But now the hand of fate is on the curtain,|
And gives the scene to light.
In the egotism of my feelings, I accused her of indifference—of insensibility. I upbraided her father with pride—with cruelty—with fanaticism,—forgetting that both were sacrificing their interest, and Diana her inclination, to the discharge of what they regarded as their duty.
Sir Frederick Vernon was a rigid Catholic, who thought the path of salvation too narrow to be trodden by an heretic; and Diana, to whom her father’s safety had been for many years the principal and moving spring of thoughts, hopes, and actions, felt that she had discharged her duty in resigning to his will, not alone her property in the world, but the dearest affections of her heart. But it was not surprising that I could not, at such a moment, fully appreciate these honourable motives; yet my spleen sought no ignoble means of discharging itself.
“I am contemned, then,” I said, when left to run over the tenor of Sir Frederick’s communications—“I am contemned, and thought unworthy even to exchange words with her. Be it so; they shall not at least prevent me from watching over her safety. Here will I remain as an outpost, and, while under my roof at least, no danger shall threaten her, if it be such as the arm of one determined man can avert.”
I summoned Syddall to the library. He came, but came attended by the eternal Andrew, who, dreaming of great things in consequence of my taking possession of the Hall and the annexed estates, was resolved to lose nothing for want of keeping himself in view; and, as often happens to men who entertain selfish objects, overshot his mark, and rendered his attentions tedious and inconvenient.
His unrequired presence prevented me from speaking freely to Syddall, and I dared not send him away for fear of increasing such suspicions as he might entertain from his former abrupt dismissal from the library. “I shall sleep here, sir,” I said, giving them directions to wheel nearer to the fire an old-fashioned day-bed, or settee. “I have much to do, and shall go late to bed.”
Syddall, who seemed to understand my look, offered to procure me the accommodation of a mattress and some bedding. I accepted his offer, dismissed my attendant, lighted a pair of candles, and desired that I might not be disturbed till seven in the ensuing morning.
The domestics retired, leaving me to my painful and ill-arranged reflections, until nature, worn out, should require some repose.
I endeavoured forcibly to abstract my mind from the singular circumstances in which I found myself placed. Feelings which I had gallantly combated while the exciting object was remote, were now exasperated by my immediate neighbourhood to her whom I was so soon to part with for ever. Her name was written in every book which I attempted to peruse; and her image forced itself on me in whatever train of thought I strove to engage myself. It was like the officious slave of Prior’s Solomon,—
Abra was ready ere I named her name,|
And when I called another, Abra came.
I alternately gave way to these thoughts, and struggled against them, sometimes yielding to a mood of melting tenderness of sorrow which was scarce natural to me, sometimes arming myself with the hurt pride of one who had experienced what he esteemed unmerited rejection. I paced the library until I had chafed myself into a temporary fever. I then threw myself on the couch, and endeavoured to dispose myself to sleep;—but it was in vain that I used every effort to compose myself—that I lay without movement of finger or of muscle, as still as if I had been already a corpse—that I endeavoured to divert or banish disquieting thoughts, by fixing my mind on some act of repetition or arithmetical process. My blood throbbed, to my feverish apprehension, in pulsations which resembled the deep and regular strokes of a distant fulling-mill, and tingled in my veins like streams of liquid fire.
At length I arose, opened the window, and stood by it for some time in the clear moonlight, receiving, in part at least, that refreshment and dissipation of ideas from the clear and calm scene, without which they had become beyond the command of my own volition. I resumed my place on the couch—with a heart, Heaven knows, not lighter but firmer, and more resolved for endurance. In a short time a slumber crept over my senses; still, however, though my senses slumbered, my soul was awake to the painful feelings of my situation, and my dreams were of mental anguish and external objects of terror.
I remember a strange agony, under which I conceived myself and Diana in the power of MacGregor’s wife, and about to be precipitated from a rock into the lake; the signal was to be the discharge of a cannon, fired by Sir Frederick Vernon, who, in the dress of a Cardinal, officiated at the ceremony. Nothing could be more lively than the impression which I received of this imaginary scene. I could paint, even at this moment, the mute and courageous submission expressed in Diana’s features—the wild and distorted faces of the executioners, who crowded around us with “mopping and mowing;” grimaces ever changing, and each more hideous than that which preceded. I saw the rigid and inflexible fanaticism painted in the face of the father—I saw him lift the fatal match—the deadly signal exploded—It was repeated again and again and again, in rival thunders, by the echoes of the surrounding cliffs, and I awoke from fancied horror to real apprehension.
The sounds in my dream were not ideal. They reverberated on my waking ears, but it was two or three minutes ere I could collect myself so as distinctly to understand that they proceeded from a violent knocking at the gate. I leaped from my couch in great apprehension, took my sword under my arm, and hastened to forbid the admission of any one. But my route was necessarily circuitous, because the library looked not upon the quadrangle, but into the gardens. When I had reached a staircase, the windows of which opened upon the entrance court, I heard the feeble and intimidated tones of Syddall expostulating with rough voices, which demanded admittance, by the warrant of Justice Standish, and in the King’s name, and threatened the old domestic with the heaviest penal consequences if he refused instant obedience. Ere they had ceased, I heard, to my unspeakable provocation, the voice of Andrew bidding Syddall stand aside, and let him open the door.
“If they come in King George’s name, we have naething to fear—we hae spent baith bluid and gowd for him—We dinna need to darn ourselves like some folks, Mr. Syddall—we are neither Papists nor Jacobites, I trow.”
It was in vain I accelerated my pace down stairs; I heard bolt after bolt withdrawn by the officious scoundrel, while all the time he was boasting his own and his master’s loyalty to King George; and I could easily calculate that the party must enter before I could arrive at the door to replace the bars. Devoting the back of Andrew Fairservice to the cudgel so soon as I should have time to pay him his deserts, I ran back to the library, barricaded the door as I best could, and hastened to that by which Diana and her father entered, and begged for instant admittance. Diana herself undid the door. She was ready dressed, and betrayed neither perturbation nor fear.
“Danger is so familiar to us,” she said, “that we are always prepared to meet it. My father is already up—he is in Rashleigh’s apartment. We will escape into the garden, and thence by the postern-gate (I have the key from Syddall in case of need.) into the wood—I know its dingles better than any one now alive. Keep them a few minutes in play. And, dear, dear Frank, once more fare-thee-well!”
She vanished like a meteor to join her father, and the intruders were rapping violently, and attempting to force the library door by the time I had returned into it.
“You robber dogs!” I exclaimed, wilfully mistaking the purpose of their disturbance, “if you do not instantly quit the house I will fire my blunderbuss through the door.”
“Fire a fule’s bauble!” said Andrew Fairservice; “it’s Mr. Clerk Jobson, with a legal warrant”—
“To search for, take, and apprehend,” said the voice of that execrable pettifogger, “the bodies of certain persons in my warrant named, charged of high treason under the 13th of King William, chapter third.”
And the violence on the door was renewed. “I am rising, gentlemen,” said I, desirous to gain as much time as possible—“commit no violence—give me leave to look at your warrant, and, if it is formal and legal, I shall not oppose it.”
“God save great George our King!” ejaculated Andrew. “I tauld ye that ye would find nae Jacobites here.”
Spinning out the time as much as possible, I was at length compelled to open the door, which they would otherwise have forced.
Mr. Jobson entered, with several assistants, among whom I discovered the younger Wingfield, to whom, doubtless, he was obliged for his information, and exhibited his warrant, directed not only against Frederick Vernon, an attainted traitor, but also against Diana Vernon, spinster, and Francis Osbaldistone, gentleman, accused of misprision of treason. It was a case in which resistance would have been madness; I therefore, after capitulating for a few minutes’ delay, surrendered myself a prisoner.
I had next the mortification to see Jobson go straight to the chamber of Miss Vernon, and I learned that from thence, without hesitation or difficulty, he went to the room where Sir Frederick had slept. “The hare has stolen away,” said the brute, “but her form is warm—the greyhounds will have her by the haunches yet.”
A scream from the garden announced that he prophesied too truly. In the course of five minutes, Rashleigh entered the library with Sir Frederick Vernon and his daughter as prisoners.
“The fox,” he said, “knew his old earth, but he forgot it could be stopped by a careful huntsman.—I had not forgot the garden-gate, Sir Frederick—or, if that title suits you better, most noble Lord Beauchamp.”
“Rashleigh,” said Sir Frederick, “thou art a detestable villain!”
“I better deserved the name, Sir Knight, or my Lord, when, under the direction of an able tutor, I sought to introduce civil war into the bosom of a peaceful country. But I have done my best,” said he, looking upwards, “to atone for my errors.”
I could hold no longer. I had designed to watch their proceedings in silence, but I felt that I must speak or die. “If hell,” I said, “has one complexion more hideous than another, it is where villany is masked by hypocrisy.”
“Ha! my gentle cousin,” said Rashleigh, holding a candle towards me, and surveying me from head to foot; “right welcome to Osbaldistone Hall!—I can forgive your spleen—It is hard to lose an estate and a mistress in one night; for we shall take possession of this poor manor-house in the name of the lawful heir, Sir Rashleigh Osbaldistone.”
While Rashleigh braved it out in this manner, I could see that he put a strong force upon his feelings, both of anger and shame. But his state of mind was more obvious when Diana Vernon addressed him. “Rashleigh,” she said, “I pity you—for, deep as the evil is which you have laboured to do me, and the evil you have actually done, I cannot hate you so much as I scorn and pity you. What you have now done may be the work of an hour, but will furnish you with reflection for your life—of what nature I leave to your own conscience, which will not slumber for ever.”
Rashleigh strode once or twice through the room, came up to the side-table, on which wine was still standing, and poured out a large glass with a trembling hand; but when he saw that we observed his tremor, he suppressed it by a strong effort, and, looking at us with fixed and daring composure, carried the bumper to his head without spilling a drop. “It is my father’s old burgundy,” he said, looking to Jobson; “I am glad there is some of it left.—You will get proper persons to take care of old butler, and that foolish Scotch rascal. Meanwhile we will convey these persons to a more proper place of custody. I have provided the old family coach for your convenience,” he said, “though I am not ignorant that even the lady could brave the night-air on foot or on horseback, were the errand more to her mind.”
Andrew wrung his hands.—“I only said that my master was surely speaking to a ghaist in the library—and the villain Lancie to betray an auld friend, that sang aff the same Psalm-book wi’ him every Sabbath for twenty years!”
He was turned out of the house, together with Syddall, without being allowed to conclude his lamentation. His expulsion, however, led to some singular consequences. Resolving, according to his own story, to go down for the night where Mother Simpson would give him a lodging for old acquaintance’ sake, he had just got clear of the avenue, and into the old wood, as it was called, though it was now used as a pasture-ground rather than woodland, when he suddenly lighted on a drove of Scotch cattle, which were lying there to repose themselves after the day’s journey. At this Andrew was in no way surprised, it being the well-known custom of his countrymen, who take care of those droves, to quarter themselves after night upon the best unenclosed grass-ground they can find, and depart before day-break to escape paying for their night’s lodgings. But he was both surprised and startled, when a Highlander, springing up, accused him of disturbing the cattle, and refused him to pass forward till he had spoken to his master. The mountaineer conducted Andrew into a thicket, where he found three or four more of his countrymen. “And,” said Andrew, “I saw sune they were ower mony men for the drove; and from the questions they put to me, I judged they had other tow on their rock.”
They questioned him closely about all that had passed at Osbaldistone Hall, and seemed surprised and concerned at the report he made to them.
“And troth,” said Andrew, “I tauld them a’ I ken’d; for dirks and pistols were what I could never refuse information to in a’ my life.”
They talked in whispers among themselves, and at length collected their cattle together, and drove them close up to the entrance of the avenue, which might be half a mile distant from the house. They proceeded to drag together some felled trees which lay in the vicinity, so as to make a temporary barricade across the road, about fifteen yards beyond the avenue. It was now near daybreak, and there was a pale eastern gleam mingled with the fading moonlight, so that objects could be discovered with some distinctness. The lumbering sound of a coach drawn by four horses, and escorted by six men on horseback, was heard coming up the avenue. The Highlanders listened attentively. The carriage contained Mr. Jobson and his unfortunate prisoners. The escort consisted of Rashleigh, and of several horsemen, peace-officers and their assistants. So soon as we had passed the gate at the head of the avenue, it was shut behind the cavalcade by a Highland-man, stationed there for that purpose. At the same time the carriage was impeded in its farther progress by the cattle, amongst which we were involved, and by the barricade in front. Two of the escort dismounted to remove the felled trees, which they might think were left there by accident or carelessness. The others began with their whips to drive the cattle from the road.
“Who dare abuse our cattle?” said a rough voice.—“Shoot him, Angus!”
Rashleigh instantly called out—“A rescue! a rescue!” and, firing a pistol, wounded the man who spoke.
“Claymore!” cried the leader of the Highlanders, and a scuffle instantly commenced. The officers of the law, surprised at so sudden an attack, and not usually possessing the most desperate bravery, made but an imperfect defence, considering the superiority of their numbers. Some attempted to ride back to the Hall, but on a pistol being fired from behind the gate, they conceived themselves surrounded, and at length galloped of in different directions. Rashleigh, meanwhile, had dismounted, and on foot had maintained a desperate and single-handed conflict with the leader of the band. The window of the carriage, on my side, permitted me to witness it. At length Rashleigh dropped.
“Will you ask forgiveness for the sake of God, King James, and auld friendship?” said a voice which I knew right well.
“No, never!” said Rashleigh, firmly.
“Then, traitor, die in your treason!” retorted MacGregor, and plunged his sword in his prostrate antagonist.
In the next moment he was at the carriage door—handed out Miss Vernon, assisted her father and me to alight, and dragging out the attorney, head foremost, threw him under the wheel.
“Mr. Osbaldistone,” he said, in a whisper, “you have nothing to fear—I must look after those who have—Your friends will soon be in safety—Farewell, and forget not the MacGregor.”
He whistled—his band gathered round him, and, hurrying Diana and her father along with him, they were almost instantly lost in the glades of the forest. The coachman and postilion had abandoned their horses, and fled at the first discharge of firearms; but the animals, stopped by the barricade, remained perfectly still; and well for Jobson that they did so, for the slightest motion would have dragged the wheel over his body. My first object was to relieve him, for such was the rascal’s terror that he never could have risen by his own exertions. I next commanded him to observe, that I had neither taken part in the rescue, nor availed myself of it to make my escape, and enjoined him to go down to the Hall, and call some of his party, who had been left there, to assist the wounded.— But Jobson’s fears had so mastered and controlled every faculty of his mind, that he was totally incapable of moving. I now resolved to go myself, but in my way I stumbled over the body of a man, as I thought, dead or dying. It was, however, Andrew Fairservice, as well and whole as ever he was in his life, who had only taken this recumbent posture to avoid the slashes, stabs, and pistol-balls, which for a moment or two were flying in various directions. I was so glad to find him, that I did not inquire how he came thither, but instantly commanded his assistance.
Rashleigh was our first object. He groaned when I approached him, as much through spite as through pain, and shut his eyes, as if determined, like Iago, to speak no word more. We lifted him into the carriage, and performed the same good office to another wounded man of his party, who had been left on the field. I then with difficulty made Jobson understand that he must enter the coach also, and support Sir Rashleigh upon the seat. He obeyed, but with an air as if he but half comprehended my meaning. Andrew and I turned the horses’ heads round, and opening the gate of the avenue, led them slowly back to Osbaldistone Hall.
Some fugitives had already reached the Hall by circuitous routes, and alarmed its garrison by the news that Sir Rashleigh, Clerk Jobson, and all their escort, save they who escaped to tell the tale, had been cut to pieces at the head of the avenue by a whole regiment of wild Highlanders. When we reached the mansion, therefore, we heard such a buzz as arises when bees are alarmed, and mustering in their hives. Mr. Jobson, however, who had now in some measure come to his senses, found voice enough to make himself known. He was the more anxious to be released from the carriage, as one of his companions (the peace-officer) had, to his inexpressible terror, expired by his side with a hideous groan.
Sir Rashleigh Osbaldistone was still alive, but so dreadfully wounded that the bottom of the coach was filled with his blood, and long traces of it left from the entrance-door into the stone-hall, where he was placed in a chair, some attempting to stop the bleeding with cloths, while others called for a surgeon, and no one seemed willing to go to fetch one. “Torment me not,” said the wounded man—“I know no assistance can avail me—I am a dying man.” He raised himself in his chair, though the damps and chill of death were already on his brow, and spoke with a firmness which seemed beyond his strength. “Cousin Francis,” he said, “draw near to me.” I approached him as he requested.—“I wish you only to know that the pangs of death do not alter I one iota of my feelings towards you. I hate you!” he said, the expression of rage throwing a hideous glare into the eyes which were soon to be closed for ever—“I hate you with a hatred as intense, now while I lie bleeding and dying before you, as if my foot trode on your neck.”
“I have given you no cause, sir,” I replied,—“and for your own sake I could wish your mind in a better temper.”
“You have given me cause,” he rejoined. “In love, in ambition, in the paths of interest, you have crossed and blighted me at every turn. I was born to be the honour of my father’s house—I have been its disgrace—and all owing to you. My very patrimony has become yours—Take it,” he said, “and may the curse of a dying man cleave to it!”
In a moment after he had uttered this frightful wish, he fell back in the chair; his eyes became glazed, his limbs stiffened, but the grin and glare of mortal hatred survived even the last gasp of life. I will dwell no longer on so painful a picture, nor say any more of the death of Rashleigh, than that it gave me access to my rights of inheritance without farther challenge, and that Jobson found himself compelled to allow, that the ridiculous charge of misprision of high treason was got up on an affidavit which he made with the sole purpose of favouring Rashleigh’s views, and removing me from Osbaldistone Hall. The rascal’s name was struck off the list of attorneys, and he was reduced to poverty and contempt.
I returned to London when I had put my affairs in order at Osbaldistone Hall, and felt happy to escape from a place which suggested so many painful recollections. My anxiety was now acute to learn the fate of Diana and her father. A French gentleman who came to London on commercial business, was intrusted with a letter to me from Miss Vernon, which put my mind at rest respecting their safety.
It gave me to understand that the opportune appearance of MacGregor and his party was not fortuitous. The Scottish nobles and gentry engaged in the insurrection, as well as those of England, were particularly anxious to further the escape of Sir Frederick Vernon, who, as an old and trusted agent of the house of Stuart, was possessed of matter enough to have ruined half Scotland. Rob Roy, of whose sagacity and courage they had known so many proofs, was the person whom they pitched upon to assist his escape, and the place of meeting was fixed at Osbaldistone Hall. You have already heard how nearly the plan had been disconcerted by the unhappy Rashleigh. It succeeded, however, perfectly; for when once Sir Frederick and his daughter were again at large, they found horses prepared for them, and, by MacGregor’s knowledge of the country—for every part of Scotland, and of the north of England, was familiar to him—were conducted to the western sea-coast, and safely embarked for France. The same gentleman told me that Sir Frederick was not expected to survive for many months a lingering disease, the consequence of late hardships and privations. His daughter was placed in a convent, and although it was her father’s wish she should take the veil, he was understood to refer the matter entirely to her own inclinations.
When these news reached me, I frankly told the state of my affections to my father, who was not a little startled at the idea of my marrying a Roman Catholic. But he was very desirous to see me “settled in life,” as he called it; and he was sensible that, in joining him with heart and hand in his commercial labours, I had sacrificed my own inclinations. After a brief hesitation, and several questions asked and answered to his satisfaction, he broke out with—“I little thought a son of mine should have been Lord of Osbaldistone Manor, and far less that he should go to a French convent for a spouse. But so dutiful a daughter cannot but prove a good wife. You have worked at the desk to please me, Frank; it is but fair you should wive to please yourself.”
How I sped in my wooing, Will Tresham, I need not tell you. You know, too, how long and happily I lived with Diana. You know how I lamented her; but you do not—cannot know, how much she deserved her husband’s sorrow.
I have no more of romantic adventure to tell, nor, indeed, anything to communicate farther, since the latter incidents of my life are so well known to one who has shared, with the most friendly sympathy, the joys, as well as the sorrows, by which its scenes have been chequered. I often visited Scotland, but never again saw the bold Highlander who had such an influence on the early events of my life. I learned, however, from time to time, that he continued to maintain his ground among the mountains of Loch Lomond, in despite of his powerful enemies, and that he even obtained, to a certain degree, the connivance of Government to his self-elected office of protector of the Lennox, in virtue of which he levied black-mail with as much regularity as the proprietors did their ordinary rents. It seemed impossible that his life should have concluded without a violent end. Nevertheless he died in old age and by a peaceful death, some time about the year 1733, and is still remembered in his country as the Robin Hood of Scotland—the dread of the wealthy, but the friend of the poor—and possessed of many qualities, both of head and heart, which would have graced a less equivocal profession than that to which his fate condemned him.
Old Andrew Fairservice used to say, that “There were many things ower bad for blessing, and ower gude for banning, like Rob Roy.”
Here the original manuscript ends somewhat abruptly. I have reason to think that what followed related to private a affairs.