Part 4 out of 4
regarding your parentage; I know but little of mine. Nature has written
a mystery on our faces which we need to have explained. When this
campaign is over, we shall inquire concerning it. Farewell for the
present; but we must meet again."
The feelings of the reprieved and unlettered soldier were too strong for
his words to utter; he shook the hand of his deliverer and wept.
A few days after this some sharp fighting took place. The loss of the
British was considerable, and they were compelled to continue their
retreat, leaving their dead, and many of their wounded, exposed, as they
fell behind them. When they again arrived at a halting-place, Lieutenant
Sim sought the regiment to which the soldier who might be termed his
second self belonged. But he was not to be found; and all that he could
learn respecting him was, that, three days before, George Prescot had
been seen fighting bravely, but that he fell covered with wounds, and in
their retreat was left upon the field.
Tears gushed into the eyes of the lieutenant when he heard the tidings.
His singular meeting with the stranger in Devonshire; their mysterious
resemblance to each other; his meeting him again in Holland under
circumstances yet more singular; his saving his life; and the dubious
knowledge which each had respecting their birth and parentage,--all had
sunk deep into his heart, and thoughts of these things chased sleep from
It was but a short time after this that the regiment of Lieutenant Sim
was ordered to India, and he accompanied it; and it was only a few
months after his arrival, when the Governor-General gave an
entertainment at his palace, at which all the military officers around
were present. At table, opposite to Lieutenant Sim, sat a man of middle
age; and, throughout the evening, his eyes remained fixed upon him, and
occasionally seemed filled with tears. He was a colonel in the Company's
service, and a man who, by the force of merit, had acquired wealth and
"I crave your pardon, sir," said he, addressing the lieutenant; "but if
I be not too bold, a few words with you in private would confer a favour
upon me, and if my conjectures be right, will give us both cause to
"You may command me, sir," said the youth.
The colonel rose from the table and left the room, and the lieutenant
rose also and accompanied him. They entered an adjoining apartment. The
elder soldier gazed anxiously on the face of the younger, and again
addressing him, said--
"Sir, do not attribute this strange behaviour upon my part to rudeness.
It has been prompted by feelings painfully, deeply, I may add tenderly,
interesting to me. It may be accident, but your features bring memories
before my eyes that have become a part of my soul's existence. Nor is it
your features only, but I have observed that there is the mark of a
rose-bud beneath your chin. I remember twins on whom that mark was
manifest, and the likeness of a countenance is graven upon my heart, the
lineaments of which were as yours are. Forgive me then, sir, in thus
abruptly requesting your name."
The lieutenant looked surprised at the anxiety and looks of the
stranger, and he answered--
"My name is Charles Sim."
"Yes! yes!" replied the colonel, gasping as he spoke; "I saw it; I felt
it! Your name is Charles, but not Sim; that was your mother's name--your
sainted mother's. You bear it from your grandfather You come from
"I do!" was the reply, in accents of astonishment.
"My son! my son!--child of my Maria!" were the accents that broke from
the colonel, as he fell upon the neck of the other.
"My father!" exclaimed Charles, "have I then found a father?" And the
tears streamed down his cheeks.
Many questions were asked, many answered; and amongst others, the father
"Where is your brother--my little George? Does he live? You were the
miniatures of your mother; and so strikingly did you resemble each
other, that while you were infants, it was necessary to tie a blue
ribbon round his arm, and a green one round yours, to distinguish you
from each other."
Charles became pale; his knees shook; his hands trembled.
"Then I _had_ a brother?" he cried.
"You had," replied his father; "but wherefore do you say you _had_ a
brother? Is it possible that you do not know him? He has been brought up
with my father--Mr. Morris of Morris House."
"No, he has not," replied Charles; "the man you speak of, and whom you
say is my grandfather, has brought up no one--none of my age. I have
hated him from childhood, for he has hated me; and but that you have
told me he is my grandfather, I would hate him still. But he has brought
up no one that could be a brother of mine."
"Then my child has died in infancy," rejoined the colonel.
"No, no," added Charles; "I knew not that I had a brother--not even that
I had a father; but you say my brother resembled me; that I from my
birth had the mark beneath my chin which I have now, and that he had the
same: then I know him; I have seen my brother!"
"Where, where? when, when?" breathlessly inquired the anxious parent.
"Speak, my son!--oh speak!"
"Shortly after I had joined my regiment," continued Charles, "I was
present in Devonshire, at what is called a revel. Our mess gave a purse
towards the games. We put forward a Cumberland man belonging to the
regiment, in the full confidence that he would be the victor of the day;
but a youth, a mere youth, threw not only our champion, but all who
dared to oppose him. I was stung for the honour of Cumberland; I was
loath to see the hero carry his laurels so easily from the field. I
accoutred myself in the wrestler's garb; I entered the ring. The
shouting of the multitude ceased instantaneously. I gazed upon my
antagonist, he gazed upon me. Our hands fell; we both shook; we were the
image of each other. Three years afterwards I was in Holland. A soldier
was unjustly condemned to die; I saved him; I obtained his pardon. He
was my strange counterpart whom I met in Devonshire. He had the mark of
the rose-bud beneath his chin that I have, and which you say my brother
"And where is he now?" eagerly inquired the colonel.
"Alas! I know not," answered Charles; "nor do I think he lives. Three
days after I had rescued him from unmerited death, I learned that he had
fallen bravely on the field; and whether he be now a prisoner or with
the dead, I cannot tell."
"Surely it was thy brother," said the colonel; "yet how he should be in
Devonshire, or a soldier in the ranks, puzzles me to think. No, no,
Charles, it cannot be; it is a coincidence, heightened by imagination.
Your grandfather has not been kind to me, but he is not capable of the
cruelty which the tale you have told would imply he had exercised
towards the child I entrusted to his care. He hates me, but surely he
could not be cruel to my offspring. You know Morris House?" he added.
"I know it well," replied Charles; "but I never knew in it one who could
be my brother, nor one of my age; neither did I know Mr. Morris to be my
grandfather; nor yet have I heard of him but as one who had injured my
mother while she lived, and who had been the enemy of her parents."
"Enough, enough, my son," said the colonel; "my soul is filled with
words which I cannot utter. I weep for your angel-mother; I weep for my
son, your brother; and I mourn for the unceasing hatred that exists
between your grandsires. But, Charles, we must return to England; we
must do so instantly. I have now fortune enough for you and for your
brother also, if he yet live, and if we can find him. But we must
inquire after and go in quest of him."
Within three months Charles Morris, or Lieutenant Sim as he has hitherto
been called, and his father returned to England together. But instead of
following them, I shall return to George Prescot, the prize-wrestler and
the condemned and pardoned soldier. It has been mentioned that he was
wounded and left upon the field by a retreating army. I have to add that
he was made prisoner, and when his wounds were healed, he was, though
not perceptibly, disabled for active service. Amongst his brethren in
captivity was a Captain Paling, who, when an exchange of prisoners took
place, hastened to join his regiment, and gave George, who was deemed
unfit for service, a letter to his mother and sisters who resided in
Dartmouth. The letter was all that the captain could give him, for he
was penniless as George was himself.
George Prescot feeling himself once more at liberty, took his passage
from Rotterdam in a sloop bound for Dartmouth, and with only the letter
of Captain Paling in his pocket to pay for his conveyance. He perceived
that the skipper frequently cast suspicious glances towards him, as
though he were about to ask, "Where is your money, sir?" But George saw
this, and he bore it down with a high hand. He knew that the certain way
of being treated with the contempt and neglect which poverty always
introduces in its train, was to plead being poor. He was by no means
learned, but he understood something of human nature, and he knew a good
deal of the ways of men--of the shallowness of society, and the depths
of civility. He therefore carried his head high. He called for the best
that the ship could afford, and he fared as the skipper did, though he
partook but sparingly.
But the vessel arrived in Dartmouth harbour; it entered the mouth of the
romantic river, on the one side of which was the fort, still bearing the
name of Cromwell, and on the other Kingsbridge, which Peter Pindar hath
celebrated; while on both sides, as precipitous banks, rose towering
hills, their summits covered by a stunted furze, and the blooming
orchard meeting it midway.
Some rather unpleasant sensations visited the disabled soldier as the
vessel sailed up the river towards the town. The beauty of its situation
made no impression upon him, for he had seen it a thousand times; and it
was perhaps as well that it did not; for to look on it from the river,
or from a distant height--like a long line of houses hung on the breast
of romance--and afterwards to enter it and find yourself in the midst of
a narrow, dingy street, where scarce two wheelbarrows could pass,
produceth only disappointment, and that, too, of the bitterest kind. It
seems, indeed, that the Devonians have conceded so much of their
beautiful county to the barrenness of Dartmoor, that they grudge every
inch that is occupied as a street or highway. Ere this time, George
Prescot had in a great measure dropped his Devonshire dialect; and now,
taking the letter of Captain Paling from his pocket, he placed it in the
hands of the commander of the packet, saying, "Send your boy ashore with
this to a widow lady's of the name of Paling; you will know her family,
I suppose. You may tell the boy to say that the letter is from her son,
Captain Paling, and that I shall wait here until I receive her answer
before proceeding up the river."
The skipper stated that he knew Mrs. Paling well, who was a most
respectable lady, and that he remembered also her son, who was an
officer in the army, and who for some time had been a prisoner of war.
The boy went on shore with the letter, and within a quarter of an hour
returned, having with him a young gentleman, accompanied by a couple of
pointer dogs. The stranger was the brother of Captain Paling. He
inquired for George Prescot, and on seeing him, invited him to his
mother's house. The skipper, on seeing his passenger in such respectable
company, let fall no hint that the passage-money was not paid; and the
soldier and the brother of Captain Paling went on shore together.
In his letter the captain dwelt on many kindnesses which he had received
from its bearer, and of the bravery which he had seen him evince on the
field; informing them also that his pockets would be but ill provided
with cash, and regretting his own inability to replenish them.
The kindness of Mrs. Paling and her family towards him knew no limits.
She asked him a hundred questions respecting her son, her daughters
concerning their brother; and they imagined wants for him, that they
might show him a kindness. Now, however, twelve miles was all that lay
between him and his home. They entreated him to remain until next day;
but he refused, for
"Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home."
It is true, he could hardly give the name of home to the house of those
whom he called his parents, for it had ever been to him the habitation
of oppressors; yet it was his home, as the mountain covered with eternal
snow is the home of the Greenlander, and he knew no other. The usual
road to it was by crossing the Dart at a ferry about a hundred yards
above the house of Mrs. Paling. Any other road caused a circuit of many
"If you will not remain with us to-night," said the brother of Captain
Paling, who had conducted him from the vessel to his mother's house, "I
shall accompany you to the ferry."
"No, I thank you--I thank you," said George, confusedly; "there is no
occasion for it--none whatever. I shall not forget your kindness."
He did not intend to go by the ferry; for though the charge of the
boatman was but a halfpenny, that halfpenny he had not in his
possession; and he wished to conceal his poverty.
But women have sharp eyes in these matters. They see where men are
blind; and a sister of Captain Paling named Caroline read the meaning of
their guest's confusion, and of his refusing to permit her brother to
accompany him to the shore; and, with a delicacy which spoke to the
heart of him to whom the words were addressed, she said--
"Mr. Prescot, you have only now arrived from the Continent, and it is
most likely that you have no small change in your pocket. The ferrymen
are unreasonable people to deal with. If you give them a crown, they
will row away and thank you, forgetting to return the change. The
regular charge is but a halfpenny; therefore you had better take coppers
with you;" and as she spoke, she held a halfpenny in her fingers towards
"Well, well," stammered out George, with his hand in his pocket, "I
believe I have no coppers;" and he accepted the halfpenny from the hand
of Caroline Paling; and while he did so, he could not conceal the tears
that rose to his eyes.
But, trifling as the amount of her offer was, it must be understood that
the person to whom it was tendered was one who would not have accepted
more--who was ashamed of his poverty, and strove to conceal it; and
there was a soul, there was a delicacy, in her manner of tendering it
which I can speak of, but not describe. It saved him also from having to
wander weary and solitary miles at midnight.
No sooner had the disabled soldier crossed the river, and entered the
narrow lanes overshadowed by dark hedges of hazel, than he burst into
tears, and his first words were, "Caroline, I will remember thee!"
It was near midnight when he approached the house which he called his
home. The inmates were asleep. He tapped at the window, the panes of
which were framed in lead after the form of diamonds.
"Who be there?" cried an angry voice.
"Your son! your son!" he replied. "George!"
"Zon!" repeated the voice; "we have no zon. If it be thee, go to
Coomberland, lad. We have noughts to do with thee. Thy old grandfather,
Zquire Morris, be now dead, and he ha'n't paid us so well for what we
have done as to have oughts to zay to thee again; zo good night, lad."
"Father! mother!" cried George, striking more passionately on the
window, "what do you mean?"
"Whoy, ha'n't I told thee?" answered the voice that had spoken to him
before. "Thou art no zon of ours. Thou moost go to Coomberland, man, to
Zquire Morris--to his zeketors,[*] I mean, for he is dead. They may tell
thee who thou art; I can't. We ha'n't been paid for what we have done
for thee already. However, thou may'st coom in for t'night;" and as the
old man who had professed to be his father spoke, he arose and opened
[note *: Executors.]
George entered the house, trembling with agitation.
"Father," he said--"for thou hast taught me to call thee father; and if
thou art not, tell me who I am."
"Ha'n't I told thee, lad?" answered the old man. "Go to Coomberland; I
know noughts about thee."
"To Cumberland!" exclaimed George; and he thought of the young officer
whom he had twice met, who belonged to that county, and whose features
were the picture of his own. "Why should I go to Cumberland?"
"Whoy, I can't tell thee whoy thou shouldst go," said the old man; "but
thou was zent me from there, and there thou moost go back again, vor a
bad bargain thou hast been to me. Zquire Morris zent thee here, and
forgot to pay for thee; and if thou lodgest here to-night, thou won't
forget to be a-moving, bag and baggage, in the morning."
George was wearied, and glad to sleep beneath the inhospitable roof of
those whom he had considered as his parents; but on the following
morning he took leave of them, after learning from them all that they
knew of his history.
But I must again leave him, and return to Colonel Morris, and his son
They came to England together, and hastened towards Morris House; and
there the long disowned son learned that his father was dead, and that
his mother and his sisters knew not where his child was, or what had
become of him. But his kindred had ascertained that he was now rich, and
they repented of their unkindness towards him.
"Son," said his mother, "I know nothing of thy child. Thy father was a
strange man--he told little to me. If any one can tell thee aught
concerning thy boy, it will be John Bell, the old coachman; but he has
not been in the family for six years, and where he now is I cannot tell,
though I believe he is still somewhere in the neighbourhood."
With sad and anxious hearts the colonel and his son next visited the
house of Mr. Sim--the dwelling-place in which the infancy, the
childhood, and what may be called the youth, of the latter had been
Tears gathered in the eyes of Charles as he approached the door. He knew
that his grandsire and his grandmother had acted wrongly towards him, in
never speaking to him of his father, or making known to him that such a
person lived; but when he again saw the house which had been the scene
of a thousand happy days, round which he had chased the gaudy butterfly
and the busy bee, or sought the nest of the chaffinch, the yellowhammer,
and the hedge-sparrow, the feelings of boyhood rose too strong in his
soul for resentment; and on meeting Mr. Sim (his grandfather) as they
approached the door of the house, Charles ran towards him, and,
stretching out his hand, cried, "Father!"
The old man recognised him, and exclaimed, "Charles!--Charles!--child of
my Maria!" and wept.
At the mention of her name, the colonel wept also.
"What gentleman is this with thee, Charles?" inquired Mr. Sim.
"It is _my father!_" was the reply.
Mr. Sim, who was now a grey-haired man, reeled back a few paces--he
raised his hands--he exclaimed, "Can I be forgiven?"
"Forgiven!--ay, doubly forgiven!" answered Colonel Morris, "as the
father of lost, loved Maria, and as having been more than a father to my
boy, who is now by my side. But know you nothing of my other son? My
Maria bore twins."
"Nothing! nothing!" replied Mr. Sim; "that question has cost me many an
anxious thought. It has troubled also the conscience of my wife; for it
was her fault that he also was not committed to my charge; and I would
have inquired after your child long ago, but that there was no good-will
between your father and me; and I was a plain, retired citizen--he a
magistrate, and a justice of the peace for the county, who could do no
The colonel groaned.
They proceeded towards the villa together. Mrs. Sim met her grandson
with a flood of tears, and, in her joy at meeting him, she forgot her
dislike to his father and her hatred to that father's family.
The colonel endeavoured to obtain information from his father-in-law
respecting his other son; and he told him all that his mother had said,
of what she had spoken regarding the coachman, and also of what Charles
had told him, in twice meeting one who so strongly resembled himself.
"Colonel," said Mr. Sim, "I know the John Bell your mother speaks of; he
now keeps an inn near Langholm. To-morrow we shall go to his house, and
make inquiry concerning all that he knows."
"Be it so, father," said the colonel. And on the following day they took
a chaise and set out together--the grandfather, the father, and the son.
They had to cross the Annan, and to pass the churchyard where Maria
slept. As they drew near to it, the colonel desired the driver to stop.
"Follow me, Charles," he said; and Mr. Sim accompanied them. They
entered the churchyard; the colonel led them to the humble grave-stone
that he had raised to the memory of his Maria. He sat down upon it, he
pressed his lips to it and wept.
"Charles," said he, "look on your mother's grave. Here, on this stone,
day after day, I was wont to sit with you and your brother upon my knee,
fondling you, breathing your mother's name in your ears; and though
neither of you knew what I said, you smiled as I wept and spoke. Oh
Charles! though you then filled my whole heart (and you do now), I could
only distinguish you from each other by the ribbons on your arms. Would
to Heaven that I may discover my child! and, whatever be his condition,
I shall forgive my father for the injustice he has done me and mine--I
shall be happy. And, oh! should we indeed find your brother--should he
prove to be the youth whom you have twice met--I shall say that Heaven
has remembered me when I forgot myself! But come hither, Charles--come,
kneel upon your mother's grave--kiss the sod where she lies, and angels
will write it in their books, and show it to your mother, where she is
happy. Come, my boy."
Charles knelt on his mother's grave. He had arisen, and they were about
to depart; for his grandfather had accompanied them, and was a silent
but tearful spectator of the scene.
They were leaving the churchyard, joined in the arms of each other, when
two strangers entered it. The one was John Bell, the other George
"Colonel! Colonel! there is John Bell that you spoke of," exclaimed Mr.
"Father! father!" at the same instant cried his son, "he is here--it is
him!--my brother--or--he whom I have told you of, who so strangely
Charles rushed forward--it was George Prescot--and he took the proffered
hand of the other, and said, "Sir, I rejoice to meet thee again--it
seems I belong to Cumberland as well as thou dost; and this gentleman
(pointing to John Bell), who seems to know more of me than I do myself,
has promised to show me here my mother's grave!"
"And where is that grave?" cried the colonel earnestly, who had been an
interested spectator of all that passed.
"Even where the wife of your youth is buried, your honour," answered
John Bell; "you have with you one son--behold his twin brother!"
The colonel pressed his new-found son to his breast. With his children
he sat down on the stone over Maria's grave, and they wept together.
Our tale is told. Colonel Morris and his sons had met. His elder
brothers died, and he became the heir of his father's property. Mr. Sim
also stated that, in his will, he should divide his substance equally
between the brothers; and he did so. I have but another word to add.
George forgot not Caroline Paling, who had assisted him when his heart
was full and his pocket empty, and within twelve months he again visited
Dartmouth; but when he returned from it, Caroline accompanied him as his
wife; and when he introduced her to his father and his brother--"Behold,"
said he, "what a halfpenny, delicately tendered, may produce."
THE STORY OF THE GIRL FORGER.
It is a common thing for writers of a certain class, when they want to
produce the feeling of wonder in their readers, to introduce some
frantic action, and then to account for it by letting out the secret
that the actor was mad. The trick is not so necessary as it seems, for
the strength of human passions is a potentiality only limited by
experience; and so it is that a sane person may under certain stimulants
do the maddest thing in the world. The passion itself is always true--it
is only the motive that may be false; and therefore it is that in
narrating for your amusement, perhaps I may add instruction, the
following singular story--traces of the main parts of which I got in the
old books of a former procurator-fiscal--I assume that there was no more
insanity in the principal actor, Euphemia, or, as she was called, Effie
Carr, when she brought herself within the arms of the law, than there is
in you, when now you are reading the story of her strange life. She was
the only daughter of John Carr, a grain merchant, who lived in Bristo
Street. It would be easy to ascribe to her all the ordinary and
extraordinary charms that are thought so necessary to embellish
heroines; but as we are not told what these were in her case, we must be
contented with the assurance that nature had been kind enough to her to
give her power over the hearts of men. We shall be nearer our purpose
when we state, what is necessary to explain a peculiar part of our
story, that her father, in consequence of his own insufficient
education, had got her trained to help him in keeping his accounts with
the farmers, and in writing up his books; nay, she enjoyed the privilege
of writing his drafts upon the Bank of Scotland, which the father
contrived to sign, though in his own illiterate way, and with a
peculiarity which it would not have been easy to imitate.
But our gentle clerk did not consider these duties imposed upon her by
her father as excluding her either from gratifying her love of domestic
habits, by assisting her mother in what at that time was denominated
hussyskep or housekeeping, or from a certain other gratification, which
might without a hint from us be anticipated--no other than the luxury of
falling head and ears, and heart too we fancy, in love with a certain
dashing young student of the name of Robert Stormonth, then attending
the University, more for the sake of polish than of mere study, for he
was the son of the proprietor of Kelton, and required to follow no
profession. How Effie got entangled with this youth we have no means of
knowing, so we must be contented with the Scotch proverb--
"Tell me where the flea may bite,
And I will tell where love may light."
The probability is, that from the difference of their stations and the
retiring nature of our gentle clerk, we shall be safe in assuming that
he had, as the saying goes, been smitten by her charms in some of those
street encounters, where there is more of love's work done than in
"black-footed" tea coteries expressly held for the accommodation of
Cupid. And that the smiting was a genuine feeling we are not left to
doubt; for in addition to the reasons we shall afterwards have too good
occasion to know, he treated Effie not as those wild students who are
great men's sons do "the light o' loves" they meet in their escapades,
for he entrusted his secrets to her, he took such small counsel from her
poor head as a "learned clerk" might be supposed able to give; nay, he
told her of his mother, and how one day he hoped to be able to introduce
her at Kelton as his wife. All which Effie repaid with the devotedness
of that most wonderful affection called the first or virgin love--the
purest, the deepest, the most thorough-going of all the emotions of the
human heart. But as yet he had not conceded to her wish that he should
consent to their love being made known to Effie's father and mother.
Love is only a leveller to itself and its object: the high-born youth,
inured to refined manners, shrank from a family intercourse, which put
him too much in mind of the revolt he had made against the presumed
wishes and intentions of his proud parents. Wherein, after all, he was
only true to the instincts of that institution, apparently so inhumane
as well as unchristian in its exclusiveness, called aristocracy, and yet
with the excuse that its roots are pretty deeply set in human nature.
But, proud as he was, Bob Stormonth, the younger of Kelton, was amenable
to the obligations of a necessity, forged by his own imprudent hands. He
had, by a fast mode of living, got into debt--a condition from which his
father, a stern man, had relieved him twice before, but with a threat on
the last occasion, that if he persevered in his prodigality, he would
withdraw from him his yearly allowance, and throw him upon his own
resources. The threat proved ineffectual, and this young heir of entail,
with all his pride, was once in the grasp of low-born creditors; nay,
things in this evil direction had gone so far that writs were out
against him, and one in the form of a caption was already in the hands
of a messenger-at-arms. That the debts were comparatively small in
amount, was no amelioration where the purse was all but empty; and he
had exhausted the limited exchequers of his chums, which with college
youths was, and is, not difficult to do. So the gay Bob was driven to
his last shift, and that, as is generally the case, was a mean one; for
necessity, as the mother of inventions, does not think it proper to
limit her births to genteel or noble devices to please her proud
consort. He even had recourse to poor Effie to help him; and, however
ridiculous this may seem, there were reasons that made the application
appear not so desperate as some of his other schemes. It was only the
caption that as yet quickened his fears; and as the sum for which the
writ was issued was only twenty pounds, it was not, after all, so much
beyond the power of a clerk.
It was during one of their ordinary walks in the Meadows that the
pressing necessity was opened by Stormonth to the vexed and terrified
girl. He told her that, but for the small help he required in the
meantime, he would be ruined. The wrath of his father would be excited
once more, and probably to the exclusion of all reconciliation; and he
himself compelled to flee, but whither he knew not. He had his plan
prepared, and proposed to Effie, who had no means of her own, _to take a
loan_ of the sum out of her father's cash-box--words very properly
chosen according to the euphemistic policy of the devil; but Effie's
genuine spirit was roused and alarmed.
"Dreadful!" she whispered, as if afraid that the night wind would carry
her words to honest ears. "Besides," she continued, "my father, who is a
hard man, keeps his desk lockit."
Words which took Stormonth aback, for even he saw there was here a
necessity as strong as his own; yet the power of invention went to work
"Listen, Effie," said he. "If you cannot help me, it is not likely we
shall meet again. I am desperate, and will go into the army."
The ear of Effie was chained to a force which was direct upon the heart.
She trembled and looked wistfully into his face, even as if by that look
she could extract from him some other device less fearful, by which she
might have the power of retaining him for so short a period as a day.
"You draw out your father's drafts on the bank, Effie," he continued.
"Write one out for me, and I will put your father's name to it. You can
draw the money. I will be saved from ruin; and your father will never
A proposal which again brought a shudder over the girl.
"Is it Robert Stormonth who asks me to do this thing?" she whispered
"No," said he; "for I am not myself. Yesterday, and before the messenger
was after me, I would have shrunk from the suggestion. I am not myself,
I say, Effie. Ay or no; keep me or lose me--that is the alternative."
"Oh, I cannot," was the language of her innocence, and for which he was
prepared; for the stimulant was again applied in the most powerful of
all forms--the word farewell was sounded in her ear.
"Stop, Robert! let me think." But there was no thought, only the heart
beating wildly. "I will do it; and may the penalty be mine, and mine
So it was: "even virtue's self turns vice when misapplied." What her
mind shrank from was embraced by the heart as a kind of sacred duty of a
love making a sacrifice for the object of its first worship. It was
arranged; and as the firmness of a purpose is often in proportion to the
prior disinclination, so Effie's determination to save her lover from
ruin was forthwith put in execution; nay, there was even a touch of the
heroine in her, so wonderfully does the heart, acting under its primary
instincts, sanctify the device which favours its affection. That same
evening Effie Carr wrote out the draft for twenty pounds on the Bank of
Scotland, gave it to Stormonth, who, from a signature of the father's,
also furnished by her, perpetrated the forgery--a crime at that time
punishable by death. The draft so signed was returned to Effie. Next
forenoon she went to the bank, as she had often done for her father
before; and the document being in her handwriting, as prior ones of the
same kind had also been, no scrutinizing eye was turned to the
signature. The money was handed over, but _not counted_ by the
recipient, as before had been her careful habit--a circumstance with its
effect to follow in due time. Meanwhile Stormonth was at a place of
appointment out of the reach of the executor of the law, and was soon
found out by Effie, who gave him the money with trembling hands. For
this surely a kiss was due. We do not know; but she returned with the
satisfaction, overcoming all the impulses of fear and remorse, that she
had saved the object of her first and only love from ruin and flight.
But even then the reaction was on the spring; the rebound was to be
fearful and fatal. The teller at the bank had been struck with Effie's
manner; and the non-counting of the notes had roused a suspicion, which
fought its way even against the improbability of a mere girl
perpetrating a crime from which females are generally free. He examined
the draft, and soon saw that the signature was a bad imitation.
Thereupon a messenger was despatched to Bristo Street for inquiry. John
Carr, taken by surprise, declared that the draft, though written by his
daughter, was forged--the forgery being in his own mind attributed to
George Lindsay, his young salesman. Enough this for the bank, who had in
the first place only to do with the utterer, against whom their evidence
as yet only lay. Within a few hours afterwards Effie Carr was in the
Tolbooth, charged with the crime of forging a cheque on her father's
The news soon spread over Edinburgh--at that time only an overgrown
village, in so far as regarded local facilities for the spread of
wonders. It had begun there, where the mother was in recurring faints,
the father in distraction and not less mystery, George Lindsay in terror
and pity. And here comes in the next strange turn of our story. Lindsay
all of a sudden declared he was the person who imitated the name--a
device of the yearning heart to save the girl of his affection from the
gallows, and clutched at by the mother and father as a means of their
daughter's redemption. One of those thinly-sown beings who are
cold-blooded by nature, who take on love slowly but surely, and seem
fitted to be martyrs, Lindsay defied all consequences, so that it might
be that Effie Carr should escape an ignominious death. Nor did he take
time for further deliberation: in less than half an hour he was in the
procurator-fiscal's office--the willing self-criminator; the man who did
the deed; the man who was ready to die for his young mistress and his
love. His story, too, was as ready as it was truth-seeming. He declared
that he had got Effie to write out the draft as if commissioned by John
Carr; that he took it away, and with his own hands added the name; that
he had returned the check to Effie to go with it to the bank, and had
received the money from her on her return. The consequence was his wish,
and it was inevitable. That same day George Lindsay was lodged also in
the Tolbooth, satisfied that he had made a sacrifice of his life for one
whom he had loved for years, and who yet had never shown him even a
symptom of hope that his love would be returned.
All which proceedings soon came on the wings of rumour to the ears of
Robert Stormonth, who was not formed to be a martyr even for a love
which was to him as true as his nature would permit. He saw his danger,
because he did not see the character of a faithful girl who would die
rather than compromise her lover. He fled--aided probably by that very
money he had wrung out of the hands of the devoted girl; nor was his
disappearance connected with the tragic transaction; for, as we have
said, the connection between him and Effie had been kept a secret, and
his flight could be sufficiently accounted for by his debt.
Meanwhile the precognitions or examination of the parties went on, and
with a result as strange as it was puzzling to the officials. Effie was
firm to her declaration, that she not only wrote the body of the cheque,
but attached to it the name of her father, and had appropriated the
money in a way which she declined to state. On the other hand, Lindsay
was equally staunch to his statement made to the procurator-fiscal, that
he had got Effie to write the draft, had forged the name to it, and got
the money from her. The authorities very soon saw that they had got more
than the law bargained for or wanted; nor was the difficulty likely soon
to be solved. The two parties could not both be guilty, according to the
evidence, nor could one of them be guilty to the exclusion of the other;
neither, when the balance was cast, was there much difference in the
weight of the scales, because, while it was in one view more likely that
Lindsay signed the false name, it was beyond doubt that Effie wrote the
body of the document, and she had, moreover, presented it. But was it
for the honour of the law that people should be hanged on a likelihood?
It was a new case without new heads to decide it, and it made no
difference that the body of the people, who soon became inflamed on the
subject, took the part of the girl and declared against the man. It was
easy to be seen that the tracing of the money would go far to solve the
mystery; and accordingly there was a strict search made in Lindsay's
lodgings, as well as in Effie's private repositories at home. We need
not say with what effect, where the money was over the Border and away.
It was thus in all views more a case for Astraea than common heads; but
then she had gone to heaven. The Lord Advocate soon saw that the law was
likely to be caught in its own meshes. The first glimpse was got of the
danger of hanging so versatile, so inconsistent, so unsearchable a
creature as a human being on a mere confession of guilt. That that had
been the law of Scotland in all time, nay, that it had been the law of
the world from the beginning, there was no doubt. Who could know the
murderer or the forger better than the murderer or the forger himself?
and would any one throw away his life on a false plea? The reasoning
does not exhaust the deep subject; there remains the presumption that
the criminal will, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, deny, and deny
boldly. But our case threw a new light on the old law, and the Lord
Advocate was slow to indict where he saw not only reasons for failure,
but also rising difficulties which might strike at the respect upon
which the law was founded.
The affair hung loose for a time, and Lindsay's friends, anxious to save
him, got him induced to run his letters--the effect of which is to give
the prosecutor a period wherein to try the culprit, on failure of which
the person charged is free. The same was done by Effie's father; but
quickened as the Lord Advocate was, the difficulty still met him like a
ghost that would not be laid, that if he put Effie at the bar, Lindsay
would appear in the witness-box; and if he put Lindsay on his trial,
Effie would swear he was innocent; and as for two people forging _the
same name_, the thing had never been heard of. And so it came to pass
that the authorities at last, feeling they were in a cleft stick, where
if they relieved one hand the other would be caught, were inclined to
liberate both panels. But the bank was at that time preyed upon by
forgeries, and were determined to make an example now when they had a
culprit, or perhaps two. The consequence was, that the authorities were
forced to give way, vindicating their right of choice as to the party
they should arraign. That party was Effie Carr, and the choice justified
itself by two considerations: that she, by writing and uttering the
cheque, was so far committed by evidence exterior to her
self-inculpation; and secondly, that Lindsay might break down in the
witness-box under a searching examination. Effie was therefore indicted
and placed at the bar. She pleaded guilty, but the prosecutor,
notwithstanding, led evidence, and at length Lindsay appeared as a
witness for the defence. The people who crowded the court had been aware
from report of the condition in which Lindsay stood; but the deep
silence which reigned throughout the hall when he was called to answer,
evinced the doubt whether he would stand true to his self-impeachment.
The doubt was soon solved. With a face on which no trace of fear could
be perceived, with a voice in which there was no quaver, he swore that
it was he who signed the draft and sent Effie for the money. The
oscillation of sympathy, which had for a time been suspended, came round
again to the thin pale girl, who sat there looking wistfully and
wonderingly into the face of the witness, and the murmuring approbation
that broke out, in spite of the shrill "silence" of the crier, expressed
at once admiration of the man--criminal as he swore himself to be--and
pity for the accused. What could the issue be? Effie was acquitted, and
Lindsay sent back to gaol. Was he not to be tried? The officials felt
that the game was dangerous. If Lindsay had stood firm in the box, had
not Effie sat firm at the bar, with the very gallows in her eye, and
would not she, in her turn, be as firm in the box? All which was too
evident, and the consequence in the end came to be, that Lindsay was in
the course of a few days set at liberty.
And now there occurred proceedings not less strange in the house of John
Carr. Lindsay was turned off, because, though he had made a sacrifice of
himself to save the life of Effie, the sacrifice was only that due to
the justice he had offended. The dismissal was against the protestations
of Effie, who alone knew he was innocent; and she had to bear the
further grief of learning that Stormonth had left the city on the very
day whereon she was apprehended--a discovery this too much for a frame
always weak, and latterly so wasted by her confinement in prison, and
the anguish of mind consequent upon her strange position. And so it came
to pass in a few more days that she took to her bed, a wan, wasted,
heart-broken creature; but stung as she had been by the conduct of the
man she had offered to die to save, she felt even more the sting of
ingratitude in herself for not divulging to her mother as much of her
secret as would have saved Lindsay from dismissal, for she was now more
and more satisfied that it was the strength of his love for her that had
driven him to his great and perilous sacrifice. Nor could her mother, as
she bent over her daughter, understand why her liberation should have
been followed by so much sorrow; nay, loving her as she did, she even
reproached her as being ungrateful to God.
"Mother," said the girl, "I have a secret that lies like a stane upon my
heart. George Lindsay had nae mair to do with that forgery than you."
"And who had to do with it then, Effie, dear?"
"Myself," continued the daughter; "I filled up the cheque at the bidding
o' Robert Stormonth, whom I had lang loved. It was he wha put my
faither's name to it. It was to him I gave the money, to relieve him
from debt, and he has fled."
"Effie, Effie," cried the mother; "and we have done this thing to George
Lindsay--ta'en from him his basket and his store, yea, the bread o' his
mouth, in recompense for trying to save your life by offering his ain!"
"Yes, mother," added Effie; "but we must make that wrang richt."
"And mair, lass," rejoined the mother, as she rose abruptly and
nervously, and hurried to her husband, to whom she told the strange
intelligence. Then John Carr was a just man as well as a loving parent;
and while he forgave his unfortunate daughter, he went and brought back
George Lindsay to his old place that very night; nor did he or Mrs. Carr
know the joy they had poured into the heart of the young man, for the
reason that they did not know the love he bore to their daughter. But if
this was a satisfaction to Effie, in so far as it relieved her heart of
a burden, it brought to her a burden of another kind. The mother soon
saw how matters stood with the heart of Lindsay, and she, moreover, saw
that her or her daughter's gratitude could not be complete so long as he
was denied the boon of being allowed to marry the girl he had saved from
the gallows, and she waited her opportunity of breaking the delicate
subject to Effie. It was not time yet, when Effie was an invalid, and
even so far wasted and worn as to cause apprehensions of her ultimate
fate, even death; nor perhaps would that time ever come when she could
bear to hear the appeal without pain; for though Stormonth had ruined
her character and her peace of mind--nay, had left her in circumstances
almost unprecedented for treachery, baseness, and cruelty--he retained
still the niche where the offerings of a first love had been made: his
image had been indeed burned into the virgin heart, and no other form of
man's face, though representing the possessor of beauty, wealth, and
worldly honours, would ever take away that treasured symbol. It haunted
her even as a shadow of herself, which, disappearing at sundown, comes
again at the rising of the noon; nay, she would have been contented to
make other sacrifices equally great as that which she had made; nor wild
moors, nor streams, nor rugged hills, would have stopped her in an
effort to look upon him once more, and replace that inevitable image by
the real vision, which had first taken captive her young heart.
But time passed, bringing the usual ameliorations to the miserable.
Effie got so far better in health that she became able to resume, in a
languid way, her former duties, with the exception of those of "the
gentle clerk"--for of these she had had enough; even the very look of a
bank-draft brought a shudder over her; nor would she have entered the
Bank of Scotland again, even with a good cheque for a thousand pounds,
to have been all her own. Meanwhile the patient George had plied a suit
which he could only express by his eyes or the attentions of one who
worships, but he never alluded, even in their conversations, to the old
sacrifice. The mother too, and not less the father, saw the advantages
that might result as well to the health of her mind as that of her body.
They had waited--a vain waiting--for the wearing out of the traces of
the obdurate image; and when they thought they might take placidity as
the sign of what they waited for, they first hinted, and then expressed
in plain terms, the wishes of their hearts. For a time all their efforts
were fruitless; but John Carr getting old and weak, wished to be
succeeded in his business by George; and the wife, when she became a
widow, would require to be maintained--reasons which had more weight
with Effie than any others, excepting always the act of George's
self-immolation at the shrine in which his fancy had placed her. The
importunities at length wore out her resistings, without effacing the
lines of the old and still endeared image, and she gave a cold, we may
say reluctant, consent. The bride's "ay" was a sigh, the rapture a tear
of sadness. But George was pleased even with this: Effie, the
long-cherished Effie, was at length his.
In her new situation, Effie Carr--now Mrs. Lindsay--performed all the
duties of a good and faithful wife; by an effort of the will no doubt,
though in another sense only a sad obedience to necessity, of which we
are all, as the creatures of motives, the very slaves. But the old image
resisted the appeals of her reason, as well as the blandishments of a
husband's love. She was only true, faithful, and kind, till the birth of
a child lent its reconciling power to the efforts of duty. Some time
afterwards John Carr died--an event which carried in its train the
subsequent death of his wife. There was left to the son-in-law a
dwindling business, and a very small sum of money, for the father had
met with misfortunes in his declining years, which impaired health
prevented him from resisting. Time wore on, and showed that the power of
the martyr-spirit is not always that of the champion of worldly success,
for it was now but a struggle between George Lindsay, with a stained
name, and the stern demon of misfortune. He was at length overtaken by
poverty, which, as affecting Effie, preyed so relentlessly upon his
spirits, that within two years he followed John Carr to the grave. Effie
was now left with two children to the work of her fingers, a poor weapon
wherewith to beat off the wolf of want, and even this was curtailed by
the effects of the old crime, which the public still kept in green
Throughout, our story has been the sensationalism of angry fate, and
even less likely to be believed than the work of fiction. Nor was the
vulture face of the Nemesis yet smoothed down. The grief of her
bereavement had only partially diverted Effie's mind from the
recollections of him who had ruined her, and yet could not be hated by
her, nay, could not be but loved by her. The sensitized nerve, which had
received the old image, gave it out fresh again to the reviving power of
memory, and this was only a continuation of what had been a corroding
custom of years and years. But, as the saying goes, it is a long road
that does not offer by its side the spreading bough of shade to the
way-worn traveller. One day, when Effie was engaged with her work, of
which she was as weary as of the dreaming which accompanied it, there
appeared before her, without premonition or foreshadowing sign, Robert
Stormonth of Kelton, dressed as a country gentleman, booted, and with a
whip in his hand.
"Are you Effie Carr?"
The question was useless to one who was already lying back in her chair
in a state of unconsciousness, from which she recovered only to open her
eyes and avert them, and shut them and open them again, like the victim
"And do you fear me?" said the excited man, as he took her in his strong
arms and stared wildly into her face; "I have more reason to fear you,
whom I ruined," he continued. "Ay, brought within the verge of the
gallows. I know it all, Effie. Open your eyes, dear soul, and smile once
more upon me. Nay, I have known it for years, during which remorse has
scourged me through the world. Look up, dear Effie, while I tell you I
could bear the agony no longer; and now opportunity favours the wretched
penitent, for my father is dead, and I am not only my own master, but
master of Kelton, of which you once heard me speak. Will you not look up
yet, dear Effie? I come to make amends to you, not by wealth merely, but
to offer you again that love I once bore to you, and still bear. Another
such look, dear--it is oil to my parched spirit. You are to consent to
be my wife; the very smallest boon I dare offer."
During which strange rambling speech Effie was partly insensible; yet
she heard enough to afford her clouded mind a glimpse of her condition,
and of the meaning of what was said to her. For a time she kept staring
into his face as if she had doubts of his real personality; nor could
she find words to express even those more collected thoughts that began
to gather into form.
"Robert Stormonth," at length she said, calmly, "and have you suffered
too? Oh, this is more wonderful to me than a' the rest o' these
"As no man ever suffered, dear Effie," he answered. "I was on the eve of
coming to you, when a friend I retained here wrote me to London of your
marriage with the man who saved you from the fate into which I
precipitated you. How I envied that man who offered to die for you! He
seemed to take from me my only means of reparation; nay, my only chance
of happiness. But he is dead. Heaven give peace to so noble a spirit!
And now you are mine. It is mercy I come to seek in the first instance;
the love--if that, after all that is past, is indeed possible--I will
take my chance of that."
"Robert," cried the now weeping woman, "if that love had been aince
less, what misery I would have been spared! Ay, and my father, and
mother, and poor George Lindsay, a' helped awa to the grave by my crime,
for it stuck to us to the end." And she buried her head in his bosom,
"_My_ crime, dear Effie, not yours," said he. "It was you who saved my
life; and if Heaven has a kindlier part than another for those who err
by the fault of others, it will be reserved for one who made a sacrifice
of love. But we have, I hope, something to enjoy before you go there,
and as yet I have not got your forgiveness."
"It is yours--it is yours, Robert," was the sobbing answer. "Ay, and
with it a' the love I ever had for you."
"Enough for this time, dear Effie," said he. "My horse waits for me.
Expect me to-morrow at this hour with a better-arranged purpose." And
folding her in his arms, and kissing her fervently, even as his remorse
were thereby assuaged as well as his love gratified, he departed,
leaving Effie to thoughts we should be sorry to think ourselves capable
of putting into words. Nor need we say more than that Stormonth kept his
word. Effie Carr was in a few days Mrs. Stormonth, and in not many more
the presiding female power in the fine residence of Kelton.
THE BURGHER'S TALES.
THE TWO RED SLIPPERS.
The taking down of the old house of four or five flats called
Gowanlock's Land, in that part of the High Street which used to be
called the Luckenbooths, has given rise to various stories connected
with the building. Out of these I have selected a very strange
legend--so strange indeed, that, if not true, it must have been the
production, _quod est in arte summa_, of a capital inventor; nor need I
say that it is of much importance to talk of the authenticity of these
things, for the most authentic are embellished by invention--and it is
certainly the best embellished that live the longest; for all which we
have very good reasons in human nature.
Gowanlock's Land, it would seem, merely occupied the site of an older
house, which belonged, at the time of Prince Charlie's occupation of the
city, to an old town councillor of the name of Yellowlees. This older
house was also one of many stories--an old form in Edinburgh, supposed
to have been adopted from the French; but it had, which was not
uncommon, an entry from the street running under an arch, and leading to
the back of the premises to the lower part of the tenement, that part
occupied by the councillor. There was a lower flat, and one above, which
thus constituted an entire house; and which, moreover, rejoiced in the
privilege of having an extensive garden, running down as far as the
sheet of water called the North Loch, that secret "domestic witness," as
the ancients used to say, of many of the dark crimes of the old city.
These gardens were the pride of the rich burghers of the time, decorated
by Dutch-clipped hollies and trim boxwood walks; and in our special
instance of Councillor Yellowlees' retreat, there was, in addition, a
summer-house or rustic bower standing at the bottom, that is, towards
the north, and close upon the loch. I may mention also that, in
consequence of the damp, this little bower was strewed with rushes for
the very special comfort of Miss Annie Yellowlees, the only and much
petted child of the good councillor.
All which you must take as introductory to the important fact that the
said Miss Annie, who, as a matter of course, was "very bonnie," as well
as passing rich to be, had been, somewhat previous to the prince's entry
to the town, pledged to be married to no less considerable a personage
than Maister John Menelaws, a son of him of the very same name who dealt
in pelts in a shop of the Canongate, and a student of medicine in the
Edinburgh University; but as the councillor had in his secret soul
hankerings after the prince, and the said student, John, was a red-hot
royalist, the marriage was suspended, all to the inexpressible grief of
our "bonnie Annie," who would not have given her John for all the
Charlies and Geordies to be found from Berwick to Lerwick. On the other
hand, while Annie was depressed, and forced to seek relief in solitary
musings in her bower by the loch, it is just as true that "it is an ill
wind that blaws naebody gude;" nay, the truth of the saying was verified
in Richard Templeton, a fellow-student of Menelaws, and a rival, too, in
the affections of Annie; who, being a Charlieite as well as an Annieite,
rejoiced that his companion was in the meantime foiled and disappointed.
Meanwhile, and, I may say, while the domestic affairs of the
councillor's house were still in this unfortunate position, the prince's
bubble burst in the way which history tells us of, and thereupon out
came proscriptions of terrible import, and, as fate would have it, young
Templeton's name was in the bloody register; the more by reason that he
had been as noisy as Edinburgh students generally are in the
proclamation of his partisanship. He must fly or secrete himself, or
perhaps lose a head in which there was concealed a considerable amount
of Scotch cunning. He at once thought of the councillor's house, with
that secluded back garden and summer-house, all so convenient for
secrecy, and the envied Annie there, too, whom he might by soft wooings
detach from the hated Menelaws, and make his own through the medium of
the pity that is akin to love. And so, to be sure, he straightway, under
the shade of night, repaired to the house of the councillor, who, being
a tender-hearted man, could not see a sympathiser with the glorious
cause in danger of losing his head. Templeton was received--a report set
abroad that he had gone to France--and all proper measures were taken
within the house to prevent any domestic from letting out the secret.
In this scheme, Annie, we need hardly say, was a favouring party; not
that she had any love for the young man, for her heart was still true to
Menelaws (who, however, for safety's sake, was now excluded from the
house), but that, with a filial obedience to a beloved father, she felt,
with a woman's heart, sympathy for one who was in distress, and a martyr
to the cause which her father loved. Need we wonder at an issue which
may already be looming on the vision of those who know anything of human
nature? The two young folks were thrown together. They were seldom out
of each other's company. Suffering is love's opportunity, and Templeton
had to plead for him not only his misfortune, but a tongue rendered
subtle and winning by love's action in the heart. As the days passed,
Annie saw some new qualities in the martyr prisoner which she had not
seen before; nay, the pretty little domestic attentions had the usual
reflex effect upon the heart which administered them, and all that the
recurring image of Menelaws could do to fight against these rising
predilections was so far unavailing, that that very image waxed dimmer
and dimmer, while the present object was always working through the
magic of sensation. Yes, Annie Yellowlees grew day by day fonder of her
_protege_, until at length she got, as the saying goes, "over head and
ears." Nay, was she not, in the long nights, busy working a pair of red
slippers for the object of her new affections, and were not these so
very suitable to one who, like Hercules, was reduced almost to the
distaff, and who, unlike that woman-tamed hero, did not need them to be
applied anywhere but to the feet?
In the midst of all this secluded domesticity, there was all that
comfort which is said to come from stolen waters. Then was there not the
prospect of the proscription being taken off, and the two would be made
happy? Even in the meantime they made small escapades into free space.
When the moon was just so far up as not to be a tell-tale, Templeton
would, either with or without Annie, step out into the garden with these
very red slippers on his feet. That bower by the loch, too, was
favourable to the fondlings of a secret love; nor was it sometimes less
to the prisoner a refuge from the eeriness which comes of _ennui_--if it
is not the same thing--under the pressure of which strange feeling he
would creep out at times when Annie could not be with him; nay,
sometimes when the family had gone to bed.
And now we come to a very wonderful turn in our strange story. One
morning Templeton did not make his appearance in the breakfast parlour,
but of course he would when he got up and got his red slippers on. Yet
he was so punctual; and Annie, who knew that her father had to go to the
council chamber, would see what was the cause of the young man's delay.
She went to his bedroom door. It was open; but where was Templeton? He
was not there. He could not be out in the city; he could not be even in
the garden with the full light of a bright morning sun shining on it. He
was not in the house; he was not in the garden, as they could see from
the windows. He was nowhere to be found; and, what added to the wonder,
he had taken with him his red slippers, wherever he had gone. The
inmates were in wonderment and consternation, and, conduplicated evil!
they could make no inquiry for one who lay under the ban of a bloody
But wonders, as we all know, generally ensconce themselves in some snug
theory, and die by a kind of pleasant euthanasia; and so it was with
this wonder of ours. The councillor came, as the days passed, to the
conclusion that Templeton, wearied out by his long confinement, had
become desperate, and had gone abroad. As good a theory as could be got,
seeing that he had not trusted himself in going near his friends; and
Annie, whose grief was sharp and poignant, came also to settle down with
a belief which still promised her her lover, though perhaps at a long
date. But, somehow or another, Annie could not explain why, even with
all the fondness he had to the work of her hands, he should have elected
to expose himself to damp feet by making the love-token slippers do the
duty of the pair of good shoes he had left in the bedroom.
Even this latter wonder wore away; and months and months passed on the
revolving wheel which casts months, not less than moments, into that
gulf we call eternity. The rigour of the Government prosecutions was
relaxed, and timid sympathisers began to show their heads out of doors,
but Richard Templeton never returned to claim either immunity or the
woman of his affections. Nor within all this time did John Menelaws
enter the house of the councillor; so that Annie's days were renounced
to sadness, and her nights to reveries. But at last comes the eventful
"one day" of the greatest of all story-tellers, Time, whereon happen his
startling discoveries. Verily one day Annie had wandered disconsolately
into the garden, and seated herself on the wooden form in the
summer-house, where in the moonlight she had often nestled in the arms
of her proscribed lover, who was now gone, it might be, for ever.
Objective thought cast her into a reverie, and the reverie brought up
again the images of these objects, till her heart beat with an affection
renewed through a dream. At length she started up, and, wishing to hurry
from a place which seemed filled with images at once lovable and
terrible, she felt her foot caught by an impediment whereby she
stumbled. On looking down she observed some object of a reddish-brown
colour; and becoming alarmed lest it might be one of the toads with
which the place was sometimes invaded, she started back. Yet curiosity
forced her to a closer inspection. She applied her hand to the object,
and brought away one of those very slippers which she had made for
Templeton. All very strange; but what maybe conceived to have been her
feelings when she saw, sticking up from beneath the rushes, the white
skeleton of a foot which had filled that very slipper! A terrible
suspicion shot through her mind. She flew to her father, and, hurrying
him to the spot, pointed out to him the grim object, and showed him the
slipper which had covered it. Mr. Yellowlees was a shrewd man, and soon
saw that, the foot being there, the rest of the body was not far away.
He saw, too, that his safety might be compromised either as having been
concerned in a murder or the harbourage of a rebel; and so, making
caution the better part of his policy, he repaired to a sympathiser, and
having told him the story, claimed his assistance. Nor was this refused.
That same night, by the light of a lamp, they exhumed the body of
Templeton, much reduced, but enveloped with his clothes; only they
observed that the other red slipper was wanting. On examining the body,
they could trace the evidence of a sword-stab through the heart. All
this they kept to themselves; and that same night they contrived to get
the sexton of the Canongate to inter the body as that of a rebel who had
been killed, and left where it was found.
This wonder also passed away, and, as time sped, old things began to get
again into their natural order. Menelaws began to come again about the
house; and as an old love, when the impediments are removed, is soon
rekindled again, he and Annie became even all that which they had once
been to each other. The old vows were repeated without the slightest
reference being made by either party to the cause which had interfered
to prevent them from having been fulfilled. It was not for Annie to
proffer a reason, and it did not seem to be the wish of Menelaws to ask
one. In a short time afterwards they were married.
The new-married couple, apparently happy in the enjoyment of an
affection which had continued so long, and had survived the crossing of
a new love, at least on one side, removed to a separate house farther up
in the Lawnmarket. Menelaws had previously graduated as a doctor, and he
commenced to practise as such, not without an amount of success.
Meanwhile the councillor died, leaving Annie a considerable fortune. In
the course of somewhere about ten years they had five children. They at
length resolved on occupying the old house with the garden, for Annie's
reluctance became weakened by time. It was on the occasion of the
flitting that Annie had to rummage an old trunk which Menelaws, long
after the marriage, had brought from the house of his father, the dealer
in pelts. There at the bottom, covered over by a piece of brown paper,
she found--what? The very slipper which matched the one she still
secretly retained in her possession. _Verbum sapienti_. You may now see
where the strange land lies; nor was Annie blind. She concluded in an
instant, and with a horror that thrilled through her whole body, that
Menelaws had murdered his rival. She had lain for ten years in the arms
of a murderer. She had borne to him five children. Nay, she loved him
with all the force of an ardent temperament. The thought was terrible,
and she recoiled from the very possibility of living with him a moment
longer. She took the fatal memorial and secreted it along with its
neighbour; and having a friend at a little distance from Edinburgh, she
hurried thither, taking with her her children. Her father had left in
her own power a sufficiency for her support, and she afterwards returned
to town. All the requests of her husband for an explanation she
resisted, and indeed they were not long persisted in, for Menelaws no
doubt gauged the reason of her obduracy--a conclusion the more likely
that he subsequently left Scotland. I have reason to believe that some
of the existing Menelaws' are descended from this strange union.
THE FAITHFUL WIFE
There is very prevalent, along the Borders, an opinion that the arms of
the town of Selkirk represent an incident which occurred there at the
time of the battle of Flodden. The device, it is well known, consists of
a female bearing a child in her arms, seated on a tomb, on which is also
placed the Scottish lion. Antiquaries tell us that this device was
adopted in consequence of the melancholy circumstance of the wife of an
inhabitant of the town having been found, by a party returning from the
battle, lying dead at the place called Ladywood-edge, with a child
sucking at her breast.
We have not the slightest wish to disturb this venerable legend. It
commemorates, with striking force, the desolation of one of Scotland's
greatest calamities; and though the device is rudely and coarsely
imagined, there is a graphic strength in the conception, which,
independently of the truth of the story, recommends it to the lover of
the bold and fervid genius of our countrymen. We must, at same time, be
allowed to say that there is another version, and this we intend,
shortly, now to lay before the public, without vouching for its
superiority of accuracy over its more favoured and cherished brother;
and rather, indeed, cautioning the credulous lovers of old legends to be
upon their guard, lest Dr. Johnson's reproof of Richardson be applicable
to us, in saying that we have it upon authority.
When recruits were required by King James the Fourth for the invasion of
the English territory, which produced the most lamentable of all our
defeats, it is well known that great exertions were used in the cause by
the town-clerk of Selkirk, whose name was William Brydone, for which
King James the Fifth afterwards conferred on him the honour of
knighthood. Many of the inhabitants of Selkirk, fired with the ardour
which the chivalric spirit of James infused into the hearts of his
people, and with the spirit of emulation which Brydone had the art of
exciting among his townsmen, as Borderers, joined the banners of their
provost. Among these was one, Alexander Hume, a shoemaker, a strong
stalwart man, bold and energetic in his character, and extremely
enthusiastic in the cause of the king. He was deemed of considerable
importance by Brydone, being held the second best man of the hundred
citizens who are said to have joined his standard. When he came among
his companions he was uniformly cheered. They had confidence in his
sagacity and prudence, respected his valour, and admired his strength.
If Hume was thus courted by his companions, and urged by Brydone to the
dangerous enterprise in which the king, by the wiles and flattery of the
French queen, had engaged, he was treated in a very different manner by
Margaret, his wife,--a fine young woman, who, fond to distraction of her
husband, was desirous of preventing him from risking his life in a cause
which she feared, with prophetic feeling, would bring desolation on her
country. Every effort which love and female cajolery could suggest was
used by this dutiful wife to keep her husband at home. She hung round
his neck,--held up to his face a fine child five months old, whose mute
eloquence softened the heart, but could not alter the purpose of the
father,--wept, prayed, implored. She asked him the startling
question--Who, when he was dead--and die he might--would shield her from
injury and misfortune, and cherish, with the tenderness and love which
its beauty and innocence deserved, the interesting pledge of their
affection? She painted in glowing colours--which the imagination,
excited by love, can so well supply--the situation of her as a widow and
her child as an orphan. Their natural protector gone, what would be left
to her but grief, what would remain for her child but destitution? His
spirit would hear her wails; but beggary would array her in its rags,
and hunger would steal from her cheek the vestiges of health and the
lineaments of beauty.
These appeals were borne by Hume by the panoply of resolution. He loved
Margaret as dearly, as truly as man could love woman, as a husband could
love the partner of his life and fortunes. He answered with tears and
embraces; but he remained true to the cause of his king and his country.
"Would you hae me, Margaret," he said, "to disgrace mysel' in the face
o' my townsmen? Doesna our guid king intend to leave his fair Margaret,
and risk the royal bluid o' the Bruce for the interests o' auld
Scotland? and doesna our honoured provost mean to desert, for a day o'
glory, his braw wife, that he may deck her wimple wi' the roses o'
England, and her name wi' a Scotch title? Wharfore, then, should I, a
puir tradesman, fear to put in jeopardy for the country that bore me the
life that is hers as weel as yours, and sacrifice, sae far as the guid
that my arm can produce, the glory o' my king and the character o' my
Margaret heard this speech with the most intense grief. She was
incapable of argument. She was inconsolable. Her husband remained
inexorable, and entreaty gave way to anger. She had adopted the idea
that Hume was buoyed up with the pride of leadership; and she told him,
with some acrimony, that his ambition of being thought the bravest man
of Selkirk would not, in the event of his death, supply the child he was
bound to work for with a bite of bread. Her love and anger carried her
beyond bounds. She used other language of a harsher character, which
forced her good-natured husband to retaliate in terms unusual to him,
unsuited to the serious subject which they had in hand, and far less to
the dangerous separation which they were about to experience. The
conversation got more acrimonious. Words of a high cast produced
expressions stronger still, and Hume left his wife in anger, to go to
the field from which he might never return.
Regret follows close upon the heels of incensed love. Alexander Hume had
not been many paces from his own house, when his wife saw, in its proper
light, the true character of her situation. Her husband had gone on a
perilous enterprise. He might perish. She had perhaps got her last look
of him who was dearest to her bosom. That look was in anger. The idea
was terrible. Those who know the strength and delicacy of the feelings
of true affection may conceive the situation of Margaret Hume. Unable to
control herself, she threw her child into its crib, and rushed out of
the house. One parting glance of reconciliation was all she wanted. She
hurried through the town with an excited and terrified aspect, searching
everywhere for her husband. He had departed with his companions; and
Margaret was left in the agony of one whose sorrow is destined to be
increased by the workings of an excited fancy, and the remorseful
feelings of self-impeachment.
In the meantime, Hume having joined his companions, proceeded to the
main army of the king, which was encamped on the hill of Flodden, lying
on the left of the river Till. The party with which he was associated
put themselves under the command of Lord Home; who, with the Earls of
Crawford and Montrose, led the left of the van of the Scottish army.
This part of the king's troops, it is well known, was opposed to Sir
Edmund Howard. They were early engaged, and fought so successfully that
Howard soon stood in need of succour from Lord Dacre, to save him from
being speared on the field.
In this struggle Alexander Hume displayed the greatest prowess. He was
seen in every direction dealing out death wherever he went. He was not,
however, alone. His companions kept well up to him; and, in particular,
one individual, who had joined the party as they approached the field,
fought with a bravery equal to that of Hume himself. That person kept
continually by his side, and seemed to consider the brave Borderer as
his chosen companion-in-arms, whom he was bound to defend through all
the perils of the fight. A leather haubergeon and an iron helmet, in
which there was placed a small white feather, plucked from a cock's
wing, constituted the armour of this brave seconder of Hume's gallantry.
When Hume was attacked by the English with more force than his
individual arm could sustain, no one of his companions was more ready to
bring him aid than this individual. On several occasions he may be said
to have saved his life, for Hume's recklessness drew him often into the
very midst of the fight, where he must have perished had it not been for
the timely assistance of his friend. On one occasion, in particular, an
Englishman came behind him, and was in the very act of inserting a spear
between the clasps of his armour, when his companion struck the
dastardly fellow to the earth, and resumed the fight in front of the
This noble conduct was not unappreciated by Hume; for where is bravery
found segregated from gratitude and generosity? He called upon him, even
in the midst of the battle, for his name, that he might, in the event of
their being separated, recollect and commemorate his friendship. The
request was not complied with, but the superintending and saving arm of
the stranger continued to be exercised in favour of the Borderer. They
fought together to the end of the battle. The result of the bloody
contest is but too well known. The strains of poetry have carried the
wail of bereavement to the ends of the earth, and sorrow has claimed the
sounds as its own individual expression.
The Scottish troops took their flight in different directions. Hume and
his companions were obliged to lie in secret for a considerable time in
the surrounding forests. He made many inquiries among his friends for
the individual who had fought with him so bravely and saved his life. He
could find no trace of him, beyond the information that he had
disappeared when Hume had given up the fight. The direction in which he
went was unknown; nor could any one tell the place from which he came.
The people of Selkirk who had been in the fight, sought their town as
soon as they could with safety get out of the reach of the English.
Their numbers formed a sorry contrast to those who had, with light
hearts and high hopes, sought the field of battle; and it has been
reported that when the wretched wounded and bloodstained remnant entered
the town, a cry of sorrow was raised by the inhabitants collected to
meet them, the remembrance of which remained on the hearts of their
children long after those who uttered it had been consigned with their
griefs to the grave.
Hume, who had also grievously repented of the harsh words he had applied
to his beloved wife on the occasion of their separation, was all
impatience to clasp her to his bosom, and seal their reconciliation with
a kiss of repentance and love. Leaving his companions as they entered
the town, he flew to the house. He approached the door. He reached it
with a trembling heart. He had prepared the kind words of salutation. He
had wounds to show, and to get dressed by the tender hand of sympathy.
Lifting the latch, he entered. No one came to meet him. No sound, either
of wife or child, met his ear. On looking round he saw, sitting in an
arm-chair, the person who had accompanied him in battle, wearing the
same haubergeon, the same helmet, the individual white feather that had
attracted his attention. That person was Margaret Hume. She was dead.
Her head reclined on the back of the chair, her arms hung by her side,
the edge of her haubergeon was uplifted, and at her white bosom, from
which flowed streams of blood, her child sucked the milk of a dead
mother. _Omissis nugis rem experiamur_.
END OF VOL. XXIII.