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"What! of Sall Jennings?" exclaimed Craigengelt; "then she must be a good one."
"Hold your tongue, and keep your Tory rants to yourself, if it be possible," said Bucklaw. "I tell you, that through the Duchess of Marlborough has this Northumbrian cousin of mine become a crony of Lady Ashton, the Keeper's wife, or, I may say, the Lord Keeper's Lady Keeper, and she has favoured Lady Blenkensop with a visit on her return from London, and is just now at her old mansion-house on the banks fo the Wansbeck. Now, sir, as it has been the use and wont of these ladies to consider their husbands as of no importance in the management of their own families, it has been their present pleasure, without consulting Sir William Ashton, to put on the tapis a matrimonial alliance, to be concluded between Lucy Ashton and my own right honourable self, Lady Ashton acting as self-constituted plenipotentiary on the part of her daughter and husband, and Mother Blenkensop, equally unaccredited, doing me the honour to be my representative. You may suppose I was a little astonished when I found that a treaty, in which I was so considerably interested, had advanced a good way before I was even consulted."
"Capot me! if I think that was according to the rules of the game," said his confidant; "and pray, what answer did you return?"
"Why, my first thought was to send the treaty to the devil, and the negotiators along with it, for a couple of meddling old women; my next was to laugh very hearily; and my third and last was a settled opinion that the thing was reasonable, and would suit me well enough."
"Why, I thought you had never seen the wench but once, and then she had her riding-mask on; I am sure you told me so."
"Ay, but I liked her very well then. And Ravenswood's dirty usage of me--shutting me out of doors to dine with the lackeys, because he had the Lord Keeper, forsooth, and his daughter, to be guests in his beggarly castle of starvation,--d--n me, Craigengelt, if I ever forgive him till I play him as good a trick!"
"No more you should, if you are a lad of mettle," said Craigengelt, the matter now taking a turn in which he could sympathise; "and if you carry this wench from him, it will break his heart."
"That it will not," said Bucklaw; "his heart is all steeled over with reason and philosophy, things that you, Craigie, know nothing about more than myself, God help me. But it will break his pride, though, and that's what I'm driving at."
"Distance me!" said Craigengelt, "but I know the reason now of his unmannerly behaviour at his old tumble-down tower yonder. Ashamed of your company?--no, no! Gad, he was afraid you would cut in and carry off the girl."
"Eh! Craigengelt?" said Bucklaw, "do you really think so? but no, no! he is a devilish deal prettier man than I am." "Who--he?" exclaimed the parasite. "He's as black as the crook; and for his size--he's a tall fellow, to be sure, but give me a light, stout, middle-sized----"
"Plague on thee!" said Bucklaw, interrupting him, "and on me for listening to you! You would say as much if I were hunch- backed. But as to Ravenswood--he has kept no terms with me, I'll keep none with him; if I CAN win this girl from him, I WILL win her."
"Win her! 'sblood, you SHALL win her, point, quint, and quatorze, my king of trumps; you shall pique, repique, and capot him."
"Prithee, stop thy gambling cant for one instant," said Bucklaw. "Things have come thus far, that I have entertained the proposal of my kinswoman, agreed to the terms of jointure, amount of fortune, and so forth, and that the affair is to go forward when Lady Ashton comes down, for she takes her daughter and her son in her own hand. Now they want me to send up a confidential person with some writings."
"By this good win, I'll ride to the end of the world--the very gates of Jericho, and the judgment-seat of Prester John, for thee!" ejaculated the Captain.
"Why, I believe you would do something for me, and a great deal for yourself. Now, any one could carry the writings; but you will have a little more to do. You must contrive to drop out before my Lady Ashton, just as if it were a matter of little consequence, the residence of Ravenswood at her husband's house, and his close intercourse with Miss Ashton; and you may tell her that all the country talks of a visit from the Marquis of A----, as it is supposed, to make up the match betwixt Ravenswood and her daughter. I should like to hear what she says to all this; for, rat me! if I have any idea of starting for the plate at all if Ravenswood is to win the race, and he has odds against me already."
"Never a bit; the wench has too much sense, and in that belief I drink her health a third time; and, were time and place fitting, I would drink it on bended knees, and he that would not pledge me, I would make his guts garter his stockings."
"Hark ye, Craigengelt; as you are going into the society of women of rank," said Bucklaw, "I'll thank you to forget your strange blackguard oaths and 'damme's.' I'll write to them, though, that you are a blunt, untaught fellow."
"Ay, ay," replied Craigengelt--"a plain, blunt, honest, downright soldier."
"Not too honest, not too much of the soldier neither; but such as thou art, it is my luck to need thee, for I must have spurs put to Lady Ashton's motions." "I'll dash them up to the rowel-heads," said Craigengelt; "she shall come here at the gallop, like a cow chased by a whole nest of hornets, and her tail over her rump like a corkscrew."
"And hear ye, Craigie," said Bucklaw; "your boots and doublet are good enough to drink in, as the man says in the play, but they are somewhat too greasy for tea-table service; prithee, get thyself a little better rigged out, and here is to pay all charges."
"Nay, Bucklaw; on my soul, man, you use me ill. However," added Craigengelt, pocketing the money, "if you will have me so far indebted to you, I must be conforming."
"Well, horse and away!" said the patron, "so soon as you have got your riding livery in trim. You may ride the black crop-ear; and, hark ye, I'll make you a present of him to boot."
"I drink to the good luck of my mission," answered the ambassador, "in a half-pint bumper."
"I thank ye, Craigie, and pledge you; I see nothing against it but the father or the girl taking a tantrum, and I am told the mother can wind them both round her little finger. Take care not to affront her with any of your Jacobite jargon."
"Oh, ay, true--she is a Whig, and a friend of old Sall of Marlborough; thank my stars, I can hoist any colours at a pinch! I have fought as hard under John Churchill as ever I did under Dundee or the Duke of Berwick."
"I verily believe you, Craigie," said the lord of the mansion; "but, Craigie, do you, pray, step down to the cellar, and fetch us up a bottle of the Burgundy, 1678; it is in the fourth bin from the right-hand turn. And I say, Craigie, you may fetch up half a dozen whilst you are about it. Egad, we'll make a night on't!"
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The Bride of Lammermoor -by- Walter Scott