The Heart of Mid-Lothian, by Walter Scott

Chapter 39

Heaven first taught letters for some wretch’s aid —

    Some banished lover or some captive maid.

Pope.

By dint of unwonted labour with the pen, Jeanie Deans contrived to indite, and give to the charge of the postman on the ensuing day, no less than three letters, an exertion altogether strange to her habits; insomuch so, that, if milk had been plenty, she would rather have made thrice as many Dunlop cheeses. The first of them was very brief. It was addressed to George Staunton, Esq., at the Rectory, Willingham, by Grantham; the address being part of the information she had extracted from the communicative peasant who rode before her to Stamford. It was in these words:—

“Sir — To prevent farder mischieves, whereof there hath been enough, comes these: Sir, I have my sister’s pardon from the Queen’s Majesty, whereof I do not doubt you will be glad, having had to say naut of matters whereof you know the purport. So, Sir, I pray for your better welfare in bodie and soul, and that it will please the fisycian to visit you in His good time. Alwaies, sir, I pray you will never come again to see my sister, whereof there has been too much. And so, wishing you no evil, but even your best good, that you may be turned from your iniquity (for why suld ye die?) I rest your humble servant to command,

Ye ken wha.

The next letter was to her father. It is too long altogether for insertion, so we only give a few extracts. It commenced —

“Dearest and truly honoured father — This comes with my duty to inform you, that it has pleased God to redeem that captivitie of my poor sister, in respect the Queen’s blessed Majesty, for whom we are ever bound to pray, hath redeemed her soul from the slayer, granting the ransom of her, whilk is ane pardon or reprieve. And I spoke with the Queen face to face and yet live; for she is not muckle differing from other grand leddies, saying that she has a stately presence, and een like a blue huntin’ hawk’s, whilk gaed throu’ and throu’ me like a Highland durk — And all this good was, alway under the Great Giver, to whom all are but instruments, wrought forth for us by the Duk of Argile, wha is ane native true-hearted Scotsman, and not pridefu’, like other folk we ken of — and likewise skeely enow in bestial, whereof he has promised to gie me twa Devonshire kye, of which he is enamoured, although I do still haud by the real hawlit Airshire breed — and I have promised him a cheese; and I wad wuss ye, if Gowans, the brockit cow, has a quey, that she suld suck her fill of milk, as I am given to understand he has none of that breed, and is not scornfu’ but will take a thing frae a puir body, that it may lighten their heart of the loading of debt that they awe him. Also his honour the Duke will accept ane of our Dunlop cheeses, and it sall be my faut if a better was ever yearned in Lowden.”—[Here follow some observations respecting the breed of cattle, and the produce of the dairy, which it is our intention to forward to the Board of Agriculture.]—“Nevertheless, these are but matters of the after-harvest, in respect of the great good which Providence hath gifted us with — and, in especial, poor Effie’s life. And oh, my dear father, since it hath pleased God to be merciful to her, let her not want your free pardon, whilk will make her meet to be ane vessel of grace, and also a comfort to your ain graie hairs. Dear Father, will ye let the Laird ken that we have had friends strangely raised up to us, and that the talent whilk he lent me will be thankfully repaid. I hae some of it to the fore; and the rest of it is not knotted up in ane purse or napkin, but in ane wee bit paper, as is the fashion heir, whilk I am assured is gude for the siller. And, dear father, through Mr. Butler’s means I hae gude friendship with the Duke, for their had been kindness between their forbears in the auld troublesome time bye-past. And Mrs. Glass has been kind like my very mother. She has a braw house here, and lives bien and warm, wi’ twa servant lasses, and a man and a callant in the shop. And she is to send you doun a pound of her hie-dried, and some other tobaka, and we maun think of some propine for her, since her kindness hath been great. And the Duk is to send the pardun doun by an express messenger, in respect that I canna travel sae fast; and I am to come doun wi’ twa of his Honour’s servants — that is, John Archibald, a decent elderly gentleman, that says he has seen you lang syne, when ye were buying beasts in the west frae the Laird of Aughtermuggitie — but maybe ye winna mind him — ony way, he’s a civil man — and Mrs. Dolly Dutton, that is to be dairy-maid at Inverara; and they bring me on as far as Glasgo, whilk will make it nae pinch to win hame, whilk I desire of all things. May the Giver of all good things keep ye in your outgauns and incomings, whereof devoutly prayeth your loving dauter,

“Jean Deans.”

The third letter was to Butler, and its tenor as follows:—

“Master Butler. — Sir — It will be pleasure to you to ken, that all I came for is, thanks be to God, weel dune and to the gude end, and that your forbear’s letter was right welcome to the Duke of Argile, and that he wrote your name down with a kylevine pen in a leathern book, whereby it seems like he will do for you either wi’ a scule or a kirk; he has enow of baith, as I am assured. And I have seen the queen, which gave me a hussy-case out of her own hand. She had not her crown and skeptre, but they are laid by for her, like the bairns’ best claise, to be worn when she needs them. And they are keepit in a tour, whilk is not like the tour of Libberton, nor yet Craigmillar, but mair like to the castell of Edinburgh, if the buildings were taen and set down in the midst of the Nor’-Loch. Also the Queen was very bounteous, giving me a paper worth fiftie pounds, as I am assured, to pay my expenses here and back agen. Sae, Master Butler, as we were aye neebours’ bairns, forby onything else that may hae been spoken between us, I trust you winna skrimp yoursell for what is needfu’ for your health, since it signifies not muckle whilk o’ us has the siller, if the other wants it. And mind this is no meant to haud ye to onything whilk ye wad rather forget, if ye suld get a charge of a kirk or a scule, as above said. Only I hope it will be a scule, and not a kirk, because of these difficulties anent aiths and patronages, whilk might gang ill down wi’ my honest father. Only if ye could compass a harmonious call frae the parish of Skreegh-me-dead, as ye anes had hope of, I trow it wad please him weel; since I hae heard him say, that the root of the matter was mair deeply hafted in that wild muirland parish than in the Canongate of Edinburgh. I wish I had whaten books ye wanted, Mr. Butler, for they hae haill houses of them here, and they are obliged to set sum out in the street, whilk are sald cheap, doubtless, to get them out of the weather. It is a muckle place, and I hae seen sae muckle of it, that my poor head turns round. And ye ken langsyne, I am nae great pen-woman, and it is near eleven o’clock o’ the night. I am cumming down in good company, and safe — and I had troubles in gaun up whilk makes me blither of travelling wi’ kend folk. My cousin, Mrs. Glass, has a braw house here, but a’ thing is sae poisoned wi’ snuff, that I am like to be scomfished whiles. But what signifies these things, in comparison of the great deliverance whilk has been vouchsafed to my father’s house, in whilk you, as our auld and dear well-wisher, will, I dout not, rejoice and be exceedingly glad. And I am, dear Mr. Butler, your sincere well-wisher in temporal and eternal things,

“J. D.”

After these labours of an unwonted kind, Jeanie retired to her bed, yet scarce could sleep a few minutes together, so often was she awakened by the heart-stirring consciousness of her sister’s safety, and so powerfully urged to deposit her burden of joy, where she had before laid her doubts and sorrows, in the warm and sincere exercises of devotion.

All the next, and all the succeeding day, Mrs. Glass fidgeted about her shop in the agony of expectation, like a pea (to use a vulgar simile which her profession renders appropriate) upon one of her own tobacco pipes. With the third morning came the expected coach, with four servants clustered behind on the footboard, in dark brown and yellow liveries; the Duke in person, with laced coat, gold-headed cane, star and garter, all, as the story-book says, very grand.

He inquired for his little countrywoman of Mrs. Glass, but without requesting to see her, probably because he was unwilling to give an appearance of personal intercourse betwixt them, which scandal might have misinterpreted. “The Queen,” he said to Mrs. Glass, “had taken the case of her kinswoman into her gracious consideration, and being specially moved by the affectionate and resolute character of the elder sister, had condescended to use her powerful intercession with his Majesty, in consequence of which a pardon had been despatched to Scotland to Effie Deans, on condition of her banishing herself forth of Scotland for fourteen years. The King’s Advocate had insisted,” he said, “upon this qualification of the pardon, having pointed out to his Majesty’s ministers, that, within the course of only seven years, twenty-one instances of child-murder had occurred in Scotland.

“Weary on him!” said Mrs. Glass, “what for needed he to have telled that of his ain country, and to the English folk abune a’? I used aye to think the Advocate a douce decent man, but it is an ill bird1 — begging your Grace’s pardon for speaking of such a coorse by-word.

And then what is the poor lassie to do in a foreign land? — Why, wae’s me, it’s just sending her to play the same pranks ower again, out of sight or guidance of her friends.”

“Pooh! pooh!” said the Duke, “that need not be anticipated. Why, she may come up to London, or she may go over to America, and marry well for all that is come and gone.”

“In troth, and so she may, as your Grace is pleased to intimate,” replied Mrs. Glass; “and now I think upon it, there is my old correspondent in Virginia, Ephraim Buckskin, that has supplied the Thistle this forty years with tobacco, and it is not a little that serves our turn, and he has been writing to me this ten years to send him out a wife. The carle is not above sixty, and hale and hearty, and well to pass in the world, and a line from my hand would settle the matter, and Effie Deans’s misfortune (forby that there is no special occasion to speak about it) would be thought little of there.”

“Is she a pretty girl?” said the Duke; “her sister does not get beyond a good comely sonsy lass.”

“Oh, far prettier is Effie than Jeanie,” said Mrs. Glass; “though it is long since I saw her mysell, but I hear of the Deanses by all my Lowden friends when they come — your Grace kens we Scots are clannish bodies.”

“So much the better for us,” said the Duke, “and the worse for those who meddle with us, as your good old-fashioned sign says, Mrs. Glass. And now I hope you will approve of the measures I have taken for restoring your kinswoman to her friends.” These he detailed at length, and Mrs. Glass gave her unqualified approbation, with a smile and a courtesy at every sentence. “And now, Mrs. Glass, you must tell Jeanie, I hope, she will not forget my cheese when she gets down to Scotland. Archibald has my orders to arrange all her expenses.”

“Begging your Grace’s humble pardon,” said Mrs. Glass, “it is a pity to trouble yourself about them; the Deanses are wealthy people in their way, and the lass has money in her pocket.”

“That’s all very true,” said the Duke; “but you know, where MacCallummore travels he pays all; it is our Highland privilege to take from all what we want, and to give to all what they want.”

“Your Grace is better at giving than taking,” said Mrs. Glass.

“To show you the contrary,” said the Duke, “I will fill my box out of this canister without paying you a bawbee;” and again desiring to be remembered to Jeanie, with his good wishes for her safe journey, he departed, leaving Mrs. Glass uplifted in heart and in countenance, the proudest and happiest of tobacco and snuff dealers.

Reflectively, his Grace’s good humour and affability had a favourable effect upon Jeanie’s situation. — Her kinswoman, though civil and kind to her, had acquired too much of London breeding to be perfectly satisfied with her cousin’s rustic and national dress, and was, besides, something scandalised at the cause of her journey to London. Mrs. Glass might, therefore, have been less sedulous in her attentions towards Jeanie, but for the interest which the foremost of the Scottish nobles (for such, in all men’s estimation, was the Duke of Argyle) seemed to take in her fate. Now, however, as a kinswoman whose virtues and domestic affections had attracted the notice and approbation of royalty itself, Jeanie stood to her relative in a light very different and much more favourable, and was not only treated with kindness, but with actual observance and respect.

It depended on herself alone to have made as many visits, and seen as many sights, as lay within Mrs. Glass’s power to compass. But, excepting that she dined abroad with one or two “far away kinsfolk,” and that she paid the same respect, on Mrs. Glass’s strong urgency, to Mrs. Deputy Dabby, wife of the Worshipful Mr. Deputy Dabby, of Farringdon Without, she did not avail herself of the opportunity. As Mrs. Dabby was the second lady of great rank whom Jeanie had seen in London, she used sometimes afterwards to draw a parallel betwixt her and the Queen, in which she observed, “that Mrs. Dabby was dressed twice as grand, and was twice as big, and spoke twice as loud, and twice as muckle, as the Queen did, but she hadna the same goss-hawk glance that makes the skin creep, and the knee bend; and though she had very kindly gifted her with a loaf of sugar and twa punds of tea, yet she hadna a’thegither the sweet look that the Queen had when she put the needle-book into her hand.”

Jeanie might have enjoyed the sights and novelties of this great city more, had it not been for the qualification added to her sister’s pardon, which greatly grieved her affectionate disposition. On this subject, however, her mind was somewhat relieved by a letter which she received in return of post, in answer to that which she had written to her father. With his affectionate blessing, it brought his full approbation of the step which she had taken, as one inspired by the immediate dictates of Heaven, and which she had been thrust upon in order that she might become the means of safety to a perishing household.

“If ever a deliverance was dear and precious, this,” said the letter, “is a dear and precious deliverance — and if life saved can be made more sweet and savoury, it is when it cometh by the hands of those whom we hold in the ties of affection. And do not let your heart be disquieted within you, that this victim, who is rescued from the horns of the altar, whereuntil she was fast bound by the chains of human law, is now to be driven beyond the bounds of our land. Scotland is a blessed land to those who love the ordinances of Christianity, and it is a faer land to look upon, and dear to them who have dwelt in it a’ their days; and weel said that judicious Christian, worthy John Livingstone, a sailor in Borrowstouness, as the famous Patrick Walker reporteth his words, that howbeit he thought Scotland was a Gehennah of wickedness when he was at home, yet when he was abroad, he accounted it ane paradise; for the evils of Scotland he found everywhere, and the good of Scotland he found nowhere. But we are to hold in remembrance that Scotland, though it be our native land, and the land of our fathers, is not like Goshen, in Egypt, on whilk the sun of the heavens and of the gospel shineth allenarly, and leaveth the rest of the world in utter darkness. Therefore, and also because this increase of profit at Saint Leonard’s Crags may be a cauld waff of wind blawing from the frozen land of earthly self, where never plant of grace took root or grew, and because my concerns make me take something ower muckle a grip of the gear of the warld in mine arms, I receive this dispensation anent Effie as a call to depart out of Haran, as righteous Abraham of old, and leave my father’s kindred and my mother’s house, and the ashes and mould of them who have gone to sleep before me, and which wait to be mingled with these auld crazed bones of mine own. And my heart is lightened to do this, when I call to mind the decay of active and earnest religion in this land, and survey the height and the depth, the length and the breadth, of national defections, and how the love of many is waxing lukewarm and cold; and I am strengthened in this resolution to change my domicile likewise, as I hear that store-farms are to be set at an easy mail in Northumberland, where there are many precious souls that are of our true though suffering persuasion. And sic part of the kye or stock as I judge it fit to keep, may be driven thither without incommodity — say about Wooler, or that gate, keeping aye a shouther to the hills — and the rest may be sauld to gude profit and advantage, if we had grace weel to use and guide these gifts of the warld. The Laird has been a true friend on our unhappy occasions, and I have paid him back the siller for Effie’s misfortune, whereof Mr. Nichil Novit returned him no balance, as the Laird and I did expect he wad hae done. But law licks up a’, as the common folk say. I have had the siller to borrow out of sax purses. Mr. Saddletree advised to give the Laird of Lounsbeck a charge on his hand for a thousand merks. But I hae nae broo’ of charges, since that awfu’ morning that a tout of a horn, at the Cross of Edinburgh, blew half the faithfu’ ministers of Scotland out of their pulpits. However, I sall raise an adjudication, whilk Mr. Saddletree says comes instead of the auld apprisings, and will not lose weel-won gear with the like of him, if it may be helped. As for the Queen, and the credit that she hath done to a poor man’s daughter, and the mercy and the grace ye found with her, I can only pray for her weel-being here and hereafter, for the establishment of her house now and for ever, upon the throne of these kingdoms. I doubt not but what you told her Majesty, that I was the same David Deans of whom there was a sport at the Revolution, when I noited thegither the heads of twa false prophets, these ungracious Graces the prelates, as they stood on the Hie Street, after being expelled from the Convention-parliament.2

The Duke of Argyle is a noble and true-hearted nobleman, who pleads the cause of the poor, and those who have none to help them; verily his reward shall not be lacking unto him. — I have, been writing of many things, but not of that whilk lies nearest mine heart. I have seen the misguided thing, she will be at freedom the morn, on enacted caution that she shall leave Scotland in four weeks. Her mind is in an evil frame — casting her eye backward on Egypt, I doubt, as if the bitter waters of the wilderness were harder to endure than the brick furnaces, by the side of which there were savoury flesh-pots. I need not bid you make haste down, for you are, excepting always my Great Master, my only comfort in these straits. I charge you to withdraw your feet from the delusion of that Vanity-fair in whilk ye are a sojourner, and not to go to their worship, whilk is an ill-mumbled mass, as it was weel termed by James the Sext, though he afterwards, with his unhappy son, strove to bring it ower back and belly into his native kingdom, wherethrough their race have been cut off as foam upon the water, and shall be as wanderers among the nations-see the prophecies of Hosea, ninth and seventeenth, and the same, tenth and seventh. But us and our house, let us say with the same prophet, ‘Let us return to the Lord, for he hath torn, and he will heal us — He hath smitten, and he will bind us up.’”

He proceeded to say, that he approved of her proposed mode of returning by Glasgow, and entered into sundry minute particulars not necessary to be quoted. A single line in the letter, but not the least frequently read by the party to whom it was addressed, intimated, that “Reuben Butler had been as a son to him in his sorrows.” As David Deans scarce ever mentioned Butler before, without some gibe, more or less direct, either at his carnal gifts and learning, or at his grandfather’s heresy, Jeanie drew a good omen from no such qualifying clause being added to this sentence respecting him.

A lover’s hope resembles the bean in the nursery tale — let it once take root, and it will grow so rapidly, that in the course of a few hours the giant Imagination builds a castle on the top, and by and by comes Disappointment with the “curtal axe,” and hews down both the plant and the superstructure. Jeanie’s fancy, though not the most powerful of her faculties, was lively enough to transport her to a wild farm in Northumberland, well stocked with milk-cows, yeald beasts, and sheep; a meeting-house, hard by, frequented by serious Presbyterians, who had united in a harmonious call to Reuben Butler to be their spiritual guide — Effie restored, not to gaiety, but to cheerfulness at least — their father, with his grey hairs smoothed down, and spectacles on his nose — herself, with the maiden snood exchanged for a matron’s curch — all arranged in a pew in the said meeting-house, listening to words of devotion, rendered sweeter and more powerful by the affectionate ties which combined them with the preacher. She cherished such visions from day to day, until her residence in London began to become insupportable and tedious to her; and it was with no ordinary satisfaction that she received a summons from Argyle House, requiring her in two days to be prepared to join their northward party.

1 [It’s an ill bird that fouls its own nest.]

2 Expulsion of the Scotch Bishops.

For some time after the Scottish Convention had commenced its sittings, the Scottish prelates retained their seats, and said prayers by rotation to the meeting, until the character of the Convention became, through the secession of Dundee, decidedly Presbyterian. Occasion was then taken on the Bishop of Ross mentioning King James in his prayer, as him for whom they watered their couch with tears. On this the Convention exclaimed, they had no occasion for spiritual Lords, and commanded the Bishops to depart and return no more, Montgomery of Skelmorley breaking at the same time a coarse jest upon the scriptural expression used by the prelate. Davie Deans’s oracle, Patrick Walker, gives this account of their dismission.

“When they came out, some of the Convention said they wished the honest lads knew they were put out, for then they would not get away with haill (whole) gowns. All the fourteen gathered together with pale faces, and stood in a cloud in the Parliament Close; James Wilson, Robert Neilson, Francis Hislop, and myself, were standing close by them; Francis Hislop with force thrust Robert Neilson upon them, their heads went hard on one another. But there being so many enemies in the city fretting and gnashing the teeth, waiting for an occasion to raise a mob, when undoubtedly blood would have been shed, and having laid down conclusions amongst ourselves to avoid giving the least occasion to all mobs, kept us from tearing off their gowns.

“Their graceless Graces went quickly off, and there was neither bishop nor curate seen in the street — this was a surprising sudden change not to be forgotten. Some of us would have rejoiced near them in large sums to have seen these Bishops sent legally down the Bow that they might have found the weight of their tails in a tow to dry their tow-soles; that they might know what hanging was, they having been active for themselves and the main instigators to all the mischiefs, cruelties, and bloodshed of that time, wherein the streets of Edinburgh and other places of the land did run with the innocent precious dear blood of the Lord’s people.”— Life and Death of three famous Worthies (Semple, etc.), by Patrick Walker. Edin. 1727, pp. 72, 73.

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