All this Charlie knew full well; but he had a pair of excellent pistols, and a dauntless heart. He stopped at Mumps’s Hall, notwithstanding the evil character of the place. His horse was accommodated where it might have the necessary rest and feed of corn; and the landlady used all the influence in her power to induce him to stop all night. The landlord was from home, she said, and it was ill passing the Waste, as twilight must needs descend on him before he gained the Scottish side, which was reckoned the safest. But fighting Charlie, though he suffered himself to be detained later than was prudent, did not account Mumps’s Hall a safe place to quarter in during the night. He tore himself away, therefore, from Meg’s good fare and kind words, and mounted his nag, having first examined his pistols, and tried by the ramrod whether the charge remained in them.
He proceeded a mile or two, at a round trot, when, as the Waste stretched black before him, apprehensions began to awaken in his mind, partly arising out of Meg’s unusual kindness, which he could not help thinking had rather a suspicious appearance. He therefore resolved to reload his pistols, lest the powder had become damp; but what was his surprise, when he drew the charge, to find neither powder nor ball, while each barrel had been carefully filled with tow, up to the space which the loading had occupied! and, the priming of the weapons being left untouched, nothing but actually drawing and examining the charge could have discovered the inefficiency of his arms till the fatal minute arrived when their services were required. Charlie reloaded his pistols with care and accuracy, having now no doubt that he was to be waylaid and assaulted. He was not far engaged in the Waste, which was then, and is now, traversed only by such routes as are described in the text, when two or three fellows, disguised and variously armed, started from a moss-hag, while, by a glance behind him (for, marching, as the Spaniard says, with his beard on his shoulder, he reconnoitred in every direction), Charlie instantly saw retreat was impossible, as other two stout men appeared behind him at some distance. The Borderer lost not a moment in taking his resolution, and boldly trotted against his enemies in front, who called loudly on him to stand and deliver. Charlie spurred on, and presented his pistol. “A fig for your pistol!” said the foremost robber, whom Charlie to his dying day protested he believed to have been the landlord of Mumps’s Hall—“A fig for your pistol! I care not a curse for it.”—“Ay, lad,” said the deep voice of Fighting Charlie, “but the tow’s out now”. He had no occasion to utter another word; the rogues, surprised at finding a man of redoubted courage well armed, instead of being defenceless, took to the moss in every direction, and he passed on his way without further molestation.
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