``A stranger!'' echoed the Justice---``not upon business, I trust, for I'll be''------
His protestation was cut short by the answer of the man himself. ``My business is of a nature somewhat onerous and particular,'' said my acquaintance, Mr. Campbell---for it was he, the very Scotchman whom I had seen at Northallerton--- ``and I must solicit your honour to give instant and heedful consideration to it.---I believe, Mr. Morris,'' he added, fixing his eye on that person with a look of peculiar firmness and almost ferocity---``I believe ye ken brawly what I am---I believe ye cannot have forgotten what passed at our last meeting on the road?'' Morris's jaw dropped---his countenance became the colour of tallow---his teeth chattered, and he gave visible signs of the utmost consternation. ``Take heart of grace, man,'' said Campbell, ``and dinna sit clattering your jaws there like a pair of castanets! I think there can be nae difficulty in your telling Mr. Justice, that ye have seen me of yore, and ken me to be a cavalier of fortune, and a man of honour. Ye ken fu' weel ye will be some time resident in my vicinity, when I may have the power, as I will possess the inclination, to do you as good a turn.''
``Sir---sir---I believe you to be a man of honour, and, as you say, a man of fortune. Yes, Mr. Inglewood,'' he added, clearing his voice, ``I really believe this gentleman to be so.''
``And what are this gentleman's commands with me?'' said the Justice, somewhat peevishly. ``One man introduces another, like the rhymes in the `house that Jack built,' and I get company without either peace or conversation!''
``Both shall be yours, sir,'' answered Campbell, ``in a brief period of time. I come to release your mind from a piece of troublesome duty, not to make increment to it.''
``Body o' me! then you are welcome as ever Scot was to England, and that's not saying much. But get on, man---let's hear what you have got to say at once.''
``I presume, this gentleman,'' continued the North Briton, ``told you there was a person of the name of Campbell with him, when he had the mischance to lose his valise?''
``He has not mentioned such a name, from beginning to end of the matter,'' said the Justice.
``Ah! I conceive---I conceive,'' replied Mr. Campbell;--- ``Mr. Morris was kindly afeared of committing a stranger into collision wi' the judicial forms of the country; but as I understand my evidence is necessary to the compurgation of one honest gentleman here, Mr. Francis Osbaldistone, wha has been most unjustly suspected, I will dispense with the precaution. Ye will therefore'' (he added addressing Morris with the same determined look and accent) ``please tell Mr. Justice Inglewood, whether we did not travel several miles together on the road, in consequence of your own anxious request and suggestion, reiterated ance and again, baith on the evening that we were at Northallerton, and there declined by me, but afterwards accepted, when I overtook ye on the road near Cloberry Allers, and was prevailed on by you to resign my ain intentions of proceeding to Rothbury; and, for my misfortune, to accompany you on your proposed route.''
``It's a melancholy truth,'' answered Morris, holding down his head, as he gave this general assent to the long and leading question which Campbell put to him, and seemed to acquiesce in the statement it contained with rueful docility.
``And I presume you can also asseverate to his worship, that no man is better qualified than I am to bear testimony in this case, seeing that I was by you, and near you, constantly during the whole occurrence.''
``No man better qualified, certainly,'' said Morris, with a deep and embarrassed sigh.
``And why the devil did you not assist him, then,'' said the Justice, ``since, by Mr. Morris's account, there were but two robbers; so you were two to two, and you are both stout likely men?''
``Sir, if it please your worship,'' said Campbell, ``I have been all my life a man of peace and quietness, noways given to broils or batteries. Mr. Morris, who belongs, as I understand, or hath belonged, to his Majesty's army, might have used his pleasure in resistance, he travelling, as I also understand, with a great charge of treasure; but, for me, who had but my own small peculiar to defend, and who am, moreover, a man of a pacific occupation, I was unwilling to commit myself to hazard in the matter.''
I looked at Campbell as he muttered these words, and never recollect to have seen a more singular contrast than that between the strong daring sternness expressed in his harsh features, and the air of composed meekness and simplicity which his language assumed. There was even a slight ironical smile lurking about the corners of his mouth, which seemed, involuntarily as it were, to intimate his disdain of the quiet and peaceful character which he thought proper to assume, and which led me to entertain strange suspicions that his concern in the violence done to Morris had been something very different from that of a fellow-sufferer, or even of a mere spectator.
Perhaps some suspicious crossed the Justice's mind at the moment, for he exclaimed, as if by way of ejaculation, ``Body o' me! but this is a strange story.''
The North Briton seemed to guess at what was passing in his mind; for he went on, with a change of manner and tone, dismissing from his countenance some part of the hypocritical affectation of humility which had made him obnoxious to suspicion, and saying, with a more frank and unconstrained air, ``To say the truth, I am just ane o' those canny folks wha care not to fight but when they hae gotten something to fight for, which did not chance to be my predicament when I fell in wi' these loons. But that your worship may know that I am a person of good fame and character, please to cast your eye over that billet.''
Mr. Inglewood took the paper from his hand, and read, half aloud, ``These are to certify, that the bearer, Robert Campbell of---of some place which I cannot pronounce,'' interjected the Justice---``is a person of good lineage, and peaceable demeanour, travelling towards England on his own proper affairs, &c. &c. &c. Given under our hand, at our Castle of Inver---Invera ---rara---Argyle.''
``A slight testimonial, sir, which I thought fit to impetrate from that worthy nobleman'' (here he raised his hand to his head, as if to touch his hat), ``MacCallum More.''
``MacCallum who, sir?'' said the Justice.
``Whom the Southern call the Duke of Argyle.''
``I know the Duke of Argyle very well to be a nobleman of great worth and distinction, and a true lover of his country. I was one of those that stood by him in 1714, when he unhorsed the Duke of Marlborough out of his command. I wish we had more noblemen like him. He was an honest Tory in those days, and hand and glove with Ormond. And he has acceded to the present Government, as I have done myself, for the peace and quiet of his country; for I cannot presume that great man to have been actuated, as violent folks pretend, with the fear of losing his places and regiment. His testimonial, as you call it, Mr. Campbell, is perfectly satisfactory; and now, what have you got to say to this matter of the robbery?''
``Briefly this, if it please your worship,---that Mr. Morris might as weel charge it against the babe yet to be born, or against myself even, as against this young gentleman, Mr. Osbaldistone; for I am not only free to depone that the person whom he took for him was a shorter man, and a thicker man, but also, for I chanced to obtain a glisk of his visage, as his fause-face slipped aside, that he was a man of other features and complexion than those of this young gentleman, Mr. Osbaldistone. And I believe,'' he added, turning round with a natural, yet somewhat sterner air, to Mr. Morris, ``that the gentleman will allow I had better opportunity to take cognisance wha were present on that occasion than he, being, I believe, much the cooler o' the twa.''
``I agree to it, sir---I agree to it perfectly,'' said Morris, shrinking back as Campbell moved his chair towards him to fortify his appeal---``And I incline, sir,'' he added, addressing Mr. Inglewood, ``to retract my information as to Mr. Osbaldistone; and I request, sir, you will permit him, sir, to go about his business, and me to go about mine also; your worship may have business to settle with Mr. Campbell, and I am rather in haste to be gone.''
``Then, there go the declarations,'' said the Justice, throwing them into the fire---``And now you are at perfect liberty, Mr Osbaldistone. And you, Mr. Morris, are set quite at your ease.''
``Ay,'' said Campbell, eyeing Morris as he assented with a rueful grin to the Justice's observations, ``much like the ease of a tod under a pair of harrows---But fear nothing, Mr. Morris; you and I maun leave the house thegither. I will see you safe---I hope you will not doubt my honour, when I say sae---to the next highway, and then we part company; and if we do not meet as friends in Scotland, it will be your ain fault.''
With such a lingering look of terror as the condemned criminal throws, when he is informed that the cart awaits him, Morris arose; but when on his legs, appeared to hesitate. ``I tell thee, man, fear nothing,'' reiterated Campbell; ``I will keep my word with you---Why, thou sheep's heart, how do ye ken but we may can pick up some speerings of your valise, if ye will be amenable to gude counsel?---Our horses are ready. Bid the Justice fareweel, man, and show your Southern breeding.''
Morris, thus exhorted and encouraged, took his leave, under the escort of Mr. Campbell; but, apparently, new scruples and terrors had struck him before they left the house, for I heard Campbell reiterating assurances of safety and protection as they left the ante-room---``By the soul of my body, man, thou'rt as safe as in thy father's kailyard---Zounds! that a chield wi' sic a black beard should hae nae mair heart than a hen-partridge!--- Come on wi' ye, like a frank fallow, anes and for aye.''
The voices died away, and the subsequent trampling of their horses announced to us that they had left the mansion of Justice Inglewood.
The joy which that worthy magistrate received at this easy conclusion of a matter which threatened him with some trouble in his judicial capacity, was somewhat damped by reflection on what his clerk's views of the transaction might be at his return. ``Now, I shall have Jobson on my shoulders about these d---d papers---I doubt I should not have destroyed them, after all--- But hang it! it is only paying his fees, and that will make all smooth---And now, Miss Die Vernon, though I have liberated all the others, I intend to sign a writ for committing you to the custody of Mother Blakes, my old housekeeper, for the evening, and we will send for my neighbour Mrs. Musgrave, and the Miss Dawkins, and your cousins, and have old Cobs the fiddler, and be as merry as the maids; and Frank Osbaldistone and I will have a carouse that will make us fit company for you in half-an-hour.''
``Thanks, most worshipful,'' returned Miss Vernon; ``but, as matters stand, we must return instantly to Osbaldistone Hall, where they do not know what has become of us, and relieve my uncle of his anxiety on my cousin's account, which is just the same as if one of his own sons were concerned.''
``I believe it truly,'' said the Justice; ``for when his eldest son, Archie, came to a bad end, in that unlucky affair of Sir John Fenwick's, old Hildebrand used to hollo out his name as readily as any of the remaining six, and then complain that he could not recollect which of his sons had been hanged. So, pray hasten home, and relieve his paternal solicitude, since go you must. But hark thee hither, heath-blossom,'' he said, pulling her towards him by the hand, and in a good-humoured tone of admonition, ``another time let the law take its course, without putting your pretty finger into her old musty pie, all full of fragments of law gibberish---French and dog-Latin---And, Die, my beauty, let young fellows show each other the way through the moors, in case you should lose your own road, while you are pointing out theirs, my pretty Will o' the Wisp.''
With this admonition, he saluted and dismissed Miss Vernon, and took an equally kind farewell of me.
``Thou seems to be a good tight lad, Mr. Frank, and I remember thy father too---he was my playfellow at school. Hark thee, lad,---ride early at night, and don't swagger with chance passengers on the king's highway. What, man! all the king's liege subjects are not bound to understand joking, and it's ill cracking jests on matters of felony. And here's poor Die Vernon too---in a manner alone and deserted on the face of this wide earth, and left to ride, and run, and scamper, at her own silly pleasure. Thou must be careful of Die, or, egad, I will turn a young fellow again on purpose, and fight thee myself, although I must own it would be a great deal of trouble. And now, get ye both gone, and leave me to my pipe of tobacco, and my meditations; for what says the song---
The Indian leaf doth briefly burn; So doth man's strength to weakness turn The fire of youth extinguished quite, Comes age, like embers, dry and white. Think of this as you take tobacco.''<*>
* [The lines here quoted belong to or were altered from a set of verses at one
* time very popular in England, beginning, _Tobacco that is withered quite._ In Scotland,
* the celebrated Ralph Erskine, author of the _Gospel Sonnets,_ published what
* he called ``_Smoking Spiritualized,_ in two parts. The first part being an Old Meditation
* upon Smoking Tobacco.'' It begins---
* This Indian weed now withered quite,
* Tho' green at noon, cut down at night,
* Shows thy decay;
* All flesh is hay.
* Thus thank, and smoke tobacco.]
I was much pleased with the gleams of sense and feeling which escaped from the Justice through the vapours of sloth and self-indulgence, assured him of my respect to his admonitions, and took a friendly farewell of the honest magistrate and his hospitable mansion.
We found a repast prepared for us in the ante-room, which we partook of slightly, and rejoined the same servant of Sir Hildebrand who had taken our horses at our entrance, and who had been directed, as he informed Miss Vernon, by Mr. Rashleigh, to wait and attend upon us home. We rode a little way in silence, for, to say truth, my mind was too much bewildered with the events of the morning, to permit me to be the first to break it. At length Miss Vernon exclaimed, as if giving vent to her own reflections, ``Well, Rashleigh is a man to be feared and wondered at, and all but loved; he does whatever he pleases, and makes all others his puppets---has a player ready to perform every part which he imagines, and an invention and readiness which supply expedients for every emergency.''
``You think, then,'' said I, answering rather to her meaning, than to the express words she made use of, ``that this Mr. Campbell, whose appearance was so opportune, and who trussed up and carried off my accuser as a falcon trusses a partridge, was an agent of Mr. Rashleigh Osbaldistone's?''
``I do guess as much,'' replied Diana; ``and shrewdly suspect, moreover, that he would hardly have appeared so very much in the nick of time, if I had not happened to meet Rashleigh in the hall at the Justice's.''
``In that case, my thanks are chiefly due to you, my fair preserver.''
``To be sure they are,'' returned Diana; ``and pray, suppose them paid, and accepted with a gracious smile, for I do not care to be troubled with hearing them in good earnest, and am much more likely to yawn than to behave becoming. In short, Mr. Frank, I wished to serve you, and I have fortunately been able to do so, and have only one favour to ask in return, and that is, that you will say no more about it.---But who comes here to meet us, `bloody with spurring, fiery-red with haste?' It is the subordinate man of law, I think---no less than Mr. Joseph Jobson.''
And Mr. Joseph Jobson it proved to be, in great haste, and, as it speedily appeared, in most extreme bad humour. He came up to us, and stopped his horse, as we were about to pass with a slight salutation.
``So, sir---so, Miss Vernon---ay, I see well enough how it is ---bail put in during my absence, I suppose---I should like to know who drew the recognisance, that's all. If his worship uses this form of procedure often, I advise him to get another clerk, that's all, for I shall certainly demit.''
``Or suppose he get this present clerk stitched to his sleeve, Mr. Jobson,'' said Diana; ``would not that do as well? And pray, how does Farmer Rutledge, Mr. Jobson? I hope you found him able to sign, seal, and deliver?''
This question seemed greatly to increase the wrath of the man of law. He looked at Miss Vernon with such an air of spite and resentment, as laid me under a strong temptation to knock him off his horse with the butt-end of my whip, which I only suppressed in consideration of his insignificance.
``Farmer Rutledge, ma'am?'' said the clerk, as soon as his indignation permitted him to articulate, ``Farmer Rutledge is in as handsome enjoyment of his health as you are---it's all a bam, ma'am---all a bamboozle and a bite, that affair of his illness; and if you did not know as much before, you know it now, ma'am.''
``La you there now!'' replied Miss Vernon, with an affectation of extreme and simple wonder, ``sure you don't say so, Mr. Jobson?''
``But I _do_ say so, ma'am,'' rejoined the incensed scribe; ``and moreover I say, that the old miserly clod-breaker called me pettifogger---pettifogger, ma'am---and said I came to hunt for a job, ma'am---which I have no more right to have said to me than any other gentleman of my profession, ma'am--- especially as I am clerk to the peace, having and holding said office under _Trigesimo Septimo Henrici Octavi_ and _Primo Gulielmi,_ the first of King William, ma'am, of glorious and immortal memory---our immortal deliverer from papists and pretenders, and wooden shoes and warming pans, Miss Vernon.''
``Sad things, these wooden shoes and warming pans,'' retorted the young lady, who seemed to take pleasure in augmenting his wrath;---``and it is a comfort you don't seem to want a warming pan at present, Mr. Jobson. I am afraid Gaffer Rutledge has not confined his incivility to language---Are you sure he did not give you a beating?''
``Beating, ma'am!---no''---(very shortly)---``no man alive shall beat me, I promise you, ma'am.''
``That is according as you happen to merit, sir,'' said I: ``for your mode of speaking to this young lady is so unbecoming, that, if you do not change your tone, I shall think it worth while to chastise you myself.''
``Chastise, sir? and---me, sir?---Do you know whom you speak to, sir?''
``Yes, sir,'' I replied; ``you say yourself you are clerk of peace to the county; and Gaffer Rutledge says you are a pettifogger; and in neither capacity are you entitled to be impertinent to a young lady of fashion.''
Miss Vernon laid her hand on my arm, and exclaimed, ``Come, Mr. Osbaldistone, I will have no assaults and battery on Mr. Jobson; I am not in sufficient charity with him to permit a single touch of your whip---why, he would live on it for a term at least. Besides, you have already hurt his feelings sufficiently---you have called him impertinent.''
``I don't value his language, Miss,'' said the clerk, somewhat crestfallen: ``besides, impertinent is not an actionable word; but pettifogger is slander in the highest degree, and that I will make Gaffer Rutledge know to his cost, and all who maliciously repeat the same, to the breach of the public peace, and the taking away of my private good name.''
``Never mind that, Mr. Jobson,'' said Miss Vernon; ``you know, where there is nothing, your own law allows that the king himself must lose his rights; and for the taking away of your good name, I pity the poor fellow who gets it, and wish you joy of losing it with all my heart.''
``Very well, ma'am---good evening, ma'am---I have no more to say---only there are laws against papists, which it would be well for the land were they better executed. There's third and fourth Edward VI., of antiphoners, missals, grailes, professionals, manuals, legends, pies, portuasses, and those that have such trinkets in their possession, Miss Vernon---and there's summoning of papists to take the oaths---and there are popish recusant convicts under the first of his present Majesty---ay, and there are penalties for hearing mass---See twenty-third of Queen Elizabeth, and third James First, chapter twenty-fifth. And there are estates to be registered, and deeds and wills to be enrolled, and double taxes to be made, according to the acts in that case made and provided''-----
``See the new edition of the Statutes at Large, published under the careful revision of Joseph Jobson, Gent., Clerk of the Peace,'' said Miss Vernon.
``Also, and above all,'' continued Jobson,---``for I speak to your warning---you, Diana Vernon, spinstress, not being a _femme couverte,_ and being a convict popish recusant, are bound to repair to your own dwelling, and that by the nearest way, under penalty of being held felon to the king---and diligently to seek for passage at common ferries, and to tarry there but one ebb and flood; and unless you can have it in such places, to walk every day into the water up to the knees, assaying to pass over.''
``A sort of Protestant penance for my Catholic errors, I suppose,'' said Miss Vernon, laughing.---``Well, I thank you for the information, Mr. Jobson, and will hie me home as fast as I can, and be a better housekeeper in time coming. Good-night, my dear Mr. Jobson, thou mirror of clerical courtesy.''
``Good-night, ma'am, and remember the law is not to be trifled with.''
And we rode on our separate ways.
``There he goes for a troublesome mischief-making tool,'' said Miss Vernon, as she gave a glance after him; it is hard that persons of birth and rank and estate should be subjected to the official impertinence of such a paltry pickthank as that, merely for believing as the whole world believed not much above a hundred years ago---for certainly our Catholic Faith has the advantage of antiquity at least.''
``I was much tempted to have broken the rascal's head,'' I replied.
``You would have acted very like a hasty young man,'' said Miss Vernon; ``and yet, had my own hand been an ounce heavier than it is, I think I should have laid its weight upon him. Well, it does not signify complaining, but there are three things for which I am much to be pitied, if any one thought it worth while to waste any compassion upon me.''
``And what are these three things, Miss Vernon, may I ask?''
``Will you promise me your deepest sympathy, if I tell you?''
``Certainly;---can you doubt it?'' I replied, closing my horse nearer to hers as I spoke, with an expression of interest which I did not attempt to disguise.
``Well, it is very seducing to be pitied, after all; so here are my three grievances: In the first place, I am a girl, and not a young fellow, and would be shut up in a mad-house if I did half the things that I have a mind to;---and that, if I had your happy prerogative of acting as you list, would make all the world mad with imitating and applauding me.''
``I can't quite afford you the sympathy you expect upon this score,'' I replied; ``the misfortune is so general, that it belongs to one half of the species; and the other half''------
``Are so much better cared for, that they are jealous of their prerogatives,'' interrupted Miss Vernon---``I forgot you were a party interested. Nay,'' she said, as I was going to speak, ``that soft smile is intended to be the preface of a very pretty compliment respecting the peculiar advantages which Die Vernon's friends and kinsmen enjoy, by her being born one of their Helots; but spare me the utterance, my good friend, and let us try whether we shall agree better on the second count of my indictment against fortune, as that quill-driving puppy would call it. I belong to an oppressed sect and antiquated religion, and, instead of getting credit for my devotion, as is due to all good girls beside, my kind friend, Justice Inglewood, may send me to the house of correction, merely for worshipping God in the way of my ancestors, and say, as old Pembroke did to the Abbess of Wilton,<*> when he usurped her convent and
* Note F. The Abbess of Wilton.
establishment, `Go spin, you jade,---Go spin.' ''
``This is not a cureless evil,'' said I gravely. ``Consult some of our learned divines, or consult your own excellent understanding, Miss Vernon; and surely the particulars in which our religious creed differs from that in which you have been educated''------
``Hush!'' said Diana, placing her fore-finger on her mouth, ---``Hush! no more of that. Forsake the faith of my gallant fathers! I would as soon, were I a man, forsake their banner when the tide of battle pressed hardest against it, and turn, like a hireling recreant, to join the victorious enemy.''
``I honour your spirit, Miss Vernon; and as to the inconveniences to which it exposes you, I can only say, that wounds sustained for the sake of conscience carry their own balsam with the blow.''
``Ay; but they are fretful and irritating, for all that. But I see, hard of heart as you are, my chance of beating hemp, or drawing out flax into marvellous coarse thread, affects you as little as my condemnation to coif and pinners, instead of beaver and cockade; so I will spare myself the fruitless pains of telling my third cause of vexation.''
``Nay, my dear Miss Vernon, do not withdraw your confidence, and I will promise you, that the threefold sympathy due to your very unusual causes of distress shall be all duly and truly paid to account of the third, providing you assure me, that it is one which you neither share with all womankind, nor even with every Catholic in England, who, God bless you, are still a sect more numerous than we Protestants, in our zeal for church and state, would desire them to be.''
``It is indeed,'' said Diana, with a manner greatly altered, and more serious than I had yet seen her assume, ``a misfortune that well merits compassion. I am by nature, as you may easily observe, of a frank and unreserved disposition---a plain true-hearted girl, who would willingly act openly and honestly by the whole world, and yet fate has involved me in such a series of nets and toils, and entanglements, that I dare hardly speak a word for fear of consequences---not to myself, but to others.''
``That is indeed a misfortune, Miss Vernon, which I do most sincerely compassionate, but which I should hardly have anticipated. ''
``O, Mr. Osbaldistone, if you but knew---if any one knew, what difficulty I sometimes find in hiding an aching heart with a smooth brow, you would indeed pity me. I do wrong, perhaps, in speaking to you even thus far on my own situation; but you are a young man of sense and penetration---you cannot but long to ask me a hundred questions on the events of this day--- on the share which Rashleigh has in your deliverance from this petty scrape---upon many other points which cannot but excite your attention; and I cannot bring myself to answer with the necessary falsehood and finesse---I should do it awkwardly, and lose your good opinion, if I have any share of it, as well as my own. It is best to say at once, Ask me no questions,---I have it not in my power to reply to them.''
Miss Vernon spoke these words with a tone of feeling which could not but make a corresponding impression upon me. I assured her she had neither to fear my urging her with impertinent questions, nor my misconstruing her declining to answer those which might in themselves be reasonable, or at least natural.
``I was too much obliged,'' I said, ``by the interest she had taken in my affairs, to misuse the opportunity her goodness had afforded me of prying into hers---I only trusted and entreated, that if my services could at any time be useful, she would command them without doubt or hesitation.''
``Thank you---thank you,'' she replied; ``your voice does not ring the cuckoo chime of compliment, but speaks like that of one who knows to what he pledges himself. If---but it is impossible---but yet, if an opportunity should occur, I will ask you if you remember this promise; and I assure you, I shall not be angry if I find you have forgotten it, for it is enough that you are sincere in your intentions just now---much may occur to alter them ere I call upon you, should that moment ever come, to assist Die Vernon, as if you were Die Vernon's brother.''
``And if I were Die Vernon's brother,'' said I, ``there could not be less chance that I should refuse my assistance---And now I am afraid I must not ask whether Rashleigh was willingly accessory to my deliverance?''
``Not of me; but you may ask it of himself, and depend upon it, he will say _yes;_ for rather than any good action should walk through the world like an unappropriated adjective in an ill-arranged sentence, he is always willing to stand noun substantive to it himself.''
``And I must not ask whether this Campbell be himself the party who eased Mr. Morris of his portmanteau,---or whether the letter, which our friend the attorney received, was not a finesse to withdraw him from the scene of action, lest he should have marred the happy event of my deliverance? And I must not ask''------
``You must ask nothing of me,'' said Miss Vernon; ``so it is quite in vain to go on putting cases. You are to think just as well of me as if I had answered all these queries, and twenty others besides, as glibly as Rashleigh could have done; and observe, whenever I touch my chin just so, it is a sign that I cannot speak upon the topic which happens to occupy your attention. I must settle signals of correspondence with you, because you are to be my confidant and my counsellor, only you are to know nothing whatever of my affairs.''
``Nothing can be more reasonable,'' I replied, laughing; ``and the extent of your confidence will, you may rely upon it, only be equalled by the sagacity of my counsels.''
This sort of conversation brought us, in the highest good-humour with each other, to Osbaldistone Hall, where we found the family far advanced in the revels of the evening.
``Get some dinner for Mr. Osbaldistone and me in the library,'' said Miss Vernon to a servant.---``I must have some compassion upon you,'' she added, turning to me, ``and provide against your starving in this mansion of brutal abundance; otherwise I am not sure that I should show you my private haunts. This same library is my den---the only corner of the Hall-house where I am safe from the Ourang-Outangs, my cousins. They never venture there, I suppose for fear the folios should fall down and crack their skulls; for they will never affect their heads in any other way---So follow me.''
And I followed through hall and bower, vaulted passage and winding stair, until we reached the room where she had ordered our refreshments.
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