The Heart of Mid-Lothian - Volume 2

The Heart of Mid-Lothian - Volume 2

THE HEART OF MID-LOTHIAN - VOLUME 2. SIR WALTER SCOTT VOLUME TWO. THE HEART OF MID-LOTHIAN By Walter Scott TALES OF MY LANDLORD COLLECTED AND ARRANGED BY JEDEDIAH CLEISHBOTHAM SCHOOLMASTER AND PARISH CLERK OF GANDERCLEUGH. SECOND SERIES. THE HEART OF MID-LOTHIAN. CHAPTER FIRST. Isab.--Alas! what poor ability's in me To do him good? Lucio.--Assay the power you have. Measure for Measure. When Mrs. Saddletree entered the apartment in which her guests had shrouded their misery she found the window darkened. The feebleness which followed his long swoon had rendered it necessary to lay the old man in bed. The curtains were drawn around him and Jeanie sate motionless by the side of the bed. Mrs. Saddletree was a woman of kindness nay of feeling but not of delicacy. She opened the half-shut window drew aside the curtain and taking her kinsman by the hand exhorted him to sit up and bear his sorrow like a good man and a Christian man as he was. But when she quitted his hand it fell powerless by his side nor did he attempt the least reply. "Is all over?" asked Jeanie with lips and cheeks as pale as ashes--"and is there nae hope for her?" "Nane or next to nane" said Mrs. Saddletree; "I heard the Judge-carle say it with my ain ears--It was a burning shame to see sae mony o' them set up yonder in their red gowns and black gowns and to take the life o' a bit senseless lassie. I had never muckle broo o' my gudeman's gossips and now I like them waur than ever. The only wiselike thing I heard onybody say was decent Mr. John Kirk of Kirk-knowe and he wussed them just to get the king's mercy and nae mair about it. But he spake to unreasonable folk--he might just hae keepit his breath to hae blawn on his porridge." "But /can/ the king gie her mercy?" said Jeanie earnestly. "Some folk tell me he canna gie mercy in cases of mur in cases like hers." "/Can/ he gie mercy hinny?--I weel I wot he can when he likes. There was young Singlesword that stickit the Laird of Ballencleuch and Captain Hackum the Englishman that killed Lady Colgrain's gudeman and the Master of Saint Clair that shot the twa Shaws* and mony mair in my time--to be sure they were gentle blood and had their kin to speak for them--And there was Jock Porteous the other day--I'se warrant there's mercy an folk could win at it." * [In 1828 the Author presented to the Roxburgh Club a curious volume containing the "Proceedings in the Court-Martial held upon John Master of Sinclair for the murder of Ensign Schaw and Captain Schaw 17th October 1708."] "Porteous?" said Jeanie; "very true--I forget a' that I suld maist mind. --Fare ye weel Mrs. Saddletree; and may ye never want a friend in the hour of distress!" "Will ye no stay wi' your father Jeanie bairn?--Ye had better" said Mrs. Saddletree. "I will be wanted ower yonder" indicating the Tolbooth with her hand "and I maun leave him now or I will never be able to leave him. I fearna for his life--I ken how strong-hearted he is--I ken it" she said laying her hand on her bosom "by my ain heart at this minute." "Weel hinny if ye think it's for the best better he stay here and rest him than gang back to St. Leonard's." "Muckle better--muckle better--God bless you!--God bless you!--At no rate let him gang till ye hear frae me" said Jeanie. "But ye'll be back belive?" said Mrs. Saddletree detaining her; "they winna let ye stay yonder hinny." "But I maun gang to St. Leonard's--there's muckle to be dune and little time to do it in--And I have friends to speak to--God bless you--take care of my father." She had reached the door of the apartment when suddenly turning she came back and knelt down by the bedside.--"O father gie me your blessing--I dare not go till ye bless me. Say but 'God bless ye and prosper ye Jeanie'--try but to say that!" Instinctively rather than by an exertion of intellect the old man murmured a prayer that "purchased and promised blessings might be multiplied upon her." "He has blessed mine errand" said his daughter rising from her knees "and it is borne in upon my mind that I shall prosper." So saying she left the room. Mrs. Saddletree looked after her and shook her head. "I wish she binna roving poor thing--There's something queer about a' thae Deanses. I dinna like folk to be sae muckle better than other folk--seldom comes gude o't. But if she's gaun to look after the kye at St. Leonard's that's another story; to be sure they maun be sorted.--Grizzie come up here and tak tent to the honest auld man and see he wants naething.--Ye silly tawpie" (addressing the maid-servant as she entered) "what garr'd ye busk up your cockemony that gate?--I think there's been enough the day to gie an awfa' warning about your cockups and your fallal duds--see what they a' come to" etc. etc. etc. Leaving the good lady to her lecture upon worldly vanities we must transport our reader to the cell in which the unfortunate Effie Deans was now immured being restricted of several liberties which she had enjoyed before the sentence was pronounced. When she had remained about an hour in the state of stupified horror so natural in her situation she was disturbed by the opening of the jarring bolts of her place of confinement and Ratcliffe showed himself. "It's your sister" he said "wants to speak t'ye Effie." "I canna see naebody" said Effie with the hasty irritability which misery had rendered more acute--"I canna see naebody and least of a' her--Bid her take care o' the auld man--I am naething to ony o' them now nor them to me." "She says she maun see ye though" said Ratcliffe; and Jeanie rushing into the apartment threw her arms round her sister's neck who writhed to extricate herself from her embrace. "What signifies coming to greet ower me" said poor Effie "when you have killed me?--killed me when a word of your mouth would have saved me-- killed me when I am an innocent creature--innocent of that guilt at least--and me that wad hae wared body and soul to save your finger from being hurt?" "You shall not die" said Jeanie with enthusiastic firmness; "say what you like o' me--think what you like o' me--only promise--for I doubt your proud heart--that ye wunna harm yourself and you shall not die this shameful death." "A /shameful/ death I will not die Jeanie lass. I have that in my heart--though it has been ower kind a ane--that wunna bide shame. Gae hame to our father and think nae mair on me--I have eat my last earthly meal." "Oh this was what I feared!" said Jeanie. "Hout tout hinny" said Ratcliffe; "it's but little ye ken o' thae things. Ane aye thinks at the first dinnle o' the sentence they hae heart eneugh to die rather than bide out the sax weeks; but they aye bide the sax weeks out for a' that. I ken the gate o't weel; I hae fronted the doomster three times and here I stand Jim Ratcliffe for a' that. Had I tied my napkin strait the first time as I had a great mind till't--and it was a' about a bit grey cowt wasna worth ten punds sterling--where would I have been now?" "And how /did/ you escape?" said Jeanie the fates of this man at first so odious to her having acquired a sudden interest in her eyes from their correspondence with those of her sister. "/How/ did I escape?" said Ratcliffe with a knowing wink--"I tell ye I 'scapit in a way that naebody will escape from this Tolbooth while I keep the keys." "My sister shall come out in the face of the sun" said Jeanie; "I will go to London and beg her pardon from the king and queen. If they pardoned Porteous they may pardon her; if a sister asks a sister's life on her bended knees they will pardon her--they /shall/ pardon her--and they will win a thousand hearts by it." Effie listened in bewildered astonishment and so earnest was her sister's enthusiastic assurance that she almost involuntarily caught a gleam of hope; but it instantly faded away. "Ah Jeanie! the king and queen live in London a thousand miles from this--far ayont the saut sea; I'll be gane before ye win there." "You are mistaen" said Jeanie; "it is no sae far and they go to it by land; I learned something about thae things from Reuben Butler." "Ah Jeanie! ye never learned onything but what was gude frae the folk ye keepit company wi'; but!--but!"--she wrung her hands and wept bitterly. "Dinna think on that now" said Jeanie; "there will be time for that if the present space be redeemed. Fare ye weel. Unless I die by the road I will see the king's face that gies grace--O sir" (to Ratcliffe) "be kind to her--She ne'er ken'd what it was to need a stranger's kindness till now.--Fareweel--fareweel Effie!--Dinna speak to me--I maunna greet now--my head's ower dizzy already!" She tore herself from her sister's arms and left the cell. Ratcliffe followed her and beckoned her into a small room. She obeyed his signal but not without trembling. "What's the fule thing shaking for?" said he; "I mean nothing but civility to you. D--n me I respect you and I can't help it. You have so much spunk that d--n me but I think there's some chance of your carrying the day. But you must not go to the king till you have made some friend; try the duke--try MacCallummore; he's Scotland's friend--I ken that the great folks dinna muckle like him--but they fear him and that will serve your purpose as weel. D'ye ken naebody wad gie ye a letter to him?" "Duke of Argyle!" said Jeanie recollecting herself suddenly "what was he to that Argyle that suffered in my father's time--in the persecution?" "His son or grandson I'm thinking" said Ratcliffe "but what o' that?" "Thank God!" said Jeanie devoutly clasping her hands. "You whigs are aye thanking God for something" said the ruffian. "But hark ye hinny I'll tell ye a secret. Ye may meet wi' rough customers on the Border or in the Midland afore ye get to Lunnon. Now deil ane o' them will touch an acquaintance o' Daddie Ratton's; for though I am retired frae public practice yet they ken I can do a gude or an ill turn yet--and deil a gude fellow that has been but a twelvemonth on the lay be he ruffler or padder but he knows my gybe* as well as the jark** of e'er a queer cuffin*** in England--and there's rogue's Latin for you." * Pass. ** Seal. *** Justice of Peace. It was indeed totally unintelligible to Jeanie Deans who was only impatient to escape from him. He hastily scrawled a line or two on a dirty piece of paper and said to her as she drew back when he offered it "Hey!--what the deil--it wunna bite you my lass--if it does nae gude it can do nae ill. But I wish you to show it if you have ony fasherie wi' ony o' St. Nicholas's clerks." "Alas!" said she "I do not understand what you mean." "I mean if ye fall among thieves my precious--that is a Scripture phrase if ye will hae ane--the bauldest of them will ken a scart o' my guse feather. And now awa wi' ye--and stick to Argyle; if onybody can do the job it maun be him." After casting an anxious look at the grated windows and blackened walls of the old Tolbooth and another scarce less anxious at the hospitable lodging of Mrs. Saddletree Jeanie turned her back on that quarter and soon after on the city itself. She reached St. Leonard's Crags without meeting any one whom she knew which in the state of her mind she considered as a great blessing. "I must do naething" she thought as she went along "that can soften or weaken my heart--it's ower weak already for what I hae to do. I will think and act as firmly as I can and speak as little." There was an ancient servant or rather cottar of her father's who had lived under him for many years and whose fidelity was worthy of full confidence. She sent for this woman and explaining to her that the circumstances of her family required that she should undertake a journey which would detain her for some weeks from home she gave her full instructions concerning the management of the domestic concerns in her absence. With a precision which upon reflection she herself could not help wondering at she described and detailed the most minute steps which were to be taken and especially such as were necessary for her father's comfort. "It was probable" she said "that he would return to St. Leonard's to-morrow! certain that he would return very soon--all must be in order for him. He had eneugh to distress him without being fashed about warldly matters." In the meanwhile she toiled busily along with May Hettly to leave nothing unarranged. It was deep in the night when all these matters were settled; and when they had partaken of some food the first which Jeanie had tasted on that eventful day May Hettly whose usual residence was a cottage at a little distance from Deans's house asked her young mistress whether she would not permit her to remain in the house all night? "Ye hae had an awfu' day" she said "and sorrow and fear are but bad companions in the watches of the night as I hae heard the gudeman say himself." "They are ill companions indeed" said Jeanie; "but I maun learn to abide their presence and better begin in the house than in the field." She dismissed her aged assistant accordingly--for so slight was the gradation in their rank of life that we can hardly term May a servant-- and proceeded to make a few preparations for her journey. The simplicity of her education and country made these preparations very brief and easy. Her tartan screen served all the purposes of a riding-habit and of an umbrella; a small bundle contained such changes of linen as were absolutely necessary. Barefooted as Sancho says she had come into the world and barefooted she proposed to perform her pilgrimage; and her clean shoes and change of snow-white thread stockings were to be reserved for special occasions of ceremony. She was not aware that the English habits of comfort attach an idea of abject misery to the idea of a barefooted traveller; and if the objection of cleanliness had been made to the practice she would have been apt to vindicate herself upon the very frequent ablutions to which with Mahometan scrupulosity a Scottish damsel of some condition usually subjects herself. Thus far therefore all was well. From an oaken press or cabinet in which her father kept a few old books and two or three bundles of papers besides his ordinary accounts and receipts she sought out and extracted from a parcel of notes of sermons calculations of interest records of dying speeches of the martyrs and the like one or two documents which she thought might be of some use to her upon her mission. But the most important difficulty remained behind and it had not occurred to her until that very evening. It was the want of money; without which it was impossible she could undertake so distant a journey as she now meditated. David Deans as we have said was easy and even opulent in his circumstances. But his wealth like that of the patriarchs of old consisted in his kine and herds and in two or three sums lent out at interest to neighbours or relatives who far from being in circumstances to pay anything to account of the principal sums thought they did all that was incumbent on them when with considerable difficulty they discharged the "annual rent." To these debtors it would be in vain therefore to apply even with her father's concurrence; nor could she hope to obtain such concurrence or assistance in any mode without such a series of explanations and debates as she felt might deprive her totally of the power of taking the step which however daring and hazardous she felt was absolutely necessary for trying the last chance in favour of her sister. Without departing from filial reverence Jeanie had an inward conviction that the feelings of her father however just and upright and honourable were too little in unison with the spirit of the time to admit of his being a good judge of the measures to be adopted in this crisis. Herself more flexible in manner though no less upright in principle she felt that to ask his consent to her pilgrimage would be to encounter the risk of drawing down his positive prohibition and under that she believed her journey could not be blessed in its progress and event. Accordingly she had determined upon the means by which she might communicate to him her undertaking and its purpose shortly after her actual departure. But it was impossible to apply to him for money without altering this arrangement and discussing fully the propriety of her journey; pecuniary assistance from that quarter therefore was laid out of the question. It now occurred to Jeanie that she should have consulted with Mrs. Saddletree on this subject. But besides the time that must now necessarily be lost in recurring to her assistance Jeanie internally revolted from it. Her heart acknowledged the goodness of Mrs. Saddletree's general character and the kind interest she took in their family misfortunes; but still she felt that Mrs. Saddletree was a woman of an ordinary and worldly way of thinking incapable from habit and temperament of taking a keen or enthusiastic view of such a resolution as she had formed; and to debate the point with her and to rely upon her conviction of its propriety for the means of carrying it into execution would have been gall and wormwood. Butler whose assistance she might have been assured of was greatly poorer than herself. In these circumstances she formed a singular resolution for the purpose of surmounting this difficulty the execution of which will form the subject of the next chapter. CHAPTER SECOND 'Tis the voice of the sluggard I've heard him complain "You have waked me too soon I must slumber again;" As the door on its hinges so he on his bed Turns his side and his shoulders and his heavy head. Dr. Watts. The mansion-house of Dumbiedikes to which we are now to introduce our readers lay three or four miles--no matter for the exact topography--to the southward of St. Leonard's. It had once borne the appearance of some little celebrity; for the "auld laird" whose humours and pranks were often mentioned in the ale-houses for about a mile round it wore a sword kept a good horse and a brace of greyhounds; brawled swore and betted at cock-fights and horse-matches; followed Somerville of Drum's hawks and the Lord Ross's hounds and called himself /point devise/ a gentleman. But the line had been veiled of its splendour in the present proprietor who cared for no rustic amusements and was as saying timid and retired as his father had been at once grasping and selfishly extravagant--daring wild and intrusive. Dumbiedikes was what is called in Scotland a single house; that is having only one room occupying its whole depth from back to front each of which single apartments was illuminated by six or eight cross lights whose diminutive panes and heavy frames permitted scarce so much light to enter as shines through one well-constructed modern window. This inartificial edifice exactly such as a child would build with cards had a steep roof flagged with coarse grey stones instead of slates; a half-circular turret battlemented or to use the appropriate phrase bartizan'd on the top served as a case for a narrow turnpike stair by which an ascent was gained from storey to storey; and at the bottom of the said turret was a door studded with large-headed nails. There was no lobby at the bottom of the tower and scarce a landing-place opposite to the doors which gave access to the apartments. One or two low and dilapidated outhouses connected by a courtyard wall equally ruinous surrounded the mansion. The court had been paved but the flags being partly displaced and partly renewed a gallant crop of docks and thistles sprung up between them and the small garden which opened by a postern through the wall seemed not to be in a much more orderly condition. Over the low-arched gateway which led into the yard there was a carved stone exhibiting some attempt at armorial bearings; and above the inner entrance hung and had hung for many years the mouldering hatchment which announced that umquhile Laurence Dumbie of Dumbiedikes had been gathered to his fathers in Newbattle kirkyard. The approach to this palace of pleasure was by a road formed by the rude fragments of stone gathered from the fields and it was surrounded by ploughed but unenclosed land. Upon a baulk that is an unploughed ridge of land interposed among the corn the Laird's trusty palfrey was tethered by the head and picking a meal of grass. The whole argued neglect and discomfort; the consequence however of idleness and indifference not of poverty. In this inner court not without a sense of bashfulness and timidity stood Jeanie Deans at an early hour in a fine spring morning. She was no heroine of romance and therefore looked with some curiosity and interest on the mansion-house and domains of which it might at that moment occur to her a little encouragement such as women of all ranks know by instinct how to apply might have made her mistress. Moreover she was no person of taste beyond her time rank and country and certainly thought the house of Dumbiedikes though inferior to Holyrood House or the palace at Dalkeith was still a stately structure in its way and the land a "very bonny bit if it were better seen to and done to." But Jeanie Deans was a plain true-hearted honest girl who while she acknowledged all the splendour of her old admirer's habitation and the value of his property never for a moment harboured a thought of doing the Laird Butler or herself the injustice which many ladies of higher rank would not have hesitated to do to all three on much less temptation. Her present errand being with the Laird she looked round the offices to see if she could find any domestic to announce that she wished to see him. As all was silence she ventured to open one door--it was the old Laird's dog-kennel now deserted unless when occupied as one or two tubs seemed to testify as a washing-house. She tried another--it was the rootless shed where the hawks had been once kept as appeared from a perch or two not yet completely rotten and a lure and jesses which were mouldering on the wall. A third door led to the coal-house which was well stocked. To keep a very good fire was one of the few points of domestic management in which Dumbiedikes was positively active; in all other matters of domestic economy he was completely passive and at the mercy of his housekeeper--the same buxom dame whom his father had long since bequeathed to his charge and who if fame did her no injustice had feathered her nest pretty well at his expense. Jeanie went on opening doors like the second Calender wanting an eye in ...