The Heart of Mid-Lothian, by Walter Scott

Chapter 46

Now butt and ben the change-house fills

    Wi’ yill-caup commentators,

Here’s crying out for bakes and gills,

    And there the pint-stoup clatters.

Wi’ thick and thrang, and loud and lang —

    Wi’ logic and wi’ scripture,

They raise a din that in the end

    Is like to breed a rupture,

        O’ wrath that day.

Burns.

A plentiful entertainment, at the Duke of Argyle’s cost, regaled the reverend gentlemen who had assisted at the ordination of Reuben Butler, and almost all the respectable part of the parish. The feast was, indeed, such as the country itself furnished; for plenty of all the requisites for “a rough and round dinner” were always at Duncan of Knock’s command. There was the beef and mutton on the braes, the fresh and salt-water fish in the lochs, the brooks, and firth; game of every kind, from the deer to the leveret, were to be had for the killing, in the Duke’s forests, moors, heaths, and mosses; and for liquor, home-brewed ale flowed as freely as water; brandy and usquebaugh both were had in those happy times without duty; even white wine and claret were got for nothing, since the Duke’s extensive rights of admiralty gave him a title to all the wine in cask which is drifted ashore on the western coast and isles of Scotland, when shipping have suffered by severe weather. In short, as Duncan boasted, the entertainment did not cost MacCallummore a plack out of his sporran, and was nevertheless not only liberal, but overflowing.

The Duke’s health was solemnised in a bona fide bumper, and David Deans himself added perhaps the first huzza that his lungs had ever uttered, to swell the shout with which the pledge was received. Nay, so exalted in heart was he upon this memorable occasion, and so much disposed to be indulgent, that, he expressed no dissatisfaction when three bagpipers struck up, “The Campbells are coming.” The health of the reverend minister of Knocktarlitie was received with similar honours; and there was a roar of laughter, when one of his brethren slily subjoined the addition of, “A good wife to our brother, to keep the Manse in order.” On this occasion David Deans was delivered of his first-born joke; and apparently the parturition was accompanied with many throes, for sorely did he twist about his physiognomy, and much did he stumble in his speech, before he could express his idea, “That the lad being now wedded to his spiritual bride, it was hard to threaten him with ane temporal spouse in the same day.” He then laughed a hoarse and brief laugh, and was suddenly grave and silent, as if abashed at his own vivacious effort.

After another toast or two, Jeanie, Mrs. Dolly, and such of the female natives as had honoured the feast with their presence, retired to David’s new dwelling at Auchingower, and left the gentlemen to their potations.

The feast proceeded with great glee. The conversation, where Duncan had it under his direction, was not indeed always strictly canonical, but David Deans escaped any risk of being scandalised, by engaging with one of his neighbours in a recapitulation of the sufferings of Ayrshire and Lanarkshire, during what was called the invasion of the Highland Host; the prudent Mr. Meiklehose cautioning them from time to time to lower their voices, “for that Duncan Knock’s father had been at that onslaught, and brought back muckle gude plenishing, and that Duncan was no unlikely to hae been there himself, for what he kend.”

Meanwhile, as the mirth grew fast and furious, the graver members of the party began to escape as well as they could. David Deans accomplished his retreat, and Butler anxiously watched an opportunity to follow him. Knockdunder, however, desirous, he said, of knowing what stuff was in the new minister, had no intention to part with him so easily, but kept him pinned to his side, watching him sedulously, and with obliging violence filling his glass to the brim, as often as he could seize an opportunity of doing so. At length, as the evening was wearing late, a venerable brother chanced to ask Mr. Archibald when they might hope to see the Duke, tam carum caput, as he would venture to term him, at the Lodge of Roseneath. Duncan of Knock, whose ideas were somewhat conglomerated, and who, it may be believed, was no great scholar, catching up some imperfect sound of the words, conceived the speaker was drawing a parallel between the Duke and Sir Donald Gorme of Sleat; and being of opinion that such comparison was odious, snorted thrice, and prepared himself to be in a passion.

To the explanation of the venerable divine the Captain answered, “I heard the word Gorme myself, sir, with my ain ears. D’ye think I do not know Gaelic from Latin?”

“Apparently not, sir;"— so the clergyman, offended in his turn, and taking a pinch of snuff, answered with great coolness.

The copper nose of the gracious Duncan now became heated like the Bull of Phalaris, and while Mr. Archibald mediated betwixt the offended parties, and the attention of the company was engaged by their dispute, Butler took an opportunity to effect his retreat.

He found the females at Auchingower very anxious for the breaking up of the convivial party; for it was a part of the arrangement, that although David Deans was to remain at Auchingower, and Butler was that night to take possession of the Manse, yet Jeanie, for whom complete accommodations were not yet provided in her father’s house, was to return for a day or two to the Lodge at Roseneath, and the boats had been held in readiness accordingly. They waited, therefore, for Knockdunder’s return, but twilight came, and they still waited in vain. At length Mr. Archibald, who was a man of decorum, had taken care not to exceed in his conviviality, made his appearance, and advised the females strongly to return to the island under his escort; observing, that, from the humour in which he had left the Captain, it was a great chance whether he budged out of the public-house that night, and it was absolutely certain that he would not be very fit company for ladies. The gig was at their disposal, he said, and there was still pleasant twilight for a party on the water.

Jeanie, who had considerable confidence in Archibald’s prudence, immediately acquiesced in this proposal; but Mrs. Dolly positively objected to the small boat. If the big boat could be gotten, she agreed to set out, otherwise she would sleep on the floor, rather than stir a step. Reasoning with Dolly was out of the question, and Archibald did not think the difficulty so pressing as to require compulsion. He observed, it was not using the Captain very politely to deprive him of his coach and six; “but as it was in the ladies’ service,” he gallantly said, “he would use so much freedom — besides the gig would serve the Captain’s purpose better, as it could come off at any hour of the tide; the large boat should, therefore, be at Mrs. Dolly’s service.”

They walked to the beach accordingly, accompanied by Butler. It was some time before the boatmen could be assembled, and ere they were well embarked, and ready to depart, the pale moon was come over the hill, and flinging a trembling reflection on the broad and glittering waves. But so soft and pleasant was the night, that Butler, in bidding farewell to Jeanie, had no apprehension for her safety; and what is yet more extraordinary, Mrs. Dolly felt no alarm for her own. The air was soft, and came over the cooling wave with something of summer fragrance. The beautiful scene of headlands, and capes, and bays, around them, with the broad blue chain of mountains, were dimly visible in the moonlight; while every dash of the oars made the waters glance and sparkle with the brilliant phenomenon called the sea fire.

This last circumstance filled Jeanie with wonder, and served to amuse the mind of her companion, until they approached the little bay, which seemed to stretch its dark and wooded arms into the sea as if to welcome them.

The usual landing-place was at a quarter of a mile’s distance from the Lodge, and although the tide did not admit of the large boat coming quite close to the jetty of loose stones which served as a pier, Jeanie, who was both bold and active, easily sprung ashore; but Mrs., Dolly positively refusing to commit herself to the same risk, the complaisant Mr. Archibald ordered the boat round to a more regular landing-place, at a considerable distance along the shore. He then prepared to land himself, that he might, in the meanwhile, accompany Jeanie to the Lodge. But as there was no mistaking the woodland lane, which led from thence to the shore, and as the moonlight showed her one of the white chimneys rising out of the wood which embosomed the building, Jeanie declined this favour with thanks, and requested him to proceed with Mrs. Dolly, who, being “in a country where the ways were so strange to her, had mair need of countenance.”

This, indeed, was a fortunate circumstance, and might even be said to save poor Cowslip’s life, if it was true, as she herself used solemnly to aver, that she must positively have expired for fear, if she had been left alone in the boat with six wild Highlanders in kilts.

The night was so exquisitely beautiful, that Jeanie, instead of immediately directing her course towards the Lodge, stood looking after the boat as it again put off from the side, and rowed into the little bay, the dark figures of her companions growing less and less distinct as they diminished in the distance, and the jorram, or melancholy boat-song of the rowers, coming on the ear with softened and sweeter sound, until the boat rounded the headland, and was lost to her observation.

Still Jeanie remained in the same posture, looking out upon the sea. It would, she was aware, be some time ere her companions could reach the Lodge, as the distance by the more convenient landing-place was considerably greater than from the point where she stood, and she was not sorry to have an opportunity to spend the interval by herself.

The wonderful change which a few weeks had wrought in her situation, from shame and grief, and almost despair, to honour, joy, and a fair prospect of future happiness, passed before her eyes with a sensation which brought the tears into them. Yet they flowed at the same time from another source. As human happiness is never perfect, and as well-constructed minds are never more sensible of the distresses of those whom they love, than when their own situation forms a contrast with them, Jeanie’s affectionate regrets turned to the fate of her poor sister — the child of so many hopes — the fondled nursling of so many years — now an exile, and, what was worse, dependent on the will of a man, of whose habits she had every reason to entertain the worst opinion, and who, even in his strongest paroxysms of remorse, had appeared too much a stranger to the feelings of real penitence.

While her thoughts were occupied with these melancholy reflections, a shadowy figure seemed to detach itself from the copsewood on her right hand. Jeanie started, and the stories of apparitions and wraiths, seen by solitary travellers in wild situations, at such times, and in such an hour, suddenly came full upon her imagination. The figure glided on, and as it came betwixt her and the moon, she was aware that it had the appearance of a woman. A soft voice twice repeated, “Jeanie — Jeanie!”— Was it indeed — could it be the voice of her sister? — Was she still among the living, or had the grave given uly its tenant? — Ere she could state these questions to her own mind, Effie, alive, and in the body, had clasped her in her arms and was straining her to her bosom, and devouring her with kisses. “I have wandered here,” she said, “like a ghaist, to see you, and nae wonder you take me for ane — I thought but to see you gang by, or to hear the sound of your voice; but to speak to yoursell again, Jeanie, was mair than I deserved, and mair than I durst pray for.”

“O Effie! how came ye here alone, and at this hour, and on the wild seabeach? — Are you sure it’s your ain living sell?” There was something of Effie’s former humour in her practically answering the question by a gentle pinch, more beseeming the fingers of a fairy than of a ghost. And again the sisters embraced, and laughed, and wept by turns.

“But ye maun gang up wi’ me to the Lodge, Effie,” said Jeanie, “and tell me a’ your story — I hae gude folk there that will make ye welcome for my sake.”

“Na, na, Jeanie,” replied her sister sorrowfully — “ye hae forgotten what I am — a banished outlawed creature, scarce escaped the gallows by your being the bauldest and the best sister that ever lived — I’ll gae near nane o’ your grand friends, even if there was nae danger to me.”

“There is nae danger — there shall be nae danger,” said Jeanie eagerly. “O Effie, dinna be wilfu’— be guided for ance — we will be sae happy a’ thegither!”

“I have a’ the happiness I deserve on this side of the grave, now that I hae seen you,” answered Effie; “and whether there were danger to mysell or no, naebody shall ever say that I come with my cheat-the-gallows face to shame my sister among her grand friends.”

“I hae nae grand friends,” said Jeanie; “nae friends but what are friends of yours — Reuben Butler and my father. — O unhappy lassie, dinna be dour, and turn your back on your happiness again! We wunna see another acquaintance — Come hame to us, your ain dearest friends — it’s better sheltering under an auld hedge than under a new-planted wood.”

“It’s in vain speaking, Jeanie — I maun drink as I hae brewed — I am married, and I maun follow my husband for better for worse.”

“Married, Effie!” exclaimed Jeanie —“Misfortunate creature! and to that awfu’—”

“Hush, hush,” said Effie, clapping one hand on her mouth, and pointing to the thicket with the other, “he is yonder.” She said this in a tone which showed that her husband had found means to inspire her with awe, as well as affection. At this moment a man issued from the wood.

It was young Staunton. Even by the imperfect light of the moon, Jeanie could observe that he was handsomely dressed, and had the air of a person of rank.

“Effie,” he said, “our time is well-nigh spent — the skiff will be aground in the creek, and I dare not stay longer. — I hope your sister will allow me to salute her?” But Jeanie shrunk back from him with a feeling of internal abhorrence. “Well,” he said, “it does not much signify; if you keep up the feeling of ill-will, at least you do not act upon it, and I thank you for your respect to my secret, when a word (which in your place I would have spoken at once) would have cost me my life. People say, you should keep from the wife of your bosom the secret that concerns your neck — my wife and her sister both know mine, and I shall not sleep a wink the less sound.”

“But are you really married to my sister, sir?” asked Jeanie, in great doubt and anxiety; for the haughty, careless tone in which he spoke seemed to justify her worst apprehensions.

“I really am legally married, and by my own name,” replied Staunton, more gravely.

“And your father — and your friends?”

“And my father and my friends must just reconcile themselves to that which is done and cannot be undone,” replied Staunton. “However, it is my intention, in order to break off dangerous connections, and to let my friends come to their temper, to conceal my marriage for the present, and stay abroad for some years. So that you will not hear of us for some time, if ever you hear of us again at all. It would be dangerous, you must be aware, to keep up the correspondence; for all would guess that the husband of Effie was the — what shall I call myself? — the slayer of Porteous.”

Hard-hearted light man! thought Jeanie — to what a character she has intrusted her happiness! — She has sown the wind, and maun reap the whirlwind.

“Dinna think ill o’ him,” said Effie, breaking away from her husband, and leading Jeanie a step or two out of hearing —“dinna think very ill o’ him — he’s gude to me, Jeanie — as gude as I deserve — And he is determined to gie up his bad courses — Sae, after a’, dinna greet for Effie; she is better off than she has wrought for. — But you — oh, you! — how can you be happy eneugh! never till ye get to heaven, where a’body is as gude as yoursell. — Jeanie, if I live and thrive, ye shall hear of me — if not, just forget that sic a creature ever lived to vex ye — fare ye weel — fare — fare ye weel!”

She tore herself from her sister’s arms — rejoined her husband — they plunged into the copsewood, and she saw them no more. The whole scene had the effect of a vision, and she could almost have believed it such, but that very soon after they quitted her, she heard the sound of oars, and a skiff was seen on the firth, pulling swiftly towards the small smuggling sloop which lay in the offing. It was on board of such a vessel that Effie had embarked at Portobello, and Jeanie had no doubt that the same conveyance was destined, as Staunton had hinted, to transport them to a foreign country.

Although it was impossible to determine whether this interview, while it was passing, gave more pain or pleasure to Jeanie Deans, yet the ultimate impression which remained on her mind was decidedly favourable. Effie was married — made, according to the common phrase, an honest woman — that was one main point; it seemed also as if her husband were about to abandon the path of gross vice in which he had run so long and so desperately — that was another. For his final and effectual conversion he did not want understanding, and God knew his own hour.

Such were the thoughts with which Jeanie endeavoured to console her anxiety respecting her sister’s future fortune. On her arrival at the lodge, she found Archibald in some anxiety at her stay, and about to walk out in quest of her. A headache served as an apology for retiring to rest, in order to conceal her visible agitation of mind from her companions.

By this secession also she escaped a scene of a different sort. For, as if there were danger in all gigs, whether by sea or land, that of Knockdunder had been run down by another boat, an accident owing chiefly to the drunkenness of the Captain, his crew, and passengers. Knockdunder, and two or three guests, whom he was bringing along with him to finish the conviviality of the evening at the Lodge, got a sound ducking; but, being rescued by the crew of the boat which endangered them, there was no ultimate loss, excepting that of the Captain’s laced hat, which, greatly to the satisfaction of the Highland part of the district, as well as to the improvement of the conformity of his own personal appearance, he replaced by a smart Highland bonnet next day. Many were the vehement threats of vengeance which, on the succeeding morning, the gracious Duncan threw out against the boat which had upset him; but as neither she, nor the small smuggling vessel to which she belonged, was any longer to be seen in the firth, he was compelled to sit down with the affront. This was the more hard, he said, as he was assured the mischief was done on purpose, these scoundrels having lurked about after they had landed every drop of brandy, and every bag of tea they had on board; and he understood the coxswain had been on shore, making particular inquiries concerning the time when his boat was to cross over, and to return, and so forth.

“Put the neist time they meet me on the firth,” said Duncan, with great majesty, “I will teach the moonlight rapscallions and vagabonds to keep their ain side of the road, and pe tamn’d to them!”

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