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CHAPTER THE FORTY-NINTH.
The night drave on wi' sangs and clatter,
TAM O' SHANTER.
We must now return to Woodbourne, which, it may be remembered, we left just after the Colonel had given some directions to his confidential servant. When he returned, his absence of mind, and an unusual expression of thought and anxiety upon his features, struck the ladies whom he joined in the drawing-room. Mannering was not, however, a man to be questioned, even by those whom he most loved, upon the cause of the mental agitation which these signs expressed. The hour of tea arrived, and the party were partaking of that refreshment in silence, when a carriage drove up to the door, and the bell announced the arrival of a visitor. “Surely,” said Mannering, “it is too soon by some hours."
There was a short pause, when Barnes, opening the door of the saloon, announced Mr. Pleydell. In marched the lawyer, whose well-brushed black coat, and wellpowdered wig, together with his point ruffles, brown silk stockings, highly varnished shoes, and gold buckles, exhibited the pains which the old gentleman had
for the ladies' society. He was welcomed by Mannering with a hearty shake by the hand. “The very man I wished to see at this moment!”
“Yes,” said the counsellor, “I told you I would take the first opportunity; so I have ventured to leave the Court for a week in session time— no common sacrifice_but I had a notion I could be useful, and I was to attend a proof here about the same time. But will you not introduce me to the young ladies ?Ah! there is one I should have known at once, from her family likeness ! Miss Lucy Bertram, my love, I am most happy to see you.”—And he folded her in his arms, and gave her a hearty kiss on each side of the face, to which Lucy submitted in blushing resignation.
“On n'arrête pas dans un si beau chemin," continued the gay old gentleman, and, as the Colonel presented him to Julia, took the same liberty with that fair lady's cheek. Julia laughed, coloured, and disengaged herself. "I beg a thousand pardons," said the lawyer, with a bow which was not at all professionally awkward ; "age and old fashions give privileges, and I can hardly say whether I am most sorry just now at being too well entitled to claim them at all, or happy in having such an opportunity to exercise them so agreeably."
“Upon my word, sir," said Miss Mannering, laughing, “ if you make such flattering apologies, we shall begin to doubt whether we can admit you to shelter yourself under your alleged qualifications.”
“I can assure you, Julia," said the Colonel, “you áre perfectly right; my friend the counsellor is a dangerous person; the last time I had the pleasure of seeing him, he was closeted with a fair lady, who had granted him a tête-à-tête at eight in the morning."
“Ay, but, Colonel," said the counsellor, "you should add, I was more indebted to my chocolate than my charms for so distinguished a favour, for a person of such propriety of demeanour as Mrs. Rebecca."
“And that should remind me, Mr. Pleydell,” said Julia, “ to offer you tea—that is, supposing you have dined."
Any thing, Miss Mannering, from your hands,” ánswered the gallant jurisconsult ; "yes, I have dined that is to say, as people dine at a Scotch inn.”
“And that is indifferently enough," said the Colonel, with his hand upon the bell-handle ; "give me leave to order something."
“Why, to say truth," replied Mr. Pleydell, “I had rather not; I have been inquiring into that matter, for you must know I stopped an instant below to pull off my boot-hose, 'a world too wide for my shrunk shanks,'” glancing down with some complacency upon limbs which looked very well for his time of life," and I had some conversation with your Barnes, and a very intelligent person whom I presume to be the housekeeper ; and it was settled among ustota re perspecta—I beg Miss Mannering's pardon for my Latin-that the old lady should add to your light family-supper the more
substantial refreshment of a brace of wild-ducks. I told her (always under deep submission) my poor thoughts about the sauce, which concurred exactly with her own; and, if you please, I would rather wait till they are ready before eating any thing solid.”
“And we will anticipate our usual hour of supper," said the Colonel.
“With all my heart," said Pleydell, “providing I do not lose the ladies' company a moment the sooner. I am of counsel with my old friend Burnet ;* I love the coena, the supper of the ancients, the pleasant meal and social glass that wash out of one's mind the cobwebs that business or gloom have been spinning in our brains all day.”
The vivacity of Mr. Pleydell's look and manner, and the quietness with which he made himself at home on the subject of his little epicurean comforts, amused the ladies, but particularly Miss Mannering, who immediately gave the counsellor a great deal of flattering attention; and more pretty things were said on both sides during the service of the tea-table than we have leisure to repeat.
As soon as this was over, Mannering led the counsellor by the arm into a small study which opened from the saloon, and where, according to the custom of the family, there were always lights and a good fire in the evening.
“I see," said Mr. Pleydell," you have got something to tell me about the Ellangowan business—Is it terres
* Note C. Lord Monboddo.
trial or celestial ? What says my military Albumazar ? Have you calculated the course of futurity ? have you consulted your Ephemerides, your Almochoden, your Almuten?”
“No, truly, counsellor,” replied Mannering, -"you are the only Ptolemy I intend to resort to upon the present occasion-a second Prospero, I have broken my staff, and drowned my book far beyond plummet depth. But I have great news notwithstanding. Meg Merrilies, our Egyptian sibyl, has appeared to the Dominie this very day, and, as I conjecture, has frightened the honest man not a little."
“ Indeed ?”
“Ay, and she has done me the honour to open a correspondence with me, supposing me to be as deep in astrological mysteries as when we first met. Here is her scroll delivered to me by the Dominie.” Pleydell put on his spectacles.
“A vile greasy scrawl, indeed—and the letters are uncial or semi-uncial, as somebody calls your large text hand, and in size and perpendicularity resemble the ribs of a roasted pig--I can hardly make it out."
“Read aloud," said Mannering.
“I will try," answered the lawyer. good seeker, but a bad finder ; you set yourself to prop a falling house, but had a gey guess it would rise again. Lend your hand to the wark that's near, as you lent your ee to the weird that was far. Have a carriage this night by ten o'clock, at the end of the Crooked Dykes at Portanferrý, and let it bring the folk to
66. You are a