It is undoubtedly a fact, as was observed in the dialogue just given, that the state of affairs on this property was absolutely fearful. The framework of society was nearly broken up, for such was the heartless rapacity and cruelty—such the multiplied and ingenious devices by which he harassed and robbed the tenantry, or wreaked his personal vengeance on all who were obnoxious to him or his son, that it was actually impossible matters could proceed much longer in a peaceable state. If the reader will accompany us to a large waste house, from which a man had been some time before ejected, merely because Val had a pique against him, he may gather from the lips of the people themselves, there assembled, on the very night in question, sufficiently clear symptoms of the state of feeling in the neighborhood.
The hour at which they assembled, or rather began to assemble, was eleven o’clock, from which period until twelve they came in small groups of two or three at a time; so as to avoid observation on the way. Some of them had their faces blackened, and others who appeared utterly indifferent to consequences, did not think it worth their while to assume such a disguise. The waste house in which they were assembled, stood on a hillside, about half way between Castle Cumber and Drum Dhu; so that its isolated situation was an additional proof of their security from, surprise by the bloodhounds. The party were nearly all armed, each with such weapons as he could get, and most of them with fire or side arms, such as they were. They had several lights, but so cautious were they, that quilts and window-cloth’s were brought to hang over the windows, to prevent them from being seen; for it was well known that the house was not inhabited, and the appearance of lights in it would most certainly send the wreckers on their back; as it was, however, they obviated all danger of this in the way I mention. When these men were met together, it might be supposed that they presented countenances marked by savage and ferocious passions, and that atrocity and cruelty were the-predominating traits in each face. This, however, was not so. In general they were just as any other number of men brought together for any purpose might be. Some, to be sure, among them betrayed strong indications of animal impulse; but taken together, they looked just as I say. When they were all nearly assembled, one might-naturally imagine that the usual animated dialogue and discussions, which the cause that brought them together furnished, would have taken place. This, however, was not the case. On the contrary, there was something singularly wild, solemn, and dreadful, in their comparative quietness; for silence we could not absolutely term it.