Chapter 32

And be he safe restored ere evening set,
Or, if there’s vengeance in an injured heart,
And power to wreak it in an armed hand,
Your land shall ache for’t.

Old Play.

I know not why it is, that a single deed of violence and cruelty affects our nerves more than when these are exercised on a more extended scale. I had seen that day several of my brave countrymen fall in battle—it seemed to me that they met a lot appropriate to humanity; and my bosom, though thrilling with interest, was affected with nothing of that sickening horror with which I beheld the unfortunate Morris put to death without resistance, and in cold blood. I looked at my companion, Mr. Jarvie, whose face reflected the feelings which were painted in mine. Indeed, he could not so suppress his horror, but that the words escaped him in a low and broken whisper—

“I take up my protest against this deed, as a bloody and cruel murder—it is a cursed deed, and God will avenge it in His due way and time.”

“Then you do not fear to follow?” said the virago, bending on him a look of death, such as that with which a hawk looks at his prey ere he pounces.

“Kinswoman,” said the Bailie, “nae man willingly wad cut short his thread of life before the end o’ his pirn was fairly measured off on the yarn-winles—And I hae muckle to do, an I be spared, in this warld—public and private business, as weel that belanging to the magistracy as to my ain particular—and nae doubt I hae some to depend on me, as puir Mattie, wha is an orphan—She’s a far-awa’ cousin o’ the Laird o’ Limmerfield—Sae that, laying a’ this thegither—skin for skin, yea all that a man hath will he give for his life.”

“And were I to set you at liberty,” said the imperious dame, “what name would you give to the drowning of that Saxon dog?”

“Uh! uh!—hem! hem!” said the Bailie, clearing his throat as well as he could, “I suld study to say as little on that score as might be—least said is sunest mended.”

“But if you were called on by the courts, as you term them, of justice,” she again demanded, “what then would be your answer?”

The Bailie looked this way and that way, like a person who meditates an escape, and then answered in the tone of one who, seeing no means of accomplishing a retreat, determines to stand the brunt of battle,—“I see what you are driving me to the wa’ about. But I’ll tell you’t plain, kinswoman, I behoved just to speak according to my ain conscience; and though your ain gudeman, that I wish had been here for his ain sake and mine, as weel as the puir Hieland creature Dougal, can tell ye that Nicol Jarvie can wink as hard at a friend’s failings as onybody, yet I’se tell ye, kinswoman, mine’s ne’er be the tongue to belie my thought; and sooner than say that yonder puir wretch was lawfully slaughtered, I wad consent to be laid beside him—though I think ye are the first Hieland woman wad mint sic a doom to her husband’s kinsman but four times removed.”

It is probable that the tone of firmness assumed by the Bailie in his last speech was better suited to make an impression on the hard heart of his kinswoman than the tone of supplication he had hitherto assumed, as gems can be cut with steel, though they resist softer metals. She commanded us both to be placed before her. “Your name,” she said to me, “is Osbaldistone?—the dead dog, whose death you have witnessed, called you so.”

“My name is Osbaldistone,” was my answer.

“Rashleigh, then, I suppose, is your Christian name?” she pursued.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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