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calling to account the man who has offered this unparalleled affront to my family."
4. "Be patient, gentlemen," said Ravenswood, turning sternly toward them and waving his hand as if to impose silence on their altercation. "If you are as weary of your lives as I am of mine, I will find time and place to pledge it against one or both; at present I have no leisure for the disputes of triflers.” "Triflers!" echoed Colonel Ashton, half unsheathing his sword, while Bucklaw laid his hand on the hilt of that which Craigengelt had just reached him. Sir William Ashton, alarmed for his son's safety, rushed between the young men and Ravenswood, exclaiming, "My son, I command you-Bucklaw, I entreat you-keep the peace, in the name of the queen and of the law!" "In the name of the law of God," said the preacher, Bide-the-bent, advancing also with uplifted hands between Bucklaw and the colonel and the object of their resentment. "In the name of Him who brought peace on earth and good-will to mankind, I implore, I beseech, I command you to forbear violence toward each other. God hateth the bloodthirsty man he who striketh with the sword shall perish with the sword."
5. "Do you take me for a dog, sir," said Colonel Ashton, turning fiercely upon him, " or something more brutally stupid, to endure this insult in my father's house? Let me go, Bucklaw; he shall account to me, or I will stab him where he stands." "You shall not touch him here," said Bucklaw; "he once gave me my life, and were he the fiend himself come to fly away with the whole house and generation, he shall have nothing but fair play." The passions of the two young men, thus counteracting each other, gave Ravenswood leisure to exclaim, in a stern and steady voice, "Silence! let him who really seeks danger take the fitting time when it is to be found; my mission here will be shortly accomplished. Is that your handwriting, madam ?" he added, in a softer tone, extending toward Miss Ashton her last letter.
6. A faltering "Yes" seemed rather to escape from her lips than to be uttered as a voluntary answer. "And is this also
your handwriting?" he asked, extending toward her the mutual engagement. Lucy remained silent. Terror and a yet stronger and more confused feeling so utterly disturbed her understanding that she probably scarce comprehended the question that was put to her. "If you design," said Sir William Ashton, "to found any legal claim on that paper, sir, do not expect to receive any answer to an extrajudicial question.” "Sir William Ashton," said Ravenswood, "I pray you and all who hear me that you will not mistake my purpose. If this young lady, of her own free will, desires the restoration of this contract, as her letter would seem to imply, there is not a withered leaf which this autumn wind strews on the heath that is more valueless in my eyes. But I must and will hear the truth from her own mouth; without this satisfaction I will not leave this spot. Murder me by numbers you possibly may, but I am an armed man-I am a desperate man—and I will not die without ample vengeance.
7. "This is my resolution, take it as you may. I WILL hear her determination from her own mouth-from her own mouth, alone and without witnesses, will I hear it. Now choose," he said, drawing his sword with the right hand, and with the left, by the same motion, taking a pistol from his belt and cocking it, but turning the point of one weapon and the muzzle of the other to the ground, "choose if you will have this hall floated with blood, or if you will grant me the decisive interview with my affianced bride which the laws of God and the country alike entitle me to demand." All recoiled at the sound of his voice and the determined action by which it was accompanied; for the ecstasy of real desperation seldom fails to overpower the less energetic passions by which it may be opposed. The clergyman was the first to speak. "In the name of God," he said, "receive an overture of peace from the meanest of his servants. What this honorable person demands, albeit it is urged with over violence, hath yet in it something of reason. Let him hear from Miss Lucy's own lips that she hath dutifully acceded to the will of her parents and repenteth of her covenant with him; and when he is as
sured of this, he will depart in peace unto his own dwelling and cumber us no more. Let it, I say, be thus."
8. "Never!" answered Lady Ashton, whose rage had now overcome her first surprise and terror; "never shall this man speak in private with my daughter, the affianced bride of another! Pass from this room who will, I remain here. I fear neither his violence nor his weapons, though some," she said, glancing a look toward Colonel Ashton, "who bear my name appear more moved by them." "For the Lord's sake, madam," answered the worthy divine," add not fuel to firebrands. The master of Ravenswood cannot, I am sure, object to your presence, the young lady's state of health being considered and your maternal duty. I myself will also tarry; peradventure my gray hairs may turn away wrath." "You are welcome to do so, sir," said Ravenswood; "and Lady Ashton is also welcome to remain if she shall think proper; but let all others depart."
9. "Ravenswood," said Colonel Ashton, crossing him as he went out, "you shall account for this ere long." “When you please," replied Ravenswood. "But I," said Bucklaw, with a half smile, "have a prior demand on your leisure, a claim of some standing." "Arrange it as you will," said Ravenswood; "leave me but this day in peace, and I will have no dearer employment on earth, to-morrow, than to give you all the satisfaction you can desire." The other gentlemen left the apartment, but Sir William Ashton lingered. "Master of Ravenswood," he said, in a conciliating tone, "I think I have not deserved that you should make this scandal and outrage in my family. If you will sheathe your sword and retire with me into my study, I will prove to you, by the most satisfactory arguments, the inutility of your present irregular procedure, and-" "To-morrow, sir, to-morrow-to-morrow I will hear you at length," reiterated Ravenswood, interrupting him; "this day hath its own sacred and indispensable business." He pointed to the door, and Sir William left the apartment.
10. Ravenswood sheathed his sword, uncocked his pistol and returned it to his belt, walked deliberately to the door of the
apartment, which he bolted, returned, raised his hat from his forehead, and gazing upon Lucy with eyes in which an expression of sorrow overcame their late fierceness, spread his disheveled locks back from his face and said, "Do you know me, Miss Ashton? I am still Edgar Ravenswood." She was silent, and he went on with increasing vehemence, "I am still that Edgar Ravenswood who, for your affection, renounced the dear ties by which injured honor bound him to seek vengeance. I am that Ravenswood who, for your sake, forgave, nay, clasped hands in friendship with, the oppressor and pillager of his house-the traducer and murderer of his father.”
11. "My daughter," answered Lady Ashton, interrupting him, "has no occasion to dispute the identity of your person; the venom of your present language is sufficient to remind her that she speaks with the mortal enemy of her father." "I pray you to be patient, madam," answered Ravenswood; "my answer must come from her own lips. Once more, Miss Lucy Ashton, I am that Ravenswood to whom you granted the solemn engagement which you now desire to retract and cancel." Lucy's bloodless lips could only falter out the words, “It was my mother."
12. "She speaks truly," said Lady Ashton: "it was I who, authorized alike by the laws of God and man, advised her and concurred with her to set aside an unhappy and precipitate engagement, and to annul it by the authority of Scripture itself." "Scripture!" said Ravenswood, scornfully. "Let him hear the text," said Lady Ashton, appealing to the divine, "on which you yourself, with cautious reluctance, declared the nullity of the pretended engagement insisted upon by this violent man."
13. The clergyman took his clasped Bible from his pocket and read the following words: "If a woman vow a vow unto the Lord, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father's house in her youth, and her father hear her vow and her bond, wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her-then all her vow shall stand, and every vow wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand."
it not even so with us?" interrupted Ravenswood. "Control thy impatience, young man," answered the divine, "and hear what follows in the sacred text: 'But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth, not any of her vows or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand. And the Lord shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her.""
14. "And was not," said Lady Ashton, fiercely and triumphantly breaking in-" was not ours the case stated in the holy writ? Will this person deny that the instant her parents heard of the vow or bond by which our daughter had bound her soul, we disallowed the same in the most express terms, and informed him by writing of our determination?" "And is this all?" said Ravenswood, looking at Lucy. “Are you willing to barter sworn faith, the exercise of free will and the feelings of mutual affection for this wretched hypocritical sophistry?" "Hear him!" said Lady Ashton, looking to the clergyman, "hear the blasphemer!" "May Heaven forgive him," said Bide-the-bent, "and enlighten his ignorance."
15. "Hear what I have sacrificed for you," said Ravenswood, still addressing Lucy, "ere you sanction what has been done in your name. The honor of an ancient family, the urgent advice of my best friends, have been in vain used to sway my resolution; neither the arguments of reason nor the portents of superstition have shaken my fidelity. The very dead have arisen to warn me, and their warning has been despised. Are you prepared to pierce my heart for its fidelity with the weapon which my rash confidence intrusted to your grasp?"
16. "Master of Ravenswood," said Lady Ashton, “you have asked what questions you thought fit. You see the total incapacity of my daughter to answer you. But I will reply for her, and in a manner which you cannot dispute. You desire to know whether Lucy Ashton, of her own free will, desires to annul the engagement into which she has been trepanned. You have her letter under her own hand, demanding the surrender of it; and, in yet more full evidence of her purpose,