Old Mortality, Volume 2.
Sir Walter Scott
Part 4 out of 5
"And amna I the best guide ye ever had in a' your life?" said Jenny, as
she closed the conversation by assuming her place beside her husband and
extinguishing the candle.
Leaving this couple to their repose, we have next to inform the reader
that, early on the next morning, two ladies on horseback, attended by
their servants, arrived at the house of Fairy Knowe, whom, to Jenny's
utter confusion, she instantly recognised as Miss Bellenden and Lady
Emily Hamilton, a sister of Lord Evandale.
"Had I no better gang to the house to put things to rights?" said Jenny,
confounded with this unexpected apparition.
"We want nothing but the pass-key," said Miss Bellenden; "Gudyill will
open the windows of the little parlour."
"The little parlour's locked, and the lock's, spoiled," answered Jenny,
who recollected the local spmpathy between that apartment and the
bedchamber of her guest.
"In the red parlour, then," said Miss Bellenden, and rode up to the front
of the house, but by an approach different from that through which Morton
had been conducted.
"All will be out," thought Jenny, "unless I can get him smuggled out of
the house the back way."
So saying, she sped up the bank in great tribulation and uncertainty.
"I had better hae said at ante there was a stranger there," was her next
natural reflection. "But then they wad hae been for asking him to
breakfast. Oh, safe us! what will I do?--And there's Gudyill walking in
the garden too!" she exclaimed internally on approaching the wicket; "and
I daurna gang in the back way till he's aff the coast. Oh, sirs! what
will become of us?"
In this state of perplexity she approached the cidevant butler, with the
purpose of decoying him out of the garden. But John Gudyill's temper was
not improved by his decline in rank and increase in years. Like many
peevish people, too, he seemed to have an intuitive perception as to what
was most likely to teaze those whom he conversed with; and, on the
present occasion, all Jenny's efforts to remove him from the garden
served only to root him in it as fast as if he had been one of the
Unluckily, also, he had commenced florist during his residence at Fairy
Knowe; and, leaving all other things to the charge of Lady Emily's
servant, his first care was dedicated to the flowers, which he had taken
under his special protection, and which he propped, dug, and watered,
prosing all the while upon their respective merits to poor Jenny, who
stood by him trembling and almost crying with anxiety, fear, and
Fate seemed determined to win a match against Jenny this unfortunate
morning. As soon as the ladies entered the house, they observed that the
door of the little parlour--the very apartment out of which she was
desirous of excluding them on account of its contiguity to the room in
which Morton slept--was not only unlocked, but absolutely ajar. Miss
Bellenden was too much engaged with her own immediate subjects of
reflection to take much notice of the circumstance, but, desiring the
servant to open the window-shutters, walked into the room along with her
"He is not yet come," she said. "What can your brother possibly mean? Why
express so anxious a wish that we should meet him here? And why not come
to Castle Dinnan, as he proposed? I own, my dear Emily, that, even
engaged as we are to each other, and with the sanction of your presence,
I do not feel that I have done quite right in indulging him."
"Evandale was never capricious," answered his sister; "I am sure he will
satisfy us with his reasons, and if he does not, I will help you to scold
"What I chiefly fear," said Edith, "is his having engaged in some of the
plots of this fluctuating and unhappy time. I know his heart is with that
dreadful Claverhouse and his army, and I believe he would have joined
them ere now but for my uncle's death, which gave him so much additional
trouble on our account. How singular that one so rational and so deeply
sensible of the errors of the exiled family should be ready to risk all
for their restoration!"
"What can I say?" answered Lady Emily,--"it is a point of honour with
Evandale. Our family have always been loyal; he served long in the
Guards; the Viscount of Dundee was his commander and his friend for
years; he is looked on with an evil eye by many of his own relations, who
set down his inactivity to the score of want of spirit. You must be
aware, my dear Edith, how often family connections and early
predilections influence our actions more than abstract arguments. But I
trust Evandale will continue quiet,--though, to tell you truth, I believe
you are the only one who can keep him so."
"And how is it in my power?" said Miss Bellenden.
"You can furnish him with the Scriptural apology for not going forth with
the host,--'he has married a wife, and therefore cannot come.'"
"I have promised," said Edith, in a faint voice; "but I trust I shall not
be urged on the score of time."
"Nay," said Lady Emily, "I will leave Evandale (and here he comes) to
plead his own cause."
"Stay, stay, for God's sake!" said Edith, endeavouring to detain her.
"Not I, not I," said the young lady, making her escape; "the third person
makes a silly figure on such occasions. When you want me for breakfast, I
will be found in the willow-walk by the river."
As she tripped out of the room, Lord Evandale entered. "Good-morrow,
Brother, and good-by till breakfast-time," said the lively young lady;
"I trust you will give Miss Bellenden some good reasons for disturbing
her rest so early in the morning."
And so saying, she left them together, without waiting a reply.
"And now, my lord," said Edith, "may I desire to know the meaning of your
singular request to meet you here at so early an hour?"
She was about to add that she hardly felt herself excusable in having
complied with it; but upon looking at the person whom she addressed, she
was struck dumb by the singular and agitated expression of his
countenance, and interrupted herself to exclaim, "For God's sake, what is
"His Majesty's faithful subjects have gained a great and most decisive
victory near Blair of Athole; but, alas! my gallant friend Lord Dundee--"
"Has fallen?" said Edith, anticipating the rest of his tidings.
"True, most true: he has fallen in the arms of victory, and not a man
remains of talents and influence sufficient to fill up his loss in King
James's service. This, Edith, is no time for temporizing with our duty. I
have given directions to raise my followers, and I must take leave of you
"Do not think of it, my lord," answered Edith; "your life is--essential
to your friends,--do not throw it away in an adventure so rash. What can
your single arm, and the few tenants or servants who might follow you, do
against the force of almost all Scotland, the Highland clans only
"Listen to me, Edith," said Lord Evandale. "I am not so rash as you may
suppose me, nor are my present motives of such light importance as to
affect only those personally dependent on myself. The Life Guards, with
whom I served so long, although new-modelled and new-officered by the
Prince of Orange, retain a predilection for the cause of their rightful
master; and "--and here he whispered as if he feared even the walls of
the apartment had ears--"when my foot is known to be in the stirrup, two
regiments of cavalry have sworn to renounce the usurper's service, and
fight under my orders. They delayed only till Dundee should descend into
the Lowlands; but since he is no more, which of his successors dare take
that decisive step, unless encouraged by the troops declaring themselves!
Meantime, the zeal of the soldiers will die away. I must bring them to a
decision while their hearts are glowing with the victory their old leader
has obtained, and burning to avenge his untimely death."
"And will you, on the faith of such men as you know these soldiers to
be," said Edith, "take a part of such dreadful moment?"
"I will," said Lord Evandale,--"I must; my honour and loyalty are both
pledged for it."
"And all for the sake," continued Miss Bellenden, "of a prince whose
measures, while he was on the throne, no one could condemn more than Lord
"Most true," replied Lord Evandale; "and as I resented, even during the
plenitude of his power, his innovations on Church and State, like a
freeborn subject, I am determined I will assert his real rights, when he
is in adversity, like a loyal one. Let courtiers and sycophants flatter
power and desert misfortune; I will neither do the one nor the other."
"And if you are determined to act what my feeble judgment must still term
rashly, why give yourself the pain of this untimely meeting?"
"Were it not enough to answer," said Lord Evandale, "that, ere rushing on
battle, I wished to bid adieu to my betrothed bride? Surely it is judging
coldly of my feelings, and showing too plainly the indifference of your
own, to question my motive for a request so natural."
"But why in this place, my lord," said Edith; and why with such peculiar
circumstances of mystery?"
"Because," he replied, putting a letter into her hand, "I have yet
another request, which I dare hardly proffer, even when prefaced by these
In haste and terror, Edith glanced over the letter, which was from her
"My dearest childe," such was its tenor in style and spelling, "I
never more deeply regretted the reumatizm, which disqualified me
from riding on horseback, than at this present writing, when I would
most have wished to be where this paper will soon be, that is at
Fairy Knowe, with my poor dear Willie's only child. But it is the
will of God I should not be with her, which I conclude to be the
case, as much for the pain I now suffer, as because it hath now not
given way either to cammomile poultices or to decoxion of wild
mustard, wherewith I have often relieved others. Therefore, I must
tell you, by writing instead of word of mouth, that, as my young
Lord Evandale is called to the present campaign, both by his honour
and his duty, he hath earnestly solicited me that the bonds of holy
matrimony be knitted before his departure to the wars between you
and him, in implement of the indenture formerly entered into for
that effeck, whereuntill, as I see no raisonable objexion, so I
trust that you, who have been always a good and obedient childe,
will not devize any which has less than raison. It is trew that the
contrax of our house have heretofore been celebrated in a manner
more befitting our Rank, and not in private, and with few witnesses,
as a thing done in a corner. But it has been Heaven's own free will,
as well as those of the kingdom where we live, to take away from us
our estate, and from the King his throne. Yet I trust He will yet
restore the rightful heir to the throne, and turn his heart to the
true Protestant Episcopal faith, which I have the better right to
expect to see even with my old eyes, as I have beheld the royal
family when they were struggling as sorely with masterful usurpers
and rebels as they are now; that is to say, when his most sacred
Majesty, Charles the Second of happy memory, honoured our poor house
of Tillietudlem by taking his /disjune/ therein," etc., etc., etc.
We will not abuse the reader's patience by quoting more of Lady
Margaret's prolix epistle. Suffice it to say that it closed by laying her
commands on her grandchild to consent to the solemnization of her
marriage without loss of time.
"I never thought till this instant," said Edith, dropping the letter from
her hand, "that Lord Evandale would have acted ungenerously."
"Ungenerously, Edith!" replied her lover. "And how can you apply such a
term to my desire to call you mine, ere I part from you, perhaps for
"Lord Evandale ought to have remembered," said Edith, "that when his
perseverance, and, I must add, a due sense of his merit and of the
obligations we owed him, wrung from me a slow consent that I would one
day comply with his wishes, I made it my condition that I should not be
pressed to a hasty accomplishment of my promise; and now he avails
himself of his interest with my only remaining relative to hurry me with
precipitate and even indelicate importunity. There is more selfishness
than generosity, my lord, in such eager and urgent solicitation."
Lord Evandale, evidently much hurt, took two or three turns through the
apartment ere he replied to this accusation; at length he spoke: "I
should have escaped this painful charge, durst I at once have mentioned
to Miss Bellendon my principal reason for urging this request. It is one
which she will probably despise on her own account, but which ought to
weigh with her for the sake of Lady Margaret. My death in battle must
give my whole estate to my heirs of entail; my forfeiture as a traitor,
by the usurping Government, may vest it in the Prince of Orange or some
Dutch favourite. In either case, my venerable friend and betrothed bride
must remain unprotected and in poverty. Vested with the rights and
provisions of Lady Evandale, Edith will find, in the power of supporting
her aged parent, some consolation for having condescended to share the
titles and fortunes of one who does not pretend to be worthy of her."
Edith was struck dumb by an argument which she had not expected, and was
compelled to acknowledge that Lord Evandale's suit was urged with
delicacy as well as with consideration.
"And yet," she said, "such is the waywardness with which my heart reverts
to former times that I cannot," she burst into tears, "suppress a degree
of ominous reluctance at fulfilling my engagement upon such a brief
"We have already fully considered this painful subject," said Lord
Evandale; "and I hoped, my dear Edith, your own inquiries, as well as
mine, had fully convinced you that these regrets were fruitless."
"Fruitless indeed!" said Edith, with a deep sigh, which, as if by an
unexpected echo, was repeated from the adjoining apartment. Miss
Bellenden started at the sound, and scarcely composed herself upon Lord
Evandale's assurances that she had heard but the echo of her own
"It sounded strangely distinct," she said, "and almost ominous; but my
feelings are so harassed that the slightest trifle agitates them."
Lord Evandale eagerly attempted to soothe her alarm, and reconcile her to
a measure which, however hasty, appeared to him the only means by which
he could secure her independence. He urged his claim in virtue of the
contract, her grandmother's wish and command, the propriety of insuring
her comfort and independence, and touched lightly on his own long
attachment, which he had evinced by so many and such various services.
These Edith felt the more, the less they were insisted upon; and at
length, as she had nothing to oppose to his ardour, excepting a causeless
reluctance which she herself was ashamed to oppose against so much
generosity, she was compelled to rest upon the impossibility of having
the ceremony performed upon such hasty notice, at such a time and place.
But for all this Lord Evandale was prepared, and he explained, with
joyful alacrity, that the former chaplain of his regiment was in
attendance at the Lodge with a faithful domestic, once a non-commissioned
officer in the same corps; that his sister was also possessed of the
secret; and that Headrigg and his wife might be added to the list of
witnesses, if agreeable to Miss Bellenden. As to the place, he had chosen
it on very purpose. The marriage was to remain a secret, since Lord
Evandale was to depart in disguise very soon after it was solemnized,--a
circumstance which, had their union been public, must have drawn upon him
the attention of the Government, as being altogether unaccountable,
unless from his being engaged in some dangerous design. Having hastily
urged these motives and explained his arrangements, he ran, without
waiting for an answer, to summon his sister to attend his bride, while he
went in search of the other persons whose presence was necessary.
When Lady Emily arrived, she found her friend in an agony of tears, of
which she was at some loss to comprehend the reason, being one of those
damsels who think there is nothing either wonderful or terrible in
matrimony, and joining with most who knew him in thinking that it could
not be rendered peculiarly alarming by Lord Evandale being the
bridegroom. Influenced by these feelings, she exhausted in succession all
the usual arguments for courage, and all the expressions of sympathy and
condolence ordinarily employed on such occasions. But when Lady Emily
beheld her future sister-in-law deaf to all those ordinary topics of
consolation; when she beheld tears follow fast and without intermission
down cheeks as pale as marble; when she felt that the hand which she
pressed in order to enforce her arguments turned cold within her grasp,
and lay, like that of a corpse, insensible and unresponsive to her
caresses, her feelings of sympathy gave way to those of hurt pride and
"I must own," she said, "that I am something at a loss to understand all
this, Miss Bellenden. Months have passed since you agreed to marry my
brother, and you have postponed the fulfilment of your engagement from
one period to another, as if you had to avoid some dishonourable or
highly disagreeable connection. I think I can answer for Lord Evandale
that he will seek no woman's hand against her inclination; and, though
his sister, I may boldly say that he does not need to urge any lady
further than her inclinations carry her. You will forgive me, Miss
Bellenden; but your present distress augurs ill for my brother's future
happiness, and I must needs say that he does not merit all these
expressions of dislike and dolour, and that they seem an odd return for
an attachment which he has manifested so long, and in so many ways."
"You are right, Lady Emily," said Edith, drying her eyes and endeavouring
to resume her natural manner, though still betrayed by her faltering
voice and the paleness of her cheeks,--"you are quite right; Lord
Evandale merits such usage from no one, least of all from her whom he has
honoured with his regard. But if I have given way, for the last time, to
a sudden and irresistible burst of feeling, it is my consolation, Lady
Emily, that your brother knows the cause, that I have hid nothing from
him, and that he at least is not apprehensive of finding in Edith
Bellenden a wife undeserving of his affection. But still you are right,
and I merit your censure for indulging for a moment fruitless regret and
painful remembrances. It shall be so no longer; my lot is cast with
Evandale, and with him I am resolved to bear it. Nothing shall in future
occur to excite his complaints or the resentment of his relations; no
idle recollections of other days shall intervene to prevent the zealous
and affectionate discharge of my duty; no vain illusions recall the
memory of other days--"
As she spoke these words, she slowly raised her eyes, which had before
been hidden by her hand, to the latticed window of her apartment, which
was partly open, uttered a dismal shriek, and fainted. Lady Emily turned
her eyes in the same direction, but saw only the shadow of a man, which
seemed to disappear from the window, and, terrified more by the state of
Edith than by the apparition she had herself witnessed, she uttered
shriek upon shriek for assistance. Her brother soon arrived, with the
chaplain and Jenny Dennison; but strong and vigorous remedies were
necessary ere they could recall Miss Bellenden to sense and motion. Even
then her language was wild and incoherent.
"Press me no farther," she said to Lord Evandale,--"it cannot be; Heaven
and earth, the living and the dead, have leagued themselves against this
ill-omened union. Take all I can give,--my sisterly regard, my devoted
friendship. I will love you as a sister and serve you as a bondswoman,
but never speak to me more of marriage."
The astonishment of Lord Evandale may easily be conceived.
"Emily," he said to his sister, "this is your doing. I was accursed when
I thought of bringing you here; some of your confounded folly has driven
"On my word, Brother," answered Lady Emily, "you're sufficient to drive
all the women in Scotland mad. Because your mistress seems much disposed
to jilt you, you quarrel with your sister, who has been arguing in your
cause, and had brought her to a quiet hearing, when, all of a sudden, a
man looked in at a window, whom her crazed sensibility mistook either for
you or some one else, and has treated us gratis with an excellent tragic
"What man? What window?" said Lord Evandale, in impatient displeasure.
"Miss Bellenden is incapable of trifling with me; and yet what else could
"Hush! hush!" said Jenny, whose interest lay particularly in shifting
further inquiry; "for Heaven's sake, my lord, speak low, for my lady
begins to recover."
Edith was no sooner somewhat restored to herself than she begged, in a
feeble voice, to be left alone with Lord Evandale. All retreated,--Jenny
with her usual air of officious simplicity, Lady Emily and the chaplain
with that of awakened curiosity. No sooner had they left the apartment
than Edith beckoned Lord Evandale to sit beside her on the couch; her
next motion was to take his hand, in spite of his surprised resistance,
to her lips; her last was to sink from her seat and to clasp his knees.
"Forgive me, my lord!" she exclaimed, "forgive me! I must deal most
untruly by you, and break a solemn engagement. You have my friendship, my
highest regard, my most sincere gratitude; you have more,--you have my
word and my faith; but--oh, forgive me, for the fault is not mine--you
have not my love, and I cannot marry you without a sin!"
"You dream, my dearest Edith!" said Evandale, perplexed in the utmost
degree, "you let your imagination beguile you; this is but some delusion
of an over-sensitive mind. The person whom you preferred to me has been
long in a better world, where your unavailing regret cannot follow him,
or, if it could, would only diminish his happiness."
"You are mistaken, Lord Evandale," said Edith, solemnly; "I am not a
sleep-walker or a madwoman. No, I could not have believed from any one
what I have seen. But, having seen him, I must believe mine own eyes."
"Seen him,--seen whom?" asked Lord Evandale, in great anxiety.
"Henry Morton," replied Edith, uttering these two words as if they were
her last, and very nearly fainting when she had done so.
"Miss Bellenden," said Lord Evandale, "you treat me like a fool or a
child. If you repent your engagement to me," he continued, indignantly,
"I am not a man to enforce it against your inclination; but deal with me
as a man, and forbear this trifling."
He was about to go on, when he perceived, from her quivering eye and
pallid cheek, that nothing less than imposture was intended, and that by
whatever means her imagination had been so impressed, it was really
disturbed by unaffected awe and terror. He changed his tone, and exerted
all his eloquence in endeavouring to soothe and extract from her the
secret cause of such terror.
"I saw him!" she repeated,--"I saw Henry Morton stand at that window, and
look into the apartment at the moment I was on the point of abjuring him
for ever. His face was darker, thinner, and paler than it was wont to be;
his dress was a horseman's cloak, and hat looped down over his face; his
expression was like that he wore on that dreadful morning when he was
examined by Claverhouse at Tillietudlem. Ask your sister, ask Lady Emily,
if she did not see him as well as I. I know what has called him up,--he
came to upbraid me, that, while my heart was with him in the deep and
dead sea, I was about to give my hand to another. My lord, it is ended
between you and me; be the consequences what they will, she cannot marry
whose union disturbs the repose of the dead."
"Good Heaven!" said Evandale, as he paced the room, half mad himself with
surprise and vexation, "her fine understanding must be totally
overthrown, and that by the effort which she has made to comply with my
ill-timed, though well-meant, request. Without rest and attention her
health is ruined for ever."
At this moment the door opened, and Halliday, who had been Lord
Evandale's principal personal attendant since they both left the Guards
on the Revolution, stumbled into the room with a countenance as pale and
ghastly as terror could paint it.
"What is the matter next, Halliday?" cried his master, starting up. "Any
discovery of the--"
He had just recollection sufficient to stop short in the midst of the
"No, sir," said Halliday, "it is not that, nor anything like that; but I
have seen a ghost!"
"A ghost, you eternal idiot!" said Lord Evandale, forced altogether out
of his patience. "Has all mankind sworn to go mad in order to drive me
so? What ghost, you simpleton?"
"The ghost of Henry Morton, the Whig captain at Bothwell Bridge," replied
Halliday. "He passed by me like a fire-flaught when I was in the garden!"
"This is midsummer madness," said Lord Evandale, "or there is some
strange villainy afloat. Jenny, attend your lady to her chamber, while I
endeavour to find a clue to all this."
But Lord Evandale's inquiries were in vain. Jenny, who might have given
(had she chosen) a very satisfactory explanation, had an interest to
leave the matter in darkness; and interest was a matter which now weighed
principally with Jenny, since the possession of an active and
affectionate husband in her own proper right had altogether allayed her
spirit of coquetry. She had made the best use of the first moments of
confusion hastily to remove all traces of any one having slept in the
apartment adjoining to the parlour, and even to erase the mark of
footsteps beneath the window, through which she conjectured Morton's face
had been seen, while attempting, ere he left the garden, to gain one look
at her whom he had so long loved, and was now on the point of losing for
ever. That he had passed Halliday in the garden was equally clear; and
she learned from her elder boy, whom she had employed to have the
stranger's horse saddled and ready for his departure, that he had rushed
into the stable, thrown the child a broad gold piece, and, mounting his
horse, had ridden with fearful rapidity down towards the Clyde. The
secret was, therefore, in their own family, and Jenny was resolved it
should remain so.
"For, to be sure," she said, "although her lady and Halliday kend Mr.
Morton by broad daylight, that was nae reason I suld own to kenning him
in the gloaming and by candlelight, and him keeping his face frae Cuddie
and me a' the time."
So she stood resolutely upon the negative when examined by Lord Evandale.
As for Halliday, he could only say that as he entered the garden-door,
the supposed apparition met him, walking swiftly, and with a visage on
which anger and grief appeared to be contending.
"He knew him well," he said, "having been repeatedly guard upon him, and
obliged to write down his marks of stature and visage in case of escape.
And there were few faces like Mr. Morton's." But what should make him
haunt the country where he was neither hanged nor shot, he, the said
Halliday, did not pretend to conceive.
Lady Emily confessed she had seen the face of a man at the window, but
her evidence went no farther. John Gudyill deponed /nil novit in causa/.
He had left his gardening to get his morning dram just at the time when
the apparition had taken place. Lady Emily's servant was waiting orders
in the kitchen, and there was not another being within a quarter of a
mile of the house.
Lord Evandale returned perplexed and dissatisfied in the highest degree
at beholding a plan which he thought necessary not less for the
protection of Edith in contingent circumstances, than for the assurance
of his own happiness, and which he had brought so very near perfection,
thus broken off without any apparent or rational cause. His knowledge of
Edith's character set her beyond the suspicion of covering any capricious
change of determination by a pretended vision. But he would have set the
apparition down to the influence of an overstrained imagination, agitated
by the circumstances in which she had so suddenly been placed, had it not
been for the coinciding testimony of Halliday, who had no reason for
thinking of Morton more than any other person, and knew nothing of Miss
Bellenden's vision when he promulgated his own. On the other hand, it
seemed in the highest degree improbable that Morton, so long and so
vainly sought after, and who was, with such good reason, supposed to be
lost when the "Vryheid" of Rotterdam went down with crew and passengers,
should be alive and lurking in this country, where there was no longer
any reason why he should not openly show himself, since the present
Government favoured his party in politics. When Lord Evandale reluctantly
brought himself to communicate these doubts to the chaplain, in order to
obtain his opinion, he could only obtain a long lecture on demonology, in
which, after quoting Delrio and Burthoog and De L'Ancre on the subject of
apparitions, together with sundry civilians and common lawyers on the
nature of testimony, the learned gentleman expressed his definite and
determined opinion to be, either that there had been an actual apparition
of the deceased Henry Morton's spirit, the possibility of which he was,
as a divine and a philosopher, neither fully prepared to admit or to
deny; or else that the said Henry Morton, being still in /rerum natura/,
had appeared in his proper person that morning; or, finally, that some
strong /deceptio visus/, or striking similitude of person, had deceived
the eyes of Miss Bellenden and of Thomas Halliday. Which of these was the
most probable hypothesis, the doctor declined to pronounce, but expressed
himself ready to die in the opinion that one or other of them had
occasioned that morning's disturbance.
Lord Evandale soon had additional cause for distressful anxiety. Miss
Bellenden was declared to be dangerously ill.
"I will not leave this place," he exclaimed, "till she is pronounced to
be in safety. I neither can nor ought to do so; for whatever may have
been the immediate occasion of her illness, I gave the first cause for it
by my unhappy solicitation."
He established himself, therefore, as a guest in the family, which the
presence of his sister, as well as of Lady Margaret Bellenden (who, in
despite of her rheumatism, caused herself to be transported thither when
she heard of her granddaughter's illness), rendered a step equally
natural and delicate. And thus he anxiously awaited until, without injury
to her health, Edith could sustain a final explanation ere his departure
on his expedition.
"She shall never," said the generous young man, "look on her engagement
with me as the means of fettering her to a union, the idea of which seems
almost to unhinge her understanding."
Ah, happy hills! ah, pleasing shades!
Ah, fields beloved in vain!
Where once my careless childhood strayed,
A stranger yet to pain.
Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.
It is not by corporal wants and infirmities only that men of the most
distinguished talents are levelled, during their lifetime, with the
common mass of mankind. There are periods of mental agitation when the
firmest of mortals must be ranked with the weakest of his brethren, and
when, in paying the general tax of humanity, his distresses are even
aggravated by feeling that he transgresses, in the indulgence of his
grief, the rules of religion and philosophy by which he endeavours in
general to regulate his passions and his actions. It was during such a
paroxysm that the unfortunate Morton left Fairy Knowe. To know that his
long-loved and still-beloved Edith, whose image had filled his mind for
so many years, was on the point of marriage to his early rival, who had
laid claim to her heart by so many services as hardly left her a title to
refuse his addresses, bitter as the intelligence was, yet came not as an
During his residence abroad he had once written to Edith. It was to bid
her farewell for ever, and to conjure her to forget him. He had requested
her not to answer his letter; yet he half hoped, for many a day, that she
might transgress his injunction. The letter never reached her to whom it
was addressed, and Morton, ignorant of its miscarriage, could only
conclude himself laid aside and forgotten, according to his own
self-denying request. All that he had heard of their mutual relations
since his return to Scotland prepared him to expect that he could only
look upon Miss Bellenden as the betrothed bride of Lord Evandale; and
even if freed from the burden of obligation to the latter, it would still
have been inconsistent with Morton's generosity of disposition to disturb
their arrangements, by attempting the assertion of a claim proscribed by
absence, never sanctioned by the consent of friends, and barred by a
thousand circumstances of difficulty. Why then did he seek the cottage
which their broken fortunes had now rendered the retreat of Lady Margaret
Bellenden and her granddaughter? He yielded, we are under the necessity
of acknowledging, to the impulse of an inconsistent wish which many might
have felt in his situation.
Accident apprised him, while travelling towards his native district, that
the ladies, near whose mansion he must necessarily pass, were absent; and
learning that Cuddie and his wife acted as their principal domestics, he
could not resist pausing at their cottage to learn, if possible, the real
progress which Lord Evandale had made in the affections of Miss Bellen
den--alas! no longer his Edith. This rash experiment ended as we have
related, and he parted from the house of Fairy Knowe, conscious that he
was still beloved by Edith, yet compelled, by faith and honour, to
relinquish her for ever. With what feelings he must have listened to the
dialogue between Lord Evandale and Edith, the greater part of which he
involuntarily overheard, the reader must conceive, for we dare not
attempt to describe them. An hundred times he was tempted to burst upon
their interview, or to exclaim aloud, "Edith, I yet live!" and as often
the recollection of her plighted troth, and of the debt of gratitude
which he owed Lord Evandale (to whose influence with Claverhouse he
justly ascribed his escape from torture and from death), withheld him
from a rashness which might indeed have involved all in further distress,
but gave little prospect of forwarding his own happiness. He repressed
forcibly these selfish emotions, though with an agony which thrilled his
"No, Edith!" was his internal oath, "never will I add a thorn to thy
pillow. That which Heaven has ordained, let it be; and let me not add, by
my selfish sorrows, one atom's weight to the burden thou hast to bear. I
was dead to thee when thy resolution was adopted; and never, never shalt
thou know that Henry Morton still lives!"
As he formed this resolution, diffident of his own power to keep it, and
seeking that firmness in flight which was every moment shaken by his
continuing within hearing of Edith's voice, he hastily rushed from his
apartment by the little closet and the sashed door which led to the
But firmly as he thought his resolution was fixed, he could not leave the
spot where the last tones of a voice so beloved still vibrated on his
ear, without endeavouring to avail himself of the opportunity which the
parlour window afforded to steal one last glance at the lovely speaker.
It was in this attempt, made while Edith seemed to have her eyes
unalterably bent upon the ground, that Morton's presence was detected by
her raising them suddenly. So soon as her wild scream made this known to
the unfortunate object of a passion so constant, and which seemed so
ill-fated, he hurried from the place as if pursued by the furies. He
passed Halliday in the garden without recognising or even being sensible
that he had seen him, threw himself on his horse, and, by a sort of
instinct rather than recollection, took the first by-road in preference
to the public route to Hamilton.
In all probability this prevented Lord Evandale from learning that he was
actually in existence; for the news that the Highlanders had obtained a
decisive victory at Killiecrankie had occasioned an accurate look-out to
be kept, by order of the Government, on all the passes, for fear of some
commotion among the Lowland Jacobites. They did not omit to post
sentinels on Bothwell Bridge; and as these men had not seen any traveller
pass westward in that direction, and as, besides, their comrades
stationed in the village of Bothwell were equally positive that none had
gone eastward, the apparition, in the existence of which Edith and
Halliday were equally positive, became yet more mysterious in the
judgment of Lord Evandale, who was finally inclined to settle in the
belief that the heated and disturbed imagination of Edith had summoned up
the phantom she stated herself to have seen, and that Halliday had, in
some unaccountable manner, been infected by the same superstition.
Meanwhile, the by-path which Morton pursued, with all the speed which his
vigorous horse could exert, brought him in a very few seconds to the
brink of the Clyde, at a spot marked with the feet of horses, who were
conducted to it as a watering-place. The steed, urged as he was to the
gallop, did not pause a single instant, but, throwing himself into the
river, was soon beyond his depth. The plunge which the animal made as his
feet quitted the ground, with the feeling that the cold water rose above
his swordbelt, were the first incidents which recalled Morton, whose
movements had been hitherto mechanical, to the necessity of taking
measures for preserving himself and the noble animal which he bestrode. A
perfect master of all manly exercises, the management of a horse in water
was as familiar to him as when upon a meadow. He directed the animal's
course somewhat down the stream towards a low plain, or holm, which
seemed to promise an easy egress from the river. In the first and second
attempt to get on shore, the horse was frustrated by the nature of the
ground, and nearly fell backwards on his rider. The instinct of
self-preservation seldom fails, even in the most desperate circumstances,
to recall the human mind to some degree of equipoise, unless when
altogether distracted by terror, and Morton was obliged to the danger in
which he was placed for complete recovery of his self-possession. A third
attempt, at a spot more carefully and judiciously selected, succeeded
better than the former, and placed the horse and his rider in safety upon
the farther and left-hand bank of the Clyde.
"But whither," said Morton, in the bitterness of his heart, "am I now to
direct my course? or rather, what does it signify to which point of the
compass a wretch so forlorn betakes himself? I would to God, could the
wish be without a sin, that these dark waters had flowed over me, and
drowned my recollection of that which was, and that which is!"
The sense of impatience, which the disturbed state of his feelings had
occasioned, scarcely had vented itself in these violent expressions, ere
he was struck with shame at having given way to such a paroxysm. He
remembered how signally the life which he now held so lightly in the
bitterness of his disappointment had been preserved through the almost
incessant perils which had beset him since he entered upon his public
"I am a fool!" he said, "and worse than a fool, to set light by that
existence which Heaven has so often preserved in the most marvellous
manner. Something there yet remains for me in this world, were it only to
bear my sorrows like a man, and to aid those who need my assistance. What
have I seen, what have I heard, but the very conclusion of that which I
knew was to happen? They"--he durst not utter their names even in
soliloquy--"they are embarrassed and in difficulties. She is stripped of
her inheritance, and he seems rushing on some dangerous career, with
which, but for the low voice in which he spoke, I might have become
acquainted. Are there no means to aid or to warn them?"
As he pondered upon this topic, forcibly withdrawing his mind from his
own disappointment, and compelling his attention to the affairs of Edith
and her betrothed husband, the letter of Burley, long forgotten, suddenly
rushed on his memory, like a ray of light darting through a mist.
"Their ruin must have been his work," was his internal conclusion. "If it
can be repaired, it must be through his means, or by information obtained
from him. I will search him out. Stern, crafty, and enthusiastic as he
is, my plain and downright rectitude of purpose has more than once
prevailed with him. I will seek him out, at least; and who knows what
influence the information I may acquire from him may have on the fortunes
of those whom I shall never see more, and who will probably never learn
that I am now suppressing my own grief, to add, if possible, to their
Animated by these hopes, though the foundation was but slight, he sought
the nearest way to the high-road; and as all the tracks through the
valley were known to him since he hunted through them in youth, he had no
other difficulty than that of surmounting one or two enclosures, ere he
found himself on the road to the small burgh where the feast of the
popinjay had been celebrated. He journeyed in a state of mind sad indeed
and dejected, yet relieved from its earlier and more intolerable state of
anguish; for virtuous resolution and manly disinterestedness seldom fail
to restore tranquillity even where they cannot create happiness. He
turned his thoughts with strong effort upon the means of discovering
Burley, and the chance there was of extracting from him any knowledge
which he might possess favourable to her in whose cause he interested
himself; and at length formed the resolution of guiding himself by the
circumstances in which he might discover the object of his quest,
trusting that, from Cuddie's account of a schism betwixt Burley and his
brethren of the Presbyterian persuasion, he might find him less
rancorously disposed against Miss Bellenden, and inclined to exert the
power which he asserted himself to possess over her fortunes, more
favourably than heretofore.
Noontide had passed away when our traveller found himself in the
neighbourhood of his deceased uncle's habitation of Milnwood. It rose
among glades and groves that were chequered with a thousand early
recollections of joy and sorrow, and made upon Morton that mournful
impression, soft and affecting, yet, withal, soothing, which the
sensitive mind usually receives from a return to the haunts of childhood
and early youth, after having experienced the vicissitudes and tempests
of public life. A strong desire came upon him to visit the house itself.
"Old Alison," he thought, "will not know me, more than the honest couple
whom I saw yesterday. I may indulge my curiosity, and proceed on my
journey, without her having any knowledge of my existence. I think they
said my uncle had bequeathed to her my family mansion,--well, be it so. I
have enough to sorrow for, to enable me to dispense with lamenting such a
disappointment as that; and yet methinks he has chosen an odd successor
in my grumbling old dame, to a line of respectable, if not distinguished,
ancestry. Let it be as it may, I will visit the old mansion at least once
The house of Milnwood, even in its best days, had nothing cheerful about
it; but its gloom appeared to be doubled under the auspices of the old
housekeeper. Everything, indeed, was in repair; there were no slates
deficient upon the steep grey roof, and no panes broken in the narrow
windows. But the grass in the court-yard looked as if the foot of man had
not been there for years; the doors were carefully locked, and that which
admitted to the hall seemed to have been shut for a length of time, since
the spiders had fairly drawn their webs over the door-way and the
staples. Living sight or sound there was none, until, after much
knocking, Morton heard the little window, through which it was
usual to reconnoitre visitors, open with much caution. The face of
Alison, puckered with some score of wrinkles in addition to those with
which it was furrowed when Morton left Scotland, now presented itself,
enveloped in a /toy/, from under the protection of which some of her grey
tresses had escaped in a manner more picturesque than beautiful, while
her shrill, tremulous voice demanded the cause of the knocking.
"I wish to speak an instant with one Alison Wilson, who resides here,"
"She's no at hame the day," answered Mrs. Wilson, /in propria persona/,
the state of whose headdress, perhaps, inspired her with this direct mode
of denying herself; "and ye are but a mislear'd person to speer for her
in sic a manner. Ye might hae had an M under your belt for Mistress
Wilson of Milnwood."
"I beg pardon," said Morton, internally smiling at finding in old Ailie
the same jealousy of disrespect which she used to exhibit upon former
occasions,--"I beg pardon; I am but a stranger in this country, and have
been so long abroad that I have almost forgotten my own language."
"Did ye come frae foreign parts?" said Ailie; "then maybe ye may hae
heard of a young gentleman of this country that they ca' Henry Morton?"
"I have heard," said Morton, "of such a name in Germany."
"Then bide a wee bit where ye are, friend; or stay,--gang round by the
back o' the house, and ye'll find a laigh door; it's on the latch, for
it's never barred till sunset. Ye 'll open 't,--and tak care ye dinna fa'
ower the tub, for the entry's dark,--and then ye'll turn to the right,
and then ye'll hand straught forward, and then ye'll turn to the right
again, and ye 'll tak heed o' the cellarstairs, and then ye 'll be at the
door o' the little kitchen,--it's a' the kitchen that's at Milnwood now,
--and I'll come down t'ye, and whate'er ye wad say to Mistress Wilson ye
may very safely tell it to me."
A stranger might have had some difficulty, notwithstanding the minuteness
of the directions supplied by Ailie, to pilot himself in safety through
the dark labyrinth of passages that led from the back-door to the little
kitchen; but Henry was too well acquainted with the navigation of these
straits to experience danger, either from the Scylla which lurked on one
side in shape of a bucking tub, or the Charybdis which yawned on the
other in the profundity of a winding cellar-stair. His only impediment
arose from the snarling and vehement barking of a small cocking spaniel,
once his own property, but which, unlike to the faithful Argus, saw his
master return from his wanderings without any symptom of recognition.
"The little dogs and all!" said Morton to himself, on being disowned by
his former favourite. "I am so changed that no breathing creature that I
have known and loved will now acknowledge me!"
At this moment he had reached the kitchen; and soon after, the tread of
Alison's high heels, and the pat of the crutch-handled cane which served
at once to prop and to guide her footsteps, were heard upon the stairs,--
an annunciation which continued for some time ere she fairly reached the
Morton had, therefore, time to survey the slender preparations for
housekeeping which were now sufficient in the house of his ancestors. The
fire, though coals are plenty in that neighbourhood, was husbanded with
the closest attention to economy of fuel, and the small pipkin, in which
was preparing the dinner of the old woman and her maid-of-all-work, a
girl of twelve years old, intimated, by its thin and watery vapour, that
Ailie had not mended her cheer with her improved fortune.
When she entered, the head, which nodded with self-importance; the
features, in which an irritable peevishness, acquired by habit and
indulgence, strove with a temper naturally affectionate and good-natured;
the coif; the apron; the blue-checked gown,--were all those of old Ailie;
but laced pinners, hastily put on to meet the stranger, with some other
trifling articles of decoration, marked the difference between Mrs.
Wilson, life-rentrix of Milnwood, and the housekeeper of the late
"What were ye pleased to want wi' Mrs. Wilson, sir? I am Mrs. Wilson,"
was her first address; for the five minutes time which she had gained for
the business of the toilet entitled her, she conceived, to assume the
full merit of her illustrious name, and shine forth on her guest in
unchastened splendour. Morton's sensations, confounded between the past
and present, fairly confused him so much that he would have had
difficulty in answering her, even if he had known well what to say. But
as he had not determined what character he was to adopt while concealing
that which was properly his own, he had an additional reason for
remaining silent. Mrs. Wilson, in perplexity, and with some apprehension,
repeated her question.
"What were ye pleased to want wi' me, sir? Ye said ye kend Mr. Harry
"Pardon me, madam," answered Henry, "it was of one Silas Morton I spoke."
The old woman's countenance fell.
"It was his father, then, ye kent o', the brother o' the late Milnwood?
Ye canna mind him abroad, I wad think,--he was come hame afore ye were
born. I thought ye had brought me news of poor Maister Harry."
"It was from my father I learned to know Colonel Morton," said Henry; "of
the son I know little or nothing,--rumour says he died abroad on his
passage to Holland."
"That's ower like to be true," said the old woman with a sigh, "and mony
a tear it's cost my auld een. His uncle, poor gentleman, just sough'd awa
wi' it in his mouth. He had been gieing me preceeze directions anent the
bread and the wine and the brandy at his burial, and how often it was to
be handed round the company (for, dead or alive, he was a prudent,
frugal, painstaking man), and then he said, said he, 'Ailie,' (he aye
ca'd me Ailie; we were auld acquaintance), 'Ailie, take ye care and haud
the gear weel thegither; for the name of Morton of Milnwood 's gane out
like the last sough of an auld sang.' And sae he fell out o' ae dwam into
another, and ne'er spak a word mair, unless it were something we cou'dna
mak out, about a dipped candle being gude eneugh to see to dee wi'. He
cou'd ne'er bide to see a moulded ane, and there was ane, by ill luck, on
While Mrs. Wilson was thus detailing the last moments of the old miser,
Morton was pressingly engaged in diverting the assiduous curiosity of the
dog, which, recovered from his first surprise, and combining former
recollections, had, after much snuffing and examination, begun a course
of capering and jumping upon the stranger which threatened every instant
to betray him. At length, in the urgency of his impatience, Morton could
not forbear exclaiming, in a tone of hasty impatience, "Down, Elphin!
"Ye ken our dog's name," said the old lady, struck with great and sudden
surprise,--"ye ken our dog's name, and it's no a common ane. And the
creature kens you too," she continued, in a more agitated and shriller
tone,--"God guide us! it's my ain bairn!"
So saying, the poor old woman threw herself around Morton's neck, cling
to him, kissed him as if he had been actually her child, and wept for
joy. There was no parrying the discovery, if he could have had the heart
to attempt any further disguise. He returned the embrace with the most
grateful warmth, and answered,--
"I do indeed live, dear Ailie, to thank you for all your kindness, past
and present, and to rejoice that there is at least one friend to welcome
me to my native country."
"Friends!" exclaimed Ailie, "ye'll hae mony friends,--ye 'll hae mony
friends; for ye will hae gear, hinny,--ye will hae gear. Heaven mak ye a
gude guide o't! But eh, sirs!" she continued, pushing him back from her
with her trembling hand and shrivelled arm, and gazing in his face as if
to read, at more convenient distance, the ravages which sorrow rather
than time had made on his face,--"Eh, sirs! ye're sair altered, hinny;
your face is turned pale, and your een are sunken, and your bonny
red-and-white cheeks are turned a' dark and sun-burnt. Oh, weary on the
wars! mony 's the comely face they destroy.--And when cam ye here, hinny?
And where hae ye been? And what hae ye been doing? And what for did ye na
write to us? And how cam ye to pass yoursell for dead? And what for did
ye come creepin' to your ain house as if ye had been an unto body, to gie
poor auld Ailie sic a start?" she concluded, smiling through her tears.
It was some time ere Morton could overcome his own emotion so as to give
the kind old woman the information which we shall communicate to our
readers in the next chapter.
Aumerle that was,
But that is gone for being Richard's friend;
And, madam, you must call him Rutland now.
The scene of explanation was hastily removed from the little kitchen to
Mrs. Wilson's own matted room,--the very same which she had occupied as
housekeeper, and which she continued to retain. "It was," she said,
"better secured against sifting winds than the hall, which she had found
dangerous to her rheumatisms, and it was more fitting for her use than
the late Milnwood's apartment, honest man, which gave her sad thoughts;"
and as for the great oak parlour, it was never opened but to be aired,
washed, and dusted, according to the invariable practice of the family,
unless upon their most solemn festivals. In the matted room, therefore,
they were settled, surrounded by pickle-pots and conserves of all kinds,
which the ci-devant housekeeper continued to compound, out of mere habit,
although neither she herself, nor any one else, ever partook of the
comfits which she so regularly prepared.
Morton, adapting his narrative to the comprehension of his auditor,
informed her briefly of the wreck of the vessel and the loss of all
hands, excepting two or three common seamen who had early secured the
skiff, and were just putting off from the vessel when he leaped from the
deck into their boat, and unexpectedly, as well as contrary to their
inclination, made himself partner of their voyage and of their safety.
Landed at Flushing, he was fortunate enough to meet with an old officer
who had been in service with his father. By his advice, he shunned going
immediately to the Hague, but forwarded his letters to the court of the
"Our prince," said the veteran, "must as yet keep terms with his
father-in-law and with your King Charles; and to approach him in the
character of a Scottish malecontent would render it imprudent for him to
distinguish you by his favour. Wait, therefore, his orders, without
forcing yourself on his notice; observe the strictest prudence and
retirement; assume for the present a different name; shun the company of
the British exiles; and, depend upon it, you will not repent your
The old friend of Silas Morton argued justly. After a considerable time
had elapsed, the Prince of Orange, in a progress through the United
States, came to the town where Morton, impatient at his situation and the
incognito which he was obliged to observe, still continued, nevertheless,
to be a resident. He had an hour of private interview assigned, in which
the prince expressed himself highly pleased with his intelligence, his
prudence, and the liberal view which he seemed to take of the factions of
his native country, their motives and their purposes.
"I would gladly," said William, "attach you to my own person; but that
cannot be without giving offence in England. But I will do as much for
you, as well out of respect for the sentiments you have expressed, as for
the recommendations you have brought me. Here is a commission in a Swiss
regiment at present in garrison in a distant province, where you will
meet few or none of your countrymen. Continue to be Captain Melville, and
let the name of Morton sleep till better days."
"Thus began my fortune," continued Morton; "and my services have, on
various occasions, been distinguished by his Royal Highness, until the
moment that brought him to Britain as our political deliverer. His
commands must excuse my silence to my few friends in Scotland; and I
wonder not at the report of my death, considering the wreck of the
vessel, and that I found no occasion to use the letters of exchange with
which I was furnished by the liberality of some of them,--a circumstance
which must have confirmed the belief that I had perished."
"But, dear hinny," asked Mrs. Wilson, "did ye find nae Scotch body at the
Prince of Oranger's court that kend ye? I wad hae thought Morton o'
Milnwood was kend a' through the country."
"I was purposely engaged in distant service," said Morton, "until a
period when few, without as deep and kind a motive of interest as yours,
Ailie, would have known the stripling Morton in Major-General Melville."
"Malville was your mother's name," said Mrs. Wilson; "but Morton sounds
far bonnier in my auld lugs. And when ye tak up the lairdship, ye maun
tak the auld name and designation again."
"I am like to be in no haste to do either the one or the other, Ailie,
for I have some reasons for the present to conceal my being alive from
every one but you; and as for the lairdship of Milnwood, it is in as good
"As gude hands, hinny!" re-echoed Ailie; "I'm hopefu' ye are no meaning
mine? The rents and the lands are but a sair fash to me. And I'm ower
failed to tak a helpmate, though Wylie Mactrickit the writer was very
pressing, and spak very civilly; but I 'm ower auld a cat to draw that
strae before me. He canna whilliwhaw me as he's dune mony a ane. And then
I thought aye ye wad come back, and I wad get my pickle meal and my soup
milk, and keep a' things right about ye as I used to do in your puir
uncle's time, and it wad be just pleasure eneugh for me to see ye thrive
and guide the gear canny. Ye'll hae learned that in Holland, I'se
warrant, for they're thrifty folk there, as I hear tell.--But ye'll be
for keeping rather a mair house than puir auld Milnwood that's gave; and,
indeed, I would approve o' your eating butchermeat maybe as aften as
three times a-week,--it keeps the wind out o' the stamack."
"We will talk of all this another time," said Morton, surprised at the
generosity upon a large scale which mingled in Ailie's thoughts and
actions with habitual and sordid parsimony, and at the odd contrast
between her love of saving and indifference to self-acquisition. "You
must know," he continued, "that I am in this country only for a few days
on some special business of importance to the Government, and therefore,
Ailie, not a word of having seen me. At some other time I will acquaint
you fully with my motives and intentions."
"E'en be it sae, my jo," replied Ailie, "I can keep a secret like my
neighbours; and weel auld Milnwood kend it, honest man, for he tauld me
where he keepit his gear, and that's what maist folk like to hae as
private as possibly may be.--But come awa wi' me, hinny, till I show ye
the oak-parlour how grandly it's keepit, just as if ye had been expected
haine every day,--I loot naebody sort it but my ain hands. It was a kind
o' divertisement to me, though whiles the tear wan into my ee, and I said
to mysell, What needs I fash wi' grates and carpets and cushions and the
muckle brass candlesticks ony mair? for they'll ne'er come hame that
aught it rightfully."
With these words she hauled him away to this sanctum sanctorum, the
scrubbing and cleaning whereof was her daily employment, as its high
state of good order constituted the very pride of her heart. Morton, as
he followed her into the room, underwent a rebuke for not "dighting his
shune," which showed that Ailie had not relinquished her habits of
authority. On entering the oak-parlour he could not but recollect the
feelings of solemn awe with which, when a boy, he had been affected at
his occasional and rare admission to an apartment which he then supposed
had not its equal save in the halls of princes. It may be readily
supposed that the worked-worsted chairs, with their short ebony legs and
long upright backs, had lost much of their influence over his mind; that
the large brass andirons seemed diminished in splendour; that the green
worsted tapestry appeared no masterpiece of the Arras loom; and that the
room looked, on the whole, dark, gloomy, and disconsolate. Yet there were
two objects, "The counterfeit presentment of two brothers," which,
dissimilar as those described by Hamlet, affected his mind with a variety
of sensations. One full-length portrait represented his father in
complete armour, with a countenance indicating his masculine and
determined character; and the other set forth his uncle, in velvet and
brocade, looking as if he were ashamed of his own finery, though entirely
indebted for it to the liberality of the painter.
"It was an idle fancy," Ailie said, "to dress the honest auld man in thae
expensive fal-lalls that he ne'er wore in his life, instead o' his douce
Raploch grey, and his band wi' the narrow edging."
In private, Morton could not help being much of her opinion; for anything
approaching to the dress of a gentleman sate as ill on the ungainly
person of his relative as an open or generous expression would have done
on his mean and money-making features. He now extricated himself from
Ailie to visit some of his haunts in the neighbouring wood, while her own
hands made an addition to the dinner she was preparing,--an incident no
otherwise remarkable than as it cost the life of a fowl, which, for any
event of less importance than the arrival of Henry Morton, might have
cackled on to a good old age ere Ailie could have been guilty of the
extravagance of killing and dressing it. The meal was seasoned by talk of
old times and by the plans which Ailie laid out for futurity, in which
she assigned her young master all the prudential habits of her old one,
and planned out the dexterity with which she was to exercise her duty as
governante. Morton let the old woman enjoy her day-dreams and
castle-building during moments of such pleasure, and deferred till some
fitter occasion the communication of his purpose again to return and
spend his life upon the Continent.
His next care was to lay aside his military dress, which he considered
likely to render more difficult his researches after Burley. He exchanged
it--for a grey doublet and cloak, formerly his usual attire at Milnwood,
and which Mrs. Wilson produced from a chest of walnut-tree, wherein she
had laid them aside, without forgetting carefully to brush and air them
from time to time. Morton retained his sword and fire-arms, without which
few persons travelled in those unsettled times. When he appeared in his
new attire, Mrs. Wilson was first thankful "that they fitted him sae
decently, since, though he was nae fatter, yet he looked mair manly than
when he was taen frae Milnwood."
Next she enlarged on the advantage of saving old clothes to be what she
called "beet-masters to the new," and was far advanced in the history of
a velvet cloak belonging to the late Milnwood, which had first been
converted to a velvet doublet, and then into a pair of breeches, and
appeared each time as good as new, when Morton interrupted her account of
its transmigration to bid her good-by.
He gave, indeed, a sufficient shock to her feelings, by expressing the
necessity he was under of proceeding on his journey that evening.
"And where are ye gaun? And what wad ye do that for? And whar wad ye
sleep but in your ain house, after ye hae been sae mony years frae hame?"
"I feel all the unkindness of it, Ailie, but it must be so; and that was
the reason that I attempted to conceal myself from you, as I suspected
you would not let me part from you so easily."
"But whar are ye gaun, then?" said Ailie, once more. "Saw e'er mortal een
the like o' you, just to come ae moment, and flee awa like an arrow out
of a bow the neist?"
"I must go down," replied Morton, "to Niel Blane the Piper's Howff; he
can give me a bed, I suppose?"
"A bed? I'se warrant can he," replied Ailie, "and gar ye pay weel for 't
into the bargain. Laddie, I daresay ye hae lost your wits in thae foreign
parts, to gang and gie siller for a supper and a bed, and might hae baith
for naething, and thanks t' ye for accepting them."
"I assure you, Ailie," said Morton, desirous to silence her
remonstrances, "that this is a business of great importance, in which I
may be a great gainer, and cannot possibly be a loser."
"I dinna see how that can be, if ye begin by gieing maybe the feck o'
twal shillings Scots for your supper; but young folks are aye
venturesome, and think to get siller that way. My puir auld master took
a surer gate, and never parted wi' it when he had anes gotten 't."
Persevering in his desperate resolution, Morton took leave of Ailie, and
mounted his horse to proceed to the little town, after exacting a solemn
promise that she would conceal his return until she again saw or heard
"I am not very extravagant," was his natural reflection, as he trotted
slowly towards the town; "but were Ailie and I to set up house together,
as she proposes, I think my profusion would break the good old creature's
heart before a week were out."
Where's the jolly host
You told me of? 'T has been my custom ever
To parley with mine host.
Morton reached the borough town without meeting with any remarkable
adventure, and alighted at the little inn. It had occurred to him more
than once, while upon his journey, that his resumption of the dress which
he had worn while a youth, although favourable to his views in other
respects, might render it more difficult for him to remain incognito. But
a few years of campaigns and wandering had so changed his appearance that
he had great confidence that in the grown man, whose brows exhibited the
traces of resolution and considerate thought, none would recognise the
raw and bashful stripling who won the game of the popinjay. The only
chance was that here and there some Whig, whom he had led to battle,
might remember the Captain of the Milnwood Marksmen; but the risk, if
there was any, could not be guarded against.
The Howff seemed full and frequented as if possessed of all its old
celebrity. The person and demeanour of Niel Blane, more fat and less
civil than of yore, intimated that he had increased as well in purse as
in corpulence; for in Scotland a landlord's complaisance for his guests
decreases in exact proportion to his rise in the world. His daughter had
acquired the air of a dexterous barmaid, undisturbed by the circumstances
of love and war, so apt to perplex her in the exercise of her vocation.
Both showed Morton the degree of attention which could have been expected
by a stranger travelling without attendants, at a time when they were
particularly the badges of distinction. He took upon himself exactly the
character his appearance presented, went to the stable and saw his horse
accommodated, then returned to the house, and seating himself in the
public room (for to request one to himself would, in those days, have
been thought an overweening degree of conceit), he found himself in the
very apartment in which he had some years before celebrated his victory
at the game of the popinjay,--a jocular preferment which led to so many
He felt himself, as may well be supposed, a much changed man since that
festivity; and yet, to look around him, the groups assembled in the Howff
seemed not dissimilar to those which the same scene had formerly
presented. Two or three burghers husbanded their "dribbles o' brandy;"
two or three dragoons lounged over their muddy ale, and cursed the
inactive times that allowed them no better cheer. Their cornet did not,
indeed, play at backgammon with the curate in his cassock, but he drank
a little modicum of /aqua mirabilis/ with the grey-cloaked Presbyterian
minister. The scene was another, and yet the same, differing only in
persons, but corresponding in general character.
Let the tide of the world wax or wane as it will, Morton thought as he
looked around him, enough will be found to fill the places which chance
renders vacant; and in the usual occupations and amusements of life,
human beings will succeed each other as leaves upon the same tree, with
the same individual difference and the same general resemblance.
After pausing a few minutes, Morton, whose experience had taught him the
readiest mode of securing attention, ordered a pint of claret; and as the
smiling landlord appeared with the pewter measure foaming fresh from the
tap (for bottling wine was not then in fashion), he asked him to sit down
and take a share of the good cheer. This invitation was peculiarly
acceptable to Niel Blane, who, if he did not positively expect it from
every guest not provided with better company, yet received it from many,
and was not a whit abashed or surprised at the summons. He sat down,
along with his guest, in a secluded nook near the chimney; and while he
received encouragement to drink by far the greater share of the liquor
before them, he entered at length, as a part of his expected functions,
upon the news of the country,--the births, deaths, and marriages; the
change of property; the downfall of old families, and the rise of new.
But politics, now the fertile source of eloquence, mine host did not care
to mingle in his theme; and it was only in answer to a question of Morton
that he replied, with an air of indifference, "Um! ay! we aye hae sodgers
amang us, mair or less. There's a wheen German horse down at Glasgow
yonder; they ca' their commander Wittybody, or some sic name, though he's
as grave and grewsome an auld Dutchman as e'er I saw."
"Wittenbold, perhaps?" said Morton,--"an old man, with grey hair and
short black moustaches; speaks seldom?"
"And smokes for ever," replied Niel Blane. "I see your honour kens the
man. He may be a very gude man too, for aught I see,--that is,
considering he is a sodger and a Dutchman; but if he were ten generals,
and as mony Wittybodies, he has nae skill in the pipes; he gar'd me stop
in the middle of Torphichen's Rant,--the best piece o' music that ever
bag gae wind to."
"But these fellows," said Morton, glancing his eye towards the soldiers
that were in the apartment, are not of his corps?"
"Na, na, these are Scotch dragoons," said mine host,--"our ain auld
caterpillars; these were Claver'se's lads a while syne, and wad be again,
maybe, if he had the lang ten in his hand."
"Is there not a report of his death?" inquired Morton.
"Troth is there," said the landlord; "your honour is right,--there is sic
a fleeing rumour; but, in my puir opinion, it's lang or the deil die. I
wad hae the folks here look to themsells. If he makes an outbreak, he'll
be doun frae the Hielands or I could drink this glass,--and whare are
they then? A' thae hell-rakers o' dragoons wad be at his whistle in a
moment. Nae doubt they're Willie's men e'en now, as they were James's a
while syne; and reason good,--they fight for their pay; what else hae
they to fight for? They hae neither lands nor houses, I trow. There's ae
gude thing o' the change, or the Revolution, as they ca' it,--folks may
speak out afore thae birkies now, and nae fear o' being hauled awa to the
guard-house, or having the thumikins screwed on your finger-ends, just as
I wad drive the screw through a cork."
There was a little pause, when Morton, feeling confident in the progress
he had made in mine host's familiarity, asked, though with the hesitation
proper to one who puts a question on the answer to which rests something
of importance, "Whether Blane knew a woman in that neighbourhood called
"Whether I ken Bessie Maclure?" answered the landlord, with a landlord's
laugh,--"How can I but ken my ain wife's (haly be her rest!)--my ain
wife's first gudeman's sister, Bessie Maclure? An honest wife she is, but
sair she's been trysted wi' misfortunes,--the loss o' twa decent lads o'
sons, in the time o' the persecution, as they ca' it nowadays; and
doucely and decently she has borne her burden, blaming nane and
condemning nane. If there's an honest woman in the world, it's Bessie
Maclure. And to lose her twa sons, as I was saying, and to hae dragoons
clinked down on her for a month bypast,--for, be Whig or Tory uppermost,
they aye quarter thae loons on victuallers,--to lose, as I was saying--"
"This woman keeps an inn, then?" interrupted Morton.
"A public, in a puir way," replied Blane, looking round at his own
superior accommodations,--"a sour browst o' sma' ale that she sells to
folk that are over drouthy wi' travel to be nice; but naething to ca' a
stirring trade or a thriving changehouse."
"Can you get me a guide there?" said Morton.
"Your honour will rest here a' the night? Ye'll hardly get accommodation
at Bessie's," said Niel, whose regard for his deceased wife's relative by
no means extended to sending company from his own house to hers.
"There is a friend," answered Morton, "whom I am to meet with there, and
I only called here to take a stirrup-cup and inquire the way."
"Your honour had better," answerd the landlord, with the perseverance of
his calling, "send some ane to warn your friend to come on here."
"I tell you, landlord," answered Morton, impatiently, "that will not
serve my purpose; I must go straight to this woman Maclure's house, and
I desire you to find me a guide."
"Aweel, sir, ye'll choose for yoursell, to be sure," said Niel Blane,
somewhat disconcerted; "but deil a guide ye'll need if ye gae doun the
water for twa mile or sae, as gin ye were bound for Milnwoodhouse, and
then tak the first broken disjasked-looking road that makes for the
hills,--ye'll ken 't by a broken ash-tree that stands at the side o' a
burn just where the roads meet; and then travel out the path,--ye canna
miss Widow Maclure's public, for deil another house or hauld is on the
road for ten lang Scots miles, and that's worth twenty English. I am
sorry your honour would think o' gaun out o' my house the night. But my
wife's gude-sister is a decent woman, and it's no lost that a friend
Morton accordingly paid his reckoning and departed. The sunset of the
summer day placed him at the ash-tree, where the path led up towards the
"Here," he said to himself, "my misfortunes commenced; for just here,
when Burley and I were about to separate on the first night we ever met,
he was alarmed by the intelligence that the passes were secured by
soldiers lying in wait for him. Beneath that very ash sate the old woman
who apprised him of his danger. How strange that my whole fortunes should
have become inseparably interwoven with that man's, without anything more
on my part than the discharge of an ordinary duty of humanity! Would to
Heaven it were possible I could find my humble quiet and tranquillity of
mind upon the spot where I lost them!"
Thus arranging his reflections betwixt speech and thought, he turned his
horse's head up the path.
Evening lowered around him as he advanced up the narrow dell which had
once been a wood, but was now a ravine divested of trees, unless where a
few, from their inaccessible situation on the edge of precipitous banks,
or clinging among rocks and huge stones, defied the invasion of men and
of cattle, like the scattered tribes of a conquered country, driven to
take refuge in the barren strength of its mountains. These too, wasted
and decayed, seemed rather to exist than to flourish, and only served to
indicate what the landscape had once been. But the stream brawled down
among them in all its freshness and vivacity, giving the life and
animation which a mountain rivulet alone can confer on the barest and
most savage scenes, and which the inhabitants of such a country miss when
gazing even upon the tranquil winding of a majestic stream through plains
of fertility, and beside palaces of splendour. The track of the road
followed the course of the brook, which was now visible, and now only to
be distinguished by its brawling heard among the stones or in the clefts
of the rock that occasionally interrupted its course.
"Murmurer that thou art," said Morton, in the enthusiasm of his reverie,
"why chafe with the rocks that stop thy course for a moment? There is a
sea to receive thee in its bosom; and there is an eternity for man when
his fretful and hasty course through the vale of time shall be ceased and
over. What thy petty fuming is to the deep and vast billows of a
shoreless ocean, are our cares, hopes, fears, joys, and sorrows to the
objects which must occupy us through the awful and boundless succession
Thus moralizing, our traveller passed on till the dell opened, and the
banks, receding from the brook, left a little green vale, exhibiting a
croft, or small field, on which some corn was growing, and a cottage,
whose walls were not above five feet high, and whose thatched roof, green
with moisture, age, houseleek, and grass, had in some places suffered
damage from the encroachment of two cows, whose appetite this appearance
of verdure had diverted from their more legitimate pasture. An ill-spelt
and worse-written inscription intimated to the traveller that he might
here find refreshment for man and horse,--no unacceptable intimation,
rude as the hut appeared to be, considering the wild path he had trod in
approaching it, and the high and waste mountains which rose in desolate
dignity behind this humble asylum.
It must indeed have been, thought Morton, in some such spot as this that
Burley was likely to find a congenial confident.
As he approached, he observed the good dame of the house herself, seated
by the door; she had hitherto been concealed from him by a huge
"Good evening, Mother," said the traveller. "Your name is Mistress
"Elizabeth Maclure, sir, a poor widow," was the reply.
"Can you lodge a stranger for a night?"
"I can, sir, if he will be pleased with the widow's cake and the widow's
"I have been a soldier, good dame," answered Morton, "and nothing can
come amiss to me in the way of entertainment."
"A sodger, sir?" said the old woman, with a sigh,--"God send ye a better
"It is believed to be an honourable profession, my good dame; I hope you
do not think the worse of me for having belonged to it?"
"I judge no one, sir," replied the woman, "and your voice sounds like
that of a civil gentleman; but I hae witnessed sae muckle ill wi'
sodgering in this puir land that I am e'en content that I can see nae
mair o't wi' these sightless organs."
As she spoke thus, Morton observed that she was blind.
"Shall I not be troublesome to you, my good dame?" said he,
compassionately; "your infirmity seems ill calculated for your
"Na, sir," answered the old woman, "I can gang about the house readily
eneugh; and I hae a bit lassie to help me, and the dragoon lads will look
after your horse when they come hame frae their patrol, for a sma'
matter; they are civiller now than lang syne."
Upon these assurances, Morton alighted.
"Peggy, my bonny bird," continued the hostess, addressing a little girl
of twelve years old, who had by this time appeared, "tak the gentleman's
horse to the stable, and slack his girths, and tak aff the bridle, and
shake down a lock o' hay before him, till the dragoons come back.--Come
this way, sir," she continued; "ye'll find my house clean, though it's a
Morton followed her into the cottage accordingly.
Then out and spake the auld mother,
And fast her tears did fa
"Ye wadna be warn'd, my son Johnie,
Frae the hunting to bide awa!"
When he entered the cottage, Morton perceived that the old hostess had
spoken truth. The inside of the hut belied its outward appearance, and
was neat, and even comfortable, especially the inner apartment, in which
the hostess informed her guest that he was to sup and sleep. Refreshments
were placed before him such as the little inn afforded; and though he had
small occasion for them, he accepted the offer, as the means of
maintaining some discourse with the landlady. Notwithstanding her
blindness, she was assiduous in her attendance, and seemed, by a sort of
instinct, to find her way to what she wanted.
"Have you no one but this pretty little girl to assist you in waiting on
your guests?" was the natural question.
"None, sir," replied his old hostess; "I dwell alone, like the widow of
Zarephath. Few guests come to this puir place, and I haena custom eneugh
to hire servants. I had anes twa fine sons that lookit after a' thing.
--But God gives and takes away,--His name be praised!" she continued,
turning her clouded eyes towards Heaven.--"I was anes better off, that
is, waridly speaking, even since I lost them; but that was before this
"Indeed!" said Morton; "and yet you are a Presbyterian, my good mother?"
"I am, sir; praised be the light that showed me the right way," replied
"Then I should have thought," continued the guest, the Revolution would
have brought you nothing but good."
"If," said the old woman, "it has brought the land gude, and freedom of
worship to tender consciences, it's little matter what it has brought to
a puir blind worm like me."
"Still," replied Morton, "I cannot see how it could possibly injure you."
"It's a lang story, sir," answered his hostess, with a sigh. "But ae
night, sax weeks or thereby afore Bothwell Brigg, a young gentleman
stopped at this puir cottage, stiff and bloody with wounds, pale and dune
out wi' riding, and his horse sae weary he couldna drag ae foot after the
other, and his foes were close ahint him, and he was ane o' our enemies.
What could I do, sir? You that's a sodger will think me but a silly auld
wife; but I fed him, and relieved him, and keepit him hidden till the
pursuit was ower."
"And who," said Morton, "dares disapprove of your having done so?"
"I kenna," answered the blind woman; "I gat ill-will about it amang some
o' our ain folk. They said I should hae been to him what Jael was to
Sisera. But weel I wot I had nae divine command to shed blood, and to
save it was baith like a woman and a Christian. And then they said I
wanted natural affection, to relieve ane that belanged to the band that
murdered my twa sons."
"That murdered your two sons?"
"Ay, sir; though maybe ye'll gie their deaths another name. The tane fell
wi' sword in hand, fighting for a broken national Covenant; the tother,--
oh, they took him and shot him dead on the green before his mother's
face! My auld een dazzled when the shots were looten off, and, to my
thought, they waxed weaker and weaker ever since that weary day; and
sorrow, and heart-break, and tears that would not be dried, might help on
the disorder. But, alas! betraying Lord Evandale's young blood to his
enemies' sword wad ne'er hae brought my Ninian and Johnie alive again."
"Lord Evandale?" said Morton, in surprise. "Was it Lord Evandale whose
life you saved?"
"In troth, even his," she replied. "And kind he was to me after, and gae
me a cow and calf, malt, meal, and siller, and nane durst steer me when
he was in power. But we live on an outside bit of Tillietudlem land, and
the estate was sair plea'd between Leddy Margaret Bellenden and the
present laird, Basil Olifant, and Lord Evandale backed the auld leddy for
love o' her daughter Miss Edith, as the country said, ane o' the best and
bonniest lassies in Scotland. But they behuved to gie way, and Basil gat
the Castle and land, and on the back o' that came the Revolution, and wha
to turn coat faster than the laird? for he said he had been a true Whig
a' the time, and turned papist only for fashion's sake. And then he got
favour, and Lord Evandale's head was under water; for he was ower proud
and manfu' to bend to every blast o' wind, though mony a ane may ken as
weel as me that be his ain principles as they might, he was nae ill
friend to our folk when he could protect us, and far kinder than Basil
Olifant, that aye keepit the cobble head doun the stream. But he was set
by and ill looked on, and his word ne'er asked; and then Basil, wha's a
revengefu' man, set himsell to vex him in a' shapes, and especially by
oppressing and despoiling the auld blind widow, Bessie Maclure, that
saved Lord Evandale's life, and that he was sae kind to. But he's mistaen
if that's his end; for it will be lang or Lord Evandale hears a word frae
me about the selling my kye for rent or e'er it was due, or the putting
the dragoons on me when the country's quiet, or onything else that will
vex him,--I can bear my ain burden patiently, and warld's loss is the
least part o't."
Astonished and interested at this picture of patient, grateful, and
high-minded resignation, Morton could not help bestowing an execration
upon the poor-spirited rascal who had taken such a dastardly course of
"Dinna curse him, sir," said the old woman; "I have heard a good man say
that a curse was like a stone flung up to the heavens, and maist like to
return on the head that sent it. But if ye ken Lord Evandale, bid him
look to himsell, for I hear strange words pass atween the sodgers that
are lying here, and his name is often mentioned; and the tane o' them has
been twice up at Tillietudlem. He's a kind of favourite wi' the laird,
though he was in former times ane o' the maist cruel oppressors ever rade
through a country (out-taken Sergeant Bothwell),--they ca' him Inglis."
"I have the deepest interest in Lord Evandale's safety," said Morton,
"and you may depend on my finding some mode to apprise him of these
suspicious circumstances. And, in return, my good friend, will you
indulge me with another question? Do you know anything of Quintin Mackell
"Do I know whom?" echoed the blind woman, in a tone of great surprise and
"Quintin Mackell of Irongray," repeated Morton. "Is there anything so
alarming in the sound of that name?"
"Na, na," answered the woman, with hesitation; "but to hear him asked
after by a stranger and a sodger,--Gude protect us, what mischief is
to come next!"
"None by my means, I assure you," said Morton; "the subject of my inquiry
has nothing to fear from me if, as I suppose, this Quintin Mackell is the
same with John Bal-----."
"Do not mention his name," said the widow, pressing his lips with her
fingers. "I see you have his secret and his pass-word, and I'll be free
wi' you. But, for God's sake, speak lound and low. In the name of Heaven,
I trust ye seek him not to his hurt! Ye said ye were a sodger?"
"I said truly; but one he has nothing to fear from. I commanded a party
at Bothwell Bridge."
"Indeed?" said the woman. "And verily there is something in your voice I
can trust. Ye speak prompt and readily, and like an honest man."
"I trust I am so," said Morton.
"But nae displeasure to you, sir, in thae waefu' times," continued Mrs.
Maclure, "the hand of brother is against brother, and he fears as mickle
almaist frae this Government as e'er he did frae the auld persecutors."
"Indeed?" said Morton, in a tone of inquiry; I was not aware of that. But
I am only just now returned from abroad."
"I'll tell ye," said the blind woman, first assuming an attitude of
listening that showed how effectually her powers of collecting
intelligence had been transferred from the eye to the ear; for, instead
of casting a glance of circumspection around, she stooped her face, and
turned her head slowly around, in such a manner as to insure that there
was not the slightest sound stirring in the neighbourhood, and then
continued,--"I'll tell ye. Ye ken how he has laboured to raise up again
the Covenant, burned, broken, and buried in the hard hearts and selfish
devices of this stubborn people. Now, when he went to Holland, far from
the countenance and thanks of the great, and the comfortable fellowship
of the godly, both whilk he was in right to expect, the Prince of Orange
wad show him no favour, and the ministers no godly communion. This was
hard to bide for ane that had suffered and done mickle,--ower mickle, it
may be; but why suld I be a judge? He came back to me and to the auld
place o' refuge that had often received him in his distresses, mair
especially before the great day of victory at Drumclog, for I sail ne'er
forget how he was bending hither of a' nights in the year on that e'ening
after the play when young Milnwood wan the popinjay; but I warned him off
for that time."
"What!" exclaimed Morton, "it was you that sat in your red cloak by the
high-road, and told him there was a lion in the path?"
"In the name of Heaven! wha are ye?" said the old woman, breaking off her
narrative in astonishment. "But be wha ye may," she continued, resuming
it with tranquillity, "ye can ken naething waur o' me than that I hae
been willing to save the life o' friend and foe."
"I know no ill of you, Mrs. Maclure, and I mean no ill by you; I only
wished to show you that I know so much of this person's affairs that I
might be safely intrusted with the rest. Proceed, if you please, in your
"There is a strange command in your voice," said the blind woman, "though
its tones are sweet. I have little mair to say. The Stewarts hae been
dethroned, and William and Mary reign in their stead; but nae mair word
of the Covenant than if it were a dead letter. They hae taen the indulged
clergy, and an Erastian General Assembly of the ante pure and triumphant
Kirk of Scotland, even into their very arms and bosoms. Our faithfu'
champions o' the testimony agree e'en waur wi' this than wi' the open
tyranny and apostasy of the persecuting times, for souls are hardened and
deadened, and the mouths of fasting multitudes are crammed wi' fizenless
bran instead of the sweet word in season; and mony an hungry, starving
creature, when he sits down on a Sunday forenoon to get something that
might warm him to the great work, has a dry clatter o' morality driven
about his lugs, and--"
"In short," said Morton, desirous to stop a discussion which the good old
woman, as enthusiastically attached to her religious profession as to the
duties of humanity, might probably have indulged longer,--"In short, you
are not disposed to acquiesce in this new government, and Burley is of
the same opinion?"
"Many of our brethren, sir, are of belief we fought for the Covenant, and
fasted and prayed and suffered for that grand national league, and now we
are like neither to see nor hear tell of that which we suffered and
fought and fasted and prayed for. And anes it was thought something might
be made by bringing back the auld family on a new bargain and a new
bottom, as, after a', when King James went awa, I understand the great
quarrel of the English against him was in behalf of seven unhallowed
prelates; and sae, though ae part of our people were free to join wi' the
present model, and levied an armed regiment under the Yerl of Angus, yet
our honest friend, and others that stude up for purity of doctrine and
freedom of conscience, were determined to hear the breath o' the
Jacobites before they took part again them, fearing to fa' to the ground
like a wall built with unslaked mortar, or from sitting between twa
"They chose an odd quarter," said Morton, "from which to expect freedom
of conscience and purity of doctrine."
"Oh, dear sir!" said the landlady, "the natural day-spring rises in the
east, but the spiritual dayspring may rise in the north, for what we
blinded mortals ken."
"And Burley went to the north to seek it?" replied the guest.
"Truly ay, sir; and he saw Claver'se himsell, that they ca' Dundee now."
"What!" exclaimed Morton, in amazement; "I would have sworn that meeting
would have been the last of one of their lives."
"Na, na, sir; in troubled times, as I understand," said Mrs. Maclure,
"there's sudden changes,--Montgomery and Ferguson and mony ane mair that
were King James's greatest faes are on his side now. Claver'se spake our
friend fair, and sent him to consult with Lord Evandale. But then there
was a break-off, for Lord Evandale wadna look at, hear, or speak wi' him;
and now he's anes wud and aye waur, and roars for revenge again Lord
Evandale, and will hear nought of onything but burn and slay. And oh,
thae starts o' passion! they unsettle his mind, and gie the Enemy sair
"The enemy?" said Morton; "What enemy?"
"What enemy? Are ye acquainted familiarly wi' John Balfour o' Burley, and
dinna ken that he has had sair and frequent combats to sustain against
the Evil One? Did ye ever see him alone but the Bible was in his hand,
and the drawn sword on his knee? Did ye never sleep in the same room wi'
him, and hear him strive in his dreams with the delusions of Satan? Oh,
ye ken little o' him if ye have seen him only in fair daylight; for nae
man can put the face upon his doleful visits and strifes that he can do.
I hae seen him, after sic a strife of agony, tremble that an infant might
hae held him, while the hair on his brow was drapping as fast as ever my
puir thatched roof did in a heavy rain." As she spoke, Morton began to
recollect the appearance of Burley during his sleep in the hay-loft at
Milnwood, the report of Cuddie that his senses had become impaired, and
some whispers current among the Cameronians, who boasted frequently of
Burley's soul-exercises and his strifes with the foul fiend,--which
several circumstances led him to conclude that this man himself was a
victim to those delusions, though his mind, naturally acute and forcible,
not only disguised his superstition from those in whose opinion it might
have discredited his judgment, but by exerting such a force as is said to
be proper to those afflicted with epilepsy, could postpone the fits which
it occasioned until he was either freed from superintendence, or
surrounded by such as held him more highly on account of these
visitations. It was natural to suppose, and could easily be inferred from
the narrative of Mrs. Maclure, that disappointed ambition, wrecked hopes,
and the downfall of the party which he had served with such desperate
fidelity, were likely to aggravate enthusiasm into temporary insanity. It
was, indeed, no uncommon circumstance in those singular times that men
like Sir Harry Vane, Harrison, Overton, and others, themselves slaves to
the wildest and most enthusiastic dreams, could, when mingling with the
world, conduct themselves not only with good sense in difficulties, and
courage in dangers, but with the most acute sagacity and determined
valour. The subsequent part of Mrs. Maclure's information confirmed
Morton in these impressions.
"In the grey of the morning," she said, "my little Peggy sail show ye the
gate to him before the sodgers are up. But ye maun let his hour of
danger, as he ca's it, be ower, afore ye venture on him in his place of
refuge. Peggy will tell ye when to venture in. She kens his ways weel,
for whiles she carries him some little helps that he canna do
without to sustain life."
"And in what retreat, then," said Morton, "has this unfortunate person
"An awsome place," answered the blind woman, "as ever living creature
took refuge in; they ca it the Black Linn of Linklater. It's a doleful
place, but he loves it abune a' others, because he has sae often been in
safe hiding there; and it's my belief he prefers it to a tapestried
chamber and a down bed. But ye'll see 't. I hae seen it mysell mony a day
syne. I was a daft hempie lassie then, and little thought what was to
come o't.--Wad ye choose ony thing, sir, ere ye betake yoursell to your
rest, for ye maun stir wi' the first dawn o' the grey light?"
"Nothing more, my good mother," said Morton; and they parted for the
Morton recommended himself to Heaven, threw himself on the bed, heard,
between sleeping and waking, the trampling of the dragoon horses at the
riders' return from their patrol, and then slept soundly after such
The darksome cave they enter, where they found
The accursed man low sitting on the ground,
Musing full sadly in his sullen mind.
As the morning began to appear on the mountains, a gentle knock was heard
at the door of the humble apartment in which Morton slept, and a girlish
treble voice asked him, from without, "If he wad please gang to the Linn
or the folk raise?"
He arose upon the invitation, and, dressing himself hastily, went forth
and joined his little guide. The mountain maid tript lightly before him,
through the grey haze, over hill and moor. It was a wild and varied walk,
unmarked by any regular or distinguishable track, and keeping, upon the
whole, the direction of the ascent of the brook, though without tracing
its windings. The landscape, as they advanced, became waster and more
wild, until nothing but heath and rock encumbered the side of the valley.
"Is the place still distant?" said Morton. "Nearly a mile off," answered
the girl. "We'll be there belive."
"And do you often go this wild journey, my little maid?"
"When grannie sends me wi' milk and meal to the Linn," answered the
"And are you not afraid to travel so wild a road alone?"
"Hout na, sir," replied the guide; "nae living creature wad touch sic a
bit thing as I am, and grannie says we need never fear onything else when
we are doing a gude turn."
"Strong in innocence as in triple mail!" said Morton to himself, and
followed her steps in silence.
They soon came to a decayed thicket, where brambles and thorns supplied
the room of the oak and birches of which it had once consisted. Here the
guide turned short off the open heath, and, by a sheep-track, conducted
Morton to the brook. A hoarse and sullen roar had in part prepared him
for the scene which presented itself, yet it was not to be viewed without
surprise and even terror. When he emerged from the devious path which
conducted him through the thicket, he found himself placed on a ledge of
flat rock projecting over one side of a chasm not less than a hundred
feet deep, where the dark mountain-stream made a decided and rapid shoot
over the precipice, and was swallowed up by a deep, black, yawning gulf.
The eye in vain strove to see the bottom of the fall; it could catch but
one sheet of foaming uproar and sheer descent, until the view was
obstructed by the proecting crags which enclosed the bottom of the
waterfall, and hid from sight the dark pool which received its tortured
waters; far beneath, at the distance of perhaps a quarter of a mile, the
eye caught the winding of the stream as it emerged into a more open
course. But, for that distance, they were lost to sight as much as if a
cavern had been arched over them; and indeed the steep and projecting
ledges of rock through which they wound their way in darkness were very
nearly closing and over-roofing their course.
While Morton gazed at this scene of tumult, which seemed, by the
surrounding thickets and the clefts into which the waters descended, to
seek to hide itself from every eye, his little attendant as she stood
beside him on the platform of rock which commanded the best view of the
fall, pulled him by the sleeve, and said, in a tone which he could not
hear without stooping his ear near the speaker, "Hear till him! Eh! hear
Morton listened more attentively; and out of the very abyss into which
the brook fell, and amidst the turnultuary sounds of the cataract,
thought he could distinguish shouts, screams, and even articulate words,
as if the tortured demon of the stream had been mingling his complaints
with the roar of his broken waters.
"This is the way," said the little girl; "follow me, gin ye please, sir,
but tak tent to your feet;" and, with the daring agility which custom had
rendered easy, she vanished from the platform on which she stood, and, by
notches and slight projections in the rock, scrambled down its face into
the chasm which it overhung. Steady, bold, and active, Morton hesitated
not to follow her; but the necessary attention to secure his hold and
footing in a descent where both foot and hand were needful for security,
prevented him from looking around him, till, having descended nigh twenty
feet, and being sixty or seventy above the pool which received the fall,
his guide made a pause, and he again found himself by her side in a
situation that appeared equally romantic and precarious. They were nearly
opposite to the waterfall, and in point of level situated at about
one-quarter's depth from the point of the cliff over which it thundered,
and three-fourths of the height above the dark, deep, and restless pool
which received its fall. Both these tremendous points--the first shoot,
namely, of the yet unbroken stream, and the deep and sombre abyss into
which it was emptied--were full before him, as well as the whole
continuous stream of billowy froth, which, dashing from the one, was
eddying and boiling in the other. They were so near this grand phenomenon
that they were covered with its spray, and well-nigh deafened by the
incessant roar. But crossing in the very front of the fall, and at scarce
three yards distance from the cataract, an old oak-tree, flung across the
chasm in a manner that seemed accidental, formed a bridge of fearfully
narrow dimensions and uncertain footing. The upper end of the tree rested
on the platform on which they stood; the lower or uprooted extremity
extended behind a projection on the opposite side, and was secured,
Morton's eye could not discover where. From behind the same projection
glimmered a strong red light, which, glancing in the waves of the falling
water, and tinging them partially with crimson, had a strange
preternatural and sinister effect when contrasted with the beams of the
rising sun, which glanced on the first broken waves of the fall, though
even its meridian splendour could not gain the third of its full depth.
When he had looked around him for a moment, the girl again pulled his
sleeve, and, pointing to the oak and the projecting point beyond it (for
hearing speech was now out of the question), indicated that there lay his
Morton gazed at her with surprise; for although he well knew that the
persecuted Presbyterians had in the preceding reigns sought refuge among
dells and thickets, caves and cataracts, in spots the most extraordinary
and secluded; although he had heard of the champions of the Covenant, who
had long abidden beside Dobs-lien on the wild heights of Polmoodie, and
others who had been concealed in the yet more terrific cavern called
Creehope-linn, in the parish of Closeburn,--yet his imagination had never
exactly figured out the horrors of such a residence, and he was surprised
how the strange and romantic scene which he now saw had remained
concealed from him, while a curious investigator of such natural
phenomena. But he readily conceived that, lying in a remote and wild
district, and being destined as a place of concealment to the persecuted
preachers and professors of nonconformity, the secret of its existence
was carefully preserved by the few shepherds to whom it might be known.
As, breaking from these meditations, he began to consider how he should
traverse the doubtful and terrific bridge, which, skirted by the cascade,
and rendered wet and slippery by its constant drizzle, traversed the
chasm above sixty feet from the bottom of the fall, his guide, as if to
give him courage, tript over and back without the least hesitation.
Envying for a moment the little bare feet which caught a safer hold of
the rugged side of the oak than he could pretend to with his heavy boots,
Morton nevertheless resolved to attempt the passage, and, fixing his eye
firm on a stationary object on the other side, without allowing his head
to become giddy, or his attention to be distracted by the flash, the
foam, and the roar of the waters around him, he strode steadily and
safely along the uncertain bridge, and reached the mouth of a small
cavern on the farther side of the torrent. Here he paused; for a light,
proceeding from a fire of red-hot charcoal, permitted him to see the
interior of the cave, and enabled him to contemplate the appearance of
its inhabitant, by whom he himself could not be so readily distinguished,
being concealed by the shadow of the rock. What he observed would by no
means have encouraged a less determined man to proceed with the task
which he had undertaken.
Burley, only altered from what he had been formerly by the addition of a
grisly beard, stood in the midst of the cave, with his clasped Bible in
one hand, and his drawn sword in the other. His figure, dimly ruddied by
the light of the red charcoal, seemed that of a fiend in the lurid
atmosphere of Pandemonium, and his gestures and words, as far as they
could be heard, seemed equally violent and irregular. All alone, and in a
place of almost unapproachable seclusion, his demeanour was that of a man
who strives for life and death with a mortal enemy. "Ha! ha!--there--
there!" he exclaimed, accompanying each word with a thrust, urged with
his whole force against the impassible and empty air, "Did I not tell
thee so?--I have resisted, and thou fleest from me!--Coward as thou art,
come in all thy terrors; come with mine own evil deeds, which render thee
most terrible of all,--there is enough betwixt the boards of this book to
rescue me!--What mutterest thou of grey hairs? It was well done to slay
him,--the more ripe the corn, the readier for the sickle.--Art gone? Art
gone?--I have ever known thee but a coward--ha! ha! ha!"
With these wild exclamations he sunk the point of his sword, and remained
standing still in the same posture, like a maniac whose fit is over.
"The dangerous time is by now," said the little girl who had followed;
"it seldom lasts beyond the time that the sun's ower the hill; ye may
gang in and speak wi' him now. I'll wait for you at the other side of the
linn; he canna bide to see twa folk at anes."
Slowly and cautiously, and keeping constantly upon his guard, Morton
presented himself to the view of his old associate in command.
"What! comest thou again when thine hour is over?" was his first
exclamation; and flourishing his sword aloft, his countenance assumed an
expression in which ghastly terror seemed mingled with the rage of a
"I am come, Mr. Balfour," said Morton, in a steady and composed tone,
"to renew an acquaintance which has been broken off since the fight of
As soon as Burley became aware that Morton was before him in person,--an
idea which he caught with marvellous celerity,--he at once exerted that
mastership over his heated and enthusiastic imagination, the power of
enforcing which was a most striking part of his extraordinary character.
He sunk his sword-point at once, and as he stole it composedly into the
scabbard, he muttered something of the damp and cold which sent an old
soldier to his fencing exercise, to prevent his blood from chilling. This
done, he proceeded in the cold, determined manner which was peculiar to
his ordinary discourse:--
"Thou hast tarried long, Henry Morton, and hast not come to the vintage
before the twelfth hour has struck. Art thou yet willing to take the
right hand of fellowship, and be one with those who look not to thrones
or dynasties, but to the rule of Scripture, for their directions?"
"I am surprised," said Morton, evading the direct answer to his question,
"that you should have known me after so many years."
"The features of those who ought to act with me are engraved on my
heart," answered Burley; "and few but Silas Morton's son durst have
followed me into this my castle of retreat. Seest thou that drawbridge of
Nature's own construction?" he added, pointing to the prostrate
oak-tree,--"one spurn of my foot, and it is overwhelmed in the abyss
below, bidding foeman on the farther side stand at defiance, and leaving
enemies on this at the mercy of one who never yet met his equal in single
"Of such defences," said Morton, "I should have thought you would now
have had little need."
"Little need?" said Burley impatiently. "What little need, when incarnate
fiends are combined against me on earth, and Sathan himself--But it
matters not," added he, checking himself. "Enough that I like my place
of refuge, my cave of Adullam, and would not change its rude ribs of
limestone rock for the fair chambers of the castle of the earls of
Torwood, with their broad bounds and barony. Thou, unless the foolish
fever-fit be over, mayst think differently."
"It was of those very possessions I came to speak," said Morton; "and I
doubt not to find Mr. Balfour the same rational and reflecting person
which I knew him to be in times when zeal disunited brethren."
"Ay?" said Burley; "indeed? Is such truly your hope? Wilt thou express it
"In a word, then," said Morton, "you have exercised, by means at which I
can guess, a secret, but most prejudicial, influence over the fortunes of
Lady Margaret Bellenden and her granddaughter, and in favour of that
base, oppressive apostate, Basil Olifant, whom the law, deceived by thy
operations, has placed in possession of their lawful property."
"Sayest thou?" said Balfour.
"I do say so," replied Morton; "and face to face you will not deny what
you have vouched by your handwriting."
"And suppose I deny it not," said Balfour; "and suppose that thy--
eloquence were found equal to persuade me to retrace the steps I have
taken on matured resolve,--what will be thy meed? Dost thou still hope to
possess the fair-haired girl, with her wide and rich inheritance?"
"I have no such hope," answered Morton, calmly.
"And for whom, then, hast thou ventured to do this great thing,--to seek
to rend the prey from the valiant, to bring forth food from the den of
the lion, and to extract sweetness from the maw of the devourer? For
whose sake hast thou undertaken to read this riddle, more hard than
"For Lord Evandale's and that of his bride," replied Morton, firmly.
"Think better of mankind, Mr. Balfour, and believe there are some who are
willing to sacrifice their happiness to that of others."
"Then, as my soul liveth," replied Balfour, "thou art, to wear beard and
back a horse and draw a sword, the tamest and most gall-less puppet that
ever sustained injury unavenged. What! thou wouldst help that accursed
Evandale to the arms of the woman that thou lovest; thou wouldst endow
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