The Heart of Mid-Lothian, by Walter Scott

Chapter 38

So soon as I can win the offended king,

I will be known your advocate.

Cymbeline.

The Duke of Argyle led the way in silence to the small postern by which they had been admitted into Richmond Park, so long the favourite residence of Queen Caroline. It was opened by the same half-seen janitor, and they found themselves beyond the precincts of the royal demesne. Still not a word was spoken on either side. The Duke probably wished to allow his rustic prote’ge’e time to recruit her faculties, dazzled and sunk with colloquy sublime; and betwixt what she had guessed, had heard, and had seen, Jeanie Deans’s mind was too much agitated to permit her to ask any questions.

They found the carriage of the Duke in the place where they had left it; and when they resumed their places, soon began to advance rapidly on their return to town.

“I think, Jeanie,” said the Duke, breaking silence, “you have every reason to congratulate yourself on the issue of your interview with her Majesty.”

“And that leddy was the Queen herself?” said Jeanie; “I misdoubted it when I saw that your honour didna put on your hat — And yet I can hardly believe it, even when I heard her speak it herself.”

“It was certainly Queen Caroline,” replied the Duke. “Have you no curiosity to see what is in the little pocket-book?”

“Do you think the pardon will be in it, sir?” said Jeanie, with the eager animation of hope.

“Why, no,” replied the Duke; “that is unlikely. They seldom carry these things about them, unless they were likely to be wanted; and, besides, her Majesty told you it was the King, not she, who was to grant it.”

“That is true, too,” said Jeanie; “but I am so confused in my mind — But does your honour think there is a certainty of Effie’s pardon then?” continued she, still holding in her hand the unopened pocket-book.

“Why, kings are kittle cattle to shoe behind, as we say in the north,” replied the Duke; “but his wife knows his trim, and I have not the least doubt that the matter is quite certain.”

“Oh, God be praised! God be praised!” ejaculated Jeanie; “and may the gude leddy never want the heart’s ease she has gien me at this moment! — And God bless you too, my Lord! — without your help I wad ne’er hae won near her.”

The Duke let her dwell upon this subject for a considerable time, curious, perhaps, to see how long the feelings of gratitude would continue to supersede those of curiosity. But so feeble was the latter feeling in Jeanie’s mind, that his Grace, with whom, perhaps, it was for the time a little stronger, was obliged once more to bring forward the subject of the Queen’s present. It was opened accordingly. In the inside of the case was the usual assortment of silk and needles, with scissors, tweezers, etc.; and in the pocket was a bank-bill for fifty pounds.

The Duke had no sooner informed Jeanie of the value of this last document, for she was unaccustomed to see notes for such sums, than she expressed her regret at the mistake which had taken place. “For the hussy itsell,” she said, “was a very valuable thing for a keepsake, with the Queen’s name written in the inside with her ain hand doubtless — Caroline — as plain as could be, and a crown drawn aboon it.”

She therefore tendered the bill to the Duke, requesting him to find some mode of returning it to the royal owner.

“No, no, Jeanie,” said the Duke, “there is no mistake in the case. Her Majesty knows you have been put to great expense, and she wishes to make it up to you.”

“I am sure she is even ower gude,” said Jeanie, “and it glads me muckle that I can pay back Dumbiedikes his siller, without distressing my father, honest man.”

“Dumbiedikes! What, a freeholder of Mid-Lothian, is he not?” said his Grace, whose occasional residence in that county made him acquainted with most of the heritors, as landed persons are termed in Scotland. —“He has a house not far from Dalkeith, wears a black wig and a laced hat?”

“Yes sir,” answered Jeanie, who had her reasons for being brief in her answers upon this topic.

“Ah, my old friend Dumbie!” said the Duke; “I have thrice seen him fou, and only once heard the sound of his voice — Is he a cousin of yours, Jeanie?”

“No, sir — my Lord.”

“Then he must be a well-wisher, I suspect?”

“Ye — yes — my Lord, sir,” answered Jeanie, blushing, and with hesitation.

“Aha! then, if the Laird starts, I suppose my friend Butler must be in some danger?”

“O no, sir,” answered Jeanie, much more readily, but at the same time blushing much more deeply.

“Well, Jeanie,” said the Duke, “you are a girl may be safely trusted with your own matters, and I shall inquire no farther about them. But as to this same pardon, I must see to get it passed through the proper forms; and I have a friend in office who will for auld lang syne, do me so much favour. And then, Jeanie, as I shall have occasion to send an express down to Scotland, who will travel with it safer and more swiftly than you can do, I will take care to have it put into the proper channel; meanwhile you may write to your friends by post of your good success.”

“And does your Honour think,” said Jeanie, “that will do as weel as if I were to take my tap in my lap, and slip my ways hame again on my ain errand?”

“Much better, certainly,” said the Duke. “You know the roads are not very safe for a single woman to travel.”

Jeanie internally acquiesced in this observation.

“And I have a plan for you besides. One of the Duchess’s attendants, and one of mine — your acquaintance Archibald — are going down to Inverary in a light calash, with four horses I have bought, and there is room enough in the carriage for you to go with them as far as Glasgow, where Archibald will find means of sending you safely to Edinburgh. — And in the way I beg you will teach the woman as much as you can of the mystery of cheese-making, for she is to have a charge in the dairy, and I dare swear you are as tidy about your milk-pail as about your dress.”

“Does your Honour like cheese?” said Jeanie, with a gleam of conscious delight as she asked the question.

“Like it?” said the Duke, whose good-nature anticipated what was to follow — “cakes and cheese are a dinner for an emperor, let alone a Highlandman.”

“Because,” said Jeanie, with modest confidence, and great and evident self-gratulation, “we have been thought so particular in making cheese, that some folk think it as gude as the real Dunlop; and if your honour’s Grace wad but accept a stane or twa, blithe, and fain, and proud it wad make us? But maybe ye may like the ewe-milk, that is, the Buckholmside1 cheese better; or maybe the gait-milk, as ye come frae the Highlands — and I canna pretend just to the same skeel o’ them; but my cousin Jean, that lives at Lockermachus in Lammermuir, I could speak to her, and —”

“Quite unnecessary,” said the Duke; “the Dunlop is the very cheese of which I am so fond, and I will take it as the greatest favour you can do me to send one to Caroline Park. But remember, be on honour with it, Jeanie, and make it all yourself, for I am a real good judge.”

“I am not feared,” said Jeanie, confidently, “that I may please your Honour; for I am sure you look as if you could hardly find fault wi’ onybody that did their best; and weel is it my part, I trow, to do mine.”

This discourse introduced a topic upon which the two travellers, though so different in rank and education, found each a good deal to say. The Duke, besides his other patriotic qualities, was a distinguished agriculturist, and proud of his knowledge in that department. He entertained Jeanie with his observations on the different breeds of cattle in Scotland, and their capacity for the dairy, and received so much information from her practical experience in return, that he promised her a couple of Devonshire cows in reward for the lesson. In short his mind was so transported back to his rural employments and amusements, that he sighed when his carriage stopped opposite to the old hackney-coach, which Archibald had kept in attendance at the place where they had left it. While the coachman again bridled his lean cattle, which had been indulged with a bite of musty hay, the Duke cautioned Jeanie not to be too communicative to her landlady concerning what had passed. “There is,” he said, “no use of speaking of matters till they are actually settled; and you may refer the good lady to Archibald, if she presses you hard with questions. She is his old acquaintance, and he knows how to manage with her.”

He then took a cordial farewell of Jeanie, and told her to be ready in the ensuing week to return to Scotland — saw her safely established in her hackney-coach, and rolled of in his own carriage, humming a stanza of the ballad which he is said to have composed:—

“At the sight of Dumbarton once again,

I’ll cock up my bonnet and march amain,

With my claymore hanging down to my heel,

To whang at the bannocks of barley meal.”

Perhaps one ought to be actually a Scotsman to conceive how ardently, under all distinctions of rank and situation, they feel their mutual connection with each other as natives of the same country. There are, I believe, more associations common to the inhabitants of a rude and wild, than of a well-cultivated and fertile country; their ancestors have more seldom changed their place of residence; their mutual recollection of remarkable objects is more accurate; the high and the low are more interested in each other’s welfare; the feelings of kindred and relationship are more widely extended, and in a word, the bonds of patriotic affection, always honourable even when a little too exclusively strained, have more influence on men’s feelings and actions.

The rumbling hackney-coach, which tumbled over the (then) execrable London pavement, at a rate very different from that which had conveyed the ducal carriage to Richmond, at length deposited Jeanie Deans and her attendant at the national sign of the Thistle. Mrs. Glass, who had been in long and anxious expectation, now rushed, full of eager curiosity and open-mouthed interrogation, upon our heroine, who was positively unable to sustain the overwhelming cataract of her questions, which burst forth with the sublimity of a grand gardyloo:—

“Had she seen the Duke, God bless him — the Duchess — the young ladies? — Had she seen the King, God bless him — the Queen — the Prince of Wales — the Princess — or any of the rest of the royal family? — Had she got her sister’s pardon? — Was it out and out — or was it only a commutation of punishment? — How far had she gone — where had she driven to — whom had she seen — what had been said — what had kept her so long?”

Such were the various questions huddled upon each other by a curiosity so eager, that it could hardly wait for its own gratification. Jeanie would have been more than sufficiently embarrassed by this overbearing tide of interrogations, had not Archibald, who had probably received from his master a hint to that purpose, advanced to her rescue. “Mrs. Glass,” said Archibald, “his Grace desired me particularly to say, that he would take it as a great favour if you would ask the young woman no questions, as he wishes to explain to you more distinctly than she can do how her affairs stand, and consult you on some matters which she cannot altogether so well explain. The Duke will call at the Thistle tomorrow or next day for that purpose.”

“His Grace is very condescending,” said Mrs. Glass, her zeal for inquiry slaked for the present by the dexterous administration of this sugar plum —“his Grace is sensible that I am in a manner accountable for the conduct of my young kinswoman, and no doubt his Grace is the best judge how far he should intrust her or me with the management of her affairs.”

“His Grace is quite sensible of that,” answered Archibald, with national gravity, “and will certainly trust what he has to say to the most discreet of the two; and therefore, Mrs. Glass, his Grace relies you will speak nothing to Mrs. Jean Deans, either of her own affairs or her sister’s, until he sees you himself. He desired me to assure you, in the meanwhile, that all was going on as well as your kindness could wish, Mrs. Glass.”

“His Grace is very kind — very considerate, certainly, Mr. Archibald — his Grace’s commands shall be obeyed, and — But you have had a far drive, Mr. Archibald, as I guess by the time of your absence, and I guess” (with an engaging smile) “you winna be the waur o’ a glass of the right Rosa Solis.”

“I thank you, Mrs. Glass,” said the great man’s great man, “but I am under the necessity of returning to my Lord directly.” And, making his adieus civilly to both cousins, he left the shop of the Lady of the Thistle.

“I am glad your affairs have prospered so well, Jeanie, my love,” said Mrs. Glass; “though, indeed, there was little fear of them so soon as the Duke of Argyle was so condescending as to take them into hand. I will ask you no questions about them, because his Grace, who is most considerate and prudent in such matters, intends to tell me all that you ken yourself, dear, and doubtless a great deal more; so that anything that may lie heavily on your mind may be imparted to me in the meantime, as you see it is his Grace’s pleasure that I should be made acquainted with the whole matter forthwith, and whether you or he tells it, will make no difference in the world, ye ken. If I ken what he is going to say beforehand, I will be much more ready to give my advice, and whether you or he tell me about it, cannot much signify after all, my dear. So you may just say whatever you like, only mind I ask you no questions about it.”

Jeanie was a little embarrassed. She thought that the communication she had to make was perhaps the only means she might have in her power to gratify her friendly and hospitable kinswoman. But her prudence instantly suggested that her secret interview with Queen Caroline, which seemed to pass under a certain sort of mystery, was not a proper subject for the gossip of a woman like Mrs. Glass, of whose heart she had a much better opinion than of her prudence. She, therefore, answered in general, that the Duke had had the extraordinary kindness to make very particular inquiries into her sister’s bad affair, and that he thought he had found the means of putting it a’ straight again, but that he proposed to tell all that he thought about the matter to Mrs. Glass herself.

This did not quite satisfy the penetrating mistress of the Thistle. Searching as her own small rappee, she, in spite of her promise, urged Jeanie with still farther questions. “Had she been a’ that time at Argyle House? Was the Duke with her the whole time? and had she seen the Duchess? and had she seen the young ladies — and specially Lady Caroline Campbell?”— To these questions Jeanie gave the general reply, that she knew so little of the town that she could not tell exactly where she had been; that she had not seen the Duchess to her knowledge; that she had seen two ladies, one of whom, she understood, bore the name of Caroline; and more, she said, she could not tell about the matter.

“It would be the Duke’s eldest daughter, Lady Caroline Campbell, there is no doubt of that,” said Mrs. Glass; “but doubtless, I shall know more particularly through his Grace. — And so, as the cloth is laid in the little parlour above stairs, and it is past three o’clock, for I have been waiting this hour for you, and I have had a snack myself; and, as they used to say in Scotland in my time — I do not ken if the word be used now — there is ill talking between a full body and a fasting.”

1 The hilly pastures of Buckholm, which the Author now surveys — “Not in the frenzy of a dreamer’s eye,”— are famed for producing the best ewe-milk cheese in the south of Scotland.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29