One was a female, who had grievous ill
Wrought in revenge, and she enjoy’d it still;
Sullen she was, and threatening; in her eye
Glared the stern triumph that she dared to die.
The summons of preparation arrived after Jeanie Deans had resided in the metropolis about three weeks.
On the morning appointed she took a grateful farewell of Mrs. Glass, as that good woman’s attention to her particularly required, placed herself and her movable goods, which purchases and presents had greatly increased, in a hackney-coach, and joined her travelling companions in the housekeeper’s apartment at Argyle House. While the carriage was getting ready, she was informed that the Duke wished to speak with her; and being ushered into a splendid saloon, she was surprised to find that he wished to present her to his lady and daughters.
“I bring you my little countrywoman, Duchess,” these were the words of the introduction. “With an army of young fellows, as gallant and steady as she is, and, a good cause, I would not fear two to one.”
“Ah, papa!” said a lively young lady, about twelve years old, “remember you were full one to two at Sheriffmuir, and yet” (singing the well-known ballad)—
“Some say that we wan, and some say that they wan, And some say that nane wan at a’, man But of ae thing I’m sure, that on Sheriff-muir A battle there was that I saw, man.”
“What, little Mary turned Tory on my hands? — This will be fine news for our countrywoman to carry down to Scotland!”
“We may all turn Tories for the thanks we have got for remaining Whigs,” said the second young lady.
“Well, hold your peace, you discontented monkeys, and go dress your babies; and as for the Bob of Dunblane,
‘If it wasna weel bobbit, weel bobbit, weel bobbit,
If it wasna weel bobbit, we’ll bob it again.’”
“Papa’s wit is running low,” said Lady Mary: “the poor gentleman is repeating himself — he sang that on the field of battle, when he was told the Highlanders had cut his left wing to pieces with their claymores.”
A pull by the hair was the repartee to this sally.
“Ah! brave Highlanders and bright claymores,” said the Duke, “well do I wish them, ‘for a’ the ill they’ve done me yet,’ as the song goes. — But come, madcaps, say a civil word to your countrywoman — I wish ye had half her canny hamely sense; I think you may be as leal and true-hearted.”
The Duchess advanced, and, in a few words, in which there was as much kindness as civility, assured Jeanie of the respect which she had for a character so affectionate, and yet so firm, and added, “When you get home, you will perhaps hear from me.”
“And from me.” “And from me.” “And from me, Jeanie,” added the young ladies one after the other, “for you are a credit to the land we love so well.”
Jeanie, overpowered by these unexpected compliments, and not aware that the Duke’s investigation had made him acquainted with her behaviour on her sister’s trial, could only answer by blushing, and courtesying round and round, and uttering at intervals, “Mony thanks! mony thanks!”
“Jeanie,” said the Duke, “you must have doch an’ dorroch, or you will be unable to travel.”
There was a salver with cake and wine on the table. He took up a glass, drank “to all true hearts that lo’ed Scotland,” and offered a glass to his guest.
Jeanie, however, declined it, saying, “that she had never tasted wine in her life.”
“How comes that, Jeanie?” said the Duke — “wine maketh glad the heart, you know.”
“Ay, sir, but my father is like Jonadab the son of Rechab, who charged his children that they should drink no wine.”
“I thought your father would have had more sense,” said the Duke, “unless indeed he prefers brandy. But, however, Jeanie, if you will not drink, you must eat, to save the character of my house.”
He thrust upon her a large piece of cake, nor would he permit her to break off a fragment, and lay the rest on a salver.
“Put it in your pouch, Jeanie,” said he; “you will be glad of it before you see St. Giles’s steeple. I wish to Heaven I were to see it as soon as you! and so my best service to all my friends at and about Auld Reekie, and a blithe journey to you.”
And, mixing the frankness of a soldier with his natural affability, he shook hands with his prote’ge’e, and committed her to the charge of Archibald, satisfied that he had provided sufficiently for her being attended to by his domestics, from the unusual attention with which he had himself treated her.
Accordingly, in the course of her journey, she found both her companions disposed to pay her every possible civility, so that her return, in point of comfort and safety, formed a strong contrast to her journey to London.
Her heart also was disburdened of the weight of grief, shame, apprehension, and fear, which had loaded her before her interview with the Queen at Richmond. But the human mind is so strangely capricious, that, when freed from the pressure of real misery, it becomes open and sensitive to the apprehension of ideal calamities. She was now much disturbed in mind, that she had heard nothing from Reuben Butler, to whom the operation of writing was so much more familiar than it was to herself.
“It would have cost him sae little fash,” she said to herself; “for I hae seen his pen gan as fast ower the paper, as ever it did ower the water when it was in the grey goose’s wing. Wae’s me! maybe he may be badly — but then my father wad likely hae said somethin about it — Or maybe he may hae taen the rue, and kensna how to let me wot of his change of mind. He needna be at muckle fash about it,”— she went on, drawing herself up, though the tear of honest pride and injured affection gathered in her eye, as she entertained the suspicion — “Jeanie Deans is no the lass to pu’ him by the sleeve, or put him in mind of what he wishes to forget. I shall wish him weel and happy a’ the same; and if he has the luck to get a kirk in our country, I sall gang and hear him just the very same, to show that I bear nae malice.” And as she imagined the scene, the tear stole over her eye.
In these melancholy reveries, Jeanie had full time to indulge herself; for her travelling companions, servants in a distinguished and fashionable family, had, of course, many topics of conversation, in which it was absolutely impossible she could have either pleasure or portion. She had, therefore, abundant leisure for reflection, and even for self-tormenting, during the several days which, indulging the young horses the Duke was sending down to the North with sufficient ease and short stages, they occupied in reaching the neighbourhood of Carlisle.
In approaching the vicinity of that ancient city, they discerned a considerable crowd upon an eminence at a little distance from the high road, and learned from some passengers who were gathering towards that busy scene from the southward, that the cause of the concourse was, the laudable public desire “to see a doomed Scotch witch and thief get half of her due upo’ Haribeebroo’ yonder, for she was only to be hanged; she should hae been boorned aloive, an’ cheap on’t.”
“Dear Mr. Archibald,” said the dame of the dairy elect, “I never seed a woman hanged in a’ my life, and only four men, as made a goodly spectacle.”
Mr. Archibald, however, was a Scotchman, and promised himself no exuberant pleasure in seeing his countrywoman undergo “the terrible behests of law.” Moreover, he was a man of sense and delicacy in his way, and the late circumstances of Jeanie’s family, with the cause of her expedition to London, were not unknown to him; so that he answered drily, it was impossible to stop, as he must be early at Carlisle on some business of the Duke’s, and he accordingly bid the postilions get on.
The road at that time passed at about a quarter of a mile’s distance from the eminence, called Haribee or Harabee-brow, which, though it is very moderate in size and height, is nevertheless seen from a great distance around, owing to the flatness of the country through which the Eden flows. Here many an outlaw, and border-rider of both kingdoms, had wavered in the wind during the wars, and scarce less hostile truces, between the two countries. Upon Harabee, in latter days, other executions had taken place with as little ceremony as compassion; for these frontier provinces remained long unsettled, and, even at the time of which we write, were ruder than those in the centre of England.
The postilions drove on, wheeling as the Penrith road led them, round the verge of the rising ground. Yet still the eyes of Mrs. Dolly Dutton, which, with the head and substantial person to which they belonged, were all turned towards the scene of action, could discern plainly the outline of the gallows-tree, relieved against the clear sky, the dark shade formed by the persons of the executioner and the criminal upon the light rounds of the tall aerial ladder, until one of the objects, launched into the air, gave unequivocal signs of mortal agony, though appearing in the distance not larger than a spider dependent at the extremity of his invisible thread, while the remaining form descended from its elevated situation, and regained with all speed an undistinguished place among the crowd. This termination of the tragic scene drew forth of course a squall from Mrs. Dutton, and Jeanie, with instinctive curiosity, turned her head in the same direction.
The sight of a female culprit in the act of undergoing the fatal punishment from which her beloved sister had been so recently rescued, was too much, not perhaps for her nerves, but for her mind and feelings. She turned her head to the other side of the carriage, with a sensation of sickness, of loathing, and of fainting. Her female companion overwhelmed her with questions, with proffers of assistance, with requests that the carriage might be stopped — that a doctor might be fetched — that drops might be gotten — that burnt feathers and asafoetida, fair water, and hartshorn, might be procured, all at once, and without one instant’s delay. Archibald, more calm and considerate, only desired the carriage to push forward; and it was not till they had got beyond sight of the fatal spectacle, that, seeing the deadly paleness of Jeanie’s countenance, he stopped the carriage, and jumping out himself, went in search of the most obvious and most easily procured of Mrs. Dutton’s pharmacopoeia — a draught, namely, of fair water.
While Archibald was absent on this good-natured piece of service, damning the ditches which produced nothing but mud, and thinking upon the thousand bubbling springlets of his own mountains, the attendants on the execution began to pass the stationary vehicle in their way back to Carlisle.
From their half-heard and half-understood words, Jeanie, whose attention was involuntarily rivetted by them, as that of children is by ghost stories, though they know the pain with which they will afterwards remember them, Jeanie, I say, could discern that the present victim of the law had died game, as it is termed by those unfortunates; that is, sullen, reckless, and impenitent, neither fearing God nor regarding man.
“A sture woife, and a dour,” said one Cumbrian peasant, as he clattered by in his wooden brogues, with a noise like the trampling of a dray-horse.
“She has gone to ho master, with ho’s name in her mouth,” said another; “Shame the country should be harried wi’ Scotch witches and Scotch bitches this gate — but I say hang and drown.”
“Ay, ay, Gaffer Tramp, take awa yealdon, take awa low — hang the witch, and there will be less scathe amang us; mine owsen hae been reckan this towmont.”
“And mine bairns hae been crining too, mon,” replied his neighbour.
“Silence wi’ your fule tongues, ye churls,” said an old woman, who hobbled past them, as they stood talking near the carriage; “this was nae witch, but a bluidy-fingered thief and murderess.”
“Ay? was it e’en sae, Dame Hinchup?” said one in a civil tone, and stepping out of his place to let the old woman pass along the footpath —“Nay, you know best, sure — but at ony rate, we hae but tint a Scot of her, and that’s a thing better lost than found.”
The old woman passed on without making any answer.
“Ay, ay, neighbour,” said Gaffer Tramp, “seest thou how one witch will speak for t’other — Scots or English, the same to them.”
His companion shook his head, and replied in the same subdued tone, “Ay, ay, when a Sark-foot wife gets on her broomstick, the dames of Allonby are ready to mount, just as sure as the by-word gangs o’ the hills —
If Skiddaw hath a cap,
Criffel, wots full weel of that.”
“But,” continued Gager Tramp, “thinkest thou the daughter o’ yon hangit body isna as rank a witch as ho?”
“I kenna clearly,” returned the fellow, “but the folk are speaking o’ swimming her i’ the Eden.” And they passed on their several roads, after wishing each other good-morning.
Just as the clowns left the place, and as Mr. Archibald returned with some fair water, a crowd of boys and girls, and some of the lower rabble of more mature age, came up from the place of execution, grouping themselves with many a yell of delight around a tall female fantastically dressed, who was dancing, leaping, and bounding in the midst of them. A horrible recollection pressed on Jeanie as she looked on this unfortunate creature; and the reminiscence was mutual, for by a sudden exertion of great strength and agility, Madge Wildfire broke out of the noisy circle of tormentors who surrounded her, and clinging fast to the door of the calash, uttered, in a sound betwixt laughter and screaming, “Eh, d’ye ken, Jeanie Deans, they hae hangit our mother?” Then suddenly changing her tone to that of the most piteous entreaty, she added, “O gar them let me gang to cut her down! — let me but cut her down! — she is my mother, if she was waur than the deil, and she’ll be nae mair kenspeckle than half-hangit Maggie Dickson,1 that cried saut mony a day after she had been hangit; her voice was roupit and hoarse, and her neck was a wee agee, or ye wad hae kend nae odds on her frae ony other saut-wife.”
Mr. Archibald, embarrassed by the madwoman’s clinging to the carriage, and detaining around them her noisy and mischievous attendants, was all this while looking out for a constable or beadle, to whom he might commit the unfortunate creature. But seeing no such person of authority, he endeavoured to loosen her hold from the carriage, that they might escape from her by driving on. This, however, could hardly be achieved without some degree of violence; Madge held fast, and renewed her frantic entreaties to be permitted to cut down her mother. “It was but a tenpenny tow lost,” she said, “and what was that to a woman’s life?” There came up, however, a parcel of savage-looking fellows, butchers and graziers chiefly, among whose cattle there had been of late a very general and fatal distemper, which their wisdom imputed to witchcraft. They laid violent hands on Madge, and tore her from the carriage, exclaiming — “What, doest stop folk o’ king’s high-way? Hast no done mischief enow already, wi’ thy murders and thy witcherings?”
“Oh, Jeanie Deans — Jeanie Deans!” exclaimed the poor maniac, “save my mother, and I will take ye to the Interpreter’s house again — and I will teach ye a’ my bonny sangs — and I will tell ye what came o’ the.” The rest of her entreaties were drowned in the shouts of the rabble.
“Save her, for God’s sake! — save her from those people!” exclaimed Jeanie to Archibald.
“She is mad, but quite innocent; she is mad, gentlemen,” said Archibald; “do not use her ill, take her before the Mayor.”
“Ay, ay, we’se hae care enow on her,” answered one of the fellows; “gang thou thy gate, man, and mind thine own matters.”
“He’s a Scot by his tongue,” said another; “and an he will come out o’ his whirligig there, I’se gie him his tartan plaid fu’ o’ broken banes.”
It was clear nothing could be done to rescue Madge; and Archibald, who was a man of humanity, could only bid the postilions hurry on to Carlisle, that he might obtain some assistance to the unfortunate woman. As they drove off, they heard the hoarse roar with which the mob preface acts of riot or cruelty, yet even above that deep and dire note, they could discern the screams of the unfortunate victim. They were soon out of hearing of the cries, but had no sooner entered the streets of Carlisle, than Archibald, at Jeanie’s earnest and urgent entreaty, went to a magistrate, to state the cruelty which was likely to be exercised on this unhappy creature.
In about an hour and a half he returned, and reported to Jeanie, that the magistrate had very readily gone in person, with some assistance, to the rescue of the unfortunate woman, and that he had himself accompanied him; that when they came to the muddy pool, in which the mob were ducking her, according to their favourite mode of punishment, the magistrate succeeded in rescuing her from their hands, but in a state of insensibility, owing to the cruel treatment which she had received. He added, that he had seen her carried to the workhouse, and understood that she had been brought to herself, and was expected to do well.
This last averment was a slight alteration in point of fact, for Madge Wildfire was not expected to survive the treatment she had received; but Jeanie seemed so much agitated, that Mr. Archibald did not think it prudent to tell her the worst at once. Indeed, she appeared so fluttered and disordered by this alarming accident, that, although it had been their intention to proceed to Longtown that evening, her companions judged it most advisable to pass the night at Carlisle.
This was particularly agreeable to Jeanie, who resolved, if possible, to procure an interview with Madge Wildfire. Connecting some of her wild flights with the narrative of George Staunton, she was unwilling to omit the opportunity of extracting from her, if possible, some information concerning the fate of that unfortunate infant which had cost her sister so dear. Her acquaintance with the disordered state of poor Madge’s mind did not permit her to cherish much hope that she could acquire from her any useful intelligence; but then, since Madge’s mother had suffered her deserts, and was silent for ever, it was her only chance of obtaining any kind of information, and she was loath to lose the opportunity.
She coloured her wish to Mr. Archibald by saying that she had seen Madge formerly, and wished to know, as a matter of humanity, how she was attended to under her present misfortunes. That complaisant person immediately went to the workhouse, or hospital, in which he had seen the sufferer lodged, and brought back for reply, that the medical attendants positively forbade her seeing any one. When the application for admittance was repeated next day, Mr. Archibald was informed that she had been very quiet and composed, insomuch that the clergyman who acted as chaplain to the establishment thought it expedient to read prayers beside her bed, but that her wandering fit of mind had returned soon after his departure; however, her countrywoman might see her if she chose it. She was not expected to live above an hour or two.
Jeanie had no sooner received this information than she hastened to the hospital, her companions attending her. They found the dying person in a large ward, where there were ten beds, of which the patient’s was the only one occupied.
Madge was singing when they entered — singing her own wild snatches of songs and obsolete airs, with a voice no longer overstrained by false spirits, but softened, saddened, and subdued by bodily exhaustion. She was still insane, but was no longer able to express her wandering ideas in the wild notes of her former state of exalted imagination. There was death in the plaintive tones of her voice, which yet, in this moderated and melancholy mood, had something of the lulling sound with which a mother sings her infant asleep. As Jeanie entered she heard first the air, and then a part of the chorus and words, of what had been, perhaps, the song of a jolly harvest-home.
“Our work is over — over now,
The goodman wipes his weary brow,
The last long wain wends slow away,
And we are free to sport and play.
“The night comes on when sets the sun,
And labour ends when day is done.
When Autumn’s gone and Winter’s come,
We hold our jovial harvest-home.”
Jeanie advanced to the bedside when the strain was finished, and addressed Madge by her name. But it produced no symptoms of recollection. On the contrary, the patient, like one provoked by interruption, changed her posture, and called out with an impatient tone, “Nurse — nurse, turn my face to the wa’, that I may never answer to that name ony mair, and never see mair of a wicked world.”
The attendant on the hospital arranged her in her bed as she desired, with her face to the wall and her back to the light. So soon as she was quiet in this new position, she began again to sing in the same low and modulated strains, as if she was recovering the state of abstraction which the interruption of her visitants had disturbed. The strain, however, was different, and rather resembled the music of the Methodist hymns, though the measure of the song was similar to that of the former:
“When the fight of grace is fought —
When the marriage vest is wrought —
When Faith hath chased cold Doubt away,
And Hope but sickens at delay —
“When Charity, imprisoned here,
Longs for a more expanded sphere,
Doff thy robes of sin and clay;
Christian, rise, and come away.”
The strain was solemn and affecting, sustained as it was by the pathetic warble of a voice which had naturally been a fine one, and which weakness, if it diminished its power, had improved in softness. Archibald, though a follower of the court, and a pococurante by profession, was confused, if not affected; the dairy-maid blubbered; and Jeanie felt the tears rise spontaneously to her eyes. Even the nurse, accustomed to all modes in which the spirit can pass, seemed considerably moved.
The patient was evidently growing weaker, as was intimated by an apparent difficulty of breathing, which seized her from time to time, and by the utterance of low listless moans, intimating that nature was succumbing in the last conflict. But the spirit of melody, which must originally have so strongly possessed this unfortunate young woman, seemed, at every interval of ease, to triumph over her pain and weakness. And it was remarkable that there could always be traced in her songs something appropriate, though perhaps only obliquely or collaterally so, to her present situation. Her next seemed the fragment of some old ballad:
“Cauld is my bed, Lord Archibald,
And sad my sleep of sorrow;
But thine sall be as sad and cauld,
My fause true-love! tomorrow.
“And weep ye not, my maidens free,
Though death your mistress borrow;
For he for whom I die today
Shall die for me tomorrow.”
Again she changed the tune to one wilder, less monotonous, and less regular. But of the words, only a fragment or two could be collected by those who listened to this singular scene:
“Proud Maisie is in the wood,
Walking so early;
Sweet Robin sits on the bush,
Singing so rarely.
“‘Tell me, thou bonny bird.
When shall I marry me?’
‘When six braw gentlemen
Kirkward shall carry ye.’
“‘Who makes the bridal bed,
Birdie, say truly?’—
‘The grey-headed sexton,
That delves the grave duly.
“The glow-worm o’er grave and stone
Shall light thee steady;
The owl from the steeple sing,
‘Welcome, proud lady.’”
Her voice died away with the last notes, and she fell into a slumber, from which the experienced attendant assured them that she never would awake at all, or only in the death agony.
The nurse’s prophecy proved true. The poor maniac parted with existence, without again uttering a sound of any kind. But our travellers did not witness this catastrophe. They left the hospital as soon as Jeanie had satisfied herself that no elucidation of her sister’s misfortunes was to be hoped from the dying person.2
1 Half-hanged Maggie Dickson.
[In the Statistical Account of the Parish of Inveresk (vol. xvi. p. 34), Dr. Carlyle says, “No person has been convicted of a capital felony since the year 1728, when the famous Maggy Dickson was condemned and executed for child-murder in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh, and was restored to life in a cart on her way to Musselburgh to be buried. . . . . She kept an ale-house in a neighbouring parish for many years after she came to life again, which was much resorted to from curiosity.” After the body was cut down and handed over to her relatives, her revival is attributed to the jolting of the cart, and according to Robert Chambers — taking a retired road to Musselburgh, “they stopped near Peffer-mill to get a dram; and when they came out from the house to resume their journey, Maggie was sitting up in the cart.” Among the poems of Alexander Pennecuick (who died in 1730), is one entitled “The Merry Wives of Musselburgh’s Welcome to Meg Dickson;” while another broadside, without any date or author’s name, is called “Margaret Dickson’s Penitential Confession,” containing these lines referring to her conviction:—
“Who found me guilty of that barbarous crime,
And did, by law, end this wretched life of mine;
But God. . . . did me preserve,” etc.
In another of these ephemeral productions hawked about the streets, called, “A Ballad by J— n B— s,” are the following lines:—
“Please peruse the speech
Of ill-hanged Maggy Dickson.
Ere she was strung, the wicked wife
Was sainted by the Flamen (priest),
But now, since she’s retum’d to life,
Some say she’s the old samen.”
In his reference to Maggie’s calling salt after her recovery, the Author would appear to be alluding to another character who went by the name of “saut Maggie,” and is represented in one or more old etchings about 1790.]
2 Madge Wildfire.
In taking leave of the poor maniac, the Author may here observe that the first conception of the character, though afterwards greatly altered, was taken from that of a person calling herself, and called by others, Feckless Fannie (weak or feeble Fannie), who always travelled with a small flock of sheep. The following account, furnished by the persevering kindness of Mr. Train, contains, probably, all that can now be known of her history, though many, among whom is the Author, may remember having heard of Feckless Fannie in the days of their youth.
“My leisure hours,” says Mr. Train, “for some time past have been mostly spent in searching for particulars relating to the maniac called Feckless Fannie, who travelled over all Scotland and England, between the years 1767 and 1775, and whose history is altogether so like a romance, that I have been at all possible pains to collect every particular that can be found relative to her in Galloway, or in Ayrshire.
“When Feckless Fannie appeared in Ayrshire, for the first time, in the summer of 1769, she attracted much notice, from being attended by twelve or thirteen sheep, who seemed all endued with faculties so much superior to the ordinary race of animals of the same species, as to excite universal astonishment. She had for each a different name, to which it answered when called by its mistress, and would likewise obey in the most surprising manner any command she thought proper to give. When travelling, she always walked in front of her flock, and they followed her closely behind. When she lay down at night in the fields, for she would never enter into a house, they always disputed who should lie next to her, by which means she was kept warm, while she lay in the midst of them; when she attempted to rise from the ground, an old ram, whose name was Charlie, always claimed the sole right of assisting her; pushing any that stood in his way aside, until he arrived right before his mistress; he then bowed his head nearly to the ground that she might lay her hands on his horns, which were very large; he then lifted her gently from the ground by raising his head. If she chanced to leave her flock feeding, as soon as they discovered she was gone, they all began to bleat most piteously, and would continue to do so till she returned; they would then testify their joy by rubbing their sides against her petticoat and frisking about.
“Feckless Fannie was not, like most other demented creatures, fond of fine dress; on her head she wore an old slouched hat, over her shoulders an old plaid, and carried always in her hand a shepherd’s crook; with any of these articles she invariably declared she would not part for any consideration whatever. When she was interrogated why she set so much value on things seemingly so insignificant, she would sometimes relate the history of her misfortune, which was briefly as follows:—
“‘I am the only daughter of a wealthy squire in the north of England, but I loved my father’s shepherd, and that has been my ruin; for my father, fearing his family would be disgraced by such an alliance, in a passion mortally wounded my lover with a shot from a pistol. I arrived just in time to receive the last blessing of the dying man, and to close his eyes in death. He bequeathed me his little all, but I only accepted these sheep, to be my sole companions through life, and this hat, this plaid, and this crook, all of which I will carry until I descend into the grave.’
“This is the substance of a ballad, eighty-four lines of which I copied down lately from the recitation of an old woman in this place, who says she has seen it in print, with a plate on the title-page, representing Fannie with her sheep behind her. As this ballad is said to have been written by Lowe, the author of Mary’s Dream, I am surprised that it has not been noticed by Cromek in his Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song; but he perhaps thought it unworthy of a place in his collection, as there is very little merit in the composition; which want of room prevents me from transcribing at present. But if I thought you had never seen it, I would take an early opportunity of doing so.
“After having made the tour of Galloway in 1769, as Fannie was wandering in the neighbourhood of Moffat, on her way to Edinburgh, where, I am informed, she was likewise well known, Old Charlie, her favourite ram, chanced to break into a kale-yard, which the proprietor observing, let loose a mastiff, that hunted the poor sheep to death. This was a sad misfortune; it seemed to renew all the pangs which she formerly felt on the death of her lover. She would not part from the side of her old friend for several days, and it was with much difficulty she consented to allow him to be buried; but still wishing to pay a tribute to his memory, she covered his grave with moss, and fenced it round with osiers, and annually returned to the same spot, and pulled the weeds from the grave and repaired the fence. This is altogether like a romance; but I believe it is really true that she did so. The grave of Charlie is still held sacred even by the school-boys of the present day in that quarter. It is now, perhaps, the only instance of the law of Kenneth being attended to, which says, ‘The grave where anie that is slaine lieth buried, leave untilled for seven years. Repute every grave holie so as thou be well advised, that in no wise with thy feet thou tread upon it.’
“Through the storms of winter, as well as in the milder seasons of the year, she continued her wandering course, nor could she be prevented from doing so, either by entreaty or promise of reward. The late Dr. Fullarton of Rosemount, in the neighbourhood of Ayr, being well acquainted with her father when in England, endeavoured, in a severe season, by every means in his power, to detain her at Rosemount for a few days until the weather should become more mild; but when she found herself rested a little, and saw her sheep fed, she raised her crook, which was the signal she always gave for the sheep to follow her, and off they all marched together.
“But the hour of poor Fannie’s dissolution was now at hand, and she seemed anxious to arrive at the spot where she was to terminate her mortal career. She proceeded to Glasgow, and while passing through that city a crowd of idle boys, attracted by her singular appearance, together with the novelty of seeing so many sheep obeying her command, began to ferment her with their pranks, till she became so irritated that she pelted them with bricks and stones, which they returned in such a manner, that she was actually stoned to death between Glasgow and Anderston.
“To the real history of this singular individual credulity has attached several superstitious appendages. It is said that the farmer who was the cause of Charlie’s death shortly afterwards drowned himself in a peat-hag; and that the hand with which a butcher in Kilinarnock struck one of the other sheep became powerless, and withered to the very bone. In the summer of 1769, when she was passing by New Cumnock, a young man, whose name was William Forsyth, son of a farmer in the same parish, plagued her so much that she wished he might never see the morn; upon which he went home and hanged himself in his father’s barn. And I doubt not that many such stories may yet be remembered in other parts where she had been.”
So far Mr. Train. The Author can only add to this narrative that Feckless Fannie and her little flock were well known in the pastoral districts. In attempting to introduce such a character into fiction, the Author felt the risk of encountering a comparison with the Maria of Sterne; and, besides, the mechanism of the story would have been as much retarded by Feckless Fannie’s flock as the night march of Don Quixote was delayed by Sancho’s tale of the sheep that were ferried over the river.
The Author has only to add, that notwithstanding the preciseness of his friend Mr. Train’s statement, there may be some hopes that the outrage on Feckless Fannie and her little flock was not carried to extremity. There is no mention of any trial on account of it, which, had it occurred in the manner stated, would have certainly taken place; and the Author has understood that it was on the Border she was last seen, about the skirts of the Cheviot hills, but without her little flock.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00