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Chapter 7

_Bardolph._--The sheriff, with a monstrous watch, is at the door.
Henry IV. _First Part._

I found out with some difficulty the apartment which was destined for my
accommodation; and having secured myself the necessary good-will and
attention from my uncle's domestics, by using the means they were most
capable of comprehending, I secluded myself there for the remainder of
the evening, conjecturing, from the fair way in which I had left my new
relatives, as well as from the distant noise which continued to echo from
the stone-hall (as their banqueting-room was called), that they were not
likely to be fitting company for a sober man.

"What could my father mean by sending me to be an inmate in this strange
family?" was my first and most natural reflection. My uncle, it was
plain, received me as one who was to make some stay with him, and his
rude hospitality rendered him as indifferent as King Hal to the number of
those who fed at his cost. But it was plain my presence or absence would
be of as little importance in his eyes as that of one of his blue-coated
serving-men. My cousins were mere cubs, in whose company I might, if I
liked it, unlearn whatever decent manners, or elegant accomplishments, I
had acquired, but where I could attain no information beyond what
regarded worming dogs, rowelling horses, and following foxes. I could
only imagine one reason, which was probably the true one. My father
considered the life which was led at Osbaldistone Hall as the natural and
inevitable pursuits of all country gentlemen, and he was desirous, by
giving me an opportunity of seeing that with which he knew I should be
disgusted, to reconcile me, if possible, to take an active share in his
own business. In the meantime, he would take Rashleigh Osbaldistone into
the counting-house. But he had an hundred modes of providing for him, and
that advantageously, whenever he chose to get rid of him. So that,
although I did feel a certain qualm of conscience at having been the
means of introducing Rashleigh, being such as he was described by Miss
Vernon, into my father's business--perhaps into his confidence--I subdued
it by the reflection that my father was complete master of his own
affairs--a man not to be imposed upon, or influenced by any one--and that
all I knew to the young gentleman's prejudice was through the medium of a
singular and giddy girl, whose communications were made with an
injudicious frankness, which might warrant me in supposing her
conclusions had been hastily or inaccurately formed. Then my mind
naturally turned to Miss Vernon herself; her extreme beauty; her very
peculiar situation, relying solely upon her reflections, and her own
spirit, for guidance and protection; and her whole character offering
that variety and spirit which piques our curiosity, and engages our
attention in spite of ourselves. I had sense enough to consider the
neighbourhood of this singular young lady, and the chance of our being
thrown into very close and frequent intercourse, as adding to the
dangers, while it relieved the dulness, of Osbaldistone Hall; but I could
not, with the fullest exertion of my prudence, prevail upon myself to
regret excessively this new and particular hazard to which I was to be
exposed. This scruple I also settled as young men settle most
difficulties of the kind--I would be very cautious, always on my guard,
consider Miss Vernon rather as a companion than an intimate; and all
would do well enough. With these reflections I fell asleep, Miss Vernon,
of course, forming the last subject of my contemplation.

Whether I dreamed of her or not, I cannot satisfy you, for I was tired
and slept soundly. But she was the first person I thought of in the
morning, when waked at dawn by the cheerful notes of the hunting horn. To
start up, and direct my horse to be saddled, was my first movement; and
in a few minutes I was in the court-yard, where men, dogs, and horses,
were in full preparation. My uncle, who, perhaps, was not entitled to
expect a very alert sportsman in his nephew, bred as he had been in
foreign parts, seemed rather surprised to see me, and I thought his
morning salutation wanted something of the hearty and hospitable tone
which distinguished his first welcome. "Art there, lad?--ay, youth's aye
rathe--but look to thysell--mind the old song, lad--

He that gallops his horse on Blackstone edge
May chance to catch a fall."

I believe there are few young men, and those very sturdy moralists, who
would not rather be taxed with some moral peccadillo than with want of
knowledge in horsemanship. As I was by no means deficient either in skill
or courage, I resented my uncle's insinuation accordingly, and assured
him he would find me up with the hounds.

"I doubtna, lad," was his reply; "thou'rt a rank rider, I'se warrant
thee--but take heed. Thy father sent thee here to me to be bitted, and I
doubt I must ride thee on the curb, or we'll hae some one to ride thee on
the halter, if I takena the better heed."

As this speech was totally unintelligible to me--as, besides, it did not
seem to be delivered for my use, or benefit, but was spoken as it were
aside, and as if expressing aloud something which was passing through the
mind of my much-honoured uncle, I concluded it must either refer to my
desertion of the bottle on the preceding evening, or that my uncle's
morning hours being a little discomposed by the revels of the night
before, his temper had suffered in proportion. I only made the passing
reflection, that if he played the ungracious landlord, I would remain the
shorter while his guest, and then hastened to salute Miss Vernon, who
advanced cordially to meet me. Some show of greeting also passed between
my cousins and me; but as I saw them maliciously bent upon criticising my
dress and accoutrements, from the cap to the stirrup-irons, and sneering
at whatever had a new or foreign appearance, I exempted myself from the
task of paying them much attention; and assuming, in requital of their
grins and whispers, an air of the utmost indifference and contempt, I
attached myself to Miss Vernon, as the only person in the party whom I
could regard as a suitable companion. By her side, therefore, we sallied
forth to the destined cover, which was a dingle or copse on the side of
an extensive common. As we rode thither, I observed to Diana, "that I did
not see my cousin Rashleigh in the field;" to which she replied,--"O
no--he's a mighty hunter, but it's after the fashion of Nimrod, and his
game is man."

The dogs now brushed into the cover, with the appropriate encouragement
from the hunters--all was business, bustle, and activity. My cousins were
soon too much interested in the business of the morning to take any
further notice of me, unless that I overheard Dickon the horse-jockey
whisper to Wilfred the fool--"Look thou, an our French cousin be nat off
a' first burst."

To which Wilfred answered, "Like enow, for he has a queer outlandish
binding on's castor."

Thorncliff, however, who in his rude way seemed not absolutely insensible
to the beauty of his kinswoman, appeared determined to keep us company
more closely than his brothers,--perhaps to watch what passed betwixt
Miss Vernon and me--perhaps to enjoy my expected mishaps in the chase. In
the last particular he was disappointed. After beating in vain for the
greater part of the morning, a fox was at length found, who led us a
chase of two hours, in the course of which, notwithstanding the
ill-omened French binding upon my hat, I sustained my character as a
horseman to the admiration of my uncle and Miss Vernon, and the secret
disappointment of those who expected me to disgrace it. Reynard, however,
proved too wily for his pursuers, and the hounds were at fault. I could
at this time observe in Miss Vernon's manner an impatience of the close
attendance which we received from Thorncliff Osbaldistone; and, as that
active-spirited young lady never hesitated at taking the readiest means
to gratify any wish of the moment, she said to him, in a tone of
reproach--"I wonder, Thornie, what keeps you dangling at my horse's
crupper all this morning, when you know the earths above Woolverton-mill
are not stopt."

"I know no such an thing then, Miss Die, for the miller swore himself as
black as night, that he stopt them at twelve o'clock midnight that was."

"O fie upon you, Thornie! would you trust to a miller's word?--and these
earths, too, where we lost the fox three times this season! and you on
your grey mare, that can gallop there and back in ten minutes!"

"Well, Miss Die, I'se go to Woolverton then, and if the earths are not
stopt, I'se raddle Dick the miller's bones for him."

"Do, my dear Thornie; horsewhip the rascal to purpose--via--fly away, and
about it;"--Thorncliff went off at the gallop--"or get horsewhipt
yourself, which will serve my purpose just as well.--I must teach them
all discipline and obedience to the word of command. I am raising a
regiment, you must know. Thornie shall be my sergeant-major, Dickon my
riding-master, and Wilfred, with his deep dub-a-dub tones, that speak but
three syllables at a time, my kettle-drummer."

"And Rashleigh?"

"Rashleigh shall be my scout-master." "And will you find no employment
for me, most lovely colonel?"

"You shall have the choice of being pay-master, or plunder-master, to the
corps. But see how the dogs puzzle about there. Come, Mr. Frank, the
scent's cold; they won't recover it there this while; follow me, I have a
view to show you."

And in fact, she cantered up to the top of a gentle hill, commanding an
extensive prospect. Casting her eyes around, to see that no one was near
us, she drew up her horse beneath a few birch-trees, which screened us
from the rest of the hunting-field--"Do you see yon peaked, brown, heathy
hill, having something like a whitish speck upon the side?"

"Terminating that long ridge of broken moorish uplands?--I see it

"That whitish speck is a rock called Hawkesmore-crag, and Hawkesmore-crag
is in Scotland."

"Indeed! I did not think we had been so near Scotland."

"It is so, I assure you, and your horse will carry you there in two

"I shall hardly give him the trouble; why, the distance must be eighteen
miles as the crow flies."

"You may have my mare, if you think her less blown--I say, that in two
hours you may be in Scotland."

"And I say, that I have so little desire to be there, that if my horse's
head were over the Border, I would not give his tail the trouble of
following. What should I do in Scotland?"

"Provide for your safety, if I must speak plainly. Do you understand me
now, Mr. Frank?"

"Not a whit; you are more and more oracular."

"Then, on my word, you either mistrust me most unjustly, and are a better
dissembler than Rashleigh Osbaldistone himself, or you know nothing of
what is imputed to you; and then no wonder you stare at me in that grave
manner, which I can scarce see without laughing."

"Upon my word of honour, Miss Vernon," said I, with an impatient feeling
of her childish disposition to mirth, "I have not the most distant
conception of what you mean. I am happy to afford you any subject of
amusement, but I am quite ignorant in what it consists."

"Nay, there's no sound jest after all," said the young lady, composing
herself; "only one looks so very ridiculous when he is fairly perplexed.
But the matter is serious enough. Do you know one Moray, or Morris, or
some such name?"

"Not that I can at present recollect."

"Think a moment. Did you not lately travel with somebody of such a name?"

"The only man with whom I travelled for any length of time was a fellow
whose soul seemed to lie in his portmanteau."

"Then it was like the soul of the licentiate Pedro Garcias, which lay
among the ducats in his leathern purse. That man has been robbed, and he
has lodged an information against you, as connected with the violence
done to him."

"You jest, Miss Vernon!"

"I do not, I assure you--the thing is an absolute fact."

"And do you," said I, with strong indignation, which I did not attempt to
suppress, "do you suppose me capable of meriting such a charge?"

"You would call me out for it, I suppose, had I the advantage of being a
man--You may do so as it is, if you like it--I can shoot flying, as well
as leap a five-barred gate."

"And are colonel of a regiment of horse besides," replied I, reflecting
how idle it was to be angry with her--"But do explain the present jest to

"There's no jest whatever," said Diana; "you are accused of robbing this
man, and my uncle believes it as well as I did."

"Upon my honour, I am greatly obliged to my friends for their good

"Now do not, if you can help it, snort, and stare, and snuff the wind,
and look so exceedingly like a startled horse--There's no such offence as
you suppose--you are not charged with any petty larceny or vulgar
felony--by no means. This fellow was carrying money from Government, both
specie and bills, to pay the troops in the north; and it is said he has
been also robbed of some despatches of great consequence."

"And so it is high treason, then, and not simple robbery, of which I am

"Certainly--which, you know, has been in all ages accounted the crime of
a gentleman. You will find plenty in this country, and one not far from
your elbow, who think it a merit to distress the Hanoverian government by
every means possible."

"Neither my politics nor my morals, Miss Vernon, are of a description so

"I really begin to believe that you are a Presbyterian and Hanoverian in
good earnest. But what do you propose to do?"

"Instantly to refute this atrocious calumny.--Before whom," I asked, "was
this extraordinary accusation laid."

"Before old Squire Inglewood, who had sufficient unwillingness to receive
it. He sent tidings to my uncle, I suppose, that he might smuggle you
away into Scotland, out of reach of the warrant. But my uncle is sensible
that his religion and old predilections render him obnoxious to
Government, and that, were he caught playing booty, he would be disarmed,
and probably dismounted (which would be the worse evil of the two), as a
Jacobite, papist, and suspected person."*

* On occasions of public alarm, in the beginning of the eighteenth
century, the horses of the Catholics were often seized upon, as they were
always supposed to be on the eve of rising in rebellion.

"I can conceive that, sooner than lose his hunters, he would give up his

"His nephew, nieces, sons--daughters, if he had them, and whole
generation," said Diana;--"therefore trust not to him, even for a single
moment, but make the best of your way before they can serve the warrant."

"That I shall certainly do; but it shall be to the house of this Squire
Inglewood--Which way does it lie?"

"About five miles off, in the low ground, behind yonder plantations--you
may see the tower of the clock-house."

"I will be there in a few minutes," said I, putting my horse in motion.

"And I will go with you, and show you the way," said Diana, putting her
palfrey also to the trot.

"Do not think of it, Miss Vernon," I replied. "It is not--permit me the
freedom of a friend--it is not proper, scarcely even delicate, in you to
go with me on such an errand as I am now upon."

"I understand your meaning," said Miss Vernon, a slight blush crossing
her haughty brow;--"it is plainly spoken;" and after a moment's pause she
added, "and I believe kindly meant."

"It is indeed, Miss Vernon. Can you think me insensible of the interest
you show me, or ungrateful for it?" said I, with even more earnestness
than I could have wished to express. "Yours is meant for true kindness,
shown best at the hour of need. But I must not, for your own sake--for
the chance of misconstruction--suffer you to pursue the dictates of your
generosity; this is so public an occasion--it is almost like venturing
into an open court of justice."

"And if it were not almost, but altogether entering into an open court of
justice, do you think I would not go there if I thought it right, and
wished to protect a friend? You have no one to stand by you--you are a
stranger; and here, in the outskirts of the kingdom, country justices do
odd things. My uncle has no desire to embroil himself in your affair;
Rashleigh is absent, and were he here, there is no knowing which side he
might take; the rest are all more stupid and brutal one than another. I
will go with you, and I do not fear being able to serve you. I am no fine
lady, to be terrified to death with law-books, hard words, or big wigs."

"But my dear Miss Vernon"--

"But my dear Mr. Francis, be patient and quiet, and let me take my own
way; for when I take the bit between my teeth, there is no bridle will
stop me."

Flattered with the interest so lovely a creature seemed to take in my
fate, yet vexed at the ridiculous appearance I should make, by carrying a
girl of eighteen along with me as an advocate, and seriously concerned
for the misconstruction to which her motives might be exposed, I
endeavoured to combat her resolution to accompany me to Squire
Inglewood's. The self-willed girl told me roundly, that my dissuasions
were absolutely in vain; that she was a true Vernon, whom no
consideration, not even that of being able to do but little to assist
him, should induce to abandon a friend in distress; and that all I could
say on the subject might be very well for pretty, well-educated,
well-behaved misses from a town boarding-school, but did not apply to
her, who was accustomed to mind nobody's opinion but her own.

While she spoke thus, we were advancing hastily towards Inglewood Place,
while, as if to divert me from the task of further remonstrance, she drew
a ludicrous picture of the magistrate and his clerk.--Inglewood
was--according to her description--a white-washed Jacobite; that is, one
who, having been long a non-juror, like most of the other gentlemen of the
country, had lately qualified himself to act as a justice, by taking the
oaths to Government. "He had done so," she said, "in compliance with the
urgent request of most of his brother squires, who saw, with regret, that
the palladium of silvan sport, the game-laws, were likely to fall into
disuse for want of a magistrate who would enforce them; the nearest
acting justice being the Mayor of Newcastle, and he, as being rather
inclined to the consumption of the game when properly dressed, than to
its preservation when alive, was more partial, of course, to the cause of
the poacher than of the sportsman. Resolving, therefore, that it was
expedient some one of their number should sacrifice the scruples of
Jacobitical loyalty to the good of the community, the Northumbrian
country gentlemen imposed the duty on Inglewood, who, being very inert in
most of his feelings and sentiments, might, they thought, comply with any
political creed without much repugnance. Having thus procured the body of
justice, they proceeded," continued Miss Vernon, "to attach to it a
clerk, by way of soul, to direct and animate its movements. Accordingly
they got a sharp Newcastle attorney, called Jobson, who, to vary my
metaphor, finds it a good thing enough to retail justice at the sign of
Squire Inglewood, and, as his own emoluments depend on the quantity of
business which he transacts, he hooks in his principal for a great deal
more employment in the justice line than the honest squire had ever
bargained for; so that no apple-wife within the circuit of ten miles can
settle her account with a costermonger without an audience of the
reluctant Justice and his alert clerk, Mr. Joseph Jobson. But the most
ridiculous scenes occur when affairs come before him, like our business
of to-day, having any colouring of politics. Mr. Joseph Jobson (for
which, no doubt, he has his own very sufficient reasons) is a prodigious
zealot for the Protestant religion, and a great friend to the present
establishment in church and state. Now, his principal, retaining a sort
of instinctive attachment to the opinions which he professed openly until
he relaxed his political creed with the patriotic view of enforcing the
law against unauthorized destroyers of black-game, grouse, partridges,
and hares, is peculiarly embarrassed when the zeal of his assistant
involves him in judicial proceedings connected with his earlier faith;
and, instead of seconding his zeal, he seldom fails to oppose to it a
double dose of indolence and lack of exertion. And this inactivity does
not by any means arise from actual stupidity. On the contrary, for one
whose principal delight is in eating and drinking, he is an alert,
joyous, and lively old soul, which makes his assumed dulness the more
diverting. So you may see Jobson on such occasions, like a bit of a
broken down blood-tit condemned to drag an overloaded cart, puffing,
strutting, and spluttering, to get the Justice put in motion, while,
though the wheels groan, creak, and revolve slowly, the great and
preponderating weight of the vehicle fairly frustrates the efforts of the
willing quadruped, and prevents its being brought into a state of actual
progression. Nay more, the unfortunate pony, I understand, has been heard
to complain that this same car of justice, which he finds it so hard to
put in motion on some occasions, can on others run fast enough down hill
of its own accord, dragging his reluctant self backwards along with it,
when anything can be done of service to Squire Inglewood's quondam
friends. And then Mr. Jobson talks big about reporting his principal to
the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if it were not for his
particular regard and friendship for Mr. Inglewood and his family."

As Miss Vernon concluded this whimsical description, we found ourselves
in front of Inglewood Place, a handsome, though old-fashioned building.
which showed the consequence of the family.

Sir Walter Scott