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Chapter 28

Was ever woman in this humor wooed?
Was ever woman in this humour won?
I'll have her.

Richard III.

TWELVE months had passed away since the Master of Ravenswood's departure
for the continent, and, although his return to Scotland had been
expected in a much shorter space, yet the affairs of his mission,
or, according to a prevailing report, others of a nature personal to
himself, still detained him abroad. In the mean time, the altered state
of affairs in Sir William Ashton's family may be gathered from the
following conversation which took place betwixt Bucklaw and his
confidential bottle companion and dependant, the noted Captain
Craigengelt. They were seated on either side of the huge
sepulchral-looking freestone chimney in the low hall at Girnington.
A wood fire blazed merrily in the grate; a round oaken table, placed
between them, supported a stoup of excellent claret, two rummer glasses,
and other good cheer; and yet, with all these appliances and means
to boot, the countenance of the patron was dubious, doubtful, and
unsatisfied, while the invention of his dependant was taxed to the
utmost to parry what he most dreaded, a fit, as he called it, of
the sullens, on the part of his protector. After a long pause, only
interrupted by the devil's tattoo, which Bucklaw kept beating against
the hearth with the toe of his boot, Craigengelt at last ventured to
break silence. "May I be double distanced," said he, "if ever I saw a
man in my life have less the air of a bridegroom! Cut me out of feather,
if you have not more the look of a man condemned to be hanged!"

"My kind thanks for the compliment," replied Bucklaw; "but I suppose you
think upon the predicament in which you yourself are most likely to be
placed; and pray, Captain Craigengelt, if it please your worship, why
should I look merry, when I'm sad, and devilish sad too?"

"And that's what vexes me," said Craigengelt. "Here is this match, the
best in the whole country, and which were so anxious about, is on the
point of being concluded, and you are as sulky as a bear that has lost
its whelps."

"I do not know," answered the Laird, doggedly, "whether I should
conclude or not, if it was not that I am too far forwards to leap back."

"Leap back!" exclaimed Craigengelt, with a well-assumed air of
astonishment, "that would be playing the back-game with a witness! Leap
back! Why, is not the girl's fortune----"

"The young lady's, if you please," said Hayston, interrupting him.

"Well--well, no disrespect meant. Will Miss Ashton's tocher not weigh
against any in Lothian?"

"Granted," answered Bucklaw; "but I care not a penny for her tocher; I
have enough of my own."

"And the mother, that loves you like her own child?"

"Better than some of her children, I believe," said Bucklaw, "or there
would be little love wared on the matter."

"And Colonel Sholto Douglas Ashton, who desires the marriage above all
earthly things?"

"Because," said Bucklaw, "he expects to carry the county of ---- through
my interest."

"And the father, who is as keen to see the match concluded as ever I
have been to win a main?"

"Ay," said Bucklaw, in the same disparaging manner, "it lies with Sir
William's policy to secure the next best match, since he cannot barter
his child to save the great Ravenswood estate, which the English House
of Lords are about to wrench out of his clutches."

"What say you to the young lady herself?" said Craigengelt; "the finest
young woman in all Scotland, one that you used to be so fond of when she
was cross, and now she consents to have you, and gives up her engagement
with Ravenswood, you are for jibbing. I must say, the devil's in ye,
when ye neither know what you would have nor what you would want."

"I'll tell you my meaning in a word," answered Bucklaw, getting up and
walking through the room; "I want to know what the devil is the cause of
Miss Ashton's changing her mind so suddenly?"

"And what need you care," said Craigengelt, "since the change is in your
favour?"

"I'll tell you what it is," returned his patron, "I never knew much of
that sort of fine ladies, and I believe they may be as capricious as the
devil; but there is something in Miss Ashton's change a devilish deal
too sudden and too serious for a mere flisk of her own. I'll be bound,
Lady Ashton understands every machine for breaking in the human
mind, and there are as many as there are cannon-bit, martingales, and
cavessons for young colts."

"And if that were not the case," said Craigengelt, "how the devil should
we ever get them into training at all?"

"And that's true too," said Bucklaw, suspending his march through the
dining-room, and leaning upon the back of a chair. "And besides,
here's Ravenswood in the way still, do you think he'll give up Lucy's
engagement?"

"To be sure he will," answered Craigengelt; "what good can it do him to
refuse, since he wishes to marry another woman and she another man?"

"And you believe seriously," said Bucklaw, "that he is going to marry
the foreign lady we heard of?"

"You heard yourself," answered Craigengelt, "what Captain Westenho said
about it, and the great preparation made for their blythesome bridal."

"Captain Westenho," replied Bucklaw, "has rather too much of your own
cast about, Craigie, to make what Sir William would call a 'famous
witness.' He drinks deep, plays deep, swears deep, and I suspect can lie
and cheat a little into the bargain; useful qualities, Craigie, if
kept in their proper sphere, but which have a little too much of the
freebooter to make a figure in a court of evidence."

"Well, then," said Craigengelt, "will you believe Colonel Douglas
Ashton, who heard the Marquis of A---- say in a public circle, but not
aware that he was within ear-shot, that his kinsman had made a
better arrangement for himself than to give his father's land for the
pale-cheeked daughter of a broken-down fanatic, and that Bucklaw was
welcome to the wearing of Ravenswood's shaughled shoes."

"Did he say so, by heavens!" cried Bucklaw, breaking out into one of
those incontrollable fits of passion to which he was constitutionally
subject; "if I had heard him, I would have torn the tongue out of his
throat before all his peats and minions, and Highland bullies into the
bargain. Why did not Ashton run him through the body?"

"Capot me if I know," said the Captain. "He deserved it sure enough; but
he is an old man, and a minister of state, and there would be more risk
than credit in meddling with him. You had more need to think of making
up to Miss Lucy Ashton the disgrace that's like to fall upon her than of
interfering with a man too old to fight, and on too high a tool for your
hand to reach him."

"It SHALL reach him, though, one day," said Bucklaw, "and his kinsman
Ravenswood to boot. In the mean time, I'll take care Miss Ashton
receives no discredit for the slight they have put upon her. It's an
awkward job, however, and I wish it were ended; I scarce know how to
talk to her,--but fill a bumper, Craigie, and we'll drink her health.
It grows late, and a night-cowl of good claret is worth all the
considering-caps in Europe."

Sir Walter Scott