The Heart of Mid-Lothian, Complete, Illustrated
Sir Walter Scott
Part 12 out of 13
do with an earthly antagonist. "I couldna maybe hae made muckle o' a
bargain wi' yon lang callant," said David, when thus complimented on his
valour; "but when ye deal wi' thae folk, it's tyne heart tyne a'."
What see you there,
That hath so cowarded and chased your blood
Out of appearance?
Henry the Fifth.
We are under the necessity of returning to Edinburgh, where the General
Assembly was now sitting. It is well known, that some Scottish nobleman
is usually deputed as High Commissioner, to represent the person of the
King in this convocation; that he has allowances for the purpose of
maintaining a certain outward show and solemnity, and supporting the
hospitality of the representative of Majesty. Whoever are distinguished
by rank, or office, in or near the capital, usually attend the morning
levees of the Lord Commissioner, and walk with him in procession to the
place where the Assembly meets.
The nobleman who held this office chanced to be particularly connected
with Sir George Staunton, and it was in his train that he ventured to
tread the High Street of Edinburgh for the first time since the fatal
night of Porteous's execution. Walking at the right hand of the
representative of Sovereignty, covered with lace and embroidery, and with
all the paraphernalia of wealth and rank, the handsome though wasted
figure of the English stranger attracted all eyes. Who could have
recognised in a form so aristocratic the plebeian convict, that,
disguised in the rags of Madge Wildfire, had led the formidable rioters
to their destined revenge? There was no possibility that this could
happen, even if any of his ancient acquaintances, a race of men whose
lives are so brief, had happened to survive the span commonly allotted to
evil-doers. Besides, the whole affair had long fallen asleep, with the
angry passions in which it originated. Nothing is more certain than that
persons known to have had a share in that formidable riot, and to have
fled from Scotland on that account, had made money abroad, returned to
enjoy it in their native country, and lived and died undisturbed by the
* See Arnot's _Criminal Trials,_ 4to ed. p. 235.
The forbearance of the magistrate was, in these instances, wise,
certainly, and just; for what good impression could be made on the public
mind by punishment, when the memory of the offence was obliterated, and
all that was remembered was the recent inoffensive, or perhaps exemplary
conduct of the offender?
Sir George Staunton might, therefore, tread the scene of his former
audacious exploits, free from the apprehension of the law, or even of
discovery or suspicion. But with what feelings his heart that day
throbbed, must be left to those of the reader to imagine. It was an
object of no common interest which had brought him to encounter so many
In consequence of Jeanie's letter to Lady Staunton, transmitting the
confession, he had visited the town of Carlisle, and had found Archdeacon
Fleming still alive, by whom that confession had been received. This
reverend gentleman, whose character stood deservedly very high, he so far
admitted into his confidence, as to own himself the father of the
unfortunate infant which had been spirited away by Madge Wildfire,
representing the intrigue as a matter of juvenile extravagance on his own
part, for which he was now anxious to atone, by tracing, if possible,
what had become of the child. After some recollection of the
circumstances, the clergyman was able to call to memory, that the unhappy
woman had written a letter to George Staunton, Esq., younger, Rectory,
Willingham, by Grantham; that he had forwarded it to the address
accordingly, and that it had been returned, with a note from the Reverend
Mr. Staunton, Rector of Willingham, saying, he knew no such person as him
to whom the letter was addressed. As this had happened just at the time
when George had, for the last time, absconded from his father's house to
carry off Effie, he was at no loss to account for the cause of the
resentment, under the influence of which his father had disowned him.
This was another instance in which his ungovernable temper had occasioned
his misfortune; had he remained at Willingham but a few days longer, he
would have received Margaret Murdockson's letter, in which were exactly
described the person and haunts of the woman, Annaple Bailzou, to whom
she had parted with the infant. It appeared that Meg Murdockson had been
induced to make this confession, less from any feelings of contrition,
than from the desire of obtaining, through George Staunton or his
father's means, protection and support for her daughter Madge. Her letter
to George Staunton said, "That while the writer lived, her daughter would
have needed nought from any body, and that she would never have meddled
in these affairs, except to pay back the ill that George had done to her
and hers. But she was to die, and her daughter would be destitute, and
without reason to guide her. She had lived in the world long enough to
know that people did nothing for nothing;--so she had told George
Staunton all he could wish to know about his wean, in hopes he would not
see the demented young creature he had ruined perish for want. As for her
motives for not telling them sooner, she had a long account to reckon for
in the next world, and she would reckon for that too."
The clergyman said that Meg had died in the same desperate state of mind,
occasionally expressing some regret about the child which was lost, but
oftener sorrow that the mother had not been hanged--her mind at once a
chaos of guilt, rage, and apprehension for her daughter's future safety;
that instinctive feeling of parental anxiety which she had in common with
the she-wolf and lioness, being the last shade of kindly affection that
occupied a breast equally savage.
The melancholy catastrophe of Madge Wildfire was occasioned by her taking
the confusion of her mother's execution, as affording an opportunity of
leaving the workhouse to which the clergyman had sent her, and presenting
herself to the mob in their fury, to perish in the way we have already
seen. When Dr. Fleming found the convict's letter was returned from
Lincolnshire, he wrote to a friend in Edinburgh, to inquire into the fate
of the unfortunate girl whose child had been stolen, and was informed by
his correspondent, that she had been pardoned, and that, with all her
family, she had retired to some distant part of Scotland, or left the
kingdom entirely. And here the matter rested, until, at Sir George
Staunton's application, the clergyman looked out, and produced Margaret
Murdockson's returned letter, and the other memoranda which he had kept
concerning the affair.
Whatever might be Sir George Staunton's feelings in ripping up this
miserable history, and listening to the tragical fate of the unhappy girl
whom he had ruined, he had so much of his ancient wilfulness of
disposition left, as to shut his eyes on everything, save the prospect
which seemed to open itself of recovering his son. It was true, it would
be difficult to produce him, without telling much more of the history of
his birth, and the misfortunes of his parents, than it was prudent to
make known. But let him once be found, and, being found, let him but
prove worthy of his father's protection, and many ways might be fallen
upon to avoid such risk. Sir George Staunton was at liberty to adopt him
as his heir, if he pleased, without communicating the secret of his
birth; or an Act of Parliament might be obtained, declaring him
legitimate, and allowing him the name and arms of his father. He was
indeed already a legitimate child according to the law of Scotland, by
the subsequent marriage of his parents. Wilful in everything, Sir
George's sole desire now was to see this son, even should his recovery
bring with it a new series of misfortunes, as dreadful as those which
followed on his being lost.
But where was the youth who might eventually be called to the honours and
estates of this ancient family? On what heath was he wandering, and
shrouded by what mean disguise? Did he gain his precarious bread by some
petty trade, by menial toil, by violence, or by theft? These were
questions on which Sir George's anxious investigations could obtain no
light. Many remembered that Annaple Bailzou wandered through the country
as a beggar and fortune-teller, or spae-wife--some remembered that she
had been seen with an infant in 1737 or 1738,--but for more than ten
years she had not travelled that district; and that she had been heard to
say she was going to a distant part of Scotland, of which country she was
a native. To Scotland, therefore, came Sir George Staunton, having parted
with his lady at Glasgow; and his arrival at Edinburg happening to
coincide with the sitting of the General Assembly of the Kirk, his
acquaintance with the nobleman who held the office of Lord High
Commissioner forced him more into public than suited either his views or
At the public table of this nobleman, Sir George Staunton was placed next
to a clergyman of respectable appearance, and well-bred, though plain
demeanour, whose name he discovered to be Butler. It had been no part of
Sir George's plan to take his brother-in-law into his confidence, and he
had rejoiced exceedingly in the assurances he received from his wife,
that Mrs. Butler, the very soul of integrity and honour, had never
suffered the account he had given of himself at Willingham Rectory to
transpire, even to her husband. But he was not sorry to have an
opportunity to converse with so near a connection without being known to
him, and to form a judgment of his character and understanding. He saw
much, and heard more, to raise Butler very high in his opinion. He found
he was generally respected by those of his own profession, as well as by
the laity who had seats in the Assembly. He had made several public
appearances in the Assembly, distinguished by good sense, candour, and
ability; and he was followed and admired as a sound, and, at the same
time, an eloquent preacher.
This was all very satisfactory to Sir George Staunton's pride, which had
revolted at the idea of his wife's sister being obscurely married. He now
began, on the contrary, to think the connection so much better than he
expected, that, if it should be necessary to acknowledge it, in
consequence of the recovery of his son, it would sound well enough that
Lady Staunton had a sister, who, in the decayed state of the family, had
married a Scottish clergyman, high in the opinion of his countrymen, and
a leader in the church.
It was with these feelings, that, when the Lord High Commissioner's
company broke up, Sir George Staunton, under pretence of prolonging some
inquiries concerning the constitution of the Church of Scotland,
requested Butler to go home to his lodgings in the Lawnmarket, and drink
a cup of coffee. Butler agreed to wait upon him, providing Sir George
would permit him, in passing, to call at a friend's house where he
resided, and make his apology for not coming to partake her tea. They
proceeded up the High Street, entered the Krames, and passed the
begging-box, placed to remind those at liberty of the distresses of the
poor prisoners. Sir George paused there one instant, and next day a L20
note was found in that receptacle for public charity.
When he came up to Butler again, he found him with his eyes fixed on the
entrance of the Tolbooth, and apparently in deep thought.
"That seems a very strong door," said Sir George, by way of saying
"It is so, sir," said Butler, turning off and beginning to walk forward,
"but it was my misfortune at one time to see it prove greatly too weak."
At this moment, looking at his companion, he asked him whether he felt
himself ill? and Sir George Staunton admitted, that he had been so
foolish as to eat ice, which sometimes disagreed with him. With kind
officiousness, that would not be gainsaid, and ere he could find out
where he was going, Butler hurried Sir George into the friend's house,
near to the prison, in which he himself had lived since he came to town,
being, indeed, no other than that of our old friend Bartoline Saddletree,
in which Lady Staunton had served a short noviciate as a shop-maid. This
recollection rushed on her husband's mind, and the blush of shame which
it excited overpowered the sensation of fear which had produced his
former paleness. Good Mrs. Saddletree, however, bustled about to receive
the rich English baronet as the friend of Mr. Butler, and requested an
elderly female in a black gown to sit still, in a way which seemed to
imply a wish, that she would clear the way for her betters. In the
meanwhile, understanding the state of the case, she ran to get some
cordial waters, sovereign, of course, in all cases of faintishness
whatsoever. During her absence, her visitor, the female in black, made
some progress out of the room, and might have left it altogether without
particular observation, had she not stumbled at the threshold, so near
Sir George Staunton, that he, in point of civility, raised her and
assisted her to the door.
"Mrs. Porteous is turned very doited now, puir body," said Mrs.
Saddletree, as she returned with her bottle in her hand--"She is no sae
auld, but she got a sair back-cast wi' the slaughter o' her husband--Ye
had some trouble about that job, Mr. Butler.--I think, sir," to Sir
George, "ye had better drink out the haill glass, for to my een ye look
waur than when ye came in."
And, indeed, he grew as pale as a corpse, on recollecting who it was that
his arm had so lately supported--the widow whom he had so large a share
in making such.
"It is a prescribed job that case of Porteous now," said old Saddletree,
who was confined to his chair by the gout--"clean prescribed and out of
"I am not clear of that, neighbour," said Plumdamas, "for I have heard
them say twenty years should rin, and this is but the fifty-ane--
Porteous's mob was in thretty-seven."
"Ye'll no teach me law, I think, neighbour--me that has four gaun pleas,
and might hae had fourteen, an it hadna been the gudewife? I tell ye, if
the foremost of the Porteous mob were standing there where that gentleman
stands, the King's Advocate wadna meddle wi' him--it fa's under the
"Haud your din, carles," said Mrs. Saddletree, "and let the gentleman sit
down and get a dish of comfortable tea."
But Sir George had had quite enough of their conversation; and Butler, at
his request, made an apology to Mrs. Saddletree, and accompanied him to
his lodgings. Here they found another guest waiting Sir George Staunton's
return. This was no other than our reader's old acquaintance, Ratcliffe.
This man had exercised the office of turnkey with so much vigilance,
acuteness, and fidelity, that he gradually rose to be governor, or
captain of the Tolbooth. And it is yet to be remembered in tradition,
that young men, who rather sought amusing than select society in their
merry-meetings, used sometimes to request Ratcliffe's company, in order
that he might regale them with legends of his extraordinary feats in the
way of robbery and escape.*
* There seems an anachronism in the history of this person. Ratcliffe,
among other escapes from justice, was released by the Porteous mob when
under sentence of death; and he was again under the same predicament,
when the Highlanders made a similar jail-delivery in 1745. He was too
sincere a whig to embrace liberation at the hands of the Jacobites, and
in reward was made one of the keepers of the Tolbooth. So at least runs
But he lived and died without resuming his original vocation, otherwise
than in his narratives over a bottle.
Under these circumstances, he had been recommended to Sir George Staunton
by a man of the law in Edinburgh, as a person likely to answer any
questions he might have to ask about Annaple Bailzou, who, according to
the colour which Sir George Staunton gave to his cause of inquiry, was
supposed to have stolen a child in the west of England, belonging to a
family in which he was interested. The gentleman had not mentioned his
name, but only his official title; so that Sir George Staunton, when told
that the captain of the Tolbooth was waiting for him in his parlour, had
no idea of meeting his former acquaintance, Jem Ratcliffe.
This, therefore, was another new and most unpleasant surprise, for he had
no difficulty in recollecting this man's remarkable features. The change,
however, from George Robertson to Sir George Staunton, baffled even the
penetration of Ratcliffe, and he bowed very low to the baronet and his
guest, hoping Mr. Butler would excuse his recollecting that he was an old
"And once rendered my wife a piece of great service," said Mr. Butler,
"for which she sent you a token of grateful acknowledgment, which I hope
came safe and was welcome."
"Deil a doubt on't," said Ratcliffe, with a knowing nod; "but ye are
muckle changed for the better since I saw ye, Maister Butler."
"So much so, that I wonder you knew me."
"Aha, then!--Deil a face I see I ever forget," said Ratcliffe while Sir
George Staunton, tied to the stake, and incapable of escaping, internally
cursed the accuracy of his memory. "And yet, sometimes," continued
Ratcliffe, "the sharpest hand will be ta'en in. There is a face in this
very room, if I might presume to be sae bauld, that, if I didna ken the
honourable person it belangs to, I might think it had some cut of an auld
"I should not be much flattered," answered the Baronet, sternly, and
roused by the risk in which he saw himself placed, "if it is to me you
mean to apply that compliment."
"By no manner of means, sir," said Ratcliffe, bowing very low; "I am come
to receive your honour's commands, and no to trouble your honour wi' my
"Well, sir," said Sir George, "I am told you understand police matters--
So do I.--To convince you of which, here are ten guineas of retaining
fee--I make them fifty when you can find me certain notice of a person,
living or dead, whom you will find described in that paper. I shall leave
town presently--you may send your written answer to me to the care of Mr.
" (naming his highly respectable agent), "or of his Grace the Lord High
Commissioner." Rateliffe bowed and withdrew.
"I have angered the proud peat now," he said to himself, "by finding out
a likeness; but if George Robertson's father had lived within a mile of
his mother, d--n me if I should not know what to think, for as high as he
carries his head."
When he was left alone with Butler, Sir George Staunton ordered tea and
coffee, which were brought by his valet, and then, after considering with
himself for a minute, asked his guest whether he had lately heard from
his wife and family. Butler, with some surprise at the question, replied,
"that he had received no letter for some time; his wife was a poor
"Then," said Sir George Staunton, "I am the first to inform you there has
been an invasion of your quiet premises since you left home. My wife,
whom the Duke of Argyle had the goodness to permit to use Roseneath
Lodge, while she was spending some weeks in your country, has sallied
across and taken up her quarters in the Manse, as she says, to be nearer
the goats, whose milk she is using; but, I believe, in reality, because
she prefers Mrs. Butler's company to that of the respectable gentleman
who acts as seneschal on the Duke's domains."
Mr. Butler said, "He had often heard the late Duke and the present speak
with high respect of Lady Staunton, and was happy if his house could
accommodate any friend of theirs--it would be but a very slight
acknowledgment of the many favours he owed them."
"That does not make Lady Staunton and myself the less obliged to your
hospitality, sir," said Sir George. "May I inquire if you think of
returning home soon?"
"In the course of two days," Mr. Butler answered, "his duty in the
Assembly would be ended; and the other matters he had in town being all
finished, he was desirous of returning to Dumbartonshire as soon as he
could; but he was under the necessity of transporting a considerable sum
in bills and money with him, and therefore wished to travel in company
with one or two of his brethren of the clergy."
"My escort will be more safe," said Sir George Staunton, "and I think of
setting off to-morrow or next day. If you will give me the pleasure of
your company, I will undertake to deliver you and your charge safe at the
Manse, provided you will admit me along with you."
Mr. Butler gratefully accepted of this proposal; the appointment was made
accordingly, and, by despatches with one of Sir George's servants, who
was sent forward for the purpose, the inhabitants of the manse of
Knocktarlitie were made acquainted with the intended journey; and the
news rung through the whole vicinity, "that the minister was coming back
wi' a braw English gentleman and a' the siller that was to pay for the
estate of Craigsture."
This sudden resolution of going to Knocktarlitie had been adopted by Sir
George Staunton in consequence of the incidents of the evening. In spite
of his present consequence, he felt he had presumed too far in venturing
so near the scene of his former audacious acts of violence, and he knew
too well, from past experience, the acuteness of a man like Ratcliffe,
again to encounter him. The next two days he kept his lodgings, under
pretence of indisposition, and took leave by writing of his noble friend
the High Commissioner, alleging the opportunity of Mr. Butler's company
as a reason for leaving Edinburgh sooner than he had proposed. He had a
long conference with his agent on the subject of Annaple Bailzou; and the
professional gentleman, who was the agent also of the Argyle family, had
directions to collect all the information which Ratcliffe or others might
be able to obtain concerning the fate of that woman and the unfortunate
child, and so soon as anything transpired which had the least appearance
of being important, that he should send an express with it instantly to
Knocktarlitie. These instructions were backed with a deposit of money,
and a request that no expense might be spared; so that Sir George
Staunton had little reason to apprehend negligence on the part of the
persons intrusted with the commission.
The journey, which the brothers made in company, was attended with more
pleasure, even to Sir George Staunton, than he had ventured to expect.
His heart lightened in spite of himself when they lost sight of
Edinburgh; and the easy, sensible conversation of Butler was well
calculated to withdraw his thoughts from painful reflections. He even
began to think whether there could be much difficulty in removing his
wife's connections to the rectory of Willingham; it was only on his part
procuring some still better preferment for the present incumbent, and on
Butler's, that he should take orders according to the English Church, to
which he could not conceive a possibility of his making objection, and
then he had them residing under his wing. No doubt there was pain in
seeing Mrs. Butler, acquainted, as he knew her to be, with the full truth
of his evil history; but then her silence, though he had no reason to
complain of her indiscretion hitherto, was still more absolutely ensured.
It would keep his lady, also, both in good temper and in more subjection;
for she was sometimes troublesome to him by insisting on remaining in
town when he desired to retire to the country, alleging the total want of
society at Willingham. "Madam, your sister is there," would, he thought,
be a sufficient answer to this ready argument.
He sounded Butler on this subject, asking what he would think of an
English living of twelve hundred pounds yearly, with the burden of
affording his company now and then to a neighbour, whose health was not
strong or his spirits equal. "He might meet," he said, "occasionally, a
very learned and accomplished gentleman, who was in orders as a Catholic
priest, but he hoped that would be no insurmountable objection to a man
of his liberality of sentiment. What," he said, "would Mr. Butler think
of as an answer, if the offer should be made to him?"
"Simply that I could not accept of it," said Mr. Butler. "I have no mind
to enter into the various debates between the churches; but I was brought
up in mine own, have received her ordination, am satisfied of the truth
of her doctrines, and will die under the banner I have enlisted to."
"What may be the value of your preferment?" said Sir George Staunton,
"unless I am asking an indiscreet question."
"Probably one hundred a-year, one year with another, besides my glebe and
"And you scruple to exchange that for twelve hundred a-year, without
alleging any damning difference of doctrine betwixt the two churches of
England and Scotland?"
"On that, sir, I have reserved my judgment; there may be much good, and
there are certainly saving means in both; but every man must act
according to his own lights. I hope I have done, and am in the course of
doing, my Master's work in this Highland parish; and it would ill become
me, for the sake of lucre, to leave my sheep in the wilderness. But, even
in the temporal view which you have taken of the matter, Sir George, this
hundred pounds a-year of stipend hath fed and clothed us, and left us
nothing to wish for; my father-in-law's succession, and other
circumstances, have added a small estate of about twice as much more, and
how we are to dispose of it I do not know--So I leave it to you, sir, to
think if I were wise, not having the wish or opportunity of spending
three hundred a-year, to covet the possession of four times that sum."
"This is philosophy," said Sir George; "I have heard of it, but I never
saw it before."
"It is common sense," replied Butler, "which accords with philosophy and
religion more frequently than pedants or zealots are apt to admit."
Sir George turned the subject, and did not again resume it. Although they
travelled in Sir George's chariot, he seemed so much fatigued with the
motion, that it was necessary for him to remain for a day at a small town
called Mid-Calder, which was their first stage from Edinburgh. Glasgow
occupied another day, so slow were their motions.
They travelled on to Dumbarton, where they had resolved to leave the
equipage and to hire a boat to take them to the shores near the manse, as
the Gare-Loch lay betwixt them and that point, besides the impossibility
of travelling in that district with wheel-carriages. Sir George's valet,
a man of trust, accompanied them, as also a footman; the grooms were left
with the carriage. Just as this arrangement was completed, which was
about four o'clock in the afternoon, an express arrived from Sir George's
agent in Edinburgh, with a packet, which he opened and read with great
attention, appearing much interested and agitated by the contents. The
packet had been despatched very soon after their leaving Edinburgh, but
the messenger had missed the travellers by passing through Mid-Calder in
the night, and overshot his errand by getting to Roseneath before them.
He was now on his return, after having waited more than four-and-twenty
hours. Sir George Staunton instantly wrote back an answer, and rewarding
the messenger liberally, desired him not to sleep till he placed it in
his agent's hands.
At length they embarked in the boat, which had waited for them some time.
During their voyage, which was slow, for they were obliged to row the
whole way, and often against the tide, Sir George Staunton's inquiries
ran chiefly on the subject of the Highland banditti who had infested that
country since the year 1745. Butler informed him that many of them were
not native Highlanders, but gipsies, tinkers, and other men of desperate
fortunes, who had taken advantage of the confusion introduced by the
civil war, the general discontent of the mountaineers, and the unsettled
state of police, to practise their plundering trade with more audacity.
Sir George next inquired into their lives, their habits, whether the
violences which they committed were not sometimes atoned for by acts of
generosity, and whether they did not possess the virtues as well as the
vices of savage tribes?
Butler answered, that certainly they did sometimes show sparks of
generosity, of which even the worst class of malefactors are seldom
utterly divested; but that their evil propensities were certain and
regular principles of action, while any occasional burst of virtuous
feeling was only a transient impulse not to be reckoned upon, and excited
probably by some singular and unusual concatenation of circumstances. In
discussing these inquiries, which Sir George pursued with an apparent
eagerness that rather surprised Butler, the latter chanced to mention the
name of Donacha dhu na Dunaigh, with which the reader is already
acquainted. Sir George caught the sound up eagerly, and as if it conveyed
particular interest to his ear. He made the most minute inquiries
concerning the man whom he mentioned, the number of his gang, and even
the appearance of those who belonged to it. Upon these points Butler
could give little answer. The man had a name among the lower class, but
his exploits were considerably exaggerated; he had always one or two
fellows with him, but never aspired to the command of above three or
four. In short, he knew little about him, and the small acquaintance he
had had by no means inclined him to desire more.
"Nevertheless, I should like to see him some of these days."
"That would be a dangerous meeting, Sir George, unless you mean we are to
see him receive his deserts from the law, and then it were a melancholy
"Use every man according to his deserts, Mr. Butler, and who shall escape
whipping? But I am talking riddles to you. I will explain them more fully
to you when I have spoken over the subject with Lady Staunton.--Pull
away, my lads," he added, addressing himself to the rowers; "the clouds
threaten us with a storm."
In fact, the dead and heavy closeness of the air, the huge piles of
clouds which assembled in the western horizon, and glowed like a furnace
under the influence of the setting sun--that awful stillness in which
nature seems to expect the thunder-burst, as a condemned soldier waits
for the platoon fire which is to stretch him on the earth, all betokened
a speedy storm. Large broad drops fell from time to time, and induced the
gentlemen to assume the boat-cloaks; but the rain again ceased, and the
oppressive heat, so unusual in Scotland in the end of May, inclined them
to throw them aside. "There is something solemn in this delay of the
storm," said Sir George; "it seems as if it suspended its peal till it
solemnised some important event in the world below."
"Alas!" replied Butler, "what are we that the laws of nature should
correspond in their march with our ephemeral deeds or sufferings! The
clouds will burst when surcharged with the electric fluid, whether a goat
is falling at that instant from the cliffs of Arran, or a hero expiring
on the field of battle he has won."
"The mind delights to deem it otherwise," said Sir George Staunton; "and
to dwell on the fate of humanity as on that which is the prime central
movement of the mighty machine. We love not to think that we shall mix
with the ages that have gone before us, as these broad black raindrops
mingle with the waste of waters, making a trifling and momentary eddy,
and are then lost for ever."
"_For ever!_--we are not--we cannot be lost for ever," said Butler,
looking upward; "death is to us change, not consummation; and the
commencement of a new existence, corresponding in character to the deeds
which we have done in the body."
While they agitated these grave subjects, to which the solemnity of the
approaching storm naturally led them, their voyage threatened to be more
tedious than they expected, for gusts of wind, which rose and fell with
sudden impetuosity, swept the bosom of the firth, and impeded the efforts
of the rowers. They had now only to double a small headland, in order to
get to the proper landing-place in the mouth of the little river; but in
the state of the weather, and the boat being heavy, this was like to be a
work of time, and in the meanwhile they must necessarily be exposed to
"Could we not land on this side of the headland," asked Sir George, "and
so gain some shelter?"
Butler knew of no landing-place, at least none affording a convenient or
even practicable passage up the rocks which surrounded the shore.
"Think again," said Sir George Staunton; "the storm will soon be
"Hout, ay," said one of the boatmen, "there's the Caird's Cove; but we
dinna tell the minister about it, and I am no sure if I can steer the
boat to it, the bay is sae fa' o' shoals and sunk rocks."
"Try," said Sir George, "and I will give you half-a-guinea."
The old fellow took the helm, and observed, "That, if they could get in,
there was a steep path up from the beach, and half-an-hour's walk from
thence to the Manse."
"Are you sure you know the way?" said Butler to the old man.
"I maybe kend it a wee better fifteen years syne, when Dandie Wilson was
in the firth wi' his clean-ganging lugger. I mind Dandie had a wild young
Englisher wi' him, that they ca'd"
"If you chatter so much," said Sir George Staunton, "you will have the
boat on the Grindstone--bring that white rock in a line with the
"By G--," said the veteran, staring, "I think your honour kens the bay as
weel as me.--Your honour's nose has been on the Grindstone ere now, I'm
As they spoke thus, they approached the little cove, which, concealed
behind crags, and defended on every point by shallows and sunken rocks,
could scarce be discovered or approached, except by those intimate with
the navigation. An old shattered boat was already drawn up on the beach
within the cove, close beneath the trees, and with precautions for
Upon observing this vessel, Butler remarked to his companion, "It is
impossible for you to conceive, Sir George, the difficulty I have had
with my poor people, in teaching them the guilt and the danger of this
contraband trade--yet they have perpetually before their eyes all its
dangerous consequences. I do not know anything that more effectually
depraves and ruins their moral and religious principles."
Sir George forced himself to say something in a low voice about the
spirit of adventure natural to youth, and that unquestionably many would
become wiser as they grew older.
"Too seldom, sir," replied Butler. "If they have been deeply engaged, and
especially if they, have mingled in the scenes of violence and blood to
which their occupation naturally leads, I have observed, that, sooner or
later, they come to an evil end. Experience, as well as Scripture,
teaches us, Sir George, that mischief shall hunt the violent man, and
that the bloodthirsty man shall not live half his days--But take my arm
to help you ashore."
Sir George needed assistance, for he was contrasting in his altered
thought the different feelings of mind and frame with which he had
formerly frequented the same place. As they landed, a low growl of
thunder was heard at a distance.
"That is ominous, Mr. Butler," said Sir George.
"_Intonuit laevum_--it is ominous of good, then," answered Butler,
The boatmen were ordered to make the best of their way round the headland
to the ordinary landing-place; the two gentlemen, followed by their
servant, sought their way by a blind and tangled path, through a close
copsewood, to the Manse of Knocktarlitie, where their arrival was
The sisters in vain had expected their husbands' return on the preceding
day, which was that appointed by Sir George's letter. The delay of the
travellers at Calder had occasioned this breach of appointment. The
inhabitants of the Manse began even to doubt whether they would arrive on
the present day. Lady Staunton felt this hope of delay as a brief
reprieve, for she dreaded the pangs which her husband's pride must
undergo at meeting with a sister-in-law, to whom the whole of his unhappy
and dishonourable history was too well known. She knew, whatever force or
constraint he might put upon his feelings in public, that she herself
must be doomed to see them display themselves in full vehemence in
secret,--consume his health, destroy his temper, and render him at once
an object of dread and compassion. Again and again she cautioned Jeanie
to display no tokens of recognition, but to receive him as a perfect
stranger,--and again and again Jeanie renewed her promise to comply with
Jeanie herself could not fail to bestow an anxious thought on the
awkwardness of the approaching meeting; but her conscience was
ungalled--and then she was cumbered with many household cares of an
unusual nature, which, joined to the anxious wish once more to see
Butler, after an absence of unusual length, made her extremely desirous
that the travellers should arrive as soon as possible. And--why should I
disguise the truth?--ever and anon a thought stole across her mind that
her gala dinner had now been postponed for two days; and how few of the
dishes, after every art of her simple cuisine had been exerted to dress
them, could with any credit or propriety appear again upon the third;
and what was she to do with the rest?--Upon this last subject she was
saved the trouble of farther deliberation, by the sudden appearance of
the Captain at the head of half-a-dozen stout fellows, dressed and armed
in the Highland fashion.
"Goot-morrow morning to ye, Leddy Staunton, and I hope I hae the pleasure
to see you weel--And goot-morrow to you, goot Mrs. Putler--I do peg you
will order some victuals and ale and prandy for the lads, for we hae peen
out on firth and moor since afore daylight, and a' to no purpose
So saying, he sate down, pushed back his brigadier wig, and wiped his
head with an air of easy importance; totally regardless of the look of
well-bred astonishment by which Lady Staunton endeavoured to make him
comprehend that he was assuming too great a liberty.
"It is some comfort, when one has had a sair tussel," continued the
Captain, addressing Lady Staunton, with an air of gallantry, "that it is
in a fair leddy's service, or in the service of a gentleman whilk has a
fair leddy, whilk is the same thing, since serving the husband is serving
the wife, as Mrs. Putler does very weel know."
"Really, sir," said Lady Staunton, "as you seem to intend this compliment
for me, I am at a loss to know what interest Sir George or I can have in
your movements this morning."
"O, Cot tam!--this is too cruel, my leddy--as if it was not py special
express from his Grace's honourable agent and commissioner at Edinburgh,
with a warrant conform, that I was to seek for and apprehend Donacha dhu
na Dunaigh, and pring him pefore myself and Sir George Staunton, that he
may have his deserts, that is to say, the gallows, whilk he has doubtless
deserved, py peing the means of frightening your leddyship, as weel as
for something of less importance."
"Frightening me!" said her ladyship; "why, I never wrote to Sir George
about my alarm at the waterfall."
"Then he must have heard it otherwise; for what else can give him sic an
earnest tesire to see this rapscallion, that I maun ripe the haill mosses
and muirs in the country for him, as if I were to get something for
finding him, when the pest o't might pe a pall through my prains?"
"Can it be really true, that it is on Sir George's account that you have
been attempting to apprehend this fellow?"
"Py Cot, it is for no other cause that I know than his honour's pleasure;
for the creature might hae gone on in a decent quiet way for me, sae lang
as he respectit the Duke's pounds--put reason goot he suld be taen, and
hangit to poet, if it may pleasure ony honourable shentleman that is the
Duke's friend--Sae I got the express over night, and I caused warn half a
score of pretty lads, and was up in the morning pefore the sun, and I
garr'd the lads take their kilts and short coats."
"I wonder you did that, Captain," said Mrs. Butler, "when you know the
act of Parliament against wearing the Highland dress."
"Hout, tout, ne'er fash your thumb, Mrs. Putler. The law is put twa-three
years auld yet, and is ower young to hae come our length; and pesides,
how is the lads to climb the praes wi' thae tamn'd breekens on them? It
makes me sick to see them. Put ony how, I thought I kend Donacha's haunt
gey and weel, and I was at the place where he had rested yestreen; for I
saw the leaves the limmers had lain on, and the ashes of them; by the
same token, there was a pit greeshoch purning yet. I am thinking they got
some word oat o' the island what was intended--I sought every glen and
clench, as if I had been deer-stalking, but teil a want of his coat-tail
could I see--Cot tam!"
"He'll be away down the Firth to Cowal," said David; and Reuben, who had
been out early that morning a-nutting, observed, "That he had seen a boat
making for the Caird's Cove;" a place well known to the boys, though
their less adventurous father was ignorant of its existence.
"Py Cot," said Duncan, "then I will stay here no longer than to trink
this very horn of prandy and water, for it's very possible they will pe
in the wood. Donacha's a clever fellow, and maype thinks it pest to sit
next the chimley when the lum reeks. He thought naebody would look for
him sae near hand! I peg your leddyship will excuse my aprupt departure,
as I will return forthwith, and I will either pring you Donacha in life,
or else his head, whilk I dare to say will be as satisfactory. And I hope
to pass a pleasant evening with your leddyship; and I hope to have mine
revenges on Mr. Putler at backgammon, for the four pennies whilk he won,
for he will pe surely at home soon, or else he will have a wet journey,
seeing it is apout to pe a scud."
Thus saying, with many scrapes and bows, and apologies for leaving them,
which were very readily received, and reiterated assurances of his speedy
return (of the sincerity whereof Mrs. Butler entertained no doubt, so
long as her best greybeard of brandy was upon duty), Duncan left the
Manse, collected his followers, and began to scour the close and
entangled wood which lay between the little glen and the Caird's Cove.
David, who was a favourite with the Captain, on account of his spirit and
courage, took the opportunity of escaping, to attend the investigations
of that great man.
I did send for thee,
That Talbot's name might be in thee revived,
When sapless age and weak, unable limbs,
Should bring thy father to his drooping chair.
But--O malignant and ill-boding stars!--
First part of Henry the Sixth.
Duncan and his party had not proceeded very far in the direction of the
Caird's Cove before they heard a shot, which was quickly followed by one
or two others. "Some tamn'd villains among the roe-deer," said Duncan;
"look sharp out, lads."
The clash of swords was next heard, and Duncan and his myrmidons,
hastening to the spot, found Butler and Sir George Staunton's servant in
the hands of four ruffians. Sir George himself lay stretched on the
ground, with his drawn sword in his hand. Duncan, who was as brave as a
lion, instantly fired his pistol at the leader of the band, unsheathed
his sword, cried out to his men, _Claymore!_ and run his weapon through
the body of the fellow whom he had previously wounded, who was no other
thau Donacha dhu na Dunaigh himself. The other banditti were speedily
overpowered, excepting one young lad, who made wonderful resistance for
his years, and was at length secured with difficulty.
[Illustration: Death of Sir George Staunton--404]
Butler, so soon as he was liberated from the ruffians, ran to raise Sir
George Staunton, but life had wholly left him.
"A creat misfortune," said Duncan; "I think it will pe pest that I go
forward to intimate it to the coot lady.--Tavie, my dear, you hae smelled
pouther for the first time this day--take my sword and hack off Donacha's
head, whilk will pe coot practice for you against the time you may wish
to do the same kindness to a living shentleman--or hould! as your father
does not approve, you may leave it alone, as he will pe a greater object
of satisfaction to Leddy Staunton to see him entire; and I hope she will
do me the credit to pelieve that I can afenge a shentleman's plood fery
speedily and well."
Such was the observation of a man too much accustomed to the ancient
state of manners in the Highlands, to look upon the issue of such a
skirmish as anything worthy of wonder or emotion.
We will not attempt to describe the very contrary effect which the
unexpected disaster produced upon Lady Staunton, when the bloody corpse
of her husband was brought to the house, where she expected to meet him
alive and well. All was forgotten, but that he was the lover of her
youth; and whatever were his faults to the world, that he had towards her
exhibited only those that arose from the inequality of spirits and
temper, incident to a situation of unparalleled difficulty. In the
vivacity of her grief she gave way to all the natural irritability of her
temper; shriek followed shriek, and swoon succeeded to swoon. It required
all Jeanie's watchful affection to prevent her from making known, in
these paroxysms of affliction, much which it was of the highest
importance that she should keep secret.
At length silence and exhaustion succeeded to frenzy, and Jeanie stole
out to take counsel with her husband, and to exhort him to anticipate the
Captain's interference, by taking possession, in Lady Staunton's name, of
the private papers of her deceased husband. To the utter astonishment of
Butler, she now, for the first time, explained the relation betwixt
herself and Lady Staunton, which authorised, nay, demanded, that he
should prevent any stranger from being unnecessarily made acquainted with
her family affairs. It was in such a crisis that Jeanie's active and
undaunted habits of virtuous exertion were most conspicuous. While the
Captain's attention was still engaged by a prolonged refreshment, and a
very tedious examination, in Gaelic and English, of all the prisoners,
and every other witness of the fatal transaction, she had the body of her
brother-in-law undressed and properly disposed. It then appeared, from
the crucifix, the beads, and the shirt of hair which he wore next his
person, that his sense of guilt had induced him to receive the dogmata of
a religion, which pretends, by the maceration of the body, to expiate the
crimes of the soul. In the packet of papers which the express had brought
to Sir George Staunton from Edinburgh, and which Butler, authorised by
his connection with the deceased, did not scruple to examine, he found
new and astonishing intelligence, which gave him reason to thank God he
had taken that measure.
Ratcliffe, to whom all sorts of misdeeds and misdoers were familiar,
instigated by the promised reward, soon found himself in a condition to
trace the infant of these unhappy parents. The woman to whom Meg
Murdockson had sold that most unfortunate child, had made it the
companion of her wanderings and her beggary, until he was about seven or
eight years old, when, as Ratcliffe learned from a companion of hers,
then in the Correction House of Edinburgh, she sold him in her turn to
Donacha dhu na Dunaigh. This man, to whom no act of mischief was unknown,
was occasionally an agent in a horrible trade then carried on betwixt
Scotland and America, for supplying the plantations with servants, by
means of _kidnapping,_ as it was termed, both men and women, but
especially children under age. Here Ratcliffe lost sight of the boy, but
had no doubt but Donacha Dhu could give an account of him. The gentleman
of the law, so often mentioned, despatched therefore an express, with a
letter to Sir George Staunton, and another covering a warrant for
apprehension of Donacha, with instructions to the Captain of Knockdunder
to exert his utmost energy for that purpose.
Possessed of this information, and with a mind agitated by the most
gloomy apprehensions, Butler now joined the Captain, and obtained from
him with some difficulty a sight of the examinations. These, with a few
questions to the elder of the prisoners, soon confirmed the most dreadful
of Butler's anticipations. We give the heads of the information, without
descending into minute details.
Donacha Dhu had indeed purchased Effie's unhappy child, with the purpose
of selling it to the American traders, whom he had been in the habit of
supplying with human flesh. But no opportunity occurred for some time;
and the boy, who was known by the name of "The Whistler," made some
impression on the heart and affections even of this rude savage, perhaps
because he saw in him flashes of a spirit as fierce and vindictive as his
own. When Donacha struck or threatened him--a very common occurrence--he
did not answer with complaints and entreaties like other children, but
with oaths and efforts at revenge--he had all the wild merit, too, by
which Woggarwolfe's arrow-bearing page won the hard heart of his master:
Like a wild cub, rear'd at the ruffian's feet,
He could say biting jests, bold ditties sing,
And quaff his foaming bumper at the board,
With all the mockery of a little man.*
In short, as Donacha Dhu said, the Whistler was a born imp of Satan, and
_therefore_ he should never leave him. Accordingly, from his eleventh
year forward, he was one of the band, and often engaged in acts of
violence. The last of these was more immediately occasioned by the
researches which the Whistler's real father made after him whom he had
been taught to consider as such. Donacha Dhu's fears had been for some
time excited by the strength of the means which began now to be employed
against persons of his description. He was sensible he existed only by
the precarious indulgence of his namesake, Duncan of Knockdunder, who was
used to boast that he could put him down or string him up when he had a
mind. He resolved to leave the kingdom by means of one of those sloops
which were engaged in the traffic of his old kidnapping friends, and
which was about to sail for America; but he was desirous first to strike
a bold stroke.
The ruffian's cupidity was excited by the intelligence, that a wealthy
Englishman was coming to the Manse--he had neither forgotten the
Whistler's report of the gold he had seen in Lady Staunton's purse, nor
his old vow of revenge against the minister; and, to bring the whole to a
point, he conceived the hope of appropriating the money, which, according
to the general report of the country, the minister was to bring from
Edinburgh to pay for his pew purchase. While he was considering how he
might best accomplish his purpose, he received the intelligence from one
quarter, that the vessel in which he proposed to sail was to sail
immediately from Greenock; from another, that the minister and a rich
English lord, with a great many thousand pounds, were expected the next
evening at the Manse; and from a third, that he must consult his safety
by leaving his ordinary haunts as soon as possible, for that the Captain
had ordered out a party to scour the glens for him at break of day.
Donacha laid his plans with promptitude and decision. He embarked with
the Whistler and two others of his band (whom, by the by, he meant to
sell to the kidnappers), and set sail for the Caird's Cove. He intended
to lurk till nightfall in the wood adjoining to this place, which he
thought was too near the habitation of men to excite the suspicion of
Duncan Knock, then break into Butler's peaceful habitation, and flesh at
once his appetite for plunder and revenge. When his villany was
accomplished, his boat was to convey him to the vessel, which, according
to previous agreement with the master, was instantly to set sail.
This desperate design would probably have succeeded, but for the ruffians
being discovered in their lurking-place by Sir George Staunton and
Butler, in their accidental walk from the Caird's Cove towards the Manse.
Finding himself detected, and at the same time observing that the servant
carried a casket, or strong-box, Donacha conceived that both his prize
and his victims were within his power, and attacked the travellers
without hesitation. Shots were fired and swords drawn on both sides; Sir
George Staunton offered the bravest resistance till he fell, as there was
too much reason to believe, by the hand of a son, so long sought, and now
at length so unhappily met.
While Butler was half-stunned with this intelligence, the hoarse voice of
Knockdunder added to his consternation.
"I will take the liperty to take down the pell-ropes, Mr. Putler, as I
must pe taking order to hang these idle people up to-morrow morning, to
teach them more consideration in their doings in future."
Butler entreated him to remember the act abolishing the heritable
jurisdictions, and that he ought to send them to Glasgow or Inverary, to
be tried by the Circuit. Duncan scorned the proposal.
"The Jurisdiction Act," he said, "had nothing to do put with the rebels,
and specially not with Argyle's country; and he would hang the men up all
three in one row before coot Leddy Staunton's windows, which would be a
great comfort to her in the morning to see that the coot gentleman, her
husband, had been suitably afenged."
And the utmost length that Butler's most earnest entreaties could prevail
was, that he would, reserve "the twa pig carles for the Circuit, but as
for him they ca'd the Fustler, he should try how he could fustle in a
swinging tow, for it suldna be said that a shentleman, friend to the
Duke, was killed in his country, and his people didna take at least twa
lives for ane."
Butler entreated him to spare the victim for his soul's sake. But
Knockdunder answered, "that the soul of such a scum had been long the
tefil's property, and that, Cot tam! he was determined to gif the tefil
All persuasion was in vain, and Duncan issued his mandate for execution
on the succeeding morning. The child of guilt and misery was separated
from his companions, strongly pinioned, and committed to a separate room,
of which the Captain kept the key.
In the silence of the night, however, Mrs. Butler arose, resolved, if
possible, to avert, at least to delay, the fate which hung over her
nephew, especially if, upon conversing with him, she should see any hope
of his being brought to better temper. She had a master-key that opened
every lock in the house; and at midnight, when all was still, she stood
before the eyes of the astonished young savage, as, hard bound with
cords, he lay, like a sheep designed for slaughter, upon a quantity of
the refuse of flax which filled a corner in the apartment. Amid features
sunburnt, tawny, grimed with dirt, and obscured by his shaggy hair of a
rusted black colour, Jeanie tried in vain to trace the likeness of either
of his very handsome parents. Yet how could she refuse compassion to a
creature so young and so wretched,--so much more wretched than even he
himself could be aware of, since the murder he had too probably committed
with his own hand, but in which he had at any rate participated, was in
fact a parricide? She placed food on a table near him, raised him, and
slacked the cords on his arms, so as to permit him to feed himself. He
stretched out his hands, still smeared with blood perhaps that of his
father, and he ate voraciously and in silence.
"What is your first name?" said Jeanie, by way of opening the
"But your Christian name, by which you were baptized?"
"I never was baptized that I know of--I have no other name than the
"Poor unhappy abandoned lad!" said Jeanie. "What would ye do if you could
escape from this place, and the death you are to die to-morrow morning?"
"Join wi' Rob Roy, or wi' Sergeant More Cameron" (noted freebooters at
that time), "and revenge Donacha's death on all and sundry."
"O ye unhappy boy," said Jeanie, "do ye ken what will come o' ye when ye
"I shall neither feel cauld nor hunger more," said the youth doggedly.
"To let him be execute in this dreadful state of mind would be to destroy
baith body and soul--and to let him gang I dare not--what will be done?--
But he is my sister's son--my own nephew--our flesh and blood--and his
hands and feet are yerked as tight as cords can be drawn.--Whistler, do
the cords hurt you?"
"But, if I were to slacken them, you would harm me?"
"No, I would not--you never harmed me or mine."
There may be good in him yet, thought Jeanie; I will try fair play with
She cut his bonds--he stood upright, looked round with a laugh of wild
exultation, clapped his hands together, and sprung from the ground, as if
in transport on finding himself at liberty. He looked so wild, that
Jeanie trembled at what she had done.
"Let me out," said the young savage.
"I wunna, unless you promise"
"Then I'll make you glad to let us both out."
He seized the lighted candle and threw it among the flax, which was
instantly in a flame. Jeanie screamed, and ran out of the room; the
prisoner rushed past her, threw open a window in the passage, jumped into
the garden, sprung over its enclosure, bounded through the woods like a
deer, and gained the seashore. Meantime, the fire was extinguished, but
the prisoner was sought in vain. As Jeanie kept her own secret, the share
she had in his escape was not discovered: but they learned his fate some
time afterwards--it was as wild as his life had hitherto been.
The anxious inquiries of Butler at length learned, that the youth had
gained the ship in which his master, Donacha, had designed to embark. But
the avaricious shipmaster, inured by his evil trade to every species of
treachery, and disappointed of the rich booty which Donacha had proposed
to bring aboard, secured the person of the fugitive, and having
transported him to America, sold him as a slave, or indented servant, to
a Virginian planter, far up the country. When these tidings reached
Butler, he sent over to America a sufficient sum to redeem the lad from
slavery, with instructions that measures should be taken for improving
his mind, restraining his evil propensities, and encouraging whatever
good might appear in his character. But this aid came too late. The young
man had headed a conspiracy in which his inhuman master was put to death,
and had then fled to the next tribe of wild Indians. He was never more
heard of; and it may therefore be presumed that he lived and died after
the manner of that savage people, with whom his previous habits had well
fitted him to associate.
All hopes of the young man's reformation being now ended, Mr. and Mrs.
Butler thought it could serve no purpose to explain to Lady Staunton a
history so full of horror. She remained their guest more than a year,
during the greater part of which period her grief was excessive. In the
latter months, it assumed the appearance of listlessness and low spirits,
which the monotony of her sister's quiet establishment afforded no means
of dissipating. Effie, from her earliest youth, was never formed for a
quiet low content. Far different from her sister, she required the
dissipation of society to divert her sorrow, or enhance her joy. She left
the seclusion of Knocktarlitie with tears of sincere affection, and after
heaping its inmates with all she could think of that might be valuable in
their eyes. But she _did_ leave it; and, when the anguish of the parting
was over, her departure was a relief to both sisters.
The family at the Manse of Knocktarlitie, in their own quiet happiness,
heard of the well-dowered and beautiful Lady Staunton resuming her place
in the fashionable world. They learned it by more substantial proofs, for
David received a commission; and as the military spirit of Bible Butler
seemed to have revived in him, his good behaviour qualified the envy of
five hundred young Highland cadets, "come of good houses," who were
astonished at the rapidity of his promotion. Reuben followed the law, and
rose more slowly, yet surely. Euphemia Butler, whose fortune, augmented
by her aunt's generosity, and added to her own beauty, rendered her no
small prize, married a Highland laird, who never asked the name of her
grand-father, and was loaded on the occasion with presents from Lady
Staunton, which made her the envy of all the beauties in Dumbarton and
After blazing nearly ten years in the fashionable world, and hiding, like
many of her compeers, an aching heart with a gay demeanour--after
declining repeated offers of the most respectable kind for a second
matrimonial engagement, Lady Staunton betrayed the inward wound by
retiring to the Continent, and taking up her abode in the convent where
she had received her education. She never took the veil, but lived and
died in severe seclusion, and in the practice of the Roman Catholic
religion, in all its formal observances, vigils, and austerities.
Jeanie had so much of her father's spirit as to sorrow bitterly for this
apostasy, and Butler joined in her regret. "Yet any religion, however
imperfect," he said, "was better than cold scepticism, or the hurrying
din of dissipation, which fills the ears of worldlings, until they care
for none of these things."
Meanwhile, happy in each other, in the prosperity of their family, and
the love and honour of all who knew them, this simple pair lived beloved,
and died lamented.
[Illustration: Jeanie Dean's Cottage--414]
THIS TALE WILL NOT BE TOLD IN VAIN, IF IT SHALL BE FOUND TO
ILLUSTRATE THE GREAT TRUTH, THAT GUILT, THOUGH IT MAY ATTAIN
TEMPORAL SPLENDOUR, CAN NEVER CONFER REAL HAPPINESS; THAT THE
EVIL CONSEQUENCES OF OUR CRIMES LONG SURVIVE THEIR COMMISSION,
AND, LIKE THE GHOSTS OF THE MURDERED, FOR EVER HAUNT THE STEPS
OF THE MALEFACTOR; AND THAT THE PATHS OF VIRTUE, THOUGH SELDOM
THOSE OF WORLDLY GREATNESS, ARE ALWAYS THOSE OF PLEASANTNESS
BY JEDEDIAH CLEISHBOTHAM.
Thus concludeth the Tale of "The Heart of Mid-Lothian," which hath filled
more pages than I opined. The Heart of Mid-Lothian is now no more, or
rather it is transferred to the extreme side of the city, even as the
Sieur Jean Baptiste Poquelin hath it, in his pleasant comedy called _Le
Me'decin Malgre' Lui,_ where the simulated doctor wittily replieth to a
charge, that he had placed the heart on the right side, instead of the
left, "_Cela e'tait autrefois ainsi, mais nous avons change' tout cela._"
Of which witty speech if any reader shall demand the purport, I have only
to respond, that I teach the French as well as the Classical tongues, at
the easy rate of five shillings per quarter, as my advertisements are
periodically making known to the public.
NOTES TO THE HEART OF MID-LOTHIAN.
NOTE A--Author's connection with Quakerism.
It is an old proverb, that "many a true word is spoken in jest." The
existence of Walter Scott, third son of Sir William Scott of Harden, is
instructed, as it is called, by a charter under the great seal, Domino
Willielmo Scott de Harden Militi, et Waltero Scott suo filio legitimo
tertio genito, terrarum de Roberton.*
* See Douglas's _Baronage,_ page 215.
The munificent old gentleman left all his four sons considerable estates.
and settled those of Eilrig and Raeburn, together with valuable
possessions around Lessuden, upon Walter, his third son, who is ancestor
of the Scotts of Raeburn, and of the Author of Waverley. He appears to
have become a convert to the doctrine of the Quakers, or Friends, and a
great assertor of their peculiar tenets. This was probably at the time
when George Fox, the celebrated apostle of the sect, made an expedition
into the south of Scotland about 1657, on which occasion, he boasts, that
"as he first set his horse's feet upon Scottish ground, he felt the seed
of grace to sparkle about him like innumerable sparks of fire." Upon the
same occasion, probably, Sir Gideon Scott of Highchester, second son of
Sir William, immediate elder brother of Walter, and ancestor of the
author's friend and kinsman, the present representative of the family of
Harden, also embraced the tenets of Quakerism. This last convert, Gideon,
entered into a controversy with the Rev. James Kirkton, author of the
_Secret and True History of the Church of Scotland,_ which is noticed by
my ingenious friend Mr. Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, in his valuable and
curious edition of that work, 4to, 1817. Sir William Scott, eldest of the
brothers, remained, amid the defection of his two younger brethren, an
orthodox member of the Presbyterian Church, and used such means for
reclaiming Walter of Raeburn from his heresy, as savoured far more of
persecution than persuasion. In this he was assisted by MacDougal of
Makerston, brother to Isabella MacDougal, the wife of the said Walter,
and who, like her husband, had conformed to the Quaker tenets.
The interest possessed by Sir William Scott and Makerston was powerful
enough to procure the two following acts of the Privy Council of
Scotland, directed against Walter of Raeburn as an heretic and convert to
Quakerism, appointing him to be imprisoned first in Edinburgh jail, and
then in that of Jedburgh; and his children to be taken by force from the
society and direction of their parents, and educated at a distance from
them, besides the assignment of a sum for their maintenance, sufficient
in those times to be burdensome to a moderate Scottish estate.
"Apud Edin., vigesimo Junii 1665.
"The Lords of his Magesty's Privy Council having receaved information
that Scott of Raeburn, and Isobel Mackdougall, his wife, being infected
with the error of Quakerism, doe endeavour to breid and trains up
William, Walter, and Isobel Scotts, their children, in the same
profession, doe therefore give order and command to Sir William Scott of
Harden, the said Raeburn's brother, to seperat and take away the saids
children from the custody and society of the saids parents, and to cause
educat and bring them up in his owne house, or any other convenient
place, and ordaines letters to be direct at the said Sir William's
instance against Raeburn, for a maintenance to the saids children, and
that the said Sir Wm. give ane account of his diligence with all
"Edinburgh, 5th July 1666.
"Anent a petition presented be Sir Wm. Scott of Harden, for himself and
in name and behalf of the three children of Walter Scott of Raeburn, his
brother, showing that the Lords of Councill, by ane act of the 22d day of
Junii 1665, did grant power and warrand to the petitioner, to separat and
take away Raeburn's children, from his family and education, and to breed
them in some convenient place, where they might be free from all
infection in their younger years, from the principalls of Quakerism, and,
for maintenance of the saids children, did ordain letters to be direct
against Raeburn; and, seeing the Petitioner, in obedience to the said
order, did take away the saids children, being two sonnes and a daughter,
and after some paines taken upon them in his owne family, hes sent them
to the city of Glasgow, to be bread at schooles, and there to be
principled with the knowledge of the true religion, and that it is
necessary the Councill determine what shall be the maintenance for which
Raeburn's three children may be charged, as likewise that Raeburn
himself, being now in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, where he dayley
converses with all the Quakers who are prisoners there, and others who
daily resort to them, whereby he is hardened in his pernitious opinions
and principles, without all hope of recovery, unlesse he be separat from
such pernitious company, humbly therefore, desyring that the Councell
might determine upon the soume of money to be payed be Raeburn, for the
education of his children, to the petitioner, who will be countable
therefor; and that, in order to his conversion, the place of his
imprisonment may be changed. The Lords of his Maj. Privy Councell having
at length heard and considered the foresaid petition, doe modifie the
soume of two thousand pounds Scots, to be payed yearly at the terms of
Whitsunday be the said Walter Scott of Raeburn, furth of his estate to
the petitioner, for the entertainment and education of the said children,
beginning the first termes payment therof at Whitsunday last for the half
year preceding, and so furth yearly, at the said terme of Whitsunday in
tym comeing till furder orders; and ordaines the said Walter Scott of
Raeburn to be transported from the tolbooth of Edinburgh to the prison of
Jedburgh, where his friends and others may have occasion to convert him.
And to the effect he may be secured from the practice of other Quakers,
the said Lords doe hereby discharge the magistrates of Jedburgh to suffer
any persons suspect of these principles to have access to him; and in
case any contraveen, that they secure ther persons till they be therfore
puneist; and ordaines letters to be direct heirupon in form, as effeirs."
Both the sons, thus harshly separated from their father, proved good
scholars. The eldest, William, who carried on the line of Raeburn, was,
like his father, a deep Orientalist; the younger, Walter, became a good
classical scholar, a great friend and correspondent of the celebrated Dr.
Pitcairn, and a Jacobite so distinguished for zeal, that he made a vow
never to shave his beard till the restoration of the exiled family. This
last Walter Scott was the author's great-grandfather.
There is yet another link betwixt the author and the simple-minded and
excellent Society of Friends, through a proselyte of much more importance
than Walter Scott of Raeburn. The celebrated John Swinton, of Swinton,
nineteenth baron in descent of that ancient and once powerful family,
was, with Sir William Lockhart of Lee, the person whom Cromwell chiefly
trusted in the management of the Scottish affairs during his usurpation.
After the Restoration, Swinton was devoted as a victim to the new order
of things, and was brought down in the same vessel which conveyed the
Marquis of Argyle to Edinburgh, where that nobleman was tried and
executed. Swinton was destined to the same fate. He had assumed the
habit, and entered into the Society of the Quakers, and appeared as one
of their number before the Parliament of Scotland. He renounced all legal
defence, though several pleas were open to him, and answered, in
conformity to the principles of his sect, that at the time these crimes
were imputed to him, he was in the gall of bitterness and bond of
iniquity; but that God Almighty having since called him to the light, he
saw and acknowledged these errors, and did not refuse to pay the forfeit
of them, even though, in the judgment of the Parliament, it should extend
to life itself.
Respect to fallen greatness, and to the patience and calm resignation
with which a man once in high power expressed himself under such a change
of fortune, found Swinton friends; family connections, and some
interested considerations of Middleton the Commissioner, joined to
procure his safety, and he was dismissed, but after a long imprisonment,
and much dilapidation of his estates. It is said that Swinton's
admonitions, while confined in the Castle of Edinburgh, had a
considerable share in converting to the tenets of the Friends Colonel
David Barclay, then lying there in the garrison. This was the father of
Robert Barclay, author of the celebrated _Apology for the Quakers._ It
may be observed among the inconsistencies of human nature, that Kirkton,
Wodrow, and other Presbyterian authors, who have detailed the sufferings
of their own sect for nonconformity with the established church, censure
the government of the time for not exerting the civil power against the
peaceful enthusiasts we have treated of, and some express particular
chagrin at the escape of Swinton. Whatever might be his motives for
assuming the tenets of the Friends, the old man retained them faithfully
till the close of his life.
Jean Swinton, grand-daughter of Sir John Swinton, son of Judge Swinton,
as the Quaker was usually termed, was mother of Anne Rutherford, the
And thus, as in the play of the Anti-Jacobin, the ghost of the author's
grandmother having arisen to speak the Epilogue, it is full time to
conclude, lest the reader should remonstrate that his desire to know the
Author of Waverley never included a wish to be acquainted with his whole
NOTE B.--TOMBSTONE TO HELEN WALKER.
On Helen Walker's tombstone in Irongray churchyard, Dumfriesshire, there
is engraved the following epitaph, written by Sir Walter Scott:
THIS STONE WAS ERECTED
BY THE AUTHOR OF WAVERLEY
TO THE MEMORY
WHO DIED IN THE YEAR OF GOD 1791.
THIS HUMBLE INDIVIDUAL PRACTISED IN REAL LIFE
WITH WHICH FICTION HAS INVESTED
THE IMAGINARY CHARACTER OF
REFUSING THE SLIGHTEST DEPARTURE
EVEN TO SAVE THE LIFE OF A SISTER,
SHE NEVERTHELESS SHOWED HER
KINDNESS AND FORTITUDE,
IN RESCUING HER FROM THE SEVERITY OF THE LAW
AT THE EXPENSE OF PERSONAL EXERTIONS
WHICH THE TIME RENDERED AS DIFFICULT
AS THE MOTIVE WAS LAUDABLE.
RESPECT THE GRAVE OF POVERTY
WHEN COMBINED WITH LOVE OF TRUTH
AND DEAR AFFECTION.
_Erected October 1831._
NOTE C.--THE OLD TOLBOOTH.
The ancient Tolbooth of Edinburgh, Situated as described in this
was built by the citizens in 1561, and destined for the accommodation of
Parliament, as well as of the High Courts of Justice;* and at the same
time for the confinement of prisoners for debt, or on criminal charges.
Since the year 1640, when the present Parliament House was erected, the
Tolbooth was occupied as a prison only.
* [This is not so certain. Few persons now living are likely to remember
the interior of the old Tolbooth, with narrow staircase, thick walls,
and small apartments, nor to imagine that it could ever have been used
for these purposes. Robert Chambers, in his _Minor Antiquities_ of
Edinburgh, has preserved ground-plans or sections, which clearly show
this,--the largest hall was on the second floor, and measuring 27 feet
by 20, and 12 feet high. It may have been intended for the meetings of
Town Council, while the Parliament assembled, after 1560, in what was
called the Upper Tolbooth, that is the south-west portion of the
Collegiate Church of St. Giles, until the year 1640, when the present
Parliament House was completed. Being no longer required for such a
purpose, it was set apart by the Town Council on the 24th December 1641
as a distinct church, with the name of the Tolbooth parish, and
therefore could not have derived the name from its vicinity to the
Tolbooth, as usually stated.]
Gloomy and dismal as it was, the situation in the centre of the High
Street rendered it so particularly well-aired, that when the plague laid
waste the city in 1645, it affected none within these melancholy
precincts. The Tolbooth was removed, with the mass of buildings in which
it was incorporated, in the autumn of the year 1817. At that time the
kindness of his old schoolfellow and friend, Robert Johnstone, Esquire,
then Dean of Guild of the city, with the liberal acquiescence of the
persons who had contracted for the work, procured for the Author of
Waverley the stones which composed the gateway, together with the door,
and its ponderous fastenings, which he employed in decorating the
entrance of his kitchen-court at Abbotsford. "To such base offices may we
return." The application of these relies of the Heart of Mid-Lothian to
serve as the postern-gate to a court of modern offices, may be justly
ridiculed as whimsical; but yet it is not without interest, that we see
the gateway through which so much of the stormy politics of a rude age,
and the vice and misery of later times, had found their passage, now
occupied in the service of rural economy. Last year, to complete the
change, a tomtit was pleased to build her nest within the lock of the
Tolbooth,--a strong temptation to have committed a sonnet, had the
Author, like Tony Lumpkin, been in a concatenation accordingly.
It is worth mentioning, that an act of beneficence celebrated the
demolition of the Heart of Mid-Lothian. A subscription, raised and
applied by the worthy Magistrate above mentioned, procured the
manumission of most of the unfortunate debtors confined in the old jail,
so that there were few or none transferred to the new place of
[The figure of a Heart upon the pavement between St. Giles's Church and
the Edinburgh County Hall, now marks the site of the Old Tolbooth.]
NOTE D--THE PORTEOUS MOB.
The following interesting and authentic account of the inquiries made by
Crown Counsel into the affair of the Porteous Mob, seems to have been
drawn up by the Solicitor-General. The office was held in 1737 by Charles
I owe this curious illustration to the kindness of a professional friend.
It throws, indeed, little light on the origin of the tumult; but shows
how profound the darkness must have been, which so much investigation
could not dispel.
"Upon the 7th of September last, when the unhappy wicked murder of
Captain Porteus was committed, His Majesty's Advocate and Solicitor were
out of town; the first beyond Inverness, and the other in Annandale, not
far from Carlyle; neither of them knew anything of the reprieve, nor did
they in the least suspect that any disorder was to happen.
"When the disorder happened, the magistrates and other persons concerned
in the management of the town, seemed to be all struck of a heap; and
whether, from the great terror that had seized all the inhabitants, they
thought ane immediate enquiry would be fruitless, or whether, being a
direct insult upon the prerogative of the crown, they did not care rashly
to intermeddle; but no proceedings was had by them. Only, soon after, ane
express was sent to his Majestie's Solicitor, who came to town as soon as
was possible for him; but, in the meantime, the persons who had been most
guilty, had either ran off, or, at least, kept themselves upon the wing
until they should see what steps were taken by the Government.
"When the Solicitor arrived, he perceived the whole inhabitants under a
consternation. He had no materials furnished him; nay, the inhabitants
were so much afraid of being reputed informers, that very few people had
so much as the courage to speak with him on the streets. However, having
received her Majestie's orders, by a letter from the Duke of New castle,
he resolved to sett about the matter in earnest, and entered upon ane
enquiry, gropeing in the dark. He had no assistance from the magistrates
worth mentioning, but called witness after witness in the privatest
manner, before himself in his own house, and for six weeks time, from
morning to evening, went on in the enquiry without taking the least
diversion, or turning his thoughts to any other business.
"He tried at first what he could do by declarations, by engaging secresy,
so that those who told the truth should never be discovered; made use of
no clerk, but wrote all the declarations with his own hand, to encourage
them to speak out. After all, for some time, he could get nothing but
ends of stories which, when pursued, broke off; and those who appeared
and knew anything of the matter, were under the utmost terror, lest it
should take air that they had mentioned any one man as guilty.
"During the course of the enquiry, the run of the town, which was strong
for the villanous actors, begun to alter a little, and when they saw the
King's servants in earnest to do their best, the generality, who before
had spoke very warmly in defence of the wickedness, began to be silent,
and at that period more of the criminals began to abscond.
"At length the enquiry began to open a little, and the Sollicitor was
under some difficulty how to proceed. He very well saw that the first
warrand that was issued out would start the whole gang; and as he had not
come at any of the most notorious offenders, he was unwilling, upon the
slight evidence he had, to begin. However, upon notice given him by
Generall Moyle, that one King, a butcher in the Canongate, had boasted,
in presence of Bridget Knell, a soldier's wife, the morning after Captain
Porteus was hanged, that he had a very active hand in the mob, a warrand
was issued out, and King was apprehended, and imprisoned in the Canongate
"This obliged the Sollicitor immediately to take up those against whom he
had any information. By a signed declaration, William Stirling,
apprentice to James Stirling, merchant in Edinburgh, was charged as
haveing been at the Nether-Bow, after the gates were shutt, with a
Lochaber-ax or halbert in his hand, and haveing begun a huzza, marched
upon the head of the mob towards the Guard.
"James Braidwood, son to a candlemaker in town, was, by a signed
declaration, charged as haveing been at the Tolbooth door, giveing
directions to the mob about setting fire to the door, and that the mob
named him by his name, and asked his advice.
"By another declaration, one Stoddart, a journeyman smith, was charged of
having boasted publickly, in a smith's shop at Leith, that he had
assisted in breaking open the Tolbooth door.
"Peter Traill, a journeyman wright, (by one of the declarations) was also
accused of haveing lockt the Nether-Bow Port, when it was shutt by the
"His Majestie's Sollicitor having these informations, implored privately
such persons as he could best rely on, and the truth was, there were very
few in whom he could repose confidence. But he was, indeed, faithfully
served by one Webster, a soldier in the Welsh fuzileers, recommended him
by Lieutenant Alshton, who, with very great address, informed himself,
and really run some risque in getting his information, concerning the
places where the persons informed against used to haunt, and how they
might be seized. In consequence of which, a party of the Guard from the
Canongate was agreed on to march up at a certain hour, when a message
should be sent. The Sollicitor wrote a letter and gave it to one of the
town officers, ordered to attend Captain Maitland, one of the town
Captains, promoted to that command since the unhappy accident, who,
indeed, was extremely diligent and active throughout the whole; and
haveing got Stirling and Braidwood apprehended, dispatched the officer
with the letter to the military in the Canongate, who immediately begun
their march, and by the time the Sollicitor had half examined the said
two persons in the Burrow-room, where the Magistrates were present, a
party of fifty men, drums beating, marched into the Parliament close, and
drew up, which was the first thing that struck a terror, and from that
time forward, the insolence was succeeded by fear.
"Stirling and Braidwood were immediately sent to the Castle and
imprisoned. That same night, Stoddart, the smith, was seized, and he was
committed to the Castle also; as was likewise Traill, the journeyman
wright, who were all severally examined, and denyed the least accession.
"In the meantime, the enquiry was going on, and it haveing cast up in one
of the declarations, that a hump'd backed creature marched with a gun as
one of the guards to Porteus when he went up to the Lawn Markett, the
person who emitted this declaration was employed to walk the streets to
see if he could find him out; at last he came to the Sollicitor and told
him he had found him, and that he was in a certain house. Whereupon a
warrand was issued out against him, and he was apprehended and sent to
the Castle, and he proved to be one Birnie, a helper to the Countess of
"Thereafter, ane information was given in against William M'Lauchlan,
ffootman to the said Countess, he haveing been very active in the mob;
ffor sometime he kept himself out of the way, but at last he was
apprehended and likewise committed to the Castle.
"And these were all the prisoners who were putt under confinement in that
"There were other persons imprisoned in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, and
severalls against whom warrands were issued, but could not be
apprehended, whose names and cases shall afterwards be more particularly
taken notice of.
"The ffriends of Stirling made an application to the Earl of Islay, Lord
Justice-Generall, setting furth, that he was seized with a bloody fflux;
that his life was in danger; and that upon ane examination of witnesses
whose names were given in, it would appear to conviction, that he had not
the least access to any of the riotous proceedings of that wicked mob.
"This petition was by his Lordship putt in the hands of his Majestie's
Sollicitor, who examined the witnesses; and by their testimonies it
appeared, that the young man, who was not above eighteen years of age,
was that night in company with about half a dozen companions, in a public
house in Stephen Law's closs, near the back of the Guard, where they all
remained untill the noise came to the house, that the mob had shut the
gates and seized the Guard, upon which the company broke up, and he, and
one of his companions, went towards his master's house; and, in the
course of the after examination, there was a witness who declared, nay,
indeed swore (for the Sollicitor, by this time, saw it necessary to put
those he examined upon oath), that he met him [Stirling] after he entered
into the alley where his master lives, going towards his house; and
another witness, fellow-prentice with Stirling, declares, that after the
mob had seized the Guard, he went home, where he found Stirling before
him; and, that his master lockt the door, and kept them both at home till
after twelve at night: upon weighing of which testimonies, and upon
consideration had, That he was charged by the declaration only of one
person, who really did not appear to be a witness of the greatest weight,
and that his life was in danger from the imprisonment, he was admitted to
baill by the Lord Justice-Generall, by whose warrand he was committed.
"Braidwood's friends applyed in the same manner; but as he stood charged
by more than one witness, he was not released--tho', indeed, the
witnesses adduced for him say somewhat in his exculpation--that he does
not seem to have been upon any original concert; and one of the witnesses
says he was along with him at the Tolbooth door, and refuses what is said
against him, with regard to his having advised the burning of the
Tolbooth door. But he remains still in prison.
"As to Traill, the journeyman wright, he is charged by the same witness
who declared against Stirling, and there is none concurrs with him and,
to say the truth concerning him, he seemed to be the most ingenuous of
any of them whom the Solicitor examined, and pointed out a witness by
whom one of the first accomplices was discovered, and who escaped when
the warrand was to be putt in execution against them. He positively denys
his having shutt the gate, and 'tis thought Traill ought to be admitted
"As to Birnie, he is charged only by one witness, who had never seen him
before, nor knew his name; so, tho' I dare say the witness honestly
mentioned him, 'tis possible he may be mistaken; and in the examination
of above 200 witnesses there is no body concurrs with him, and he is ane
insignificant little creature.
"With regard to M'Lauchlan, the proof is strong against him by one
witness, that he acted as a serjeant, or sort of commander, for some
time, of a Guard, that stood cross between the upper end of the
Luckenbooths and the north side of the street, to stop all but friends
from going towards the Tolbooth; and by other witnesses, that he was at
the Tolbooth door with a link in his hand, while the operation of beating
and burning it was going on; that he went along with the mob with a
halbert in his hand, untill he came to the gallows stone in the
Grassmarket, and that he stuck the halbert into the hole of the gallows
stone: that afterwards he went in amongst the mob when Captain Porteus
was carried to the dyer's tree; so that the proof seems very heavy
"To sum up this matter with regard to the prisoners in the Castle, 'tis
believed there is strong proof against M'Lauchlan; there is also proof
against Braidwood. But, as it consists only in emission of words said to
have been had by him while at the Tolbooth door, and that he is ane
insignificant pitifull creature, and will find people to swear heartily
in his favours, 'tis at best doubtfull whether a jury will be got to
"As to those in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, John Crawford, who had for
some time been employed to ring the bells in the steeple of the New
Church of Edinburgh, being in company with a soldier accidentally, the
discourse falling in concerning the Captain Porteus and his murder, as he
appears to be a light-headed fellow, he said, that he knew people that
were more guilty than any that were putt in prison. Upon this
information, Crawford was seized, and being examined, it appeared, that
when the mob begun, as he was comeing down from the steeple, the mob took
the keys from him; that he was that night in several corners, and did
indeed delate severall persons whom he saw there, and immediately
warrands were despatched, and it was found they had absconded and fled.
But there was no evidence against him of any kind. Nay, on the contrary,
it appeared, that he had been with the Magistrates in Clerk's, the
vintner's, relating to them what he had seen in the streets. Therefore,
after haveing detained him in prison ffor a very considerable time, his
Majestie's Advocate and Sollicitor signed a warrand for his liberation.
"There was also one James Wilson incarcerated in the said Tolbooth, upon
the declaration of one witness, who said he saw him on the streets with a
gun; and there he remained for some time, in order to try if a concurring
witness could be found, or that he acted any part in the tragedy and
wickedness. But nothing farther appeared against him; and being seized
with a severe sickness, he is, by a warrand signed by his Majestie's
Advocate and Sollicitor, liberated upon giveing sufficient baill.
"As to King, enquiry was made, and the ffact comes out beyond all
exception, that he was in the lodge at the Nether-Bow with Lindsay the
waiter, and several other people, not at all concerned in the mob. But
after the affair was over, he went up towards the guard, and having met
with Sandie the Turk and his wife, who escaped out of prison, they
returned to his house at the Abbey, and then 'tis very possible he may
have thought fitt in his beer to boast of villany, in which he could not
possibly have any share for that reason; he was desired to find baill and
he should be set at liberty. But he is a stranger and a fellow of very
indifferent character, and 'tis believed it won't be easy for him to find
baill. Wherefore, it's thought he must be sett at liberty without it.
Because he is a burden upon the Government while kept in confinement, not
being able to maintain himself.
"What is above is all that relates to persons in custody. But there are
warrands out against a great many other persons who had fled,
particularly against one William White, a journeyman baxter, who, by the
evidence, appears to have been at the beginning of the mob, and to have
gone along with the drum, from the West-Port to the Nether-Bow, and is
said to have been one of those who attacked the guard, and probably was
as deep as any one there.
"Information was given that he was lurking at Falkirk, where he was born.
Whereupon directions were sent to the Sheriff of the County, and a
warrand from his Excellency Generall Wade, to the commanding officers at
Stirling and Linlithgow, to assist, and all possible endeavours were used
to catch hold of him, and 'tis said he escaped very narrowly, having been
concealed in some outhouse; and the misfortune was, that those who were
employed in the search did not know him personally. Nor, indeed, was it
easy to trust any of the acquaintances of so low, obscure a fellow with
the secret of the warrand to be putt in execution.
"There was also strong evidence found against Robert Taylor, servant to
William and Charles Thomsons, periwig-makers, that he acted as ane
officer among the mob, and he was traced from the guard to the well at
the head of Forester's Wynd, where he stood and had the appellation of
Captain from the mob, and from that walking down the Bow before Captain
Porteus, with his Lochaber axe; and, by the description given of one who
hawl'd the rope by which Captain Porteus was pulled up, 'tis believed
Taylor was the person; and 'tis farther probable, that the witness who
debated Stirling had mistaken Taylor for him, their stature and age (so
far as can be gathered from the description) being the same.
"A great deal of pains were taken, and no charge was saved, in order to
have catched hold of this Taylor, and warrands were sent to the country
where he was born; but it appears he had shipt himself off for Holland,
where it is said he now is.
"There is strong evidence also against Thomas Burns, butcher, that he was
ane active person from the beginning of the mob to the end of it. He
lurkt for some time amongst those of his trade; and artfully enough a
train was laid to catch him, under pretence of a message that had come
from his father in Ireland, so that he came to a blind alehouse in the
Flesh-market close, and, a party being ready, was, by Webster the
soldier, who was upon this exploit, advertised to come down. However,
Burns escaped out at a back-window, and hid himself in some of the houses
which are heaped together upon one another in that place, so that it was
not possible to catch him. 'Tis now said he is gone to Ireland to his
father who lives there.
"There is evidence also against one Robert Anderson, journeyman and
servant to Colin Alison, wright; and against Thomas Linnen and James
Maxwell, both servants also to the said Colin Alison, who all seem to
have been deeply concerned in the matter. Anderson is one of those who
putt the rope upon Captain Porteus's neck. Linnen seems also to have been
very active; and Maxwell (which is pretty remarkable) is proven to have
come to a shop upon the Friday before, and charged the journeymen and
prentices there to attend in the Parliament close on Tuesday night, to
assist to hang Captain Porteus. These three did early abscond, and,
though warrands had been issued out against them, and all endeavours used
to apprehend them, could not be found.
"One Waldie, a servant to George Campbell, wright, has also absconded,
and many others, and 'tis informed that numbers of them have shipt
themselves off ffor the Plantations; and upon an information that a ship
was going off ffrom Glasgow, in which severall of the rogues were to
transport themselves beyond seas, proper warrands were obtained, and
persons despatched to search the said ship, and seize any that can be
"The like warrands had been issued with regard to ships from Leith. But
whether they had been scard, or whether the information had been
groundless, they had no effect.
"This is a summary of the enquiry, ffrom which it appears there is no
prooff on which one can rely, but against M'Lauchlan. There is a prooff
also against Braidwood, but more exceptionable. His Majestie's Advocate,
since he came to town, has join'd with the Sollicitor, and has done his
utmost to gett at the bottom of this matter, but hitherto it stands as is
above represented. They are resolved to have their eyes and their ears
open, and to do what they can. But they laboured exceedingly against the
stream; and it may truly be said, that nothing was wanting on their part.
Nor have they declined any labour to answer the commands laid upon them
to search the matter to the bottom."
THE PORTEOUS MOB.
In the preceding
CHAPTERs (I. to VI.) the circumstances of that
extraordinary riot and conspiracy, called the Porteous Mob, are given
with as much accuracy as the author was able to collect them. The order,
regularity, and determined resolution with which such a violent action
was devised and executed, were only equalled by the secrecy which was
observed concerning the principal actors.
Although the fact was performed by torch-light, and in presence of a
great multitude, to some of whom, at least, the individual actors must
have been known, yet no discovery was ever made concerning any of the
perpetrators of the slaughter.
Two men only were brought to trial for an offence which the Government
were so anxious to detect and punish. William M'Lauchlan, footman to the
Countess of Wemyss, who is mentioned in the report of the
Solicitor-General, against whom strong evidence had been obtained, was
brought to trial in March 1737, charged as having been accessory to the
riot, armed with a Lochaber axe. But this man (who was at all times a
silly creature) proved, that he was in a state of mortal intoxication
during the time he was present with the rabble, incapable of giving them
either advice or assistance, or, indeed, of knowing what he or they were
doing. He was also able to prove, that he was forced into the riot, and
upheld while there by two bakers, who put a Lochaber axe into his hand.
The jury, wisely judging this poor creature could be no proper subject of
punishment, found the panel Not Guilty. The same verdict was given in the
case of Thomas Linning, also mentioned in the Solicitor's memorial, who
was tried in 1738. In short, neither then, nor for a long period
afterwards, was anything discovered relating to the organisation of the
The imagination of the people of Edinburgh was long irritated, and their
curiosity kept awake, by the mystery attending this extraordinary
conspiracy. It was generally reported of such natives of Edinburgh as,
having left the city in youth, returned with a fortune amassed in foreign
countries, that they had originally fled on account of their share in the
Porteous Mob. But little credit can be attached to these surmises, as in
most of the cases they are contradicted by dates, and in none supported
by anything but vague rumours, grounded on the ordinary wish of the
vulgar, to impute the success of prosperous men to some unpleasant
source. The secret history of the Porteous Mob has been till this day
unravelled; and it has always been quoted as a close, daring, and
calculated act of violence, of a nature peculiarly characteristic of the
Nevertheless, the author, for a considerable time, nourished hopes to
have found himself enabled to throw some light on this mysterious story.
An old man, who died about twenty years ago, at the advanced age of
ninety-three, was said to have made a communication to the clergyman who
attended upon his death-bed, respecting the origin of the Porteous Mob.
This person followed the trade of a carpenter, and had been employed as
such on the estate of a family of opulence and condition. His character
in his line of life and amongst his neighbours, was excellent, and never
underwent the slightest suspicion. His confession was said to have been
to the following purpose: That he was one of twelve young men belonging
to the village of Pathhead, whose animosity against Porteous, on account
of the execution of Wilson, was so extreme, that they resolved to execute
vengeance on him with their own hands, rather than he should escape
punishment. With this resolution they crossed the Forth at different
ferries, and rendezvoused at the suburb called Portsburgh, where their
appearance in a body soon called numbers around them. The public mind was
in such a state of irritation, that it only wanted a single spark to
create an explosion; and this was afforded by the exertions of the small
and determined band of associates. The appearance of premeditation and
order which distinguished the riot, according to his account, had its
origin, not in any previous plan or conspiracy, but in the character of
those who were engaged in it. The story also serves to show why nothing
of the origin of the riot has ever been discovered, since though in
itself a great conflagration, its source, according to this account, was
from an obscure and apparently inadequate cause.
I have been disappointed, however, in obtaining the evidence on which
this story rests. The present proprietor of the estate on which the old
man died (a particular friend of the author) undertook to question the
son of the deceased on the subject. This person follows his father's
trade, and holds the employment of carpenter to the same family. He
admits that his father's going abroad at the time of the Porteous Mob was
popularly attributed to his having been concerned in that affair; but
adds that, so far as is known to him, the old man had never made any
confession to that effect; and, on the contrary, had uniformly denied
being present. My kind friend, therefore, had recourse to a person from
whom he had formerly heard the story; but who, either from respect to an
old friend's memory, or from failure of his own, happened to have
forgotten that ever such a communication was made. So my obliging
correspondent (who is a fox-hunter) wrote to me that he was completely
_planted;_ and all that can be said with respect to the tradition is,
that it certainly once existed, and was generally believed.
[_N.B._--The Rev. Dr. Carlyle, minister of Inveresk, in his
_Autobiography,_ gives some interesting particulars relating to the
Porteous Mob, from personal recollections. He happened to be present in
the Tolbooth Church when Robertson made his escape, and also at the
execution of Wilson in the Grassmarket, when Captain Porteous fired upon
the mob, and several persons were killed. Edinburgh 1860, 8vo, pp.
NOTE E.--CARSPHARN JOHN.
John Semple, called Carspharn John, because minister of the parish in
Galloway so called, was a Presbyterian clergyman of singular piety and
great zeal, of whom Patrick Walker records the following passage: "That
night after his wife died, he spent the whole ensuing night in prayer and
meditation in his garden. The next morning, one of his elders coming to
see him, and lamenting his great loss and want of rest, he replied,--'I
declare I have not, all night, had one thought of the death of my wife, I
have been so taken up in meditating on heavenly things. I have been this
night on the banks of Ulai, plucking an apple here and there.'"--
_Walker's Remarkable Passages of the Life and Death of Mr. John Semple._
NOTE F.--PETER WALKER.
This personage, whom it would be base ingratitude in the author to pass
over without some notice, was by far the most zealous and faithful
collector and recorder of the actions and opinions of the Cameronians. He
resided, while stationary, at the Bristo Port of Edinburgh, but was by
trade an itinerant merchant, or pedlar, which profession he seems to have
exercised in Ireland as well as Britain. He composed biographical notices
of Alexander Peden, John Semple, John Welwood, and Richard Cameron, all
ministers of the Cameronian persuasion, to which the last mentioned
member gave the name.
It is from such tracts as these, written in the sense, feeling, and
spirit of the sect, and not from the sophisticated narratives of a later
period, that the real character of the persecuted class is to be
gathered. Walker writes with a simplicity which sometimes slides into the
burlesque, and sometimes attains a tone of simple pathos, but always
expressing the most daring confidence in his own correctness of creed and
sentiments, sometimes with narrow-minded and disgusting bigotry. His turn
for the marvellous was that of his time and sect; but there is little
room to doubt his veracity concerning whatever he quotes on his own
knowledge. His small tracts now bring a very high price, especially the
earlier and authentic editions. The tirade against dancing, pronounced by
David Deans, is, as intimated in the text, partly borrowed from Peter
Walker. He notices, as a foul reproach upon the name of Richard Cameron,
that his memory was vituperated, "by pipers and fiddlers playing the
Cameronian march--carnal vain springs, which too many professors of
religion dance to; a practice unbecoming the professors of Christianity
to dance to any spring, but somewhat more to this. Whatever," he
proceeds, "be the many foul blots recorded of the saints in Scripture,
none of them is charged with this regular fit of distraction. We find it
has been practised by the wicked and profane, as the dancing at that
brutish, base action of the calf-making; and it had been good for that
unhappy lass, who danced off the head of John the Baptist, that she had
been born a cripple, and never drawn a limb to her. Historians say, that
her sin was written upon her judgment, who some time thereafter was
dancing upon the ice, and it broke, and snapt the head off her; her head
danced above, and her feet beneath. There is ground to think and
conclude, that when the world's wickedness was great, dancing at their
marriages was practised; but when the heavens above, and the earth
beneath, were let loose upon them with that overflowing flood, their
mirth was soon staid; and when the Lord in holy justice rained fire and
brimstone from heaven upon that wicked people and city Sodom, enjoying
fulness of bread and idleness, their fiddle-strings and hands went all in
a flame; and the whole people in thirty miles of length, and ten of
breadth, as historians say, were all made to fry in their skins and at
the end, whoever are giving in marriages and dancing when all will go in
a flame, they will quickly change their note.
"I have often wondered thorow my life, how any that ever knew what it was
to bow a knee in earnest to pray, durst crook a hough to fyke and fling
at a piper's and fiddler's springs. I bless the Lord that ordered my lot
so in my dancing days, that made the fear of the bloody rope and bullets
to my neck and head, the pain of boots, thumikens, and irons, cold and
hunger, wetness and weariness, to stop the lightness of my head, and the
wantonness of my feet. What the never-to-be-forgotten Man of God, John
Knox, said to Queen Mary, when she gave him that sharp challenge, which
would strike our mean-spirited, tongue-tacked ministers dumb, for his
giving public faithful warning of the danger of the church and nation,
through her marrying the Dauphine of France, when he left her bubbling
and greeting, and came to an outer court, where her Lady Maries were
fyking and dancing, he said, 'O brave ladies, a brave world, if it would
last, and heaven at the hinder end! But fye upon the knave Death, that
will seize upon those bodies of yours; and where will all your fiddling
and flinging be then?' Dancing being such a common evil, especially
amongst young professors, that all the lovers of the Lord should hate,
has caused me to insist the more upon it, especially that foolish spring
the Cameronian march!"--_Life and Death of Three Famous Worthies,_ etc.,
collected and printed for Patrick Walker, Edin. 1727, 12mo, p. 59.
It may be here observed, that some of the milder class of Cameronians
made a distinction between the two sexes dancing separately, and allowed
of it as a healthy and not unlawful exercise; but when men and women
mingled in sport, it was then called _promiscuous dancing,_ and
considered as a scandalous enormity.
NOTE G.--MUSCHAT'S CAIRN.
Nichol Muschat, a debauched and profligate wretch, having conceived a
hatred against his wife, entered into a conspiracy with another brutal
libertine and gambler, named Campbell of Burnbank (repeatedly mentioned
in Pennycuick's satirical poems of the time), by which Campbell undertook
to destroy the woman's character, so as to enable Muschat, on false
pretences to obtain a divorce from her. The brutal devices to which these
worthy accomplices resorted for that purpose having failed, they
endeavoured to destroy her by administering medicine of a dangerous kind,
and in extraordinary quantities.
This purpose also failing, Nichol Muschat, or Muschet, did finally, on
the 17th October 1720, carry his wife under cloud of night to the King's
Park, adjacent to what is called the Duke's Walk, near Holyrood Palace,
and there took her life by cutting her throat almost quite through, and
inflicting other wounds. He pleaded guilty to the indictment, for which
he suffered death. His associate, Campbell, was sentenced to
transportation, for his share in the previous conspiracy. See
_MacLaurin's Criminal Cases,_pp. 64 and 738.
In memory, and at the same time execration, of the deed, a _cairn,_ or
pile of stones, long marked the spot. It is now almost totally removed,
in consequence of an alteration on the road in that place.
NOTE H.--HANGMAN, OR LOCKMAN.
_Lockman,_ so called from the small quantity of meal (Scottice, _lock_)
which he was entitled to take out of every boll exposed to market in the
city. In Edinburgh, the duty has been very long commuted; but in
Dumfries, the finisher of the law still exercises, or did lately
exercise, his privilege, the quantity taken being regulated by a small
iron ladle, which he uses as the measure of his perquisite. The
expression _lock,_ for a small quantity of any readily divisible dry
substance, as corn, meal, flax, or the like, is still preserved, not only
popularly, but in a legal description, as the _lock_ and _gowpen,_ or
small quantity and handful, payable in thirlage cases, as in town
NOTE I.--THE FAIRY BOY OF LEITH,
This legend was in former editions inaccurately said to exist in Baxter's
"World of Spirits;" but is, in fact, to be found, in "Pandaemonium, or
the Devil's Cloyster; being a further blow to Modern Sadduceism," by
Richard Bovet, Gentleman, 12mo, 1684. The work is inscribed to Dr. Henry
More. The story is entitled, "A remarkable passage of one named the Fairy
Boy of Leith, in Scotland, given me by my worthy friend, Captain George
Burton, and attested under his hand;" and is as follows:--
"About fifteen years since, having business that detained me for some
time in Leith, which is near Edenborough, in the kingdom of Scotland, I
often met some of my acquaintance at a certain house there, where we used
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