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"I would stand to the consequences of his or, were he the most cruel father that ever was recorded in romance, to fill up the alternative."
"And what if he threatened you with a Catholic aunt, an abbess, and a cloister V
"Then," said Miss Uderton, "I would threaten him with a Protestant son-in-law, and be glad of an opportunity to disobey him for conscience sake. And now that Nancy is out of hearing, let me really say, I think you would be excusable before God and man for resisting this preposterous match by every means in your power. A proud, dark, ambitious man; a caballer against the state ; infamous for his avarice and severity; a bad son, a bad brother, unkind and ungenerous to all his relatives —Isabel, I would die rather than have him."
"Don't let my father hear you give me such advice," said MissVere, "oradieu,my dear Lucy, to Ellieslawv-Castle."
"And adieu to Ellieslaw-Castle,with all my heart," said her friend, "if I once saw you fairly out of it, and settled under some kinder protector than he whom nature has given you. O, if my poor father had been in his former health, how gladly would he have received and sheltered you, till this ridiculous and cruel persecution were blown over!"
"Would to God it had been so, my dear Lucy!" answered Isabella; "but I fear, that, in your father's weak state of health, he would be altogether unable to protect me against the means which would be immediately used for reclaiming the poor fugitive."
"I fear so, indeed," replied Miss Uderton; " but we will consider and devise something. Now that your father and his guests seem so deeply engaged in some mysterious plot, to judge from the passing and returning of messages, from the strange faces which appear and disappear without being announced by their names, from the collecting and cleaning of arms, and the anxious gloom and bustle which seem to agitate every male in the castle, it may not be impossible for us (always in case matters be driven to extremity) to shape out some little supplemental conspiracy of our own. I hope the gentlemen have not kept all the policy to themselves; and there is one associate that I would gladly admit to out counsel."
"Not Nancy V
"O, no!" said Mis? Ilderton; "Nancy, though an excellent good girl, and fondly attached to you, would make a dull conspirator—as dull as Renault and all the other subordinate plotters in Venice Preserved. No; this is a Jaffier, or Pierre, if you like the character better; and yet, though I know I shall please you, I am afraid to mention his name to you, lest I vex you at the same time. Can you not guess 1 Something about an eagle and a rock—it does not begin with eagle in English, but something very like it in Scotch."
"You cannot mean young Earnscliff, Lucy V said Miss Vere, blushing deeply.
"And whom else should I mean V said Lucy. "Jaffiers and Pierres are very scarce in this country, I take it, though one could find Renaults and Bedamars enow."
"How can you talk so wildly, Lucy 1 Your plays and romances have positively turned your brain. You know, that, independent of my father's consent, without which I never will marry any one, and which, in the case you point at, would never be granted ; independent, too, of our knowing nothing of young EarnsclifPs inclinations, but by your own wild conjectures and fancies—besides all this, there is the fatal brawl!"
"When his father was killed ?" said Lucy. "But that was very long ago; and I hope we have outlived the time of bloody feud, when a quarrel was carried clown between two families from father to son, like a Spanish game at chess, and a murder or two committed in every generation just to keep the matter from going to sleep. We do with our quarrels now-a-days as with our clothes ; cut them out for ourselves, and wear them out m our own day, and should no more think of resenting our fathers' feuds than of wearing their slashed doublets and trunk-hose."
"You treat this far too lightly, Lucy," answered Miss Vere.
"Not a bit, my dear Isabella," said Lucy. "Consider, your father, though present in the unhappy affray, is never supposed to have struck the fatal blow; besides in former times, in case of mutual slaughter between clans, subsequent alliances were so far from being excluded, that the hand of a daughter, or a sister, was the most frequent gage of reconciliation. You laugh at my skill in romance ; but, I assure you, should your history be written, like that of many a less distressed and less deserving heroine, the well-judging reader would set you down for the lady and the love of Earnscliff, from the very obstacle which you suppose so insurmountable."
"But these are not the days of romance, but of sad reality, for there stands the Castle of Ellieslaw."
"And there stands Sir Frederick Langley at the gate, waiting to assist the ladies from their palfreys. I would as lief touch a toad ; 1 will disappoint him, and take old Horsington the groom for my master of the horse."
So saying, the lively young lady switched her palfrey forward, and passing Sir Frederick with a familiar nod as he stood ready to take her horse's rein, she cantered on, and jumped into the arms of the old groom. Fain would Isabella have done the same had she dared ; but her father stood near, displeasure already darkening on a countenance peculiarly qualified to express the harsher passions, and she was compelled to receive the unwelcome assiduities of her detested suitor.
Let not us that are squires of the night's body be called thieves of the day's booty; lei us be Diana's foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions of the moon. . Henry IV. Part I.
The Solitary had consumed the remainder of that day in which he had the interview with the young ladies, within the precincts of his garden. Evening again found him seated on his favourite stone. The sun setting red, and among seas of rolling clouds, threw a gloomy lustre over the moor, and gave a deeper purple to the broad outline of heathy mountains which surrounded this desolate spot. The Dwarf sat watching the clouds as they lowered above each other in masses of conglomerated vapours, and, as a strong lurid beam of the sinking luminary darted full on his solitary and uncouth figure, he might well have seemed the demon of the storm which was gathering, or some gnome summoned forth from the recesses of the earth by the subterranean signals of its approach. As he sat thus, with his dark eye turned towards the scowling and blackening heaven, a horseman rode rapidly up to him, and stopping, as if to let his horse breathe for an instant, made a sort of obeisance to the anchoret, with an air betwixt effrontery and embarrassment.
The figure of the rider was thin, tall and slender, but remarkably athletic, bony, and sinewy; like one who had all his life followed those violent exercises which prevent the human form from increasing in bulk, while they harden and confirm by habit its muscular powers. His face, sharpfeatured, sun-burnt, and freckled, had a sinister expression of violence, impudence, and cunning, each of which seemed alternately to predominate over the others. Sandycoloured hair, and reddish eyebrows, from under which looked forth his sharp grey eyes, completed the inauspicious outline of the horseman's physiognomy. He had pistols in his holsters, and another pair peeped from his belt, though he had taken some pains to conceal them by buttoning his doubtlet. He wore a rusted steel headpiece ; a buff jacket of rather an antique cast; gloves, of which that for the right hand was covered with small scales of iron, like an ancient gauntlet; and a long broadsword completed his equipage.
5* vOL. I.
"So," said the Dwarf, "rapine and murder once more on horseback."
"On horseback V said the bandit; "ay, ay, Elshie, your leech-craft has set me on the bonny bay again."
"And all those promises of amendment which you made during your illness forgotten V continued Elshender.
"All clear away with the water-saps and panada," returned the unabashed convalescent. "Ye ken, Elshie, for they say ye are weel acquent wi' the gentleman,
'When the devil was sick, the devil a monk would be,
"Thou say'st true," said the Solitary; " as well divide a wolf from his appetite for carnage, or a raven from her scent of slaughter, as thee from thy accursed propensities."
"Why, what would you have me to do'? It's born with me—lies in my very blude and bane. Why, man, the lads of Westburnflat, for ten lang descents, have been reivers and lifters. They have all drunk hard, lived high, taking deep revenge for light offence, and never wanted gear for the winning."
"Right; and thou art as thorough-bred a wolf," said the Dwarf, " as ever leaped a lamb-fold at night. On what hell's errand art thou bound now V
"Can your skill not guess V
"Thus far I know," said the Dwarf, "that thy purpose is bad, thy deed will be worse, and the issue worst of all."