I beseech you —
These tears beseech you, and these chaste hands woo you
That never yet were heaved but to things holy —
Things like yourself — You are a God above us;
Be as a God, then, full of saving mercy!
The Bloody Brother.
Encouraged as she was by the courteous manners of her noble countryman, it was not without a feeling of something like terror that Jeanie felt herself in a place apparently so lonely with a man of such high rank. That she should have been permitted to wait on the Duke in his own house, and have been there received to a private interview, was in itself an uncommon and distinguished event in the annals of a life so simple as hers; but to find herself his travelling companion in a journey, and then suddenly to be left alone with him in so secluded a situation, had something in it of awful mystery. A romantic heroine might have suspected and dreaded the power of her own charms; but Jeanie was too wise to let such a silly thought intrude on her mind. Still, however, she had a most eager desire to know where she now was, and to whom she was to be presented.
She remarked that the Duke’s dress, though still such as indicated rank and fashion (for it was not the custom of men of quality at that time to dress themselves like their own coachmen or grooms), was nevertheless plainer than that in which she had seen him upon a former occasion, and was divested, in particular, of all those badges of external decoration which intimated superior consequence. In short, he was attired as plainly as any gentleman of fashion could appear in the streets of London in a morning; and this circumstance helped to shake an opinion which Jeanie began to entertain, that, perhaps, he intended she should plead her cause in the presence of royalty itself. “But surely,” said she to, herself, “he wad hae putten on his braw star and garter, an he had thought o’ coming before the face of majesty — and after a’, this is mair like a gentleman’s policy than a royal palace.”
There was some sense in Jeanie’s reasoning; yet she was not sufficiently mistress either of the circumstances of etiquette, or the particular relations which existed betwixt the government and the Duke of Argyle, to form an accurate judgment. The Duke, as we have said, was at this time in open opposition to the administration of Sir Robert Walpole, and was understood to be out of favour with the royal family, to whom he had rendered such important services. But it was a maxim of Queen Caroline to bear herself towards her political friends with such caution, as if there was a possibility of their one day being her enemies, and towards political opponents with the same degree of circumspection, as if they might again become friendly to her measures, Since Margaret of Anjou, no queen-consort had exercised such weight in the political affairs of England, and the personal address which she displayed on many occasions, had no small share in reclaiming from their political heresy many of those determined Tories, who, after the reign of the Stuarts had been extinguished in the person of Queen Anne, were disposed rather to transfer their allegiance to her brother the Chevalier de St. George, than to acquiesce in the settlement of the crown on the Hanover family. Her husband, whose most shining quality was courage in the field of battle, and who endured the office of King of England, without ever being able to acquire English habits, or any familiarity with English dispositions, found the utmost assistance from the address of his partner, and while he jealously affected to do everything according to his own will and pleasure, was in secret prudent enough to take and follow the advice of his more adroit consort. He intrusted to her the delicate office of determining the various degrees of favour necessary to attach the wavering, or to confirm such as were already friendly, or to regain those whose good-will had been lost.
With all the winning address of an elegant, and, according to the times, an accomplished woman, Queen Caroline possessed the masculine soul of the other sex. She was proud by nature, and even her policy could not always temper her expressions of displeasure, although few were more ready at repairing any false step of this kind, when her prudence came up to the aid of her passions. She loved the real possession of power rather than the show of it, and whatever she did herself that was either wise or popular, she always desired that the King should have the full credit as well as the advantage of the measure, conscious that, by adding to his respectability, she was most likely to maintain her own. And so desirous was she to comply with all his tastes, that, when threatened with the gout, she had repeatedly had recourse to checking the fit, by the use of the cold bath, thereby endangering her life, that she might be able to attend the king in his walks.
It was a very consistent part of Queen Caroline’s character, to keep up many private correspondences with those to whom in public she seemed unfavourable, or who, for various reasons, stood ill with the court. By this means she kept in her hands the thread of many a political intrigue, and, without pledging herself to anything, could often prevent discontent from becoming hatred, and opposition from exaggerating itself into rebellion. If by any accident her correspondence with such persons chanced to be observed or discovered, which she took all possible pains to prevent, it was represented as a mere intercourse of society, having no reference to politics; an answer with which even the prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, was compelled to remain satisfied, when he discovered that the Queen had given a private audience to Pulteney, afterwards Earl of Bath, his most formidable and most inveterate enemy.
In thus maintaining occasional intercourse with several persons who seemed most alienated from the crown, it may readily be supposed that Queen Caroline had taken care not to break entirely with the Duke of Argyle. His high birth, his great talents, the estimation in which he was held in his own country, the great services which he had rendered the house of Brunswick in 1715, placed him high in that rank of persons who were not to be rashly neglected. He had, almost by his single and unassisted talents, stopped the irruption of the banded force of all the Highland chiefs; there was little doubt, that, with the slightest encouragement, he could put them all in motion, and renew the civil war; and it was well known that the most flattering overtures had been transmitted to the Duke from the court of St. Germains. The character and temper of Scotland was still little known, and it was considered as a volcano, which might, indeed, slumber for a series of years, but was still liable, at a moment the least expected, to break out into a wasteful irruption. It was, therefore, of the highest importance to retain come hold over so important a personage as the Duke of Argyle, and Caroline preserved the power of doing so by means of a lady, with whom, as wife of George II., she might have been supposed to be on less intimate terms.
It was not the least instance of the Queen’s address, that she had contrived that one of her principal attendants, Lady Suffolk, should unite in her own person the two apparently inconsistent characters, of her husband’s mistress, and her own very obsequious and complaisant confidant. By this dexterous management the Queen secured her power against the danger which might most have threatened it — the thwarting influence of an ambitious rival; and if she submitted to the mortification of being obliged to connive at her husband’s infidelity, she was at least guarded against what she might think its most dangerous effects, and was besides at liberty, now and then, to bestow a few civil insults upon “her good Howard,” whom, however, in general, she treated with great decorum.1
Lady Suffolk lay under strong obligations to the Duke of Argyle, for reasons which may be collected from Horace Walpole’s Reminiscences of that reign, and through her means the Duke had some occasional correspondence with Queen Caroline, much interrupted, however, since the part he had taken in the debate concerning the Porteous mob, an affair which the Queen, though somewhat unreasonably, was disposed to resent, rather as an intended and premeditated insolence to her own person and authority, than as a sudden ebullition of popular vengeance. Still, however, the communication remained open betwixt them, though it had been of late disused on both sides. These remarks will be found necessary to understand the scene which is about to be presented to the reader.
From the narrow alley which they had traversed, the Duke turned into one of the same character, but broader and still longer. Here, for the first time since they had entered these gardens, Jeanie saw persons approaching them.
They were two ladies; one of whom walked a little behind the other, yet not so much as to prevent her from hearing and replying to whatever observation was addressed to her by the lady who walked foremost, and that without her having the trouble to turn her person. As they advanced very slowly, Jeanie had time to study their features and appearance. The Duke also slackened his pace, as if to give her time to collect herself, and repeatedly desired her not to be afraid. The lady who seemed the principal person had remarkably good features, though somewhat injured by the small-pox, that venomous scourge which each village Esculapius (thanks to Jenner) can now tame as easily as their tutelary deity subdued the Python. The lady’s eyes were brilliant, her teeth good, and her countenance formed to express at will either majesty or courtesy. Her form, though rather embonpoint, was nevertheless graceful; and the elasticity and firmness of her step gave no room to suspect, what was actually the case, that she suffered occasionally from a disorder the most unfavourable to pedestrian exercise. Her dress was rather rich than gay, and her manner commanding and noble.
Her companion was of lower stature, with light brown hair and expressive blue eyes. Her features, without being absolutely regular, were perhaps more pleasing than if they had been critically handsome. A melancholy, or at least a pensive expression, for which her lot gave too much cause, predominated when she was silent, but gave way to a pleasing and good-humoured smile when she spoke to any one.
When they were within twelve or fifteen yards of these ladies, the Duke made a sign that Jeanie should stand still, and stepping forward himself, with the grace which was natural to him, made a profound obeisance, which was formally, yet in a dignified manner, returned by the personage whom he approached.
“I hope,” she said, with an affable and condescending smile, “that I see so great a stranger at court, as the Duke of Argyle has been of late, in as good health as his friends there and elsewhere could wish him to enjoy.”
The Duke replied, “That he had been perfectly well;” and added, “that the necessity of attending to the public business before the House, as well as the time occupied by a late journey to Scotland, had rendered him less assiduous in paying his duty at the levee and drawing-room than he could have desired.”
“When your Grace can find time for a duty so frivolous,” replied the Queen, “you are aware of your title to be well received. I hope my readiness to comply with the wish which you expressed yesterday to Lady Suffolk, is, a sufficient proof that one of the royal family, at least, has not forgotten ancient and important services, in resenting something which resembles recent neglect.” This was said apparently with great good humour, and in a tone which expressed a desire of conciliation.
The Duke replied, “That he would account himself the most unfortunate of men, if he could be supposed capable of neglecting his duty, in modes and circumstances when it was expected, and would have been agreeable. He was deeply gratified by the honour which her Majesty was now doing to him personally; and he trusted she would soon perceive that it was in a matter essential to his Majesty’s interest that he had the boldness to give her this trouble.”
“You cannot oblige me more, my Lord Duke,” replied the Queen, “than by giving me the advantage of your lights and experience on any point of the King’s service. Your Grace is aware, that I can only be the medium through which the matter is subjected to his Majesty’s superior wisdom; but if it is a suit which respects your Grace personally, it shall lose no support by being preferred through me.”
“It is no suit of mine, madam,” replied the Duke; “nor have I any to prefer for myself personally, although I feel in full force my obligation to your Majesty. It is a business which concerns his Majesty, as a lover of justice and of mercy, and which, I am convinced, may be highly useful in conciliating the unfortunate irritation which at present subsists among his Majesty’s good subjects in Scotland.”
There were two parts of this speech disagreeable to Caroline. In the first place, it removed the flattering notion she had adopted, that Argyle designed to use her personal intercession in making his peace with the administration, and recovering the employments of which he had been deprived; and next, she was displeased that he should talk of the discontents in Scotland as irritations to be conciliated, rather than suppressed.
Under the influence of these feelings, she answered hastily, “That his Majesty has good subjects in England, my Lord Duke, he is bound to thank God and the laws — that he has subjects in Scotland, I think he may thank God and his sword.”
The Duke, though a courtier, coloured slightly, and the Queen, instantly sensible of her error, added, without displaying the least change of countenance, and as if the words had been an original branch of the sentence —“And the swords of those real Scotchmen who are friends to the House of Brunswick, particularly that of his Grace of Argyle.”
“My sword, madam,” replied the Duke, “like that of my fathers, has been always at the command of my lawful king, and of my native country — I trust it is impossible to separate their real rights and interests. But the present is a matter of more private concern, and respects the person of an obscure individual.”
“What is the affair, my Lord?” said the Queen. “Let us find out what we are talking about, lest we should misconstrue and misunderstand each other.”
“The matter, madam,” answered the Duke of Argyle, “regards the fate of an unfortunate young woman in Scotland, now lying under sentence of death, for a crime of which I think it highly probable that she is innocent. And my humble petition to your Majesty is, to obtain your powerful intercession with the King for a pardon.”
It was now the Queen’s turn to colour, and she did so over cheek and brow, neck and bosom. She paused a moment as if unwilling to trust her voice with the first expression of her displeasure; and on assuming the air of dignity and an austere regard of control, she at length replied, “My Lord Duke, I will not ask your motives for addressing to me a request, which circumstances have rendered such an extraordinary one. Your road to the King’s closet, as a peer and a privy-councillor, entitled to request an audience, was open, without giving me the pain of this discussion. I, at least, have had enough of Scotch pardons.”
The Duke was prepared for this burst of indignation, and he was not shaken by it. He did not attempt a reply while the Queen was in the first heat of displeasure, but remained in the same firm, yet respectful posture, which he had assumed during the interview. The Queen, trained from her situation to self-command, instantly perceived the advantage she might give against herself by yielding to passion; and added, in the same condescending and affable tone in which she had opened the interview, “You must allow me some of the privileges of the sex, my Lord; and do not judge uncharitably of me, though I am a little moved at the recollection of the gross insult and outrage done in your capital city to the royal authority, at the very time when it was vested in my unworthy person. Your Grace cannot be surprised that I should both have felt it at the time, and recollected it now.”
“It is certainly a matter not speedily to be forgotten,” answered the Duke. “My own poor thoughts of it have been long before your Majesty, and I must have expressed myself very ill if I did not convey my detestation of the murder which was committed under such extraordinary circumstances. I might, indeed, be so unfortunate as to differ with his Majesty’s advisers on the degree in which it was either just or politic to punish the innocent instead of the guilty. But I trust your Majesty will permit me to be silent on a topic in which my sentiments have not the good fortune to coincide with those of more able men.”
“We will not prosecute a topic on which we may probably differ,” said the Queen. “One word, however, I may say in private — you know our good Lady Suffolk is a little deaf — the Duke of Argyle, when disposed to renew his acquaintance with his master and mistress, will hardly find many topics on which we should disagree.”
“Let me hope,” said the Duke, bowing profoundly to so flattering an intimation, “that I shall not be so unfortunate as to have found one on the present occasion.”
“I must first impose on your Grace the duty of confession,” said the Queen, “before I grant you absolution. What is your particular interest in this young woman? She does not seem” (and she scanned Jeanie, as she said this, with the eye of a connoisseur) “much qualified to alarm my friend the Duchess’s jealousy.”
“I think your Majesty,” replied the Duke, smiling in his turn, “will allow my taste may be a pledge for me on that score.”
“Then, though she has not much the air d’une grande dame, I suppose she is some thirtieth cousin in the terrible CHAPTER of Scottish genealogy?”
“No, madam,” said the Duke; “but I wish some of my nearer relations had half her worth, honesty, and affection.”
“Her name must be Campbell, at least?” said Queen Caroline.
“No, madam; her name is not quite so distinguished, if I may be permitted to say so,” answered the Duke.
“Ah! but she comes from Inverary or Argyleshire?” said the Sovereign.
“She has never been farther north in her life than Edinburgh, madam.”
“Then my conjectures are all ended,” said the Queen, “and your Grace must yourself take the trouble to explain the affair of your prote’ge’e.”
With that precision and easy brevity which is only acquired by habitually conversing in the higher ranks of society, and which is the diametrical opposite of that protracted style of disquisition,
Which squires call potter, and which men call prose,
the Duke explained the singular law under which Effie Deans had received sentence of death, and detailed the affectionate exertions which Jeanie had made in behalf of a sister, for whose sake she was willing to sacrifice all but truth and conscience.
Queen Caroline listened with attention; she was rather fond, it must be remembered, of an argument, and soon found matter in what the Duke told her for raising difficulties to his request.
“It appears to me, my Lord,” she replied, “that this is a severe law. But still it is adopted upon good grounds, I am bound to suppose, as the law of the country, and the girl has been convicted under it. The very presumptions which the law construes into a positive proof of guilt exist in her case; and all that your Grace has said concerning the possibility of her innocence may be a very good argument for annulling the Act of Parliament, but cannot, while it stands good, be admitted in favour of any individual convicted upon the statute.”
The Duke saw and avoided the snare, for he was conscious, that, by replying to the argument, he must have been inevitably led to a discussion, in the course of which the Queen was likely to be hardened in her own opinion, until she became obliged, out of mere respect to consistency, to let the criminal suffer.
“If your Majesty,” he said, “would condescend to hear my poor countrywoman herself, perhaps she may find an advocate in your own heart, more able than I am, to combat the doubts suggested by your understanding.”
The Queen seemed to acquiesce, and the Duke made a signal for Jeanie to advance from the spot where she had hitherto remained watching countenances, which were too long accustomed to suppress all apparent signs of emotion, to convey to her any interesting intelligence. Her Majesty could not help smiling at the awe-struck manner in which the quiet demure figure of the little Scotchwoman advanced towards her, and yet more at the first sound of her broad northern accent. But Jeanie had a voice low and sweetly toned, an admirable thing in woman, and eke besought “her Leddyship to have pity on a poor misguided young creature,” in tones so affecting, that, like the notes of some of her native songs, provincial vulgarity was lost in pathos.
“Stand up, young woman,” said the Queen, but in a kind tone, “and tell me what sort of a barbarous people your country-folk are, where child-murder is become so common as to require the restraint of laws like yours?”
“If your Leddyship pleases,” answered Jeanie, “there are mony places besides Scotland where mothers are unkind to their ain flesh and blood.”
It must be observed, that the disputes between George the Second and Frederick Prince of Wales were then at the highest, and that the good-natured part of the public laid the blame on the Queen. She coloured highly, and darted a glance of a most penetrating character first at Jeanie, and then at the Duke. Both sustained it unmoved; Jeanie from total unconsciousness of the offence she had given, and the Duke from his habitual composure. But in his heart he thought, My unlucky protegee has with this luckless answer shot dead, by a kind of chance-medley, her only hope of success.
Lady Suffolk, good-humouredly and skilfully, interposed in this awkward crisis. “You should tell this lady,” she said to Jeanie, “the particular causes which render this crime common in your country.”
“Some thinks it’s the Kirk-session — that is — it’s the — it’s the cutty-stool, if your Leddyship pleases,” said Jeanie, looking down and courtesying.
“The what?” said Lady Suffolk, to whom the phrase was new, and who besides was rather deaf.
“That’s the stool of repentance, madam, if it please your Leddyship,” answered Jeanie, “for light life and conversation, and for breaking the seventh command.” Here she raised her eyes to the Duke, saw his hand at his chin, and, totally unconscious of what she had said out of joint, gave double effect to the innuendo, by stopping short and looking embarrassed.
As for Lady Suffolk, she retired like a covering party, which, having interposed betwixt their retreating friends and the enemy, have suddenly drawn on themselves a fire unexpectedly severe.
The deuce take the lass, thought the Duke of Argyle to himself; there goes another shot — and she has hit with both barrels right and left!
Indeed the Duke had himself his share of the confusion, for, having acted as master of ceremonies to this innocent offender, he felt much in the circumstances of a country squire, who, having introduced his spaniel into a well-appointed drawing-room, is doomed to witness the disorder and damage which arises to china and to dress-gowns, in consequence of its untimely frolics. Jeanie’s last chance-hit, however, obliterated the ill impression which had arisen from the first; for her Majesty had not so lost the feelings of a wife in those of a Queen, but that she could enjoy a jest at the expense of “her good Suffolk.” She turned towards the Duke of Argyle with a smile, which marked that she enjoyed the triumph, and observed, “The Scotch are a rigidly moral people.” Then, again applying herself to Jeanie, she asked how she travelled up from Scotland.
“Upon my foot mostly, madam,” was the reply.
“What, all that immense way upon foot? — How far can you walk in a day.”
“Five-and-twenty miles and a bittock.”
“And a what?” said the Queen, looking towards the Duke of Argyle.
“And about five miles more,” replied the Duke.
“I thought I was a good walker,” said the Queen, “but this shames me sadly.”
“May your Leddyship never hae sae weary a heart, that ye canna be sensible of the weariness of the limbs,” said Jeanie. That came better off, thought the Duke; it’s the first thing she has said to the purpose.
“And I didna just a’thegither walk the haill way neither, for I had whiles the cast of a cart; and I had the cast of a horse from Ferrybridge — and divers other easements,” said Jeanie, cutting short her story, for she observed the Duke made the sign he had fixed upon.
“With all these accommodations,” answered the Queen, “you must have had a very fatiguing journey, and, I fear, to little purpose; since, if the King were to pardon your sister, in all probability it would do her little good, for I suppose your people of Edinburgh would hang her out of spite.”
She will sink herself now outright, thought the Duke.
But he was wrong. The shoals on which Jeanie had touched in this delicate conversation lay under ground, and were unknown to her; this rock was above water, and she avoided it.
“She was confident,” she said, “that baith town and country wad rejoice to see his Majesty taking compassion on a poor unfriended creature.”
“His Majesty has not found it so in a late instance,” said the Queen; “but I suppose my Lord Duke would advise him to be guided by the votes of the rabble themselves, who should be hanged and who spared?”
“No, madam,” said the Duke; “but I would advise his Majesty to be guided by his own feelings, and those of his royal consort; and then I am sure punishment will only attach itself to guilt, and even then with cautious reluctance.”
“Well, my Lord,” said her Majesty, “all these fine speeches do not convince me of the propriety of so soon showing any mark of favour to your — I suppose I must not say rebellious? — but, at least, your very disaffected and intractable metropolis. Why, the whole nation is in a league to screen the savage and abominable murderers of that unhappy man; otherwise, how is it possible but that, of so many perpetrators, and engaged in so public an action for such a length of time, one at least must have been recognised? Even this wench, for aught I can tell, may be a depositary of the secret. — Hark you, young woman, had you any friends engaged in the Porteous mob?”
“No, madam,” answered Jeanie, happy that the question was so framed that she could, with a good conscience, answer it in the negative.
“But I suppose,” continued the Queen, “if you were possessed of such a secret, you would hold it a matter of conscience to keep it to yourself?”
“I would pray to be directed and guided what was the line of duty, madam,” answered Jeanie.
“Yes, and take that which suited your own inclinations,” replied her Majesty.
“If it like you, madam,” said Jeanie, “I would hae gaen to the end of the earth to save the life of John Porteous, or any other unhappy man in his condition; but I might lawfully doubt how far I am called upon to be the avenger of his blood, though it may become the civil magistrate to do so. He is dead and gane to his place, and they that have slain him must answer for their ain act. But my sister, my puir sister, Effie, still lives, though her days and hours are numbered! She still lives, and a word of the King’s mouth might restore her to a brokenhearted auld man, that never in his daily and nightly exercise, forgot to pray that his Majesty might be blessed with a long and a prosperous reign, and that his throne, and the throne of his posterity, might be established in righteousness. O madam, if ever ye kend what it was to sorrow for and with a sinning and a suffering creature, whose mind is sae tossed that she can be neither ca’d fit to live or die, have some compassion on our misery! — Save an honest house from dishonour, and an unhappy girl, not eighteen years of age, from an early and dreadful death! Alas! it is not when we sleep soft and wake merrily ourselves that we think on other people’s sufferings. Our hearts are waxed light within us then, and we are for righting our ain wrangs and fighting our ain battles. But when the hour of trouble comes to the mind or to the body — and seldom may it visit your Leddyship — and when the hour of death comes, that comes to high and low — lang and late may it be yours! — Oh, my Leddy, then it isna what we hae dune for oursells, but what we hae dune for others, that we think on maist pleasantly. And the thoughts that ye hae intervened to spare the puir thing’s life will be sweeter in that hour, come when it may, than if a word of your mouth could hang the haill Porteous mob at the tail of ae tow.”
Tear followed tear down Jeanie’s cheeks, as, her features glowing and quivering with emotion, she pleaded her sister’s cause with a pathos which was at once simple and solemn.
“This is eloquence,” said her Majesty to the Duke of Argyle. “Young woman,” she continued, addressing herself to Jeanie, “I cannot grant a pardon to your sister — but you shall not want my warm intercession with his Majesty. Take this house-wife case,” she continued, putting a small embroidered needle-case into Jeanie’s hands; “do not open it now, but at your leisure — you will find something in it which will remind you that you have had an interview with Queen Caroline.”
Jeanie, having her suspicions thus confirmed, dropped on her knees, and would have expanded herself in gratitude; but the Duke who was upon thorns lest she should say more or less than just enough, touched his chin once more.
“Our business is, I think, ended for the present, my Lord Duke,” said the Queen, “and, I trust, to your satisfaction. Hereafter I hope to see your Grace more frequently, both at Richmond and St. James’s. — Come Lady Suffolk, we must wish his Grace good-morning.”
They exchanged their parting reverences, and the Duke, so soon as the ladies had turned their backs, assisted Jeanie to rise from the ground, and conducted her back through the avenue, which she trode with the feeling of one who walks in her sleep.
1 See Horace Walpole’s Reminiscences.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00