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bad baked on the information that a considerable force was drawn together under some of the Jacobite gentlemen in that district, and there- were tidings of insurrection in different parts of Scotland. This took away from the act, which had been perpetrated, the appearance of private animosity, or love of plunder; and Earnscliff was now disposed to regard it as a symptom of civil war. The young gentleman greeted Hobbie with the most sincere sympathy, and informed him of the news he had received.
"Then, may I never stir frae the bit," said Elliot, " if auld Ellieslaw is not at the bottom o' the haill villany! Ye see he's leagued wi' the Cumberland Catholics; and that agrees weel wi' what Elshie hinted about Westburnflat, for Ellieslaw aye protected him, and he will want to harry and disarm the country about his ain band before he breaks out."
Some now remembered that the party of ruffians had been heard to say they were acting for James VIII., and were charged to disarm all rebels. Others had heard Westburnflat boast in drinking parties, that Ellieslaw would soon be in arms for the Jacobite cause, and that he himself was to hold a command under him, and that they would be bad neighbours for young Earnscliff, and all that stood out for the established government. The result was a strong belief that Westburnflat had headed the party under Ellieslaw's orders; and they resolved to proceed instantly to the house of the former, and, if possible, to secure his person. They were by this time joined by so many of their dispersed friends, that their number amounted to upwards of twenty horsemen, well mounted, and olerably, though variously armed.
A brook which issued from a narrow glen among trie hills, entered at Westburnflat, upon the open marshy level, which, expanding about half a mile in every direction, gives name to the spot. In this place the character of the stream becomes changed, and, from being a lively brisk-running mountain-torrent, it stagnates, like a blue swollen snake, in dull deep windings through the swampy level. On the side of the stream, and nearly about the centre of the plain, arose the Tower of Westburnflat, one of the few remaining strong-holds formerly so numerous upon the Borders. The ground upon which it stood was gently elevated above the marsh for the space of about a hundred yards, affording an esplanade of dry turf, which extended itself in the immediate neighbourhood of the tower; but, beyond which, the surface presented to strangers was that of an impassable and dangerous bog. The owner of the tower and his inmates alone knew the wind ing and intricate paths, which, leading over ground that was comparatively sound, admitted visiters to his residence. But among the party which were assembled under EarnsclifTs directions, there was more than one person qualified to act as a guide. For although the owner's character and habits of life were generally known, yet the laxity of feeling with respect to property, prevented his being looked on with the abhorrence with which he must have been regarded in a more civilized country. He was considered, among his more peaceable neighbours, pretty much as a gambler, cock-fighter, or horse-jockey, would be regarded at the present day ; a person, of course, whose habits were to be condemned, and his society, in general, avoided, yet who could not be considered as marked with the indelible infamy attached to his profession, where laws have been habitually observed. And their indignation was awakened against him upon this occasion, not so much on account of the general nature of the transaction, which was just such as was to be expected from this marauder, as that the violence had been perpetrated upon a neighbour against whom he had no cause of quarrel, against a friend of their own,—above all, against one of the name of Elliot, to which clan most O1 them belonged. It was not, therefore, wonderful, that there should be several in the band pretty well acquainted with the locality of his habitation, and capable of giving such directions and guidance as soon placed the whole party on the open space of firm ground in front of the Tower of Westburnflat.
So spak the knicht; the geaunt sed,
And mak me quite of the and sche;
Me lists not ficht with the.
Romance of the Falcon.
The tower, before which the party now stood, was a small square building, of the most gloomy aspect. The walls were of great thickness, and the windows, or slits which served the purpose of windows, seemed rather calculated to afford the defenders the means of employing missile weapons, than for admitting air or light to the apartments within. A small battlement projected over the walls on every side, and afforded farther advantage of defence by its niched parapet, within which arose, a steep roof, flagged with grey stones. A single turret at one angle, defended by a door studded with huge iron nails, rose above the battlement, and gave access to the roof from within, by the spiral staircase which it enclosed. It seemed to the party that their motions were watched by some one concealed within this turret; and they were confirmed in their belief, when, through a narrow loophole, a female hand was seen to wave a handkerchief, as if by way of signal to them. Hobbie was almost out ot his senses with joy and eagerness.
"It was Grace's hand and arm," he said; "I can swear to it amang a thousand. There is not the like of it on this side of the Lowdens—We'll have her out, lads, if we should carry off the tower of Westburnflat stane by stane."
Earnscliff, though he doubted the possibility of recognizing a fair maiden's hand at such a distance from the eye of the lover, would say nothing to damp his friend's animated hopes, and it was resolved to summon the garrison.
7* vOL. I.
The shouts of the party, and the winding of one or two horns, at length brought to a loop-hole, which flanked the entrance, the haggard face of an old woman.
"That's the Reiver's mother," said one of the Elliots; "she's ten times waur than himsell, and is wyted for muckle of the ill he does about the country."
"Wha are ye % What d'ye want here V were the queries of the respectable progenitor.
"We are seeking William Graeme of Westburnflat," said Earnscliff.
"He's no at hame," returned the old dame.
"When did he leave home V pursued Earnscliff.'
"I danna tell," said the portress.
"When will he return?" said Hobbie Elliot.
"1 dinna ken naething about it," replied the inexorable guardian of the Keep.
"Is there any body within the tower with you T' again demanded Earnscliff.
"Naebody but' myseflaiid baudrons," said the old woman.
"Then open the gate and admit us,"' said Earnscliff; "I am a justice of peace, and in search of the evidence of a felony.'*
"Deil be in their fingers that drawsa bolt for ye," retorted the portress; '* for mine shall never do it. Think na ye shame o' yoursells,to come here siccan a band o' ye, wi' your swords and spears, and steel-caps, to frighten a lone widow woman T*
"Our information," said Earnscliff " is positive j we are seeking goods which have, been forcibly carried off, to a great amount."
"And a young woman, that's been cruelly made prisoner, that's worth mair than a' the gear, twice' told," said Hobbie.
'And I warn you," continued Earnscliff, " that yonf only way to prove your son's innocence, rs to give us quiet admittance to search the house."
"And what wilt ye do, if I carena to thraw the keys, or draw the bolts, or open the grate to sic a clamjamfrie V* said the old dame, scoffingly.
"Force our way wT the King's keys, and bfeafc the neck of every living soul we find in the house, if ye dinna gie it ower forthwith !" menaced the incensed Hobbie.
* Threatened folks live Iang," said the hag, m the same tone of irony ; " there's the iron-grate—try your skeell On't, lads—it has kept out as gude men as you, or now."
So saying, she laughed, and withdrew' from the aperture through which she had held the parley.
The besiegers now opened a serious consultation. The immense thickness of the walls, and the small size of the windows, might, for a time, have even resisted cannon-shot. The entrance was secured, first, by a strong grated door, Composed entirely of hammered iron, of such ponderous strength as seemed calculated to resist any force that could be brought against it. "Piriches' Of forehammers will never pick upon't," said Hugh, the blacksmith of Ringleburn ; " ye might as weel batter at it wi' pipe-staples."
Within the door-way, and at the distance of nine feet, which was the solid thickness of the waif, there was a Second door of oak, crossed, both breadth and lengthways, with clenched bars of iron, and studded full of broad-headed nails. Besides all' these defences, they were by no means confident in the truth of the old dame's assertion, that she alone composed the garrison. The more knowing of the party had observed hoof-marks in the track by which they approached the tower, which seemed to indicate that several persons had very lately passed in that direction."
To' all these difficulties was added their want of rheanif for attacking the place. There Was'lib'hope of procuring ladders *ong enough to reach the battlements, arid the' Windows, besides being' very narrow, were secured with iron-bars. Scaling was therefore out of the question