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Chapter 8

So stands the Thracian herdsman with his spear
Full in the gap, and hopes the hunted bear;
And hears him in the rustling wood, and sees
His course at distance by the bending trees,
And thinks--Here comes my mortal enemy,
And either he must fall in fight, or I.
Palamon and Arcite.

I took the route towards the college, as recommended by Mr. Jarvie, less
with the intention of seeking for any object of interest or amusement,
than to arrange my own ideas, and meditate on my future conduct. I
wandered from one quadrangle of old-fashioned buildings to another, and
from thence to the College-yards, or walking ground, where, pleased with
the solitude of the place, most of the students being engaged in their
classes, I took several turns, pondering on the waywardness of my own
destiny.

I could not doubt, from the circumstances attending my first meeting with
this person Campbell, that he was engaged in some strangely desperate
courses; and the reluctance with which Mr. Jarvie alluded to his person
or pursuits, as well as all the scene of the preceding night, tended to
confirm these suspicions. Yet to this man Diana Vernon had not, it would
seem, hesitated to address herself in my behalf; and the conduct of the
magistrate himself towards him showed an odd mixture of kindness, and
even respect, with pity and censure. Something there must be uncommon in
Campbell's situation and character; and what was still more
extraordinary, it seemed that his fate was doomed to have influence over,
and connection with, my own. I resolved to bring Mr. Jarvie to close
quarters on the first proper opportunity, and learn as much as was
possible on the subject of this mysterious person, in order that I might
judge whether it was possible for me, without prejudice to my reputation,
to hold that degree of farther correspondence with him to which he seemed
to invite.

While I was musing on these subjects, my attention was attracted by three
persons who appeared at the upper end of the walk through which I was
sauntering, seemingly engaged in very earnest conversation. That
intuitive impression which announces to us the approach of whomsoever we
love or hate with intense vehemence, long before a more indifferent eye
can recognise their persons, flashed upon my mind the sure conviction
that the midmost of these three men was Rashleigh Osbaldistone. To
address him was my first impulse;--my second was, to watch him until he
was alone, or at least to reconnoitre his companions before confronting
him. The party was still at such distance, and engaged in such deep
discourse, that I had time to step unobserved to the other side of a
small hedge, which imperfectly screened the alley in which I was walking.
It was at this period the fashion of the young and gay to wear, in their
morning walks, a scarlet cloak, often laced and embroidered, above their
other dress, and it was the trick of the time for gallants occasionally
to dispose it so as to muffle a part of the face. The imitating this
fashion, with the degree of shelter which I received from the hedge,
enabled me to meet my cousin, unobserved by him or the others, except
perhaps as a passing stranger. I was not a little startled at recognising
in his companions that very Morris on whose account I had been summoned
before Justice Inglewood, and Mr. MacVittie the merchant, from whose
starched and severe aspect I had recoiled on the preceding day.

A more ominous conjunction to my own affairs, and those of my father,
could scarce have been formed. I remembered Morris's false accusation
against me, which he might be as easily induced to renew as he had been
intimidated to withdraw; I recollected the inauspicious influence of
MacVittie over my father's affairs, testified by the imprisonment of
Owen;--and I now saw both these men combined with one, whose talent for
mischief I deemed little inferior to those of the great author of all
ill, and my abhorrence of whom almost amounted to dread.

When they had passed me for some paces, I turned and followed them
unobserved. At the end of the walk they separated, Morris and MacVittie
leaving the gardens, and Rashleigh returning alone through the walks. I
was now determined to confront him, and demand reparation for the
injuries he had done my father, though in what form redress was likely to
be rendered remained to be known. This, however, I trusted to chance; and
flinging back the cloak in which I was muffled, I passed through a gap of
the low hedge, and presented myself before Rashleigh, as, in a deep
reverie, he paced down the avenue.

Rashleigh was no man to be surprised or thrown off his guard by sudden
occurrences. Yet he did not find me thus close to him, wearing
undoubtedly in my face the marks of that indignation which was glowing in
my bosom, without visibly starting at an apparition so sudden and
menacing.

"You are well met, sir," was my commencement; "I was about to take a long
and doubtful journey in quest of you."

"You know little of him you sought then," replied Rashleigh, with his
usual undaunted composure. "I am easily found by my friends--still more
easily by my foes;--your manner compels me to ask in which class I must
rank Mr. Francis Osbaldistone?"

"In that of your foes, sir," I answered--"in that of your mortal foes,
unless you instantly do justice to your benefactor, my father, by
accounting for his property."

"And to whom, Mr. Osbaldistone," answered Rashleigh, "am I, a member of
your father's commercial establishment, to be compelled to give any
account of my proceedings in those concerns, which are in every respect
identified with my own?--Surely not to a young gentleman whose exquisite
taste for literature would render such discussions disgusting and
unintelligible."

"Your sneer, sir, is no answer; I will not part with you until I have
full satisfaction concerning the fraud you meditate--you shall go with me
before a magistrate."

"Be it so," said Rashleigh, and made a step or two as if to accompany me;
then pausing, proceeded--"Were I inclined to do so as you would have me,
you should soon feel which of us had most reason to dread the presence of
a magistrate. But I have no wish to accelerate your fate. Go, young man!
amuse yourself in your world of poetical imaginations, and leave the
business of life to those who understand and can conduct it."

His intention, I believe, was to provoke me, and he succeeded. "Mr.
Osbaldistone," I said, "this tone of calm insolence shall not avail you.
You ought to be aware that the name we both bear never submitted to
insult, and shall not in my person be exposed to it."

"You remind me," said Rashleigh, with one of his blackest looks, "that it
was dishonoured in my person!--and you remind me also by whom! Do you
think I have forgotten the evening at Osbaldistone Hall when you cheaply
and with impunity played the bully at my expense? For that insult--never
to be washed out but by blood!--for the various times you have crossed my
path, and always to my prejudice--for the persevering folly with which
you seek to traverse schemes, the importance of which you neither know
nor are capable of estimating,--for all these, sir, you owe me a long
account, for which there shall come an early day of reckoning."

"Let it come when it will," I replied, "I shall be willing and ready to
meet it. Yet you seem to have forgotten the heaviest article--that I had
the pleasure to aid Miss Vernon's good sense and virtuous feeling in
extricating her from your infamous toils."

I think his dark eyes flashed actual fire at this home-taunt, and yet his
voice retained the same calm expressive tone with which he had hitherto
conducted the conversation.

"I had other views with respect to you, young man," was his answer: "less
hazardous for you, and more suitable to my present character and former
education. But I see you will draw on yourself the personal chastisement
your boyish insolence so well merits. Follow me to a more remote spot,
where we are less likely to be interrupted."

I followed him accordingly, keeping a strict eye on his motions, for I
believed him capable of the very worst actions. We reached an open spot
in a sort of wilderness, laid out in the Dutch taste, with clipped
hedges, and one or two statues. I was on my guard, and it was well with
me that I was so; for Rashleigh's sword was out and at my breast ere I
could throw down my cloak, or get my weapon unsheathed, so that I only
saved my life by springing a pace or two backwards. He had some advantage
in the difference of our weapons; for his sword, as I recollect, was
longer than mine, and had one of those bayonet or three-cornered blades
which are now generally worn; whereas mine was what we then called a
Saxon blade--narrow, flat, and two-edged, and scarcely so manageable as
that of my enemy. In other respects we were pretty equally matched: for
what advantage I might possess in superior address and agility, was fully
counterbalanced by Rashleigh's great strength and coolness. He fought,
indeed, more like a fiend than a man--with concentrated spite and desire
of blood, only allayed by that cool consideration which made his worst
actions appear yet worse from the air of deliberate premeditation which
seemed to accompany them. His obvious malignity of purpose never for a
moment threw him off his guard, and he exhausted every feint and
stratagem proper to the science of defence; while, at the same time, he
meditated the most desperate catastrophe to our rencounter.

On my part, the combat was at first sustained with more moderation. My
passions, though hasty, were not malevolent; and the walk of two or three
minutes' space gave me time to reflect that Rashleigh was my father's
nephew, the son of an uncle, who after his fashion had been kind to me,
and that his falling by my hand could not but occasion much family
distress. My first resolution, therefore, was to attempt to disarm my
antagonist--a manoeuvre in which, confiding in my superiority of skill
and practice, I anticipated little difficulty. I found, however, I had
met my match; and one or two foils which I received, and from the
consequences of which I narrowly escaped, obliged me to observe more
caution in my mode of fighting. By degrees I became exasperated at the
rancour with which Rashleigh sought my life, and returned his passes with
an inveteracy resembling in some degree his own; so that the combat had
all the appearance of being destined to have a tragic issue. That issue
had nearly taken place at my expense. My foot slipped in a full lounge
which I made at my adversary, and I could not so far recover myself as
completely to parry the thrust with which my pass was repaid. Yet it took
but partial effect, running through my waistcoat, grazing my ribs, and
passing through my coat behind. The hilt of Rashleigh's sword, so great
was the vigour of his thrust, struck against my breast with such force as
to give me great pain, and confirm me in the momentary belief that I was
mortally wounded. Eager for revenge, I grappled with my enemy, seizing
with my left hand the hilt of his sword, and shortening my own with the
purpose of running him through the body. Our death-grapple was
interrupted by a man who forcibly threw himself between us, and pushing
us separate from each other, exclaimed, in a loud and commanding voice,
"What! the sons of those fathers who sucked the same breast shedding each
others bluid as it were strangers'!--By the hand of my father, I will
cleave to the brisket the first man that mints another stroke!"

I looked up in astonishment. The speaker was no other than Campbell. He
had a basket-hilted broadsword drawn in his hand, which he made to
whistle around his head as he spoke, as if for the purpose of enforcing
his mediation. Rashleigh and I stared in silence at this unexpected
intruder, who proceeded to exhort us alternately:--"Do you, Maister
Francis, opine that ye will re-establish your father's credit by cutting
your kinsman's thrapple, or getting your ain sneckit instead thereof in
the College-yards of Glasgow?--Or do you, Mr Rashleigh, think men will
trust their lives and fortunes wi' ane, that, when in point of trust and
in point of confidence wi' a great political interest, gangs about
brawling like a drunken gillie?--Nay, never look gash or grim at me,
man--if ye're angry, ye ken how to turn the buckle o' your belt behind
you."

"You presume on my present situation," replied Rashleigh, "or you would
have hardly dared to interfere where my honour is concerned."


[Illustration: Rob Roy Parting the Duelists--100]


"Hout! tout! tout!--Presume? And what for should it be presuming?--Ye may
be the richer man, Mr. Osbaldistone, as is maist likely; and ye may be
the mair learned man, whilk I dispute not: but I reckon ye are neither a
prettier man nor a better gentleman than mysell--and it will be news to
me when I hear ye are as gude. And _dare_ too? Muckle daring there's
about it--I trow, here I stand, that hae slashed as het a haggis as ony
o' the twa o' ye, and thought nae muckle o' my morning's wark when it was
dune. If my foot were on the heather as it's on the causeway, or this
pickle gravel, that's little better, I hae been waur mistrysted than if I
were set to gie ye baith your ser'ing o't."

Rashleigh had by this time recovered his temper completely. "My kinsman,"
he said, "will acknowledge he forced this quarrel on me. It was none of
my seeking. I am glad we are interrupted before I chastised his
forwardness more severely."

"Are ye hurt, lad?" inquired Campbell of me, with some appearance of
interest.

"A very slight scratch," I answered, "which my kind cousin would not long
have boasted of had not you come between us."

"In troth, and that's true, Maister Rashleigh," said Campbell; "for the
cauld iron and your best bluid were like to hae become acquaint when I
mastered Mr. Frank's right hand. But never look like a sow playing upon a
trump for the luve of that, man--come and walk wi' me. I hae news to tell
ye, and ye'll cool and come to yourself, like MacGibbon's crowdy, when he
set it out at the window-bole."

"Pardon me, sir," said I. "Your intentions have seemed friendly to me on
more occasions than one; but I must not, and will not, quit sight of this
person until he yields up to me those means of doing justice to my
father's engagements, of which he has treacherously possessed himself."

"Ye're daft, man," replied Campbell; "it will serve ye naething to follow
us e'enow; ye hae just enow o' ae man--wad ye bring twa on your head, and
might bide quiet?"

"Twenty," I replied, "if it be necessary."

I laid my hand on Rashleigh's collar, who made no resistance, but said,
with a sort of scornful smile, "You hear him, MacGregor! he rushes on his
fate--will it be my fault if he falls into it?--The warrants are by this
time ready, and all is prepared."

The Scotchman was obviously embarrassed. He looked around, and before,
and behind him, and then said--"The ne'er a bit will I yield my consent
to his being ill-guided for standing up for the father that got him--and
I gie God's malison and mine to a' sort o' magistrates, justices,
bailies., sheriffs, sheriff-officers, constables, and sic-like black
cattle, that hae been the plagues o' puir auld Scotland this hunder
year.--it was a merry warld when every man held his ain gear wi' his ain
grip, and when the country side wasna fashed wi' warrants and poindings
and apprizings, and a' that cheatry craft. And ance mair I say it, my
conscience winna see this puir thoughtless lad ill-guided, and especially
wi' that sort o' trade. I wad rather ye fell till't again, and fought it
out like douce honest men."

"Your conscience, MacGregor!" said Rashleigh; "you forget how long you
and I have known each other."

"Yes, my conscience," reiterated Campbell, or MacGregor, or whatever was
his name; "I hae such a thing about me, Maister Osbaldistone; and therein
it may weel chance that I hae the better o' you. As to our knowledge of
each other,--if ye ken what I am, ye ken what usage it was made me what I
am; and, whatever you may think, I would not change states with the
proudest of the oppressors that hae driven me to tak the heather-bush for
a beild. What _you_ are, Maister Rashleigh, and what excuse ye hae for
being _what_ you are, is between your ain heart and the lang day.--And
now, Maister Francis, let go his collar; for he says truly, that ye are
in mair danger from a magistrate than he is, and were your cause as
straight as an arrow, he wad find a way to put you wrang--So let go his
craig, as I was saying."

He seconded his words with an effort so sudden and unexpected, that he
freed Rashleigh from my hold, and securing me, notwithstanding my
struggles, in his own Herculean gripe, he called out--"Take the bent, Mr.
Rashleigh--Make ae pair o' legs worth twa pair o' hands; ye hae dune that
before now."

"You may thank this gentleman, kinsman," said Rashleigh, "if I leave any
part of my debt to you unpaid; and if I quit you now, it is only in the
hope we shall soon meet again without the possibility of interruption."

He took up his sword, wiped it, sheathed it, and was lost among the
bushes.

The Scotchman, partly by force, partly by remonstrance, prevented my
following him; indeed I began to be of opinion my doing so would be to
little purpose.

"As I live by bread," said Campbell, when, after one or two struggles in
which he used much forbearance towards me, he perceived me inclined to
stand quiet, "I never saw sae daft a callant! I wad hae gien the best man
in the country the breadth o' his back gin he had gien me sic a kemping
as ye hae dune. What wad ye do?--Wad ye follow the wolf to his den? I
tell ye, man, he has the auld trap set for ye--He has got the
collector-creature Morris to bring up a' the auld story again,
and ye maun look for nae help frae me here, as ye got at Justice
Inglewood's;--it isna good for my health to come in the gate o' the
whigamore bailie bodies. Now gang your ways hame, like a gude
bairn--jouk and let the jaw gae by--Keep out o' sight o' Rashleigh, and
Morris, and that MacVittie animal--Mind the Clachan of Aberfoil, as I
said before, and by the word of a gentleman, I wunna see ye wranged. But
keep a calm sough till we meet again--I maun gae and get Rashleigh out
o' the town afore waur comes o't, for the neb o' him's never out o'
mischief--Mind the Clachan of Aberfoil."

He turned upon his heel, and left me to meditate on the singular events
which had befallen me. My first care was to adjust my dress and reassume
my cloak, disposing it so as to conceal the blood which flowed down my
right side. I had scarcely accomplished this, when, the classes of the
college being dismissed, the gardens began to be filled with parties of
the students. I therefore left them as soon as possible; and in my way
towards Mr. Jarvie's, whose dinner hour was now approaching, I stopped at
a small unpretending shop, the sign of which intimated the indweller to
be Christopher Neilson, surgeon and apothecary. I requested of a little
boy who was pounding some stuff in a mortar, that he would procure me an
audience of this learned pharmacopolist. He opened the door of the back
shop, where I found a lively elderly man, who shook his head
incredulously at some idle account I gave him of having been wounded
accidentally by the button breaking off my antagonist's foil while I was
engaged in a fencing match. When he had applied some lint and somewhat
else he thought proper to the trifling wound I had received, he
observed--"There never was button on the foil that made this hurt. Ah!
young blood! young blood!--But we surgeons are a secret generation--If
it werena for hot blood and ill blood, what wad become of the twa
learned faculties?"

With which moral reflection he dismissed me; and I experienced very
little pain or inconvenience afterwards from the scratch I had received.

Sir Walter Scott