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Ravenswood was too well accustomed to his seneschal's mode of acting and speaking to hope much from this confident assurance. He knew that Caleb acted upon the principle of the Spanish geenrals, in the campaign of ----, who, much to the perplexity of the Prince of Orange, their commander-in-chief, used to report their troops as full in number, and possessed of all necessary points of equipment, not considering it consistent with their dignity, or the honour of Spain, to confess any deficiency either in men or munition, until the want of both was unavoidably discovered in the day of battle. Accordingly, Ravenswood thought it necessary to give the Marquis some hint that the fair assurance which they had just received from Caleb did not by any means ensure them against a very indifferent reception.
"You do yourself injustice, Master," said the Marquis, "or you wish to surprise me agreeably. From this window I see a great light in the direction where, if I remember aright, Wolf's Crag lies; and, to judge from the splendour which the old Tower sheds around it, the preparations for our reception must be of no ordinary description. I remember your father putting the same deception on me, when we went to the Tower for afew days' hawking, about twenty years since, and yet we spent our time as jollily at Wolf's Crag as we could have done at my own hunting seat at B----."
"Your lordship, I fear, will experience that the faculty of the present proprietor to entertain his friends is greatly abridged," said Ravenswood; "the will, I need hardly say, remains the same. But I am as much at a loss as your lordship to account for so strong and brilliant a light as is now above Wolf's Crag; the windows of the Tower are few and narrow, and those of the lower story are hidden from us by the walls of the court. I cannot conceive that any illumination of an ordinary nature could afford such a blaze of light."
The mystery was soon explained; for the cavalcade almost instantly halted, and the voice of Caleb Balderstone was heard p278 at the coach window, exclaiming, in accents broken by grief and fear, "Och, gentlemen! Och, my gude lords! Och, haud to the right! Wolf's Crag is burning, bower and ha'--a' the rich plenishing outside and inside--a' the fine graith, pictures, tapestries, needle-wark, hangings, and other decorements--a' in a bleeze, as if they were nae mair than sae mony peats, or as muckle pease-strae! Haud to the right, gentlemen, I implore ye; there is some sma' provision making at Luckie Sma'trash's; but oh, wae for this night, and wae for me that lives to see it!"
Ravenswood was first stunned by this new and unexpected calamity; but after a moment's recollection he sprang from the carriage, and hastily bidding his noble kinsman goodnight, was about to ascend the hill towards the castle, the broad and full conflagration of which now flung forth a high column of red light, that flickered far to seaward upon the dashing waves of the ocean.
"Take a horse, Master," exclaimed the Marquis, greatly affected by this additional misfortune, so unexpectedly heaped upon his young protege; "and give me my ambling palfrey; and haste forward, you knaves, to see what can be done to save the furniture, or to extinguish the fire--ride, you knaves, for your lives!"
The attendants bustled together, and began to strike their horses with the spur, and call upon Caleb to show them the road. But the voice of that careful seneschal was heard above the tumult, "Oh, stop sirs, stop--turn bridle, for the luve of Mercy; add not loss of lives to the loss of warld's gean! Thirty barrels of powther, landed out of a Dunkirk dogger in the auld lord's time--a' in the vau'ts of the auld tower,--the fire canna be far off it, I trow. Lord's sake, to the right, lads--to the right; let's pit the hill atween us and peril,--a wap wi' a corner-stane o' Wolf's Crag wad defy the doctor!"
It will readily be supposed that this annunciation hurried the Marquis and his attendants into the route which Caleb prescribed, dragging Ravenswood along with them, although there was much in the matter which he could not possibly comprehend. "Gunpowder!" he exclaimed, laying hold of Caleb, who in vain endeavoured to escape from him; "what gunpowder? How any quantity of powder could be in Wolf's Crag without my knowledge, I cannot possibly comprehend."
"But I can," interrupted the Marquis, whispering him, "I can comprehend it thoroughly; for God's sake, ask him no more questions at present."
"There it is, now," said Caleb, extricating himself from his master, and adjusting his dress, "your honour will believe his lordship's honourable testimony. His lordship minds weel how, in the year that him they ca'd King Willie died----"
"Hush! hush, my good friend!" said the Marquis; "I shall satisfy your master upon that subject."
"And the people at Wolf's Hope," said Ravenswood, "did none of them come to your assistance before the flame got so high?"
"Ay did they, mony ane of them, the rapscallions!" said Caleb; "but truly I was in nae hurry to let them into the Tower, where there were so much plate and valuables."
"Confound you for an impudent liar!" said Ravenswood, in uncontrollable ire, "there was not a single ounce of----"
"Forbye," said the butler, most irreverently raising his voice to a pitch which drowned his master's, "the fire made fast on us, owing to the store of tapestry and carved timmer in the banqueting-ha', and the loons ran like scaulded rats sae sune as they heard of the gunpouther."
"I do entreat," said the Marquis to Ravenswood, "you will ask him no more questions."
"Only one, my lord. What has become of poor Mysie?"
"Mysie!" said Caleb, "I had nae time to look about ony Mysie; she's in the Tower, I'se warrant, biding her awful doom." "By heaven," said Ravenswood, "I do not understand all this ! The life of a faithful old creature is at stake; my lord, I will be withheld no longer; I will at least ride up, and see whether the danger is as imminent as this old fool pretends."
"Weel, then, as I live by bread," said Caleb, "Mysie is weel and safe. I saw her out of the castle before I left it mysell. Was I ganging to forget an auld fellow-servant?"
"What made you tell me the contrary this moment?" said his master.
"Did I tell you the contrary?" said Caleb; "then I maun hae been dreaming surely, or this awsome night has turned my judgment; but safe she is, and ne'er a living soul in the castle, a' the better for them: they wau have gotten an unco heezy."
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The Bride of Lammermoor -by- Walter Scott