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waited with an inward emotion of awe, expecting which of his confederates would set the example by plunging himself down. This inward sensation of fear and reJuctance acted differently, according to the various habits and characters of the company. One looked grave; another looked silly; a third gazed with apprehension on the empty seats at the higher end of the table, designed for members of the conspiracy, whose prudence had prevailed over their political zeal, and who had absented themselves from their consultations at this critical period; and some seemed to be reckoning up in their minds the comparative rank and prospects of those who were present and absent. Sir Frederick Langley was reserved, moody, and discontented. Ellieslaw himself made such forced efforts to raise the spirits of the company, as plainly marked the flagging of his own. Ratcliffe watched the scene with the composure of a vigilant but uninterested spectator. Mareschal alone, true to the thoughtless vivacity of his character, eat and drank, laughed and jested, and seemed even to find amusement in the embarrassment of the company.
"What has damped our noble courage this morning 9" he exclaimed. "We seem to be met at a funeral, where the chief mourners must not speak above their breath, while the mutes and the saulees (looking to the lower end of the table) are carousing below. Ellieslaw, when will you lift ?6 where sleeps your spirit, man 9 and what has quelled the high hope of the Knight of Langley-dale V
"You speak like a madman," said Ellieslaw; "Do you not see how many are absent V
"And what of that," said Mareschal?" Did you not know before, that one-half of the world are better talkers than doers? For my part, I am much encouraged by seeing at least two-thirds of our friends true to the rendezvous, though I suspect one-half of these came to secure the dinner in case of the worst."
"There is no news from the coast which can amount to certainty of the King's arrival," said another of the company, in that tone of subdued and tremulous whisper which implies a failure of resolution.
"Not a line from the Earl of D , nor a single
gentleman from the southern side of the Border," said a third.
"Who is he that wishes for more men from England," exclaimed Mareschal, in a theatrical tone of affected heroism,
'My cousin Eilieslaw? No, my fair cousin.
"For God's sake," said Ellieslaw, "spare us your folly at present, Mareschal."
"Well, then," said his kinsman, "I'll bestow my wisdom upon you instead, such as it is. If we have gone forward like fools, do not let us go back like cowards. We have done enough to draw upon us both the suspicion and vengeance of jhe government; do not let us give up before we have done something to deserve it.—What, will no one speak? Then I'll leap the ditch the first." And, starting up, he filled a beer-glass to the brim with claret, and waving his hand, commanded all to follow his example, and to rise up from their seats. All obeyed— the more qualified guests as if passively, the others with enthusiasm. "Then, my friends, I give you the pledge of the day—The independence of Scotland, and the health of our lawful sovereign, King James the Eighth, now landed in Lothian, and, as I trust and believe, in full possession of his ancient capital!"
He quaffed off the wine, and threw the glass over his head.
"It should never," he said, "be profaned by a meaner toast."
All followed his example, and, amid the crash of glasses and the shouts of the company, pledged themselves to stand or fall with the principles and political interest which their toast expressed.
"You have leaped the ditch with a witness," said Ellieslaw, apart to Mareschal; "but I believe it is all for the best; at all events, we cannot now retreat from our undertaking. One man alone," (looking at Ratcliffe) "has refused the pledge; but of that by and by"
Then, rising up, he addressed the company in a style of inflammatory invective against the government and its measures, but especially the Union; a treaty, by means of which, he affirmed, Scotland had been at once cheated of her independence, her commerce, and her honour, and laid, as a fettered slave, at the foot of the rival, against whom, through such a length of ages, through so many dangers, and by so much blood, she had honourably defended her rights. This was touching a theme which found a responsive chord in the bosom of every man present.
"Our commerce is destroyed," hollowed old John Rewcastle, a Jedburgh smuggler, from the lower end of the table.
"Our agriculture is ruined," said the Laird of Broken-girth-flow, a territory, which, since the days of Adam, had borne nothing but ling and whortleberries.
"Our religion is cut up, root and branch," said the pimple-nosed pastor of the Episcopal meeting-house at Kirkwhistle.
"We shall shortly neither dare shoot a deer, nor kiss a wench, without a certificate from the presbytery and kirk-treasurer," said Mareschal-Wells.
"Or make a brandy Jeroboam in a frosty morning, without license from a commissioner of excise," said the smuggler.
"Or ride over the fell in a moonless night," said Westburnflat, " without asking leave of young Earnscliff, or some Englified justice of the peace: thae were gude days on the Border when there was neither peace nor justice heard of."
"Let us remember our wrongs at Darien and Glencoe," continued Ellieslaw, "and take arms for the protection of our rights, our fortunes, our lives, and our families."
"Think upon genuine episcopal ordination, without which there can be no lawful clergy," said the divine.
"Think of the piracies committed on our Ea6t Indian trade, by Green and the English thieves," said William Willieson, half-owner and sole skipper of a brig, that made four voyages annually between Coekpool and Whitehaven.
"Remember your liberties," rejoined Mareschal, who seemed to take a mischievous delight in precipitating the movements of the enthusiasm which he had excited, like a roguish boy,who, having lifted the sluice of a mill-dam, enjoys the clatter of the wheels which he has put in motion, without thinking of the mischief he may have occasioned. "Remember your liberties," he exclaimed; "confound cess, press, and presbytery, and the memory of old Willie that first brought them upon us!"
"Damn the gauger!" echoed old John Rewcastle; "I'll cleave him wi' my ain hand."
"And confound the country-keeper and the constable," re-echoed Westburnflat; "I'll weize a brace of balls through them before morning."
"We are agreed then," said Ellieslaw, when the shouts had somewhat subsided, "to bear this state of things no longer V
"We are agreed to a man," answered his guests.
"Not literally so," said Mr. Ratcliffe; "for though I cannot hope to assuage the violent symptoms which seem so suddenly to have seized upon the company, yet 1 beg to observe, that so far as the opinion of a single member goes, I do not entirely coincide in the list of grievances which has been announced, and that I do utterly protest against the frantic measures which you seem disposed to adopt for removing them. I can easily suppose much of what has been spoken may have arisen out of the heat of the moment, or have been said perhaps in jest. But there are some jests of a nature very apt to transpire; and you ought to remember, gentlemen, that stone-walls have ears."
"Stone-walls may have ears," returned Ellieslaw, eyeing him with a look of triumphant malignity, "but domestic spies, Mr. Ratcliife. will soon find themselves without any, if any such dares to continue his abode in a family where his coming was an unauthorized intrusion, where his conduct has been that of a presumptuous meddler, and from which his exit shall be that of a baffled knave, if he does not know how to take a hint."
"Mr. Vere," returned Ratcliffe, with calm contempt, "I am fully aware that as soon as my presence becomes useless to you, which it must through the rash step you are about to adopt, it will immediately become unsafe to myself, as it has always been hateful to you. But I have one protection, and it is a strong one; for you would not willingly hear me detail before gentlemen, and men of honour, the singular circumstances in which our connection took its rise. As to the rest, I rejoice at its conclusion ; and, as I think that Mr. Mareschal and some other gentlemen will guarantee the safety of my ears and of my throat, (for which last I have more reason to be apprehensive) during the course of the night, I shall not leave your castle till to-morrow morning."
"Be it so, sir," replied Mr.Vere," you are entirely safe from my resentment, because you are beneath it, and not because I am afraid of your disclosing any family secrets, although, for your own sake, I warn you to beware how you do so. Your agency and intermediation can be of little consequence to one who will win or lose all, as lawful right or unjust usurpation shall succeed in the struggle that is about to ensue. Farewell, sir."
Ratcliffe arose, and cast upon him a look, which Vere seemed to sustain with difficulty, and, bowing to those around him, left the room.
This conversation made an impression on many of the company, which Ellieslaw hastened to dispel, by entering upon the business of the day. Their hasty deliberations went to organize an immediate insurrection. Ellieslaw, Mareschal, and Sir Frederick Langley, were chosen leaders, with powers to direct their farther measures. A place of rendezvous was appointed, at which all agreed to meet early on the ensuing day, with such followers and friends to the cause as each could collect around him.