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Chapter 16

A slight note I have about me for you, for the delivery of which
you must excuse me. It is an offer that friendship calls upon me
to do, and no way offensive to you, since I desire nothing but
right upon both sides.

King and no King.

WHEN Ravenswood and his guest met in the morning, the gloom of the
Master's spirit had in part returned. He, also, had passed a night
rather of reflection that of slumber; and the feelings which he could
not but entertain towards Lucy Ashton had to support a severe conflict
against those which he had so long nourished against her father. To
clasp in friendship the hand of the enemy of his house, to entertain him
under his roof, to exchange with him the courtesies and the kindness of
domestic familiarity, was a degradation which his proud spirit could not
be bent to without a struggle.

But the ice being once broken, the Lord Keeper was resolved it should
not have time against to freeze. It had been part of his plan to stun
and confuse Ravenswood's ideas, by a complicated and technical statement
of the matters which had been in debate betwixt their families, justly
thinking that it would be difficult for a youth of his age to follow
the expositions of a practical lawyer, concerning actions of compt and
reckoning, and of multiplepoindings, and adjudications and wadsets,
proper and improper, and poindings of the ground, and declarations of
the expiry of the legal. "Thus," thought Sir William, "I shall have
all the grace of appearing perfectly communicative, while my party will
derive very little advantage from anything I may tell him." He therefore
took Ravenswood aside into the deep recess of a window in the hall, and
resuming the discourse of the proceeding evening, expressed a hope that
his young friend would assume some patience, in order to hear him enter
in a minute and explanatory detail of those unfortunate circumstances
in which his late honourable father had stood at variance with the Lord
Keeper. The Master of Ravenswood coloured highly, but was silent; and
the Lord Keeper, though not greatly approving the sudden heightening
of his auditor's complexion, commenced the history of a bond for twenty
thousand merks, advanced by his father to the father of Allan Lord
Ravenswood, and was proceeding to detail the executorial proceedings
by which this large sum had been rendered a debitum fundi, when he was
interrupted by the Master.

"It is not in this place," he said, "that I can hear Sir William
Ashton's explanation of the matters in question between us. It is not
here, where my father died of a broken heart, that I can with decency
or temper investigate the cause of his distress. I might remember that I
was a son, and forget the duties of a host. A time, however, there must
come, when these things shall be discussed, in a place and in a presence
where both of us will have equal freedom to speak and to hear."

"Any time," the Lord Keeper said, "any place, was alike to those who
sought nothing but justice. Yet it would seem he was, in fairness,
entitled to some premonition respecting the grounds upon which the
Master proposed to impugn the whole train of legal proceedings, which
had been so well and ripely advised in the only courts competent."

"Sir William Ashton," answered the Master, with warmth, "the lands which
you now occupy were granted to my remote ancestor for services done with
his sword against the English invaders. How they have glided from us by
a train of proceedings that seem to be neither sale, nor mortgage, nor
adjudication for debt, but a nondescript and entangled mixture of all
these rights; how annual rent has been accumulated upon principal, and
no nook or coign of legal advantage left unoccupied, until our interest
in our hereditary property seems to have melted away like an icicle in
thaw--all this you understand better than I do. I am willing, however,
to suppose, from the frankness of your conduct towards me, that I may in
a great measure have mistaken your personal character, and that things
may have appeared right and fitting to you, a skilful and practised
lawyer, which to my ignorant understanding seem very little short of
injustice and gross oppression."

"And you, my dear Master," answered Sir William--"you, permit me to say,
have been equally misrepresented to me. I was taught to believe you
a fierce, imperious, hot-headed youth, ready, at the slightest
provocation, to throw your sword into the scales of justice, and to
appeal to those rude and forcible measures from which civil polity has
long protected the people of Scotland. Then, since we were mutually
mistaken in each other, why should not the young nobleman be willing
to listen to the old lawyer, while, at least, he explains the points of
difference betwixt them?"

"No, my lord," answered Ravenswood; "it is in the House of British
Peers, whose honour must be equal to their rank--it is in the court of
last resort that we must parley together. The belted lords of Britain,
her ancient peers, must decide, if it is their will that a house,
not the least noble of their members, shall be stripped of their
possessions, the reward of the patriotism of generations, as the pawn of
a wretched mechanic becomes forfeit to the usurer the instant the hour
of redemption has passed away. If they yield to the grasping severity of
the creditor, and to the gnawing usury that eats into our lands as moths
into a raiment, it will be of more evil consequence to them and their
posterity than to Edgar Ravenswood. I shall still have my sword and my
cloak, and can follow the profession of arms wherever a trumpet shall
sound."

As he pronounced these words, in a firm yet melancholy tone, he raised
his eyes, and suddenly encountered those of Lucy Ashton, who had stolen
unawares on their interview, and observed her looks fastened on them
with an expression of enthusiastic interest and admiration, which had
wrapt her for the moment beyond the fear of discovery. The noble form
and fine features of Ravenswood, fired with the pride of birth and sense
of internal dignity, the mellow and expressive tones of his voice,
the desolate state of his fortunes, and the indifference with which he
seemed to endure and to dare the worst that might befall, rendered him a
dangerous object of contemplation for a maiden already too much
disposed to dwell upon recollections connected with him. When their eyes
encountered each other, both blushed deeply, conscious of some strong
internal emotion, an shunned again to meet each other's looks. Sir
William Ashton had, of course, closely watched the expression of their
countenances. "I need fear," said he internally, "neither Parliament nor
protestation; I have an effectual mode of reconciling myself with this
hot-tempered young fellow, in case he shall become formidable. The
present object is, at all events, to avoid committing ourselves. The
hook is fixed; we will nto strain the line too soon: it is as well to
reserve the privilege of slipping it loose, if we do not find the fish
worth landing."

In this selfish and cruel calculation upon the supposed attachment of
Ravenswood to Lucy, he was so far from considering the pain he might
give to the former, by thus dallying with his affections, that he even
did not think upon the risk of involving his own daughter in the perils
of an unfortunate passion; as if her predilection, which could not
escape his attention, were like the flame of a taper which might be
lighted or extinguished at pleasure. But Providence had prepared a
dreadful requital for this keen observer of human passions, who had
spent his life in securing advantages to himself by artfully working
upon the passions of others.

Caleb Balderstone now came to announce that breakfast was prepared; for
in those days of substantial feeding, the relics of the supper simply
furnished forth the morning meal. Neither did he forget to present to
the Lord Keeper, with great reverence, a morning draught in a large
pewter cup, garnished with leaves of parsley and scurvy-grass. He craved
pardon, of course, for having omitted to serve it in the great silver
standing cup as behoved, being that it was at present in a silversmith's
in Edinburgh, for the purpose of being overlaid with gilt.

"In Edinburgh like enough," said Ravenswood; "but in what place, or for
what purpose, I am afraid neither you nor I know."

"Aweel!" said Caleb, peevishly, "there's a man standing at the gate
already this morning--that's ae thing that I ken. Does your honour ken
whether ye will speak wi' him or no?"

"Does he wish to speak with me, Caleb?"

"Less will no serve him," said Caleb; "but ye had best take a visie of
him through the wicket before opening the gate; it's no every ane we
suld let into this castle."

"What! do you suppose him to be a messenger come to arrest me for debt?"
said Ravenswood.

"A messenger arrest your honour for debt, and in your Castle of Wolf's
Crag! Your honour is jesting wi' auld Caleb this morning." However, he
whispered in his ear, as he followed him out, "I would be loth to do ony
decent man a prejudice in your honour's gude opinion; but I would tak
twa looks o' that chield before I let him within these walls."

He was not an officer of the law, however; being no less a person than
Captain Craigengelt, with his nose as red as a comfortable cup of brandy
could make it, his laced cocked hat set a little aside upon the top
of his black riding periwig, a sword by his side and pistols at his
holsters, and his person arrayed in a riding suit, laid over with
tarnished lace--the very moral of one who would say, "Stand to a true
man."

When the Master had recognised him, he ordered the gates to be opened.
"I suppose," he said, "Captain Craigengelt, there are no such weighty
matters betwixt you and me, but may be discussed in this place. I have
company in the castle at present, and the terms upon which we last
parted must excuse my asking you to make part of them."

Craigengelt, although possessing the very perfection of impudence, was
somewhat abashed by this unfavourable reception. "He had no intention,"
he said, "to force himself upon the Master of Ravenswood's hospitality;
he was in the honourable service of bearing a message to him from a
friend, otherwise the Master of Ravenswood should not have had reason to
complain of this intrusion."

"Let it be short, sir," said the Master, "for that will be the best
apology. Who is the gentleman who is so fortunate as to have your
services as a messenger?"

"My friend, Mr. Hayston of Bucklaw," answered Craigengelt, with
conscious importance, and that confidence which the acknowledged courage
of his principal inspired, "who conceives himself to have been treated
by you with something much short of the respect which he had reason to
demand, and, therefore is resolved to exact satisfaction. I bring with
me," said he, taking a piece of paper out of his pocket, "the precise
length of his sword; and he requests you will meet him, accompanied by
a friend, and equally armed, at any place within a mile of the castle,
when I shall give attendance as umpire, or second, on his behoof."

"Satisfaction! and equal arms!" repeated Ravenswood, who, the reader
will recollect, had no reason to suppose he had given the slightest
offence to his late intimate; "upon my word, Captain Craigengelt, either
you have invented the most improbable falsehood that ever came into the
mind of such a person, or your morning draught has been somewhat of the
strongest. What could persuade Bucklaw to send me such a message?"

"For that, sir," replied Craigengelt, "I am desired to refer you to
what, in duty to my friend, I am to term your inhospitality in excluding
him from your house, without reasons assigned."

"It is impossible," replied the Master; "he cannot be such a fool as to
interpret actual necessity as an insult. Nor do I believe that, knowing
my opinion of you, Captain, he would have employed the services of so
slight and inconsiderable a person as yourself upon such an errand, as I
certainly could expect no man of honour to act with you in the office of
umpire."

"I slight and inconsiderable?" said Craigengelt, raising his voice, and
laying his hand on his cutlass; "if it were not that the quarrel of
my friend craves the precedence, and is in dependence before my own, I
would give you to understand----"

"I can understand nothing upon your explanation, Captain Craigengelt. Be
satisfied of that, and oblige me with your departure."

"D----n!" muttered the bully; "and is this the answer which I am to
carry back to an honourable message?"

"Tell the Laird of Bucklaw," answered Ravenswood, "if you are really
sent by him, that, when he sends me his cause of grievance by a person
fitting to carry such an errand betwixt him and me, I will either
explain it or maintain it."

"Then, Master, you will at least cause to be returned to Hayston, by my
hands, his property which is remaining in your possession."

"Whatever property Bucklaw may have left behind him, sir," replied the
Master, "shall be returned to him by my servant, as you do not show me
any credentials from him which entitle you to receive it."

"Well, Master," said Captain Craigengelt, with malice which even his
fear of the consequences could not suppress, "you have this morning done
me an egregious wrong adn dishonour, but far more to yourself. A castle
indeed!" he continued, looking around him; "why, this is worse than
a coupe-gorge house, where they receive travellers to plunder them of
their property."

"You insolent rascal," said the Master, raising his cane, and making a
grasp at the Captain's bridle, "if you do not depart without uttering
another syllable, I will batoon you to death!"

At the motion of the Master towards him, the bully turned so rapidly
round, that with some difficulty he escaped throwing down his horse,
whose hoofs struck fire from the rocky pavement in every direction.
Recovering him, however, with the bridle, he pushed for the gate, and
rode sharply back again in the direction of the village.

As Ravenswood turned round to leave the courtyard after this dialogue,
he found that the Lord Keeper had descended from the hall, and
witnessed, though at the distance prescribed by politeness, his
interview with Craigengelt.

"I have seen," said the Lord Keeper, "that gentleman's face, and at no
great distance of time; his name is Craig--Craig--something, is it not?"

"Craigengelt is the fellow's name," said the Master, "at least that by
which he passes at present."

"Craig-in-guilt," said Caleb, punning upon the word "craig," which in
Scotch signifies throat; "if he is Craig-in-guilt just now, he is as
likely to be Craig-in-peril as ony chield I ever saw; the loon has
woodie written on his very visnomy, and I wad wager twa and a plack that
hemp plaits his cravat yet."

"You understand physiognomy, good Mr. Caleb," said the Keeper, smiling;
"I assure you the gentleman has been near such a consummation before
now; for I most distinctly recollect that, upon occasion of a journey
which I made about a fortnight ago to Edinburgh, I saw Mr. Craigengelt,
or whatever is his name, undergo a severe examination before the privy
council."

"Upon what account?" said the Master of Ravenswood, with some interest.

The question led immediately to a tale which the Lord Keeper had been
very anxious to introduce, when he could find a graceful and fitting
opportunity. He took hold of the Master's arm, and led him back towards
the hall. "The answer to your question," he said, "though it is a
ridiculous business, is only fit for your own ear."

As they entered the hall, he again took the Master apart into one of
the recesses of the window, where it will be easily believed that Miss
Ashton did not venture again to intrude upon their conference.

Sir Walter Scott