The Heart of Mid-Lothian, by Walter Scott

Chapter 41

Wilt thou go on with me?

The moon is bright, the sea is calm,

And I know well the ocean paths . . .

    Thou wilt go on with me!

Thalaba.

The fatigue and agitation of these various scenes had agitated Jeanie so much, notwithstanding her robust strength of constitution, that Archibald judged it necessary that she should have a day’s repose at the village of Longtown. It was in vain that Jeanie protested against any delay. The Duke of Argyle’s man of confidence was of course consequential; and as he had been bred to the medical profession in his youth (at least he used this expression to describe his having, thirty years before, pounded for six months in the mortar of old Mungo Mangleman, the surgeon at Greenock), he was obstinate whenever a matter of health was in question.

In this case he discovered febrile symptoms, and having once made a happy application of that learned phrase to Jeanie’s case, all farther resistance became in vain; and she was glad to acquiesce, and even to go to bed, and drink water-gruel, in order that she might possess her soul in quiet and without interruption.

Mr. Archibald was equally attentive in another particular. He observed that the execution of the old woman, and the miserable fate of her daughter, seemed to have had a more powerful effect upon Jeanie’s mind, than the usual feelings of humanity might naturally have been expected to occasion. Yet she was obviously a strong-minded, sensible young woman, and in no respect subject to nervous affections; and therefore Archibald, being ignorant of any special connection between his master’s prote’ge’e and these unfortunate persons, excepting that she had seen Madge formerly in Scotland, naturally imputed the strong impression these events had made upon her, to her associating them with the unhappy circumstances in which her sister had so lately stood. He became anxious, therefore, to prevent anything occurring which might recall these associations to Jeanie’s mind.

Archibald had speedily an opportunity of exercising this precaution. A pedlar brought to Longtown that evening, amongst other wares, a large broad-side sheet, giving an account of the “Last Speech and Execution of Margaret Murdockson, and of the barbarous Murder of her Daughter, Magdalene or Madge Murdockson, called Madge Wildfire; and of her pious conversation with his Reverence Archdeacon Fleming;” which authentic publication had apparently taken place on the day they left Carlisle, and being an article of a nature peculiarly acceptable to such country-folk as were within hearing of the transaction, the itinerant bibliopolist had forthwith added them to his stock in trade. He found a merchant sooner than he expected; for Archibald, much applauding his own prudence, purchased the whole lot for two shillings and ninepence; and the pedlar, delighted with the profit of such a wholesale transaction, instantly returned to Carlisle to supply himself with more.

The considerate Mr. Archibald was about to commit his whole purchase to the flames, but it was rescued by the yet more considerate dairy-damsel, who said, very prudently, it was a pity to waste so much paper, which might crepe hair, pin up bonnets, and serve many other useful purposes; and who promised to put the parcel into her own trunk, and keep it carefully out of the sight of Mrs. Jeanie Deans: “Though, by-the-bye, she had no great notion of folk being so very nice. Mrs. Deans might have had enough to think about the gallows all this time to endure a sight of it, without all this to-do about it.”

Archibald reminded the dame of the dairy of the Duke’s particular charge, that they should be attentive and civil to Jeanie as also that they were to part company soon, and consequently would not be doomed to observing any one’s health or temper during the rest of the journey. With which answer Mrs. Dolly Dutton was obliged to hold herself satisfied. On the morning they resumed their journey, and prosecuted it successfully, travelling through Dumfriesshire and part of Lanarkshire, until they arrived at the small town of Rutherglen, within about four miles of Glasgow. Here an express brought letters to Archibald from the principal agent of the Duke of Argyle in Edinburgh.

He said nothing of their contents that evening; but when they were seated in the carriage the next day, the faithful squire informed Jeanie, that he had received directions from the Duke’s factor, to whom his Grace had recommended him to carry her, if she had no objection, for a stage or two beyond Glasgow. Some temporary causes of discontent had occasioned tumults in that city and the neighbourhood, which would render it unadvisable for Mrs. Jeanie Deans to travel alone and unprotected betwixt that city and Edinburgh; whereas, by going forward a little farther, they would meet one of his Grace’s subfactors, who was coming down from the Highlands to Edinburgh with his wife, and under whose charge she might journey with comfort and in safety.

Jeanie remonstrated against this arrangement. “She had been lang,” she said, “frae hame — her father and her sister behoved to be very anxious to see her — there were other friends she had that werena weel in health. She was willing to pay for man and horse at Glasgow, and surely naebody wad meddle wi’ sae harmless and feckless a creature as she was. — She was muckle obliged by the offer; but never hunted deer langed for its resting-place as I do to find myself at Saint Leonard’s.”

The groom of the chambers exchanged a look with his female companion, which seemed so full of meaning, that Jeanie screamed aloud —“O Mr. Archibald — Mrs. Dutton, if ye ken of onything that has happened at Saint Leonard’s, for God’s sake — for pity’s sake, tell me, and dinna keep me in suspense!”

“I really know nothing, Mrs. Deans,” said the groom of the chambers.

“And I— I— I am sure, I knows as little,” said the dame of the dairy, while some communication seemed to tremble on her lips, which, at a glance of Archibald’s eye, she appeared to swallow down, and compressed her lips thereafter into a state of extreme and vigilant firmness, as if she had been afraid of its bolting out before she was aware.

Jeanie saw there was to be something concealed from her, and it was only the repeated assurances of Archibald that her father — her sister — all her friends were, as far as he knew, well and happy, that at all pacified her alarm. From such respectable people as those with whom she travelled she could apprehend no harm, and yet her distress was so obvious, that Archibald, as a last resource, pulled out, and put into her hand, a slip of paper, on which these words were written:—

“Jeanie Deans — You will do me a favour by going with Archibald and my female domestic a day’s journey beyond Glasgow, and asking them no questions, which will greatly oblige your friend, ‘Argyle & Greenwich.’”

Although this laconic epistle, from a nobleman to whom she was bound by such inestimable obligations, silenced all Jeanie’s objections to the proposed route, it rather added to than diminished the eagerness of her curiosity. The proceeding to Glasgow seemed now no longer to be an object with her fellow-travellers. On the contrary, they kept the left-hand side of the river Clyde, and travelled through a thousand beautiful and changing views down the side of that noble stream, till, ceasing to hold its inland character, it began to assume that of a navigable river.

“You are not for gaun intill Glasgow then?” said Jeanie, as she observed that the drivers made no motion for inclining their horses’ heads towards the ancient bridge, which was then the only mode of access to St. Mungo’s capital.

“No,” replied Archibald; “there is some popular commotion, and as our Duke is in opposition to the court, perhaps we might be too well received; or they might take it in their heads to remember that the Captain of Carrick came down upon them with his Highlandmen in the time of Shawfield’s mob in 1725, and then we would be too ill received.1 And, at any rate, it is best for us, and for me in particular, who may be supposed to possess his Grace’s mind upon many particulars, to leave the good people of the Gorbals to act according to their own imaginations, without either provoking or encouraging them by my presence.”

To reasoning of such tone and consequence Jeanie had nothing to reply, although it seemed to her to contain fully as much self-importance as truth.

The carriage meantime rolled on; the river expanded itself, and gradually assumed the dignity of an estuary or arm of the sea. The influence of the advancing and retiring tides became more and more evident, and in the beautiful words of him of the laurel wreath, the river waxed —

A broader and yet broader stream.

The cormorant stands upon its shoals,

    His black and dripping wings

    Half open’d to the wind.

—[From Southey’s Thalaba, Book xi. stanza 36.]

“Which way lies Inverary?” said Jeanie, gazing on the dusky ocean of Highland hills, which now, piled above each other, and intersected by many a lake, stretched away on the opposite side of the river to the northward. “Is yon high castle the Duke’s hoose?”

“That, Mrs. Deans? — Lud help thee,” replied Archibald, “that’s the old castle of Dumbarton, the strongest place in Europe, be the other what it may. Sir William Wallace was governor of it in the old war with the English, and his Grace is governor just now. It is always entrusted to the best man in Scotland.”

“And does the Duke live on that high rock, then?” demanded Jeanie.

“No, no, he has his deputy-governor, who commands in his absence; he lives in the white house you see at the bottom of the rock — His Grace does not reside there himself.”

“I think not, indeed,” said the dairy-woman, upon whose mind the road, since they had left Dumfries, had made no very favourable impression, “for if he did, he might go whistle for a dairy-woman, an he were the only duke in England. I did not leave my place and my friends to come down to see cows starve to death upon hills as they be at that pig-stye of Elfinfoot, as you call it, Mr. Archibald, or to be perched upon the top of a rock, like a squirrel in his cage, hung out of a three pair of stairs’ window.”

Inwardly chuckling that these symptoms of recalcitration had not taken place until the fair malcontent was, as he mentally termed it, under his thumb, Archibald coolly replied, “That the hills were none of his making, nor did he know how to mend them; but as to lodging, they would soon be in a house of the Duke’s in a very pleasant island called Roseneath, where they went to wait for shipping to take them to Inverary, and would meet the company with whom Jeanie was to return to Edinburgh.”

“An island?” said Jeanie, who, in the course of her various and adventurous travels, had never quitted terra firma, “then I am doubting we maun gang in ane of these boats; they look unco sma’, and the waves are something rough, and”

“Mr. Archibald,” said Mrs. Dutton, “I will not consent to it; I was never engaed to leave the country, and I desire you will bid the boys drive round the other way to the Duke’s house.”

“There is a safe pinnace belonging to his Grace, ma’am, close by,” replied Archibald, “and you need be under no apprehensions whatsoever.”

“But I am under apprehensions,” said the damsel; “and I insist upon going round by land, Mr. Archibald, were it ten miles about.”

“I am sorry I cannot oblige you, madam, as Roseneath happens to be an island.”

“If it were ten islands,” said the incensed dame, “that’s no reason why I should be drowned in going over the seas to it.”

“No reason why you should be drowned certainly, ma’am,” answered the unmoved groom of the chambers, “but an admirable good one why you cannot proceed to it by land.” And, fixed his master’s mandates to perform, he pointed with his hand, and the drivers, turning off the high-road, proceeded towards a small hamlet of fishing huts, where a shallop, somewhat more gaily decorated than any which they had yet seen, having a flag which displayed a boar’s head, crested with a ducal coronet, waited with two or three seamen, and as many Highlanders.

The carriage stopped, and the men began to unyoke their horses, while Mr. Archibald gravely superintended the removal of the baggage from the carriage to the little vessel. “Has the Caroline been long arrived?” said Archibald to one of the seamen.

“She has been here in five days from Liverpool, and she’s lying down at Greenock,” answered the fellow.

“Let the horses and carriage go down to Greenock then,” said Archibald, “and be embarked there for Inverary when I send notice — they may stand in my cousin’s, Duncan Archibald the stabler’s. — Ladies,” he added, “I hope you will get yourselves ready; we must not lose the tide.”

“Mrs. Deans,” said the Cowslip of Inverary, “you may do as you please — but I will sit here all night, rather than go into that there painted egg-shell. — Fellow — fellow!” (this was addressed to a Highlander who was lifting a travelling trunk), “that trunk is mine, and that there band-box, and that pillion mail, and those seven bundles, and the paper-bag; and if you venture to touch one of them, it shall be at your peril.”

The Celt kept his eye fixed on the speaker, then turned his head towards Archibald, and receiving no countervailing signal, he shouldered the portmanteau, and without farther notice of the distressed damsel, or paying any attention to remonstrances, which probably he did not understand, and would certainly have equally disregarded whether he understood them or not, moved off with Mrs. Dutton’s wearables, and deposited the trunk containing them safely in the boat.

The baggage being stowed in safety, Mr. Archibald handed Jeanie out of the carriage, and, not without some tremor on her part, she was transported through the surf and placed in the boat. He then offered the same civility to his fellow-servant, but she was resolute in her refusal to quit the carriage, in which she now remained in solitary state, threatening all concerned or unconcerned with actions for wages and board-wages, damages and expenses, and numbering on her fingers the gowns and other habiliments, from which she seemed in the act of being separated for ever. Mr. Archibald did not give himself the trouble of making many remonstrances, which, indeed, seemed only to aggravate the damsel’s indignation, but spoke two or three words to the Highlanders in Gaelic; and the wily mountaineers, approaching the carriage cautiously, and without giving the slightest intimation of their intention, at once seized the recusant so effectually fast that she could neither resist nor struggle, and hoisting her on their shoulders in nearly a horizontal posture, rushed down with her to the beach, and through the surf, and with no other inconvenience than ruffling her garments a little, deposited her in the boat; but in a state of surprise, mortification, and terror, at her sudden transportation, which rendered her absolutely mute for two or three minutes. The men jumped in themselves; one tall fellow remained till he had pushed off the boat, and then tumbled in upon his companions. They took their oars and began to pull from the shore, then spread their sail, and drove merrily across the firth.

“You Scotch villain!” said the infuriated damsel to Archibald, “how dare you use a person like me in this way?”

“Madam,” said Archibald, with infinite composure, “it’s high time you should know you are in the Duke’s country, and that there is not one of these fellows but would throw you out of the boat as readily as into it, if such were his Grace’s pleasure.”

“Then the Lord have mercy on me!” said Mrs. Dutton. “If I had had any on myself, I would never have engaged with you.”

“It’s something of the latest to think of that now, Mrs. Dutton,” said Archibald; “but I assure you, you will find the Highlands have their pleasures. You will have a dozen of cow-milkers under your own authority at Inverary, and you may throw any of them into the lake, if you have a mind, for the Duke’s head people are almost as great as himself.”

“This is a strange business, to be sure, Mr. Archibald,” said the lady; “but I suppose I must make the best on’t. — Are you sure the boat will not sink? it leans terribly to one side, in my poor mind.”

“Fear nothing,” said Mr. Archibald, taking a most important pinch of snuff; “this same ferry on Clyde knows us very well, or we know it, which is all the same; no fear of any of our people meeting with any accident. We should have crossed from the opposite shore, but for the disturbances at Glasgow, which made it improper for his Grace’s people to pass through the city.”

“Are you not afeard, Mrs. Deans,” said the dairy-vestal, addressing Jeanie, who sat, not in the most comfortable state of mind, by the side of Archibald, who himself managed the helm. —“are you not afeard of these wild men with their naked knees, and of this nut-shell of a thing, that seems bobbing up and down like a skimming-dish in a milk-pail?”

“No — no — madam,” answered Jeanie with some hesitation, “I am not feared; for I hae seen Hielandmen before, though never was sae near them; and for the danger of the deep waters, I trust there is a Providence by sea as well as by land.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Dutton, “it is a beautiful thing to have learned to write and read, for one can always say such fine words whatever should befall them.”

Archibald, rejoicing in the impression which his vigorous measures had made upon the intractable dairymaid, now applied himself, as a sensible and good-natured man, to secure by fair means the ascendency which he had obtained by some wholesome violence; and he succeeded so well in representing to her the idle nature of her fears, and the impossibility of leaving her upon the beach enthroned in an empty carriage, that the good understanding of the party was completely revived ere they landed at Roseneath.

1 In 1725, there was a great riot in Glasgow on account of the malt-tax. Among the troops brought in to restore order, was one of the independent companies of Highlanders levied in Argyleshire, and distinguished, in a lampoon of the period, as “Campbell of Carrick and his Highland thieves.” It was called Shawfield’s Mob, because much of the popular violence was directed against Daniel Campbell, Esq. of Shawfield, M. P., Provost of the town.

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