The Bride of Lammermoor HTML version

Chapter 15
We worldly men, when we see friends and kinsmen
Past hope sunk in their fortunes, lend no hand
To lift them up, but rather set our feet
Upon their heads to press them to the bottom,
As I must yield with you I practised it;
But now I see you in a way to rise,
I can and will assist you.
New Way to Pay Old Debts.
THE Lord Keeper carried with him, to a couch harder than he was accustomed to
stretch himself upon, the same ambitious thoughts and political perplexities
which drive sleep from the softest down that ever spread a bed of state. He had
sailed long enough amid the contending tides and currents of the time to be
sensible of their peril, and of the necessity of trimming his vessel to the prevailing
wind, if he would have her escape shipwreck in the storm. The nature of his
talents, and the timorousness of disposition connected with them, had made him
assume the pliability of the versatile old Earl of Northampton, who explained the
art by which he kept his ground during all the changes of state, from the reign of
Henry VIII. to that of Elizabeth, by the frank avowal, that he was born of the
willow, not of the oak. It had accordingly been Sir William Ashton's policy, on all
occasions, to watch the changes in the political horizon, and, ere yet the conflict
was decided, to negotiate some interest for himself with the party most likely to
prove victorious. His time-serving disposition was well-known, and excited the
contempt of the more daring leaders of both factions in the state. But his talents
were of a useful and practical kind, and his legal knowledge held in high
estimation; and they so far counterbalanced other deficiencies that those in
power were glad to use and to reward, though without absolutely trusting or
greating respecting, him.
The Marquis of A---- had used his utmost influence to effect a change in the
Scottish cabinet, and his schemes had been of late so well laid and so ably
supported, that there appeared a very great chance of his proving ultimately
successful. He did not, however, feel so strong or so confident as to neglect any
means of drawing recruits to his standard. The acquisition of the Lord Keeper
was deemed of some importance, and a friend, perfectly acquainted with his
circumstances and character, became responsible for his political conversion.
When this gentleman arrived at Ravenswood Castle upon a visit, the real
purpose of which was disguised under general courtesy, he found the prevailing
fear which at present beset the Lord Keeper was that of danger to his own
person from the Master of Ravenswood. The language which the blind sibyl, Old
Alice, had used; the sudden appearance of the Master, armed, and within his
precincts, immediately after he had been warned against danger from him; the
cold and haughty return received in exchange for the acknowledgments with
which he loaded him for his timely protection, had all made a strong impression
on his imagination.