'She might live or die, for what I care,' answered Peter the Cruel; 'what business have folk to do to live that canna live as law will, and satisfy their just and lawful creditors?'
'And you--you that are now yourself trodden down in the very kennel, are you not sorry for what you have done? Do you not repent having occasioned the poor widow woman's death?'
'What for should I repent?' said Peter; 'the law was on my side --a decreet of the bailies, followed by poinding, and an act of warding--a suspension intented, and the letters found orderly proceeded. I followed the auld rudas through twa courts--she cost me mair money than her lugs were worth.'
'Now, by Heaven!' said Nanty, 'I would give a thousand guineas, if I had them, to have you worth my beating! Had you said you repented, it had been between God and your conscience; but to hear you boast of your villany--Do you think it little to have reduced the aged to famine, and the young to infamy--to have caused the death of one woman, the ruin of another, and to have driven a man to exile and despair? By Him that made me, I can scarce keep hands off you!
'Off me? I defy ye!' said Peter. 'I take this honest man to witness that if ye stir the neck of my collar, I will have my action for stouthreif, spulzie, oppression, assault and battery. Here's a bra' din, indeed, about an auld wife gaun to the grave, a young limmer to the close-heads and causeway, and a sticket stibbler [A student of divinity who has not been able to complete his studies on theology.] to the sea instead of the gallows!'
'Now, by my soul,' said Nanty, 'this is too much! and since you can feel no otherwise, I will try if I cannot beat some humanity into your head and shoulders.'
He drew his hanger as he spoke, and although Joshua, who had in vain endeavoured to interrupt the dialogue to which he foresaw a violent termination, now threw himself between Nanty and the old litigant, he could not prevent the latter from receiving two or three sound slaps over the shoulder with the flat side of the weapon.
Poor Peter Peebles, as inglorious in his extremity as he had been presumptuous in bringing it on, now ran and roared, and bolted out of the apartment and house itself, pursued by Nanty, whose passion became high in proportion to his giving way to its dictates, and by Joshua, who still interfered at every risk, calling upon Nanty to reflect on the age and miserable circumstances of the offender, and upon Poor Peter to stand and place himself under his protection. In front of the house, however, Peter Peebles found a more efficient protector than the worthy Quaker.