the manner of a princess dismissing her
We retired to Rashleigh's apartment, where a servant brought us coffee
and cards. I had formed my resolution to press Rashleigh no farther on
the events of the day. A mystery, and, as I thought, not of a favourable
complexion, appeared to hang over his conduct; but to ascertain if my
suspicions were just, it was necessary to throw him off his guard. We cut
for the deal, and were soon earnestly engaged in our play. I thought I
perceived in this trifling for amusement (for the stake which Rashleigh
proposed was a mere trifle) something of a fierce and ambitious temper.
He seemed perfectly to understand the beautiful game at which he played,
but preferred, as it were on principle, the risking bold and precarious
strokes to the ordinary rules of play; and neglecting the minor and
better-balanced chances of the game, he hazarded everything for the
chance of piqueing, repiqueing, or capoting his adversary. So soon as the
intervention of a game or two at piquet, like the music between the acts
of a drama, had completely interrupted our previous course of
conversation, Rashleigh appeared to tire of the game, and the cards were
superseded by discourse, in which he assumed the lead.
More learned than soundly wise--better acquainted with men's minds than
with the moral principles that ought to regulate them, he had still
powers of conversation which I have rarely seen equalled, never excelled.
Of this his manner implied some consciousness; at least, it appeared to
me that he had studied hard to improve his natural advantages of a
melodious voice, fluent and happy expression, apt language, and fervid
imagination. He was never loud, never overbearing, never so much occupied
with his own thoughts as to outrun either the patience or the
comprehension of those he conversed with. His ideas succeeded each other
with the gentle but unintermitting flow of a plentiful and bounteous
spring; while I have heard those of others, who aimed at distinction in
conversation, rush along like the turbid gush from the sluice of a
mill-pond, as hurried, and as easily exhausted. It was late at night ere
I could part from a companion so fascinating; and, when I gained my own
apartment, it cost me no small effort to recall to my mind the character
of Rashleigh, such as I had pictured him previous to this
So effectual, my dear Tresham, does the sense of being pleased and amused
blunt our faculties of perception and discrimination of character, that I
can only compare it to the taste of certain fruits, at once luscious and
poignant, which renders our palate totally unfit for relishing or
distinguishing the viands which are subsequently subjected to its
What gars ye gaunt, my merrymen a'?
What gars ye look sae dreary?
What gars ye hing your head sae sair
In the castle of Balwearie?
Old Scotch Ballad.
The next morning chanced to be Sunday, a day peculiarly hard to be got
rid of at Osbaldistone Hall; for after the formal religious service of
the morning had been performed, at which all the family regularly
attended, it was hard to say upon which individual, Rashleigh and Miss
Vernon excepted, the fiend of ennui descended with the most abundant
outpouring of his spirit. To speak of my yesterday's embarrassment amused
Sir Hildebrand for several minutes, and he congratulated me on my
deliverance from Morpeth or Hexham jail, as he would have done if I had
fallen in attempting to clear a five-barred gate, and got up without
"Hast had a lucky turn, lad; but do na be over venturous again. What,
man! the king's road is free to all men, be they Whigs, be they Tories."
"On my word, sir, I am innocent of interrupting it; and it is the most
provoking thing on earth, that every person will take it for granted that
I am accessory to a crime which I despise and detest, and which would,
moreover, deservedly forfeit my life to the laws of my country."
"Well, well, lad; even so be it; I ask no questions--no man bound to tell
on himsell--that's fair play, or the devil's in't."
Rashleigh here came to my assistance; but I could not help thinking that
his arguments were calculated rather as hints to his father to put on a
show of acquiescence in my declaration of innocence, than fully to
"In your own house, my dear sir--and your own nephew--you will not surely
persist in hurting his feelings by seeming to discredit what he is so
strongly interested in affirming. No doubt, you are fully deserving of
all his confidence, and I am sure, were there anything you could do to
assist him in this strange affair, he would have recourse to your
goodness. But my cousin Frank has been dismissed as an innocent man, and
no one is entitled to suppose him otherwise. For my part, I have not the
least doubt of his innocence; and our family honour, I conceive, requires
that we should maintain it with tongue and sword against the whole
"Rashleigh," said his father, looking fixedly at him, "thou art a sly
loon--thou hast ever been too cunning for me, and too cunning for most
folks. Have a care thou provena too cunning for thysell--two faces under
one hood is no true heraldry. And since we talk of heraldry, I'll go and
This resolution he intimated with a yawn, resistless as that of the
Goddess in the Dunciad, which was responsively echoed by his giant sons,
as they dispersed in quest of the pastimes to which their minds severally
inclined them--Percie to discuss a pot of March beer with the steward in
the buttery,--Thorncliff to cut a pair of cudgels, and fix them in their
wicker hilts,--John to dress May-flies,--Dickon to play at pitch and toss
by himself, his right hand against his left,--and Wilfred to bite his
thumbs and hum himself into a slumber which should last till dinner-time,
if possible. Miss Vernon had retired to the library.
Rashleigh and I were left alone in the old hall, from which the servants,
with their usual bustle and awkwardness, had at length contrived to hurry
the remains of our substantial breakfast. I took the opportunity to
upbraid him with the manner in which he had spoken of my affair to his
father, which I frankly stated was highly offensive to me, as it seemed
rather to exhort Sir Hildebrand to conceal his suspicions, than to root
"Why, what can I do, my dear friend?" replied Rashleigh "my father's
disposition is so tenacious of suspicions of all kinds, when once they
take root (which, to do him justice, does not easily happen), that I have
always found it the best way to silence him upon such subjects, instead
of arguing with him. Thus I get the better of the weeds which I cannot
eradicate, by cutting them over as often as they appear, until at length
they die away of themselves. There is neither wisdom nor profit in
disputing with such a mind as Sir Hildebrand's, which hardens itself
against conviction, and believes in its own inspirations as firmly as we
good Catholics do in those of the Holy Father of Rome."
"It is very hard, though, that I should live in the house of a man, and
he a near relation too, who will persist in believing me guilty of a
"My father's foolish opinion, if one may give that epithet to any opinion
of a father's, does not affect your real innocence; and as to the
disgrace of the fact, depend on it, that, considered in all its bearings,
political as well as moral, Sir Hildebrand regards it as a meritorious
action--a weakening of the enemy--a spoiling of the Amalekites; and you
will stand the higher in his regard for your supposed accession to it."
"I desire no man's regard, Mr. Rashleigh, on such terms as must sink me
in my own; and I think these injurious suspicions will afford a very good
reason for quitting Osbaldistone Hall, which I shall do whenever I can
communicate on the subject with my father."
The dark countenance of Rashleigh, though little accustomed to betray its
master's feelings, exhibited a suppressed smile, which he instantly
chastened by a sigh. "You are a happy man, Frank--you go and come, as the
wind bloweth where it listeth. With your address, taste, and talents, you
will soon find circles where they will be more valued, than amid the dull
inmates of this mansion; while I--" he paused.
"And what is there in your lot that can make you or any one envy mine,--
an outcast, as I may almost term myself, from my father's house and
"Ay, but," answered Rashleigh, "consider the gratified sense of
independence which you must have attained by a very temporary sacrifice,
--for such I am sure yours will prove to be; consider the power of acting
as a free agent, of cultivating your own talents in the way to which your
taste determines you, and in which you are well qualified to distinguish
yourself. Fame and freedom are cheaply purchased by a few weeks'
residence in the North, even though your place of exile be Osbaldistone
Hall. A second Ovid in Thrace, you have not his reasons for writing
"I do not know," said I, blushing as became a young scribbler, "how you
should be so well acquainted with my truant studies."
"There was an emissary of your father's here some time since, a young
coxcomb, one Twineall, who informed me concerning your secret sacrifices
to the muses, and added, that some of your verses had been greatly
admired by the best judges."
Tresham, I believe you are guiltless of having ever essayed to build the
lofty rhyme; but you must have known in your day many an apprentice and
fellow-craft, if not some of the master-masons, in the temple of Apollo.
Vanity is their universal foible, from him who decorated the shades of
Twickenham, to the veriest scribbler whom he has lashed in his Dunciad. I
had my own share of this common failing, and without considering how
little likely this young fellow Twineall was, by taste and habits, either
to be acquainted with one or two little pieces of poetry, which I had at
times insinuated into Button's coffee-house, or to report the opinion of
the critics who frequented that resort of wit and literature, I almost
instantly gorged the bait; which Rashleigh perceiving, improved his
opportunity by a diffident, yet apparently very anxious request to be
permitted to see some of my manuscript productions.
"You shall give me an evening in my own apartment," he continued; "for I
must soon lose the charms of literary society for the drudgery of
commerce, and the coarse every-day avocations of the world. I repeat it,
that my compliance with my father's wishes for the advantage of my
family, is indeed a sacrifice, especially considering the calm and
peaceful profession to which my education destined me."
I was vain, but not a fool, and this hypocrisy was too strong for me to
swallow. "You would not persuade me," I replied, "that you really regret
to exchange the situation of an obscure Catholic priest, with all its
privations, for wealth and society, and the pleasures of the world?"
Rashleigh saw that he had coloured his affectation of moderation too
highly, and, after a second's pause, during which, I suppose, he
calculated the degree of candour which it was necessary to use with me
(that being a quality of which he was never needlessly profuse), he
answered, with a smile--"At my age, to be condemned, as you say, to
wealth and the world, does not, indeed, sound so alarming as perhaps it
ought to do. But, with pardon be it spoken, you have mistaken my
destination--a Catholic priest, if you will, but not an obscure one. No,
sir,--Rashleigh Osbaldistone will be more obscure, should he rise to be
the richest citizen in London, than he might have been as a member of a
church, whose ministers, as some one says, 'set their sandall'd feet on
princes.' My family interest at a certain exiled court is high, and the
weight which that court ought to possess, and does possess, at Rome is
yet higher--my talents not altogether inferior to the education I have
received. In sober judgment, I might have looked forward to high eminence
in the church--in the dream of fancy, to the very highest. Why might
not"--(he added, laughing, for it was part of his manner to keep much of
his discourse apparently betwixt jest and earnest)--"why might not
Cardinal Osbaldistone have swayed the fortunes of empires, well-born and
well-connected, as well as the low-born Mazarin, or Alberoni, the son of
an Italian gardener?"
"Nay, I can give you no reason to the contrary; but in your place I
should not much regret losing the chance of such precarious and invidious
"Neither would I," he replied, "were I sure that my present establishment
was more certain; but that must depend upon circumstances which I can
only learn by experience--the disposition of your father, for example."
"Confess the truth without finesse, Rashleigh; you would willingly know
something of him from me?"
"Since, like Die Vernon, you make a point of following the banner of the
good knight Sincerity, I reply--certainly."
"Well, then, you will find in my father a man who has followed the paths
of thriving more for the exercise they afforded to his talents, than for
the love of the gold with which they are strewed. His active mind would
have been happy in any situation which gave it scope for exertion, though
that exertion had been its sole reward. But his wealth has accumulated,
because, moderate and frugal in his habits, no new sources of expense
have occurred to dispose of his increasing income. He is a man who hates
dissimulation in others; never practises it himself; and is peculiarly
alert in discovering motives through the colouring of language. Himself
silent by habit, he is readily disgusted by great talkers; the rather,
that the circumstances by which he is most interested, afford no great
scope for conversation. He is severely strict in the duties of religion;
but you have no reason to fear his interference with yours, for he
regards toleration as a sacred principle of political economy. But if you
have any Jacobitical partialities, as is naturally to be supposed, you
will do well to suppress them in his presence, as well as the least
tendency to the highflying or Tory principles; for he holds both in utter
detestation. For the rest, his word is his own bond, and must be the law
of all who act under him. He will fail in his duty to no one, and will
permit no one to fail towards him; to cultivate his favour, you must
execute his commands, instead of echoing his sentiments. His greatest
failings arise out of prejudices connected with his own profession, or
rather his exclusive devotion to it, which makes him see little worthy of
praise or attention, unless it be in some measure connected with
"O rare-painted portrait!" exclaimed Rashleigh, when I was silent--
"Vandyke was a dauber to you, Frank. I see thy sire before me in all his
strength and weakness; loving and honouring the King as a sort of lord
mayor of the empire, or chief of the board of trade--venerating the
Commons, for the acts regulating the export trade--and respecting the
Peers, because the Lord Chancellor sits on a woolsack."
"Mine was a likeness, Rashleigh; yours is a caricature. But in return for
the _carte du pays_ which I have unfolded to you, give me some lights on
the geography of the unknown lands"--
"On which you are wrecked," said Rashleigh. "It is not worth while; it is
no Isle of Calypso, umbrageous with shade and intricate with silvan
labyrinth--but a bare ragged Northumbrian moor, with as little to
interest curiosity as to delight the eye; you may descry it in all its
nakedness in half an hour's survey, as well as if I were to lay it down
before you by line and compass."
"O, but something there is, worthy a more attentive survey--What say you
to Miss Vernon? Does not she form an interesting object in the landscape,
were all round as rude as Iceland's coast?"
I could plainly perceive that Rashleigh disliked the topic now presented
to him; but my frank communication had given me the advantageous title to
make inquiries in my turn. Rashleigh felt this, and found himself obliged
to follow my lead, however difficult he might find it to play his cards
successfully. "I have known less of Miss Vernon," he said, "for some
time, than I was wont to do formerly. In early age I was her tutor; but
as she advanced towards womanhood, my various avocations,--the gravity of
the profession to which I was destined,--the peculiar nature of her
engagements,--our mutual situation, in short, rendered a close and
constant intimacy dangerous and improper. I believe Miss Vernon might
consider my reserve as unkindness, but it was my duty; I felt as much as
she seemed to do, when compelled to give way to prudence. But where was
the safety in cultivating an intimacy with a beautiful and susceptible
girl, whose heart, you are aware, must be given either to the cloister or
to a betrothed husband?"
"The cloister or a betrothed husband?" I echoed--"Is that the alternative
destined for Miss Vernon?"
"It is indeed," said Rashleigh, with a sigh. "I need not, I suppose,
caution you against the danger of cultivating too closely the friendship
of Miss Vernon;--you are a man of the world, and know how far you can
indulge yourself in her society with safety to yourself, and justice to
her. But I warn you, that, considering her ardent temper, you must let
your experience keep guard over her as well as yourself, for the specimen
of yesterday may serve to show her extreme thoughtlessness and neglect of
There was something, I was sensible, of truth, as well as good sense, in
all this; it seemed to be given as a friendly warning, and I had no right
to take it amiss; yet I felt I could with pleasure have run Rashleigh
Osbaldistone through the body all the time he was speaking.
"The deuce take his insolence!" was my internal meditation. "Would he
wish me to infer that Miss Vernon had fallen in love with that
hatchet-face of his, and become degraded so low as to require his shyness
to cure her of an imprudent passion? I will have his meaning from him,"
was my resolution, "if I should drag it out with cart-ropes."
For this purpose, I placed my temper under as accurate a guard as I
could, and observed, "That, for a lady of her good sense and acquired
accomplishments, it was to be regretted that Miss Vernon's manners were
rather blunt and rustic."
"Frank and unreserved, at least, to the extreme," replied Rashleigh:
"yet, trust me, she has an excellent heart. To tell you the truth, should
she continue her extreme aversion to the cloister, and to her destined
husband, and should my own labours in the mine of Plutus promise to
secure me a decent independence, I shall think of reviewing our
acquaintance and sharing it with Miss Vernon."
"With all his fine voice, and well-turned periods," thought I, "this same
Rashleigh Osbaldistone is the ugliest and most conceited coxcomb I ever
"But," continued Rashleigh, as if thinking aloud, "I should not like to
"Supplant Thorncliff!--Is your brother Thorncliff," I inquired, with
great surprise, "the destined husband of Diana Vernon?"
"Why, ay, her father's commands, and a certain family-contract, destined
her to marry one of Sir Hildebrand's sons. A dispensation has been
obtained from Rome to Diana Vernon to marry _Blank_ Osbaldistone, Esq.,
son of Sir Hildebrand Osbaldistone, of Osbaldistone Hall, Bart., and so
forth; and it only remains to pitch upon the happy man whose name shall
fill the gap in the manuscript. Now, as Percie is seldom sober, my father
pitched on Thorncliff, as the second prop of the family, and therefore
most proper to carry on the line of the Osbaldistones."
"The young lady," said I, forcing myself to assume an air of pleasantry,
which, I believe, became me extremely ill, "would perhaps have been
inclined to look a little lower on the family-tree, for the branch to
which she was desirous of clinging."
"I cannot say," he replied. "There is room for little choice in our
family; Dick is a gambler, John a boor, and Wilfred an ass. I believe my
father really made the best selection for poor Die, after all."
"The present company," said I, "being always excepted."
"Oh, my destination to the church placed me out of the question;
otherwise I will not affect to say, that, qualified by my education both
to instruct and guide Miss Vernon, I might not have been a more
creditable choice than any of my elders."
"And so thought the young lady, doubtless?"
"You are not to suppose so," answered Rashleigh, with an affectation of
denial which was contrived to convey the strongest affirmation the case
admitted of: "friendship--only friendship--formed the tie betwixt us, and
the tender affection of an opening mind to its only instructor--Love came
not near us--I told you I was wise in time."
I felt little inclination to pursue this conversation any farther, and
shaking myself clear of Rashleigh, withdrew to my own apartment, which I
recollect I traversed with much vehemence of agitation, repeating aloud
the expressions which had most offended me.--"Susceptible--ardent--tender
affection--Love--Diana Vernon, the most beautiful creature I ever beheld,
in love with him, the bandy-legged, bull-necked, limping scoundrel!
Richard the Third in all but his hump-back!--And yet the opportunities he
must have had during his cursed course of lectures; and the fellow's
flowing and easy strain of sentiment; and her extreme seclusion from
every one who spoke and acted with common sense; ay, and her obvious
pique at him, mixed with admiration of his talents, which looked as like
the result of neglected attachment as anything else--Well, and what is it
to me, that I should storm and rage at it? Is Diana Vernon the first
pretty girl that has loved and married an ugly fellow? And if she were
free of every Osbaldistone of them, what concern is it of mine?--a
Catholic--a Jacobite--a termagant into the boot--for me to look that way
were utter madness."
By throwing such reflections on the flame of my displeasure, I subdued it
into a sort of smouldering heart-burning, and appeared at the
dinner-table in as sulky a humour as could well be imagined.
Drunk?--and speak parrot?--and squabble?--swagger?--
Swear?--and discourse fustian with one's own shadow?
I have already told you, my dear Tresham, what probably was no news to
you, that my principal fault was an unconquerable pitch of pride, which
exposed me to frequent mortification. I had not even whispered to myself
that I loved Diana Vernon; yet no sooner did I hear Rashleigh talk of her
as a prize which he might stoop to carry off, or neglect, at his
pleasure, than every step which the poor girl had taken, in the innocence
and openness of her heart, to form a sort of friendship with me, seemed
in my eyes the most insulting coquetry.--"Soh! she would secure me as a
_pis aller,_ I suppose, in case Mr. Rashleigh Osbaldistone should not
take compassion upon her! But I will satisfy her that I am not a person
to be trepanned in that manner--I will make her sensible that I see
through her arts, and that I scorn them."
I did not reflect for a moment, that all this indignation, which I had no
right whatever to entertain, proved that I was anything but indifferent
to Miss Vernon's charms; and I sate down to table in high ill-humour with
her and all the daughters of Eve.
Miss Vernon heard me, with surprise, return ungracious answers to one or
two playful strokes of satire which she threw out with her usual freedom
of speech; but, having no suspicion that offence was meant, she only
replied to my rude repartees with jests somewhat similar, but polished by
her good temper, though pointed by her wit. At length she perceived I was
really out of humour, and answered one of my rude speeches thus:--
"They say, Mr. Frank, that one may gather sense from fools--I heard
cousin Wilfred refuse to play any longer at cudgels the other day with
cousin Thornie, because cousin Thornie got angry, and struck harder than
the rules of amicable combat, it seems, permitted. 'Were I to break your
head in good earnest,' quoth honest Wilfred, 'I care not how angry you
are, for I should do it so much the more easily but it's hard I should
get raps over the costard, and only pay you back in make-believes'--Do
you understand the moral of this, Frank?"
"I have never felt myself under the necessity, madam, of studying how to
extract the slender portion of sense with which this family season their
"Necessity! and madam!--You surprise me, Mr. Osbaldistone."
"I am unfortunate in doing so."
"Am I to suppose that this capricious tone is serious? or is it only
assumed, to make your good-humour more valuable?"
"You have a right to the attention of so many gentlemen in this family,
Miss Vernon, that it cannot be worth your while to inquire into the cause
of my stupidity and bad spirits."
"What!" she said, "am I to understand, then, that you have deserted my
faction, and gone over to the enemy?"
Then, looking across the table, and observing that Rashleigh, who was
seated opposite, was watching us with a singular expression of interest
on his harsh features, she continued--
"Horrible thought!--Ay, now I see 'tis true,
For the grim-visaged Rashleigh smiles on me,
And points at thee for his!--
Well, thank Heaven, and the unprotected state which has taught me
endurance, I do not take offence easily; and that I may not be forced to
quarrel, whether I like it or no, I have the honour, earlier than usual,
to wish you a happy digestion of your dinner and your bad humour."
And she left the table accordingly.
Upon Miss Vernon's departure, I found myself very little satisfied with
my own conduct. I had hurled back offered kindness, of which
circumstances had but lately pointed out the honest sincerity, and I had
but just stopped short of insulting the beautiful, and, as she had said
with some emphasis, the unprotected being by whom it was proffered. My
conduct seemed brutal in my own eyes. To combat or drown these painful
reflections, I applied myself more frequently than usual to the wine
which circulated on the table.
The agitated state of my feelings combined with my habits of temperance
to give rapid effect to the beverage. Habitual topers, I believe, acquire
the power of soaking themselves with a quantity of liquor that does
little more than muddy those intellects which in their sober state are
none of the clearest; but men who are strangers to the vice of
drunkenness as a habit, are more powerfully acted upon by intoxicating
liquors. My spirits, once aroused, became extravagant; I talked a great
deal, argued upon what I knew nothing of, told stories of which I forgot
the point, then laughed immoderately at my own forgetfulness; I accepted
several bets without having the least judgment; I challenged the giant
John to wrestle with me, although he had kept the ring at Hexham for a
year, and I never tried so much as a single fall.
My uncle had the goodness to interpose and prevent this consummation of
drunken folly, which, I suppose, would have otherwise ended in my neck
It has even been reported by maligners, that I sung a song while under
this vinous influence; but, as I remember nothing of it, and never
attempted to turn a tune in all my life before or since, I would
willingly hope there is no actual foundation for the calumny. I was
absurd enough without this exaggeration. Without positively losing my
senses, I speedily lost all command of my temper, and my impetuous
passions whirled me onward at their pleasure. I had sate down sulky and
discontented, and disposed to be silent--the wine rendered me loquacious,
disputatious, and quarrelsome. I contradicted whatever was asserted, and
attacked, without any respect to my uncle's table, both his politics and
his religion. The affected moderation of Rashleigh, which he well knew
how to qualify with irritating ingredients, was even more provoking to me
than the noisy and bullying language of his obstreperous brothers. My
uncle, to do him justice, endeavoured to bring us to order; but his
authority was lost amidst the tumult of wine and passion. At length,
frantic at some real or supposed injurious insinuation, I actually struck
Rashleigh with my fist. No Stoic philosopher, superior to his own passion
and that of others, could have received an insult with a higher degree of
scorn. What he himself did not think it apparently worth while to resent,
Thorncliff resented for him. Swords were drawn, and we exchanged one or
two passes, when the other brothers separated us by main force; and I
shall never forget the diabolical sneer which writhed Rashleigh's wayward
features, as I was forced from the apartment by the main strength of two
of these youthful Titans. They secured me in my apartment by locking the
door, and I heard them, to my inexpressible rage, laugh heartily as they
descended the stairs. I essayed in my fury to break out; but the
window-grates, and the strength of a door clenched with iron, resisted my
efforts. At length I threw myself on my bed, and fell asleep amidst vows
of dire revenge to be taken in the ensuing day.
But with the morning cool repentance came. I felt, in the keenest manner,
the violence and absurdity of my conduct, and was obliged to confess that
wine and passion had lowered my intellects even below those of Wilfred
Osbaldistone, whom I held in so much contempt. My uncomfortable
reflections were by no means soothed by meditating the necessity of an
apology for my improper behaviour, and recollecting that Miss Vernon must
be a witness of my submission. The impropriety and unkindness of my
conduct to her personally, added not a little to these galling
considerations, and for this I could not even plead the miserable excuse
Under all these aggravating feelings of shame and degradation, I
descended to the breakfast hall, like a criminal to receive sentence. It
chanced that a hard frost had rendered it impossible to take out the
hounds, so that I had the additional mortification to meet the family,
excepting only Rashleigh and Miss Vernon, in full divan, surrounding the
cold venison pasty and chine of beef. They were in high glee as I
entered, and I could easily imagine that the jests were furnished at my
expense. In fact, what I was disposed to consider with serious pain, was
regarded as an excellent good joke by my uncle, and the greater part of
my cousins. Sir Hildebrand, while he rallied me on the exploits of the
preceding evening, swore he thought a young fellow had better be thrice
drunk in one day, than sneak sober to bed like a Presbyterian, and leave
a batch of honest fellows, and a double quart of claret. And to back this
consolatory speech, he poured out a large bumper of brandy, exhorting me
to swallow "a hair of the dog that had bit me."
"Never mind these lads laughing, nevoy," he continued; "they would have
been all as great milksops as yourself, had I not nursed them, as one may
say, on the toast and tankard."
Ill-nature was not the fault of my cousins in general; they saw I was
vexed and hurt at the recollections of the preceding evening, and
endeavoured, with clumsy kindness, to remove the painful impression they
had made on me. Thorncliff alone looked sullen and unreconciled. This
young man had never liked me from the beginning; and in the marks of
attention occasionally shown me by his brothers, awkward as they were, he
alone had never joined. If it was true, of which, however, I began to
have my doubts, that he was considered by the family, or regarded
himself, as the destined husband of Miss Vernon, a sentiment of jealousy
might have sprung up in his mind from the marked predilection which it
was that young lady's pleasure to show for one whom Thorncliff might,
perhaps, think likely to become a dangerous rival.
Rashleigh at last entered, his visage as dark as mourning weed--brooding,
I could not but doubt, over the unjustifiable and disgraceful insult I
had offered to him. I had already settled in my own mind how I was to
behave on the occasion, and had schooled myself to believe, that true
honour consisted not in defending, but in apologising for, an injury so
much disproportioned to any provocation I might have to allege.
I therefore hastened to meet Rashleigh, and to express myself in the
highest degree sorry for the violence with which I had acted on the
preceding evening. "No circumstances," I said, "could have wrung from me
a single word of apology, save my own consciousness of the impropriety of
my behaviour. I hoped my cousin would accept of my regrets so sincerely
offered, and consider how much of my misconduct was owing to the
excessive hospitality of Osbaldistone Hall."
"He shall be friends with thee, lad," cried the honest knight, in the
full effusion of his heart; "or d--n me, if I call him son more!--Why,
Rashie, dost stand there like a log? _Sorry for it_ is all a gentleman
can say, if he happens to do anything awry, especially over his claret. I
served in Hounslow, and should know something, I think, of affairs of
honour. Let me hear no more of this, and we'll go in a body and rummage
out the badger in Birkenwood-bank."
Rashleigh's face resembled, as I have already noticed, no other
countenance that I ever saw. But this singularity lay not only in the
features, but in the mode of changing their expression. Other
countenances, in altering from grief to joy, or from anger to
satisfaction, pass through some brief interval, ere the expression of the
predominant passion supersedes entirely that of its predecessor. There is
a sort of twilight, like that between the clearing up of the darkness and
the rising of the sun, while the swollen muscles subside, the dark eye
clears, the forehead relaxes and expands itself, and the whole
countenance loses its sterner shades, and becomes serene and placid.
Rashleigh's face exhibited none of these gradations, but changed almost
instantaneously from the expression of one passion to that of the
contrary. I can compare it to nothing but the sudden shifting of a scene
in the theatre, where, at the whistle of the prompter, a cavern
disappears, and a grove arises.
My attention was strongly arrested by this peculiarity on the present
occasion. At Rashleigh's first entrance, "black he stood as night!" With
the same inflexible countenance he heard my excuse and his father's
exhortation; and it was not until Sir Hildebrand had done speaking, that
the cloud cleared away at once, and he expressed, in the kindest and most
civil terms, his perfect satisfaction with the very handsome apology I
"Indeed," he said, "I have so poor a brain myself, when I impose on it
the least burden beyond my usual three glasses, that I have only, like
honest Cassio, a very vague recollection of the confusion of last night--
remember a mass of things, but nothing distinctly--a quarrel, but nothing
wherefore--So, my dear Cousin," he continued, shaking me kindly by the
hand, "conceive how much I am relieved by finding that I have to receive
an apology, instead of having to make one--I will not have a word said
upon the subject more; I should be very foolish to institute any scrutiny
into an account, when the balance, which I expected to be against me, has
been so unexpectedly and agreeably struck in my favour. You see, Mr.
Osbaldistone, I am practising the language of Lombard Street, and
qualifying myself for my new calling."
As I was about to answer, and raised my eyes for the purpose, they
encountered those of Miss Vernon, who, having entered the room unobserved
during the conversation, had given it her close attention. Abashed and
confounded, I fixed my eyes on the ground, and made my escape to the
breakfast-table, where I herded among my busy cousins.
My uncle, that the events of the preceding day might not pass out of our
memory without a practical moral lesson, took occasion to give Rashleigh
and me his serious advice to correct our milksop habits, as he termed
them, and gradually to inure our brains to bear a gentlemanlike quantity
of liquor, without brawls or breaking of heads. He recommended that we
should begin piddling with a regular quart of claret per day, which, with
the aid of March beer and brandy, made a handsome competence for a
beginner in the art of toping. And for our encouragement, he assured us
that he had known many a man who had lived to our years without having
drunk a pint of wine at a sitting, who yet, by falling into honest
company, and following hearty example, had afterwards been numbered among
the best good fellows of the time, and could carry off their six bottles
under their belt quietly and comfortably, without brawling or babbling,
and be neither sick nor sorry the next morning.
Sage as this advice was, and comfortable as was the prospect it held out
to me, I profited but little by the exhortation--partly, perhaps,
because, as often as I raised my eyes from the table, I observed Miss
Vernon's looks fixed on me, in which I thought I could read grave
compassion blended with regret and displeasure. I began to consider how I
should seek a scene of explanation and apology with her also, when she
gave me to understand she was determined to save me the trouble of
soliciting an interview. "Cousin Francis," she said, addressing me by the
same title she used to give to the other Osbaldistones, although I had,
properly speaking, no title to be called her kinsman, "I have encountered
this morning a difficult passage in the Divina Comme'dia of Dante; will
you have the goodness to step to the library and give me your assistance?
and when you have unearthed for me the meaning of the obscure Florentine,
we will join the rest at Birkenwood-bank, and see their luck at
unearthing the badger."
I signified, of course, my readiness to wait upon her. Rashleigh made an
offer to accompany us. "I am something better skilled," he said, "at
tracking the sense of Dante through the metaphors and elisions of his
wild and gloomy poem, than at hunting the poor inoffensive hermit yonder
out of his cave."
"Pardon me, Rashleigh," said Miss Vernon, "but as you are to occupy Mr.
Francis's place in the counting-house, you must surrender to him the
charge of your pupil's education at Osbaldistone Hall. We shall call you
in, however, if there is any occasion; so pray do not look so grave upon
it. Besides, it is a shame to you not to understand field-sports--What
will you do should our uncle in Crane-Alley ask you the signs by which
you track a badger?"
"Ay, true, Die,--true," said Sir Hildebrand, with a sigh, "I misdoubt
Rashleigh will be found short at the leap when he is put to the trial. An
he would ha' learned useful knowledge like his brothers, he was bred up
where it grew, I wuss; but French antics, and book-learning, with the new
turnips, and the rats, and the Hanoverians, ha' changed the world that I
ha' known in Old England--But come along with us, Rashie, and carry my
hunting-staff, man; thy cousin lacks none of thy company as now, and I
wonna ha' Die crossed--It's ne'er be said there was but one woman in
Osbaldistone Hall, and she died for lack of her will."
Rashleigh followed his father, as he commanded, not, however, ere he had
whispered to Diana, "I suppose I must in discretion bring the courtier,
Ceremony, in my company, and knock when I approach the door of the
"No, no, Rashleigh," said Miss Vernon; "dismiss from your company the
false archimage Dissimulation, and it will better ensure your free access
to our classical consultations."
So saying, she led the way to the library, and I followed--like a
criminal, I was going to say, to execution; but, as I bethink me, I have
used the simile once, if not twice before. Without any simile at all,
then, I followed, with a sense of awkward and conscious embarrassment,
which I would have given a great deal to shake off. I thought it a
degrading and unworthy feeling to attend one on such an occasion, having
breathed the air of the Continent long enough to have imbibed the notion
that lightness, gallantry, and something approaching to well-bred
self-assurance, should distinguish the gentleman whom a fair lady selects
for her companion in a _tete-a-tete._
My English feelings, however, were too many for my French education, and
I made, I believe, a very pitiful figure, when Miss Vernon, seating
herself majestically in a huge elbow-chair in the library, like a judge
about to hear a cause of importance, signed to me to take a chair
opposite to her (which I did, much like the poor fellow who is going to
be tried), and entered upon conversation in a tone of bitter irony.
Dire was his thought, who first in poison steeped
The weapon formed for slaughter--direr his,
And worthier of damnation, who instilled
The mortal venom in the social cup,
To fill the veins with death instead of life.
"Upon my Word, Mr. Francis Osbaldistone," said Miss Vernon, with the air
of one who thought herself fully entitled to assume the privilege of
ironical reproach, which she was pleased to exert, "your character
improves upon us, sir--I could not have thought that it was in you.
Yesterday might be considered as your assay-piece, to prove yourself
entitled to be free of the corporation of Osbaldistone Hall. But it was a
"I am quite sensible of my ill-breeding, Miss Vernon, and I can only say
for myself that I had received some communications by which my spirits
were unusually agitated. I am conscious I was impertinent and absurd."
"You do yourself great injustice," said the merciless monitor--"you have
contrived, by what I saw and have since heard, to exhibit in the course
of one evening a happy display of all the various masterly qualifications
which distinguish your several cousins;--the gentle and generous temper
of the benevolent Rashleigh,--the temperance of Percie,--the cool courage
of Thorncliff,--John's skill in dog-breaking,--Dickon's aptitude to
betting,--all exhibited by the single individual, Mr. Francis, and that
with a selection of time, place, and circumstance, worthy the taste and
sagacity of the sapient Wilfred."
"Have a little mercy, Miss Vernon," said I; for I confess I thought the
schooling as severe as the case merited, especially considering from what
quarter it came, "and forgive me if I suggest, as an excuse for follies I
am not usually guilty of, the custom of this house and country. I am far
from approving of it; but we have Shakspeare's authority for saying, that
good wine is a good familiar creature, and that any man living may be
overtaken at some time."
"Ay, Mr. Francis, but he places the panegyric and the apology in the
mouth of the greatest villain his pencil has drawn. I will not, however,
abuse the advantage your quotation has given me, by overwhelming you with
the refutation with which the victim Cassio replies to the tempter Iago.
I only wish you to know, that there is one person at least sorry to see a
youth of talents and expectations sink into the slough in which the
inhabitants of this house are nightly wallowing."
"I have but wet my shoe, I assure you, Miss Vernon, and am too sensible
of the filth of the puddle to step farther in."
"If such be your resolution," she replied, "it is a wise one. But I was
so much vexed at what I heard, that your concerns have pressed before my
own,--You behaved to me yesterday, during dinner, as if something had
been told you which lessened or lowered me in your opinion--I beg leave
to ask you what it was?"
I was stupified. The direct bluntness of the demand was much in the style
one gentleman uses to another, when requesting explanation of any part of
his conduct in a good-humoured yet determined manner, and was totally
devoid of the circumlocutions, shadings, softenings, and periphrasis,
which usually accompany explanations betwixt persons of different sexes
in the higher orders of society.
I remained completely embarrassed; for it pressed on my recollection,
that Rashleigh's communications, supposing them to be correct, ought to
have rendered Miss Vernon rather an object of my compassion than of my
pettish resentment; and had they furnished the best apology possible for
my own conduct, still I must have had the utmost difficulty in detailing
what inferred such necessary and natural offence to Miss Vernon's
feelings. She observed my hesitation, and proceeded, in a tone somewhat
more peremptory, but still temperate and civil--"I hope Mr. Osbaldistone
does not dispute my title to request this explanation. I have no relative
who can protect me; it is, therefore, just that I be permitted to protect
I endeavoured with hesitation to throw the blame of my rude behaviour
upon indisposition--upon disagreeable letters from London. She suffered
me to exhaust my apologies, and fairly to run myself aground, listening
all the while with a smile of absolute incredulity.