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So, praying to God to preserve your health, I rest your dutiful and loving niece, Edith Bellenden.
"Postscriptum. A party of soldiers have last night brought your friend, young Mr. Henry Morton of Milnwood, hither as a prisoner. I conclude you will be sorry for the young gentleman, and, therefore, let you know this, in case you may think of speaking to Colonel Grahame in his behalf. I have not mentioned his name to .my grandmother, knowing her prejudice against the jamily.
This epistle being duly sealed and delivered to Jenny,, that faithful confidante hastened to put the same in the charge of Goose Gibbie, whom she found in readiness to start from the castle. She then gave him various instructions touching the road, which she apprehended he was likely to mistake, not having travelled it above five qr six times, and possessing only the same slender proportion of memory as of judgment. Lastly, she smuggled him out of the garrison through the pantry window into the branchy yew-tree which grew close beside it, and had the satisfaction to see him reach the bottom in safety, and take the right turn at the commencement of his journey. She then returned to persuade her young mistress to go to bed, _and to lull her to rest, if possible, with assurances of Gibbie's success in his embassy, only qualified by .a passing regret that the trusty Cuddie, with whom the commission might have been more safely reposed, was no longer within reach of serving her.
More fortunate as a messenger than as a cavalier, it was Gibbie's good hap, rather than his good management, which, after he had goue astray not pftener than nine times, and given his garments a taste of the variation of each bog, brook, and slough, between Tillietudlem and iCharnwood, placed him about day-break before the gate of Major Bellenden's mansion, having completed a walk of ten miles (for the bittock, as usual, amounted to four) in little more than the same number of hours.
At last comes the troop, by the word of command
Major Bellenden's ancient valet Gideon Pike, as he adjusted his master's clothes by his bed-side, preparatory to the worthy veteran's toilet, acquainted him, as an apology for disturbing him an hour earlier than his usual time of rising, that there was an express from Tillietudlem.
"From Tillietudlem V said the old gentleman, rising hastily in his bed, and sitting bolt upright,—" Open the shutters, Pike—I hope my sister-in-law is well—furl up the bed-curtain.—What have we all here?" (glancing at Edith's note.) "The gout? why, she knows I have not had a fit since Candlemas.—The wappen-schaw? I told her a month since I was not to be there.—Paduasoy and hanging sleeves? why, hang the gipsy herself!—Grand Cyrus and Philipdastus—Philip Devil!—is the wench gone crazy all at once? was it worth while to send an express and wake me at five in the morning for all this trash ?— But what says her postscriptum? Mercy on us!" he exclaimed on perusing it,—" Pike, saddle old Kilsythe instantly, and another horse for yourself."
"I hope nae ill news frae the Tower, sir?" said Pike, astonished at his master's sudden emotion.
"Yes—no—yes—that is, I must meet Claverhouse there on some express business; so boot and saddle, Pike, as fast as you can.—O, Lord ! what times are these !— the poor lad—my old cronie's son !—and the silly wench sticks it into her postscriptum, as she calls it, at the tail of all this trumpery about old gowns and new romances!"
In a few minutes the good old officer was fully equipped ; and, having mounted upon his arm-gaunt charger as soberly as Mark Antony himself could have done, he paced forth his way to the Tower of Tillietudlem.
On the road he formed the prudent resolution to say nothing to the old lady, (whose dislike to presbyterians of all kinds he knew to be inveterate,) of the quality and rank of the prisoner detained within her walls, but to try his own influence with Claverhouse to obtain Morton's liberation.
"Being so loyal as he is, he must do something for so old a cavalier as I am," said the veteran to himself; "and if he is so good a soldier as the world speaks of, why, he will be glad to serve an old soldier's son. I never knew a real soldier that was not a frank-hearted, honest fellow ; and I think the execution of the laws (though it's a pity they find it necessary to make them so severe) may be a thousand times better intrusted with them than with peddling lawyers and thick-skulled country gentlemen."
Such were the ruminations of Major Miles Bellenden, which were terminated by John Gudyill (not more than half-drunk) taking hold of his bridle, and assisting him to dismount in the rough paved court of Tillietudlem.
"Why, John," said the veteran, " what devil of a discipline is this you have been keeping? You have been reading Geneva print this morning already."
"I have been reading the Litany," said John, shaking his head with a look of drunken gravity, and having only caught one word of the major's address to him ; "life is short, sir; we are flowers of the field, sir,—hiccup—and lilies of the valley."
"Flowers and lilies? why, man, such carles as thou and I can hardly be called better than old hemlocks, decayed nettles, or withered rag-weed ; but I suppose you think that we are still worth watering."
"I am an old soldier, sir, I thank Heaven"—hiccup—
"An old skinker you mean, John. But, come, never mind, show me the way to your mistress, old lad."
John Gudyill led the way to the stone-hall, where Lady Margaret was fidgetting about, superintending, arranging, and re-forming the preparations made for the reception of the celebrated Claverhouse, whom one party honoured and extolled as a hero, and another execrated as a bloodthirsty oppressor.
"Did I not tell you," said Lady Margaret to her principal female attendant—" did I not tell you, Mysie, that it was my especial pleasure on this occasion to have every thing in the precise order wherein it was upon that famous morning when his most sacred majesty partook of his disjune at Tillietudlem?"
"Doubtless, such were your leddyship's commands, and to the best of my remembrance"—was Mysie answering, when her ladyship broke in with, " Then wherefore is the venison pasty placed on the left side of the throne, and the stoup of claret upon the right, when ye may right weel remember, Mysie, that his most sacred majesty with his ain hand shifted the pasty to the same side with the flagon, and said they were too good friends to be parted?"
"I mind that weel, madam," said Mysie ; "and if 1 had forgot, I have heard your leddyship often speak about that grand morning sin' syne ; but I thought everything was to be placed just as it was when his majesty, God bless him, came into this room, looking mair like an angel than a man, if he hadna been sae black-a-vised."
"Then ye thought nonsense, Mysie ; for in whatever way his most sacred majesty ordered the position of the trenchers and flagons, that, as weel as his royal pleasure in greater matters, should be a law to his subjects, and shall ever be to those of the house of Tillietudlem."
"Weel, madam," said Mysie, making the alterations required, " it's easy mending the error; but if everything is just to be as his majesty left it, there should be an unco hole in the venison pasty."
At this moment the door opened.
"Who is that, John.Gudyill V exclaimed the old lady. "I can speak to no one just now.—Is it you, my dear brother?" she continued, in some surprise, as the Major entered; " this is a right early visit."
"Not more early than welcome, T hope," replied Major Bellenden, as he saluted the widow of his deceased brother ; " but I heard by a note which Edith sent to Charnwood about some of her equipage and books, that you were to have Claver'se here this morning, so I thought, like an old firelock as I am, that I should like to have a a chat with this rising soldier. I caused Pike saddle Kilythe, and here we both are."
"And most kindly welcome you are," said the old lady; "it is just what I should have prayed you to do, if I had thought there was time. You see I am busy in preparation. All is to be in the same order as when"
"The King breakfasted at Tillietudlem," said the Major, who, like all Lady Margaret's friends, dreaded the commencement of that narrative, and was desirous to cut it short,—" I remember it well; you know I was waiting on his majesty."
"You were, brother," said Lady Margaret; " and perhaps you can help me to remember the order of the entertainment."
"Nay, good sooth," said the Major, " the damnable dinner that Noll gave us at Worcester a few days afterwards, drove all your good cheer out of my memory.— But how's this 9—you have even the great Turkey-leather elboW-chair, with the tapestry cushions placed in state."
"The throne, brother, if you please," said Lady Margaret, gravely.
"Well, the throne be it, then," continued the Major. "Is that to be Claver'se's post in the attack upon the pasty?"
"No, brother," said the lady; "as these cushions have been once honoured by accommodating the person of our most sacred monarch, they shall never, please Heaven, during my life-time, be pressed by any less dignified weight."
"You should not then," said the old soldier, "put them in the way of an honest old cavalier, who has ridden ten miles before breakfast; for, to confess the truth, they look very inviting. B:.t where is Edith?"