The Heart of Mid-Lothian, Volume 1.
Sir Walter Scott
Part 3 out of 6
disposition, that he was rather admired than envied by the little mob who
occupied the noisy mansion, although he was the declared favourite of the
master. Several girls, in particular (for in Scotland they are taught
with the boys), longed to be kind to and comfort the sickly lad, who was
so much cleverer than his companions. The character of Reuben Butler was
so calculated as to offer scope both for their sympathy and their
admiration, the feelings, perhaps, through which the female sex (the more
deserving part of them at least) is more easily attached.
But Reuben, naturally reserved and distant, improved none of these
advantages; and only became more attached to Jeanie Deans, as the
enthusiastic approbation of his master assured him of fair prospects in
future life, and awakened his ambition. In the meantime, every advance
that Reuben made in learning (and, considering his opportunities, they
were uncommonly great) rendered him less capable of attending to the
domestic duties of his grandmother's farm. While studying the /pons
asinorum/ in Euclid, he suffered every /cuddie/ upon the common to
trespass upon a large field of peas belonging to the Laird, and nothing
but the active exertions of Jeanie Deans, with her little dog Dustiefoot,
could have saved great loss and consequent punishment. Similar
miscarriages marked his progress in his classical studies. He read
Virgil's Georgics till he did not know bere from barley; and had nearly
destroyed the crofts of Beersheba while attempting to cultivate them
according to the practice of Columella and Cato the Censor.
These blunders occasioned grief to his grand-dame, and disconcerted the
good opinion which her neighbour, Davie Deans, had for some time
entertained of Reuben.
"I see naething ye can make of that silly callant, neighbour Butler,"
said he to the old lady, "unless ye train him to the wark o' the
ministry. And ne'er was there mair need of poorfu' preachers than e'en
now in these cauld Gallio days, when men's hearts are hardened like the
nether mill-stone, till they come to regard none of these things. It's
evident this puir callant of yours will never be able to do an usefu'
day's wark, unless it be as an ambassador from our Master; and I will
make it my business to procure a license when he is fit for the same,
trusting he will be a shaft cleanly polished, and meet to be used in the
body of the kirk; and that he shall not turn again, like the sow, to
wallow in the mire of heretical extremes and defections, but shall have
the wings of a dove, though he hath lain among the pots."
The poor widow gulped down the affront to her husband's principles,
implied in this caution, and hastened to take Butler from the High
School, and encourage him in the pursuit of mathematics and divinity, the
only physics and ethics that chanced to be in fashion at the time.
Jeanie Deans was now compelled to part from the companion of her labour,
her study, and her pastime, and it was with more than childish feeling
that both children regarded the separation. But they were young, and hope
was high, and they separated like those who hope to meet again at a more
auspicious hour. While Reuben Butler was acquiring at the University of
St. Andrews the knowledge necessary for a clergyman, and macerating his
body with the privations which were necessary in seeking food for his
mind, his grand-dame became daily less able to struggle with her little
farm, and was at length obliged to throw it up to the new Laird of
Dumbiedikes. That great personage was no absolute Jew, and did not cheat
her in making the bargain more than was tolerable. He even gave her
permission to tenant the house in which she had lived with her husband,
as long as it should be "tenantable;" only he protested against paying
for a farthing of repairs, any benevolence which he possessed being of
the passive, but by no means of the active mood.
In the meanwhile, from superior shrewdness, skill, and other
circumstances, some of them purely accidental, Davie Deans gained a
footing in the world, the possession of some wealth, the reputation of
more, and a growing disposition to preserve and increase his store; for
which, when he thought upon it seriously, he was inclined to blame
himself. From his knowledge in agriculture, as it was then practised, he
became a sort of favourite with the Laird, who had no great pleasure
either in active sports or in society, and was wont to end his daily
saunter by calling at the cottage of Woodend.
Being himself a man of slow ideas and confused utterance, Dumbiedikes
used to sit or stand for half-an-hour with an old laced hat of his
father's upon his head, and an empty tobacco-pipe in his mouth, with his
eyes following Jeanie Deans, or "the lassie" as he called her, through
the course of her daily domestic labour; while her father, after
exhausting the subject of bestial, of ploughs, and of harrows, often took
an opportunity of going full-sail into controversial subjects, to which
discussions the dignitary listened with much seeming patience, but
without making any reply, or, indeed, as most people thought, without
understanding a single word of what the orator was saying. Deans, indeed,
denied this stoutly, as an insult at once to his own talents for
expounding hidden truths, of which he was a little vain, and to the
Laird's capacity of understanding them. He said, "Dumbiedikes was nane of
these flashy gentles, wi' lace on their skirts and swords at their tails,
that were rather for riding on horseback to hell than gauging barefooted
to heaven. He wasna like his father--nae profane company-keeper--nae
swearer--nae drinker--nae frequenter of play-house, or music-house, or
dancing-house--nae Sabbath-breaker--nae imposer of aiths, or bonds, or
denier of liberty to the flock.--He clave to the warld, and the warld's
gear, a wee ower muckle, but then there was some breathing of a gale upon
his spirit," etc. etc. All this honest Davie said and believed.
It is not to be supposed, that, by a father and a man of sense and
observation, the constant direction of the Laird's eyes towards Jeanie
was altogether unnoticed. This circumstance, however, made a much greater
impression upon another member of his family, a second helpmate, to wit,
whom he had chosen to take to his bosom ten years after the death of his
first. Some people were of opinion, that Douce Davie had been rather
surprised into this step, for, in general, he was no friend to marriages
or giving in marriage, and seemed rather to regard that state of society
as a necessary evil,--a thing lawful, and to be tolerated in the
imperfect state of our nature, but which clipped the wings with which we
ought to soar upwards, and tethered the soul to its mansion of clay, and
the creature-comforts of wife and bairns. His own practice, however, had
in this material point varied from his principles, since, as we have
seen, he twice knitted for himself this dangerous and ensnaring
Rebecca, his spouse, had by no means the same horror of matrimony, and as
she made marriages in imagination for every neighbour round, she failed
not to indicate a match betwixt Dumbiedikes and her step-daughter Jeanie.
The goodman used regularly to frown and pshaw whenever this topic was
touched upon, but usually ended by taking his bonnet and walking out of
the house, to conceal a certain gleam of satisfaction, which, at such a
suggestion, involuntarily diffused itself over his austere features.
The more youthful part of my readers may naturally ask, whether Jeanie
Deans was deserving of this mute attention of the Laird of Dumbiedikes;
and the historian, with due regard to veracity, is compelled to answer,
that her personal attractions were of no uncommon description. She was
short, and rather too stoutly made for her size, had grey eyes, light
coloured hair, a round good-humoured face, much tanned with the sun, and
her only peculiar charm was an air of inexpressible serenity, which a
good conscience, kind feelings, contented temper, and the regular
discharge of all her duties, spread over her features. There was nothing,
it may be supposed, very appalling in the form or manners of this rustic
heroine; yet, whether from sheepish bashfulness, or from want of decision
and imperfect knowledge of his own mind on the subject, the Laird of
Dumbiedikes, with his old laced hat and empty tobacco-pipe, came and
enjoyed the beatific vision of Jeanie Deans day after day, week after
week, year after year, without proposing to accomplish any of the
prophecies of the stepmother.
This good lady began to grow doubly impatient on the subject, when, after
having been some years married, she herself presented Douce Davie with
another daughter, who was named Euphemia, by corruption, Effie. It was
then that Rebecca began to turn impatient with the slow pace at which the
Laird's wooing proceeded, judiciously arguing, that, as Lady Dumbiedikes
would have but little occasion for tocher, the principal part of her
gudeman's substance would naturally descend to the child by the second
marriage. Other step-dames have tried less laudable means for clearing
the way to the succession of their own children; but Rebecca, to do her
justice, only sought little Effie's advantage through the promotion, or
which must have generally been accounted such, of her elder sister. She
therefore tried every female art within the compass of her simple skill,
to bring the Laird to a point; but had the mortification to perceive that
her efforts, like those of an unskilful angler, only scared the trout she
meant to catch. Upon one occasion, in particular, when she joked with the
Laird on the propriety of giving a mistress to the house of Dumbiedikes,
he was so effectually startled, that neither laced hat, tobacco-pipe, nor
the intelligent proprietor of these movables, visited Woodend for a
fortnight. Rebecca was therefore compelled to leave the Laird to proceed
at his own snail's pace, convinced, by experience, of the grave-digger's
aphorism, that your dull ass will not mend his pace for beating.
Reuben, in the meantime, pursued his studies at the university, supplying
his wants by teaching the younger lads the knowledge he himself acquired,
and thus at once gaining the means of maintaining himself at the seat of
learning, and fixing in his mind the elements of what he had already
obtained. In this manner, as is usual among the poorer students of
divinity at Scottish universities, he contrived not only to maintain
himself according to his simple wants, but even to send considerable
assistance to his sole remaining parent, a sacred duty, of which the
Scotch are seldom negligent. His progress in knowledge of a general kind,
as well as in the studies proper to his profession, was very
considerable, but was little remarked, owing to the retired modesty of
his disposition, which in no respect qualified him to set off his
learning to the best advantage. And thus, had Butler been a man given to
make complaints, he had his tale to tell, like others, of unjust
preferences, bad luck, and hard usage. On these subjects, however, he was
habitually silent, perhaps from modesty, perhaps from a touch of pride,
or perhaps from a conjunction of both.
He obtained his license as a preacher of the gospel, with some
compliments from the Presbytery by whom it was bestowed; but this did not
lead to any preferment, and he found it necessary to make the cottage at
Beersheba his residence for some months, with no other income than was
afforded by the precarious occupation of teaching in one or other of the
neighbouring families. After having greeted his aged grandmother, his
first visit was to Woodend, where he was received by Jeanie with warm
cordiality, arising from recollections which had never been dismissed
from her mind, by Rebecca with good-humoured hospitality, and by old
Deans in a mode peculiar to himself.
Highly as Douce Davie honoured the clergy, it was not upon each
individual of the cloth that he bestowed his approbation; and, a little
jealous, perhaps, at seeing his youthful acquaintance erected into the
dignity of a teacher and preacher, he instantly attacked him upon various
points of controversy, in order to discover whether he might not have
fallen into some of the snares, defections, and desertions of the time.
Butler was not only a man of stanch Presbyterian principles, but was also
willing to avoid giving pain to his old friend by disputing upon points
of little importance; and therefore he might have hoped to have come like
fine gold out of the furnace of Davie's interrogatories. But the result
on the mind of that strict investigator was not altogether so favourable
as might have been hoped and anticipated. Old Judith Butler, who had
hobbled that evening as far as Woodend, in order to enjoy the
congratulations of her neighbours upon Reuben's return, and upon his high
attainments, of which she was herself not a little proud, was somewhat
mortified to find that her old friend Deans did not enter into the
subject with the warmth she expected. At first, in he seemed rather
silent than dissatisfied; and it was not till Judith had essayed the
subject more than once that it led to the following dialogue.
"Aweel, neibor Deans, I thought ye wad hae been glad to see Reuben amang
us again, poor fellow."
"I /am/ glad, Mrs. Butler," was the neighbour's concise answer.
"Since he has lost his grandfather and his father (praised be Him that
giveth and taketh!), I ken nae friend he has in the world that's been sae
like a father to him as the sell o'ye, neibor Deans."
"God is the only father of the fatherless," said Deans, touching his
bonnet and looking upwards. "Give honour where it is due, gudewife, and
not to an unworthy instrument."
"Aweel, that's your way o' turning it, and nae doubt ye ken best; but I
hae ken'd ye, Davie, send a forpit o' meal to Beersheba when there wasna
a bow left in the meal-ark at Woodend; ay, and I hae ken'd ye"
"Gudewife," said Davie, interrupting her, "these are but idle tales to
tell me; fit for naething but to puff up our inward man wi' our ain vain
acts. I stude beside blessed Alexander Peden, when I heard him call the
death and testimony of our happy martyrs but draps of blude and scarts of
ink in respect of fitting discharge of our duty; and what suld I think of
ony thing the like of me can do?"
"Weel, neibor Deans, ye ken best; but I maun say that, I am sure you are
glad to see my bairn again--the halt's gane now, unless he has to walk
ower mony miles at a stretch; and he has a wee bit colour in his cheek,
that glads my auld een to see it; and he has as decent a black coat as
the minister; and"
"I am very heartily glad he is weel and thriving," said Mr. Deans, with a
gravity that seemed intended to cut short the subject; but a woman who is
bent upon a point is not easily pushed aside from it.
"And," continued Mrs. Butler, "he can wag his head in a pulpit now,
neibor Deans, think but of that--my ain oe--and a'body maun sit still and
listen to him, as if he were the Paip of Rome."
"The what?--the who?--woman!" said Deans, with a sternness far beyond his
usual gravity, as soon as these offensive words had struck upon the
tympanum of his ear.
"Eh, guide us!" said the poor woman; "I had forgot what an ill will ye
had aye at the Paip, and sae had my puir gudeman, Stephen Butler. Mony an
afternoon he wad sit and take up his testimony again the Paip, and again
baptizing of bairns, and the like."
"Woman!" reiterated Deans, "either speak about what ye ken something o',
or be silent; I say that independency is a foul heresy, and anabaptism a
damnable and deceiving error, whilk suld be rooted out of the land wi'
the fire o' the spiritual, and the sword o' the civil magistrate."
"Weel, weel, neibor, I'll no say that ye mayna be right," answered the
submissive Judith. "I am sure ye are right about the sawing and the
mawing, the shearing and the leading, and what for suld ye no be right
about kirkwark, too?--But concerning my oe, Reuben Butler"
"Reuben Butler, gudewife," said David, with solemnity, "is a lad I wish
heartily weel to, even as if he were mine ain son--but I doubt there will
be outs and ins in the track of his walk. I muckle fear his gifts will
get the heels of his grace. He has ower muckle human wit and learning,
and thinks as muckle about the form of the bicker as he does about the
healsomeness of the food--he maun broider the marriage-garment with lace
and passments, or it's no gude eneugh for him. And it's like he's
something proud o' his human gifts and learning, whilk enables him to
dress up his doctrine in that fine airy dress. But," added he, at seeing
the old woman's uneasiness at his discourse, "affliction may gie him a
jagg, and let the wind out o' him, as out o' a cow that's eaten wet
clover, and the lad may do weel, and be a burning and a shining light;
and I trust it will be yours to see, and his to feel it, and that soon."
Widow Butler was obliged to retire, unable to make anything more of her
neighbour, whose discourse, though she did not comprehend it, filled her
with undefined apprehensions on her grandson's account, and greatly
depressed the joy with which she had welcomed him on his return. And it
must not be concealed, in justice to Mr. Deans's discernment, that
Butler, in their conference, had made a greater display of his learning
than the occasion called for, or than was likely to be acceptable to the
old man, who, accustomed to consider himself as a person preeminently
entitled to dictate upon theological subjects of controversy, felt rather
humbled and mortified when learned authorities were placed in array
against him. In fact, Butler had not escaped the tinge of pedantry which
naturally flowed from his education, and was apt, on many occasions, to
make parade of his knowledge, when there was no need of such vanity.
Jeanie Deans, however, found no fault with this display of learning, but,
on the contrary, admired it; perhaps on the same score that her sex are
said to admire men of courage, on account of their own deficiency in that
qualification. The circumstances of their families threw the young people
constantly together; their old intimacy was renewed, though upon a
footing better adapted to their age; and it became at length understood
betwixt them, that their union should be deferred no longer than until
Butler should obtain some steady means of support, however humble. This,
however, was not a matter speedily to be accomplished. Plan after plan
was formed, and plan after plan failed. The good-humoured cheek of Jeanie
lost the first flush of juvenile freshness; Reuben's brow assumed the
gravity of manhood, yet the means of obtaining a settlement seemed remote
as ever. Fortunately for the lovers, their passion was of no ardent or
enthusiastic cast; and a sense of duty on both sides induced them to
bear, with patient fortitude, the protracted interval which divided them
from each other.
In the meanwhile, time did not roll on without effecting his usual
changes. The widow of Stephen Butler, so long the prop of the family of
Beersheba, was gathered to her fathers; and Rebecca, the careful spouse
of our friend Davie Deans, wa's also summoned from her plans of
matrimonial and domestic economy. The morning after her death, Reuben
Butler went to offer his mite of consolation to his old friend and
benefactor. He witnessed, on this occasion, a remarkable struggle betwixt
the force of natural affection and the religious stoicism which the
sufferer thought it was incumbent upon him to maintain under each earthly
dispensation, whether of weal or woe.
On his arrival at the cottage, Jeanie, with her eyes overflowing with
tears, pointed to the little orchard, "in which," she whispered with
broken accents, "my poor father has been since his misfortune." Somewhat
alarmed at this account, Butler entered the orchard, and advanced slowly
towards his old friend, who, seated in a small rude arbour, appeared to
be sunk in the extremity of his affliction. He lifted his eyes somewhat
sternly as Butler approached, as if offended at the interruption; but as
the young man hesitated whether he ought to retreat or advance, he arose,
and came forward to meet him with a self-possessed, and even dignified
"Young man," said the sufferer, "lay it not to heart, though the
righteous perish, and the merciful are removed, seeing, it may well be
said, that they are taken away from the evils to come. Woe to me were I
to shed a tear for the wife of my bosom, when I might weep rivers of
water for this afflicted Church, cursed as it is with carnal seekers, and
with the dead of heart."
"I am happy," said Butler, "that you can forget your private affliction
in your regard for public duty."
"Forget, Reuben?" said poor Deans, putting his handkerchief to his eyes--
"She's not to be forgotten on this side of time; but He that gives the
wound can send the ointment. I declare there have been times during this
night when my meditation hae been so rapt, that I knew not of my heavy
loss. It has been with me as with the worthy John Semple, called
Carspharn John,* upon a like trial--I have been this night on the banks
of Ulai, plucking an apple here and there!"
* Note E. Carspharn John.
Notwithstanding the assumed fortitude of Deans, which he conceived to be
the discharge of a great Christian duty, he had too good a heart not to
suffer deeply under this heavy loss. Woodend became altogether
distasteful to him; and as he had obtained both substance and experience
by his management of that little farm, he resolved to employ them as a
dairy-farmer, or cowfeeder, as they are called in Scotland. The situation
he chose for his new settlement was at a place called Saint Leonard's
Crags, lying betwixt Edinburgh and the mountain called Arthur's Seat, and
adjoining to the extensive sheep pasture still named the King's Park,
from its having been formerly dedicated to the preservation of the royal
game. Here he rented a small lonely house, about half-a-mile distant from
the nearest point of the city, but the site of which, with all the
adjacent ground, is now occupied by the buildings which form the
southeastern suburb. An extensive pasture-ground adjoining, which Deans
rented from the keeper of the Royal Park, enabled him to feed his
milk-cows; and the unceasing industry and activity of Jeanie, his oldest
daughter, were exerted in making the most of their produce.
She had now less frequent opportunities of seeing Reuben, who had been
obliged, after various disappointments, to accept the subordinate
situation of assistant in a parochial school of some eminence, at three
or four miles' distance from the city. Here he distinguished himself, and
became acquainted with several respectable burgesses, who, on account of
health, or other reasons, chose that their children should commence their
education in this little village. His prospects were thus gradually
brightening, and upon each visit which he paid at Saint Leonard's he had
an opportunity of gliding a hint to this purpose into Jeanie's ear. These
visits were necessarily very rare, on account of the demands which the
duties of the school made upon Butler's time. Nor did he dare to make
them even altogether so frequent as these avocations would permit. Deans
received him with civility indeed, and even with kindness; but Reuben, as
is usual in such cases, imagined that he read his purpose in his eyes,
and was afraid too premature an explanation on the subject would draw
down his positive disapproval. Upon the whole, therefore, he judged it
prudent to call at Saint Leonard's just so frequently as old acquaintance
and neighbourhood seemed to authorise, and no oftener. There was another
person who was more regular in his visits.
When Davie Deans intimated to the Laird of Dumbiedikes his purpose of
"quitting wi' the land and house at Woodend," the Laird stared and said
nothing. He made his usual visits at the usual hour without remark, until
the day before the term, when, observing the bustle of moving furniture
already commenced, the great east-country /awmrie/ dragged out of its
nook, and standing with its shoulder to the company, like an awkward
booby about to leave the room, the Laird again stared mightily, and was
heard to ejaculate,--"Hegh, sirs!" Even after the day of departure was
past and gone, the Laird of Dumbiedikes, at his usual hour, which was
that at which David Deans was wont to "loose the pleugh," presented
himself before the closed door of the cottage at Woodend, and seemed as
much astonished at finding it shut against his approach as if it was not
exactly what he had to expect. On this occasion he was heard to
ejaculate, "Gude guide us!" which, by those who knew him, was considered
as a very unusual mark of emotion. From that moment forward Dumbiedikes
became an altered man, and the regularity of his movements, hitherto so
exemplary, was as totally disconcerted as those of a boy's watch when he
has broken the main-spring. Like the index of the said watch did
Dumbiedikes spin round the whole bounds of his little property, which may
be likened unto the dial of the timepiece, with unwonted velocity. There
was not a cottage into which he did not enter, nor scarce a maiden on
whom he did not stare. But so it was, that although there were better
farm-houses on the land than Woodend, and certainly much prettier girls
than Jeanie Deans, yet it did somehow befall that the blank in the
Laird's time was not so pleasantly filled up as it had been. There was no
seat accommodated him so well as the "bunker" at Woodend, and no face he
loved so much to gaze on as Jeanie Deans's. So, after spinning round and
round his little orbit, and then remaining stationary for a week, it
seems to have occurred to him that he was not pinned down to circulate on
a pivot, like the hands of the watch, but possessed the power of shifting
his central point, and extending his circle if he thought proper. To
realise which privilege of change of place, he bought a pony from a
Highland drover, and with its assistance and company stepped, or rather
stumbled, as far as Saint Leonard's Crags.
Jeanie Deans, though so much accustomed to the Laird's staring that she
was sometimes scarce conscious of his presence, had nevertheless some
occasional fears lest he should call in the organ of speech to back those
expressions of admiration which he bestowed on her through his eyes.
Should this happen, farewell, she thought, to all chance of a union with
Butler. For her father, however stouthearted and independent in civil and
religious principles, was not without that respect for the laird of the
land, so deeply imprinted on the Scottish tenantry of the period.
Moreover, if he did not positively dislike Butler, yet his fund of carnal
learning was often the object of sarcasms on David's part, which were
perhaps founded in jealousy, and which certainly indicated no partiality
for the party against whom they were launched. And lastly, the match with
Dumbiedikes would have presented irresistible charms to one who used to
complain that he felt himself apt to take "ower grit an armfu' o' the
warld." So that, upon the whole, the Laird's diurnal visits were
disagreeable to Jeanie from apprehension of future consequences, and it
served much to console her, upon removing from the spot where she was
bred and born, that she had seen the last of Dumbiedikes, his laced hat,
and tobacco-pipe. The poor girl no more expected he could muster courage
to follow her to Saint Leonard's Crags than that any of her apple-trees
or cabbages which she had left rooted in the "yard" at Woodend, would
spontaneously, and unaided, have undertaken the same journey. It was
therefore with much more surprise than pleasure that, on the sixth day
after their removal to Saint Leonard's, she beheld Dumbiedikes arrive,
laced hat, tobacco-pipe, and all, and, with the self-same greeting of
"How's a' wi' ye, Jeanie?--Whare's the gudeman?" assume as nearly as he
could the same position in the cottage at Saint Leonard's which he had so
long and so regularly occupied at Woodend. He was no sooner, however,
seated, than with an unusual exertion of his powers of conversation, he
added, "Jeanie--I say, Jeanie, woman"--here he extended his hand towards
her shoulder with all the fingers spread out as if to clutch it, but in
so bashful and awkward a manner, that when she whisked herself beyond its
reach, the paw remained suspended in the air with the palm open, like the
claw of a heraldic griffin--"Jeanie," continued the swain in this moment
of inspiration--"I say, Jeanie, it's a braw day out-by, and the roads are
no that ill for boot-hose."
"The deil's in the daidling body," muttered Jeanie between her teeth;
"wha wad hae thought o' his daikering out this length?" And she
afterwards confessed that she threw a little of this ungracious sentiment
into her accent and manner; for her father being abroad, and the "body,"
as she irreverently termed the landed proprietor, "looking unco gleg and
canty, she didna ken what he might be coming out wi' next."
Her frowns, however, acted as a complete sedative, and the Laird relapsed
from that day into his former taciturn habits, visiting the cowfeeder's
cottage three or four times every week, when the weather permitted, with
apparently no other purpose than to stare at Jeanie Deans, while Douce
Davie poured forth his eloquence upon the controversies and testimonies
of the day.
Her air, her manners, all who saw admired,
Courteous, though coy, and gentle, though retired;
The joy of youth and health her eyes displayed;
And ease of heart her every look conveyed.
The visits of the Laird thus again sunk into matters of ordinary course,
from which nothing was to be expected or apprehended. If a lover could
have gained a fair one as a snake is said to fascinate a bird, by
pertinaciously gazing on her with great stupid greenish eyes, which began
now to be occasionally aided by spectacles, unquestionably Dumbiedikes
would have been the person to perform the feat. But the art of
fascination seems among the /artes perditae,/ and I cannot learn that
this most pertinacious of starers produced any effect by his attentions
beyond an occasional yawn.
In the meanwhile, the object of his gaze was gradually attaining the
verge of youth, and approaching to what is called in females the middle
age, which is impolitely held to begin a few years earlier with their
more fragile sex than with men. Many people would have been of opinion,
that the Laird would have done better to have transferred his glances to
an object possessed of far superior charms to Jeanie's, even when
Jeanie's were in their bloom, who began now to be distinguished by all
who visited the cottage at St. Leonard's Crags.
Effie Deans, under the tender and affectionate care of her sister, had
now shot up into a beautiful and blooming girl. Her Grecian shaped head
was profusely rich in waving ringlets of brown hair, which, confined by a
blue snood of silk, and shading a laughing Hebe countenance, seemed the
picture of health, pleasure, and contentment. Her brown russet short-gown
set off a shape, which time, perhaps, might be expected to render too
robust, the frequent objection to Scottish beauty, but which, in her
present early age, was slender and taper, with that graceful and easy
sweep of outline which at once indicates health and beautiful proportion
These growing charms, in all their juvenile profusion, had no power to
shake the steadfast mind, or divert the fixed gaze of the constant Laird
of Dumbiedikes. But there was scarce another eye that could behold this
living picture of health and beauty, without pausing on it with pleasure.
The traveller stopped his weary horse on the eve of entering the city
which was the end of his journey, to gaze at the sylph-like form that
tripped by him, with her milk-pail poised on her head, bearing herself so
erect, and stepping so light and free under her burden, that it seemed
rather an ornament than an encumbrance. The lads of the neighbouring
suburb, who held their evening rendezvous for putting the stone, casting
the hammer, playing at long bowls, and other athletic exercises, watched
the motions of Effie Deans, and contended with each other which should
have the good fortune to attract her attention. Even the rigid
Presbyterians of her father's persuasion, who held each indulgence of the
eye and sense to be a snare at least if not a crime, were surprised into
a moment's delight while gazing on a creature so exquisite,--instantly
checked by a sigh, reproaching at once their own weakness, and mourning
that a creature so fair should share in the common and hereditary guilt
and imperfection of our nature, which she deserved as much by her
guileless purity of thought, speech, and action, as by her uncommon
loveliness of face and person.
Yet there were points in Effie's character which gave rise not only to
strange doubt and anxiety on the part of Douce David Deans, whose ideas
were rigid, as may easily be supposed, upon the subject of youthful
amusements, but even of serious apprehension to her more indulgent
sister. The children of the Scotch of the inferior classes are usually
spoiled by the early indulgence of their parents; how, wherefore, and to
what degree, the lively and instructive narrative of the amiable and
accomplished authoress of "Glenburnie"* has saved me and all future
scribblers the trouble of recording.
* [The late Mrs. Elizabeth Hamilton.]
Effie had had a double share of this inconsiderate and misjudged
kindness. Even the strictness of her father's principles could not
condemn the sports of infancy and childhood; and to the good old man, his
younger daughter, the child of his old age, seemed a child for some years
after she attained the years of womanhood, was still called the "bit
lassie," and "little Effie," and was permitted to run up and down
uncontrolled, unless upon the Sabbath, or at the times of family worship.
Her sister, with all the love and care of a mother, could not be supposed
to possess the same authoritative influence; and that which she had
hitherto exercised became gradually limited and diminished as Effie's
advancing years entitled her, in her own conceit at least, to the right
of independence and free agency. With all the innocence and goodness of
disposition, therefore, which we have described, the Lily of St.
Leonard's possessed a little fund of self-conceit and obstinacy, and some
warmth and irritability of temper, partly natural perhaps, but certainly
much increased by the unrestrained freedom of her childhood. Her
character will be best illustrated by a cottage evening scene.
The careful father was absent in his well-stocked byre, foddering those
useful and patient animals on whose produce his living depended, and the
summer evening was beginning to close in, when Jeanie Deans began to be
very anxious for the appearance of her sister, and to fear that she would
not reach home before her father returned from the labour of the evening,
when it was his custom to have "family exercise," and when she knew that
Effie's absence would give him the most serious displeasure. These
apprehensions hung heavier upon her mind, because, for several preceding
evenings, Effie had disappeared about the same time, and her stay, at
first so brief as scarce to be noticed, had been gradually protracted to
half-an-hour, and an hour, and on the present occasion had considerably
exceeded even this last limit. And now, Jeanie stood at the door, with
her hand before her eyes to avoid the rays of the level sun, and looked
alternately along the various tracks which led towards their dwelling, to
see if she could descry the nymph-like form of her sister. There was a
wall and a stile which separated the royal domain, or King's Park, as it
is called, from the public road; to this pass she frequently directed her
attention, when she saw two persons appear there somewhat suddenly, as if
they had walked close by the side of the wall to screen themselves from
observation. One of them, a man, drew back hastily; the other, a female,
crossed the stile, and advanced towards her--It was Effie. She met her
sister with that affected liveliness of manner, which, in her rank, and
sometimes in those above it, females occasionally assume to hide surprise
or confusion; and she carolled as she came--
"The elfin knight sate on the brae,
The broom grows bonny, the broom grows fair;
And by there came lilting a lady so gay,
And we daurna gang down to the broom nae mair."
"Whisht, Effie," said her sister; "our father's coming out o' the byre."
--The damsel stinted in her song.--"Whare hae ye been sae late at e'en?"
"It's no late, lass," answered Effie.
"It's chappit eight on every clock o' the town, and the sun's gaun down
ahint the Corstorphine hills--Whare can ye hae been sae late?"
"Nae gate," answered Effie.
"And wha was that parted wi' you at the stile?"
"Naebody," replied Effie once more.
"Nae gate?--Naebody?--I wish it may be a right gate, and a right body,
that keeps folk out sae late at e'en, Effie."
"What needs ye be aye speering then at folk?" retorted Effie. "I'm sure,
if ye'll ask nae questions, I'll tell ye nae lees. I never ask what
brings the Laird of Dumbiedikes glowering here like a wull-cat (only his
een's greener, and no sae gleg), day after day, till we are a' like to
gaunt our charts aft."
"Because ye ken very weel he comes to see our father," said Jeanie, in
answer to this pert remark.
"And Dominie Butler--Does he come to see our father, that's sae taen wi'
his Latin words?" said Effie, delighted to find that by carrying the war
into the enemy's country, she could divert the threatened attack upon
herself, and with the petulance of youth she pursued her triumph over her
prudent elder sister. She looked at her with a sly air, in which there
was something like irony, as she chanted, in a low but marked tone, a
scrap of an old Scotch song--
"Through the kirkyard
I met wi' the Laird,
The silly puir body he said me nae harm;
But just ere 'twas dark,
I met wi' the clerk"
Here the songstress stopped, looked full at her sister, and, observing
the tears gather in her eyes, she suddenly flung her arms round her neck,
and kissed them away. Jeanie, though hurt and displeased, was unable to
resist the caresses of this untaught child of nature, whose good and evil
seemed to flow rather from impulse than from reflection. But as she
returned the sisterly kiss, in token of perfect reconciliation, she could
not suppress the gentle reproof--"Effie, if ye will learn fule sangs, ye
might make a kinder use of them."
"And so I might, Jeanie," continued the girl, clinging to her sister's
neck; "and I wish I had never learned ane o' them--and I wish we had
never come here--and I wish my tongue had been blistered or I had vexed
"Never mind that, Effie," replied the affectionate sister; "I canna be
muckle vexed wi' ony thing ye say to me--but O, dinna vex our father!"
"I will not--I will not," replied Effie; "and if there were as mony
dances the morn's night as there are merry dancers in the north firmament
on a frosty e'en, I winna budge an inch to gang near ane o' them."
"Dance!" echoed Jeanie Deans in astonishment. "O Effie, what could take
ye to a dance?"
It is very possible, that, in the communicative mood into which the Lily
of St. Leonard's was now surprised, she might have given her sister her
unreserved confidence, and saved me the pain of telling a melancholy
tale; but at the moment the word dance was uttered, it reached the ear of
old David Deans, who had turned the corner of the house, and came upon
his daughters ere they were aware of his presence. The word /prelate,/ or
even the word /pope,/ could hardly have produced so appalling an effect
upon David's ear; for, of all exercises, that of dancing, which he termed
a voluntary and regular fit of distraction, he deemed most destructive of
serious thoughts, and the readiest inlet to all sorts of licentiousness;
and he accounted the encouraging, and even permitting, assemblies or
meetings, whether among those of high or low degree, for this fantastic
and absurd purpose, or for that of dramatic representations, as one of
the most flagrant proofs of defection and causes of wrath. The
pronouncing of the word /dance/ by his own daughters, and at his own
door, now drove him beyond the verge of patience. "Dance!" he exclaimed.
"Dance!--dance, said ye? I daur ye, limmers that ye are, to name sic a
word at my door-cheek! It's a dissolute profane pastime, practised by the
Israelites only at their base and brutal worship of the Golden Calf at
Bethel, and by the unhappy lass wha danced aff the head of John the
Baptist, upon whilk chapter I will exercise this night for your farther
instruction, since ye need it sae muckle, nothing doubting that she has
cause to rue the day, lang or this time, that e'er she suld hae shook a
limb on sic an errand. Better for her to hae been born a cripple, and
carried frae door to door, like auld Bessie Bowie, begging bawbees, than
to be a king's daughter, fiddling and flinging the gate she did. I hae
often wondered that ony ane that ever bent a knee for the right purpose,
should ever daur to crook a hough to fyke and fling at piper's wind and
fiddler's squealing. And I bless God (with that singular worthy, Peter
Walker the packman at Bristo-Port),* that ordered my lot in my dancing
days, so that fear of my head and throat, dread of bloody rope and swift
bullet, and trenchant swords and pain of boots and thumkins, cauld and
hunger, wetness and weariness, stopped the lightness of my head, and the
wantonness of my feet.
* Note F. Peter Walker.
And now, if I hear ye, quean lassies, sae muckle as name dancing, or
think there's sic a thing in this warld as flinging to fiddler's sounds,
and piper's springs, as sure as my father's spirit is with the just, ye
shall be no more either charge or concern of mine! Gang in, then--gang
in, then, hinnies," he added, in a softer tone, for the tears of both
daughters, but especially those of Effie, began to flow very fast,--"Gang
in, dears, and we'll seek grace to preserve us frae all, manner of
profane folly, whilk causeth to sin, and promoteth the kingdom of
darkness, warring with the kingdom of light."
The objurgation of David Deans, however well meant, was unhappily timed.
It created a division of feelings in Effie's bosom, and deterred her from
her intended confidence in her sister. "She wad hand me nae better than
the dirt below her feet," said Effie to herself, "were I to confess I hae
danced wi' him four times on the green down by, and ance at Maggie
Macqueens's; and she'll maybe hing it ower my head that she'll tell my
father, and then she wad be mistress and mair. But I'll no gang back
there again. I'm resolved I'll no gang back. I'll lay in a leaf of my
Bible,* and that's very near as if I had made an aith, that I winna gang
* This custom of making a mark by folding a leaf in the party's Bible,
when a solemn resolution is formed, is still held to be, in some sense,
an appeal to Heaven for his or her sincerity.
And she kept her vow for a week, during which she was unusually cross and
fretful, blemishes which had never before been observed in her temper,
except during a moment of contradiction.
There was something in all this so mysterious as considerably to alarm
the prudent and affectionate Jeanie, the more so as she judged it unkind
to her sister to mention to their father grounds of anxiety which might
arise from her own imagination. Besides, her respect for the good old man
did not prevent her from being aware that he was both hot-tempered and
positive, and she sometimes suspected that he carried his dislike to
youthful amusements beyond the verge that religion and reason demanded.
Jeanie had sense enough to see that a sudden and severe curb upon her
sister's hitherto unrestrained freedom might be rather productive of harm
than good, and that Effie, in the headstrong wilfulness of youth, was
likely to make what might be overstrained in her father's precepts an
excuse to herself for neglecting them altogether. In the higher classes,
a damsel, however giddy, is still under the dominion of etiquette, and
subject to the surveillance of mammas and chaperons; but the country
girl, who snatches her moment of gaiety during the intervals of labour,
is under no such guardianship or restraint, and her amusement becomes so
much the more hazardous. Jeanie saw all this with much distress of mind,
when a circumstance occurred which appeared calculated to relieve her
Mrs. Saddletree, with whom our readers have already been made acquainted,
chanced to be a distant relation of Douce David Deans, and as she was a
woman orderly in her life and conversation, and, moreover, of good
substance, a sort of acquaintance was formally kept up between the
families. Now, this careful dame, about a year and a half before our
story commences, chanced to need, in the line of her profession, a better
sort of servant, or rather shop-woman. "Mr. Saddletree," she said, "was
never in the shop when he could get his nose within the Parliament House,
and it was an awkward thing for a woman-body to be standing among bundles
o' barkened leather her lane, selling saddles and bridles; and she had
cast her eyes upon her far-awa cousin Effie Deans, as just the very sort
of lassie she would want to keep her in countenance on such occasions."
In this proposal there was much that pleased old David,--there was bed,
board, and bountith--it was a decent situation--the lassie would be under
Mrs. Saddletree's eye, who had an upright walk, and lived close by the
Tolbooth Kirk, in which might still be heard the comforting doctrines of
one of those few ministers of the Kirk of Scotland who had not bent the
knee unto Baal, according to David's expression, or become accessory to
the course of national defections,--union, toleration, patronages, and a
bundle of prelatical Erastian oaths which had been imposed on the church
since the Revolution, and particularly in the reign of "the late woman"
(as he called Queen Anne), the last of that unhappy race of Stuarts. In
the good man's security concerning the soundness of the theological
doctrine which his daughter was to hear, he was nothing disturbed on
account of the snares of a different kind, to which a creature so
beautiful, young, and wilful, might be exposed in the centre of a
populous and corrupted city. The fact is, that he thought with so much
horror on all approaches to irregularities of the nature most to be
dreaded in such cases, that he would as soon have suspected and guarded
against Effie's being induced to become guilty of the crime of murder. He
only regretted that she should live under the same roof with such a
worldly-wise man as Bartoline Saddletree, whom David never suspected of
being an ass as he was, but considered as one really endowed with all the
legal knowledge to which he made pretension, and only liked him the worse
for possessing it. The lawyers, especially those amongst them who sate as
ruling elders in the General Assembly of the Kirk, had been forward in
promoting the measures of patronage, of the abjuration oath, and others,
which, in the opinion of David Deans, were a breaking down of the carved
work of the sanctuary, and an intrusion upon the liberties of the kirk.
Upon the dangers of listening to the doctrines of a legalised formalist,
such as Saddletree, David gave his daughter many lectures; so much so,
that he had time to touch but slightly on the dangers of chambering,
company-keeping, and promiscuous dancing, to which, at her time of life,
most people would have thought Effie more exposed, than to the risk of
theoretical error in her religious faith.
Jeanie parted from her sister with a mixed feeling of regret, and
apprehension, and hope. She could not be so confident concerning Effie's
prudence as her father, for she had observed her more narrowly, had more
sympathy with her feelings, and could better estimate the temptations to
which she was exposed. On the other hand, Mrs. Saddletree was an
observing, shrewd, notable woman, entitled to exercise over Effie the
full authority of a mistress, and likely to do so strictly, yet with
kindness. Her removal to Saddletree's, it was most probable, would also
serve to break off some idle acquaintances, which Jeanie suspected her
sister to have formed in the neighbouring suburb. Upon the whole, then,
she viewed her departure from Saint Leonard's with pleasure, and it was
not until the very moment of their parting for the first time in their
lives, that she felt the full force of sisterly sorrow. While they
repeatedly kissed each other's cheeks, and wrung each other's hands,
Jeanie took that moment of affectionate sympathy, to press upon her
sister the necessity of the utmost caution in her conduct while residing
in Edinburgh. Effie listened, without once raising her large dark
eyelashes, from which the drops fell so fast as almost to resemble a
fountain. At the conclusion she sobbed again, kissed her sister, promised
to recollect all the good counsel she had given her, and they parted.
During the first weeks, Effie was all that her kinswoman expected, and
even more. But with time there came a relaxation of that early zeal which
she manifested in Mrs. Saddletree's service. To borrow once again from
the poet, who so correctly and beautifully describes living manners:--
Something there was,--what, none presumed to say,--
Clouds lightly passing on a summer's day;
Whispers and hints, which went from ear to ear,
And mixed reports no judge on earth could clear.
During this interval, Mrs. Saddletree was sometimes displeased by Effie's
lingering when she was sent upon errands about the shop business, and
sometimes by a little degree of impatience which she manifested at being
rebuked on such occasions. But she good-naturedly allowed, that the first
was very natural to a girl to whom everything in Edinburgh was new and
the other was only the petulance of a spoiled child, when subjected to
the yoke of domestic discipline for the first time. Attention and
submission could not be learned at once--Holyrood was not built in a day
--use would make perfect.
It seemed as if the considerate old lady had presaged truly. Ere many
months had passed, Effie became almost wedded to her duties, though she
no longer discharged them with the laughing cheek and light step, which
had at first attracted every customer. Her mistress sometimes observed
her in tears, but they were signs of secret sorrow, which she concealed
as often as she saw them attract notice. Time wore on, her cheek grew
pale, and her step heavy. The cause of these changes could not have
escaped the matronly eye of Mrs. Saddletree, but she was chiefly confined
by indisposition to her bedroom for a considerable time during the latter
part of Effie's service. This interval was marked by symptoms of anguish
almost amounting to despair. The utmost efforts of the poor girl to
command her fits of hysterical agony were, often totally unavailing, and
the mistakes which she made in the shop the while, were so numerous and
so provoking that Bartoline Saddletree, who, during his wife's illness,
was obliged to take closer charge of the business than consisted with his
study of the weightier matters of the law, lost all patience with the
girl, who, in his law Latin, and without much respect to gender, he
declared ought to be cognosced by inquest of a jury, as /fatuus,
furiosus,/ and /naturaliter idiota./ Neighbours, also, and
fellow-servants, remarked with malicious curiosity or degrading pity, the
disfigured shape, loose dress, and pale cheeks, of the once beautiful and
still interesting girl. But to no one would she grant her confidence,
answering all taunts with bitter sarcasm, and all serious expostulation
with sullen denial, or with floods of tears.
At length, when Mrs. Saddletree's recovery was likely to permit her
wonted attention to the regulation of her household, Effie Deans, as if
unwilling to face an investigation made by the authority of her mistress,
asked permission of Bartoline to go home for a week or two, assigning
indisposition, and the wish of trying the benefit of repose and the
change of air, as the motives of her request. Sharp-eyed as a lynx (or
conceiving himself to be so) in the nice sharp quillits of legal
discussion, Bartoline was as dull at drawing inferences from the
occurrences of common life as any Dutch professor of mathematics. He
suffered Effie to depart without much suspicion, and without any inquiry.
It was afterwards found that a period of a week intervened betwixt her
leaving her master's house and arriving at St. Leonard's. She made her
appearance before her sister in a state rather resembling the spectre
than the living substance of the gay and beautiful girl, who had left her
father's cottage for the first time scarce seventeen months before. The
lingering illness of her mistress had, for the last few months, given her
a plea for confining herself entirely to the dusky precincts of the shop
in the Lawnmarket, and Jeanie was so much occupied, during the same
period, with the concerns of her father's household, that she had rarely
found leisure for a walk in the city, and a brief and hurried visit to
her sister. The young women, therefore, had scarcely seen each other for
several months, nor had a single scandalous surmise reached the ears of
the secluded inhabitants of the cottage at St. Leonard's. Jeanie,
therefore, terrified to death at her sister's appearance, at first
overwhelmed her with inquiries, to which the unfortunate young woman
returned for a time incoherent and rambling answers, and finally fell
into a hysterical fit. Rendered too certain of her sister's misfortune,
Jeanie had now the dreadful alternative of communicating her ruin to her
father, or of endeavouring to conceal it from him. To all questions
concerning the name or rank of her seducer, and the fate of the being to
whom her fall had given birth, Effie remained as mute as the grave, to
which she seemed hastening; and indeed the least allusion to either
seemed to drive her to distraction. Her sister, in distress and in
despair, was about to repair to Mrs. Saddletree to consult her
experience, and at the same time to obtain what lights she could upon
this most unhappy affair, when she was saved that trouble by a new stroke
of fate, which seemed to carry misfortune to the uttermost.
David Deans had been alarmed at the state of health in which his daughter
had returned to her paternal residence; but Jeanie had contrived to
divert him from particular and specific inquiry. It was therefore like a
clap of thunder to the poor old man, when, just as the hour of noon had
brought the visit of the Laird of Dumbiedikes as usual, other and
sterner, as well as most unexpected guests, arrived at the cottage of St.
Leonard's. These were the officers of justice, with a warrant of
justiciary to search for and apprehend Euphemia, or Effie Deans, accused
of the crime of child-murder. The stunning weight of a blow so totally
unexpected bore down the old man, who had in his early youth resisted the
brow of military and civil tyranny, though backed with swords and guns,
tortures and gibbets. He fell extended and senseless upon his own hearth;
and the men, happy to escape from the scene of his awakening, raised,
with rude humanity, the object of their warrant from her bed, and placed
her in a coach, which they had brought with them. The hasty remedies
which Jeanie had applied to bring back her father's senses were scarce
begun to operate, when the noise of the wheels in motion recalled her
attention to her miserable sister. To ran shrieking after the carriage
was the first vain effort of her distraction, but she was stopped by one
or two female neighbours, assembled by the extraordinary appearance of a
coach in that sequestered place, who almost forced her back to her
father's house. The deep and sympathetic affliction of these poor people,
by whom the little family at St. Leonard's were held in high regard,
filled the house with lamentation. Even Dumbiedikes was moved from his
wonted apathy, and, groping for his purse as he spoke, ejaculated,
"Jeanie, woman!--Jeanie, woman! dinna greet--it's sad wark, but siller
will help it;" and he drew out his purse as he spoke.
The old man had now raised himself from the ground, and, looking about
him as if he missed something, seemed gradually to recover the sense of
his wretchedness. "Where," he said, with a voice that made the roof ring,
"where is the vile harlot, that has disgraced the blood of an honest
man?--Where is she, that has no place among us, but has come foul with
her sins, like the Evil One, among the children of God?--Where is she,
Jeanie?--Bring her before me, that I may kill her with a word and a
All hastened around him with their appropriate sources of consolation--
the Laird with his purse, Jeanie with burnt feathers and strong waters,
and the women with their exhortations. "O neighbour--O Mr. Deans, it's a
sair trial, doubtless--but think of the Rock of Ages, neighbour--think of
"And I do think of it, neighbours--and I bless God that I can think of
it, even in the wrack and ruin of a' that's nearest and dearest to me--
But to be the father of a castaway--a profligate--a bloody Zipporah--a
mere murderess!--O, how will the wicked exult in the high places of their
wickedness!--the prelatists, and the latitudinarians, and the hand-waled
murderers, whose hands are hard as horn wi' handing the slaughter-
weapons--they will push out the lip, and say that we are even such as
themselves. Sair, sair I am grieved, neighbours, for the poor castaway--
for the child of mine old age--but sairer for the stumbling-block and
scandal it will be to all tender and honest souls!"
"Davie--winna siller do't?" insinuated the laird, still proffering his
green purse, which was full of guineas.
"I tell ye, Dumbiedikes," said Deans, "that if telling down my haill
substance could hae saved her frae this black snare, I wad hae walked out
wi' naething but my bonnet and my staff to beg an awmous for God's sake,
and ca'd mysell an happy man--But if a dollar, or a plack, or the
nineteenth part of a boddle, wad save her open guilt and open shame frae
open punishment, that purchase wad David Deans never make!--Na, na; an
eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, life for life, blood for blood--it's
the law of man, and it's the law of God.--Leave me, sirs--leave me--I
maun warstle wi' this trial in privacy and on my knees."
Jeanie, now in some degree restored to the power of thought, joined in
the same request. The next day found the father and daughter still in the
depth of affliction, but the father sternly supporting his load of ill
through a proud sense of religious duty, and the daughter anxiously
suppressing her own feelings to avoid again awakening his. Thus was it
with the afflicted family until the morning after Porteous's death, a
period at which we are now arrived.
Is all the counsel that we two have shared,
The sisters' vows, the hours that we have spent
When we have chid the hasty-footed time
For parting us--Oh!--and is all forgot?
Midsummer Night's Dream.
We have been a long while in conducting Butler to the door of the cottage
at St. Leonard's; yet the space which we have occupied in the preceding
narrative does not exceed in length that which he actually spent on
Salisbury Crags on the morning which succeeded the execution done upon
Porteous by the rioters. For this delay he had his own motives. He wished
to collect his thoughts, strangely agitated as they were, first by the
melancholy news of Effie Deans's situation, and afterwards by the
frightful scene which he had witnessed. In the situation also in which he
stood with respect to Jeanie and her father, some ceremony, at least some
choice of fitting time and season, was necessary to wait upon them. Eight
in the morning was then the ordinary hour for breakfast, and he resolved
that it should arrive before he made his appearance in their cottage.
Never did hours pass so heavily. Butler shifted his place and enlarged
his circle to while away the time, and heard the huge bell of St. Giles's
toll each successive hour in swelling tones, which were instantly
attested by those of the other steeples in succession. He had heard seven
struck in this manner, when he began to think he might venture to
approach nearer to St. Leonard's, from which he was still a mile distant.
Accordingly he descended from his lofty station as low as the bottom of
the valley, which divides Salisbury Crags from those small rocks which
take their name from Saint Leonard. It is, as many of my readers may
know, a deep, wild, grassy valley, scattered with huge rocks and
fragments which have descended from the cliffs and steep ascent to the
This sequestered dell, as well as other places of the open pasturage of
the King's Park, was, about this time, often the resort of the gallants
of the time who had affairs of honour to discuss with the sword. Duels
were then very common in Scotland, for the gentry were at once idle,
haughty, fierce, divided by faction, and addicted to intemperance, so
that there lacked neither provocation, nor inclination to resent it when
given; and the sword, which was part of every gentleman's dress, was the
only weapon used for the decision of such differences. When, therefore,
Butler observed a young man, skulking, apparently to avoid observation,
among the scattered rocks at some distance from the footpath, he was
naturally led to suppose that he had sought this lonely spot upon that
evil errand. He was so strongly impressed with this, that,
notwithstanding his own distress of mind, he could not, according to his
sense of duty as a clergyman, pass this person without speaking to him.
There are times, thought he to himself, when the slightest interference
may avert a great calamity--when a word spoken in season may do more for
prevention than the eloquence of Tully could do for remedying evil--And
for my own griefs, be they as they may, I shall feel them the lighter, if
they divert me not from the prosecution of my duty.
Thus thinking and feeling, he quitted the ordinary path, and advanced
nearer the object he had noticed. The man at first directed his course
towards the hill, in order, as it appeared, to avoid him; but when he saw
that Butler seemed disposed to follow him, he adjusted his hat fiercely,
turned round, and came forward, as if to meet and defy scrutiny.
Butler had an opportunity of accurately studying his features as they
advanced slowly to meet each other. The stranger seemed about twenty-five
years old. His dress was of a kind which could hardly be said to indicate
his rank with certainty, for it was such as young gentlemen sometimes
wore while on active exercise in the morning, and which, therefore, was
imitated by those of the inferior ranks, as young clerks and tradesmen,
because its cheapness rendered it attainable, while it approached more
nearly to the apparel of youths of fashion than any other which the
manners of the times permitted them to wear. If his air and manner could
be trusted, however, this person seemed rather to be dressed under than
above his rank; for his carriage was bold and somewhat supercilious, his
step easy and free, his manner daring and unconstrained. His stature was
of the middle size, or rather above it, his limbs well-proportioned, yet
not so strong as to infer the reproach of clumsiness. His features were
uncommonly handsome, and all about him would have been interesting and
prepossessing but for that indescribable expression which habitual
dissipation gives to the countenance, joined with a certain audacity in
look and manner, of that kind which is often assumed as a mask for
confusion and apprehension.
Butler and the stranger met--surveyed each other--when, as the latter,
slightly touching his hat, was about to pass by him, Butler, while he
returned the salutation, observed, "A fine morning, sir--You are on the
"I have business here," said the young man, in a tone meant to repress
"I do not doubt it, sir," said Butler. "I trust you will forgive my
hoping that it is of a lawful kind?"
"Sir," said the other, with marked surprise, "I never forgive
impertinence, nor can I conceive what title you have to hope anything
about what no way concerns you."
"I am a soldier, sir," said Butler, "and have a charge to arrest
evil-doers in the name of my Master."
"A soldier!" said the young man, stepping back, and fiercely laying his
hand on his sword--"A soldier, and arrest me! Did you reckon what your
life was worth, before you took the commission upon you?"
"You mistake me, sir," said Butler, gravely; "neither my warfare nor my
warrant are of this world. I am a preacher of the gospel, and have power,
in my Master's name, to command the peace upon earth and good-will
towards men, which was proclaimed with the gospel."
"A minister!" said the stranger, carelessly, and with an expression
approaching to scorn. "I know the gentlemen of your cloth in Scotland
claim a strange right of intermeddling with men's private affairs. But I
have been abroad, and know better than to be priest-ridden."
"Sir, if it be true that any of my cloth, or, it might be more decently
said, of my calling, interfere with men's private affairs, for the
gratification either of idle curiosity, or for worse motives, you cannot
have learned a better lesson abroad than to contemn such practices. But
in my Master's work, I am called to be busy in season and out of season;
and, conscious as I am of a pure motive, it were better for me to incur
your contempt for speaking, than the correction of my own conscience for
"In the name of the devil!" said the young man impatiently, "say what you
have to say, then; though whom you take me for, or what earthly concern
you have with me, a stranger to you, or with my actions and motives, of
which you can know nothing, I cannot conjecture for an instant."
"You are about," said Butler, "to violate one of your country's wisest
laws--you are about, which is much more dreadful, to violate a law, which
God himself has implanted within our nature, and written as it were, in
the table of our hearts, to which every thrill of our nerves is
"And what is the law you speak of?" said the stranger, in a hollow and
somewhat disturbed accent.
"Thou shalt do no murder," said Butler, with a deep and solemn voice.
The young man visibly started, and looked considerably appalled. Butler
perceived he had made a favourable impression, and resolved to follow it
up. "Think," he said, "young man," laying his hand kindly upon the
stranger's shoulder, "what an awful alternative you voluntarily choose
for yourself, to kill or be killed. Think what it is to rush uncalled
into the presence of an offended Deity, your heart fermenting with evil
passions, your hand hot from the steel you had been urging, with your
best skill and malice, against the breast of a fellow-creature. Or,
suppose yourself the scarce less wretched survivor, with the guilt of
Cain, the first murderer, in your heart, with the stamp upon your brow--
that stamp which struck all who gazed on him with unutterable horror, and
by which the murderer is made manifest to all who look upon him. Think"
The stranger gradually withdrew himself from under the hand of his
monitor; and, pulling his hat over his brows, thus interrupted him. "Your
meaning, sir, I dare say, is excellent, but you are throwing your advice
away. I am not in this place with violent intentions against any one. I
may be bad enough--you priests say all men are so--but I am here for the
purpose of saving life, not of taking it away. If you wish to spend your
time rather in doing a good action than in talking about you know not
what, I will give you an opportunity. Do you see yonder crag to the
right, over which appears the chimney of a lone house? Go thither,
inquire for one Jeanie Deans, the daughter of the goodman; let her know
that he she wots of remained here from daybreak till this hour, expecting
to see her, and that he can abide no longer. Tell her, she /must/ meet me
at the Hunter's Bog to-night, as the moon rises behind St. Anthony's
Hill, or that she will make a desperate man of me."
"Who or what are you," replied Butler, exceedingly and most unpleasantly
surprised, "who charge me with such an errand?"
"I am the devil!"--answered the young man hastily.
Butler stepped instinctively back, and commanded himself internally to
Heaven; for, though a wise and strong-minded man, he was neither wiser
nor more strong-minded than those of his age and education, with whom, to
disbelieve witchcraft or spectres, was held an undeniable proof of
The stranger went on without observing his emotion. "Yes! call me
Apollyon, Abaddon, whatever name you shall choose, as a clergyman
acquainted with the upper and lower circles of spiritual denomination, to
call me by, you shall not find an appellation more odious to him that
bears it, than is mine own."
This sentence was spoken with the bitterness of self-upbraiding, and a
contortion of visage absolutely demoniacal. Butler, though a man brave by
principle, if not by constitution, was overawed; for intensity of mental
distress has in it a sort of sublimity which repels and overawes all men,
but especially those of kind and sympathetic dispositions. The stranger
turned abruptly from Butler as he spoke, but instantly returned, and,
coming up to him closely and boldly, said, in a fierce, determined tone,
"I have told you who and what I am--who and what are you? What is your
"Butler," answered the person to whom this abrupt question was addressed,
surprised into answering it by the sudden and fierce manner of the
querist--"Reuben Butler, a preacher of the gospel."
At this answer, the stranger again plucked more deep over his brows the
hat which he had thrown back in his former agitation. "Butler!" he
repeated--"the assistant of the schoolmaster at Liberton?"
"The same," answered Butler composedly.
The stranger covered his face with his hand, as if on sudden reflection,
and then turned away, but stopped when he had walked a few paces; and
seeing Butler follow him with his eyes, called out in a stern yet
suppressed tone, just as if he had exactly calculated that his accents
should not be heard a yard beyond the spot on which Butler stood. "Go
your way, and do mine errand. Do not look after me. I will neither
descend through the bowels of these rocks, nor vanish in a flash of fire;
and yet the eye that seeks to trace my motions shall have reason to curse
it was ever shrouded by eyelid or eyelash. Begone, and look not behind
you. Tell Jeanie Deans, that when the moon rises I shall expect to meet
her at Nicol Muschat's Cairn, beneath Saint Anthony's Chapel."
As he uttered these words, he turned and took the road against the hill,
with a haste that seemed as peremptory as his tone of authority.
Dreading he knew not what of additional misery to a lot which seemed
little capable of receiving augmentation, and desperate at the idea that
any living man should dare to send so extraordinary a request, couched in
terms so imperious, to the half-betrothed object of his early and only
affection, Butler strode hastily towards the cottage, in order to
ascertain how far this daring and rude gallant was actually entitled to
press on Jeanie Deans a request, which no prudent, and scarce any modest
young woman, was likely to comply with.
Butler was by nature neither jealous nor superstitious; yet the feelings
which lead to those moods of the mind were rooted in his heart, as a
portion derived from the common stock of humanity. It was maddening to
think that a profligate gallant, such as the manner and tone of the
stranger evinced him to be, should have it in his power to command forth
his future bride and plighted true love, at a place so improper, and an
hour so unseasonable. Yet the tone in which the stranger spoke had
nothing of the soft half-breathed voice proper to the seducer who
solicits an assignation; it was bold, fierce, and imperative, and had
less of love in it than of menace and intimidation.
The suggestions of superstition seemed more plausible, had Butler's mind
been very accessible to them. Was this indeed the Roaring Lion, who goeth
about seeking whom he may devour? This was a question which pressed
itself on Butler's mind with an earnestness that cannot be conceived by
those who live in the present day. The fiery eye, the abrupt demeanour,
the occasionally harsh, yet studiously subdued tone of voice,--the
features, handsome, but now clouded with pride, now disturbed by
suspicion, now inflamed with passion--those dark hazel eyes which he
sometimes shaded with his cap, as if he were averse to have them seen
while they were occupied with keenly observing the motions and bearing of
others--those eyes that were now turbid with melancholy, now gleaming
with scorn, and now sparkling with fury--was it the passions of a mere
mortal they expressed, or the emotions of a fiend, who seeks, and seeks
in vain, to conceal his fiendish designs under the borrowed mask of manly
beauty? The whole partook of the mien, language, and port of the ruined
archangel; and, imperfectly as we have been able to describe it, the
effect of the interview upon Butler's nerves, shaken as they were at the
time by the horrors of the preceding night, were greater than his
understanding warranted, or his pride cared to submit to. The very place
where he had met this singular person was desecrated, as it were, and
unhallowed, owing to many violent deaths, both in duels and by suicide,
which had in former times taken place there; and the place which he had
named as a rendezvous at so late an hour, was held in general to be
accursed, from a frightful and cruel murder which had been there
committed by the wretch from whom the place took its name, upon the
person of his own wife.*
* Note G. Muschat's Cairn.
It was in such places, according to the belief of that period (when the
laws against witchcraft were still in fresh observance, and had even
lately been acted upon), that evil spirits had power to make themselves
visible to human eyes, and to practise upon the feelings and senses of
mankind. Suspicions, founded on such circumstances, rushed on Butler's
mind, unprepared as it was by any previous course of reasoning, to deny
that which all of his time, country, and profession believed; but common
sense rejected these vain ideas as inconsistent, if not with possibility,
at least with the general rules by which the universe is governed,--a
deviation from which, as Butler well argued with himself, ought not to be
admitted as probable, upon any but the plainest and most incontrovertible
evidence. An earthly lover, however, or a young man, who, from whatever
cause, had the right of exercising such summary and unceremonious
authority over the object of his long-settled, and apparently sincerely
returned affection, was an object scarce less appalling to his mind, than
those which superstition suggested.
His limbs exhausted with fatigue, his mind harassed with anxiety, and
with painful doubts and recollections, Butler dragged himself up the
ascent from the valley to St. Leonard's Crags, and presented himself at
the door of Deans's habitation, with feelings much akin to the miserable
reflections and fears of its inhabitants.
Then she stretched out her lily hand,
And for to do her best;
"Hae back thy faith and troth, Willie,
God gie thy soul good rest!"
"Come in," answered the low and sweet-toned voice he loved best to hear,
as Butler tapped at the door of the cottage. He lifted the latch, and
found himself under the roof of affliction. Jeanie was unable to trust
herself with more than one glance towards her lover, whom she now met
under circumstances so agonising to her feelings, and at the same time so
humbling to her honest pride. It is well known, that much, both of what
is good and bad in the Scottish national character, arises out of the
intimacy of their family connections. "To be come of honest folk," that
is, of people who have borne a fair and unstained reputation, is an
advantage as highly prized among the lower Scotch, as the emphatic
counterpart, "to be of a good family," is valued among their gentry. The
worth and respectability of one member of a peasant's family is always
accounted by themselves and others, not only a matter of honest pride,
but a guarantee for the good conduct of the whole. On the contrary, such
a melancholy stain as was now flung on one of the children of Deans,
extended its disgrace to all connected with him, and Jeanie felt herself
lowered at once, in her own eyes, and in those of her lover. It was in
vain that she repressed this feeling, as far subordinate and too selfish
to be mingled with her sorrow for her sister's calamity. Nature
prevailed; and while she shed tears for her sister's distress and danger,
there mingled with them bitter drops of grief for her own degradation.
As Butler entered, the old man was seated by the fire with his well-worn
pocket Bible in his hands, the companion of the wanderings and dangers of
his youth, and bequeathed to him on the scaffold by one of those, who, in
the year 1686, sealed their enthusiastic principles with their blood. The
sun sent its rays through a small window at the old man's back, and,
"shining motty through the reek," to use the expression of a bard of that
time and country, illumined the grey hairs of the old man, and the sacred
page which he studied. His features, far from handsome, and rather harsh
and severe, had yet from their expression of habitual gravity, and
contempt for earthly things, an expression of stoical dignity amidst
their sternness. He boasted, in no small degree, the attributes which
Southey ascribes to the ancient Scandinavians, whom he terms "firm to
inflict, and stubborn to endure." The whole formed a picture, of which
the lights might have been given by Rembrandt, but the outline would have
required the force and vigour of Michael Angelo.
Deans lifted his eye as Butler entered, and instantly withdrew it, as
from an object which gave him at once surprise and sudden pain. He had
assumed such high ground with this carnal-witted scholar, as he had in
his pride termed Butler, that to meet him, of all men, under feelings of
humiliation, aggravated his misfortune, and was a consummation like that
of the dying chief in the old ballad--"Earl Percy sees my fall!"
Deans raised the Bible with his left hand, so as partly to screen his
face, and putting back his right as far as he could, held it towards
Butler in that position, at the same time turning his body from, him, as
if to prevent his seeing the working of his countenance. Butler clasped
the extended hand which had supported his orphan infancy, wept over it,
and in vain endeavoured to say more than the words--"God comfort you--God
"He will--he doth, my friend," said Deans, assuming firmness as he
discovered the agitation of his guest; "he doth now, and he will yet more
in his own gude time. I have been ower proud of my sufferings in a gude
cause, Reuben, and now I am to be tried with those whilk will turn my
pride and glory into a reproach and a hissing. How muckle better I hae
thought mysell than them that lay saft, fed sweet, and drank deep, when I
was in the moss-haggs and moors, wi' precious Donald Cameron, and worthy
Mr. Blackadder, called Guess-again; and how proud I was o' being made a
spectacle to men and angels, having stood on their pillory at the
Canongate afore I was fifteen years old, for the cause of a National
Covenant! To think, Reuben, that I, wha hae been sae honoured and exalted
in my youth, nay, when I was but a hafflins callant, and that hae borne
testimony again the defections o' the times yearly, monthly, daily,
hourly, minutely, striving and testifying with uplifted hand and voice,
crying aloud, and sparing not, against all great national snares, as the
nation-wasting and church-sinking abomination of union, toleration, and
patronage, imposed by the last woman of that unhappy race of Stuarts;
also against the infringements and invasions of the just powers of
eldership, whereanent, I uttered my paper, called a 'Cry of an Howl in
the Desert,' printed at the Bow-head, and sold by all flying stationers
in town and country--and /now/"
Here he paused. It may well be supposed that Butler, though not
absolutely coinciding in all the good old man's ideas about church
government, had too much consideration and humanity to interrupt him,
while he reckoned up with conscious pride his sufferings, and the
constancy of his testimony. On the contrary, when he paused under the
influence of the bitter recollections of the moment, Butler instantly
threw in his mite of encouragement.
"You have been well known, my old and revered friend, a true and tried
follower of the Cross; one who, as Saint Jerome hath it, '/per infamiam
et bonam famam grassari ad immortalitatem,/' which may be freely
rendered, 'who rusheth on to immortal life, through bad report and good
report.' You have been one of those to whom the tender and fearful souls
cry during the midnight solitude--'Watchman, what of the night?--
Watchman, what of the night?'--And, assuredly, this heavy dispensation,
as it comes not without divine permission, so it comes not without its
special commission and use."
"I do receive it as such," said poor Deans, returning the grasp of
Butler's hand; "and if I have not been taught to read the Scripture in
any other tongue but my native Scottish" (even in his distress Butler's
Latin quotation had not escaped his notice), "I have nevertheless so
learned them, that I trust to bear even this crook in my lot with
submission. But, oh! Reuben Butler, the kirk, of whilk, though unworthy,
I have yet been thought a polished shaft, and meet to be a pillar,
holding, from my youth upward, the place of ruling elder--what will the
lightsome and profane think of the guide that cannot keep his own family
from stumbling? How will they take up their song and their reproach, when
they see that the children of professors are liable to as foul
backsliding as the offspring of Belial! But I will bear my cross with the
comfort, that whatever showed like goodness in me or mine, was but like
the light that shines frae creeping insects, on the brae-side, in a dark
night--it kythes bright to the ee, because all is dark around it; but
when the morn comes on the mountains, it is, but a puir crawling
kail-worm after a'. And sae it shows, wi' ony rag of human righteousness,
or formal law-work, that we may pit round us to cover our shame."
As he pronounced these words, the door again opened, and Mr. Bartoline
Saddletree entered, his three-pointed hat set far back on his head, with
a silk handkerchief beneath it to keep it in that cool position, his
gold-headed cane in his hand, and his whole deportment that of a wealthy
burgher, who might one day look to have a share in the magistracy, if not
actually to hold the curule chair itself.
Rochefoucault, who has torn the veil from so many foul gangrenes of the
human heart, says, we find something not altogether unpleasant to us in
the misfortunes of our best friends. Mr. Saddletree would have been very
angry had any one told him that he felt pleasure in the disaster of poor
Effie Deans, and the disgrace of her family; and yet there is great
question whether the gratification of playing the person of importance,
inquiring, investigating, and laying down the law on the whole affair,
did not offer, to say the least, full consolation for the pain which pure
sympathy gave him on account of his wife's kinswoman. He had now got a
piece of real judicial business by the end, instead of being obliged, as
was his common case, to intrude his opinion where it was neither wished
nor wanted; and felt as happy in the exchange as a boy when he gets his
first new watch, which actually goes when wound up, and has real hands
and a true dial-plate. But besides this subject for legal disquisition,
Bartoline's brains were also overloaded with the affair of Porteous, his
violent death, and all its probable consequences to the city and
community. It was what the French call /l'embarras des richesses,/ the
confusion arising from too much mental wealth. He walked in with a
consciousness of double importance, full fraught with the superiority of
one who possesses more information than the company into which he enters,
and who feels a right to discharge his learning on them without mercy.
"Good morning, Mr. Deans,--good-morrow to you, Mr. Butler,--I was not
aware that you were acquainted with Mr. Deans."
Butler made some slight answer; his reasons may be readily imagined for
not making his connection with the family, which, in his eyes, had
something of tender mystery, a frequent subject of conversation with
indifferent persons, such as Saddletree.
The worthy burgher, in the plenitude of self-importance, now sate down
upon a chair, wiped his brow, collected his breath, and made the first
experiment of the resolved pith of his lungs, in a deep and dignified
sigh, resembling a groan in sound and intonation--"Awfu' times these,
neighbour Deans, awfu' times!"
"Sinfu', shamefu', heaven-daring times!" answered Deans, in a lower and
more subdued tone.
"For my part," continued Saddletree, swelling with importance, "what
between the distress of my friends, and my poor auld country, ony wit
that ever I had may be said to have abandoned me, sae that I sometimes
think myself as ignorant as if I were /inter rusticos./ Here when I arise
in the morning, wi' my mind just arranged touching what's to be done in
puir Effie's misfortune, and hae gotten the haill statute at my
finger-ends, the mob maun get up and string Jock Porteous to a dyester's
beam, and ding a' thing out of my head again."
Deeply as he was distressed with his own domestic calamity, Deans could
not help expressing some interest in the news. Saddletree immediately
entered on details of the insurrection and its consequences, while Butler
took the occasion to seek some private conversation with Jeanie Deans.
She gave him the opportunity he sought, by leaving the room, as if in
prosecution of some part of her morning labour. Butler followed her in a
few minutes, leaving Deans so closely engaged by his busy visitor, that
there was little chance of his observing their absence.
The scene of their interview was an outer apartment, where Jeanie was
used to busy herself in arranging the productions of her dairy. When
Butler found an opportunity of stealing after her into this place, he
found her silent, dejected, and ready to burst into tears. Instead of the
active industry with which she had been accustomed, even while in the act
of speaking, to employ her hands in some useful branch of household
business, she was seated listless in a corner, sinking apparently under
the weight of her own thoughts. Yet the instant he entered, she dried her
eyes, and, with the simplicity and openness of her character, immediately
entered on conversation.
"I am glad you have come in, Mr. Butler," said she, "for--for--for I
wished to tell ye, that all maun be ended between you and me--it's best
for baith our sakes."
"Ended!" said Butler, in surprise; "and for what should it be ended?--I
grant this is a heavy dispensation, but it lies neither at your door nor
mine--it's an evil of God's sending, and it must be borne; but it cannot
break plighted troth, Jeanie, while they that plighted their word wish to
"But, Reuben," said the young woman, looking at him affectionately, "I
ken weel that ye think mair of me than yourself; and, Reuben, I can only
in requital think mair of your weal than of my ain. Ye are a man of
spotless name, bred to God's ministry, and a' men say that ye will some
day rise high in the kirk, though poverty keep ye doun e'en now. Poverty
is a bad back-friend, Reuben, and that ye ken ower weel; but ill-fame is
a waur ane, and that is a truth ye sall never learn through my means."
"What do you mean?" said Butler, eagerly and impatiently; "or how do you
connect your sister's guilt, if guilt there be, which, I trust in God,
may yet be disproved, with our engagement?--how can that affect you or
"How can you ask me that, Mr. Butler? Will this stain, d'ye think, ever
be forgotten, as lang as our heads are abune the grund? Will it not stick
to us, and to our bairns, and to their very bairns' bairns? To hae been
the child of an honest man, might hae been saying something for me and
mine; but to be the sister of aO my God!"--With this exclamation her
resolution failed, and she burst into a passionate fit of tears.
The lover used every effort to induce her to compose herself, and at
length succeeded; but she only resumed her composure to express herself
with the same positiveness as before. "No, Reuben, I'll bring disgrace
hame to nae man's hearth; my ain distresses I can bear, and I maun bear,
but there is nae occasion for buckling them on other folk's shouthers. I
will bear my load alone--the back is made for the burden."
A lover is by charter wayward and suspicious; and Jeanie's readiness to
renounce their engagement, under pretence of zeal for his peace of mind
and respectability of character, seemed to poor Butler to form a
portentous combination with the commission of the stranger he had met
with that morning. His voice faltered as he asked, "whether nothing but a
sense of her sister's present distress occasioned her to talk in that
"And what else can do sae?" she replied with simplicity. "Is it not ten
long years since we spoke together in this way?"
"Ten years!" said Butler. "It's a long time--sufficient perhaps for a
woman to weary"
"To weary of her auld gown," said Jeanie, "and to wish for a new ane if
she likes to be brave, but not long enough to weary of a friend--The eye
may wish change, but the heart never."
"Never!" said Reuben,--"that's a bold promise."
"But not more bauld than true," said Jeanie, with the same quiet
simplicity which attended her manner in joy and grief in ordinary
affairs, and in those which most interested her feelings.
Butler paused, and looking at her fixedly--"I am charged," he said, "with
a message to you, Jeanie."
"Indeed! From whom? Or what can ony ane have to say to me?"
"It is from a stranger," said Butler, affecting to speak with an
indifference which his voice belied--"A young man whom I met this morning
in the Park."
"Mercy!" said Jeanie, eagerly; "and what did he say?"
"That he did not see you at the hour he expected, but required you should
meet him alone at Muschat's Cairn this night, so soon as the moon rises."
"Tell him," said Jeanie, hastily, "I shall certainly come."
"May I ask," said Butler, his suspicions increasing at the ready alacrity
of the answer, "who this man is to whom you are so willing to give the
meeting at a place and hour so uncommon?"
"Folk maun do muckle they have little will to do, in this world," replied
"Granted," said her lover; "but what compels you to this?--who is this
person? What I saw of him was not very favourable--who, or what is he?"
"I do not know," replied Jeanie, composedly.
"You do not know!" said Butler, stepping impatiently through the
apartment--"You purpose to meet a young man whom you do not know, at such
a time, and in a place so lonely--you say you are compelled to do this--
and yet you say you do not know the person who exercises such an
influence over you!--Jeanie, what am I to think of this?"
"Think only, Reuben, that I speak truth, as if I were to answer at the
last day.--I do not ken this man--I do not even ken that I ever saw him;
and yet I must give him the meeting he asks--there's life and death upon
"Will you not tell your father, or take him with you?" said Butler.
"I cannot," said Jeanie; "I have no permission."
"Will you let /me/ go with you? I will wait in the Park till nightfall,
and join you when you set out."
"It is impossible," said Jeanie; "there maunna be mortal creature within
hearing of our conference."
"Have you considered well the nature of what you are going to do?--the
time--the place--an unknown and suspicious character?--Why, if he had
asked to see you in this house, your father sitting in the next room, and
within call, at such an hour, you should have refused to see him."
"My weird maun be fulfilled, Mr. Butler; my life and my safety are in
God's hands, but I'll not spare to risk either of them on the errand I am
gaun to do."
"Then, Jeanie," said Butler, much displeased, "we must indeed break short
off, and bid farewell. When there can be no confidence betwixt a man and
his plighted wife on such a momentous topic, it is a sign that she has no
longer the regard for him that makes their engagement safe and suitable."
Jeanie looked at him and sighed. "I thought," she said, "that I had
brought myself to bear this parting--but--but--I did not ken that we were
to part in unkindness. But I am a woman and you are a man--it may be
different wi' you--if your mind is made easier by thinking sae hardly of
me, I would not ask you to think otherwise."
"You are," said Butler, "what you have always been--wiser, better, and
less selfish in your native feelings, than I can be, with all the helps
philosophy can give to a Christian--But why--why will you persevere in an
undertaking so desperate? Why will you not let me be your assistant--your
protector, or at least your adviser?"
"Just because I cannot, and I dare not," answered Jeanie.--"But hark,
what's that? Surely my father is no weel?"
In fact, the voices in the next room became obstreperously loud of a
sudden, the cause of which vociferation it is necessary to explain before
we go farther.
When Jeanie and Butler retired, Mr. Saddletree entered upon the business
which chiefly interested the family. In the commencement of their
conversation he found old Deans, who in his usual state of mind, was no
granter of propositions, so much subdued by a deep sense of his
daughter's danger and disgrace, that he heard without replying to, or
perhaps without understanding, one or two learned disquisitions on the
nature of the crime imputed to her charge, and on the steps which ought
to be taken in consequence. His only answer at each pause was, "I am no
misdoubting that you wuss us weel--your wife's our far-awa cousin."
Encouraged by these symptoms of acquiescence, Saddletree, who, as an
amateur of the law, had a supreme deference for all constituted
authorities, again recurred to his other topic of interest, the murder,
namely, of Porteous, and pronounced a severe censure on the parties
"These are kittle times--kittle times, Mr. Deans, when the people take
the power of life and death out of the hands of the rightful magistrate
into their ain rough grip. I am of opinion, and so I believe will Mr.
Crossmyloof and the Privy Council, that this rising in effeir of war, to
take away the life of a reprieved man, will prove little better than
"If I hadna that on my mind whilk is ill to bear, Mr. Saddletree," said
Deans, "I wad make bold to dispute that point wi' you."
"How could you dispute what's plain law, man?" said Saddletree, somewhat
contemptuously; "there's no a callant that e'er carried a pock wi' a
process in't, but will tell you that perduellion is the warst and maist
virulent kind of treason, being an open convocating of the king's lieges
against his authority (mair especially in arms, and by touk of drum, to
baith whilk accessories my een and lugs bore witness), and muckle worse
than lese-majesty, or the concealment of a treasonable purpose--It winna
bear a dispute, neighbour."
"But it will, though," retorted Douce Davie Deans; "I tell ye it will
bear a disputer never like your cauld, legal, formal doctrines, neighbour
Saddletree. I haud unco little by the Parliament House, since the awfu'
downfall of the hopes of honest folk that followed the Revolution."
"But what wad ye hae had, Mr. Deans?" said Saddletree, impatiently;
"didna ye get baith liberty and conscience made fast, and settled by
tailzie on you and your heirs for ever?"
"Mr. Saddletree," retorted Deans, "I ken ye are one of those that are
wise after the manner of this world, and that ye hand your part, and cast
in your portion, wi' the lang heads and lang gowns, and keep with the
smart witty-pated lawyers of this our land--Weary on the dark and dolefu'
cast that they hae gien this unhappy kingdom, when their black hands of
defection were clasped in the red hands of our sworn murtherers: when
those who had numbered the towers of our Zion, and marked the bulwarks of
Reformation, saw their hope turn into a snare, and their rejoicing into
"I canna understand this, neighbour," answered Saddletree. "I am an
honest Presbyterian of the Kirk of Scotland, and stand by her and the
General Assembly, and the due administration of justice by the fifteen
Lords o' Session and the five Lords o' Justiciary."
"Out upon ye, Mr. Saddletree!" exclaimed David, who, in an opportunity of
giving his testimony on the offences and backslidings of the land, forgot
for a moment his own domestic calamity--"out upon your General Assembly,
and the back of my hand to your Court o' Session!--What is the tane but a
waefu' bunch o' cauldrife professors and ministers, that sate bien and
warm when the persecuted remnant were warstling wi' hunger, and cauld,
and fear of death, and danger of fire and sword upon wet brae-sides,
peat-haggs, and flow-mosses, and that now creep out of their holes, like
bluebottle flees in a blink of sunshine, to take the pu'pits and places
of better folk--of them that witnessed, and testified, and fought, and
endured pit, prison-house, and transportation beyond seas?--A bonny bike
there's o' them!--And for your Court o' Session"
"Ye may say what ye will o' the General Assembly," said Saddletree,
interrupting him, "and let them clear them that kens them; but as for the
Lords o' Session, forby that they are my next-door neighbours, I would
have ye ken, for your ain regulation, that to raise scandal anent them,
whilk is termed to /murmur/ again them, is a crime /sui generis,/--/sui
generis,/ Mr. Deans--ken ye what that amounts to?"
"I ken little o' the language of Antichrist," said Deans; "and I care
less than little what carnal courts may call the speeches of honest men.
And as to murmur again them, it's what a' the folk that loses their
pleas, and nine-tenths o' them that win them, will be gey sure to be
guilty in. Sae I wad hae ye ken that I hand a' your gleg-tongued
advocates, that sell their knowledge for pieces of silver--and your
worldly-wise judges, that will gie three days of hearing in presence to a
debate about the peeling of an ingan, and no ae half-hour to the gospel
testimony--as legalists and formalists, countenancing by sentences, and
quirks, and cunning terms of law, the late begun courses of national
defections--union, toleration, patronages, and Yerastian prelatic oaths.
As for the soul and body-killing Court o' Justiciary"
The habit of considering his life as dedicated to bear testimony in
behalf of what he deemed the suffering and deserted cause of true
religion, had swept honest David along with it thus far; but with the
mention of the criminal court, the recollection of the disastrous
condition of his daughter rushed at once on his mind; he stopped short in
the midst of his triumphant declamation, pressed his hands against his
forehead, and remained silent.
Saddletree was somewhat moved, but apparently not so much so as to induce
him to relinquish the privilege of prosing in his turn afforded him by
David's sudden silence. "Nae doubt, neighbour," he said, "it's a sair
thing to hae to do wi' courts of law, unless it be to improve ane's
knowledge and practique, by waiting on as a hearer; and touching this
unhappy affair of Effie--ye'll hae seen the dittay, doubtless? He dragged
out of his pocket a bundle of papers, and began to turn them over. "This
is no it--this is the information of Mungo Marsport, of that ilk, against
Captain Lackland, for coming on his lands of Marsport with hawks, hounds,
lying-dogs, nets, guns, cross-bows, hagbuts of found, or other engines
more or less for destruction of game, sic as red-deer, fallow-deer,
cappercailzies, grey-fowl, moor-fowl, paitricks, herons, and sic like;
he, the said defender not being ane qualified person, in terms of the
statute sixteen hundred and twenty-ane; that is, not having ane
plough-gate of land. Now, the defences proponed say, that /non constat/
at this present what is a plough-gate of land, whilk uncertainty is
sufficient to elide the conclusions of the libel. But then the answers to
the defences (they are signed by Mr. Crossmyloof, but Mr. Younglad drew
them), they propone, that it signifies naething, /in hoc statu,/ what or
how muckle a plough-gate of land may be, in respect the defender has nae
lands whatsoever, less or mair. 'Sae grant a plough-gate'" (here
Saddletree read from the paper in his hand) "'to be less than the
nineteenth part of a guse's grass'--(I trow Mr. Crossmyloof put in that--
I ken his style),--'of a guse's grass, what the better will the defender
be, seeing he hasna a divot-cast of land in Scotland?--/Advocatus/ for
Lackland duplies, that /nihil interest de possessione,/ the pursuer must
put his case under the statute'--(now, this is worth your notice,
neighbour),--'and must show, /formaliter et specialiter,/ as well as
/generaliter,/ what is the qualification that defender Lackland does
/not/ possess--let him tell me what a plough-gate of land is, and I'll
tell him if I have one or no. Surely the pursuer is bound to understand
his own libel, and his own statute that he founds upon. /Titius/ pursues
/Maevius/ for recovery of ane /black/ horse lent to Maevius--surely he
shall have judgment; but if Titius pursue Maevius for ane /scarlet/ or
/crimson/ horse, doubtless he shall be bound to show that there is sic
ane animal /in rerum natura./ No man can be bound to plead to nonsense--
that is to say, to a charge which cannot be explained or understood'--
(he's wrang there--the better the pleadings the fewer understand them),--
'and so the reference unto this undefined and unintelligible measure of
land is, as if a penalty was inflicted by statute for any man who suld
hunt or hawk, or use lying-dogs, and wearing a sky-blue pair of breeches,
without having'But I am wearying you, Mr. Deans,--we'll pass to your ain
business,--though this cue of Marsport against Lackland has made an unco
din in the Outer House. Weel, here's the dittay against puir Effie:
'Whereas it is humbly meant and shown to us,' etc. (they are words of
mere style), 'that whereas, by the laws of this and every other
well-regulated realm, the murder of any one, more especially of an infant
child, is a crime of ane high nature, and severely punishable: And
whereas, without prejudice to the foresaid generality, it was, by ane act
made in the second session of the First Parliament of our most High and
Dread Sovereigns William and Mary, especially enacted, that ane woman who
shall have concealed her condition, and shall not be able to show that
she hath called for help at the birth in case that the child shall be
found dead or amissing, shall be deemed and held guilty of the murder
thereof; and the said facts of concealment and pregnancy being found
proven or confessed, shall sustain the pains of law accordingly; yet,
nevertheless, you, Effie, or Euphemia Deans'"
"Read no farther!" said Deans, raising his head up; "I would rather ye
thrust a sword into my heart than read a word farther!"
"Weel, neighbour," said Saddletree, "I thought it wad hae comforted ye to
ken the best and the warst o't. But the question is, what's to be dune?"
"Nothing," answered Deans firmly, "but to abide the dispensation that the
Lord sees meet to send us. Oh, if it had been His will to take the grey
head to rest before this awful visitation on my house and name! But His
will be done. I can say that yet, though I can say little mair."
"But, neighbour," said Saddletree, "ye'll retain advocates for the puir
lassie? it's a thing maun needs be thought of."
"If there was ae man of them," answered Deans, "that held fast his
integrity--but I ken them weel, they are a' carnal, crafty, and
warld-hunting self-seekers, Yerastians, and Arminians, every ane o'
"Hout tout, neighbour, ye mauna take the warld at its word," said
Saddletree; "the very deil is no sae ill as he's ca'd; and I ken mair
than ae advocate that may be said to hae some integrity as weel as their
neighbours; that is, after a sort o' fashion' o' their ain."
"It is indeed but a fashion of integrity that ye will find amang them,"
replied David Deans, "and a fashion of wisdom, and fashion of carnal
learning--gazing, glancing-glasses they are, fit only to fling the glaiks
in folk's een, wi' their pawky policy, and earthly ingine, their flights
and refinements, and periods of eloquence, frae heathen emperors and
popish canons. They canna, in that daft trash ye were reading to me, sae
muckle as ca' men that are sae ill-starred as to be amang their hands, by
ony name o' the dispensation o' grace, but maun new baptize them by the
names of the accursed Titus, wha was made the instrument of burning the
holy Temple, and other sic like heathens!"
"It's Tishius," interrupted Saddletree, "and no Titus. Mr. Crossmyloof
cares as little about Titus or the Latin as ye do.--But it's a case of
necessity--she maun hae counsel. Now, I could speak to Mr. Crossmyloof--
he's weel ken'd for a round-spun Presbyterian, and a ruling elder to
"He's a rank Yerastian," replied Deans; "one of the public and
polititious warldly-wise men that stude up to prevent ane general owning
of the cause in the day of power!"
"What say ye to the auld Laird of Cuffabout?" said Saddletree; "he whiles
thumps the dust out of a case gey and well."
"He? the fause loon!" answered Deans--"he was in his bandaliers to hae
joined the ungracious Highlanders in 1715, an they had ever had the luck
to cross the Firth."
"Weel, Arniston? there's a clever chield for ye!" said Bartoline,
"Ay, to bring popish medals in till their very library from that
schismatic woman in the north, the Duchess of Gordon."*
* [James Dundas younger of Arniston was tried in the year 1711 upon
charge of leasing-making, in having presented, from the Duchess of
Gordon, medal of the Pretender, for the purpose, it was said, of
affronting Queen Anne.]
"Weel, weel, but somebody ye maun hae--What think ye o' Kittlepunt?"
"He's an Arminian."
"He's, I doubt, a Cocceian."
"He's ony thing ye like."
"He's naething at a'."
"Ye're ill to please, neighbour," said Saddletree: "I hae run ower the
pick o' them for you, ye maun e'en choose for yoursell; but bethink ye
that in the multitude of counsellors there's safety--What say ye to try
young Mackenyie? he has a' his uncle's Practiques at the tongue's end."
"What, sir, wad ye speak to me," exclaimed the sturdy Presbyterian in
excessive wrath, "about a man that has the blood of the saints at his
fingers' ends? Did na his eme [Uncle] die and gang to his place wi' the
name of the Bluidy Mackenyie? and winna he be kend by that name sae lang
as there's a Scots tongue to speak the word? If the life of the dear
bairn that's under a suffering dispensation, and Jeanie's, and my ain,
and a' mankind's, depended on my asking sic a slave o' Satan to speak a
word for me or them, they should a' gae doun the water thegither for
It was the exalted tone in which he spoke this last sentence that broke
up the conversation between Butler and Jeanie, and brought them both "ben
the house," to use the language of the country. Here they found the poor
old man half frantic between grief and zealous ire against Saddletree's
proposed measures, his cheek inflamed, his hand clenched, and his voice
raised, while the tear in his eye, and the occasional quiver of his
accents, showed that his utmost efforts were inadequate to shaking off
the consciousness of his misery. Butler, apprehensive of the consequences
of his agitation to an aged and feeble frame, ventured to utter to him a
recommendation to patience.
"I /am/ patient," returned the old man sternly,--"more patient than any
one who is alive to the woeful backslidings of a miserable time can be
patient; and in so much, that I need neither sectarians, nor sons nor
grandsons of sectarians, to instruct my grey hairs how to bear my cross."
"But, sir," continued Butler, taking no offence at the slur cast on his
grandfather's faith, "we must use human means. When you call in a
physician, you would not, I suppose, question him on the nature of his
"Wad I /no?/" answered David--"but I wad, though; and if he didna satisfy
me that he had a right sense of the right hand and left hand defections
of the day, not a goutte of his physic should gang through my father's
It is a dangerous thing to trust to an illustration. Butler had done so
and miscarried; but, like a gallant soldier when his musket misses fire,
he stood his ground, and charged with the bayonet.--"This is too rigid an
interpretation of your duty, sir. The sun shines, and the rain descends,
on the just and unjust, and they are placed together in life in
circumstances which frequently render intercourse between them
indispensable, perhaps that the evil may have an opportunity of being
converted by the good, and perhaps, also, that the righteous might, among
other trials, be subjected to that of occasional converse with the
"Ye're a silly callant, Reuben," answered Deans, "with your bits of
argument. Can a man touch pitch and not be defiled? Or what think ye of
the brave and worthy champions of the Covenant, that wadna sae muckle as
hear a minister speak, be his gifts and graces as they would, that hadna
witnessed against the enormities of the day? Nae lawyer shall ever speak
for me and mine that hasna concurred in the testimony of the scattered,
yet lovely remnant, which abode in the clifts of the rocks."
So saying, and as if fatigued, both with the arguments and presence of
his guests, the old man arose, and seeming to bid them adieu with a
motion of his head and hand, went to shut himself up in his sleeping
"It's thrawing his daughter's life awa," said Saddletree to Butler, "to
hear him speak in that daft gate. Where will he ever get a Cameronian
advocate? Or wha ever heard of a lawyer's suffering either for ae
religion or another? The lassie's life is clean flung awa."
During the latter part of this debate, Dumbiedikes had arrived at the
door, dismounted, hung the pony's bridle on the usual hook, and sunk down
on his ordinary settle. His eyes, with more than their usual animation,
followed first one speaker then another, till he caught the melancholy
sense of the whole from Saddletree's last words. He rose from his seat,
stumped slowly across the room, and, coming close up to Saddletree's ear,
said in a tremulous anxious voice, "Will--will siller do naething for
them, Mr. Saddletree?"
"Umph!" said Saddletree, looking grave,--"siller will certainly do it in
the Parliament House, if ony thing /can/ do it; but where's the siller to
come frae? Mr. Deans, ye see, will do naething; and though Mrs.
Saddletree's their far-awa friend, and right good weel-wisher, and is
weel disposed to assist, yet she wadna like to stand to be bound /singuli
in solidum/ to such an expensive wark. An ilka friend wad bear a share o'
the burden, something might be dune--ilka ane to be liable for their ain
input--I wadna like to see the case fa' through without being pled--it
wadna be creditable, for a' that daft whig body says."
"I'll--I will--yes" (assuming fortitude), "I will be answerable," said
Dumbiedikes, "for a score of punds sterling."--And he was silent, staring
in astonishment at finding himself capable of such unwonted resolution
and excessive generosity.
"God Almighty bless ye, Laird!" said Jeanie, in a transport of gratitude.
"Ye may ca' the twenty punds thretty," said Dumbiedikes, looking
bashfully away from her, and towards Saddletree.
"That will do bravely," said Saddletree, rubbing his hands; and ye sall
hae a' my skill and knowledge to gar the siller gang far--I'll tape it
out weel--I ken how to gar the birkies tak short fees, and be glad o'
them too--it's only garring them trow ye hae twa or three cases of
importance coming on, and they'll work cheap to get custom. Let me alane
for whilly-whaing an advocate:--it's nae sin to get as muckle flue them
for our siller as we can--after a', it's but the wind o' their mouth--it
costs them naething; whereas, in my wretched occupation of a saddler,
horse milliner, and harness maker, we are out unconscionable sums just
for barkened hides and leather."
"Can I be of no use?" said Butler. "My means, alas! are only worth the
black coat I wear; but I am young--I owe much to the family--Can I do
"Ye can help to collect evidence, sir," said Saddletree; "if we could but
find ony ane to say she had gien the least hint o' her condition, she wad
be brought aft wi' a wat finger--Mr. Crossmyloof tell'd me sae. The
crown, says he, canna be craved to prove a positive--was't a positive or
a negative they couldna be ca'd to prove?--it was the tane or the tither
o' them, I am sure, and it maksna muckle matter whilk. Wherefore, says
he, the libel maun be redargued by the panel proving her defences. And it
canna be done otherwise."
"But the fact, sir," argued Butler, "the fact that this poor girl has
borne a child; surely the crown lawyers must prove that?" said Butler.
Saddletree paused a moment, while the visage of Dumbiedikes, which
traversed, as if it had been placed on a pivot, from the one spokesman to
the other, assumed a more blithe expression.
"Ye--ye--ye--es," said Saddletree, after some grave hesitation;
"unquestionably that is a thing to be proved, as the court will more
fully declare by an interlocutor of relevancy in common form; but I fancy
that job's done already, for she has confessed her guilt."
"Confessed the murder?" exclaimed Jeanie, with a scream that made them
"No, I didna say that," replied Bartoline. "But she confessed bearing the
"And what became of it, then?" said Jeanie, "for not a word could I get
from her but bitter sighs and tears."
"She says it was taken away from her by the woman in whose house it was
born, and who assisted her at the time."
"And who was that woman?" said Butler. "Surely by her means the truth
might be discovered.--Who was she? I will fly to her directly."
"I wish," said Dumbiedikes, "I were as young and as supple as you, and
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