Part 5 out of 5
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.
"And now, Mr. Francis, having gone through your prologue of excuses, with
the same bad grace with which all prologues are delivered, please to draw
the curtain, and show me that which I desire to see. In a word, let me
know what Rashleigh says of me; for he is the grand engineer and first
mover of all the machinery of Osbaldistone Hall."
"But, supposing there was anything to tell, Miss Vernon, what does he
deserve that betrays the secrets of one ally to another?--Rashleigh, you
yourself told me, remained your ally, though no longer your friend."
"I have neither patience for evasion, nor inclination for jesting, on the
present subject. Rashleigh cannot--ought not--dare not, hold any language
respecting me, Diana Vernon, but what I may demand to hear repeated. That
there are subjects of secrecy and confidence between us, is most certain;
but to such, his communications to you could have no relation; and with
such, I, as an individual, have no concern."
I had by this time recovered my presence of mind, and hastily determined
to avoid making any disclosure of what Rashleigh had told me in a sort of
confidence. There was something unworthy in retailing private
conversation; it could, I thought, do no good, and must necessarily give
Miss Vernon great pain. I therefore replied, gravely, "that nothing but
frivolous talk had passed between Mr. Rashleigh Osbaldistone and me on
the state of the family at the Hall; and I protested, that nothing had
been said which left a serious impression to her disadvantage. As a
gentleman," I said, "I could not be more explicit in reporting private
She started up with the animation of a Camilla about to advance into
battle. "This shall not serve your turn, sir,--I must have another answer
from you." Her features kindled--her brow became flushed--her eye glanced
wild-fire as she proceeded--"I demand such an explanation, as a woman
basely slandered has a right to demand from every man who calls himself a
gentleman--as a creature, motherless, friendless, alone in the world,
left to her own guidance and protection, has a right to require from
every being having a happier lot, in the name of that God who sent _them_
into the world to enjoy, and _her_ to suffer. You shall not deny me--or,"
she added, looking solemnly upwards, "you will rue your denial, if there
is justice for wrong either on earth or in heaven."
I was utterly astonished at her vehemence, but felt, thus conjured, that
it became my duty to lay aside scrupulous delicacy, and gave her briefly,
but distinctly, the heads of the information which Rashleigh had conveyed
She sate down and resumed her composure, as soon as I entered upon the
subject, and when I stopped to seek for the most delicate turn of
expression, she repeatedly interrupted me with "Go on--pray, go on; the
first word which occurs to you is the plainest, and must be the best. Do
not think of my feelings, but speak as you would to an unconcerned third
Thus urged and encouraged, I stammered through all the account which
Rashleigh had given of her early contract to marry an Osbaldistone, and
of the uncertainty and difficulty of her choice; and there I would
willingly have paused. But her penetration discovered that there was
still something behind, and even guessed to what it related.
"Well, it was ill-natured of Rashleigh to tell this tale on me. I am like
the poor girl in the fairy tale, who was betrothed in her cradle to the
Black Bear of Norway, but complained chiefly of being called Bruin's
bride by her companions at school. But besides all this, Rashleigh said
something of himself with relation to me--Did he not?"
"He certainly hinted, that were it not for the idea of supplanting his
brother, he would now, in consequence of his change of profession, be
desirous that the word Rashleigh should fill up the blank in the
dispensation, instead of the word Thorncliff."
"Ay? indeed?" she replied--"was he so very condescending?--Too much
honour for his humble handmaid, Diana Vernon--And she, I suppose, was to
be enraptured with joy could such a substitute be effected?"
"To confess the truth, he intimated as much, and even farther
"What?--Let me hear it all!" she exclaimed, hastily.
"That he had broken off your mutual intimacy, lest it should have given
rise to an affection by which his destination to the church would not
permit him to profit."
"I am obliged to him for his consideration," replied Miss Vernon, every
feature of her fine countenance taxed to express the most supreme degree
of scorn and contempt. She paused a moment, and then said, with her usual
composure, "There is but little I have heard from you which I did not
expect to hear, and which I ought not to have expected; because, bating
one circumstance, it is all very true. But as there are some poisons so
active, that a few drops, it is said, will infect a whole fountain, so
there is one falsehood in Rashleigh's communication, powerful enough to
corrupt the whole well in which Truth herself is said to have dwelt. It
is the leading and foul falsehood, that, knowing Rashleigh as I have
reason too well to know him, any circumstance on earth could make me
think of sharing my lot with him. No," she continued with a sort of
inward shuddering that seemed to express involuntary horror, "any lot
rather than that--the sot, the gambler, the bully, the jockey, the
insensate fool, were a thousand times preferable to Rashleigh:--the
convent--the jail--the grave, shall be welcome before them all."
There was a sad and melancholy cadence in her voice, corresponding with
the strange and interesting romance of her situation. So young, so
beautiful, so untaught, so much abandoned to herself, and deprived of all
the support which her sex derives from the countenance and protection of
female friends, and even of that degree of defence which arises from the
forms with which the sex are approached in civilised life,--it is scarce
metaphorical to say, that my heart bled for her. Yet there was an
expression of dignity in her contempt of ceremony--of upright feeling in
her disdain of falsehood--of firm resolution in the manner in which she
contemplated the dangers by which she was surrounded, which blended my
pity with the warmest admiration. She seemed a princess deserted by her
subjects, and deprived of her power, yet still scorning those formal
regulations of society which are created for persons of an inferior rank;
and, amid her difficulties, relying boldly and confidently on the justice
of Heaven, and the unshaken constancy of her own mind.
I offered to express the mingled feelings of sympathy and admiration with
which her unfortunate situation and her high spirit combined to impress
me, but she imposed silence on me at once.
"I told you in jest," she said, "that I disliked compliments--I now tell
you in earnest, that I do not ask sympathy, and that I despise
consolation. What I have borne, I have borne--What I am to bear I will
sustain as I may; no word of commiseration can make a burden feel one
feather's weight lighter to the slave who must carry it. There is only
one human being who could have assisted me, and that is he who has rather
chosen to add to my embarrassment--Rashleigh Osbaldistone.--Yes! the time
once was that I might have learned to love that man--But, great God! the
purpose for which he insinuated himself into the confidence of one
already so forlorn--the undeviating and continued assiduity with which he
pursued that purpose from year to year, without one single momentary
pause of remorse or compassion--the purpose for which he would have
converted into poison the food he administered to my mind--Gracious
Providence! what should I have been in this world, and the next, in body
and soul, had I fallen under the arts of this accomplished villain!"
I was so much struck with the scene of perfidious treachery which these
words disclosed, that I rose from my chair hardly knowing what I did,
laid my hand on the hilt of my sword, and was about to leave the
apartment in search of him on whom I might discharge my just indignation.
Almost breathless, and with eyes and looks in which scorn and indignation
had given way to the most lively alarm, Miss Vernon threw herself between
me and the door of the apartment.
"Stay!" she said--"stay!--however just your resentment, you do not know
half the secrets of this fearful prison-house." She then glanced her eyes
anxiously round the room, and sunk her voice almost to a whisper--"He
bears a charmed life; you cannot assail him without endangering other
lives, and wider destruction. Had it been otherwise, in some hour of
justice he had hardly been safe, even from this weak hand. I told you,"
she said, motioning me back to my seat, "that I needed no comforter. I
now tell you I need no avenger."
I resumed my seat mechanically, musing on what she said, and recollecting
also, what had escaped me in my first glow of resentment, that I had no
title whatever to constitute myself Miss Vernon's champion. She paused to
let her own emotions and mine subside, and then addressed me with more
"I have already said that there is a mystery connected with Rashleigh, of
a dangerous and fatal nature. Villain as he is, and as he knows he stands
convicted in my eyes, I cannot--dare not, openly break with or defy him.
You also, Mr. Osbaldistone, must bear with him with patience, foil his
artifices by opposing to them prudence, not violence; and, above all, you
must avoid such scenes as that of last night, which cannot but give him
perilous advantages over you. This caution I designed to give you, and it
was the object with which I desired this interview; but I have extended
my confidence farther than I proposed."
I assured her it was not misplaced.
"I do not believe that it is," she replied. "You have that in your face
and manners which authorises trust. Let us continue to be friends. You
need not fear," she said, laughing, while she blushed a little, yet
speaking with a free and unembarrassed voice, "that friendship with us
should prove only a specious name, as the poet says, for another feeling.
I belong, in habits of thinking and acting, rather to your sex, with
which I have always been brought up, than to my own. Besides, the fatal
veil was wrapt round me in my cradle; for you may easily believe I have
never thought of the detestable condition under which I may remove it.
The time," she added, "for expressing my final determination is not
arrived, and I would fain have the freedom of wild heath and open air
with the other commoners of nature, as long as I can be permitted to
enjoy them. And now that the passage in Dante is made so clear, pray go
and see what has become of the badger-baiters. My head aches so much that
I cannot join the party."
I left the library, but not to join the hunters. I felt that a solitary
walk was necessary to compose my spirits before I again trusted myself in
Rashleigh's company, whose depth of calculating villany had been so
strikingly exposed to me. In Dubourg's family (as he was of the reformed
persuasion) I had heard many a tale of Romish priests who gratified, at
the expense of friendship, hospitality, and the most sacred ties of
social life, those passions, the blameless indulgence of which is denied
by the rules of their order. But the deliberate system of undertaking the
education of a deserted orphan of noble birth, and so intimately allied
to his own family, with the perfidious purpose of ultimately seducing
her, detailed as it was by the intended victim with all the glow of
virtuous resentment, seemed more atrocious to me than the worst of the
tales I had heard at Bourdeaux, and I felt it would be extremely
difficult for me to meet Rashleigh, and yet to suppress the abhorrence
with which he impressed me. Yet this was absolutely necessary, not only
on account of the mysterious charge which Diana had given me, but because
I had, in reality, no ostensible ground for quarrelling with him.
I therefore resolved, as far as possible, to meet Rashleigh's
dissimulation with equal caution on my part during our residence in the
same family; and when he should depart for London, I resolved to give
Owen at least such a hint of his character as might keep him on his guard
over my father's interests. Avarice or ambition, I thought, might have as
great, or greater charms, for a mind constituted like Rashleigh's, than
unlawful pleasure; the energy of his character, and his power of assuming
all seeming good qualities, were likely to procure him a high degree of
confidence, and it was not to be hoped that either good faith or
gratitude would prevent him from abusing it. The task was somewhat
difficult, especially in my circumstances, since the caution which I
threw out might be imputed to jealousy of my rival, or rather my
successor, in my father's favour. Yet I thought it absolutely necessary
to frame such a letter, leaving it to Owen, who, in his own line, was
wary, prudent, and circumspect, to make the necessary use of his
knowledge of Rashleigh's true character. Such a letter, therefore, I
indited, and despatched to the post-house by the first opportunity.
At my meeting with Rashleigh, he, as well as I, appeared to have taken up
distant ground, and to be disposed to avoid all pretext for collision. He
was probably conscious that Miss Vernon's communications had been
unfavourable to him, though he could not know that they extended to
discovering his meditated villany towards her. Our intercourse,
therefore, was reserved on both sides, and turned on subjects of little
interest. Indeed, his stay at Osbaldistone Hall did not exceed a few days
after this period, during which I only remarked two circumstances
respecting him. The first was the rapid and almost intuitive manner in
which his powerful and active mind seized upon and arranged the
elementary principles necessary to his new profession, which he now
studied hard, and occasionally made parade of his progress, as if to show
me how light it was for him to lift the burden which I had flung down
from very weariness and inability to carry it. The other remarkable
circumstance was, that, notwithstanding the injuries with which Miss
Vernon charged Rashleigh, they had several private interviews together of
considerable length, although their bearing towards each other in public
did not seem more cordial than usual.
When the day of Rashleigh's departure arrived, his father bade him
farewell with indifference; his brothers with the ill-concealed glee of
school-boys who see their task-master depart for a season, and feel a joy
which they dare not express; and I myself with cold politeness. When he
approached Miss Vernon, and would have saluted her she drew back with a
look of haughty disdain; but said, as she extended her hand to him,
"Farewell, Rashleigh; God reward you for the good you have done, and
forgive you for the evil you have meditated."
"Amen, my fair cousin," he replied, with an air of sanctity, which
belonged, I thought, to the seminary of Saint Omers; "happy is he whose
good intentions have borne fruit in deeds, and whose evil thoughts have
perished in the blossom."
These were his parting words. "Accomplished hypocrite!" said Miss Vernon
to me, as the door closed behind him--"how nearly can what we most
despise and hate, approach in outward manner to that which we most
I had written to my father by Rashleigh, and also a few lines to Owen,
besides the confidential letter which I have already mentioned, and which
I thought it more proper and prudent to despatch by another conveyance.
In these epistles, it would have been natural for me to have pointed out
to my father and my friend, that I was at present in a situation where I
could improve myself in no respect, unless in the mysteries of hunting
and hawking; and where I was not unlikely to forget, in the company of
rude grooms and horse-boys, any useful knowledge or elegant
accomplishments which I had hitherto acquired. It would also have been
natural that I should have expressed the disgust and tedium which I was
likely to feel among beings whose whole souls were centred in
field-sports or more degrading pastimes--that I should have complained of
the habitual intemperance of the family in which I was a guest, and the
difficulty and almost resentment with which my uncle, Sir Hildebrand,
received any apology for deserting the bottle. This last, indeed, was a
topic on which my father, himself a man of severe temperance, was likely
to be easily alarmed, and to have touched upon this spring would to a
certainty have opened the doors of my prison-house, and would either have
been the means of abridging my exile, or at least would have procured me
a change of residence during my rustication.
I say, my dear Tresham, that, considering how very unpleasant a prolonged
residence at Osbaldistone Hall must have been to a young man of my age,
and with my habits, it might have seemed very natural that I should have
pointed out all these disadvantages to my father, in order to obtain his
consent for leaving my uncle's mansion. Nothing, however, is more
certain, than that I did not say a single word to this purpose in my
letters to my father and Owen. If Osbaldistone Hall had been Athens in
all its pristine glory of learning, and inhabited by sages, heroes, and
poets, I could not have expressed less inclination to leave it.
If thou hast any of the salt of youth left in thee, Tresham, thou wilt be
at no loss to account for my silence on a topic seemingly so obvious.
Miss Vernon's extreme beauty, of which she herself seemed so little
conscious--her romantic and mysterious situation--the evils to which she
was exposed--the courage with which she seemed to face them--her manners,
more frank than belonged to her sex, yet, as it seemed to me, exceeding
in frankness only from the dauntless consciousness of her innocence,--
above all, the obvious and flattering distinction which she made in my
favour over all other persons, were at once calculated to interest my
best feelings, to excite my curiosity, awaken my imagination, and gratify
my vanity. I dared not, indeed, confess to myself the depth of the
interest with which Miss Vernon inspired me, or the large share which she
occupied in my thoughts. We read together, walked together, rode
together, and sate together. The studies which she had broken off upon
her quarrel with Rashleigh, she now resumed, under the auspices of a
tutor whose views were more sincere, though his capacity was far more
In truth, I was by no means qualified to assist her in the prosecution of
several profound studies which she had commenced with Rashleigh, and
which appeared to me more fitted for a churchman than for a beautiful
female. Neither can I conceive with what view he should have engaged
Diana in the gloomy maze of casuistry which schoolmen called philosophy,
or in the equally abstruse though more certain sciences of mathematics
and astronomy; unless it were to break down and confound in her mind the
difference and distinction between the sexes, and to habituate her to
trains of subtle reasoning, by which he might at his own time invest that
which is wrong with the colour of that which is right. It was in the same
spirit, though in the latter case the evil purpose was more obvious, that
the lessons of Rashleigh had encouraged Miss Vernon in setting at nought
and despising the forms and ceremonial limits which are drawn round
females in modern society. It is true, she was sequestrated from all
female company, and could not learn the usual rules of decorum, either
from example or precept; yet such was her innate modesty, and accurate
sense of what was right and wrong, that she would not of herself have
adopted the bold uncompromising manner which struck me with so much
surprise on our first acquaintance, had she not been led to conceive that
a contempt of ceremony indicated at once superiority of understanding and
the confidence of conscious innocence. Her wily instructor had, no doubt,
his own views in levelling those outworks which reserve and caution erect
around virtue. But for these, and for his other crimes, he has long since
answered at a higher tribunal.
Besides the progress which Miss Vernon, whose powerful mind readily
adopted every means of information offered to it, had made in more
abstract science, I found her no contemptible linguist, and well
acquainted both with ancient and modern literature. Were it not that
strong talents will often go farthest when they seem to have least
assistance, it would be almost incredible to tell the rapidity of Miss
Vernon's progress in knowledge; and it was still more extraordinary, when
her stock of mental acquisitions from books was compared with her total
ignorance of actual life. It seemed as if she saw and knew everything,
except what passed in the world around her;--and I believe it was this
very ignorance and simplicity of thinking upon ordinary subjects, so
strikingly contrasted with her fund of general knowledge and information,
which rendered her conversation so irresistibly fascinating, and rivetted
the attention to whatever she said or did; since it was absolutely
impossible to anticipate whether her next word or action was to display
the most acute perception, or the most profound simplicity. The degree of
danger which necessarily attended a youth of my age and keen feelings
from remaining in close and constant intimacy with an object so amiable,
and so peculiarly interesting, all who remember their own sentiments at
my age may easily estimate.
Yon lamp its line of quivering light
Shoots from my lady's bower;
But why should Beauty's lamp be bright
At midnight's lonely hour?
The mode of life at Osbaldistone Hall was too uniform to admit of
description. Diana Vernon and I enjoyed much of our time in our mutual
studies; the rest of the family killed theirs in such sports and pastimes
as suited the seasons, in which we also took a share. My uncle was a man
of habits, and by habit became so much accustomed to my presence and mode
of life, that, upon the whole, he was rather fond of me than otherwise. I
might probably have risen yet higher in his good graces, had I employed
the same arts for that purpose which were used by Rashleigh, who,
availing himself of his father's disinclination to business, had
gradually insinuated himself into the management of his property. But
although I readily gave my uncle the advantage of my pen and my
arithmetic so often as he desired to correspond with a neighbour, or
settle with a tenant, and was, in so far, a more useful inmate in his
family than any of his sons, yet I was not willing to oblige Sir
Hildebrand by relieving him entirely from the management of his own
affairs; so that, while the good knight admitted that nevoy Frank was a
steady, handy lad, he seldom failed to remark in the same breath, that he
did not think he should ha' missed Rashleigh so much as he was like to
As it is particularly unpleasant to reside in a family where we are at
variance with any part of it, I made some efforts to overcome the
ill-will which my cousins entertained against me. I exchanged my laced
hat for a jockey-cap, and made some progress in their opinion; I broke a
young colt in a manner which carried me further into their good graces. A
bet or two opportunely lost to Dickon, and an extra health pledged with
Percie, placed me on an easy and familiar footing with all the young
squires, except Thorncliff.
I have already noticed the dislike entertained against me by this young
fellow, who, as he had rather more sense, had also a much worse temper,
than any of his brethren. Sullen, dogged, and quarrelsome, he regarded my
residence at Osbaldistone Hall as an intrusion, and viewed with envious
and jealous eyes my intimacy with Diana Vernon, whom the effect proposed
to be given to a certain family-compact assigned to him as an intended
spouse. That he loved her, could scarcely be said, at least without much
misapplication of the word; but he regarded her as something appropriated
to himself, and resented internally the interference which he knew not
how to prevent or interrupt. I attempted a tone of conciliation towards
Thorncliff on several occasions; but he rejected my advances with a
manner about as gracious as that of a growling mastiff, when the animal
shuns and resents a stranger's attempts to caress him. I therefore
abandoned him to his ill-humour, and gave myself no further trouble about
Such was the footing upon which I stood with the family at Osbaldistone
Hall; but I ought to mention another of its inmates with whom I
occasionally held some discourse. This was Andrew Fairservice, the
gardener who (since he had discovered that I was a Protestant) rarely
suffered me to pass him without proffering his Scotch mull for a social
pinch. There were several advantages attending this courtesy. In the
first place, it was made at no expense, for I never took snuff; and
secondly, it afforded an excellent apology to Andrew (who was not
particularly fond of hard labour) for laying aside his spade for several
minutes. But, above all, these brief interviews gave Andrew an
opportunity of venting the news he had collected, or the satirical
remarks which his shrewd northern humour suggested.
"I am saying, sir," he said to me one evening, with a face obviously
charged with intelligence, "I hae been down at the Trinlay-knowe."
"Well, Andrew, and I suppose you heard some news at the alehouse?"
"Na, sir; I never gang to the yillhouse--that is unless ony neighbour was
to gie me a pint, or the like o' that; but to gang there on ane's ain
coat-tail, is a waste o' precious time and hard-won siller.--But I was
doun at the Trinlay-knowe, as I was saying, about a wee bit business o'
my ain wi' Mattie Simpson, that wants a forpit or twa o' peers that will
never be missed in the Ha'-house--and when we were at the thrangest o'
our bargain, wha suld come in but Pate Macready the travelling merchant?"
"Pedlar, I suppose you mean?"
"E'en as your honour likes to ca' him; but it's a creditable calling and
a gainfu', and has been lang in use wi' our folk. Pate's a far-awa cousin
o' mine, and we were blythe to meet wi' ane anither."
"And you went and had a jug of ale together, I suppose, Andrew?--For
Heaven's sake, cut short your story."
"Bide a wee--bide a wee; you southrons are aye in sic a hurry, and this
is something concerns yourself, an ye wad tak patience to hear't--Yill?--
deil a drap o' yill did Pate offer me; but Mattie gae us baith a drap
skimmed milk, and ane o' her thick ait jannocks, that was as wat and raw
as a divot. O for the bonnie girdle cakes o' the north!--and sae we sat
doun and took out our clavers."
"I wish you would take them out just now. Pray, tell me the news, if you
have got any worth telling, for I can't stop here all night."
"Than, if ye maun hae't, the folk in Lunnun are a' clean wud about this
bit job in the north here."
"Clean wood! what's that?"
"Ou, just real daft--neither to haud nor to bind--a' hirdy-girdy--clean
through ither--the deil's ower Jock Wabster."
"But what does all this mean? or what business have I with the devil or
"Umph!" said Andrew, looking extremely knowing, "it's just because--just
that the dirdum's a' about yon man's pokmanty."
"Whose portmanteau? or what do you mean?"
"Ou, just the man Morris's, that he said he lost yonder: but if it's no
your honour's affair, as little is it mine; and I mauna lose this
And, as if suddenly seized with a violent fit of industry, Andrew began
to labour most diligently.
My attention, as the crafty knave had foreseen, was now arrested, and
unwilling, at the same time, to acknowledge any particular interest in
that affair, by asking direct questions, I stood waiting till the spirit
of voluntary communication should again prompt him to resume his story.
Andrew dug on manfully, and spoke at intervals, but nothing to the
purpose of Mr. Macready's news; and I stood and listened, cursing him in
my heart, and desirous at the same time to see how long his humour of
contradiction would prevail over his desire of speaking upon the subject
which was obviously uppermost in his mind.
"Am trenching up the sparry-grass, and am gaun to saw some Misegun beans;
they winna want them to their swine's flesh, I'se warrant--muckle gude
may it do them. And siclike dung as the grieve has gien me!--it should be
wheat-strae, or aiten at the warst o't, and it's pease dirt, as
fizzenless as chuckie-stanes. But the huntsman guides a' as he likes
about the stable-yard, and he's selled the best o' the litter, I'se
warrant. But, howsoever, we mauna lose a turn o' this Saturday at e'en,
for the wather's sair broken, and if there's a fair day in seven,
Sunday's sure to come and lick it up--Howsomever, I'm no denying that it
may settle, if it be Heaven's will, till Monday morning,--and what's the
use o' my breaking my back at this rate?--I think, I'll e'en awa' hame,
for yon's the curfew, as they ca' their jowing-in bell."
Accordingly, applying both his hands to his spade, he pitched it upright
in the trench which he had been digging and, looking at me with the air
of superiority of one who knows himself possessed of important
information, which he may communicate or refuse at his pleasure, pulled
down the sleeves of his shirt, and walked slowly towards his coat, which
lay carefully folded up upon a neighbouring garden-seat.
"I must pay the penalty of having interrupted the tiresome rascal,"
thought I to myself, "and even gratify Mr. Fairservice by taking his
communication on his own terms." Then raising my voice, I addressed him,
--"And after all, Andrew, what are these London news you had from your
kinsman, the travelling merchant?"
"The pedlar, your honour means?" retorted Andrew--"but ca' him what ye
wull, they're a great convenience in a country-side that's scant o'
borough-towns like this Northumberland--That's no the case, now, in
Scotland;--there's the kingdom of Fife, frae Culross to the East Nuik,
it's just like a great combined city--sae mony royal boroughs yoked on
end to end, like ropes of ingans, with their hie-streets and their
booths, nae doubt, and their kraemes, and houses of stane and lime and
fore-stairs--Kirkcaldy, the sell o't, is langer than ony town in
"I daresay it is all very splendid and very fine--but you were talking of
the London news a little while ago, Andrew."
"Ay," replied Andrew; "but I dinna think your honour cared to hear about
them--Howsoever" (he continued, grinning a ghastly smile), "Pate Macready
does say, that they are sair mistrysted yonder in their Parliament House
about this rubbery o' Mr. Morris, or whatever they ca' the chiel."
"In the House of Parliament, Andrew!--how came they to mention it there?"
"Ou, that's just what I said to Pate; if it like your honour, I'll tell
you the very words; it's no worth making a lie for the matter--'Pate,'
said I, 'what ado had the lords and lairds and gentles at Lunnun wi' the
carle and his walise?--When we had a Scotch Parliament, Pate,' says I
(and deil rax their thrapples that reft us o't!) 'they sate dousely down
and made laws for a haill country and kinrick, and never fashed their
beards about things that were competent to the judge ordinar o' the
bounds; but I think,' said I, 'that if ae kailwife pou'd aff her
neighbour's mutch they wad hae the twasome o' them into the Parliament
House o' Lunnun. It's just,' said I, 'amaist as silly as our auld daft
laird here and his gomerils o' sons, wi' his huntsmen and his hounds, and
his hunting cattle and horns, riding haill days after a bit beast that
winna weigh sax punds when they hae catched it.'"
"You argued most admirably, Andrew," said I, willing to encourage him to
get into the marrow of his intelligence; "and what said Pate?"
"Ou," he said, "what better could be expected of a wheen pock-pudding
English folk?--But as to the robbery, it's like that when they're a' at
the thrang o' their Whig and Tory wark, and ca'ing ane anither, like
unhanged blackguards--up gets ae lang-tongued chield, and he says, that
a' the north of England were rank Jacobites (and, quietly, he wasna far
wrang maybe), and that they had levied amaist open war, and a king's
messenger had been stoppit and rubbit on the highway, and that the best
bluid o' Northumberland had been at the doing o't--and mickle gowd ta'en
aff him, and mony valuable papers; and that there was nae redress to be
gotten by remeed of law for the first justice o' the peace that the
rubbit man gaed to, he had fund the twa loons that did the deed birling
and drinking wi' him, wha but they; and the justice took the word o' the
tane for the compearance o' the tither; and that they e'en gae him
leg-bail, and the honest man that had lost his siller was fain to leave
the country for fear that waur had come of it."
"Can this be really true?" said I.
"Pate swears it's as true as that his ellwand is a yard lang--(and so it
is, just bating an inch, that it may meet the English measure)--And when
the chield had said his warst, there was a terrible cry for names, and
out comes he wi' this man Morris's name, and your uncle's, and Squire
Inglewood's, and other folk's beside" (looking sly at me)--"And then
another dragon o' a chield got up on the other side, and said, wad they
accuse the best gentleman in the land on the oath of a broken coward?--
for it's like that Morris had been drummed out o' the army for rinning
awa in Flanders; and he said, it was like the story had been made up
between the minister and him or ever he had left Lunnun; and that, if
there was to be a search-warrant granted, he thought the siller wad be
fund some gate near to St. James's Palace. Aweel, they trailed up Morris
to their bar, as they ca't, to see what he could say to the job; but the
folk that were again him, gae him sic an awfu' throughgaun about his
rinnin' awa, and about a' the ill he had ever dune or said for a' the
forepart o' his life, that Patie says he looked mair like ane dead than
living; and they cou'dna get a word o' sense out o' him, for downright
fright at their growling and routing. He maun be a saft sap, wi' a head
nae better than a fozy frosted turnip--it wad hae ta'en a hantle o' them
to scaur Andrew Fairservice out o' his tale."
"And how did it all end, Andrew? did your friend happen to learn?"
"Ou, ay; for as his walk is in this country, Pate put aff his journey for
the space of a week or thereby, because it wad be acceptable to his
customers to bring down the news. It's just a' gaed aft like moonshine in
water. The fallow that began it drew in his horns, and said, that though
he believed the man had been rubbit, yet he acknowledged he might hae
been mista'en about the particulars. And then the other chield got up,
and said, he caredna whether Morris was rubbed or no, provided it wasna
to become a stain on ony gentleman's honour and reputation, especially in
the north of England; for, said he before them, I come frae the north
mysell, and I carena a boddle wha kens it. And this is what they ca'
explaining--the tane gies up a bit, and the tither gies up a bit, and a'
friends again. Aweel, after the Commons' Parliament had tuggit, and
rived, and rugged at Morris and his rubbery till they were tired o't, the
Lords' Parliament they behoved to hae their spell o't. In puir auld
Scotland's Parliament they a' sate thegither, cheek by choul, and than
they didna need to hae the same blethers twice ower again. But till't
their lordships went wi' as muckle teeth and gude-will, as if the matter
had been a' speck and span new. Forbye, there was something said about
ane Campbell, that suld hae been concerned in the rubbery, mair or less,
and that he suld hae had a warrant frae the Duke of Argyle, as a
testimonial o' his character. And this put MacCallum More's beard in a
bleize, as gude reason there was; and he gat up wi' an unco bang, and
garr'd them a' look about them, and wad ram it even doun their throats,
there was never ane o' the Campbells but was as wight, wise, warlike, and
worthy trust, as auld Sir John the Graeme. Now, if your honour's sure ye
arena a drap's bluid a-kin to a Campbell, as I am nane mysell, sae far as
I can count my kin, or hae had it counted to me, I'll gie ye my mind on
"You may be assured I have no connection whatever with any gentleman of
"Ou, than we may speak it quietly amang oursells. There's baith gude and
bad o' the Campbells, like other names, But this MacCallum More has an
unco sway and say baith, amang the grit folk at Lunnun even now; for he
canna preceesely be said to belang to ony o' the twa sides o' them, sae
deil any o' them likes to quarrel wi' him; sae they e'en voted Morris's
tale a fause calumnious libel, as they ca't, and if he hadna gien them
leg-bail, he was likely to hae ta'en the air on the pillory for
So speaking, honest Andrew collected his dibbles, spades, and hoes, and
threw them into a wheel-barrow,--leisurely, however, and allowing me full
time to put any further questions which might occur to me before he
trundled them off to the tool-house, there to repose during the ensuing
day. I thought it best to speak out at once, lest this meddling fellow
should suppose there were more weighty reasons for my silence than
"I should like to see this countryman of yours, Andrew and to hear his
news from himself directly. You have probably heard that I had some
trouble from the impertinent folly of this man Morris" (Andrew grinned a
most significant grin), "and I should wish to see your cousin the
merchant, to ask him the particulars of what he heard in London, if it
could be done without much trouble."
"Naething mair easy," Andrew observed; "he had but to hint to his cousin
that I wanted a pair or twa o' hose, and he wad be wi' me as fast as he
could lay leg to the grund."
"O yes, assure him I shall be a customer; and as the night is, as you
say, settled and fair, I shall walk in the garden until he comes; the
moon will soon rise over the fells. You may bring him to the little
back-gate; and I shall have pleasure, in the meanwhile, in looking on the
bushes and evergreens by the bright frosty moonlight."
"Vara right, vara right--that's what I hae aften said; a kail-blade, or a
colliflour, glances sae glegly by moonlight, it's like a leddy in her
So saying, off went Andrew Fairservice with great glee. He had to walk
about two miles, a labour he undertook with the greatest pleasure, in
order to secure to his kinsman the sale of some articles of his trade,
though it is probable he would not have given him sixpence to treat him
to a quart of ale. "The good will of an Englishman would have displayed
itself in a manner exactly the reverse of Andrew's," thought I, as I
paced along the smooth-cut velvet walks, which, embowered with high,
hedges of yew and of holly, intersected the ancient garden of
As I turned to retrace my steps, it was natural that I should lift up my
eyes to the windows of the old library; which, small in size, but several
in number, stretched along the second story of that side of the house
which now faced me. Light glanced from their casements. I was not
surprised at this, for I knew Miss Vernon often sat there of an evening,
though from motives of delicacy I put a strong restraint upon myself, and
never sought to join her at a time when I knew, all the rest of the
family being engaged for the evening, our interviews must necessarily
have been strictly _tete-a'-tete._ In the mornings we usually read
together in the same room; but then it often happened that one or other
of our cousins entered to seek some parchment duodecimo that could be
converted into a fishing-book, despite its gildings and illumination, or
to tell us of some "sport toward," or from mere want of knowing where
else to dispose of themselves. In short, in the mornings the library was
a sort of public room, where man and woman might meet as on neutral
ground. In the evening it was very different and bred in a country where
much attention is paid, or was at least then paid, to _biense'ance,_ I
was desirous to think for Miss Vernon concerning those points of
propriety where her experience did not afford her the means of thinking
for herself. I made her therefore comprehend, as delicately as I could,
that when we had evening lessons, the presence of a third party was
Miss Vernon first laughed, then blushed, and was disposed to be
displeased; and then, suddenly checking herself, said, "I believe you are
very right; and when I feel inclined to be a very busy scholar, I will
bribe old Martha with a cup of tea to sit by me and be my screen."
Martha, the old housekeeper, partook of the taste of the family at the
Hall. A toast and tankard would have pleased her better than all the tea
in China. However, as the use of this beverage was then confined to the
higher ranks, Martha felt some vanity in being asked to partake of it;
and by dint of a great deal of sugar, many words scarce less sweet, and
abundance of toast and butter, she was sometimes prevailed upon to give
us her countenance. On other occasions, the servants almost unanimously
shunned the library after nightfall, because it was their foolish
pleasure to believe that it lay on the haunted side of the house. The
more timorous had seen sights and heard sounds there when all the rest of
the house was quiet; and even the young squires were far from having any
wish to enter these formidable precincts after nightfall without
That the library had at one time been a favourite resource of Rashleigh--
that a private door out of one side of it communicated with the
sequestered and remote apartment which he chose for himself, rather
increased than disarmed the terrors which the household had for the
dreaded library of Osbaldistone Hall. His extensive information as to
what passed in the world--his profound knowledge of science of every
kind--a few physical experiments which he occasionally showed off, were,
in a house of so much ignorance and bigotry, esteemed good reasons for
supposing him endowed with powers over the spiritual world. He understood
Greek, Latin, and Hebrew; and, therefore, according to the apprehension,
and in the phrase of his brother Wilfred, needed not to care "for ghaist
or bar-ghaist, devil or dobbie." Yea, the servants persisted that they
had heard him hold conversations in the library, when every varsal soul
in the family were gone to bed; and that he spent the night in watching
for bogles, and the morning in sleeping in his bed, when he should have
been heading the hounds like a true Osbaldistone.
All these absurd rumours I had heard in broken hints and imperfect
sentences, from which I was left to draw the inference; and, as easily
may be supposed, I laughed them to scorn. But the extreme solitude to
which this chamber of evil fame was committed every night after curfew
time, was an additional reason why I should not intrude on Miss Vernon
when she chose to sit there in the evening.
To resume what I was saying,--I was not surprised to see a glimmering of
light from the library windows: but I was a little struck when I
distinctly perceived the shadows of two persons pass along and intercept
the light from the first of the windows, throwing the casement for a
moment into shade. "It must be old Martha," thought I, "whom Diana has
engaged to be her companion for the evening; or I must have been
mistaken, and taken Diana's shadow for a second person. No, by Heaven! it
appears on the second window,--two figures distinctly traced; and now it
is lost again--it is seen on the third--on the fourth--the darkened forms
of two persons distinctly seen in each window as they pass along the
room, betwixt the windows and the lights. Whom can Diana have got for a
companion?"--The passage of the shadows between the lights and the
casements was twice repeated, as if to satisfy me that my observation
served me truly; after which the lights were extinguished, and the
shades, of course, were seen no more.
Trifling as this circumstance was, it occupied my mind for a considerable
time. I did not allow myself to suppose that my friendship for Miss
Vernon had any directly selfish view; yet it is incredible the
displeasure I felt at the idea of her admitting any one to private
interviews, at a time, and in a place, where, for her own sake, I had
been at some trouble to show her that it was improper for me to meet with
"Silly, romping, incorrigible girl!" said I to myself, "on whom all good
advice and delicacy are thrown away! I have been cheated by the
simplicity of her manner, which I suppose she can assume just as she
could a straw bonnet, were it the fashion, for the mere sake of
celebrity. I suppose, notwithstanding the excellence of her
understanding, the society of half a dozen of clowns to play at whisk and
swabbers would give her more pleasure than if Ariosto himself were to
awake from the dead."
This reflection came the more powerfully across my mind, because, having
mustered up courage to show to Diana my version of the first books of
Ariosto, I had requested her to invite Martha to a tea-party in the
library that evening, to which arrangement Miss Vernon had refused her
consent, alleging some apology which I thought frivolous at the time. I
had not long speculated on this disagreeable subject, when the back
garden-door opened, and the figures of Andrew and his country-man--
bending under his pack--crossed the moonlight alley, and called my
I found Mr. Macready, as I expected, a tough, sagacious, long-headed
Scotchman, and a collector of news both from choice and profession. He
was able to give me a distinct account of what had passed in the House of
Commons and House of Lords on the affair of Morris, which, it appears,
had been made by both parties a touchstone to ascertain the temper of the
Parliament. It appeared also, that, as I had learned from Andrew, by
second hand, the ministry had proved too weak to support a story
involving the character of men of rank and importance, and resting upon
the credit of a person of such indifferent fame as Morris, who was,
moreover, confused and contradictory in his mode of telling the story.
Macready was even able to supply me with a copy of a printed journal, or
News-Letter, seldom extending beyond the capital, in which the substance
of the debate was mentioned; and with a copy of the Duke of Argyle's
speech, printed upon a broadside, of which he had purchased several from
the hawkers, because, he said, it would be a saleable article on the
north of the Tweed. The first was a meagre statement, full of blanks and
asterisks, and which added little or nothing to the information I had
from the Scotchman; and the Duke's speech, though spirited and eloquent,
contained chiefly a panegyric on his country, his family, and his clan,
with a few compliments, equally sincere, perhaps, though less glowing,
which he took so favourable an opportunity of paying to himself. I could
not learn whether my own reputation had been directly implicated,
although I perceived that the honour of my uncle's family had been
impeached, and that this person Campbell, stated by Morris to have been
the most active robber of the two by whom he was assailed, was said by
him to have appeared in the behalf of a Mr. Osbaldistone, and by the
connivance of the Justice procured his liberation. In this particular,
Morris's story jumped with my own suspicions, which had attached to
Campbell from the moment I saw him appear at Justice Inglewood's. Vexed
upon the whole, as well as perplexed, with this extraordinary story, I
dismissed the two Scotchmen, after making some purchases from Macready,
and a small compliment to Fairservice, and retired to my own apartment to
consider what I ought to do in defence of my character thus publicly
Whence, and what art you?
After exhausting a sleepless night in meditating on the intelligence I
had received, I was at first inclined to think that I ought, as speedily
as possible, to return to London, and by my open appearance repel the
calumny which had been spread against me. But I hesitated to take this
course on recollection of my father's disposition, singularly absolute in
his decisions as to all that concerned his family. He was most able,
certainly, from experience, to direct what I ought to do, and from his
acquaintance with the most distinguished Whigs then in power, had
influence enough to obtain a hearing for my cause. So, upon the whole, I
judged it most safe to state my whole story in the shape of a narrative,
addressed to my father; and as the ordinary opportunities of intercourse
between the Hall and the post-town recurred rarely, I determined to ride
to the town, which was about ten miles' distance, and deposit my letter
in the post-office with my own hands.
Indeed I began to think it strange that though several weeks had elapsed
since my departure from home, I had received no letter, either from my
father or Owen, although Rashleigh had written to Sir Hildebrand of his
safe arrival in London, and of the kind reception he had met with from
his uncle. Admitting that I might have been to blame, I did not deserve,
in my own opinion at least, to be so totally forgotten by my father; and
I thought my present excursion might have the effect of bringing a letter
from him to hand more early than it would otherwise have reached me. But
before concluding my letter concerning the affair of Morris, I failed not
to express my earnest hope and wish that my father would honour me with a
few lines, were it but to express his advice and commands in an affair of
some difficulty, and where my knowledge of life could not be supposed
adequate to my own guidance. I found it impossible to prevail on myself
to urge my actual return to London as a place of residence, and I
disguised my unwillingness to do so under apparent submission to my
father's will, which, as I imposed it on myself as a sufficient reason
for not urging my final departure from Osbaldistone Hall, would, I
doubted not, be received as such by my parent. But I begged permission to
come to London, for a short time at least, to meet and refute the
infamous calumnies which had been circulated concerning me in so public a
manner. Having made up my packet, in which my earnest desire to vindicate
my character was strangely blended with reluctance to quit my present
place of residence, I rode over to the post-town, and deposited my letter
in the office. By doing so, I obtained possession, somewhat earlier than
I should otherwise have done, of the following letter from my friend Mr.
"Dear Mr. Francis,
"Yours received per favour of Mr. R. Osbaldistone, and note the contents.
Shall do Mr. R. O. such civilities as are in my power, and have taken him
to see the Bank and Custom-house. He seems a sober, steady young
gentleman, and takes to business; so will be of service to the firm.
Could have wished another person had turned his mind that way; but God's
will be done. As cash may be scarce in those parts, have to trust you
will excuse my enclosing a goldsmith's bill at six days' sight, on
Messrs. Hooper and Girder of Newcastle, for L100, which I doubt not will
be duly honoured.--I remain, as in duty bound, dear Mr. Frank, your very
respectful and obedient servant,
"_Postscriptum._--Hope you will advise the above coming safe to hand. Am
sorry we have so few of yours. Your father says he is as usual, but looks
From this epistle, written in old Owen's formal style, I was rather
surprised to observe that he made no acknowledgment of that private
letter which I had written to him, with a view to possess him of
Rashleigh's real character, although, from the course of post, it seemed
certain that he ought to have received it. Yet I had sent it by the usual
conveyance from the Hall, and had no reason to suspect that it could
miscarry upon the road. As it comprised matters of great importance both
to my father and to myself, I sat down in the post-office and again wrote
to Owen, recapitulating the heads of my former letter, and requesting to
know, in course of post, if it had reached him in safety. I also
acknowledged the receipt of the bill, and promised to make use of the
contents if I should have any occasion for money. I thought, indeed, it
was odd that my father should leave the care of supplying my necessities
to his clerk; but I concluded it was a matter arranged between them. At
any rate, Owen was a bachelor, rich in his way, and passionately attached
to me, so that I had no hesitation in being obliged to him for a small
sum, which I resolved to consider as a loan, to be returned with my
earliest ability, in case it was not previously repaid by my father; and
I expressed myself to this purpose to Mr. Owen. A shopkeeper in a little
town, to whom the post-master directed me, readily gave me in gold the
amount of my bill on Messrs. Hooper and Girder, so that I returned to
Osbaldistone Hall a good deal richer than I had set forth. This recruit
to my finances was not a matter of indifference to me, as I was
necessarily involved in some expenses at Osbaldistone Hall; and I had
seen, with some uneasy impatience, that the sum which my travelling
expenses had left unexhausted at my arrival there was imperceptibly
diminishing. This source of anxiety was for the present removed. On my
arrival at the Hall I found that Sir Hildebrand and all his offspring had
gone down to the little hamlet, called Trinlay-knowes, "to see," as
Andrew Fairservice expressed it, "a wheen midden cocks pike ilk ither's
"It is indeed a brutal amusement, Andrew; I suppose you have none such in
"Na, na," answered Andrew boldly; then shaded away his negative with,
"unless it be on Fastern's-e'en, or the like o' that--But indeed it's no
muckle matter what the folk do to the midden pootry, for they had siccan
a skarting and scraping in the yard, that there's nae getting a bean or
pea keepit for them.--But I am wondering what it is that leaves that
turret-door open;--now that Mr. Rashleigh's away, it canna be him, I
The turret-door to which he alluded opened to the garden at the bottom of
a winding stair, leading down from Mr. Rashleigh's apartment. This, as I
have already mentioned, was situated in a sequestered part of the house,
communicating with the library by a private entrance, and by another
intricate and dark vaulted passage with the rest of the house. A long
narrow turf walk led, between two high holly hedges, from the turret-door
to a little postern in the wall of the garden. By means of these
communications Rashleigh, whose movements were very independent of those
of the rest of his family, could leave the Hall or return to it at
pleasure, without his absence or presence attracting any observation. But
during his absence the stair and the turret-door were entirely disused,
and this made Andrew's observation somewhat remarkable.
"Have you often observed that door open?" was my question.
"No just that often neither; but I hae noticed it ance or twice. I'm
thinking it maun hae been the priest, Father Vaughan, as they ca' him.
Ye'll no catch ane o' the servants gauging up that stair, puir frightened
heathens that they are, for fear of bogles and brownies, and lang-nebbit
things frae the neist warld. But Father Vaughan thinks himself a
privileged person--set him up and lay him down!--I'se be caution the
warst stibbler that ever stickit a sermon out ower the Tweed yonder, wad
lay a ghaist twice as fast as him, wi' his holy water and his idolatrous
trinkets. I dinna believe he speaks gude Latin neither; at least he disna
take me up when I tell him the learned names o' the plants."
Of Father Vaughan, who divided his time and his ghostly care between
Osbaldistone Hall and about half a dozen mansions of Catholic gentlemen
in the neighbourhood, I have as yet said nothing, for I had seen but
little. He was aged about sixty--of a good family, as I was given to
understand, in the north--of a striking and imposing presence, grave in
his exterior, and much respected among the Catholics of Northumberland as
a worthy and upright man. Yet Father Vaughan did not altogether lack
those peculiarities which distinguish his order. There hung about him an
air of mystery, which, in Protestant eyes, savoured of priestcraft. The
natives (such they might be well termed) of Osbaldistone Hall looked up
to him with much more fear, or at least more awe, than affection. His
condemnation of their revels was evident, from their being discontinued
in some measure when the priest was a resident at the Hall. Even Sir
Hildebrand himself put some restraint upon his conduct at such times,
which, perhaps, rendered Father Vaughan's presence rather irksome than
otherwise. He had the well-bred, insinuating, and almost flattering
address peculiar to the clergy of his persuasion, especially in England,
where the lay Catholic, hemmed in by penal laws, and by the restrictions
of his sect and recommendation of his pastor, often exhibits a reserved,
and almost a timid manner in the society of Protestants; while the
priest, privileged by his order to mingle with persons of all creeds, is
open, alert, and liberal in his intercourse with them, desirous of
popularity, and usually skilful in the mode of obtaining it.
Father Vaughan was a particular acquaintance of Rashleigh's, otherwise,
in all probability, he would scarce have been able to maintain his
footing at Osbaldistone Hall. This gave me no desire to cultivate his
intimacy, nor did he seem to make any advances towards mine; so our
occasional intercourse was confined to the exchange of mere civility. I
considered it as extremely probable that Mr. Vaughan might occupy
Rashleigh's apartment during his occasional residence at the Hall; and
his profession rendered it likely that he should occasionally be a tenant
of the library. Nothing was more probable than that it might have been
his candle which had excited my attention on a preceding evening. This
led me involuntarily to recollect that the intercourse between Miss
Vernon and the priest was marked with something like the same mystery
which characterised her communications with Rashleigh. I had never heard
her mention Vaughan's name, or even allude to him, excepting on the
occasion of our first meeting, when she mentioned the old priest and
Rashleigh as the only conversable beings, besides herself, in
Osbaldistone Hall. Yet although silent with respect to Father Vaughan,
his arrival at the Hall never failed to impress Miss Vernon with an
anxious and fluttering tremor, which lasted until they had exchanged one
or two significant glances.
Whatever the mystery might be which overclouded the destinies of this
beautiful and interesting female, it was clear that Father Vaughan was
implicated in it; unless, indeed, I could suppose that he was the agent
employed to procure her settlement in the cloister, in the event of her
rejecting a union with either of my cousins,--an office which would
sufficiently account for her obvious emotion at his appearance. As to the
rest, they did not seem to converse much together, or even to seek each
other's society. Their league, if any subsisted between them, was of a
tacit and understood nature, operating on their actions without any
necessity of speech. I recollected, however, on reflection, that I had
once or twice discovered signs pass betwixt them, which I had at the time
supposed to bear reference to some hint concerning Miss Vernon's
religious observances, knowing how artfully the Catholic clergy maintain,
at all times and seasons, their influence over the minds of their
followers. But now I was disposed to assign to these communications a
deeper and more mysterious import. Did he hold private meetings with Miss
Vernon in the library? was a question which occupied my thoughts; and if
so, for what purpose? And why should she have admitted an intimate of the
deceitful Rashleigh to such close confidence?
These questions and difficulties pressed on my mind with an interest
which was greatly increased by the impossibility of resolving them. I had
already begun to suspect that my friendship for Diana Vernon was not
altogether so disinterested as in wisdom it ought to have been. I had
already felt myself becoming jealous of the contemptible lout Thorncliff,
and taking more notice, than in prudence or dignity of feeling I ought to
have done, of his silly attempts to provoke me. And now I was
scrutinising the conduct of Miss Vernon with the most close and eager
observation, which I in vain endeavoured to palm on myself as the
offspring of idle curiosity. All these, like Benedick's brushing his hat
of a morning, were signs that the sweet youth was in love; and while my
judgment still denied that I had been guilty of forming an attachment so
imprudent, she resembled those ignorant guides, who, when they have led
the traveller and themselves into irretrievable error, persist in
obstinately affirming it to be impossible that they can have missed the
It happened one day about noon, going to my boat, I was exceedingly
surprised with the print of a man's naked foot on the shore, which
was very plain to be seen on the sand.
With the blended feelings of interest and jealousy which were engendered
by Miss Vernon's singular situation, my observations of her looks and
actions became acutely sharpened, and that to a degree which,
notwithstanding my efforts to conceal it, could not escape her
penetration. The sense that she was observed, or, more properly speaking,
that she was watched by my looks, seemed to give Diana a mixture of
embarrassment, pain, and pettishness. At times it seemed that she sought
an opportunity of resenting a conduct which she could not but feel as
offensive, considering the frankness with which she had mentioned the
difficulties that surrounded her. At other times she seemed prepared to
expostulate upon the subject. But either her courage failed, or some
other sentiment impeded her seeking an _e'claircissement._ Her
displeasure evaporated in repartee, and her expostulations died on her
lips. We stood in a singular relation to each other,--spending, and by
mutual choice, much of our time in close society with each other, yet
disguising our mutual sentiments, and jealous of, or offended by, each
other's actions. There was betwixt us intimacy without confidence;--on
one side, love without hope or purpose, and curiosity without any
rational or justifiable motive; and on the other, embarrassment and
doubt, occasionally mingled with displeasure. Yet I believe that this
agitation of the passions (such is the nature of the human bosom), as it
continued by a thousand irritating and interesting, though petty
circumstances, to render Miss Vernon and me the constant objects of each
other's thoughts, tended, upon the whole, to increase the attachment with
which we were naturally disposed to regard each other. But although my
vanity early discovered that my presence at Osbaldistone Hall had given
Diana some additional reason for disliking the cloister, I could by no
means confide in an affection which seemed completely subordinate to the
mysteries of her singular situation. Miss Vernon was of a character far
too formed and determined, to permit her love for me to overpower either
her sense of duty or of prudence, and she gave me a proof of this in a
conversation which we had together about this period.
We were sitting together in the library. Miss Vernon, in turning over a
copy of the Orlando Furioso, which belonged to me, shook a piece of
writing paper from between the leaves. I hastened to lift it, but she
prevented me.--"It is verse," she said, on glancing at the paper; and
then unfolding it, but as if to wait my answer before proceeding--"May I
take the liberty?--Nay, nay, if you blush and stammer, I must do violence
to your modesty, and suppose that permission is granted."
"It is not worthy your perusal--a scrap of a translation--My dear Miss
Vernon, it would be too severe a trial, that you, who understand the
original so well, should sit in judgment."
"Mine honest friend," replied Diana, "do not, if you will be guided by my
advice, bait your hook with too much humility; for, ten to one, it will
not catch a single compliment. You know I belong to the unpopular family
of Tell-truths, and would not flatter Apollo for his lyre."
She proceeded to read the first stanza, which was nearly to the following
"Ladies, and knights, and arms, and love's fair flame,
Deeds of emprize and courtesy, I sing;
What time the Moors from sultry Africk came,
Led on by Agramant, their youthful king--
He whom revenge and hasty ire did bring
O'er the broad wave, in France to waste and war;
Such ills from old Trojano's death did spring,
Which to avenge he came from realms afar,
And menaced Christian Charles, the Roman Emperor.
Of dauntless Roland, too, my strain shall sound,
In import never known in prose or rhyme,
How He, the chief, of judgment deemed profound,
For luckless love was crazed upon a time"--
"There is a great deal of it," said she, glancing along the paper, and
interrupting the sweetest sounds which mortal ears can drink in,--those
of a youthful poet's verses, namely, read by the lips which are dearest
"Much more than ought to engage your attention, Miss Vernon," I replied,
something mortified; and I took the verses from her unreluctant hand--
"And yet," I continued, "shut up as I am in this retired situation, I
have felt sometimes I could not amuse myself better than by carrying on--
merely for my own amusement, you will of course understand--the version
of this fascinating author, which I began some months since when I was on
the banks of the Garonne."
"The question would only be," said Diana, gravely, "whether you could not
spend your time to better purpose?"
"You mean in original composition?" said I, greatly flattered--"But, to
say truth, my genius rather lies in finding words and rhymes than ideas;
and therefore I am happy to use those which Ariosto has prepared to my
hand. However, Miss Vernon, with the encouragement you give"--
"Pardon me, Frank--it is encouragement not of my giving, but of your
taking. I meant neither original composition nor translation, since I
think you might employ your time to far better purpose than in either.
You are mortified," she continued, "and I am sorry to be the cause."
"Not mortified,--certainly not mortified," said I, with the best grace I
could muster, and it was but indifferently assumed; "I am too much
obliged by the interest you take in me."
"Nay, but," resumed the relentless Diana, "there is both mortification
and a little grain of anger in that constrained tone of voice; do not be
angry if I probe your feelings to the bottom--perhaps what I am about to
say will affect them still more."
I felt the childishness of my own conduct, and the superior manliness of
Miss Vernon's, and assured her, that she need not fear my wincing under
criticism which I knew to be kindly meant.
"That was honestly meant and said," she replied; "I knew full well that
the fiend of poetical irritability flew away with the little preluding
cough which ushered in the declaration. And now I must be serious--Have
you heard from your father lately?"
"Not a word," I replied; "he has not honoured me with a single line
during the several months of my residence here."
"That is strange!--you are a singular race, you bold Osbaldistones. Then
you are not aware that he has gone to Holland, to arrange some pressing
affairs which required his own immediate presence?"
"I never heard a word of it until this moment."
"And farther, it must be news to you, and I presume scarcely the most
agreeable, that he has left Rashleigh in the almost uncontrolled
management of his affairs until his return."
I started, and could not suppress my surprise and apprehension.
"You have reason for alarm," said Miss Vernon, very gravely; "and were I
you, I would endeavour to meet and obviate the dangers which arise from
so undesirable an arrangement."
"And how is it possible for me to do so?"
"Everything is possible for him who possesses courage and activity," she
said, with a look resembling one of those heroines of the age of
chivalry, whose encouragement was wont to give champions double valour at
the hour of need; "and to the timid and hesitating, everything is
impossible, because it seems so."
"And what would you advise, Miss Vernon?" I replied, wishing, yet
dreading, to hear her answer.
She paused a moment, then answered firmly--"That you instantly leave
Osbaldistone Hall, and return to London. You have perhaps already," she
continued, in a softer tone, "been here too long; that fault was not
yours. Every succeeding moment you waste here will be a crime. Yes, a
crime: for I tell you plainly, that if Rashleigh long manages your
father's affairs, you may consider his ruin as consummated."
"How is this possible?"
"Ask no questions," she said; "but believe me, Rashleigh's views extend
far beyond the possession or increase of commercial wealth: he will only
make the command of Mr. Osbaldistone's revenues and property the means of
putting in motion his own ambitious and extensive schemes. While your
father was in Britain this was impossible; during his absence, Rashleigh
will possess many opportunities, and he will not neglect to use them."
"But how can I, in disgrace with my father, and divested of all control
over his affairs, prevent this danger by my mere presence in London?"
"That presence alone will do much. Your claim to interfere is a part of
your birthright, and it is inalienable. You will have the countenance,
doubtless, of your father's head-clerk, and confidential friends and
partners. Above all, Rashleigh's schemes are of a nature that"--(she
stopped abruptly, as if fearful of saying too much)--"are, in short," she
resumed, "of the nature of all selfish and unconscientious plans, which
are speedily abandoned as soon as those who frame them perceive their
arts are discovered and watched. Therefore, in the language of your
To horse! to horse! Urge doubts to those that fear."
A feeling, irresistible in its impulse, induced me to reply--"Ah! Diana,
can _you_ give me advice to leave Osbaldistone Hall?--then indeed I have
already been a resident here too long!"
Miss Vernon coloured, but proceeded with great firmness--"Indeed, I do
give you this advice--not only to quit Osbaldistone Hall, but never to
return to it more. You have only one friend to regret here," she
continued, forcing a smile, "and she has been long accustomed to
sacrifice her friendships and her comforts to the welfare of others. In
the world you will meet a hundred whose friendship will be as
disinterested--more useful--less encumbered by untoward circumstances--
less influenced by evil tongues and evil times."
"Never!" I exclaimed, "never!--the world can afford me nothing to repay
what I must leave behind me." Here I took her hand, and pressed it to my
"This is folly!" she exclaimed--"this is madness!" and she struggled to
withdraw her hand from my grasp, but not so stubbornly as actually to
succeed until I had held it for nearly a minute. "Hear me, sir!" she
said, "and curb this unmanly burst of passion. I am, by a solemn
contract, the bride of Heaven, unless I could prefer being wedded to
villany in the person of Rashleigh Osbaldistone, or brutality in that of
his brother. I am, therefore, the bride of Heaven,--betrothed to the
convent from the cradle. To me, therefore, these raptures are misapplied
--they only serve to prove a farther necessity for your departure, and
that without delay." At these words she broke suddenly off, and said, but
in a suppressed tone of voice, "Leave me instantly--we will meet here
again, but it must be for the last time."
My eyes followed the direction of hers as she spoke, and I thought I saw
the tapestry shake, which covered the door of the secret passage from
Rashleigh's room to the library. I conceived we were observed, and turned
an inquiring glance on Miss Vernon.
"It is nothing," said she, faintly; "a rat behind the arras."
"Dead for a ducat," would have been my reply, had I dared to give way to
the feelings which rose indignant at the idea of being subjected to an
eaves-dropper on such an occasion. Prudence, and the necessity of
suppressing my passion, and obeying Diana's reiterated command of "Leave
me! leave me!" came in time to prevent my rash action. I left the
apartment in a wild whirl and giddiness of mind, which I in vain
attempted to compose when I returned to my own.
A chaos of thoughts intruded themselves on me at once, passing hastily
through my brain, intercepting and overshadowing each other, and
resembling those fogs which in mountainous countries are wont to descend
in obscure volumes, and disfigure or obliterate the usual marks by which
the traveller steers his course through the wilds. The dark and undefined
idea of danger arising to my father from the machinations of such a man
as Rashleigh Osbaldistone--the half declaration of love that I had
offered to Miss Vernon's acceptance--the acknowledged difficulties of her
situation, bound by a previous contract to sacrifice herself to a
cloister or to an ill-assorted marriage,--all pressed themselves at once
upon my recollection, while my judgment was unable deliberately to
consider any of them in their just light and bearings. But chiefly and
above all the rest, I was perplexed by the manner in which Miss Vernon
had received my tender of affection, and by her manner, which,
fluctuating betwixt sympathy and firmness, seemed to intimate that I
possessed an interest in her bosom, but not of force sufficient to
counterbalance the obstacles to her avowing a mutual affection. The
glance of fear, rather than surprise, with which she had watched the
motion of the tapestry over the concealed door, implied an apprehension
of danger which I could not but suppose well grounded; for Diana Vernon
was little subject to the nervous emotions of her sex, and totally unapt
to fear without actual and rational cause. Of what nature could those
mysteries be, with which she was surrounded as with an enchanter's spell,
and which seemed continually to exert an active influence over her
thoughts and actions, though their agents were never visible? On this
subject of doubt my mind finally rested, as if glad to shake itself free
from investigating the propriety or prudence of my own conduct, by
transferring the inquiry to what concerned Miss Vernon. I will be
resolved, I concluded, ere I leave Osbaldistone Hall, concerning the
light in which I must in future regard this fascinating being, over whose
life frankness and mystery seem to have divided their reign,--the former
inspiring her words and sentiments--the latter spreading in misty
influence over all her actions.
Joined to the obvious interests which arose from curiosity and anxious
passion, there mingled in my feelings a strong, though unavowed and
undefined, infusion of jealousy. This sentiment, which springs up with
love as naturally as the tares with the wheat, was excited by the degree
of influence which Diana appeared to concede to those unseen beings by
whom her actions were limited. The more I reflected upon her character,
the more I was internally though unwillingly convinced, that she was
formed to set at defiance all control, excepting that which arose from
affection; and I felt a strong, bitter, and gnawing suspicion, that such
was the foundation of that influence by which she was overawed.
These tormenting doubts strengthened my desire to penetrate into the
secret of Miss Vernon's conduct, and in the prosecution of this sage
adventure, I formed a resolution, of which, if you are not weary of these
details, you will find the result in the next chapter.
I hear a voice you cannot hear,
Which says, I must not stay;
I see a hand you cannot see,
Which beckons me awry.
I have already told you, Tresham, if you deign to bear it in remembrance,
that my evening visits to the library had seldom been made except by
appointment, and under the sanction of old Dame Martha's presence. This,
however, was entirely a tacit conventional arrangement of my own
instituting. Of late, as the embarrassments of our relative situation had
increased, Miss Vernon and I had never met in the evening at all. She had
therefore no reason to suppose that I was likely to seek a renewal of
these interviews, and especially without some previous notice or
appointment betwixt us, that Martha might, as usual, be placed upon duty;
but, on the other hand, this cautionary provision was a matter of
understanding, not of express enactment. The library was open to me, as
to the other members of the family, at all hours of the day and night,
and I could not be accused of intrusion, however suddenly and
unexpectedly I might made my appearance in it. My belief was strong, that
in this apartment Miss Vernon occasionally received Vaughan, or some
other person, by whose opinion she was accustomed to regulate her
conduct, and that at the times when she could do so with least chance of
interruption. The lights which gleamed in the library at unusual hours--
the passing shadows which I had myself remarked--the footsteps which
might be traced in the morning-dew from the turret-door to the
postern-gate in the garden--sounds and sights which some of the servants,
and Andrew Fairservice in particular, had observed, and accounted for in
their own way,--all tended to show that the place was visited by some one
different from the ordinary inmates of the hall. Connected as this
visitant probably must be with the fates of Diana Vernon, I did not
hesitate to form a plan of discovering who or what he was,--how far his
influence was likely to produce good or evil consequences to her on whom
he acted;--above all, though I endeavoured to persuade myself that this
was a mere subordinate consideration, I desired to know by what means
this person had acquired or maintained his influence over Diana, and
whether he ruled over her by fear or by affection. The proof that this
jealous curiosity was uppermost in my mind, arose from my imagination
always ascribing Miss Vernon's conduct to the influence of some one
individual agent, although, for aught I knew about the matter, her
advisers might be as numerous am Legion. I remarked this over and over to
myself; but I found that my mind still settled back in my original
conviction, that one single individual, of the masculine sex, and in all
probability young and handsome, was at the bottom of Miss Vernon's
conduct; and it was with a burning desire of discovering, or rather of
detecting, such a rival, that I stationed myself in the garden to watch
the moment when the lights should appear in the library windows.
So eager, however, was my impatience, that I commenced my watch for a
phenomenon, which could not appear until darkness, a full hour before the
daylight disappeared, on a July evening. It was Sabbath, and all the
walks were still and solitary. I walked up and down for some time,
enjoying the refreshing coolness of a summer evening, and meditating on
the probable consequences of my enterprise. The fresh and balmy air of
the garden, impregnated with fragrance, produced its usual sedative
effects on my over-heated and feverish blood. As these took place, the
turmoil of my mind began proportionally to abate, and I was led to
question the right I had to interfere with Miss Vernon's secrets, or with
those of my uncle's family. What was it to me whom my uncle might choose
to conceal in his house, where I was myself a guest only by tolerance?
And what title had I to pry into the affairs of Miss Vernon, fraught, as
she had avowed them to be, with mystery, into which she desired no
Passion and self-will were ready with their answers to these questions.
In detecting this secret, I was in all probability about to do service to
Sir Hildebrand, who was probably ignorant of the intrigues carried on in
his family--and a still more important service to Miss Vernon, whose
frank simplicity of character exposed her to so many risks in maintaining
a private correspondence, perhaps with a person of doubtful or dangerous
character. If I seemed to intrude myself on her confidence, it was with
the generous and disinterested (yes, I even ventured to call it the
_disinterested_) intention of guiding, defending, and protecting her
against craft--against malice,--above all, against the secret counsellor
whom she had chosen for her confidant. Such were the arguments which my
will boldly preferred to my conscience, as coin which ought to be
current, and which conscience, like a grumbling shopkeeper, was contented
to accept, rather than come to an open breach with a customer, though
more than doubting that the tender was spurious.
While I paced the green alleys, debating these things _pro_ and _con,_ I
suddenly alighted upon Andrew Fairservice, perched up like a statue by a
range of bee-hives, in an attitude of devout contemplation--one eye,
however, watching the motions of the little irritable citizens, who were
settling in their straw-thatched mansion for the evening, and the other
fixed on a book of devotion, which much attrition had deprived of its
corners, and worn into an oval shape; a circumstance which, with the
close print and dingy colour of the volume in question, gave it an air of
most respectable antiquity.
"I was e'en taking a spell o' worthy Mess John Quackleben's Flower of a
Sweet Savour sawn on the Middenstead of this World," said Andrew, closing
his book at my appearance, and putting his horn spectacles, by way of
mark, at the place where he had been reading.
"And the bees, I observe, were dividing your attention, Andrew, with the
"They are a contumacious generation," replied the gardener; "they hae sax
days in the week to hive on, and yet it's a common observe that they will
aye swarm on the Sabbath-day, and keep folk at hame frae hearing the
word--But there's nae preaching at Graneagain chapel the e'en--that's aye
"You might have gone to the parish church as I did, Andrew, and heard an
"Clauts o' cauld parritch--clauts o' cauld parritch," replied Andrew,
with a most supercilious sneer,--"gude aneueh for dogs, begging your
honour's pardon--Ay! I might nae doubt hae heard the curate linking awa
at it in his white sark yonder, and the musicians playing on whistles,
mair like a penny-wedding than a sermon--and to the boot of that, I might
hae gaen to even-song, and heard Daddie Docharty mumbling his mass--
muckle the better I wad hae been o' that!"
"Docharty!" said I (this was the name of an old priest, an Irishman, I
think, who sometimes officiated at Osbaldistone Hall)--"I thought Father
Vaughan had been at the Hall. He was here yesterday."
"Ay," replied Andrew; "but he left it yestreen, to gang to Greystock, or
some o' thae west-country haulds. There's an unco stir among them a'
e'enow. They are as busy as my bees are--God sain them! that I suld even
the puir things to the like o' papists. Ye see this is the second swarm,
and whiles they will swarm off in the afternoon. The first swarm set off
sune in the morning.--But I am thinking they are settled in their skeps
for the night; sae I wuss your honour good-night, and grace, and muckle
So saying, Andrew retreated, but often cast a parting glance upon the
_skeps,_ as he called the bee-hives.
I had indirectly gained from him an important piece of information, that
Father Vaughan, namely, was not supposed to be at the Hall. If,
therefore, there appeared light in the windows of the library this
evening, it either could not be his, or he was observing a very secret
and suspicious line of conduct. I waited with impatience the time of
sunset and of twilight. It had hardly arrived, ere a gleam from the
windows of the library was seen, dimly distinguishable amidst the still
enduring light of the evening. I marked its first glimpse, however, as
speedily as the benighted sailor descries the first distant twinkle of
the lighthouse which marks his course. The feelings of doubt and
propriety, which had hitherto contended with my curiosity and jealousy,
vanished when an opportunity of gratifying the former was presented to
me. I re-entered the house, and avoiding the more frequented apartments
with the consciousness of one who wishes to keep his purpose secret, I
reached the door of the library--hesitated for a moment as my hand was
upon the latch--heard a suppressed step within--opened the door--and
found Miss Vernon alone.
Diana appeared surprised,--whether at my sudden entrance, or from some
other cause, I could not guess; but there was in her appearance a degree
of flutter, which I had never before remarked, and which I knew could
only be produced by unusual emotion. Yet she was calm in a moment; and
such is the force of conscience, that I, who studied to surprise her,
seemed myself the surprised, and was certainly the embarrassed person.
"Has anything happened?" said Miss Vernon--"has any one arrived at the
"No one that I know of," I answered, in some confusion; "I only sought
"It lies there," said Miss Vernon, pointing to the table. In removing one
or two books to get at that which I pretended to seek, I was, in truth,
meditating to make a handsome retreat from an investigation to which I
felt my assurance inadequate, when I perceived a man's glove lying upon
the table. My eyes encountered those of Miss Vernon, who blushed deeply.
"It is one of my relics," she said with hesitation, replying not to my
words but to my looks; "it is one of the gloves of my grandfather, the
original of the superb Vandyke which you admire."
As if she thought something more than her bare assertion was necessary to
prove her statement true, she opened a drawer of the large oaken table,
and taking out another glove, threw it towards me.--When a temper
naturally ingenuous stoops to equivocate, or to dissemble, the anxious
pain with which the unwonted task is laboured, often induces the hearer
to doubt the authenticity of the tale. I cast a hasty glance on both
gloves, and then replied gravely--"The gloves resemble each other,
doubtless, in form and embroidery; but they cannot form a pair, since
they both belong to the right hand."
She bit her lip with anger, and again coloured deeply.
"You do right to expose me," she replied, with bitterness: "some friends
would have only judged from what I said, that I chose to give no
particular explanation of a circumstance which calls for none--at least
to a stranger. You have judged better, and have made me feel, not only
the meanness of duplicity, but my own inadequacy to sustain the task of a
dissembler. I now tell you distinctly, that that glove is not the fellow,
as you have acutely discerned, to the one which I just now produced;--it
belongs to a friend yet dearer to me than the original of Vandyke's
picture--a friend by whose counsels I have been, and will be, guided--
whom I honour--whom I"--she paused.
I was irritated at her manner, and filled up the blank in my own way--
"Whom she _loves_, Miss Vernon would say."
"And if I do say so," she replied haughtily, "by whom shall my affection
be called to account?"
"Not by me, Miss Vernon, assuredly--I entreat you to hold me acquitted of
such presumption.--_But,_" I continued, with some emphasis, for I was now
piqued in return, "I hope Miss Vernon will pardon a friend, from whom she
seems disposed to withdraw the title, for observing"--
"Observe nothing, sir," she interrupted with some vehemence, except that
I will neither be doubted nor questioned. There does not exist one by
whom I will be either interrogated or judged; and if you sought this
unusual time of presenting yourself in order to spy upon my privacy, the
friendship or interest with which you pretend to regard me, is a poor
excuse for your uncivil curiosity."
"I relieve you of my presence," said I, with pride equal to her own; for
my temper has ever been a stranger to stooping, even in cases where my
feelings were most deeply interested--"I relieve you of my presence. I
awake from a pleasant, but a most delusive dream; and--but we understand
I had reached the door of the apartment, when Miss Vernon, whose
movements were sometimes so rapid as to seem almost instinctive, overtook
me, and, catching hold of my arm, stopped me with that air of authority
which she could so whimsically assume, and which, from the _naivete_ and
simplicity of her manner, had an effect so peculiarly interesting.
"Stop, Mr. Frank," she said, "you are not to leave me in that way
neither; I am not so amply provided with friends, that I can afford to
throw away even the ungrateful and the selfish. Mark what I say, Mr.
Francis Osbaldistone. You shall know nothing of this mysterious glove,"
and she held it up as she spoke--"nothing--no, not a single iota more
than you know already; and yet I will not permit it to be a gauntlet of
strife and defiance betwixt us. My time here," she said, sinking into a
tone somewhat softer, "must necessarily be very short; yours must be
still shorter: we are soon to part never to meet again; do not let us
quarrel, or make any mysterious miseries the pretext for farther
embittering the few hours we shall ever pass together on this side of
I do not know, Tresham, by what witchery this fascinating creature
obtained such complete management over a temper which I cannot at all
times manage myself. I had determined on entering the library, to seek a
complete explanation with Miss Vernon. I had found that she refused it
with indignant defiance, and avowed to my face the preference of a rival;
for what other construction could I put on her declared preference of her
mysterious confidant? And yet, while I was on the point of leaving the
apartment, and breaking with her for ever, it cost her but a change of
look and tone, from that of real and haughty resentment to that of kind
and playful despotism, again shaded off into melancholy and serious
feeling, to lead me back to my seat, her willing subject, on her own hard
"What does this avail?" said I, as I sate down. "What can this avail,
Miss Vernon? Why should I witness embarrassments which I cannot relieve,
and mysteries which I offend you even by attempting to penetrate?
Inexperienced as you are in the world, you must still be aware that a
beautiful young woman can have but one male friend. Even in a male friend
I will be jealous of a confidence shared with a third party unknown and
concealed; but with _you,_ Miss Vernon"--
"You are, of course, jealous, in all the tenses and moods of that amiable
passion? But, my good friend, you have all this time spoke nothing but
the paltry gossip which simpletons repeat from play-books and romances,
till they give mere cant a real and powerful influence over their minds.
Boys and girls prate themselves into love; and when their love is like to
fall asleep, they prate and tease themselves into jealousy. But you and
I, Frank, are rational beings, and neither silly nor idle enough to talk
ourselves into any other relation than that of plain honest disinterested
friendship. Any other union is as far out of our reach as if I were man,
or you woman--To speak truth," she added, after a moment's hesitation,
"even though I am so complaisant to the decorum of my sex as to blush a
little at my own plain dealing, we cannot marry if we would; and we ought
not if we could."
And certainly, Tresham, she did blush most angelically, as she made this
cruel declaration. I was about to attack both her positions, entirely
forgetting those very suspicions which had been confirmed in the course
of the evening, but she proceeded with a cold firmness which approached
to severity--"What I say is sober and indisputable truth, on which I will
neither hear question nor explanation. We are therefore friends, Mr.
Osbaldistone--are we not?" She held out her hand, and taking mine, added
--"And nothing to each other now, or henceforward, except as friends."
She let go my hand. I sunk it and my head at once, fairly _overcrowed,_
as Spenser would have termed it, by the mingled kindness and firmness of
her manner. She hastened to change the subject.
"Here is a letter," she said, "directed for you, Mr. Osbaldistone, very
duly and distinctly; but which, notwithstanding the caution of the person
who wrote and addressed it, might perhaps never have reached your hands,
had it not fallen into the possession of a certain Pacolet, or enchanted
dwarf of mine, whom, like all distressed damsels of romance, I retain in
my secret service."
I opened the letter and glanced over the contents. The unfolded sheet of
paper dropped from my hands, with the involuntary exclamation of
"Gracious Heaven! my folly and disobedience have ruined my father!"
Miss Vernon rose with looks of real and affectionate alarm--"You grow
pale--you are ill--shall I bring you a glass of water? Be a man, Mr.
Osbaldistone, and a firm one. Is your father--is he no more?"
"He lives," said I, "thank God! but to what distress and difficulty"--
"If that be all, despair not, May I read this letter?" she said, taking
I assented, hardly knowing what I said. She read it with great attention.
"Who is this Mr. Tresham, who signs the letter?"
"My father's partner"--(your own good father, Will)--"but he is little in
the habit of acting personally in the business of the house."
"He writes here," said Miss Vernon, "of various letters sent to you
"I have received none of them," I replied.
"And it appears," she continued, "that Rashleigh, who has taken the full
management of affairs during your father's absence in Holland, has some
time since left London for Scotland, with effects and remittances to take
up large bills granted by your father to persons in that country, and
that he has not since been heard of."
"It is but too true."
"And here has been," she added, looking at the letter, "a head-clerk, or
some such person,--Owenson--Owen--despatched to Glasgow, to find out
Rashleigh, if possible, and you are entreated to repair to the same
place, and assist him in his researches."
"It is even so, and I must depart instantly."
"Stay but one moment," said Miss Vernon. "It seems to me that the worst
which can come of this matter, will be the loss of a certain sum of
money;--and can that bring tears into your eyes? For shame, Mr.
"You do me injustice, Miss Vernon," I answered. "I grieve not for the
loss of the money, but for the effect which I know it will produce on the
spirits and health of my father, to whom mercantile credit is as honour;
and who, if declared insolvent, would sink into the grave, oppressed by a
sense of grief, remorse, and despair, like that of a soldier convicted of
cowardice or a man of honour who had lost his rank and character in
society. All this I might have prevented by a trifling sacrifice of the
foolish pride and indolence which recoiled from sharing the labours of
his honourable and useful profession. Good Heaven! how shall I redeem the
consequences of my error?"
"By instantly repairing to Glasgow, as you are conjured to do by the
friend who writes this letter."
"But if Rashleigh," said I, "has really formed this base and
unconscientious scheme of plundering his benefactor, what prospect is
there that I can find means of frustrating a plan so deeply laid?'
"The prospect," she replied, "indeed, may be uncertain; but, on the other
hand, there is no possibility of your doing any service to your father by
remaining here. Remember, had you been on the post destined for you, this
disaster could not have happened: hasten to that which is now pointed
out, and it may possibly be retrieved.--Yet stay--do not leave this room
until I return."
She left me in confusion and amazement; amid which, however, I could
find a lucid interval to admire the firmness, composure, and presence of
mind which Miss Vernon seemed to possess on every crisis, however sudden.
In a few minutes she returned with a sheet of paper in her hand, folded
and sealed like a letter, but without address. "I trust you," she said,
"with this proof of my friendship, because I have the most perfect
confidence in your honour. If I understand the nature of your distress
rightly, the funds in Rashleigh's possession must be recovered by a
certain day--the 12th of September, I think is named--in order that they
may be applied to pay the bills in question; and, consequently, that if
adequate funds be provided before that period, your father's credit is
safe from the apprehended calamity."
"Certainly--I so understand Mr. Tresham"--I looked at your father's
letter again, and added, "There cannot be a doubt of it."
"Well," said Diana, "in that case my little Pacolet may be of use to you.
You have heard of a spell contained in a letter. Take this packet; do not
open it until other and ordinary means have failed. If you succeed by
your own exertions, I trust to your honour for destroying it without
opening or suffering it to be opened;--but if not, you may break the seal
within ten days of the fated day, and you will find directions which may
possibly be of service to you. Adieu, Frank; we never meet more--but
sometimes think of your friend Die Vernon."
She extended her hand, but I clasped her to my bosom. She sighed as she
extricated herself from the embrace which she permitted--escaped to the
door which led to her own apartment--and I saw her no more.