University of Virginia Library

Search this document 

a tale




Page 54


A naughty night to swim in.


The evening of the day succeeding the adventure of
the angler, was dark and tempestuous. The rain descended
almost in a continued sheet, and occasional powerful
gusts of wind drove it hard against the north-eastern windows
of Hugh Crombie's inn. But at least one apartment
of the interior presented a scene of comfort, and of
apparent enjoyment; the more delightful from its contrast
with the elemental fury that raged without. A fire,
which the chillness of the evening, though a summer
one, made necessary, was burning brightly on the
hearth; and in front was placed a small round table,
sustaining wine and glasses. One of the guests, for
whom these preparations had been made, was Edward
Walcott. The other was a shy, awkward young man,
distinguished, by the union of classic and rural dress, as
having but lately become a student of Harley College.
He seemed little at his ease,—probably from a consciousness
that he was on forbidden ground, and that the
wine, of which he nevertheless swallowed a larger share
than his companion, was an unlawful draught.

In the catalogue of crimes, provided against by the
laws of Harley College, that of tavern-haunting was one
of the principal. The secluded situation of the Seminary,
indeed, gave its scholars but a very limited choice of


Page 55
vices; and this was therefore the usual channel by which
the wildness of youth discharged itself. Edward Walcott,
though naturally temperate, had been not an unfrequent
offender in this respect; for which a superfluity both of
time and money might plead some excuse. But since
his acquaintance with Ellen Langton he had rarely entered
Hugh Crombie's doors; and an interruption in
that acquaintance was the cause of his present appearance

Edward's jealous pride had been considerably touched
on Ellen's compliance with the request of the angler.
He had by degrees, imperceptible perhaps to himself, assumed
the right of feeling displeased with her conduct;
and she had as imperceptibly accustomed herself to consider
what would be his wishes, and to act accordingly.
He would, indeed, in no contingency, have ventured an
open remonstrance; and such a proceeding would have
been attended by a result, the reverse of what he desired.
But there existed between them a silent compact (acknowledged
perhaps by neither, but felt by both) according
to which they had regulated the latter part of
their intercourse. Their lips had yet spoken no word
of love; but some of love's rights and privileges had
been assumed on the one side, and at least not disallowed
on the other.

Edward's penetration had been sufficiently quick to
discover that there was a mystery about the angler—that
there must have been a cause for the blush that rose so
proudly on Ellen's cheek; and his quixotism had been
not a little mortified, because she did not immediately
appeal to his protection. He had however paid his usual
visit, the next day, at Doctor Melmoth's, expecting
that, by a smile of more than common brightness, she
would make amends to his wounded feelings,—such having


Page 56
been her usual mode of reparation, in the few instances
of disagreement that had occurred between them.
But he was disappointed. He found her cold, silent, and
abstracted, inattentive when he spoke, and indisposed to
speak herself. Her eye was sedulously averted from
his; and the casual meeting of their glances, only proved,
that there were feelings in her bosom which he did
not share. He was unable to account for this change in
her deportment; and, added to his previous conceptions
of his wrongs, it produced an effect upon his rather hasty
temper, that might have manifested itself violently,
but for the presence of Mrs. Melmoth. He took his
leave in very evident displeasure; but, just as he closed
the door, he noticed an expression in Ellen's countenance,
that, had they been alone, and had not he been
quite so proud, would have drawn him down to her feet.
Their eyes met,—when, suddenly, there was a gush of
tears into those of Ellen, and a deep sadness, almost
despair, spread itself over her features. He paused a
moment, and then went his way; equally unable to account
for her coldness, or for her grief. He was well
aware, however, that his situation in respect to her, was
unaccountably changed,—a conviction so disagreeable,
that, but for a hope that is latent, even in the despair of
youthful hearts, he could have been sorely tempted to
shoot himself.

The gloom of his thoughts—a mood of mind the more
intolerable to him, because so unusual—had driven him
to Hugh Crombie's inn, in search of artificial excitement.
But even the wine had no attractions; and his
first glass stood now almost untouched before him, while
he gazed in heavy thought into the glowing embers of
the fire. His companion perceived his melancholy, and


Page 57
essayed to dispel it by a choice of such topics of conversation,
as he conceived would be most agreeable.

`There is a lady in the house,' he observed. `I caught
a glimpse of her in the passage, as we came in. Did
you see her, Edward?'

`A lady,' repeated Edward carelessly. `What know
you of ladies? No, I did not see her; but I will venture
to say that it was dame Crombie's self, and no

`Well, perhaps it might,' said the other, doubtingly.
`Her head was turned from me, and she was gone like a

`Dame Crombie is no shadow, and never vanishes
like one,' resumed Edward. `You have mistaken the
slip-shod servant girl for a lady.'

`Ay, but she had a white hand, a small white hand,'
said the student, piqued at Edward's contemptuous opinion
of his powers of observation,—`as white as Ellen
Langton's. He paused, for the lover was offended by
the profanity of the comparison, as was made evident by
the blood that rushed to his brow.

`We will appeal to the landlord,' said Edward, recovering
his equanimity, and turning to Hugh, who just
then entered the room—`Who is this angel, mine host,
that has taken up her abode in the Hand and Bottle?'

Hugh cast a quick glance from one to another, before
he answered, `I keep no angels here, gentlemen. Dame
Crombie would make the house any thing but heaven, for
them and me.'

`And yet Glover has seen a vision in the passage way,
—a lady with a small white hand.'

`Ah! I understand,—a slight mistake of the young
gentleman's,' said Hugh, with the air of one who could
perfectly account for the mystery. `Our passage way is


Page 58
dark,—or perhaps the light had dazzled his eyes. It
was the widow Fowler's daughter, that came to borrow a
pipe of tobacco for her mother. By the same token, she
put it into her own sweet mouth, and puffed as she went

`But the white hand,' said Glover, only half convinced.

`Nay, I know not,' answered Hugh, `but her hand was
at least as white as her face; that I can swear. Well,
gentlemen, I trust you find every thing in my house to
your satisfaction. When the fire needs renewing, or the
wine runs low, be pleased to tap on the table. I shall
appear with the speed of a sunbeam.

After the departure of the landlord, the conversation
of the young men amounted to little more than monosyllables.
Edward Walcott was wrapped in his own contemplations,
and his companion was in a half slumberous
state, from which he started every quarter of an hour, at
the chiming of the clock that stood in a corner. The
fire died gradually away, the lamps began to burn dim,
and Glover, rousing himself from one of his periodical
slumbers, was about to propose a return to their chambers.
He was prevented, however, by the approach of
footsteps along the passage way; and Hugh Crombie,
opening the door, ushered a person into the room, and

The new comer was Fanshawe. The water, that
poured plentifully from his cloak, evinced that he had
but just arrived at the inn; but whatever was his object,
he seemed not to have attained it, in meeting with the
young men. He paused near the door, as if meditating
whether to retire.

`My intrusion is altogether owing to a mistake, either
of the landlord's, or mine,' he said; `I came hither to


Page 59
seek another person; but as I could not mention his
name, my inquiries were rather vague.'

`I thank heaven for the chance that sent you to us,'
replied Edward, rousing himself; Glover is wretched
company, and a duller evening have I never spent. We
will renew our fire, and our wine, and you must sit down
with us. And for the man you seek,' he continued in a
whisper, `he left the inn within a half hour after we encountered
him. I inquired of Hugh Crombie, last

Fanshawe did not express his doubts of the correctness
of the information on which Edward seemed to rely.
Laying aside his cloak, he accepted his invitation
to make one of the party, and sat down by the fireside.

The aspect of the evening now gradually changed. A
strange wild glee spread from one to another of the party,
which, much to the surprise of his companions, began
with, and was communicated from, Fanshawe. He
seemed to overflow with conceptions, inimitably ludicrous,
but so singular, that, till his hearers had imbibed
a portion of his own spirit, they could only wonder at, instead
of enjoying them. His application to the wine
were very unfrequent; yet his conversation was such as
one might expect from a bottle of champagne, endowed
by a fairy with the gift of speech. The secret of this
strange mirth lay in the troubled state of his spirits,
which, like the vexed ocean at midnight, (if the simile
be not too magnificent) tossed forth a mysterious brightness.
The undefined apprehensions, that had drawn him
to the inn, still distracted his mind; but mixed with them,
there was a sort of joy, not easily to be described. By
degrees, and by the assistance of the wine, the inspiration
spread, each one contributing such a quantity, and


Page 60
such quality of wit and whim, as was proportioned to
his genius; but each one, and all, displaying a greater
share of both, than they had ever been suspected of possessing.

At length, however, there was a pause,—the deep
pause of flagging spirits, that always follows mirth and
wine. No one would have believed, on beholding the
pensive faces, and hearing the involuntary sighs, of the
party, that from these, but a moment before, had arisen
so loud and wild a laugh. During this interval, Edward
Walcott, (who was the poet of his class,) volunteered the
following song, which, from its want of polish, and from
its application to his present feelings, might charitably be
taken for an extemporaneous production.

The wine is bright, the wine is bright,
And gay the drinkers be;
Of all that drain the bowl to-night,
Most jollily drain we.
Oh, could one search the weary earth,
The earth from sea to sea,—
He'd turn and mingle in our mirth,
For we're the merriest three.
Yet there are cares, oh, heavy cares,—
We know that they are nigh;
When forth each lonely drinker fares,
Mark then his altered eye.
Care comes upon us when the jest,
And frantic laughter, die;
And care will watch the parting guest,—
O late, then, let us fly!

Hugh Crombie, whose early love of song and minstrelsy
was still alive, had entered the room at the sound
of Edward's voice, in sufficient time to accompany the
second stanza on the violin. He now, with the air of


Page 61
one who was entitled to judge in these matters, expressed
his opinion of the performance.

`Really, master Walcott, I was not prepared for this,'
he said, in the tone of condescending praise, that a great
man uses to his inferior, when he chooses to overwhelm
him with excess of joy. `Very well, indeed, young gentleman.
Some of the lines, it is true, seem to have been
dragged in by the head and shoulders; but I could
scarcely have done much better myself, at your age.
With practice, and with such instruction as I might afford
you, I should have little doubt of your becoming a
distinguished poet. A great defect in your seminary,
gentlemen,—the want of due cultivation in this heavenly

`Perhaps, Sir,' said Edward, with much gravity, `you
might yourself be prevailed upon to accept the Professorship
of Poetry?'

`Why, such an offer would require consideration,' replied
the landlord. `Professor Hugh Crombie, of Harley
College;—it has a good sound, assuredly. But I
am a public man, Master Walcott, and the public would
be loath to spare me from my present office.'

`Will Professor Crombie favor us with a specimen of
his productions?' inquired Edward.

`Ahem, I shall be happy to gratify you, young gentleman,'
answered Hugh. `It is seldom, in this rude country,
Master Walcott, that we meet with kindred genius;
and the opportunity should never be thrown away.'

Thus saying, he took a heavy draught of the liquor by
which he was usually inspired, and the praises of which
were the prevailing subject of his song. Then, after
much hemming, thrumming, and prelusion, and with many
queer gestures and gesticulations, he began to effuse
a lyric, in the following fashion.


Page 62
I've been a jolly drinker, this five and twenty year,
And still a jolly drinker, my friends, you see me here;
I sing the joys of drinking;—bear a chorus every man,
With pint pot, and quart pot, and clattering of can.

The sense of the Professor's first stanza, was not in
exact proportion to the sound; but being executed with
great spirit, it attracted universal applause. This, Hugh
appropriated with a condescending bow and smile; and
making a signal for silence, he went on—

King Solomon of old, boys, (a jolly king was he,)—

But here he was interrupted by a clapping of hands, that
seemed a continuance of the applause bestowed on his
former stanza. Hugh Crombie, who, as is the custom
of many great performers, usually sang with his eyes
shut, now opened them, intending gently to rebuke his
auditors for their unseasonable expression of delight.
He immediately perceived, however, that the fault was
to be attributed to neither of the three young men; and
following the direction of their eyes, he saw, near the door,
in the dim back-ground of the apartment, a figure in a
cloak. The hat was flapped forward, the cloak muffled
round the lower part of the face, and only the eyes were

The party gazed a moment in silence, and then rushed
en masse upon the intruder, the landlord bringing up
the rear, and sounding a charge upon his fiddle. But as
they drew nigh, the black cloak began to assume a familiar
look,—the hat, also, was an old acquaintance;
—and these being removed, from beneath them shone
forth the reverend face and form of Doctor Melmoth.

The President, in his quality of clergyman, had, late in
the preceding afternoon, been called to visit an aged female,


Page 63
who was supposed to be at the point of death.
Her habitation was at the distance of several miles from
Harley College; so that it was night-fall before Doctor
Melmoth stood at her bed-side. His stay had been
lengthened beyond his anticipation, on account of the
frame of mind in which he found the dying woman; and
after essaying to impart the comforts of religion to her
disturbed intellect, he had waited for the abatement of
the storm, that had arisen while he was thus engaged.
As the evening advanced, however, the rain poured
down in undiminished cataracts; and the Doctor, trusting
to the prudence, and sure-footedness of his steed, had, at
length, set forth on his return. The darkness of the
night, and the roughness of the road, might have appalled
him, even had his horsemanship and his courage been
more considerable than they were; but by the special
protection of Providence, as he reasonably supposed,
(for he was a good man, and on a good errand,)
he arrived safely as far as Hugh Crombie's inn.—
Doctor Melmoth had no intention of making a stay
there; but as the road passed within a very short distance,
he saw lights in the windows, and heard the
sound of song and revelry. It immediately occurred to
him, that these midnight rioters were, probably, some of
the young men of his charge, and he was impelled, by a
sense of duty, to enter and disperse them. Directed by
the voices, he found his way, with some difficulty, to the
apartment, just as Hugh concluded his first stanza, and
amidst the subsequent applause, his entrance had been unperceived.

There was a silence of a moment's continuance, after
the discovery of Dr. Melmoth, during which he attempted
to clothe his round, good-natured face, in a look of
awful dignity. But, in spite of himself, there was a little


Page 64
twisting of the corners of his mouth, and a smothered
gleam in his eye.

`This has apparently been a very merry meeting,
young gentlemen,' he at length said; `but I fear my
presence has cast a damp upon it.'

`Oh, yes! your Reverence's cloak is wet enough to
cast a damp upon anything,' exclaimed Hugh Crombie,
assuming a look of tender anxiety. `The young gentlemen
are affrighted for your valuable life. Fear deprives
them of utterance; permit me to relieve you of
these dangerous garments.'

`Trouble not yourself, honest man,' replied the Doctor,
who was one of the most gullible of mortals. `I trust
I am in no danger, my dwelling being near at hand.
But for these young men—'

`Would your reverence but honor my Sunday suit—
the gray broadcloth coat, and the black velvet small-clothes,
that have covered my unworthy legs but once?
Dame Crombie shall have them ready in a moment,' continued
Hugh, beginning to divest the Doctor of his garments.

`I pray you to appease your anxiety,' cried Doctor
Melmoth, retaining a firm hold on such parts of his dress
as yet remained to him. `Fear not for my health. I
will but speak a word to those misguided youth, and begone.'

`Misguided youth, did your reverence say?' echoed
Hugh, in a tone of utter astonishment. `Never were
they better guided, than when they entered my poor
house. Oh! had your reverence but seen them, when I
heard their cries, and rushed forth to their assistance.
Dripping with wet were they, like three drowned men at
the resurrec—ahem!' interrupted Hugh, recollecting that


Page 65
the comparison he meditated might not suit the Doctor's
ideas of propriety.

`But why were they abroad on such a night?' inquired
the President.

`Ah! doctor, you little know the love these good
young gentlemen bear for you,' replied the landlord.
`Your absence—your long absence—had alarmed them;
and they rushed forth through the rain and darkness to
seek you.'

`And was this indeed so?' asked the doctor in a softened
tone, and casting a tender and grateful look upon
the three students. They, it is but justice to mention,
had simultaneously made a step forward, in order to contradict
the egregious falsehoods, of which Hugh's fancy
was so fertile; but he assumed an expression of such ludicrous
entreaty, that it was irresistible.

`But methinks their anxiety was not of long continuance,'
observed doctor Melmoth, looking at the wine,
and remembering the song that his entrance had interrupted.

`Ah! your reverence disapproves of the wine, I see,'
answered Hugh Crombie. `I did but offer them a drop,
to keep the life in their poor young hearts. My dame
advised strong waters; but, dame Crombie, says I, would
ye corrupt their youth? And in my zeal for their good,
doctor, I was delighting them, just at your entrance, with
a pious little melody of my own, against the sin of

`Truly, I remember something of the kind,' observed
doctor Melmoth; `and, as I think, it seemed to meet with
good acceptance.'

`Aye, that it did,' said the landlord. `Will it please
your reverence to hear it?'


Page 66

King Solomon of old, boys, (a wise man I'm thinking,)
Has warned you to beware of the horrid vice of drinking—”
But why I talk of drinking, foolish man that I am! and all
this time, doctor, you have not sipped a drop of my wine.
Now, I entreat your reverence, as you value your health,
and the peace and quiet of these youth.'

Doctor Melmoth drank a glass of wine, with the benevolent
intention of allaying the anxiety of Hugh Crombie
and the students. He then prepared to depart; for a
strong wind had partially dispersed the clouds, and occasioned
an interval in the cataract of rain. There was,
perhaps, a little suspicion yet remaining in the good man's
mind, respecting the truth of the landlord's story;—at
least, it was his evident intention, to see the students
fairly out of the inn, before he quitted it himself. They
therefore proceeded along the passage way in a body.—
The lamp that Hugh Crombie held, but dimly enlightened
them, and the number and contiguity of the doors,
caused doctor Melmoth to lay his hand upon the wrong

`Not there, not there, doctor! It is dame Crombie's
bed-chamber,' shouted Hugh, most energetically. `Now
Belzebub defend me,' he muttered to himself, perceiving
that his exclamation had been a moment too late.

`Heavens! what do I see?' ejaculated doctor Melmoth,
lifting his hands, and starting back from the entrance
of the room. The three students pressed forward;
—Mrs. Crombie and the servant girl had been drawn to
the spot, by the sound of Hugh's voice; and all their
wondering eyes were fixed on poor Ellen Langton.

The apartment, in the midst of which she stood, was
dimly lighted by a solitary candle, at the farther extremity;
but Ellen was exposed to the glare of the three
lamps, held by Hugh, his wife, and the servant girl.


Page 67
Their combined rays seemed to form a focus exactly at
the point where they reached her; and the beholders,
had any been sufficiently calm, might have watched her
features, in their agitated workings, and frequent change
of expression, as perfectly as by the broad light of day.
Terror had at first blanched her as white as a lily, or as
a marble statue, which for a moment she resembled, as
she stood motionless in the centre of the room. Shame
next bore sway; and her blushing countenance, covered
by her slender white fingers, might fantastically be
compared to a variegated rose, with its alternate stripes
of white and red. The next instant, a sense of her pure
and innocent intentions gave her strength and courage;
and her attitude and look had now something of pride
and dignity. These, however, in their turn gave way;
for Edward Walcott pressed forward, and attempted to
address her.

`Ellen, Ellen,' he said in an agitated and quivering
whisper;—but what was to follow cannot be known, for
his emotion checked his utterance. His tone, and look,
however, again overcame Ellen Langton, and she burst
to tears. Fanshawe advanced and took Edward's arm;
`she has been deceived,' he whispered—`she is innocent.
You are unworthy of her if you doubt it.'

`Why do you interfere, Sir?' demanded Edward,
whose passions, thoroughly excited, would willingly have
wreaked themselves on any one. `What right have you
to speak of her innocence? Perhaps,' he continued, an
undefined and ridiculous suspicion arising in his mind,
`perhaps you are acquainted with her intentions. Perhaps
you are the deceiver.'

Fanshawe's temper was not naturally of the meekest
character; and having had a thousand bitter feelings of
his own to overcome, before he could attempt to console


Page 68
Edward, this rude repulse had almost aroused him to
fierceness. But his pride, of which a more moderate
degree would have had a less peaceable effect, came to
his assistance, and he turned calmly and contemptuously

Ellen, in the meantime, had been restored to some degree
of composure. To this effect, a feeling of pique
against Edward Walcott had contributed. She had distinguished
his voice in the neighbouring apartment,—had
heard his mirth and wild laughter, without being aware
of the state of feeling that produced them. She had supposed
that the terms on which they parted in the morning,
(which had been very grievous to herself,) would
have produced a corresponding sadness in him. But
while she sat in loneliness and in tears, her bosom distracted
by a thousand anxieties and sorrows, of many of
which Edward was the object, his reckless gaiety had
seemed to prove the slight regard in which he held her.
After the first outbreak of emotion, therefore, she called
up her pride (of which, on proper occasions, she had a
reasonable share,) and sustained his upbraiding glance
with a passive composure, which women have more readily
at command than men.

Doctor Melmoth's surprise had, during this time, kept
him silent and inactive. He gazed alternately from one to
another, of those who stood around him, as if to seek some
explanation of so strange an event. But the faces of all
were as perplexed as his own;—even Hugh Crombie had
assumed a look of speechless wonder,—speechless, because
his imagination, prolific as it was, could not supply
a plausible falsehood.

`Ellen, dearest child,' at length said the doctor, `what
is the meaning of this?'


Page 69

Ellen endeavored to reply; but, as her composure
was merely external, she was unable to render her
words audible. Fanshawe spoke in a low voice to doctor
Melmoth, who appeared grateful for his advice.

`True, it will be the better way,' he replied. `My
wits are utterly confounded, or I should not have remained
thus long. Come, my dear child,' he continued, advancing
to Ellen, and taking her hand, `let us return
home, and defer the explanation till the morrow. There,
there; only dry your eyes, and we will say no more
about it.'

`And that will be your wisest way, old gentleman,'
muttered Hugh Crombie.

Ellen at first exhibited but little desire—or, rather, an
evident reluctance—to accompany her guardian. She
hung back, while her glance passed almost imperceptibly
over the faces that gazed so eagerly at her; but the one
she sought was not visible among them. She had no
alternative, and suffered herself to be led from the inn.

Edward Walcott, alone, remained behind,—the most
wretched being, (at least such was his own opinion,) that
breathed the vital air. He felt a sinking and sickness of
the heart, and alternately a feverish frenzy, neither of
which his short and cloudless existence had heretofore
occasioned him to experience. He was jealous of, he
knew not whom, and he knew not what. He was ungenerous
enough to believe that Ellen—his pure and
lovely Ellen—had degraded herself; though from what
motive, or by whose agency, he could not conjecture.
When doctor Melmoth had taken her in charge, Edward
returned to the apartment where he had spent the evening.
The wine was still upon the table, and in the desperate
hope of stupifying his faculties, he unwisely
swallowed huge successive draughts. The effect of his


Page 70
imprudence was not long in manifesting itself; though insensibility,
which at another time would have been the
result, did not now follow. Acting upon his previous agitation,
the wine seemed to set his blood in a flame; and
for the time being, he was a perfect madman.

A phrenologist would probably have found the organ
of destructiveness in strong developement, just then, upon
Edward's cranium; for he certainly manifested an
impulse to break and destroy whatever chanced to be
within his reach. He commenced his operations by upsetting
the table and breaking the bottles and glasses.
Then, seizing a tall heavy chair in each hand, he hurled
them, with prodigious force, one through the window, and
the other against a large looking-glass, the most valuable
article of furniture in Hugh Crombie's inn. The
crash and clatter of these outrageous proceedings, soon
brought the master, mistress, and maid-servant to the
scene of action; but the two latter, at the first sight
of Edward's wild demeanor and gleaming eyes, retreated
with all imaginable expedition. Hugh chose a position
behind the door, from whence protruding his head,
he endeavored to mollify his inebriated guest. His interference,
however, had nearly been productive of most
unfortunate consequences; for a massive andiron, with
round brazen head, whizzed past him, within a hair's
breadth of his ear.

`I might as safely take my chance in a battle,' exclaimed
Hugh, withdrawing his head, and speaking to a
man who stood in the passage way. `A little twist of his
hand to the left would have served my turn, as well as if
I stood in the path of a forty-two pound ball. And here
comes another broadside,' he added, as some other article
of furniture rattled against the door.


Page 71

`Let us return his fire, Hugh, said the person whom
he addressed, composedly lifting the andiron. `He is in
want of ammunition; let us send him back his own.'

The sound of this man's voice produced a most singular
effect upon Edward. The moment before, his actions
had been those of a raving maniac; but when the words
struck his ear, he paused, put his hand to his forehead,
seemed to recollect himself, and finally advanced with a
firm and steady step. His countenance was dark and
angry, but no longer wild.

`I have found you, villain,' he said to the angler. `It
is you who have done this.'

`And having done it, the wrath of a boy—his drunken
wrath—will not induce me to deny it,' replied the other

`The boy will require a man's satisfaction,' returned
Edward;—`and that speedily.'

`Will you take it now?' inquired the angler, with a
cool, derisive smile, and almost in a whisper. At the
same time he produced a brace of pistols, and held them
towards the young man.

`Willingly,' answered Edward, taking one of the weapons.
`Choose your distance.'

The angler stepped back a pace; but before their
deadly intentions, so suddenly conceived, could be executed,
Hugh Crombie interposed himself between them.

`Do you take my best parlour for the cabin of the
Black Andrew, where a pistol shot was a nightly pas-time?'
he inquired of his comrade. `And you, master
Edward, with what sort of a face will you walk into the
chapel, to morning prayers, after putting a ball through
this man's head, or receiving one through your own?—
Though in this last case, you will be past praying for, or
praying, either.'


Page 72

`Stand aside,—I will take the risk. Make way, or I
will put the ball through your own head,' exclaimed Edward,
fiercely; for the interval of rationality, that circumstances
had produced, was again giving way to intoxication.

`You see how it is,' said Hugh to his companion, unheard
by Edward. `You shall take a shot at me, sooner
than at the poor lad in his present state. You have done
him harm enough already, and intend him more. I propose,'
he continued aloud, and with a peculiar glance towards
the angler, `that this affair be decided to-morrow,
at nine o'clock, under the old oak, on the bank of the
stream. In the meantime I will take charge of these
pop-guns, for fear of accidents.'

`Well, mine host, be it as you wish,' said his comrade.
A shot, more or less, is of little consequence to me.' He
accordingly delivered his weapon to Hugh Crombie, and
walked carelessly away.

`Come, master Walcott, the enemy has retreated.
Victoria! And now, I see, the sooner I get you to your
chamber, the better,' added he aside; for the wine was
at last beginning to produce its legitimate effect, in stupifying
the young man's mental and bodily faculties.

Hugh Crombie's assistance, though not perhaps quite
indispensable, was certainly very convenient to our unfortunate
hero, in the course of the short walk that brought
him to his chamber. When arrived there, and in bed, he
was soon locked in a sleep, scarcely less deep than that
of death.

The weather, during the last hour, had appeared to be
on the point of changing;—indeed, there were every few
minutes, most rapid changes. A strong breeze sometimes
drove the clouds from the brow of heaven, so as


Page 73
to disclose a few of the stars; but, immediately after, the
darkness would again become Egyptian, and the rain
rush like a torrent from the sky.