Chapter 8

“Sir,” quoth the Lawyer, “not to flatter ye,
You have as good and fair a battery
As heart could wish, and need not shame
The proudest man alive to claim.”


Our horses were taken by a servant in Sir Hildebrand’s livery, whom we found in the courtyard, and we entered the house. In the entrance-hall I was somewhat surprised, and my fair companion still more so, when we met Rashleigh Osbaldistone, who could not help showing equal wonder at our rencontre.

“Rashleigh,” said Miss Vernon, without giving him time to ask any question, “you have heard of Mr. Francis Osbaldistone’s affair, and you have been talking to the Justice about it?”

“Certainly,” said Rashleigh composedly, “it has been my business here. I have been endeavouring,” he said, with a bow to me, “to render my cousin what service I can. But I am sorry to meet him here.”

“As a friend and relation, Mr. Osbaldistone, you ought to have been sorry to have met me anywhere else, at a time when the charge of my reputation required me to be on this spot as soon as possible.”

“True; but, judging from what my father said, I should have supposed a short retreat into Scotland—just till matters should be smoothed over in a quiet way—”

I answered with warmth, “That I had no prudential measures to observe, and desired to have nothing smoothed over; on the contrary, I was come to inquire into a rascally calumny, which I was determined to probe to the bottom.”

“Mr. Francis Osbaldistone is an innocent man, Rashleigh,” said Miss Vernon, “and he demands an investigation of the charge against him, and I intend to support him in it.”

“You do, my pretty cousin?—I should think, now, Mr. Francis Osbaldistone was likely to be as effectually, and rather more delicately, supported by my presence than by yours.”

“Oh, certainly; but two heads are better than one, you know.”

“Especially such a head as yours, my pretty Die,” advancing, and taking her hand with a familiar fondness, which made me think him fifty times uglier than nature had made him. She led him, however, a few steps aside; they conversed in an under voice, and she appeared to insist upon some request, which he was unwilling or unable to comply with. I never saw so strong a contrast betwixt the expression of two faces. Miss Vernon’s from being earnest became angry. Her eyes and cheeks became more animated, her colour mounted, she clenched her little hand, and, stamping on the ground with her tiny foot, seemed to listen with a mixture of contempt and indignation to the apologies, which, from his look of civil deference, his composed and respectful smile, his body rather drawing back than advanced, and other signs of look and person, I concluded him to be pouring out at her feet. At length she flung away from him, with “I will have it so.”

“It is not in my power—there is no possibility of it.—Would you think it, Mr. Osbaldistone—?” said he, addressing me.

“You are not mad?” said she, interrupting him.

“Would you think it?” said he, without attending to her hint—“Miss Vernon insists, not only that I know your innocence (of which, indeed, it is impossible for any one to be more convinced), but that I must also be acquainted with the real perpetrators of the outrage on this fellow—if, indeed, such an outrage has been committed. Is this reasonable, Mr. Osbaldistone?”

“I will not allow any appeal to Mr. Osbaldistone, Rashleigh,” said the young lady; “he does not know, as I do, the incredible extent and accuracy of your information on all points.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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