Old Mortality, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 10

Did I but purpose to embark with thee

On the smooth surface of a summer sea,

And would forsake the skiff and make the shore

When the winds whistle and the tempests roar?


While Lady Margaret held, with the high-descended sergeant of dragoons, the conference which we have detailed in the preceding pages, her grand-daughter, partaking in a less degree her ladyship’s enthusiasm for all who were sprung of the blood-royal, did not honour Sergeant Bothwell with more attention than a single glance, which showed her a tall powerful person, and a set of hardy weather-beaten features, to which pride and dissipation had given an air where discontent mingled with the reckless gaiety of desperation. The other soldiers offered still less to detach her consideration; but from the prisoner, muffled and disguised as he was, she found it impossible to withdraw her eyes. Yet she blamed herself for indulging a curiosity which seemed obviously to give pain to him who was its object.

“I wish,” she said to Jenny Dennison, who was the immediate attendant on her person, “I wish we knew who that poor fellow is.”

“I was just thinking sae mysell, Miss Edith,” said the waiting woman, “but it canna be Cuddie Headrigg, because he’s taller and no sae stout.”

“Yet,” continued Miss Bellenden, “it may be some poor neigbour, for whom we might have cause to interest ourselves.”

“I can sune learn wha he is,” said the enterprising Jenny, “if the sodgers were anes settled and at leisure, for I ken ane o’ them very weel — the best-looking and the youngest o’ them.”

“I think you know all the idle young fellows about the country,” answered her mistress.

“Na, Miss Edith, I am no sae free o’ my acquaintance as that,” answered the fille-de-chambre. “To be sure, folk canna help kenning the folk by head-mark that they see aye glowring and looking at them at kirk and market; but I ken few lads to speak to unless it be them o’ the family, and the three Steinsons, and Tam Rand, and the young miller, and the five Howisons in Nethersheils, and lang Tam Gilry, and”—

“Pray cut short a list of exceptions which threatens to be a long one, and tell me how you come to know this young soldier,” said Miss Bellenden.

“Lord, Miss Edith, it’s Tam Halliday, Trooper Tam, as they ca’ him, that was wounded by the hill-folk at the conventicle at Outer-side Muir, and lay here while he was under cure. I can ask him ony thing, and Tam will no refuse to answer me, I’ll be caution for him.”

“Try, then,” said Miss Edith, “if you can find an opportunity to ask him the name of his prisoner, and come to my room and tell me what he says.”

Jenny Dennison proceeded on her errand, but soon returned with such a face of surprise and dismay as evinced a deep interest in the fate of the prisoner.

“What is the matter?” said Edith, anxiously; “does it prove to be Cuddie, after all, poor fellow?”

“Cuddie, Miss Edith? Na! na! it’s nae Cuddie,” blubbered out the faithful fille-de-chambre, sensible of the pain which her news were about to inflict on her young mistress. “O dear, Miss Edith, it’s young Milnwood himsell!”

“Young Milnwood!” exclaimed Edith, aghast in her turn; “it is impossible — totally impossible! — His uncle attends the clergyman indulged by law, and has no connexion whatever with the refractory people; and he himself has never interfered in this unhappy dissension; he must be totally innocent, unless he has been standing up for some invaded right.”

“O, my dear Miss Edith,” said her attendant, “these are not days to ask what’s right or what’s wrang; if he were as innocent as the new-born infant, they would find some way of making him guilty, if they liked; but Tam Halliday says it will touch his life, for he has been resetting ane o’ the Fife gentlemen that killed that auld carle of an Archbishop.”

“His life!” exclaimed Edith, starting hastily up, and speaking with a hurried and tremulous accent — “they cannot — they shall not — I will speak for him — they shall not hurt him!”

“O, my dear young leddy, think on your grandmother; think on the danger and the difficulty,” added Jenny; “for he’s kept under close confinement till Claverhouse comes up in the morning, and if he doesna gie him full satisfaction, Tam Halliday says there will be brief wark wi’ him — Kneel down — mak ready — present — fire — just as they did wi’ auld deaf John Macbriar, that never understood a single question they pat till him, and sae lost his life for lack o’ hearing.”

“Jenny,” said the young lady, “if he should die, I will die with him; there is no time to talk of danger or difficulty — I will put on a plaid, and slip down with you to the place where they have kept him — I will throw myself at the feet of the sentinel, and entreat him, as he has a soul to be saved”—

“Eh, guide us!” interrupted the maid, “our young leddy at the feet o’ Trooper Tam, and speaking to him about his soul, when the puir chield hardly kens whether he has ane or no, unless that he whiles swears by it — that will never do; but what maun be maun be, and I’ll never desert a true-love cause — And sae, if ye maun see young Milnwood, though I ken nae gude it will do, but to make baith your hearts the sairer, I’ll e’en tak the risk o’t, and try to manage Tam Halliday; but ye maun let me hae my ain gate and no speak ae word — he’s keeping guard o’er Milnwood in the easter round of the tower.”

“Go, go, fetch me a plaid,” said Edith. “Let me but see him, and I will find some remedy for his danger — Haste ye, Jenny, as ever ye hope to have good at my hands.”

Jenny hastened, and soon returned with a plaid, in which Edith muffled herself so as completely to screen her face, and in part to disguise her person. This was a mode of arranging the plaid very common among the ladies of that century, and the earlier part of the succeeding one; so much so, indeed, that the venerable sages of the Kirk, conceiving that the mode gave tempting facilities for intrigue, directed more than one act of Assembly against this use of the mantle. But fashion, as usual, proved too strong for authority, and while plaids continued to be worn, women of all ranks occasionally employed them as a sort of muffler or veil. 15 Her face and figure thus concealed, Edith, holding by her attendant’s arm, hastened with trembling steps to the place of Morton’s confinement.

This was a small study or closet, in one of the turrets, opening upon a gallery in which the sentinel was pacing to and fro; for Sergeant Bothwell, scrupulous in observing his word, and perhaps touched with some compassion for the prisoner’s youth and genteel demeanour, had waved the indignity of putting his guard into the same apartment with him. Halliday, therefore, with his carabine on his arm, walked up and down the gallery, occasionally solacing himself with a draught of ale, a huge flagon of which stood upoon the table at one end of the apartment, and at other times humming the lively Scottish air,

“Between Saint Johnstone and Bonny Dundee, I’ll gar ye be fain to follow me.”

Jenny Dennison cautioned her mistress once more to let her take her own way.

“I can manage the trooper weel eneugh,” she said, “for as rough as he is — I ken their nature weel; but ye maunna say a single word.”

She accordingly opened the door of the gallery just as the sentinel had turned his back from it, and taking up the tune which he hummed, she sung in a coquettish tone of rustic raillery,

“If I were to follow a poor sodger lad, My friends wad be angry, my minnie be mad; A laird, or a lord, they were fitter for me, Sae I’ll never be fain to follow thee.”—

“A fair challenge, by Jove,” cried the sentinel, turning round, “and from two at once; but it’s not easy to bang the soldier with his bandoleers;” then taking up the song where the damsel had stopt,

“To follow me ye weel may be glad, A share of my supper, a share of my bed, To the sound of the drum to range fearless and free, I’ll gar ye be fain to follow me.”—

“Come, my pretty lass, and kiss me for my song.”

“I should not have thought of that, Mr Halliday,” answered Jenny, with a look and tone expressing just the necessary degree of contempt at the proposal, “and, I’se assure ye, ye’ll hae but little o’ my company unless ye show gentler havings — It wasna to hear that sort o’nonsense that brought me here wi’ my friend, and ye should think shame o’ yoursell, ‘at should ye.”

“Umph! and what sort of nonsense did bring you here then, Mrs Dennison?”

“My kinswoman has some particular business with your prisoner, young Mr Harry Morton, and I am come wi’ her to speak till him.”

“The devil you are!” answered the sentinel; “and pray, Mrs Dennison, how do your kinswoman and you propose to get in? You are rather too plump to whisk through a keyhole, and opening the door is a thing not to be spoke of.”

“It’s no a thing to be spoken o’, but a thing to be dune,” replied the persevering damsel.

“We’ll see about that, my bonny Jenny;” and the soldier resumed his march, humming, as he walked to and fro along the gallery,

“Keek into the draw-well, Janet, Janet, Then ye’ll see your bonny sell, My joe Janet.”

“So ye’re no thinking to let us in, Mr Halliday? Weel, weel; gude e’en to you — ye hae seen the last o’ me, and o’ this bonny die too,” said Jenny, holding between her finger and thumb a splendid silver dollar.

“Give him gold, give him gold,” whispered the agitated young lady.

“Silver’s e’en ower gude for the like o’ him,” replied Jenny, “that disna care for the blink o’ a bonny lassie’s ee — and what’s waur, he wad think there was something mair in’t than a kinswoman o’ mine. My certy! siller’s no sae plenty wi’ us, let alane gowd.” Having addressed this advice aside to her mistress, she raised her voice, and said, “My cousin winna stay ony langer, Mr Halliday; sae, if ye please, gude e’en t’ye.”

“Halt a bit, halt a bit,” said the trooper; “rein up and parley, Jenny. If I let your kinswoman in to speak to my prisoner, you must stay here and keep me company till she come out again, and then we’ll all be well pleased you know.”

“The fiend be in my feet then,” said Jenny; “d’ye think my kinswoman and me are gaun to lose our gude name wi’ cracking clavers wi’ the like o’ you or your prisoner either, without somebody by to see fair play? Hegh, hegh, sirs, to see sic a difference between folk’s promises and performance! Ye were aye willing to slight puir Cuddie; but an I had asked him to oblige me in a thing, though it had been to cost his hanging, he wadna hae stude twice about it.”

“D— n Cuddie!” retorted the dragoon, “he’ll be hanged in good earnest, I hope. I saw him today at Milnwood with his old puritanical b — of a mother, and if I had thought I was to have had him cast in my dish, I would have brought him up at my horse’s tail — we had law enough to bear us out.”

“Very weel, very weel — See if Cuddie winna hae a lang shot at you ane o’ thae days, if ye gar him tak the muir wi’ sae mony honest folk. He can hit a mark brawly; he was third at the popinjay; and he’s as true of his promise as of ee and hand, though he disna mak sic a phrase about it as some acquaintance o’ yours — But it’s a’ ane to me — Come, cousin, we’ll awa’.”

“Stay, Jenny; d — n me, if I hang fire more than another when I have said a thing,” said the soldier, in a hesitating tone. “Where is the sergeant?”

“Drinking and driving ower,” quoth Jenny, “wi’ the Steward and John Gudyill.”

“So, so — he’s safe enough — and where are my comrades?” asked Halliday.

“Birling the brown bowl wi’ the fowler and the falconer, and some o’ the serving folk.”

“Have they plenty of ale?”

“Sax gallons, as gude as e’er was masked,” said the maid.

“Well, then, my pretty Jenny,” said the relenting sentinel, “they are fast till the hour of relieving guard, and perhaps something later; and so, if you will promise to come alone the next time”—“Maybe I will, and maybe I winna,” said Jenny; “but if ye get the dollar, ye’ll like that just as weel.”

“I’ll be d — n’d if I do,” said Halliday, taking the money, howeve; “but it’s always something for my risk; for, if Claverhouse hears what I have done, he will build me a horse as high as the Tower of Tillietudlem. But every one in the regiment takes what they can come by; I am sure Bothwell and his blood-royal shows us a good example. And if I were trusting to you, you little jilting devil, I should lose both pains and powder; whereas this fellow,” looking at the piece, “will be good as far as he goes. So, come, there is the door open for you; do not stay groaning and praying with the young whig now, but be ready, when I call at the door, to start, as if they were sounding ‘Horse and away.’”

So speaking, Halliday unlocked the door of the closet, admitted Jenny and her pretended kinswoman, locked it behind them, and hastily reassumed the indifferent measured step and time-killing whistle of a sentinel upon his regular duty.

The door, which slowly opened, discovered Morton with both arms reclined upon a table, and his head resting upon them in a posture of deep dejection. He raised his face as the door opened, and, perceiving the female figures which it admitted, started up in great surprise. Edith, as if modesty had quelled the courage which despair had bestowed, stood about a yard from the door without having either the power to speak or to advance. All the plans of aid, relief, or comfort, which she had proposed to lay before her lover, seemed at once to have vanished from her recollection, and left only a painful chaos of ideas, with which was mingled a fear that she had degraded herself in the eyes of Morton by a step which might appear precipitate and unfeminine. She hung motionless and almost powerless upon the arm of her attendant, who in vain endeavoured to reassure and inspire her with courage, by whispering, “We are in now, madam, and we maun mak the best o’ our time; for, doubtless, the corporal or the sergeant will gang the rounds, and it wad be a pity to hae the poor lad Halliday punished for his civility.”

Morton, in the meantime, was timidly advancing, suspecting the truth; for what other female in the house, excepting Edith herself, was likely to take an interest in his misfortunes? and yet afraid, owing to the doubtful twilight and the muffled dress, of making some mistake which might be prejudicial to the object of his affections. Jenny, whose ready wit and forward manners well qualified her for such an office, hastened to break the ice.

“Mr Morton, Miss Edith’s very sorry for your present situation, and”—

It was needless to say more; he was at her side, almost at her feet, pressing her unresisting hands, and loading her with a profusion of thanks and gratitude which would be hardly intelligible from the mere broken words, unless we could describe the tone, the gesture, the impassioned and hurried indications of deep and tumultuous feeling, with which they were accompanied.

For two or three minutes, Edith stood as motionless as the statue of a saint which receives the adoration of a worshipper; and when she recovered herself sufficiently to withdraw her hands from Henry’s grasp, she could at first only faintly articulate, “I have taken a strange step, Mr Morton — a step,” she continued with more coherence, as her ideas arranged themselves in consequence of a strong effort, “that perhaps may expose me to censure in your eyes — But I have long permitted you to use the language of friendship — perhaps I might say more — too long to leave you when the world seems to have left you. How, or why, is this imprisonment? what can be done? can my uncle, who thinks so highly of you — can your own kinsman, Milnwood, be of no use? are there no means? and what is likely to be the event?”

“Be what it will,” answered Henry, contriving to make himself master of the hand that had escaped from him, but which was now again abandoned to his clasp, “be what it will, it is to me from this moment the most welcome incident of a weary life. To you, dearest Edith — forgive me, I should have said Miss Bellenden, but misfortune claims strange privileges — to you I have owed the few happy moments which have gilded a gloomy existence; and if I am now to lay it down, the recollection of this honour will be my happiness in the last hour of suffering.”

“But is it even thus, Mr Morton?” said Miss Bellenden. “Have you, who used to mix so little in these unhappy feuds, become so suddenly and deeply implicated, that nothing short of”—

She paused, unable to bring out the word which should have come next.

“Nothing short of my life, you would say?” replied Morton, in a calm, but melancholy tone; “I believe that will be entirely in the bosoms of my judges. My guards spoke of a possibility of exchanging the penalty for entry into foreign service. I thought I could have embraced the alternative; and yet, Miss Bellenden, since I have seen you once more, I feel that exile would be more galling than death.”

“And is it then true,” said Edith, “that you have been so desperately rash as to entertain communication with any of those cruel wretches who assassinated the primate?”

“I knew not even that such a crime had been committed,” replied Morton, “when I gave unhappily a night’s lodging and concealment to one of those rash and cruel men, the ancient friend and comrade of my father. But my ignorance will avail me little; for who, Miss Bellenden, save you, will believe it? And, what is worse, I am at least uncertain whether, even if I had known the crime, I could have brought my mind, under all the circumstances, to refuse a temporary refuge to the fugitive.”

“And by whom,” said Edith, anxiously, “or under what authority, will the investigation of your conduct take place?”

“Under that of Colonel Grahame of Claverhouse, I am given to understand,” said Morton; “one of the military commission, to whom it has pleased our king, our privy council, and our parliament, that used to be more tenacious of our liberties, to commit the sole charge of our goods and of our lives.”

“To Claverhouse?” said Edith, faintly; “merciful Heaven, you are lost ere you are tried! He wrote to my grandmother that he was to be here tomorrow morning, on his road to the head of the county, where some desperate men, animated by the presence of two or three of the actors in the primate’s murder, are said to have assembled for the purpose of making a stand against the government. His expressions made me shudder, even when I could not guess that — that — a friend”—

“Do not be too much alarmed on my account, my dearest Edith,” said Henry, as he supported her in his arms; “Claverhouse, though stern and relentless, is, by all accounts, brave, fair, and honourable. I am a soldier’s son, and will plead my cause like a soldier. He will perhaps listen more favourably to a blunt and unvarnished defence than a truckling and time-serving judge might do. And, indeed, in a time when justice is, in all its branches, so completely corrupted, I would rather lose my life by open military violence, than be conjured out of it by the hocus-pocus of some arbitrary lawyer, who lends the knowledge he has of the statutes made for our protection, to wrest them to our destruction.”

“You are lost — you are lost, if you are to plead your cause with Claverhouse!” sighed Edith; “root and branchwork is the mildest of his expressions. The unhappy primate was his intimate friend and early patron. ‘No excuse, no subterfuge,’ said his letter, ‘shall save either those connected with the deed, or such as have given them countenance and shelter, from the ample and bitter penalty of the law, until I shall have taken as many lives in vengeance of this atrocious murder, as the old man had grey hairs upon his venerable head.’ There is neither ruth nor favour to be found with him.”

Jenny Dennison, who had hitherto remained silent, now ventured, in the extremity of distress which the lovers felt, but for which they were unable to devise a remedy, to offer her own advice.

“Wi’ your leddyship’s pardon, Miss Edith, and young Mr Morton’s, we maunna waste time. Let Milnwood take my plaid and gown; I’ll slip them aff in the dark corner, if he’ll promise no to look about, and he may walk past Tam Halliday, who is half blind with his ale, and I can tell him a canny way to get out o’ the Tower, and your leddyship will gang quietly to your ain room, and I’ll row mysell in his grey cloak, and pit on his hat, and play the prisoner till the coast’s clear, and then I’ll cry in Tam Halliday, and gar him let me out.”

“Let you out?” said Morton; “they’ll make your life answer it.”

“Ne’er a bit,” replied Jenny; “Tam daurna tell he let ony body in, for his ain sake; and I’ll gar him find some other gate to account for the escape.”

“Will you, by G—?” said the sentinel, suddenly opening the door of the apartment; “if I am half blind, I am not deaf, and you should not plan an escape quite so loud, if you expect to go through with it. Come, come, Mrs Janet — march, troop — quick time — trot, d — n me! — And you, madam kinswoman — I won’t ask your real name, though you were going to play me so rascally a trick — but I must make a clear garrison; so beat a retreat, unless you would have me turn out the guard.”

“I hope,” said Morton, very anxiously, “you will not mention this circumstance, my good friend, and trust to my honour to acknowledge your civility in keeping the secret. If you overheard our conversation, you must have observed that we did not accept of, or enter into, the hasty proposal made by this good-natured girl.”

“Oh, devilish good-natured, to be sure,” said Halliday. “As for the rest, I guess how it is, and I scorn to bear malice, or tell tales, as much as another; but no thanks to that little jilting devil, Jenny Dennison, who deserves a tight skelping for trying to lead an honest lad into a scrape, just because he was so silly as to like her good-for-little chit face.”

Jenny had no better means of justification than the last apology to which her sex trust, and usually not in vain; she pressed her handkerchief to her face, sobbed with great vehemence, and either wept, or managed, as Halliday might have said, to go through the motions wonderfully well.

“And now,” continued the soldier, somewhat mollified, “if you have any thing to say, say it in two minutes, and let me see your backs turned; for if Bothwell take it into his drunken head to make the rounds half an hour too soon, it will be a black business to us all.”

“Farewell, Edith,” whispered Morton, assuming a firmness he was far from possessing; “do not remain here — leave me to my fate — it cannot be beyond endurance since you are interested in it. — Good night, good night! — Do not remain here till you are discovered.”

Thus saying, he resigned her to her attendant, by whom she was quietly led and partly supported out of the apartment.

“Every one has his taste, to be sure,” said Halliday; “but d — n me if I would have vexed so sweet a girl as that is, for all the whigs that ever swore the Covenant.”

When Edith had regained her apartment, she gave way to a burst of grief which alarmed Jenny Dennison, who hastened to administer such scraps of consolation as occurred to her.

“Dinna vex yoursell sae muckle, Miss Edith,” said that faithful attendant; “wha kens what may happen to help young Milnwood? He’s a brave lad, and a bonny, and a gentleman of a good fortune, and they winna string the like o’ him up as they do the puir whig bodies that they catch in the muirs, like straps o’ onions; maybe his uncle will bring him aff, or maybe your ain grand-uncle will speak a gude word for him — he’s weel acquent wi’ a’ the red-coat gentlemen.”

“You are right, Jenny! you are right,” said Edith, recovering herself from the stupor into which she had sunk; “this is no time for despair, but for exertion. You must find some one to ride this very night to my uncle’s with a letter.”

“To Charnwood, madam? It’s unco late, and it’s sax miles an’ a bittock doun the water; I doubt if we can find man and horse the night, mair especially as they hae mounted a sentinel before the gate. Puir Cuddie! he’s gane, puir fallow, that wad hae dune aught in the warld I bade him, and ne’er asked a reason — an’ I’ve had nae time to draw up wi’ the new pleugh-lad yet; forby that, they say he’s gaun to be married to Meg Murdieson, illfaur’d cuttie as she is.”

“You must find some one to go, Jenny; life and death depend upon it.”

“I wad gang mysell, my leddy, for I could creep out at the window o’ the pantry, and speel down by the auld yew-tree weel eneugh — I hae played that trick ere now. But the road’s unco wild, and sae mony red-coats about, forby the whigs, that are no muckle better (the young lads o’ them) if they meet a fraim body their lane in the muirs. I wadna stand for the walk — I can walk ten miles by moonlight weel eneugh.”

“Is there no one you can think of, that, for money or favour, would serve me so far?” asked Edith, in great anxiety.

“I dinna ken,” said Jenny, after a moment’s consideration, “unless it be Guse Gibbie; and he’ll maybe no ken the way, though it’s no sae difficult to hit, if he keep the horse-road, and mind the turn at the Cappercleugh, and dinna drown himsell in the Whomlekirn-pule, or fa’ ower the scaur at the Deil’s Loaning, or miss ony o’ the kittle steps at the Pass o’ Walkwary, or be carried to the hills by the whigs, or be taen to the tolbooth by the red-coats.”

“All ventures must be run,” said Edith, cutting short the list of chances against Goose Gibbie’s safe arrival at the end of his pilgrimage; “all risks must be run, unless you can find a better messenger. — Go, bid the boy get ready, and get him out of the Tower as secretly as you can. If he meets any one, let him say he is carrying a letter to Major Bellenden of Charnwood, but without mentioning any names.”

“I understand, madam,” said Jenny Dennison; “I warrant the callant will do weel eneugh, and Tib the hen-wife will tak care o’ the geese for a word o’ my mouth; and I’ll tell Gibbie your leddyship will mak his peace wi’ Lady Margaret, and we’ll gie him a dollar.”

“Two, if he does his errand well,” said Edith.

Jenny departed to rouse Goose Gibbie out of his slumbers, to which he was usually consigned at sundown, or shortly after, he keeping the hours of the birds under his charge. During her absence, Edith took her writing materials, and prepared against her return the following letter, superscribed, For the hands of Major Bellenden of Charnwood, my much honoured uncle, These: “My dear Uncle — This will serve to inform you I am desirous to know how your gout is, as we did not see you at the wappen-schaw, which made both my grandmother and myself very uneasy. And if it will permit you to travel, we shall be happy to see you at our poor house tomorrow at the hour of breakfast, as Colonel Grahame of Claverhouse is to pass this way on his march, and we would willingly have your assistance to receive and entertain a military man of such distinction, who, probably, will not be much delighted with the company of women. Also, my dear uncle, I pray you to let Mrs Carefor’t, your housekeeper, send me my double-trimmed paduasoy with the hanging sleeves, which she will find in the third drawer of the walnut press in the green room, which you are so kind as to call mine. Also, my dear uncle, I pray you to send me the second volume of the Grand Cyrus, as I have only read as far as the imprisonment of Philidaspes upon the seven hundredth and thirty-third page; but, above all, I entreat you to come to us tomorrow before eight of the clock, which, as your pacing nag is so good, you may well do without rising before your usual hour. So, praying to God to preserve your health, I rest your dutiful and loving niece,

“Edith Bellenden.

“Postscriptum. A party of soldiers have last night brought your friend, young Mr Henry Morton of Milnwood, hither as a prisoner. I conclude you will be sorry for the young gentleman, and, therefore, let you know this, in case you may think of speaking to Colonel Grahame in his behalf. I have not mentioned his name to my grandmother, knowing her prejudice against the family.”

This epistle being duly sealed and delivered to Jenny, that faithful confidant hastened to put the same in the charge of Goose Gibbie, whom she found in readiness to start from the castle. She then gave him various instructions touching the road, which she apprehended he was likely to mistake, not having travelled it above five or six times, and possessing only the same slender proportion of memory as of judgment. Lastly, she smuggled him out of the garrison through the pantry window into the branchy yew-tree which grew close beside it, and had the satisfaction to see him reach the bottom in safety, and take the right turn at the commencement of his journey. She then returned to persuade her young mistress to go to bed, and to lull her to rest, if possible, with assurances of Gibbie’s success in his embassy, only qualified by a passing regret that the trusty Cuddie, with whom the commission might have been more safely reposed, was no longer within reach of serving her.

More fortunate as a messenger than as a cavalier, it was Gibbie’s good hap rather than his good management, which, after he had gone astray not oftener than nine times, and given his garments a taste of the variation of each bog, brook, and slough, between Tillietudlem and Charnwood, placed him about daybreak before the gate of Major Bellenden’s mansion, having completed a walk of ten miles (for the bittock, as usual, amounted to four) in little more than the same number of hours.

15 Concealment of an individual, while in public or promiscuous society, was then very common. In England, where no plaids were worn, the ladies used vizard masks for the same purpose, and the gallants drew the skirts of their cloaks over the right shoulder, so as to cover part of the face. This is repeatedly alluded to in Pepys’s Diary.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00