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Their breakfast so warm to be sure they did eat,
The breakfast of Lady Margaret Bellenden no more resembled a modern dejune, than the great stone-hall at Tillietudlem could brook comparison with a modern drawmg-room. No tea, no coffee, no variety of rolls, but solid and substantial viands,—the priestly ham, the knightly sirloin, the noble baron of beef, the princely venison pasty ; while silver flagons, saved with difficulty from the claws of the Covenanters, now mantled, some with ale, some with mead, and some with generous wine of various qualities and descriptions. The appetites of the guests were in correspondence to the magnificence and solidity of the preparation—no piddling—no boys'-play, but that steady and persevering exercise of the jaws which is best learned by early morning hours, and by occasional hard commons.
Lady Margaret beheld with delight the cates which she had provided descending with such alacrity into the persons of her honoured guests, and had little occasion to exercise, with respect to any of the company saving Claverhouse himself, the compulsory urgency of pressing to eat, to which, as to the peine forte et dure, the ladies of that period were in the custom of subjecting their guests.
But the leader himself, more anxious to pay courtesy to Miss Bellenden, next whom he was placed, than to gratify his appetite, appeared somewhat negligent of the good cheer set before him. Edith heard, without reply, many courtly speeches addressed to her in a tone of voice of that happy modulation which could alike melt in the low tones of interesting conversation, and rise amid the
careless of facing death himself, and ruthless in inflicting it upon others. Such are the characters formed in times of civil discord, when the highest qualities, perverted by parly spirit, and inflamed by habitual opposition, are too often combined with vices and excesses which deprive them at once of their merit and of their lustre.
In endeavouring to reply to the polite trifles with which Claverhouse accosted her, Edith showed so much confusion, that her grandmother thought it necessary to come to her relief.
"Edith Bellenden," said the old lady, " has, from my retired mode of living, seen so little of those of her own sphere, that truly she can hardly frame her speech to suitable answers. A soldier is so rare a sight with us, Colonel Grahame, that unless it be my young Lord Evandale, we have hardly had an opportunity of receiving a gentleman in uniform. And, now I talk of that excellent young nobleman, may I inquire if I was not to have had the honour of seeing him this morning with the regiment?"
"Lord Evandale, madam, was on his march with us," answered the leader, " but I was obliged to detach him with a small party to disperse a conventicle of those troublesome scoundrels who have had the impudence to assemble within five miles of my head-quarters."
"Indeed !" said the old lady; " that is a height of presumption to which I would have thought no rebellious fanatics would have ventured to aspire. But these are strange times! There is an evil spirit in the land, Colonel Grahame, that excites the vassals of persons of rank to rebel against the very house that holds and feeds them. There was one of my able-bodied men the other day who plainly refused to attend the wappen-schaw at my bidding. Is there no law for such recusancy, Colonel Grahame V
"I think I could find one," said Claverhouse, with great composure, " if your ladyship will inform me of the name and. residence of the culprit V *'w** His name," said Lady Margaret, " is Cuthbert Headrigg ; I can say nothing of his domicile, for ye may weel believe, Colonel Grahame, he did not dwell long in Til
Iietudlem, but was speedily expelled for his contumacy. I wish the lad no severe bodily injury ; but incarceration, or even a few stripes, would be a good example in this neighbourhood. His mother, under whose influence I doubt he acted, is an ancient domestic of this family, which makes me incline to mercy; although," continued the old lady, looking towards the pictures of her husband and her sons, with which the wall was hung, and heaving at the same time, a deep sigh, " I, Colonel Grahame, have in my ain person but little right to compassionate that stubborn and rebellious generation. They have made me a childless widow, and, but for the protection of our sacred sovereign and his gallant soldiers, they would soon deprive me of landsand goods, of hearth and altar. Seven of my tenants, whose joint rent-mail may mount to well nigh a hundred merks, have already refused to pay either cess or rent, and had the assurance to tell my steward that they would acknowledge neither king nor landlord but who should have taken the Covenant."
"I will take a course with them—that is, with your ladyship's permission," answered Claverhouse; "it would ill become me to neglect the support of lawful authority when it is lodged in such worthy hands as those of Lady Margaret Bellenden. But I must needs say this country grows worse and worse daily, and reduces me to the necessity of taking measures with the recusants that are much more consonant with my duty than with my inclinations. And, speaking of this, I must not forget that I have to thank your ladyship for the hospitality you have been pleased to extend to a party of mine who have brought in a prisoner, charged with having resettednthe murdering villain, Balfour of Burley."
"The house of Tillietudlem," answered the lady, "hath ever been open to the servants of his majesty, and I hope that the stones of it will no longer rest on each other when it surceases to be as much at their, command as at ours. And this reminds me, Colonel Grahame, that the gentleman who commands the party can hardly be said to be in his proper place in the army, considering whose blood flows in his veins; and if I might flatter myself that anything would be granted to my request, I would presume to entreat that he might be promoted on some favourable opportunity."
"Your ladyship means Sergeant Francis Stuart, whom we call Bothwell V said Claverhouse, smiling. "The truth is, he is a little too rough in the country, and has not been uniformly so amenable to discipline as the rules of the service require. But to instruct me how to oblige Lady Margaret Bellenden is to lay down the law to me —Bothwell," he continued, addressing the sergeant who just then appeared at the door, " go kiss Lady Margaret Bellenden's hand, who interests herself in your promotion, and you shall have a commission the first vacancy."
Bothwell went through the salutation in the manner prescribed, but not without evident marks of haughty reluctance, and, when he had done so, said aloud, " To kiss a lady's hand can never disgrace a gentleman; but I would not kiss a man's, save the King's, to be made a general."
"You hear him," said Claverhouse, smiling, " there's the rock he splits upon ; he cannot forget his pedigree."
"I know, my noble colonel," said Bothwell in the same tone, " that you will not forget your promise ; and then, perhaps, you may permit Comet Stuart to have some recollection of his grandfather, though the sergeant must forget him."
"Enough of this, sir," said Claverhouse, in the tone of command which was familiar to him, "and let me know what you came to report to me just now."
"My Lord Evandale and his party have halted on the high-road with some prisoners," said Bothwell.
"My Lord Evandale V said Lady Margaret. "Surely, Colonel Grahame, you will permit him to honour me with his society, and to take his poor disjune here, especially considering, that even his most sacred majesty did not pass the Tower of Tillietudlem without halting to partake of some refreshment."
As this was the third time in the course of the conversation that Lady Margaret had adverted to this distinguish