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ed event, Colonel Grahame, as speedily as politeness would permit, took advantage of the first pause to interrupt the farther progress of the narrative, by saying, "We are already too numerous a party of guests; but as I know what Lord Evandale will suffer (looking towards Edith) if deprived of the pleasure which we enjoy, I will run the risk of overburdening your ladyship's hospitality.—Bothwell, let Lord Evandale know that Lady Margaret Bellenden requests the honour of his company."
"And let Harrison take care," added Lady Margaret, "that the people and their horses are suitably seen to."
Edith's heart sprung to her lips during this conversation, for it instantly occurred to her, that through her influence over Lord Evandale, she might find some means of releasing Morton from his present state of danger, in case her uncle's intercession with Claverhouse should prove ineffectual. At any other time, she would have been much averse to exert this influence; for, however inexperienced in the world, her native delicacy taught her the advantage which a beautiful young woman gives to a young man when she permits him to lay her under an obligation. And she would have been the farther disinclined to request any favour of Lord Evandale, because the voice of the gossips in Clydesdale had, for reasons hereafter to be made known, assigned him to her as a suitor, and because she could not disguise from herself that very little encouragement was necessary to realize conjectures which had hitherto no foundation. This was the more to be dreaded, that, in the case of Lord Evandale's making a formal declaration, he had every chance of bemg supported by the influence of Lady Margaret and her other friends, and that she would have nothing to oppose to their solicitations and authority, except a predilection, to avow which she knew would be equally dangerous and unavailing. She determined, therefore, to wait the issue of her uncle's intercession, and, should it fail, which she conjectured she should soon learn, either from the looks or language of the open-hearted veteran, she would then, as a last effort, make use in Morton's favour of her interest with Lord Evandale. Her mind did not long remain in suspense on the subject of her uncle's application
Major Bellenden, who had done the honours of the table, laughing and chatting with the military guests who were at that end of the board, was now, by the conclusion of the repast, at liberty to leave his station, and accordingly took an opportunity to approach Claverhouse, requesting from his niece, at the same time, the honour of a particular introduction. As his name and character were well known, the two military men met with expressions of mutual regard; and Edith, with a beating heart, saw her aged relative withdraw from the company, together with his new acquaintance, into a recess formed by one of the arched windows of the hall. She watched their conference with eyes almost dazzled by the eagerness of suspense, and, with observation rendered more acute by the internal agony of her mind, could guess, from the pantomimic gestures which accompanied the conversation, the progress and fate of the intercession in behalf of Henry Morton.
The first expression of the countenance of Claverhouse betokened that open and willing courtesy, which ere it requires to know the nature of the favour asked, seems to say, how happy the party will be to confer an obligation on the suppliant. But as the conversation proceeded, the brow of that officer became darker and more severe, and his features, though still retaining the expression of the most perfect politeness, assumed, at least to Edith's terrified imagination, a harsh and inexorable character. His lip was now compressed as if with impatience ; now curled slightly upward, as if in civil contempt of the arguments urged by Major Bellenden. The language of her uncle, as far as expressed in his manner, appeared to be that of earnest intercession, urged with all the affectionate simplicity of his character, as well as with the weight which his age and reputation entitled him to use. But it seemed to have little impression upon Colonel Grahame, who soon changed his posture, as if about to cut short the Major's importunity, and to break up their conference with a courtly expression of regret, calculated to accompany a positive refusal of the request solicited. This movement brought them so near Edith, that she could distinctly hear Claverhouse say, " It cannot be, Major Bellenden; lenity, in his case, is altogether beyond the bounds of my commission, though in anything else 1 am so heartily desirous to oblige you.—And here comes Evandale with news, as I think.—What tidings do you bring us, Evandale V he continued, addressing the young lord, who now entered in complete uniform, but with his dress disordered, and his boots spattered as if by riding hard.
"Unpleasant news, sir," was his reply. "A large body of whigs are in arms among the hills, and have broken out into actual rebellion. They have publicly burnt the Act of Supremacy, that which established episcopacy, that for observing the martyrdom of Charles I., and some others, and have declared their intention to remain together in arms for furthering the covenanted work of reformation."
This unexpected intelligence struck a sudden and painful surprise into the minds of all who heard it, excepting Claverhouse.
"Unpleasant news call you them 9" replied Colonel Grahame, his dark eyes flashing fire, " they are the best I have heard these six months. Now that the scoundrels are drawn into a body, we will make short work with them. When the adder crawls into day-light," he added, striking the heel of his boot upon the floor, as if in the act of crushing a noxious reptile, " I can trample him to death; he is only safe when he remains lurking in his den or morass.—Where are these knaves V he continued, addressing Lord Evandale.
"About ten miles off among the mountains, at a place called Loudon-hill," was the young nobleman's reply. "I dispersed the conventicle against which you sent me, and made prisoner an old trumpeter of rebellion,—an intercommuned minister, that is to say,—who was in the act of exhorting his hearers to rise and be doing in the good cause, as well as one or two of his hearer*. who seemed to be particularly insolent; and frcm some country people and scouts I learned what I now tell you."
"What may be their strength V asked his commander.
"Probably a thousand men, but accounts differ widely."
"Then," said Claverhouse, " it is time for us to be up and be doing also—Bothwell, bid them sound to horse."
Bothwell, who, like the war-horse of scripture, snuffed the battle afar off, hastened to give orders to six negroes, in white dresses richly laced, and having massive silver collars and armlets. These sable functionaries acted as trumpeters, and speedily made the castle and the woods around it ring with their summons.
"Must you then leave us V said Lady Margaret, her heart sinking under recollection of former unhappy times; "had ye not better send to learn the force of the rebels 1 —O, how many a fair face hae I heard these fearfu' sounds call away frae the Tower of Tillietudlem, that my auld een were ne'er to see return to it!"
"It is impossible for me to stop," said Claverhouse; "there are rogues enough in this country to make the rebels five times their strength, if they are not checked at once."
"Many," said Evandale, " are flocking to them already, and they give out that they expect a strong body of the indulged presbyterians, headed by young Milnwood, as they call him, the son of the famous old roundhead, Colonel Silas Morton."
This speech produced a very different effect upon the 'hearers. Edith almost sunk from her seat with terror, while Claverhouse darted a glance of sarcastic triumph at Major Bellenden, which seemed to imply—" You see what are the principles of the young man you are pleading for."
"It's a lie—it's a d—d lie of these rascally fanatics," said the Major hastily. "I will answer for Henry Morton as I would for my own son. He is a lad of as good church-principles as any gentleman in the Life-Guards. I mean no offence to any one. He has gone to church 26 Vol. I.
service with me fifty times, and I never heard him miss one of the responses in my life. Edith Bellenden can bear witness to it as well as I. He always read on the same Prayer-book with her, and could look out the lessons as well as the curate himself. Call him up ; let him be heard for himself."
"There can be no harm in that," said Claverhouse, "whether he be innocent or guilty.—Major Allan," he said, turning to the officer next in command, " take a guide, and lead the regiment forward to Loudon-hill by the best and shortest road. Move steadily, and do not let the men blow the horses; Lord Evandale and I will overtake you in a quarter of an hour. Leave Bothwell with a party to bring up the prisoners."
Allan bowed, and left the apartment, with all the officers, excepting Claverhouse and the young nobleman. In a few minutes the sound of the military music and the clashing of hoofs announced that the horsemen were leaving the Castle. The sounds were presently heard only at intervals, and soon died away entirely.
While Claverhouse endeavoured to sooth the terrors of Lady Margaret, and to reconcile the veteran Major to his opinion of Morton, Evandale, getting the better of that conscious shyness which renders an ingenuous youth diffident in approaching the object of his affections, drew near to Miss Bellenden, and accosted her in a tone of mingled respect and interest.
"We are to leave you," he said, taking her hand, which he pressed with much emotion—" to leave you for a scene which is not without its dangers. Farewell, dear Miss Bellenden ;—let me say for the first, and perhaps the last time, dear Edith! We part in circumstances so singular as may excuse some solemnity in bidding farewell to one, whom I have known so long and whom I — respect so highly."
The manner differing from the words, seemed to express a feeling much deeper and more agitating than was conveyed in the phrase he made use of. It was not in woman to be utterly insensible to his modest and deep-fel*