Saint Ronan's Well, by Walter Scott


[The following extract from the proof-sheets containing Scott’s original conclusion of “St. Ronan’s Well” was sent to the Athenæum of Feb. 4, 1893, by Mr. J. M. Collyer. The proof-sheets are in the possession of Mr. Archibald Constable. The scene, of which a few lines remain in the authorised texts, is that of Hannah Irwin’s Confession to Josiah Cargill. — ED.]

“Oh, most unhappy woman,” he said, “what does your introduction prepare me to expect?”

“Your expectation, be it ever so ominous, shall be fully satisfied. That Bulmer, when he told you that a secret marriage was necessary to Miss Mowbray’s honour, thought that he was imposing on you. — But he told you a fatal truth, so far as concerned Clara. She had indeed fallen, but Bulmer was not her seducer — knew nothing of the truth of what he so strongly asseverated.”

He was not her lover, then? — And how came he, then, to press to marry her? — Or, how came you”——

“Hear me — but question not. — Bulmer had gained the advantage over me which he pretended to have had over Clara. From that moment my companion’s virtue became at once the object of my envy and hatred: yet, so innocent were the lovers, that, despite of the various arts which I used to entrap them, they remained guiltless until the fatal evening when Clara met Tyrrel for the last time ere he removed from the neighbourhood — and then the devil and Hannah Irwin triumphed. Much there was of remorse — much of resolutions of separation until the Church should unite them — but these only forwarded my machinations — for I was determined she should wed Bulmer, not Tyrrel.”

“Wretch!” exclaimed the clergyman: “and had you not, then, done enough? Why did you expose the paramour of one brother to become the wife of another?”

She paused, and answered sullenly, “I had my reasons — Bulmer had treated me with scorn. He told me plainly that he used me but as a stepping-stone to his own purposes: and that these finally centred in wedding Clara. I was resolved he should wed her, and take with her infamy and misery to his bed.”

“This is too horrible,” said Cargill, endeavouring, with a trembling hand, to make minutes of her confession.

“Ay,” said the sick woman, “but I contended with a master of the game, who played me stratagem for stratagem. If I destined for him a dishonoured wife, he contrived by his agent, Solmes, to match me with a husband imposed on me by his devices as a man of fortune,” &c.

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