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At the moment the tramp of horses was heard which carried off the daughter of Ellieslaw, her father fell to the earth, and his servant, a stout young fellow, who was gaining ground on the ruffian with whom he had been engaged, left the combat to come to his master's assistance, little doubting that he had received a mortal wound. Both the villains immediately desisted from farther combat, and retreating into the thicket, mounted their horses, and went off at full speed after their companions. Mean time, Dixon had the satisfaction to find Mr. Vere, not only alive but unwounded. He had over-reached himself, and stumbled, it seemed, over the root of a tree in making too eager a blow at his antagonist. The despair he felt at his daughter's disappearance, was, in Dixon's phrase, such as would have melted the heart of a whinstane, and he was so much exhausted by his feelings, and the vain researches which he made to discover the track of the ravishers, that a considerable time elapsed ere he reached home, and communicated the alarm to his domestics.
All his conduct and gestures were those of a desperate man.
“ Speak not to me, Sir Frederick,” he said impatiently ; " you are no father-she was my child, an ungrateful one, I fear, but still my child-my only child. Where is Miss Ilderton ? she must know something of this. It corresponds with what I was informed of her schemes. Go, Dixon, call Ratcliffe here-Let him come without a minute's delay. - The person he had named at this moment entered the room.
" I say, Dixon," continued Mr. Vere in an altered tone, “ let Mr. Ratcliffe know, I beg the favour of his company on particular business.—Ah ! my dear sir," he proceeded, as if noticing him for the first time, “ you are the very man whose advice can be of the utmost service in this cruel extremity."
6. What has happened, Mr. Vere, to discompose you ?” said Mr. Ratcliffe gravely; and while the Laird of Ei
lieslaw details to him, with the most animated gestures of grief and indignation, the singular adventure of the morning, we shall take the opportunity to inform our readers of the relative circumstances in which these gentlemen stood to each other.
In early youth, Mr. Vere of Ellieslaw had been remarkable for a career of dissipation, which, in advanced life, he had exchanged for the no less destructive career of dark and turbulent ambition. In both cases, he had gratified the predominant passion without respect to the diminution of his private fortune, although, where such inducements were wanting, he was deemed close, avaricious, and grasping. His affairs being much embarrassed by his earlier extravagance, he went to England, where he was understood to have formed a very advantageous matrimonial connection. He was many years absent from his family estate. Suddenly and unexpectedly he returned a widower, bringing with him his daughter, then a girl of about ten years old. From this mornent his expense seemed unbounded in the eyes of the simple inhabitants of his native mountains. It was supposed he must necessarily have plunged himself deeply in debt. Yet he continued to live in the same lavish expense, until some months before the commencement of our narrative, when the public opinion of his embarrassed circumstances was confirmed, by the residence of Mr. Ratcliffe at Ellieslaw Castle, who, by the tacit consent, though obviously to the great displeasure, of the lord of the mansion, seemed, from the moment of his arrival, to assume and exercise a predominant and unaccountable influence in the management of his private affairs.
Mr. Ratcliffe was a grave, steady, reserved man, in an advanced period of life. To those with whom he had occasion to speak upon business, he appeared uncommonly well versed in all its forms. With others he held little communication ; but in any casual intercourse, or conversation, displayed the powers of an active and wellinformed mind. For some time before taking up his final
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residence at the castle, he had been an occasional visiter there, and was at such times treated by Mr. Vere (contrary to his general practice towards those who were inferior to him in rank) with marked attention, and even deference. Yet his arrival always appeared to be an embarrassment to his host, and his departure a relief; so that, when he became a constant inmate of the family, it was impossible not to observe indications of the displeasure with which Mr. Vere regarded his presence. Indeed, their intercourse formed a singular mixture of confidence and constraint. Mr. Vere's most important affairs were regulated by Mr. Ratcliffe ; and although he was none of those indulgent men of fortune, who, too indolent to manage their own business, are glad to devolve it upon another, yet, in many instances, he was observed to give up his own judgment, and submit to the contrary opinions which Mr. Ratcliffe did not hesitate distinctly to express.
Nothing seemed to vex Mr. Vere more than when strangers indicated any observation of the state of tutelage under which he appeared to labour. When it was noticed by Sir Frederick, or any of his intimates, he sometimes repelled their remarks haughtily and indignantly, and sometimes endeavoured to evade them, by saying, with a forced laugh, “ That Ratcliffe knew his own importance, but that he was the most honest and skilful fellow in the world ; and that it would be impossible for him to manage his English affairs without his advice and assistance." Such was the person who entered the room at the moment Mr. Vere was summoning him to his presence, and who now heard with surprise, mingled with obvious incredulity, the hasty narrative of what had befallen Isabella.
Her father concluded, addressing Sir Frederick, and the other gentlemen, who stood around in astonishment, “ And now, my friends, you see the most unhappy father in Scotland. Lend me your assistance, gentlemen-give me your advice, Mr. Ratcliffe. I am incapable of acting, or thinking, under the unexpected violence of such a blow.
6. Let us take our horses, call our attendants, ana scour the country in pursuit of the villains,” said Sir Frederick.
“ Is there no one whom you can suspect,” said Ratcliffe, gravely, “ of having some motive for this strange crime? These are not the days of romance, when ladies are carried off merely for their beauty.”
“I fear,” said Mr. Vere, “I can too well account for this strange incident. Read this letter, which Miss Lucy Ilderton thought fit to address from my house of Ellieslaw to young Mr. Earnscliff, whom, of all men, I have a hereditary right to call my enemy. You see she writes to him as the confidant of a passion which he has the assurance to entertain for my daughter; tells him she serves his cause with her friend very ardently, but that he has a friend in the garrison who serves him yet more effectually. Look particularly at the pencilled passages, Mr. Ratcliffe, where this meddling girl recommends bold measures, with an assurance that his suit would be successful any where beyond the bounds of the barony of Ellieslaw.”
“ And you argue, from this romantic letter of a very romantic young lady, Mr. Vere,” said Ratcliffe, “ that young Earnscliff has carried off your daughter, and committed a very great and criminal act of violence, on no better advice and assurance than that of Miss Lucy Ilderton ?"
" What else can I think ?" said Ellieslaw.
- What else can you think ?” said Sir Frederick ; " or who else could have any motive for committing such a crime ?"
“ Were that the best mode of fixing the guilt,” said Mr. Ratcliffe, calmly, “ there might easily be pointed out persons to whom such actions are more congenial, and who have also sufficient inotives of instigation. Supposing it were judged advisable to remove Miss Vere to some place in which constraint might be exercised upon her inclinations to a degree which cannot at present be attempted under the roof of Ellieslaw Castle-What says Sir Frederick Langley to that supposition ?"
" I say," returned Sir Frederick, " that although Mr. Verë may choose to endure in Mr. Rateliffe freedoms totally inconsistent with his situation in life, I will not permit such license of innuendo, by word or look, to be extended to me, with impunity.”
" And I say," said young Mareschal of MareschalWells, who was also a guest at the castle, “ that you are all stark-mad to be standing wrangling here, instead of going in pursuit of the ruffians.”
“I have ordered off the domestics already in the track most likely to overtake them," said Mr. Vere ; “ if you will favour me with your company, we will follow them, and assist in the search."
The efforts of the party were totally unsuccessful, probably because Ellieslaw directed the pursuit to proceed in the direction of Earnscliff-Tower, under the supposition that the owner would prove to be the author of the violence, so that they followed a direction diametrically opposite to that in which the ruffians had actually proceeded. In the evening, they returned, harassed and out of spirits. But other guests had, in the meanwhile, arrived at the castle ; and, after the recent loss sustained by the owner had been related, wondered at, and lamented, the recollection of it was, for the present, drowned in the discussion of deep political intrigues, of which the crisis and explosion were momentarily looked for.
Several of the gentlemen who took part in this divan were catholies, and all of them stanch jacobites, whose hopes were at present at the highest pitch, as an invasion, in favour of the Pretender, was daily expected from France, which Scotland, between the defenceless state of its garrisons and fortified places, and the general disaffection of the inhabitants, was rather prepared to welcome than to resist. Ratcliffe, who neither sought to assist at their consultations on this subject, nor was invited to do so, had, in the meanwhile, retired to his own apartment. Miss Ilderton was sequestered from society in a sort of honourable confinement, “ until,” said Mr. Vere," she