Then she stretched out her lily hand,
And for to do her best;
“Hae back thy faith and troth, Willie,
God gie thy soul good rest!”
“Come in,” answered the low and sweet-toned voice he loved best to hear, as Butler tapped at the door of the cottage. He lifted the latch, and found himself under the roof of affliction. Jeanie was unable to trust herself with more than one glance towards her lover, whom she now met under circumstances so agonising to her feelings, and at the same time so humbling to her honest pride. It is well known, that much, both of what is good and bad in the Scottish national character, arises out of the intimacy of their family connections. “To be come of honest folk,” that is, of people who have borne a fair and unstained reputation, is an advantage as highly prized among the lower Scotch, as the emphatic counterpart, “to be of a good family,” is valued among their gentry. The worth and respectability of one member of a peasant’s family is always accounted by themselves and others, not only a matter of honest pride, but a guarantee for the good conduct of the whole. On the contrary, such a melancholy stain as was now flung on one of the children of Deans, extended its disgrace to all connected with him, and Jeanie felt herself lowered at once, in her own eyes, and in those of her lover. It was in vain that she repressed this feeling, as far subordinate and too selfish to be mingled with her sorrow for her sister’s calamity. Nature prevailed; and while she shed tears for her sister’s distress and danger, there mingled with them bitter drops of grief for her own degradation.
As Butler entered, the old man was seated by the fire with his well-worn pocket Bible in his hands, the companion of the wanderings and dangers of his youth, and bequeathed to him on the scaffold by one of those, who, in the year 1686, sealed their enthusiastic principles with their blood. The sun sent its rays through a small window at the old man’s back, and, “shining motty through the reek,” to use the expression of a bard of that time and country, illumined the grey hairs of the old man, and the sacred page which he studied. His features, far from handsome, and rather harsh and severe, had yet from their expression of habitual gravity, and contempt for earthly things, an expression of stoical dignity amidst their sternness. He boasted, in no small degree, the attributes which Southey ascribes to the ancient Scandinavians, whom he terms “firm to inflict, and stubborn to endure.” The whole formed a picture, of which the lights might have been given by Rembrandt, but the outline would have required the force and vigour of Michael Angelo.
Deans lifted his eye as Butler entered, and instantly withdrew it, as from an object which gave him at once surprise and sudden pain. He had assumed such high ground with this carnal-witted scholar, as he had in his pride termed Butler, that to meet him, of all men, under feelings of humiliation, aggravated his misfortune, and was a consummation like that of the dying chief in the old ballad —“Earl Percy sees my fall!”
Deans raised the Bible with his left hand, so as partly to screen his face, and putting back his right as far as he could, held it towards Butler in that position, at the same time turning his body from, him, as if to prevent his seeing the working of his countenance. Butler clasped the extended hand which had supported his orphan infancy, wept over it, and in vain endeavoured to say more than the words —“God comfort you — God comfort you!”
“He will — he doth, my friend,” said Deans, assuming firmness as he discovered the agitation of his guest; “he doth now, and he will yet more in his own gude time. I have been ower proud of my sufferings in a gude cause, Reuben, and now I am to be tried with those whilk will turn my pride and glory into a reproach and a hissing. How muckle better I hae thought mysell than them that lay saft, fed sweet, and drank deep, when I was in the moss-haggs and moors, wi’ precious Donald Cameron, and worthy Mr. Blackadder, called Guess-again; and how proud I was o’ being made a spectacle to men and angels, having stood on their pillory at the Canongate afore I was fifteen years old, for the cause of a National Covenant! To think, Reuben, that I, wha hae been sae honoured and exalted in my youth, nay, when I was but a hafflins callant, and that hae borne testimony again the defections o’ the times yearly, monthly, daily, hourly, minutely, striving and testifying with uplifted hand and voice, crying aloud, and sparing not, against all great national snares, as the nation-wasting and church-sinking abomination of union, toleration, and patronage, imposed by the last woman of that unhappy race of Stuarts; also against the infringements and invasions of the just powers of eldership, whereanent, I uttered my paper, called a ‘Cry of an Howl in the Desert,’ printed at the Bow-head, and sold by all flying stationers in town and country — and now —”
Here he paused. It may well be supposed that Butler, though not absolutely coinciding in all the good old man’s ideas about church government, had too much consideration and humanity to interrupt him, while he reckoned up with conscious pride his sufferings, and the constancy of his testimony. On the contrary, when he paused under the influence of the bitter recollections of the moment, Butler instantly threw in his mite of encouragement.
“You have been well known, my old and revered friend, a true and tried follower of the Cross; one who, as Saint Jerome hath it, ‘per infamiam et bonam famam grassari ad immortalitatem,’ which may be freely rendered, ‘who rusheth on to immortal life, through bad report and good report.’ You have been one of those to whom the tender and fearful souls cry during the midnight solitude —‘Watchman, what of the night? — Watchman, what of the night?’— And, assuredly, this heavy dispensation, as it comes not without divine permission, so it comes not without its special commission and use.”
“I do receive it as such,” said poor Deans, returning the grasp of Butler’s hand; “and if I have not been taught to read the Scripture in any other tongue but my native Scottish” (even in his distress Butler’s Latin quotation had not escaped his notice), “I have nevertheless so learned them, that I trust to bear even this crook in my lot with submission. But, oh! Reuben Butler, the kirk, of whilk, though unworthy, I have yet been thought a polished shaft, and meet to be a pillar, holding, from my youth upward, the place of ruling elder — what will the lightsome and profane think of the guide that cannot keep his own family from stumbling? How will they take up their song and their reproach, when they see that the children of professors are liable to as foul backsliding as the offspring of Belial! But I will bear my cross with the comfort, that whatever showed like goodness in me or mine, was but like the light that shines frae creeping insects, on the brae-side, in a dark night — it kythes bright to the ee, because all is dark around it; but when the morn comes on the mountains, it is, but a puir crawling kail-worm after a’. And sae it shows, wi’ ony rag of human righteousness, or formal law-work, that we may pit round us to cover our shame.”
As he pronounced these words, the door again opened, and Mr. Bartoline Saddletree entered, his three-pointed hat set far back on his head, with a silk handkerchief beneath it to keep it in that cool position, his gold-headed cane in his hand, and his whole deportment that of a wealthy burgher, who might one day look to have a share in the magistracy, if not actually to hold the curule chair itself.
Rochefoucault, who has torn the veil from so many foul gangrenes of the human heart, says, we find something not altogether unpleasant to us in the misfortunes of our best friends. Mr. Saddletree would have been very angry had any one told him that he felt pleasure in the disaster of poor Effie Deans, and the disgrace of her family; and yet there is great question whether the gratification of playing the person of importance, inquiring, investigating, and laying down the law on the whole affair, did not offer, to say the least, full consolation for the pain which pure sympathy gave him on account of his wife’s kinswoman. He had now got a piece of real judicial business by the end, instead of being obliged, as was his common case, to intrude his opinion where it was neither wished nor wanted; and felt as happy in the exchange as a boy when he gets his first new watch, which actually goes when wound up, and has real hands and a true dial-plate. But besides this subject for legal disquisition, Bartoline’s brains were also overloaded with the affair of Porteous, his violent death, and all its probable consequences to the city and community. It was what the French call l’embarras des richesses, the confusion arising from too much mental wealth. He walked in with a consciousness of double importance, full fraught with the superiority of one who possesses more information than the company into which he enters, and who feels a right to discharge his learning on them without mercy. “Good morning, Mr. Deans — good-morrow to you, Mr. Butler — I was not aware that you were acquainted with Mr. Deans.”
Butler made some slight answer; his reasons may be readily imagined for not making his connection with the family, which, in his eyes, had something of tender mystery, a frequent subject of conversation with indifferent persons, such as Saddletree.
The worthy burgher, in the plenitude of self-importance, now sate down upon a chair, wiped his brow, collected his breath, and made the first experiment of the resolved pith of his lungs, in a deep and dignified sigh, resembling a groan in sound and intonation —“Awfu’ times these, neighbour Deans, awfu’ times!”
“Sinfu’, shamefu’, heaven-daring times!” answered Deans, in a lower and more subdued tone.
“For my part,” continued Saddletree, swelling with importance, “what between the distress of my friends, and my poor auld country, ony wit that ever I had may be said to have abandoned me, sae that I sometimes think myself as ignorant as if I were inter rusticos. Here when I arise in the morning, wi’ my mind just arranged touching what’s to be done in puir Effie’s misfortune, and hae gotten the haill statute at my finger-ends, the mob maun get up and string Jock Porteous to a dyester’s beam, and ding a’ thing out of my head again.”
Deeply as he was distressed with his own domestic calamity, Deans could not help expressing some interest in the news. Saddletree immediately entered on details of the insurrection and its consequences, while Butler took the occasion to seek some private conversation with Jeanie Deans. She gave him the opportunity he sought, by leaving the room, as if in prosecution of some part of her morning labour. Butler followed her in a few minutes, leaving Deans so closely engaged by his busy visitor, that there was little chance of his observing their absence.
The scene of their interview was an outer apartment, where Jeanie was used to busy herself in arranging the productions of her dairy. When Butler found an opportunity of stealing after her into this place, he found her silent, dejected, and ready to burst into tears. Instead of the active industry with which she had been accustomed, even while in the act of speaking, to employ her hands in some useful branch of household business, she was seated listless in a corner, sinking apparently under the weight of her own thoughts. Yet the instant he entered, she dried her eyes, and, with the simplicity and openness of her character, immediately entered on conversation.
“I am glad you have come in, Mr. Butler,” said she, “for — for — for I wished to tell ye, that all maun be ended between you and me — it’s best for baith our sakes.”
“Ended!” said Butler, in surprise; “and for what should it be ended? — I grant this is a heavy dispensation, but it lies neither at your door nor mine — it’s an evil of God’s sending, and it must be borne; but it cannot break plighted troth, Jeanie, while they that plighted their word wish to keep it.”
“But, Reuben,” said the young woman, looking at him affectionately, “I ken weel that ye think mair of me than yourself; and, Reuben, I can only in requital think mair of your weal than of my ain. Ye are a man of spotless name, bred to God’s ministry, and a’ men say that ye will some day rise high in the kirk, though poverty keep ye doun e’en now. Poverty is a bad back-friend, Reuben, and that ye ken ower weel; but ill-fame is a waur ane, and that is a truth ye sall never learn through my means.”
“What do you mean?” said Butler, eagerly and impatiently; “or how do you connect your sister’s guilt, if guilt there be, which, I trust in God, may yet be disproved, with our engagement? — how can that affect you or me?”
“How can you ask me that, Mr. Butler? Will this stain, d’ye think, ever be forgotten, as lang as our heads are abune the grund? Will it not stick to us, and to our bairns, and to their very bairns’ bairns? To hae been the child of an honest man, might hae been saying something for me and mine; but to be the sister of a — O my God!”— With this exclamation her resolution failed, and she burst into a passionate fit of tears.
The lover used every effort to induce her to compose herself, and at length succeeded; but she only resumed her composure to express herself with the same positiveness as before. “No, Reuben, I’ll bring disgrace hame to nae man’s hearth; my ain distresses I can bear, and I maun bear, but there is nae occasion for buckling them on other folk’s shouthers. I will bear my load alone — the back is made for the burden.”
A lover is by charter wayward and suspicious; and Jeanie’s readiness to renounce their engagement, under pretence of zeal for his peace of mind and respectability of character, seemed to poor Butler to form a portentous combination with the commission of the stranger he had met with that morning. His voice faltered as he asked, “whether nothing but a sense of her sister’s present distress occasioned her to talk in that manner?”
“And what else can do sae?” she replied with simplicity. “Is it not ten long years since we spoke together in this way?”
“Ten years!” said Butler. “It’s a long time — sufficient perhaps for a woman to weary.”
“To weary of her auld gown,” said Jeanie, “and to wish for a new ane if she likes to be brave, but not long enough to weary of a friend — The eye may wish change, but the heart never.”
“Never!” said Reuben — “that’s a bold promise.”
“But not more bauld than true,” said Jeanie, with the same quiet simplicity which attended her manner in joy and grief in ordinary affairs, and in those which most interested her feelings.
Butler paused, and looking at her fixedly —“I am charged,” he said, “with a message to you, Jeanie.”
“Indeed! From whom? Or what can ony ane have to say to me?”
“It is from a stranger,” said Butler, affecting to speak with an indifference which his voice belied —“A young man whom I met this morning in the Park.”
“Mercy!” said Jeanie, eagerly; “and what did he say?”
“That he did not see you at the hour he expected, but required you should meet him alone at Muschat’s Cairn this night, so soon as the moon rises.”
“Tell him,” said Jeanie, hastily, “I shall certainly come.”
“May I ask,” said Butler, his suspicions increasing at the ready alacrity of the answer, “who this man is to whom you are so willing to give the meeting at a place and hour so uncommon?”
“Folk maun do muckle they have little will to do, in this world,” replied Jeanie.
“Granted,” said her lover; “but what compels you to this? — who is this person? What I saw of him was not very favourable — who, or what is he?”
“I do not know,” replied Jeanie, composedly.
“You do not know!” said Butler, stepping impatiently through the apartment —“You purpose to meet a young man whom you do not know, at such a time, and in a place so lonely — you say you are compelled to do this — and yet you say you do not know the person who exercises such an influence over you! — Jeanie, what am I to think of this?”
“Think only, Reuben, that I speak truth, as if I were to answer at the last day. — I do not ken this man — I do not even ken that I ever saw him; and yet I must give him the meeting he asks — there’s life and death upon it.”
“Will you not tell your father, or take him with you?” said Butler.
“I cannot,” said Jeanie; “I have no permission.”
“Will you let me go with you? I will wait in the Park till nightfall, and join you when you set out.”
“It is impossible,” said Jeanie; “there maunna be mortal creature within hearing of our conference.”
“Have you considered well the nature of what you are going to do? — the time — the place — an unknown and suspicious character? — Why, if he had asked to see you in this house, your father sitting in the next room, and within call, at such an hour, you should have refused to see him.”
“My weird maun be fulfilled, Mr. Butler; my life and my safety are in God’s hands, but I’ll not spare to risk either of them on the errand I am gaun to do.”
“Then, Jeanie,” said Butler, much displeased, “we must indeed break short off, and bid farewell. When there can be no confidence betwixt a man and his plighted wife on such a momentous topic, it is a sign that she has no longer the regard for him that makes their engagement safe and suitable.”
Jeanie looked at him and sighed. “I thought,” she said, “that I had brought myself to bear this parting — but — but — I did not ken that we were to part in unkindness. But I am a woman and you are a man — it may be different wi’ you — if your mind is made easier by thinking sae hardly of me, I would not ask you to think otherwise.”
“You are,” said Butler, “what you have always been — wiser, better, and less selfish in your native feelings, than I can be, with all the helps philosophy can give to a Christian — But why — why will you persevere in an undertaking so desperate? Why will you not let me be your assistant — your protector, or at least your adviser?”
“Just because I cannot, and I dare not,” answered Jeanie. —“But hark, what’s that? Surely my father is no weel?”
In fact, the voices in the next room became obstreperously loud of a sudden, the cause of which vociferation it is necessary to explain before we go farther.
When Jeanie and Butler retired, Mr. Saddletree entered upon the business which chiefly interested the family. In the commencement of their conversation he found old Deans, who in his usual state of mind, was no granter of propositions, so much subdued by a deep sense of his daughter’s danger and disgrace, that he heard without replying to, or perhaps without understanding, one or two learned disquisitions on the nature of the crime imputed to her charge, and on the steps which ought to be taken in consequence. His only answer at each pause was, “I am no misdoubting that you wuss us weel — your wife’s our far-awa cousin.”
Encouraged by these symptoms of acquiescence, Saddletree, who, as an amateur of the law, had a supreme deference for all constituted authorities, again recurred to his other topic of interest, the murder, namely, of Porteous, and pronounced a severe censure on the parties concerned.
“These are kittle times — kittle times, Mr. Deans, when the people take the power of life and death out of the hands of the rightful magistrate into their ain rough grip. I am of opinion, and so I believe will Mr. Crossmyloof and the Privy Council, that this rising in effeir of war, to take away the life of a reprieved man, will prove little better than perduellion.”
“If I hadna that on my mind whilk is ill to bear, Mr. Saddletree,” said Deans, “I wad make bold to dispute that point wi’ you.”
“How could you dispute what’s plain law, man?” said Saddletree, somewhat contemptuously; “there’s no a callant that e’er carried a pock wi’ a process in’t, but will tell you that perduellion is the warst and maist virulent kind of treason, being an open convocating of the king’s lieges against his authority (mair especially in arms, and by touk of drum, to baith whilk accessories my een and lugs bore witness), and muckle worse than lese-majesty, or the concealment of a treasonable purpose — It winna bear a dispute, neighbour.”
“But it will, though,” retorted Douce Davie Deans; “I tell ye it will bear a disputer never like your cauld, legal, formal doctrines, neighbour Saddletree. I haud unco little by the Parliament House, since the awfu’ downfall of the hopes of honest folk that followed the Revolution.”
“But what wad ye hae had, Mr. Deans?” said Saddletree, impatiently; “didna ye get baith liberty and conscience made fast, and settled by tailzie on you and your heirs for ever?”
“Mr. Saddletree,” retorted Deans, “I ken ye are one of those that are wise after the manner of this world, and that ye hand your part, and cast in your portion, wi’ the lang heads and lang gowns, and keep with the smart witty-pated lawyers of this our land — Weary on the dark and dolefu’ cast that they hae gien this unhappy kingdom, when their black hands of defection were clasped in the red hands of our sworn murtherers: when those who had numbered the towers of our Zion, and marked the bulwarks of Reformation, saw their hope turn into a snare, and their rejoicing into weeping.”
“I canna understand this, neighbour,” answered Saddletree. “I am an honest Presbyterian of the Kirk of Scotland, and stand by her and the General Assembly, and the due administration of justice by the fifteen Lords o’ Session and the five Lords o’ Justiciary.”
“Out upon ye, Mr. Saddletree!” exclaimed David, who, in an opportunity of giving his testimony on the offences and backslidings of the land, forgot for a moment his own domestic calamity —“out upon your General Assembly, and the back of my hand to your Court o’ Session! — What is the tane but a waefu’ bunch o’ cauldrife professors and ministers, that sate bien and warm when the persecuted remnant were warstling wi’ hunger, and cauld, and fear of death, and danger of fire and sword upon wet brae-sides, peat-haggs, and flow-mosses, and that now creep out of their holes, like bluebottle flees in a blink of sunshine, to take the pu’pits and places of better folk — of them that witnessed, and testified, and fought, and endured pit, prison-house, and transportation beyond seas? — A bonny bike there’s o’ them! — And for your Court o’ Session —”
“Ye may say what ye will o’ the General Assembly,” said Saddletree, interrupting him, “and let them clear them that kens them; but as for the Lords o’ Session, forby that they are my next-door neighbours, I would have ye ken, for your ain regulation, that to raise scandal anent them, whilk is termed to murmur again them, is a crime sui generis, — sui generis, Mr. Deans — ken ye what that amounts to?”
“I ken little o’ the language of Antichrist,” said Deans; “and I care less than little what carnal courts may call the speeches of honest men. And as to murmur again them, it’s what a’ the folk that loses their pleas, and nine-tenths o’ them that win them, will be gey sure to be guilty in. Sae I wad hae ye ken that I hand a’ your gleg-tongued advocates, that sell their knowledge for pieces of silver — and your worldly-wise judges, that will gie three days of hearing in presence to a debate about the peeling of an ingan, and no ae half-hour to the gospel testimony — as legalists and formalists, countenancing by sentences, and quirks, and cunning terms of law, the late begun courses of national defections — union, toleration, patronages, and Yerastian prelatic oaths. As for the soul and body-killing Court o’ Justiciary —”
The habit of considering his life as dedicated to bear testimony in behalf of what he deemed the suffering and deserted cause of true religion, had swept honest David along with it thus far; but with the mention of the criminal court, the recollection of the disastrous condition of his daughter rushed at once on his mind; he stopped short in the midst of his triumphant declamation, pressed his hands against his forehead, and remained silent.
Saddletree was somewhat moved, but apparently not so much so as to induce him to relinquish the privilege of prosing in his turn afforded him by David’s sudden silence. “Nae doubt, neighbour,” he said, “it’s a sair thing to hae to do wi’ courts of law, unless it be to improve ane’s knowledge and practique, by waiting on as a hearer; and touching this unhappy affair of Effie — ye’ll hae seen the dittay, doubtless?” He dragged out of his pocket a bundle of papers, and began to turn them over. “This is no it — this is the information of Mungo Marsport, of that ilk, against Captain Lackland, for coming on his lands of Marsport with hawks, hounds, lying-dogs, nets, guns, cross-bows, hagbuts of found, or other engines more or less for destruction of game, sic as red-deer, fallow-deer, cappercailzies, grey-fowl, moor-fowl, paitricks, herons, and sic like; he, the said defender not being ane qualified person, in terms of the statute sixteen hundred and twenty-ane; that is, not having ane plough-gate of land. Now, the defences proponed say, that non constat at this present what is a plough-gate of land, whilk uncertainty is sufficient to elide the conclusions of the libel. But then the answers to the defences (they are signed by Mr. Crossmyloof, but Mr. Younglad drew them), they propone, that it signifies naething, in hoc statu, what or how muckle a plough-gate of land may be, in respect the defender has nae lands whatsoever, less or mair. ‘Sae grant a plough-gate’” (here Saddletree read from the paper in his hand) “‘to be less than the nineteenth part of a guse’s grass’—(I trow Mr. Crossmyloof put in that — I ken his style) — ‘of a guse’s grass, what the better will the defender be, seeing he hasna a divot-cast of land in Scotland? — Advocatus for Lackland duplies, that nihil interest de possessione, the pursuer must put his case under the statute’—(now, this is worth your notice, neighbour) — ‘and must show, formaliter et specialiter, as well as generaliter, what is the qualification that defender Lackland does not possess — let him tell me what a plough-gate of land is, and I’ll tell him if I have one or no. Surely the pursuer is bound to understand his own libel, and his own statute that he founds upon. Titius pursues Maevius for recovery of ane black horse lent to Maevius — surely he shall have judgment; but if Titius pursue Maevius for ane scarlet or crimson horse, doubtless he shall be bound to show that there is sic ane animal in rerum natura. No man can be bound to plead to nonsense — that is to say, to a charge which cannot be explained or understood’—(he’s wrang there — the better the pleadings the fewer understand them) — ‘and so the reference unto this undefined and unintelligible measure of land is, as if a penalty was inflicted by statute for any man who suld hunt or hawk, or use lying-dogs, and wearing a sky-blue pair of breeches, without having —‘But I am wearying you, Mr. Deans — we’ll pass to your ain business — though this cue of Marsport against Lackland has made an unco din in the Outer House. Weel, here’s the dittay against puir Effie: ‘Whereas it is humbly meant and shown to us,’ etc. (they are words of mere style), ‘that whereas, by the laws of this and every other well-regulated realm, the murder of any one, more especially of an infant child, is a crime of ane high nature, and severely punishable: And whereas, without prejudice to the foresaid generality, it was, by ane act made in the second session of the First Parliament of our most High and Dread Sovereigns William and Mary, especially enacted, that ane woman who shall have concealed her condition, and shall not be able to show that she hath called for help at the birth in case that the child shall be found dead or amissing, shall be deemed and held guilty of the murder thereof; and the said facts of concealment and pregnancy being found proven or confessed, shall sustain the pains of law accordingly; yet, nevertheless, you, Effie, or Euphemia Deans —’”
“Read no farther!” said Deans, raising his head up; “I would rather ye thrust a sword into my heart than read a word farther!”
“Weel, neighbour,” said Saddletree, “I thought it wad hae comforted ye to ken the best and the warst o’t. But the question is, what’s to be dune?”
“Nothing,” answered Deans firmly, “but to abide the dispensation that the Lord sees meet to send us. Oh, if it had been His will to take the grey head to rest before this awful visitation on my house and name! But His will be done. I can say that yet, though I can say little mair.”
“But, neighbour,” said Saddletree, “ye’ll retain advocates for the puir lassie? it’s a thing maun needs be thought of.”
“If there was ae man of them,” answered Deans, “that held fast his integrity — but I ken them weel, they are a’ carnal, crafty, and warld-hunting self-seekers, Yerastians, and Arminians, every ane o’ them.”
“Hout tout, neighbour, ye mauna take the warld at its word,” said Saddletree; “the very deil is no sae ill as he’s ca’d; and I ken mair than ae advocate that may be said to hae some integrity as weel as their neighbours; that is, after a sort o’ fashion’ o’ their ain.”
“It is indeed but a fashion of integrity that ye will find amang them,” replied David Deans, “and a fashion of wisdom, and fashion of carnal learning — gazing, glancing-glasses they are, fit only to fling the glaiks in folk’s een, wi’ their pawky policy, and earthly ingine, their flights and refinements, and periods of eloquence, frae heathen emperors and popish canons. They canna, in that daft trash ye were reading to me, sae muckle as ca’ men that are sae ill-starred as to be amang their hands, by ony name o’ the dispensation o’ grace, but maun new baptize them by the names of the accursed Titus, wha was made the instrument of burning the holy Temple, and other sic like heathens!”
“It’s Tishius,” interrupted Saddletree, “and no Titus. Mr. Crossmyloof cares as little about Titus or the Latin as ye do. — But it’s a case of necessity — she maun hae counsel. Now, I could speak to Mr. Crossmyloof — he’s weel ken’d for a round-spun Presbyterian, and a ruling elder to boot.”
“He’s a rank Yerastian,” replied Deans; “one of the public and polititious warldly-wise men that stude up to prevent ane general owning of the cause in the day of power!”
“What say ye to the auld Laird of Cuffabout?” said Saddletree; “he whiles thumps the dust out of a case gey and well.”
“He? the fause loon!” answered Deans —“he was in his bandaliers to hae joined the ungracious Highlanders in 1715, an they had ever had the luck to cross the Firth.”
“Weel, Arniston? there’s a clever chield for ye!” said Bartoline, triumphantly.
“Ay, to bring popish medals in till their very library from that schismatic woman in the north, the Duchess of Gordon.”1
“Weel, weel, but somebody ye maun hae — What think ye o’ Kittlepunt?”
“He’s an Arminian.”
“He’s, I doubt, a Cocceian.”
“He’s ony thing ye like.”
“He’s naething at a’.”
“Ye’re ill to please, neighbour,” said Saddletree: “I hae run ower the pick o’ them for you, ye maun e’en choose for yoursell; but bethink ye that in the multitude of counsellors there’s safety — What say ye to try young Mackenyie? he has a’ his uncle’s Practiques at the tongue’s end.”
“What, sir, wad ye speak to me,” exclaimed the sturdy Presbyterian in excessive wrath, “about a man that has the blood of the saints at his fingers’ ends? Did na his eme [Uncle] die and gang to his place wi’ the name of the Bluidy Mackenyie? and winna he be kend by that name sae lang as there’s a Scots tongue to speak the word? If the life of the dear bairn that’s under a suffering dispensation, and Jeanie’s, and my ain, and a’ mankind’s, depended on my asking sic a slave o’ Satan to speak a word for me or them, they should a’ gae doun the water thegither for Davie Deans!”
It was the exalted tone in which he spoke this last sentence that broke up the conversation between Butler and Jeanie, and brought them both “ben the house,” to use the language of the country. Here they found the poor old man half frantic between grief and zealous ire against Saddletree’s proposed measures, his cheek inflamed, his hand clenched, and his voice raised, while the tear in his eye, and the occasional quiver of his accents, showed that his utmost efforts were inadequate to shaking off the consciousness of his misery. Butler, apprehensive of the consequences of his agitation to an aged and feeble frame, ventured to utter to him a recommendation to patience.
“I am patient,” returned the old man sternly — “more patient than any one who is alive to the woeful backslidings of a miserable time can be patient; and in so much, that I need neither sectarians, nor sons nor grandsons of sectarians, to instruct my grey hairs how to bear my cross.”
“But, sir,” continued Butler, taking no offence at the slur cast on his grandfather’s faith, “we must use human means. When you call in a physician, you would not, I suppose, question him on the nature of his religious principles!”
“Wad I no?” answered David —“but I wad, though; and if he didna satisfy me that he had a right sense of the right hand and left hand defections of the day, not a goutte of his physic should gang through my father’s son.”
It is a dangerous thing to trust to an illustration. Butler had done so and miscarried; but, like a gallant soldier when his musket misses fire, he stood his ground, and charged with the bayonet. —“This is too rigid an interpretation of your duty, sir. The sun shines, and the rain descends, on the just and unjust, and they are placed together in life in circumstances which frequently render intercourse between them indispensable, perhaps that the evil may have an opportunity of being converted by the good, and perhaps, also, that the righteous might, among other trials, be subjected to that of occasional converse with the profane.”
“Ye’re a silly callant, Reuben,” answered Deans, “with your bits of argument. Can a man touch pitch and not be defiled? Or what think ye of the brave and worthy champions of the Covenant, that wadna sae muckle as hear a minister speak, be his gifts and graces as they would, that hadna witnessed against the enormities of the day? Nae lawyer shall ever speak for me and mine that hasna concurred in the testimony of the scattered, yet lovely remnant, which abode in the clifts of the rocks.”
So saying, and as if fatigued, both with the arguments and presence of his guests, the old man arose, and seeming to bid them adieu with a motion of his head and hand, went to shut himself up in his sleeping apartment.
“It’s thrawing his daughter’s life awa,” said Saddletree to Butler, “to hear him speak in that daft gate. Where will he ever get a Cameronian advocate? Or wha ever heard of a lawyer’s suffering either for ae religion or another? The lassie’s life is clean flung awa.”
During the latter part of this debate, Dumbiedikes had arrived at the door, dismounted, hung the pony’s bridle on the usual hook, and sunk down on his ordinary settle. His eyes, with more than their usual animation, followed first one speaker then another, till he caught the melancholy sense of the whole from Saddletree’s last words. He rose from his seat, stumped slowly across the room, and, coming close up to Saddletree’s ear, said in a tremulous anxious voice, “Will — will siller do naething for them, Mr. Saddletree?”
“Umph!” said Saddletree, looking grave — “siller will certainly do it in the Parliament House, if ony thing can do it; but where’s the siller to come frae? Mr. Deans, ye see, will do naething; and though Mrs. Saddletree’s their far-awa friend, and right good weel-wisher, and is weel disposed to assist, yet she wadna like to stand to be bound singuli in solidum to such an expensive wark. An ilka friend wad bear a share o’ the burden, something might be dune — ilka ane to be liable for their ain input — I wadna like to see the case fa’ through without being pled — it wadna be creditable, for a’ that daft whig body says.”
“I’ll — I will — yes” (assuming fortitude), “I will be answerable,” said Dumbiedikes, “for a score of punds sterling.”— And he was silent, staring in astonishment at finding himself capable of such unwonted resolution and excessive generosity.
“God Almighty bless ye, Laird!” said Jeanie, in a transport of gratitude.
“Ye may ca’ the twenty punds thretty,” said Dumbiedikes, looking bashfully away from her, and towards Saddletree.
“That will do bravely,” said Saddletree, rubbing his hands; “and ye sall hae a’ my skill and knowledge to gar the siller gang far — I’ll tape it out weel — I ken how to gar the birkies tak short fees, and be glad o’ them too — it’s only garring them trow ye hae twa or three cases of importance coming on, and they’ll work cheap to get custom. Let me alane for whilly-whaing an advocate:— it’s nae sin to get as muckle flue them for our siller as we can — after a’, it’s but the wind o’ their mouth — it costs them naething; whereas, in my wretched occupation of a saddler, horse milliner, and harness maker, we are out unconscionable sums just for barkened hides and leather.”
“Can I be of no use?” said Butler. “My means, alas! are only worth the black coat I wear; but I am young — I owe much to the family — Can I do nothing?”
“Ye can help to collect evidence, sir,” said Saddletree; “if we could but find ony ane to say she had gien the least hint o’ her condition, she wad be brought aft wi’ a wat finger — Mr. Crossmyloof tell’d me sae. The crown, says he, canna be craved to prove a positive — was’t a positive or a negative they couldna be ca’d to prove? — it was the tane or the tither o’ them, I am sure, and it maksna muckle matter whilk. Wherefore, says he, the libel maun be redargued by the panel proving her defences. And it canna be done otherwise.”
“But the fact, sir,” argued Butler, “the fact that this poor girl has borne a child; surely the crown lawyers must prove that?” said Butler.
Saddletree paused a moment, while the visage of Dumbiedikes, which traversed, as if it had been placed on a pivot, from the one spokesman to the other, assumed a more blithe expression.
“Ye — ye — ye — es,” said Saddletree, after some grave hesitation; “unquestionably that is a thing to be proved, as the court will more fully declare by an interlocutor of relevancy in common form; but I fancy that job’s done already, for she has confessed her guilt.”
“Confessed the murder?” exclaimed Jeanie, with a scream that made them all start.
“No, I didna say that,” replied Bartoline. “But she confessed bearing the babe.”
“And what became of it, then?” said Jeanie, “for not a word could I get from her but bitter sighs and tears.”
“She says it was taken away from her by the woman in whose house it was born, and who assisted her at the time.”
“And who was that woman?” said Butler. “Surely by her means the truth might be discovered. — Who was she? I will fly to her directly.”
“I wish,” said Dumbiedikes, “I were as young and as supple as you, and had the gift of the gab as weel.”
“Who is she?” again reiterated Butler impatiently. —“Who could that woman be?”
“Ay, wha kens that but herself?” said Saddletree; “she deponed farther, and declined to answer that interrogatory.”
“Then to herself will I instantly go,” said Butler; “farewell, Jeanie;” then coming close up to her —“Take no rash steps till you hear from me. Farewell!” and he immediately left the cottage.
“I wad gang too,” said the landed proprietor, in an anxious, jealous, and repining tone, “but my powny winna for the life o’ me gang ony other road than just frae Dumbiedikes to this house-end, and sae straight back again.”
“Yell do better for them,” said Saddletree, as they left the house together, “by sending me the thretty punds.”
“Thretty punds!” hesitated Dumbiedikes, who was now out of the reach of those eyes which had inflamed his generosity; “I only said twenty punds.”
“Ay; but,” said Saddletree, “that was under protestation to add and eik; and so ye craved leave to amend your libel, and made it thretty.”
“Did I? I dinna mind that I did,” answered Dumbiedikes. “But whatever I said I’ll stand to.” Then bestriding his steed with some difficulty, he added, “Dinna ye think poor Jeanie’s een wi’ the tears in them glanced like lamour beads, Mr. Saddletree?”
“I kenna muckle about women’s een, Laird,” replied the insensible Bartoline; “and I care just as little. I wuss I were as weel free o’ their tongues; though few wives,” he added, recollecting the necessity of keeping up his character for domestic rule, “are under better command than mine, Laird. I allow neither perduellion nor lese-majesty against my sovereign authority.”
The Laird saw nothing so important in this observation as to call for a rejoinder, and when they had exchanged a mute salutation, they parted in peace upon their different errands.
1 [James Dundas younger of Arniston was tried in the year 1711 upon charge of leasing-making, in having presented, from the Duchess of Gordon, medal of the Pretender, for the purpose, it was said, of affronting Queen Anne.]
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:54