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Chapter 17

Here is a father now,
Will truck his daughter for a foreign venture,
Make her the stop-gap to some canker'd feud,
Or fling her o'er, like Jonah, to the fishes,
To appease the sea at highest.

Anonymous.

THE Lord Keeper opened his discourse with an appearance of unconcern,
marking, however, very carefully, the effect of his communication upon
young Ravenswood.

"You are aware," he said, "my young friend, that suspicion is the
natural vice of our unsettled times, and exposes the best and wisest of
us to the imposition of artful rascals. If I had been disposed to listen
to such the other day, or even if I had been the wily politicians which
you have been taught to believe me, you, Master of Ravenswood, instead
of being at freedom, and with fully liberty to solicit and act against
me as you please, in defence of what you suppose to be your rights,
would have been in the Castle of Edinburgh, or some other state prison;
or, if you had escaped that destiny, it must have been by flight to a
foreign country, and at the risk of a sentence of fugitation."

"My Lord Keeper," said the Master, "I think you would not jest on such a
subject; yet it seems impossible you can be in earnest."

"Innocence," said the Lord Keeper, "is also confident, and sometimes,
though very excusably, presumptuously so."

"I do not understand," said Ravenswood, "how a consciousess of innocence
can be, in any case, accounted presumptuous."

"Imprudent, at least, it may be called," said Sir William Ashton, "since
it is apt to lead us into the mistake of supposing that sufficiently
evident to others of which, in fact, we are only conscious ourselves. I
have known a rogue, for this very reason, make a better defence than
an innocent man could have done in the same circumstances of suspicion.
Having no consciousness of innocence to support him, such a fellow
applies himself to all the advantages which the law will afford him, and
sometimes--if his counsel be men of talent--succeeds in compelling his
judges to receive him as innocent. I remember the celebrated case of Sir
Coolie Condiddle of Condiddle, who was tried for theft under trust, of
which all the world knew him guilty, and yet was not only acquitted, but
lived to sit in judgment on honester folk."

"Allow me to beg you will return to the point," said the Master; "you
seemed to say that I had suffered under some suspicion."

"Suspicion, Master! Ay, truly, and I can show you the proofs of it; if
I happen only to have them with me. Here, Lockhard." His attendant came.
"Fetch me the little private mail with the padlocks, that I recommended
to your particular charge, d'ye hear?"

"Yes, my lord." Lockhard vanished; and the Keeper continued, as if half
speaking to himself.

"I think the papers are with me--I think so, for, as I was to be in
this country, it was natural for me to bring them with me. I have them,
however, at Ravenswood Castle, that I am sure; so perhaps you might
condescend----"

Here Lockhard entered, and put the leathern scrutoire, or mail-box,
into his hands. The Keeper produced one or two papers, respecting the
information laid before the privy council concerning the riot, as it was
termed, at the funeral of Allan Lord Ravenswood, and the active share he
had himself taken in quashing the proceedings against the Master. These
documents had been selected with care, so as to irritate the natural
curiosity of Ravenswood upon such a subject, without gratifying it, yet
to show that Sir William Ashton had acted upon that trying occasion
the part of an advocate and peacemaker betwixt him and the jealous
authorities of the day. Having furnished his host with such subjects for
examination, the Lord Keeper went to the breakfast-table, and entered
into light conversation, addressed partly to old Caleb, whose resentment
against the usurper of the Castle of Ravenswood began to be softened by
his familiarity, and partly to his daughter.

After perusing these papers, the Master of Ravenswood remained for
a minute or two with his hand pressed against his brow, in deep and
profound meditation. He then again ran his eye hastily over the papers,
as if desirous of discovering in them some deep purpose, or some mark
of fabrication, which had escaped him at first perusal. Apparently the
second reading confirmed the opinion which had pressed upon him at the
first, for he started from the stone bench on which he was sitting,
and, going to the Lord Keeper, took his hand, and, strongly pressing it,
asked his pardon repeatedly for the injustice he had done him, when it
appeared he was experiencing, at his hands, the benefit of protection to
his person and vindication to his character.

The statesman received these acknowledgments at first with well-feigned
surprise, and then with an affectation of frank cordiality. The tears
began already to start from Lucy's blue eyes at viewing this unexpected
and moving scene. To see the Master, late so haughty and reserved, and
whom she had always supposed the injured person, supplicating her
father for forgiveness, was a change at once surprising, flattering, and
affecting.

"Dry your eyes, Lucy," said her father; "why should you weep, because
your father, though a lawyer, is discovered to be a fair and honourable
man? What have you to thank me for, my dear Master," he continued,
addressing Ravenswood, "that you would not have done in my case? 'Suum
cuique tribuito,' was the Roman justice, and I learned it when I studied
Justinian. Besides, have you not overpaid me a thousand times, in saving
the life of this dear child?"

"Yes," answered the Master, in all the remorse of self-accusation; "but
the little service _I_ did was an act of mere brutal instinct; YOUR
defence of my cause, when you knew how ill I thought of you, and how
much I was disposed to be your enemy, was an act of generous, manly, and
considerate wisdom."

"Pshaw!" said the Lord Keeper, "each of us acted in his own way; you as
a gallant soldier, I as an upright judge and privy-councillor. We could
not, perhaps, have changed parts; at least I should have made a very
sorry tauridor, and you, my good Master, though your cause is so
excellent, might have pleaded it perhaps worse yourself than I who acted
for you before the council."

"My generous friend!" said Ravenswood; and with that brief word,
which the Keeper had often lavished upon him, but which he himself now
pronounced for the first time, he gave to his feudal enemy the full
confidence of an haughty but honourable heart. The Master had been
remarked among his contemporaries for sense and acuteness, as well
as for his reserved, pertinacious, and irascible character. His
prepossessions accordingly, however obstinate, were of a nature to give
way before love and gratitude; and the real charms of the daughter,
joined to the supposed services of the father, cancelled in his memory
the vows of vengeance which he had taken so deeply on the eve of his
father's funeral. But they had been heard and registered in the book of
fate.

Caleb was present at this extraordinary scene, and he could conceive no
other reason for a proceeding so extraordinary than an alliance betwixt
the houses, and Ravenswood Castle assigned for the young lady's dowry.
As for Lucy, when Ravenswood uttered the most passionate excuses for his
ungrateful negligence, she could but smile through her tears, and, as
she abandoned her hand to him, assure him, in broken accents, of the
delight with which she beheld the complete reconciliation between her
father and her deliverer. Even the statesman was moved and affected
by the fiery, unreserved, and generous self-abandonment with which the
Master of Ravenswood renounced his feudal enmity, and threw himself
without hesitation upon his forgiveness. His eyes glistened as he looked
upon a couple who were obviously becoming attached, and who seemed made
for each other. He thought how high the proud and chivalrous character
of Ravenswood might rise under many circumstances in which HE found
himself "overcrowed," to use a phrase of Spenser, and kept under, by
his brief pedigree, and timidity of disposition. Then his daughter--his
favorite child--his constant playmate--seemed formed to live happy in
a union with such a commanding spirit as Ravenswood; and even the fine,
delicate, fragile form of Lucy Ashton seemed to require the support of
the Master's muscular strength and masculine character. And it was not
merely during a few minutes that Sir William Ashton looked upon their
marriage as a probable and even desirable event, for a full hour
intervened ere his imagination was crossed by recollection of the
Master's poverty, and the sure displeasure of Lady Ashton. It is
certain, that the very unusual flow of kindly feeling with which the
Lord Keeper had been thus surprised, was one of the circumstances which
gave much tacit encouragement to the attachment between the Master and
his daughter, and led both the lovers distinctly to believe that it
was a connexion which would be most agreeable to him. He himself
was supposed to have admitted this in effect, when, long after
the catastrophe of their love, he used to warn his hearers against
permitting their feelings to obtain an ascendency over their judgment,
and affirm, that the greatest misfortune of his life was owing to a
very temporary predominance of sensibility over self-interest. It must
be owned, if such was the case, he was long and severely punished for an
offence of very brief duration.

After some pause, the Lord Keeper resumed the conversation.--

"In your surprise at finding me an honester man than you expected, you
have lost your curiosity about this Craigengelt, my good Master; and yet
your name was brought in, in the course of that matter too."

"The scoundrel!" said Ravenswood. "My connexion with him was of the
most temporary nature possible; and yet I was very foolish to hold any
communication with him at all. What did he say of me?"

"Enough," said the Keeper, "to excite the very loyal terrors of some
of our sages, who are for proceeding against men on the mere grounds of
suspicion or mercenary information. Some nonsense about your proposing
to enter into the service of France, or of the Pretender, I don't
recollect which, but which the Marquis of A----, one of your best
friends, and another person, whom some call one of your worst and most
interested enemies, could not, somehow, be brought to listen to."

"I am obliged to my honourable friend; and yet," shaking the Lord
Keeper's hand--"and yet I am still more obliged to my honourable enemy."

"Inimicus amicissimus," said the Lord Keeper, returning the pressure;
"but this gentleman--this Mr. Hayston of Bucklaw--I am afraid the
poor young man--I heard the fellow mention his name--is under very bad
guidance."

"He is old enough to govern himself," answered the Master.

"Old enough, perhaps, but scarce wise enough, if he has chosen this
fellow for his fidus Achates. Why, he lodged an information against
him--that is, such a consequence might have ensued from his examination,
had we not looked rather at the character of the witness than the tenor
of his evidence."

"Mr. Hayston of Bucklaw," said the master, "is, I believe, a most
honourable man, and capable of nothing that is mean or disgraceful."

"Capable of much that is unreasonable, though; that you must needs
allow, master. Death will soon put him in possession of a fair estate,
if he hath it not already; old Lady Girnington--an excellent person,
excepting that her inveterate ill-nature rendered her intolerable to the
whole world--is probably dead by this time. Six heirs portioners have
successively died to make her wealthy. I know the estates well; they
march with my own--a noble property."

"I am glad of it," said Ravenswood, "and should be more so, were I
confident that Bucklaw would change his company and habits with his
fortunes. This appearance of Craigengelt, acting in the capacity of his
friend, is a most vile augury for his future respectability."

"He is a bird of evil omen, to be sure," said the Keeper, "and croaks
of jail and gallows-tree. But I see Mr. Caleb grows impatient for our
return to breakfast."

Sir Walter Scott