The Heart of Mid-Lothian, Complete, Illustrated
Sir Walter Scott
Part 8 out of 13
history of Madge Wildfire's insanity.
So free from danger, free from fear
They crossed the court--right glad they were.
Pursuing the path which Madge had chosen, Jeanie Deans observed, to her
no small delight, that marks of more cultivation appeared, and the
thatched roofs of houses, with their blue smoke arising in little
columns, were seen embosomed in a tuft of trees at some distance. The
track led in that direction, and Jeanie, therefore, resolved, while Madge
continued to pursue it, that she would ask her no questions; having had
the penetration to observe, that by doing so she ran the risk of
irritating her guide, or awakening suspicions, to the impressions of
which, persons in Madge's unsettled state of mind are particularly
Madge, therefore, uninterrupted, went on with the wild disjointed chat
which her rambling imagination suggested; a mood in which she was much
more communicative respecting her own history, and that of others,
than when there was any attempt made, by direct queries, or
cross-examinations, to extract information on these subjects.
"It's a queer thing," she said, "but whiles I can speak about the bit
bairn and the rest of it, just as if it had been another body's, and no
my ain; and whiles I am like to break my heart about it--Had you ever a
Jeanie replied in the negative.
"Ay; but your sister had, though--and I ken what came o't too."
"In the name of heavenly mercy," said Jeanie, forgetting the line of
conduct which she had hitherto adopted, "tell me but what became of that
unfortunate babe, and"
Madge stopped, looked at her gravely and fixedly, and then broke into a
great fit of laughing--"Aha, lass,--catch me if you can--I think it's
easy to gar you trow ony thing.--How suld I ken onything o' your sister's
wean? Lasses suld hae naething to do wi' weans till they are married--and
then a' the gossips and cummers come in and feast as if it were the
blithest day in the warld.--They say maidens' bairns are weel guided. I
wot that wasna true of your tittie's and mine; but these are sad tales to
tell.--I maun just sing a bit to keep up my heart--It's a sang that
Gentle George made on me lang syne, when I went with him to Lockington
wake, to see him act upon a stage, in fine clothes, with the player folk.
He might hae dune waur than married me that night as he promised--better
wed over the mixen* as over the moor, as they say in Yorkshire--
* A homely proverb, signifying better wed a neighbour than one fetched
from a distance.--Mixen signifies dunghill.
he may gang farther and fare waur--but that's a' ane to the sang,
'I'm Madge of the country, I'm Madge of the town,
And I'm Madge of the lad I am blithest to own--
The Lady of Beeve in diamonds may shine,
But has not a heart half so lightsome as mine.
'I am Queen of the Wake, and I'm Lady of May,
And I lead the blithe ring round the May-pole to-day;
The wildfire that flashes so fair and so free,
Was never so bright, or so bonny, as me.'
"I like that the best o' a' my sangs," continued the maniac, "because he
made it. I am often singing it, and that's maybe the reason folk ca' me
Madge Wildfire. I aye answer to the name, though it's no my ain, for
what's the use of making a fash?"
"But ye shouldna sing upon the Sabbath at least," said Jeanie, who, amid
all her distress and anxiety, could not help being scandalised at the
deportment of her companion, especially as they now approached near to
the little village.
"Ay! is this Sunday?" said Madge. "My mother leads sic a life, wi'
turning night into day, that ane loses a' count o' the days o' the week,
and disna ken Sunday frae Saturday. Besides, it's a' your whiggery--in
England, folk sings when they like--And then, ye ken, you are Christiana
and I am Mercy--and ye ken, as they went on their way, they sang."--And
she immediately raised one of John Bunyan's ditties:--
"He that is down need fear no fall,
He that is low no pride,
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
"Fulness to such a burthen is
That go on pilgrimage;
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
Is best from age to age."
"And do ye ken, Jeanie, I think there's much truth in that book, the
Pilgrim's Progress. The boy that sings that song was feeding his father's
sheep in the Valley of Humiliation, and Mr. Great-heart says, that he
lived a merrier life, and had more of the herb called heart's-ease in his
bosom, than they that wear silk and velvet like me, and are as bonny as I
Jeanie Deans had never read the fanciful and delightful parable to which
Madge alluded. Bunyan was, indeed, a rigid Calvinist, but then he was
also a member of a Baptist congregation, so that his works had no place
on David Deans's shelf of divinity. Madge, however, at some time of her
life, had been well acquainted, as it appeared, with the most popular of
his performances, which, indeed, rarely fails to make a deep impression
upon children, and people of the lower rank.
"I am sure," she continued, "I may weel say I am come out of the city of
Destruction, for my mother is Mrs. Bat's-eyes, that dwells at Deadman's
corner; and Frank Levitt, and Tyburn Tam, they may be likened to Mistrust
and Guilt, that came galloping up, and struck the poor pilgrim to the
ground with a great club, and stole a bag of silver, which was most of
his spending money, and so have they done to many, and will do to more.
But now we will gang to the Interpreter's house, for I ken a man that
will play the Interpreter right weel; for he has eyes lifted up to
Heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth written on his
lips, and he stands as if he pleaded wi' men--Oh, if I had minded what he
had said to me, I had never been the cutaway creature that I am!--But it
is all over now.--But we'll knock at the gate, and then the keeper will
admit Christiana, but Mercy will be left out--and then I'll stand at the
door, trembling and crying, and then Christiana--that's you, Jeanie--will
intercede for me; and then Mercy--that's me, ye ken, will faint; and then
the Interpreter--yes, the Interpreter, that's Mr. Staunton himself, will
come out and take me--that's poor, lost, demented me--by the hand, and
give me a pomegranate, and a piece of honeycomb, and a small bottle of
spirits, to stay my fainting--and then the good times will come back
again, and we'll be the happiest folk you ever saw."
In the midst of the confused assemblage of ideas indicated in this
speech, Jeanie thought she saw a serious purpose on the part of Madge, to
endeavour to obtain the pardon and countenance of some one whom she had
offended; an attempt the most likely of all others to bring them once
more into contact with law and legal protection. She, therefore, resolved
to be guided by her while she was in so hopeful a disposition, and act
for her own safety according to circumstances.
They were now close by the village, one of those beautiful scenes which
are so often found in merry England, where the cottages, instead of being
built in two direct lines on each side of a dusty high-road, stand in
detached groups, interspersed not only with large oaks and elms, but with
fruit-trees, so many of which were at this time in flourish, that the
grove seemed enamelled with their crimson and white blossoms. In the
centre of the hamlet stood the parish church, and its little Gothic
tower, from which at present was heard the Sunday chime of bells.
"We will wait here until the folk are a' in the church--they ca' the kirk
a church in England, Jeanie, be sure you mind that--for if I was gaun
forward amang them, a' the gaitts o' boys and lasses wad be crying at
Madge Wildfire's tail, the little hell-rakers! and the beadle would be as
hard upon us as if it was our fault. I like their skirting as ill as he
does, I can tell him; I'm sure I often wish there was a het peat doun
their throats when they set them up that gate."
Conscious of the disorderly appearance of her own dress after the
adventure of the preceding night, and of the grotesque habit and
demeanour of her guide, and sensible how important it was to secure an
attentive and impatient audience to her strange story from some one who
might have the means to protect her, Jeanie readily acquiesced in Madge's
proposal to rest under the trees, by which they were still somewhat
screened, until the commencement of service should give them an
opportunity of entering the hamlet without attracting a crowd around
them. She made the less opposition, that Madge had intimated that this
was not the village where her mother was in custody, and that the two
squires of the pad were absent in a different direction.
She sate herself down, therefore, at the foot of an oak, and by the
assistance of a placid fountain, which had been dammed up for the use of
the villagers, and which served her as a natural mirror, she began--no
uncommon thing with a Scottish maiden of her rank--to arrange her
toilette in the open air, and bring her dress, soiled and disordered as
it was, into such order as the place and circumstances admitted.
She soon perceived reason, however, to regret that she had set about this
task, however decent and necessary, in the present time and society.
Madge Wildfire, who, among other indications of insanity, had a most
overweening opinion of those charms, to which, in fact, she had owed her
misery, and whose mind, like a raft upon a lake, was agitated and driven
about at random by each fresh impulse, no sooner beheld Jeanie begin to
arrange her hair, place her bonnet in order, rub the dust from her shoes
and clothes, adjust her neck-handkerchief and mittans, and so forth, than
with imitative zeal she began to bedizen and trick herself out with
shreds and remnants of beggarly finery, which she took out of a little
bundle, and which, when disposed around her person, made her appearance
ten times more fantastic and apish than it had been before.
Jeanie groaned in spirit, but dared not interfere in a matter so
delicate. Across the man's cap or riding hat which she wore, Madge placed
a broken and soiled white feather, intersected with one which had been
shed from the train of a peacock. To her dress, which was a kind of
riding-habit, she stitched, pinned, and otherwise secured, a large
furbelow of artificial flowers, all crushed, wrinkled and dirty, which
had at first bedecked a lady of quality, then descended to her Abigail,
and dazzled the inmates of the servants' hall. A tawdry scarf of yellow
silk, trimmed with tinsel and spangles, which had seen as hard service,
and boasted as honourable a transmission, was next flung over one
shoulder, and fell across her person in the manner of a shoulder-belt, or
baldrick. Madge then stripped off the coarse ordinary shoes, which she
wore, and replaced them by a pair of dirty satin ones, spangled and
embroidered to match the scarf, and furnished with very high heels. She
had cut a willow switch in her morning's walk, almost as long as a boy's
fishing-rod. This she set herself seriously to peel, and when it was
transformed into such a wand as the Treasurer or High Steward bears on
public occasions, she told Jeanie that she thought they now looked
decent, as young women should do upon the Sunday morning, and that, as
the bells had done ringing, she was willing to conduct her to the
Jeanie sighed heavily, to think it should be her lot on the Lord's day,
and during kirk time too, to parade the street of an inhabited village
with so very grotesque a comrade; but necessity had no law, since,
without a positive quarrel with the madwoman, which, in the
circumstances, would have been very unadvisable, she could see no means
of shaking herself free of her society.
As for poor Madge, she was completely elated with personal vanity, and
the most perfect satisfaction concerning her own dazzling dress, and
superior appearance. They entered the hamlet without being observed,
except by one old woman, who, being nearly "high-gravel blind," was only
conscious that something very fine and glittering was passing by, and
dropped as deep a reverence to Madge as she would have done to a
countess. This filled up the measure of Madge's self-approbation. She
minced, she ambled, she smiled, she simpered, and waved Jeanie Deans
forward with the condescension of a noble _chaperone,_ who has undertaken
the charge of a country miss on her first journey to the capital.
Jeanie followed in patience, and with her eyes fixed on the ground, that
she might save herself the mortification of seeing her companion's
absurdities; but she started when, ascending two or three steps, she
found herself in the churchyard, and saw that Madge was making straight
for the door of the church. As Jeanie had no mind to enter the
congregation in such company, she walked aside from the pathway, and said
in a decided tone, "Madge, I will wait here till the church comes
out--you may go in by yourself if you have a mind."
As she spoke these words, she was about to seat herself upon one of the
Madge was a little before Jeanie when she turned aside; but, suddenly
changing her course, she followed her with long strides, and, with every
feature inflamed with passion, overtook and seized her by the arm. "Do ye
think, ye ungratefu' wretch, that I am gaun to let you sit doun upon my
father's grave? The deil settle ye doun, if ye dinna rise and come into
the Interpreter's house, that's the house of God, wi' me, but I'll rive
every dud aft your back!"
She adapted the action to the phrase; for with one clutch she stripped
Jeanie of her straw bonnet and a handful of her hair to boot, and threw
it up into an old yew-tree, where it stuck fast. Jeanie's first impulse
was to scream, but conceiving she might receive deadly harm before she
could obtain the assistance of anyone, notwithstanding the vicinity of
the church, she thought it wiser to follow the madwoman into the
congregation, where she might find some means of escape from her, or at
least be secured against her violence. But when she meekly intimated her
consent to follow Madge, her guide's uncertain brain had caught another
train of ideas. She held Jeanie fast with one hand, and with the other
pointed to the inscription on the grave-stone, and commanded her to read
it. Jeanie obeyed, and read these words:--
"This Monument was erected to the Memory of Donald
Murdockson of the King's xxvi., or Cameronian
Regiment, a sincere Christian, a brave Soldier, and
a faithful Servant, by his grateful and sorrowing
master, Robert Staunton."
"It's very weel read, Jeanie; it's just the very words," said Madge,
whose ire had now faded into deep melancholy, and with a step which, to
Jeanie's great joy, was uncommonly quiet and mournful, she led her
companion towards the door of the church.
[Illustration: Madge and Jennie--103]
It was one of those old-fashioned Gothic parish churches which are
frequent in England, the most cleanly, decent, and reverential places of
worship that are, perhaps, anywhere to be found in the Christian world.
Yet, notwithstanding the decent solemnity of its exterior, Jeanie was too
faithful to the directory of the Presbyterian kirk to have entered a
prelatic place of worship, and would, upon any other occasion, have
thought that she beheld in the porch the venerable figure of her father
waving her back from the entrance, and pronouncing in a solemn tone,
"Cease, my child, to hear the instruction which causeth to err from the
words of knowledge." But in her present agitating and alarming situation,
she looked for safety to this forbidden place of assembly, as the hunted
animal will sometimes seek shelter from imminent danger in the human
habitation, or in other places of refuge most alien to its nature and
habits. Not even the sound of the organ, and of one or two flutes which
accompanied the psalmody, prevented her from following her guide into the
chancel of the church.
No sooner had Madge put her foot upon the pavement, and become sensible
that she was the object of attention to the spectators, than she resumed
all the fantastic extravagance of deportment which some transient touch
of melancholy had banished for an instant. She swam rather than walked up
the centre aisle, dragging Jeanie after her, whom she held fast by the
hand. She would, indeed, have fain slipped aside into the pew nearest to
the door, and left Madge to ascend in her own manner and alone to the
high places of the synagogue; but this was impossible, without a degree
of violent resistance, which seemed to her inconsistent with the time and
place, and she was accordingly led in captivity up the whole length of
the church by her grotesque conductress, who, with half-shut eyes, a prim
smile upon her lips, and a mincing motion with her hands, which
corresponded with the delicate and affected pace at which she was pleased
to move, seemed to take the general stare of the congregation, which such
an exhibition necessarily excited, as a high compliment, and which she
returned by nods and half-courtesies to individuals amongst the audience,
whom she seemed to distinguish as acquaintances. Her absurdity was
enhanced in the eyes of the spectators by the strange contrast which she
formed to her companion, who, with dishevelled hair, downcast eyes, and a
face glowing with shame, was dragged, as it were in triumph after her.
Madge's airs were at length fortunately cut short by her encountering in
her progress the looks of the clergyman, who fixed upon her a glance, at
once steady, compassionate, and admonitory. She hastily opened an empty
pew which happened to be near her, and entered, dragging in Jeanie after
her. Kicking Jeanie on the shins, by way of hint that she should follow
her example, she sunk her head upon her hand for the space of a minute.
Jeanie, to whom this posture of mental devotion was entirely new, did not
attempt to do the like, but looked round her with a bewildered stare,
which her neighbours, judging from the company in which they saw her,
very naturally ascribed to insanity. Every person in their immediate
vicinity drew back from this extraordinary couple as far as the limits of
their pew permitted; but one old man could not get beyond Madge's reach,
ere, she had snatched the prayer-book from his hand, and ascertained the
lesson of the day. She then turned up the ritual, and with the most
overstrained enthusiasm of gesture and manner, showed Jeanie the passages
as they were read in the service, making, at the same time, her own
responses so loud as to be heard above those of every other person.
Notwithstanding the shame and vexation which Jeanie felt in being thus
exposed in a place of worship, she could not and durst not omit rallying
her spirits so as to look around her, and consider to whom she ought to
appeal for protection so soon as the service should be concluded. Her
first ideas naturally fixed upon the clergyman, and she was confirmed in
the resolution by observing that he was an aged gentleman, of a dignified
appearance and deportment, who read the service with an undisturbed and
decent gravity, which brought back to becoming attention those younger
members of the congregation who had been disturbed by the extravagant
behaviour of Madge Wildfire. To the clergyman, therefore, Jeanie resolved
to make her appeal when the service was over.
It is true she felt disposed to be shocked at his surplice, of which she
had heard so much, but which she had never seen upon the person of a
preacher of the word. Then she was confused by the change of posture
adopted in different parts of the ritual, the more so as Madge Wildfire,
to whom they seemed familiar, took the opportunity to exercise authority
over her, pulling her up and pushing her down with a bustling assiduity,
which Jeanie felt must make them both the objects of painful attention.
But, notwithstanding these prejudices, it was her prudent resolution, in
this dilemma, to imitate as nearly as she could what was done around her.
The prophet, she thought, permitted Naaman the Syrian to bow even in the
house of Rimmon. Surely if I, in this streight, worship the God of my
fathers in mine own language, although the manner thereof be strange to
me, the Lord will pardon me in this thing.
In this resolution she became so much confirmed, that, withdrawing
herself from Madge as far as the pew permitted, she endeavoured to evince
by serious and composed attention to what was passing, that her mind was
composed to devotion. Her tormentor would not long have permitted her to
remain quiet, but fatigue overpowered her, and she fell fast asleep in
the other corner of the pew.
Jeanie, though her mind in her own despite sometimes reverted to her
situation, compelled herself to give attention to a sensible, energetic,
and well-composed discourse, upon the practical doctrines of
Christianity, which she could not help approving, although it was every
word written down and read by the preacher, and although it was delivered
in a tone and gesture very different from those of Boanerges Stormheaven,
who was her father's favourite preacher. The serious and placid attention
with which Jeanie listened, did not escape the clergyman. Madge
Wildfire's entrance had rendered him apprehensive of some disturbance, to
provide against which, as far as possible, he often turned his eyes to
the part of the church where Jeanie and she were placed, and became soon
aware that, although the loss of her head-gear, and the awkwardness of
her situation, had given an uncommon and anxious air to the features of
the former, yet she was in a state of mind very different from that of
her companion. When he dismissed the congregation, he observed her look
around with a wild and terrified look, as if uncertain what course she
ought to adopt, and noticed that she approached one or two of the most
decent of the congregation, as if to address them, and then shrunk back
timidly, on observing that they seemed to shun and to avoid her. The
clergyman was satisfied there must be something extraordinary in all
this, and as a benevolent man, as well as a good Christian pastor, he
resolved to inquire into the matter more minutely.
There governed in that year
A stern, stout churl--an angry overseer.
While Mr. Staunton, for such was this worthy clergyman's name, was laying
aside his gown in the vestry, Jeanie was in the act of coming to an open
rupture with Madge.
"We must return to Mummer's barn directly," said Madge; "we'll be ower
late, and my mother will be angry."
"I am not going back with you, Madge," said Jeanie, taking out a guinea,
and offering it to her; "I am much obliged to you, but I maun gang my ain
"And me coming a' this way out o' my gate to pleasure you, ye ungratefu'
cutty," answered Madge; "and me to be brained by my mother when I gang
hame, and a' for your sake!--But I will gar ye as good"
"For God's sake," said Jeanie to a man who stood beside them, "keep her
off!--she is mad."
"Ey, ey," answered the boor; "I hae some guess of that, and I trow thou
be'st a bird of the same feather.--Howsomever, Madge, I redd thee keep
hand off her, or I'se lend thee a whisterpoop."
Several of the lower class of the parishioners now gathered round the
strangers, and the cry arose among the boys that "there was a-going to be
a fite between mad Madge Murdockson and another Bess of Bedlam." But
while the fry assembled with the humane hope of seeing as much of the fun
as possible, the laced cocked-hat of the beadle was discerned among the
multitude, and all made way for that person of awful authority. His first
address was to Madge.
"What's brought thee back again, thou silly donnot, to plague this
parish? Hast thou brought ony more bastards wi' thee to lay to honest
men's doors? or does thou think to burden us with this goose, that's as
hare-brained as thysell, as if rates were no up enow? Away wi' thee to
thy thief of a mother; she's fast in the stocks at Barkston town-end--
Away wi' ye out o' the parish, or I'se be at ye with the ratan."
Madge stood sulky for a minute; but she had been too often taught
submission to the beadle's authority by ungentle means to feel courage
enough to dispute it.
"And my mother--my puir auld mother, is in the stocks at Barkston!--This
is a' your wyte, Miss Jeanie Deans; but I'll be upsides wi' you, as sure
as my name's Madge Wildfire--I mean Murdockson--God help me, I forget my
very name in this confused waste!"
So saying, she turned upon her heel, and went off, followed by all the
mischievous imps of the village, some crying, "Madge, canst thou tell thy
name yet?" some pulling the skirts of her dress, and all, to the best of
their strength and ingenuity, exercising some new device or other to
exasperate her into frenzy.
Jeanie saw her departure with infinite delight, though she wished that,
in some way or other, she could have requited the service Madge had
conferred upon her.
In the meantime, she applied to the beadle to know whether "there was any
house in the village where she could be civilly entertained for her
money, and whether she could be permitted to speak to the clergyman?"
"Ay, ay, we'se ha' reverend care on thee; and I think," answered the man
of constituted authority, "that, unless thou answer the Rector all the
better, we'se spare thy money, and gie thee lodging at the parish charge,
"Where am I to go then?" said Jeanie, in some alarm.
"Why, I am to take thee to his Reverence, in the first place, to gie an
account o' thysell, and to see thou comena to be a burden upon the
"I do not wish to burden anyone," replied Jeanie; "I have enough for my
own wants, and only wish to get on my journey safely."
"Why, that's another matter," replied the beadle, "and if it be true--and
I think thou dost not look so polrumptious as thy playfellow yonder--Thou
wouldst be a mettle lass enow, an thou wert snog and snod a bid better.
Come thou away, then--the Rector is a good man."
"Is that the minister," said Jeanie, "who preached"
"The minister? Lord help thee! What kind o' Presbyterian art thou?--Why,
'tis the Rector--the Rector's sell, woman, and there isna the like o' him
in the county, nor the four next to it. Come away--away with thee--we
maunna bide here."
"I am sure I am very willing to go to see the minister," said Jeanie;
"for though he read his discourse, and wore that surplice, as they call
it here, I canna but think he must be a very worthy God-fearing man, to
preach the root of the matter in the way he did."
The disappointed rabble, finding that there was like to be no farther
sport, had by this time dispersed, and Jeanie, with her usual patience,
followed her consequential and surly, but not brutal, conductor towards
This clerical mansion was large and commodious, for the living was an
excellent one, and the advowson belonged to a very wealthy family in the
neighbourhood, who had usually bred up a son or nephew to the church for
the sake of inducting him, as opportunity offered, into this very
comfortable provision. In this manner the rectory of Willingham had
always been considered as a direct and immediate appanage of Willingham
Hall; and as the rich baronets to whom the latter belonged had usually a
son, or brother, or nephew, settled in the living, the utmost care had
been taken to render their habitation not merely respectable and
commodious, but even dignified and imposing.
It was situated about four hundred yards from the village, and on a
rising ground which sloped gently upward, covered with small enclosures,
or closes, laid out irregularly, so that the old oaks and elms, which
were planted in hedge-rows, fell into perspective, and were blended
together in beautiful irregularity. When they approached nearer to the
house, a handsome gateway admitted them into a lawn, of narrow dimensions
indeed, but which was interspersed with large sweet chestnut trees and
beeches, and kept in handsome order. The front of the house was
irregular. Part of it seemed very old, and had, in fact, been the
residence of the incumbent in Romish times. Successive occupants had made
considerable additions and improvements, each in the taste of his own
age, and without much regard to symmetry. But these incongruities of
architecture were so graduated and happily mingled, that the eye, far
from being displeased with the combinations of various styles, saw
nothing but what was interesting in the varied and intricate pile which
they displayed. Fruit-trees displayed on the southern wall, outer
staircases, various places of entrance, a combination of roofs and
chimneys of different ages, united to render the front, not indeed
beautiful or grand, but intricate, perplexed, or, to use Mr. Price's
appropriate phrase, picturesque. The most considerable addition was that
of the present Rector, who, "being a bookish man," as the beadle was at
the pains to inform Jeanie, to augment, perhaps, her reverence for the
person before whom she was to appear, had built a handsome library and
parlour, and no less than two additional bedrooms.
"Mony men would hae scrupled such expense," continued the parochial
officer, "seeing as the living mun go as it pleases Sir Edmund to will
it; but his Reverence has a canny bit land of his own, and need not look
on two sides of a penny."
Jeanie could not help comparing the irregular yet extensive and
commodious pile of building before her to the "Manses" in her own
country, where a set of penurious heritors, professing all the while the
devotion of their lives and fortunes to the Presbyterian establishment,
strain their inventions to discover what may be nipped, and clipped, and
pared from a building which forms but a poor accommodation even for the
present incumbent, and, despite the superior advantage of stone-masonry,
must, in the course of forty or fifty years, again burden their
descendants with an expense, which, once liberally and handsomely
employed, ought to have freed their estates from a recurrence of it for
more than a century at least.
Behind the Rector's house the ground sloped down to a small river, which,
without possessing the romantic vivacity and rapidity of a northern
stream, was, nevertheless, by its occasional appearance through the
ranges of willows and poplars that crowned its banks, a very pleasing
accompaniment to the landscape. "It was the best trouting stream," said
the beadle, whom the patience of Jeanie, and especially the assurance
that she was not about to become a burden to the parish, had rendered
rather communicative, "the best trouting stream in all Lincolnshire; for
when you got lower, there was nought to be done wi' fly-fishing."
Turning aside from the principal entrance, he conducted Jeanie towards a
sort of portal connected with the older part of the building, which was
chiefly occupied by servants, and knocking at the door, it was opened by
a servant in grave purple livery, such as befitted a wealthy and
"How dost do, Tummas?" said the beadle--"and how's young Measter
"Why, but poorly--but poorly, Measter Stubbs.--Are you wanting to see his
"Ay, ay, Tummas; please to say I ha' brought up the young woman as came
to service to-day with mad Madge Murdockson seems to be a decentish koind
o' body; but I ha' asked her never a question. Only I can tell his
Reverence that she is a Scotchwoman, I judge, and as flat as the fens of
Tummas honoured Jeanie Deans with such a stare, as the pampered domestics
of the rich, whether spiritual or temporal, usually esteem it part of
their privilege to bestow upon the poor, and then desired Mr. Stubbs and
his charge to step in till he informed his master of their presence.
The room into which he showed them was a sort of steward's parlour, hung
with a county map or two, and three or four prints of eminent persons
connected with the county, as Sir William Monson, James York the
blacksmith of Lincoln,* and the famous Peregrine, Lord Willoughby, in
complete armour, looking as when he said in the words of the legend below
* [Author of the _Union of Honour,_ a treatise on English Heraldry.
"Stand to it, noble pikemen,
And face ye well about;
And shoot ye sharp, bold bowmen,
And we will keep them out.
"Ye musquet and calliver-men,
Do you prove true to me,
I'll be the foremost man in fight,
Said brave Lord Willoughbee."
[Illustration: A "Summat" to Eat and Drink--113]
When they had entered this apartment, Tummas as a matter of course
offered, and as a matter of course Mr. Stubbs accepted, a "summat" to eat
and drink, being the respectable relies of a gammon of bacon, and a
_whole whiskin,_ or black pot of sufficient double ale. To these eatables
Mr. Beadle seriously inclined himself, and (for we must do him justice)
not without an invitation to Jeanie, in which Tummas joined, that his
prisoner or charge would follow his good example. But although she might
have stood in need of refreshment, considering she had tasted no food
that day, the anxiety of the moment, her own sparing and abstemious
habits, and a bashful aversion to eat in company of the two strangers,
induced her to decline their courtesy. So she sate in a chair apart,
while Mr. Stubbs and Mr. Tummas, who had chosen to join his friend in
consideration that dinner was to be put back till after the afternoon
service, made a hearty luncheon, which lasted for half-an-hour, and might
not then have concluded, had not his Reverence rung his bell, so that
Tummas was obliged to attend his master. Then, and no sooner, to save
himself the labour of a second journey to the other end of the house, he
announced to his master the arrival of Mr. Stubbs, with the other
madwoman, as he chose to designate Jeanie, as an event which had just
taken place. He returned with an order that Mr. Stubbs and the young
woman should be instantly ushered up to the library. The beadle bolted in
haste his last mouthful of fat bacon, washed down the greasy morsel with
the last rinsings of the pot of ale, and immediately marshalled Jeanie
through one or two intricate passages which led from the ancient to the
more modern buildings, into a handsome little hall, or anteroom,
adjoining to the library, and out of which a glass door opened to the
"Stay here," said Stubbs, "till I tell his Reverence you are come."
So saying, he opened a door and entered the library. Without wishing to
hear their conversation, Jeanie, as she was circumstanced, could not
avoid it; for as Stubbs stood by the door, and his Reverence was at the
upper end of a large room, their conversation was necessarily audible in
"So you have brought the young woman here at last, Mr. Stubbs. I expected
you some time since. You know I do not wish such persons to remain in
custody a moment without some inquiry into their situation."
"Very true, your Reverence," replied the beadle; "but the young woman had
eat nought to-day, and so Measter Tummas did set down a drap of drink and
a morsel, to be sure."
"Thomas was very right, Mr. Stubbs; and what has, become of the other
most unfortunate being?"
"Why," replied Mr. Stubbs, "I did think the sight on her would but vex
your Reverence, and soa I did let her go her ways back to her mother, who
is in trouble in the next parish."
"In trouble!--that signifies in prison, I suppose?" said Mr. Staunton.
"Ay, truly; something like it, an it like your Reverence."
"Wretched, unhappy, incorrigible woman!" said the clergyman. "And what
sort of person is this companion of hers?"
"Why, decent enow, an it like your Reverence," said Stubbs; "for aught I
sees of her, there's no harm of her, and she says she has cash enow to
carry her out of the county."
"Cash! that is always what you think of, Stubbs--But, has she sense?--has
she her wits?--has she the capacity of taking care of herself?"
"Why, your Reverence," replied Stubbs, "I cannot just say--I will be
sworn she was not born at Witt-ham;* for Gaffer Gibbs looked at her all
the time of service, and he says, she could not turn up a single lesson
like a Christian, even though she had Madge Murdockson to help her--but
then, as to fending for herself, why, she's a bit of a Scotchwoman, your
Reverence, and they say the worst donnot of them can look out for their
own turn--and she is decently put on enow, and not bechounched like
* A proverbial and punning expression in that county, to intimate that a
person is not very clever.
"Send her in here, then, and do you remain below, Mr. Stubbs."
This colloquy had engaged Jeanie's attention so deeply, that it was not
until it was over that she observed that the sashed door, which, we have
said, led from the anteroom into the garden, was opened, and that there
entered, or rather was borne in by two assistants, a young man, of a very
pale and sickly appearance, whom they lifted to the nearest couch, and
placed there, as if to recover from the fatigue of an unusual exertion.
Just as they were making this arrangement, Stubbs came out of the
library, and summoned Jeanie to enter it. She obeyed him, not without
tremor; for, besides the novelty of the situation, to a girl of her
secluded habits, she felt also as if the successful prosecution of her
journey was to depend upon the impression she should be able to make on
It is true, it was difficult to suppose on what pretext a person
travelling on her own business, and at her own charge, could be
interrupted upon her route. But the violent detention she had already
undergone, was sufficient to show that there existed persons at no great
distance who had the interest, the inclination, and the audacity,
forcibly to stop her journey, and she felt the necessity of having some
countenance and protection, at least till she should get beyond their
reach. While these things passed through her mind, much faster than our
pen and ink can record, or even the reader's eye collect the meaning of
its traces, Jeanie found herself in a handsome library, and in presence
of the Rector of Willingham. The well-furnished presses and shelves which
surrounded the large and handsome apartment, contained more books than
Jeanie imagined existed in the world, being accustomed to consider as an
extensive collection two fir shelves, each about three feet long, which
contained her father's treasured volumes, the whole pith and marrow, as
he used sometimes to boast, of modern divinity. An orrery, globes, a
telescope, and some other scientific implements, conveyed to Jeanie an
impression of admiration and wonder, not unmixed with fear; for, in her
ignorant apprehension, they seemed rather adapted for magical purposes
than any other; and a few stuffed animals (as the Rector was fond of
natural history) added to the impressive character of the apartment.
Mr. Staunton spoke to her with great mildness. He observed, that,
although her appearance at church had been uncommon, and in strange, and
he must add, discreditable society, and calculated, upon the whole, to
disturb the congregation during divine worship, he wished, nevertheless,
to hear her own account of herself before taking any steps which his duty
might seem to demand. He was a justice of peace, he informed her, as well
as a clergyman.
"His Honour" (for she would not say his Reverence) "was very civil and
kind," was all that poor Jeanie could at first bring out.
"Who are you, young woman?" said the clergyman, more peremptorily--"and
what do you do in this country, and in such company?--We allow no
strollers or vagrants here."
"I am not a vagrant or a stroller, sir," said Jeanie, a little roused by
the supposition. "I am a decent Scots lass, travelling through the land
on my own business and my own expenses and I was so unhappy as to fall in
with bad company, and was stopped a' night on my journey. And this puir
creature, who is something light-headed, let me out in the morning."
"Bad company!" said the clergyman. "I am afraid, young woman, you have
not been sufficiently anxious to avoid them."
"Indeed, sir," returned Jeanie, "I have been brought up to shun evil
communication. But these wicked people were thieves, and stopped me by
violence and mastery."
"Thieves!" said Mr. Staunton; "then you charge them with robbery, I
"No, sir; they did not take so much as a boddle from me," answered
Jeanie; "nor did they use me ill, otherwise than by confining me."
The clergyman inquired into the particulars of her adventure, which she
told him from point to point.
"This is an extraordinary, and not a very probable tale, young woman,"
resumed Mr. Staunton. "Here has been, according to your account, a great
violence committed without any adequate motive. Are you aware of the law
of this country--that if you lodge this charge, you will be bound over to
prosecute this gang?"
Jeanie did not understand him, and he explained, that the English law, in
addition to the inconvenience sustained by persons who have been robbed
or injured, has the goodness to intrust to them the care and the expense
of appearing as prosecutors.
Jeanie said, "that her business at London was express; all she wanted
was, that any gentleman would, out of Christian charity, protect her to
some town where she could hire horses and a guide; and finally," she
thought, "it would be her father's mind that she was not free to give
testimony in an English court of justice, as the land was not under a
direct gospel dispensation."
Mr. Staunton stared a little, and asked if her father was a Quaker.
"God forbid, sir," said Jeanie--"He is nae schismatic nor sectary, nor
ever treated for sic black commodities as theirs, and that's weel kend o'
"And what is his name, pray?" said Mr. Staunton.
"David Deans, sir, the cowfeeder at Saint Leonard's Crags, near
A deep groan from the anteroom prevented the Rector from replying, and,
exclaiming, "Good God! that unhappy boy!" he left Jeanie alone, and
hastened into the outer apartment.
Some noise and bustle was heard, but no one entered the library for the
best part of an hour.
Fantastic passions' maddening brawl!
And shame and terror over all!
Deeds to be hid which were not hid,
Which, all confused, I could not know
Whether I suffer'd or I did,
For all seem'd guilt, remorse, or woe;
My own, or others, still the same
Life-stifling fear, soul-stifling shame.
During the interval while she was thus left alone, Jeanie anxiously
revolved in her mind what course was best for her to pursue. She was
impatient to continue her journey, yet she feared she could not safely
adventure to do so while the old hag and her assistants were in the
neighbourhood, without risking a repetition of their violence. She
thought she could collect from the conversation which she had partly
overheard, and also from the wild confessions of Madge Wildfire, that her
mother had a deep and revengeful motive for obstructing her journey if
possible. And from whom could she hope for assistance if not from Mr.
Staunton? His whole appearance and demeanour seemed to encourage her
hopes. His features were handsome, though marked with a deep cast of
melancholy; his tone and language were gentle and encouraging; and, as he
had served in the army for several years during his youth, his air
retained that easy frankness which is peculiar to the profession of arms.
He was, besides, a minister of the gospel; and, although a worshipper,
according to Jeanie's notions, in the court of the Gentiles, and so
benighted as to wear a surplice; although he read the Common Prayer, and
wrote down every word of his sermon before delivering it; and although he
was, moreover, in strength of lungs, as well as pith and marrow of
doctrine, vastly inferior to Boanerges Stormheaven, Jeanie still thought
he must be a very different person from Curate Kilstoup, and other
prelatical divines of her father's earlier days, who used to get drunk in
their canonical dress, and hound out the dragoons against the wandering
Cameronians. The house seemed to be in some disturbance, but as she could
not suppose she was altogether forgotten, she thought it better to remain
quiet in the apartment where she had been left, till some one should take
notice of her.
The first who entered was, to her no small delight, one of her own sex, a
motherly-looking aged person of a housekeeper. To her Jeanie explained
her situation in a few words, and begged her assistance.
The dignity of a housekeeper did not encourage too much familiarity with
a person who was at the Rectory on justice-business, and whose character
might seem in her eyes somewhat precarious; but she was civil, although
"Her young master," she said, "had had a bad accident by a fall from his
horse, which made him liable to fainting fits; he had been taken very ill
just now, and it was impossible his Reverence could see Jeanie for some
time; but that she need not fear his doing all that was just and proper
in her behalf the instant he could get her business attended to."--She
concluded by offering to show Jeanie a room, where she might remain till
his Reverence was at leisure.
Our heroine took the opportunity to request the means of adjusting and
changing her dress.
The housekeeper, in whose estimation order and cleanliness ranked high
among personal virtues, gladly complied with a request so reasonable; and
the change of dress which Jeanie's bundle furnished made so important an
improvement in her appearance, that the old lady hardly knew the soiled
and disordered traveller, whose attire showed the violence she had
sustained, in the neat, clean, quiet-looking little Scotch-woman, who now
stood before her. Encouraged by such a favourable alteration in her
appearance, Mrs. Dalton ventured to invite Jeanie to partake of her
dinner, and was equally pleased with the decent propriety of her conduct
during the meal.
"Thou canst read this book, canst thou, young woman?" said the old lady,
when their meal was concluded, laying her hand upon a large Bible.
"I hope sae, madam," said Jeanie, surprised at the question "my father
wad hae wanted mony a thing ere I had wanted _that_ schuling."
"The better sign of him, young woman. There are men here, well to pass in
the world, would not want their share of a Leicester plover, and that's a
bag-pudding, if fasting for three hours would make all their poor
children read the Bible from end to end. Take thou the book, then, for my
eyes are something dazed, and read where thou listest--it's the only book
thou canst not happen wrong in."
Jeanie was at first tempted to turn up the parable of the good Samaritan,
but her conscience checked her, as if it were a use of Scripture, not for
her own edification, but to work upon the mind of others for the relief
of her worldly afflictions; and under this scrupulous sense of duty, she
selected, in preference, a
CHAPTER of the prophet Isaiah, and read it,
notwithstanding her northern' accent and tone, with a devout propriety,
which greatly edified Mrs. Dalton.
"Ah," she said, "an all Scotchwomen were sic as thou but it was our luck
to get born devils of thy country, I think--every one worse than t'other.
If thou knowest of any tidy lass like thysell that wanted a place, and
could bring a good character, and would not go laiking about to wakes and
fairs, and wore shoes and stockings all the day round--why, I'll not say
but we might find room for her at the Rectory. Hast no cousin or sister,
lass, that such an offer would suit?"
This was touching upon a sore point, but Jeanie was spared the pain of
replying by the entrance of the same man-servant she had seen before.
"Measter wishes to see the young woman from Scotland," was Tummas's
"Go to his Reverence, my dear, as fast as you can, and tell him all your
story--his Reverence is a kind man," said Mrs. Dalton. "I will fold down
the leaf, and wake you a cup of tea, with some nice muffin, against you
come down, and that's what you seldom see in Scotland, girl."
"Measter's waiting for the young woman," said Tummas impatiently.
"Well, Mr. Jack-Sauce, and what is your business to put in your oar?--And
how often must I tell you to call Mr. Staunton his Reverence, seeing as
he is a dignified clergyman, and not be meastering, meastering him, as if
he were a little petty squire?"
As Jeanie was now at the door, and ready to accompany Tummas, the footman
said nothing till he got into the passage, when he muttered, "There are
moe masters than one in this house, and I think we shall have a mistress
too, an Dame Dalton carries it thus."
Tummas led the way through a more intricate range of passages than Jeanie
had yet threaded, and ushered her into an apartment which was darkened by
the closing of most of the window-shutters, and in which was a bed with
the curtains partly drawn.
"Here is the young woman, sir," said Tummas.
"Very well," said a voice from the bed, but not that of his Reverence;
"be ready to answer the bell, and leave the room."
"There is some mistake," said Jeanie, confounded at finding herself in
the apartment of an invalid; "the servant told me that the minister"
"Don't trouble yourself," said the invalid, "there is no mistake. I know
more of your affairs than my father, and I can manage them better.--Leave
the room, Tom." The servant obeyed.--"We must not," said the invalid,
"lose time, when we have little to lose. Open the shutters of that
She did so, and as he drew aside the curtain of his bed, the light fell
on his pale countenance, as, turban'd with bandages, and dressed in a
night-gown, he lay, seemingly exhausted, upon the bed.
"Look at me," he said, "Jeanie Deans; can you not recollect me?"
"No, sir," said she, full of surprise. "I was never in this country
"But I may have been in yours. Think--recollect. I should faint did I
name the name you are most dearly bound to loathe and to detest.
A terrible recollection flashed on Jeanie, which every tone of the
speaker confirmed, and which his next words rendered certainty.
"Be composed--remember Muschat's Cairn, and the moonlight night!"
Jeanie sunk down on a chair with clasped hands, and gasped in agony.
"Yes, here I lie," he said, "like a crushed snake, writhing with
impatience at my incapacity of motion--here I lie, when I ought to have
been in Edinburgh, trying every means to save a life that is dearer to me
than my own.--How is your sister?--how fares it with her?--condemned to
death, I know it, by this time! O, the horse that carried me safely on a
thousand errands of folly and wickedness, that he should have broke down
with me on the only good mission I have undertaken for years! But I must
rein in my passion--my frame cannot endure it, and I have much to say.
Give me some of the cordial which stands on that table.--Why do you
tremble? But you have too good cause.--Let it stand--I need it not."
Jeanie, however reluctant, approached him with the cup into which she had
poured the draught, and could not forbear saying, "There is a cordial for
the mind, sir, if the wicked will turn from their transgressions, and
seek to the Physician of souls."
"Silence!" he said sternly--"and yet I thank you. But tell me, and lose
no time in doing so, what you are doing in this country? Remember, though
I have been your sister's worst enemy, yet I will serve her with the best
of my blood, and I will serve you for her sake; and no one can serve you
to such purpose, for no one can know the circumstances so well--so speak
"I am not afraid, sir," said Jeanie, collecting her spirits. "I trust in
God; and if it pleases Him to redeem my sister's captivity, it is all I
seek, whosoever be the instrument. But, sir, to be plain with you, I dare
not use your counsel, unless I were enabled to see that it accords with
the law which I must rely upon."
"The devil take the Puritan!" cried George Staunton, for so we must now
call him--"I beg your pardon; but I am naturally impatient, and you drive
me mad! What harm can it possibly do to tell me in what situation your
sister stands, and your own expectations of being able to assist her? It
is time enough to refuse my advice when I offer any which you may think
improper. I speak calmly to you, though 'tis against my nature; but don't
urge me to impatience--it will only render me incapable of serving
There was in the looks and words of this unhappy young man a sort of
restrained eagerness and impetuosity which seemed to prey upon itself, as
the impatience of a fiery steed fatigues itself with churning upon the
bit. After a moment's consideration, it occurred to Jeanie that she was
not entitled to withhold from him, whether on her sister's account or her
own, the fatal account of the consequences of the crime which he had
committed, nor to reject such advice, being in itself lawful and
innocent, as he might be able to suggest in the way of remedy.
Accordingly, in as few words as she could express it, she told the
history of her sister's trial and condemnation, and of her own journey as
far as Newark. He appeared to listen in the utmost agony of mind, yet
repressed every violent symptom of emotion, whether by gesture or sound,
which might have interrupted the speaker, and, stretched on his couch
like the Mexican monarch on his bed of live coals, only the contortions
of his cheek, and the quivering of his limbs, gave indication of his
sufferings. To much of what she said he listened with stifled groans, as
if he were only hearing those miseries confirmed, whose fatal reality he
had known before; but when she pursued her tale through the circumstances
which had interrupted her journey, extreme surprise and earnest attention
appeared to succeed to the symptoms of remorse which he had before
exhibited. He questioned Jeanie closely concerning the appearance of the
two men, and the conversation which she had overheard between the taller
of them and the woman.
When Jeanie mentioned the old woman having alluded to her foster-son--"It
is too true," he said; "and the source from which I derived food, when an
infant, must have communicated to me the wretched--the fated--propensity
to vices that were strangers in my own family.--But go on."
Jeanie passed slightly over her journey in company with Madge, having no
inclination to repeat what might be the effect of mere raving on the part
of her companion, and therefore her tale was now closed.
Young Staunton lay for a moment in profound meditation and at length
spoke with more composure than he had yet displayed during their
interview.--"You are a sensible, as well as a good young woman, Jeanie
Deans, and I will tell you more of my story than I have told to any one.--
Story did I call it?--it is a tissue of folly, guilt, and misery.--But
take notice--I do it because I desire your confidence in return--that is,
that you will act in this dismal matter by my advice and direction.
Therefore do I speak."
"I will do what is fitting for a sister, and a daughter, and a Christian
woman to do," said Jeanie; "but do not tell me any of your secrets.--It
is not good that I should come into your counsel, or listen to the
doctrine which causeth to err."
"Simple fool!" said the young man. "Look at me. My head is not horned, my
foot is not cloven, my hands are not garnished with talons; and, since I
am not the very devil himself, what interest can any one else have in
destroying the hopes with which you comfort or fool yourself? Listen to
me patiently, and you will find that, when you have heard my counsel, you
may go to the seventh heaven with it in your pocket, if you have a mind,
and not feel yourself an ounce heavier in the ascent."
At the risk of being somewhat heavy, as explanations usually prove, we
must here endeavour to combine into a distinct narrative, information
which the invalid communicated in a manner at once too circumstantial,
and too much broken by passion, to admit of our giving his precise words.
Part of it indeed he read from a manuscript, which he had perhaps drawn
up for the information of his relations after his decease.
"To make my tale short--this wretched hag--this Margaret Murdockson, was
the wife of a favourite servant of my father--she had been my nurse--her
husband was dead--she resided in a cottage near this place--she had a
daughter who grew up, and was then a beautiful but very giddy girl; her
mother endeavoured to promote her marriage with an old and wealthy churl
in the neighbourhood--the girl saw me frequently--She was familiar with
me, as our connection seemed to permit--and I--in a word, I wronged her
cruelly--It was not so bad as your sister's business, but it was
sufficiently villanous--her folly should have been her protection. Soon
after this I was sent abroad--To do my father justice, if I have turned
out a fiend it is not his fault--he used the best means. When I returned,
I found the wretched mother and daughter had fallen into disgrace, and
were chased from this country.--My deep share in their shame and misery
was discovered--my father used very harsh language--we quarrelled. I left
his house, and led a life of strange adventure, resolving never again to
see my father or my father's home.
"And now comes the story!--Jeanie, I put my life into your hands, and not
only my own life, which, God knows, is not worth saving, but the
happiness of a respectable old man, and the honour of a family of
consideration. My love of low society, as such propensities as I was
cursed with are usually termed, was, I think of an uncommon kind, and
indicated a nature, which, if not depraved by early debauchery, would
have been fit for better things. I did not so much delight in the wild
revel, the low humour, the unconfined liberty of those with whom I
associated as in the spirit of adventure, presence of mind in peril, and
sharpness of intellect which they displayed in prosecuting their
maraudings upon the revenue, or similar adventures.--Have you looked
round this rectory?--is it not a sweet and pleasant retreat?"
Jeanie, alarmed at this sudden change of subject, replied in the
"Well! I wish it had been ten thousand fathoms under ground, with its
church-lands, and tithes, and all that belongs to it. Had it not been for
this cursed rectory, I should have been permitted to follow the bent of
my own inclinations and the profession of arms, and half the courage and
address that I have displayed among smugglers and deer-stealers would
have secured me an honourable rank among my contemporaries. Why did I not
go abroad when I left this house!--Why did I leave it at all!--why--But
it came to that point with me that it is madness to look back, and misery
to look forward!"
He paused, and then proceeded with more composure.
"The chances of a wandering life brought me unhappily to Scotland, to
embroil myself in worse and more criminal actions than I had yet been
concerned in. It was now I became acquainted with Wilson, a remarkable
man in his station of life; quiet, composed, and resolute, firm in mind,
and uncommonly strong in person, gifted with a sort of rough eloquence
which raised him above his companions. Hitherto I had been
As dissolute as desperate, yet through both
Were seen some sparkles of a better hope.
"But it was this man's misfortune, as well as mine, that, notwithstanding
the difference of our rank and education, he acquired an extraordinary
and fascinating influence over me, which I can only account for by the
calm determination of his character being superior to the less sustained
impetuosity of mine. Where he led I felt myself bound to follow; and
strange was the courage and address which he displayed in his pursuits.
While I was engaged in desperate adventures, under so strange and
dangerous a preceptor, I became acquainted with your unfortunate sister
at some sports of the young people in the suburbs, which she frequented
by stealth--and her ruin proved an interlude to the tragic scenes in
which I was now deeply engaged. Yet this let me say--the villany was not
premeditated, and I was firmly resolved to do her all the justice which
marriage could do, so soon as I should be able to extricate myself from
my unhappy course of life, and embrace some one more suited to my birth.
I had wild visions--visions of conducting her as if to some poor retreat,
and introducing her at once to rank and fortune she never dreamt of. A
friend, at my request, attempted a negotiation with my father, which was
protracted for some time, and renewed at different intervals. At length,
and just when I expected my father's pardon, he learned by some means or
other my infamy, painted in even exaggerated colours, which was, God
knows, unnecessary. He wrote me a letter--how it found me out I know
not--enclosing me a sum of money, and disowning me for ever. I became
desperate--I became frantic--I readily joined Wilson in a perilous
smuggling adventure in which we miscarried, and was willingly blinded by
his logic to consider the robbery of the officer of the customs in Fife
as a fair and honourable reprisal. Hitherto I had observed a certain line
in my criminality, and stood free of assaults upon personal property, but
now I felt a wild pleasure in disgracing myself as much as possible.
"The plunder was no object to me. I abandoned that to my comrades, and
only asked the post of danger. I remember well that when I stood with my
drawn sword guarding the door while they committed the felony, I had not
a thought of my own safety. I was only meditating on my sense of supposed
wrong from my family, my impotent thirst of vengeance, and how it would
sound in the haughty cars of the family of Willingham, that one of their
descendants, and the heir apparent of their honours, should perish by the
hands of the hangman for robbing a Scottish gauger of a sum not equal to
one-fifth part of the money I had in my pocket-book. We were taken--I
expected no less. We were condemned--that also I looked for. But death,
as he approached nearer, looked grimly; and the recollection of your
sister's destitute condition determined me on an effort to save my life.--
I forgot to tell you, that in Edinburgh I again met the woman
Murdockson and her daughter. She had followed the camp when young, and
had now, under pretence of a trifling traffic, resumed predatory habits,
with which she had already been too familiar. Our first meeting was
stormy; but I was liberal of what money I had, and she forgot, or seemed
to forget, the injury her daughter had received. The unfortunate girl
herself seemed hardly even to know her seducer, far less to retain any
sense of the injury she had received. Her mind is totally alienated,
which, according to her mother's account, is sometimes the consequence of
an unfavourable confinement. But it was _my doing._ Here was another
stone knitted round my neck to sink me into the pit of perdition. Every
look--every word of this poor creature--her false spirits--her imperfect
recollections--her allusions to things which she had forgotten, but which
were recorded in my conscience, were stabs of a poniard--stabs did I
say?--they were tearing with hot pincers, and scalding the raw wound with
burning sulphur--they were to be endured however, and they were endured.--
I return to my prison thoughts.
"It was not the least miserable of them that your sister's time
approached. I knew her dread of you and of her father. She often said she
would die a thousand deaths ere you should know her shame--yet her
confinement must be provided for. I knew this woman Murdockson was an
infernal hag, but I thought she loved me, and that money would make her
true. She had procured a file for Wilson, and a spring-saw for me; and
she undertook readily to take charge of Effie during her illness, in
which she had skill enough to give the necessary assistance. I gave her
the money which my father had sent me. It was settled that she should
receive Effie into her house in the meantime, and wait for farther
directions from me, when I should effect my escape. I communicated this
purpose, and recommended the old hag to poor Effie by a letter, in which
I recollect that I endeavoured to support the character of Macheath under
condemnation-a fine, gay, bold-faced ruffian, who is game to the last.
Such, and so wretchedly poor, was my ambition! Yet I had resolved to
forsake the courses I had been engaged in, should I be so fortunate as to
escape the gibbet. My design was to marry your sister, and go over to the
West Indies. I had still a considerable sum of money left, and I trusted
to be able, in one way or other, to provide for myself and my wife.
"We made the attempt to escape, and by the obstinacy of Wilson, who
insisted upon going first, it totally miscarried. The undaunted and
self-denied manner in which he sacrificed himself to redeem his error,
and accomplish my escape from the Tolbooth Church, you must have heard
of--all Scotland rang with it. It was a gallant and extraordinary
deed--All men spoke of it--all men, even those who most condemned the
habits and crimes of this self-devoted man, praised the heroism of his
friendship. I have many vices, but cowardice or want of gratitude, are
none of the number. I resolved to requite his generosity, and even your
sister's safety became a secondary consideration with me for the time.
To effect Wilson's liberation was my principal object, and I doubted not
to find the means.
"Yet I did not forget Effie neither. The bloodhounds of the law were so
close after me, that I dared not trust myself near any of my old haunts,
but old Murdockson met me by appointment, and informed me that your
sister had happily been delivered of a boy. I charged the hag to keep her
patient's mind easy, and let her want for nothing that money could
purchase, and I retreated to Fife, where, among my old associates of
Wilson's gang, I hid myself in those places of concealment where the men
engaged in that desperate trade are used to find security for themselves
and their uncustomed goods. Men who are disobedient both to human and
divine laws are not always insensible to the claims of courage and
generosity. We were assured that the mob of Edinburgh, strongly moved
with the hardship of Wilson's situation, and the gallantry of his
conduct, would back any bold attempt that might be made to rescue him
even from the foot of the gibbet. Desperate as the attempt seemed, upon
my declaring myself ready to lead the onset on the guard, I found no want
of followers who engaged to stand by me, and returned to Lothian, soon
followed by some steady associates, prepared to act whenever the occasion
"I have no doubt I should have rescued him from the very noose that
dangled over his head," he continued with animation, which seemed a flash
of the interest which he had taken in such exploits; "but amongst other
precautions, the magistrates had taken one, suggested, as we afterwards
learned, by the unhappy wretch Porteous, which effectually disconcerted
my measures. They anticipated, by half-an-hour, the ordinary period for
execution; and, as it had been resolved amongst us, that, for fear of
observation from the officers of justice, we should not show ourselves
upon the street until the time of action approached, it followed, that
all was over before our attempt at a rescue commenced. It did commence,
however, and I gained the scaffold and cut the rope with my own hand. It
was too late! The bold, stouthearted, generous criminal was no more--and
vengeance was all that remained to us--a vengeance, as I then thought,
doubly due from my hand, to whom Wilson had given life and liberty when
he could as easily have secured his own."
"O sir," said Jeanie, "did the Scripture never come into your mind,
'Vengeance is mine, and I will repay it?'"
"Scripture! Why, I had not opened a Bible for five years," answered
"Wae's me, sirs," said Jeanie--"and a minister's son too!"
"It is natural for you to say so; yet do not interrupt me, but let me
finish my most accursed history. The beast, Porteous, who kept firing on
the people long after it had ceased to be necessary, became the object of
their hatred for having overdone his duty, and of mine for having done it
too well. We that is, I and the other determined friends of Wilson,
resolved to be avenged--but caution was necessary. I thought I had been
marked by one of the officers, and therefore continued to lurk about the
vicinity of Edinburgh, but without daring to venture within the walls. At
length I visited, at the hazard of my life, the place where I hoped to
find my future wife and my son--they were both gone. Dame Murdockson
informed me, that so soon as Effie heard of the miscarriage of the
attempt to rescue Wilson, and the hot pursuit after me, she fell into a
brain fever; and that being one day obliged to go out on some necessary
business and leave her alone, she had taken that opportunity to escape,
and she had not seen her since. I loaded her with reproaches, to which
she listened with the most provoking and callous composure; for it is one
of her attributes, that, violent and fierce as she is upon most
occasions, there are some in which she shows the most imperturbable
calmness. I threatened her with justice; she said I had more reason to
fear justice than she had. I felt she was right, and was silenced. I
threatened her with vengeance; she replied in nearly the same words,
that, to judge by injuries received, I had more reason to fear her
vengeance, than she to dread mine. She was again right, and I was left
without an answer. I flung myself from her in indignation, and employed a
comrade to make inquiry in the neighbourhood of Saint Leonard's
concerning your sister; but ere I received his answer, the opening quest
of a well-scented terrier of the law drove me from the vicinity of
Edinburgh, to a more distant and secluded place of concealment. A secret
and trusty emissary at length brought me the account of Porteous's
condemnation, and of your sister's imprisonment on a criminal charge;
thus astounding one of mine ears, while he gratified the other.
"I again ventured to the Pleasance--again charged Murdockson with
treachery to the unfortunate Effie and her child, though I could conceive
no reason, save that of appropriating the whole of the money I had lodged
with her. Your narrative throws light on this, and shows another motive,
not less powerful because less evident--the desire of wreaking vengeance
on the seducer of her daughter,--the destroyer at once of her reason and
reputation. Great God! how I wish that, instead of the revenge she made
choice of, she had delivered me up to the cord!"
"But what account did the wretched woman give of Effie and the bairn?"
said Jeanie, who, during this long and agitating narrative, had firmness
and discernment enough to keep her eye on such points as might throw
light on her sister's misfortunes.
"She would give none," said Staunton; "she said the mother made a
moonlight flitting from her house, with the infant in her arms--that she
had never seen either of them since--that the lass might have thrown the
child into the North Loch or the Quarry Holes for what she knew, and it
was like enough she had done so."
"And how came you to believe that she did not speak the fatal truth?"
said Jeanie, trembling.
"Because, on this second occasion, I saw her daughter, and I understood
from her, that, in fact, the child had been removed or destroyed during
the illness of the mother. But all knowledge to be got from her is so
uncertain and indirect, that I could not collect any farther
circumstances. Only the diabolical character of old Murdockson makes me
augur the worst."
"The last account agrees with that given by my poor sister," said Jeanie;
"but gang on wi' your ain tale, sir."
"Of this I am certain," said Staunton, "that Effie, in her senses, and
with her knowledge, never injured living creature.--But what could I do
in her exculpation?--Nothing--and, therefore, my whole thoughts were
turned toward her safety. I was under the cursed necessity of suppressing
my feelings towards Murdockson; my life was in the hag's hand--that I
cared not for; but on my life hung that of your sister. I spoke the
wretch fair; I appeared to confide in her; and to me, so far as I was
personally concerned, she gave proofs of extraordinary fidelity. I was at
first uncertain what measures I ought to adopt for your sister's
liberation, when the general rage excited among the citizens of Edinburgh
on account of the reprieve, of Porteous, suggested to me the daring idea
of forcing the jail, and at once carrying off your sister from the
clutches of the law, and bringing to condign punishment a miscreant, who
had tormented the unfortunate Wilson, even in the hour of death as if he
had been a wild Indian taken captive by a hostile tribe. I flung myself
among the multitude in the moment of fermentation--so did others among
Wilson's mates, who had, like me, been disappointed in the hope of
glutting their eyes with Porteous's execution. All was organised, and I
was chosen for the captain. I felt not--I do not now feel, compunction
for what was to be done, and has since been executed."
"O, God forgive ye, sir, and bring ye to a better sense of your ways!"
exclaimed Jeanie, in horror at the avowal of such violent sentiments.
"Amen," replied Staunton, "if my sentiments are wrong. But I repeat,
that, although willing to aid the deed, I could have wished them to have
chosen another leader; because I foresaw that the great and general duty
of the night would interfere with the assistance which I proposed to
render Effie. I gave a commission however, to a trusty friend to protect
her to a place of safety, so soon as the fatal procession had left the
jail. But for no persuasions which I could use in the hurry of the
moment, or which my comrade employed at more length, after the mob had
taken a different direction, could the unfortunate girl be prevailed upon
to leave the prison. His arguments were all wasted upon the infatuated
victim, and he was obliged to leave her in order to attend to his own
safety. Such was his account; but, perhaps, he persevered less steadily
in his attempts to persuade her than I would have done."
"Effie was right to remain," said Jeanie; "and I love her the better for
"Why will you say so?" said Staunton.
"You cannot understand my reasons, sir, if I should render them,"
answered Jeanie composedly; "they that thirst for the blood of their
enemies have no taste for the well-spring of life."
"My hopes," said Staunton, "were thus a second time disappointed. My next
efforts were to bring her through her trial by means of yourself. How I
urged it, and where, you cannot have forgotten. I do not blame you for
your refusal; it was founded, I am convinced, on principle, and not on
indifference to your sister's fate. For me, judge of me as a man frantic;
I knew not what hand to turn to, and all my efforts were unavailing. In
this condition, and close beset on all sides, I thought of what might be
done by means of my family, and their influence. I fled from Scotland--I
reached this place--my miserably wasted and unhappy appearance procured
me from my father that pardon, which a parent finds it so hard to refuse,
even to the most undeserving son. And here I have awaited in anguish of
mind, which the condemned criminal might envy, the event of your sister's
"Without taking any steps for her relief?" said Jeanie.
"To the last I hoped her ease might terminate more favourably; and it is
only two days since that the fatal tidings reached me. My resolution was
instantly taken. I mounted my best horse with the purpose of making the
utmost haste to London and there compounding with Sir Robert Walpole for
your sister's safety, by surrendering to him, in the person of the heir
of the family of Willingham, the notorious George Robertson, the
accomplice of Wilson, the breaker of the Tolbooth prison, and the
well-known leader of the Porteous mob."
"But would that save my sister?" said Jeanie, in astonishment.
"It would, as I should drive my bargain," said Staunton. "Queens love
revenge as well as their subjects--Little as you seem to esteem it, it is
a poison which pleases all palates, from the prince to the peasant. Prime
ministers love no less the power of gratifying sovereigns by gratifying
their passions.--The life of an obscure village girl! Why, I might ask
the best of the crown-jewels for laying the head of such an insolent
conspiracy at the foot of her majesty, with a certainty of being
gratified. All my other plans have failed, but this could not--Heaven is
just, however, and would not honour me with making this voluntary
atonement for the injury I have done your sister. I had not rode ten
miles, when my horse, the best and most sure-footed animal in this
country, fell with me on a level piece of road, as if he had been struck
by a cannon-shot. I was greatly hurt, and was brought back here in the
condition in which you now see me."
As young Staunton had come to the conclusion, the servant opened the
door, and, with a voice which seemed intended rather for a signal, than
merely the announcing of a visit, said, "His Reverence, sir, is coming up
stairs to wait upon you."
"For God's sake, hide yourself, Jeanie," exclaimed Staunton, "in that
"No, sir," said Jeanie; "as I am here for nae ill, I canna take the shame
of hiding mysell frae the master of the house."
"But, good Heavens!" exclaimed George Staunton, "do but consider--"
Ere he could complete the sentence, his father entered the apartment.
And now, will pardon, comfort, kindness, draw
The youth from vice? will honour, duty, law?
Jeanie arose from her seat, and made her quiet reverence, when the elder
Mr. Staunton entered the apartment. His astonishment was extreme at
finding his son in such company.
"I perceive, madam, I have made a mistake respecting you, and ought to
have left the task of interrogating you, and of righting your wrongs, to
this young man, with whom, doubtless, you have been formerly acquainted."
"It's unwitting on my part that I am here;" said Jeanie; "the servant
told me his master wished to speak with me."
"There goes the purple coat over my ears," murmured Tummas. "D--n her,
why must she needs speak the truth, when she could have as well said
anything else she had a mind?"
"George," said Mr. Staunton, "if you are still, as you have ever
been,--lost to all self-respect, you might at least have spared your
father and your father's house, such a disgraceful scene as this."
"Upon my life--upon my soul, sir!" said George, throwing his feet over
the side of the bed, and starting from his recumbent posture.
"Your life, sir?" interrupted his father, with melancholy
sternness,--"What sort of life has it been?--Your soul! alas! what
regard have you ever paid to it? Take care to reform both ere offering
either as pledges of your sincerity."
"On my honour, sir, you do me wrong," answered George Staunton; "I have
been all that you can call me that's bad, but in the present instance you
do me injustice. By my honour you do!"
"Your honour!" said his father, and turned from him, with a look of the
most upbraiding contempt, to Jeanie. "From you, young woman, I neither
ask nor expect any explanation; but as a father alike and as a clergyman,
I request your departure from this house. If your romantic story has been
other than a pretext to find admission into it (which, from the society
in which you first appeared, I may be permitted to doubt), you will find
a justice of peace within two miles, with whom, more properly than with
me, you may lodge your complaint."
"This shall not be," said George Staunton, starting up to his feet.
"Sir, you are naturally kind and humane--you shall not become cruel
and inhospitable on my account. Turn out that eaves-dropping rascal,"
pointing to Thomas, "and get what hartshorn drops, or what better receipt
you have against fainting, and I will explain to you in two words the
connection betwixt this young woman and me. She shall not lose her fair
character through me. I have done too much mischief to her family
already, and I know too well what belongs to the loss of fame."
"Leave the room, sir," said the Rector to the servant; and when the man
had obeyed, he carefully shut the door behind him. Then, addressing his
son, he said sternly, "Now, sir, what new proof of your infamy have you
to impart to me?"
Young Staunton was about to speak, but it was one of those moments when
those, who, like Jeanie Deans, possess the advantage of a steady courage
and unruffled temper, can assume the superiority over more ardent but
less determined spirits.
"Sir," she said to the elder Staunton, "ye have an undoubted right to ask
your ain son to render a reason of his conduct. But respecting me, I am
but a wayfaring traveller, no ways obligated or indebted to you, unless
it be for the meal of meat which, in my ain country, is willingly gien by
rich or poor, according to their ability, to those who need it; and for
which, forby that, I am willing to make payment, if I didna think it
would be an affront to offer siller in a house like this--only I dinna
ken the fashions of the country."
"This is all very well, young woman," said the Rector, a good deal
surprised, and unable to conjecture whether to impute Jeanie's language
to simplicity or impertinence; "this may be all very well--but let me
bring it to a point. Why do you stop this young man's mouth, and prevent
his communicating to his father and his best friend, an explanation
(since he says he has one) of circumstances which seem in themselves not
a little suspicious?"
"He may tell of his ain affairs what he likes," answered Jeanie; "but my
family and friends have nae right to hae ony stories told anent them
without their express desire; and, as they canna be here to speak for
themselves, I entreat ye wadna ask Mr. George Rob--I mean Staunton, or
whatever his name is, ony questions anent me or my folk; for I maun be
free to tell you, that he will neither have the bearing of a Christian or
a gentleman, if he answers you against my express desire."
"This is the most extraordinary thing I ever met with," said the Rector,
as, after fixing his eyes keenly on the placid, yet modest countenance of
Jeanie, he turned them suddenly upon his son. "What have you to say,
"That I feel I have been too hasty in my promise, sir," answered George
Staunton; "I have no title to make any communications respecting the
affairs of this young person's family without her assent."
The elder Mr. Staunton turned his eyes from one to the other with marks
"This is more, and worse, I fear," he said, addressing his son, "than one
of your frequent and disgraceful connections--I insist upon knowing the
"I have already said, sir," replied his son, rather sullenly, "that I
have no title to mention the affairs of this young woman's family without
"And I hae nae mysteries to explain, sir," said Jeanie, "but only to pray
you, as a preacher of the gospel and a gentleman, to permit me to go safe
to the next public-house on the Lunnon road."
"I shall take care of your safety," said young Staunton "you need ask
that favour from no one."
"Do you say so before my face?" said the justly-incensed father.
"Perhaps, sir, you intend to fill up the cup of disobedience and
profligacy by forming a low and disgraceful marriage? But let me bid you
"If you were feared for sic a thing happening wi' me, sir," said Jeanie,
"I can only say, that not for all the land that lies between the twa ends
of the rainbow wad I be the woman that should wed your son."
"There is something very singular in all this," said the elder Staunton;
"follow me into the next room, young woman."
"Hear me speak first," said the young man. "I have but one word to say. I
confide entirely in your prudence; tell my father as much or as little of
these matters as you will, he shall know neither more nor less from me."
His father darted at him a glance of indignation, which softened into
sorrow as he saw him sink down on the couch, exhausted with the scene he
had undergone. He left the apartment, and Jeanie followed him, George
Staunton raising himself as she passed the door-way, and pronouncing the
word, "Remember!" in a tone as monitory as it was uttered by Charles I.
upon the scaffold. The elder Staunton led the way into a small parlour,
and shut the door.
"Young woman," said he, "there is something in your face and appearance
that marks both sense and simplicity, and, if I am not deceived,
innocence also--Should it be otherwise, I can only say, you are the most
accomplished hypocrite I have ever seen.--I ask to know no secret that
you have unwillingness to divulge, least of all those which concern my
son. His conduct has given me too much unhappiness to permit me to hope
comfort or satisfaction from him. If you are such as I suppose you,
believe me, that whatever unhappy circumstances may have connected you
with George Staunton, the sooner you break them through the better."
"I think I understand your meaning, sir," replied Jeanie; "and as ye are
sae frank as to speak o' the young gentleman in sic a way, I must needs
say that it is but the second time of my speaking wi' him in our lives,
and what I hae heard frae him on these twa occasions has been such that I
never wish to hear the like again."
"Then it is your real intention to leave this part of the country, and
proceed to London?" said the Rector.
"Certainly, sir; for I may say, in one sense, that the avenger of blood
is behind me; and if I were but assured against mischief by the way"
"I have made inquiry," said the clergyman, "after the suspicious
characters you described. They have left their place of rendezvous; but
as they may be lurking in the neighbourhood, and as you say you have
special reason to apprehend violence from them, I will put you under the
charge of a steady person, who will protect you as far as Stamford, and
see you into a light coach, which goes from thence to London."
"A coach is not for the like of me, sir," said Jeanie, to whom the idea
of a stage-coach was unknown, as, indeed, they were then only used in the
neighbourhood of London.
Mr. Staunton briefly explained that she would find that mode of
conveyance more commodious, cheaper, and more safe, than travelling on
horseback. She expressed her gratitude with so much singleness of heart,
that he was induced to ask her whether she wanted the pecuniary means of
prosecuting her journey. She thanked him, but said she had enough for her
purpose; and, indeed, she had husbanded her stock with great care. This
reply served also to remove some doubts, which naturally enough still
floated in Mr. Staunton's mind, respecting her character and real
purpose, and satisfied him, at least, that money did not enter into her
scheme of deception, if an impostor she should prove. He next requested
to know what part of the city she wished to go to.
"To a very decent merchant, a cousin o' my ain, a Mrs. Glass, sir, that
sells snuff and tobacco, at the sign o' the Thistle, somegate in the
Jeanie communicated this intelligence with a feeling that a connection so
respectable ought to give her consequence in the eyes of Mr. Staunton;
and she was a good deal surprised when he answered--
"And is this woman your only acquaintance in London, my poor girl? and
have you really no better knowledge where she is to be found?"
"I was gaun to see the Duke of Argyle, forby Mrs. Glass," said Jeanie;
"and if your honour thinks it would be best to go there first, and get
some of his Grace's folk to show me my cousin's shop"
"Are you acquainted with any of the Duke of Argyle's people?" said the
"Her brain must be something touched after all, or it would be impossible
for her to rely on such introductions.--Well," said he aloud, "I must not
inquire into the cause of your journey, and so I cannot be fit to give
you advice how to manage it. But the landlady of the house where the
coach stops is a very decent person; and as I use her house sometimes, I
will give you a recommendation to her."
Jeanie thanked him for his kindness with her best courtesy, and said,
"That with his honour's line, and ane from worthy Mrs. Bickerton, that
keeps the Seven Stars at York, she did not doubt to be well taken out in
"And now," said he, "I presume you will be desirous to set out
"If I had been in an inn, sir, or any suitable resting-place," answered
Jeanie, "I wad not have presumed to use the Lord's day for travelling but
as I am on a journey of mercy, I trust my doing so will not be imputed."
"You may, if you choose, remain with Mrs. Dalton for the evening; but I
desire you will have no farther correspondence with my son, who is not a
proper counsellor for a person of your age, whatever your difficulties
"Your honour speaks ower truly in that," said Jeanie; "it was not with my
will that I spoke wi' him just now, and--not to wish the gentleman
onything but gude--I never wish to see him between the een again."
"If you please," added the Rector, "as you seem to be a seriously
disposed young woman, you may attend family worship in the hall this
"I thank your honour," said Jeanie; "but I am doubtful if my attendance
would be to edification."
"How!" said the Rector; "so young, and already unfortunate enough to have
doubts upon the duties of religion!"
"God forbid, sir," replied Jeanie; "it is not for that; but I have been
bred in the faith of the suffering remnant of the Presbyterian doctrine
in Scotland, and I am doubtful if I can lawfully attend upon your fashion
of worship, seeing it has been testified against by many precious souls
of our kirk, and specially by my worthy father."
"Well, my good girl," said the Rector, with a good-humoured smile, "far
be it from me to put any force upon your conscience; and yet you ought to
recollect that the same divine grace dispenses its streams to other
kingdoms as well as to Scotland. As it is as essential to our spiritual,
as water to our earthly wants, its springs, various in character, yet
alike efficacious in virtue, are to be found in abundance throughout the
"Ah, but," said Jeanie, "though the waters may be alike, yet, with your
worship's leave, the blessing upon them may not be equal. It would have
been in vain for Naaman the Syrian leper to have bathed in Pharpar and
Abana, rivers of Damascus, when it was only the waters of Jordon that
were sanctified for the cure."
"Well," said the Rector, "we will not enter upon the great debate betwixt
our national churches at present. We must endeavour to satisfy you, that,
at least, amongst our errors, we preserve Christian charity, and a desire
to assist our brethren."
He then ordered Mrs. Dalton into his presence, and consigned Jeanie to
her particular charge, with directions to be kind to her, and with
assurances, that, early in the morning, a trusty guide and a good horse
should be ready to conduct her to Stamford. He then took a serious and
dignified, yet kind leave of her, wishing her full success in the objects
of her journey, which he said he doubted not were laudable, from the
soundness of thinking which she had displayed in conversation.
Jeanie was again conducted by the housekeeper to her own apartment. But
the evening was not destined to pass over without farther torment from
young Staunton. A paper was slipped into her hand by the faithful Tummas,
which intimated his young master's desire, or rather demand, to see her
instantly, and assured her he had provided against interruption.
"Tell your young master," said Jeanie, openly, and regardless of all the
winks and signs by which Tummas strove to make her comprehend that Mrs.
Dalton was not to be admitted into the secret of the correspondence,
"that I promised faithfully to his worthy father that I would not see him
"Tummas," said Mrs. Dalton, "I think you might be much more creditably
employed, considering the coat you wear, and the house you live in, than
to be carrying messages between your young master and girls that chance
to be in this house."
"Why, Mrs. Dalton, as to that, I was hired to carry messages, and not to
ask any questions about them; and it's not for the like of me to refuse
the young gentleman's bidding, if he were a little wildish or so. If
there was harm meant, there's no harm done, you see."
"However," said Mrs. Dalton, "I gie you fair warning, Tummas Ditton, that
an I catch thee at this work again, his Reverence shall make a clear
house of you."
Thomas retired, abashed and in dismay. The rest of the evening passed
away without anything worthy of notice.
Jeanie enjoyed the comforts of a good bed and a sound sleep with grateful
satisfaction, after the perils and hardships of the preceding day; and
such was her fatigue, that she slept soundly until six o'clock, when she
was awakened by Mrs. Dalton, who acquainted her that her guide and horse
were ready, and in attendance. She hastily rose, and, after her morning
devotions, was soon ready to resume her travels. The motherly care of the
housekeeper had provided an early breakfast, and, after she had partaken
of this refreshment, she found herself safe seated on a pillion behind a
stout Lincolnshire peasant, who was, besides, armed with pistols, to
protect her against any violence which might be offered.
They trudged along in silence for a mile or two along a country road,
which conducted them, by hedge and gate-way, into the principal highway,
a little beyond Grantham. At length her master of the horse asked her
whether her name was not Jean, or Jane, Deans. She answered in the
affirmative, with some surprise. "Then here's a bit of a note as concerns
you," said the man, handing it over his left shoulder. "It's from young
master, as I judge, and every man about Willingham is fain to pleasure
him either for love or fear; for he'll come to be landlord at last, let
them say what they like."
Jeanie broke the seal of the note, which was addressed to her, and read
"You refuse to see me. I suppose you are shocked at my character: but, in
painting myself such as I am, you should give me credit for my sincerity.
I am, at least, no hypocrite. You refuse, however, to see me, and your
conduct may be natural--but is it wise? I have expressed my anxiety to
repair your sister's misfortunes at the expense of my honour,--my
family's honour--my own life, and you think me too debased to be admitted
even to sacrifice what I have remaining of honour, fame, and life, in her
cause. Well, if the offerer be despised, the victim is still equally at
hand; and perhaps there may be justice in the decree of Heaven, that I
shall not have the melancholy credit of appearing to make this sacrifice
out of my own free good-will. You, as you have declined my concurrence,
must take the whole upon yourself. Go, then, to the Duke of Argyle, and,
when other arguments fail you, tell him you have it in your power to
bring to condign punishment the most active conspirator in the Porteous
mob. He will hear you on this topic, should he be deaf to every other.
Make your own terms, for they will be at your own making. You know where
I am to be found; and you may be assured I will not give you the dark
side of the hill, as at Muschat's Cairn; I have no thoughts of stirring
from the house I was born in; like the hare, I shall be worried in the
seat I started from. I repeat it--make your own terms. I need not remind
you to ask your sister's life, for that you will do of course; but make
terms of advantage for yourself--ask wealth and reward--office and income
for Butler--ask anything--you will get anything--and all for delivering
to the hands of the executioner a man most deserving of his office;--one
who, though young in years, is old in wickedness, and whose most earnest
desire is, after the storms of an unquiet life, to sleep and be at rest."
This extraordinary letter was subscribed with the initials G. S.
Jeanie read it over once or twice with great attention, which the slow
pace of the horse, as he stalked through a deep lane, enabled her to do
When she had perused this billet, her first employment was to tear it
into as small pieces as possible, and disperse these pieces in the air by
a few at a time, so that a document containing so perilous a secret might
not fall into any other person's hand.
The question how far, in point of extremity, she was entitled to save her
sister's life by sacrificing that of a person who, though guilty towards
the state, had done her no injury, formed the next earnest and most
painful subject of consideration. In one sense, indeed, it seemed as if
denouncing the guilt of Staunton, the cause of her sister's errors and
misfortunes, would have been an act of just, and even providential
retribution. But Jeanie, in the strict and severe tone of morality in
which she was educated, had to consider not only the general aspect of a
proposed action, but its justness and fitness in relation to the actor,
before she could be, according to her own phrase, free to enter upon it.
What right had she to make a barter between the lives of Staunton and of
Effie, and to sacrifice the one for the safety of the other? His
guilt--that guilt for which he was amenable to the laws--was a crime
against the public indeed, but it was not against her.
Neither did it seem to her that his share in the death of Porteous,
though her mind revolted at the idea of using violence to any one, was in
the relation of a common murder, against the perpetrator of which every
one is called to aid the public magistrate. That violent action was
blended with many circumstances, which, in the eyes of those in Jeanie's
rank of life, if they did not altogether deprive it of the character of
guilt, softened, at least, its most atrocious features. The anxiety of
the government to obtain conviction of some of the offenders, had but
served to increase the public feeling which connected the action, though
violent and irregular, with the idea of ancient national independence.
The rigorous measures adopted or proposed against the city of Edinburgh,
the ancient metropolis of Scotland--the extremely unpopular and
injudicious measure of compelling the Scottish clergy, contrary to their
principles and sense of duty, to promulgate from the pulpit the reward
offered for the discovery of the perpetrators of this slaughter, had
produced on the public mind the opposite consequences from what were
intended; and Jeanie felt conscious, that whoever should lodge
information concerning that event, and for whatsoever purpose it might be
done, it would be considered as an act of treason against the
independence of Scotland. With the fanaticism of the Scottish
Presbyterians, there was always mingled a glow of national feeling, and
Jeanie, trembled at the idea of her name being handed down to posterity
with that of the "fause Monteath," and one or two others, who, having
deserted and betrayed the cause of their country, are damned to perpetual
remembrance and execration among its peasantry. Yet, to part with Effie's
life once more, when a word spoken might save it, pressed severely on the
mind of her affectionate sister.
"The Lord support and direct me!" said Jeanie, "for it seems to be His
will to try me with difficulties far beyond my ain strength."
While this thought passed through Jeanie's mind, her guard, tired of
silence, began to show some inclination to be communicative. He seemed a
sensible, steady peasant, but not having more delicacy or prudence than
is common to those in his situation, he, of course, chose the Willingham
family as the subject of his conversation. From this man Jeanie learned
some particulars of which she had hitherto been ignorant, and which we
will briefly recapitulate for the information of the reader.
The father of George Staunton had been bred a soldier, and during service
in the West Indies, had married the heiress of a wealthy planter. By this
lady he had an only child, George Staunton, the unhappy young, man who
has been so often mentioned in this narrative. He passed the first part
of his early youth under the charge of a doting mother, and in the
society of negro slaves, whose study it was to gratify his every caprice.
His father was a man of worth and sense; but as he alone retained
tolerable health among the officers of the regiment he belonged to, he
was much engaged with his duty. Besides, Mrs. Staunton was beautiful and
wilful, and enjoyed but delicate health; so that it was difficult for a
man of affection, humanity, and a quiet disposition, to struggle with her
on the point of her over-indulgence to an only child. Indeed, what Mr.
Staunton did do towards counteracting the baneful effects of his wife's
system, only tended to render it more pernicious; for every restraint
imposed on the boy in his father's presence, was compensated by treble
license during his absence. So that George Staunton acquired, even in
childhood, the habit of regarding his father as a rigid censor, from
whose severity he was desirous of emancipating himself as soon and
absolutely as possible.
When he was about ten years old, and when his mind had received all the
seeds of those evil weeds which afterwards grew apace, his mother died,
and his father, half heart-broken, returned to England. To sum up her
imprudence and unjustifiable indulgence, she had contrived to place a
considerable part of her fortune at her son's exclusive control or
disposal, in consequence of which management, George Staunton had not
been long in England till he learned his independence, and how to abuse
it. His father had endeavoured to rectify the defects of his education by
placing him in a well-regulated seminary. But although he showed some
capacity for learning, his riotous conduct soon became intolerable to his
teachers. He found means (too easily afforded to all youths who have
certain expectations) of procuring such a command of money as enabled him
to anticipate in boyhood the frolics and follies of a more mature age,
and, with these accomplishments, he was returned on his father's hands as
a profligate boy, whose example might ruin a hundred.
The elder Mr. Staunton, whose mind, since his wife's death, had been
tinged with a melancholy, which certainly his son's conduct did not tend
to dispel, had taken orders, and was inducted by his brother Sir William
Staunton into the family living of Willingham. The revenue was a matter
of consequence to him, for he derived little advantage from the estate of
his late wife; and his own fortune was that of a younger brother.
He took his son to reside with him at the rectory, but he soon found that
his disorders rendered him an intolerable inmate. And as the young men of
his own rank would not endure the purse-proud insolence of the Creole, he
fell into that taste for low society, which is worse than "pressing to
death, whipping, or hanging." His father sent him abroad, but he only
returned wilder and more desperate than before. It is true, this unhappy
youth was not without his good qualities. He had lively wit, good temper,
reckless generosity, and manners, which, while he was under restraint,
might pass well in society. But all these availed him nothing. He was so
well acquainted with the turf, the gaming-table, the cock-pit, and every
worse rendezvous of folly and dissipation, that his mother's fortune was
spent before he was twenty-one, and he was soon in debt and in distress.
His early history may be concluded in the words of our British Juvenal,
when describing a similar character:--
Headstrong, determined in his own career,
He thought reproof unjust, and truth severe.
The soul's disease was to its crisis come,
He first abused, and then abjured, his home;
And when he chose a vagabond to be,
He made his shame his glory, "I'll be free!"*
[Crabbe's _Borough,_ Letter xii.]
"And yet 'tis pity on Measter George, too," continued the honest boor,
"for he has an open hand, and winna let a poor body want an he has it."
The virtue of profuse generosity, by which, indeed, they themselves are
most directly advantaged, is readily admitted by the vulgar as a cloak
for many sins.
At Stamford our heroine was deposited in safety by her communicative
guide. She obtained a place in the coach, which, although termed a light
one, and accommodated with no fewer than six horses, only reached London
on the afternoon of the second day. The recommendation of the elder Mr.
Staunton procured Jeanie a civil reception at the inn where the carriage
stopped, and, by the aid of Mrs. Bickerton's correspondent, she found out
her friend and relative Mrs. Glass, by whom she was kindly received and
My name is Argyle, you may well think it strange,
To live at the court and never to change.
Few names deserve more honourable mention in the history of Scotland,
during this period, than that of John, Duke of Argyle and Greenwich. His
talents as a statesman and a soldier were generally admitted; he was not
without ambition, but "without the illness that attends it"--without that
irregularity of thought and aim, which often excites great men, in his
peculiar situation, (for it was a very peculiar one), to grasp the means
of raising themselves to power, at the risk of throwing a kingdom into
confusion. Pope has distinguished him as
Argyle, the state's whole thunder born to wield,
And shake alike the senate and the field.
He was alike free from the ordinary vices of statesmen, falsehood,
namely, and dissimulation; and from those of warriors, inordinate and
violent thirst after self-aggrandisement.
Scotland, his native country, stood at this time in a very precarious and
doubtful situation. She was indeed united to England, but the cement had
not had time to acquire consistence. The irritation of ancient wrongs
still subsisted, and betwixt the fretful jealousy of the Scottish, and
the supercilious disdain of the English, quarrels repeatedly occurred, in
the course of which the national league, so important to the safety of
both, was in the utmost danger of being dissolved. Scotland had, besides,
the disadvantage of being divided into intestine factions, which hated
each other bitterly, and waited but a signal to break forth into action.
In such circumstances, another man, with the talents and rank of Argyle,
but without a mind so happily regulated, would have sought to rise from
the earth in the whirlwind, and direct its fury. He chose a course more
safe and more honourable. Soaring above the petty distinctions of
faction, his voice was raised, whether in office or opposition, for those
measures which were at once just and lenient. His high military talents
enabled him, during the memorable year 1715, to render such services to
the House of Hanover, as, perhaps, were too great to be either
acknowledged or repaid. He had employed, too, his utmost influence in
softening the consequences of that insurrection to the unfortunate
gentlemen whom a mistaken sense of loyalty had engaged in the affair, and
was rewarded by the esteem and affection of his country in an uncommon
degree. This popularity, with a discontented and warlike people, was
supposed to be a subject of jealousy at court, where the power to become
dangerous is sometimes of itself obnoxious, though the inclination is not
united with it. Besides, the Duke of Argyle's independent and somewhat
haughty mode of expressing himself in Parliament, and acting in public,
were ill calculated to attract royal favour. He was, therefore, always
respected, and often employed; but he was not a favourite of George the
Second, his consort, or his ministers. At several different periods in
his life, the Duke might be considered as in absolute disgrace at court,
although he could hardly be said to be a declared member of opposition.
This rendered him the dearer to Scotland, because it was usually in her
cause that he incurred the displeasure of his sovereign; and upon this
very occasion of the Porteous mob, the animated and eloquent opposition
which he had offered to the severe measures which were about to be
adopted towards the city of Edinburgh, was the more gratefully received
in that metropolis, as it was understood that the Duke's interposition
had given personal offence to Queen Caroline.
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