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expression of tenderness. Although borne down by the misfortunes and imminent danger of the man she loved, Edith was touched by the hopeless and reverential passion of the gallant youth, who now took leave of her to rush into dangers of no ordinary description.
"I hope—I sincerely trust," she said, "there is no danger. I hope there is no occasion for this solemn ceremonial—that these hasty insurgents will be dispersed rather by fear than force, and that Lord Evandale will speedily return to be what he must always be, the dear and valued friend of all in this castle."
"Of all" he repeated, with a melancholy emphasis upon the word. "But be it so—whatever is near you is dear and valued to me, and I value their approbation accordingly. Of our success I am not sanguine. Our numbers are so few, that I dare not hope for so speedy, so bloodless, or so safe an end of this unhappy disturbance. These men are enthusiastic, resolute, and desperate, and have leaders not altogether unskilled in military matters. I cannot help thinking that the impetuosity of our Colonel is hurrying us against them rather prematurely. But there are few that have less reason to shun danger than I have."
Edith had now the opportunity she wished to bespeak the young nobleman's intercession and protection for Henry Morton, and it seemed the only remaining channel of interest by which he could be rescued from impending destruction. Yet she felt at that moment as if, in doing so, she was abusing the partiality and confidence of the lover, whose heart was as open before her as if his tongue had made an express declaration. Could she with honour engage Lord Evandale in the service of a rival 1 or could she with prudence make him any request, or lay herself under any obligation to him, without affording ground for hopes which she could never realize 1 But the moment was too urgent for hesitation, or even for those explanations with which her request might otherwise have been qualified.
"I will but dispose of this young fellow," said Claverhouse, from the other side of the hall, " and then, Lord Evandale—I am sorry to interrupt again your conversation—but then we must mount.—Bothwell, why do not you bring up the prisoner 1 and, hark ye, let two files load their carabines."
In these words, Edith conceived she heard the deathwarrant of her lover. She instantly broke through the restraint which had hitherto kept her silent.
"My Lord Evandale," she said, " this young gentleman is a particular friend of my uncle's—your interest must be great with your colonel—let me request your intercession in his favour—it will confer on my uncie a lasting obligation."
"You overrate my interest, Miss Bellenden," said Lord Evandale; "I have been often unsuccessful in such applications when I have made them on the mere score of humanity."
"Yet try once again for my uncle's sake."
"And why not for your own V said Lord Evandale. "Will you not allow me to think I am obliging you personally in this matter 9—Are you so diffident of an old friend that you will not allow him even the satisfaction of thinking that he is gratifying your wishes V
"Surely—surely," replied Edith ; "you will oblige me infinitely—I am interested in the young gentleman on my uncle's account—Lose no time, for God's sake!"
She became bolder and more urgent in her entreaties, for she heard the steps of the soldiers who were entering with their prisoner.
"By Heaven ! then," said Evandale, " he shall not die, if I should die in his place !—But will not you," he said, resuming the hand, which, in the hurry of her spirits, she had not courage to withdraw, "will not you grant me one suit in return for my zeal in your service 9"
"Anything you can ask, my Lord Evandale, that sisterly affection can give."
"And is this all," he continued, " all you can grant to my affection living, or my memory when dead V
"Do not speak thus, my lord," said Edith, " you distress me, and do injustice to yourself. There is no friend I esteem more highly, or to whom I would more readily grant every mark of regard—providing—But"
A deep sigh made her turn her head suddenly, ere she had well uttered the last word; and, as she hesitated how to frame the exception with which she meant to close the sentence, she became instantly aware she had been overheard by Morton, who, heavily ironed and guarded by soldiers, was now passing behind her in order to be presented to Claverhouse. As their eyes met each other, the sad and reproachful expression of Morton's glance seemed to imply that he had partially heard, and altogether misinterpreted, the conversation which had just passed. There wanted but this to complete Edith's distress and confusion. Her blood, which rushed to her brow, made a sudden revulsion to her heart, and left her as pale as death. This change did not escape the attention of Evandale, whose quick glance easily discovered that there was between the prisoner and the object of his own attachment, some singular and uncommon connection. He resigned the hand of Miss Bellenden, again surveyed the prisoner with more attention, again looked at Edith, and plainly observed the confusion which she could no longer conceal.
"This," he said, after a moment's gloomy silence, " is, I believe, the young gentleman who gained the prize at the shooting match."
"I am not sure," hesitated Edith—" yet—1 rather think not," scarce knowing what she replied.
"It is he," said Evandale, decidedly ; " 1 know him well. A victor," he continued, somewhat haughtily, "ought to have interested a fair spectator more deeply."
He then turned from Edith, and advancing towards the table at which Claverhouse now placed himself, stood at a little distance, resting on his sheathed broad-sword, a silent, but not an unconcerned, spectator of that which passed.
.26* Vol. I.
O, my lord, beware of jealousy!
To explain the deep effect which the few broken passages of the conversation we have detailed, made upon the unfortunate prisoner by whom they were overheard, it is necessary to say something of his previous state of mind, and of the origin of his acquaintance with Edith.
Henry Morton was one of those gifted characters which possess a force of talent unsuspected by the owner himself. He had inherited from his father an undaunted courage, and a firm and uncompromising detestation of oppression, whether in politics or religion. But his en thusiasm was unsullied by fanatic zeal, and unleavened bj the sourness of the puritanical spirit. From these his mind had been freed, partly by the active exertions of his own excellent understanding, partly by frequent and long visits at Major Bellenden's, where he had an opportunity of meeting with many guests whose conversation taught him, that goodness and worth were not limited to those of any single form of religious observance.
The base parsimony of his uncle had thrown many obstacles in the way of his education ; but he had so far improved the opportunities which offered themselves, that his instructers as well as his friends were surprised at his progress under such disadvantages. Still, however, the current of his soul was frozen by a sense of dependence, of poverty, above all, of an imperfect and limited education. These feelings impressed him with a diffidence and reserve which effectually concealed from all but very intimate friends, the extent of talent and the firmness of character, which we have stated him to be possessed of. The circumstances of the times had added to this reserve an air of indecision and of indifference; for, being at
tached to neither of the factions which divided the kingdom, he passed for dull, insensible, and uninfluenced by the feeling of religion or of patriotism. No conclusion, however, could be more unjust; and the reasons of the neutrality which he had hitherto professed had root in very different and most praiseworthy motives. He had formed few congenial ties with those who were the objects of persecution, and was disgusted alike by their narrowminded and selfish party-spirit, their gloomy fanaticism, their abhorrent condemnation of all elegant studies or innocent exercises, and the envenomed rancour of their political hatred. But his mind was still more revolted by the tyrannical and oppresive conduct of the government, the misrule, license and brutality of the soldiery, the executions on the scaffold, the slaughters in the open field, the free quarters and exactions imposed by military law, which placed the lives and fortunes of a free people on a level with Asiatic slaves. Condemning, therefore, each party as its excesses fell under his eyes, disgusted with the sight of evils which he had no means of alleviating, and hearing alternate complaints and exultations with which he could not sympathize, he would long ere this have left Scotland, had it not been for his attachment to Edith Bellenden.
The earlier meetings of these young people had been at Charnwood, when Major Bellenden, who was as free from suspicion on such occasions as Uncle Toby himself, had encouraged their keeping each other constant company,without entertaining any apprehension of the natural consequences. Love, as usual in such cases, borrowed the name of friendship, used her language, and claimed her privileges. When Edith Bellenden was recalled to her mother's castle, it was astonishing by what singular and recurring accidents she often met young Morton in ner sequestered walks, especially considering the distance of their places of abode. Yet it somehow happened that she never expressed the surprise which the frequency of these rencontres ought naturally to have excited, and that their intercourse assumed gradually a more delicate char