Part 7 out of 13
"But, Laird," said Jeanie, "though I ken my father will satisfy every
penny of this siller, whatever there's o't, yet I wadna like to borrow it
frae ane that maybe thinks of something mair than the paying o't back
"There's just twenty-five guineas o't," said Dumbiedikes, with a gentle
sigh, "and whether your father pays or disna pay, I make ye free till't
without another word. Gang where ye like--do what ye like--and marry a'
the Butlers in the country gin ye like--And sae, gude morning to you,
"And God bless you, Laird, wi' mony a gude morning!" said Jeanie, her
heart more softened by the unwonted generosity of this uncouth character,
than perhaps Butler might have approved, had he known her feelings at
that moment; "and comfort, and the Lord's peace, and the peace of the
world, be with you, if we suld never meet again!"
Dumbiedikes turned and waved his hand; and his pony, much more willing to
return than he had been to set out, hurried him homeward so fast, that,
wanting the aid of a regular bridle, as well as of saddle and stirrups,
he was too much puzzled to keep his seat to permit of his looking behind,
even to give the parting glance of a forlorn swain. I am ashamed to say,
that the sight of a lover, ran away with in nightgown and slippers and a
laced hat, by a bare-backed Highland pony, had something in it of a
sedative, even to a grateful and deserved burst of affectionate esteem.
The figure of Dumbiedikes was too ludicrous not to confirm Jeanie in the
original sentiments she entertained towards him.
"He's a gude creature," said she, "and a kind--it's a pity he has sae
willyard a powny." And she immediately turned her thoughts to the
important journey which she had commenced, reflecting with pleasure,
that, according to her habits of life and of undergoing fatigue, she was
now amply or even superfluously provided with the means of encountering
the expenses of the road, up and down from London, and all other expenses
What strange and wayward thoughts will slide
Into a lover's head;
"O mercy!" to myself I cried,
"If Lucy should be dead!"
In pursuing her solitary journey, our heroine, soon after passing the
house of Dumbiedikes, gained a little eminence, from which, on looking to
the eastward down a prattling brook, whose meanders were shaded with
straggling widows and alder trees, she could see the cottages of Woodend
and Beersheba, the haunts and habitation of her early life, and could
distinguish the common on which she had so often herded sheep, and the
recesses of the rivulet where she had pulled rushes with Butler, to plait
crowns and sceptres for her sister Effie, then a beautiful but spoiled
child, of about three years old. The recollections which the scene
brought with them were so bitter, that, had she indulged them, she would
have sate down and relieved her heart with tears.
"But I ken'd," said Jeanie, when she gave an account of her pilgrimage,
"that greeting would do but little good, and that it was mair beseeming
to thank the Lord, that had showed me kindness and countenance by means
of a man, that mony ca'd a Nabal, and churl, but wha was free of his
gudes to me, as ever the fountain was free of the stream. And I minded
the Scripture about the sin of Israel at Meribah, when the people
murmured, although Moses had brought water from the dry rock that the
congregation might drink and live. Sae, I wad not trust mysell with
another look at puir Woodend, for the very blue reek that came out of the
lum-head pat me in mind of the change of market days with us."
In this resigned and Christian temper she pursued her journey until she
was beyond this place of melancholy recollections, and not distant from
the village where Butler dwelt, which, with its old-fashioned church and
steeple, rises among a tuft of trees, occupying the ridge of an eminence
to the south of Edinburgh. At a quarter of a mile's distance is a clumsy
square tower, the residence of the Laird of Liberton, who, in former
times, with the habits of the predatory chivalry of Germany, is said
frequently to have annoyed the city of Edinburgh, by intercepting the
supplies and merchandise which came to the town from the southward.
This village, its tower, and its church, did not lie precisely in
Jeanie's road towards England; but they were not much aside from it, and
the village was the abode of Butler. She had resolved to see him in the
beginning of her journey, because she conceived him the most proper
person to write to her father concerning her resolution and her hopes.
There was probably another reason latent in her affectionate bosom. She
wished once more to see the object of so early and so sincere an
attachment, before commencing a pilgrimage, the perils of which she did
not disguise from herself, although she did not allow them so to press
upon her mind as to diminish the strength and energy of her resolution. A
visit to a lover from a young person in a higher rank of life than
Jeanie's, would have had something forward and improper in its character.
But the simplicity of her rural habits was unacquainted with these
punctilious ideas of decorum, and no notion, therefore, of impropriety
crossed her imagination, as, setting out upon a long journey, she went to
bid adieu to an early friend.
There was still another motive that pressed upon her mind with additional
force as she approached the village. She had looked anxiously for Butler
in the courthouse, and had expected that, certainly, in some part of that
eventful day, he would have appeared to bring such countenance and
support as he could give to his old friend, and the protector of his
youth, even if her own claims were laid aside.
She know, indeed, that he was under a certain degree of restraint; but
she still had hoped that he would have found means to emancipate himself
from it, at least for one day. In short, the wild and wayward thoughts
which Wordsworth has described as rising in an absent lover's
imagination, suggested, as the only explanation of his absence, that
Butler must be very ill. And so much had this wrought on her imagination,
that when she approached the cottage where her lover occupied a small
apartment, and which had been pointed out to her by a maiden with a
milk-pail on her head, she trembled at anticipating the answer she might
receive on inquiring for him.
Her fears in this case had, indeed, only hit upon the truth. Butler,
whose constitution was naturally feeble, did not soon recover the fatigue
of body and distress of mind which he had suffered, in consequence of the
tragical events with which our narrative commenced. The painful idea that
his character was breathed on by suspicion, was an aggravation to his
But the most cruel addition was the absolute prohibition laid by the
magistrates on his holding any communication with Deans or his family. It
had unfortunately appeared likely to them, that some intercourse might be
again attempted with that family by Robertson, through the medium of
Butler, and this they were anxious to intercept, or prevent if possible.
The measure was not meant as a harsh or injurious severity on the part of
the magistrates; but, in Butler's circumstances, it pressed cruelly hard.
He felt he must be suffering under the bad opinion of the person who was
dearest to him, from an imputation of unkind desertion, the most alien to
This painful thought, pressing on a frame already injured, brought on a
succession of slow and lingering feverish attacks, which greatly impaired
his health, and at length rendered him incapable even of the sedentary
duties of the school, on which his bread depended. Fortunately, old Mr.
Whackbairn, who was the principal teacher of the little parochial
establishment, was sincerely attached to Butler. Besides that he was
sensible of his merits and value as an assistant, which had greatly
raised the credit of his little school, the ancient pedagogue, who had
himself been tolerably educated, retained some taste for classical lore,
and would gladly relax, after the drudgery of the school was over, by
conning over a few pages of Horace or Juvenal with his usher. A
similarity of taste begot kindness, and accordingly he saw Butler's
increasing debility with great compassion, roused up his own energies to
teaching the school in the morning hours, insisted upon his assistant's
reposing himself at that period, and, besides, supplied him with such
comforts as the patient's situation required, and his own means were
inadequate to compass.
Such was Butler's situation, scarce able to drag himself to the place
where his daily drudgery must gain his daily bread, and racked with a
thousand fearful anticipations concerning the fate of those who were
dearest to him in the world, when the trial and condemnation of Effie
Deans put the copestone upon his mental misery.
He had a particular account of these events, from a fellow-student who
resided in the same village, and who, having been present on the
melancholy occasion, was able to place it in all its agony of horrors
before his excruciated imagination. That sleep should have visited his
eyes after such a curfew-note, was impossible. A thousand dreadful
visions haunted his imagination all night, and in the morning he was
awaked from a feverish slumber, by the only circumstance which could have
added to his distress,--the visit of an intrusive ass.
This unwelcome visitant was no other than Bartoline Saddletree. The
worthy and sapient burgher had kept his appointment at MacCroskie's with
Plumdamas and some other neighbours, to discuss the Duke of Argyle's
speech, the justice of Effie Deans's condemnation, and the improbability
of her obtaining a reprieve. This sage conclave disputed high and drank
deep, and on the next morning Bartoline felt, as he expressed it, as if
his head was like a "confused progress of writs."
To bring his reflective powers to their usual serenity, Saddle-tree
resolved to take a morning's ride upon a certain hackney, which he,
Plumdamas, and another honest shopkeeper, combined to maintain by joint
subscription, for occasional jaunts for the purpose of business or
exercise. As Saddletree had two children boarded with Whackbairn, and
was, as we have seen, rather fond of Butler's society, he turned his
palfrey's head towards Liberton, and came, as we have already said, to
give the unfortunate usher that additional vexation, of which Imogene
complains so feelingly, when she says,--
"I'm sprighted with a fool--
Sprighted and anger'd worse."
If anything could have added gall to bitterness, it was the choice which
Saddletree made of a subject for his prosing harangues, being the trial
of Effie Deans, and the probability of her being executed. Every word
fell on Butler's ear like the knell of a death-bell, or the note of a
Jeanie paused at the door of her lover's humble abode upon hearing the
loud and pompous tones of Saddletree sounding from the inner apartment,
"Credit me, it will be sae, Mr. Butler. Brandy cannot save her. She maun
gang down the Bow wi' the lad in the pioted coat* at her heels.--
* The executioner, in livery of black or dark grey and silver, likened by
low wit to a magpie.
I am sorry for the lassie, but the law, sir, maun hae its course--
as the poet has it, in whilk of Horace's odes I know not."
Here Butler groaned, in utter impatience of the brutality and ignorance
which Bartoline had contrived to amalgamate into one sentence. But
Saddletree, like other prosers, was blessed with a happy obtuseness of
perception concerning the unfavourable impression which he sometimes made
on his auditors. He proceeded to deal forth his scraps of legal knowledge
without mercy, and concluded by asking Butler, with great
self-complacency, "Was it na a pity my father didna send me to Utrecht?
Havena I missed the chance to turn out as /clarissimus/ an /ictus,/ as
auld Grunwiggin himself?--Whatfor dinna ye speak, Mr. Butler? Wad I no
hae been a /clarissimus ictus?/--Eh, man?"
"I really do not understand you, Mr. Saddletree," said Butler, thus
pushed hard for an answer. His faint and exhausted tone of voice was
instantly drowned in the sonorous bray of Bartoline.
"No understand me, man? /Ictus/ is Latin for a lawyer, is it not?"
"Not that ever I heard of," answered Butler in the same dejected tone.
"The deil ye didna!--See, man, I got the word but this morning out of a
memorial of Mr. Crossmyloof's--see, there it is, /ictus clarissimus et
perti--peritissimus/--it's a' Latin, for it's printed in the Italian
"O, you mean /juris-consultus--Ictus/ is an abbreviation for
"Dinna tell me, man," persevered Saddletree, "there's nae abbreviates
except in adjudications; and this is a' about a servitude of water-drap--
that is to say, /tillicidian/* (maybe ye'll say that's no Latin neither),
in Mary King's Close in the High Street."
* He meant, probably, /stillicidium./
"Very likely," said poor Butler, overwhelmed by the noisy perseverance of
his visitor. "Iam not able to dispute with you."
"Few folk are--few folk are, Mr. Butler, though I say it that shouldna
say it," returned Bartoline with great delight. "Now, it will be twa
hours yet or ye're wanted in the schule, and as ye are no weel, I'll sit
wi' you to divert ye, and explain t'ye the nature of a /tillicidian./ Ye
maun ken, the petitioner, Mrs. Crombie, a very decent woman, is a friend
of mine, and I hae stude her friend in this case, and brought her wi'
credit into the court, and I doubtna that in due time she will win out
o't wi' credit, win she or lose she. Ye see, being an inferior tenement
or laigh house, we grant ourselves to be burdened wi' the /tillicide,/
that is, that we are obligated to receive the natural water-drap of the
superior tenement, sae far as the same fa's frae the heavens, or the roof
of our neighbour's house, and from thence by the gutters or eaves upon
our laigh tenement. But the other night comes a Highland quean of a lass,
and she flashes, God kens what, out at the eastmost window of Mrs.
MacPhail's house, that's the superior tenement. I believe the auld women
wad hae agreed, for Luckie MacPhail sent down the lass to tell my friend
Mrs. Crombie that she had made the gardyloo out of the wrang window, out
of respect for twa Highlandmen that were speaking Gaelic in the close
below the right ane. But luckily for Mrs. Crombie, I just chanced to come
in in time to break aff the communing, for it's a pity the point suldna
be tried. We had Mrs. MacPhail into the Ten-Mark Court--The Hieland
limmer of a lass wanted to swear herself free--but haud ye there,
The detailed account of this important suit might have lasted until poor
Butler's hour of rest was completely exhausted, had not Saddletree been
interrupted by the noise of voices at the door. The woman of the house
where Butler lodged, on returning with her pitcher from the well, whence
she had been fetching water for the family, found our heroine Jeanie
Deans standing at the door, impatient of the prolix harangue of
Saddletree, yet unwilling to enter until he should have taken his leave.
The good woman abridged the period of hesitation by inquiring, "Was ye
wanting the gudeman or me, lass?"
"I wanted to speak with Mr. Butler, if he's at leisure," replied Jeanie.
"Gang in by then, my woman," answered the goodwife; and opening the door
of a room, she announced the additional visitor with, "Mr. Butler, here's
a lass wants to speak t'ye."
The surprise of Butler was extreme, when Jeanie, who seldom stirred
half-a-mile from home, entered his apartment upon this annunciation.
"Good God!" he said, starting from his chair, while alarm restored to his
cheek the colour of which sickness had deprived it; "some new misfortune
must have happened!"
"None, Mr. Reuben, but what you must hae heard of--but oh, ye are looking
ill yoursell!"--for the "hectic of a moment" had not concealed from her
affectionate eyes the ravages which lingering disease and anxiety of mind
had made in her lover's person.
"No: I am well--quite well," said Butler with eagerness; "if I can do
anything to assist you, Jeanie--or your father."
"Ay, to be sure," said Saddletree; "the family may be considered as
limited to them twa now, just as if Effie had never been in the tailzie,
puir thing. But, Jeanie lass, what brings you out to Liberton sae air in
the morning, and your father lying ill in the Luckenbooths?"
"I had a message frae my father to Mr. Butler," said Jeanie with
embarrassment; but instantly feeling ashamed of the fiction to which she
had resorted, for her love of and veneration for truth was almost
Quaker-like, she corrected herself--"That is to say, I wanted to speak
with Mr. Butler about some business of my father's and puir Effie's."
"Is it law business?" said Bartoline; "because if it be, ye had better
take my opinion on the subject than his."
"It is not just law business," said Jeanie, who saw considerable
inconvenience might arise from letting Mr. Saddletree into the secret
purpose of her journey; "but I want Mr. Butler to write a letter for me."
"Very right," said Mr. Saddletree; "and if ye'll tell me what it is
about, I'll dictate to Mr. Butler as Mr. Crossmyloof does to his clerk.--
Get your pen and ink in initialibus, Mr. Butler."
Jeanie looked at Butler, and wrung her hands with vexation and
"I believe, Mr. Saddletree," said Butler, who saw the necessity of
getting rid of him at all events, "that Mr. Whackbairn will be somewhat
affronted if you do not hear your boys called up to their lessons."
"Indeed, Mr. Butler, and that's as true; and I promised to ask a half
play-day to the schule, so that the bairns might gang and see the
hanging, which canna but have a pleasing effect on their young minds,
seeing there is no knowing what they may come to themselves.--Odd so, I
didna mind ye were here, Jeanie Deans; but ye maun use yoursell to hear
the matter spoken o'.--Keep Jeanie here till I come back, Mr. Butler; I
winna bide ten minutes."
And with this unwelcome assurance of an immediate return, he relieved
them of the embarrassment of his presence.
"Reuben," said Jeanie, who saw the necessity of using the interval of his
absence in discussing what had brought her there, "I am bound on a lang
journey--I am gaun to Lunnon to ask Effie's life of the king and of the
"Jeanie! you are surely not yourself," answered Butler, in the utmost
surprise;--"/you/ go to London--/you/ address the king and queen!"
"And what for no, Reuben?" said Jeanie, with all the composed simplicity
of her character; "it's but speaking to a mortal man and woman when a' is
done. And their hearts maun be made o' flesh and blood like other folk's,
and Effie's story wad melt them were they stane. Forby, I hae heard that
they are no sic bad folk as what the Jacobites ca' them."
"Yes, Jeanie," said Butler; "but their magnificence--their retinue--the
difficulty of getting audience?"
"I have thought of a' that, Reuben, and it shall not break my spirit. Nae
doubt their claiths will be very grand, wi' their crowns on their heads,
and their sceptres in their hands, like the great King Ahasuerus when he
sate upon his royal throne fornent the gate of his house, as we are told
in Scripture. But I have that within me that will keep my heart from
failing, and I am amaist sure that I will be strengthened to speak the
errand I came for."
"Alas! alas!" said Butler, "the kings now-a-days do not sit in the gate
to administer justice, as in patriarchal times. I know as little of
courts as you do, Jeanie, by experience; but by reading and report I
know, that the King of Britain does everything by means of his
"And if they be upright, God-fearing ministers," said Jeanie, "it's sae
muckle the better chance for Effie and me."
"But you do not even understand the most ordinary words relating to a
court," said Butler; "by the ministry is meant not clergymen, but the
king's official servants."
"Nae doubt," returned Jeanie, "he maun hae a great number mair, I daur to
say, than the duchess has at Dalkeith, and great folk's servants are aye
mair saucy than themselves. But I'll be decently put on, and I'll offer
them a trifle o' siller, as if I came to see the palace. Or, if they
scruple that, I'll tell them I'm come on a business of life and death,
and then they will surely bring me to speech of the king and queen?"
Butler shook his head. "O Jeanie, this is entirely a wild dream. You can
never see them but through some great lord's intercession, and I think it
is scarce possible even then."
"Weel, but maybe I can get that too," said Jeanie, "with a little helping
"From me, Jeanie! this is the wildest imagination of all."
"Ay, but it is not, Reuben. Havena I heard you say, that your grandfather
(that my father never likes to hear about) did some gude langsyne to the
forbear of this MacCallummore, when he was Lord of Lorn?"
"He did so," said Butler, eagerly, "and I can prove it.--I will write to
the Duke of Argyle--report speaks him a good kindly man, as he is known
for a brave soldier and true patriot--I will conjure him to stand between
your sister and this cruel fate. There is but a poor chance of success,
but we will try all means."
"We /must/ try all means," replied Jeanie; "but writing winna do it--a
letter canna look, and pray, and beg, and beseech, as the human voice can
do to the human heart. A letter's like the music that the ladies have for
their spinets--naething but black scores, compared to the same tune
played or sung. It's word of mouth maun do it, or naething, Reuben."
"You are right," said Reuben, recollecting his firmness, "and I will hope
that Heaven has suggested to your kind heart and firm courage the only
possible means of saving the life of this unfortunate girl. But, Jeanie,
you must not take this most perilous journey alone; I have an interest in
you, and I will not agree that my Jeanie throws herself away. You must
even, in the present circumstances, give me a husband's right to protect
you, and I will go with you myself on this journey, and assist you to do
your duty by your family."
"Alas, Reuben!" said Jeanie in her turn, "this must not be; a pardon will
not gie my sister her fair fame again, or make me a bride fitting for an
honest man and an usefu' minister. Wha wad mind what he said in the
pu'pit, that had to wife the sister of a woman that was condemned for sic
"But, Jeanie," pleaded her lover, "I do not believe, and I cannot
believe, that Effie has done this deed."
"Heaven bless ye for saying sae, Reuben," answered Jeanie; "but she maun
bear the blame o't after all."
"But the blame, were it even justly laid on her, does not fall on you."
"Ah, Reuben, Reuben," replied the young woman, "ye ken it is a blot that
spreads to kith and kin.--Ichabod--as my poor father says--the glory is
departed from our house; for the poorest man's house has a glory, where
there are true hands, a divine heart, and an honest fame--And the last
has gane frae us a."
"But, Jeanie, consider your word and plighted faith to me; and would you
undertake such a journey without a man to protect you?--and who should
that protector be but your husband?"
"You are kind and good, Reuben, and wad take me wi' a' my shame, I
doubtna. But ye canna but own that this is no time to marry or be given
in marriage. Na, if that suld ever be, it maun be in another and a better
season.--And, dear Reuben, ye speak of protecting me on my journey--Alas!
who will protect and take care of you?--your very limbs tremble with
standing for ten minutes on the floor; how could you undertake a journey
as far as Lunnon?"
"But I am strong--I am well," continued Butler, sinking in his seat
totally exhausted, "at least I shall be quite well to-morrow."
"Ye see, and ye ken, ye maun just let me depart," said Jeanie, after a
pause; and then taking his extended hand, and gazing kindly in his face,
she added, "It's e'en a grief the mair to me to see you in this way. But
ye maun keep up your heart for Jeanie's sake, for if she isna your wife,
she will never be the wife of living man. And now gie me the paper for
MacCallummore, and bid God speed me on my way."
There was something of romance in Jeanie's venturous resolution; yet, on
consideration, as it seemed impossible to alter it by persuasion, or to
give her assistance but by advice, Butler, after some farther debate, put
into her hands the paper she desired, which, with the muster-roll in
which it was folded up, were the sole memorials of the stout and
enthusiastic Bible Butler, his grandfather. While Butler sought this
document, Jeanie had time to take up his pocket Bible. "I have marked a
scripture," she said, as she again laid it down, "with your kylevine pen,
that will be useful to us baith. And ye maun tak the trouble, Reuben, to
write a' this to my father, for, God help me, I have neither head nor
hand for lang letters at ony time, forby now; and I trust him entirely to
you, and I trust you will soon be permitted to see him. And, Reuben, when
ye do win to the speech o' him, mind a' the auld man's bits o' ways, for
Jeanie's sake; and dinna speak o' Latin or English terms to him, for he's
o' the auld warld, and downa bide to be fashed wi' them, though I daresay
he may be wrang. And dinna ye say muckle to him, but set him on speaking
himself, for he'll bring himsell mair comfort that way. And O, Reuben,
the poor lassie in yon dungeon!--but I needna bid your kind heart--gie
her what comfort ye can as soon as they will let ye see her--tell her--
But I maunna speak mair about her, for I maunna take leave o' ye wi' the
tear in my ee, for that wouldna be canny.--God bless ye, Reuben!"
To avoid so ill an omen she left the room hastily, while her features yet
retained the mournful and affectionate smile which she had compelled them
to wear, in order to support Butler's spirits.
It seemed as if the power of sight, of speech, and of reflection, had
left him as she disappeared from the room, which she had entered and
retired from so like an apparition. Saddletree, who entered immediately
afterwards, overwhelmed him with questions, which he answered without
understanding them, and with legal disquisitions, which conveyed to him
no iota of meaning. At length the learned burgess recollected that there
was a Baron Court to be, held at Loanhead that day, and though it was
hardly worth while, "he might as weel go to see if there was onything
doing, as he was acquainted with the baron bailie, who was a decent man,
and would be glad of a word of legal advice."
So soon as he departed, Butler flew to the Bible, the last book which
Jeanie had touched. To his extreme surprise, a paper, containing two or
three pieces of gold, dropped from the book. With a black-lead pencil,
she had marked the sixteenth and twenty-fifth verses of the
thirty-seventh Psalm,--"A little that a righteous man hath, is better
than the riches of the wicked."--"I have been young and am now old, yet
have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their
Deeply impressed with the affectionate delicacy which shrouded its own
generosity under the cover of a providential supply to his wants, he
pressed the gold to his lips with more ardour than ever the metal was
greeted with by a miser. To emulate her devout firmness and confidence
seemed now the pitch of his ambition, and his first task was to write an
account to David Deans of his daughter's resolution and journey
southward. He studied every sentiment, and even every phrase, which he
thought could reconcile the old man to her extraordinary resolution. The
effect which this epistle produced will be hereafter adverted to. Butler
committed it to the charge of an honest clown, who had frequent dealings
with Deans in the sale of his dairy produce, and who readily undertook a
journey to Edinburgh to put the letter into his own hands.*
* By dint of assiduous research I am enabled to certiorate the reader,
that the name of this person was Saunders Broadfoot, and that he dealt in
the wholesome commodity called kirn-milk (/Anglice',/ butter-milk).--
"My native land, good night."
In the present day, a journey from Edinburgh to London is a matter at
once safe, brief, and simple, however inexperienced or unprotected the
traveller. Numerous coaches of different rates of charge, and as many
packets, are perpetually passing and repassing betwixt the capital of
Britain and her northern sister, so that the most timid or indolent may
execute such a journey upon a few hours' notice. But it was different in
1737. So slight and infrequent was the intercourse betwixt London and
Edinburgh, that men still alive remember that upon one occasion the mail
from the former city arrived at the General Post-Office in Scotland with
only one letter in it.*
* The fact is certain. The single epistle was addressed to the principal
director of the British Linen Company.
The usual mode of travelling was by means of post-horses, the traveller
occupying one, and his guide another, in which manner, by relays of
horses from stage to stage, the journey might be accomplished in a
wonderfully short time by those who could endure fatigue. To have the
bones shaken to pieces by a constant change of those hacks was a luxury
for the rich--the poor were under the necessity of using the mode of
conveyance with which nature had provided them.
With a strong heart, and a frame patient of fatigue, Jeanie Deans,
travelling at the rate of twenty miles a-day, and sometimes farther,
traversed the southern part of Scotland, and advanced as far as Durham.
Hitherto she had been either among her own country-folk, or those to whom
her bare feet and tartan screen were objects too familiar to attract much
attention. But as she advanced, she perceived that both circumstances
exposed her to sarcasm and taunts, which she might otherwise have
escaped; and although in her heart she thought it unkind, and
inhospitable, to sneer at a passing stranger on account of the fashion of
her attire, yet she had the good sense to alter those parts of her dress
which attracted ill-natured observation. Her chequed screen was deposited
carefully in her bundle, and she conformed to the national extravagance
of wearing shoes and stockings for the whole day. She confessed
afterwards, that, "besides the wastrife, it was lang or she could walk
sae comfortably with the shoes as without them; but there was often a bit
saft heather by the road-side, and that helped her weel on." The want of
the screen, which was drawn over the head like a veil, she supplied by a
/bon-grace,/ as she called it; a large straw bonnet like those worn by
the English maidens when labouring in the fields. "But I thought unco
shame o' mysell," she said, "the first time I put on a married woman's
/bon-grace,/ and me a single maiden."
With these changes she had little, as she said, to make "her kenspeckle
when she didna speak," but her accent and language drew down on her so
many jests and gibes, couched in a worse /patois/ by far than her own,
that she soon found it was her interest to talk as little and as seldom
as possible. She answered, therefore, civil salutations of chance
passengers with a civil courtesy, and chose, with anxious circumspection,
such places of repose as looked at once most decent and sequestered. She
found the common people of England, although inferior in courtesy to
strangers, such as was then practised in her own more unfrequented
country, yet, upon the whole, by no means deficient in the real duties of
hospitality. She readily obtained food, and shelter, and protection at a
very moderate rate, which sometimes the generosity of mine host
altogether declined, with a blunt apology,--"Thee hast a long way afore
thee, lass; and I'se ne'er take penny out o' a single woman's purse; it's
the best friend thou can have on the road."
It often happened, too, that mine hostess was struck with "the tidy, nice
Scotch body," and procured her an escort, or a cast in a waggon, for some
part of the way, or gave her a useful advice and recommendation
respecting her resting-places.
At York our pilgrim stopped for the best part of a day, partly to recruit
her strength,--partly because she had the good luck to obtain a lodging
in an inn kept by a countrywoman,--partly to indite two letters to her
father and Reuben Butler; an operation of some little difficulty, her
habits being by no means those of literary composition. That to her
father was in the following words.--
"Dearest Father,--I make my present pilgrimage more heavy and burdensome,
through the sad occasion to reflect that it is without your knowledge,
which, God knows, was far contrary to my heart; for Scripture says, that
'the vow of the daughter should not be binding without the consent of the
father,' wherein it may be I have been guilty to tak this wearie journey
without your consent. Nevertheless, it was borne in upon my mind that I
should be an instrument to help my poor sister in this extremity of
needcessity, otherwise I wad not, for wealth or for world's gear, or for
the haill lands of Da'keith and Lugton, have done the like o' this,
without your free will and knowledge. Oh, dear father, as ye wad desire a
blessing on my journey, and upon your household, speak a word or write a
line of comfort to yon poor prisoner. If she has sinned, she has sorrowed
and suffered, and ye ken better than me, that we maun forgie others, as
we pray to be forgien. Dear father, forgive my saying this muckle, for it
doth not become a young head to instruct grey hairs; but I am sae far
frae ye, that my heart yearns to ye a', and fain wad I hear that ye had
forgien her trespass, and sae I nae doubt say mair than may become me.
The folk here are civil, and, like the barbarians unto the holy apostle,
hae shown me much kindness; and there are a sort of chosen people in the
land, for they hae some kirks without organs that are like ours, and are
called meeting-houses, where the minister preaches without a gown. But
most of the country are prelatists, whilk is awfu' to think; and I saw
twa men that were ministers following hunds, as bauld as Roslin or
Driden, the young Laird of Loup-the-dike, or ony wild gallant in Lothian.
A sorrowfa' sight to behold! Oh, dear father, may a blessing be with your
down-lying and up-rising, and remember in your prayers your affectionate
daughter to command,
A postscript bore, "I learned from a decent woman, a grazier's widow,
that they hae a cure for the muir-ill in Cumberland, whilk is ane pint,
as they ca't, of yill, whilk is a dribble in comparison of our gawsie
Scots pint, and hardly a mutchkin, boiled wi' sope and hartshorn draps,
and toomed doun the creature's throat wi' ane whorn. Ye might try it on
the bauson-faced year-auld quey; an it does nae gude, it can do nae ill.
--She was a kind woman, and seemed skeely about horned beasts. When I
reach Lunnon, I intend to gang to our cousin Mrs. Glass, the tobacconist,
at the sign o' the Thistle, wha is so ceevil as to send you down your
spleuchan-fu' anes a year; and as she must be well kend in Lunnon, I
doubt not easily to find out where she lives."
Being seduced into betraying our heroine's confidence thus far, we will
stretch our communication a step beyond, and impart to the reader her
letter to her lover.
"Mr. Reuben Butler,--Hoping this will find you better, this comes to say,
that I have reached this great town safe, and am not wearied with
walking, but the better for it. And I have seen many things which I trust
to tell you one day, also the muckle kirk of this place; and all around
the city are mills, whilk havena muckle wheels nor mill-dams, but gang by
the wind--strange to behold. Ane miller asked me to gang in and see it
work, but I wad not, for I am not come to the south to make acquaintance
with strangers. I keep the straight road, and just beck if onybody speaks
to me ceevilly, and answers naebody with the tong but women of my ain
sect. I wish, Mr. Butler, I kend onything that wad mak ye weel, for they
hae mair medicines in this town of York than wad cure a' Scotland, and
surely some of them wad be gude for your complaints. If ye had a kindly
motherly body to nurse ye, and no to let ye waste yoursell wi' reading--
whilk ye read mair than eneugh wi' the bairns in the schule--and to gie
ye warm milk in the morning, I wad be mair easy for ye. Dear Mr. Butler,
keep a good heart, for we are in the hands of Ane that kens better what
is gude for us than we ken what is for oursells. I hae nae doubt to do
that for which I am come--I canna doubt it--I winna think to doubt it--
because, if I haena full assurance, how shall I bear myself with earnest
entreaties in the great folk's presence? But to ken that ane's purpose is
right, and to make their heart strong, is the way to get through the
warst day's darg. The bairns' rime says, the warst blast of the borrowing
days* couldna kill the three silly poor hog-lams.
* The last three days of March, old style, are called the Borrowing Days;
for, as they are remarked to be unusually stormy, it is feigned that
March had borrowed them from April, to extend the sphere of his rougher
sway. The rhyme on the subject is quoted in the glossary to Leyden's
edition of the "Complaynt of Scotland"--
[March said to Aperill,
I see three hogs upon a hill,
A young sheep before it has lost its first fleece.
But when the borrowed days were gane
The three silly hogs came hirplin hame.]
"And if it be God's pleasure, we that are sindered in sorrow may meet
again in joy, even on this hither side of Jordan. I dinna bid ye mind
what I said at our partin' anent my poor father, and that misfortunate
lassie, for I ken you will do sae for the sake of Christian charity,
whilk is mair than the entreaties of her that is your servant to command,
This letter also had a postscript. "Dear Reuben, If ye think that it wad
hae been right for me to have said mair and kinder things to ye, just
think that I hae written sae, since I am sure that I wish a' that is kind
and right to ye and by ye. Ye will think I am turned waster, for I wear
clean hose and shoon every day; but it's the fashion here for decent
bodies and ilka land has it's ain landlaw. Ower and aboon a', if laughing
days were e'er to come back again till us, ye wad laugh weel to see my
round face at the far end of a strae /bon-grace,/ that looks as muckle
and round as the middell aisle in Libberton Kirk. But it sheds the sun
weel aff, and keeps uncivil folk frae staring as if ane were a worrycow.
I sall tell ye by writ how I come on wi' the Duke of Argyle, when I won
up to Lunnon. Direct a line, to say how ye are, to me, to the charge of
Mrs. Margaret Glass, tobacconist, at the sign of the Thistle, Lunnon,
whilk, if it assures me of your health, will make my mind sae muckle
easier. Excuse bad spelling and writing, as I have ane ill pen."
The orthography of these epistles may seem to the southron to require a
better apology than the letter expresses, though a bad pen was the excuse
of a certain Galwegian laird for bad spelling; but, on behalf of the
heroine, I would have them to know, that, thanks to the care of Butler,
Jeanie Deans wrote and spelled fifty times better than half the women of
rank in Scotland at that period, whose strange orthography and singular
diction form the strongest contrast to the good sense which their
correspondence usually intimates.
For the rest, in the tenor of these epistles, Jeanie expressed, perhaps,
more hopes, a firmer courage, and better spirits, than she actually felt.
But this was with the amiable idea of relieving her father and lover from
apprehensions on her account, which she was sensible must greatly add to
their other troubles. "If they think me weel, and like to do weel," said
the poor pilgrim to herself, "my father will be kinder to Effie, and
Butler will be kinder to himself. For I ken weel that they will think
mair o' me than I do o' mysell."
Accordingly, she sealed her letters carefully, and put them into the
post-office with her own hand, after many inquiries concerning the time
in which they were likely to reach Edinburgh. When this duty was
performed, she readily accepted her landlady's pressing invitation to
dine with her, and remain till the next morning. The hostess, as we have
said, was her countrywoman, and the eagerness with which Scottish people
meet, communicate, and, to the extent of their power, assist each other,
although it is often objected to us as a prejudice and narrowness of
sentiment, seems, on the contrary, to arise from a most justifiable and
honourable feeling of patriotism, combined with a conviction, which, if
undeserved, would long since have been confuted by experience, that the
habits and principles of the nation are a sort of guarantee for the
character of the individual. At any rate, if the extensive influence of
this national partiality be considered as an additional tie, binding man
to man, and calling forth the good offices of such as can render them to
the countryman who happens to need them, we think it must be found to
exceed, as an active and efficient motive, to generosity, that more
impartial and wider principle of general benevolence, which we have
sometimes seen pleaded as an excuse for assisting no individual whatever.
Mrs. Bickerton, lady of the ascendant of the Seven Stars, in the
Castle-gate, York, was deeply infected with the unfortunate prejudices of
her country. Indeed, she displayed so much kindness to Jeanie Deans
(because she herself, being a Merse woman, /marched/ with Mid-Lothian, in
which Jeanie was born), showed such motherly regard to her, and such
anxiety for her farther progress, that Jeanie thought herself safe,
though by temper sufficiently cautious, in communicating her whole story
Mrs. Bickerton raised her hands and eyes at the recital, and exhibited
much wonder and pity. But she also gave some effectual good advice.
She required to know the strength of Jeanie's purse, reduced by her
deposit at Liberton, and the necessary expense of her journey, to about
fifteen pounds. "This," she said, "would do very well, providing she
would carry it a' safe to London."
"Safe!" answered Jeanie; "I'se warrant my carrying it safe, bating the
"Ay, but highwaymen, lassie," said Mrs. Bickerton; "for ye are come into
a more civilised, that is to say, a more roguish country than the north,
and how ye are to get forward, I do not profess to know. If ye could wait
here eight days, our waggons would go up, and I would recommend you to
Joe Broadwheel, who would see you safe to the Swan and two Necks. And
dinna sneeze at Joe, if he should be for drawing up wi' you" (continued
Mrs. Bickerton, her acquired English mingling with her national or
original dialect), "he's a handy boy, and a wanter, and no lad better
thought o' on the road; and the English make good husbands enough,
witness my poor man, Moses Bickerton, as is i' the kirkyard."
Jeanie hastened to say, that she could not possibly wait for the setting
forth of Joe Broadwheel; being internally by no means gratified with the
idea of becoming the object of his attention during the journey,
"Aweel, lass," answered the good landlady, "then thou must pickle in
thine ain poke-nook, and buckle thy girdle thine ain gate. But take my
advice, and hide thy gold in thy stays, and keep a piece or two and some
silver, in case thou be'st spoke withal; for there's as wud lads haunt
within a day's walk from hence, as on the braes of Doune in Perthshire.
And, lass, thou maunna gang staring through Lunnon, asking wha kens Mrs.
Glass at the sign o' the Thistle; marry, they would laugh thee to scorn.
But gang thou to this honest man," and she put a direction into Jeanie's
hand, "he kens maist part of the sponsible Scottish folk in the city, and
he will find out your friend for thee."
Jeanie took the little introductory letter with sincere thanks; but,
something alarmed on the subject of the highway robbers, her mind
recurred to what Ratcliffe had mentioned to her, and briefly relating the
circumstances which placed a document so extraordinary in her hands, she
put the paper he had given her into the hand of Mrs. Bickerton.
The Lady of the Seven Stars did not indeed ring a bell, because such was
not the fashion of the time, but she whistled on a silver call, which was
hung by her side, and a tight serving-maid entered the room.
"Tell Dick Ostler to come here," said Mrs. Bickerton.
Dick Ostler accordingly made his appearance;--a queer, knowing, shambling
animal, with a hatchet-face, a squint, a game-arm, and a limp.
"Dick Ostler," said Mrs. Bickerton, in a tone of authority that showed
she was (at least by adoption) Yorkshire too, "thou knowest most people
and most things o' the road."
"Eye, eye, God help me, mistress," said Dick, shrugging his shoulders
betwixt a repentant and a knowing expression--"Eye! I ha' know'd a thing
or twa i' ma day, mistress." He looked sharp and laughed--looked grave
and sighed, as one who was prepared to take the matter either way.
"Kenst thou this wee bit paper amang the rest, man?" said Mrs. Bickerton,
handing him the protection which Ratcliffe had given Jeanie Deans.
When Dick had looked at the paper, he winked with one eye, extended his
grotesque mouth from ear to ear, like a navigable canal, scratched his
head powerfully, and then said, "Ken!--ay--maybe we ken summat, an it
werena for harm to him, mistress!"
"None in the world," said Mrs. Bickerton; "only a dram of Hollands to
thyself, man, an thou wilt speak."
"Why, then," said Dick, giving the head-band of his breeches a knowing
hoist with one hand, and kicking out one foot behind him to accommodate
the adjustment of that important habiliment, "I dares to say the pass
will be kend weel eneugh on the road, an that be all."
"But what sort of a lad was he?" said Mrs. Bickerton, winking to Jeanie,
as proud of her knowing Ostler.
"Why, what ken I?--Jim the Rat--why he was Cock o' the North within this
twelmonth--he and Scotch Wilson, Handle Dandie, as they called him--but
he's been out o' this country a while, as I rackon; but ony gentleman, as
keeps the road o' this side Stamford, will respect Jim's pass."
Without asking farther questions, the landlady filled Dick Ostler a
bumper of Hollands. He ducked with his head and shoulders, scraped with
his more advanced hoof, bolted the alcohol, to use the learned phrase,
and withdrew to his own domains.
"I would advise thee, Jeanie," said Mrs. Bickerton, "an thou meetest with
ugly customers o' the road, to show them this bit paper, for it will
serve thee, assure thyself."
A neat little supper concluded the evening. The exported Scotswoman, Mrs.
Bickerton by name, ate heartily of one or two seasoned dishes, drank some
sound old ale, and a glass of stiff negus; while she gave Jeanie a
history of her gout, admiring how it was possible that she, whose fathers
and mothers for many generations had been farmers in Lammermuir, could
have come by a disorder so totally unknown to them. Jeanie did not choose
to offend her friendly landlady, by speaking her mind on the probable
origin of this complaint; but she thought on the flesh-pots of Egypt,
and, in spite of all entreaties to better fare, made her evening meal
upon vegetables, with a glass of fair water.
Mrs. Bickerton assured her, that the acceptance of any reckoning was
entirely out of the question, furnished her with credentials to her
correspondent in London, and to several inns upon the road where she had
some influence or interest, reminded her of the precautions she should
adopt for concealing her money, and as she was to depart early in the
morning, took leave of her very affectionately, taking her word that she
would visit her on her return to Scotland, and tell her how she had
managed, and that summum bonum for a gossip, "all how and about it." This
Jeanie faithfully promised.
And Need and Misery, Vice and Danger, bind,
In sad alliance, each degraded mind.
As our traveller set out early on the ensuing morning to prosecute her
journey, and was in the act of leaving the innyard, Dick Ostler, who
either had risen early or neglected to go to bed, either circumstance
being equally incident to his calling, hollowed out after her,--"The top
of the morning to you, Moggie. Have a care o' Gunderby Hill, young one.
Robin Hood's dead and gwone, but there be takers yet in the vale of
Bever. Jeanie looked at him as if to request a farther explanation, but,
with a leer, a shuffle, and a shrug, inimitable (unless by Emery*), Dick
turned again to the raw-boned steed which he was currying, and sung as he
employed the comb and brush,--
"Robin Hood was a yeoman right good,
And his bow was of trusty yew;
And if Robin said stand on the king's lea-land,
Pray, why should not we say so too?"
* [John Emery, an eminent comedian, played successfully at Covent Garden
Theatre between 1798 and 1820. Among his characters, were those of Dandie
Dinmont in /Guy Mannering,/ Dougal in /Rob Roy,/ and Ratcliffe in the
Heart of /Mid-Lothian./]
Jeanie pursued her journey without farther inquiry, for there was nothing
in Dick's manner that inclined her to prolong their conference. A painful
day's journey brought her to Ferrybridge, the best inn, then and since,
upon the great northern road; and an introduction from Mrs. Bickerton,
added to her own simple and quiet manners, so propitiated the landlady of
the Swan in her favour, that the good dame procured her the convenient
accommodation of a pillion and post-horse then returning to Tuxford, so
that she accomplished, upon the second day after leaving York, the
longest journey she had yet made. She was a good deal fatigued by a mode
of travelling to which she was less accustomed than to walking, and it
was considerably later than usual on the ensuing morning that she felt
herself able to resume her pilgrimage. At noon the hundred-armed Trent,
and the blackened ruins of Newark Castle, demolished in the great civil
war, lay before her. It may easily be supposed, that Jeanie had no
curiosity to make antiquarian researches, but, entering the town, went
straight to the inn to which she had been directed at Ferrybridge. While
she procured some refreshment, she observed the girl who brought it to
her, looked at her several times with fixed and peculiar interest, and at
last, to her infinite surprise, inquired if her name was not Deans, and
if she was not a Scotchwoman, going to London upon justice business.
Jeanie, with all her simplicity of character, had some of the caution of
her country, and, according to Scottish universal custom, she answered
the question by another, requesting the girl would tell her why she asked
The Maritornes of the Saracen's Head, Newark, replied, "Two women had
passed that morning, who had made inquiries after one Jeanie Deans,
travelling to London on such an errand, and could scarce be persuaded
that she had not passed on."
Much surprised and somewhat alarmed (for what is inexplicable is usually
alarming), Jeanie questioned the wench about the particular appearance of
these two women, but could only learn that the one was aged, and the
other young; that the latter was the taller, and that the former spoke
most, and seemed to maintain an authority over her companion, and that
both spoke with the Scottish accent.
This conveyed no information whatever, and with an indescribable
presentiment of evil designed towards her, Jeanie adopted the resolution
of taking post-horses for the next stage. In this, however, she could not
be gratified; some accidental circumstances had occasioned what is called
a run upon the road, and the landlord could not accommodate her with a
guide and horses. After waiting some time, in hopes that a pair of horses
that had gone southward would return in time for her use, she at length,
feeling ashamed at her own pusillanimity, resolved to prosecute her
journey in her usual manner.
"It was all plain road," she was assured, "except a high mountain called
Gunnerby Hill, about three miles from Grantham, which was her stage for
"I'm glad to hear there's a hill," said Jeanie, "for baith my sight and
my very feet are weary o' sic tracts o' level ground--it looks a' the way
between this and York as if a' the land had been trenched and levelled,
whilk is very wearisome to my Scotch een. When I lost sight of a muckle
blue hill they ca' Ingleboro', I thought I hadna a friend left in this
"As for the matter of that, young woman," said mine host, "an you be so
fond o' hill, I carena an thou couldst carry Gunnerby away with thee in
thy lap, for it's a murder to post-horses. But here's to thy journey, and
mayst thou win well through it, for thou is a bold and a canny lass."
So saying, he took a powerful pull at a solemn tankard of home-brewed
"I hope there is nae bad company on the road, sir?" said Jeanie.
"Why, when it's clean without them I'll thatch Groby pool wi' pancakes.
But there arena sae mony now; and since they hae lost Jim the Rat, they
hold together no better than the men of Marsham when they lost their
common. Take a drop ere thou goest," he concluded, offering her the
tankard; "thou wilt get naething at night save Grantham gruel, nine grots
and a gallon of water."
Jeanie courteously declined the tankard, and inquired what was her
"Thy lawing! Heaven help thee, wench! what ca'st thou that?"
"It is--I was wanting to ken what was to pay," replied Jeanie.
"Pay? Lord help thee!--why nought, woman--we hae drawn no liquor but a
gill o' beer, and the Saracen's Head can spare a mouthful o' meat to a
stranger like o' thee, that cannot speak Christian language. So here's to
thee once more. The same again, quoth Mark of Bellgrave," and he took
another profound pull at the tankard.
The travellers who have visited Newark more lately, will not fail to
remember the remarkably civil and gentlemanly manners of the person who
now keeps the principal inn there, and may find some amusement in
contrasting them with those of his more rough predecessor. But we believe
it will he found that the polish has worn off none of the real worth of
Taking leave of her Lincolnshire Gaius, Jeanie resumed her solitary walk,
and was somewhat alarmed when evening and twilight overtook her in the
open ground which extends to the foot of Gunnerby Hill, and is
intersected with patches of copse and with swampy spots. The extensive
commons on the north road, most of which are now enclosed, and in general
a relaxed state of police, exposed the traveller to a highway robbery in
a degree which is now unknown, except in the immediate vicinity of the
metropolis. Aware of this circumstance, Jeanie mended her pace when she
heard the trampling of a horse behind, and instinctively drew to one side
of the road, as if to allow as much room for the rider to pass as might
be possible. When the animal came up, she found that it was bearing two
women, the one placed on a side-saddle, the other on a pillion behind
her, as may still occasionally be seen in England.
"A braw good-night to ye, Jeanie Deans," said the foremost female as the
horse passed our heroine; "What think ye o' yon bonny hill yonder,
lifting its brow to the moon? Trow ye yon's the gate to heaven, that ye
are sae fain of?--maybe we will win there the night yet, God sain us,
though our minny here's rather dreigh in the upgang."
The speaker kept changing her seat in the saddle, and half stopping the
horse as she brought her body round, while the woman that sate behind her
on the pillion seemed to urge her on, in words which Jeanie heard but
"Hand your tongue, ye moon-raised b----! what is your business with ----,
or with heaven or hell either?"
"Troth, mither, no muckle wi' heaven, I doubt, considering wha I carry
ahint me--and as for hell, it will fight its ain battle at its ain time,
I'se be bound.--Come, naggie, trot awa, man, an as thou wert a
broomstick, for a witch rides thee--
With my curtch on my foot, and my shoe on my hand,
I glance like the wildfire through brugh and through land."
The tramp of the horse, and the increasing distance, drowned the rest of
her song, but Jeanie heard for some time the inarticulate sounds ring
along the waste.
Our pilgrim remained stupified with undefined apprehensions. The being
named by her name in so wild a manner, and in a strange country, without
farther explanation or communing, by a person who thus strangely flitted
forward and disappeared before her, came near to the supernatural sounds
The airy tongues, which syllable men's names
On sands, and shores, and desert wildernesses.
And although widely different in features, deportment, and rank, from the
Lady of that enchanting masque, the continuation of the passage may be
happily applied to Jeanie Deans upon this singular alarm:--
These thoughts may startle well, but not astound
The virtuous mind, that ever walks attended
By a strong siding champion--Conscience.
In fact, it was, with the recollection of the affectionate and dutiful
errand on which she was engaged, her right, if such a word could be
applicable, to expect protection in a task so meritorious. She had not
advanced much farther, with a mind calmed by these reflections, when she
was disturbed by a new and more instant subject of terror. Two men, who
had been lurking among some copse, started up as she advanced, and met
her on the road in a menacing manner. "Stand and deliver," said one of
them, a short stout fellow, in a smock-frock, such as are worn by
"The woman," said the other, a tall thin figure, "does not understand the
words of action.--Your money, my precious, or your life."
"I have but very little money, gentlemen," said poor Jeanie, tendering
that portion which she had separated from her principal stock, and kept
apart for such an emergency; "but if you are resolved to have it, to be
sure you must have it."
"This won't do, my girl. D--n me, if it shall pass!" said the shorter
ruffian; "do ye think gentlemen are to hazard their lives on the road to
be cheated in this way? We'll have every farthing you have got, or we
will strip you to the skin, curse me."
His companion, who seemed to have something like compassion for the
horror which Jeanie's countenance now expressed, said, "No, no, Tom, this
is one of the precious sisters, and we'll take her word, for once,
without putting her to the stripping proof--Hark ye, my lass, if ye look
up to heaven, and say, this is the last penny you have about ye, why,
hang it, we'll let you pass."
"I am not free," answered Jeanie, "to say what I have about me,
gentlemen, for there's life and death depends on my journey; but if you
leave me as much as finds me bread and water, I'll be satisfied, and
thank you, and pray for you."
"D--n your prayers!" said the shorter fellow, "that's a coin that won't
pass with us;" and at the same time made a motion to seize her.
"Stay, gentlemen," Ratcliffe's pass suddenly occurring to her; "perhaps
you know this paper."
"What the devil is she after now, Frank?" said the more savage ruffian--
"Do you look at it, for, d--n me if I could read it if it were for the
benefit of my clergy."
"This is a jark from Jim Ratcliffe," said the taller, having looked at
the bit of paper. "The wench must pass by our cutter's law."
"I say no," answered his companion; "Rat has left the lay, and turned
bloodhound, they say."
"We may need a good turn from him all the same," said the taller ruffian
"But what are we to do then?" said the shorter man--"We promised, you
know, to strip the wench, and send her begging back to her own beggarly
country, and now you are for letting her go on."
"I did not say that," said the other fellow, and whispered to his
companion, who replied, "Be alive about it then, and don't keep
chattering till some travellers come up to nab us."
"You must follow us off the road, young woman," said the taller.
"For the love of God!" exclaimed Jeanie, "as you were born of woman,
dinna ask me to leave the road! rather take all I have in the world."
"What the devil is the wench afraid of?" said the other fellow. "I tell
you you shall come to no harm; but if you will not leave the road and
come with us, d--n me, but I'll beat your brains out where you stand."
"Thou art a rough bear, Tom," said his companion.--"An ye touch her, I'll
give ye a shake by the collar shall make the Leicester beans rattle in
thy guts.--Never mind him, girl; I will not allow him to lay a finger on
you, if you walk quietly on with us; but if you keep jabbering there,
d--n me, but I'll leave him to settle it with you."
This threat conveyed all that is terrible to the imagination of poor
Jeanie, who saw in him that "was of milder mood" her only protection from
the most brutal treatment. She, therefore, not only followed him, but
even held him by the sleeve, lest he should escape from her; and the
fellow, hardened as he was, seemed something touched by these marks of
confidence, and repeatedly assured her, that he would suffer her to
receive no harm.
They conducted their prisoner in a direction leading more and more from
the public road, but she observed that they kept a sort of track or
by-path, which relieved her from part of her apprehensions, which would
have been greatly increased had they not seemed to follow a determined
and ascertained route. After about half-an-hour's walking, all three in
profound silence, they approached an old barn, which stood on the edge of
some cultivated ground, but remote from everything like a habitation. It
was itself, however, tenanted, for there was light in the windows.
One of the footpads scratched at the door, which was opened by a female,
and they entered with their unhappy prisoner. An old woman, who was
preparing food by the assistance of a stifling fire of lighted charcoal,
asked them, in the name of the devil, what they brought the wench there
for, and why they did not strip her and turn her abroad on the common?
"Come, come, Mother Blood," said the tall man, "we'll do what's right to
oblige you, and we'll do no more; we are bad enough, but not such as you
would make us,--devils incarnate."
"She has got a jark from Jim Ratcliffe," said the short fellow, "and
Frank here won't hear of our putting her through the mill."
"No, that I will not, by G--d!" answered Frank; "but if old Mother Blood
could keep her here for a little while, or send her back to Scotland,
without hurting her, why, I see no harm in that--not I."
"I'll tell you what, Frank Levitt," said the old woman, "if you call me
Mother Blood again, I'll paint this gully" (and she held a knife up as if
about to make good her threat) "in the best blood in your body, my bonny
"The price of ointment must be up in the north," said Frank, "that puts
Mother Blood so much out of humour."
Without a moment's hesitation the fury darted her knife at him with the
vengeful dexterity of a wild Indian. As he was on his guard, he avoided
the missile by a sudden motion of his head, but it whistled past his ear,
and stuck deep in the clay wall of a partition behind.
"Come, come, mother," said the robber, seizing her by both wrists, "I
shall teach you who's master;" and so saying, he forced the hag backwards
by main force, who strove vehemently until she sunk on a bunch of straw,
and then, letting go her hands, he held up his finger towards her in the
menacing posture by which a maniac is intimidated by his keeper. It
appeared to produce the desired effect; for she did not attempt to rise
from the seat on which he had placed her, or to resume any measures of
actual violence, but wrung her withered hands with impotent rage, and
brayed and howled like a demoniac.
"I will keep my promise with you, you old devil," said Frank; "the wench
shall not go forward on the London road, but I will not have you touch a
hair of her head, if it were but for your insolence."
This intimation seemed to compose in some degree the vehement passion of
the old hag; and while her exclamations and howls sunk into a low,
maundering, growling tone of voice, another personage was added to this
"Eh, Frank Levitt," said this new-comer, who entered with a hop, step,
and jump, which at once conveyed her from the door into the centre of the
party, "were ye killing our mother? or were ye cutting the grunter's
weasand that Tam brought in this morning? or have ye been reading your
prayers backward, to bring up my auld acquaintance the deil amang ye?"
The tone of the speaker was so particular, that Jeanie immediately
recognised the woman who had rode foremost of the pair which passed her
just before she met the robbers; a circumstance which greatly increased
her terror, as it served to show that the mischief designed against her
was premeditated, though by whom, or for what cause, she was totally at a
loss to conjecture. From the style of her conversation, the reader also
may probably acknowledge in this female an old acquaintance in the
earlier part of our narrative.
"Out, ye mad devil!" said Tom, whom she had disturbed in the middle of a
draught of some liquor with which he had found means of accommodating
himself; "betwixt your Bess of Bedlam pranks, and your dam's frenzies, a
man might live quieter in the devil's ken than here."--And he again
resumed the broken jug out of which he had been drinking.
"And wha's this o't?" said the mad woman, dancing up to Jeanie Deans,
who, although in great terror, yet watched the scene with a resolution to
let nothing pass unnoticed which might be serviceable in assisting her to
escape, or informing her as to the true nature of her situation, and the
danger attending it,--"Wha's this o't?" again exclaimed Madge Wildfire.
"Douce Davie Deans, the auld doited whig body's daughter, in a gipsy's
barn, and the night setting in? This is a sight for sair een!--Eh, sirs,
the falling off o' the godly!--and the t'other sister's in the Tolbooth
of Edinburgh; I am very sorry for her, for my share--it's my mother
wusses ill to her, and no me--though maybe I hae as muckle cause."
"Hark ye, Madge," said the taller ruffian, "you have not such a touch of
the devil's blood as the hag your mother, who may be his dam for what I
know--take this young woman to your kennel, and do not let the devil
enter, though he should ask in God's name."
"Ou ay; that I will, Frank," said Madge, taking hold of Jeanie by the
arm, and pulling her along; "for it's no for decent Christian young
leddies, like her and me, to be keeping the like o' you and Tyburn Tam
company at this time o' night. Sae gude-e'en t'ye, sirs, and mony o'
them; and may ye a' sleep till the hangman wauken ye, and then it will be
weel for the country."
She then, as her wild fancy seemed suddenly to prompt her, walked
demurely towards her mother, who, seated by the charcoal fire, with the
reflection of the red light on her withered and distorted features marked
by every evil passion, seemed the very picture of Hecate at her infernal
rites; and, suddenly dropping on her knees, said, with the manner of a
six years' old child, "Mammie, hear me say my prayers before I go to bed,
and say God bless my bonny face, as ye used to do lang syne."
"The deil flay the hide o' it to sole his brogues wi'!" said the old
lady, aiming a buffet at the supplicant, in answer to her duteous
The blow missed Madge, who, being probably acquainted by experience with
the mode in which her mother was wont to confer her maternal
benedictions, slipt out of arm's length with great dexterity and
quickness. The hag then started up, and, seizing a pair of old
fire-tongs, would have amended her motion, by beating out the brains
either of her daughter or Jeanie (she did not seem greatly to care
which), when her hand was once more arrested by the man whom they called
Frank Levitt, who, seizing her by the shoulder, flung her from him with
great violence, exclaiming, "What, Mother Damnable--again, and in my
sovereign presence!--Hark ye, Madge of Bedlam! get to your hole with your
playfellow, or we shall have the devil to pay here, and nothing to pay
Madge took Levitt's advice, retreating as fast as she could, and dragging
Jeanie along with her into a sort of recess, partitioned off from the
rest of the barn, and filled with straw, from which it appeared that it
was intended for the purpose of slumber. The moonlight shone, through an
open hole, upon a pillion, a pack-saddle, and one or two wallets, the
travelling furniture of Madge and her amiable mother.--"Now, saw ye e'er
in your life," said Madge, "sae dainty a chamber of deas? see as the moon
shines down sae caller on the fresh strae! There's no a pleasanter cell
in Bedlam, for as braw a place as it is on the outside.--Were ye ever in
"No," answered Jeanie faintly, appalled by the question, and the way in
which it was put, yet willing to soothe her insane companion, being in
circumstances so unhappily precarious, that even the society of this
gibbering madwoman seemed a species of protection.
"Never in Bedlam?" said Madge, as if with some surprise.--"But ye'll hae
been in the cells at Edinburgh!"
"Never," repeated Jeanie.
"Weel, I think thae daft carles the magistrates send naebody to Bedlam
but me--thae maun hae an unco respect for me, for whenever I am brought
to them, thae aye hae me back to Bedlam. But troth, Jeanie" (she said
this in a very confidential tone), "to tell ye my private mind about it,
I think ye are at nae great loss; for the keeper's a cross-patch, and he
maun hae it a' his ain gate, to be sure, or he makes the place waur than
hell. I often tell him he's the daftest in a' the house.--But what are
they making sic a skirling for?--Deil ane o' them's get in here--it wadna
be mensfu'! I will sit wi' my back again the door; it winna be that easy
"Madge!"--"Madge!"--"Madge Wildfire!"--"Madge devil! what have ye done
with the horse?" was repeatedly asked by the men without.
"He's e'en at his supper, puir thing," answered Madge; "deil an ye were
at yours, too, an it were scauding brimstone, and then we wad hae less o'
"His supper!" answered the more sulky ruffian--"What d'ye mean by that!--
Tell me where he is, or I will knock your Bedlam brains out!"
"He's in Gaffer Gablewood's wheat-close, an ye maun ken."
"His wheat-close, you crazed jilt!" answered the other, with an accent of
"O, dear Tyburn Tam, man, what ill will the blades of the young wheat do
to the puir nag?"
"That is not the question," said the other robber; "but what the country
will say to us to-morrow, when they see him in such quarters?--Go, Tom,
and bring him in; and avoid the soft ground, my lad; leave no hoof-track
"I think you give me always the fag of it, whatever is to be done,"
grumbled his companion.
"Leap, Laurence, you're long enough," said the other; and the fellow left
the barn accordingly, without farther remonstrance.
In the meanwhile, Madge had arranged herself for repose on the straw; but
still in a half-sitting posture, with her back resting against the door
of the hovel, which, as it opened inwards, was in this manner kept shut
by the weight of the person.
"There's mair shifts by stealing, Jeanie," said Madge Wildfire; "though
whiles I can hardly get our mother to think sae. Wha wad hae thought but
mysell of making a bolt of my ain back-bane? But it's no sae strong as
thae that I hae seen in the Tolbooth at Edinburgh. The hammermen of
Edinburgh are to my mind afore the warld for making stancheons,
ring-bolts, fetter-bolts, bars, and locks. And they arena that bad at
girdles for carcakes neither, though the Cu'ross hammermen have the gree
for that. My mother had ance a bonny Cu'ross girdle, and I thought to
have baked carcakes on it for my puir wean that's dead and gane nae fair
way--But we maun a' dee, ye ken, Jeanie--You Cameronian bodies ken that
brawlies; and ye're for making a hell upon earth that ye may be less
unwillin' to part wi' it. But as touching Bedlam that ye were speaking
about, I'se ne'er recommend it muckle the tae gate or the other, be it
right--be it wrang. But ye ken what the sang says." And, pursuing the
unconnected and floating wanderings of her mind, she sung aloud--
"In the bonny cells of Bedlam,
Ere I was ane-and-twenty,
I had hempen bracelets strong,
And merry whips, ding-dong,
And prayer and fasting plenty.
"Weel, Jeanie, I am something herse the night, and I canna sing muckle
mair; and troth, I think, I am gaun to sleep."
She drooped her head on her breast, a posture from which Jeanie, who
would have given the world for an opportunity of quiet to consider the
means and the probability of her escape, was very careful not to disturb
her. After nodding, however, for a minute'or two, with her eyes
half-closed, the unquiet and restless spirit of her malady again assailed
Madge. She raised her head, and spoke, but with a lowered tone, which was
again gradually overcome by drowsiness, to which the fatigue of a day's
journey on horseback had probably given unwonted occasion,--"I dinna ken
what makes me sae sleepy--I amaist never sleep till my bonny Lady Moon
gangs till her bed--mair by token, when she's at the full, ye ken, rowing
aboon us yonder in her grand silver coach--I have danced to her my lane
sometimes for very joy--and whiles dead folk came and danced wi' me--the
like o' Jock Porteous, or ony body I had ken'd when I was living--for ye
maun ken I was ance dead mysell." Here the poor maniac sung, in a low and
"My banes are buried in yon kirkyard
Sae far ayont the sea,
And it is but my blithesome ghaist
That's speaking now to thee.
"But after a', Jeanie, my woman, naebody kens weel wha's living and wha's
dead--or wha's gone to Fairyland--there's another question. Whiles I
think my puir bairn's dead--ye ken very weel it's buried--but that
signifies naething. I have had it on my knee a hundred times, and a
hundred till that, since it was buried--and how could that be were it
dead, ye ken?--it's merely impossible."--And here, some conviction
half-overcoming the reveries of her imagination, she burst into a fit of
crying and ejaculation, "Wae's me! wae's me! wae's me!" till at length
she moaned and sobbed herself into a deep sleep, which was soon intimated
by her breathing hard, leaving Jeanie to her own melancholy reflections
Bind her quickly; or, by this steel,
I'll tell, although I truss for company.
The imperfect light which shone into the window enabled Jeanie to see
that there was scarcely any chance of making her escape in that
direction; for the aperture was high in the wall, and so narrow, that,
could she have climbed up to it, she might well doubt whether it would
have permitted her to pass her body through it. An unsuccessful attempt
to escape would be sure to draw down worse treatment than she now
received, and she, therefore, resolved to watch her opportunity carefully
ere making such a perilous effort. For this purpose she applied herself
to the ruinous clay partition, which divided the hovel in which she now
was from the rest of the waste barn. It was decayed and full of cracks
and chinks, one of which she enlarged with her fingers, cautiously and
without noise, until she could obtain a plain view of the old hag and the
taller ruffian, whom they called Levitt, seated together beside the
decayed fire of charcoal, and apparently engaged in close conference. She
was at first terrified by the sight; for the features of the old woman
had a hideous cast of hardened and inveterate malice and ill-humour, and
those of the man, though naturally less unfavourable, were such as
corresponded well with licentious habits, and a lawless profession.
"But I remembered," said Jeanie, "my worthy fathers tales of a winter
evening, how he was confined with the blessed martyr, Mr. James Renwick,
who lifted up the fallen standard of the true reformed Kirk of Scotland,
after the worthy and renowned Daniel Cameron, our last blessed
banner-man, had fallen among the swords of the wicked at Airsmoss, and
how the very hearts of the wicked malefactors and murderers, whom they
were confined withal, were melted like wax at the sound of their
doctrine: and I bethought mysell, that the same help that was wi' them in
their strait, wad be wi' me in mine, an I could but watch the Lord's time
and opportunity for delivering my feet from their snare; and I minded the
Scripture of the blessed Psalmist, whilk he insisteth on, as weel in the
forty-second as in the forty-third psalm--'Why art thou cast down, O my
soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet
praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.'"
Strengthened in a mind naturally calm, sedate, and firm, by the influence
of religious confidence, this poor captive was enabled to attend to, and
comprehend, a great part of an interesting conversation which passed
betwixt those into whose hands she had fallen, notwithstanding that their
meaning was partly disguised by the occasional use of cant terms, of
which Jeanie knew not the import, by the low tone in which they spoke,
and by their mode of supplying their broken phrases by shrugs and signs,
as is usual amongst those of their disorderly profession.
The man opened the conversation by saying, "Now, dame, you see I am true
to my friend. I have not forgot that you /planked a chury,/* which helped
me through the bars of the Castle of York, and I came to do your work
without asking questions; for one good turn deserves another.
* Concealed a knife.
But now that Madge, who is as loud as Tom of Lincoln, is somewhat still,
and this same Tyburn Neddie is shaking his heels after the old nag, why,
you must tell me what all this is about, and what's to be done--for d--n
me if I touch the girl, or let her be touched, and she with Jim Rat's
"Thou art an honest lad, Frank," answered the old woman, "but e'en too
good for thy trade; thy tender heart will get thee into trouble. I will
see ye gang up Holborn Hill backward, and a' on the word of some silly
loon that could never hae rapped to ye had ye drawn your knife across his
"You may be balked there, old one," answered the robber; "I have known
many a pretty lad cut short in his first summer upon the road, because he
was something hasty with his flats and sharps. Besides, a man would fain
live out his two years with a good conscience. So, tell me what all this
is about, and what's to be done for you that one can do decently?"
"Why, you must know, Frank--but first taste a snap of right Hollands."
She drew a flask from her pocket, and filled the fellow a large bumper,
which he pronounced to be the right thing.--"You must know, then, Frank--
wunna ye mend your hand?" again offering the flask.
"No, no,--when a woman wants mischief from you, she always begins by
filling you drunk. D--n all Dutch courage. What I do I will do soberly--
I'll last the longer for that too."
"Well, then, you must know," resumed the old woman, without any further
attempts at propitiation, "that this girl is going to London."
Here Jeanie could only distinguish the word sister.
The robber answered in a louder tone, "Fair enough that; and what the
devil is your business with it?"
"Business enough, I think. If the b--queers the noose, that silly cull
will marry her."
"And who cares if he does?" said the man.
"Who cares, ye donnard Neddie! I care; and I will strangle her with my
own hands, rather than she should come to Madge's preferment."
"Madge's preferment! Does your old blind eyes see no farther than that?
If he is as you say, dye think he'll ever marry a moon-calf like Madge?
Ecod, that's a good one--Marry Madge Wildfire!--Ha! ha! ha!"
"Hark ye, ye crack-rope padder, born beggar, and bred thief!" replied the
hag, "suppose he never marries the wench, is that a reason he should
marry another, and that other to hold my daughter's place, and she
crazed, and I a beggar, and all along of him? But I know that of him will
hang him--I know that of him will hang him, if he had a thousand lives--I
know that of him will hang--hang--hang him!"
She grinned as she repeated and dwelt upon the fatal monosyllable, with
the emphasis of a vindictive fiend.
"Then why don't you hang--hang--hang him?" said Frank, repeating her
words contemptuously. "There would be more sense in that, than in
wreaking yourself here upon two wenches that have done you and your
daughter no ill."
"No ill?" answered the old woman--"and he to marry this jail-bird, if
ever she gets her foot loose!"
"But as there is no chance of his marrying a bird of your brood, I
cannot, for my soul, see what you have to do with all this," again
replied the robber, shrugging his shoulders. "Where there is aught to be
got, I'll go as far as my neighbours, but I hate mischief for mischiefs
"And would you go nae length for revenge?" said the hag--"for revenge--
the sweetest morsel to the mouth that over was cooked in hell!"
"The devil may keep it for his own eating, then," said the robber; "for
hang me if I like the sauce he dresses it with."
"Revenge!" continued the old woman; "why, it is the best reward the devil
gives us for our time here and hereafter. I have wrought hard for it--I
have suffered for it--and I have sinned for it--and I will have it,--or
there is neither justice in heaven or in hell!"
Levitt had by this time lighted a pipe, and was listening with great
composure to the frantic and vindictive ravings of the old hag. He was
too much, hardened by his course of life to be shocked with them--too
indifferent, and probably too stupid, to catch any part of their
animation or energy. "But, mother," he said, after a pause, "still I say,
that if revenge is your wish, you should take it on the young fellow
"I wish I could," she said, drawing in her breath, with the eagerness of
a thirsty person while mimicking the action of drinking--"I wish I could
--but no--I cannot--I cannot."
"And why not?--You would think little of peaching and hanging him for
this Scotch affair.--Rat me, one might have milled the Bank of England,
and less noise about it."
"I have nursed him at this withered breast," answered the old woman,
folding her hands on her bosom, as if pressing an infant to it, "and,
though he has proved an adder to me--though he has been the destruction
of me and mine--though he has made me company for the devil, if there be
a devil, and food for hell, if there be such a place, yet I cannot take
his life.--No, I cannot," she continued, with an appearance of rage
against herself; "I have thought of it--I have tried it--but, Francis
Levitt, I canna gang through wi't--Na, na--he was the first bairn I ever
nurst--ill I had been--and man can never ken what woman feels for the
bairn she has held first to her bosom!"
"To be sure," said Levitt, "we have no experience; but, mother, they say
you ha'n't been so kind to other bairns, as you call them, that have come
in your way.--Nay, d--n me, never lay your hand on the whittle, for I am
captain and leader here, and I will have no rebellion."
The hag, whose first motion had been, upon hearing the question, to grasp
the haft of a large knife, now unclosed her hand, stole it away from the
weapon, and suffered it to fall by her side, while she proceeded with a
sort of smile--"Bairns! ye are joking, lad--wha wad touch bairns? Madge,
puir thing, had a misfortune wi' ane--and the t'other"--Here her voice
sunk so much, that Jeanie, though anxiously upon the watch, could not
catch a word she said, until she raised her tone at the conclusion of the
sentence--"So Madge, in her daffin', threw it into the Nor'-lock, I
Madge, whose slumbers, like those of most who labour under mental malady,
had been short, and were easily broken, now made herself heard from her
place of repose.
"Indeed, mother, that's a great lie, for I did nae sic thing."
"Hush, thou hellicat devil," said her mother--"By Heaven! the other wench
will be waking too."
"That may be dangerous," said Frank; and he rose, and followed Meg
Murdockson across the floor.
"Rise," said the hag to her daughter, "or I sall drive the knife between
the planks into the Bedlam back of thee!"
Apparently she at the same time seconded her threat by pricking her with
the point of a knife, for Madge, with a faint scream, changed her place,
and the door opened.
The old woman held a candle in one hand, and a knife in the other. Levitt
appeared behind her, whether with a view of preventing, or assisting her
in any violence she might meditate, could not be well guessed. Jeanie's
presence of mind stood her friend in this dreadful crisis. She had
resolution enough to maintain the attitude and manner of one who sleeps
profoundly, and to regulate even her breathing, notwithstanding the
agitation of instant terror, so as to correspond with her attitude.
The old woman passed the light across her eyes; and although Jeanie's
fears were so powerfully awakened by this movement, that she often
declared afterwards, that she thought she saw the figures of her destined
murderers through her closed eyelids, she had still the resolution to
maintain the feint, on which her safety perhaps depended.
Levitt looked at her with fixed attention; he then turned the old woman
out of the place, and followed her himself. Having regained the outward
apartment, and seated themselves, Jeanie heard the highwayman say, to her
no small relief, "She's as fast as if she were in Bedfordshire.--Now, old
Meg, d--n me if I can understand a glim of this story of yours, or what
good it will do you to hang the one wench and torment the other; but, rat
me, I will be true to my friend, and serve ye the way ye like it. I see
it will be a bad job; but I do think I could get her down to Surfleet on
the Wash, and so on board Tom Moonshine's neat lugger, and keep her out
of the way three or four weeks, if that will please ye--But d--n me if
any one shall harm her, unless they have a mind to choke on a brace of
blue plums.--It's a cruel, bad job, and I wish you and it, Meg, were both
at the devil."
"Never mind, hinny Levitt," said the old woman; "you are a ruffler, and
will have a' your ain gate--She shanna gang to heaven an hour sooner for
me; I carena whether she live or die--it's her sister--ay, her sister!"
"Well, we'll say no more about it; I hear Tom coming in. We'll couch a
hogshead,* and so better had you."
* Lay ourselves down to sleep.
They retired to repose accordingly, and all was silent in this asylum of
Jeanie lay for a long time awake. At break of day she heard the two
ruffians leave the barn, after whispering to the old woman for some time.
The sense that she was now guarded by persons of her own sex gave her
some confidence, and irresistible lassitude at length threw her into
When the captive awakened, the sun was high in heaven, and the morning
considerably advanced. Madge Wildfire was still in the hovel which had
served them for the night, and immediately bid her good-morning, with her
usual air of insane glee. "And dye ken, lass," said Madge, "there's queer
things chanced since ye hae been in the land of Nod. The constables hae
been here, woman, and they met wi' my minnie at the door, and they
whirl'd her awa to the Justice's about the man's wheat.--Dear! thae
English churls think as muckle about a blade of wheat or grass, as a
Scotch laird does about his maukins and his muir-poots. Now, lass, if ye
like, we'll play them a fine jink; we will awa out and take a walk--they
will mak unco wark when they miss us, but we can easily be back by dinner
time, or before dark night at ony rate, and it will be some frolic and
fresh air.--But maybe ye wad like to take some breakfast, and then lie
down again? I ken by mysell, there's whiles I can sit wi' my head in my
hand the haill day, and havena a word to cast at a dog--and other whiles,
that I canna sit still a moment. That's when the folk think me warst, but
I am aye canny eneugh--ye needna be feared to walk wi' me."
Had Madge Wildfire been the most raging lunatic, instead of possessing a
doubtful, uncertain, and twilight sort of rationality, varying, probably,
from the influence of the most trivial causes, Jeanie would hardly have
objected to leave a place of captivity, where she had so much to
apprehend. She eagerly assured Madge that she had no occasion for further
sleep, no desire whatever for eating; and, hoping internally that she was
not guilty of sin in doing so, she flattered her keeper's crazy humour
for walking in the woods.
"It's no a'thegither for that neither," said poor Madge; "but I am
judging ye will wun the better out o' thae folk's hands; no that they are
a'thegither bad folk neither, but they have queer ways wi' them, and I
whiles dinna think it has ever been weel wi' my mother and me since we
kept sic-like company."
With the haste, the joy, the fear, and the hope of a liberated captive,
Jeanie snatched up her little bundle, followed Madge into the free air,
and eagerly looked round her for a human habitation; but none was to be
seen. The ground was partly cultivated, and partly left in its natural
state, according as the fancy of the slovenly agriculturists had decided.
In its natural state it was waste, in some places covered with dwarf
trees and bushes, in others swamp, and elsewhere firm and dry downs or
Jeanie's active mind next led her to conjecture which way the high-road
lay, whence she had been forced. If she regained that public road, she
imagined she must soon meet some person, or arrive at some house, where
she might tell her story, and request protection. But, after a glance
around her, she saw with regret that she had no means whatever of
directing her course with any degree of certainty, and that she was still
in dependence upon her crazy companion. "Shall we not walk upon the
high-road?" said she to Madge, in such a tone as a nurse uses to coax a
child. "It's brawer walking on the road than amang thae wild bushes and
Madge, who was walking very fast, stopped at this question, and looked at
Jeanie with a sudden and scrutinising glance, that seemed to indicate
complete acquaintance with her purpose. "Aha, lass!" she exclaimed, "are
ye gaun to guide us that gate?--Ye'll be for making your heels save your
head, I am judging."
Jeanie hesitated for a moment, on hearing her companion thus express
herself, whether she had not better take the hint, and try to outstrip
and get rid of her. But she knew not in which direction to fly; she was
by no means sure that she would prove the swiftest, and perfectly
conscious that in the event of her being pursued and overtaken, she would
be inferior to the madwoman in strength. She therefore gave up thoughts
for the present of attempting to escape in that manner, and, saying a few
words to allay Madge's suspicions, she followed in anxious apprehension
the wayward path by which her guide thought proper to lead her. Madge,
infirm of purpose, and easily reconciled to the present scene, whatever
it was, began soon to talk with her usual diffuseness of ideas.
"It's a dainty thing to be in the woods on a fine morning like this! I
like it far better than the town, for there isna a wheen duddie bairns to
be crying after ane, as if ane were a warld's wonder, just because ane
maybe is a thought bonnier and better put-on than their neighbours--
though, Jeanie, ye suld never be proud o' braw claiths, or beauty
neither--wae's me! they're but a snare--I ance thought better o' them,
and what came o't?"
"Are ye sure ye ken the way ye are taking us?" said Jeanie, who began to
imagine that she was getting deeper into the woods and more remote from
"Do I ken the road?--Wasna I mony a day living here, and what for
shouldna I ken the road? I might hae forgotten, too, for it was afore my
accident; but there are some things ane can never forget, let them try it
as muckle as they like."
By this time they had gained the deepest part of a patch of woodland. The
trees were a little separated from each other, and at the foot of one of
them, a beautiful poplar, was a hillock of moss, such as the poet of
Grasmere has described. So soon as she arrived at this spot, Madge
Wildfire, joining her hands above her head with a loud scream that
resembled laughter, flung herself all at once upon the spot, and remained
lying there motionless.
Jeanie's first idea was to take the opportunity of flight; but her desire
to escape yielded for a moment to apprehension for the poor insane being,
who, she thought, might perish for want of relief. With an effort, which
in her circumstances, might be termed heroic, she stooped down, spoke in
a soothing tone, and endeavoured to raise up the forlorn creature. She
effected this with difficulty, and as she placed her against the tree in
a sitting posture, she observed with surprise, that her complexion,
usually florid, was now deadly pale, and that her face was bathed in
tears. Notwithstanding her own extreme danger, Jeanie was affected by the
situation of her companion; and the rather, that, through the whole train
of her wavering and inconsistent state of mind and line of conduct, she
discerned a general colour of kindness towards herself, for which she
"Let me alane!--let me alane!" said the poor young woman, as her paroxysm
of sorrow began to abate--"Let me alane--it does me good to weep. I canna
shed tears but maybe ance or twice a year, and I aye come to wet this
turf with them, that the flowers may grow fair, and the grass may be
"But what is the matter with you?" said Jeanie--"Why do you weep so
"There's matter enow," replied the lunatic,--"mair than ae puir mind can
bear, I trow. Stay a bit, and I'll tell you a' about it; for I like ye,
Jeanie Deans--a'body spoke weel about ye when we lived in the Pleasaunts
--And I mind aye the drink o' milk ye gae me yon day, when I had been on
Arthur's Seat for four-and-twenty hours, looking for the ship that
somebody was sailing in."
These words recalled to Jeanie's recollection, that, in fact, she had
been one morning much frightened by meeting a crazy young woman near her
father's house at an early hour, and that, as she appeared to be
harmless, her apprehension had been changed into pity, and she had
relieved the unhappy wanderer with some food, which she devoured with the
haste of a famished person. The incident, trifling in itself, was at
present of great importance, if it should be found to have made a
favourable and permanent impression in her favour on the mind of the
object of her charity.
"Yes," said Madge, "I'll tell ye a' about it, for ye are a decent man's
daughter--Douce Davie Deans, ye ken--and maybe ye'll can teach me to find
out the narrow way, and the straight path, for I have been burning bricks
in Egypt, and walking through the weary wilderness of Sinai, for lang and
mony a day. But whenever I think about mine errors, I am like to cover my
lips for shame."--Here she looked up and smiled.--"It's a strange thing
now--I hae spoke mair gude words to you in ten minutes, than I wad speak
to my mother in as mony years--it's no that I dinna think on them--and
whiles they are just at my tongue's end, but then comes the devil, and
brushes my lips with his black wing, and lays his broad black loof on my
mouth--for a black loof it is, Jeanie--and sweeps away a' my gude
thoughts, and dits up my gude words, and pits a wheen fule sangs and idle
vanities in their place."
"Try, Madge," said Jeanie,--"try to settle your mind and make your breast
clean, and you'll find your heart easier.--Just resist the devil, and he
will flee from you--and mind that, as my worthy father tells me, there is
nae devil sae deceitfu' as our ain wandering thoughts."
"And that's true too, lass," said Madge, starting up; "and I'll gang a
gate where the devil daurna follow me; and it's a gate that you will like
dearly to gang--but I'll keep a fast haud o' your arm, for fear Apollyon
should stride across the path, as he did in the Pilgrim's Progress."
Accordingly she got up, and, taking Jeanie by the arm, began to walk
forward at a great pace; and soon, to her companion's no small joy, came
into a marked path, with the meanders of which she seemed perfectly
acquainted. Jeanie endeavoured to bring her back to the confessional, but
the fancy was gone by. In fact, the mind of this deranged being resembled
nothing so much as a quantity of dry leaves, which may for a few minutes
remain still, but are instantly discomposed and put in motion by the
first casual breath of air. She had now got John Bunyan's parable into
her head, to the exclusion of everything else, and on she went with great
"Did ye never read the Pilgrim's Progress? And you shall be the woman,
Christiana, and I will be the maiden, Mercy--for ye ken Mercy was of the
fairer countenance, and the more alluring than her companion--and if I
had my little messan dog here, it would be Great-heart, their guide, ye
ken, for he was e'en as bauld, that he wad bark at ony thing twenty times
his size; and that was e'en the death of him, for he bit Corporal
MacAlpine's heels ae morning when they were hauling me to the
guard-house, and Corporal MacAlpine killed the bit faithfu' thing wi' his
Lochaber axe--deil pike the Highland banes o' him."
"O fie! Madge," said Jeanie, "ye should not speak such words."
"It's very true," said Madge, shaking her head; "but then I maunna think
o' my puir bit doggie, Snap, when I saw it lying dying in the gutter. But
it's just as weel, for it suffered baith cauld and hunger when it was
living, and in the grave there is rest for a' things--rest for the
doggie, and my puir bairn, and me."
"Your bairn?" said Jeanie, conceiving that by speaking on such a topic,
supposing it to be a real one, she could not fail to bring her companion
to a more composed temper.
She was mistaken, however, for Madge coloured, and replied with some
anger, "/My/ bairn? ay, to be sure, my bairn. Whatfor shouldna I hae a
bairn and lose a bairn too, as weel as your bonnie tittie, the Lily of
The answer struck Jeanie with some alarm, and she was anxious to soothe
the irritation she had unwittingly given occasion to. "I am very sorry
for your misfortune"
"Sorry! what wad ye be sorry for?" answered Madge. "The bairn was a
blessing--that is, Jeanie, it wad hae been a blessing if it hadna been
for my mother; but my mother's a queer woman.--Ye see, there was an auld
carle wi' a bit land, and a gude clat o' siller besides, just the very
picture of old Mr. Feeblemind or Mr. Ready-to-halt, that Great-heart
delivered from Slaygood the giant, when he was rifling him and about to
pick his bones, for Slaygood was of the nature of the flesh-eaters--and
Great-heart killed Giant Despair too--but I am doubting Giant Despair's
come alive again, for a' the story book--I find him busy at my heart
"Weel, and so the auld carle," said Jeanie, for she was painfully
interested in getting to the truth of Madge's history, which she could
not but suspect was in some extraordinary way linked and entwined with
the fate of her sister. She was also desirous, if possible, to engage her
companion in some narrative which might be carried on in a lower tone of
voice, for she was in great apprehension lest the elevated notes of
Madge's conversation should direct her mother or the robbers in search of
"And so the auld carle," said Madge, repeating her words--"I wish ye had
seen him stoiting about, aff ae leg on to the other, wi' a kind o'
dot-and-go-one sort o' motion, as if ilk ane o' his twa legs had belanged
to sindry folk--but Gentle George could take him aff brawly--Eh, as I
used to laugh to see George gang hip-hop like him!--I dinna ken, I think
I laughed heartier then than what I do now, though maybe no just sae
"And who was Gentle George?" said Jeanie, endeavouring to bring her back
to her story.
"O, he was Geordie Robertson, ye ken, when he was in Edinburgh; but
that's no his right name neither--His name is--But what is your business
wi' his name?" said she, as if upon sudden recollection, "What have ye to
do asking for folk's names?--Have ye a mind I should scour my knife
between your ribs, as my mother says?"
As this was spoken with a menacing tone and gesture, Jeanie hastened to
protest her total innocence of purpose in the accidental question which
she had asked, and Madge Wildfire went on somewhat pacified.
"Never ask folk's names, Jeanie--it's no civil--I hae seen half-a-dozen
o' folk in my mother's at ance, and ne'er ane a' them ca'd the ither by
his name; and Daddie Ratton says, it is the most uncivil thing may be,
because the bailie bodies are aye asking fashions questions, when ye saw
sic a man, or sic a man; and if ye dinna ken their names, ye ken there
can be nae mair speerd about it."
"In what strange school," thought Jeanie to herself, "has this poor
creature been bred up, where such remote precautions are taken against
the pursuits of justice? What would my father or Reuben Butler think if I
were to tell them there are sic folk in the world? And to abuse the
simplicity of this demented creature! Oh, that I were but safe at hame
amang mine ain leal and true people! and I'll bless God, while I have
breath, that placed me amongst those who live in His fear, and under the
shadow of His wing."
She was interrupted by the insane laugh of Madge Wildfire, as she saw a
magpie hop across the path.
"See there!--that was the gate my auld joe used to cross the country, but
no just sae lightly--he hadna wings to help his auld legs, I trow; but I
behoved to have married him for a' that, Jeanie, or my mother wad hae
been the dead o' me. But then came in the story of my poor bairn, and my
mother thought he wad be deaved wi' it's skirling, and she pat it away in
below the bit bourock of turf yonder, just to be out o' the gate; and I
think she buried my best wits with it, for I have never been just mysell
since. And only think, Jeanie, after my mother had been at a' these
pains, the auld doited body Johnny Drottle turned up his nose, and wadna
hae aught to say to me! But it's little I care for him, for I have led a
merry life ever since, and ne'er a braw gentleman looks at me but ye wad
think he was gaun to drop off his horse for mere love of me. I have ken'd
some o' them put their hand in their pocket, and gie me as muckle as
sixpence at a time, just for my weel-faured face."
This speech gave Jeanie a dark insight into Madge's history. She had been
courted by a wealthy suitor, whose addresses her mother had favoured,
notwithstanding the objection of old age and deformity. She had been
seduced by some profligate, and, to conceal her shame and promote the
advantageous match she had planned, her mother had not hesitated to
destroy the offspring of their intrigue. That the consequence should be
the total derangement of amind which was constitutionally unsettled by
giddiness and vanity, was extremely natural; and such was, in fact, the
history of Madge Wildfire's insanity.
So free from danger, free from fear
They crossed the court--right glad they were.
Pursuing the path which Madge had chosen, Jeanie Deans observed, to her
no small delight, that marks of more cultivation appeared, and the
thatched roofs of houses, with their blue smoke arising in little
columns, were seen embosomed in a tuft of trees at some distance. The
track led in that direction, and Jeanie, therefore, resolved, while Madge
continued to pursue it, that she would ask her no questions; having had
the penetration to observe, that by doing so she ran the risk of
irritating her guide, or awakening suspicions, to the impressions of
which, persons in Madge's unsettled state of mind are particularly
Madge, therefore, uninterrupted, went on with the wild disjointed chat
which her rambling imagination suggested; a mood in which she was much
more communicative respecting her own history, and that of others, than
when there was any attempt made, by direct queries, or cross-
examinations, to extract information on these subjects.
"It's a queer thing," she said, "but whiles I can speak about the bit
bairn and the rest of it, just as if it had been another body's, and no
my ain; and whiles I am like to break my heart about it--Had you ever a
Jeanie replied in the negative.
"Ay; but your sister had, though--and I ken what came o't too."
"In the name of heavenly mercy," said Jeanie, forgetting the line of
conduct which she had hitherto adopted, "tell me but what became of that
unfortunate babe, and"
Madge stopped, looked at her gravely and fixedly, and then broke into a
great fit of laughing--"Aha, lass,--catch me if you can--I think it's
easy to gar you trow ony thing.--How suld I ken onything o' your sister's
wean? Lasses suld hae naething to do wi' weans till they are married--and
then a' the gossips and cummers come in and feast as if it were the
blithest day in the warld.--They say maidens' bairns are weel guided. I
wot that wasna true of your tittie's and mine; but these are sad tales to
tell.--I maun just sing a bit to keep up my heart--It's a sang that
Gentle George made on me lang syne, when I went with him to Lockington
wake, to see him act upon a stage, in fine clothes, with the player folk.
He might hae dune waur than married me that night as he promised--better
wed over the mixen* as over the moor, as they say in Yorkshire--
* A homely proverb, signifying better wed a neighbour than one fetched
from a distance.--Mixen signifies dunghill.
he may gang farther and fare waur--but that's a' ane to the sang,
'I'm Madge of the country, I'm Madge of the town,
And I'm Madge of the lad I am blithest to own--
The Lady of Beeve in diamonds may shine,
But has not a heart half so lightsome as mine.
'I am Queen of the Wake, and I'm Lady of May,
And I lead the blithe ring round the May-pole to-day;
The wildfire that flashes so fair and so free,
Was never so bright, or so bonny, as me.'