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 so 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 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.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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