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i Dear Elshie,” answered Hobbie, 6 I'm wae ye suld hae cause to say sae ; I'm sure it wasna wi' my will. And yet, it's true, I should hae minded your goats, and coupled up the dogs. I'm sure I would rather they had worried the primest wether in my faulds.—Come, man, forget and forgie. I'm e'en as vexed as ye can be-But I am a bridegroom, ye see, and that puts a' things out o' my head, I think. There's the marriage-dinner, or gude part o't, that my twa brithers are bringing on a sled round by the Riders' Slack, three goodly bucks as ever ran on Dallomlea, as the sang says ; they couldna come the straight road for the saft grund. I wad send ye a bit venison, but ye wadna take it weel maybe, for Killbuck catched it.”
During this long speech, in which the good-natured Borderer, endeavoured to propitiate the offended Dwarf by every argument he could think of, he heard him with his eyes bent on the ground, as if in the deepest meditation, and at length broke forth ". Nature ? yes ! it is indeed in the usual beaten path of Nature. The strong gripe and throttle the weak; the rich depress and despoil the needy; the happy (those who are idiots enough to think themselves happy) insult the misery and diminish the consolation of the wretched.-Go hence, thou who hast contrived to give an additional pang to the most misérable of human beings-thou who hast deprived me of what I half considered as a source of comfort. Go hence, and enjoy the happiness prepared for thee at home !"
“ Never stir," said Hobbie, “ if I wadna take you wi' me, man, if ye wad but say it wad divert ye to be at the bridal on Monday. There will be a hundred strapping Eliots to ride the brouze-the like's no been seen sin' the days of auld Martin of the Preakin-tower-I wad send the sled for ye wi' a canny powney.”
“ Is it to me you propose once more to mix in the society of the common herd ?” said the Recluse, with an air of deep disgust.
« Commons !” retorted Hobbie,“ nae siccan commons neither ; the Elliots hae been lang kend a gentle race.”
" Hence ! begone !” reiterated the Dwarf ; « may the saine evil luck attend thee that thou hast left behind with me! If I go not with you myself, see if you can escape what my attendants, Wrath and Misery, have brought to thy threshold before thee."
" I wish ye wadna speak that gate," said Hobbie. “ Ye ken yoursell, Elshie, naebody judges you to be ower canny ; now, I'll tell ye just ae word for a'-ye hae spoken as muckle as wussing ill to me and mine; now, if ony mischance happen to Grace, which God forbid, or to mysell, or to the poor dumb tyke ; or if I be skaithed and injured in body, gudes; or gear, I'll no forget wha it is that it's owing to.”
o Out, hind !” exclaimed the Dwarf ; “home ! home to your dwelling, and think on me when you find what has befallen there."
" Aweel, aweel,” said Hobbie, mounting his horse, “ it serves naething to strive wi' cripples, they are aye cankered ; but I'll just tell ye ae thing, neighbour, that, if things be otherwise than weel wi' Grace Armstrong, ['se gie you a scouther if there be a tar-barrel in the five parishes."
So saying, he rode off ; and Elshie, after looking at him with a scornful and indignant laugh, took spade and mattock, and occupied himself in digging a grave for his deceased favourité.
A low whistle, and the words; “Hisht, Elshie, hisht!" disturbed him in this melancholy occupation. He looked up, and the Red Reiver of Westburnflat was before him." Like Banquo's murderer, there was blood on his face, as well as upon the rowels of his spurs, and the sides of his over-ridden horse.
6. How now, ruffian ?" demanded the Dwarf, “ is thy job chared quia
Ay, ay, doubt not that, Elshie," answered the freebooter, “when I ride, my foes may moan. They have had nair light than comfort at the Heugh-foot this morn
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ing; there's a toom byre and a wide, and a wail and a cry for the bonny bride.”
66 The bride ?"
“ Aye; Charlie Cheat-the-Woodie, as we ca’ him, that's Charlie Foster of Tinning Beck, has promised to keep her in Cumberland till the blast blaw by. She saw me, and kend me in the splore, for the - mask fell frae my face for a blink. I am thinking it wad concern my safety, if she were to come back here, for there's mony o' the Elliots, and they band weel thegither for right or wrang. Now, what I chiefly come to ask your rede in, is, how to make her sure ?"
6. Would'st thou murder her, then ?"
“ Umph! no, no ; that I would not do, if I could help it. But they say they can whiles get folk cannily away to the plantations from some of the out-ports, and something to boot for them that brings a bonny wench. They're wanted beyond seas thae female cattle, and they're no that scarce here. But I think o’ doing better for this lassie. There's a leddy, that, unless she be a' the better bairn, is to be sent to foreign parts whether she will or no; now, I think of sending Grace to wait on hershe's a bonny lassie. Hobbie will hae a merry morning when he comes hame, and misses baith bride and gear.”
“ Ay; and do you not pity him ?" said the Recluse.
6 Wad he pity me were I gaeing up the Castle-hill at Jeddart ?* And yet I rue something for the bit lassie ; but he'll get anither, and little skaith dune-ane is as gude as anither. And now, you that like to hear o' splores, heard ye ever o' a better ane than I hae had this morning ?"
“ Air, ocean, and fire,” said the Dwarf, speaking to himself, “ the earthquake, the tempest, the volcano, are all mild and moderate, compared to the wrath of man. And what is this fellow, but one more skilled than others in executing the end of his existence ?—Hear me, felon, go again where I before sent thee."
* The place of execution at that ancient burgh, where many of Westburn flat's profession have made their final exit.
- To the steward ?”
“ Ay; and tell him, Elshender the Recluse commands him to give thee gold. But, hear me, let the maiden be discharged free and uninjured ; return her to her friends, and let her swear not to discover thy villany."
“ Swear ?" said Westburpflat ; " but what if she break her aith? Women are not famous for keeping their plight. A wise man like you should ken that.—And uninjured-wha kens what may happen were she to be left lang at Tinning Beck ? Charlie Cheat-the-Woodie is a rough customer. But if the gold could be made up to twenty pieces, I think I could insure her being wi' her friends within the twenty-four hours."
The Dwarf took his tablets from his pocket, marked a line on them, and tore out the leaf. “ There,” he said, giving the robber the leaf—“ But, mark me; thou knowest I am not to be fooled by thy treachery ; if thou darest to disobey my directions, thy wretched life, be sure, shall answer it.”
" I know," said the fellow, looking down, " that you have power on earth, however you came by it ; you can do what nae other man can do, baith by physic and foresight ; and the gold is shelled down when ye command, as fast as I have seen the ask-keys fall in a frosty morning in October. I will not disobey you.”
"Begone, then, and relieve me of thy hateful presence.”
The robber set spurs to his horse, and rode off without reply.
Hobbie Elliot had, in the meanwhile, pursued his journey rapidly, harassed by those oppressive and indistinct fears that all was not right, which men usually term a presentiment of misfortune. Ere he reached the top of the bank from which he could look down on his own habitation, he was met by his nurse, a person then of great consequence in all families in Scotland, whether of the higher or middling classes. The connection between them and their foster-children was considered a tie far too
dearly intimate to be broken ; and it usually happened, in the course of years, that the nurse became a resident in the family of her foster-son, assisting in the domestic duties, and receiving all marks of attention and regard from the heads of the family. So soon as Hobbie recognized the figure of Annaple, in her red cloak and black hood, he could not help exclaiming to himself, “ What ill luck can hae brought the auld nurse sae far frae hame, her that never stirs a gun-shot frae the door-stane for ordinar ?-Hout, it will just be to get crane-berries, or whortle-berries, or some such stuff, out of the moss, to make the pies and tarts for the feast on Monday.I cannot get the words of that cankered auld cripple deil'sbuckie out o' my head—the least thing makes me dread some ill news.-0 Killbuck, man ! were there nae deer and goats in the country besides, but ye behoved to gang and worry his creature, by a' other folks' ?"
By this time Annaple, with a brow like a tragic volume had hobbled towards him, and caught his horse by the bridle. The despair in her look was so evident as to deprive even him of the power of asking the cause. “O my bairn !" she cried, " gang na forward-gang na forward—it's a sight to kill ony body, let alane thee.”
" In God's name, what's the matter ?" said the astonished horseman, endeavouring to extricate his bridle from the grasp of the old woman; “ for Heaven's sake, let me go and see what's the matter.”
« Ohon ! that I should have lived to see the day !The steading's a' in a low, and the bonny stack-yard lying in the red ashes, and the gear a' driven away. But gang na forward; it wad break your young heart, hinny, to see what my auld een has seen this morning."
“ And who has dared to do this ? Let go my bridle, Aonaple—where is my grandmother--my sisters ?Where is Grace Armstrong ?-God !-the words of the warlock are knelling in my ears !”
He sprang from his horse to rid himself of Annaple's interruption, and, ascending the hill with great speed, soon came in view of the spectacle with which she had threat