The Heart of Mid-Lothian, Volume 1.
Sir Walter Scott
Part 6 out of 6
as it were, the centre of the tide, could scarce, with all their efforts,
clear a passage for the prisoner to the place which she was to occupy. By
the authority of the Court, and the exertions of its officers, the tumult
among the spectators was at length appeased, and the unhappy girl brought
forward, and placed betwixt two sentinels with drawn bayonets, as a
prisoner at the bar, where she was to abide her deliverance for good or
evil, according to the issue of her trial.
We have strict statutes, and most biting laws--
The needful bits and curbs for headstrong steeds--
Which, for these fourteen years, we have let sleep,
Like to an o'ergrown lion in a cave,
That goes not out to prey.
Measure for Measure.
"Euphemia Deans," said the presiding Judge, in an accent in which pity
was blended with dignity, "stand up and listen to the criminal indictment
now to be preferred against you."
The unhappy girl, who had been stupified by the confusion through which
the guards had forced a passage, cast a bewildered look on the multitude
of faces around her, which seemed to tapestry, as it were, the walls, in
one broad slope from the ceiling to the floor, with human countenances,
and instinctively obeyed a command, which rung in her ears like the
trumpet of the judgment-day.
"Put back your hair, Effie," said one of the macers. For her beautiful
and abundant tresses of long fair hair, which, according to the costume
of the country, unmarried women were not allowed to cover with any sort
of cap, and which, alas! Effie dared no longer confine with the snood or
riband, which implied purity of maiden-fame, now hung unbound and
dishevelled over her face, and almost concealed her features. On
receiving this hint from the attendant, the unfortunate young woman, with
a hasty, trembling, and apparently mechanical compliance, shaded back
from her face her luxuriant locks, and showed to the whole court,
excepting one individual, a countenance, which, though pale and
emaciated, was so lovely amid its agony, that it called forth a universal
murmur of compassion and sympathy. Apparently the expressive sound of
human feeling recalled the poor girl from the stupor of fear, which
predominated at first over every other sensation, and awakened her to the
no less painful sense of shame and exposure attached to her present
situation. Her eye, which had at first glanced wildly around, was turned
on the ground; her cheek, at first so deadly pale, began gradually to be
overspread with a faint blush, which increased so fast, that, when in
agony of shame she strove to conceal her face, her temples, her brow, her
neck, and all that her slender fingers and small palms could not cover,
became of the deepest crimson.
All marked and were moved by these changes, excepting one. It was old
Deans, who, motionless in his seat, and concealed, as we have said, by
the corner of the bench, from seeing or being seen, did nevertheless keep
his eyes firmly fixed on the ground, as if determined that, by no
possibility whatever, would he be an ocular witness of the shame of his
"Ichabod!" he said to himself--"Ichabod! my glory is departed!"
While these reflections were passing through his mind, the indictment,
which set forth in technical form the crime of which the panel stood
accused, was read as usual, and the prisoner was asked if she was Guilty,
or Not Guilty.
"Not guilty of my poor bairn's death," said Effie Deans, in an accent
corresponding in plaintive softness of tone to the beauty of her
features, and which was not heard by the audience without emotion.
The presiding Judge next directed the counsel to plead to the relevancy;
that is, to state on either part the arguments in point of law, and
evidence in point of fact, against and in favour of the criminal; after
which it is the form of the Court to pronounce a preliminary judgment,
sending the cause to the cognisance of the jury, or assize.
The counsel for the crown briefly stated the frequency of the crime of
infanticide, which had given rise to the special statute under which the
panel stood indicted. He mentioned the various instances, many of them
marked with circumstances of atrocity, which had at length induced the
King's Advocate, though with great reluctance, to make the experiment,
whether, by strictly enforcing the Act of Parliament which had been made
to prevent such enormities, their occurrence might be prevented. "He
expected," he said, "to be able to establish by witnesses, as well as by
the declaration of the panel herself, that she was in the state described
by the statute. According to his information, the panel had communicated
her pregnancy to no one, nor did she allege in her own declaration that
she had done so. This secrecy was the first requisite in support of the
indictment. The same declaration admitted, that she had borne a male
child, in circumstances which gave but too much reason to believe it had
died by the hands, or at least with the knowledge or consent, of the
unhappy mother. It was not, however, necessary for him to bring positive
proof that the panel was accessory to the murder, nay, nor even to prove,
that the child was murdered at all. It was sufficient to support the
indictment, that it could not be found. According to the stern, but
necessary severity of this statute, she who should conceal her pregnancy,
who should omit to call that assistance which is most necessary on such
occasions, was held already to have meditated the death of her offspring,
as an event most likely to be the consequence of her culpable and cruel
concealment. And if, under such circumstances, she could not
alternatively show by proof that the infant had died a natural death, or
produce it still in life, she must, under the construction of the law, be
held to have murdered it, and suffer death accordingly."
The counsel for the prisoner, Mr. Fairbrother, a man of considerable fame
in his profession, did not pretend directly to combat the arguments of
the King's Advocate. He began by lamenting that his senior at the bar,
Mr. Langtale, had been suddenly called to the county of which he was
sheriff, and that he had been applied to, on short warning, to give the
panel his assistance in this interesting case. He had had little time, he
said, to make up for his inferiority to his learned brother by long and
minute research; and he was afraid he might give a specimen of his
incapacity, by being compelled to admit the accuracy of the indictment
under the statute. "It was enough for their Lordships," he observed, "to
know that such was the law, and he admitted the advocate had a right to
call for the usual interlocutor of relevancy." But he stated, "that when
he came to establish his case by proof, he trusted to make out
circumstances which would satisfactorily elide the charge in the libel.
His client's story was a short, but most melancholy one. She was bred up
in the strictest tenets of religion and virtue, the daughter of a worthy
and conscientious person, who, in evil times, had established a character
for courage and religion, by becoming a sufferer for conscience' sake."
David Deans gave a convulsive start at hearing himself thus mentioned,
and then resumed the situation, in which, with his face stooped against
his hands, and both resting against the corner of the elevated bench on
which the Judges sate, he had hitherto listened to the procedure in the
trial. The Whig lawyers seemed to be interested; the Tories put up their
"Whatever may be our difference of opinion," resumed the lawyer, whose
business it was to carry his whole audience with him if possible,
"concerning the peculiar tenets of these people" (here Deans groaned
deeply), "it is impossible to deny them the praise of sound, and even
rigid morals, or the merit of training up their children in the fear of
God; and yet it was the daughter of such a person whom a jury would
shortly be called upon, in the absence of evidence, and upon mere
presumptions, to convict of a crime more properly belonging to a heathen,
or a savage, than to a Christian and civilised country. It was true," he
admitted, "that the excellent nurture and early instruction which the
poor girl had received, had not been sufficient to preserve her from
guilt and error. She had fallen a sacrifice to an inconsiderate affection
for a young man of prepossessing manners, as he had been informed, but of
a very dangerous and desperate character. She was seduced under promise
of marriage--a promise, which the fellow might have, perhaps, done her
justice by keeping, had he not at that time been called upon by the law
to atone for a crime, violent and desperate in itself, but which became
the preface to another eventful history, every step of which was marked
by blood and guilt, and the final termination of which had not even yet
arrived. He believed that no one would hear him without surprise, when he
stated that the father of this infant now amissing, and said by the
learned Advocate to have been murdered, was no other than the notorious
George Robertson, the accomplice of Wilson, the hero of the memorable
escape from the Tolbooth Church, and as no one knew better than his
learned friend the Advocate, the principal actor in the Porteous
"I am sorry to interrupt a counsel in such a case as the present," said,
the presiding Judge; "but I must remind the learned gentleman that he is
travelling out of the case before us."
The counsel bowed and resumed. "He only judged it necessary," he said,
"to mention the name and situation of Robertson, because the circumstance
in which that character was placed, went a great way in accounting for
the silence on which his Majesty's counsel had laid so much weight, as
affording proof that his client proposed to allow no fair play for its
life to the helpless being whom she was about to bring into the world.
She had not announced to her friends that she had been seduced from the
path of honour--and why had she not done so?--Because she expected daily
to be restored to character, by her seducer doing her that justice which
she knew to be in his power, and believed to be in his inclination. Was
it natural--was it reasonable--was it fair, to expect that she should in
the interim, become /felo de se/ of her own character, and proclaim her
frailty to the world, when she had every reason to expect, that, by
concealing it for a season, it might be veiled for ever? Was it not, on
the contrary, pardonable, that, in such an emergency, a young woman, in
such a situation, should be found far from disposed to make a confidant
of every prying gossip, who, with sharp eyes, and eager ears, pressed
upon her for an explanation of suspicious circumstances, which females in
the lower--he might say which females of all ranks, are so alert in
noticing, that they sometimes discover them where they do not exist? Was
it strange or was it criminal, that she should have repelled their
inquisitive impertinence with petulant denials? The sense and feeling of
all who heard him would answer directly in the negative. But although his
client had thus remained silent towards those to whom she was not called
upon to communicate her situation,--to whom," said the learned gentleman,
"I will add, it would have been unadvised and improper in her to have
done so; yet, I trust, I shall remove this case most triumphantly from
under the statute, and obtain the unfortunate young woman an honourable
dismission from your Lordships' bar, by showing that she did, in due time
and place, and to a person most fit for such confidence, mention the
calamitous circumstances in which she found herself. This occurred after
Robertson's conviction, and when he was lying in prison in expectation of
the fate which his comrade Wilson afterwards suffered, and from which he
himself so strangely escaped. It was then, when all hopes of having her
honour repaired by wedlock vanished from her eyes,--when an union with
one in Robertson's situation, if still practicable, might, perhaps, have
been regarded rather as an addition to her disgrace,--it was /then,/ that
I trust to be able to prove that the prisoner communicated and consulted
with her sister, a young woman several years older than herself, the
daughter of her father, if I mistake not, by a former marriage, upon the
perils and distress of her unhappy situation."
"If, indeed, you are able to instruct /that/ point, Mr. Fairbrother,"
said the presiding Judge.
"If I am indeed able to instruct that point, my Lord," resumed Mr.
Fairbrother, "I trust not only to serve my client, but to relieve your
Lordships from that which I know you feel the most painful duty of your
high office; and to give all who now hear me the exquisite pleasure of
beholding a creature, so young, so ingenuous, and so beautiful, as she
that is now at the bar of your Lordships' Court, dismissed from thence in
safety and in honour."
This address seemed to affect many of the audience, and was followed by a
slight murmur of applause. Deans, as he heard his daughter's beauty and
innocent appearance appealed to, was involuntarily about to turn his eyes
towards her; but, recollecting himself, he bent them again on the ground
with stubborn resolution.
"Will not my learned brother, on the other side of the bar," continued
the advocate, after a short pause, "share in this general joy, since, I
know, while he discharges his duty in bringing an accused person here, no
one rejoices more in their being freely and honourably sent hence? My
learned brother shakes his head doubtfully, and lays his hand on the
panel's declaration. I understand him perfectly--he would insinuate that
the facts now stated to your Lordships are inconsistent with the
confession of Euphemia Deans herself. I need not remind your Lordships,
that her present defence is no whit to be narrowed within the bounds of
her former confession; and that it is not by any account which she may
formerly have given of herself, but by what is now to be proved for or
against her, that she must ultimately stand or fall. I am not under the
necessity of accounting for her choosing to drop out of her declaration
the circumstances of her confession to her sister. She might not be aware
of its importance; she might be afraid of implicating her sister; she
might even have forgotten the circumstance entirely, in the terror and
distress of mind incidental to the arrest of so young a creature on a
charge so heinous. Any of these reasons are sufficient to account for her
having suppressed the truth in this instance, at whatever risk to
herself; and I incline most to her erroneous fear of criminating her
sister, because I observe she has had a similar tenderness towards her
lover (however undeserved on his part), and has never once mentioned
Robertson's name from beginning to end of her declaration.
"But, my Lords," continued Fairbrother, "I am aware the King's Advocate
will expect me to show, that the proof I offer is consistent with other
circumstances of the, case, which I do not and cannot deny. He will
demand of me how Effie Deans's confession to her sister, previous to her
delivery, is reconcilable with the mystery of the birth,--with the
disappearance, perhaps the murder (for I will not deny a possibility
which I cannot disprove) of the infant. My Lords, the explanation of this
is to be found in the placability, perchance, I may say, in the facility
and pliability, of the female sex. The /dulcis Amaryllidis irae,/ as your
Lordships well know, are easily appeased; nor is it possible to conceive
a woman so atrociously offended by the man whom she has loved, but that
she will retain a fund of forgiveness, upon which his penitence, whether
real or affected, may draw largely, with a certainty that his bills will
be answered. We can prove, by a letter produced in evidence, that this
villain Robertson, from the bottom of the dungeon whence he already
probably meditated the escape, which he afterwards accomplished by the
assistance of his comrade, contrived to exercise authority over the mind,
and to direct the motions, of this unhappy girl. It was in compliance
with his injunctions, expressed in that letter, that the panel was
prevailed upon to alter the line of conduct which her own better thoughts
had suggested; and, instead of resorting, when her time of travail
approached, to the protection of her own family, was induced to confide
herself to the charge of some vile agent of this nefarious seducer, and
by her conducted to one of those solitary and secret purlieus of villany,
which, to the shame of our police, still are suffered to exist in the
suburbs of this city, where, with the assistance, and under the charge,
of a person of her own sex, she bore a male child, under circumstances
which added treble bitterness to the woe denounced against our original
mother. What purpose Robertson had in all this, it is hard to tell, or
even to guess. He may have meant to marry the girl, for her father is a
man of substance. But, for the termination of the story, and the conduct
of the woman whom he had placed about the person of Euphemia Deans, it is
still more difficult to account. The unfortunate young woman was visited
by the fever incidental to her situation. In this fever she appears to
have been deceived by the person that waited on her, and, on recovering
her senses, she found that she was childless in that abode of misery. Her
infant had been carried off, perhaps for the worst purposes, by the
wretch that waited on her. It may have been murdered, for what I can
He was here interrupted by a piercing shriek, uttered by the unfortunate
prisoner. She was with difficulty brought to compose herself. Her counsel
availed himself of the tragical interruption, to close his pleading with
"My Lords," said he, "in that piteous cry you heard the eloquence of
maternal affection, far surpassing the force of my poor words--Rachel
weeping for her children! Nature herself bears testimony in favour of the
tenderness and acuteness of the prisoner's parental feelings. I will not
dishonour her plea by adding a word more."
"Heard ye ever the like o' that, Laird?" said Saddletree to Dumbiedikes,
when the counsel had ended his speech. "There's a chield can spin a
muckle pirn out of a wee tait of tow! Deil haet he kens mair about it
than what's in the declaration, and a surmise that Jeanie Deans suld hae
been able to say something about her sister's situation, whilk surmise,
Mr. Crossmyloof says, rests on sma' authority. And he's cleckit this
great muckle bird out o' this wee egg! He could wile the very flounders
out o' the Firth.--What garr'd my father no send me to Utrecht?--But
whisht, the Court is gaun to pronounce the interlocutor of relevancy."
And accordingly the Judges, after a few words, recorded their judgment,
which bore, that the indictment, if proved, was relevant to infer the
pains of law: And that the defence, that the panel had communicated her
situation to her sister, was a relevant defence: And, finally, appointed
the said indictment and defence to be submitted to the judgment of an
Most righteous judge! a sentence.--Come, prepare.
Merchant of Venice.
It is by no means my intention to describe minutely the forms of a
Scottish criminal trial, nor am I sure that I could draw up an account so
intelligible and accurate as to abide the criticism of the gentlemen of
the long robe. It is enough to say that the jury was impanelled, and the
case proceeded. The prisoner was again required to plead to the charge,
and she again replied, "Not Guilty," in the same heart-thrilling tone as
The crown counsel then called two or three female witnesses, by whose
testimony it was established, that Effie's situation had been remarked by
them, that they had taxed her with the fact, and that her answers had
amounted to an angry and petulant denial of what they charged her with.
But, as very frequently happens, the declaration of the panel or accused
party herself was the evidence which bore hardest upon her case.
In the event of these tales ever finding their way across the Border, it
may be proper to apprise the southern reader that it is the practice in
Scotland, on apprehending a suspected person, to subject him to a
judicial examination before a magistrate. He is not compelled to answer
any of the questions asked of him, but may remain silent if he sees it
his interest to do so. But whatever answers he chooses to give are
formally written down, and being subscribed by himself and the
magistrate, are produced against the accused in case of his being brought
to trial. It is true, that these declarations are not produced as being
in themselves evidence properly so called, but only as adminicles of
testimony, tending to corroborate what is considered as legal and proper
evidence. Notwithstanding this nice distinction, however, introduced by
lawyers to reconcile this procedure to their own general rule, that a man
cannot be required to bear witness against himself, it nevertheless
usually happens that these declarations become the means of condemning
the accused, as it were, out of their own mouths. The prisoner, upon
these previous examinations, has indeed the privilege of remaining silent
if he pleases; but every man necessarily feels that a refusal to answer
natural and pertinent interrogatories, put by judicial authority, is in
itself a strong proof of guilt, and will certainly lead to his being
committed to prison; and few can renounce the hope of obtaining liberty
by giving some specious account of themselves, and showing apparent
frankness in explaining their motives and accounting for their conduct.
It, therefore, seldom happens that the prisoner refuses to give a
judicial declaration, in which, nevertheless, either by letting out too
much of the truth, or by endeavouring to substitute a fictitious story,
he almost always exposes himself to suspicion and to contradictions,
which weigh heavily in the minds of the jury.
The declaration of Effie Deans was uttered on other principles, and the
following is a sketch of its contents, given in the judicial form, in
which they may still be found in the Books of Adjournal.
The declarant admitted a criminal intrigue with an individual whose name
she desired to conceal. "Being interrogated, what her reason was for
secrecy on this point? She declared, that she had no right to blame that
person's conduct more than she did her own, and that she was willing to
confess her own faults, but not to say anything which might criminate the
absent. Interrogated, if she confessed her situation to any one, or made
any preparation for her confinement? Declares, she did not. And being
interrogated, why she forbore to take steps which her situation so
peremptorily required? Declares, she was ashamed to tell her friends, and
she trusted the person she has mentioned would provide for her and the
infant. Interrogated if he did so? Declares, that he did not do so
personally; but that it was not his fault, for that the declarant is
convinced he would have laid down his life sooner than the bairn or she
had come to harm. Interrogated, what prevented him from keeping his
promise? Declares, that it was impossible for him to do so, he being
under trouble at the time, and declines farther answer to this question.
Interrogated, where she was from the period she left her master, Mr.
Saddletree's family, until her appearance at her father's, at St.
Leonard's, the day before she was apprehended? Declares, she does not
remember. And, on the interrogatory being repeated, declares, she does
not mind muckle about it, for she was very ill. On the question being
again repeated, she declares, she will tell the truth, if it should be
the undoing of her, so long as she is not asked to tell on other folk;
and admits, that she passed that interval of time in the lodging of a
woman, an acquaintance of that person who had wished her to that place to
be delivered, and that she was there delivered accordingly of a male
child. Interrogated, what was the name of that person? Declares and
refuses to answer this question. Interrogated, where she lives? Declares,
she has no certainty, for that she was taken to the lodging aforesaid
under cloud of night. Interrogated, if the lodging was in the city or
suburbs? Declares and refuses to answer that question. Interrogated,
whether, when she left the house of Mr. Saddletree, she went up or down
the street? Declares and refuses to answer the question. Interrogated,
whether she had ever seen the woman before she was wished to her, as she
termed it, by the person whose name she refuses to answer? Declares and
replies, not to her knowledge. Interrogated, whether this woman was
introduced to her by the said person verbally, or by word of mouth?
Declares, she has no freedom to answer this question. Interrogated, if
the child was alive when it was born? Declares, that--God help her and
it!--it certainly was alive. Interrogated, if it died a natural death
after birth? Declares, not to her knowledge. Interrogated, where it now
is? Declares, she would give her right hand to ken, but that she never
hopes to see mair than the banes of it. And being interrogated, why she
supposes it is now dead? the declarant wept bitterly and made no answer.
Interrogated, if the woman, in whose lodging she was, seemed to be a fit
person to be with her in that situation? Declares, she might be fit
enough for skill, but that she was an hard-hearted bad woman.
Interrogated, if there was any other person in the lodging excepting
themselves two? Declares, that she thinks there was another woman; but
her head was so carried with pain of body and trouble of mind, that she
minded her very little. Interrogated, when the child was taken away from
her? Declared that she fell in a fever, and was light-headed, and when
she came to her own mind, the woman told her the bairn was dead; and that
the declarant answered, if it was dead it had had foul play. That,
thereupon, the woman was very sair on her, and gave her much ill
language; and that the deponent was frightened, and crawled out of the
house when her back was turned, and went home to Saint Leonard's Crags,
as well as a woman in her condition dought.*
* i.e. Was able to do.
Interrogated, why she did not tell her story to her sister and father,
and get force to search the house for her child, dead or alive? Declares,
it was her purpose to do so, but she had not time. Interrogated, why she
now conceals the name of the woman, and the place of her abode? The
declarant remained silent for a time, and then said, that to do so could
not repair the skaith that was done, but might be the occasion of more.
Interrogated, whether she had herself, at any time, had any purpose of
putting away the child by violence? Declares, never; so might God be
merciful to her--and then again declares, never, when she was in her
perfect senses; but what bad thoughts the Enemy might put into her brain
when she was out of herself, she cannot answer. And again solemnly
interrogated, declares, that she would have been drawn with wild horses,
rather than have touched the bairn with an unmotherly hand. Interrogated,
declares, that among the ill-language the woman gave her, she did say
sure enough that the declarant had hurt the bairn when she was in the
brain fever; but that the declarant does not believe that she said this
from any other cause than to frighten her, and make her be silent.
Interrogated, what else the woman said to her? Declares, that when the
declarant cried loud for her bairn, and was like to raise the neighbours,
the woman threatened her, that they that could stop the wean's skirling
would stop hers, if she did not keep a' the founder.*
* i.e. The quieter.
And that this threat, with the manner of the woman, made the declarant
conclude, that the bairn's life was gone, and her own in danger, for that
the woman was a desperate bad woman, as the declarant judged from the
language she used. Interrogated, declares, that the fever and delirium
were brought on her by hearing bad news, suddenly told to her, but
refuses to say what the said news related to. Interrogated, why she does
not now communicate these particulars, which might, perhaps, enable the
magistrate to ascertain whether the child is living or dead; and
requested to observe, that her refusing to do so, exposes her own life,
and leaves the child in bad hands; as also that her present refusal to
answer on such points is inconsistent with her alleged intention to make
a clean breast to her sister? Declares, that she kens the bairn is now
dead, or, if living, there is one that will look after it; that for her
own living or dying, she is in God's hands, who knows her innocence of
harming her bairn with her will or knowledge; and that she has altered
her resolution of speaking out, which she entertained when she left the
woman's lodging, on account of a matter which she has since learned. And
declares, in general, that she is wearied, and will answer no more
questions at this time."
Upon a subsequent examination, Euphemia Deans adhered to the declaration
she had formerly made, with this addition, that a paper found in her
trunk being shown to her, she admitted that it contained the credentials,
in consequence of which she resigned herself to the conduct of the woman
at whose lodgings she was delivered of the child. Its tenor ran thus:--
"Dearest Effie,--I have gotten the means to send to you by a woman who is
well qualified to assist you in your approaching streight; she is not
what I could wish her, but I cannot do better for you in my present
condition. I am obliged to trust to her in this present calamity, for
myself and you too. I hope for the best, though I am now in a sore pinch;
yet thought is free--I think Handie Dandie and I may queer the stifler*
for all that is come and gone.
* Avoid the gallows.
You will be angry for me writing this to my little Cameronian Lily; but
if I can but live to be a comfort to you, and a father to your babie, you
will have plenty of time to scold.--Once more, let none knew your
counsel--my life depends on this hag, d--n her--she is both deep and
dangerous, but she has more wiles and wit than ever were in a beldam's
head, and has cause to be true to me. Farewell, my Lily--Do not droop on
my account--in a week I will be yours or no more my own."
Then followed a postscript. "If they must truss me, I will repent of
nothing so much, even at the last hard pinch, as of the injury I have
done my Lily."
Effie refused to say from whom she had received this letter, but enough
of the story was now known, to ascertain that it came from Robertson; and
from the date, it appeared to have been written about the time when
Andrew Wilson (called for a nickname Handie Dandie) and he were
meditating their first abortive attempt to escape, which miscarried in
the manner mentioned in the beginning of this history.
The evidence of the Crown being concluded, the counsel for the prisoner
began to lead a proof in her defence. The first witnesses were examined
upon the girl's character. All gave her an excellent one, but none with
more feeling than worthy Mrs. Saddletree, who, with the tears on her
cheeks, declared, that she could not have had a higher opinion of Effie
Deans, nor a more sincere regard for her, if she had been her own
daughter. All present gave the honest woman credit for her goodness of
heart, excepting her husband, who whispered to Dumbiedikes, "That Nichil
Novit of yours is but a raw hand at leading evidence, I'm thinking. What
signified his bringing a woman here to snotter and snivel, and bather
their Lordships? He should hae ceeted me, sir, and I should hae gien them
sic a screed o' testimony, they shauldna hae touched a hair o' her head."
"Hadna ye better get up and tryt yet?" said the Laird. "I'll mak a sign
"Na, na," said Saddletree, "thank ye for naething, neighbour--that would
be ultroneous evidence, and I ken what belangs to that; but Nichil Novit
suld hae had me ceeted /debito tempore./" And wiping his mouth with his
silk handkerchief with great importance, he resumed the port and manner
of an edified and intelligent auditor.
Mr. Fairbrother now premised, in a few words, "that he meant to bring
forward his most important witness, upon whose evidence the cause must in
a great measure depend. What his client was, they had learned from the
preceding witnesses; and so far as general character, given in the most
forcible terms, and even with tears, could interest every one in her
fate, she had already gained that advantage. It was necessary, he
admitted, that he should produce more positive testimony of her innocence
than what arose out of general character, and this he undertook to do by
the mouth of the person to whom she had communicated her situation--by
the mouth of her natural counsellor and guardian--her sister.--Macer,
call into court, Jean, or Jeanie Deans, daughter of David Deans,
cowfeeder, at Saint Leonard's Crags!"
When he uttered these words, the poor prisoner instantly started up, and
stretched herself half-way over the bar, towards the side at which her
sister was to enter. And when, slowly following the officer, the witness
advanced to the foot of the table, Effie, with the whole expression of
her countenance altered, from that of confused shame and dismay, to an
eager, imploring, and almost ecstatic earnestness of entreaty, with
outstretched hands, hair streaming back, eyes raised eagerly to her
sister's face, and glistening through tears, exclaimed in a tone which
went through the heart of all who heard her,--"O Jeanie, Jeanie, save me,
With a different feeling, yet equally appropriated to his proud and
self-dependent character, old Deans drew himself back still farther under
the cover of the bench; so that when Jeanie, as she entered the court,
cast a timid glance towards the place at which she had left him seated,
his venerable figure was no longer visible. He sate down on the other
side of Dumbiedikes, wrung his hand hard, and whispered, "Ah, Laird, this
is warst of a'--if I can but win ower this part--I feel my head unco
dizzy; but my Master is strong in his servant's weakness." After a
moment's mental prayer, he again started up, as if impatient of
continuing in any one posture, and gradually edged himself forward
towards the place he had just quitted.
Jeanie in the meantime had advanced to the bottom of the table, when,
unable to resist the impulse of affections she suddenly extended her hand
to her sister. Effie was just within the distance that she could seize it
with both hers, press it to her mouth, cover it with kisses, and bathe it
in tears, with the fond devotion that a Catholic would pay to a guardian
saint descended for his safety; while Jeanie, hiding her own face with
her other hand, wept bitterly. The sight would have moved a heart of
stone, much more of flesh and blood. Many of the spectators shed tears,
and it was some time before the presiding Judge himself could so far
subdue his emotion as to request the witness to compose herself, and the
prisoner to forbear those marks of eager affection, which, however
natural, could not be permitted at that time, and in that presence.
The solemn oath,--"the truth to tell, and no truth to conceal, as far as
she knew or should be asked," was then administered by the Judge "in the
name of God, and as the witness should answer to God at the great day of
judgment;" an awful adjuration, which seldom fails to make impression
even on the most hardened characters, and to strike with fear even the
most upright. Jeanie, educated in deep and devout reverence for the name
and attributes of the Deity, was, by the solemnity of a direct appeal to
hisperson and justice, awed, but at the same time elevated above all
considerations, save those which she could, with a clear conscience, call
Him to witness. She repeated the form in a low and reverent, but distinct
tone of voice, after the Judge, to whom, and not to any inferior officer
of the Court, the task is assigned in Scotland of directing the witness
in that solemn appeal which is the sanction of his testimony.
When the Judge had finished the established form, he added in a feeling,
but yet a monitory tone, an advice, which the circumstances appeared to
him to call for.
"Young woman," these were his words, "you come before this Court in
circumstances, which it would be worse than cruel not to pity and to
sympathise with. Yet it is my duty to tell you, that the truth, whatever
its consequences may be, the truth is what you owe to your country, and
to that God whose word is truth, and whose name you have now invoked. Use
your own time in answering the questions that gentleman" (pointing to the
counsel) "shall put to you.--But remember, that what you may be tempted
to say beyond what is the actual truth, you must answer both here and
The usual questions were then put to her:--Whether any one had instructed
her what evidence she had to deliver? Whether any one had given or
promised her any good deed, hire, or reward, for her testimony? Whether
she had any malice or ill-will at his Majesty's Advocate, being the party
against whom she was cited as a witness? To which questions she
successively answered by a quiet negative. But their tenor gave great
scandal and offence to her father, who was not aware that they are put to
every witness as a matter of form.
"Na, na," he exclaimed, loud enough to be heard, "my bairn is no like the
Widow of Tekoah--nae man has putten words into her mouth."
One of the judges, better acquainted, perhaps, with the Books of
Adjournal than with the Book of Samuel, was disposed to make some instant
inquiry after this Widow of Tekoah, who, as he construed the matter, had
been tampering with the evidence. But the presiding Judge, better versed
in Scripture history, whispered to his learned brother the necessary
explanation; and the pause occasioned by this mistake had the good effect
of giving Jeanie Deans time to collect her spirits for the painful task
she had to perform.
Fairbrother, whose practice and intelligence were considerable, saw the
necessity of letting the witness compose herself. In his heart he
suspected that she came to bear false witness in her sister's cause.
"But that is her own affair," thought Fairbrother; "and it is my business
to see that she has plenty of time to regain composure, and to deliver
her evidence, be it true, or be it false--/valeat quantum./"
Accordingly, he commenced his interrogatories with uninteresting
questions, which admitted of instant reply.
"You are, I think, the sister of the prisoner?"
"Not the full sister, however?"
"No, sir--we are by different mothers."
"True; and you are, I think, several years older than your sister?"
"Yes, sir," etc.
After the advocate had conceived that, by these preliminary and
unimportant questions, he had familiarised the witness with the situation
in which she stood, he asked, "whether she had not remarked her sister's
state of health to be altered, during the latter part of the term when
she had lived with Mrs. Saddletree?"
Jeanie answered in the affirmative.
"And she told you the cause of it, my dear, I suppose?" said Fairbrother,
in an easy, and, as one may say, an inductive sort of tone.
"I am sorry to interrupt my brother," said the Crown Counsel, rising;
"but I am in your Lordships' judgment, whether this be not a leading
"If this point is to be debated," said the presiding Judge, "the witness
must be removed."
For the Scottish lawyers regard with a sacred and scrupulous horror every
question so shaped by the counsel examining, as to convey to a witness
the least intimation of the nature of the answer which is desired from
him. These scruples, though founded on an excellent principle, are
sometimes carried to an absurd pitch of nicety, especially as it is
generally easy for a lawyer who has his wits about him to elude the
objection. Fairbrother did so in the present case.
"It is not necessary to waste the time of the Court, my Lord since the
King's Counsel thinks it worth while to object to the form of my
question, I will shape it otherwise.--Pray, young woman, did you ask your
sister any question when you observed her looking unwell?--take courage--
"I asked her," replied Jeanie, "what ailed her."
"Very well--take your own time--and what was the answer she made?"
continued Mr. Fairbrother.
Jeanie was silent, and looked deadly pale. It was not that she at any one
instant entertained an idea of the possibility of prevarication--it was
the natural hesitation to extinguish the last spark of hope that remained
for her sister.
"Take courage, young woman," said Fairbrother.--"I asked what your sister
said ailed her when you inquired?"
"Nothing," answered Jeanie, with a faint voice, which was yet heard
distinctly in the most distant corner of the Court-room,--such an awful
and profound silence had been preserved during the anxious interval,
which had interposed betwixt the lawyer's question and the answer of the
Fairbrother's countenance fell; but with that ready presence of mind,
which is as useful in civil as in military emergencies, he immediately
rallied.--"Nothing? True; you mean nothing at /first/--but when you asked
her again, did she not tell you what ailed her?"
The question was put in a tone meant to make her comprehend the
importance of her answer, had she not been already aware of it. The ice
was broken, however, and with less pause than at first, she now replied,
--"Alack! alack! she never breathed word to me about it."
A deep groan passed through the Court. It was echoed by one deeper and
more agonised from the unfortunate father. The hope to which
unconsciously, and in spite of himself, he had still secretly clung, had
now dissolved, and the venerable old man fell forward senseless on the
floor of the Court-house, with his head at the foot of his terrified
daughter. The unfortunate prisoner, with impotent passion, strove with
the guards betwixt whom she was placed. "Let me gang to my father!--I
/will/ gang to him--I /will/ gang to him--he is dead--he is killed--I hae
killed him!"--she repeated, in frenzied tones of grief, which those who
heard them did not speedily forget.
Even in this moment of agony and general confusion, Jeanie did not lose
that superiority, which a deep and firm mind assures to its possessor
under the most trying circumstances.
"He is my father--he is our father," she mildly repeated to those who
endeavoured to separate them, as she stooped,--shaded aside his grey
hairs, and began assiduously to chafe his temples.
The Judge, after repeatedly wiping his eyes, gave directions that they
should be conducted into a neighbouring apartment, and carefully
attended. The prisoner, as her father was borne from the Court, and her
sister slowly followed, pursued them with her eyes so earnestly fixed, as
if they would have started from their sockets. But when they were no
longer visible, she seemed to find, in her despairing and deserted state,
a courage which she had not yet exhibited.
"The bitterness of it is now past," she said, and then boldly, addressed
the Court. "My Lords, if it is your pleasure to gang on wi' this matter,
the weariest day will hae its end at last."
The Judge, who, much to his honour, had shared deeply in the general
sympathy, was surprised at being recalled to his duty by the prisoner. He
collected himself, and requested to know if the panel's counsel had more
evidence to produce. Fairbrother replied, with an air of dejection, that
his proof was concluded.
The King's Counsel addressed the jury for the crown. He said in a few
words, that no one could be more concerned than he was for the
distressing scene which they had just witnessed. But it was the necessary
consequence of great crimes to bring distress and ruin upon all connected
with the perpetrators. He briefly reviewed the proof, in which he showed
that all the circumstances of the case concurred with those required by
the act under which the unfortunate prisoner was tried: That the counsel
for the panel had totally failed in proving, that Euphemia Deans had
communicated her situation to her sister: That, respecting her previous
good character, he was sorry to observe, that it was females who
possessed the world's good report, and to whom it was justly valuable,
who were most strongly tempted, by shame and fear of the world's censure,
to the crime of infanticide: That the child was murdered, he professed to
entertain no doubt. The vacillating and inconsistent declaration of the
prisoner herself, marked as it was by numerous refusals to speak the
truth on subjects, when, according to her own story, it would have been
natural, as well as advantageous, to have been candid; even this
imperfect declaration left no doubt in his mind as to the fate of the
unhappy infant. Neither could he doubt that the panel was a partner in
this guilt. Who else had an interest in a deed so inhuman? Surely neither
Robertson, nor Robertson's agent, in whose house she was delivered,
hadthe least temptation to commit such a crime, unless upon her account,
with her connivance, and for the sake of saying her reputation. But it
was not required of him, by the law, that he should bring precise proof
of the murder, or of the prisoner's accession to it. It was the very
purpose of the statute to substitute a certain chain of presumptive
evidence in place of a probation, which, in such cases, it was peculiarly
difficult to obtain. The jury might peruse the statute itself, and they
had also the libel and interlocutor of relevancy to direct them in point
of law. He put it to the conscience of the jury, that under both he was
entitled to a verdict of Guilty.
The charge of Fairbrother was much cramped by his having failed in the
proof which he expected to lead. But he fought his losing cause with
courage and constancy. He ventured to arraign the severity of the statute
under which the young woman was tried. "In all other cases," he said,
"the first thing required of the criminal prosecutor was to prove
unequivocally that the crime libelled had actually been committed, which
lawyers called proving the /corpus delicti./ But this statute, made
doubtless with the best intentions, and under the impulse of a just
horror for the unnatural crime of infanticide, ran the risk of itself
occasioning the worst of murders, the death of an innocent person, to
atone for a supposed crime which may never have been committed by anyone.
He was so far from acknowledging the alleged probability of the child's
violent death, that he could not even allow that there was evidence of
its having ever lived."
The King's Counsel pointed to the woman's declaration; to which the
counsel replied--"A production concocted in a moment of terror and agony,
and which approached to insanity," he said, "his learned brother well
knew was no sound evidence against the party who emitted it. It was true,
that a judicial confession, in presence of the Justices themselves, was
the strongest of all proof, insomuch that it is said in law, that '/in
confitentem nullae sunt partes judicis./' But this was true of judicial
confession only, by which law meant that which is made in presence of the
justices, and the sworn inquest. Of extrajudicial confession, all
authorities held with the illustrious Farinaceus and Matthaeus,
'/confessio extrajudicialis in se nulla est; et quod nullum est, non
potest adminiculari./' It was totally inept, and void of all strength and
effect from the beginning; incapable, therefore, of being bolstered up or
supported, or, according to the law phrase, adminiculated, by other
presumptive circumstances. In the present case, therefore, letting the
extrajudicial confession go, as it ought to go, for nothing," he
contended, "the prosecutor had not made out the second quality of the
statute, that a live child had been born; and /that,/ at least, ought to
be established before presumptions were received that it had been
murdered. If any of the assize," he said, "should be of opinion that this
was dealing rather narrowly with the statute, they ought to consider that
it was in its nature highly penal, and therefore entitled to no
He concluded a learned speech, with an eloquent peroration on the scene
they had just witnessed, during which Saddletree fell fast asleep.
It was now the presiding Judge's turn to address the jury. He did so
briefly and distinctly.
"It was for the jury," he said, "to consider whether the prosecutor had
made out his plea. For himself, he sincerely grieved to say, that a
shadow of doubt remained not upon his mind concerning the verdict which
the inquest had to bring in. He would not follow the prisoner's counsel
through the impeachment which he had brought against the statute of King
William and Queen Mary. He and the jury were sworn to judge according to
the laws as they stood, not to criticise, or evade, or even to justify
them. In no civil case would a counsel have been permitted to plead his
client's case in the teeth of the law; but in the hard situation in which
counsel were often placed in the Criminal Court, as well as out of favour
to all presumptions of innocence, he had not inclined to interrupt the
learned gentleman, or narrow his plea. The present law, as it now stood,
had been instituted by the wisdom of their fathers, to check the alarming
progress of a dreadful crime; when it was found too severe for its
purpose it would doubtless be altered by the wisdom of the Legislature;
at present it was the law of the land, the rule of the Court, and,
according to the oath which they had taken, it must be that of the jury.
This unhappy girl's situation could not be doubted; that she had borne a
child, and that the child had disappeared, were certain facts. The
learned counsel had failed to show that she had communicated her
situation. All the requisites of the case required by the statute were
therefore before the jury. The learned gentleman had, indeed, desired
them to throw out of consideration the panel's own confession, which was
the plea usually urged, in penury of all others, by counsel in his
situation, who usually felt that the declarations of their clients bore
hard on them. But that the Scottish law designed that a certain weight
should be laid on these declarations, which, he admitted, were
/quodammodo/ extrajudicial, was evident from the universal practice by
which they were always produced and read, as part of the prosecutor's
probation. In the present case, no person who had heard the witnesses
describe the appearance of the young woman before she left Saddletree's
house, and contrasted it with that of her state and condition at her
return to her father's, could have any doubt that the fact of delivery
had taken place, as set forth in her own declaration, which was,
therefore, not a solitary piece of testimony, but adminiculated and
supported by the strongest circumstantial proof.
"He did not," he said, "state the impression upon his own mind with the
purpose of biassing theirs. He had felt no less than they had done from
the scene of domestic misery which had been exhibited before them; and if
they, having God and a good conscience, the sanctity of their oath, and
the regard due to the law of the country, before their eyes, could come
to a conclusion favourable to this unhappy prisoner, he should rejoice as
much as anyone in Court; for never had he found his duty more distressing
than in discharging it that day, and glad he would be to be relieved from
the still more painful task which would otherwise remain for him."
The jury, having heard the Judge's address, bowed and retired, preceded
by a macer of Court, to the apartment destined for their deliberation.
Law, take thy victim--May she find the mercy
In yon mild heaven, which this hard world denies her!
It was an hour ere the jurors returned, and as they traversed the crowd
with slow steps, as men about to discharge themselves of a heavy and
painful responsibility, the audience was hushed into profound, earnest,
and awful silence.
"Have you agreed on your chancellor, gentlemen?" was the first question
of the Judge.
The foreman, called in Scotland the chancellor of the jury, usually the
man of best rank and estimation among the assizers, stepped forward, and
with a low reverence, delivered to the Court a sealed paper, containing
the verdict, which, until of late years, that verbal returns are in some
instances permitted, was always couched in writing. The jury remained
standing while the Judge broke the seals, and having perused the paper,
handed it with an air of mournful gravity down to the clerk of Court, who
proceeded to engross in the record the yet unknown verdict, of which,
however, all omened the tragical contents. A form still remained,
trifling and unimportant in itself, but to which imagination adds a sort
of solemnity, from the awful occasion upon which it is used. A lighted
candle was placed on the table, the original paper containing the verdict
was enclosed in a sheet of paper, and, sealed with the Judge's own
signet, was transmitted to the Crown Office, to be preserved among other
records of the same kind. As all this is transacted in profound silence,
the producing and extinguishing the candle seems a type of the human
spark which is shortly afterwards doomed to be quenched, and excites in
the spectators something of the same effect which in England is obtained
by the Judge assuming the fatal cap of judgment. When these preliminary
forms had been gone through, the Judge required Euphemia Deans to attend
to the verdict to be read.
After the usual words of style, the verdict set forth, that the Jury
having made choice of John Kirk, Esq., to be their chancellor, and Thomas
Moore, merchant, to be their clerk, did, by a plurality of voices, find
the said Euphemia Deans Guilty of the crime libelled; but, in
consideration of her extreme youth, and the cruel circumstances of her
case, did earnestly entreat that the Judge would recommend her to the
mercy of the Crown.
"Gentlemen," said the Judge, "you have done your duty--and a painful one
it must have been to men of humanity like you. I will undoubtedly
transmit your recommendation to the throne. But it is my duty to tell all
who now hear me, but especially to inform that unhappy young woman, in
order that her mind may be settled accordingly, that I have not the least
hope of a pardon being granted in the present case. You know the crime
has been increasing in this land, and I know farther, that this has been
ascribed to the lenity in which the laws have been exercised, and that
there is therefore no hope whatever of obtaining a remission for this
offence." The jury bowed again, and, released from their painful office,
dispersed themselves among the mass of bystanders.
The Court then asked Mr. Fairbrother whether he had anything to say, why
judgment should not follow on the verdict? The counsel had spent some
time in persuing and reperusing the verdict, counting the letters in each
juror's name, and weighing every phrase, nay, every syllable, in the
nicest scales of legal criticism. But the clerk of the jury had
understood his business too well. No flaw was to be found, and
Fairbrother mournfully intimated, that he had nothing to say in arrest of
The presiding Judge then addressed the unhappy prisoner:--"Euphemia
Deans, attend to the sentence of the Court now to be pronounced against
She rose from her seat, and with a composure far greater than could have
been augured from her demeanour during some parts of the trial, abode the
conclusion of the awful scene. So nearly does the mental portion of our
feelings resemble those which are corporeal, that the first severe blows
which we receive bring with them a stunning apathy, which renders us
indifferent to those that follow them. Thus said Mandrin, when he was
undergoing the punishment of the wheel; and so have all felt, upon whom
successive inflictions have descended with continuous and reiterated
* [The notorious Mandrin was known as the Captain-General of French &
smugglers. See a Tract on his exploits, printed 1753.]
"Young woman," said the Judge, "it is my painful duty to tell you, that
your life is forfeited under a law, which, if it may seem in some degree
severe, is yet wisely so, to render those of your unhappy situation aware
what risk they run, by concealing, out of pride or false shame, their
lapse from virtue, and making no preparation to save the lives of the
unfortunate infants whom they are to bring into the world. When you
concealed your situation from your mistress, your sister, and other
worthy and compassionate persons of your own sex, in whose favour your
former conduct had given you a fair place, you seem to me to have had in
your contemplation, at least, the death of the helpless creature, for
whose life you neglected to provide. How the child was disposed of--
whether it was dealt upon by another, or by yourself--whether the
extraordinary story you have told is partly false, or altogether so, is
between God and your own conscience. I will not aggravate your distress
by pressing on that topic, but I do most solemnly adjure you to employ
the remaining space of your time in making your peace with God, for which
purpose such reverend clergymen, as you yourself may name, shall have
access to you. Notwithstanding the humane recommendation of the jury, I
cannot afford to you, in the present circumstances of the country, the
slightest hope that your life will be prolonged beyond the period
assigned for the execution of your sentence. Forsaking, therefore, the
thoughts of this world, let your mind be prepared by repentance for those
of more awful moments--for death, judgment, and eternity.--Doomster, read
* Note N. Doomster, or Dempster, of Court.
When the Doomster showed himself, a tall haggard figure, arrayed in a
fantastic garment of black and grey, passmented with silver lace, all
fell back with a sort of instinctive horror, and made wide way for him to
approach the foot of the table. As this office was held by the common
executioner, men shouldered each other backward to avoid even the touch
of his garment, and some were seen to brush their own clothes, which had
accidentally become subject to such contamination. A sound went through
the Court, produced by each person drawing in their breath hard, as men
do when they expect or witness what is frightful, and at the same time
affecting. The caitiff villain yet seemed, amid his hardened brutality,
to have some sense of his being the object of public detestation, which
made him impatient of being in public, as birds of evil omen are anxious
to escape from daylight, and from pure air.
Repeating after the Clerk of Court, he gabbled over the words of the
sentence, which condemned Euphemia Deans to be conducted back to the
Tolbooth of Edinburgh, and detained there until Wednesday the day of ---;
and upon that day, betwixt the hours of two and four o'clock afternoon,
to be conveyed to the common place of execution, and there hanged by the
neck upon a gibbet. "And this," said the Doomster, aggravating his harsh
voice, "I pronounce for /doom./"
He vanished when he had spoken the last emphatic word, like a foul fiend
after the purpose of his visitation had been accomplished; but the
impression of horror excited by his presence and his errand, remained
upon the crowd of spectators.
The unfortunate criminal,--for so she must now be termed,--with more
susceptibility, and more irritable feelings than her father and sister,
was found, in this emergence, to possess a considerable share of their
courage. She had remained standing motionless at the bar while the
sentence was pronounced, and was observed to shut her eyes when the
Doomster appeared. But she was the first to break silence when that evil
form had left his place.
"God forgive ye, my Lords," she said, "and dinna be angry wi' me for
wishing it--we a' need forgiveness.--As for myself, I canna blame ye, for
ye act up to your lights; and if I havena killed my poor infant, ye may
witness a' that hae seen it this day, that I hae been the means of
killing my greyheaded father--I deserve the warst frae man, and frae God
too--But God is mair mercifu' to us than we are to each other."
With these words the trial concluded. The crowd rushed, bearing forward
and shouldering each other, out of the Court, in the same tumultuary mode
in which they had entered; and, in excitation of animal motion and animal
spirits, soon forgot whatever they had felt as impressive in the scene
which they had witnessed. The professional spectators, whom habit and
theory had rendered as callous to the distress of the scene as medical
men are to those of a surgical operation, walked homeward in groups,
discussing the general principle of the statute under which the young
woman was condemned, the nature of the evidence, and the arguments of the
counsel, without considering even that of the Judge as exempt from their
The female spectators, more compassionate, were loud in exclamation
against that part of the Judge's speech which seemed to cut off the hope
"Set him up, indeed," said Mrs. Howden, "to tell us that the poor lassie
behoved to die, when Mr. John Kirk, as civil a gentleman as is within the
ports of the town, took the pains to prigg for her himsell."
"Ay, but, neighbour," said Miss Damahoy, drawing up her thin maidenly
form to its full height of prim dignity--"I really think this unnatural
business of having bastard-bairns should be putten a stop to.--There isna
a hussy now on this side of thirty that you can bring within your doors,
but there will be chields--writer-lads, prentice-lads, and what not--
coming traiking after them for their destruction, and discrediting ane's
honest house into the bargain--I hae nae patience wi' them."
"Hout, neighbour," said Mrs. Howden, "we suld live and let live--we hae
been young oursells, and we are no aye to judge the warst when lads and
"Young oursells! and judge the warst!" said Miss Damahoy. "I am no sae
auld as that comes to, Mrs. Howden; and as for what ye ca' the warst, I
ken neither good nor bad about the matter, I thank my stars!"
"Ye are thankfu' for sma' mercies, then," said Mrs. Howden with a toss of
her head; "and as for you and young--I trow ye were doing for yoursell at
the last riding of the Scots Parliament, and that was in the gracious
year seven, sae ye can be nae sic chicken at ony rate."
Plumdamas, who acted as squire of the body to the two contending dames,
instantly saw the hazard of entering into such delicate points of
chronology, and being a lover of peace and good neighbourhood, lost no
time in bringing back the conversation to its original subject.
"The Judge didna tell us a' he could hae tell'd us, if he had liked,
about the application for pardon, neighbours," said he "there is aye a
wimple in a lawyer's clew; but it's a wee bit of a secret."
"And what is't--what is't, neighbour Plumdamas?" said Mrs. Howden and
Miss Damahoy at once, the acid fermentation of their dispute being at
once neutralised by the powerful alkali implied in the word secret.
"Here's Mr. Saddletree can tell ye that better than me, for it was him
that tauld me," said Plumdamas as Saddletree came up, with his wife
hanging on his arm, and looking very disconsolate.
When the question was put to Saddletree, he looked very scornful. "They
speak about stopping the frequency of child-murder," said he, in a
contemptuous tone; "do ye think our auld enemies of England, as Glendook
aye ca's them in his printed Statute-book, care a boddle whether we didna
kill ane anither, skin and birn, horse and foot, man, woman, and bairns,
all and sindry, /omnes et singulos,/ as Mr. Crossmyloof says? Na, na,
it's no /that/ hinders them frae pardoning the bit lassie. But here is
the pinch of the plea. The king and queen are sae ill pleased wi' that
mistak about Porteous, that deil a kindly Scot will they pardon again,
either by reprieve or remission, if the haill town o' Edinburgh should be
a' hanged on ae tow."
"Deil that they were back at their German kale-yard then, as my neighbour
MacCroskie ca's it," said Mrs. Howden, "an that's the way they're gaun to
"They say for certain," said Miss Damahoy, "that King George flang his
periwig in the fire when he heard o' the Porteous mob."
"He has done that, they say," replied Saddletree, "for less thing."
"Aweel," said Miss Damahoy, "he might keep mair wit in his anger--but
it's a' the better for his wigmaker, I'se warrant."
"The queen tore her biggonets for perfect anger,--ye'll hae heard o' that
too?" said Plumdamas. "And the king, they say, kickit Sir Robert Walpole
for no keeping down the mob of Edinburgh; but I dinna believe he wad
behave sae ungenteel."
"It's dooms truth, though," said Saddletree; "and he was for kickin' the
Duke of Argyle* too."
* Note O. John Duke of Argyle and Greenwich.
"Kickin' the Duke of Argyle!" exclaimed the hearers at once, in all the
various combined keys of utter astonishment.
"Ay, but MacCallummore's blood wadna sit down wi' that; there was risk of
Andro Ferrara coming in thirdsman."
"The duke is a real Scotsman--a true friend to the country," answered
"Ay, troth is he, to king and country baith, as ye sall hear," continued
the orator, "if ye will come in bye to our house, for it's safest
speaking of sic things /inter parietes./"
When they entered his shop, he thrust his prentice boy out of it, and,
unlocking his desk, took out, with an air of grave and complacent
importance, a dirty and crumpled piece of printed paper; he observed,
"This is new corn--it's no every body could show you the like o' this.
It's the duke's speech about the Porteous mob, just promulgated by the
hawkers. Ye shall hear what Ian Roy Cean* says for himsell.
* Red John the warrior, a name personal and proper in the Highlands to
John Duke of Argyle and Greenwich, as MacCummin was that of his race or
My correspondent bought it in the Palace-yard, that's like just under the
king's nose--I think he claws up their mittans!--It came in a letter
about a foolish bill of exchange that the man wanted me to renew for him.
I wish ye wad see about it, Mrs. Saddletree."
Honest Mrs. Saddletree had hitherto been so sincerely distressed about
the situation of her unfortunate prote'ge'e, that she had suffered her
husband to proceed in his own way, without attending to what he was
saying. The words bills and renew had, however, an awakening sound in
them; and she snatched the letter which her husband held towards her, and
wiping her eyes, and putting on her spectacles, endeavoured, as fast as
the dew which collected on her glasses would permit, to get at the
meaning of the needful part of the epistle; while her husband, with
pompous elevation, read an extract from the speech.
"I am no minister, I never was a minister, and I never will be one"
"I didna ken his Grace was ever designed for the ministry," interrupted
"He disna mean a minister of the gospel, Mrs. Howden, but a minister of
state," said Saddletree, with condescending goodness, and then proceeded:
"The time was when I might have been a piece of a minister, but I was too
sensible of my own incapacity to engage in any state affair. And I thank
God that I had always too great a value for those few abilities which
Nature has given me, to employ them in doing any drudgery, or any job of
what kind soever. I have, ever since I set out in the world (and I
believe few have set out more early), served my prince with my tongue; I
have served him with any little interest I had, and I have served him
with my sword, and in my profession of arms. I have held employments
which I have lost, and were I to be to-morrow deprived of those which
still remain to me, and which I have endeavoured honestly to deserve, I
would still serve him to the last acre of my inheritance, and to the last
drop of my blood"
Mrs. Saddletree here broke in upon the orator:--"Mr. Saddletree, what
/is/ the meaning of a' this? Here are ye clavering about the Duke of
Argyle, and this man Martingale gaun to break on our hands, and lose us
gude sixty pounds--I wonder what duke will pay that, quotha--I wish the
Duke of Argyle would pay his ain accounts--He is in a thousand punds
Scots on thae very books when he was last at Roystoun--I'm no saying but
he's a just nobleman, and that it's gude siller--but it wad drive ane
daft to be confused wi' deukes and drakes, and thae distressed folk
up-stairs, that's Jeanie Deans and her father. And then, putting the very
callant that was sewing the curpel out o' the shop, to play wi'
blackguards in the close--Sit still, neighbours, it's no that I mean to
disturb /you;/ but what between courts o' law and courts o' state, and
upper and under parliaments, and parliament houses, here and in London,
the gudeman's gane clean gyte, I think."
The gossips understood civility, and the rule of doing as they would be
done by, too well, to tarry upon the slight invitation implied in the
conclusion of this speech, and therefore made their farewells and
departure as fast as possible, Saddletree whispering to Plundamas that he
would "meet him at MacCroskie's" (the low-browed shop in the
Luckenbooths, already mentioned), "in the hour of cause, and put
MacCallummore's speech in his pocket, for a' the gudewife's din."
When Mrs. Saddletree saw the house freed of her importunate visitors, and
the little boy reclaimed from the pastimes of the wynd to the exercise of
the awl, she went to visit her unhappy relative, David Deans, and his
elder daughter, who had found in her house the nearest place of friendly
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