The Heart of Mid-Lothian, Volume 2.
Sir Walter Scott
Part 2 out of 7
just before she met the robbers; a circumstance which greatly increased
her terror, as it served to show that the mischief designed against her
was premeditated, though by whom, or for what cause, she was totally at a
loss to conjecture. From the style of her conversation, the reader also
may probably acknowledge in this female an old acquaintance in the
earlier part of our narrative.
"Out, ye mad devil!" said Tom, whom she had disturbed in the middle of a
draught of some liquor with which he had found means of accommodating
himself; "betwixt your Bess of Bedlam pranks, and your dam's frenzies, a
man might live quieter in the devil's ken than here."--And he again
resumed the broken jug out of which he had been drinking.
"And wha's this o't?" said the mad woman, dancing up to Jeanie Deans,
who, although in great terror, yet watched the scene with a resolution to
let nothing pass unnoticed which might be serviceable in assisting her to
escape, or informing her as to the true nature of her situation, and the
danger attending it,--"Wha's this o't?" again exclaimed Madge Wildfire.
"Douce Davie Deans, the auld doited whig body's daughter, in a gipsy's
barn, and the night setting in? This is a sight for sair een!--Eh, sirs,
the falling off o' the godly!--and the t'other sister's in the Tolbooth
of Edinburgh; I am very sorry for her, for my share--it's my mother
wusses ill to her, and no me--though maybe I hae as muckle cause."
"Hark ye, Madge," said the taller ruffian, "you have not such a touch of
the devil's blood as the hag your mother, who may be his dam for what I
know--take this young woman to your kennel, and do not let the devil
enter, though he should ask in God's name."
"Ou ay; that I will, Frank," said Madge, taking hold of Jeanie by the
arm, and pulling her along; "for it's no for decent Christian young
leddies, like her and me, to be keeping the like o' you and Tyburn Tam
company at this time o' night. Sae gude-e'en t'ye, sirs, and mony o'
them; and may ye a' sleep till the hangman wauken ye, and then it will be
weel for the country."
She then, as her wild fancy seemed suddenly to prompt her, walked
demurely towards her mother, who, seated by the charcoal fire, with the
reflection of the red light on her withered and distorted features marked
by every evil passion, seemed the very picture of Hecate at her infernal
rites; and, suddenly dropping on her knees, said, with the manner of a
six years' old child, "Mammie, hear me say my prayers before I go to bed,
and say God bless my bonny face, as ye used to do lang syne."
"The deil flay the hide o' it to sole his brogues wi'!" said the old
lady, aiming a buffet at the supplicant, in answer to her duteous
The blow missed Madge, who, being probably acquainted by experience with
the mode in which her mother was wont to confer her maternal
benedictions, slipt out of arm's length with great dexterity and
quickness. The hag then started up, and, seizing a pair of old
fire-tongs, would have amended her motion, by beating out the brains
either of her daughter or Jeanie (she did not seem greatly to care
which), when her hand was once more arrested by the man whom they called
Frank Levitt, who, seizing her by the shoulder, flung her from him with
great violence, exclaiming, "What, Mother Damnable--again, and in my
sovereign presence!--Hark ye, Madge of Bedlam! get to your hole with your
playfellow, or we shall have the devil to pay here, and nothing to pay
Madge took Levitt's advice, retreating as fast as she could, and dragging
Jeanie along with her into a sort of recess, partitioned off from the
rest of the barn, and filled with straw, from which it appeared that it
was intended for the purpose of slumber. The moonlight shone, through an
open hole, upon a pillion, a pack-saddle, and one or two wallets, the
travelling furniture of Madge and her amiable mother.--"Now, saw ye e'er
in your life," said Madge, "sae dainty a chamber of deas? see as the moon
shines down sae caller on the fresh strae! There's no a pleasanter cell
in Bedlam, for as braw a place as it is on the outside.--Were ye ever in
"No," answered Jeanie faintly, appalled by the question, and the way in
which it was put, yet willing to soothe her insane companion, being in
circumstances so unhappily precarious, that even the society of this
gibbering madwoman seemed a species of protection.
"Never in Bedlam?" said Madge, as if with some surprise.--"But ye'll hae
been in the cells at Edinburgh!"
"Never," repeated Jeanie.
"Weel, I think thae daft carles the magistrates send naebody to Bedlam
but me--thae maun hae an unco respect for me, for whenever I am brought
to them, thae aye hae me back to Bedlam. But troth, Jeanie" (she said
this in a very confidential tone), "to tell ye my private mind about it,
I think ye are at nae great loss; for the keeper's a cross-patch, and he
maun hae it a' his ain gate, to be sure, or he makes the place waur than
hell. I often tell him he's the daftest in a' the house.--But what are
they making sic a skirling for?--Deil ane o' them's get in here--it wadna
be mensfu'! I will sit wi' my back again the door; it winna be that easy
"Madge!"--"Madge!"--"Madge Wildfire!"--"Madge devil! what have ye done
with the horse?" was repeatedly asked by the men without.
"He's e'en at his supper, puir thing," answered Madge; "deil an ye were
at yours, too, an it were scauding brimstone, and then we wad hae less o'
"His supper!" answered the more sulky ruffian--"What d'ye mean by that!--
Tell me where he is, or I will knock your Bedlam brains out!"
"He's in Gaffer Gablewood's wheat-close, an ye maun ken."
"His wheat-close, you crazed jilt!" answered the other, with an accent of
"O, dear Tyburn Tam, man, what ill will the blades of the young wheat do
to the puir nag?"
"That is not the question," said the other robber; "but what the country
will say to us to-morrow, when they see him in such quarters?--Go, Tom,
and bring him in; and avoid the soft ground, my lad; leave no hoof-track
"I think you give me always the fag of it, whatever is to be done,"
grumbled his companion.
"Leap, Laurence, you're long enough," said the other; and the fellow left
the barn accordingly, without farther remonstrance.
In the meanwhile, Madge had arranged herself for repose on the straw; but
still in a half-sitting posture, with her back resting against the door
of the hovel, which, as it opened inwards, was in this manner kept shut
by the weight of the person.
"There's mair shifts by stealing, Jeanie," said Madge Wildfire; "though
whiles I can hardly get our mother to think sae. Wha wad hae thought but
mysell of making a bolt of my ain back-bane? But it's no sae strong as
thae that I hae seen in the Tolbooth at Edinburgh. The hammermen of
Edinburgh are to my mind afore the warld for making stancheons,
ring-bolts, fetter-bolts, bars, and locks. And they arena that bad at
girdles for carcakes neither, though the Cu'ross hammermen have the gree
for that. My mother had ance a bonny Cu'ross girdle, and I thought to
have baked carcakes on it for my puir wean that's dead and gane nae fair
way--But we maun a' dee, ye ken, Jeanie--You Cameronian bodies ken that
brawlies; and ye're for making a hell upon earth that ye may be less
unwillin' to part wi' it. But as touching Bedlam that ye were speaking
about, I'se ne'er recommend it muckle the tae gate or the other, be it
right--be it wrang. But ye ken what the sang says." And, pursuing the
unconnected and floating wanderings of her mind, she sung aloud--
"In the bonny cells of Bedlam,
Ere I was ane-and-twenty,
I had hempen bracelets strong,
And merry whips, ding-dong,
And prayer and fasting plenty.
"Weel, Jeanie, I am something herse the night, and I canna sing muckle
mair; and troth, I think, I am gaun to sleep."
She drooped her head on her breast, a posture from which Jeanie, who
would have given the world for an opportunity of quiet to consider the
means and the probability of her escape, was very careful not to disturb
her. After nodding, however, for a minute'or two, with her eyes
half-closed, the unquiet and restless spirit of her malady again assailed
Madge. She raised her head, and spoke, but with a lowered tone, which was
again gradually overcome by drowsiness, to which the fatigue of a day's
journey on horseback had probably given unwonted occasion,--"I dinna ken
what makes me sae sleepy--I amaist never sleep till my bonny Lady Moon
gangs till her bed--mair by token, when she's at the full, ye ken, rowing
aboon us yonder in her grand silver coach--I have danced to her my lane
sometimes for very joy--and whiles dead folk came and danced wi' me--the
like o' Jock Porteous, or ony body I had ken'd when I was living--for ye
maun ken I was ance dead mysell." Here the poor maniac sung, in a low and
"My banes are buried in yon kirkyard
Sae far ayont the sea,
And it is but my blithesome ghaist
That's speaking now to thee.
"But after a', Jeanie, my woman, naebody kens weel wha's living and wha's
dead--or wha's gone to Fairyland--there's another question. Whiles I
think my puir bairn's dead--ye ken very weel it's buried--but that
signifies naething. I have had it on my knee a hundred times, and a
hundred till that, since it was buried--and how could that be were it
dead, ye ken?--it's merely impossible."--And here, some conviction
half-overcoming the reveries of her imagination, she burst into a fit of
crying and ejaculation, "Wae's me! wae's me! wae's me!" till at length
she moaned and sobbed herself into a deep sleep, which was soon intimated
by her breathing hard, leaving Jeanie to her own melancholy reflections
Bind her quickly; or, by this steel,
I'll tell, although I truss for company.
The imperfect light which shone into the window enabled Jeanie to see
that there was scarcely any chance of making her escape in that
direction; for the aperture was high in the wall, and so narrow, that,
could she have climbed up to it, she might well doubt whether it would
have permitted her to pass her body through it. An unsuccessful attempt
to escape would be sure to draw down worse treatment than she now
received, and she, therefore, resolved to watch her opportunity carefully
ere making such a perilous effort. For this purpose she applied herself
to the ruinous clay partition, which divided the hovel in which she now
was from the rest of the waste barn. It was decayed and full of cracks
and chinks, one of which she enlarged with her fingers, cautiously and
without noise, until she could obtain a plain view of the old hag and the
taller ruffian, whom they called Levitt, seated together beside the
decayed fire of charcoal, and apparently engaged in close conference. She
was at first terrified by the sight; for the features of the old woman
had a hideous cast of hardened and inveterate malice and ill-humour, and
those of the man, though naturally less unfavourable, were such as
corresponded well with licentious habits, and a lawless profession.
"But I remembered," said Jeanie, "my worthy fathers tales of a winter
evening, how he was confined with the blessed martyr, Mr. James Renwick,
who lifted up the fallen standard of the true reformed Kirk of Scotland,
after the worthy and renowned Daniel Cameron, our last blessed
banner-man, had fallen among the swords of the wicked at Airsmoss, and
how the very hearts of the wicked malefactors and murderers, whom they
were confined withal, were melted like wax at the sound of their
doctrine: and I bethought mysell, that the same help that was wi' them in
their strait, wad be wi' me in mine, an I could but watch the Lord's time
and opportunity for delivering my feet from their snare; and I minded the
Scripture of the blessed Psalmist, whilk he insisteth on, as weel in the
forty-second as in the forty-third psalm--'Why art thou cast down, O my
soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet
praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.'"
Strengthened in a mind naturally calm, sedate, and firm, by the influence
of religious confidence, this poor captive was enabled to attend to, and
comprehend, a great part of an interesting conversation which passed
betwixt those into whose hands she had fallen, notwithstanding that their
meaning was partly disguised by the occasional use of cant terms, of
which Jeanie knew not the import, by the low tone in which they spoke,
and by their mode of supplying their broken phrases by shrugs and signs,
as is usual amongst those of their disorderly profession.
The man opened the conversation by saying, "Now, dame, you see I am true
to my friend. I have not forgot that you /planked a chury,/* which helped
me through the bars of the Castle of York, and I came to do your work
without asking questions; for one good turn deserves another.
* Concealed a knife.
But now that Madge, who is as loud as Tom of Lincoln, is somewhat still,
and this same Tyburn Neddie is shaking his heels after the old nag, why,
you must tell me what all this is about, and what's to be done--for d--n
me if I touch the girl, or let her be touched, and she with Jim Rat's
"Thou art an honest lad, Frank," answered the old woman, "but e'en too
good for thy trade; thy tender heart will get thee into trouble. I will
see ye gang up Holborn Hill backward, and a' on the word of some silly
loon that could never hae rapped to ye had ye drawn your knife across his
"You may be balked there, old one," answered the robber; "I have known
many a pretty lad cut short in his first summer upon the road, because he
was something hasty with his flats and sharps. Besides, a man would fain
live out his two years with a good conscience. So, tell me what all this
is about, and what's to be done for you that one can do decently?"
"Why, you must know, Frank--but first taste a snap of right Hollands."
She drew a flask from her pocket, and filled the fellow a large bumper,
which he pronounced to be the right thing.--"You must know, then, Frank--
wunna ye mend your hand?" again offering the flask.
"No, no,--when a woman wants mischief from you, she always begins by
filling you drunk. D--n all Dutch courage. What I do I will do soberly--
I'll last the longer for that too."
"Well, then, you must know," resumed the old woman, without any further
attempts at propitiation, "that this girl is going to London."
Here Jeanie could only distinguish the word sister.
The robber answered in a louder tone, "Fair enough that; and what the
devil is your business with it?"
"Business enough, I think. If the b--queers the noose, that silly cull
will marry her."
"And who cares if he does?" said the man.
"Who cares, ye donnard Neddie! I care; and I will strangle her with my
own hands, rather than she should come to Madge's preferment."
"Madge's preferment! Does your old blind eyes see no farther than that?
If he is as you say, dye think he'll ever marry a moon-calf like Madge?
Ecod, that's a good one--Marry Madge Wildfire!--Ha! ha! ha!"
"Hark ye, ye crack-rope padder, born beggar, and bred thief!" replied the
hag, "suppose he never marries the wench, is that a reason he should
marry another, and that other to hold my daughter's place, and she
crazed, and I a beggar, and all along of him? But I know that of him will
hang him--I know that of him will hang him, if he had a thousand lives--I
know that of him will hang--hang--hang him!"
She grinned as she repeated and dwelt upon the fatal monosyllable, with
the emphasis of a vindictive fiend.
"Then why don't you hang--hang--hang him?" said Frank, repeating her
words contemptuously. "There would be more sense in that, than in
wreaking yourself here upon two wenches that have done you and your
daughter no ill."
"No ill?" answered the old woman--"and he to marry this jail-bird, if
ever she gets her foot loose!"
"But as there is no chance of his marrying a bird of your brood, I
cannot, for my soul, see what you have to do with all this," again
replied the robber, shrugging his shoulders. "Where there is aught to be
got, I'll go as far as my neighbours, but I hate mischief for mischiefs
"And would you go nae length for revenge?" said the hag--"for revenge--
the sweetest morsel to the mouth that over was cooked in hell!"
"The devil may keep it for his own eating, then," said the robber; "for
hang me if I like the sauce he dresses it with."
"Revenge!" continued the old woman; "why, it is the best reward the devil
gives us for our time here and hereafter. I have wrought hard for it--I
have suffered for it--and I have sinned for it--and I will have it,--or
there is neither justice in heaven or in hell!"
Levitt had by this time lighted a pipe, and was listening with great
composure to the frantic and vindictive ravings of the old hag. He was
too much, hardened by his course of life to be shocked with them--too
indifferent, and probably too stupid, to catch any part of their
animation or energy. "But, mother," he said, after a pause, "still I say,
that if revenge is your wish, you should take it on the young fellow
"I wish I could," she said, drawing in her breath, with the eagerness of
a thirsty person while mimicking the action of drinking--"I wish I could
--but no--I cannot--I cannot."
"And why not?--You would think little of peaching and hanging him for
this Scotch affair.--Rat me, one might have milled the Bank of England,
and less noise about it."
"I have nursed him at this withered breast," answered the old woman,
folding her hands on her bosom, as if pressing an infant to it, "and,
though he has proved an adder to me--though he has been the destruction
of me and mine--though he has made me company for the devil, if there be
a devil, and food for hell, if there be such a place, yet I cannot take
his life.--No, I cannot," she continued, with an appearance of rage
against herself; "I have thought of it--I have tried it--but, Francis
Levitt, I canna gang through wi't--Na, na--he was the first bairn I ever
nurst--ill I had been--and man can never ken what woman feels for the
bairn she has held first to her bosom!"
"To be sure," said Levitt, "we have no experience; but, mother, they say
you ha'n't been so kind to other bairns, as you call them, that have come
in your way.--Nay, d--n me, never lay your hand on the whittle, for I am
captain and leader here, and I will have no rebellion."
The hag, whose first motion had been, upon hearing the question, to grasp
the haft of a large knife, now unclosed her hand, stole it away from the
weapon, and suffered it to fall by her side, while she proceeded with a
sort of smile--"Bairns! ye are joking, lad--wha wad touch bairns? Madge,
puir thing, had a misfortune wi' ane--and the t'other"--Here her voice
sunk so much, that Jeanie, though anxiously upon the watch, could not
catch a word she said, until she raised her tone at the conclusion of the
sentence--"So Madge, in her daffin', threw it into the Nor'-lock, I
Madge, whose slumbers, like those of most who labour under mental malady,
had been short, and were easily broken, now made herself heard from her
place of repose.
"Indeed, mother, that's a great lie, for I did nae sic thing."
"Hush, thou hellicat devil," said her mother--"By Heaven! the other wench
will be waking too."
"That may be dangerous," said Frank; and he rose, and followed Meg
Murdockson across the floor.
"Rise," said the hag to her daughter, "or I sall drive the knife between
the planks into the Bedlam back of thee!"
Apparently she at the same time seconded her threat by pricking her with
the point of a knife, for Madge, with a faint scream, changed her place,
and the door opened.
The old woman held a candle in one hand, and a knife in the other. Levitt
appeared behind her, whether with a view of preventing, or assisting her
in any violence she might meditate, could not be well guessed. Jeanie's
presence of mind stood her friend in this dreadful crisis. She had
resolution enough to maintain the attitude and manner of one who sleeps
profoundly, and to regulate even her breathing, notwithstanding the
agitation of instant terror, so as to correspond with her attitude.
The old woman passed the light across her eyes; and although Jeanie's
fears were so powerfully awakened by this movement, that she often
declared afterwards, that she thought she saw the figures of her destined
murderers through her closed eyelids, she had still the resolution to
maintain the feint, on which her safety perhaps depended.
Levitt looked at her with fixed attention; he then turned the old woman
out of the place, and followed her himself. Having regained the outward
apartment, and seated themselves, Jeanie heard the highwayman say, to her
no small relief, "She's as fast as if she were in Bedfordshire.--Now, old
Meg, d--n me if I can understand a glim of this story of yours, or what
good it will do you to hang the one wench and torment the other; but, rat
me, I will be true to my friend, and serve ye the way ye like it. I see
it will be a bad job; but I do think I could get her down to Surfleet on
the Wash, and so on board Tom Moonshine's neat lugger, and keep her out
of the way three or four weeks, if that will please ye--But d--n me if
any one shall harm her, unless they have a mind to choke on a brace of
blue plums.--It's a cruel, bad job, and I wish you and it, Meg, were both
at the devil."
"Never mind, hinny Levitt," said the old woman; "you are a ruffler, and
will have a' your ain gate--She shanna gang to heaven an hour sooner for
me; I carena whether she live or die--it's her sister--ay, her sister!"
"Well, we'll say no more about it; I hear Tom coming in. We'll couch a
hogshead,* and so better had you."
* Lay ourselves down to sleep.
They retired to repose accordingly, and all was silent in this asylum of
Jeanie lay for a long time awake. At break of day she heard the two
ruffians leave the barn, after whispering to the old woman for some time.
The sense that she was now guarded by persons of her own sex gave her
some confidence, and irresistible lassitude at length threw her into
When the captive awakened, the sun was high in heaven, and the morning
considerably advanced. Madge Wildfire was still in the hovel which had
served them for the night, and immediately bid her good-morning, with her
usual air of insane glee. "And dye ken, lass," said Madge, "there's queer
things chanced since ye hae been in the land of Nod. The constables hae
been here, woman, and they met wi' my minnie at the door, and they
whirl'd her awa to the Justice's about the man's wheat.--Dear! thae
English churls think as muckle about a blade of wheat or grass, as a
Scotch laird does about his maukins and his muir-poots. Now, lass, if ye
like, we'll play them a fine jink; we will awa out and take a walk--they
will mak unco wark when they miss us, but we can easily be back by dinner
time, or before dark night at ony rate, and it will be some frolic and
fresh air.--But maybe ye wad like to take some breakfast, and then lie
down again? I ken by mysell, there's whiles I can sit wi' my head in my
hand the haill day, and havena a word to cast at a dog--and other whiles,
that I canna sit still a moment. That's when the folk think me warst, but
I am aye canny eneugh--ye needna be feared to walk wi' me."
Had Madge Wildfire been the most raging lunatic, instead of possessing a
doubtful, uncertain, and twilight sort of rationality, varying, probably,
from the influence of the most trivial causes, Jeanie would hardly have
objected to leave a place of captivity, where she had so much to
apprehend. She eagerly assured Madge that she had no occasion for further
sleep, no desire whatever for eating; and, hoping internally that she was
not guilty of sin in doing so, she flattered her keeper's crazy humour
for walking in the woods.
"It's no a'thegither for that neither," said poor Madge; "but I am
judging ye will wun the better out o' thae folk's hands; no that they are
a'thegither bad folk neither, but they have queer ways wi' them, and I
whiles dinna think it has ever been weel wi' my mother and me since we
kept sic-like company."
With the haste, the joy, the fear, and the hope of a liberated captive,
Jeanie snatched up her little bundle, followed Madge into the free air,
and eagerly looked round her for a human habitation; but none was to be
seen. The ground was partly cultivated, and partly left in its natural
state, according as the fancy of the slovenly agriculturists had decided.
In its natural state it was waste, in some places covered with dwarf
trees and bushes, in others swamp, and elsewhere firm and dry downs or
Jeanie's active mind next led her to conjecture which way the high-road
lay, whence she had been forced. If she regained that public road, she
imagined she must soon meet some person, or arrive at some house, where
she might tell her story, and request protection. But, after a glance
around her, she saw with regret that she had no means whatever of
directing her course with any degree of certainty, and that she was still
in dependence upon her crazy companion. "Shall we not walk upon the
high-road?" said she to Madge, in such a tone as a nurse uses to coax a
child. "It's brawer walking on the road than amang thae wild bushes and
Madge, who was walking very fast, stopped at this question, and looked at
Jeanie with a sudden and scrutinising glance, that seemed to indicate
complete acquaintance with her purpose. "Aha, lass!" she exclaimed, "are
ye gaun to guide us that gate?--Ye'll be for making your heels save your
head, I am judging."
Jeanie hesitated for a moment, on hearing her companion thus express
herself, whether she had not better take the hint, and try to outstrip
and get rid of her. But she knew not in which direction to fly; she was
by no means sure that she would prove the swiftest, and perfectly
conscious that in the event of her being pursued and overtaken, she would
be inferior to the madwoman in strength. She therefore gave up thoughts
for the present of attempting to escape in that manner, and, saying a few
words to allay Madge's suspicions, she followed in anxious apprehension
the wayward path by which her guide thought proper to lead her. Madge,
infirm of purpose, and easily reconciled to the present scene, whatever
it was, began soon to talk with her usual diffuseness of ideas.
"It's a dainty thing to be in the woods on a fine morning like this! I
like it far better than the town, for there isna a wheen duddie bairns to
be crying after ane, as if ane were a warld's wonder, just because ane
maybe is a thought bonnier and better put-on than their neighbours--
though, Jeanie, ye suld never be proud o' braw claiths, or beauty
neither--wae's me! they're but a snare--I ance thought better o' them,
and what came o't?"
"Are ye sure ye ken the way ye are taking us?" said Jeanie, who began to
imagine that she was getting deeper into the woods and more remote from
"Do I ken the road?--Wasna I mony a day living here, and what for
shouldna I ken the road? I might hae forgotten, too, for it was afore my
accident; but there are some things ane can never forget, let them try it
as muckle as they like."
By this time they had gained the deepest part of a patch of woodland. The
trees were a little separated from each other, and at the foot of one of
them, a beautiful poplar, was a hillock of moss, such as the poet of
Grasmere has described. So soon as she arrived at this spot, Madge
Wildfire, joining her hands above her head with a loud scream that
resembled laughter, flung herself all at once upon the spot, and remained
lying there motionless.
Jeanie's first idea was to take the opportunity of flight; but her desire
to escape yielded for a moment to apprehension for the poor insane being,
who, she thought, might perish for want of relief. With an effort, which
in her circumstances, might be termed heroic, she stooped down, spoke in
a soothing tone, and endeavoured to raise up the forlorn creature. She
effected this with difficulty, and as she placed her against the tree in
a sitting posture, she observed with surprise, that her complexion,
usually florid, was now deadly pale, and that her face was bathed in
tears. Notwithstanding her own extreme danger, Jeanie was affected by the
situation of her companion; and the rather, that, through the whole train
of her wavering and inconsistent state of mind and line of conduct, she
discerned a general colour of kindness towards herself, for which she
"Let me alane!--let me alane!" said the poor young woman, as her paroxysm
of sorrow began to abate--"Let me alane--it does me good to weep. I canna
shed tears but maybe ance or twice a year, and I aye come to wet this
turf with them, that the flowers may grow fair, and the grass may be
"But what is the matter with you?" said Jeanie--"Why do you weep so
"There's matter enow," replied the lunatic,--"mair than ae puir mind can
bear, I trow. Stay a bit, and I'll tell you a' about it; for I like ye,
Jeanie Deans--a'body spoke weel about ye when we lived in the Pleasaunts
--And I mind aye the drink o' milk ye gae me yon day, when I had been on
Arthur's Seat for four-and-twenty hours, looking for the ship that
somebody was sailing in."
These words recalled to Jeanie's recollection, that, in fact, she had
been one morning much frightened by meeting a crazy young woman near her
father's house at an early hour, and that, as she appeared to be
harmless, her apprehension had been changed into pity, and she had
relieved the unhappy wanderer with some food, which she devoured with the
haste of a famished person. The incident, trifling in itself, was at
present of great importance, if it should be found to have made a
favourable and permanent impression in her favour on the mind of the
object of her charity.
"Yes," said Madge, "I'll tell ye a' about it, for ye are a decent man's
daughter--Douce Davie Deans, ye ken--and maybe ye'll can teach me to find
out the narrow way, and the straight path, for I have been burning bricks
in Egypt, and walking through the weary wilderness of Sinai, for lang and
mony a day. But whenever I think about mine errors, I am like to cover my
lips for shame."--Here she looked up and smiled.--"It's a strange thing
now--I hae spoke mair gude words to you in ten minutes, than I wad speak
to my mother in as mony years--it's no that I dinna think on them--and
whiles they are just at my tongue's end, but then comes the devil, and
brushes my lips with his black wing, and lays his broad black loof on my
mouth--for a black loof it is, Jeanie--and sweeps away a' my gude
thoughts, and dits up my gude words, and pits a wheen fule sangs and idle
vanities in their place."
"Try, Madge," said Jeanie,--"try to settle your mind and make your breast
clean, and you'll find your heart easier.--Just resist the devil, and he
will flee from you--and mind that, as my worthy father tells me, there is
nae devil sae deceitfu' as our ain wandering thoughts."
"And that's true too, lass," said Madge, starting up; "and I'll gang a
gate where the devil daurna follow me; and it's a gate that you will like
dearly to gang--but I'll keep a fast haud o' your arm, for fear Apollyon
should stride across the path, as he did in the Pilgrim's Progress."
Accordingly she got up, and, taking Jeanie by the arm, began to walk
forward at a great pace; and soon, to her companion's no small joy, came
into a marked path, with the meanders of which she seemed perfectly
acquainted. Jeanie endeavoured to bring her back to the confessional, but
the fancy was gone by. In fact, the mind of this deranged being resembled
nothing so much as a quantity of dry leaves, which may for a few minutes
remain still, but are instantly discomposed and put in motion by the
first casual breath of air. She had now got John Bunyan's parable into
her head, to the exclusion of everything else, and on she went with great
"Did ye never read the Pilgrim's Progress? And you shall be the woman,
Christiana, and I will be the maiden, Mercy--for ye ken Mercy was of the
fairer countenance, and the more alluring than her companion--and if I
had my little messan dog here, it would be Great-heart, their guide, ye
ken, for he was e'en as bauld, that he wad bark at ony thing twenty times
his size; and that was e'en the death of him, for he bit Corporal
MacAlpine's heels ae morning when they were hauling me to the
guard-house, and Corporal MacAlpine killed the bit faithfu' thing wi' his
Lochaber axe--deil pike the Highland banes o' him."
"O fie! Madge," said Jeanie, "ye should not speak such words."
"It's very true," said Madge, shaking her head; "but then I maunna think
o' my puir bit doggie, Snap, when I saw it lying dying in the gutter. But
it's just as weel, for it suffered baith cauld and hunger when it was
living, and in the grave there is rest for a' things--rest for the
doggie, and my puir bairn, and me."
"Your bairn?" said Jeanie, conceiving that by speaking on such a topic,
supposing it to be a real one, she could not fail to bring her companion
to a more composed temper.
She was mistaken, however, for Madge coloured, and replied with some
anger, "/My/ bairn? ay, to be sure, my bairn. Whatfor shouldna I hae a
bairn and lose a bairn too, as weel as your bonnie tittie, the Lily of
The answer struck Jeanie with some alarm, and she was anxious to soothe
the irritation she had unwittingly given occasion to. "I am very sorry
for your misfortune"
"Sorry! what wad ye be sorry for?" answered Madge. "The bairn was a
blessing--that is, Jeanie, it wad hae been a blessing if it hadna been
for my mother; but my mother's a queer woman.--Ye see, there was an auld
carle wi' a bit land, and a gude clat o' siller besides, just the very
picture of old Mr. Feeblemind or Mr. Ready-to-halt, that Great-heart
delivered from Slaygood the giant, when he was rifling him and about to
pick his bones, for Slaygood was of the nature of the flesh-eaters--and
Great-heart killed Giant Despair too--but I am doubting Giant Despair's
come alive again, for a' the story book--I find him busy at my heart
"Weel, and so the auld carle," said Jeanie, for she was painfully
interested in getting to the truth of Madge's history, which she could
not but suspect was in some extraordinary way linked and entwined with
the fate of her sister. She was also desirous, if possible, to engage her
companion in some narrative which might be carried on in a lower tone of
voice, for she was in great apprehension lest the elevated notes of
Madge's conversation should direct her mother or the robbers in search of
"And so the auld carle," said Madge, repeating her words--"I wish ye had
seen him stoiting about, aff ae leg on to the other, wi' a kind o'
dot-and-go-one sort o' motion, as if ilk ane o' his twa legs had belanged
to sindry folk--but Gentle George could take him aff brawly--Eh, as I
used to laugh to see George gang hip-hop like him!--I dinna ken, I think
I laughed heartier then than what I do now, though maybe no just sae
"And who was Gentle George?" said Jeanie, endeavouring to bring her back
to her story.
"O, he was Geordie Robertson, ye ken, when he was in Edinburgh; but
that's no his right name neither--His name is--But what is your business
wi' his name?" said she, as if upon sudden recollection, "What have ye to
do asking for folk's names?--Have ye a mind I should scour my knife
between your ribs, as my mother says?"
As this was spoken with a menacing tone and gesture, Jeanie hastened to
protest her total innocence of purpose in the accidental question which
she had asked, and Madge Wildfire went on somewhat pacified.
"Never ask folk's names, Jeanie--it's no civil--I hae seen half-a-dozen
o' folk in my mother's at ance, and ne'er ane a' them ca'd the ither by
his name; and Daddie Ratton says, it is the most uncivil thing may be,
because the bailie bodies are aye asking fashions questions, when ye saw
sic a man, or sic a man; and if ye dinna ken their names, ye ken there
can be nae mair speerd about it."
"In what strange school," thought Jeanie to herself, "has this poor
creature been bred up, where such remote precautions are taken against
the pursuits of justice? What would my father or Reuben Butler think if I
were to tell them there are sic folk in the world? And to abuse the
simplicity of this demented creature! Oh, that I were but safe at hame
amang mine ain leal and true people! and I'll bless God, while I have
breath, that placed me amongst those who live in His fear, and under the
shadow of His wing."
She was interrupted by the insane laugh of Madge Wildfire, as she saw a
magpie hop across the path.
"See there!--that was the gate my auld joe used to cross the country, but
no just sae lightly--he hadna wings to help his auld legs, I trow; but I
behoved to have married him for a' that, Jeanie, or my mother wad hae
been the dead o' me. But then came in the story of my poor bairn, and my
mother thought he wad be deaved wi' it's skirling, and she pat it away in
below the bit bourock of turf yonder, just to be out o' the gate; and I
think she buried my best wits with it, for I have never been just mysell
since. And only think, Jeanie, after my mother had been at a' these
pains, the auld doited body Johnny Drottle turned up his nose, and wadna
hae aught to say to me! But it's little I care for him, for I have led a
merry life ever since, and ne'er a braw gentleman looks at me but ye wad
think he was gaun to drop off his horse for mere love of me. I have ken'd
some o' them put their hand in their pocket, and gie me as muckle as
sixpence at a time, just for my weel-faured face."
This speech gave Jeanie a dark insight into Madge's history. She had been
courted by a wealthy suitor, whose addresses her mother had favoured,
notwithstanding the objection of old age and deformity. She had been
seduced by some profligate, and, to conceal her shame and promote the
advantageous match she had planned, her mother had not hesitated to
destroy the offspring of their intrigue. That the consequence should be
the total derangement of amind which was constitutionally unsettled by
giddiness and vanity, was extremely natural; and such was, in fact, the
history of Madge Wildfire's insanity.
So free from danger, free from fear
They crossed the court--right glad they were.
Pursuing the path which Madge had chosen, Jeanie Deans observed, to her
no small delight, that marks of more cultivation appeared, and the
thatched roofs of houses, with their blue smoke arising in little
columns, were seen embosomed in a tuft of trees at some distance. The
track led in that direction, and Jeanie, therefore, resolved, while Madge
continued to pursue it, that she would ask her no questions; having had
the penetration to observe, that by doing so she ran the risk of
irritating her guide, or awakening suspicions, to the impressions of
which, persons in Madge's unsettled state of mind are particularly
Madge, therefore, uninterrupted, went on with the wild disjointed chat
which her rambling imagination suggested; a mood in which she was much
more communicative respecting her own history, and that of others, than
when there was any attempt made, by direct queries, or cross-
examinations, to extract information on these subjects.
"It's a queer thing," she said, "but whiles I can speak about the bit
bairn and the rest of it, just as if it had been another body's, and no
my ain; and whiles I am like to break my heart about it--Had you ever a
Jeanie replied in the negative.
"Ay; but your sister had, though--and I ken what came o't too."
"In the name of heavenly mercy," said Jeanie, forgetting the line of
conduct which she had hitherto adopted, "tell me but what became of that
unfortunate babe, and"
Madge stopped, looked at her gravely and fixedly, and then broke into a
great fit of laughing--"Aha, lass,--catch me if you can--I think it's
easy to gar you trow ony thing.--How suld I ken onything o' your sister's
wean? Lasses suld hae naething to do wi' weans till they are married--and
then a' the gossips and cummers come in and feast as if it were the
blithest day in the warld.--They say maidens' bairns are weel guided. I
wot that wasna true of your tittie's and mine; but these are sad tales to
tell.--I maun just sing a bit to keep up my heart--It's a sang that
Gentle George made on me lang syne, when I went with him to Lockington
wake, to see him act upon a stage, in fine clothes, with the player folk.
He might hae dune waur than married me that night as he promised--better
wed over the mixen* as over the moor, as they say in Yorkshire--
* A homely proverb, signifying better wed a neighbour than one fetched
from a distance.--Mixen signifies dunghill.
he may gang farther and fare waur--but that's a' ane to the sang,
'I'm Madge of the country, I'm Madge of the town,
And I'm Madge of the lad I am blithest to own--
The Lady of Beeve in diamonds may shine,
But has not a heart half so lightsome as mine.
'I am Queen of the Wake, and I'm Lady of May,
And I lead the blithe ring round the May-pole to-day;
The wildfire that flashes so fair and so free,
Was never so bright, or so bonny, as me.'
"I like that the best o' a' my sangs," continued the maniac, "because he
made it. I am often singing it, and that's maybe the reason folk ca' me
Madge Wildfire. I aye answer to the name, though it's no my ain, for
what's the use of making a fash?"
"But ye shouldna sing upon the Sabbath at least," said Jeanie, who, amid
all her distress and anxiety, could not help being scandalised at the
deportment of her companion, especially as they now approached near to
the little village.
"Ay! is this Sunday?" said Madge. "My mother leads sic a life, wi'
turning night into day, that ane loses a' count o' the days o' the week,
and disna ken Sunday frae Saturday. Besides, it's a' your whiggery--in
England, folk sings when they like--And then, ye ken, you are Christiana
and I am Mercy--and ye ken, as they went on their way, they sang."--And
she immediately raised one of John Bunyan's ditties:--
"He that is down need fear no fall,
He that is low no pride,
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
"Fulness to such a burthen is
That go on pilgrimage;
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
Is best from age to age."
"And do ye ken, Jeanie, I think there's much truth in that book, the
Pilgrim's Progress. The boy that sings that song was feeding his father's
sheep in the Valley of Humiliation, and Mr. Great-heart says, that he
lived a merrier life, and had more of the herb called heart's-ease in his
bosom, than they that wear silk and velvet like me, and are as bonny as I
Jeanie Deans had never read the fanciful and delightful parable to which
Madge alluded. Bunyan was, indeed, a rigid Calvinist, but then he was
also a member of a Baptist congregation, so that his works had no place
on David Deans's shelf of divinity. Madge, however, at some time of her
life, had been well acquainted, as it appeared, with the most popular of
his performances, which, indeed, rarely fails to make a deep impression
upon children, and people of the lower rank.
"I am sure," she continued, "I may weel say I am come out of the city of
Destruction, for my mother is Mrs. Bat's-eyes, that dwells at Deadman's
corner; and Frank Levitt, and Tyburn Tam, they may be likened to Mistrust
and Guilt, that came galloping up, and struck the poor pilgrim to the
ground with a great club, and stole a bag of silver, which was most of
his spending money, and so have they done to many, and will do to more.
But now we will gang to the Interpreter's house, for I ken a man that
will play the Interpreter right weel; for he has eyes lifted up to
Heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth written on his
lips, and he stands as if he pleaded wi' men--Oh, if I had minded what he
had said to me, I had never been the cutaway creature that I am!--But it
is all over now.--But we'll knock at the gate, and then the keeper will
admit Christiana, but Mercy will be left out--and then I'll stand at the
door, trembling and crying, and then Christiana--that's you, Jeanie--will
intercede for me; and then Mercy--that's me, ye ken, will faint; and then
the Interpreter--yes, the Interpreter, that's Mr. Staunton himself, will
come out and take me--that's poor, lost, demented me--by the hand, and
give me a pomegranate, and a piece of honeycomb, and a small bottle of
spirits, to stay my fainting--and then the good times will come back
again, and we'll be the happiest folk you ever saw."
In the midst of the confused assemblage of ideas indicated in this
speech, Jeanie thought she saw a serious purpose on the part of Madge, to
endeavour to obtain the pardon and countenance of some one whom she had
offended; an attempt the most likely of all others to bring them once
more into contact with law and legal protection. She, therefore, resolved
to be guided by her while she was in so hopeful a disposition, and act
for her own safety according to circumstances.
They were now close by the village, one of those beautiful scenes which
are so often found in merry England, where the cottages, instead of being
built in two direct lines on each side of a dusty high-road, stand in
detached groups, interspersed not only with large oaks and elms, but with
fruit-trees, so many of which were at this time in flourish, that the
grove seemed enamelled with their crimson and white blossoms. In the
centre of the hamlet stood the parish church, and its little Gothic
tower, from which at present was heard the Sunday chime of bells.
"We will wait here until the folk are a' in the church--they ca' the kirk
a church in England, Jeanie, be sure you mind that--for if I was gaun
forward amang them, a' the gaitts o' boys and lasses wad be crying at
Madge Wildfire's tail, the little hell-rakers! and the beadle would be as
hard upon us as if it was our fault. I like their skirting as ill as he
does, I can tell him; I'm sure I often wish there was a het peat doun
their throats when they set them up that gate."
Conscious of the disorderly appearance of her own dress after the
adventure of the preceding night, and of the grotesque habit and
demeanour of her guide, and sensible how important it was to secure an
attentive and impatient audience to her strange story from some one who
might have the means to protect her, Jeanie readily acquiesced in Madge's
proposal to rest under the trees, by which they were still somewhat
screened, until the commencement of service should give them an
opportunity of entering the hamlet without attracting a crowd around
them. She made the less opposition, that Madge had intimated that this
was not the village where her mother was in custody, and that the two
squires of the pad were absent in a different direction.
She sate herself down, therefore, at the foot of an oak, and by the
assistance of a placid fountain, which had been dammed up for the use of
the villagers, and which served her as a natural mirror, she began--no
uncommon thing with a Scottish maiden of her rank--to arrange her
toilette in the open air, and bring her dress, soiled and disordered as
it was, into such order as the place and circumstances admitted.
She soon perceived reason, however, to regret that she had set about this
task, however decent and necessary, in the present time and society.
Madge Wildfire, who, among other indications of insanity, had a most
overweening opinion of those charms, to which, in fact, she had owed her
misery, and whose mind, like a raft upon a lake, was agitated and driven
about at random by each fresh impulse, no sooner beheld Jeanie begin to
arrange her hair, place her bonnet in order, rub the dust from her shoes
and clothes, adjust her neck-handkerchief and mittans, and so forth, than
with imitative zeal she began to bedizen and trick herself out with
shreds and remnants of beggarly finery, which she took out of a little
bundle, and which, when disposed around her person, made her appearance
ten times more fantastic and apish than it had been before.
Jeanie groaned in spirit, but dared not interfere in a matter so
delicate. Across the man's cap or riding hat which she wore, Madge placed
a broken and soiled white feather, intersected with one which had been
shed from the train of a peacock. To her dress, which was a kind of
riding-habit, she stitched, pinned, and otherwise secured, a large
furbelow of artificial flowers, all crushed, wrinkled and dirty, which
had at first bedecked a lady of quality, then descended to her Abigail,
and dazzled the inmates of the servants' hall. A tawdry scarf of yellow
silk, trimmed with tinsel and spangles, which had seen as hard service,
and boasted as honourable a transmission, was next flung over one
shoulder, and fell across her person in the manner of a shoulder-belt, or
baldrick. Madge then stripped off the coarse ordinary shoes, which she
wore, and replaced them by a pair of dirty satin ones, spangled and
embroidered to match the scarf, and furnished with very high heels. She
had cut a willow switch in her morning's walk, almost as long as a boy's
fishing-rod. This she set herself seriously to peel, and when it was
transformed into such a wand as the Treasurer or High Steward bears on
public occasions, she told Jeanie that she thought they now looked
decent, as young women should do upon the Sunday morning, and that, as
the bells had done ringing, she was willing to conduct her to the
Jeanie sighed heavily, to think it should be her lot on the Lord's day,
and during kirk time too, to parade the street of an inhabited village
with so very grotesque a comrade; but necessity had no law, since,
without a positive quarrel with the madwoman, which, in the
circumstances, would have been very unadvisable, she could see no means
of shaking herself free of her society.
As for poor Madge, she was completely elated with personal vanity, and
the most perfect satisfaction concerning her own dazzling dress, and
superior appearance. They entered the hamlet without being observed,
except by one old woman, who, being nearly "high-gravel blind," was only
conscious that something very fine and glittering was passing by, and
dropped as deep a reverence to Madge as she would have done to a
countess. This filled up the measure of Madge's self-approbation. She
minced, she ambled, she smiled, she simpered, and waved Jeanie Deans
forward with the condescension of a noble /chaperone,/ who has undertaken
the charge of a country miss on her first journey to the capital.
Jeanie followed in patience, and with her eyes fixed on the ground, that
she might save herself the mortification of seeing her companion's
absurdities; but she started when, ascending two or three steps, she
found herself in the churchyard, and saw that Madge was making straight
for the door of the church. As Jeanie had no mind to enter the
congregation in such company, she walked aside from the pathway, and said
in a decided tone, "Madge, I will wait here till the church comes out--
you may go in by yourself if you have a mind."
As she spoke these words, she was about to seat herself upon one of the
Madge was a little before Jeanie when she turned aside; but, suddenly
changing her course, she followed her with long strides, and, with every
feature inflamed with passion, overtook and seized her by the arm. "Do ye
think, ye ungratefu' wretch, that I am gaun to let you sit doun upon my
father's grave? The deil settle ye doun, if ye dinna rise and come into
the Interpreter's house, that's the house of God, wi' me, but I'll rive
every dud aft your back!"
She adapted the action to the phrase; for with one clutch she stripped
Jeanie of her straw bonnet and a handful of her hair to boot, and threw
it up into an old yew-tree, where it stuck fast. Jeanie's first impulse
was to scream, but conceiving she might receive deadly harm before she
could obtain the assistance of anyone, notwithstanding the vicinity of
the church, she thought it wiser to follow the madwoman into the
congregation, where she might find some means of escape from her, or at
least be secured against her violence. But when she meekly intimated her
consent to follow Madge, her guide's uncertain brain had caught another
train of ideas. She held Jeanie fast with one hand, and with the other
pointed to the inscription on the grave-stone, and commanded her to read
it. Jeanie obeyed, and read these words:--
"This Monument was erected to the Memory of Donald
Murdockson of the King's xxvi., or Cameronian
Regiment, a sincere Christian, a brave Soldier, and
a faithful Servant, by his grateful and sorrowing
master, Robert Staunton."
"It's very weel read, Jeanie; it's just the very words," said Madge,
whose ire had now faded into deep melancholy, and with a step which, to
Jeanie's great joy, was uncommonly quiet and mournful, she led her
companion towards the door of the church.
It was one of those old-fashioned Gothic parish churches which are
frequent in England, the most cleanly, decent, and reverential places of
worship that are, perhaps, anywhere to be found in the Christian world.
Yet, notwithstanding the decent solemnity of its exterior, Jeanie was too
faithful to the directory of the Presbyterian kirk to have entered a
prelatic place of worship, and would, upon any other occasion, have
thought that she beheld in the porch the venerable figure of her father
waving her back from the entrance, and pronouncing in a solemn tone,
"Cease, my child, to hear the instruction which causeth to err from the
words of knowledge." But in her present agitating and alarming situation,
she looked for safety to this forbidden place of assembly, as the hunted
animal will sometimes seek shelter from imminent danger in the human
habitation, or in other places of refuge most alien to its nature and
habits. Not even the sound of the organ, and of one or two flutes which
accompanied the psalmody, prevented her from following her guide into the
chancel of the church.
No sooner had Madge put her foot upon the pavement, and become sensible
that she was the object of attention to the spectators, than she resumed
all the fantastic extravagance of deportment which some transient touch
of melancholy had banished for an instant. She swam rather than walked up
the centre aisle, dragging Jeanie after her, whom she held fast by the
hand. She would, indeed, have fain slipped aside into the pew nearest to
the door, and left Madge to ascend in her own manner and alone to the
high places of the synagogue; but this was impossible, without a degree
of violent resistance, which seemed to her inconsistent with the time and
place, and she was accordingly led in captivity up the whole length of
the church by her grotesque conductress, who, with half-shut eyes, a prim
smile upon her lips, and a mincing motion with her hands, which
corresponded with the delicate and affected pace at which she was pleased
to move, seemed to take the general stare of the congregation, which such
an exhibition necessarily excited, as a high compliment, and which she
returned by nods and half-courtesies to individuals amongst the audience,
whom she seemed to distinguish as acquaintances. Her absurdity was
enhanced in the eyes of the spectators by the strange contrast which she
formed to her companion, who, with dishevelled hair, downcast eyes, and a
face glowing with shame, was dragged, as it were in triumph after her.
Madge's airs were at length fortunately cut short by her encountering in
her progress the looks of the clergyman, who fixed upon her a glance, at
once steady, compassionate, and admonitory. She hastily opened an empty
pew which happened to be near her, and entered, dragging in Jeanie after
her. Kicking Jeanie on the shins, by way of hint that she should follow
her example, she sunk her head upon her hand for the space of a minute.
Jeanie, to whom this posture of mental devotion was entirely new, did not
attempt to do the like, but looked round her with a bewildered stare,
which her neighbours, judging from the company in which they saw her,
very naturally ascribed to insanity. Every person in their immediate
vicinity drew back from this extraordinary couple as far as the limits of
their pew permitted; but one old man could not get beyond Madge's reach,
ere, she had snatched the prayer-book from his hand, and ascertained the
lesson of the day. She then turned up the ritual, and with the most
overstrained enthusiasm of gesture and manner, showed Jeanie the passages
as they were read in the service, making, at the same time, her own
responses so loud as to be heard above those of every other person.
Notwithstanding the shame and vexation which Jeanie felt in being thus
exposed in a place of worship, she could not and durst not omit rallying
her spirits so as to look around her, and consider to whom she ought to
appeal for protection so soon as the service should be concluded. Her
first ideas naturally fixed upon the clergyman, and she was confirmed in
the resolution by observing that he was an aged gentleman, of a dignified
appearance and deportment, who read the service with an undisturbed and
decent gravity, which brought back to becoming attention those younger
members of the congregation who had been disturbed by the extravagant
behaviour of Madge Wildfire. To the clergyman, therefore, Jeanie resolved
to make her appeal when the service was over.
It is true she felt disposed to be shocked at his surplice, of which she
had heard so much, but which she had never seen upon the person of a
preacher of the word. Then she was confused by the change of posture
adopted in different parts of the ritual, the more so as Madge Wildfire,
to whom they seemed familiar, took the opportunity to exercise authority
over her, pulling her up and pushing her down with a bustling assiduity,
which Jeanie felt must make them both the objects of painful attention.
But, notwithstanding these prejudices, it was her prudent resolution, in
this dilemma, to imitate as nearly as she could what was done around her.
The prophet, she thought, permitted Naaman the Syrian to bow even in the
house of Rimmon. Surely if I, in this streight, worship the God of my
fathers in mine own language, although the manner thereof be strange to
me, the Lord will pardon me in this thing.
In this resolution she became so much confirmed, that, withdrawing
herself from Madge as far as the pew permitted, she endeavoured to evince
by serious and composed attention to what was passing, that her mind was
composed to devotion. Her tormentor would not long have permitted her to
remain quiet, but fatigue overpowered her, and she fell fast asleep in
the other corner of the pew.
Jeanie, though her mind in her own despite sometimes reverted to her
situation, compelled herself to give attention to a sensible, energetic,
and well-composed discourse, upon the practical doctrines of
Christianity, which she could not help approving, although it was every
word written down and read by the preacher, and although it was delivered
in a tone and gesture very different from those of Boanerges Stormheaven,
who was her father's favourite preacher. The serious and placid attention
with which Jeanie listened, did not escape the clergyman. Madge
Wildfire's entrance had rendered him apprehensive of some disturbance, to
provide against which, as far as possible, he often turned his eyes to
the part of the church where Jeanie and she were placed, and became soon
aware that, although the loss of her head-gear, and the awkwardness of
her situation, had given an uncommon and anxious air to the features of
the former, yet she was in a state of mind very different from that of
her companion. When he dismissed the congregation, he observed her look
around with a wild and terrified look, as if uncertain what course she
ought to adopt, and noticed that she approached one or two of the most
decent of the congregation, as if to address them, and then shrunk back
timidly, on observing that they seemed to shun and to avoid her. The
clergyman was satisfied there must be something extraordinary in all
this, and as a benevolent man, as well as a good Christian pastor, he
resolved to inquire into the matter more minutely.
There governed in that year
A stern, stout churl--an angry overseer.
While Mr. Staunton, for such was this worthy clergyman's name, was laying
aside his gown in the vestry, Jeanie was in the act of coming to an open
rupture with Madge.
"We must return to Mummer's barn directly," said Madge; "we'll be ower
late, and my mother will be angry."
"I am not going back with you, Madge," said Jeanie, taking out a guinea,
and offering it to her; "I am much obliged to you, but I maun gang my ain
"And me coming a' this way out o' my gate to pleasure you, ye ungratefu'
cutty," answered Madge; "and me to be brained by my mother when I gang
hame, and a' for your sake!--But I will gar ye as good"
"For God's sake," said Jeanie to a man who stood beside them, "keep her
off!--she is mad."
"Ey, ey," answered the boor; "I hae some guess of that, and I trow thou
be'st a bird of the same feather.--Howsomever, Madge, I redd thee keep
hand off her, or I'se lend thee a whisterpoop."
Several of the lower class of the parishioners now gathered round the
strangers, and the cry arose among the boys that "there was a-going to be
a fite between mad Madge Murdockson and another Bess of Bedlam." But
while the fry assembled with the humane hope of seeing as much of the fun
as possible, the laced cocked-hat of the beadle was discerned among the
multitude, and all made way for that person of awful authority. His first
address was to Madge.
"What's brought thee back again, thou silly donnot, to plague this
parish? Hast thou brought ony more bastards wi' thee to lay to honest
men's doors? or does thou think to burden us with this goose, that's as
hare-brained as thysell, as if rates were no up enow? Away wi' thee to
thy thief of a mother; she's fast in the stocks at Barkston town-end--
Away wi' ye out o' the parish, or I'se be at ye with the ratan."
Madge stood sulky for a minute; but she had been too often taught
submission to the beadle's authority by ungentle means to feel courage
enough to dispute it.
"And my mother--my puir auld mother, is in the stocks at Barkston!--This
is a' your wyte, Miss Jeanie Deans; but I'll be upsides wi' you, as sure
as my name's Madge Wildfire--I mean Murdockson--God help me, I forget my
very name in this confused waste!"
So saying, she turned upon her heel, and went off, followed by all the
mischievous imps of the village, some crying, "Madge, canst thou tell thy
name yet?" some pulling the skirts of her dress, and all, to the best of
their strength and ingenuity, exercising some new device or other to
exasperate her into frenzy.
Jeanie saw her departure with infinite delight, though she wished that,
in some way or other, she could have requited the service Madge had
conferred upon her.
In the meantime, she applied to the beadle to know whether "there was any
house in the village where she could be civilly entertained for her
money, and whether she could be permitted to speak to the clergyman?"
"Ay, ay, we'se ha' reverend care on thee; and I think," answered the man
of constituted authority, "that, unless thou answer the Rector all the
better, we'se spare thy money, and gie thee lodging at the parish charge,
"Where am I to go then?" said Jeanie, in some alarm.
"Why, I am to take thee to his Reverence, in the first place, to gie an
account o' thysell, and to see thou comena to be a burden upon the
"I do not wish to burden anyone," replied Jeanie; "I have enough for my
own wants, and only wish to get on my journey safely."
"Why, that's another matter," replied the beadle, "and if it be true--and
I think thou dost not look so polrumptious as thy playfellow yonder--Thou
wouldst be a mettle lass enow, an thou wert snog and snod a bid better.
Come thou away, then--the Rector is a good man."
"Is that the minister," said Jeanie, "who preached"
"The minister? Lord help thee! What kind o' Presbyterian art thou?--Why,
'tis the Rector--the Rector's sell, woman, and there isna the like o' him
in the county, nor the four next to it. Come away--away with thee--we
maunna bide here."
"I am sure I am very willing to go to see the minister," said Jeanie;
"for though he read his discourse, and wore that surplice, as they call
it here, I canna but think he must be a very worthy God-fearing man, to
preach the root of the matter in the way he did."
The disappointed rabble, finding that there was like to be no farther
sport, had by this time dispersed, and Jeanie, with her usual patience,
followed her consequential and surly, but not brutal, conductor towards
This clerical mansion was large and commodious, for the living was an
excellent one, and the advowson belonged to a very wealthy family in the
neighbourhood, who had usually bred up a son or nephew to the church for
the sake of inducting him, as opportunity offered, into this very
comfortable provision. In this manner the rectory of Willingham had
always been considered as a direct and immediate appanage of Willingham
Hall; and as the rich baronets to whom the latter belonged had usually a
son, or brother, or nephew, settled in the living, the utmost care had
been taken to render their habitation not merely respectable and
commodious, but even dignified and imposing.
It was situated about four hundred yards from the village, and on a
rising ground which sloped gently upward, covered with small enclosures,
or closes, laid out irregularly, so that the old oaks and elms, which
were planted in hedge-rows, fell into perspective, and were blended
together in beautiful irregularity. When they approached nearer to the
house, a handsome gateway admitted them into a lawn, of narrow dimensions
indeed, but which was interspersed with large sweet chestnut trees and
beeches, and kept in handsome order. The front of the house was
irregular. Part of it seemed very old, and had, in fact, been the
residence of the incumbent in Romish times. Successive occupants had made
considerable additions and improvements, each in the taste of his own
age, and without much regard to symmetry. But these incongruities of
architecture were so graduated and happily mingled, that the eye, far
from being displeased with the combinations of various styles, saw
nothing but what was interesting in the varied and intricate pile which
they displayed. Fruit-trees displayed on the southern wall, outer
staircases, various places of entrance, a combination of roofs and
chimneys of different ages, united to render the front, not indeed
beautiful or grand, but intricate, perplexed, or, to use Mr. Price's
appropriate phrase, picturesque. The most considerable addition was that
of the present Rector, who, "being a bookish man," as the beadle was at
the pains to inform Jeanie, to augment, perhaps, her reverence for the
person before whom she was to appear, had built a handsome library and
parlour, and no less than two additional bedrooms.
"Mony men would hae scrupled such expense," continued the parochial
officer, "seeing as the living mun go as it pleases Sir Edmund to will
it; but his Reverence has a canny bit land of his own, and need not look
on two sides of a penny."
Jeanie could not help comparing the irregular yet extensive and
commodious pile of building before her to the "Manses" in her own
country, where a set of penurious heritors, professing all the while the
devotion of their lives and fortunes to the Presbyterian establishment,
strain their inventions to discover what may be nipped, and clipped, and
pared from a building which forms but a poor accommodation even for the
present incumbent, and, despite the superior advantage of stone-masonry,
must, in the course of forty or fifty years, again burden their
descendants with an expense, which, once liberally and handsomely
employed, ought to have freed their estates from a recurrence of it for
more than a century at least.
Behind the Rector's house the ground sloped down to a small river, which,
without possessing the romantic vivacity and rapidity of a northern
stream, was, nevertheless, by its occasional appearance through the
ranges of willows and poplars that crowned its banks, a very pleasing
accompaniment to the landscape. "It was the best trouting stream," said
the beadle, whom the patience of Jeanie, and especially the assurance
that she was not about to become a burden to the parish, had rendered
rather communicative, "the best trouting stream in all Lincolnshire; for
when you got lower, there was nought to be done wi' fly-fishing."
Turning aside from the principal entrance, he conducted Jeanie towards a
sort of portal connected with the older part of the building, which was
chiefly occupied by servants, and knocking at the door, it was opened by
a servant in grave purple livery, such as befitted a wealthy and
"How dost do, Tummas?" said the beadle--"and how's young Measter
"Why, but poorly--but poorly, Measter Stubbs.--Are you wanting to see his
"Ay, ay, Tummas; please to say I ha' brought up the young woman as came
to service to-day with mad Madge Murdockson seems to be a decentish koind
o' body; but I ha' asked her never a question. Only I can tell his
Reverence that she is a Scotchwoman, I judge, and as flat as the fens of
Tummas honoured Jeanie Deans with such a stare, as the pampered domestics
of the rich, whether spiritual or temporal, usually esteem it part of
their privilege to bestow upon the poor, and then desired Mr. Stubbs and
his charge to step in till he informed his master of their presence.
The room into which he showed them was a sort of steward's parlour, hung
with a county map or two, and three or four prints of eminent persons
connected with the county, as Sir William Monson, James York the
blacksmith of Lincoln,* and the famous Peregrine, Lord Willoughby, in
complete armour, looking as when he said in the words of the legend below
* [Author of the /Union of Honour,/ a treatise on English Heraldry.
"Stand to it, noble pikemen,
And face ye well about;
And shoot ye sharp, bold bowmen,
And we will keep them out.
"Ye musquet and calliver-men,
Do you prove true to me,
I'll be the foremost man in fight,
Said brave Lord Willoughbee."
When they had entered this apartment, Tummas as a matter of course
offered, and as a matter of course Mr. Stubbs accepted, a "summat" to eat
and drink, being the respectable relies of a gammon of bacon, and a
/whole whiskin,/ or black pot of sufficient double ale. To these eatables
Mr. Beadle seriously inclined himself, and (for we must do him justice)
not without an invitation to Jeanie, in which Tummas joined, that his
prisoner or charge would follow his good example. But although she might
have stood in need of refreshment, considering she had tasted no food
that day, the anxiety of the moment, her own sparing and abstemious
habits, and a bashful aversion to eat in company of the two strangers,
induced her to decline their courtesy. So she sate in a chair apart,
while Mr. Stubbs and Mr. Tummas, who had chosen to join his friend in
consideration that dinner was to be put back till after the afternoon
service, made a hearty luncheon, which lasted for half-an-hour, and might
not then have concluded, had not his Reverence rung his bell, so that
Tummas was obliged to attend his master. Then, and no sooner, to save
himself the labour of a second journey to the other end of the house, he
announced to his master the arrival of Mr. Stubbs, with the other
madwoman, as he chose to designate Jeanie, as an event which had just
taken place. He returned with an order that Mr. Stubbs and the young
woman should be instantly ushered up to the library. The beadle bolted in
haste his last mouthful of fat bacon, washed down the greasy morsel with
the last rinsings of the pot of ale, and immediately marshalled Jeanie
through one or two intricate passages which led from the ancient to the
more modern buildings, into a handsome little hall, or anteroom,
adjoining to the library, and out of which a glass door opened to the
"Stay here," said Stubbs, "till I tell his Reverence you are come."
So saying, he opened a door and entered the library. Without wishing to
hear their conversation, Jeanie, as she was circumstanced, could not
avoid it; for as Stubbs stood by the door, and his Reverence was at the
upper end of a large room, their conversation was necessarily audible in
"So you have brought the young woman here at last, Mr. Stubbs. I expected
you some time since. You know I do not wish such persons to remain in
custody a moment without some inquiry into their situation."
"Very true, your Reverence," replied the beadle; "but the young woman had
eat nought to-day, and so Measter Tummas did set down a drap of drink and
a morsel, to be sure."
"Thomas was very right, Mr. Stubbs; and what has, become of the other
most unfortunate being?"
"Why," replied Mr. Stubbs, "I did think the sight on her would but vex
your Reverence, and soa I did let her go her ways back to her mother, who
is in trouble in the next parish."
"In trouble!--that signifies in prison, I suppose?" said Mr. Staunton.
"Ay, truly; something like it, an it like your Reverence."
"Wretched, unhappy, incorrigible woman!" said the clergyman. "And what
sort of person is this companion of hers?"
"Why, decent enow, an it like your Reverence," said Stubbs; "for aught I
sees of her, there's no harm of her, and she says she has cash enow to
carry her out of the county."
"Cash! that is always what you think of, Stubbs--But, has she sense?--has
she her wits?--has she the capacity of taking care of herself?"
"Why, your Reverence," replied Stubbs, "I cannot just say--I will be
sworn she was not born at Witt-ham;* for Gaffer Gibbs looked at her all
the time of service, and he says, she could not turn up a single lesson
like a Christian, even though she had Madge Murdockson to help her--but
then, as to fending for herself, why, she's a bit of a Scotchwoman, your
Reverence, and they say the worst donnot of them can look out for their
own turn--and she is decently put on enow, and not bechounched like
* A proverbial and punning expression in that county, to intimate that a
person is not very clever.
"Send her in here, then, and do you remain below, Mr. Stubbs."
This colloquy had engaged Jeanie's attention so deeply, that it was not
until it was over that she observed that the sashed door, which, we have
said, led from the anteroom into the garden, was opened, and that there
entered, or rather was borne in by two assistants, a young man, of a very
pale and sickly appearance, whom they lifted to the nearest couch, and
placed there, as if to recover from the fatigue of an unusual exertion.
Just as they were making this arrangement, Stubbs came out of the
library, and summoned Jeanie to enter it. She obeyed him, not without
tremor; for, besides the novelty of the situation, to a girl of her
secluded habits, she felt also as if the successful prosecution of her
journey was to depend upon the impression she should be able to make on
It is true, it was difficult to suppose on what pretext a person
travelling on her own business, and at her own charge, could be
interrupted upon her route. But the violent detention she had already
undergone, was sufficient to show that there existed persons at no great
distance who had the interest, the inclination, and the audacity,
forcibly to stop her journey, and she felt the necessity of having some
countenance and protection, at least till she should get beyond their
reach. While these things passed through her mind, much faster than our
pen and ink can record, or even the reader's eye collect the meaning of
its traces, Jeanie found herself in a handsome library, and in presence
of the Rector of Willingham. The well-furnished presses and shelves which
surrounded the large and handsome apartment, contained more books than
Jeanie imagined existed in the world, being accustomed to consider as an
extensive collection two fir shelves, each about three feet long, which
contained her father's treasured volumes, the whole pith and marrow, as
he used sometimes to boast, of modern divinity. An orrery, globes, a
telescope, and some other scientific implements, conveyed to Jeanie an
impression of admiration and wonder, not unmixed with fear; for, in her
ignorant apprehension, they seemed rather adapted for magical purposes
than any other; and a few stuffed animals (as the Rector was fond of
natural history) added to the impressive character of the apartment.
Mr. Staunton spoke to her with great mildness. He observed, that,
although her appearance at church had been uncommon, and in strange, and
he must add, discreditable society, and calculated, upon the whole, to
disturb the congregation during divine worship, he wished, nevertheless,
to hear her own account of herself before taking any steps which his duty
might seem to demand. He was a justice of peace, he informed her, as well
as a clergyman.
"His Honour" (for she would not say his Reverence) "was very civil and
kind," was all that poor Jeanie could at first bring out.
"Who are you, young woman?" said the clergyman, more peremptorily--"and
what do you do in this country, and in such company?--We allow no
strollers or vagrants here."
"I am not a vagrant or a stroller, sir," said Jeanie, a little roused by
the supposition. "I am a decent Scots lass, travelling through the land
on my own business and my own expenses and I was so unhappy as to fall in
with bad company, and was stopped a' night on my journey. And this puir
creature, who is something light-headed, let me out in the morning."
"Bad company!" said the clergyman. "I am afraid, young woman, you have
not been sufficiently anxious to avoid them."
"Indeed, sir," returned Jeanie, "I have been brought up to shun evil
communication. But these wicked people were thieves, and stopped me by
violence and mastery."
"Thieves!" said Mr. Staunton; "then you charge them with robbery, I
"No, sir; they did not take so much as a boddle from me," answered
Jeanie; "nor did they use me ill, otherwise than by confining me."
The clergyman inquired into the particulars of her adventure, which she
told him from point to point.
"This is an extraordinary, and not a very probable tale, young woman,"
resumed Mr. Staunton. "Here has been, according to your account, a great
violence committed without any adequate motive. Are you aware of the law
of this country--that if you lodge this charge, you will be bound over to
prosecute this gang?"
Jeanie did not understand him, and he explained, that the English law, in
addition to the inconvenience sustained by persons who have been robbed
or injured, has the goodness to intrust to them the care and the expense
of appearing as prosecutors.
Jeanie said, "that her business at London was express; all she wanted
was, that any gentleman would, out of Christian charity, protect her to
some town where she could hire horses and a guide; and finally," she
thought, "it would be her father's mind that she was not free to give
testimony in an English court of justice, as the land was not under a
direct gospel dispensation."
Mr. Staunton stared a little, and asked if her father was a Quaker.
"God forbid, sir," said Jeanie--"He is nae schismatic nor sectary, nor
ever treated for sic black commodities as theirs, and that's weel kend o'
"And what is his name, pray?" said Mr. Staunton.
"David Deans, sir, the cowfeeder at Saint Leonard's Crags, near
A deep groan from the anteroom prevented the Rector from replying, and,
exclaiming, "Good God! that unhappy boy!" he left Jeanie alone, and
hastened into the outer apartment.
Some noise and bustle was heard, but no one entered the library for the
best part of an hour.
Fantastic passions' maddening brawl!
And shame and terror over all!
Deeds to be hid which were not hid,
Which, all confused, I could not know
Whether I suffer'd or I did,
For all seem'd guilt, remorse, or woe;
My own, or others, still the same
Life-stifling fear, soul-stifling shame.
During the interval while she was thus left alone, Jeanie anxiously
revolved in her mind what course was best for her to pursue. She was
impatient to continue her journey, yet she feared she could not safely
adventure to do so while the old hag and her assistants were in the
neighbourhood, without risking a repetition of their violence. She
thought she could collect from the conversation which she had partly
overheard, and also from the wild confessions of Madge Wildfire, that her
mother had a deep and revengeful motive for obstructing her journey if
possible. And from whom could she hope for assistance if not from Mr.
Staunton? His whole appearance and demeanour seemed to encourage her
hopes. His features were handsome, though marked with a deep cast of
melancholy; his tone and language were gentle and encouraging; and, as he
had served in the army for several years during his youth, his air
retained that easy frankness which is peculiar to the profession of arms.
He was, besides, a minister of the gospel; and, although a worshipper,
according to Jeanie's notions, in the court of the Gentiles, and so
benighted as to wear a surplice; although he read the Common Prayer, and
wrote down every word of his sermon before delivering it; and although he
was, moreover, in strength of lungs, as well as pith and marrow of
doctrine, vastly inferior to Boanerges Stormheaven, Jeanie still thought
he must be a very different person from Curate Kilstoup, and other
prelatical divines of her father's earlier days, who used to get drunk in
their canonical dress, and hound out the dragoons against the wandering
Cameronians. The house seemed to be in some disturbance, but as she could
not suppose she was altogether forgotten, she thought it better to remain
quiet in the apartment where she had been left, till some one should take
notice of her.
The first who entered was, to her no small delight, one of her own sex, a
motherly-looking aged person of a housekeeper. To her Jeanie explained
her situation in a few words, and begged her assistance.
The dignity of a housekeeper did not encourage too much familiarity with
a person who was at the Rectory on justice-business, and whose character
might seem in her eyes somewhat precarious; but she was civil, although
"Her young master," she said, "had had a bad accident by a fall from his
horse, which made him liable to fainting fits; he had been taken very ill
just now, and it was impossible his Reverence could see Jeanie for some
time; but that she need not fear his doing all that was just and proper
in her behalf the instant he could get her business attended to."--She
concluded by offering to show Jeanie a room, where she might remain till
his Reverence was at leisure.
Our heroine took the opportunity to request the means of adjusting and
changing her dress.
The housekeeper, in whose estimation order and cleanliness ranked high
among personal virtues, gladly complied with a request so reasonable; and
the change of dress which Jeanie's bundle furnished made so important an
improvement in her appearance, that the old lady hardly knew the soiled
and disordered traveller, whose attire showed the violence she had
sustained, in the neat, clean, quiet-looking little Scotch-woman, who now
stood before her. Encouraged by such a favourable alteration in her
appearance, Mrs. Dalton ventured to invite Jeanie to partake of her
dinner, and was equally pleased with the decent propriety of her conduct
during the meal.
"Thou canst read this book, canst thou, young woman?" said the old lady,
when their meal was concluded, laying her hand upon a large Bible.
"I hope sae, madam," said Jeanie, surprised at the question "my father
wad hae wanted mony a thing ere I had wanted /that/ schuling."
"The better sign of him, young woman. There are men here, well to pass in
the world, would not want their share of a Leicester plover, and that's a
bag-pudding, if fasting for three hours would make all their poor
children read the Bible from end to end. Take thou the book, then, for my
eyes are something dazed, and read where thou listest--it's the only book
thou canst not happen wrong in."
Jeanie was at first tempted to turn up the parable of the good Samaritan,
but her conscience checked her, as if it were a use of Scripture, not for
her own edification, but to work upon the mind of others for the relief
of her worldly afflictions; and under this scrupulous sense of duty, she
selected, in preference, a chapter of the prophet Isaiah, and read it,
notwithstanding her northern' accent and tone, with a devout propriety,
which greatly edified Mrs. Dalton.
"Ah," she said, "an all Scotchwomen were sic as thou but it was our luck
to get born devils of thy country, I think--every one worse than t'other.
If thou knowest of any tidy lass like thysell that wanted a place, and
could bring a good character, and would not go laiking about to wakes and
fairs, and wore shoes and stockings all the day round--why, I'll not say
but we might find room for her at the Rectory. Hast no cousin or sister,
lass, that such an offer would suit?"
This was touching upon a sore point, but Jeanie was spared the pain of
replying by the entrance of the same man-servant she had seen before.
"Measter wishes to see the young woman from Scotland," was Tummas's
"Go to his Reverence, my dear, as fast as you can, and tell him all your
story--his Reverence is a kind man," said Mrs. Dalton. "I will fold down
the leaf, and wake you a cup of tea, with some nice muffin, against you
come down, and that's what you seldom see in Scotland, girl."
"Measter's waiting for the young woman," said Tummas impatiently.
"Well, Mr. Jack-Sauce, and what is your business to put in your oar?--And
how often must I tell you to call Mr. Staunton his Reverence, seeing as
he is a dignified clergyman, and not be meastering, meastering him, as if
he were a little petty squire?"
As Jeanie was now at the door, and ready to accompany Tummas, the footman
said nothing till he got into the passage, when he muttered, "There are
moe masters than one in this house, and I think we shall have a mistress
too, an Dame Dalton carries it thus."
Tummas led the way through a more intricate range of passages than Jeanie
had yet threaded, and ushered her into an apartment which was darkened by
the closing of most of the window-shutters, and in which was a bed with
the curtains partly drawn.
"Here is the young woman, sir," said Tummas.
"Very well," said a voice from the bed, but not that of his Reverence;
"be ready to answer the bell, and leave the room."
"There is some mistake," said Jeanie, confounded at finding herself in
the apartment of an invalid; "the servant told me that the minister"
"Don't trouble yourself," said the invalid, "there is no mistake. I know
more of your affairs than my father, and I can manage them better.--Leave
the room, Tom." The servant obeyed.--"We must not," said the invalid,
"lose time, when we have little to lose. Open the shutters of that
She did so, and as he drew aside the curtain of his bed, the light fell
on his pale countenance, as, turban'd with bandages, and dressed in a
night-gown, he lay, seemingly exhausted, upon the bed.
"Look at me," he said, "Jeanie Deans; can you not recollect me?"
"No, sir," said she, full of surprise. "I was never in this country
"But I may have been in yours. Think--recollect. I should faint did I
name the name you are most dearly bound to loathe and to detest. Think--
A terrible recollection flashed on Jeanie, which every tone of the
speaker confirmed, and which his next words rendered certainty.
"Be composed--remember Muschat's Cairn, and the moonlight night!"
Jeanie sunk down on a chair with clasped hands, and gasped in agony.
"Yes, here I lie," he said, "like a crushed snake, writhing with
impatience at my incapacity of motion--here I lie, when I ought to have
been in Edinburgh, trying every means to save a life that is dearer to me
than my own.--How is your sister?--how fares it with her?--condemned to
death, I know it, by this time! O, the horse that carried me safely on a
thousand errands of folly and wickedness, that he should have broke down
with me on the only good mission I have undertaken for years! But I must
rein in my passion--my frame cannot endure it, and I have much to say.
Give me some of the cordial which stands on that table.--Why do you
tremble? But you have too good cause.--Let it stand--I need it not."
Jeanie, however reluctant, approached him with the cup into which she had
poured the draught, and could not forbear saying, "There is a cordial for
the mind, sir, if the wicked will turn from their transgressions, and
seek to the Physician of souls."
"Silence!" he said sternly--"and yet I thank you. But tell me, and lose
no time in doing so, what you are doing in this country? Remember, though
I have been your sister's worst enemy, yet I will serve her with the best
of my blood, and I will serve you for her sake; and no one can serve you
to such purpose, for no one can know the circumstances so well--so speak
"I am not afraid, sir," said Jeanie, collecting her spirits. "I trust in
God; and if it pleases Him to redeem my sister's captivity, it is all I
seek, whosoever be the instrument. But, sir, to be plain with you, I dare
not use your counsel, unless I were enabled to see that it accords with
the law which I must rely upon."
"The devil take the Puritan!" cried George Staunton, for so we must now
call him--"I beg your pardon; but I am naturally impatient, and you drive
me mad! What harm can it possibly do to tell me in what situation your
sister stands, and your own expectations of being able to assist her? It
is time enough to refuse my advice when I offer any which you may think
improper. I speak calmly to you, though 'tis against my nature; but don't
urge me to impatience--it will only render me incapable of serving
There was in the looks and words of this unhappy young man a sort of
restrained eagerness and impetuosity which seemed to prey upon itself, as
the impatience of a fiery steed fatigues itself with churning upon the
bit. After a moment's consideration, it occurred to Jeanie that she was
not entitled to withhold from him, whether on her sister's account or her
own, the fatal account of the consequences of the crime which he had
committed, nor to reject such advice, being in itself lawful and
innocent, as he might be able to suggest in the way of remedy.
Accordingly, in as few words as she could express it, she told the
history of her sister's trial and condemnation, and of her own journey as
far as Newark. He appeared to listen in the utmost agony of mind, yet
repressed every violent symptom of emotion, whether by gesture or sound,
which might have interrupted the speaker, and, stretched on his couch
like the Mexican monarch on his bed of live coals, only the contortions
of his cheek, and the quivering of his limbs, gave indication of his
sufferings. To much of what she said he listened with stifled groans, as
if he were only hearing those miseries confirmed, whose fatal reality he
had known before; but when she pursued her tale through the circumstances
which had interrupted her journey, extreme surprise and earnest attention
appeared to succeed to the symptoms of remorse which he had before
exhibited. He questioned Jeanie closely concerning the appearance of the
two men, and the conversation which she had overheard between the taller
of them and the woman.
When Jeanie mentioned the old woman having alluded to her foster-son--"It
is too true," he said; "and the source from which I derived food, when an
infant, must have communicated to me the wretched--the fated--propensity
to vices that were strangers in my own family.--But go on."
Jeanie passed slightly over her journey in company with Madge, having no
inclination to repeat what might be the effect of mere raving on the part
of her companion, and therefore her tale was now closed.
Young Staunton lay for a moment in profound meditation and at length
spoke with more composure than he had yet displayed during their
interview.--"You are a sensible, as well as a good young woman, Jeanie
Deans, and I will tell you more of my story than I have told to any one.
--Story did I call it?--it is a tissue of folly, guilt, and misery.--But
take notice--I do it because I desire your confidence in return--that is,
that you will act in this dismal matter by my advice and direction.
Therefore do I speak."
"I will do what is fitting for a sister, and a daughter, and a Christian
woman to do," said Jeanie; "but do not tell me any of your secrets.--It
is not good that I should come into your counsel, or listen to the
doctrine which causeth to err."
"Simple fool!" said the young man. "Look at me. My head is not horned, my
foot is not cloven, my hands are not garnished with talons; and, since I
am not the very devil himself, what interest can any one else have in
destroying the hopes with which you comfort or fool yourself? Listen to
me patiently, and you will find that, when you have heard my counsel, you
may go to the seventh heaven with it in your pocket, if you have a mind,
and not feel yourself an ounce heavier in the ascent."
At the risk of being somewhat heavy, as explanations usually prove, we
must here endeavour to combine into a distinct narrative, information
which the invalid communicated in a manner at once too circumstantial,
and too much broken by passion, to admit of our giving his precise words.
Part of it indeed he read from a manuscript, which he had perhaps drawn
up for the information of his relations after his decease.
"To make my tale short--this wretched hag--this Margaret Murdockson, was
the wife of a favourite servant of my father--she had been my nurse--her
husband was dead--she resided in a cottage near this place--she had a
daughter who grew up, and was then a beautiful but very giddy girl; her
mother endeavoured to promote her marriage with an old and wealthy churl
in the neighbourhood--the girl saw me frequently--She was familiar with
me, as our connection seemed to permit--and I--in a word, I wronged her
cruelly--It was not so bad as your sister's business, but it was
sufficiently villanous--her folly should have been her protection. Soon
after this I was sent abroad--To do my father justice, if I have turned
out a fiend it is not his fault--he used the best means. When I returned,
I found the wretched mother and daughter had fallen into disgrace, and
were chased from this country.--My deep share in their shame and misery
was discovered--my father used very harsh language--we quarrelled. I left
his house, and led a life of strange adventure, resolving never again to
see my father or my father's home.
"And now comes the story!--Jeanie, I put my life into your hands, and not
only my own life, which, God knows, is not worth saving, but the
happiness of a respectable old man, and the honour of a family of
consideration. My love of low society, as such propensities as I was
cursed with are usually termed, was, I think of an uncommon kind, and
indicated a nature, which, if not depraved by early debauchery, would
have been fit for better things. I did not so much delight in the wild
revel, the low humour, the unconfined liberty of those with whom I
associated as in the spirit of adventure, presence of mind in peril, and
sharpness of intellect which they displayed in prosecuting their
maraudings upon the revenue, or similar adventures.--Have you looked
round this rectory?--is it not a sweet and pleasant retreat?"
Jeanie, alarmed at this sudden change of subject, replied in the
"Well! I wish it had been ten thousand fathoms under ground, with its
church-lands, and tithes, and all that belongs to it. Had it not been for
this cursed rectory, I should have been permitted to follow the bent of
my own inclinations and the profession of arms, and half the courage and
address that I have displayed among smugglers and deer-stealers would
have secured me an honourable rank among my contemporaries. Why did I not
go abroad when I left this house!--Why did I leave it at all!--why--But
it came to that point with me that it is madness to look back, and misery
to look forward!"
He paused, and then proceeded with more composure.
"The chances of a wandering life brought me unhappily to Scotland, to
embroil myself in worse and more criminal actions than I had yet been
concerned in. It was now I became acquainted with Wilson, a remarkable
man in his station of life; quiet, composed, and resolute, firm in mind,
and uncommonly strong in person, gifted with a sort of rough eloquence
which raised him above his companions. Hitherto I had been
As dissolute as desperate, yet through both
Were seen some sparkles of a better hope.
"But it was this man's misfortune, as well as mine, that, notwithstanding
the difference of our rank and education, he acquired an extraordinary
and fascinating influence over me, which I can only account for by the
calm determination of his character being superior to the less sustained
impetuosity of mine. Where he led I felt myself bound to follow; and
strange was the courage and address which he displayed in his pursuits.
While I was engaged in desperate adventures, under so strange and
dangerous a preceptor, I became acquainted with your unfortunate sister
at some sports of the young people in the suburbs, which she frequented
by stealth--and her ruin proved an interlude to the tragic scenes in
which I was now deeply engaged. Yet this let me say--the villany was not
premeditated, and I was firmly resolved to do her all the justice which
marriage could do, so soon as I should be able to extricate myself from
my unhappy course of life, and embrace some one more suited to my birth.
I had wild visions--visions of conducting her as if to some poor retreat,
and introducing her at once to rank and fortune she never dreamt of. A
friend, at my request, attempted a negotiation with my father, which was
protracted for some time, and renewed at different intervals. At length,
and just when I expected my father's pardon, he learned by some means or
other my infamy, painted in even exaggerated colours, which was, God
knows, unnecessary. He wrote me a letter--how it found me out I know not
--enclosing me a sum of money, and disowning me for ever. I became
desperate--I became frantic--I readily joined Wilson in a perilous
smuggling adventure in which we miscarried, and was willingly blinded by
his logic to consider the robbery of the officer of the customs in Fife
as a fair and honourable reprisal. Hitherto I had observed a certain line
in my criminality, and stood free of assaults upon personal property, but
now I felt a wild pleasure in disgracing myself as much as possible.
"The plunder was no object to me. I abandoned that to my comrades, and
only asked the post of danger. I remember well that when I stood with my
drawn sword guarding the door while they committed the felony, I had not
a thought of my own safety. I was only meditating on my sense of supposed
wrong from my family, my impotent thirst of vengeance, and how it would
sound in the haughty cars of the family of Willingham, that one of their
descendants, and the heir apparent of their honours, should perish by the
hands of the hangman for robbing a Scottish gauger of a sum not equal to
one-fifth part of the money I had in my pocket-book. We were taken--I
expected no less. We were condemned--that also I looked for. But death,
as he approached nearer, looked grimly; and the recollection of your
sister's destitute condition determined me on an effort to save my life.
--I forgot to tell you, that in Edinburgh I again met the woman
Murdockson and her daughter. She had followed the camp when young, and
had now, under pretence of a trifling traffic, resumed predatory habits,
with which she had already been too familiar. Our first meeting was
stormy; but I was liberal of what money I had, and she forgot, or seemed
to forget, the injury her daughter had received. The unfortunate girl
herself seemed hardly even to know her seducer, far less to retain any
sense of the injury she had received. Her mind is totally alienated,
which, according to her mother's account, is sometimes the consequence of
an unfavourable confinement. But it was /my doing./ Here was another
stone knitted round my neck to sink me into the pit of perdition. Every
look--every word of this poor creature--her false spirits--her imperfect
recollections--her allusions to things which she had forgotten, but which
were recorded in my conscience, were stabs of a poniard--stabs did I
say?--they were tearing with hot pincers, and scalding the raw wound with
burning sulphur--they were to be endured however, and they were endured.
--I return to my prison thoughts.
"It was not the least miserable of them that your sister's time
approached. I knew her dread of you and of her father. She often said she
would die a thousand deaths ere you should know her shame--yet her
confinement must be provided for. I knew this woman Murdockson was an
infernal hag, but I thought she loved me, and that money would make her
true. She had procured a file for Wilson, and a spring-saw for me; and
she undertook readily to take charge of Effie during her illness, in
which she had skill enough to give the necessary assistance. I gave her
the money which my father had sent me. It was settled that she should
receive Effie into her house in the meantime, and wait for farther
directions from me, when I should effect my escape. I communicated this
purpose, and recommended the old hag to poor Effie by a letter, in which
I recollect that I endeavoured to support the character of Macheath under
condemnation-a fine, gay, bold-faced ruffian, who is game to the last.
Such, and so wretchedly poor, was my ambition! Yet I had resolved to
forsake the courses I had been engaged in, should I be so fortunate as to
escape the gibbet. My design was to marry your sister, and go over to the
West Indies. I had still a considerable sum of money left, and I trusted
to be able, in one way or other, to provide for myself and my wife.
"We made the attempt to escape, and by the obstinacy of Wilson, who
insisted upon going first, it totally miscarried. The undaunted and
self-denied manner in which he sacrificed himself to redeem his error,
and accomplish my escape from the Tolbooth Church, you must have heard
of--all Scotland rang with it. It was a gallant and extraordinary deed--
All men spoke of it--all men, even those who most condemned the habits
and crimes of this self-devoted man, praised the heroism of his
friendship. I have many vices, but cowardice or want of gratitude, are
none of the number. I resolved to requite his generosity, and even your
sister's safety became a secondary consideration with me for the time. To
effect Wilson's liberation was my principal object, and I doubted not to
find the means.
"Yet I did not forget Effie neither. The bloodhounds of the law were so
close after me, that I dared not trust myself near any of my old haunts,
but old Murdockson met me by appointment, and informed me that your
sister had happily been delivered of a boy. I charged the hag to keep her
patient's mind easy, and let her want for nothing that money could
purchase, and I retreated to Fife, where, among my old associates of
Wilson's gang, I hid myself in those places of concealment where the men
engaged in that desperate trade are used to find security for themselves
and their uncustomed goods. Men who are disobedient both to human and
divine laws are not always insensible to the claims of courage and
generosity. We were assured that the mob of Edinburgh, strongly moved
with the hardship of Wilson's situation, and the gallantry of his
conduct, would back any bold attempt that might be made to rescue him
even from the foot of the gibbet. Desperate as the attempt seemed, upon
my declaring myself ready to lead the onset on the guard, I found no want
of followers who engaged to stand by me, and returned to Lothian, soon
followed by some steady associates, prepared to act whenever the occasion
"I have no doubt I should have rescued him from the very noose that
dangled over his head," he continued with animation, which seemed a flash
of the interest which he had taken in such exploits; "but amongst other
precautions, the magistrates had taken one, suggested, as we afterwards
learned, by the unhappy wretch Porteous, which effectually disconcerted
my measures. They anticipated, by half-an-hour, the ordinary period for
execution; and, as it had been resolved amongst us, that, for fear of
observation from the officers of justice, we should not show ourselves
upon the street until the time of action approached, it followed, that
all was over before our attempt at a rescue commenced. It did commence,
however, and I gained the scaffold and cut the rope with my own hand. It
was too late! The bold, stouthearted, generous criminal was no more--and
vengeance was all that remained to us--a vengeance, as I then thought,
doubly due from my hand, to whom Wilson had given life and liberty when
he could as easily have secured his own."
"O sir," said Jeanie, "did the Scripture never come into your mind,
'Vengeance is mine, and I will repay it?'"
"Scripture! Why, I had not opened a Bible for five years," answered
"Wae's me, sirs," said Jeanie--"and a minister's son too!"
"It is natural for you to say so; yet do not interrupt me, but let me
finish my most accursed history. The beast, Porteous, who kept firing on
the people long after it had ceased to be necessary, became the object of
their hatred for having overdone his duty, and of mine for having done it
too well. We that is, I and the other determined friends of Wilson,
resolved to be avenged--but caution was necessary. I thought I had been
marked by one of the officers, and therefore continued to lurk about the
vicinity of Edinburgh, but without daring to venture within the walls. At
length I visited, at the hazard of my life, the place where I hoped to
find my future wife and my son--they were both gone. Dame Murdockson
informed me, that so soon as Effie heard of the miscarriage of the
attempt to rescue Wilson, and the hot pursuit after me, she fell into a
brain fever; and that being one day obliged to go out on some necessary
business and leave her alone, she had taken that opportunity to escape,
and she had not seen her since. I loaded her with reproaches, to which
she listened with the most provoking and callous composure; for it is one
of her attributes, that, violent and fierce as she is upon most
occasions, there are some in which she shows the most imperturbable
calmness. I threatened her with justice; she said I had more reason to
fear justice than she had. I felt she was right, and was silenced. I
threatened her with vengeance; she replied in nearly the same words,
that, to judge by injuries received, I had more reason to fear her
vengeance, than she to dread mine. She was again right, and I was left
without an answer. I flung myself from her in indignation, and employed a
comrade to make inquiry in the neighbourhood of Saint Leonard's
concerning your sister; but ere I received his answer, the opening quest
of a well-scented terrier of the law drove me from the vicinity of
Edinburgh, to a more distant and secluded place of concealment. A secret
and trusty emissary at length brought me the account of Porteous's
condemnation, and of your sister's imprisonment on a criminal charge;
thus astounding one of mine ears, while he gratified the other.
"I again ventured to the Pleasance--again charged Murdockson with
treachery to the unfortunate Effie and her child, though I could conceive
no reason, save that of appropriating the whole of the money I had lodged
with her. Your narrative throws light on this, and shows another motive,
not less powerful because less evident--the desire of wreaking vengeance
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