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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Redgauntlet, by Sir Walter Scott

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Title: Redgauntlet
Author: Sir Walter Scott
Posting Date: December 31, 2008 [EBook #2516]
Release Date: February, 2000
Language: English


Produced by An Anonymous Volunteer

by Sir Walter Scott

Letters I - XIII
Chapters I - XXIII

Original Transcriber's Note: Footnotes in the printed book have been

inserted in the etext in square brackets ("[]") close to the place where
they were referenced by a suffix in the original text. Text in italics
has been written in capital letters. There are some numbered notes at
the end of the text that are referred to by their numbers with brief
notes, also in square brackets, embedded in the text.

The Jacobite enthusiasm of the eighteenth century, particularly during
the rebellion of 1745, afforded a theme, perhaps the finest that could
be selected for fictitious composition, founded upon real or probable
incident. This civil war and its remarkable events were remembered by
the existing generation without any degree of the bitterness of spirit
which seldom fails to attend internal dissension. The Highlanders, who
formed the principal strength of Charles Edward's army, were an ancient
and high-spirited race, peculiar in their habits of war and of peace,
brave to romance, and exhibiting a character turning upon points more
adapted to poetry than to the prose of real life. Their prince, young,
valiant, patient of fatigue, and despising danger, heading his army
on foot in the most toilsome marches, and defeating a regular force
in three battles--all these were circumstances fascinating to the
imagination, and might well be supposed to seduce young and enthusiastic
minds to the cause in which they were found united, although wisdom and
reason frowned upon the enterprise.
The adventurous prince, as is well known, proved to be one of
those personages who distinguish themselves during some single and
extraordinarily brilliant period of their lives, like the course of a
shooting-star, at which men wonder, as well on account of the
briefness, as the brilliancy of its splendour. A long tract of darkness
overshadowed the subsequent life of a man who, in his youth, showed
himself so capable of great undertakings; and, without the painful task
of tracing his course farther, we may say the latter pursuits and habits
of this unhappy prince are those painfully evincing a broken heart,
which seeks refuge from its own thoughts in sordid enjoyments.
Still, however, it was long ere Charles Edward appeared to be, perhaps
it was long ere he altogether became, so much degraded from his original
self; as he enjoyed for a time the lustre attending the progress and
termination of his enterprise. Those who thought they discerned in his
subsequent conduct an insensibility to the distresses of his followers,
coupled with that egotistical attention to his own interests which has
been often attributed to the Stuart family, and which is the natural
effect of the principles of divine right in which they were brought up,
were now generally considered as dissatisfied and splenetic persons,
who, displeased with the issue of their adventure and finding themselves
involved in the ruins of a falling cause, indulged themselves in
undeserved reproaches against their leader. Indeed, such censures were
by no means frequent among those of his followers who, if what was
alleged had been just, had the best right to complain. Far the greater
number of those unfortunate gentlemen suffered with the most dignified
patience, and were either too proud to take notice of ill-treatment an
the part of their prince, or so prudent as to be aware their complaints
would meet with little sympathy from the world. It may be added, that
the greater part of the banished Jacobites, and those of high rank and
consequence, were not much within reach of the influence of the prince's
character and conduct, whether well regulated or otherwise.
In the meantime that great Jacobite conspiracy, of which the
insurrection of 1745-6 was but a small part precipitated into action on
the failure of a far more general scheme, was resumed and again put into
motion by the Jacobites of England, whose force had never been broken,
as they had prudently avoided bringing it into the field. The surprising
effect which had been produced by small means, in 1745-6, animated their
hopes for more important successes, when the whole nonjuring interest
of Britain, identified as it then was with great part of the landed
gentlemen, should come forward to finish what had been gallantly
attempted by a few Highland chiefs.
It is probable, indeed, that the Jacobites of the day were incapable of
considering that the very small scale on which the effort was made, was
in one great measure the cause of its unexpected success. The remarkable
speed with which the insurgents marched, the singularly good discipline
which they preserved, the union and unanimity which for some time
animated their councils, were all in a considerable degree produced
by the smallness of their numbers. Notwithstanding the discomfiture
of Charles Edward, the nonjurors of the period long continued to nurse
unlawful schemes, and to drink treasonable toasts, until age stole upon
them. Another generation arose, who did not share the sentiments which
they cherished; and at length the sparkles of disaffection, which had
long smouldered, but had never been heated enough to burst into actual
flame, became entirely extinguished. But in proportion as the political
enthusiasm died gradually away among men of ordinary temperament, it
influenced those of warm imaginations and weak understandings, and hence
wild schemes were formed, as desperate as they were adventurous.
Thus a young Scottishman of rank is said to have stooped so low as to
plot the surprisal of St. James's Palace, and the assassination of the
royal family. While these ill-digested and desperate conspiracies were
agitated among the few Jacobites who still adhered with more obstinacy
to their purpose, there is no question but that other plots might have
been brought to an open explosion, had it not suited the policy of Sir
Robert Walpole rather to prevent or disable the conspirators in their
projects, than to promulgate the tale of danger, which might thus have
been believed to be more widely diffused than was really the case.
In one instance alone this very prudential and humane line of conduct
was departed from, and the event seemed to confirm the policy of the
general course. Doctor Archibald Cameron, brother of the celebrated
Donald Cameron of Lochiel, attainted for the rebellion of 1745, was
found by a party of soldiers lurking with a comrade in the wilds of Loch
Katrine five or six years after the battle of Culloden, and was there
seized. There were circumstances in his case, so far as was made known
to the public, which attracted much compassion, and gave to the judicial
proceedings against him an appearance of cold-blooded revenge on the
part of government; and the following argument of a zealous Jacobite in
his favour, was received as conclusive by Dr. Johnson and other persons
who might pretend to impartiality. Dr. Cameron had never borne arms,
although engaged in the Rebellion, but used his medical skill for the
service, indifferently, of the wounded of both parties. His return to
Scotland was ascribed exclusively to family affairs. His behaviour at
the bar was decent, firm, and respectful. His wife threw herself, on
three different occasions, before George II and the members of his
family, was rudely repulsed from their presence, and at length placed,
it was said, in the same prison with her husband, and confined with
unmanly severity.
Dr. Cameron was finally executed with all the severities of the law of
treason; and his death remains in popular estimation a dark blot upon
the memory of George II, being almost publicly imputed to a mean and
personal hatred of Donald Cameron of Lochiel, the sufferer's heroic
Yet the fact was that whether the execution of Archibald Cameron was
political or otherwise, it might certainly have been justified, had
the king's ministers so pleased, upon reasons of a public nature. The
unfortunate sufferer had not come to the Highlands solely upon his
private affairs, as was the general belief; but it was not judged
prudent by the English ministry to let it be generally known that
he came to inquire about a considerable sum of money which had been
remitted from France to the friends of the exiled family. He had also a
commission to hold intercourse with the well-known M'Pherson of Cluny,
chief of the clan Vourich, whom the Chevalier had left behind at his
departure from Scotland in 1746, and who remained during ten years of
proscription and danger, skulking from place to place in the Highlands,
and maintaining an uninterrupted correspondence between Charles and his
friends. That Dr. Cameron should have held a commission to assist this
chief in raking together the dispersed embers of disaffection, is in
itself sufficiently natural, and, considering his political principles,
in no respect dishonourable to his memory. But neither ought it to be
imputed to George II that he suffered the laws to be enforced against
a person taken in the act of breaking them. When he lost his hazardous
game, Dr. Cameron only paid the forfeit which he must have calculated
upon. The ministers, however, thought it proper to leave Dr. Cameron's
new schemes in concealment, lest, by divulging them, they had indicated
the channel of communication which, it is now well known, they possessed
to all the plots of Charles Edward. But it was equally ill advised and
ungenerous to sacrifice the character of the king to the policy of the
administration. Both points might have been gained by sparing the
life of Dr. Cameron after conviction, and limiting his punishment to
perpetual exile.
These repeated and successive Jacobite plots rose and burst like bubbles
on a fountain; and one of them, at least, the Chevalier judged of
importance enough to induce him to risk himself within the dangerous
precincts of the British capital. This appears from Dr. King's ANECDOTES
'September, 1750.--I received a note from my Lady Primrose, who desired
to see me immediately. As soon as I waited on her, she led me into her
dressing-room, and presented me to--' [the Chevalier, doubtless]. 'If
I was surprised to find him there, I was still more astonished when he
acquainted me with the motives which had induced him to hazard a journey
to England at this juncture. The impatience of his friends who were in
exile had formed a scheme which was impracticable; but although it had
been as feasible as they had represented it to him, yet no preparation
had been made, nor was anything ready to carry it into execution. He was
soon convinced that he had been deceived; and, therefore, after a stay
in London of five days only, he returned to the place from whence he
came.' Dr. King was in 1750 a keen Jacobite, as may be inferred from the
visit made by him to the prince under such circumstances, and from his
being one of that unfortunate person's chosen correspondents. He, as
well as other men of sense and observation, began to despair of
making their fortune in the party which they had chosen. It was indeed
sufficiently dangerous; for, during the short visit just described,
one of Dr. King's servants remarked the stranger's likeness to Prince
Charles, whom he recognized from the common busts.
The occasion taken for breaking up the Stuart interest we shall tell in
Dr. King's own words:--'When he (Charles Edward) was in Scotland, he had
a mistress whose name was Walkinshaw, and whose sister was at that time,
and is still, housekeeper at Leicester House. Some years after he was
released from his prison, and conducted out of France, he sent for
this girl, who soon acquired such a dominion over him, that she was
acquainted with all his schemes, and trusted with his most secret
correspondence. As soon as this was known in England, all those persons
of distinction who were attached to him were greatly alarmed: they
imagined that this wench had been placed in his family by the English
ministers; and, considering her sister's situation, they seemed to have
some ground for their suspicion; wherefore, they dispatched a gentleman
to Paris, where the prince then was, who had instructions to insist that
Mrs. Walkinshaw should be removed to a convent for a certain term; but
her gallant absolutely refused to comply with this demand; and although
Mr. M'Namara, the gentleman who was sent to him, who has a natural
eloquence and an excellent understanding, urged the most cogent reasons,
and used all the arts of persuasion, to induce him to part with his
mistress, and even proceeded so far as to assure him, according to his
instructions, that an immediate interruption of all correspondence with
his most powerful friends in England, and, in short, that the ruin of
his interest, which was now daily increasing, would be the infallible
consequence of his refusal; yet he continued inflexible, and all
M'Namara's entreaties and remonstrances were ineffectual. M'Namara
stayed in Paris some days beyond the time prescribed him, endeavouring
to reason the prince into a better temper; but finding him obstinately
persevere in his first answer, he took his leave with concern and
indignation, saying, as he passed out, "What has your family done, sir,
thus to draw down the vengeance of Heaven on every branch of it, through
so many ages?" It is worthy of remark, that in all the conferences which
M'Namara had with the prince on this occasion, the latter declared that
it was not a violent passion, or indeed any particular regard, which
attached him to Mrs. Walkinshaw and that he could see her removed from
him without any concern; but he would not receive directions, in respect
to his private conduct, from any man alive. When M'Namara returned
to London, and reported the prince's answer to the gentlemen who had
employed him, they were astonished and confounded. However, they soon
resolved on the measures which they were to pursue for the future, and
determined no longer to serve a man who could not be persuaded to serve
himself, and chose rather to endanger the lives of his best and most
faithful friends, than part with an harlot, whom, as he often declared,
he neither loved nor esteemed.'
From this anecdote, the general truth of which is indubitable, the
principal fault of Charles Edward's temper is sufficiently obvious. It
was a high sense of his own importance, and an obstinate adherence to
what he had once determined on--qualities which, if he had succeeded in
his bold attempt, gave the nation little room to hope that he would have
been found free from the love of prerogative and desire of arbitrary
power, which characterized his unhappy grandfather. He gave a notable
instance how far this was the leading feature of his character, when,
for no reasonable cause that can be assigned, he placed his own single
will in opposition to the necessities of France, which, in order to
purchase a peace become necessary to the kingdom, was reduced to gratify
Britain by prohibiting the residence of Charles within any part of the
French dominions. It was in vain that France endeavoured to lessen the
disgrace of this step by making the most flattering offers, in hopes
to induce the prince of himself to anticipate this disagreeable
alternative, which, if seriously enforced, as it was likely to be, he
had no means whatever of resisting, by leaving the kingdom as of his
own free will. Inspired, however, by the spirit of hereditary obstinacy,
Charles preferred a useless resistance to a dignified submission, and,
by a series of idle bravadoes, laid the French court under the necessity
of arresting their late ally, and sending him to close confinement
in the Bastille, from which he was afterwards sent out of the French
dominions, much in the manner in which a convict is transported to the
place of his destination.
In addition to these repeated instances of a rash and inflexible temper,
Dr. King also adds faults alleged to belong to the prince's character,
of a kind less consonant with his noble birth and high pretensions.
He is said by this author to have been avaricious, or parsimonious at
least, to such a degree of meanness, as to fail, even when he had
ample means, in relieving the sufferers who had lost their fortune, and
sacrificed all in his ill-fated attempt. [The approach is thus expressed
by Dr. King, who brings the charge:--'But the most odious part of his
character is his love of money, a vice which I do not remember to have
been imputed by our historians to any of his ancestors, and is the
certain index of a base and little mind. I know it may be urged in his
vindication, that a prince in exile ought to be an economist. And so
he ought; but, nevertheless, his purse should be always open as long as
there is anything in it, to relieve the necessities of his friends and
adherents. King Charles II, during his banishment, would have shared the
last pistole in his pocket with his little family. But I have known this
gentleman, with two thousand louis-d'ors in his strong-box, pretend he
was in great distress, and borrow money from a lady in Paris who was not
in affluent circumstances. His most faithful servants, who had closely
attended him in all his difficulties, were ill rewarded.'--King's
MEMOIRS.] We must receive, however, with some degree of jealousy what
is said by Dr. King on this subject, recollecting that he had left at
least, if he did not desert, the standard of the unfortunate prince, and
was not therefore a person who was likely to form the fairest estimate
of his virtues and faults. We must also remember that if the exiled
prince gave little, he had but little to give, especially considering
how late he nourished the scheme of another expedition to Scotland, for
which he was long endeavouring to hoard money.
The case, also, of Charles Edward must be allowed to have been a
difficult one. He had to satisfy numerous persons, who, having lost
their all in his cause, had, with that all, seen the extinction of hopes
which they accounted nearly as good as certainties; some of these were
perhaps clamorous in their applications, and certainly ill pleased with
their want of success. Other parts of the Chevalier's conduct may have
afforded grounds for charging him with coldness to the sufferings of his
devoted followers. One of these was a sentiment which has nothing in it
that is generous, but it was certainly a principle in which the young
prince was trained, and which may be too probably denominated peculiar
to his family, educated in all the high notions of passive obedience
and non-resistance. If the unhappy prince gave implicit faith to the
professions of statesmen holding such notions, which is implied by his
whole conduct.


CUR ME EXANIMAS QUERELIS TUIS? In plain English, Why do you deafen me
with your croaking? The disconsolate tone in which you bade me farewell
at Noble House, [The first stage on the road from Edinburgh to Dumfries
via Moffat.] and mounted your miserable hack to return to your law
drudgery, still sounds in my ears. It seemed to say, 'Happy dog! you can
ramble at pleasure over hill and dale, pursue every object of curiosity
that presents itself, and relinquish the chase when it loses interest;
while I, your senior and your better, must, in this brilliant season,
return to my narrow chamber and my musty books.'
Such was the import of the reflections with which you saddened our
parting bottle of claret, and thus I must needs interpret the terms of
your melancholy adieu.
And why should this be so, Alan? Why the deuce should you not be sitting
precisely opposite to me at this moment, in the same comfortable George
Inn; thy heels on the fender, and thy juridical brow expanding its
plications as a pun rose in your fancy? Above all, why, when I fill this
very glass of wine, cannot I push the bottle to you, and say, 'Fairford,
you are chased!' Why, I say, should not all this be, except because Alan
Fairford has not the same true sense of friendship as Darsie Latimer,
and will not regard our purses as common, as well as our sentiments?
I am alone in the world; my only guardian writes to me of a large
fortune which will be mine when I reach the age of twenty-five complete;
my present income is, thou knowest, more than sufficient for all
my wants; and yet thou--traitor as thou art to the cause of
friendship--dost deprive me of the pleasure of thy society, and
submittest, besides, to self-denial on thine own part, rather than my
wanderings should cost me a few guineas more! Is this regard for
my purse, or for thine own pride? Is it not equally absurd and
unreasonable, whichever source it springs from? For myself, I tell thee,
I have, and shall have, more than enough for both. This same methodical
Samuel Griffiths, of Ironmonger Lane, Guildhall, London, whose letter
arrives as duly as quarter-day, has sent me, as I told thee, double
allowance for this my twenty-first birthday, and an assurance, in his
brief fashion, that it will be again doubled for the succeeding years,
until I enter into possession of my own property. Still I am to refrain
from visiting England until my twenty-fifth year expires; and it is
recommended that I shall forbear all inquiries concerning my family, and
so forth, for the present.
Were it not that I recollect my poor mother in her deep widow's weeds,
with a countenance that never smiled but when she looked on me--and
then, in such wan and woful sort, as the sun when he glances through an
April cloud,--were it not, I say, that her mild and matron-like form
and countenance forbid such a suspicion, I might think myself the son of
some Indian director, or rich citizen, who had more wealth than grace,
and a handful of hypocrisy to boot, and who was breeding up privately,
and obscurely enriching, one of whose existence he had some reason to be
ashamed. But, as I said before, I think on my mother, and am convinced
as much as of the existence of my own soul, that no touch of shame could
arise from aught in which she was implicated. Meantime, I am wealthy,
and I am alone, and why does my friend scruple to share my wealth?
Are you not my only friend? and have you not acquired a right to share
my wealth? Answer me that, Alan Fairford. When I was brought from the
solitude of my mother's dwelling into the tumult of the Gaits' Class at
the High School--when I was mocked for my English accent--salted with
snow as a Southern--rolled in the gutter for a Saxon pock-pudding,--who,
with stout arguments and stouter blows, stood forth my defender?--why,
Alan Fairford. Who beat me soundly when I brought the arrogance of an
only son, and of course a spoiled urchin, to the forms of the little
republic?--why, Alan. And who taught me to smoke a cobbler, pin a losen,
head a bicker, and hold the bannets?--[Break a window, head a skirmish
with stones, and hold the bonnet, or handkerchief, which used to divide
High School boys when fighting.] Alan, once more. If I became the pride
of the Yards, and the dread of the hucksters in the High School Wynd,
it was under thy patronage; and, but for thee, I had been contented with
humbly passing through the Cowgate Port, without climbing over the
top of it, and had never seen the KITTLE NINE-STEPS nearer than from
Bareford's Parks. [A pass on the very brink of the Castle rock to the
north, by which it is just possible for a goat, or a High School boy,
to turn the corner of the building where it rises from the edge of the
precipice. This was so favourite a feat with the 'hell and neck boys'
of the higher classes, that at one time sentinels were posted to prevent
its repetition. One of the nine-steps was rendered more secure because
the climber could take hold of the root of a nettle, so precarious were
the means of passing this celebrated spot. The manning the Cowgate Port,
especially in snowball time, was also a choice amusement, as it offered
an inaccessible station for the boys who used these missiles to the
annoyance of the passengers. The gateway is now demolished; and probably
most of its garrison lie as low as the fortress. To recollect that
the author himself, however naturally disqualified, was one of those
juvenile dreadnoughts, is a sad reflection to one who cannot now step
over a brook without assistance.]
You taught me to keep my fingers off the weak, and to clench my fist
against the strong--to carry no tales out of school--to stand forth like
a true man--obey the stern order of a PANDE MANUM, and endure my pawmies
without wincing, like one that is determined not to be the better for
them. In a word, before I knew thee, I knew nothing.
At college it was the same. When I was incorrigibly idle, your example
and encouragement roused me to mental exertion, and showed me the way
to intellectual enjoyment. You made me an historian, a metaphysician
(INVITA MINERVA)--nay, by Heaven! you had almost made an advocate of me,
as well as of yourself. Yes, rather than part with you, Alan, I attended
a weary season at the Scotch Law Class; a wearier at the Civil; and with
what excellent advantage, my notebook, filled with caricatures of the
professors and my fellow students, is it not yet extant to testify?
Thus far have I held on with thee untired;
and, to say truth, purely and solely that I might travel the same road
with thee. But it will not do, Alan. By my faith, man, I could as soon
think of being one of those ingenious traders who cheat little Master
Jackies on the outside of the partition with tops, balls, bats, and
battledores, as a member of the long-robed fraternity within, who impose
on grown country gentlemen with bouncing brocards of law. [The Hall of
the Parliament House of Edinburgh was, in former days, divided into two
unequal portions by a partition, the inner side of which was consecrated
to the use of the Courts of Justice and the gentlemen of the law; while
the outer division was occupied by the stalls of stationers, toymen, and
the like, as in a modern bazaar. From the old play of THE PLAIN DEALER,
it seems such was formerly the case with Westminster Hall. Minos has now
purified his courts in both cities from all traffic but his own.]
Now, don't you read this to your worthy father, Alan--he loves me well
enough, I know, of a Saturday night; but he thinks me but idle company
for any other day of the week. And here, I suspect, lies your real
objection to taking a ramble with me through the southern counties in
this delicious weather. I know the good gentleman has hard thoughts
of me for being so unsettled as to leave Edinburgh before the Session
rises; perhaps, too, he quarrels a little--I will not say with my want
of ancestry, but with my want of connexions. He reckons me a lone thing
in this world, Alan, and so, in good truth, I am; and it seems a reason
to him why you should not attach yourself to me, that I can claim no
interest in the general herd.
Do not suppose I forget what I owe him, for permitting me to shelter for
four years under his roof: My obligations to him are not the less, but
the greater, if he never heartily loved me. He is angry, too, that I
will not, or cannot, be a lawyer, and, with reference to you, considers
my disinclination that way as PESSIMI EXEMPLI, as he might say.
But he need not be afraid that a lad of your steadiness will be
influenced by such a reed shaken by the winds as I am. You will go on
doubting with Dirleton, and resolving those doubts with Stewart,
['Sir John Nisbett of Dirleton's DOUBTS AND QUESTIONS UPON THE LAW,
of authority in Scottish jurisprudence. As is generally the case, the
doubts are held more in respect than the solution.] until the cramp
speech [Till of late years, every advocate who catered at the Scottish
bar made a Latin address to the Court, faculty, and audience, in set
terms, and said a few words upon a text of the civil law, to show his
Latinity and jurisprudence. He also wore his hat for a minute, in order
to vindicate his right of being covered before the Court, which is said
to have originated from the celebrated lawyer, Sir Thomas Hope, having
two sons on the bench while he himself remained at the bar. Of late this
ceremony has been dispensed with, as occupying the time of the Court
unnecessarily. The entrant lawyer merely takes the oaths to government,
and swears to maintain the rules and privileges of his order.] has
been spoken more SOLITO from the corner of the bench, and with covered
head--until you have sworn to defend the liberties and privileges of the
College of Justice--until the black gown is hung on your shoulders, and
you are free as any of the Faculty to sue or defend. Then will I step
forth, Alan, and in a character which even your father will allow may be
more useful to you than had I shared this splendid termination of your
legal studies. In a word, if I cannot be a counsel, I am determined to
be a CLIENT, a sort of person without whom a lawsuit would be as dull
as a supposed case. Yes, I am determined to give you your first fee. One
can easily, I am assured, get into a lawsuit--it is only the getting out
which is sometimes found troublesome;--and, with your kind father for
an agent, and you for my counsel learned in the law, and the worshipful
Master Samuel Griffiths to back me, a few sessions shall not tire my
patience. In short, I will make my way into court, even if it should
cost me the committing a DELICT, or at least a QUASI DELICT.--You see
all is not lost of what Erskine wrote, and Wallace taught.
Thus far I have fooled it off well enough; and yet, Alan, all is not
at ease within me. I am affected with a sense of loneliness, the more
depressing, that it seems to me to be a solitude peculiarly my own. In a
country where all the world have a circle of consanguinity, extending to
sixth cousins at least, I am a solitary individual, having only one kind
heart to throb in unison with my own. If I were condemned to labour
for my bread, methinks I should less regard this peculiar species of
deprivation, The necessary communication of master and servant would be
at least a tie which would attach me to the rest of my kind--as it is,
my very independence seems to enhance the peculiarity of my situation.
I am in the world as a stranger in the crowded coffeehouse, where he
enters, calls for what refreshment he wants, pays his bill, and is
forgotten so soon as the waiter's mouth has pronounced his 'Thank ye,
I know your good father would term this SINNING MY MERCIES, [A
peculiar Scottish phrase expressive of ingratitude for the favours of
Providence.] and ask how I should feel if, instead of being able to
throw down my reckoning, I were obliged to deprecate the resentment of
the landlord for consuming that which I could not pay for. I cannot tell
how it is; but, though this very reasonable reflection comes across me,
and though I do confess that four hundred a year in possession, eight
hundred in near prospect, and the L--d knows how many hundreds more in
the distance, are very pretty and comfortable things, yet I would freely
give one half of them to call your father father, though he should
scold me for my idleness every hour of the day, and to call you brother,
though a brother whose merits would throw my own so completely into the
The faint, yet not improbable, belief has often come across me, that
your father knows something more about my birth and condition than he
is willing to communicate; it is so unlikely that I should be left in
Edinburgh at six years old, without any other recommendation than
the regular payment of my board to old M--, [Probably Mathieson,
the predecessor of Dr. Adams, to whose memory the author and his
contemporaries owe a deep debt of gratitude.] of the High School.
Before that time, as I have often told you, I have but a recollection
of unbounded indulgence on my mother's part, and the most tyrannical
exertion of caprice on my own. I remember still how bitterly she
sighed, how vainly she strove to soothe me, while, in the full energy
of despotism, I roared like ten bull-calves, for something which it was
impossible to procure for me. She is dead, that kind, that ill-rewarded
mother! I remember the long faces--the darkened rooms--the black
hangings--the mysterious impression made upon my mind by the hearse and
mourning coaches, and the difficulty which I had to reconcile all this
to the disappearance of my mother. I do not think I had before this
event formed, any idea, of death, or that I had even heard of that final
consummation of all that lives. The first acquaintance which I formed
with it deprived me of my only relation.
A clergyman of venerable appearance, our only visitor, was my guide
and companion in a journey of considerable length; and in the charge of
another elderly man, substituted in his place, I know not how or why, I
completed my journey to Scotland--and this is all I recollect.
I repeat the little history now, as I have a hundred times before,
merely because I would wring some sense out of it. Turn, then, thy
sharp, wire-drawing, lawyer-like ingenuity to the same task--make up my
history as though thou wert shaping the blundering allegations of some
blue-bonneted, hard-headed client, into a condescendence of facts
and circumstances, and thou shalt be, not my Apollo--QUID TIBI CUM
LYRA?--but my Lord Stair, [Celebrated as a Scottish lawyer.] Meanwhile,
I have written myself out of my melancholy and blue devils, merely by
prosing about them; so I will now converse half an hour with Roan Robin
in his stall--the rascal knows me already, and snickers whenever I cross
the threshold of the stable.
The black which you bestrode yesterday morning promises to be an
admirable roadster, and ambled as easily with Sam and the portmanteau,
as with you and your load of law-learning. Sam promises to be steady,
and has hitherto been so. No long trial, you will say. He lays the
blame of former inaccuracies on evil company--the people who were at the
livery-stable were too seductive, I suppose--he denies he ever did the
horse injustice--would rather have wanted his own dinner, he says.
In this I believe him, as Roan Robin's ribs and coat show no marks of
contradiction. However, as he will meet with no saints in the inns we
frequent, and as oats are sometimes as speedily converted into ale
as John Barleycorn himself, I shall keep a look-out after Master Sam.
Stupid fellow! had he not abused my good nature, I might have chatted
to him to keep my tongue in exercise; whereas now I must keep him at a
Do you remember what Mr. Fairford said to me on this subject--it did not
become my father's son to speak in that manner to Sam's father's son?
I asked you what your father could possibly know of mine; and you
answered, 'As much, you supposed, as he knew of Sam's--it was a
proverbial expression.' This did not quite satisfy me; though I am sure
I cannot tell why it should not. But I am returning to a fruitless
and exhausted subject. Do not be afraid that I shall come back on
this well-trodden yet pathless field of conjecture. I know nothing so
useless, so utterly feeble and contemptible, as the groaning forth one's
lamentations into the ears of our friends.
I would fain promise you that my letters shall be as entertaining as
I am determined they shall be regular and well filled. We have an
advantage over the dear friends of old, every pair of them.
Neither David and Jonathan, nor Orestes and Pylades, nor Damon and
Pythias--although, in the latter case particularly, a letter by post
would have been very acceptable--ever corresponded together; for they
probably could not write, and certainly had neither post nor franks to
speed their effusions to each other; whereas yours, which you had from
the old peer, being handled gently, and opened with precaution, may be
returned to me again, and serve to make us free of his Majesty's post
office, during the whole time of my proposed tour. [It is well known
and remembered, that when Members of Parliament enjoyed the unlimited
privilege of franking by the mere writing the name on the cover, it was
extended to the most extraordinary occasions. One noble lord, to express
his regard for a particular regiment, franked a letter for every rank
and file. It was customary also to save the covers and return them,
in order that the correspondence might be carried on as long as the
envelopes could hold together.] Mercy upon us, Alan! what letters I
shall have to send to you, with an account of all that I can collect, of
pleasant or rare, in this wild-goose jaunt of mine! All I stipulate is
that you do not communicate them to the SCOTS MAGAZINE; for though you
used, in a left-handed way, to compliment me on my attainments in the
lighter branches of literature, at the expense of my deficiency in the
weightier matters of the law, I am not yet audacious enough to enter the
portal which the learned Ruddiman so kindly opened for the acolytes of
the Muses.--VALE SIS MEMOR MEI. D. L.
PS. Direct to the Post Office here. I shall leave orders to forward your
letters wherever I may travel.

NEGATUR, my dear Darsie--you have logic and law enough to understand the
word of denial. I deny your conclusion. The premises I admit, namely,
that when I mounted on that infernal hack, I might utter what seemed
a sigh, although I deemed it lost amid the puffs and groans of the
broken-winded brute, matchless in the complication of her complaints by
any save she, the poor man's mare, renowned in song, that died
A mile aboon Dundee.
[Alluding, as all Scotsmen know, to the humorous old song:--
'The auld man's mare's dead,
The puir man's mare's dead,
The auld man's mare's dead,
A mile aboon Dundee.']
But credit me, Darsie, the sigh which escaped me, concerned thee more
than myself, and regarded neither the superior mettle of your cavalry,
nor your greater command of the means of travelling. I could certainly
have cheerfully ridden with you for a few days; and assure yourself I
would not have hesitated to tax your better filled purse for our joint
expenses. But you know my father considers every moment taken from the
law as a step down hill; and I owe much to his anxiety on my account,
although its effects are sometimes troublesome. For example:
I found, on my arrival at the shop in Brown's Square, that the old
gentleman had returned that very evening, impatient, it seems, of
remaining a night out of the guardianship of the domestic Lares. Having
this information from James, whose brow wore rather an anxious look on
the occasion, I dispatched a Highland chairman to the livery stable with
my Bucephalus, and slunk, with as little noise as might be, into my own
den, where I began to mumble certain half-gnawed and not half-digested
doctrines of our municipal code. I was not long seated, when my father's
visage was thrust, in a peering sort of way, through the half-opened
door; and withdrawn, on seeing my occupation, with a half-articulated
HUMPH! which seemed to convey a doubt of the seriousness of my
application. If it were so, I cannot condemn him; for recollection of
thee occupied me so entirely during an hour's reading, that although
Stair lay before me, and notwithstanding that I turned over three or
four pages, the sense of his lordship's clear and perspicuous style
so far escaped me, that I had the mortification to find my labour was
utterly in vain.
Ere I had brought up my lee-way, James appeared with his summons to our
frugal supper--radishes, cheese, and a bottle of the old ale-only two
plates though--and no chair set for Mr. Darsie, by the attentive James
Wilkinson. Said James, with his long face, lank hair, and very long
pig-tail in its leathern strap, was placed, as usual, at the back of
my father's chair, upright as a wooden sentinel at the door of a
puppet-show. 'You may go down, James,' said my father; and exit
Wilkinson.--What is to come next? thought I; for the weather is not
clear on the paternal brow.
My boots encountered his first glance of displeasure, and he asked me,
with a sneer, which way I had been riding. He expected me to answer,
'Nowhere,' and would then have been at me with his usual sarcasm,
touching the humour of walking in shoes at twenty shillings a pair. But
I answered with composure, that I had ridden out to dinner as far as
Noble House. He started (you know his way) as if I had said that I
had dined at Jericho; and as I did not choose to seem to observe his
surprise, but continued munching my radishes in tranquillity, he broke
forth in ire.
'To Noble House, sir! and what had you to do at Noble House, sir? Do
you remember you are studying law, sir?--that your Scots law trials are
coming on, sir?--that every moment of your time just now is worth hours
at another time?--and have you leisure to go to Noble House, sir?--and
to throw your books behind you for so many hours?--Had it been a turn in
the meadows, or even a game at golf--but Noble House, sir!'
'I went so far with Darsie Latimer, sir, to see him begin his journey.'
'Darsie Latimer?' he replied in a softened tone--'Humph!--Well, I do not
blame you for being kind to Darsie Latimer; but it would have done as
much good if you had walked with him as far as the toll-bar, and then
made your farewells--it would have saved horse-hire--and your reckoning,
too, at dinner.'
'Latimer paid that, sir,' I replied, thinking to soften the matter; but
I had much better have left it unspoken.
'The reckoning, sir!' replied my father. 'And did you sponge upon any
man for a reckoning? Sir, no man should enter the door of a public-house
without paying his lawing.'
'I admit the general rule, sir,' I replied; 'but this was a parting-cup
between Darsie and me; and I should conceive it fell under the exception
'You think yourself a wit,' said my father, with as near an approach to
a smile as ever he permits to gild the solemnity of his features; 'but
I reckon you did not eat your dinner standing, like the Jews at their
Passover? and it was decided in a case before the town-bailies of
Cupar-Angus, when Luckie Simpson's cow had drunk up Luckie Jamieson's
browst of ale while it stood in the door to cool, that there was no
damage to pay, because the crummie drank without sitting down; such
being the very circumstance constituting DOCH AN DORROCH, which is a
standing drink, for which no reckoning is paid. Ha, sir! what says your
advocateship (FIERI) to that? EXEPTIO FIRMAT REGULAM--But come, fill
your glass, Alan; I am not sorry ye have shown this attention to Darsie
Latimer, who is a good lad, as times go; and having now lived under my
roof since he left the school, why, there is really no great matter in
coming under this small obligation to him.'
As I saw my father's scruples were much softened by the consciousness of
his superiority in the legal argument, I took care to accept my pardon
as a matter of grace, rather than of justice; and only replied, we
should feel ourselves duller of an evening, now that you were absent. I
will give you my father's exact words in reply, Darsie. You know him so
well, that they will not offend you; and you are also aware, that there
mingles with the good man's preciseness and formality, a fund of shrewd
observation and practical good sense.
'It is very true,' he said; 'Darsie was a pleasant companion-but over
waggish, over waggish, Alan, and somewhat scatter-brained.--By the way,
Wilkinson must get our ale bottled in English pints now, for a quart
bottle is too much, night after night, for you and me, without his
assistance.--But Darsie, as I was saying, is an arch lad, and somewhat
light in the upper story--I wish him well through the world; but he has
little solidity, Alan, little solidity.'
I scorn to desert an absent friend, Darsie, so I said for you a little
more than my conscience warranted: but your defection from your legal
studies had driven you far to leeward in my father's good opinion.
'Unstable as water, he shall not excel,' said my father; 'or, as the
Septuagint hath it, EFUSA EST SICUT AQUA--NON CRESCAT. He goeth to
dancing-houses, and readeth novels--SAT EST.'
I endeavoured to parry these texts by observing, that the dancing-houses
amounted only to one night at La Pique's ball--the novels (so far as
matter of notoriety, Darsie) to an odd volume of TOM JONES.
'But he danced from night to morning,' replied my father, 'and he read
the idle trash, which the author should have been scourged for, at least
twenty times over. It was never out of his hand.'
I then hinted, that in all probability your fortune was now so easy as
to dispense with your prosecuting the law any further than you had done;
and therefore you might think you had some title to amuse yourself. This
was the least palatable argument of all.
'If he cannot amuse himself with the law,' said my father, snappishly
'it is the worse for him. If he needs not law to teach him to make a
fortune, I am sure he needs it to teach him how to keep one; and it
would better become him to be learning this, than to be scouring the
country like a land-louper, going he knows not where, to see he knows
not what, and giving treats at Noble House to fools like himself' (an
angry glance at poor me), 'Noble House, indeed!' he repeated, with
elevated voice and sneering tone, as if there were something offensive
to him in the name, though I will venture to say that any place in which
you had been extravagant enough to spend five shillings, would have
stood as deep in his reprobation.
Mindful of your idea, that my father knows more of your real situation
than he thinks proper to mention, I thought I would hazard a fishing
observation. 'I did not see,' I said, 'how the Scottish law would be
useful to a young gentleman whose fortune would seem to be vested in
England.'--I really thought my father would have beat me.
'D'ye mean to come round me, sir, PER AMBAGES, as Counsellor Pest says?
What is it to you where Darsie Latimer's fortune is vested, or whether
he hath any fortune, aye or no? And what ill would the Scottish law do
to him, though he had as much of it as either Stair or Bankton, sir? Is
not the foundation of our municipal law the ancient code of the Roman
Empire, devised at a time when it was so much renowned for its civil
polity, sir, and wisdom? Go to your bed, sir, after your expedition to
Noble House, and see that your lamp be burning and your book before you
ere the sun peeps. ARS LONGA, VITA BREVIS--were it not a sin to call the
divine science of the law by the inferior name of art.'
So my lamp did burn, dear Darsie, the next morning, though the owner
took the risk of a domiciliary visitation, and lay snug in bed, trusting
its glimmer might, without further inquiry, be received as sufficient
evidence of his vigilance. And now, upon this the third morning after
your departure, things are but little better; for though the lamp burns
in my den, and VOET ON THE PANDECTS hath his wisdom spread open before
me, yet as I only use him as a reading-desk on which to scribble this
sheet of nonsense to Darsie Latimer, it is probable the vicinity will be
of little furtherance to my studies.
And now, methinks, I hear thee call me an affected hypocritical varlet,
who, living under such a system of distrust and restraint as my father
chooses to govern by, nevertheless pretends not to envy you your freedom
and independence.
Latimer, I will tell you no lies. I wish my father would allow me a
little more exercise of my free will, were it but that I might feel the
pleasure of doing what would please him of my own accord. A little more
spare time, and a little more money to enjoy it, would, besides, neither
misbecome my age nor my condition; and it is, I own, provoking to see so
many in the same situation winging the air at freedom, while I sit here,
caged up like a cobbler's linnet, to chant the same unvaried lesson
from sunrise to sunset, not to mention the listening to so many lectures
against idleness, as if I enjoyed or was making use of the means of
amusement! But then I cannot at heart blame either the motive or the
object of this severity. For the motive, it is and can only be my
father's anxious, devoted, and unremitting affection and zeal for my
improvement, with a laudable sense of the honour of the profession to
which he has trained me.
As we have no near relations, the tie betwixt us is of even unusual
closeness, though in itself one of the strongest which nature can form.
I am, and have all along been, the exclusive object of my father's
anxious hopes, and his still more anxious and engrossing fears; so what
title have I to complain, although now and then these fears and hopes
lead him to take a troublesome and incessant charge of all my motions?
Besides, I ought to recollect, and, Darsie, I do recollect, that my
father upon various occasions, has shown that he can be indulgent as
well as strict. The leaving his old apartments in the Luckenbooths was
to him like divorcing the soul from the body; yet Dr. R---- did but
hint that the better air of this new district was more favourable to
my health, as I was then suffering under the penalties of too rapid a
growth, when he exchanged his old and beloved quarters, adjacent to the
very Heart of Midlothian, for one of those new tenements (entire within
themselves) which modern taste has so lately introduced. Instance also
the inestimable favour which he conferred on me by receiving you into
his house, when you had only the unpleasant alternative of remaining,
though a grown-up lad, in the society of mere boys. [The diminutive and
obscure place called Brown's Square, was hailed about the time of its
erection as an extremely elegant improvement upon the style of designing
and erecting Edinburgh residences. Each house was, in the phrase used
by appraisers, 'finished within itself,' or, in the still newer
phraseology, 'self-contained.' It was built about the year 1763-4; and
the old part of the city being near and accessible, this square soon
received many inhabitants, who ventured to remove to so moderate a
distance from the High Street.] This was a thing so contrary to all my
father's ideas of seclusion, of economy, and of the safety to my morals
and industry, which he wished to attain, by preserving me from the
society of other young people, that, upon my word, I am always rather
astonished how I should have had the impudence to make the request, than
that he should have complied with it.
Then for the object of his solicitude--Do not laugh, or hold up your
hands, my good Darsie; but upon my word I like the profession to which
I am in the course of being educated, and am serious in prosecuting the
preliminary studies. The law is my vocation--in an especial, and, I
may say, in an hereditary way, my vocation; for although I have not the
honour to belong to any of the great families who form in Scotland, as
in France, the noblesse of the robe, and with us, at least, carry their
heads as high, or rather higher, than the noblesse of the sword,--for
the former consist more frequently of the 'first-born of Egypt,'--yet
my grandfather, who, I dare say, was a most excellent person, had the
honour to sign a bitter protest against the Union, in the respectable
character of town-clerk to the ancient Borough of Birlthegroat; and
there is some reason--shall I say to hope, or to suspect?--that he may
have been a natural son of a first cousin of the then Fairford of that
Ilk, who had been long numbered among the minor barons. Now my father
mounted a step higher on the ladder of legal promotion, being, as you
know as well as I do, an eminent and respected Writer to his Majesty's
Signet; and I myself am destined to mount a round higher still, and wear
the honoured robe which is sometimes supposed, like Charity, to cover
a multitude of sins. I have, therefore, no choice but to climb upwards;
since we have mounted thus high, or else to fall down at the imminent
risk of my neck. So that I reconcile myself to my destiny; and while
you, are looking from mountain peaks, at distant lakes and firths, I am,
DE APICIBUS JURIS, consoling myself with visions of crimson and scarlet
gowns--with the appendages of handsome cowls, well lined with salary.
You smile, Darsie, MORE TUO, and seem to say it is little worth while to
cozen one's self with such vulgar dreams; yours being, on the contrary,
of a high and heroic character, bearing the same resemblance to mine,
that a bench, covered with purple cloth and plentifully loaded with
session papers, does to some Gothic throne, rough with barbaric pearl
and gold. But what would you have?--SUA QUEMQUE TRAHIT VOLUPTAS. And my
visions of preferment, though they may be as unsubstantial at present,
are nevertheless more capable of being realized, than your aspirations
after the Lord knows what. What says my father's proverb? 'Look to a
gown of gold, and you will at least get a sleeve of it.' Such is my
pursuit; but what dost thou look to? The chance that the mystery, as
you call it, which at present overclouds your birth and connexions, will
clear up into something inexpressibly and inconceivably brilliant;
and this without any effort or exertion of your own, but purely by the
goodwill of Fortune. I know the pride and naughtiness of thy heart, and
sincerely do I wish that thou hadst more beatings to thank me for, than
those which thou dost acknowledge so gratefully. Then had I thumped
these Quixotical expectations out of thee, and thou hadst not, as
now, conceived thyself to be the hero of some romantic history, and
converted, in thy vain imaginations, honest Griffiths, citizen and
broker, who never bestows more than the needful upon his quarterly
epistles, into some wise Alexander or sage Alquife, the mystical and
magical protector of thy peerless destiny. But I know not how it was,
thy skull got harder, I think, and my knuckles became softer; not to
mention that at length thou didst begin to show about thee a spark of
something dangerous, which I was bound to respect at least, if I did not
fear it.
And while I speak of this, it is not much amiss to advise thee to
correct a little this cock-a-hoop courage of thine. I fear much that,
like a hot-mettled horse, it will carry the owner into some scrape, out
of which he will find it difficult to extricate himself, especially if
the daring spirit which bore thee thither should chance to fail thee
at a pinch. Remember, Darsie, thou art not naturally courageous; on
the contrary, we have long since agreed that, quiet as I am, I have the
advantage in this important particular. My courage consists, I think,
in strength of nerves and constitutional indifference to danger; which,
though it never pushes me on adventure, secures me in full use of
my recollection, and tolerably complete self-possession, when danger
actually arrives. Now, thine seems more what may be called intellectual
courage; highness of spirit, and desire of distinction; impulses which
render thee alive to the love of fame, and deaf to the apprehension of
danger, until it forces itself suddenly upon thee. I own that, whether
it is from my having caught my father's apprehensions, or that I have
reason to entertain doubts of my own, I often think that this wildfire
chase of romantic situation and adventure may lead thee into some
mischief; and then what would become of Alan Fairford? They might make
whom they pleased Lord Advocate or Solicitor-General, I should never
have the heart to strive for it. All my exertions are intended to
Vindicate myself one day in your eyes; and I think I should not care
a farthing for the embroidered silk gown, more than for an old woman's
apron, unless I had hopes that thou shouldst be walking the boards to
admire, and perhaps to envy me.
That this may be the case, I prithee--beware! See not a Dulcinea, in
every slipshod girl, who, with blue eyes, fair hair, a tattered plaid,
and a willow-wand in her grip, drives out the village cows to the
loaning. Do not think you will meet a gallant Valentine in every English
rider, or an Orson in every Highland drover. View things as they are,
and not as they may be magnified through thy teeming fancy. I have seen
thee look at an old gravel pit, till thou madest out capes, and bays,
and inlets, crags and precipices, and the whole stupendous scenery of
the Isle of Feroe, in what was, to all ordinary eyes, a mere horse-pond.
Besides, did I not once find thee gazing with respect at a lizard, in
the attitude of one who looks upon a crocodile? Now this is, doubtless,
so far a harmless exercise of your imagination; for the puddle cannot
drown you, nor the Lilliputian alligator eat you up. But it is different
in society, where you cannot mistake the character of those you converse
with, or suffer your fancy to exaggerate their qualities, good or bad,
without exposing yourself not only to ridicule, but to great and serious
inconveniences. Keep guard, therefore, on your imagination, my dear
Darsie; and let your old friend assure you, it is the point of your
character most pregnant with peril to its good and generous owner.
Adieu! let not the franks of the worthy peer remain unemployed; above

I have received thine absurd and most conceited epistle. It is well
for thee that, Lovelace and Belford-like, we came under a convention
to pardon every species of liberty which we may take with each other;
since, upon my word, there are some reflections in your last which would
otherwise have obliged me to return forthwith to Edinburgh, merely to
show you I was not what you took me for.
Why, what a pair of prigs hast thou made of us! I plunging into scrapes,
without having courage to get out of them--thy sagacious self, afraid
to put one foot before the other, lest it should run away from its
companion; and so standing still like a post, out of mere faintness
and coldness of heart, while all the world were driving full speed past
thee. Thou a portrait-painter! I tell thee, Alan, I have seen a better
seated on the fourth round of a ladder, and painting a bare-breeched
Highlander, holding a pint-stoup as big as himself, and a booted
Lowlander, in a bobwig, supporting a glass of like dimensions; the whole
being designed to represent the sign of the Salutation.
How hadst thou the heart to represent thine own individual self, with
all thy motions, like those of a great Dutch doll, depending on the
pressure of certain springs, as duty, reflection, and the like; without
the impulse of which, thou wouldst doubtless have me believe thou
wouldst not budge an inch! But have I not seen Gravity out of his bed at
midnight? and must I, in plain terms, remind thee of certain mad pranks?
Thou hadst ever, with the gravest sentiments in thy mouth and the most
starched reserve in thy manner, a kind of lumbering proclivity towards
mischief, although with more inclination to set it a-going than address
to carry it through; and I cannot but chuckle internally, when I think
of having seen my most venerable monitor, the future president of some
high Scottish court, puffing, blowing, and floundering, like a clumsy
cart-horse in a bog where his efforts to extricate himself only plunged
him deeper at every awkward struggle, till some one--I myself, for
example--took compassion on the moaning monster, and dragged him out by
mane and tail.
As for me, my portrait is, if possible, even more scandalously
caricatured, I fail or quail in spirit at the upcome! Where canst thou
show me the least symptom of the recreant temper, with which thou hast
invested me (as I trust) merely to set off the solid and impassible
dignity of thine own stupid indifference? If you ever saw me tremble, be
assured that my flesh, like that of the old Spanish general, only quaked
at the dangers into which my spirit was about to lead it. Seriously,
Alan, this imputed poverty of spirit is a shabby charge to bring against
your friend. I have examined myself as closely as I can, being, in very
truth, a little hurt at your having such hard thoughts of me, and on
my life I can see no reason for them. I allow you have, perhaps, some
advantage of me in the steadiness and indifference of your temper; but I
should despise myself, if I were conscious of the deficiency in courage
which you seem willing enough to impute to me. However, I suppose, this
ungracious hint proceeds from sincere anxiety for my safety; and so
viewing it, I swallow it as I would do medicine from a friendly doctor,
although I believed in my heart he had mistaken my complaint.
This offensive insinuation disposed of, I thank thee, Alan, for the rest
of thy epistle. I thought I heard your good father pronouncing the word
Noble House, with a mixture of contempt and displeasure, as if the very
name of the poor little hamlet were odious to him, or as if you had
selected, out of all Scotland, the very place at which you had no call
to dine. But if he had had any particular aversion to that blameless
village and very sorry inn, is it not his own fault that I did not
accept the invitation of the Laird of Glengallacher, to shoot a buck
in what he emphatically calls 'his country'? Truth is, I had a strong
desire to have complied with his lairdship's invitation. To shoot a
buck! Think how magnificent an idea to one who never shot anything but
hedge-sparrows, and that with a horse-pistol purchased at a broker's
stand in the Cowgate! You, who stand upon your courage, may remember
that I took the risk of firing the said pistol for the first time, while
you stood at twenty yards' distance; and that, when you were persuaded
it would go off without bursting, forgetting all law but that of the
biggest and strongest, you possessed yourself of it exclusively for the
rest of the holidays. Such a day's sport was no complete introduction to
the noble art of deer-stalking, as it is practised in the Highlands; but
I should not have scrupled to accept honest Glengallacher's invitation,
at the risk of firing a rifle for the first time, had it not been for
the outcry which your father made at my proposal, in the full ardour of
his zeal for King George, the Hanover succession, and the Presbyterian
faith. I wish I had stood out, since I have gained so little upon
his good opinion by submission. All his impressions concerning the
Highlanders are taken from the recollections of the Forty-five, when he
retreated from the West Port with his brother volunteers, each to
the fortalice of his own separate dwelling, so soon as they heard the
Adventurer was arrived with his clans as near them as Kirkliston. The
flight of Falkirk--PARMA NON BENE SELECTA--in which I think your sire
had his share with the undaunted western regiment, does not seem to have
improved his taste for the company of the Highlanders; (quaere,
Alan, dost thou derive the courage thou makest such boast of from an
hereditary source?) and stories of Rob Roy Macgregor, and Sergeant Alan
Mhor Cameron, have served to paint them in still more sable colours to
his imagination. [Of Rob Roy we have had more than enough. Alan Cameron,
commonly called Sergeant Mhor, a freebooter of the same period, was
equally remarkable for strength, courage, and generosity.]
Now, from all I can understand, these ideas, as applied to the present
state of the country, are absolutely chimerical. The Pretender is
no more remembered in the Highlands than if the poor gentleman were
gathered to his hundred and eight fathers, whose portraits adorn the
ancient walls of Holyrood; the broadswords have passed into other hands;
the targets are used to cover the butter churns; and the race has sunk,
or is fast sinking, from ruffling bullies into tame cheaters. Indeed, it
was partly my conviction that there is little to be seen in the north,
which, arriving at your father's conclusions, though from different
premisses, inclined my course in this direction, where perhaps I shall
see as little.
One thing, however, I HAVE seen; and it was with pleasure the more
indescribable, that I was debarred from treading the land which my eyes
were permitted to gaze upon, like those of the dying prophet from top
of Mount Pisgah,--I have seen, in a word, the fruitful shores of merry
England; merry England! of which I boast myself a native, and on which
I gaze, even while raging floods and unstable quicksands divide us, with
the filial affection of a dutiful son.
Thou canst not have forgotten, Alan--for when didst thou ever forget
what was interesting to thy friend?--that the same letter from my friend
Griffiths, which doubled my income, and placed my motions at my own
free disposal, contained a prohibitory clause, by which, reason none
assigned, I was prohibited, as I respected my present safety and
future fortunes, from visiting England; every other part of the British
dominions, and a tour, if I pleased, on the Continent, being left to my
own choice.--Where is the tale, Alan, of a covered dish in the midst
of a royal banquet, upon which the eyes of every guest were immediately
fixed, neglecting all the dainties with which the table was loaded? This
cause of banishment from England--from my native country--from the land
of the brave, and the wise, and the free--affects me more than I am
rejoiced by the freedom and independence assigned to me in all other
respects. Thus, in seeking this extreme boundary of the country which
I am forbidden to tread, I resemble the poor tethered horse, which, you
may have observed, is always grazing on the very verge of the circle to
which it is limited by its halter.
Do not accuse me of romance for obeying this impulse towards the South;
nor suppose that, to satisfy the imaginary longing of an idle curiosity,
I am in any danger of risking the solid comforts of my present
condition. Whoever has hitherto taken charge of my motions has shown me,
by convincing proofs more weighty than the assurances which they have
witheld, that my real advantage is their principal object. I should be,
therefore, worse than a fool did I object to their authority, even when
it seems somewhat capriciously exercised; for assuredly, at my age, I
might--intrusted as I am with the care and management of myself in every
other particular--expect that the cause of excluding me from England
should be frankly and fairly stated for my own consideration and
guidance. However, I will not grumble about the matter. I shall know the
whole story one day, I suppose; and perhaps, as you sometimes surmise, I
shall not find there is any mighty matter in it after all.
Yet one cannot help wondering--but plague on it, if I wonder any
longer, my letter will be as full of wonders as one of Katterfelto's
advertisements. I have a month's mind, instead of this damnable
iteration of guesses and forebodings, to give thee the history of a
little adventure which befell me yesterday; though I am sure you will,
as usual, turn the opposite side of the spyglass on my poor narrative,
and reduce, MORE TUO, to the most petty trivialities, the circumstance
to which thou accusest me of giving undue consequence. Hang thee, Alan,
thou art as unfit a confidant for a youthful gallant with some spice
of imagination, as the old taciturn secretary of Facardin of Trebizond.
Nevertheless, we must each perform our separate destinies. I am doomed
to see, act, and tell; thou, like a Dutchman enclosed in the same
diligence with a Gascon, to hear, and shrug thy shoulders.
Of Dumfries, the capital town of this county, I have but little to say,
and will not abuse your patience by reminding you that it is built on
the gallant river Nith, and that its churchyard, the highest place of
the old town, commands an extensive and fine prospect. Neither will I
take the traveller's privilege of inflicting upon you the whole history
of Bruce poniarding the Red Comyn in the Church of the Dominicans
at this place, and becoming a king and patriot because he had been a
church-breaker and a murderer. The present Dumfriezers remember and
justify the deed, observing it was only a papist church--in evidence
whereof, its walls have been so completely demolished that no vestiges
of them remain. They are a sturdy set of true-blue Presbyterians, these
burghers of Dumfries; men after your father's own heart, zealous for the
Protestant succession--the rather that many of the great families around
are suspected to be of a different way of thinking, and shared, a great
many of them, in the insurrection of the Fifteen, and some in the more
recent business of the Forty-five. The town itself suffered in the
latter era; for Lord Elcho, with a large party of the rebels, levied
a severe contribution upon Dumfries, on account of the citizens having
annoyed the rear of the Chevalier during his march into England.
Many of these particulars I learned from Provost C--, who, happening to
see me in the market-place, remembered that I was an intimate of your
father's, and very kindly asked me to dinner. Pray tell your father that
the effects of his kindness to me follow me everywhere. I became tired,
however, of this pretty town in the course of twenty-four hours, and
crept along the coast eastwards, amusing myself with looking out for
objects of antiquity, and sometimes making, or attempting to make, use
of my new angling-rod. By the way, old Cotton's instructions, by which
I hoped to qualify myself for one of the gentle society of anglers, are
not worth a farthing for this meridian. I learned this by mere accident,
after I had waited four mortal hours. I shall never forget an impudent
urchin, a cowherd, about twelve years old, without either brogue or
bonnet, barelegged, and with a very indifferent pair of breeches--how
the villain grinned in scorn at my landing-net, my plummet, and the
gorgeous jury of flies which I had assembled to destroy all the fish
in the river. I was induced at last to lend the rod to the sneering
scoundrel, to see what he would make of it; and he had not only half
filled my basket in an hour, but literally taught me to kill two trouts
with my own hand. This, and Sam having found the hay and oats, not
forgetting the ale, very good at this small inn, first made me take
the fancy of resting here for a day or two; and I have got my grinning
blackguard of a piscator leave to attend on me, by paying sixpence a day
for a herd-boy in his stead.
A notably clean Englishwoman keeps this small house, and my bedroom is
sweetened with lavender, has a clean sash-window, and the walls are,
moreover, adorned with ballads of Fair Rosamond and Cruel Barbara Allan.
The woman's accent, though uncouth enough, sounds yet kindly in my ear;
for I have never yet forgotten the desolate effect produced on my
infant organs, when I heard on all sides your slow and broad northern
pronunciation, which was to me the tone of a foreign land. I am sensible
I myself have since that time acquired Scotch in perfection, and many a
Scotticism withal. Still the sound of the English accentuation comes to
my ears as the tones of a friend; and even when heard from the mouth of
some wandering beggar, it has seldom failed to charm forth my mite.
You Scotch, who are so proud of your own nationality, must make due
allowance for that of other folks.
On the next morning I was about to set forth to the stream where I had
commenced angler the night before, but was prevented by a heavy shower
of rain from stirring abroad the whole forenoon; during all which time,
I heard my varlet of a guide as loud with his blackguard jokes in the
kitchen, as a footman in the shilling gallery; so little are modesty and
innocence the inseparable companions of rusticity and seclusion.
When after dinner the day cleared, and we at length sallied out to the
river side, I found myself subjected to a new trick on the part of my
accomplished preceptor. Apparently, he liked fishing himself better than
the trouble of instructing an awkward novice such as I; and in hopes of
exhausting my patience, and inducing me to resign the rod, as I had done
the preceding day, my friend contrived to keep me thrashing the water
more than an hour with a pointless hook. I detected this trick at last,
by observing the rogue grinning with delight when he saw a large trout
rise and dash harmless away from the angle. I gave him a sound cuff,
Alan; but the next moment was sorry, and, to make amends, yielded
possession of the fishing-rod for the rest of the evening, he
undertaking to bring me home a dish of trouts for my supper, in
atonement for his offences.
Having thus got honourably rid of the trouble of amusing myself in a way
I cared not for, I turned my steps towards the sea, or rather the Solway
Firth which here separates the two sister kingdoms, and which lay at
about a mile's distance, by a pleasant walk over sandy knells, covered
with short herbage, which you call Links, and we English, Downs.
But the rest of my adventure would weary out my fingers, and must
be deferred until to-morrow, when you shall hear from me, by way of
continuation; and, in the meanwhile, to prevent over-hasty conclusions,
I must just hint to you, we are but yet on the verge of the adventure
which it is my purpose to communicate.

I mentioned in my last, that having abandoned my fishing-rod as an
unprofitable implement, I crossed over the open downs which divided me
from the margin of the Solway. When I reached the banks of the great
estuary, which are here very bare and exposed, the waters had receded
from the large and level space of sand, through which a stream,
now feeble and fordable, found its way to the ocean. The whole was
illuminated by the beams of the low and setting sun, who showed
his ruddy front, like a warrior prepared for defence, over a huge
battlemented and turreted wall of crimson and black clouds, which
appeared like an immense Gothic fortress, into which the lord of day was
descending. His setting rays glimmered bright upon the wet surface of
the sands, and the numberless pools of water by which it was covered,
where the inequality of the ground had occasioned their being left by
the tide.
The scene was animated by the exertions of a number of horsemen, who
were actually employed in hunting salmon. Aye, Alan, lift up your
hands and eyes as you will, I can give their mode of fishing no name so
appropriate; for they chased the fish at full gallop, and struck them
with their barbed spears, as you see hunters spearing boars in the old
tapestry. The salmon, to be sure, take the thing more quietly than the
boars; but they are so swift in their own element, that to pursue
and strike them is the task of a good horseman, with a quick eye, a
determined hand, and full command both of his horse and weapon. The
shouts of the fellows as they galloped up and down in the animating
exercise--their loud bursts of laughter when any of their number caught
a fall--and still louder acclamations when any of the party made a
capital stroke with his lance--gave so much animation to the whole
scene, that I caught the enthusiasm of the sport, and ventured forward
a considerable space on the sands. The feats of one horseman, in
particular, called forth so repeatedly the clamorous applause of his
companions, that the very banks rang again with their shouts. He was a
tall man, well mounted on a strong black horse, which he caused to turn
and wind like a bird in the air, carried a longer spear than the others,
and wore a sort of fur cap or bonnet, with a short feather in it,
which gave him on the whole rather a superior appearance to the other
fishermen. He seemed to hold some sort of authority among them, and
occasionally directed their motions both by voice and hand: at which
times I thought his gestures were striking, and his voice uncommonly
sonorous and commanding.
The riders began to make for the shore, and the interest of the scene
was almost over, while I lingered on the sands, with my looks turned to
the shores of England, still gilded by the sun's last rays, and, as it
seemed, scarce distant a mile from me. The anxious thoughts which
haunt me began to muster in my bosom, and my feet slowly and insensibly
approached the river which divided me from the forbidden precincts,
though without any formed intention, when my steps were arrested by
the sound of a horse galloping; and as I turned, the rider (the same
fisherman whom I had formerly distinguished) called out to me, in
an abrupt manner, 'Soho, brother! you are too late for Bowness
to-night--the tide will make presently.'
I turned my head and looked at him without answering; for, to my
thinking, his sudden appearance (or rather, I should say, his unexpected
approach) had, amidst the gathering shadows and lingering light,
something in it which was wild and ominous.
'Are you deaf?' he added--'or are you mad?--or have you a mind for the
next world?'
'I am a stranger,' I answered,' and had no other purpose than looking on
at the fishing--I am about to return to the side I came from.'
'Best make haste then,' said he. 'He that dreams on the bed of the
Solway, may wake in the next world. The sky threatens a blast that will
bring in the waves three feet abreast.'
So saying, he turned his horse and rode off, while I began to walk back
towards the Scottish shore, a little alarmed at what I had heard;
for the tide advances with such rapidity upon these fatal sands, that
well-mounted horsemen lay aside hopes of safety, if they see its white
surge advancing while they are yet at a distance from the bank.
These recollections grew more agitating, and, instead of walking
deliberately, I began a race as fast as I could, feeling, or thinking I
felt, each pool of salt water through which I splashed, grow deeper and
deeper. At length the surface of the sand did seem considerably more
intersected with pools and channels full of water--either that the tide
was really beginning to influence the bed of the estuary, or, as I must
own is equally probable, that I had, in the hurry and confusion of my
retreat, involved myself in difficulties which I had avoided in my more
deliberate advance. Either way, it was rather an unpromising state of
affairs, for the sands at the same time turned softer, and my footsteps,
so soon as I had passed, were instantly filled with water. I began to
have odd recollections concerning the snugness of your father's parlour,
and the secure footing afforded by the pavement of Brown's Square and
Scott's Close, when my better genius, the tall fisherman, appeared once
more close to my side, he and his sable horse looming gigantic in the
now darkening twilight.
'Are you mad?' he said, in the same deep tone which had before thrilled
on my ear, 'or are you weary of your life? You will be presently amongst
the quicksands.' I professed my ignorance of the way, to which he only
replied, 'There is no time for prating--get up behind me.'
He probably expected me to spring from the ground with the activity
which these Borderers have, by constant practice, acquired in everything
relating to horsemanship; but as I stood irresolute, he extended his
hand, and grasping mine, bid me place my foot on the toe of his boot,
and thus raised me in a trice to the croupe of his horse. I was scarcely
securely seated, ere he shook the reins of his horse, who instantly
sprang forward; but annoyed, doubtless, by the unusual burden, treated
us to two or three bounds, accompanied by as many flourishes of his hind
heels. The rider sat like a tower, notwithstanding that the unexpected
plunging of the animal threw me forward upon him. The horse was soon
compelled to submit to the discipline of the spur and bridle, and went
off at a steady hand gallop; thus shortening the devious, for it was
by no means a direct path, by which the rider, avoiding the loose
quicksands, made for the northern bank.
My friend, perhaps I may call him my preserver,--for, to a stranger, my
situation was fraught with real danger,--continued to press on at the
same speedy pace, but in perfect silence, and I was under too much
anxiety of mind to disturb him with any questions. At length we arrived
at a part of the shore with which I was utterly unacquainted, when I
alighted and began to return in the best fashion I could my thanks for
the important service which he had just rendered me.
The stranger only replied by an impatient 'pshaw!' and was about to ride
off, and leave me to my own resources when I implored him to complete
his work of kindness by directing me to Shepherd's Bush, which was, as I
informed him, my home for the present.
'To Shepherd's Bush?' he said; 'it is but three miles but if you know
not the land better than the sand, you may break your neck before you
get there; for it is no road for a moping boy in a dark night; and,
besides, there are the brook and the fens to cross.'
I was a little dismayed at this communication of such difficulties as my
habits had not called on me to contend with. Once more the idea of thy
father's fireside came across me; and I could have been well contented
to have swapped the romance of my situation, together with the glorious
independence of control which I possessed at the moment, for the
comforts of that chimney-corner, though I were obliged to keep my eyes
chained to Erskine's LARGER INSTITUTES.
I asked my new friend whether he could not direct me to any house of
public entertainment for the night; and supposing it probable he was
himself a poor man, I added, with the conscious dignity of a well-filled
pocket-book, that I could make it worth any man's while to oblige me.
The fisherman making no answer, I turned away from him with as gallant
an appearance of indifference as I could command, and began to take, as
I thought, the path which he had pointed out to me.
His deep voice immediately sounded after me to recall me. 'Stay, young
man, stay--you have mistaken the road already.--I wonder your friends
sent out such an inconsiderate youth, without some one wiser than
himself to take care of him.'
'Perhaps they might not have done so,' said I, 'if I had any friends who
cared about the matter.'
'Well, sir,' he said, 'it is not my custom to open my house to
strangers, but your pinch is like to be a smart one; for, besides the
risk from bad roads, fords, and broken ground, and the night,
which looks both black and gloomy, there is bad company on the road
sometimes--at least it has a bad name, and some have come to harm; so
that I think I must for once make my rule give way to your necessity,
and give you a night's lodging in my cottage.
Why was it, Alan, that I could not help giving an involuntary shudder at
receiving an invitation so seasonable in itself, and so suitable to my
naturally inquisitive disposition? I easily suppressed this untimely
sensation; and as I returned thanks, and expressed my hope that I should
not disarrange, his family, I once more dropped a hint of my desire to
make compensation for any trouble I might occasion. The man answered
very coldly, 'Your presence will no doubt give me trouble, sir, but it
is of a kind which your purse, cannot compensate; in a word, although
I am content to receive you as my guest, I am no publican to call a
I begged his pardon, and, at his instance, once more seated myself
behind hint upon the good horse, which went forth steady as before--the
moon, whenever she could penetrate the clouds, throwing the huge shadow
of the animal, with its double burden, on the wild and bare ground over
which we passed.
Thou mayst laugh till thou lettest the letter fall, if thou wilt, but
it reminded me of the magician Atlantes on his hippogriff with a knight
trussed up behind him, in the manner Ariosto has depicted that matter.
Thou art I know, matter-of-fact enough to affect contempt of that
fascinating and delicious poem; but think not that, to conform with
thy bad taste, I shall forbear any suitable illustration which now or
hereafter may occur to me.
On we went, the sky blackening around us, and the wind beginning to pipe
such a wild and melancholy tune as best suited the hollow sounds of the
advancing tide, which I could hear at a distance, like the roar of some
immense monster defrauded of its prey.
At length, our course was crossed by a deep dell or dingle, such as they
call in some parts of Scotland a den, and in others a cleuch or narrow
glen. It seemed, by the broken glances which the moon continued to
throw upon it, to be steep, precipitous, and full of trees, which are,
generally speaking, rather scarce upon these shores. The descent by
which we plunged into this dell was both steep and rugged, with two
or three abrupt turnings; but neither danger nor darkness impeded the
motion of the black horse, who seemed rather to slide upon his haunches,
than to gallop down the pass, throwing me again on the shoulders of the
athletic rider, who, sustaining no inconvenience by the circumstance,
continued to press the horse forward with his heel, steadily supporting
him at the same time by raising his bridle-hand, until we stood in
safety at the bottom of the steep--not a little to my consolation, as,
friend Alan, thou mayst easily conceive.
A very short advance up the glen, the bottom of which we had attained by
this ugly descent, brought us in front of two or three cottages, one
of which another blink of moonshine enabled me to rate as rather better
than those of the Scottish peasantry in this part of the world; for the
sashes seemed glazed, and there were what are called storm-windows in
the roof, giving symptoms of the magnificence of a second story. The
scene around was very interesting; for the cottages, and the yards or
crofts annexed to them, occupied a haugh, or helm, of two acres, which
a brook of some consequence (to judge from its roar) had left upon one
side of the little glen while finding its course close to the farther
bank, and which appeared to be covered and darkened with trees, while
the level space beneath enjoyed such stormy smiles as the moon had that
night to bestow.
I had little time for observation, for my companion's loud whistle,
seconded by an equally loud halloo, speedily brought to the door of
the principal cottage a man and a woman, together with two large
Newfoundland dogs, the deep baying of which I had for some time heard. A
yelping terrier or two, which had joined the concert, were silent at
the presence of my conductor, and began to whine, jump up, and fawn upon
him. The female drew back when she beheld a stranger; the man, who had
a lighted lantern, advanced, and, without any observation, received the
horse from my host, and led him, doubtless, to stable, while I followed
my conductor into the house. When we had passed the HALLAN, [The
partition which divides a Scottish cottage.] we entered a well-sized
apartment, with a clean brick floor, where a fire blazed (much to my
contentment) in the ordinary projecting sort of a chimney, common in
Scottish houses. There were stone seats within the chimney; and ordinary
utensils, mixed with fishing-spears, nets, and similar implements of
sport, were hung around the walls of the place. The female who had first
appeared at the door, had now retreated into a side apartment. She was
presently followed by my guide, after he had silently motioned me to a
seat; and their place was supplied by an elderly woman, in a grey stuff
gown, with a check apron and toy, obviously a menial, though neater in
her dress than is usual in her apparent rank--an advantage which was
counterbalanced by a very forbidding aspect. But the most singular part
of her attire, in this very Protestant country, was a rosary, in which
the smaller beads were black oak, and those indicating the PATER-NOSTER
of silver, with a crucifix of the same metal.
This person made preparations for supper, by spreading a clean though
coarse cloth over a large oaken table, placing trenchers and salt upon
it, and arranging the fire to receive a gridiron. I observed her motions
in silence; for she took no sort of notice of me, and as her looks were
singularly forbidding, I felt no disposition to commence conversation.
When this duenna had made all preliminary arrangements, she took from
the well-filled pouch of my conductor, which he had hung up by the
door, one or two salmon, or GRILSES, as the smaller sort are termed, and
selecting that which seemed best and in highest season, began to cut
it into slices, and to prepare a GRILLADE; the savoury smell of which
affected me so powerfully that I began sincerely to hope that no delay
would intervene between the platter and the lip.
As this thought came across me, the man who had conducted the horse to
the stable entered the apartment, and discovered to me a countenance yet
more uninviting than that of the old crone who was performing with such
dexterity the office of cook to the party. He was perhaps sixty years
old; yet his brow was not much furrowed, and his jet-black hair was only
grizzled, not whitened, by the advance of age. All his motions spoke
strength unabated; and, though rather undersized, he had very broad
shoulders, was square-made, thin-flanked, and apparently combined in his
frame muscular strength and activity; the last somewhat impaired perhaps
by years, but the first remaining in full vigour. A hard and harsh
countenance--eyes far sunk under projecting eyebrows, which were
grizzled like his hair--a wide mouth, furnished from ear to ear with it
range of unimpaired teeth, of uncommon whiteness, and a size and breadth
which might have become the jaws of an ogre, completed this delightful
portrait. He was clad like a fisherman, in jacket and trousers of the
blue cloth commonly used by seamen, and had a Dutch case-knife, like
that of a Hamburgh skipper, stuck into a broad buff belt, which seemed
as if it might occasionally sustain weapons of a description still less
equivocally calculated for violence.
This man gave me an inquisitive, and, as I thought, a sinister look upon
entering the apartment; but without any further notice of me, took up
the office of arranging the table, which the old lady had abandoned for
that of cooking the fish, and, with more address than I expected from
a person of his coarse appearance, placed two chairs at the head of the
table, and two stools below; accommodating each seat to a cover, beside
which he placed an allowance of barley-bread, and a small jug, which he
replenished with ale from a large black jack. Three of these jugs
were of ordinary earthenware, but the fourth, which he placed by the
right-hand cover at, the upper end of the table, was a flagon of
silver, and displayed armorial bearings. Beside this flagon he placed a
salt-cellar of silver, handsomely wrought, containing salt of exquisite
whiteness, with pepper and other spices. A sliced lemon was also
presented on a small silver salver. The two large water-dogs, who
seemed perfectly to understand the nature of the preparations, seated
themselves one on each side of the table, to be ready to receive their
portion of the entertainment. I never saw finer animals, or which
seemed to be more influenced by a sense of decorum, excepting that they
slobbered a little as the rich scent from the chimney was wafted past
their noses. The small dogs ensconced themselves beneath the table.
I am aware that I am dwelling upon trivial and ordinary circumstances,
and that perhaps I may weary out your patience in doing so. But conceive
me alone in this strange place, which seemed, from the universal
silence, to be the very temple of Harpocrates--remember that this is
my first excursion from home--forget not that the manner in which I had
been brought hither had the dignity of danger and something the air of
an adventure, and that there was a mysterious incongruity in all I had
hitherto witnessed; and you will not, I think, be surprised that these
circumstances, though trifling, should force themselves on my notice at
the time, and dwell in my memory afterwards.
That a fisher, who pursued the sport perhaps for his amusement as well
as profit, should be well mounted and better lodged than the lower class
of peasantry, had in it nothing surprising; but there was something
about all that I saw which seemed to intimate that I was rather in
the abode of a decayed gentleman, who clung to a few of the forms and
observances of former rank, than in that of a common peasant, raised
above his fellows by comparative opulence.
Besides the articles of plate which I have already noticed, the old man
now lighted and placed on the table a silver lamp, or CRUISIE as the
Scottish term it, filled with very pure oil, which in burning diffused
an aromatic fragrance, and gave me a more perfect view of the cottage
walls, which I had hitherto only seen dimly by the light of the fire.
The BINK [The frame of wooden shelves placed in a Scottish kitchen for
holding plates.] with its usual arrangement of pewter and earthenware,
which was most strictly and critically clean, glanced back the flame of
the lamp merrily from one side of the apartment. In a recess, formed
by the small bow of a latticed window, was a large writing-desk of
walnut-tree wood, curiously carved, above which arose shelves of the
same, which supported a few books and papers. The opposite side of the
recess contained (as far as I could discern, for it lay in shadow, and
I could at any rate have seen it but imperfectly from the place where
I was seated) one or two guns, together with swords, pistols, and
other arms a collection which, in a poor cottage, and in a country so
peaceful, appeared singular at least, if not even somewhat suspicious.
All these observations, you may suppose, were made much sooner than I
have recorded, or you (if you have not skipped) have been able to read
them. They were already finished, and I was considering how I should
open some communication with the mute inhabitants of the mansion, when
my conductor re-entered from the side-door by which he had made his
He had now thrown off his rough riding-cap, and his coarse jockey-coat,
And stood before me in a grey jerkin trimmed with black, which sat close
to, and set off, his large and sinewy frame, and a pair of trousers of
a lighter colour, cut as close to the body as they are used by
Highlandmen. His whole dress was of finer cloth than that of the old
man; and his linen, so minute was my observation, clean and unsullied.
His shirt was without ruffles, and tied at the collar with a black
ribbon, which showed his strong and muscular neck rising from it like
that of an ancient Hercules. His head was small, with a large forehead,
and well-formed ears. He wore neither peruke nor hair-powder; and his
chestnut locks, curling close to his head like those of an antique
statue, showed not the least touch of time, though the owner must have
been at least fifty. His features were high and prominent in such a
degree that one knew not whether to term them harsh or handsome. In
either case, the sparkling grey eye, aquiline nose, and well-formed
mouth, combined to render his physiognomy noble and expressive. An air
of sadness, or severity, or of both, seemed to indicate a melancholy,
and, at the same time, a haughty temper. I could not help running
mentally over the ancient heroes, to whom I might assimilate the noble
form and countenance before me. He was too young, and evinced too little
resignation to his fate, to resemble Belisarius. Coriolanus, standing by
the hearth of Tullus Aufidius, came nearer the mark; yet the gloomy and
haughty look of the stranger had, perhaps, still more of Marius, seated
among the ruins of Carthage.
While I was lost in these imaginations, my host stood by the fire,
gazing on me with the same attention which I paid to him, until,
embarrassed by his look, I was about to break silence at all hazards.
But the supper, now placed upon the table, reminded me, by its
appearance, of those wants which I had almost forgotten while I was
gazing on the fine form of my conductor. He spoke at length, and I
almost started at the deep rich tone of his voice, though what he said
was but to invite me to sit down to the table. He himself assumed the
seat of honour, beside which the silver flagon was placed, and beckoned
to me to sit down beside him.
Thou knowest thy father's strict and excellent domestic discipline has
trained me to bear the invocation of a blessing before we break the
daily bread, for which we are taught to pray--I paused a moment, and,
without designing to do so, I suppose my manner made him sensible of
what I expected. The two domestics or inferiors, as I should have before
observed, were already seated at the bottom of the table, when my
host shot a glance of a very peculiar expression towards the old man,
observing, with something approaching to a sneer, 'Cristal Nixon, say
grace--the gentleman expects one.'
'The foul fiend shall be clerk, and say amen, when I turn chaplain,'
growled out the party addressed, in tones which might have become the
condition of a dying bear; 'if the gentleman is a whig, he may please
himself with his own mummery. My faith is neither in word nor writ, but
in barley-bread and brown ale.'
'Mabel Moffat,' said my guide, looking at the old woman, and raising his
sonorous voice, probably because she was hard of hearing, 'canst thou
ask a blessing upon our victuals?'
The old woman shook her head, kissed the cross which hung from her
rosary, and was silent.
'Mabel will say grace for no heretic,' said the master of the house,
with the same latent sneer on his brow and in his accent.
At the same moment, the side-door already mentioned opened, and the
young woman (so she proved) whom I had first seen at the door of the
cottage, advanced a little way into the room, then stopped bashfully, as
if she had observed that I was looking at her, and asked the master of
the house, 'if he had called?'
'Not louder than to make old Mabel hear me,' he replied; 'and yet,' be
added, as she turned to retire, 'it is a shame a stranger should see a
house where not one of the family can or will say a grace--do thou be
our chaplain.'
The girl, who was really pretty, came forward with timid modesty, and,
apparently unconscious that she was doing anything uncommon,
pronounced the benediction in a silver-toned voice, and with affecting
simplicity--her cheek colouring just so much as to show that on a less
solemn occasion she would have felt more embarrassed.
Now, if thou expectest a fine description of this young woman, Alan
Fairford, in order to entitle thee to taunt me with having found a
Dulcinea in the inhabitant of a fisherman's cottage on the Solway Firth,
thou shalt be disappointed; for, having said she seemed very pretty,
and that she was a sweet and gentle-speaking creature, I have said all
concerning her that I can tell thee. She vanished when the benediction
was spoken.
My host, with a muttered remark on the cold of our ride, and the keen
air of the Solway Sands, to which he did not seem to wish an answer,
loaded my plate from Mabel's grillade, which, with a large wooden bowl
of potatoes, formed our whole meal. A sprinkling from the lemon gave a
much higher zest than the usual condiment of vinegar; and I promise
you that whatever I might hitherto have felt, either of curiosity or
suspicion, did not prevent me from making a most excellent supper,
during which little passed betwixt me and my entertainer, unless that
he did the usual honours of the table with courtesy, indeed, but
without even the affectation of hearty hospitality, which those in his
(apparent) condition generally affect on such occasions, even when they
do not actually feel it. On the contrary, his manner seemed that of a
polished landlord towards an unexpected and unwelcome guest, whom,
for the sake of his own credit, he receives with civility, but without
either goodwill or cheerfulness.
If you ask how I learned all this, I cannot tell you; nor, were I to
write down at length the insignificant intercourse which took place
between us, would it perhaps serve to justify these observations. It is
sufficient to say, that in helping his dogs, which he did from time
to time with great liberality, he seemed to discharge a duty much more
pleasing to himself, than when he paid the same attention to his guest.
Upon the whole, the result on my mind was as I tell it you.
When supper was over, a small case-bottle of brandy, in a curious frame
of silver filigree, circulated to the guests. I had already taken a
small glass of the liquor, and, when it had passed to Mabel and to
Cristal and was again returned to the upper end of the table, I could
not help taking the bottle in my hand, to look more at the armorial
bearings which were chased with considerable taste on the silver
framework. Encountering the eye of my entertainer, I instantly saw that
my curiosity was highly distasteful; he frowned, bit his lip, and
showed such uncontrollable signs of impatience, that, setting the bottle
immediately down, I attempted some apology. To this he did not deign
either to reply, or even to listen; and Cristal, at a signal from his
master, removed the object of my curiosity, as well as the cup, upon
which the same arms were engraved.
Then ensued an awkward pause, which I endeavoured to break by observing,
that 'I feared my intrusion upon his hospitality had put his family to
some inconvenience'.
'I hope you see no appearance of it, sir,' he replied, with cold
civility. 'What inconvenience a family so retired as ours may suffer
from receiving an unexpected guest is like to be trifling, in comparison
of what the visitor himself sustains from want of his accustomed
comforts. So far, therefore, as our connexion stands, our accounts stand
Notwithstanding this discouraging reply, I blundered on, as is usual in
such cases, wishing to appear civil, and being, perhaps, in reality the
very reverse. 'I was afraid,' I said, that my presence had banished one
of the family' (looking at the side-door) 'from his table.'
'If,' he coldly replied, 'I meant the young woman whom I had seen in the
apartment, he bid me observe that there was room enough at the table
for her to have seated herself, and meat enough, such as it was, for her
supper. I might, therefore, be assured, if she had chosen it, she would
have supped with us.'
There was no dwelling on this or any other topic longer; for my
entertainer, taking up the lamp, observed, that 'my wet clothes might
reconcile me for the night to their custom of keeping early hours; that
he was under the necessity of going abroad by peep of day to-morrow
morning, and would call me up at the same time, to point out the way by
which I was to return to the Shepherd's Bush.'
This left no opening for further explanation; nor was there room for it
on the usual terms of civility; for, as he neither asked my name, nor
expressed the least interest concerning my condition, I--the obliged
person--had no pretence to trouble him with such inquiries on my part.
He took up the lamp, and led me through the side-door into a very small
room, where a bed had been hastily arranged for my accommodation,
and, putting down the lamp, directed me to leave my wet clothes on the
outside of the door, that they might be exposed to the fire during the
night. He then left me, having muttered something which was meant to
pass for good night.
I obeyed his directions with respect to my clothes, the rather that,
in despite of the spirits which I had drunk, I felt my teeth begin
to chatter, and received various hints from an aguish feeling, that
a town-bred youth, like myself, could not at once rush into all the
hardihood of country sports with impunity. But my bed, though coarse and
hard, was dry and clean; and I soon was so little occupied with my heats
and tremors, as to listen with interest to a heavy foot, which seemed to
be that of my landlord, traversing the boards (there was no ceiling,
as you may believe) which roofed my apartment. Light, glancing through
these rude planks, became visible as soon as my lamp was extinguished;
and as the noise of the slow, solemn, and regular step continued, and I
could distinguish that the person turned and returned as he reached the
end of the apartment, it seemed clear to me that the walker was engaged
in no domestic occupation, but merely pacing to and fro for his own
pleasure. 'An odd amusement this,' I thought, 'for one who had been
engaged at least a part of the preceding day in violent exercise, and
who talked of rising by the peep of dawn on the ensuing morning.'
Meantime I heard the storm, which had been brewing during the evening,
begin to descend with a vengeance; sounds as of distant-thunder (the
noise of the more distant waves, doubtless, on the shore) mingled
with the roaring of the neighbouring torrent, and with the crashing,
groaning, and even screaming of the trees in the glen whose boughs were
tormented by the gale. Within the house, windows clattered, and doors
clapped, and the walls, though sufficiently substantial for a building
of the kind, seemed to me to totter in the tempest.
But still the heavy steps perambulating the apartment over my head were
distinctly heard amid the roar and fury of the elements. I thought more
than once I even heard a groan; but I frankly own that, placed in this
unusual situation, my fancy may have misled me. I was tempted several
times to call aloud, and ask whether the turmoil around us did not
threaten danger to the building which we inhabited; but when I thought
of the secluded and unsocial master of the dwelling, who seemed to avoid
human society, and to remain unperturbed amid the elemental war, it
seemed that to speak to him at that moment would have been to address
the spirit of the tempest himself, since no other being, I thought,
could have remained calm and tranquil while winds and waters were thus
raging around.
In process of time, fatigue prevailed over anxiety and curiosity. The
storm abated, or my senses became deadened to its terrors, and I fell
asleep ere yet the mysterious paces of my host had ceased to shake the
flooring over my head.
It might have been expected that the novelty of my situation, although
it did not prevent my slumbers, would have at least diminished their
profoundness, and shortened their duration. It proved otherwise,
however; for I never slept more soundly in my life, and only awoke when,
at morning dawn, my landlord shook me by the shoulder, and dispelled
some dream, of which, fortunately for you, I have no recollection,
otherwise you would have been favoured with it, in hopes you might have
proved a second Daniel upon the occasion.
'You sleep sound--' said his full deep voice; 'ere five years have
rolled over your head, your slumbers will be lighter--unless ere then
you are wrapped in the sleep which is never broken.'
'How!' said I, starting up in the bed; 'do you know anything of me--of
my prospects--of my views in life?'
'Nothing,' he answered, with a grim smile; 'but it is evident you are
entering upon the world young, inexperienced, and full of hopes, and I
do but prophesy to you what I would to any one in your condition. But
come; there lie your clothes--a brown crust and a draught of milk wait
you, if you choose to break your fast; but you must make haste.'
'I must first,' I said, 'take the freedom to spend a few minutes alone,
before beginning the ordinary works of the day.'
'Oh!--umph!--I cry your devotions pardon,' he replied, and left the
Alan, there is something terrible about this man.
I joined him, as I had promised, in the kitchen where we had supped
overnight, where I found the articles which he had offered me for
breakfast, without butter or any other addition.
He walked up and down while I partook of the bread and milk; and the
slow measured weighty step seemed identified with those which I had
heard last night. His pace, from its funereal slowness, seemed to keep
time with some current of internal passion, dark, slow, and unchanged.
'We run and leap by the side of a lively and bubbling brook,' thought I,
internally, 'as if we would run a race with it; but beside waters deep,
slow, and lonely, our pace is sullen and silent as their course. What
thoughts may be now corresponding with that furrowed brow, and bearing
time with that heavy step?'
'If you have finished,' said he, looking up to me with a glance of
impatience, as he observed that I ate no longer, but remained with my
eyes fixed upon him, 'I wait to show you the way.'
We went out together, no individual of the family having been visible
excepting my landlord. I was disappointed of the opportunity which I
watched for of giving some gratuity to the domestics, as they seemed to
be. As for offering any recompense to the master of the household, it
seemed to me impossible to have attempted it.
What would I have given for a share of thy composure, who wouldst have
thrust half a crown into a man's hand whose necessities seemed to crave
it, conscious that you did right in making the proffer, and not caring
sixpence whether you hurt the feelings of him whom you meant to serve!
I saw thee once give a penny to a man with a long beard, who, from the
dignity of his exterior, might have represented Solon. I had not thy
courage, and therefore I made no tender to my mysterious host, although,
notwithstanding his display of silver utensils, all around the house
bespoke narrow circumstances, if not actual poverty.
We left the place together. But I hear thee murmur thy very new and
appropriate ejaculation, OHE, JAM SATIS!--The rest for another time.
Perhaps I may delay further communication till I learn how my favours
are valued.

I have thy two last epistles, my dear Darsie, and expecting the third,
have been in no hurry to answer them. Do not think my silence ought to
be ascribed to my failing to take interest in them, for, truly, they
excel (though the task was difficult) thy usual excellings. Since
the moon-calf who earliest discovered the Pandemonium of Milton in an
expiring wood-fire--since the first ingenious urchin who blew bubbles
out of soap and water, thou, my best of friends, hast the highest knack
at making histories out of nothing. Wert thou to plant the bean in the
nursery-tale, thou wouldst make out, so soon as it began to germinate,
that the castle of the giant was about to elevate its battlements on the
top of it. All that happens to thee gets a touch of the wonderful and
the sublime from thy own rich imagination. Didst ever see what artists
call a Claude Lorraine glass, which spreads its own particular hue over
the whole landscape which you see through it?--thou beholdest ordinary
events just through such a medium.
I have looked carefully at the facts of thy last long letter, and they
are just such as might have befallen any little truant of the High
School, who had got down to Leith Sands, gone beyond the PRAWN-DUB, wet
his hose and shoon, and, finally, had been carried home, in compassion,
by some high-kilted fishwife, cursing all the while the trouble which
the brat occasioned her.
I admire the figure which thou must have made, clinging for dear life
behind the old fellow's back--thy jaws chattering with fear, thy muscles
cramped with anxiety. Thy execrable supper of broiled salmon, which was
enough to ensure the nightmare's regular visits for a twelvemonth,
may be termed a real affliction; but as for the storm of Thursday
last (such, I observe, was the date), it roared, whistled, howled, and
bellowed, as fearfully amongst the old chimney-heads in the Candlemaker
Row, as it could on the Solway shore, for the very wind of it--TESTE ME
PER TOTAM NOCTEM VIGILANTE. And then in the morning again, when--Lord
help you--in your sentimental delicacy you bid the poor man adieu,
without even tendering him half a crown for supper and lodging!
You laugh at me for giving a penny (to be accurate, though, thou
shouldst have said sixpence) to an old fellow, whom thou, in thy high
flight, wouldst have sent home supperless, because he was like Solon or
Belisarius. But you forget that the affront descended like a benediction
into the pouch of the old gaberlunzie, who overflowed in blessings upon
the generous donor--long ere he would have thanked thee, Darsie, for
thy barren veneration of his beard and his bearing. Then you laugh at
my good father's retreat from Falkirk, just as if it were not time for a
man to trudge when three or four mountain knaves, with naked claymores,
and heels as light as their fingers, were scampering after him, crying
FURINISH. You remember what he said himself when the Laird of Bucklivat
told him that FURINISH signified 'stay a while'. 'What the devil,'
he said, surprised out of his Presbyterian correctness by the
unreasonableness of such a request under the circumstances, 'would the
scoundrels have had me stop to have my head cut off?'
Imagine such a train at your own heels, Darsie, and ask yourself whether
you would not exert your legs as fast as you did in flying from the
Solway tide. And yet you impeach my father's courage. I tell you he has
courage enough to do what is right, and to spurn what is wrong--courage
enough to defend a righteous cause with hand and purse, and to take
the part of the poor man against his oppressor, without fear of the
consequences to himself. This is civil courage, Darsie; and it is of
little consequence to most men in this age and country whether they ever
possess military courage or no.
Do not think I am angry with you, though I thus attempt to rectify your
opinions on my father's account. I am well aware that, upon the whole,
he is scarce regarded with more respect by me than by thee. And, while
I am in a serious humour, which it is difficult to preserve with one who
is perpetually tempting me to laugh at him, pray, dearest Darsie, let
not thy ardour for adventure carry thee into more such scrapes as that
of the Solway Sands. The rest of the story is a mere imagination; but
that stormy evening might have proved, as the clown says to Lear, 'a
naughty night to swim in.'
As for the rest, if you can work mysterious and romantic heroes out of
old cross-grained fishermen, why, I for one will reap some amusement by
the metamorphosis. Yet hold! even there, there is some need of caution.
This same female chaplain--thou sayest so little of her, and so much of
every one else, that it excites some doubt in my mind. VERY PRETTY she
is, it seems--and that is all thy discretion informs me of. There are
cases in which silence implies other things than consent. Wert thou
ashamed or afraid, Darsie, to trust thyself with the praises of the very
pretty grace-sayer?--As I live, thou blushest! Why, do I not know thee
an inveterate squire of dames? and have I not been in thy confidence?
An elegant elbow, displayed when the rest of the figure was muffled in a
cardinal, or a neat well-turned ankle and instep, seen by chance as its
owner tripped up the Old Assembly Close, [Of old this almost deserted
alley formed the most common access betwixt the High Street and the
southern suburbs.] turned thy brain for eight days. Thou wert once
caught if I remember rightly, with a single glance of a single matchless
eye, which, when the fair owner withdrew her veil, proved to be single
in the literal sense of the word. And, besides, were you not another
time enamoured of a voice--a mere voice, that mingled in the psalmody at
the Old Greyfriars' Church--until you discovered the proprietor of that
dulcet organ to be Miss Dolly MacIzzard, who is both 'back and breast',
as our saying goes?
All these things considered, and contrasted with thy artful silence on
the subject of this grace-saying Nereid of thine, I must beg thee to be
more explicit upon that subject in thy next, unless thou wouldst have me
form the conclusion that thou thinkest more of her than thou carest to
talk of.
You will not expect much news from this quarter, as you know the
monotony of my life, and are aware it must at present be devoted to
uninterrupted study. You have said a thousand times that I am only
qualified to make my way by dint of plodding, and therefore plod I must.
My father seems to be more impatient of your absence than he was after
your first departure. He is sensible, I believe, that our solitary meals
want the light which your gay humour was wont to throw over them, and
feels melancholy as men do when the light of the sun is no longer upon
the landscape. If it is thus with him, thou mayst imagine it is much
more so with me, and canst conceive how heartily I wish that thy frolic
were ended, and thou once more our inmate.----
I resume my pen, after a few hours' interval, to say that an incident
has occurred on which you will yourself be building a hundred castles
in the air, and which even I, jealous as I am of such baseless fabrics,
cannot but own affords ground for singular conjecture.
My father has of late taken me frequently along with him when he
attends the courts, in his anxiety to see me properly initiated into the
practical forms of business. I own I feel something on his account
and my own from this over-anxiety, which, I dare say, renders us both
ridiculous. But what signifies my repugnance? my father drags me up to
his counsel learned in the law,--'Are you quite ready to come on to-day,
Mr. Crossbite?--This is my son, designed for the bar--I take the liberty
to bring him with me to-day to the consultation, merely that he may see
how these things are managed.'
Mr. Crossbite smiles and bows; as a lawyer smiles on the solicitor who
employs him, and I dare say, thrusts his tongue into his cheek, and
whispers into the first great wig that passes him, 'What the d--l does
old Fairford mean by letting loose his whelp on me?'
As I stood beside them, too much vexed at the childish part I was made
to play to derive much information from the valuable arguments of Mr.
Crossbite, I observed a rather elderly man, who stood with his eyes
firmly bent on my father, as if he only waited an end of the business in
which he was engaged, to address him. There was something, I thought, in
the gentleman's appearance which commanded attention. Yet his dress was
not in the present taste, and though it had once been magnificent, was
now antiquated and unfashionable. His coat was of branched velvet, with
a satin lining, a waistcoat of violet-coloured silk, much embroidered;
his breeches the same stuff as the coat. He wore square-toed shoes, with
foretops, as they are called; and his silk stockings were rolled up over
his knee, as you may have seen in pictures, and here and there on some
of those originals who seem to pique themselves on dressing after the
mode of Methuselah. A CHAPEAU BRAS and sword necessarily completed his
equipment, which, though out of date, showed that it belonged to a man
of distinction.
The instant Mr. Crossbite had ended what he had to say, this gentleman
walked up to my father, with, 'Your servant, Mr. Fairford--it is long
since you and I met.'
My father, whose politeness, you know, is exact and formal, bowed, and
hemmed, and was confused, and at length professed that the distance
since they had met was so great, that though he remembered the face
perfectly, the name, he was sorry to any, had--really--somehow--escaped
his memory.
'Have you forgot Herries of Birrenswork?' said the gentleman, and
my father bowed even more profoundly than before; though I think his
reception of his old friend seemed to lose some of the respectful
civility which he bestowed on him while his name was yet unknown. It now
seemed to be something like the lip-courtesy which the heart would have
denied had ceremony permitted.
My father, however, again bowed low, and hoped he saw him well.
'So well, my good Mr. Fairford, that I come hither determined to renew
my acquaintance with one or two old friends, and with you in the first
place. I halt at my old resting place--you must dine with me to-day,
at Paterson's, at the head of the Horse Wynd--it is near your new
fashionable dwelling, and I have business with you.'
My father excused himself respectfully, and not without
embarrassment--'he was particularly engaged at home.'
'Then I will dine with you, man,' said Mr. Herries of Birrenswork; 'the
few minutes you can spare me after dinner will suffice for my business;
and I will not prevent you a moment from minding your own--I am no
You have often remarked that my father, though a scrupulous ohserver of
the rites of hospitality, seems to exercise them rather as a duty than
as a pleasure; indeed, but for a conscientious wish to feed the hungry
and receive the stranger, his doors would open to guests much seldomer
than is the case. I never saw so strong an example of this peculiarity
(which I should otherwise have said is caricatured in your description)
as in his mode of homologating the self-given invitation of Mr. Herries.
The embarsassed brow, and the attempt at a smile which accompanied
his 'We will expect the honour of seeing you in Brown Square at three
o'clock,' could not deceive any one, and did not impose upon the old
laird. It was with a look of scorn that he replied, 'I will relieve you
then till that hour, Mr. Fairford;' and his whole manner seemed to say,
'It is my pleasure to dine with you, and I care not whether I am welcome
or no.'
When he turned away, I asked my father who he was.
'An unfortunate gentleman,' was the reply.
'He looks pretty well on his misfortunes,' replied I. 'I should not have
suspected that so gay an outside was lacking a dinner.'
'Who told you that he does?' replied my father; 'he is OMNI SUSPICIONE
MAJOR, so far as worldly circumstances are concerned. It is to be hoped
he makes a good use of them; though, if he does, it will be for the
first time in his life.'
'He has then been an irregular liver?' insinuated I.
My father replied by that famous brocard with which he silences all
unacceptable queries turning in the slightest degree upon the failings
of our neighbours,--'If we mend our own faults, Alan, we shall all of us
have enough to do, without sitting in judgement upon other folks.'
Here I was again at fault; but rallying once more, I observed, he had
the air of a man of high rank and family.
'He is well entitled,' said my father, 'representing Herries of
Birrenswork; a branch of that great and once powerful family of Herries,
the elder branch whereof merged in the house of Nithesdale at the
death of Lord Robin the Philosopher, Anno Domini sixteen hundred and
'Has he still,' said I, 'his patrimonial estate of Birrenswork?'
'No,' replied my father; 'so far back as his father's time, it was
a mere designation--the property being forfeited by Herbert Herries
following his kinsman the Earl of Derwentwater to the Preston affair in
1715. But they keep up the designation, thinking, doubtless, that their
claims may be revived in more favourable times for Jacobites and for
popery; and folks who in no way partake of their fantastic capriccios
do yet allow it to pass unchallenged, EX COMITATE, if not EX
MISERICORDIA.--But were he the Pope and the Pretender both, we must get
some dinner ready for him, since he has thought fit to offer himself. So
hasten home, my lad, and tell Hannah, Cook Epps, and James Wilkinson, to
do their best; and do thou look out a pint or two of Maxwell's best--it
is in the fifth bin--there are the keys of the wine-cellar. Do not leave
them in the lock--you know poor James's failing, though he is an honest
creature under all other temptations--and I have but two bottles of the
old brandy left--we must keep it for medicine, Alan.'
Away went I--made my preparations--the hour of dinner came, and so did
Mr. Herries of Birrenswork.
If I had thy power of imagination and description, Darsie, I could make
out a fine, dark, mysterious, Rembrandt-looking portrait of this same
stranger, which should be as far superior to thy fisherman as a shirt
of chain-mail is to a herring-net. I can assure you there is some matter
for description about him; but knowing my own imperfections, I can only
say, I thought him eminently disagreeable and ill-bred.--No, ILL-BRED
is not the proper word on the contrary, he appeared to know the rules of
good-breeding perfectly, and only to think that the rank of the company
did not require that he should attend to them--a view of the matter
infinitely more offensive than if his behaviour had been that of
uneducated and proper rudeness. While my father said grace, the laird
did all but whistle aloud; and when I, at my father's desire, returned
thanks, he used his toothpick, as if he had waited that moment for its
So much for Kirk--with King, matters went even worse. My father, thou
knowest, is particularly full of deference to his guests; and in the
present care, he seemed more than usually desirous to escape every cause
of dispute. He so far compromised his loyalty as to announce merely 'The
King' as his first toast after dinner, instead of the emphatic 'King
George', which is his usual formula. Our guest made a motion with his
glass, so as to pass it over the water-decanter which stood beside him,
and added, 'Over the water.'
My father coloured, but would not seem to hear this. Much more there
was of careless and disrespectful in the stranger's manner and tone of
conversation; so that, though I know my father's prejudices in favour
of rank and birth, and though I am aware his otherwise masculine
understanding has never entirely shaken off the slavish awe of the great
which in his earlier days they had so many modes of commanding, still I
could hardly excuse him for enduring so much insolence--such it seemed
to be as this self-invited guest was disposed to offer to him at his own
One can endure a traveller in the same carriage, if he treads upon your
toes by accident, or even through negligence; but it is very different
when, knowing that they are rather of a tender description, he continues
to pound away at them with his hoofs. In my poor opinion--and I am a man
of peace--you can, in that case, hardly avoid a declaration of war.
I believe my father read my thoughts in my eye; for, pulling out his
watch, he said; 'Half-past four, Alan--you should be in your own room by
this time--Birrenswork will excuse you.'
Our visitor nodded carelessly, and I had no longer any pretence to
remain. But as I left the room, I heard this magnate of Nithesdale
distinctly mention the name of Latimer. I lingered; but at length a
direct hint from my father obliged me to withdraw; and when, an hour
afterwards, I was summoned to partake of a cup of tea, our guest had
departed. He had business that evening in the High Street, and could not
spare time even to drink tea. I could not help saying, I considered his
departure as a relief from incivility. 'What business has he to upbraid
us,' I said, 'with the change of our dwelling from a more inconvenient
to a better quarter of the town? What was it to him if we chose
to imitate some of the conveniences or luxuries of an English
dwelling-house, instead of living piled up above each other in flats?
Have his patrician birth and aristocratic fortunes given him any right
to censure those who dispose of the fruits of their own industry,
according to their own pleasure?'
My father took a long pinch of snuff, and replied, 'Very well, Alan;
very well indeed. I wish Mr. Crossbite or Counsellor Pest had heard
you; they must have acknowledged that you have a talent for forensic
elocution; and it may not be amiss to try a little declamation at
home now and then, to gather audacity and keep yourself in breath. But
touching the subject of this paraffle of words, it's not worth a pinch
of tobacco. D'ye think that I care for Mr. Herries of Birrenswork more
than any other gentleman who comes here about business, although I do
not care to go tilting at his throat, because he speaks like a grey
goose, as he is? But to say no more about him, I want to have Darsie
Latimer's present direction; for it is possible I may have to write the
lad a line with my own hand--and yet I do not well know--but give me the
direction at all events.'
I did so, and if you have heard from my father accordingly, you know
more, probably, about the subject of this letter than I who write it.
But if you have not, then shall I have discharged a friend's duty, in
letting you know that there certainly is something afloat between
this disagreeable laird and my father, in which you are considerably
Adieu! and although I have given thee a subject for waking dreams,
beware of building a castle too heavy for the foundation; which, in the
present instance, is barely the word Latimer occurring in a conversation
betwixt a gentleman of Dumfriesshire and a W.S. of Edinburgh--CAETERA

(In continuation of Letters III and IV.)
I told thee I walked out into the open air with my grave and stern
landlord. I could now see more perfectly than on the preceding night the
secluded glen in which stood the two or three cottages which appeared to
be the abode of him and his family.
It was so narrow, in proportion to its depth, that no ray of the morning
sun was likely to reach it till it should rise high in the horizon.
Looking up the dell, you saw a brawling brook issuing in foamy haste
from a covert of underwood, like a race-horse impatient to arrive at the
goal; and, if you gazed yet; more earnestly, you might observe part of
a high waterfall glimmering through the foliage, and giving occasion,
doubtless, to the precipitate speed of the brook. Lower down, the
stream became more placid, and opened into a quiet piece of water which
afforded a rude haven to two or three fishermen's boats, then lying high
and dry on the sand, the tide being out. Two or three miserable huts
could be seen beside this little haven, inhabited probably by the owners
of the boats, but inferior in every respect to the establishment of mine
host, though that was miserable enough.
I had but a minute or two to make these observations, yet during that
space my companion showed symptoms of impatience, and more than once
shouted, 'Cristal--Cristal Nixon,' until the old man of the preceding
evening appeared at the door of one of the neighbouring cottages or
outhouses, leading the strong black horse which I before commemorated,
ready bridled and saddled. My conductor made Cristal a sign with his
finger, and, turning from the cottage door, led the way up the steep
path or ravine which connected the sequestered dell with the open
Had I been perfectly aware of the character of the road down which I
had been hurried with so much impetuosity on the preceding evening, I
greatly question if I should have ventured the descent; for it deserved
no better name than the channel of a torrent, now in a good measure
filled with water, that dashed in foam and fury into the dell, being
swelled with the rains of the preceding night. I ascended this ugly path
with some difficulty although on foot, and felt dizzy when I observed,
from such traces as the rains had not obliterated, that the horse seemed
almost to have slid down it upon his haunches the evening before.
My host threw himself on his horse's back, without placing a foot in the
stirrup--passed me in the perilous ascent, against which he pressed his
steed as if the animal had had the footing of a wild cat. The water and
mud splashed from his heels in his reckless course, and a few bounds
placed him on the top of the bank, where I presently joined him, and
found the horse and rider standing still as a statue; the former
panting and expanding his broad nostrils to the morning wind, the latter
motionless, with his eye fixed on the first beams of the rising sun,
which already began to peer above the eastern horizon and gild the
distant mountains of Cumberland and Liddesdale.
He seemed in a reverie, from which he started at my approach, and,
putting his horse in motion, led the way at a leisurely pace through a
broken and sandy road, which traversed a waste, level, and uncultivated
tract of downs, intermixed with morass, much like that in the
neighbourhood of my quarters at Shepherd's Bush. Indeed, the whole open
ground of this district, where it approaches the sea, has, except in a
few favoured spots, the same uniform and dreary character.
Advancing about a hundred yards from the brink of the glen, we gained
a still more extensive command of this desolate prospect, which seemed
even more dreary, as contrasted with the opposite shores of Cumberland,
crossed and intersected by ten thousand lines of trees growing in
hedgerows, shaded with groves and woods of considerable extent, animated
by hamlets and villas, from which thin clouds of smoke already gave sign
of human life and human industry.
My conductor had extended his arm, and was pointing the road to
Shepherd's Bush, when the step of a horse was heard approaching us. He
looked sharply round, and having observed who was approaching, proceeded
in his instructions to me, planting himself at the same time in the very
middle of the path, which, at the place where we halted, had a slough on
the one side and a sandbank on the other.
I observed that the rider who approached us slackened his horse's pace
from a slow trot to a walk, as if desirous to suffer us to proceed, or
at least to avoid passing us at a spot where the difficulty of doing so
must have brought us very close to each other. You know my old failing,
Alan, and that I am always willing to attend to anything in preference
to the individual who has for the time possession of the conversation.
Agreeably to this amiable propensity, I was internally speculating
concerning the cause of the rider keeping aloof from us, when my
companion, elevating his deep voice so suddenly and so sternly as at
once to recall my wandering thoughts, exclaimed, 'In the name of the
devil, young man, do you think that others have no better use for their
time than you have, that you oblige me to repeat the same thing to you
three times over? Do you see, I say, yonder thing at a mile's distance,
that looks like a finger-post, or rather like a gallows? I would it
had a dreaming fool hanging upon it, as an example to all meditative
moon-calves!--Yon gibbet-looking pole will guide you to the bridge,
where you must pass the large brook; then proceed straight forwards,
till several roads divide at a cairn. Plague on thee, thou art wandering
It is indeed quite true that at this moment the horseman approached us,
and my attention was again called to him as I made way to let him pass.
His whole exterior at once showed that he belonged to the Society of
Friends, or, as the world and the world's law calls them, Quakers.
A strong and useful iron-grey galloway showed, by its sleek and
good condition, that the merciful man was merciful to his beast. His
accoutrements were in the usual unostentatious but clean and servicable
order which characterizes these sectaries. His long surtout of dark-grey
superfine cloth descended down to the middle of his leg, and was
buttoned up to his chin, to defend him against the morning air. As
usual, his ample beaver hung down without button or loop, and shaded a
comely and placid countenance, the gravity of which appeared to contain
some seasoning of humour, and had nothing in common with the pinched
puritanical air affected by devotees in general. The brow was open and
free from wrinkles, whether of age or hypocrisy. The eye was clear,
calm, and considerate, yet appeared to be disturbed by apprehension,
not to say fear, as, pronouncing the usual salutation of, 'I wish thee a
good morrow, friend,' he indicated, by turning his palfrey close to
one side of the path, a wish to glide past us with as little trouble as
possible--just as a traveller would choose to pass a mastiff of whose
peaceable intentions he is by no means confident.
But my friend, not meaning, perhaps, that he should get off so easily,
put his horse quite across the path, so that, without plunging into the
slough, or scrambling up the bank, the Quaker could not have passed
him. Neither of these was an experiment without hazard greater than the
passenger seemed willing to incur. He halted, therefore, as if waiting
till my companion should make way for him; and, as they sat fronting
each other, I could not help thinking that they might have formed no bad
emblem of Peace and War; for although my conductor was unarmed, yet the
whole of his manner, his stern look, and his upright seat on horseback,
were entirely those of a soldier in undress, He accosted the Quaker
in these words, 'So ho! friend Joshua, thou art early to the road this
morning. Has the spirit moved thee and thy righteous brethren to act
with some honesty, and pull down yonder tide-nets that keep the fish
from coming up the river?'
'Surely, friend, not so,' answered Joshua, firmly, but good-humouredly
at the same time; 'thou canst not expect that our own hands should pull
down what our purses established. Thou killest the fish with spear,
line, and coble-net; and we, with snares and with nets, which work by
the ebb and the flow of the tide. Each doth what seems best in his eyes
to secure a share of the blessing which Providence hath bestowed on the
river, and that within his own bounds. I prithee seek no quarrel against
us, for thou shalt have no wrong at our hand.'
'Be assured I will take none at the hand of any man, whether his hat be
cocked or broad-brimmed,' answered the fisherman. 'I tell you in fair
terms, Joshua Geddes, that you and your partners are using unlawful
craft to destroy the fish in the Solway by stake-nets and wears; and
that we, who fish fairly, and like men, as our fathers did, have daily
and yearly less sport and less profit. Do not think gravity or hypocrisy
can carry it off as you have done. The world knows you, and we know you.
You will destroy the salmon which makes the livelihood of fifty poor
families, and then wipe your mouth, and go to make a speech at meeting.
But do not hope it will last thus. I give you fair warning, we will be
upon you one morning soon, when we will not leave a stake standing in
the pools of the Solway; and down the tide they shall every one go, and
well if we do not send a lessee along with them.'
'Friend,' replied Joshua, with a constrained smile, 'but that I know
thou dost not mean as thou sayst, I would tell thee we are under the
protection of this country's laws; nor do we the less trust to obtain
their protection, that our principles permit us not, by any act of
violent resistance, to protect ourselves.'
'All villainous cant and cowardice,' exclaimed the fisherman, 'and
assumed merely as a cloak to your hypocritical avarice.'
'Nay, say not cowardice, my friend,' answered the Quaker, 'since thou
knowest there may be as much courage in enduring as in acting; and I
will be judged by this youth, or by any one else, whether there is not
more cowardice--even in the opinion of that world whose thoughts are the
breath in thy nostrils--in the armed oppressor who doth injury, than in
the defenceless and patient sufferer who endureth it with constancy.'
'I will change no more words with you on the subject,' said the
fisherman, who, as if something moved at the last argument which Mr.
Geddes had used, now made room for him to pass forward on his journey.
'Do not forget, however,' he added, 'that you have had fair warning,
nor suppose that we will accept of fair words in apology for foul play.
These nets of yours are unlawful--they spoil our fishings--we will
have them down at all risks and hazards. I am a man of my word, friend
'I trust thou art,' said the Quaker; 'but thou art the rather bound to
be cautious in rashly affirming what thou wilt never execute. For I tell
thee, friend, that though there is as great a difference between thee
and one of our people as there is between a lion and a sheep, yet I know
and believe thou hast so much of the lion in thee, that thou wouldst
scarce employ thy strength and thy rage upon that which professeth no
means of resistance. Report says so much good of thee, at least, if it
says little more.'
'Time will try,' answered the fisherman; 'and hark thee, Joshua, before
we part I will put thee in the way of doing one good deed, which, credit
me, is better than twenty moral speeches. Here is a stranger youth, whom
Heaven has so scantily gifted with brains, that he will bewilder himself
in the Sands, as he did last night, unless thou wilt kindly show him the
way to Shepherd's Bush; for I have been in vain endeavouring to make
him comprehend the road thither. Hast thou so much charity under thy
simplicity, Quaker, as to do this good turn?'
'Nay, it is thou, friend,' answered Joshua, 'that dost lack charity, to
suppose any one unwilling to do so simple a kindness.'
'Thou art right--I should have remembered it can cost thee nothing.
Young gentlemen, this pious pattern of primitive simplicity will teach
thee the right way to the Shepherd's Bush--aye, and will himself shear
thee like a sheep, if you come to buying and selling with him.'
He then abruptly asked me, how long I intended to remain at Shepherd's
I replied, I was at present uncertain--as long probably, as I could
amuse myself in the neighbourhood.
'You are fond of sport?' he added, in the same tone of brief inquiry.
I answered in the affirmative, but added, I was totally inexperienced.
'Perhaps if you reside here for some days,' he said, 'we may meet again,
and I may have the chance of giving you a lesson.'
Ere I could express either thanks or assent, he turned short round with
a wave of his hand by way of adieu, and rode back to the verge of the
dell from which we had emerged together; and as he remained standing
upon the banks, I could long hear his voice while he shouted down to
those within its recesses.
Meanwhile the Quaker and I proceeded on our journey for some time in
silence; he restraining his sober-minded steed to a pace which might
have suited a much less active walker than myself, and looking on
me from time to time with an expression of curiosity, mingled with
benignity. For my part, I cared not to speak first. It happened I had
never before been in company with one of this particular sect, and,
afraid that in addressing him I might unwittingly infringe upon some
of their prejudices or peculiarities, I patiently remained silent. At
length he asked me, whether I had been long in the service of the laird,
as men called him.
I repeated the words 'in his service?' with such an accent of surprise,
as induced him to say, 'Nay, but, friend, I mean no offence; perhaps I
should have said in his society--an inmate, I mean, in his house?'
'I am totally unknown to the person from whom we have just parted,' said
I, 'and our connexion is only temporary. He had the charity to give me
his guidance from the Sands, and a night's harbourage from the tempest.
So our acquaintance began, and there it is likely to end; for you may
observe that our friend is by no means apt to encourage familiarity.'
'So little so,' answered my companion, 'that thy case is, I think, the
first in which I ever heard of his receiving any one into his house;
that is, if thou hast really spent the night there.'
'Why should you doubt it?' replied I; 'there is no motive I can have to
deceive you, nor is the object worth it.'
'Be not angry with me,' said the Quaker; 'but thou knowest that thine
own people do not, as we humbly endeavour to do, confine themselves
within the simplicity of truth, but employ the language of falsehood,
not only for profit, but for compliment, and sometimes for mere
diversion. I have heard various stories of my neighbour; of most of
which I only believe a small part, and even then they are difficult to
reconcile with each other. But this being the first time I ever beard
of his receiving a stranger within his dwelling, made me express some
doubts. I pray thee let them not offend thee.'
'He does not,' said I, 'appear to possess in much abundance the means
of exercising hospitality, and so may be excused from offering it in
ordinary cases.'
'That is to say, friend,' replied Joshua, 'thou hast supped ill, and
perhaps breakfasted worse. Now my small tenement, called Mount Sharon,
is nearer to us by two miles than thine inn; and although going
thither may prolong thy walk, as taking thee of the straighter road to
Shepherd's Bush, yet methinks exercise will suit thy youthful limbs,
as well as a good plain meal thy youthful appetite. What sayst thou, my
young acquaintance?'
'If it puts you not to inconvenience,' I replied; for the invitation was
cordially given, and my bread and milk had been hastily swallowed, and
in small quantity.
'Nay,' said Joshua, 'use not the language of compliment with those who
renounce it. Had this poor courtesy been very inconvenient, perhaps I
had not offered it.'
'I accept the invitation, then,' said I, 'in the same good spirit in
which you give it.'
The Quaker smiled, reached me his hand, I shook it, and we travelled on
in great cordiality with each other. The fact is, I was much entertained
by contrasting in my own mind, the open manner of the kind-hearted
Joshua Geddes, with the abrupt, dark, and lofty demeanour of my
entertainer on the preceding evening. Both were blunt and unceremonious;
but the plainness of the Quaker had the character of devotional
simplicity, and was mingled with the more real kindness, as if honest
Joshua was desirous of atoning, by his sincerity, for the lack of
external courtesy. On the contrary, the manners of the fisherman were
those of one to whom the rules of good behaviour might be familiar, but
who, either from pride or misanthropy, scorned to observe them. Still
I thought of him with interest and curiosity, notwithstanding so much
about him that was repulsive; and I promised myself, in the course of my
conversation with the Quaker, to learn all that he knew on the subject.
He turned the conversation, however, into a different channel, and
inquired into my own condition of life, and views in visiting this
remote frontier.
I only thought it necessary to mention my name, and add, that I had been
educated to the law, but finding myself possessed of some independence,
I had of late permitted myself some relaxation, and was residing at
Shepherd's Bush to enjoy the pleasure of angling.
'I do thee no harm, young man,' said my new friend, 'in wishing thee a
better employment for thy grave hours, and a more humane amusement (if
amusement thou must have) for those of a lighter character.'
'You are severe, sir,' I replied. 'I heard you but a moment since refer
yourself to the protection of the laws of the country--if there be laws,
there must be lawyers to explain, and judges to administer them.'
Joshua smiled, and pointed to the sheep which were grazing on the downs
over which we were travelling. 'Were a wolf,' he said, 'to come even now
upon yonder flocks, they would crowd for protection, doubtless, around
the shepherd and his dogs; yet they are bitten and harassed daily by
the one, shorn, and finally killed and eaten by the other. But I say not
this to shock you; for, though laws and lawyers are evils, yet they are
necessary evils in this probationary state of society, till man shall
learn to render unto his fellows that which is their due, according
to the light of his own conscience, and through no other compulsion.
Meanwhile, I have known many righteous men who have followed thy
intended profession in honesty and uprightness of walk. The greater
their merit, who walk erect in a path which so many find slippery.
'And angling,' said I:--'you object to that also as an amusement,
you who, if I understood rightly what passed between you and my late
landlord, are yourself a proprietor of fisheries.'
'Not a proprietor,' he replied, 'I am only, in copartnery with others,
a tacksman or lessee of some valuable salmon-fisheries a little down the
coast. But mistake me not. The evil of angling, with which I class all
sports, as they are called, which have the sufferings of animals for
their end and object, does not consist in the mere catching and killing
those animals with which the bounty of Providence hath stocked the earth
for the good of man, but in making their protracted agony a principle of
delight and enjoyment. I do indeed cause these fisheries to be conducted
for the necessary taking, killing, and selling the fish; and, in the
same way, were I a farmer, I should send my lambs to market. But I
should as soon think of contriving myself a sport and amusement out of
the trade of the butcher as out of that of the fisher.'
We argued the point no further; for though I thought his arguments a
little too high-strained, yet as my mind acquitted me of having taken
delight in aught but the theory of field-sports, I did not think myself
called upon stubbornly to advocate a practice which had afforded me so
little pleasure.
We had by this time arrived at the remains of an old finger-post, which
my host had formerly pointed out as a landmark. Here, a ruinous wooden
bridge, supported by long posts resembling crutches, served me to get
across the water, while my new friend sought a ford a good way higher
up, for the stream was considerably swelled.
As I paused for his rejoining me, I observed an angler at a little
distance pouching trout after trout, as fast almost as he could cast his
line; and I own, in spite of Joshua's lecture on humanity, I could not
but envy his adroitness and success, so natural is the love of sport
to our minds, or so easily are we taught to assimilate success in
field-sports with ideas of pleasure, and with the praise due to address
and agility. I soon recognized in the successful angler little Benjie,
who had been my guide and tutor in that gentle art, as you have learned
from my former letters. I called--I whistled--the rascal recognized me,
and, starting like a guilty thing, seemed hesitating whether to approach
or to run away; and when he determined on the former, it was to assail
me with a loud, clamorous, and exaggerated report of the anxiety of all
at the Shepherd's Bush for my personal safety; how my landlady had wept,
how Sam and the ostler had not the heart to go to bed, but sat up all
night drinking--and how he himself had been up long before daybreak to
go in quest of me.
'And you were switching the water, I suppose,' said I, 'to discover my
dead body?'
This observation produced a long 'Na--a--a' of acknowledged detection;
but, with his natural impudence, and confidence in my good nature, he
immediately added, 'that he thought I would like a fresh trout or twa
for breakfast, and the water being in such a rare trim for the saumon
raun, [The bait made of salmon-roe salted and preserved. In a swollen
river, and about the month of October, it is a most deadly bait.] he
couldna help taking a cast.'
While we were engaged in this discussion, the honest Quaker returned to
the farther end of the wooden bridge to tell me he could not venture to
cross the brook in its present state: but would be under the necessity
to ride round by the stone bridge, which was a mile and a half higher
up than his own house. He was about to give me directions how to proceed
without him, and inquire for his sister, when I suggested to him that,
if he pleased to trust his horse to little Benjie, the boy might carry
him round by the bridge, while we walked the shorter and more pleasant
Joshua shook his head, for he was well acquainted with Benjie, who,
he said, was the naughtiest varlet in the whole neighbourhood.
Nevertheless, rather than part company, he agreed to put the pony under
his charge for a short season, with many injunctions that he should not
attempt to mount, but lead the pony (even Solomon) by the bridle, under
the assurances of sixpence in case of proper demeanour, and penalty that
if he transgressed the orders given him, 'verily he would be scourged.'
Promises cost Benjie nothing, and he showered them out wholesale;
till the Quaker at length yielded up the bridle to him, repeating his
charges, and enforcing them by holding up his forefinger. On my part, I
called to Benjie to leave the fish he had taken at Mount Sharon, making,
at the same time, an apologetic countenance to my new friend, not
being quite aware whether the compliment would be agreeable to such a
condemner of field-sports.
He understood me at once, and reminded me of the practical distinction
betwixt catching the animals as an object of cruel and wanton sport, and
eating them as lawful and gratifying articles of food, after they were
killed. On the latter point he had no scruples; but, on the contrary,
assured me that this brook contained the real red trout, so highly
esteemed by all connoisseurs, and that, when eaten within an hour
of their being caught, they had a peculiar firmness of substance and
delicacy of flavour, which rendered them an agreeable addition to a
morning meal, especially when earned, like ours, by early rising, and an
hour or two's wholesome exercise.
But to thy alarm be it spoken, Alan, we did not come so far as the
frying of our fish without further adventure. So it is only to spare thy
patience, and mine own eyes, that I pull up for the present, and send
thee the rest of my story in a subsequent letter.

THE SAME TO THE SAME (In continuation.)
Little Benjie, with the pony, having been sent off on the left side of
the brook, the Quaker and I sauntered on, like the cavalry and infantry
of the same army occupying the opposite banks of a river, and observing
the same line of march. But, while my worthy companion was assuring me
of a pleasant greensward walk to his mansion, little Benjie, who had
been charged to keep in sight, chose to deviate from the path assigned
him, and, turning to the right, led his charge, Solomon, out of our
'The villain means to mount him!' cried Joshua, with more vivacity than
was consistent with his profession of passive endurance.
I endeavoured to appease his apprehensions, as he pushed on, wiping his
brow with vexation, assuring him that, if the boy did mount, he would,
for his own sake, ride gently.
'You do not know him,' said Joshua, rejecting all consolation; 'HE do
anything gently!--no, he will gallop Solomon--he will misuse the sober
patience of the poor animal who has borne me so long! Yes, I was given
over to my own devices when I ever let him touch the bridle, for such a
little miscreant there never was before him in this country.'
He then proceeded to expatiate on every sort of rustic enormity of which
he accused Benjie. He had been suspected of snaring partridges--was
detected by Joshua himself in liming singing-birds--stood fully charged
with having worried several cats, by aid of a lurcher which attended
him, and which was as lean, and ragged, and mischievous, as his master.
Finally, Benjie stood accused of having stolen a duck, to hunt it with
the said lurcher, which was as dexterous on water as on land. I chimed
in with my friend, in order to avoid giving him further irritation, and
declared I should be disposed, from my own experience, to give up Benjie
as one of Satan's imps. Joshua Geddes began to censure the phrase as
too much exaggerated, and otherwise unbecoming the mouth of a reflecting
person; and, just as I was apologizing for it, as being a term of common
parlance, we heard certain sounds on the opposite side of the brook,
which seemed to indicate that Solomon and Benjie were at issue together.
The sandhills behind which Benjie seemed to take his course, had
concealed from us, as doubtless he meant they should, his ascent into
the forbidden saddle, and, putting Solomon to his mettle, which he was
seldom called upon to exert, they had cantered away together in
great amity, till they came near to the ford from which the palfrey's
legitimate owner had already turned back.
Here a contest of opinions took place between the horse and his rider.
The latter, according to his instructions, attempted to direct Solomon
towards the distant bridge of stone; but Solomon opined that the ford
was the shortest way to his own stable. The point was sharply contested,
and we heard Benjie gee-hupping, tchek-tcheking, and, above all,
flogging in great style; while Solomon, who, docile in his general
habits, was now stirred beyond his patience, made a great trampling and
recalcitration; and it was their joint noise which we heard, without
being able to see, though Joshua might too well guess, the cause of it.
Alarmed at these indications, the Quaker began to shout out,
'Benjie--thou varlet! Solomon--thou fool!' when the couple presented
themselves in full drive, Solomon having now decidedly obtained the
better of the conflict, and bringing his unwilling rider in high career
down to the ford. Never was there anger changed so fast into humane
fear, as that of my good companion. 'The varlet will be drowned!' he
exclaimed--'a widow's son!--her only son!--and drowned!--let me go'--And
he struggled with me stoutly as I hung upon him, to prevent him from
plunging into the ford.
I had no fear whatever for Benjie; for the blackguard vermin, though he
could not manage the refractory horse, stuck on his seat like a monkey.
Solomon and Benjie scrambled through the ford with little inconvenience,
and resumed their gallop on the other side.
It was impossible to guess whether on this last occasion Benjie was
running off with Solomon, or Solomon with Benjie; but, judging from
character and motives, I rather suspected the former. I could not help
laughing as the rascal passed me, grinning betwixt terror and delight,
perched on the very pommel of the saddle, and holding with extended arms
by bridle and mane while Solomon, the bit secured between his teeth,
and his head bored down betwixt his forelegs, passed his master in this
unwonted guise as hard as he could pelt.
'The mischievous bastard!' exclaimed the Quaker, terrified out of his
usual moderation of speech--'the doomed gallows-bird!--he will break
Solomon's wind to a certainty.'
I prayed him to be comforted--assured, him a brushing gallop would do
his favourite no harm and reminded him of the censure he had bestowed on
me a minute before, for applying a harsh epithet to the boy.
But Joshua was not without his answer; 'Friend youth,' he said, 'thou
didst speak of the lad's soul, which thou didst affirm belonged to the
enemy, and of that thou couldst say nothing of thine own knowledge; on
the contrary, I did but speak of his outward man, which will assuredly
be suspended by a cord, if he mendeth not his manners. Men say that,
young as he is, he is one of the laird's gang.'
'Of the laird's gang!' said I, repeating the words in surprise. 'Do you
mean the person with whom I slept last night? I heard you call him the
laird. Is he at the head of a gang?'
'Nay, I meant not precisely a gang,' said the Quaker, who appeared in
his haste to have spoken more than he intended--a company, or party, I
should have said; but thus it is, friend Latimer, with the wisest men
when they permit themselves to be perturbed with passion, and speak as
in a fever, or as with the tongue of the foolish and the forward. And
although thou hast been hasty to mark my infirmity, yet I grieve not
that thou hast been a witness to it, seeing that the stumbles of the
wise may be no less a caution to youth and inexperience, than is the
fall of the foolish.'
This was a sort of acknowledgement of what I had already begun to
suspect--that my new friend's real goodness of disposition, joined to
the acquired quietism of his religious sect, had been unable entirely to
check the effervescence of a temper naturally warm and hasty.
Upon the present occasion, as if sensible he had displayed a greater
degree of emotion than became his character, Joshua avoided further
allusion to Benjie and Solomon, and proceeded to solicit my attention to
the natural objects around us, which increased in beauty and interest,
as, still conducted by the meanders of the brook, we left the common
behind us, and entered a more cultivated and enclosed country, where
arable and pasture ground was agreeably varied with groves and hedges.
Descending now almost close to the stream, our course lay through a
little gate, into a pathway kept with great neatness, the sides of which
were decorated with trees and flowering shrubs of the hardier species;
until, ascending by a gentle slope, we issued from the grove, and stood
almost at once in front of a low but very neat building, of an irregular
form; and my guide, shaking me cordially by the hand, made me welcome to
Mount Sharon.
The wood through which we had approached this little mansion was thrown
around it both on the north and north-west, but, breaking off into
different directions, was intersected by a few fields well watered and
sheltered. The house fronted to the south-east, and from thence the
pleasure-ground, or, I should rather say, the gardens, sloped down
to the water. I afterwards understood that the father of the present
proprietor had a considerable taste for horticulture, which had been
inherited by his son, and had formed these gardens, which, with their
shaven turf, pleached alleys, wildernesses, and exotic trees and shrubs,
greatly excelled anything of the kind which had been attempted in the
If there was a little vanity in the complacent smile with which Joshua
Geddes saw me gaze with delight on a scene so different from the naked
waste we had that day traversed in company, it might surely be permitted
to one who, cultivating and improving the beauties of nature, had found
therein, as he said, bodily health, and a pleasing relaxation for the
mind. At the bottom of the extended gardens the brook wheeled round in a
wide semicircle, and was itself their boundary. The opposite side was
no part of Joshua's domain, but the brook was there skirted by a
precipitous rock of limestone, which seemed a barrier of nature's own
erecting around his little Eden of beauty, comfort, and peace.
'But I must not let thee forget,' said the kind Quaker, 'amidst thy
admiration of these beauties of our little inheritance, that thy
breakfast has been a light one.'
So saying, Joshua conducted me to a small sashed door, opening under
a porch amply mantled by honeysuckle and clematis, into a parlour
of moderate size; the furniture of which, in plainness and excessive
cleanliness, bore the characteristic marks of the sect to which the
owner belonged.
Thy father's Hannah is generally allowed to be an exception to all
Scottish housekeepers, and stands unparalleled for cleanliness among
the women of Auld Reekie; but the cleanliness of Hannah is sluttishness
compared to the scrupulous purifications of these people, who seem to
carry into the minor decencies of life that conscientious rigour which
they affect in their morals.
The parlour would have been gloomy, for the windows were small and the
ceiling low; but the present proprietor had rendered it more cheerful
by opening one end into a small conservatory, roofed with glass, and
divided from the parlour by a partition of the same. I have never before
seen this very pleasing manner of uniting the comforts of an apartment
with the beauties of a garden, and I wonder it is not more practised
by the great. Something of the kind is hinted at in a paper of the
As I walked towards the conservatory to view it more closely, the
parlour chimney engaged my attention. It was a pile of massive stone,
entirely out of proportion to the size of the apartment. On the front
had once been an armorial scutcheon; for the hammer, or chisel, which
had been employed to deface the shield or crest, had left uninjured
the scroll beneath, which bore the pious motto, 'TRUST IN GOD.'
Black-letter, you know, was my early passion, and the tombstones in the
Greyfriars' churchyard early yielded up to my knowledge as a decipherer
what little they could tell of the forgotten dead.
Joshua Geddes paused when he saw my eye fixed on this relic of
antiquity. 'Thou canst read it?' he said.
I repeated the motto, and added, there seemed vestiges of a date.
'It should be 1537,' said he; 'for so long ago, at the least
computation, did my ancestors, in the blinded times of Papistry, possess
these lands, and in that year did they build their house.'
'It is an ancient descent,' said I, looking with respect upon the
monument. 'I am sorry the arms have been defaced.'
It was perhaps impossible for my friend, Quaker as he was, to seem
altogether void of respect for the pedigree which he began to recount
to me, disclaiming all the while the vanity usually connected with
the subject; in short, with the air of mingled melancholy, regret, and
conscious dignity, with which Jack Fawkes used to tell us at college of
his ancestor's unfortunate connexion with the Gunpowder Plot.
'Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher,' thus harangued Joshua Gleddes
of Mount Sharon; 'if we ourselves are nothing in the sight of Heaven,
how much less than nothing must be our derivation from rotten bones and
mouldering dust, whose immortal spirits have long since gone to their
private account? Yes, friend Latimer, my ancestors were renowned among
the ravenous and bloodthirsty men who then dwelt in this vexed country;
and so much were they famed for successful freebooting, robbery, and
bloodshed, that they are said to have been called Geddes, as likening
them to the fish called a Jack, Pike, or Luce, and in our country
tongue, a GED--a goodly distinction truly for Christian men! Yet did
they paint this shark of the fresh waters upon their shields, and these
profane priests of a wicked idolatry, the empty boasters called heralds,
who make engraven images of fishes, fowls, and four-footed beasts, that
men may fall down and worship them, assigned the ged for the device and
escutcheon of my fathers, and hewed it over their chimneys, and placed
it above their tombs; and the men were elated in mind, and became yet
more ged-like, slaying, leading into captivity, and dividing the spoil,
until the place where they dwelt obtained the name of Sharing-Knowe,
from the booty which was there divided amongst them and their
accomplices. But a better judgement was given to my father's father,
Philip Geddes, who, after trying to light his candle at some of the vain
wildfires then held aloft at different meetings and steeple-houses, at
length obtained a spark from the lamp of the blessed George Fox, who
came into Scotland spreading light among darkness, as he himself hath
written, as plentifully as fly the sparkles from the hoof of the horse
which gallops swiftly along the stony road.'--Here the good Quaker
interrupted himself with, 'And that is very true, I must go speedily to
see after the condition of Solomon.'
A Quaker servant here entered the room with a tray, and inclining his
head towards his master, but not after the manner of one who bows, said
composedly, 'Thou art welcome home, friend Joshua, we expected thee not
so early; but what hath befallen Solomon thy horse?'
'What hath befallen him, indeed?' said my friend; 'hath he not been
returned hither by the child whom they call Benjie?'
'He hath,' said his domestic, 'but it was after a strange fashion; for
he came hither at a swift and furious pace, and flung the child Benjie
from his back, upon the heap of dung which is in the stable-yard.'
'I am glad of it,' said Joshua, hastily,--'glad of it, with all my heart
and spirit! But stay, he is the child of the widow--hath the boy any
'Not so' answered the servant, 'for he rose and fled swiftly.'
Joshua muttered something about a scourge, and then inquired after
Solomon's present condition.
'He seetheth like a steaming cauldron,' answered the servant; 'and
Bauldie, the lad, walketh him about the yard with a halter, lest he take
Mr. Geddes hastened to the stable-yard to view personally the condition
of his favourite, and I followed to offer my counsel as a jockey. Don't
laugh, Alan, sure I have jockeyship enough to assist a Quaker--in this
unpleasing predicament.
The lad who was leading the horse seemed to be no Quaker, though his
intercourse with the family had given him a touch of their prim sobriety
of look and manner. He assured Joshua that his horse had received no
injury, and I even hinted that the exercise would be of service to him.
Solomon himself neighed towards his master, and rubbed his head against
the good Quaker's shoulder, as if to assure him of his being quite well;
so that Joshua returned in comfort to his parlour, where breakfast was
now about to be displayed.
I have since learned that the affection of Joshua for his pony is
considered as inordinate by some of his own sect; and that he has been
much blamed for permitting it to be called by the name of Solomon, or
any other name whatever; but he has gained so much respect and influence
among them that they overlook these foibles.
I learned from him (whilst the old servant, Jehoiachim, entering and
re-entering, seemed to make no end of the materials which he brought in
for breakfast) that his grandfather Philip, the convert of George Fox,
had suffered much from the persecution to which these harmless devotees
were subjected on all sides during that intolerant period, and much
of their family estate had been dilapidated. But better days dawned
on Joshua's father, who, connecting himself by marriage with a wealthy
family of Quakers in Lancashire, engaged successfully in various
branches of commerce, and redeemed the remnants of the property,
changing its name in sense, without much alteration of sound, from the
Border appellation of Sharing-Knowe, to the evangelical appellation of
Mount Sharon.
This Philip Geddes, as I before hinted, had imbibed the taste for
horticulture and the pursuits of the florist, which are not uncommon
among the peaceful sect he belonged to. He had destroyed the remnants
of the old peel-house, substituting the modern mansion in its place;
and while he reserved the hearth of his ancestors, in memory of their
hospitality, as also the pious motto which they had chanced to assume,
he failed not to obliterate the worldly and military emblems displayed
upon the shield and helmet, together with all their blazonry.
In a few minutes after Mr. Geddes had concluded the account; of himself
and his family, his sister Rachel, the only surviving member of it,
entered the room. Her appearance is remarkably pleasing, and although
her age is certainly thirty at least, she still retains the shape and
motion of an earlier period. The absence of everything like fashion
or ornament was, as usual, atoned for by the most perfect neatness and
cleanliness of her dress; and her simple close cap was particularly
suited to eyes which had the softness and simplicity of the dove's.
Her features were also extremely agreeable, but had suffered a little
through the ravages of that professed enemy to beauty, the small-pox; a
disadvantage which was in part counterbalanced by a well-formed mouth,
teeth like pearls, and a pleasing sobriety of smile, that seemed to wish
good here and hereafter to every one she spoke to. You cannot make
any of your vile inferences here, Alan, for I have given a full-length
picture of Rachel Geddes; so that; you cannot say, in this case, as in
the letter I have just received, that she was passed over as a subject
on which I feared to dilate. More of this anon.
Well, we settled to our breakfast after a blessing, or rather an
extempore prayer, which Joshua made upon the occasion, and which
the spirit moved him to prolong rather more than I felt altogether
agreeable. Then, Alan, there was such a dispatching of the good things
of the morning as you have not witnessed since you have seen Darsie
Latimer at breakfast. Tea and chocolate, eggs, ham, and pastry, not
forgetting the broiled fish, disappeared with a celerity which seemed
to astonish the good-humoured Quakers, who kept loading my plate
with supplies, as if desirous of seeing whether they could, by any
possibility, tire me out. One hint, however, I received, which put me in
mind where I was. Miss Geddes had offered me some sweet-cake, which, at
the moment, I declined; but presently afterwards, seeing it within
my reach, I naturally enough helped myself to a slice, and had just;
deposited it beside my plate, when Joshua, mine host, not with the
authoritative air of Sancho's doctor, Tirteafuera, but in a very calm
and quiet manner, lifted it away and replaced it on the dish, observing
only, 'Thou didst refuse it before, friend Latimer.'
These good folks, Alan, make no allowance for what your good father
calls the Aberdeen-man's privilege, of 'taking his word again;' or what
the wise call second thoughts.
Bating this slight hint that I was among a precise generation, there
was nothing in my reception that was peculiar--unless, indeed, I were to
notice the solicitous and uniform kindness with which all the attentions
of my new friends were seasoned, as if they were anxious to assure me
that the neglect of worldly compliments interdicted by their sect, only
served to render their hospitality more sincere. At length my hunger was
satisfied, and the worthy Quaker, who, with looks of great good nature,
had watched my progress, thus addressed his sister:--
'This young man, Rachel, hath last night sojourned in the tents of our
neighbour whom men call the laird. I am sorry I had not met him the
evening before, for our neighbour's hospitality is too unfrequently
exercised to be well prepared with the means of welcome.'
'Nay, but, Joshua,' said Rachel, 'if our neighbour hath done a kindness,
thou shouldst not grudge him the opportunity; and if our young friend
hath fared ill for a night, he will the better relish what Providence
may send him of better provisions.'
'And that he may do so at leisure,' said Joshua, 'we will pray him,
Rachel, to tarry a day or twain with us: he is young, and is but now
entering upon the world, and our habitation may, if he will, be like a
resting-place, from which he may look abroad upon the pilgrimage which
he must take, and the path which he has to travel.--What sayest thou,
friend Latimer? We constrain not our friends to our ways, and thou art,
I think, too wise to quarrel with us for following our own fashions; and
if we should even give thee a word of advice, thou wilt not, I think, be
angry, so that it is spoken in season.'
You know, Alan, how easily I am determined by anything resembling
cordiality--and so, though a little afraid of the formality of my host
and hostess, I accepted their invitation, provided I could get some
messenger to send to Shepherd's Bush for my servant and portmanteau.
'Why, truly, friend,' said Joshua, 'thy outward frame would be improved
by cleaner garments; but I will do thine errand myself to the Widow
Gregson's house of reception, and send thy lad hither with thy clothes.
Meanwhile, Rachel will show thee these little gardens, and then will put
thee in some way of spending thy time usefully, till our meal calls
us together at the second hour after noon. I bid thee farewell for
the present, having some space to walk, seeing I must leave the animal
Solomon to his refreshing rest.'
With these words, Mr. Joshua Geddes withdrew. Some ladies we have known
would have felt, or at least affected, reserve or embarrassment, at
being left to do the honours of the grounds to (it will be out, Alan)--a
smart young fellow--an entire stranger. She went out for a few minutes,
and returned in her plain cloak and bonnet, with her beaver gloves,
prepared to act as my guide, with as much simplicity as if she had been
to wait upon thy father. So forth I sallied with my fair Quakeress.
If the house at Mount Sharon be merely a plain and convenient dwelling,
of moderate size and small pretensions, the gardens and offices, though
not extensive, might rival an earl's in point of care and expense.
Rachel carried me first to her own favourite resort, a poultry-yard,
stocked with a variety of domestic fowls, of the more rare as well as
the most ordinary kinds, furnished with every accommodation which may
suit their various habits. A rivulet which spread into a pond for the
convenience of the aquatic birds, trickled over gravel as it passed
through the yards dedicated to the land poultry, which were thus amply
supplied with the means they use for digestion.
All these creatures seemed to recognize the presence of their mistress,
and some especial favourites hastened to her feet, and continued to
follow her as far as their limits permitted. She pointed out their
peculiarities and qualities, with the discrimination of one who had made
natural history her study; and I own I never looked on barn-door
fowls with so much interest before--at least until they were boiled
or roasted. I could not help asking the trying question, how she could
order the execution of any of the creatures of which she seemed so
'It was painful,' she said, 'but it was according to the law of their
being. They must die; but they knew not when death was approaching; and
in making them comfortable while they lived, we contributed to their
happiness as much as the conditions of their existence permitted to us.'
I am not quite of her mind, Alan. I do not believe either pigs or
poultry would admit that the chief end of their being was to be killed
and eaten. However, I did not press the argument, from which my Quaker
seemed rather desirous to escape; for, conducting me to the greenhouse,
which was extensive, and filled with the choicest plants, she pointed
out an aviary which occupied the farther end, where, she said, she
employed herself with attending the inhabitants, without being disturbed
with any painful recollections concerning their future destination.
I will not trouble you with any account of the various hot-houses
and gardens, and their contents. No small sum of money must have been
expended in erecting and maintaining them in the exquisite degree
of good order which they exhibited. The family, I understood, were
connected with that of the celebrated Millar, and had imbibed his taste
for flowers, and for horticulture. But instead of murdering botanical
names, I will rather conduct you to the POLICY, or pleasure-garden,
which the taste of Joshua or his father had extended on the banks
betwixt the house and river. This also, in contradistinction to the
prevailing simplicity, was ornamented in an unusual degree. There were
various compartments, the connexion of which was well managed, and
although the whole ground did not exceed five or six acres, it was so
much varied as to seem four times larger. The space contained close
alleys and open walks; a very pretty artificial waterfall; a fountain
also, consisting of a considerable jet-d'eau, whose streams glittered in
the sunbeams and exhibited a continual rainbow. There was a cabinet of
verdure, as the French call it, to cool the summer heat, and there was
a terrace sheltered from the north-east by a noble holly hedge, with all
its glittering spears where you might have the full advantage of the sun
in the clear frosty days of winter.
I know that you, Alan, will condemn all this as bad and antiquated; for,
ever since Dodsley has described the Leasowes, and talked of Brown's
imitations of nature and Horace Walpole's late Essay on Gardening, you
are all for simple nature--condemn walking up and down stairs in the
open air and declare for wood and wilderness. But NE QUID NIMIS. I would
not deface a scene of natural grandeur or beauty, by the introduction
of crowded artificial decorations; yet such may, I think, be very
interesting, where the situation, in its natural state, otherwise has no
particular charms.
So that when I have a country-house (who can say how soon?) you may
look for grottoes, and cascades, and fountains; nay if you vex me by
contradiction, perhaps I may go the length of a temple--so provoke me
not, for you see of what enormities I am capable.
At any rate, Alan, had you condemned as artificial the rest of Friend
Geddes's grounds, there is a willow walk by the very verge of the
stream, so sad, so solemn, and so silent, that it must have commanded
your admiration. The brook, restrained at the ultimate boundary of the
grounds by a natural dam-dike or ledge of rocks, seemed, even in
its present swollen state, scarcely to glide along: and the pale
willow-trees, dropping their long branches into the stream, gathered
around them little coronals of the foam that floated down from the more
rapid stream above. The high rock, which formed the opposite bank of the
brook, was seen dimly through the branches, and its pale and splintered
front, garlanded with long streamers of briers and other creeping
plants, seemed a barrier between the quiet path which we trod, and the
toiling and bustling world beyond. The path itself, following the sweep
of the stream, made a very gentle curve; enough, however, served by its
inflection completely to hide the end of the walk until you arrived at
it. A deep and sullen sound, which increased as you proceeded, prepared
you for this termination, which was indeed only a plain root-seat, from
which you looked on a fall of about six or seven feet, where the brook
flung itself over the ledge of natural rock I have already mentioned,
which there crossed its course.
The quiet and twilight seclusion of this walk rendered it a fit scene
for confidential communing; and having nothing more interesting to
say to my fair Quaker, I took the liberty of questioning her about the
laird; for you are, or ought to be, aware, that next to discussing the
affairs of the heart, the fair sex are most interested in those of their
I did not conceal either my curiosity, or the check which it had
received from Joshua, and I saw that my companion answered with
embarrassment. 'I must not speak otherwise than truly,' she said; 'and
therefore I tell thee, that my brother dislikes, and that I fear, the
man of whom thou hast asked me. Perhaps we are both wrong--but he is a
man of violence, and hath great influence over many, who, following
the trade of sailors and fishermen, become as rude as the elements with
which they contend. He hath no certain name among them, which is
not unusual, their rude fashion being to distinguish each other
by nicknames; and they have called him the Laird of the Lakes (not
remembering there should be no one called Lord, save one only) in idle
derision; the pools of salt water left by the tide among the sands being
called the Lakes of Solway.'
'Has he no other revenue than he derives from these sands?' I asked.
'That I cannot answer,' replied Rachel; 'men say that he wants not
money, though he lives like an ordinary fisherman, and that he imparts
freely of his means to the poor around him. They intimate that he is
a man of consequence, once deeply engaged in the unhappy affair of the
rebellion, and even still too much in danger from the government
to assume his own name. He is often absent from his cottage at
Broken-burn-cliffs, for weeks and months.'
'I should have thought,' said I, 'that the government would scarce, at
this time of day, be likely to proceed against any one even of the most
obnoxious rebels. Many years have passed away'--
'It is true,' she replied; 'yet such persons may understand that their
being connived at depends on their living in obscurity. But indeed there
can nothing certain be known among these rude people. The truth is not
in them--most of them participate in the unlawful trade betwixt these
parts and the neighbouring shore of England; and they are familiar with
every species of falsehood and deceit.'
'It is a pity,' I remarked, 'your brother should have neighbours of such
a description, especially as I understand he is at some variance with
'Where, when, and about what matter?' answered Miss Geddes, with an
eager and timorous anxiety, which made me regret having touched on the
I told her, in a way as little alarming as I could devise, the purport
of what passed betwixt this Laird of the Lakes and her brother, at their
morning's interview.
'You affright me much,' answered she; 'it is this very circumstance
which has scared me in the watches of the night. When my brother Joshua
withdrew from an active share in the commercial concerns of my father,
being satisfied with the portion of worldly substance which he already
possessed, there were one or two undertakings in which he retained an
interest, either because his withdrawing might have been prejudicial to
friends, or because he wished to retain some mode of occupying his time.
Amongst the more important of these is a fishing station on the coast,
where, by certain improved modes of erecting snares, opening at the
advance of the tide, and shutting at the reflux, many more fish are
taken than can be destroyed by those who, like the men of Broken-burn,
use only the boat-net and spear, or fishing-rod. They complain of these
tide-nets, as men call them, as an innovation, and pretend to a right
to remove and destroy them by the strong hand. I fear me, this man of
violence, whom they call the laird, will execute these his threats,
which cannot be without both loss and danger to my brother.'
'Mr. Geddes,' said I, 'ought to apply to the civil, magistrate; there
are soldiers at Dumfries who would be detached for his protection.'
'Thou speakest, friend Latimer,' answered the lady, 'as one who is
still in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity. God forbid that
we should endeavour to preserve nets of flax and stakes of wood, or the
Mammon of gain which they procure for us, by the hands of men of war and
at the risk of spilling human blood.'
'I respect your scruples,' I replied; 'but since such is your way
of thinking, your brother ought to avert the danger by compromise or
'Perhaps it would be best,' answered Rachel; 'but what can I say? Even
in the best-trained temper there may remain some leaven of the old Adam;
and I know not whether it is this or a better spirit that maketh my
brother Joshua determine, that though he will not resist force by force,
neither will he yield up his right to mere threats, or encourage wrong
to others by yielding to menaces. His partners, he says, confide in his
steadiness: and that he must not disappoint them by yielding up their
right for the fear of the threats of man, whose breath is in his
This observation convinced me that the spirit of the old sharers of
the spoil was not utterly departed even from the bosom of the peaceful
Quaker; and I could not help confessing internally that Joshua had the
right, when he averred that there was as much courage in sufferance as
in exertion.
As we approached the farther end of the willow walk, the sullen and
continuous sound of the dashing waters became still more and more
audible, and at length rendered it difficult for us to communicate
with each other. The conversation dropped, but apparently my companion
continued to dwell upon the apprehensions which it had excited. At the
bottom of the walk we obtained a view of the cascade, where the swollen
brook flung itself in foam and tumult over the natural barrier of rock,
which seemed in vain to attempt to bar its course. I gazed with delight,
and, turning to express my sentiment to my companion, I observed that
she had folded her hands in an attitude of sorrowful resignation, which
showed her thoughts were far from the scene which lay before her.
When she saw that her abstraction was observed, she resumed her former
placidity of manner; and having given me sufficient time to admire this
termination of our sober and secluded walk, proposed that me should
return to the house through her brother's farm. 'Even we Quakers, as
we are called, have our little pride,' she said; 'and my brother Joshua
would not forgive me, were I not to show thee the fields which he taketh
delight to cultivate after the newest and best fashion; for which, I
promise thee, he hath received much praise from good judges, as well as
some ridicule from those who think it folly to improve on the customs of
our ancestors.'
As she spoke, she opened a low door, leading through a moss and
ivy-covered wall, the boundary of the pleasure-ground, into the open
fields; through which we moved by a convenient path, leading, with good
taste and simplicity, by stile and hedgerow, through pasturage, and
arable, and woodland; so that in all ordinary weather, the good man
might, without even soiling his shoes, perform his perambulation round
the farm. There were seats also, on which to rest; and though not
adorned with inscriptions, nor quite so frequent in occurrence as those
mentioned in the account of the Leasowes, their situation was always
chosen with respect to some distant prospect to be commanded, or some
home-view to be enjoyed.
But what struck me most in Joshua's domain was the quantity and the
tameness of the game. The hen partridge scarce abandoned the roost, at
the foot of the hedge where she had assembled her covey, though the path
went close beside her; and the hare, remaining on her form, gazed at us
as we passed, with her full dark eye, or rising lazily and hopping to
a little distance, stood erect to look at us with more curiosity than
apprehension. I observed to Miss Geddes the extreme tameness of these
timid and shy animals, and she informed me that their confidence arose
from protection in the summer, and relief during the winter.
'They are pets,' she said, 'of my brother, who considers them as the
better entitled to his kindness that they are a race persecuted by the
world in general. He denieth himself,' she said, 'even the company of a
dog, that these creatures may here at least enjoy undisturbed security.
Yet this harmless or humane propensity, or humour, hath given offence,'
she added, 'to our dangerous neighbours.'
She explained this, by telling me that my host of the preceding night
was remarkable for his attachment to field-sports, which he pursued
without much regard to the wishes of the individuals over whose property
he followed them. The undefined mixture of respect and fear with which
he was generally regarded induced most of the neighbouring land-holders
to connive at what they would perhaps in another have punished as a
trespass; but Joshua Geddes would not permit the intrusion of any
one upon his premises, and as he had before offended several country
neighbours, who, because he would neither shoot himself nor permit
others to do so, compared him to the dog in the manger, so he now
aggravated the displeasure which the Laird of the Lakes had already
conceived against him, by positively debarring him from pursuing his
sport over his grounds--'So that,' said Rachel Geddes, 'I sometimes wish
our lot had been cast elsewhere than in these pleasant borders, where,
if we had less of beauty around us, we might have had a neighbourhood of
peace and, goodwill.'
We at length returned to the house, where Miss Geddes showed me a small
study, containing a little collection of books, in two separate presses.
'These,' said she, pointing to the smaller press, 'will, if thou
bestowest thy leisure upon them, do thee good; and these,' pointing to
the other and larger cabinet, 'can, I believe, do thee little harm. Some
of our people do indeed hold, that every writer who is not with us
is against us; but brother Joshua is mitigated in his opinions, and
correspondeth with our friend John Scot of Amwell, who hath himself
constructed verses well approved of even in the world. I wish thee many
good thoughts till our family meet at the hour of dinner.'
Left alone, I tried both collections; the first consisted entirely
of religious and controversial tracts, and the latter formed a small
selection of history and of moral writers, both in prose and verse.
Neither collection promising much amusement, thou hast, in these close
pages, the fruits of my tediousness; and truly, I think, writing history
(one's self being the subject) is as amusing as reading that of foreign
countries, at any time.
Sam, still more drunk than sober, arrived in due time with my
portmanteau, and enabled me to put my dress into order, better befitting
this temple of cleanliness and decorum, where (to conclude) I believe I
shall be a sojourner more days than one. [See Note 1.]
PS.--I have noted your adventure, as you home-bred youths may perhaps
term it, concerning the visit of your doughty laird. We travellers hold
such an incident no great consequence, though it may serve to embellish
the uniform life of Brown's Square. But art thou not ashamed to attempt
to interest one who is seeing the world at large, and studying human
nature on a large scale, by so bald a narrative? Why, what does it
amount to, after all, but that a Tory laird dined with a Whig lawyer? no
very uncommon matter, especially as you state Mr. Herries to have lost
the estate, though retaining the designation. The laird behaves with
haughtiness and impertinence--nothing out of character in that: is NOT
kicked down stairs, as he ought to have been, were Alan Fairford half
the man that he would wish his friends to think him. Aye, but then, as
the young lawyer, instead of showing his friend the door, chose to make
use of it himself, he overheard the laird aforesaid ask the old lawyer
concerning Darsie Latimer--no doubt earnestly inquiring after the
handsome, accomplished inmate of his family, who has so lately made
Themis his bow and declined the honour of following her farther. You
laugh at me for my air-drawn castles; but confess, have they not surer
footing, in general, than two words spoken by such a man as Herries?
And yet--and yet--I would rally the matter off, Alan; but in dark nights
even the glow-worm becomes an object of lustre, and to one plunged in
my uncertainty and ignorance, the slightest gleam that promises
intelligence is interesting. My life is like the subterranean river in
the Peak of Derby, visible only where it crosses the celebrated cavern.
I am here, and this much I know; but where I have sprung from, or
whither my course of life is like to tend, who shall tell me? Your
father, too, seemed interested and alarmed, and talked of writing; would
to Heaven he may!--I send daily to the post-town for letters.

Thou mayst clap thy wings and crow as thou pleasest. You go in search
of adventures, but adventures come to me unsought for; and oh! in what a
pleasing shape came mine, since it arrived in the form of a client--and
a fair client to boot! What think you of that, Darsie! you who are such
a sworn squire of dames? Will this not match my adventures with thine,
that hunt salmon on horseback, and will it not, besides, eclipse
the history of a whole tribe of Broadbrims?--But I must proceed
When I returned to-day from the College, I was surprised to see a broad
grin distending the adust countenance of the faithful James Wilkinson,
which, as the circumstance seldom happens above once a year, was matter
of some surprise. Moreover, he had a knowing glance with his eye,
which I should have as soon expected from a dumb-waiter--an article
of furniture to which James, in his usual state, may be happily
assimilated. 'What the devil is the matter, James?'
'The devil may be in the matter, for aught I ken,' said James, with
another provoking grin; 'for here has been a woman calling for you,
Maister Alan.'
'A woman calling for me?' said I in surprise; for you know well, that
excepting old Aunt Peggy, who comes to dinner of a Sunday, and the
still older Lady Bedrooket, who calls ten times a year for the
quarterly payment of her jointure of four hundred merks, a female scarce
approaches our threshold, as my father visits all his female clients at
their own lodgings. James protested, however, that there had been a
lady calling, and for me. 'As bonny a lass as I have seen,' added James,
'since I was in the Fusileers, and kept company with Peg Baxter.' Thou
knowest all James's gay recollections go back to the period of his
military service, the years he has spent in ours having probably been
dull enough.
'Did the lady leave no name nor place of address?'
'No,' replied James; 'but she asked when you wad be at hame, and I
appointed her for twelve o'clock, when the house wad be quiet, and your
father at the Bank.'
'For shame, James! how can you think my father's being at home or abroad
could be of consequence?--The lady is of course a decent person?'
'I'se uphaud her that, sir--she is nane of your--WHEW'--(Here James
supplied a blank with a low whistle)--'but I didna ken--my maister makes
an unco wark if a woman comes here.'
I passed into my own room, not ill-pleased that my father was absent,
notwithstanding I had thought it proper to rebuke James for having so
contrived it, I disarranged my books, to give them the appearance of a
graceful confusion on the table, and laying my foils (useless since your
departure) across the mantelpiece, that the lady might see I was TAM
MARTE QUAM MERCURIO--I endeavoured to dispose my dress so as to resemble
an elegant morning deshabille--gave my hair the general shade of powder
which marks the gentleman--laid my watch and seals on the table, to
hint that I understood the value of time;--and when I had made all these
arrangements, of which I am a little ashamed when I think of them, I had
nothing better to do than to watch the dial-plate till the index
pointed to noon. Five minutes elapsed, which. I allowed for variation
of clocks--five minutes more rendered me anxious and doubtful--and five
minutes more would have made me impatient.
Laugh as thou wilt; but remember, Darsie, I was a lawyer, expecting his
first client--a young man, how strictly bred up I need not remind you,
expecting a private interview with a young and beautiful woman. But ere
the third term of five minutes had elapsed, the door-bell was heard to
tinkle low and modestly, as if touched by some timid hand.
James Wilkinson, swift in nothing, is, as thou knowest, peculiarly slow
in answering the door-bell; and I reckoned on five minutes good, ere his
solemn step should have ascended the stair. Time enough, thought I, for
a peep through the blinds, and was hastening to the window accordingly.
But I reckoned without my host; for James, who had his own curiosity
as well as I, was lying PERDU in the lobby, ready to open at the first
tinkle; and there was, 'This way, ma'am--Yes, ma'am--The lady, Mr.
Alan,' before I could get to the chair in which I proposed to be
discovered, seated in all legal dignity. The consciousness of being
half-caught in the act of peeping, joined to that native air of awkward
bashfulness of which I am told the law will soon free me, kept me
standing on the floor in some confusion; while the lady, disconcerted
on her part, remained on the threshold of the room. James Wilkinson, who
had his senses most about him, and was perhaps willing to prolong his
stay in the apartment, busied himself in setting a chair for the lady,
and recalled me to my good-breeding by the hint. I invited her to take
possession of it, and bid James withdraw.
My visitor was undeniably a lady, and probably considerably above the
ordinary rank--very modest, too, judging from the mixture of grace and
timidity with which she moved, and at my entreaty sat down. Her dress
was, I should suppose, both handsome and fashionable; but it was much
concealed by a walking-cloak of green silk, fancifully embroidered; in
which, though heavy for the season, her person was enveloped, and which,
moreover, was furnished with a hood.
The devil take that hood, Darsie! for I was just able to distinguish
that, pulled as it was over the face, it concealed from me, as I was
convinced, one of the prettiest countenances I have seen, and which,
from a sense of embarrassment, seemed to be crimsoned with a deep blush.
I could see her complexion was beautiful--her chin finely turned--her
lips coral--and her teeth rivals to ivory. But further the deponent
sayeth not; for a clasp of gold, ornamented with it sapphire, closed
the envious mantle under the incognita's throat, and the cursed hood
concealed entirely the upper part of the face.
I ought to have spoken first, that is certain; but ere I could get my
phrases well arranged, the young lady, rendered desperate I suppose by
my hesitation opened the conversation herself.
'I fear I am an intruder, sir--I expected to meet an elderly gentleman.'
This brought me to myself. 'My father, madam, perhaps. But you inquired
for Alan Fairford--my father's name is Alexander.'
'It is Mr. Alan Fairford, undoubtedly, with whom I wished to speak,' she
said, with greater confusion; 'but I was told that he was advanced in
'Some mistake, madam, I presume, betwixt my father and myself--our
Christian names have the same initials, though the terminations are
different. I--I--I would esteem it a most fortunate mistake if I could
have the honour of supplying my father's place in anything that could be
of service to you.'
'You are very obliging, sir,' A pause, during which she seemed
undetermined whether to rise or sit still.
'I am just about to be called to the bar, madam,' said I, in hopes to
remove her scruples to open her case to me; 'and if my advice or opinion
could be of the slightest use, although I cannot presume to say that
they are much to be depended upon, yet'--
The lady arose. 'I am truly sensible of your kindness, sir; and I have
no doubt of your talents. I will be very plain with you--it is you whom
I came to visit; although, now that we have met, I find it will be much
better that I should commit my communication to writing.'
'I hope, madam, you will not be so cruel--so tantalizing, I would
say. Consider, you are my first client--your business my first
consultation--do not do me the displeasure of withdrawing your
confidence because I am a few years younger than you seem to have
expected. My attention shall make amends for my want of experience.'
'I have no doubt of either,' said the lady, in a grave tone, calculated
to restrain the air of gallantry with which I had endeavoured to address
her. 'But when you have received my letter you will find good reasons
assigned why a written communication will best suit my purpose. I wish
you, sir, a good morning.' And she left the apartment, her poor baffled
counsel scraping, and bowing, and apologizing for anything that might
have been disagreeable to her, although the front of my offence seems to
be my having been discovered to be younger than my father.
The door was opened--out she went--walked along the pavement, turned
down the close, and put the sun, I believe, into her pocket when she
disappeared, so suddenly did dullness and darkness sink down on the
square, when she was no longer visible. I stood for a moment as if I
had been senseless, not recollecting what a fund of entertainment I must
have supplied to our watchful friends on the other side of the green.
Then it darted on my mind that I might dog her, and ascertain at least
who or what she was. Off I set--ran down the close, where she was no
longer to be seen, and demanded of one of the dyer's lads whether he had
seen a lady go down the close, or had observed which way she turned.
'A leddy!'--said the dyer, staring at me with his rainbow countenance.
'Mr. Alan, what takes you out, rinning like daft, without your hat?'
'The devil take my hat!' answered I, running back, however, in quest of
it; snatched it up, and again sallied forth. But as I reached the head
of the close once more, I had sense enough to recollect that all pursuit
would be now in vain. Besides, I saw my friend, the journeyman dyer, in
close confabulation with a pea-green personage of his own profession,
and was conscious, like Scrub, that they talked of me, because they
laughed consumedly. I had no mind, by a second sudden appearance, to
confirm the report that Advocate Fairford was 'gaen daft,' which had
probably spread from Campbell's Close-foot to the Meal-market Stairs;
and so slunk back within my own hole again.
My first employment was to remove all traces of that elegant and
fanciful disposition of my effects, from which I had hoped for so much
credit; for I was now ashamed and angry at having thought an instant
upon the mode of receiving a visit which had commenced so agreeably,
but terminated in a manner so unsatisfactory. I put my folios in their
places--threw the foils into the dressing-closet--tormenting myself all
the while with the fruitless doubt, whether I had missed an opportunity
or escaped a stratagem, or whether the young person had been really
startled, as she seemed to intimate, by the extreme youth of her
intended legal adviser. The mirror was not unnaturally called in to aid;
and that cabinet-counsellor pronounced me rather short, thick-set,
with a cast of features fitter, I trust, for the bar than the ball--not
handsome enough for blushing virgins to pine for my sake, or even to
invent sham cases to bring them to my chambers--yet not ugly enough
either to scare those away who came on real business--dark, to be sure,
but--NIGRI SUNT HYACINTHI--there are pretty things to be said in favour
of that complexion.
At length--as common sense will get the better in all cases when a man
will but give it fair play--I began to stand convicted in my own mind,
as an ass before the interview, for having expected too much--an ass
during the interview, for having failed to extract the lady's real
purpose--and an especial ass, now that it was over, for thinking so much
about it. But I can think of nothing else, and therefore I am determined
to think of this to some good purpose.
You remember Murtough O'Hara's defence of the Catholic doctrine of
confession; because, 'by his soul, his sins were always a great burden
to his mind, till he had told them to the priest; and once confessed, he
never thought more about them.' I have tried his receipt, therefore; and
having poured my secret mortification into thy trusty ear, I will think
no more about this maid of the mist,
Who, with no face, as 'twere, outfaced me.
--Four o'clock. Plague on her green mantle, she can be nothing
better than a fairy; she keeps possession of my head yet! All during
dinner-time I was terribly absent; but, luckily, my father gave the
whole credit of my reverie to the abstract nature of the doctrine, VINCO
VINCENTEM, ERGO VINCO TE; upon which brocard of law the professor this
morning lectured. So I got an early dismissal to my own crib, and here
am I studying, in one sense, VINCERE VINCENTEM, to get the better of
the silly passion of curiosity--I think--I think it amounts to nothing
else--which has taken such possession of my imagination, and is
perpetually worrying me with the question--will she write or no? She
will not--she will not! So says Reason, and adds, Why should she take
the trouble to enter into correspondence with one who, instead of a
bold, alert, prompt gallant, proved a chicken-hearted boy, and left her
the whole awkwardness of explanation, which he should have met half-way?
But then, says Fancy, she WILL write, for she was not a bit that sort
of person whom you, Mr. Reason, in your wisdom, take her to be. She was
disconcerted enough, without my adding to her distress by any impudent
conduct on my part. And she will write, for--By Heaven, she HAS written,
Darsie, and with a vengeance! Here is her letter, thrown into the
kitchen by a caddie, too faithful to be bribed, either by money or
whisky, to say more than that he received it, with sixpence, from an
ordinary-looking woman, as he was plying on his station near the Cross.


'Excuse my mistake of to-day. I had accidentally learnt that Mr. Darsie
Latimer had an intimate friend and associate in Mr. A. Fairford. When I
inquired for such a person, he was pointed out to me at the Cross (as
I think the Exchange of your city is called) in the character of a
respectable elderly man--your father, as I now understand. On inquiry at
Brown's Square, where I understood he resided, I used the full name of
Alan, which naturally occasioned you the trouble of this day's visit.
Upon further inquiry, I am led to believe that you are likely to be the
person most active in the matter to which I am now about to direct your
attention; and I regret much that circumstances, arising out of my own
particular situation, prevent my communicating to you personally what I
now apprise you of in this matter.
'Your friend, Mr. Darsie Latimer, is in a situation of considerable
danger. You are doubtless aware that he has been cautioned not to trust
himself in England. Now, if he has not absolutely transgressed this
friendly injunction, he has at least approached as nearly to the menaced
danger as he could do, consistently with the letter of the prohibition.
He has chosen his abode in a neighbourhood very perilous to him; and
it is only by a speedy return to Edinburgh, or at least by a removal to
some more remote part of Scotland, that he can escape the machinations
of those whose enmity he has to fear. I must speak in mystery, but my
words are not the less certain; and, I believe, you know enough of your
friend's fortunes to be aware that I could not write this much without
being even more intimate with them than you are.
'If he cannot, or will not, take the advice here given, it is my opinion
that you should join him, if possible, without delay, and use, by
your personal presence and entreaty, the arguments which may prove
ineffectual in writing. One word more, and I implore of your candour to
take it as it is meant. No one supposes that Mr. Fairford's zeal in his
friend's service needs to be quickened by mercenary motives. 'But report
says, that Mr. Alan Fairford, not having yet entered on his professional
career, may, in such a case as this, want the means, though he cannot
want the inclination, to act with promptitude. The enclosed note Mr.
Alan Fairford must be pleased to consider as his first professional
emolument; and she who sends it hopes it will be the omen of unbounded
success, though the fee comes from a hand so unknown as that of 'GREEN
A bank-note of L20 was the enclosure, and the whole incident left me
speechless with astonishment. I am not able to read over the beginning
of my own letter, which forms the introduction to this extraordinary
communication. I only know that, though mixed with a quantity of foolery
(God knows very much different from my present feelings), it gives an
account sufficiently accurate, of the mysterious person from whom this
letter comes, and that I have neither time nor patience to separate the
absurd commentary from the text, which it is so necessary you should
Combine this warning, so strangely conveyed, with the caution impressed
on you by your London correspondent, Griffiths, against your visiting
England--with the character of your Laird of the Solway Lakes--with the
lawless habits of the people on that frontier country, where warrants
are not easily executed owing to the jealousy entertained by either
country of the legal interference of the other; remember, that even Sir
John Fielding said to my father that he could never trace a rogue beyond
the Briggend of Dumfries--think that the distinctions of Whig and
Tory, Papist and Protestant, still keep that country in a loose and
comparatively lawless state--think of all this, my dearest Darsie, and
remember that, while at this Mount Sharon of yours, you are residing
with a family actually menaced with forcible interference, and who,
while their obstinacy provokes violence, are by principle bound to
abstain from resistance.
Nay, let me tell you, professionally, that the legality of the mode of
fishing practised by your friend Joshua is greatly doubted by our
best lawyers; and that, if the stake-nets be considered as actually an
unlawful obstruction raised in the channel of the estuary, an assembly
of persons who shall proceed, VIA FACTI, to pull dawn and destroy them,
would not, in the eye of the law, be esteemed guilty of a riot. So, by
remaining where you are, YOU are likely to be engaged in a quarrel with
which you have nothing to do, and thus to enable your enemies, whoever
these may be, to execute, amid the confusion of a general hubbub,
whatever designs they may have against your personal safety.
Black-fishers, poachers, and smugglers are a sort of gentry that will
not be much checked, either by your Quaker's texts, or by your chivalry.
If you are Don Quixote enough to lay lance in rest, in defence of those
of the stake-net, and of the sad-coloured garment, I pronounce you but
a lost knight; for, as I said before, I doubt if these potent redressers
of wrongs, the justices and constables, will hold themselves warranted
to interfere. In a word, return, my dear Amadis; the adventure of the
Solway-nets is not reserved for your worship. Come back, and I will be
your faithful Sancho Panza upon a more hopeful quest. We will beat
about together, in search of this Urganda, the Unknown She of the Green
Mantle, who can read this, the riddle of thy fate, better than wise
Eppie of Buckhaven, [Well known in the Chap-Book, called the History of
Buckhaven.] or Cassandra herself.
I would fain trifle, Darsie; for, in debating with you, jests will
sometimes go farther than arguments; but I am sick at heart and cannot
keep the ball up. If you have a moment's regard for the friendship we
have so often vowed to each other, let my wishes for once prevail over
your own venturous and romantic temper. I am quite serious in thinking
that the information communicated to my father by this Mr. Herries, and
the admonitory letter of the young lady, bear upon each other; and that,
were you here, you might learn something from one or other, or from
both, that; might throw light on your birth and parentage. You will not,
surely, prefer an idle whim to the prospect which is thus held out to
I would, agreeably to the hint I have received in the young lady's
letter (for I am confident that such is her condition), have ere now
been with you to urge these things, instead of pouring them out upon
paper. But you know that the day for my trials is appointed; I have
already gone through the form of being introduced to the examinators,
and have gotten my titles assigned me. All this should not keep me at
home, but my father would view any irregularity upon this occasion as a
mortal blow to the hopes which he has cherished most fondly during his
life; viz. my being called to the bar with some credit. For my own
part, I know there is no great difficulty in passing these formal
examinations, else how have some of our acquaintance got through them?
But, to my father, these formalities compose an august and serious
solemnity, to which he has long looked forward, and my absenting myself
at this moment would wellnigh drive him distracted. Yet I shall go
altogether distracted myself, if I have not an instant assurance from
you that you are hastening hither. Meanwhile I have desired Hannah to
get your little crib into the best order possible. I cannot learn
that my father has yet written to you; nor has he spoken more of his
communication with Birrenswork; but when I let him have some inkling
of the dangers you are at present incurring, I know my request that you
will return immediately will have his cordial support.
Another reason yet--I must give a dinner, as usual, upon my admission,
to our friends; and my father, laying aside all his usual considerations
of economy, has desired it may be in the best style possible.
Come hither then, dear Darsie! or, I protest to you, I shall send
examination, admission-dinner, and guests to the devil, and come, in
person, to fetch you with a vengeance. Thine, in much anxiety, A. F.

Having been your FACTOR LOCO TUTORIS or rather, I ought to say, in
correctness (since I acted without warrant from the court), your
NEGOTIORUM GESTOR, that connexion occasions my present writing. And
although having rendered an account of my intromissions, which have been
regularly approved of, not only by yourself (whom I could not prevail
upon to look at more than the docket and sum total), but also by the
worthy Mr. Samuel Griffiths of London, being the hand through whom the
remittances were made, I may, in some sense, be considered as to you
FUNCTUS OFFICIO; yet to speak facetiously, I trust you will not hold me
accountable as a vicious intromitter, should I still consider myself as
occasionally interested in your welfare. My motives for writing, at this
time, are twofold.
I have met with a Mr. Herries of Birrenswork, a gentleman of very
ancient descent, but who hath in time past been in difficulties, nor
do I know if his affairs are yet well redd. Birrenswork says that he
believes he was very familiar with your father, whom he states to have
been called Ralph Latimer of Langcote Hall, in Westmoreland; and he
mentioned family affairs, which it may be of the highest importance to
you to be acquainted with; but as he seemed to decline communicating
them to me, I could not civilly urge him thereanent. Thus much I know,
that Mr. Herries had his own share in the late desperate and unhappy
matter of 1745, and was in trouble about it, although that is probably
now over. Moreover, although he did not profess the Popish religion
openly, he had an eye that way. And both of these are reasons why I have
hesitated to recommend him to a youth who maybe hath not altogether so
well founded his opinions concerning Kirk and State, that they might
not be changed by some sudden wind of doctrine. For I have observed
ye, Master Darsie, to be rather tinctured with the old leaven of
prelacy--this under your leave; and although God forbid that you should
be in any manner disaffected to the Protestant Hanoverian line, yet ye
have ever loved to hear the blawing, blazing stories which the Hieland
gentlemen tell of those troublous times, which, if it were their will,
they had better pretermit, as tending rather to shame than to honour.
It is come to me also by a sidewind, as I may say, that you have been
neighbouring more than was needful among some of the pestilent sect of
Quakers--a people who own neither priest nor king, nor civil magistrate,
nor the fabric of our law, and will not depone either IN CIVILIBUS
or CRIMINALIBUS, be the loss to the lieges what it may. Anent which
heresies, it were good ye read 'The Snake in the Grass' or 'The Foot
out of the Snare,' being both well-approved tracts, touching these
Now, Mr. Darsie, ye are to judge for yourself whether ye can safely to
your soul's weal remain longer among these Papists and Quakers--these
defections on the right hand, and failings away on the left; and truly
if you can confidently resist these evil examples of doctrine, I think
ye may as well tarry in the bounds where ye are, until you see Mr.
Herries of Birrenswork, who does assuredly know more of your matters
than I thought had been communicated to any man in Scotland. I would
fain have precognosced him myself on these affairs, but found him
unwilling to speak out, as I have partly intimated before.
To call a new cause--I have the pleasure to tell you, that Alan has
passed his private Scots Law examinations with good approbation--a great
relief to my mind; especially as worthy Mr. Pest told me in my ear there
was no fear of 'the callant', as he familiarly called him, which gives
me great heart. His public trials, which are nothing in comparison
save a mere form, are to take place, by order of the Honourable Dean
of Faculty, on Wednesday first; and on Friday he puts on the gown, and
gives a bit chack of dinner to his friends and acquaintances, as is, you
know, the custom. Your company will be wished for there, Master Darsie,
by more than him, which I regret to think is impossible to have, as well
by your engagements, as that our cousin, Peter Fairford, comes from the
West on purpose, and we have no place to offer him but your chamber
in the wall. And, to be plain with you, after my use and wont, Master
Darsie, it may be as well that Alan and you do not meet till he is
hefted as it were to his new calling. You are a pleasant gentleman, and
full of daffing, which may well become you, as you have enough (as
I understand) to uphold your merry humour. If you regard the matter
wisely, you would perchance consider that a man of substance should have
a douce and staid demeanour; yet you are so far from growing grave and
considerate with the increase of your annual income, that the richer
you become, the merrier I think you grow. But this must be at your own
pleasure, so far as you are concerned. Alan, however (overpassing my
small savings), has the world to win; and louping and laughing, as you
and he were wont to do, would soon make the powder flee out of his wig,
and the pence out of his pocket. Nevertheless, I trust you will meet
when you return from your rambles; for there is a time, as the wise man
sayeth, for gathering, and a time for casting away; it is always the
part of a man of sense to take the gathering time first. I remain,
dear sir, your well-wishing friend; and obedient to command, ALEXANDER
PS.--Alan's Thesis is upon the title DE PERICULO ET COMMODO REI
VENDITAE, and is a very pretty piece of Latinity.--Ross House, in our
neighbourhood, is nearly finished, and is thought to excel Duff House in

The plot thickens, Alan. I have your letter, and also one from your
father. The last makes it impossible for me to comply with the kind
request which the former urges. No--I cannot be with you, Alan; and
that, for the best of all reasons--I cannot and ought not to counteract
your father's anxious wishes. I do not take it unkind of him that he
desires my absence. It is natural that he should wish for his son
what his son so well deserves--the advantage of a wiser and steadier
companion than I seem to him. And yet I am sure I have often laboured
hard enough to acquire that decency of demeanour which can no more be
suspected of breaking bounds, than an owl of catching a butterfly.
But it was in vain that I have knitted my brows till I had the headache,
in order to acquire the reputation of a grave, solid, and well-judging
youth. Your father always has discovered, or thought that he discovered,
a hare-brained eccentricity lying folded among the wrinkles of my
forehead, which rendered me a perilous associate for the future
counsellor and ultimate judge. Well, Corporal Nym's philosophy must
be my comfort--'Things must be as they may.'--I cannot come to your
father's house, where he wishes not to see me; and as to your coming
hither,--by all that is dear to me, I vow that if you are guilty of such
a piece of reckless folly--not to say undutiful cruelty, considering
your father's thoughts and wishes--I will never speak to you again as
long as I live! I am perfectly serious. And besides, your father, while
he in a manner prohibits me from returning to Edinburgh, gives me the
strongest reasons for continuing a little while longer in this country,
by holding out the hope that I may receive from your old friend, Mr.
Herries of Birrenswork, some particulars concerning my origin, with
which that ancient recusant seems to be acquainted.
That gentleman mentioned the name of a family in Westmoreland, with
which he supposes me connected. My inquiries here after such a family
have been ineffectual, for the borderers, on either side, know little
of each other. But I shall doubtless find some English person of whom to
make inquiries, since the confounded fetterlock clapped on my movements
by old Griffiths, prevents me repairing to England in person. At
least, the prospect of obtaining some information is greater here than
elsewhere; it will be an apology for my making a longer stay in this
neighbourhood, a line of conduct which seems to have your father's
sanction, whose opinion must be sounder than that of your wandering
If the road were paved with dangers which leads to such a discovery, I
cannot for a moment hesitate to tread it. But in fact there is no peril
in the case. If the Tritons of the Solway shall proceed to pull down
honest Joshua's tide-nets, I am neither Quixote enough in disposition,
nor Goliath enough in person, to attempt their protection. I have no
idea of attempting to prop a falling house by putting my shoulders
against it. And indeed, Joshua gave me a hint that the company which he
belongs to, injured in the way threatened (some of them being men who
thought after the fashion of the world), would pursue the rioters
at law, and recover damages, in which probably his own ideas of
non-resistance will not prevent his participating. Therefore the whole
affair will take its course as law will, as I only mean to interfere
when it may be necessary to direct the course of the plaintiffs to
thy chambers; and I request they may find thee intimate with all the
Scottish statutes concerning salmon fisheries, from the LEX AQUARUM,
As for the Lady of the Mantle, I will lay a wager that the sun so
bedazzled thine eyes on that memorable morning, that everything thou
didst look upon seemed green; and notwithstanding James Wilkinson's
experience in the Fusileers, as well as his negative whistle, I will
venture to hold a crown that she is but a what-shall-call-'um after all.
Let not even the gold persuade you to the contrary. She may make a shift
to cause you to disgorge that, and (immense spoil!) a session's fees
to boot, if you look not all the sharper about you. Or if it should be
otherwise, and if indeed there lurk some mystery under this visitation,
credit me, it is one which thou canst not penetrate, nor can I as yet
even attempt to explain it; since, if I prove mistaken, and mistaken I
may easily be, I would be fain to creep into Phalaris's bull, were
it standing before me ready heated, rather than be roasted with thy
raillery. Do not tax me with want of confidence; for the instant I can
throw any light on the matter thou shalt have it; but while I am only
blundering about in the dark, I do not choose to call wise folks to see
me, perchance, break my nose against a post. So if you marvel at this,
E'en marvel on till time makes all things plain.
In the meantime, kind Alan, let me proceed in my diurnal.
On the third or fourth day after my arrival at Mount Sharon, Time, that
bald sexton to whom I have just referred you, did certainly limp more
heavily along with me than he had done at first. The quaint morality
of Joshua, and Huguenot simplicity of his sister, began to lose much of
their raciness with their novelty, and my mode of life, by dint of being
very quiet, began to feel abominably dull. It was, as thou say'st, as
if the Quakers had put the sun in their pockets--all around was soft
and mild, and even pleasant; but there was, in the whole routine, a
uniformity, a want of interest, a helpless and hopeless languor, which
rendered life insipid. No doubt, my worthy host and hostess felt none
of this void, this want of excitation, which was becoming oppressive to
their guest. They had their little round of occupations, charities, and
pleasures; Rachel had her poultry-yard and conservatory, and Joshua
his garden. Besides this, they enjoyed, doubtless, their devotional
meditations; and, on the whole, time glided softly and imperceptibly
on with them, though to me, who long for stream and cataract, it seemed
absolutely to stand still. I meditated returning to Shepherd's Bush, and
began to think, with some hankering, after little Benjie and the rod.
The imp has ventured hither, and hovers about to catch a peep of me
now and then; I suppose the little sharper is angling for a few more
sixpences. But this would have been, in Joshua's eyes, a return of the
washed sow to wallowing in the mire, and I resolved, while I remained
his guest, to spare him so violent a shock to his prejudices. The next
point was, to shorten the time of my proposed stay; but, alas! that I
felt to be equally impossible. I had named a week; and however rashly my
promise had been pledged, it must be held sacred, even according to the
letter, from which the Friends permit no deviation.
All these considerations wrought me up to a kind of impatience yesterday
evening; so that I snatched up my hat, and prepared for a sally beyond
the cultivated farm and ornamented grounds of Mount Sharon, just as if
I were desirous to escape from the realms of art, into those of free and
unconstrained nature.
I was scarcely more delighted when I first entered this peaceful
demesne, than I now was--such is the instability and inconsistency
of human nature!--when I escaped from it to the open downs, which had
formerly seemed so waste and dreary, The air I breathed felt purer and
more bracing. The clouds, riding high upon a summer breeze, drove, in
gay succession, over my head, now obscuring the sun, now letting its
rays stream in transient flashes upon various parts of the landscape,
and especially upon the broad mirror of the distant Firth of Solway.
I advanced on the scene with the light step of a liberated captive; and,
like John Bunyan's Pilgrim, could have found in my heart to sing as
I went on my way. It seemed as if my gaiety had accumulated while
suppressed, and that I was, in my present joyous mood, entitled to
expend the savings of the previous week. But just as I was about to
uplift a merry stave, I heard, to my joyful surprise, the voices of
three or more choristers, singing, with considerable success, the lively
old catch,
For all our men were very very merry,
And all our men were drinking:
There were two men of mine,
Three men of thine,
And three that belonged to old Sir Thom o' Lyne;
As they went to the ferry, they were very very merry,
And all our men were drinking.'
[The original of this catch is to be found in Cowley's witty comedy of
THE GUARDIAN, the first edition. It does not exist in the second and
revised edition, called THE CUTTER OF COLEMAN STREET.
CAPTAIN BLADE. Ha, ha, boys, another catch.
Such are the words, which are somewhat altered and amplified in the
text. The play was acted in presence of Charles II, then Prince of
Wales, in 1641. The catch in the text has been happily set to music.]
As the chorus ended, there followed a loud and hearty laugh by way
of cheers. Attracted by sounds which were so congenial to my present
feelings, I made towards the spot from which they came,--cautiously,
however, for the downs, as had been repeatedly hinted to me, had no good
name; and the attraction of the music, without rivalling that of the
sirens in melody, might have been followed by similarly inconvenient
consequences to an incautious amateur.
I crept on, therefore, trusting that the sinuosities of the ground,
broken as it was into knells and sand-pits, would permit me to obtain
a sight of the musicians before I should be observed by them. As I
advanced, the old ditty was again raised. The voices seemed those of a
man and two boys; they were rough, but kept good time, and were managed
with too much skill to belong to the ordinary country people.
Jack looked at the sun, and cried, Fire, fire, fire;
Tom stabled his keffel in Birkendale mire;
Jem started a calf, and halloo'd for a stag;
Will mounted a gate-post instead of his nag:
For all our men were very very merry,
And all our men were drinking;
There were two men of mine,
Three men of thine,
And three that belonged to old Sir Thom o' Lyne;
As they went to the ferry, they were very very merry,
For all our men were drinking.
The voices, as they mixed in their several parts, and ran through them,
untwisting and again entwining all the links of the merry old catch,
seemed to have a little touch of the bacchanalian spirit which they
celebrated, and showed plainly that the musicians were engaged in the
same joyous revel as the MENYIE of old Sir Thom o' Lyne. At length I
came within sight of them, three in number, where they sat cosily niched
into what you might call a BUNKER, a little sand-pit, dry and snug, and
surrounded by its banks, and a screen of whins in full bloom.
The only one of the trio whom I recognized as a personal acquaintance
was the notorious little Benjie, who, having just finished his stave,
was cramming a huge luncheon of pie-crust into his mouth with one hand,
while in the other he held a foaming tankard, his eyes dancing with all
the glee of a forbidden revel; and his features, which have at all times
a mischievous archness of expression, confessing the full sweetness of
stolen waters, and bread eaten in secret.
There was no mistaking the profession of the male and female, who were
partners with Benjie in these merry doings. The man's long loose-bodied
greatcoat (wrap-rascal as the vulgar term it), the fiddle-case, with its
straps, which lay beside him, and a small knapsack which might contain
his few necessaries; a clear grey eye; features which, in contending
with many a storm, had not lost a wild and, careless expression of glee,
animated at present, when he was exercising for his own pleasure the
arts which he usually practised for bread,--all announced one of those
peripatetic followers of Orpheus whom the vulgar call a strolling
fiddler. Gazing more attentively, I easily discovered that though the
poor musician's eyes were open, their sense was shut, and that the
ecstasy with which he turned them up to heaven only derived its apparent
expression from his own internal emotions, but received no assistance
from the visible objects around. Beside him sat his female companion, in
a man's hat, a blue coat, which seemed also to have been an article of
male apparel, and a red petticoat. She was cleaner, in person and in
clothes, than such itinerants generally are; and, having been in her day
a strapping BONA ROBA, she did not even yet neglect some attention to
her appearance; wore a large amber necklace, and silver ear-rings, and
had her laid fastened across her breast with a brooch of the same metal.
The man also looked clean, notwithstanding the meanness of his attire,
and had a decent silk handkerchief well knotted about his throat, under
which peeped a clean owerlay. His beard, also, instead of displaying a
grizzly stubble, unmowed for several days, flowed in thick and comely
abundance over the breast, to the length of six inches, and mingled with
his hair, which was but beginning to exhibit a touch of age. To sum up
his appearance, the loose garment which I have described was secured
around him by a large old-fashioned belt, with brass studs, in
which hung a dirk, with a knife and fork, its usual accompaniments.
Altogether, there was something more wild and adventurous-looking about
the man than I could have expected to see in an ordinary modern crowder;
and the bow which he now and then drew across the violin, to direct his
little choir, was decidedly that of no ordinary performer.
You must understand that many of these observations were the fruits of
after remark; for I had scarce approached so near as to get a distinct
view of the party, when my friend Benjie's lurching attendant, which he
calls by the appropriate name of Hemp, began to cock his tail and ears,
and, sensible of my presence, flew, barking like a fury, to the place
where I had meant to lie concealed till I heard another song. I was
obliged, however, to jump on my feet, and intimidate Hemp, who would
otherwise have bit me, by two sound kicks on the ribs, which sent him
howling back to his master.
Little Benjie seemed somewhat dismayed at my appearance; but,
calculating on my placability, and remembering, perhaps, that the
ill-used Solomon was no palfrey of mine, he speedily affected great
glee, and almost in one breath assured the itinerants that I was 'a
grand gentleman, and had plenty of money, and was very kind to poor
folk;' and informed me that this was 'Willie Steenson--Wandering Willie
the best fiddler that ever kittled thairm with horse-hair.'
The woman rose and curtsied; and Wandering Willie sanctioned his own
praises with a nod, and the ejaculation, 'All is true that the little
boy says.'
I asked him if he was of this country.
'THIS country!' replied the blind man--'I am of every country in broad
Scotland, and a wee bit of England to the boot. But yet I am, in some
sense, of this country; for I was born within hearing of the roar of
Solway. Will I give your honour a touch of the auld bread-winner?'
He preluded as he spoke, in a manner which really excited my curiosity;
and then, taking the old tune of Galashiels for his theme, he graced
it with a number of wild, complicated, and beautiful variations; during
which it was wonderful to observe how his sightless face was lighted up
under the conscious pride and heartfelt delight in the exercise of his
own very considerable powers.
'What think you of that, now, for threescore and twa?'
I expressed my surprise and pleasure.
'A rant, man--an auld rant,' said Willie; 'naething like the music ye
hae in your ballhouses and your playhouses in Edinbro'; but it's weel
aneugh anes in a way at a dykeside. Here's another--it's no a Scotch
tune, but it passes for ane--Oswald made it himsell, I reckon--he has
cheated mony ane, but he canna cheat Wandering Willie.'
He then played your favourite air of Roslin Castle, with a number of
beautiful variations, some of which I am certain were almost extempore.
'You have another fiddle there, my friend,' said I--'Have you a
comrade?' But Willie's ears were deaf, or his attention was still busied
with the tune.
The female replied in his stead, 'O aye, sir--troth we have a partner--a
gangrel body like oursells. No but my hinny might have been better if he
had liked; for mony a bein nook in mony a braw house has been offered to
my hinny Willie, if he wad but just bide still and play to the gentles.'
'Whisht, woman! whisht!' said the blind man, angrily, shaking his locks;
'dinna deave the gentleman wi' your havers. Stay in a house and play to
the gentles!--strike up when my leddy pleases, and lay down the bow when
my lord bids! Na, na, that's nae life for Willie. Look out, Maggie--peer
out, woman, and see if ye can see Robin coming. Deil be in him! He has
got to the lee-side of some smuggler's punch-bowl, and he wunna budge
the night, I doubt.'
'That is your consort's instrument,' said I--' Will you give me leave
to try my skill?' I slipped at the same time a shilling into the woman's
'I dinna ken whether I dare trust Robin's fiddle to ye,' said Willie,
bluntly. His wife gave him a twitch. 'Hout awa, Maggie,' he said in
contempt of the hint; 'though the gentleman may hae gien ye siller, he
may have nae bowhand for a' that, and I'll no trust Robin's fiddle wi'
an ignoramus. But that's no sae muckle amiss,' he added, as I began to
touch the instrument; 'I am thinking ye have some skill o' the craft.'
To confirm him in this favourable opinion, I began to execute such
a complicated flourish as I thought must have turned Crowdero into
a pillar of stone with envy and wonder. I scaled the top of the
finger-board, to dive at once to the bottom--skipped with flying
fingers, like Timotheus, from shift to shift--struck arpeggios and
harmonic tones, but without exciting any of the astonishment which I had
Willie indeed listened to me with considerable attention; but I was no
sooner finished, than he immediately mimicked on his own instrument
the fantastic complication of tones which I had produced, and made so
whimsical a parody of my performance, that, although somewhat angry, I
could not help laughing heartily, in which I was joined by Benjie,
whose reverence for me held him under no restraint; while the poor dame,
fearful, doubtless, of my taking offence at this familiarity, seemed
divided betwixt her conjugal reverence for her Willie, and her desire to
give him a hint for his guidance.
At length the old man stopped of his own accord, and, as if he had
sufficiently rebuked me by his mimicry, he said, 'But for a' that, ye
will play very weel wi' a little practice and some gude teaching. But ye
maun learn to put the heart into it, man--to put the heart into it.'
I played an air in simpler taste, and received more decided approbation.
'That's something like it man. Od, ye are a clever birkie!'
The woman touched his coat again. 'The gentleman is a gentleman,
Willie--ye maunna speak that gate to him, hinnie.'
'The deevil I maunna!' said Willie; 'and what for maunna I?--If he was
ten gentles, he canna draw a bow like me, can he?'
'Indeed I cannot, my honest friend,' said I; 'and if you will go with me
to a house hard by, I would be glad to have a night with you.'
Here I looked round, and observed Benjie smothering a laugh, which I was
sure had mischief in it. I seized him suddenly by the ear, and made him
confess that he was laughing at the thoughts of the reception which a
fiddler was likely to get from the Quakers at Mount Sharon. I chucked
him from me, not sorry that his mirth had reminded me in time of what I
had for the moment forgotten; and invited the itinerant to go with me to
Shepherd's Bush, from which I proposed to send word to Mr. Geddes that
I should not return home that evening. But the minstrel declined this
invitation also. He was engaged for the night, he said, to a dance in
the neighbourhood, and vented a round execration on the laziness
or drunkenness of his comrade, who had not appeared at the place of
'I will go with you instead of him,' said I, in a sudden whim; 'and I
will give you a crown to introduce me as your comrade.'
'YOU gang instead of Rob the Rambler! My certie, freend, ye are no
blate!' answered Wandering Willie, in a tone which announced death to my
But Maggie, whom the offer of the crown had not escaped, began to open
on that scent with a maundering sort of lecture. 'Oh Willie! hinny
Willie, whan will ye learn to be wise? There's a crown to be win for
naething but saying ae man's name instead of anither. And, wae's me! I
hae just a shilling of this gentleman's gieing, and a boddle of my ain;
and ye wunna, bend your will sae muckle as to take up the siller that's
flung at your feet! Ye will die the death of a cadger's powney, in a
wreath of drift! and what can I do better than lie doun and die wi' you?
for ye winna let me win siller to keep either you or mysell leevin.'
'Haud your nonsense tongue, woman,' said Willie, but less absolutely
than before. 'Is he a real gentleman, or ane of the player-men?'
'I'se uphaud him a real gentleman,' said the woman.
'I'se uphaud ye ken little of the matter,' said Willie; 'let us see haud
of your hand, neebor, gin ye like.
I gave him my hand. He said to himself, 'Aye, aye, here are fingers that
have seen canny service.' Then running his hand over my hair, my face,
and my dress, he went on with his soliloquy; 'Aye, aye, muisted hair,
braidclaith o' the best, and seenteen hundred linen on his back, at the
least o' it. And how do you think, my braw birkie, that you are to pass
for a tramping fiddler?'
'My dress is plain,' said I,--indeed I had chosen my most ordinary suit,
out of compliment to my Quaker friends,--'and I can easily pass for a
young farmer out upon a frolic. Come, I will double the crown I promised
'Damn your crowns!' said the disinterested man of music. 'I would like
to have a round wi' you, that's certain;--but a farmer, and with a hand
that never held pleugh-stilt or pettle, that will never do. Ye may pass
for a trades-lad from Dumfries, or a student upon the ramble, or the
like o' that. But hark ye, lad; if ye expect to be ranting among the
queans o' lasses where ye are gaun, ye will come by the waur, I can tell
ye; for the fishers are wild chaps, and will bide nae taunts.'
I promised to be civil and cautious; and, to smooth the good woman, I
slipped the promised piece into her hand. The acute organs of the blind
man detected this little manoeuvre.
'Are ye at it again wi' the siller, ye jaud? I'll be sworn ye wad rather
hear ae twalpenny clink against another, than have a spring from Rory
Dall, [Blind Rorie, a famous musician according to tradition.] if
he was-coming alive again anes errand. Gang doun the gate to Lucky
Gregson's and get the things ye want, and bide there till ele'en hours
in the morn; and if you see Robin, send him on to me.'
'Am I no gaun to the ploy, then?' said Maggie, in a disappointed tone.
'And what for should ye?' said her lord and master; 'to dance a' night,
I'se warrant, and no to be fit to walk your tae's-length the morn, and
we have ten Scots miles afore us? Na, na. Stable the steed, and pit your
wife to bed, when there's night wark to do.'
'Aweel, aweel, Willie hinnie, ye ken best; but oh, take an unco care o'
yoursell, and mind ye haena the blessing o' sight.'
'Your tongue gars me whiles tire of the blessing of hearing, woman,'
replied 'Willie, in answer to this tender exhortation.
But I now put in for my interest. 'Hollo, good folks, remember that I am
to send the boy to Mount Sharon, and if you go to the Shepherd's Bush,
honest woman, how the deuce am I to guide the blind man where he is
going? I know little or nothing of the country.'
'And ye ken mickle less of my hinnie, sir,' replied Maggie, 'that
think he needs ony guiding; he's the best guide himsell that ye'll find
between Criffell and Carlisle. Horse-road and foot-path, parish-road
and kirk-road, high-road and cross-road, he kens ilka foot of ground in
'Aye, ye might have said in braid Scotland, gudewife,' added the
fiddler. 'But gang your ways, Maggie, that's the first wise word ye hae
spoke the day. I wish it was dark night, and rain, and wind, for the
gentleman's sake, that I might show him there is whiles when ane had
better want een than have them; for I am as true a guide by darkness as
by daylight.'
Internally as well pleased that my companion was not put to give me this
last proof of his skill, I wrote a note with a pencil, desiring Samuel
to bring my horses at midnight, when I thought my frolic would be
wellnigh over, to the place to which the bearer should direct him, and I
sent little Benjie with an apology to the worthy Quakers.
As we parted in different directions, the good woman said, 'Oh, sir, if
ye wad but ask Willie to tell ye ane of his tales to shorten the gate!
He can speak like ony minister frae the pu'pit, and he might have been a
minister himsell, but'--
'Haud your tongue, ye fule!' said Willie,--'But stay, Meg--gie me
a kiss, ne maunna part in anger, neither.'--And thus our society
[It is certain that in many cases the blind have, by constant exercise
of their other organs, learned to overcome a defect which one would
think incapable of being supplied. Every reader must remember the
celebrated Blind Jack of Knaresborough, who lived by laying out roads.]

You are now to conceive us proceeding in our different directions across
the bare downs. Yonder flies little Benjie to the northward with Hemp
scampering at his heels, both running as if for dear life so long as the
rogue is within sight of his employer, and certain to take the walk very
easy so soon as he is out of ken. Stepping westward, you see Maggie's
tall form and high-crowned hat, relieved by the fluttering of her plaid
upon the left shoulder, darkening as the distance diminishes her size
and as the level sunbeams begin to sink upon the sea. She is taking her
quiet journey to the Shepherd's Bush.
Then, stoutly striding over the lea, you have a full view of Darsie
Latimer, with his new acquaintance, Wandering Willie, who, bating that
he touched the ground now and then with his staff, not in a doubtful
groping manner, but with the confident air of an experienced pilot,
heaving the lead when he has the soundings by heart, walks as firmly and
boldly as if he possessed the eyes of Argus. There they go, each with
his violin slung at his back, but one of them at least totally ignorant
whither their course is directed.
And wherefore did you enter so keenly into such a mad frolic? says
my wise counsellor.--Why, I think, upon the whole, that as a sense of
loneliness, and a longing for that kindness which is interchanged in
society, led me to take up my temporary residence at Mount Sharon, the
monotony of my life there, the quiet simplicity of the conversation of
the Geddeses, and the uniformity of their amusements and employments,
wearied out my impatient temper, and prepared me for the first escapade
which chance might throw in my way.
What would I have given that I could have procured that solemn grave
visage of thine, to dignify this joke, as it has done full many a one of
thine own! Thou hast so happy a knack of doing the most foolish things
in the wisest manner, that thou mightst pass thy extravagances for
rational actions, even in the eyes of Prudence herself.
From the direction which my guide observed, I began to suspect that the
dell at Brokenburn was our probable destination; and it became important
to me to consider whether I could, with propriety, or even perfect
safety, intrude myself again upon the hospitality of my former host. I
therefore asked Willie whether we were bound for the laird's, as folk
called him.
'Do ye ken the laird?' said Willie, interrupting a sonata of Corelli, of
which he had whistled several bars with great precision.
'I know the laird a little,' said I; 'and therefore I was doubting
whether I ought to go to his town in disguise.'
'I should doubt, not a little only, but a great deal, before I took ye
there, my chap,' said Wandering Willie; 'for I am thinking it wad be
worth little less than broken banes baith to you and me. Na, na,
chap, we are no ganging to the laird's, but to a blithe birling at the
Brokenburn-foot, where there will be mony a braw lad and lass; and
maybe there may be some of the laird's folks, for he never comes to sic
splores himsell. He is all for fowling-piece and salmon-spear, now that
pike and musket are out of the question.'
'He has been at soldier, then?' said I.
'I'se warrant him a soger,' answered Willie; 'but take my advice, and
speer as little about him as he does about you. Best to let sleeping
dogs lie. Better say naething about the laird, my man, and tell me
instead, what sort of a chap ye are that are sae ready to cleik in with
an auld gaberlunzie fiddler? Maggie says ye're gentle, but a shilling
maks a' the difference that Maggie kens between a gentle and a semple,
and your crowns wad mak ye a prince of the blood in her een. But I am
ane that ken full weel that ye may wear good claithes, and have a saft
hand, and yet that may come of idleness as weel as gentrice.'
I told him my name, with the same addition I had formerly given to
Mr. Joshua Geddes; that I was a law-student, tired of my studies, and
rambling about for exercise and amusement.
'And are ye in the wont of drawing up wi' a' the gangrel bodies that
ye meet on the high-road, or find cowering in a sand-bunker upon the
links?' demanded Willie.
'Oh, no; only with honest folks like yourself, Willie,' was my reply.
'Honest folks like me! How do ye ken whether I am honest, or what I am?
I may be the deevil himsell for what ye ken; for he has power to come
disguised like an angel of light; and besides he is a prime fiddler. He
played a sonata to Corelli, ye ken.'
There was something odd in this speech, and the tone in which it was
said. It seemed as if my companion was not always in his constant mind,
or that he was willing to try if he could frighten me. I laughed at the
extravagance of his language, however, and asked him in reply, if he
was fool enough to believe that the foul fiend would play so silly a
'Ye ken little about it--little about it,' said the old man, shaking his
head and beard, and knitting his brows, 'I could tell ye something about
What his wife mentioned of his being a tale-teller, as well as
a musician, now occurred to me; and as you know I like tales of
superstition, I begged to have a specimen of his talent as we went
'It is very true,' said the blind man, 'that when I am tired of scraping
thairm or singing ballants, I whiles mak a tale serve the turn among
the country bodies; and I have some fearsome anes, that make the auld
carlines shake on the settle, and the bits o' bairns skirl on their
minnies out frae their beds. But this that I am gaun to tell you was
a thing that befell in our ain house in my father's time--that is, my
father was then a hafflins callant; and I tell it to you that it may be
a lesson to you, that are but a young, thoughtless chap, wha ye draw up
wi' on a lonely road; for muckle was the dool and care that came o't to
my gudesire.'
He commenced his tale accordingly, in a distinct narrative tone of voice
which he raised and depressed with considerable skill; at times sinking
almost into a whisper, and turning his clear but sightless eyeballs upon
my face, as if it had been possible for him to witness the impression
which his narrative made upon my features. I will not spare you a
syllable of it, although it be of the longest; so I make a dash--and
Ye maun have heard of Sir Robert Redgauntlet of that Ilk, who lived in
these parts before the dear years. The country will lang mind him; and
our fathers used to draw breath thick if ever they heard him named. He
was out wi' the Hielandmen in Montrose's time; and again he was in the
hills wi' Glencairn in the saxteen hundred and fifty-twa; and sae when
King Charles the Second came in, wha was in sic favour as the Laird of
Redgauntlet? He was knighted at Lonon court, wi' the king's ain sword;
and being a redhot prelatist, he came down here, rampauging like a lion,
with commissions of lieutenancy (and of lunacy, for what I ken) to put
down a' the Whigs and Covenanters in the country. Wild wark they made of
it; for the Whigs were as dour as the Cavaliers were fierce, and it was
which should first tire the other. Redgauntlet was ay for the strong
hand; and his name is kend as wide in the country as Claverhouse's or
Tam Dalyell's. Glen, nor dargle, nor mountain, nor cave, could hide the
puir hill-folk when Redgauntlet was out with bugle and bloodhound after
them, as if they had been sae mony deer. And troth when they fand them,
they didna mak muckle mair ceremony than a Hielandman wi' a
roebuck--it was just, 'Will ye tak the test?'--if not, 'Make
ready--present--fire!'--and there lay the recusant.
Far and wide was Sir Robert hated and feared. Men thought he had a
direct compact with Satan--that he was proof against steel--and that
bullets happed aff his buff-coat like hailstanes from a hearth--that
he had a mear that would turn a hare on the side of Carrifra-gawns [A
precipitous side of a mountain in Moffatdale.]--and muckle to the same
purpose, of whilk mair anon. The best blessing they wared on him was,
'Deil scowp wi' Redgauntlet!' He wasna a bad master to his ain folk,
though, and was weel aneugh liked by his tenants; and as for the lackies
and troopers that raid out wi' him to the persecutions, as the Whigs
caa'd those killing times, they wad hae drunken themsells blind to his
health at ony time.
Now you are to ken that my gudesire lived on Redgauntlet's grund--they
ca' the place Primrose Knowe. We had lived on the grund, and under the
Redgauntlets, since the riding days, and lang before. It was a pleasant
bit; and I think the air is callerer and fresher there than onywhere
else in the country. It's a' deserted now; and I sat on the broken
door-cheek three days since, and was glad I couldna see the plight the
place was in; but that's a' wide o' the mark. There dwelt my gudesire,
Steenie Steenson, a rambling, rattling chiel' he had been in his young
days, and could play weel on the pipes; he was famous at 'Hoopers and
Girders'--a' Cumberland couldna, touch him at 'Jockie Lattin'--and he
had the finest finger for the back-lilt between Berwick and Carlisle.
The like o' Steenie wasna the sort that they made Whigs o'. And so he
became a Tory, as they ca' it, which we now ca' Jacobites, just out of a
kind of needcessity, that he might belang to some side or other. He had
nae ill will to the Whig bodies, and liked little to see the blude rin,
though, being obliged to follow Sir Robert in hunting and hoisting,
watching and warding, he saw muckle mischief, and maybe did some, that
he couldna avoid.
Now Steenie was a kind of favourite with his master, and kend a' the
folks about the castle, and was often sent for to play the pipes when
they were at their merriment. Auld Dougal MacCallum, the butler, that
had followed Sir Robert through gude and ill, thick and thin, pool and
stream, was specially fond of the pipes, and ay gae my gudesire his gude
word wi' the laird; for Dougal could turn his master round his finger.
Weel, round came the Revolution, and it had like to have broken
the hearts baith of Dougal and his master. But the change was not
a'thegether sae great as they feared, and other folk thought for. The
Whigs made an unco crawing what they wad do with their auld enemies, and
in special wi' Sir Robert Redgauntlet. But there were ower mony great
folks dipped in the same doings, to mak a spick and span new warld. So
Parliament passed it a' ower easy; and Sir Robert, bating that he was
held to hunting foxes instead of Covenanters, remained just the man he
was. [The caution and moderation of King William III, and his principles
of unlimited toleration, deprived the Cameronians of the opportunity
they ardently desired, to retaliate the injuries which they had received
during the reign of prelacy, and purify the land, as they called it,
from the pollution of blood. They esteemed the Revolution, therefore,
only a half measure, which neither comprehended the rebuilding the Kirk
in its full splendour, nor the revenge of the death of the Saints on
their persecutors.] His revel was as loud, and his hall as weel
lighted, as ever it had been, though maybe he lacked the fines of the
nonconformists, that used to come to stock his larder and cellar; for it
is certain he began to be keener about the rents than his tenants used
to find him before, and they behoved to be prompt to the rent-day,
or else the laird wasna pleased. And he was sic an awsome body, that
naebody cared to anger him; for the oaths he swore, and the rage that he
used to get into, and the looks that he put on, made men sometimes think
him a devil incarnate.
Weel, my gudesire was nae manager--no that he was a very great
misguider--but he hadna the saving gift, and he got twa terms' rent in
arrear. He got the first brash at Whitsunday put ower wi' fair word
and piping; but when Martinmas came, there was a summons from the
grund-officer to come wi' the rent on a day preceese, or else Steenie
behoved to flit. Sair wark he had to get the siller; but he was
weel-freended, and at last he got the haill scraped thegether--a
thousand merks--the maist of it was from a neighbour they ca'd Laurie
Lapraik--a sly tod. Laurie had walth o' gear--could hunt wi' the hound
and rin wi' the hare--and be Whig or Tory, saunt or sinner, as the wind
stood. He was a professor in this Revolution warld, but he liked an orra
sough of this warld, and a tune on the pipes weel aneugh at a bytime;
and abune a', he thought he had gude security for the siller he lent my
gudesire ower the stocking at Primrose Knowe.
Away trots my gudesire to Redgauntlet Castle wi' a heavy purse and a
light heart, glad to be out of the laird's danger. Weel, the first thing
he learned at the castle was, that Sir Robert had fretted himsell into
a fit of the gout, because he did not appear before twelve' o'clock. It
wasna a'thegether for sake of the money, Dougal thought; but because he
didna like to part wi' my gudesire aff the grund. Dougal was glad to see
Steenie, and brought him into the great oak parlour, and there sat
the laird his leesome lane, excepting that he had beside him a great,
ill-favoured jackanape, that was a special pet of his; a cankered beast
it was, and mony an ill-natured trick it played--ill to please it was,
and easily angered--ran about the haill castle, chattering and yowling,
and pinching, and biting folk, specially before ill weather, or
disturbances in the state. Sir Robert caa'd it Major Weir, after the
warlock that was burnt; [A celebrated wizard, executed at Edinburgh for
sorcery and other crimes.] and few folk liked either the name or the
conditions of the creature--they thought there was something in it by
ordinar--and my gudesire was not just easy in mind when the door shut
on him, and he saw himself in the room wi' naebody but the laird, Dougal
MacCallum, and the major, a thing that hadna chanced to him before.
Sir Robert sat, or, I should say, lay, in a great armed chair, wi' his
grand velvet gown, and his feet on a cradle; for he had baith gout and
gravel, and his face looked as gash and ghastly as Satan's. Major Weir
sat opposite to him, in a red laced coat, and the laird's wig on his
head; and ay as Sir Robert girned wi' pain, the jackanape girned too,
like a sheep's-head between a pair of tangs--an ill-faur'd, fearsome
couple they were. The laird's buff-coat was hung on a pin behind him,
and his broadsword and his pistols within reach; for he keepit up the
auld fashion of having the weapons ready, and a horse saddled day and
night, just as he used to do when he was able to loup on horseback, and
away after ony of the hill-folk he could get speerings of. Some said it
was for fear of the Whigs taking vengeance, but I judge it was just his
auld custom--he wasna, gien to fear onything. The rental-book, wi'
its black cover and brass clasps, was lying beside him; and a book of
sculduddry sangs was put betwixt the leaves, to keep it open at the
place where it bore evidence against the Goodman of Primrose Knowe, as
behind the hand with his mails and duties. Sir Robert gave my gudesire
a look, as if he would have withered his heart in his bosom. Ye maun ken
he had a way of bending his brows, that men saw the visible mark of a
horseshoe in his forehead, deep dinted, as if it had been stamped there.
'Are ye come light-handed, ye son of a toom whistle?' said Sir Robert.
'Zounds! if you are'--
My gudesire, with as gude acountenance as he could put on, made a leg,
and placed the bag of money on the table wi' a dash, like a man that
does something clever. The laird drew it to him hastily--'Is it all
here, Steenie, man?'
'Your honour will find it right,' said my gudesire.
'Here, Dougal,' said the laird, 'gie Steenie a tass of brandy
downstairs, till I count the siller and write the receipt.'
But they werena weel out of the room, when Sir Robert gied a
yelloch that garr'd the castle rock. Back ran Dougal--in flew the
livery-men--yell on yell gied the laird, ilk ane mair awfu' than the
ither. My gudesire knew not whether to stand or flee, but he ventured
back into the parlour, where a' was gaun hirdy-girdie--naebody to say
'come in,' or 'gae out.' Terribly the laird roared for cauld water to
his feet, and wine to cool his throat; and Hell, hell, hell, and its
flames, was ay the word in his mouth. They brought him water, and when
they plunged his swollen feet into the tub, he cried out it was burning;
and folk say that it DID bubble and sparkle like a seething cauldron. He
flung the cup at Dougal's head, and said he had given him blood instead
of burgundy; and, sure aneugh, the lass washed clotted blood aff the
carpet; the neist day. The jackanape they caa'd Major Weir, it jibbered
and cried as if it was mocking its master; my gudesire's head was like
to turn--he forgot baith siller and receipt, and downstairs he
banged; but as he ran, the shrieks came faint and fainter; there was a
deep-drawn shivering groan, and word gaed through the castle that the
laird was dead.
Weel, away came my gudesire, wi' his finger in his mouth, and his best
hope was that Dougal had seen the money-bag, and heard the laird
speak of writing the receipt. The young laird, now Sir John, came from
Edinburgh, to see things put to rights. Sir John and his father never
gree'd weel. Sir John had been bred an advocate, and afterwards sat in
the last Scots Parliament and voted for the Union, having gotten, it was
thought, a rug of the compensations--if his father could have come out
of his grave, he would have brained him for it on his awn hearthstane.
Some thought it was easier counting with the auld rough knight than the
fair-spoken young ane--but mair of that anon.
Dougal MacCallum, poor body, neither grat nor grained, but gaed about
the house looking like a corpse, but directing, as was his duty, a'
the order of the grand funeral. Now Dougal looked ay waur and waur when
night was coming, and was ay the last to gang to his bed, whilk was in
a little round just opposite the chamber of dais, whilk his master
occupied while he was living, and where he now lay in state, as they
caa'd it, weel-a-day! The night before the funeral, Dougal could keep
his awn counsel nae langer; he came doun with his proud spirit, and
fairly asked auld Hutcheon to sit in his room with him for an hour. When
they were in the round, Dougal took ae tass of brandy to himsell, and
gave another to Hutcheon, and wished him all health and lang life, and
said that, for himsell, he wasna lang for this world; for that, every
night since Sir Robert's death, his silver call had sounded from the
state chamber, just as it used to do at nights in his lifetime, to call
Dougal to help to turn him in his bed. Dougal said that being alone
with the dead on that floor of the tower (for naebody cared to wake Sir
Robert Redgauntlet like another corpse) he had never daured to answer
the call, but that now his conscience checked him for neglecting his
duty; for, 'though death breaks service,' said MacCallum, 'it shall
never break my service to Sir Robert; and I will answer his next
whistle, so be you will stand by me, Hutcheon.'
Hutcheon had nae will to the wark, but he had stood by Dougal in battle
and broil, and he wad not fail him at this pinch; so down the carles
sat ower a stoup of brandy, and Hutcheon, who was something of a clerk,
would have read a chapter of the Bible; but Dougal would hear naething
but a blaud of Davie Lindsay, whilk was the waur preparation.
When midnight came, and the house was quiet as the grave, sure enough
the silver whistle sounded as sharp and shrill as if Sir Robert was
blowing it, and up got the twa auld serving-men, and tottered into the
room where the dead man lay. Hutcheon saw aneugh at the first glance;
for there were torches in the room, which showed him the foul fiend, in
his ain shape, sitting on the laird's coffin! Ower he cowped as if he
had been dead. He could not tell how lang he lay in a trance at the
door, but when he gathered himself, he cried on his neighbour, and
getting nae answer, raised the house, when Dougal was found lying dead
within twa steps of the bed where his master's coffin was placed. As for
the whistle, it was gaen anes and ay; but mony a time was it heard at
the top of the house on the bartizan, and amang the auld chimneys and
turrets where the howlets have their nests. Sir John hushed the matter
up, and the funeral passed over without mair bogle-wark.
But when a' was ower, and the laird was beginning to settle his affairs,
every tenant was called up for his arrears, and my gudesire for the full
sum that stood against him in the rental-book. Weel, away he trots to
the castle, to tell his story, and there he is introduced to Sir John,
sitting in his father's chair, in deep mourning, with weepers and
hanging cravat, and a small wallring rapier by his side, instead of the
auld broadsword that had a hundredweight of steel about it, what with
blade, chape, and basket-hilt. I have heard their communing so often
tauld ower, that I almost think I was there mysell, though I couldna
be born at the time. (In fact, Alan, my companion mimicked, with a
good deal of humour, the flattering, conciliating tone of the tenant's
address, and the hypocritical melancholy of the laird's reply. His
grandfather, he said, had, while he spoke, his eye fixed on the
rental-book, as if it were a mastiff-dog that he was afraid would spring
up and bite him).
'I wuss ye joy, sir, of the head seat, and the white loaf, and the braid
lairdship. Your father was a kind man to friends and followers; muckle
grace to you, Sir John, to fill his shoon--his boots, I suld say, for he
seldom wore shoon, unless it were muils when he had the gout.'
'Aye, Steenie,' quoth the laird, sighing deeply, and putting his
napkin to his een, 'his was a sudden call, and he will be missed in the
country; no time to set his house in order--weel prepared Godward, no
doubt, which is the root of the matter--but left us behind a tangled
heap to wind, Steenie.--Hem! hem! We maun go to business, Steenie; much
to do, and little time to do it in.'
Here he opened the fatal volume. I have heard of a thing they call
Doomsday Book--I am clear it has been a rental of back-ganging tenants.
'Stephen,' said Sir John, still in the same soft, sleekit tone of
voice--'Stephen Stevenson, or Steenson, ye are down here for a year's
rent behind the hand--due at last term.'
STEPHEN. 'Please your honour, Sir John, I paid it to your father.'
SIR JOHN. 'Ye took a receipt, then, doubtless, Stephen; and can produce
STEPHEN. 'Indeed I hadna time, an it like your honour; for nae sooner
had I set doun the siller, and just as his honour, Sir Robert, that's
gaen, drew it till him to count it, and write out the receipt, he was
ta'en wi' the pains that removed him.'
'That was unlucky,' said Sir John, after a pause. 'But ye maybe paid
it in the presence of somebody, I want but a TALIS QUALIS evidence,
Stephen. I would go ower strictly to work with no poor man.'
STEPHEN. 'Troth, Sir John, there was naebody in the room but Dougal
MacCallum the butler. But, as your honour kens, he has e'en followed his
auld master.
'Very unlucky again, Stephen,' said Sir John, without altering his voice
a single note. 'The man to whom ye paid the money is dead--and the man
who witnessed the payment is dead too--and the siller, which should have
been to the fore, is neither seen nor heard tell of in the repositories.
How am I to believe a' this?'
STEPHEN. 'I dinna, ken, your honour; but there is a bit memorandum
note of the very coins; for, God help me! I had to borrow out of twenty
purses; and I am sure that ilka man there set down will take his grit
oath for what purpose I borrowed the money.'
SIR JOHN. 'I have little doubt ye BORROWED the money, Steenie. It is the
PAYMENT to my father that I want to have some proof of.'
STEPHEN. 'The siller maun be about the house, Sir John. And since your
honour never got it, and his honour that was canna have taen it wi' him,
maybe some of the family may have seen it.'
SIR JOHN. 'We will examine the servants, Stephen; that is but
But lackey and lass, and page and groom, all denied stoutly that they
had ever seen such a bag of money as my gudesire described. What was
waur, he had unluckily not mentioned to any living soul of them his
purpose of paying his rent. Ae quean had noticed something under his
arm, but she took it for the pipes.
Sir John Redgauntlet ordered the servants out of the room, and then said
to my gudesire, 'Now, Steenie, ye see ye have fair play; and, as I have
little doubt ye ken better where to find the siller than ony other body,
I beg, in fair terms, and for your own sake, that you will end this
fasherie; for, Stephen, ye maun pay or flit.'
'The Lord forgie your opinion,' said Stephen, driven almost to his wit's
end--'I am an honest man.'
'So am I, Stephen,' said his honour; 'and so are all the folks in the
house, I hope. But if there be a knave amongst us, it must be he that
tells the story he cannot prove.' He paused, and then added, mair
sternly, 'If I understand your trick, sir, you want to take advantage
of some malicious reports concerning things in this family, and
particularly respecting my father's sudden death, thereby to cheat me
out of the money, and perhaps take away my character, by insinuating
that I have received the rent I am demanding. Where do you suppose this
money to be? I insist upon knowing.'
My gudesire saw everything look so muckle against him, that he grew
nearly desperate--however, he shifted from one foot to another, looked
to every corner of the room, and made no answer.
'Speak out, sirrah,' said the laird, assuming a look of his father's, a
very particular ane, which he had when he was angry--it seemed as if the
wrinkles of his frown made that selfsame fearful shape of a horse's
shoe in the middle of his brow;--'Speak out, sir! I WILL know your
thoughts;--do you suppose that I have this money?'
'Far be it frae me to say so,' said Stephen.
'Do you charge any of my people with having taken it?'
'I wad be laith to charge them that may be innocent,' said my gudesire;
'and if there be any one that is guilty, I have nae proof.'
'Somewhere the money must be, if there is a word of truth in your
story,' said Sir John; 'I ask where you think it is--and demand a
correct answer?'
'In HELL, if you will have my thoughts of it,' said my gudesire, driven
to extremity, 'in hell! with your father, his jackanape, and his silver
Down the stairs he ran (for the parlour was nae place for him after such
a word) and he heard the laird swearing blood and wounds behind him,
as fast; as ever did Sir Robert, and roaring for the bailie and the
Away rode my gudesire to his chief creditor (him they ca'd Laurie
Lapraik) to try if he could make onything out of him; but when he tauld
his story, he got but the worst word in his wame--thief, beggar, and
dyvour, were the saftest terms; and to the boot of these hard terms,
Laurie brought up the auld story of his dipping his hand in the blood
of God's saunts, just as if a tenant could have helped riding with the
laird, and that a laird like Sir Robert Redgauntlet. My gudesire was, by
this time, far beyond the bounds of patience, and, while he and
Laurie were at deil speed the liars, he was wanchancie aneugh to abuse
Lapraik's doctrine as weel as the man, ond said things that garr'd
folks' flesh grue that heard them;--he wasna just himsell, and he had
lived wi' a wild set in his day.
At last they parted, and my gudesire was to ride hame through the wood
of Pitmurkie, that is a' fou of black firs, as they say.--I ken the
wood, but the firs may be black or white for what I can tell.--At the
entry of the wood there is a wild common, and on the edge of the common,
a little lonely change-house, that was keepit then by an ostler-wife,
they suld hae caa'd her Tibbie Faw, and there puir Steenie cried for a
mutchkin of brandy, for he had had no refreshment the haill day. Tibbie
was earnest wi' him to take a bite of meat, but he couldna think o't,
nor would he take his foot out of the stirrup, and took off the brandy
wholely at twa draughts, and named a toast at each:--the first was the
memory of Sir Robert Redgauntlet, and might he never lie quiet in his
grave till he had righted his poor bond-tenant; and the second was a
health to Man's Enemy, if he would but get him back the pock of siller
or tell him what came o't, for he saw the haill world was like to regard
him as a thief and a cheat, and he took that waur than even the ruin of
his house and hauld.
On he rode, little caring where. It was a dark night turned, and the
trees made it yet darker, and he let the beast take its ain road through
the wood; when all of a sudden, from tired and wearied that it was
before, the nag began to spring and flee, and stend, that my gudesire
could hardly keep the saddle. Upon the whilk, a horseman, suddenly
riding up beside him, said, 'That's a mettle beast of yours, freend;
will you sell him?' So saying, he touched the horse's neck with his
riding-wand, and it fell into its auld heigh-ho of a stumbling trot.
'But his spunk's soon out of him, I think,' continued the stranger, 'and
that is like mony a man's courage, that thinks he wad do great things
till he come to the proof.'
My gudesire scarce listened to this, but spurred his horse, with 'Gude
e'en to you, freend.'
But it's like the stranger was ane that doesna lightly yield his point;
for, ride as Steenie liked, he was ay beside him at the selfsame pace.
At last my gudesire, Steenie Steenson, grew half angry, and, to say the
truth, half feared.
'What is it that ye want with me, freend?' he said. 'If ye be a robber,
I have nae money; if ye be a leal man, wanting company, I have nae heart
to mirth or speaking; and if ye want to ken the road, I scarce ken it
'If you will tell me your grief,' said the stranger, 'I am one that,
though I have been sair miscaa'd in the world, am the only hand for
helping my freends.'
So my gudesire, to ease his ain heart, mair than from any hope of help,
told him the story from beginning to end.
'It's a hard pinch,' said the stranger; 'but I think I can help you.'
'If you could lend the money, sir, and take a lang day--I ken nae other
help on earth,' said my gudesire.
'But there may be some under the earth,' said the stranger. 'Come, I'll
be frank wi' you; I could lend you the money on bond, but you would
maybe scruple my terms. Now, I can tell you, that your auld laird is
disturbed in his grave by your curses, and the wailing of your family,
and if ye daur venture to go to see him, he will give you the receipt.'
My gudesire's hair stood on end at this proposal, but he thought his
companion might be some humoursome chield that was trying to frighten
him, and might end with lending him the money. Besides, he was bauld wi'
brandy, and desperate wi' distress; and he said he had courage to go
to the gate of hell, and a step farther, for that receipt. The stranger
Weel, they rode on through the thickest of the wood, when, all of a
sudden, the horse stopped at the door of a great house; and, but that he
knew the place was ten miles off, my father would have thought he was
at Redgauntlet Castle. They rode into the outer courtyard, through the
muckle faulding yetts and aneath the auld portcullis; and the whole
front of the house was lighted, and there were pipes and fiddles, and
as much dancing and deray within as used to be at Sir Robert's house at
Pace and Yule, and such high seasons. They lap off, and my gudesire, as
seemed to him, fastened his horse to the very ring he had tied him to
that morning, when he gaed to wait on the young Sir John.
'God!' said my gudesire, 'if Sir Robert's death be but a dream!'
He knocked at the ha' door just as he was wont, and his auld
acquaintance, Dougal MacCallum--just after his wont, too,--came to open
the door, and said, 'Piper Steenie, are ye there, lad? Sir Robert has
been crying for you.'
My gudesire was like a man in a dream--he looked for the stranger, but
he was gane for the time. At last he just tried to say, 'Ha! Dougal
Driveower, are ye living? I thought ye had been dead.'
'Never fash yoursell wi' me,' said Dougal, 'but look to yoursell; and
see ye tak naethlng frae ony body here, neither meat, drink, or siller,
except just the receipt that is your ain.'
So saying, he led the way out through halls and trances that were weel
kend to my gudesire, and into the auld oak parlour; and there was as
much singing of profane sangs, and birling of red wine, and speaking
blasphemy and sculduddry, as had ever been in Redgauntlet Castle when it
was at the blithest.
But, Lord take us in keeping, what a set of ghastly revellers they were
that sat around that table! My gudesire kend mony that had long before
gane to their place, for often had he piped to the most part in the
hall of Redgauntlet. There was the fierce Middleton, and the dissolute
Rothes, and the crafty Lauderdale; and Dalyell, with his bald head and
a beard to his girdle; and Earlshall, with Cameron's blude on his hand;
and wild Bonshaw, that tied blessed Mr. Cargill's limbs till the blude
sprung; and Dunbarton Douglas, the twice-turned traitor baith to country
and king. There was the Bluidy Advocate MacKenyie, who, for his worldly
wit and wisdom had been to the rest as a god. And there was Claverhouse,
as beautiful as when he lived, with his long, dark, curled locks
streaming down over his laced buff-coat, and his left hand always on his
right spule-blade, to hide the wound that the silver bullet had made.
[See Note 2.] He sat apart from them all, and looked at them with a
melancholy, haughty countenance; while the rest hallooed, and sang, and
laughed, that the room rang. But their smiles were fearfully contorted
from time to time; and their laugh passed into such wild sounds as made
my gudesire's very nails grow blue, and chilled the marrow in his banes.
They that waited at the table were just the wicked serving-men and
troopers, that had done their work and cruel bidding on earth. There
was the Lang Lad of the Nethertown, that helped to take Argyle; and
the bishop's summoner, that they called the Deil's Rattle-bag; and the
wicked guardsmen in their laced coats; and the savage Highland Amorites,
that shed blood like water; and many a proud serving-man, haughty of
heart and bloody of hand, cringing to the rich, and making them wickeder
than they would be; grinding the poor to powder, when the rich had
broken them to fragments. And mony, mony mair were coming and ganging,
a' as busy in their vocation as if they had been alive.
Sir Robert Redgauntlet, in the midst of a' this fearful riot, cried, wi'
a voice like thunder, on Steenie Piper to come to the board-head where
he was sitting; his legs stretched out before him, and swathed up with
flannel, with his holster pistols aside him, while the great broadsword
rested against his chair, just as my gudesire had seen him the last time
upon earth--the very cushion for the jackanape was close to him, but the
creature itself was not there--it wasna its hour, it's likely; for he
heard them say as he came forward, 'Is not the major come yet?' And
another answered, 'The jackanape will be here betimes the morn.' And
when my gudesire came forward, Sir Robert, or his ghaist, or the deevil
in his likeness, said, 'Weel, piper, hae ye settled wi' my son for the
year's rent?'
With much ado my father gat breath to say that Sir John would not settle
without his honour's receipt.
'Ye shall hae that for a tune of the pipes, Steenie,' said the
appearance of Sir Robert--'Play us up "Weel hoddled, Luckie".'
Now this was a tune my gudesire learned frae a warlock, that heard it
when they were worshipping Satan at their meetings, and my gudesire had
sometimes played it at the ranting suppers in Redgauntlet Castle, but
never very willingly; and now he grew cauld at the very name of it, and
said, for excuse, he hadna his pipes wi' him.
'MacCallum, ye limb of Beelzebub,' said the fearfu' Sir Robert, 'bring
Steenie the pipes that I am keeping for him!'
MacCallum brought a pair of pipes might have served the piper of Donald
of the Isles. But he gave my gudesire a nudge as he offered them; and
looking secretly and closely, Steenie saw that the chanter was of steel,
and heated to a white heat; so he had fair warning not to trust his
fingers with it. So he excused himself again, and said he was faint and
frightened, and had not wind aneugh to fill the bag.
'Then ye maun eat and drink, Steenie,' said the figure; 'for we
do little else here; and it's ill speaking between a fou man and a
Now these were the very words that the bloody Earl of Douglas said to
keep the king's messenger in hand while he cut the head off MacLellan of
Bombie, at the Threave Castle, [The reader is referred for particulars
to Pitscottie's HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.] and that put Steenie mair and mair
on his guard. So he spoke up like a man, and said he came neither to
eat, or drink or make minstrelsy; but simply for his ain--to ken what
was come o' the money he had paid, and to get a discharge for it; and
he was so stout-hearted by this time that he charged Sir Robert for
conscience-sake (he had no power to say the holy name) and as he hoped
for peace and rest, to spread no snares for him, but just to give him
his ain.
The appearance gnashed its teeth and laughed, but it took from a large
pocket-book the receipt, and handed it to Steenie. 'There is your
receipt, ye pitiful cur; and for the money, my dog-whelp of a son may go
look for it in the Cat's Cradle.'
My gudesire uttered mony thanks, and was about to retire when Sir Robert
roared aloud, 'Stop, though, thou sack-doudling son of a whore! I am not
done with thee. HERE we do nothing for nothing; and you must return on
this very day twelvemonth, to pay your master the homage that you owe me
for my protection.'
My father's tongue was loosed of a suddenty, and he said aloud, 'I refer
mysell to God's pleasure, and not to yours.'
He had no sooner uttered the word than all was dark around him; and he
sank on the earth with such a sudden shock, that he lost both breath and
How lang Steenie lay there, he could not tell; but when he came to
himsell, he was lying in the auld kirkyard of Redgauntlet parochine just
at the door of the family aisle, and the scutcheon of the auld knight,
Sir Robert, hanging over his head. There was a deep morning fog on grass
and gravestane around him, and his horse was feeding quietly beside the
minister's twa cows. Steenie would have thought the whole was a dream,
but he had the receipt in his hand, fairly written and signed by the
auld laird; only the last letters of his name were a little disorderly,
written like one seized with sudden pain.
Sorely troubled in his mind, he left that dreary place, rode through
the mist to Redgauntlet Castle, and with much ado he got speech of the
'Well, you dyvour bankrupt,' was the first word, 'have you brought me my
'No,' answered my gudesire, 'I have not; but I have brought your honour
Sir Robert's receipt for it.'
'Wow, sirrah? Sir Robert's receipt! You told me he had not given you
'Will your honour please to see if that bit line is right?'
Sir John looked at every line, and at every letter, with much attention;
and at last, at the date, which my gudesire had not observed,--'FROM MY
That is yesterday!--Villain, thou must have gone to hell for this!'
'I got it from your honour's father--whether he be in heaven or hell, I
know not,' said Steenie.
'I will delate you for a warlock to the Privy Council!' said Sir
John. 'I will send you to your master, the devil, with the help of a
tar-barrel and a torch!'
'I intend to delate mysell to the Presbytery,' said Steenie, 'and tell
them all I have seen last night, whilk are things fitter for them to
judge of than a borrel man like me.'
Sir John paused, composed himsell, and desired to hear the full history;
and my gudesire told it him from point to point, as I have told it
you--word for word, neither more nor less.
Sir John was silent again for a long time, and at last he said, very
composedly, 'Steenie, this story of yours concerns the honour of many
a noble family besides mine; and if it be a leasing-making, to keep
yourself out of my danger, the least you can expect is to have a redhot
iron driven through your tongue, and that will be as bad as scauding
your fingers wi' a redhot chanter. But yet it may be true, Steenie; and
if the money cast up I shall not know what to think of it. But where
shall we find the Cat's Cradle? There are cats enough about the old
house, but I think they kitten without the ceremony of bed or cradle.'
'We were best ask Hutcheon,' said my gudesire; 'he kens a' the odd
corners about as weel as--another serving-man that is now gane, and that
I wad not like to name.'
Aweel, Hutcheon, when he was asked, told them, that a ruinous turret,
lang disused, next to the clock-house, only accessible by a ladder,
for the opening was on the outside, and far above the battlements, was
called of old the Cat's Cradle.
'There will I go immediately,' said Sir John; and he took (with what
purpose, Heaven kens) one of his father's pistols from the hall-table,
where they had lain since the night he died, and hastened to the
It was a dangerous place to climb, for the ladder was auld and frail,
and wanted ane or twa rounds. However, up got Sir John, and entered at
the turret-door, where his body stopped the only little light that was
in the bit turret. Something flees at him wi' a vengeance, maist dang
him back ower--bang gaed the knight's pistol, and Hutcheon, that
held the ladder, and my gudesire that stood beside him, hears a loud
skelloch. A minute after, Sir John flings the body of the jackanape down
to them, and cries that the siller is fund, and that they should come up
and help him. And there was the bag of siller sure aneugh, and mony orra
thing besides, that had been missing for mony a day. And Sir John, when
he had riped the turret weel, led my gudesire into the dining-parlour,
and took him by the hand and spoke kindly to him, and said he was sorry
he should have doubted his word and that he would hereafter be a good
master to him to make amends.
'And now, Steenie,' said Sir John, 'although this vision of yours tend,
on the whole, to my father's credit, as an honest man, that he should,
even after his death, desire to see justice done to a poor man like
you, yet you are sensible that ill-dispositioned men might make bad
constructions upon it, concerning his soul's health. So, I think, we had
better lay the haill dirdum on that ill-deedie creature, Major Weir, and
say naething about your dream in the wood of Pitmurkie. You had taken
ower muckle brandy to be very certain about onything; and, Steenie, this
receipt' (his hand shook while he held it out),--'it's but a queer kind
of document, and we will do best, I think, to put it quietly in the
'Od, but for as queer as it is, it's a' the voucher I have for my rent,'
said my gudesire, who was afraid, it may be, of losing the benefit of
Sir Robert's discharge.
'I will bear the contents to your credit in the rental-book, and give
you a discharge under my own hand,' said Sir John, 'and that on the
spot. And, Steenie, if you can hold your tongue about this matter, you
shall sit, from this term downward, at an easier rent.'
'Mony thanks to your honour,' said Steenie, who saw easily in what
corner the wind was; 'doubtless I will be comformable to all your
honour's commands; only I would willingly speak wi' some powerful
minister on the subject, for I do not like the sort of sommons of
appointment whilk your honour's father'--
'Do not call the phantom my father!' said Sir John, interrupting him.
'Weel, then, the thing that was so like him,' said my gudesire; 'he
spoke of my coming back to see him this time twelvemonth, and it's a
weight on my conscience.'
'Aweel, then,' said Sir John, 'if you be so much distressed in mind, you
may speak to our minister of the parish; he is a douce man, regards the
honour of our family, and the mair that he may look for some patronage
from me.'
Wi' that, my father readily agreed that the receipt should be burnt, and
the laird threw it into the chimney with his ain hand. Burn it would
not for them, though; but away it flew up the lum, wi' a lang train of
sparks at its tail, and a hissing noise like a squib.
My gudesire gaed down to the Manse, and the minister, when he had heard
the story, said it was his real opinion that though my gudesire had gaen
very far in tampering with dangerous matters, yet, as he had refused the
devil's arles (for such was the offer of meat and drink) and had refused
to do homage by piping at his bidding, he hoped, that if he held a
circumspect walk hereafter, Satan could take little advantage by what
was come and gane. And, indeed, my gudesire, of his ain accord, lang
foreswore baith the pipes and the brandy--it was not even till the
year was out, and the fatal day past, that he would so much as take the
fiddle, or drink usquebaugh or tippeny.
Sir John made up his story about the jackanape as he liked himsell;
and some believe till this day there was no more in the matter than the
filching nature of the brute. Indeed, ye'll no hinder some to threap
that it was nane o' the auld Enemy that Dougal and my gudesire saw in
the laird's room, but only that wanchancy creature, the major, capering
on the coffin; and that, as to the blawing on the laird's whistle that
was heard after he was dead, the filthy brute could do that as weel as
the laird himsell, if no better. But Heaven kens the truth, whilk first
came out by the minister's wife, after Sir John and her ain gudeman were
baith in the moulds. And then my gudesire, wha was failed in his limbs,
but not in his judgement or memory--at least nothing to speak of--was
obliged to tell the real narrative to his friends, for the credit of his
good name. He might else have been charged for a warlock. [See Note 3.]
The shades of evening were growing thicker around us as my conductor
finished his long narrative with this moral--'Ye see, birkie, it is nae
chancy thing to tak a stranger traveller for a guide, when you are in an
uncouth land.'
'I should not have made that inference,' said I. 'Your grandfather's
adventure was fortunate for himself, whom it saved from ruin and
distress; and fortunate for his landlord also, whom it prevented from
committing a gross act of injustice.'
'Aye, but they had baith to sup the sauce o't sooner or later,' said
Wandering Willie--'what was fristed wasna forgiven. Sir John died
before he was much over three-score; and it was just like of a moment's
illness. And for my gudesire, though he departed in fullness of life,
yet there was my father, a yauld man of forty-five, fell down betwixt
the stilts of his pleugh, and rase never again, and left nae bairn but
me, a puir sightless, fatherless, motherless creature, could neither
work nor want. Things gaed weel aneugh at first; for Sir Redwald
Redgauntlet, the only son of Sir John, and the oye of auld Sir Robert,
and, waes me! the last of the honourable house, took the farm aff our
hands, and brought me into his household to have care of me. He liked
music, and I had the best teachers baith England and Scotland could gie
me. Mony a merry year was I wi' him; but waes me! he gaed out with other
pretty men in the Forty-five--I'll say nae mair about it--My head never
settled weel since I lost him; and if I say another word about it, deil
a bar will I have the heart to play the night.--Look out, my gentle
chap,' he resumed in a different tone, 'ye should see the lights at
Brokenburn glen by this time.'

Tam Luter was their minstrel meet,
Gude Lord as he could lance,
He play'd sae shrill, and sang sae sweet,
Till Towsie took a trance.
Auld Lightfoot there he did forleet,
And counterfeited France;
He used himself as man discreet,
And up took Morrice danse sae loud,
At Christ's Kirk on the Green that day.
I continue to scribble at length, though the subject may seem somewhat
deficient in interest. Let the grace of the narrative, therefore,
and the concern we take in each other's matters, make amends for its
tenuity. We fools of fancy who suffer ourselves, like Malvolio, to be
cheated with our own visions, have, nevertheless, this advantage over
the wise ones of the earth, that we have our whole stock of enjoyments
under our own command, and can dish for ourselves an intellectual
banquet with most moderate assistance from external objects. It is,
to be sure, something like the feast which the Barmecide served up to
Alnaschar; and we cannot expect to get fat upon such diet. But then,
neither is there repletion nor nausea, which often succeed the grosser
and more material revel. On the whole, I still pray, with the Ode to
Castle Building--
Give me thy hope which sickens not the heart;
Give me thy wealth which has no wings to fly;
Give me the bliss thy visions can impart:
Thy friendship give me, warm in poverty!
And so, despite thy solemn smile and sapient shake of the head, I will
go on picking such interest as I can out of my trivial adventures, even
though that interest should be the creation of my own fancy; nor will I
cease to indict on thy devoted eyes the labour of perusing the scrolls
in which I shall record my narrative.
My last broke off as we were on the point of descending into the glen
at Brokenburn, by the dangerous track which I had first travelled EN
CROUPE, behind a furious horseman, and was now again to brave under the
precarious guidance of a blind man.
It was now getting dark; but this was no inconvenience to my guide, who
moved on, as formerly, with instinctive security of step, so that we
soon reached the bottom, and I could see lights twinkling in the cottage
which had been my place of refuge on a former occasion. It was not
thither, however, that our course was directed. We left the habitation
of the laird to the left, and turning down the brook, soon approached
the small hamlet which had been erected at the mouth of the stream,
probably on account of the convenience which it afforded as a harbour
to the fishing-boats. A large, low cottage, full in our front, seemed
highly illuminated; for the light not only glanced from every window
and aperture in its frail walls, but was even visible from rents and
fractures in the roof, composed of tarred shingles, repaired in part by
thatch and divot.
While these appearances engaged my attention, that of my companion was
attracted by a regular succession of sounds, like a bouncing on the
floor, mixed with a very faint noise of music, which Willie's acute
organs at once recognized and accounted for, while to me it was almost
inaudible. The old man struck the earth with his staff in a violent
passion. 'The whoreson fisher rabble! They have brought another violer
upon my walk! They are such smuggling blackguards, that they must run
in their very music; but I'll sort them waur than ony gauger in the
country.--Stay--hark--it 's no a fiddle neither--it's the pipe and tabor
bastard, Simon of Sowport, frae the Nicol Forest; but I'll pipe and
tabor him!--Let me hae ance my left hand on his cravat, and ye shall see
what my right will do. Come away, chap--come away, gentle chap--nae time
to be picking and waling your steps.' And on he passed with long and
determined strides, dragging me along with him.
I was not quite easy in his company; for, now that his minstrel pride
was hurt, the man had changed from the quiet, decorous, I might almost
say respectable person, which he seemed while he told his tale, into the
appearance of a fierce, brawling, dissolute stroller. So that when he
entered the large hut, where a great number of fishers, with their wives
and daughters, were engaged in eating, drinking, and dancing, I was
somewhat afraid that the impatient violence of my companion might
procure us an indifferent reception.
But the universal shout of welcome with which Wandering Willie was
received--the hearty congratulations--the repeated 'Here's t' ye,
Willie!'--'Where hae ya been, ye blind deevil?' and the call upon him
to pledge them--above all, the speed with which the obnoxious pipe and
tabor were put to silence, gave the old man such effectual assurance of
undiminished popularity and importance, as at once put his jealousy to
rest, and changed his tone of offended dignity into one better fitted
to receive such cordial greetings. Young men and women crowded round, to
tell how much they were afraid some mischance had detained him, and how
two or three young fellows had set out in quest of him.
'It was nae mischance, praised be Heaven,' said Willie, 'but the absence
of the lazy loon Rob the Rambler, my comrade, that didna come to meet
me on the Links; but I hae gotten a braw consort in his stead, worth a
dozen of him, the unhanged blackguard.'
'And wha is't tou's gotten, Wullie, lad?' said half a score of voices,
while all eyes were turned on your humble servant, who kept the best
countenance he could, though not quite easy at becoming the centre to
which all eyes were pointed.
'I ken him by his hemmed cravat,' said one fellow; 'it's Gil Hobson, the
souple tailor frae Burgh. Ye are welcome to Scotland, ye prick-the-clout
loon,' he said, thrusting forth a paw; much the colour of a badger's
back, and of most portentous dimensions.
'Gil Hobson? Gil whoreson!' exclaimed Wandering Willie; 'it's a gentle
chap that I judge to be an apprentice wi' auld Joshua Geddes, to the
'What trade be's that, man?' said he of the badger-coloured fist.
'Canting and lying,'--said Willie, which produced a thundering laugh;
'but I am teaching the callant a better trade, and that is, feasting and
Willie's conduct in thus announcing something like my real character,
was contrary to compact; and yet I was rather glad he did so, for the
consequence of putting a trick upon these rude and ferocious men, might,
in case of discovery, have been dangerous to us both, and I was at the
same time delivered from the painful effort to support a fictitious
character. The good company, except perhaps one or two of the young
women whose looks expressed some desire for better acquaintance, gave
themselves no further trouble about me; but, while the seniors resumed
their places near an immense bowl or rather reeking cauldron of
brandy-punch, the younger arranged themselves on the floor and called
loudly on Willie to strike up.
With a brief caution to me, to 'mind my credit, for fishers have ears,
though fish have none,' Willie led off in capital style, and I followed,
certainly not so as to disgrace my companion, who, every now and then,
gave me a nod of approbation. The dances were, of course, the Scottish
jigs, and reels, and 'twasome dances', with a strathspey or hornpipe for
interlude; and the want of grace on the part of the performers was amply
supplied by truth of ear, vigour and decision of step, and the agility
proper to the northern performers. My own spirits rose with the mirth
around me, and with old Willie's admirable execution, and frequent 'weel
dune, gentle chap, yet;'--and, to confess the truth, I felt a great deal
more pleasure in this rustic revel, than I have done at the more formal
balls and concerts in your famed city, to which I have sometimes made my
way. Perhaps this was because I was a person of more importance to the
presiding matron of Brokenburn-foot, than I had the means of rendering
myself to the far-famed Miss Nickie Murray, the patroness of your
Edinburgh assemblies. The person I mean was a buxom dame of about
thirty, her fingers loaded with many a silver ring, and three or four
of gold; her ankles liberally displayed from under her numerous blue,
white, and scarlet; short petticoats, and attired in hose of the finest
and whitest lamb's-wool, which arose from shoes of Spanish cordwain,
fastened with silver buckles. She took the lead in my favour, and
declared, 'that the brave young gentleman should not weary himself to
death wi' playing, but take the floor for a dance or twa.'
'And what's to come of me, Dame Martin?' said Willie.
'Come o' thee?' said the dame; 'mishanter on the auld beard o' ye! ye
could play for twenty hours on end, and tire out the haill countryside
wi' dancing before ye laid down your bow, saving for a by-drink or the
like o' that.'
'In troth, dame,' answered Willie, 'ye are no sae far wrang; sae if my
comrade is to take his dance, ye maun gie me my drink, and then bob it
away like Madge of Middlebie.'
The drink was soon brought; but while Willie was partaking of it,
a party entered the hut, which arrested my attention at once, and
intercepted the intended gallantry with which I had proposed to present
my hand to the fresh-coloured, well-made, white-ankled Thetis, who had
obtained me manumission from my musical task.
This was nothing less than the sudden appearance of the old woman whom
the laird had termed Mabel; Cristal Nixon, his male attendant; and the
young person who had said grace to us when I supped with him.
This young person--Alan, thou art in thy way a bit of a conjurer--this
young person whom I DID NOT describe, and whom you, for that very
reason, suspected was not an indifferent object to me--is, I am sorry to
say it, in very fact not so much so as in prudence she ought. I will not
use the name of love on this occasion; for I have applied it too often
to transient whims and fancies to escape your satire, should I venture
to apply it now. For it is a phrase, I must confess, which I have
used--a romancer would say, profaned--a little too often, considering
how few years have passed over my head. But seriously, the fair chaplain
of Brokenburn has been often in my head when she had no business
there; and if this can give thee any clue for explaining my motives
in lingering about the country, and assuming the character of Willie's
companion, why, hang thee, thou art welcome to make use of it--a
permission for which thou need'st not thank me much, as thou wouldst not
have failed to assume it whether it were given or no.
Such being my feelings, conceive how they must have been excited, when,
like a beam upon a cloud, I saw this uncommonly beautiful girl enter the
apartment in which they were dancing; not, however, with the air of
an equal, but that of a superior, come to grace with her presence the
festival of her dependants. The old man and woman attended, with looks
as sinister as hers were lovely, like two of the worst winter months
waiting upon the bright-eyed May.
When she entered--wonder if thou wilt--she wore A GREEN MANTLE, such as
thou hast described as the garb of thy fair client, and confirmed what
I had partly guessed from thy personal description, that my chaplain and
thy visitor were the same person. There was an alteration on her
brow the instant she recognized me. She gave her cloak to her female
attendant, and, after a momentary hesitation, as if uncertain whether to
advance or retire, she walked into the room with dignity and
composure, all making way, the men unbonneting, and the women curtsying
respectfully, as she assumed a chair which was reverently placed for her
accommodation, apart from others.
There was then a pause, until the bustling mistress of the ceremonies,
with awkward but kindly courtesy, offered the young lady a glass of
wine, which was at first declined, and at length only thus far accepted,
that, bowing round to the festive company, the fair visitor wished them
all health and mirth, and just touching the brim with her lip, replaced
it on the salver. There was another pause; and I did not immediately
recollect, confused as I was by this unexpected apparition, that it
belonged to me to break it. At length a murmur was heard around me,
being expected to exhibit,--nay, to lead down the dance,--in consequence
of the previous conversation.
'Deil's in the fiddler lad,' was muttered from more quarters than
one--'saw folk ever sic a thing as a shame-faced fiddler before?'
At length a venerable Triton, seconding his remonstrances with a hearty
thump on my shoulder, cried out, 'To the floor--to the floor, and let us
see how ye can fling--the lasses are a' waiting.'
Up I jumped, sprang from the elevated station which constituted our
orchestra, and, arranging my ideas as rapidly as I could, advanced
to the head of the room, and, instead of offering my hand to the
white-footed Thetis aforesaid, I venturously made the same proposal to
her of the Green Mantle.
The nymph's lovely eyes seemed to open with astonishment at the
audacity of this offer; and, from the murmurs I heard around me, I also
understood that it surprised, and perhaps offended, the bystanders. But
after the first moment's emotion, she wreathed her neck, and drawing
herself haughtily up, like one who was willing to show that she was
sensible of the full extent of her own condescension, extended her hand
towards me, like a princess gracing a squire of low degree.
There is affectation in all this, thought I to myself, if the Green
Mantle has borne true evidence--for young ladies do not make visits, or
write letters to counsel learned in the law, to interfere in the motions
of those whom they hold as cheap as this nymph seems to do me; and if
I am cheated by a resemblance of cloaks, still I am interested to show
myself, in some degree, worthy of the favour she has granted with so
much state and reserve. The dance to be performed was the old Scots Jig,
in which you are aware I used to play no sorry figure at La Pique's,
when thy clumsy movements used to be rebuked by raps over the knuckles
with that great professor's fiddlestick. The choice of the tune was left
to my comrade Willie, who, having finished his drink, feloniously struck
up the well-known and popular measure,
Merrily danced the Quaker's wife,
And merrily danced the Quaker.
An astounding laugh arose at my expense, and I should have been
annihilated, but that the smile which mantled on the lip of my partner,
had a different expression from that of ridicule, and seemed to say,
'Do not take this to heart.' And I did not, Alan--my partner danced
admirably, and I like one who was determined, if outshone, which I could
not help, not to be altogether thrown into the shade.
I assure you our performance, as well as Willie's music, deserved
more polished spectators and auditors; but we could not then have been
greeted with such enthusiastic shouts of applause as attended while I
handed my partner to her seat, and took my place by her side, as one who
had a right to offer the attentions usual on such an occasion. She was
visibly embarrassed, but I was determined not to observe her confusion,
and to avail myself of the opportunity of learning whether this
beautiful creature's mind was worthy of the casket in which nature had
lodged it.
Nevertheless, however courageously I formed this resolution, you cannot
but too well guess the difficulties I must needs have felt in carrying
it into execution; since want of habitual intercourse with the charmers
of the other sex has rendered me a sheepish cur, only one grain less
awkward than thyself. Then she was so very beautiful, and assumed an
air of so much dignity, that I was like to fall under the fatal error of
supposing she should only be addressed with something very clever; and
in the hasty raking which my brains underwent in this persuasion, not a
single idea occurred that common sense did not reject as fustian on the
one hand, or weary, flat, and stale triticism on the other. I felt as
if my understanding were no longer my own, but was alternately under the
dominion of Aldeborontiphoscophornio, and that of his facetious friend
Rigdum-Funnidos. How did I envy at that moment our friend Jack Oliver,
who produces with such happy complacence his fardel of small talk, and
who, as he never doubts his own powers of affording amusement, passes
them current with every pretty woman he approaches, and fills up the
intervals of chat by his complete acquaintance with the exercise of the
fan, the FLACON, and the other duties of the CAVALIERE SERVENTE. Some
of these I attempted, but I suppose it was awkwardly; at least the Lady
Green Mantle received them as a princess accepts the homage of a clown.
Meantime the floor remained empty, and as the mirth of the good meeting
was somewhat checked, I ventured, as a DERNIER RESSORT, to propose a
minuet. She thanked me, and told me haughtily enough, 'she was here
to encourage the harmless pleasures of these good folks, but was not
disposed to make an exhibition of her own indifferent dancing for their
She paused a moment, as if she expected me to suggest something; and as
I remained silent and rebuked, she bowed her head more graciously, and
said, 'Not to affront you, however, a country-dance, if you please.'
What an ass was I, Alan, not to have anticipated her wishes! Should I
not have observed that the ill-favoured couple, Mabel and Cristal, had
placed themselves on each side of her seat, like the supporters of the
royal arms? the man, thick, short, shaggy, and hirsute, as the lion; the
female, skin-dried, tight-laced, long, lean, and hungry-faced, like the
unicorn. I ought to have recollected, that under the close inspection
of two such watchful salvages, our communication, while in repose, could
not have been easy; that the period of dancing a minuet was not the very
choicest time for conversation; but that the noise, the exercise,
and the mazy confusion of a country-dance, where the inexperienced
performers were every now and then running against each other, and
compelling the other couples to stand still for a minute at a time,
besides the more regular repose afforded by the intervals of the dance
itself, gave the best possible openings for a word or two spoken in
season, and without being liable to observation.
We had but just led down, when an opportunity of the kind occurred, and
my partner said, with great gentleness and modesty, 'It is not perhaps
very proper in me to acknowledge an acquaintance that is not claimed;
but I believe I speak to Mr. Darsie Latimer?'
'Darsie Latimer was indeed the person that had now the honour and
I would have gone on in the false gallop of compliment, but she cut me
short. 'And why,' she said, 'is Mr. Latimer here, and in disguise, or at
least assuming an office unworthy of a man of education?--I beg pardon,'
she continued,--'I would not give you pain, but surely making, an
associate of a person of that description'--
She looked towards my friend Willie, and was silent. I felt heartily
ashamed of myself, and hastened to say it was an idle frolic, which want
of occupation had suggested, and which I could not regret, since it had
procured me the pleasure I at present enjoyed.
Without seeming to notice my compliment, she took the next opportunity
to say, 'Will Mr. Latimer permit a stranger who wishes him well to ask,
whether it is right that, at his active age, he should be in so far void
of occupation, as to be ready to adopt low society for the sake of idle
'You are severe, madam,' I answered; 'but I cannot think myself degraded
by mixing with any society where I meet'--
Here I stopped short, conscious that I was giving my answer an
unhandsome turn. The ARGUMENTUM AD HOMINEM, the last to which a polite
man has recourse, may, however, be justified by circumstances, but
seldom or never the ARGUMENTUM AD FOEMINAM.
She filled up the blank herself which I had left. 'Where you meet ME, I
suppose you would say? But the case is different. I am, from my unhappy
fate, obliged to move by the will of others, and to be in places which
I would by my own will gladly avoid. Besides, I am, except for these few
minutes, no participator of the revels--a spectator only, and attended
by my servants. Your situation is different--you are here by choice,
the partaker and minister of the pleasures of a class below you in
education, birth, and fortunes. If I speak harshly, Mr. Latimer,' she
added, with much sweetness of manner, 'I mean kindly.'
I was confounded by her speech, 'severe in youthful wisdom'; all
of naive or lively, suitable to such a dialogue, vanished from my
recollection, and I answered with gravity like her own, 'I am, indeed,
better educated than these poor people; but you, madam, whose kind
admonition I am grateful for, must know more of my condition than I
do myself--I dare not say I am their superior in birth, since I know
nothing of my own, or in fortunes, over which hangs an impenetrable
'And why should your ignorance on these points drive you into low
society and idle habits?' answered my female monitor. 'Is it manly to
wait till fortune cast her beams upon you, when by exertion of your own
energy you might distinguish yourself? Do not the pursuits of learning
lie open to you--of manly ambition--of war? But no--not of war, that has
already cost you too dear.'
'I will be what you wish me to be,' I replied with eagerness--'You have
but to choose my path, and you shall see if I do not pursue it with
energy, were it only because you command me.'
'Not because I command you,' said the maiden, 'but because reason,
common sense, manhood, and, in one word, regard for your own safety,
give the same counsel.'
'At least permit me to reply, that reason and sense never assumed
a fairer form--of persuasion,' I hastily added; for she turned from
me--nor did she give me another opportunity of continuing what I had
to say till the next pause of the dance, when, determined to bring our
dialogue to a point, I said, 'You mentioned manhood also, and in the
same breath, personal danger. My ideas of manhood suggest that it is
cowardice to retreat before dangers of a doubtful character. You, who
appear to know so much of my fortunes that I might call you my guardian
angel, tell me what these dangers are, that I may judge whether manhood
calls on me to face or to fly them.'
She was evidently perplexed by this appeal.
'You make me pay dearly for acting as your humane adviser,' she replied
at last: 'I acknowledge an interest in your fate, and yet I dare not
tell you whence it arises; neither am I at liberty to say why, or from
whom, you are in danger; but it is not less true that danger is near
and imminent. Ask me no more, but, for your own sake, begone from this
country. Elsewhere you are safe--here you do but invite your fate.'
'But am I doomed to bid thus farewell to almost the only human being who
has showed an interest in my welfare? Do not say so--say that we shall
meet again, and the hope shall be the leading star to regulate my
'It is more than probable,' she said--'much more than probable, that we
may never meet again. The help which I now render you is all that may be
in my power; it is such as I should render to a blind man whom I might
observe approaching the verge of a precipice; it ought to excite no
surprise, and requires no gratitude.'
So saying, she again turned from me, nor did she address me until the
dance was on the point of ending, when she said, 'Do not attempt to
speak to or approach me again in the course of the night; leave the
company as soon as you can, but not abruptly, and God be with you.'
I handed her to her seat, and did not quit the fair palm I held, without
expressing my feelings by a gentle pressure. She coloured slightly, and
withdrew her hand, but not angrily. Seeing the eyes of Cristal and Mabel
sternly fixed on me, I bowed deeply, and withdrew from her; my heart
saddening, and my eyes becoming dim in spite of me, as the shifting
crowd hid us from each other.
It was my intention to have crept back to my comrade Willie, and resumed
my bow with such spirit as I might, although, at the moment, I would
have given half my income for an instant's solitude. But my retreat was
cut off by Dame Martin, with the frankness--if it is not an inconsistent
phrase-of rustic coquetry, that goes straight up to the point.
'Aye, lad, ye seem unco sune weary, to dance sae lightly? Better the nag
that ambles a' the day, than him that makes a brattle for a mile, and
then's dune wi' the road.'
This was a fair challenge, and I could not decline accepting it.
Besides, I could see Dame Martin was queen of the revels; and so many
were the rude and singular figures about me, that I was by no means
certain whether I might not need some protection. I seized on her
willing hand, and we took our places in the dance, where, if I did not
acquit myself with all the accuracy of step and movement which I had
before attempted, I at least came up to the expectations of my partner,
who said, and almost swore, 'I was prime at it;' while, stimulated
to her utmost exertions, she herself frisked like a kid, snapped her
fingers like castanets, whooped like a Bacchanal, and bounded from the
floor like a tennis-ball,--aye, till the colour of her garters was no
particular mystery. She made the less secret of this, perhaps, that they
were sky-blue, and fringed with silver.
The time has been that this would have been special fun; or rather, last
night was the only time I can recollect these four years when it would
not have been so; yet, at this moment, I cannot tell you how I longed
to be rid of Dame Martin. I almost wished she would sprain one of those
'many-twinkling' ankles, which served her so alertly; and when, in the
midst of her exuberant caprioling, I saw my former partner leaving
the apartment, and with eyes, as I thought, turning towards me, this
unwillingness to carry on the dance increased to such a point, that I
was almost about to feign a sprain or a dislocation myself, in order to
put an end to the performance. But there were around me scores of old
women, all of whom looked as if they might have some sovereign recipe
for such an accident; and, remembering Gil Blas, and his pretended
disorder in the robber's cavern, I thought it as wise to play Dame
Martin fair, and dance till she thought proper to dismiss me. What I did
I resolved to do strenuously, and in the latter part of the exhibition
I cut and sprang from the floor as high and as perpendicularly as Dame
Martin herself; and received, I promise you, thunders of applause, for
the common people always prefer exertion and agility to grace. At length
Dame Martin could dance no more, and, rejoicing at my release, I led her
to a seat, and took the privilege of a partner to attend her.
'Hegh, sirs,' exclaimed Dame Martin, 'I am sair forfoughen! Troth!
callant, I think ye hae been amaist the death o' me.'
I could only atone for the alleged offence by fetching her some
refreshment, of which she readily partook.
'I have been lucky in my partners,' I said, 'first that pretty young
lady, and then you, Mrs. Martin.'
'Hout wi' your fleeching,' said Dame Martin. 'Gae wa--gae wa, lad; dinna
blaw in folk's lugs that gate; me and Miss Lilias even'd thegither! Na,
na, lad--od, she is maybe four or five years younger than the like o'
me,--bye and attour her gentle havings.'
'She is the laird's daughter?' said I, in as careless a tone of inquiry
as I could assume.
'His daughter, man? Na, na, only his niece--and sib aneugh to him, I
'Aye, indeed,' I replied; 'I thought she had borne his name?'
'She bears her ain name, and that's Lilias.'
'And has she no other name?' asked I.
'What needs she another till she gets a gudeman?' answered my Thetis,
a little miffed perhaps--to use the women's phrase--that I turned
the conversation upon my former partner, rather than addressed it to
There was a little pause, which was interrupted by Dame Martin
observing, 'They are standing up again.'
'True,' said I, having no mind to renew my late violent CAPRIOLE, and I
must go help old Willie.'
Ere I could extricate myself, I heard poor Thetis address herself to
a sort of merman in a jacket of seaman's blue, and a pair of trousers
(whose hand, by the way, she had rejected at an earlier part of the
evening) and intimate that she was now disposed to take a trip.
'Trip away, then, dearie,' said the vindictive man of the waters,
without offering his hand; 'there,' pointing to the floor, 'is a roomy
berth for you.'
Certain I had made one enemy, and perhaps two, I hastened to my original
seat beside Willie, and began to handle my bow. But I could see that my
conduct had made an unfavourable impression; the words, 'flory conceited
chap,'--'hafflins gentle,' and at length, the still more alarming
epithet of 'spy,' began to be buzzed about, and I was heartily glad when
the apparition of Sam's visage at the door, who was already possessed of
and draining a can of punch, gave me assurance that my means of retreat
were at hand. I intimated as much to Willie, who probably had heard
more of the murmurs of the company than I had, for he whispered, 'Aye,
aye,--awa wi' ye--ower lang here--slide out canny--dinna let them see ye
are on the tramp.'
I slipped half a guinea into the old man's hand, who answered, 'Truts
pruts! nonsense but I 'se no refuse, trusting ye can afford it. Awa wi'
ye--and if ony body stops ye, cry on me.'
I glided, by his advice, along the room as if looking for a partner,
joined Sam, whom I disengaged with some difficulty from his can, and
we left the cottage together in a manner to attract the least possible
observation. The horses were tied in a neighbouring shed, and as
the moon was up, and I was now familiar with the road, broken and
complicated as it is, we soon reached the Shepherd's Bush, where the old
landlady was sitting up waiting for us, under some anxiety of mind, to
account for which she did not hesitate to tell me that some folks had
gone to Brokenburn from her house, or neighbouring towns, that did not
come so safe back again. 'Wandering Willie,' she said, 'was doubtless a
kind of protection.'
Here Willie's wife, who was smoking in the chimney corner, took up the
praises of her 'hinnie,' as she called him, and endeavoured to awaken
my generosity afresh, by describing the dangers from which, as she was
pleased to allege, her husband's countenance had assuredly been the
means of preserving me. I was not, however, to be fooled out of
more money at this time, and went to bed in haste, full of vanous
I have since spent a couple of days betwixt Mount Sharon and this place,
and betwixt reading, writing to thee this momentous history, forming
plans for seeing the lovely Lilias, and--partly, I think, for the sake
of contradiction--angling a little in spite of Joshua'a scruples--though
I am rather liking the amusement better as I begin to have some success
in it.
And now, my dearest Alan, you are in full possession of my secret--let
me as frankly into the recesses of your bosom. How do you feel towards
this fair ignis fatuus, this lily of the desert? Tell me honestly; for
however the recollection of her may haunt my own mind, my love for Alan
Fairford surpasses the love of woman, I know, too, that when you DO
love, it will be to
Love once and love no more.
A deep-consuming passion, once kindled in a breast so steady as yours,
would never be extinguished but with life. I am of another and more
volatile temper, and though I shall open your next with a trembling hand
and uncertain heart, yet let it bring a frank confession that this fair
unknown has made a deeper impression on your gravity than you reckoned
for, and you will see I can tear the arrow from my own wound, barb and
all. In the meantime, though I have formed schemes once more to see her,
I will, you may rely on it, take no step for putting them into practice.
I have refrained from this hitherto, and I give you my word of honour,
I shall continue to do so; yet why should you need any further assurance
from one who is so entirely yours as D.L.
PS.--I shall be on thorns till I receive your answer. I read, and
re-read your letter, and cannot for my soul discover what your real
sentiments are. Sometimes I think you write of her as one in jest--and
sometimes I think that cannot be. Put me at ease as soon as possible.

I write on the instant, as you direct; and in a tragi-comic humour, for
I have a tear in my eye and a smile on my cheek. Dearest Darsie, sure
never a being but yourself could be so generous--sure never a being but
yourself could be so absurd! I remember when you were a boy you wished
to make your fine new whip a present to old Aunt Peggy, merely because
she admired it; and now, with like unreflecting and inappropriate
liberality, you would resign your beloved to a smoke-dried young
sophister, who cares not one of the hairs which it is his occupation to
split, for all the daughters of Eve. I in love with your Lilias--your
Green Mantle--your unknown enchantress!--why I scarce saw her for five
minutes, and even then only the tip of her chin was distinctly visible.
She was well made, and the tip of her chin was of a most promising cast
for the rest of the face; but, Heaven save you! she came upon business!
and for a lawyer to fall in love with a pretty client on a single
consultation, would be as wise as if he became enamoured of a
particularly bright sunbeam which chanced for a moment to gild his
bar-wig. I give you my word I am heart-whole and moreover, I assure you,
that before I suffer a woman to sit near my heart's core, I must see her
full face, without mask or mantle, aye, and know a good deal of her
mind into the bargain. So never fret yourself on my account, my kind and
generous Darsie; but, for your own sake, have a care and let not an idle
attachment, so lightly taken up, lead you into serious danger.
On this subject I feel so apprehensive, that now when I am decorated
with the honours of the gown, I should have abandoned my career at the
very starting to come to you, but for my father having contrived to
clog my heels with fetters of a professional nature. I will tell you the
matter at length, for it is comical enough; and why should not you
list to my juridical adventures, as well as I to those of your fiddling
It was after dinner, and I was considering how I might best introduce
to my father the private resolution I had formed to set off for
Dumfriesshire, or whether I had not better run away at once, and plead
my excuse by letter, when, assuming the peculiar look with which he
communicates any of his intentions respecting me, that he suspects may
not be altogether acceptable, 'Alan,' he said, 'ye now wear a gown--ye
have opened shop, as we would say of a more mechanical profession; and,
doubtless, ye think the floor of the courts is strewed with guineas, and
that ye have only to stoop down to gather them?'
'I hope I am sensible, sir,' I replied, 'that I have some knowledge and
practice to acquire, and must stoop for that in the first place.'
'It is well said,' answered my father; and, always afraid to give too
much encouragement, added, 'Very well said, if it be well acted up
to--Stoop to get knowledge and practice is the very word. Ye know very
well, Alan, that in the other faculty who study the ARS MEDENDI, before
the young doctor gets to the bedsides of palaces, he must, as they call
it, walk the hospitals; and cure Lazarus of his sores, before he be
admitted to prescribe for Dives, when he has gout or indigestion'--
'I am aware, sir, that'--
'Whisht--do not interrupt the court. Well--also the chirurgeons have
a useful practice, by which they put their apprentices and tyrones to
work; upon senseless dead bodies, to which, as they can do no good, so
they certainly can do as little harm; while at the same time the tyro,
or apprentice, gains experience, and becomes fit to whip off a leg or
arm from a living subject, as cleanly as ye would slice an onion.'
'I believe I guess your meaning, sir,' answered I; 'and were it not for
a very particular engagement'--
'Do not speak to me of engagements; but whisht--there is a good lad--and
do not interrupt the court.'
My father, you know, is apt--be it said with all filial duty--to be a
little prolix in his harangues. I had nothing for it but to lean back
and listen.
'Maybe you think, Alan, because I have, doubtless, the management of
some actions in dependence, whilk my worthy clients have intrusted
me with, that I may think of airting them your way INSTANTER; and so
setting you up in practice, so far as my small business or influence may
go; and, doubtless, Alan, that is a day whilk I hope may come round. But
then, before I give, as the proverb hath it, "My own fish-guts to my own
sea-maws," I must, for the sake of my own character, be very sure that
my sea-maw can pick them to some purpose. What say ye?'
'I am so far,' answered I, 'from wishing to get early into practice,
sir, that I would willingly bestow a few days'--
'In further study, ye would say, Alan. But that is not the way
either--ye must walk the hospitals--ye must cure Lazarus--ye must cut
and carve on a departed subject, to show your skill.'
'I am sure,' I replied, 'I will undertake the cause of any poor man with
pleasure, and bestow as much pains upon it as if it were a duke's; but
for the next two or three days'--
'They must be devoted to close study, Alan--very close study indeed; for
ye must stand primed for a hearing, IN PRESENTIA DOMINORUM, upon Tuesday
'I, sir?' I replied in astonishment--'I have not opened my mouth in the
Outer House yet!'
'Never mind the court of the Gentiles, man,' said my father; 'we will
have you into the Sanctuary at once--over shoes, over boots.'
'But, sir, I should really spoil any cause thrust on me so hastily.'
'Ye cannot spoil it, Alan,' said my father, rubbing his hands with much
complacency; 'that is the very cream of the business, man--it is just,
as I said before, a subject upon whilk all the TYRONES have been trying
their whittles for fifteen years; and as there have been about ten or a
dozen agents concerned, and each took his own way, the case is come to
that pass, that Stair or Amiston could not mend it; and I do not think
even you, Alan, can do it much harm--ye may get credit by it, but ye can
lose none.'
'And pray what is the name of my happy client, sir?' said I,
ungraciously enough, I believe.
'It is a well-known name in the Parliament House,' replied my father.
'To say the truth, I expect him every moment; it is Peter Peebles.' [See
Note 4.]
'Peter Peebles!' exclaimed I, in astonishment; 'he is an insane
beggar--as poor as Job, and as mad as a March hare!'
'He has been pleaing in the court for fifteen years,' said my father, in
a tone of commiseration, which seemed to acknowledge that this fact
was enough to account for the poor man's condition both in mind and
'Besides, sir,' I added, 'he is on the Poor's Roll; and you know there
are advocates regularly appointed to manage those cases; and for me to
presume to interfere'--
'Whisht, Alan!--never interrupt the court--all THAT is managed for ye
like a tee'd ball' (my father sometimes draws his similes from his once
favourite game of golf); 'you must know, Alan, that Peter's cause was
to have been opened by young Dumtoustie--ye may ken the lad, a son of
Dumtoustie of that ilk, member of Parliament for the county of--, and a
nephew of the laird's younger brother, worthy Lord Bladderskate, whilk
ye are aware sounds as like being akin to a peatship [Formerly, a
lawyer, supposed to be under the peculiar patronage of any particular
judge, was invidiously termed his PEAT or PET.] and a sheriffdom, as a
sieve is sib to a riddle. Now, Peter Drudgeit, my lord's clerk, came to
me this morning in the House, like ane bereft of his wits; for it seems
that young Dumtoustie is ane of the Poor's lawyers, and Peter Peebles's
process had been remitted to him of course. But so soon as the
harebrained goose saw the pokes [Process-bags.] (as indeed, Alan, they
are none of the least) he took fright, called for his nag, lap on, and
away to the country is he gone; and so? said Peter, my lord is at his
wit's end wi' vexation, and shame, to see his nevoy break off the course
at the very starting. "I'll tell you, Peter," said I, "were I my lord,
and a friend or kinsman of mine should leave the town while the court
was sitting, that kinsman, or be he what he liked, should never darken
my door again." And then, Alan, I thought to turn the ball our own way;
and I said that you were a gey sharp birkie, just off the irons, and if
it would oblige my lord, and so forth, you would open Peter's cause on
Tuesday, and make some handsome apology for the necessary absence of
your learned friend, and the loss which your client and the court had
sustained, and so forth. Peter lap at the proposition like a cock at a
grossart; for, he said, the only chance was to get a new hand, that did
not ken the charge he was taking upon him; for there was not a lad of
two sessions' standing that was not dead-sick of Peter Peebles and his
cause; and he advised me to break the matter gently to you at the
first; but I told him you were, a good bairn, Alan, and had no will and
pleasure in these matters but mine.'
What could I say, Darsie, in answer to this arrangement, so very well
meant--so very vexatious at the same time? To imitate the defection and
flight of young Dumtoustie, was at once to destroy my father's hopes
of me for ever; nay, such is the keenness with which he regards all
connected with his profession, it might have been a step to breaking
his heart. I was obliged, therefore, to bow in sad acquiescence, when my
father called to James Wilkinson to bring the two bits of pokes he would
find on his table.
Exit James, and presently re-enters, bending under the load of two huge
leathern bags, full of papers to the brim, and labelled on the greasy
backs with the magic impress of the clerks of court, and the title,
PEEBLES AGAINST PLAINSTANES. This huge mass was deposited on the table,
and my father, with no ordinary glee in his countenance, began to draw
out; the various bundles of papers, secured by none of your red tape
or whipcord, but stout, substantial casts of tarred rope, such as might
have held small craft at their moorings.
I made a last and desperate effort to get rid of the impending job. 'I
am really afraid, sir, that this case seems so much complicated, and
there is so little time to prepare, that we had better move the court to
supersede it till next session.'
'How, sir?--how, Alan?' said my father--'Would you approbate and
reprobate, sir? You have accepted the poor man's cause, and if you have
not his fee in your pocket, it is because he has none to give you; and
now would you approbate and reprobate in the same breath of your mouth?
Think of your oath of office, Alan, and your duty to your father, my
dear boy.'
Once more, what could I say? I saw from my father's hurried and alarmed
manner, that nothing could vex him so much as failing in the point he
had determined to carry, and once more intimated my readiness to do my
best, under every disadvantage.
'Well, well, my boy,' said my father, 'the Lord will make your days long
in the land, for the honour you have given to your father's grey hairs.
You may find wiser advisers, Alan, but none that can wish you better.'
My father, you know, does not usually give way to expressions of
affection, and they are interesting in proportion to their rarity. My
eyes began to fill at seeing his glisten; and my delight at having given
him such sensible gratification would have been unmixed but for the
thoughts of you. These out of the question, I could have grappled with
the bags, had they been as large as corn-sacks. But, to turn what
was grave into farce, the door opened, and Wilkinson ushered in Peter
You must have seen this original, Darsie, who, like others in the same
predicament, continues to haunt the courts of justice, where he has made
shipwreck of time, means, and understanding. Such insane paupers have
sometimes seemed to me to resemble wrecks lying upon the shoals on the
Goodwin Sands, or in Yarmouth Roads, warning other vessels to keep aloof
from the banks on which they have been lost; or rather, such ruined
clients are like scarecrows and potato-bogies, distributed through the
courts to scare away fools from the scene of litigation.
The identical Peter wears a huge greatcoat threadbare and patched
itself, yet carefully so disposed and secured by what buttons remain,
and many supplementary pins, as to conceal the still more infirm state
of his under garments. The shoes and stockings of a ploughman were,
however, seen to meet at his knees with a pair of brownish, blackish
breeches; a rusty-coloured handkerchief, that has been black in its
day, surrounded his throat, and was an apology for linen. His hair, half
grey, half black, escaped in elf-locks around a huge wig, made of tow,
as it seemed to me, and so much shrunk that it stood up on the very top
of his head; above which he plants, when covered, an immense cocked hat,
which, like the chieftain's banner in an ancient battle, may be seen
any sederunt day betwixt nine and ten, high towering above all
the fluctuating and changeful scene in the Outer House, where his
eccentricities often make him the centre of a group of petulant and
teasing boys, who exercise upon him every art of ingenious torture.
His countenance, originally that of a portly, comely burgess, is now
emaciated with poverty and anxiety, and rendered wild by an insane
lightness about the eyes; a withered and blighted skin and complexion;
features begrimed with snuff, charged with the self-importance peculiar
to insanity; and a habit of perpetually speaking to himself. Such was
my unfortunate client; and I must allow, Darsie, that my profession had
need to do a great deal of good, if, as is much to be feared, it brings
many individuals to such a pass.
After we had been, with a good deal of form, presented to each other,
at which time I easily saw by my father's manner that he was desirous of
supporting Peter's character in my eyes, as much as circumstances would
permit, 'Alan,' he said, 'this is the gentleman who has agreed to accept
of you as his counsel, in place of young Dumtoustie.'
'Entirely out of favour to my old acquaintance your father, said Peter.
with a benign and patronizing countenance, 'out of respect to your
father, and my old intimacy with Lord Bladderskate. Otherwise, by the
REGIAM MAJESTATEM! I would have presented a petition and complaint
against Daniel Dumtoustie, Advocate, by name and surname--I would, by
all the practiques!--I know the forms of process; and I am not to be
triffled with.'
My father here interrupted my client, and reminded him that there was a
good deal of business to do, as he proposed to give the young counsel
an outline of the state of the conjoined process, with a view to letting
him into the merits of the cause, disencumbered from the points of form.
'I have made a short abbreviate, Mr. Peebles,' said he; 'having sat up
late last night, and employed much of this morning in wading through
these papers, to save Alan some trouble, and I am now about to state the
'I will state it myself,' said Peter, breaking in without reverence upon
his solicitor.
'No, by no means,' said my father; 'I am your agent for the time.'
'Mine eleventh in number,' said Peter; 'I have a new one every year; I
wish I could get a new coat as regularly.'
'Your agent for the time,' resumed my father; 'and you, who are
acquainted with the forms, know that the client states the cause to the
agent--the agent to the counsel'--
'The counsel to the Lord Ordinary,' continued Peter, once set a-going,
like the peal of an alarm clock, 'the Ordinary to the Inner House, the
President to the Bench. It is just like the rope to the man, the man to
the ox, the ox to the water, the water to the fire'--
'Hush, for Heaven's sake, Mr. Peebles,' said my father, cutting his
recitation short; 'time wears on--we must get to business--you must
not interrupt the court, you know.--Hem, hem! From this abbreviate it
'Before you begin,' said Peter Peebles 'I'll thank you to order me a
morsel of bread and cheese, or some cauld meat, or broth, or the like
alimentary provision; I was so anxious to see your son, that I could not
eat a mouthful of dinner.'
Heartily glad, I believe, to have so good a chance of stopping his
client's mouth effectually, my father ordered some cold meat; to which
James Wilkinson, for the honour of the house, was about to add the
brandy bottle, which remained on the sideboard, but, at a wink from my
father, supplied its place with small beer. Peter charged the provisions
with the rapacity of a famished lion; and so well did the diversion
engage him, that though, while my father stated the case, he looked at
him repeatedly, as if he meant to interrupt his statement, yet he always
found more agreeable employment for his mouth, and returned to the
cold beef with an avidity which convinced me he had not had such an
opportunity for many a day of satiating his appetite. Omitting much
formal phraseology, and many legal details, I will endeavour to give
you, in exchange for your fiddler's tale, the history of a litigant, or
rather, the history of his lawsuit.
'Peter Peebles and Paul Plainstanes,' said my father, entered into
partnership, in the year--, as mercers and linendrapers, in the
Luckenbooths, and carried on a great line of business to mutual
advantage. But the learned counsel needeth not to be told, SOCIETAS EST
MATER DISCORDIARUM, partnership oft makes pleaship. The company being
dissolved by mutual consent, in the year--, the affairs had to be wound
up, and after certain attempts to settle the matter extra-judicially,
it was at last brought into the court, and has branched out into several
distinct processes, most of whilk have been conjoined by the Ordinary.
It is to the state of these processes that counsel's attention is
particularly directed. There is the original action of Peebles v.
Plainstanes, convening him for payment of 3000l., less or more, as
alleged balance due by Plainstanes. Secondly, there is a counter action,
in which Plainstanes is pursuer and Peebles defender, for 2500l.,
less or more, being balance alleged per contra, to be due by Peebles.
Thirdly, Mr. Peeble's seventh agent advised an action of Compt and
Reckoning at his instance, wherein what balance should prove due on
either side might be fairly struck and ascertained. Fourthly, to meet
the hypothetical case, that Peebles might be found liable in a balance
to Plainstanes, Mr. Wildgoose, Mr. Peebles's eighth agent, recommended a
Multiplepoinding, to bring all parties concerned into the field.'
My brain was like to turn at this account of lawsuit within lawsuit,
like a nest of chip-boxes, with all of which I was expected to make
myself acquainted.
'I understand,' I said, 'that Mr. Peebles claims a sum of money from
Plainstanes--how then can he be his debtor? and if not his debtor, how
can he bring a Multiplepoinding, the very summons of which sets forth,
that the pursuer does owe certain monies, which he is desirous to pay by
warrant of a judge?' [Multiplepoinding is, I believe, equivalent to what
is called in England a case of Double Distress.]
'Ye know little of the matter, I doubt, friend,' said Mr. Peebles; 'a
Multiplepoinding is the safest REMEDIUM JURIS in the whole; form of
process. I have known it conjoined with a declarator of marriage.--Your
beef is excellent,' he said to my father, who in vain endeavoured to
resume his legal disquisition; 'but something highly powdered--and the
twopenny is undeniable; but it is small swipes--small swipes--more of
hop than malt-with your leave, I'll try your black bottle.'
My father started to help him with his own hand, and in due measure;
but, infinitely to my amusement, Peter got possession of the bottle by
the neck, and my father's ideas of hospitality were far too scrupulous
to permit his attempting, by any direct means, to redeem it; so that
Peter returned to the table triumphant, with his prey in his clutch.
'Better have a wine-glass, Mr. Peebles,' said my father, in an
admonitory tone, 'you will find it pretty strong.'
'If the kirk is ower muckle, we can sing mass in the quire,' said Peter,
helping himself in the goblet out of which he had been drinking the
small beer. 'What is it, usquebaugh?--BRANDY, as I am an honest man! I
had almost forgotten the name and taste of brandy. Mr. Fairford elder,
your good health' (a mouthful of brandy), 'Mr. Alan Fairford, wishing
you well through your arduous undertaking' (another go-down of the
comfortable liquor). 'And now, though you have given a tolerable
breviate of this great lawsuit, of whilk everybody has heard something
that has walked the boards in the Outer House (here's to ye again,
by way of interim decreet) yet ye have omitted to speak a word of the
'I was just coming to that point, Mr. Peebles.'
'Or of the action of suspension of the charge on the bill.'
'I was just coming to that.'
'Or the advocation of the Sheriff-Court process.'
'I was just coming to it.'
'As Tweed comes to Melrose, I think,' said the litigant; and then
filling his goblet about a quarter full of brandy, as if in absence of
mind, 'Oh, Mr. Alan Fairford, ye are a lucky man to buckle to such a
cause as mine at the very outset! it is like a specimen of all causes,
man. By the Regiam, there is not a REMEDIUM JURIS in the practiques
but ye'll find a spice o't. Here's to your getting weel through with
it--Pshut--I am drinking naked spirits, I think. But if the heathen he
ower strong, we'll christen him with the brewer' (here he added a
little small beer to his beverage, paused, rolled his eyes, winked,
and proceeded),--'Mr. Fairford--the action of assault and battery,
Mr. Fairford, when I compelled the villain Plainstanes to pull my
nose within two steps of King Charles's statue, in the Parliament
Close--there I had him in a hose-net. Never man could tell me how to
shape that process--no counsel that ever selled mind could condescend
and say whether it were best to proceed by way of petition and
complaint, AD VINDICTAM PUBLICAM, with consent of his Majesty's
advocate, or by action on the statute for battery PENDENTE LITE, whilk
would be the winning my plea at once, and so getting a back-door out of
court.--By the Regiam, that beef and brandy is unco het at my heart--I
maun try the ale again' (sipped a little beer); 'and the ale's but
cauld, I maun e'en put in the rest of the brandy.'
He was as good as his word, and proceeded in so loud and animated
a style of elocution, thumping the table, drinking and snuffing
alternately, that my father, abandoning all attempts to interrupt him,
sat silent and ashamed, suffering, and anxious for the conclusion of the
'And then to come back to my pet process of all--my battery and assault
process, when I had the good luck to provoke him to pull my nose at
the very threshold of the court, whilk was the very thing I wanted--Mr.
Pest, ye ken him, Daddie Fairford? Old Pest was for making it out
HAMESUCKEN, for he said the court might be said--said--ugh!--to be my
dwelling-place. I dwell mair there than ony gate else, and the essence
of hamesucken is to strike a man in his dwelling-place--mind that, young
advocate--and so there's hope Plainstanes may be hanged, as many has
for a less matter; for, my lords,--will Pest say to the Justiciary
bodies,--my lords, the Parliament House is Peebles' place of
dwelling, says he--being COMMUNE FORUM, and COMMUNE FORUM EST COMMUNE
DOMICILIUM--Lass, fetch another glass of and score it--time to gae
hame--by the practiques, I cannot find the jug--yet there's twa of them,
I think. By the Regiam, Fairford--Daddie Fairford--lend us twal pennies
to buy sneeshing, mine is done--Macer, call another cause.'
The box fell from his hands, and his body would at the same time have
fallen from the chair, had not I supported him.
'This is intolerable,' said my father--'Call a chairman, James
Wilkinson, to carry this degraded, worthless, drunken beast home.'
When Peter Peebles was removed from this memorable consultation, under
the care of an able-bodied Celt, my father hastily bundled up the
papers, as a showman, whose exhibition has miscarried, hastes to remove
his booth. 'Here are my memoranda, Alan,' he said, in a hurried way;
'look them carefully over--compare them with the processes, and turn
it in your head before Tuesday. Many a good speech has been made for a
beast of a client; and hark ye, lad, hark ye--I never intended to cheat
you of your fee when all was done, though I would have liked to have
heard the speech first; but there is nothing like corning the horse
before the journey. Here are five goud guineas in a silk purse--of your
poor mother's netting, Alan--she would have been a blithe woman to have
seen her young son with a gown on his back--but no more of that--be a
good boy, and to the work like a tiger.'
I did set to work, Darsie; for who could resist such motives? With my
father's assistance, I have mastered the details, confused as they are;
and on Tuesday I shall plead as well for Peter Peebles as I could for
a duke. Indeed, I feel my head so clear on the subject as to be able
to write this long letter to you; into which, however, Peter and his
lawsuit have insinuated themselves so far as to show you how much they
at present occupy my thoughts. Once more, be careful of yourself, and
mindful of me, who am ever thine, while ALAN FAIRFORD.
From circumstances, to be hereafter mentioned, it was long ere this
letter reached the person to whom it was addressed.

* * * * *

The advantage of laying before the reader, in the words of the actors
themselves, the adventures which we must otherwise have narrated in
our own, has given great popularity to the publication of epistolary
correspondence, as practised by various great authors, and by ourselves
in the preceding chapters. Nevertheless, a genuine correspondence of
this kind (and Heaven forbid it should be in any respect sophisticated
by interpolations of our own!) can seldom be found to contain all in
which it is necessary to instruct the reader for his full comprehension
of the story. Also it must often happen that various prolixities and
redundancies occur in the course of an interchange of letters, which
must hang as a dead weight on the progress of the narrative. To avoid
this dilemma, some biographers have used the letters of the personages
concerned, or liberal extracts from them, to describe particular
incidents, or express the sentiments which they entertained; while they
connect them occasionally with such portions of narrative, as may serve
to carry on the thread of the story.
It is thus that the adventurous travellers who explore the summit of
Mont Blanc now move on through the crumbling snowdrift so slowly, that
their progress is almost imperceptible, and anon abridge their journey
by springing over the intervening chasms which cross their path, with
the assistance of their pilgrim-staves. Or, to make a briefer simile,
the course of story-telling which we have for the present adopted,
resembles the original discipline of the dragoons, who were trained to
serve either on foot or horseback, as the emergencies of the service
required. With this explanation, we shall proceed to narrate some
circumstances which Alan Fairford did not, and could not, write to his
Our reader, we trust, has formed somewhat approaching to a distinct
idea of the principal characters who have appeared before him during
our narrative; but in case our good opinion of his sagacity has been
exaggerated, and in order to satisfy such as are addicted to the
laudable practice of SKIPPING (with whom we have at times a strong
fellow-feeling), the following particulars may not be superfluous.
Mr. Saunders Fairford, as he was usually called, was a man of business
of the old school, moderate in his charges, economical and even
niggardly in his expenditure, strictly honest in conducting his own
affairs and those of his clients, but taught by long experience to be
wary and suspicious in observing the motions of others. Punctual as the
clock of Saint Giles tolled nine, the neat dapper form of the little
hale old gentleman was seen at the threshold of the court hall, or at
farthest, at the head of the Back Stairs, trimly dressed in a complete
suit of snuff-coloured brown, with stockings of silk or woollen as,
suited the weather; a bob-wig, and a small cocked hat; shoes blacked
as Warren would have blacked them; silver shoe-buckles, and a gold
stock-buckle. A nosegay in summer, and a sprig of holly in winter,
completed his well-known dress and appearance. His manners corresponded
with his attire, for they were scrupulously civil, and not a little
formal. He was an elder of the kirk, and, of course, zealous for King
George and the Government even to slaying, as he had showed by taking
up arms in their cause. But then, as he had clients and connexions
of business among families of opposite political tenets, he was
particularly cautious to use all the conventional phrases which the
civility of the time had devised, as an admissible mode of language
betwixt the two parties. Thus he spoke sometimes of the Chevalier, but
never either of the Prince, which would have been sacrificing his own
principles, or of the Pretender, which would have been offensive to
those of others. Again, he usually designated the Rebellion as the
AFFAIR of 1745, and spoke of any one engaged in it as a person who had
been OUT at a certain period. [OLD-FASHIONED SCOTTISH CIVILITY.--Such
were literally the points of politeness observed in general society
during the author's youth, where it was by no means unusual in a company
assembled by chance, to find individuals who had borne arms on one
side or other in the civil broils of 1745. Nothing, according to my
recollection, could be more gentle and decorous than the respect
these old enemies paid to each other's prejudices. But in this I speak
generally. I have witnessed one or two explosions.] So that, on the
whole, Mr. Fairford was a man much liked and respected on all sides,
though his friends would not have been sorry if he had given a dinner
more frequently, as his little cellar contained some choice old wine, of
which, on such rare occasions he was no niggard.
The whole pleasure of this good old-fashioned man of method, besides
that which he really felt in the discharge of his daily business, was
the hope to see his son Alan, the only fruit of a union which death
early dissolved, attain what in the father's eyes was the proudest of
all distinctions--the rank and fame of a well-employed lawyer.
Every profession has its peculiar honours, and Mr. Fairford's mind was
constructed upon so limited and exclusive a plan, that he valued nothing
save the objects of ambition which his own presented. He would have
shuddered at Alan's acquiring the renown of a hero, and laughed with
scorn at the equally barren laurels of literature; it was by the path of
the law alone that he was desirous to see him rise to eminence, and
the probabilities of success or disappointment were the thoughts of his
father by day, and his dream by night.
The disposition of Alan Fairford, as well as his talents, were such as
to encourage his father's expectations. He had acuteness of intellect,
joined to habits of long and patient study, improved no doubt by the
discipline of his father's house; to which, generally speaking, he
conformed with the utmost docility, expressing no wish for greater or
more frequent relaxation than consisted with his father's anxious and
severe restrictions. When he did indulge in any juvenile frolics, his
father had the candour to lay the whole blame upon his more mercurial
companion, Darsie Latimer.
This youth, as the reader must be aware, had been received as an inmate
into the family of Mr. Fairford, senior, at a time when some of the
delicacy of constitution which had abridged the life of his consort
began to show itself in the son, and when the father was, of course,
peculiarly disposed to indulge his slightest wish. That the young
Englishman was able to pay a considerable board, was a matter of no
importance to Mr. Fairford; it was enough that his presence seemed to
make his son cheerful and happy. He was compelled to allow that 'Darsie
was a fine lad, though unsettled,' and he would have had some difficulty
in getting rid of him, and the apprehensions which his levities excited,
had it not been for the voluntary excursion which gave rise to the
preceding correspondence, and in which Mr. Fairford secretly rejoiced,
as affording the means of separating Alan from his gay companion, at
least until he should have assumed, and become accustomed to, the duties
of his dry and laborious profession.
But the absence of Darsie was far from promoting the end which the elder
Mr. Fairford had expected and desired. The young men were united by the
closest bonds of intimacy; and the more so, that neither of them sought
nor desired to admit any others into their society. Alan Fairford was
averse to general company, from a disposition naturally reserved,
and Darsie Latimer from a painful sense of his own unknown origin,
peculiarly afflicting in a country where high and low are professed
genealogists. The young men were all in all to each other; it is no
wonder, therefore, that their separation was painful, and that its
effects upon Alan Fairford, joined to the anxiety occasioned by the
tenor of his friend's letters, greatly exceeded what the senior had
anticipated. The young man went through his usual duties, his studies,
and the examinations to which he was subjected, but with nothing like
the zeal and assiduity which he had formerly displayed; and his anxious
and observant father saw but too plainly that his heart was with his
absent comrade.
A philosopher would have given way to this tide of feeling, in hopes to
have diminished its excess, and permitted the youths to have been
some time together, that their intimacy might have been broken off by
degrees; but Mr. Fairford only saw the more direct mode of continued
restraint, which, however, he was desirous of veiling under some
plausible pretext. In the anxiety which he felt on this occasion, he had
held communication with an old acquaintance, Peter Drudgeit, with whom
the reader is partly acquainted. 'Alan,' he said, 'was ance wud, and
ay waur; and he was expecting every moment when he would start off in a
wildgoose-chase after the callant Latimer; Will Sampson, the horse-hirer
in Candlemaker Row, had given him a hint that Alan had been looking for
a good hack, to go to the country for a few days. And then to oppose
him downright--he could not but think on the way his poor mother was
removed. Would to Heaven he was yoked to some tight piece of business,
no matter whether well or ill paid, but some job that would hamshackle
him at least until the courts rose, if it were but for decency's sake.'
Peter Drudgeit sympathized, for Peter had a son, who, reason or none,
would needs exchange the torn and inky fustian sleeves for the blue
jacket and white lapelle; and he suggested, as the reader knows, the
engaging our friend Alan in the matter of Poor Peter Peebles, just
opened by the desertion of young Dumtoustie, whose defection would be at
the same time concealed; and this, Drudgeit said, 'would be felling two
dogs with one stone.'
With these explanations, the reader will hold a man of the elder
Fairford's sense and experience free from the hazardous and impatient
curiosity with which boys fling a puppy into a deep pond, merely to see
if the creature can swim. However confident in his son's talents, which
were really considerable, he would have been very sorry to have involved
him in the duty of pleading a complicated and difficult case, upon
his very first appearance at the bar, had he not resorted to it as an
effectual way to prevent the young man from taking a step which his
habits of thinking represented as a most fatal one at his outset of
Betwixt two evils, Mr. Fairford chose that which was in his own
apprehension the least; and, like a brave officer sending forth his son
to battle, rather chose he should die upon the breach, than desert the
conflict with dishonour. Neither did he leave him to his own unassisted
energies. Like Alpheus preceding Hercules, he himself encountered the
Augean mass of Peter Peebles' law-matters. It was to the old man a
labour of love to place in a clear and undistorted view the real merits
of this case, which the carelessness and blunders of Peter's former
solicitors had converted into a huge chaotic mass of unintelligible
technicality; and such was his skill and industry, that he was
able, after the severe toil of two or three days, to present to the
consideration of the young counsel the principal facts of the case, in
a light equally simple and comprehensible. With the assistance of a
solicitor so affectionate and indefatigable, Alan Fairford was enabled,
then the day of trial arrived, to walk towards the court, attended by
his anxious yet encouraging parent, with some degree of confidence that
he would lose no reputation upon this arduous occasion.
They were met at the door of the court by Poor Peter Peebles in his
usual plenitude of wig and celsitude of hat. He seized on the young
pleader like a lion on his prey. 'How is a' wi' you, Mr. Alan--how is
a' wi' you, man? The awfu' day is come at last--a day that will be lang
minded in this house. Poor Peter Peebles against Plainstanes--conjoined
proceases--Hearing in presence--stands for the Short Roll for this
day--I have not been able to sleep for a week for thinking of it, and, I
dare to say, neither has the Lord President himsell--for such a cause!!
But your father garr'd me tak a wee drap ower muckle of his pint bottle
the other night; it's no right to mix brandy wi' business, Mr. Fairford.
I would have been the waur o' liquor if I would have drank as muckle as
you twa would have had me. But there's a time for a' things, and if
ye will dine with me after the case is heard, or whilk is the same, or
maybe better, I'LL gang my ways hame wi' YOU, and I winna object to a
cheerfu' glass, within the bounds of moderation.'
Old Fairford shrugged his shoulders and hurried past the client, saw
his son wrapped in the sable bombazine, which, in his eyes, was more
venerable than an archbishop's lawn, and could not help fondly patting
his shoulder, and whispering to him to take courage, and show he was
worthy to wear it. The party entered the Outer Hall of the court, (once
the place of meeting of the ancient Scottish Parliament), and which
corresponds to the use of Westminster Hall in England, serving as a
vestibule to the Inner House, as it is termed, and a place of dominion
to certain sedentary personages called Lords Ordinary.
The earlier part of the morning was spent by old Fairford in reiterating
his instructions to Alan, and in running from one person to another,
from whom he thought he could still glean some grains of information,
either concerning the point at issue, or collateral cases. Meantime,
Poor Peter Peebles, whose shallow brain was altogether unable to bear
the importance of the moment, kept as close to his young counsel as
shadow to substance, affected now to speak loud, now to whisper in his
ear, now to deck his ghastly countenance with wreathed smiles, now to
cloud it with a shade of deep and solemn importance, and anon to contort
it with the sneer of scorn and derision. These moods of the client's
mind were accompanied with singular 'mockings and mowings,' fantastic
gestures, which the man of rags and litigation deemed appropriate to his
changes of countenance. Now he brandished his arm aloft, now thrust his
fist straight out, as if to knock his opponent down. Now he laid his
open palm on his bosom, and now hinging it abroad, he gallantly snapped
his fingers in the air.
These demonstrations, and the obvious shame and embarrassment of Alan
Fairford, did not escape the observation of the juvenile idlers in the
hall. They did not, indeed, approach Peter with their usual familiarity,
from some feeling of deference towards Fairford, though many accused
him of conceit in presuming to undertake, at this early stage of his
practice, a case of considerable difficulty. But Alan, notwithstanding
this forbearance, was not the less sensible that he and his companion
were the subjects of many a passing jest, and many a shout of laughter,
with which that region at all times abounds.
At length the young counsel's patience gave way, and as it threatened to
carry his presence of mind and recollection along with it, Alan frankly
told his father, that unless he was relieved from the infliction of his
client's personal presence and instructions, he must necessarily throw
up his brief, and decline pleading the case.
'Hush, hush, my dear Alan,' said the old gentleman, almost at his
own wit's end upon hearing this dilemma; 'dinna mind the silly
ne'er-do-weel; we cannot keep the man from hearing his own cause, though
he be not quite right in the head.'
'On my life, sir,' answered Alan, 'I shall be unable to go on, he drives
everything out of my remembrance; and if I attempt to speak seriously of
the injuries he has sustained, and the condition he is reduced to, how
can I expect but that the very appearance of such an absurd scarecrow
will turn it all into ridicule?'
'There is something in that,' said Saunders Fairford, glancing a look
at Poor Peter, and then cautiously inserting his forefinger under his
bob-wig, in order to rub his temple and aid his invention; 'he is no
figure for the fore-bar to see without laughing; but how to get rid
of him? To speak sense, or anything like it, is the last thing he will
listen to. Stay, aye,--Alan, my darling, hae patience; I'll get him off
on the instant, like a gowff ba'.'
So saying, he hastened to his ally, Peter Drudgeit, who on seeing him
with marks of haste in his gait, and care upon his countenance, clapped
his pen behind his ear, with 'What's the stir now, Mr. Saunders? Is
there aught wrang?'
'Here's a dollar, man,' said Mr. Saunders; 'now, or never, Peter, do me
a good turn. Yonder's your namesake, Peter Peebles, will drive the swine
through our bonny hanks of yarn; get him over to John's Coffeehouse,
man--gie him his meridian--keep him there, drunk or sober, till the
hearing is ower.' [The simile is obvious, from the old manufacture of
Scotland, when the gudewife's thrift, as the yarn wrought in the winter
was called, when laid down to bleach by the burn-side, was peculiarly
exposed to the inroads of pigs, seldom well regulated about a Scottish
'Eneugh said,' quoth Peter Drudgeit, no way displeased with his own
share in the service required, 'We'se do your bidding.'
Accordingly, the scribe was presently seen whispering in the ear of
Peter Peebles, whose response came forth in the following broken form:--
'Leave the court for ae minute on this great day of judgement? not I, by
the Reg--Eh! what? Brandy, did ye say--French brandy?--couldna ye fetch
a stoup to the bar under your coat, man? Impossible? Nay, if it's clean
impossible, and if we have an hour good till they get through the single
bill and the summar-roll, I carena if I cross the close wi' you; I am
sure I need something to keep my heart up this awful day; but I'll no
stay above an instant--not above a minute of time--nor drink aboon a
single gill,'
In a few minutes afterwards, the two Peters were seen moving through the
Parliament Close (which new-fangled affectation has termed a Square),
the triumphant Drudgeit leading captive the passive Peebles, whose legs
conducted him towards the dramshop, while his reverted eyes were
fixed upon the court. They dived into the Cimmerian abysses of John's
Coffeehouse, [See Note 5.] formerly the favourite rendezvous of the
classical and genial Doctor Pitcairn, and were for the present seen no
Relieved from his tormentor, Alan Fairford had time to rally his
recollections, which, in the irritation of his spirits, had nearly
escaped him, and to prepare himself far a task, the successful discharge
or failure in which must, he was aware, have the deepest influence upon
his fortunes. He had pride, was not without a consciousness of talent,
and the sense of his father's feelings upon the subject impelled him to
the utmost exertion. Above all, he had that sort of self-command
which is essential to success in every arduous undertaking, and he was
constitutionally free from that feverish irritability by which
those whose over-active imaginations exaggerate difficulties, render
themselves incapable of encountering such when they arrive.
Having collected all the scattered and broken associations which were
necessary, Alan's thoughts reverted to Dumfriesshire, and the precarious
situation in which he feared his beloved friend had placed himself; and
once and again he consulted his watch, eager to have his present task
commenced and ended, that he might hasten to Darsie's assistance. The
hour and moment at length arrived. The macer shouted, with all his
well-remembered brazen strength of lungs, 'Poor Peter Peebles VERSUS
Plainstanes, PER Dumtoustie ET Tough!--Maister Da-a-niel Dumtoustie!'
Dumtoustie answered not the summons, which, deep and swelling as it was,
could not reach across the Queensferry; but our Maister Alan Fairford
appeared in his place.
The court was very much crowded; for much amusement had been received
on former occasions when Peter had volunteered his own oratory, and
had been completely successful in routing the gravity of the whole
procedure, and putting to silence, not indeed the counsel of the
opposite party, but his own.
Both bench and audience seemed considerably surprised at the juvenile
appearance of the young man who appeared in the room of Dumtoustie, for
the purpose of opening this complicated and long depending process, and
the common herd were disappointed at the absence of Peter the client,
the Punchinello of the expected entertainment. The judges looked with
a very favourable countenance on our friend Alan, most of them being
acquainted, more or less, with so old a practitioner as his father, and
all, or almost all, affording, from civility, the same fair play to the
first pleading of a counsel, which the House of Commons yields to the
maiden speech of one of its members.
Lord Bladderskate was an exception to this general expression of
benevolence. He scowled upon Alan, from beneath his large, shaggy, grey
eyebrows, just as if the young lawyer had been usurping his nephew's
honours, instead of covering his disgrace; and, from feelings which did
his lordship little honour, he privately hoped the young man would not
succeed in the cause which his kinsman had abandoned.
Even Lord Bladderskate, however, was, in spite of himself, pleased with
the judicious and modest tone in which Alan began his address to the
court, apologizing for his own presumption, and excusing it by the
sudden illness of his learned brother, for whom the labour of opening
a cause of some difficulty and importance had been much more worthily
designed. He spoke of himself as he really was, and of young Dumtoustie
as what he ought to have been, taking care not to dwell on either topic
a moment longer than was necessary. The old judge's looks became benign;
his family pride was propitiated, and, pleased equally with the modesty
and civility of the young man whom he had thought forward and officious,
he relaxed the scorn of his features into an expression of profound
attention; the highest compliment, and the greatest encouragement, which
a judge can render to the counsel addressing him.
Having succeeded in securing the favourable attention of the court,
the young lawyer, using the lights which his father's experience and
knowledge of business had afforded him, proceeded with an address and
clearness, unexpected from one of his years, to remove from the case
itself those complicated formalities with which it had been loaded, as a
surgeon strips from a wound the dressings which had been hastily wrapped
round it, in order to proceed to his cure SECUNDUM ARTEM. Developed of
the cumbrous and complicated technicalities of litigation, with which
the perverse obstinacy of the client, the inconsiderate haste or
ignorance of his agents, and the evasions of a subtle adversary, had
invested the process, the cause of Poor Peter Peebles, standing upon
its simple merits, was no bad subject for the declamation of a young
counsel, nor did our friend Alan fail to avail himself of its strong
He exhibited his client as a simple-hearted, honest, well-meaning
man, who, during a copartnership of twelve years, had gradually become
impoverished, while his partner (his former clerk) having no funds but
his share of the same business, into which he had been admitted without
any advance of stock, had become gradually more and more wealthy.
'Their association,' said Alan, and the little flight was received
with some applause, 'resembled the ancient story of the fruit which was
carved with a knife poisoned on one side of the blade only, so that
the individual to whom the envenomed portion was served, drew decay and
death from what afforded savour and sustenance to the consumer of the
other moiety.' He then plunged boldly into the MARE MAGNUM of accompts
between the parties; he pursued each false statement from the waste-book
to the day-book, from the day-book to the bill-book, from the bill-book
to the ledger; placed the artful interpolations and insertions of the
fallacious Plainstanes in array against each other, and against the
fact; and availing himself to the utmost of his father's previous
labours, and his own knowledge of accompts, in which he had been
sedulously trained, he laid before the court a clear and intelligible
statement of the affairs of the copartnery, showing, with precision,
that a large balance must, at the dissolution, have been due to his
client, sufficient to have enabled him to have carried on business on
his own account, and thus to have retained his situation in society as
an independent and industrious tradesman. 'But instead of this justice
being voluntarily rendered by the former clerk to his former master,--by
the party obliged to his benefactor,--by one honest man to another,--his
wretched client had been compelled to follow his quondam clerk, his
present debtor, from court to court; had found his just claims met with
well-invented but unfounded counter-claims, had seen his party shift
his character of pursuer or defender, as often as Harlequin effects his
transformations, till, in a chase so varied and so long, the unhappy
litigant had lost substance, reputation, and almost the use of reason
itself, and came before their lordships an object of thoughtless
derision to the unreflecting, of compassion to the better-hearted, and
of awful meditation to every one who considered that, in a country where
excellent laws were administered by upright and incorruptible judges, a
man might pursue an almost indisputable claim through all the mazes of
litigation; lose fortune, reputation, and reason itself in the chase,
and now come before the supreme court of his country in the wretched
condition of his unhappy client, a victim to protracted justice, and to
that hope delayed which sickens the heart.'
The force of this appeal to feeling made as much impression on the Bench
as had been previously effected by the clearness of Alan's argument.
The absurd form of Peter himself, with his tow-wig, was fortunately not
present to excite any ludicrous emotion, and the pause that took place
when the young lawyer had concluded his speech, was followed by a murmur
of approbation, which the ears of his father drank in as the sweetest
sounds that had ever entered them. Many a hand of gratulation was thrust
out to his grasp, trembling as it was with anxiety, and finally with
delight; his voice faltering as he replied, 'Aye, aye, I kend Alan was
the lad to make a spoon or spoil a horn.' [Said of an adventurous gipsy,
who resolves at all risks to convert a sheep's horn into a spoon.]
The counsel on the other side arose, an old practitioner, who had noted
too closely the impression made by Alan's pleading not to fear the
consequences of an immediate decision. He paid the highest compliments
to his very young brother--'the Benjamin, as he would presume to call
him, of the learned Faculty--said the alleged hardships of Mr.
Peebles were compensated by his being placed in a situation where
the benevolence of their lordships had assigned him gratuitously such
assistance as he might not otherwise have obtained at a high price--and
allowed his young brother had put many things in such a new point of
view, that, although he was quite certain of his ability to refute them,
he was honestly desirous of having a few hours to arrange his answer,
in order to be able to follow Mr. Fairford from point to point. He
had further to observe, there was one point of the case to which
his brother, whose attention had been otherwise so wonderfully
comprehensive, had not given the consideration which he expected; it was
founded on the interpretation of certain correspondence which had passed
betwixt the parties soon after the dissolution of the copartnery.'
The court having heard Mr. Tough, readily allowed him two days for
preparing himself, hinting at the same time that he might find his task
difficult, and affording the young counsel, with high encomiums upon the
mode in which he had acquitted himself, the choice of speaking,
either now or at the next calling of the cause, upon the point which
Plainstanes's lawyer had adverted to.
Alan modestly apologized for what in fact had been an omission very
pardonable in so complicated a case, and professed himself instantly
ready to go through that correspondence, and prove that it was in
form and substance exactly applicable to the view of the case he had
submitted to their lordships. He applied to his father, who sat behind
him, to hand him, from time to time, the letters, in the order in which
he meant to read and comment upon them.
Old Counsellor Tough had probably formed an ingenious enough scheme to
blunt the effect of the young lawyer's reasoning, by thus obliging him
to follow up a process of reasoning, clear and complete in itself, by
a hasty and extemporary appendix. If so, he seemed likely to be
disappointed; for Alan was well prepared on this as on other parts of
the cause, and recommenced his pleading with a degree of animation which
added force even to what he had formerly stated, and might perhaps have
occasioned the old gentleman to regret his having again called him up,
when his father, as he handed him the letters, put one into his hand
which produced a singular effect on the pleader.
At the first glance, he saw that the paper had no reference to the
affairs of Peter Peebles; but the first glance also showed him, what,
even at that time, and in that presence, he could not help reading; and
which, being read, seemed totally to disconcert his ideas. He stopped
short in his harangue--gazed on the paper with a look of surprise and
horror-uttered an exclamation, and flinging down the brief which he had
in his hand, hurried out of court without returning a single word of
answer to the various questions, 'What was the matter?'--'Was he taken
unwell?'--'Should not a chair be called?' &c. &c. &c.
The elder Mr. Fairford, who remained seated, and looking as senseless as
if he had been made of stone, was at length recalled to himself by the
anxious inquiries of the judges and the counsel after his son's health.
He then rose with an air, in which was mingled the deep habitual
reverence in which he held the court, with some internal cause of
agitation, and with difficulty mentioned something of a mistake--a piece
of bad news--Alan, he hoped would be well enough to-morrow. But unable
to proceed further, he clasped his hands together, exclaiming, 'My son!
my son!' and left the court hastily, as if in pursuit of him.
'What's the matter with the auld bitch next?' [Tradition ascribes this
whimsical style of language to the ingenious and philosophical Lord
Kaimes.] said an acute metaphysical judge, though somewhat coarse in
his manners, aside to his brethren. 'This is a daft cause,
Bladderskate--first, it drives the poor man mad that aught it--then your
nevoy goes daft with fright, and flies the pit--then this smart young
hopeful is aff the hooks with too hard study, I fancy--and now auld
Saunders Fairford is as lunatic as the best of them. What say ye till't,
ye bitch?'
'Nothing, my lord,' answered Bladderskate, much too formal to admire the
levities in which his philosophical brother sometimes indulged--'I say
nothing, but pray to Heaven to keep our own wits.'
'Amen, amen,' answered his learned brother; 'for some of us have but few
to spare.'
The court then arose, and the audience departed, greatly wondering at
the talent displayed by Alan Fairford at his first appearance in a case
so difficult and so complicated, and assigning a hundred conjectural
causes, each different from the others, for the singular interruption
which had clouded his day of success. The worst of the whole was, that
six agents, who had each come to the separate resolution of thrusting a
retaining fee into Alan's hand as he left the court, shook their heads
as they returned the money into their leathern pouches, and said, 'that
the lad was clever, but they would like to see more of him before they
engaged him in the way of business--they did not like his lowping away
like a flea in a blanket.'

Had our friend Alexander Fairford known the consequences of his son's
abrupt retreat from the court, which are mentioned in the end of the
last chapter, it might have accomplished the prediction of the lively
old judge, and driven him utterly distracted. As it was, he was
miserable enough. His son had risen ten degrees higher in his estimation
than ever by his display of juridical talents, which seemed to assure
him that the applause of the judges and professors of the law, which, in
his estimation, was worth that of all mankind besides, authorized to
the fullest extent the advantageous estimate which even his parental
partiality had been induced to form of Alan's powers. On the other hand,
he felt that he was himself a little humbled, from a disguise which he
had practised towards this son of his hopes and wishes.
The truth was, that on the morning of this eventful day, Mr. Alexander
Fairford had received from his correspondent and friend, Provost Crosbie
of Dumfries, a letter of the following tenor:
'DEAR SIR, 'Your respected favour of 25th ultimo, per favour of
Mr. Darsie Latimer, reached me in safety, and I showed to the young
gentleman such attention as he was pleased to accept of. The object of
my present writing is twofold. First, the council are of opinion that
you should now begin to stir in the thirlage cause; and they think they
will be able, from evidence NOVITER REPERTUM, to enable you to amend
your condescendence upon the use and wont of the burgh, touching
the GRANA INVECTA ET ILLATA. So you will please consider yourself as
authorized to speak to Mr. Pest, and lay before him the papers which you
will receive by the coach. The council think that a fee of two guineas
may be sufficient on this occasion, as Mr. Pest had three for drawing
the original condescendence.
'I take the opportunity of adding that there has been a great riot among
the Solway fishermen, who have destroyed, in a masterful manner,
the stake-nets set up near the mouth of this river; and have besides
attacked the house of Quaker Geddes, one of the principal partners of
the Tide-net Fishing Company, and done a great deal of damage. Am sorry
to add, young Mr. Latimer was in the fray and has not since been heard
of. Murder is spoke of, but that may be a word of course. As the young
gentleman has behaved rather oddly while in these parts, as in declining
to dine with me more than once, and going about the country with
strolling fiddlers and such-like, I rather hope that his present absence
is only occasioned by a frolic; but as his servant has been making
inquiries of me respecting his master, I thought it best to acquaint
you in course of post. I have only to add that our sheriff has taken
a precognition, and committed one or two of the rioters. If I can be
useful in this matter, either by advertising for Mr. Latimer as
missing, publishing a reward, or otherwise, I will obey your respected
instructions, being your most obedient to command, 'WILLIAM CROSBIE.'
When Mr. Fairford received this letter, and had read it to an end,' his
first idea was to communicate it to his son, that an express might be
instantly dispatched, or a king's messenger sent with proper authority
to search after his late guest.
The habits of the fishers were rude; as he well knew, though not
absolutely sanguinary or ferocious; and there had been instances of
their transporting persons who had interfered in their smuggling trade
to the Isle of Man and elsewhere, and keeping them under restraint for
many weeks. On this account, Mr. Fairford was naturally led to
feel anxiety concerning the fate of his late inmate; and, at a less
interesting moment, would certainly have set out himself, or licensed
his son to go in pursuit of his friend.
But, alas! he was both a father and an agent. In the one capacity, he
looked on his son as dearer to him than all the world besides; in the
other, the lawsuit which he conducted was to him like an infant to its
nurse, and the case of Poor Peter Peebles against Plainstanes was, he
saw, adjourned, perhaps SINE DIE, should this document reach the hands
of his son. The mutual and enthusiastical affection betwixt the young
men was well known to him; and he concluded that if the precarious state
of Latimer were made known to Alan Fairford, it would render him not
only unwilling, but totally unfit, to discharge the duty of the day to
which the old gentleman attached such ideas of importance.
On mature reflection, therefore, he resolved, though not without
some feelings of compunction, to delay communicating to his son the
disagreeable intelligence which he had received, until the business of
the day should be ended. The delay, he persuaded himself, could be of
little consequence to Darsie Latimer, whose folly, he dared to say, had
led him into some scrape which would meet an appropriate punishment in
some accidental restraint, which would be thus prolonged for only a few
hours longer. Besides, he would have time to speak to the sheriff of the
county--perhaps to the King's Advocate--and set about the matter in
a regular manner, or, as he termed it, as summing up the duties of
a solicitor, to AGE AS ACCORDS. [A Scots law phrase, of no very
determinate import, meaning, generally, to do what is fitting.]
The scheme, as we have seen, was partially successful, and was only
ultimately defeated, as he confessed to himself with shame, by his own
very unbusiness-like mistake of shuffling the provost's letter, in the
hurry and anxiety of the morning, among some papers belonging to Peter
Peebles's affairs, and then handing it to his son, without observing
the blunder. He used to protest, even till the day of his death, that he
never had been guilty of such an inaccuracy as giving a paper out of his
hand without looking at the docketing, except on that unhappy occasion,
when, of all others, he had such particular reason to regret his
Disturbed by these reflections, the old gentleman had, for the first
time in his life, some disinclination, arising from shame and vexation,
to face his own son; so that to protract for a little the meeting,
which he feared would be a painful one, he went to wait upon the
sheriff-depute, who he found had set off for Dumfries in great haste to
superintend in person the investigation which had been set on foot by
his substitute. This gentleman's clerk could say little on the subject
of the riot, excepting that it had been serious, much damage done to
property, and some personal violence offered to individuals; but, as far
as he had yet heard, no lives lost on the spot.
Mr. Fairford was compelled to return home with this intelligence; and
on inquiring at James Wilkinson where his son was, received for answer,
that 'Maister Alan was in his own room, and very busy.'
'We must have our explanation over,' said Saunders Fairford to himself.
'Better a finger off, as ay wagging;' and going to the door of his son's
apartment, he knocked at first gently--then more loudly--but received
no answer. Somewhat alarmed at this silence, he opened the door of the
chamber it was empty--clothes lay mixed in confusion with the law-books
and papers, as if the inmate had been engaged in hastily packing for a
journey. As Mr. Fairford looked around in alarm, his eye was arrested
by a sealed letter lying upon his son's writing-table, and addressed to
himself. It contained the following words:--
'MY DEAREST FATHER, 'You will not, I trust, be surprised, nor perhaps
very much displeased, to learn that I am on my way to Dumfriesshire, to
learn, by my own personal investigation, the present state of my dear
friend, and afford him such relief as may be in my power, and which, I
trust, will be effectual. I do not presume to reflect upon you, dearest
sir, for concealing from me information of so much consequence to my
peace of mind and happiness; but I hope your having done so will be, if
not an excuse, at least some mitigation of my present offence, in taking
a step of consequence without consulting your pleasure; and, I must
further own, under circumstances which perhaps might lead to your
disapprobation of my purpose. I can only say, in further apology, that
if anything unhappy, which Heaven forbid! shall have occurred to the
person who, next to yourself, is dearest to me in this world, I shall
have on my heart, as a subject of eternal regret, that being in a
certain degree warned of his danger and furnished with the means
of obviating it, I did not instantly hasten to his assistance, but
preferred giving my attention to the business of this unlucky morning.
No view of personal distinction, nothing, indeed, short of your earnest
and often expressed wishes, could have detained me in town till this
day; and having made this sacrifice to filial duty, I trust you will
hold me excused if I now obey the calls of friendship and humanity. Do
not be in the least anxious on my account; I shall know, I trust, how
to conduct myself with due caution in any emergence which may occur,
otherwise my legal studies for so many years have been to little
purpose. I am fully provided with money, and also with arms, in case of
need; but you may rely on my prudence in avoiding all occasions of using
the latter, short of the last necessity. God almighty bless you, my
dearest father! and grant that you may forgive the first, and, I trust,
the last act approaching towards premeditated disobedience, of which I
either have now, or shall hereafter have, to accuse myself. I remain,
till death, your dutiful and affectionate son, ALAN FAIRFORD.'
'PS.--I shall write with the utmost regularity, acquainting you with my
motions, and requesting your advice. I trust my stay will be very short,
and I think it possible that I may bring back Darsie along with me.'
'The paper dropped from the old man's hand when he was thus assured
of the misfortune which he apprehended. His first idea was to get a
postchaise and pursue the fugitive; but he recollected that, upon the
very rare occasions when Alan had shown himself indocile to the PATRIA
POTESTAS, his natural ease and gentleness of disposition seemed hardened
into obstinacy, and that now, entitled, as arrived at the years of
majority and a member of the learned faculty, to direct his own motions,
there was great doubt, whether, in the event of his overtaking his son,
he might be able to prevail upon him to return back. In such a risk of
failure he thought it wiser to desist from his purpose, especially as
even his success in such a pursuit would give a ridiculous ECLAT to the
whole affair, which could not be otherwise than prejudicial to his son's
rising character.
Bitter, however, were Saunders Fairford's reflections, as again
picking up the fatal scroll, he threw himself into his son's leathern
easy-chair, and bestowed upon it a disjointed commentary, 'Bring back
Darsie? little doubt of that--the bad shilling is sure enough to come
back again. I wish Darsie no worse ill than that he were carried where
the silly fool, Alan, should never see him again. It was an ill hour
that he darkened my doors in, for, ever since that, Alan has given up
his ain old-fashioned mother-wit for the tother's capernoited maggots
and nonsense. Provided with money? you must have more than I know of,
then, my friend, for I trow I kept you pretty short, for your own good.
Can he have gotten more fees? or, does he think five guineas has neither
beginning nor end? Arms! What would he do with arms, or what would any
man do with them that is not a regular soldier under government, or else
a thief-taker? I have had enough of arms, I trow, although I carried
them for King George and the government. But this is a worse strait than
Falkirk field yet. God guide us, we are poor inconsistent creatures! To
think the lad should have made so able an appearance, and then bolted
off this gate, after a glaiket ne'er-do-weel, like a hound upon a false
scent! Las-a-day! it's a sore thing to see a stunkard cow kick down
the pail when it's reaming fou. But, after all, it's an ill bird that
defiles its ain nest. I must cover up the scandal as well as I can.
What's the matter now, James?'
'A message, sir,' said James Wilkinson, 'from my Lord President; and he
hopes Mr. Alan is not seriously indisposed.'
'From the Lord President? the Lord preserve us!--I'll send an answer
this instant; bid the lad sit down, and ask him to drink, James. Let me
see,' continued he, taking a sheet of gilt paper 'how we are to draw our
Ere his pen had touched the paper, James was in the room again.
'What now, James?'
'Lord Bladderskate's lad is come to ask how Mr. Alan is, as he left; the
'Aye, aye, aye,' answered Saunders, bitterly; 'he has e'en made a
moonlight flitting, like my lord's ain nevoy.'
'Shall I say sae, sir?' said James, who, as an old soldier, was literal
in all things touching the service.
'The devil! no, no!--Bid the lad sit down and taste our ale. I will
write his lordship an answer.'
Once more the gilt paper was resumed, and once more the door was opened
by James.
'Lord ------ sends his servitor to ask after Mr. Alan.'
'Oh, the deevil take their civility!' said poor Saunders, set him down
to drink too--I will write to his lordship.'
'The lads will bide your pleasure, sir, as lang as I keep the bicker
fou; but this ringing is like to wear out the bell, I think; there are
they at it again.'
He answered the fresh summons accordingly, and came back to inform Mr.
Fairford that the Dean of Faculty was below, inquiring for Mr. Alan.
'Will I set him down to drink, too?' said James.
'Will you be an idiot, sir?' said Mr. Fairford. 'Show Mr. Dean into the
In going slowly downstairs, step by step, the perplexed man of business
had time enough to reflect, that if it be possible to put a fair gloss
upon a true story, the verity always serves the purpose better than any
substitute which ingenuity can devise. He therefore told his learned
visitor, that although his son had been incommoded by the heat of the
court, and the long train of hard study, by day and night, preceding
his exertions, yet he had fortunately so far recovered, as to be in
condition to obey upon the instant a sudden summons which had called him
to the country, on a matter of life and death.
'It should be a serious matter indeed that takes my young friend away
at this moment,' said the good-natured dean. 'I wish he had stayed to
finish his pleading, and put down old Tough. Without compliment, Mr.
Fairford, it was as fine a first appearance as I ever heard. I should
be sorry your son did not follow it up in a reply. Nothing like striking
while the iron is hot.'
Mr. Saunders Fairford made a bitter grimace as he acquiesced in an
opinion which was indeed decidedly his own; but he thought it most
prudent to reply, 'that the affair which rendered his son Alan's
presence in the country absolutely necessary, regarded the affairs of a
young gentleman of great fortune, who was a particular friend of Alan's,
and who never took any material step in his affairs without consulting
his counsel learned in the law.'
'Well, well, Mr. Fairford, you know best,' answered the learned dean;
'if there be death or marriage in the case, a will or a wedding is to
be preferred to all other business. I am happy Mr. Alan is so much
recovered as to be able for travel, and wish you a very good morning.'
Having thus taken his ground to the Dean of Faculty, Mr. Fairford
hastily wrote cards in answer to the inquiry of the three judges,
accounting for Alan's absence in the same manner. These, being properly
sealed and addressed, he delivered to James with directions to dismiss
the particoloured gentry, who, in the meanwhile, had consumed a gallon
of twopenny ale, while discussing points of law, and addressing each
other by their masters' titles. [The Scottish judges are distinguished
by the title of lord prefixed to their own temporal designation. As
the ladies of these official dignitaries do not bear any share in their
husbands' honours, they are distinguished only by their lords' family
name. They were not always contented with this species of Salique law,
which certainly is somewhat inconsistent. But their pretensions to title
are said to have been long since repelled by James V, the sovereign who
founded the College of Justice. 'I,' said he, 'made the caries lords,
but who the devil made the carlines ladies?']
The exertion which these matters demanded, and the interest which so
many persons of legal distinction appeared to have taken in his
son, greatly relieved the oppressed spirit of Saunders Fairford, who
continued, to talk mysteriously of the very important business which had
interfered with his son's attendance during the brief remainder of the
session. He endeavoured to lay the same unction to his own heart; but
here the application was less fortunate, for his conscience told him
that no end, however important, which could be achieved in Darsie
Latimer's affairs, could be balanced against the reputation which Alan
was like to forfeit by deserting the cause of Poor Peter Peebles.
In the meanwhile, although the haze which surrounded the cause, or
causes, of that unfortunate litigant had been for a time dispelled by
Alan's eloquence, like a fog by the thunder of artillery, yet it seemed
once more to settle down upon the mass of litigation, thick as the
palpable darkness of Egypt, at the very sound of Mr. Tough's voice, who,
on the second day after Alan's departure, was heard in answer to the
opening counsel. Deep-mouthed, long-breathed, and pertinacious, taking
a pinch of snuff betwixt every sentence, which otherwise seemed
interminable--the veteran pleader prosed over all the themes which had
been treated so luminously by Fairford: he quietly and imperceptibly
replaced all the rubbish which the other had cleared away, and succeeded
in restoring the veil of obscurity and unintelligibility which had for
many years darkened the case of Peebles against Plainstanes; and
the matter was once more hung up by a remit to an accountant, with
instruction to report before answer. So different a result from that
which the public had been led to expect from Alan's speech gave rise to
various speculations.
The client himself opined, that it was entirely owing, first, to his
own absence during the first day's pleading, being, as he said,
deboshed with brandy, usquebaugh, and other strong waters, at John's
Coffee-house, PER AMBAGES of Peter Drudgeit, employed to that effect by
and through the device, counsel, and covyne of Saunders Fairford,
his agent, or pretended agent. Secondly by the flight and voluntary
desertion of the younger Fairford, the advocate; on account of which, he
served both father and son with a petition and complaint against them,
for malversation in office. So that the apparent and most probable issue
of this cause seemed to menace the melancholy Mr. Saunders Fairford,
with additional subject for plague and mortification; which was the more
galling, as his conscience told him that the case was really given away,
and that a very brief resumption of the former argument, with reference
to the necessary authorities and points of evidence, would have enabled
Alan, by the mere breath, as it were, of his mouth, to blow away the
various cobwebs with which Mr. Tough had again invested the proceedings.
But it went, he said, just like a decreet in absence, and was lost for
want of a contradictor.
In the meanwhile, nearly a week passed over without Mr. Fairford hearing
a word directly from his son. He learned, indeed, by a letter from Mr.
Crosbie, that the young counsellor had safely reached Dumfries, but had
left that town upon some ulterior researches, the purpose of which
he had not communicated. The old man, thus left to suspense, and to
mortifying recollections, deprived also of the domestic society to which
he had been habituated, began to suffer in body as well as in mind. He
had formed the determination of setting out in person for Dumfriesshire,
when, after having been dogged, peevish, and snappish to his clerks and
domestics, to an unusual and almost intolerable degree, the acrimonious
humours settled in a hissing-hot fit of the gout, which is a well-known
tamer of the most froward spirits, and under whose discipline we shall,
for the present, leave him, as the continuation of this history assumes,
with the next division, a form somewhat different from direct narrative
and epistolary correspondence, though partaking of the character of

JOURNAL OF DARSIE LATIMER (The following address is written on the
inside of the envelope which contained the Journal.)
Into what hands soever these leaves may fall, they will instruct
him, during a certain time at least, in the history of the life of an
unfortunate young man, who, in the heart of a free country, and without
any crime being laid to his charge, has been, and is, subjected to a
course of unlawful and violent restraint. He who opens this letter, is
therefore conjured to apply to the nearest magistrate, and, following
such indications as the papers may afford, to exert himself for the
relief of one, who, while he possesses every claim to assistance
which oppressed innocence can give, has, at the same time, both the
inclination and the means of being grateful to his deliverers. Or, if
the person obtaining these letters shall want courage or means to effect
the writer's release, he is, in that case, conjured, by every duty of a
man to his fellow mortals, and of a Christian towards one who professes
the same holy faith, to take the speediest measures for conveying them
with speed and safety to the hands of Alan Fairford, Esq., Advocate,
residing in the family of his father, Alexander Fairford, Esq., Writer
to the Signet, Brown's Square, Edinburgh. He may be assured of a liberal
reward, besides the consciousness of having discharged a real duty to
MY DEAREST ALAN, Feeling as warmly towards you in doubt and in distress,
as I ever did in the brightest days of our intimacy, it is to you whom
I address a history which may perhaps fall into very different hands. A
portion of my former spirit descends to my pen when I write your name,
and indulging the happy thought that you may be my deliverer from my
present uncomfortable and alarming situation, as you have been my guide
and counsellor on every former occasion, I will subdue the dejection
which would otherwise overwhelm me. Therefore, as, Heaven knows, I have
time enough to write, I will endeavour to pour my thoughts out, as fully
and freely as of old, though probably without the same gay and happy
If the papers should reach other hands than yours, still I will not
regret this exposure of my feelings; for, allowing for an ample share of
the folly incidental to youth and inexperience, I fear not that I have
much to be ashamed of in my narrative; nay, I even hope that the open
simplicity and frankness with which I am about to relate every singular
and distressing circumstance, may prepossess even a stranger in my
favour; and that, amid the multitude of seemingly trivial circumstances
which I detail at length, a clue may be found to effect my liberation.
Another chance certainly remains--the Journal, as I may call it,
may never reach the hands, either of the dear friend to whom it is
addressed, or those of an indifferent stranger, but may become the prey
of the persons by whom I am at present treated as a prisoner. Let it be
so--they will learn from it little but what they already know; that,
as a man and an Englishman, my soul revolts at the usage which I have
received; that I am determined to essay every possible means to obtain
my freedom; that captivity has not broken my spirit, and that, although
they may doubtless complete their oppression by murder, I am still
willing to bequeath my cause to the justice of my country. Undeterred,
therefore, by the probability that my papers may be torn from me, and
subjected to the inspection of one in particular, who, causelessly
my enemy already, may be yet further incensed at me for recording the
history of my wrongs, I proceed to resume the history of events which
have befallen me since the conclusion of my last letter to my dear Alan
Fairford, dated, if I mistake not, on the 5th day of this still current
month of August.
Upon the night preceding the date of that letter, I had been present,
for the purpose of an idle frolic, at a dancing party at the village of
Brokenburn, about six miles from Dumfries; many persons must have seen
me there, should the fact appear of importance sufficient to require
investigation. I danced, played on the violin, and took part in the
festivity till about midnight, when my servant, Samuel Owen, brought me
my horses, and I rode back to a small inn called Shepherd's Bush, kept
by Mrs. Gregson, which had been occasionally my residence for about a
fortnight past. I spent the earlier part of the forenoon in writing a
letter, which I have already mentioned, to you, my dear Alan, and which,
I think, you must have received in safety. Why did I not follow your
advice, so often given me? Why did I linger in the neighbourhood of a
danger, of which a kind voice had warned me? These are now unavailing
questions; I was blinded by a fatality, and remained, fluttering like a
moth around the candle, until I have been scorched to some purpose.
The greater part of the day had passed, and time hung heavy on my hands.
I ought, perhaps, to blush at recollecting what has been often objected
to me by the dear friend to whom this letter is addressed, viz. the
facility with which I have, in moments of indolence, suffered my motions
to be, directed by any person who chanced to be near me, instead of
taking the labour of thinking or deciding for myself. I had employed for
some time, as a sort of guide and errand-boy, a lad named Benjamin, the
son of one widow Coltherd, who lives near the Shepherd's Bush, and I
cannot but remember that, upon several occasions, I had of late suffered
him to possess more influence over my motions than at all became the
difference of our age and condition. At present, he exerted himself to
persuade me that it was the finest possible sport to see the fish taken
out from the nets placed in the Solway at the reflux of the tide, and
urged my going thither this evening so much, that, looking back on the
whole circumstances, I cannot but think he had some especial motive for
his conduct. These particulars I have mentioned, that if these papers
fall into friendly hands, the boy may be sought after and submitted to
His eloquence being unable to persuade me that I should take any
pleasure in seeing the fruitless struggles of the fish when left in the
nets and deserted by the tide, he artfully suggested, that Mr. and Miss
Geddes, a respectable Quaker family well known in the neighbourhood
and with whom I had contracted habits of intimacy, would possibly be
offended if I did not make them an early visit. Both, he said, had been
particularly inquiring the reasons of my leaving their house rather
suddenly on the previous day. I resolved, therefore, to walk up to Mount
Sharon and make my apologies; and I agreed to permit the boy to attend
upon me, and wait my return from the house, that I might fish on my way
homeward to Shepherd's Bush, for which amusement, he assured me, I would
find the evening most favourable. I mention this minute circumstance,
because I strongly suspect that this boy had a presentiment how the
evening was to terminate with me, and entertained the selfish though
childish wish of securing to himself an angling-rod which he had often
admired, as a part of my spoils. I may do the boy wrong, but I had
before remarked in him the peculiar art of pursuing the trifling objects
of cupidity proper to his age, with the systematic address of much riper
When we had commenced our walk, I upbraided him with the coolness of
the evening, considering the season, the easterly wind, and other
circumstances, unfavourable for angling. He persisted in his own story,
and made a few casts, as if to convince me of my error, but caught
no fish; and, indeed, as I am now convinced, was much more intent on
watching my motions than on taking any. When I ridiculed him once more
on his fruitless endeavours, he answered with a sneering smile, that
'the trouts would not rise, because there was thunder in the air;' an
intimation which, in one sense, I have found too true.
I arrived at Mount Sharon; was received by my friends there with their
wonted kindness; and after being a little rallied on my having suddenly
left them on the preceding evening, I agreed to make atonement
by staying all night, and dismissed the lad who attended with my
fishing-rod, to carry that information to Shepherd's Bush. It may be
doubted whether he went thither, or in a different direction.
Betwixt eight and nine o'clock, when it began to become dark, we walked
on the terrace to enjoy the appearance of the firmament, glittering with
ten million stars; to which a slight touch of early frost gave tenfold
lustre. As we gazed on this splendid scene, Miss Geddes, I think, was
the first to point out to our admiration a shooting or falling star,
which, she said, drew a long train after it. Looking to the part of
the heavens which she pointed out, I distinctly observed two successive
sky-rockets arise and burst in the sky.
'These meteors,' said Mr. Geddes, in answer to his sister's observation,
'are not formed in heaven, nor do they bode any good to the dwellers
upon earth.'
As he spoke, I looked to another quarter of the sky, and a rocket, as if
a signal in answer to those which had already appeared, rose high from
the earth, and burst apparently among the stars.
Mr. Geddes seemed very thoughtful for some minutes, and then said to
his sister, 'Rachel, though it waxes late. I must go down to the fishing
station, and pass the night in the overseer's room there.'
'Nay, then,' replied the lady, 'I am but too well assured that the sons
of Belial are menacing these nets and devices. Joshua, art thou a man of
peace, and wilt thou willingly and wittingly thrust thyself where thou
mayst be tempted by the old man Adam within thee, to enter into debate
and strife?'
'I am a man of peace, Rachel,' answered Mr. Geddes, 'even to the utmost
extent which our friends can demand of humanity; and neither have I ever
used, nor, with the help of God, will I at any future time employ, the
arm of flesh to repel or to revenge injuries. But if I can, by mild
reasons and firm conduct, save those rude men from committing a crime,
and the property belonging to myself and others from sustaining damage,
surely I do but the duty of a man and a Christian.'
With these words, he ordered his horse instantly; and his sister,
ceasing to argue with him, folded her arms upon her bosom, and looked up
to heaven with a resigned and yet sorrowful countenance.
These particulars may appear trivial; but it is better, in my present
condition, to exert my faculties in recollecting the past, and in
recording it, than waste them in vain and anxious anticipations of the
It would have been scarcely proper in me to remain in the house from
which the master was thus suddenly summoned away; and I therefore begged
permission to attend him to the fishing station, assuring his sister
that I would be a guarantee for his safety.
That proposal seemed to give much pleasure to Miss Geddes. 'Let it be
so, brother,' she said; 'and let the young man have the desire of his
heart, that there may be a faithful witness to stand by thee in the hour
of need, and to report how it shall fare with thee.
'Nay, Rachel,' said the worthy man, 'thou art to blame in this, that
to quiet thy apprehensions on my account, thou shouldst thrust into
danger--if danger it shall prove to be--this youth, our guest; for
whom, doubtless, in case of mishap, as many hearts will ache as may be
afflicted on our account.'
'No, my good friend,' said I, taking Mr. Geddes's hand, 'I am not so
happy as you suppose me. Were my span to be concluded this evening, few
would so much as know that such a being had existed for twenty years on
the face of the earth; and of these few, only one would sincerely regret
me. Do not, therefore, refuse me the privilege attending you; and of
showing, by so trifling an act of kindness, that if I have few friends,
I am at least desirous to serve them.'
'Thou hast a kind heart, I warrant thee,' said Joshua Geddes, returning
the pressure of my hand. 'Rachel, the young man shall go with me. Why
should he not face danger, in order to do justice and preserve peace?
There is that within me,' he added, looking upwards, and with a passing
enthusiasm which I had not before observed and the absence of
which perhaps rather belonged to the sect than to his own personal
character--'I say, I have that within which assures me, that though the
ungodly may rage even like the storm of the ocean, they shall not have
freedom to prevail against us.'
Having spoken thus, Mr. Geddes appointed a pony to be saddled for my
use; and having taken a basket with some provisions, and a servant
to carry back the horses for which there was no accommodation at the
fishing station, we set off about nine o'clock at night, and after
three-quarters of an hour's riding, arrived at our place of destination.
The station consists, or then consisted, of huts for four or five
fishermen, a cooperage and shed, and a better sort of cottage at which
the superintendent resided. We gave our horses to the servant, to be
carried back to Mount Sharon; my companion expressing himself humanely
anxious for their safety--and knocked at the door of the house. At
first we only heard a barking of dogs; but these animals became quiet on
snuffing beneath the door, and acknowledging the presence of friends. A
hoarse voice then demanded, in rather unfriendly accents, who we were,
and what we wanted and it was not; until Joshua named himself, and
called upon his superintendent to open, that the latter appeared at the
door of the hut, attended by three large dogs of the Newfoundland breed.
He had a flambeau in his hand, and two large heavy ship-pistols stuck
into his belt. He was a stout elderly man, who had been a sailor, as I
learned, during the earlier part of his life, and was now much confided
in by the Fishing Company, whose concerns he directed under the orders
of Mr. Geddes.
'Thou didst not expect me to-night, friend Davies?' said my friend to
the old man, who was arranging seats for us by the fire.
'No, Master Geddes,' answered he, 'I did not expect you, nor, to speak
the truth, did I wish for you either.'
'These are plain terms: John Davies,' answered Mr. Geddes.
'Aye, aye, sir, I know your worship loves no holiday speeches.'
'Thou dost guess, I suppose, what brings us here so late, John Davies?'
said Mr. Geddes.
'I do suppose, sir,' answered the superintendent, 'that it was because
those d--d smuggling wreckers on the coast are showing their lights to
gather their forces, as they did the night before they broke down the
dam-dyke and weirs up the country; but if that same be the case, I wish
once more you had stayed away, for your worship carries no fighting
tackle aboard, I think; and there will be work for such ere morning,
your worship.'
'Worship is due to Heaven only, John Davies,' said Geddes, 'I have often
desired thee to desist from using that phrase to me.'
'I won't, then,' said John; 'no offence meant: But how the devil can a
man stand picking his words, when he is just going to come to blows?'
'I hope not, John Davies,' said Joshua Geddes. 'Call in the rest of the
men, that I may give them their instructions.'
'I may cry till doomsday Master Geddes, ere a soul answers--the cowardly
lubbers have all made sail--the cooper, and all the rest of them, so
soon as they heard the enemy were at sea. They have all taken to the
long-boat, and left the ship among the breakers, except little Phil and
myself--they have, by--!'
'Swear not at all, John Davies--thou art an honest man; and I believe,
without an oath, that thy comrades love their own bones better than
my goods and chattels. And so thou hast no assistance but little Phil
against a hundred men or two?'
'Why, there are the dogs, your honour knows, Neptune and Thetis--and
the puppy may do something; and then though your worship--I beg
pardon--though your honour be no great fighter, this young gentleman may
bear a hand.'
'Aye, and I see you are provided with arms,' said Mr. Geddes; 'let me
see them.'
'Aye, aye, sir; here be a pair of buffers will bite as well as
bark--these will make sure of two rogues at least. It would be a shame
to strike without firing a shot. Take care, your honour, they are
'Aye, John Davies, I will take care of them, throwing the pistols into a
tub of water beside him; 'and I wish I could render the whole generation
of them useless at the same moment.'
A deep shade of displeasure passed over John Davies's weatherbeaten
countenance. 'Belike your honour is going to take the command yourself,
then?' he said, after a pause. 'Why, I can be of little use now; and
since your worship, or your honour, or whatever you are, means to strike
quietly, I believe you will do it better without me than with me, for I
am like enough to make mischief, I admit; but I'll never leave my post
without orders.'
'Then you have mine, John Davies, to go to Mount Sharon directly, and
take the boy Phil with you. Where is he?'
'He is on the outlook for these scums of the earth,' answered Davies;
'but it is to no purpose to know when they come, if we are not to stand
to our weapons.'
'We will use none but those of sense and reason, John.'
'And you may just as well cast chaff against the wind, as speak sense
and reason to the like of them.'
'Well, well, be it so,' said Joshua; 'and now, John Davies, I know thou
art what the world calls a brave fellow, and I have ever found thee an
honest one. And now I command you to go to Mount Sharon, and let Phil
lie on the bank-side--see the poor boy hath a sea-cloak, though--and
watch what happens there, and let him bring you the news; and if
any violence shall be offered to the property there, I trust to your
fidelity to carry my sister to Dumfries to the house of our friends
the Corsacks, and inform the civil authorities of what mischief hath
The old seaman paused a moment. 'It is hard lines for me,' he said, 'to
leave your honour in tribulation; and yet, staying here, I am only like
to make bad worse; and your honour's sister, Miss Rachel, must be looked
to, that's certain; for if the rogues once get their hand to mischief,
they will come to Mount Sharon after they have wasted and destroyed this
here snug little roadstead, where I thought to ride at anchor for life.'
'Right, right, John Davies,' said Joshua Geddes; 'and best call the dogs
with you.'
'Aye, aye, sir,' said the veteran, 'for they are something of my mind,
and would not keep quiet if they saw mischief doing; so maybe they might
come to mischief, poor dumb creatures. So God bless your honour--I
mean your worship--I cannot bring my mouth to say fare you well. Here,
Neptune, Thetis! come, dogs, come.'
So saying, and with a very crestfallen countenance, John Davies left the
'Now there goes one of the best and most faithful creatures that ever
was born,' said Mr. Geddes, as the superintendent shut the door of the
cottage. 'Nature made him with a heart that would not have suffered him
to harm a fly; but thou seest, friend Latimer, that as men arm their
bull-dogs with spiked collars, and their game-cocks with steel spurs, to
aid them in fight, so they corrupt, by education, the best and mildest
natures, until fortitude and spirit become stubbornness and ferocity.
Believe me, friend Latimer, I would as soon expose my faithful household
dog to a vain combat with a herd of wolves, as yon trusty creature to
the violence of the enraged multitude. But I need say little on this
subject to thee, friend Latimer, who, I doubt not, art trained to
believe that courage is displayed and honour attained, not by doing
and suffering as becomes a man that which fate calls us to suffer and
justice commands us to do, but because thou art ready to retort violence
for violence, and considerest the lightest insult as a sufficient cause
for the spilling of blood, nay, the taking of life. But, leaving these
points of controversy to a more fit season, let us see what our basket
of provision contains; for in truth, friend Latimer, I am one of those
whom neither fear nor anxiety deprives of their ordinary appetite.'
We found the means of good cheer accordingly, which Mr. Geddes seemed to
enjoy as much as if it had been eaten in a situation of perfect safety;
nay, his conversation appeared to be rather more gay than on ordinary
occasions. After eating our supper, we left the hut together, and walked
for a few minutes on the banks of the sea. It was high water, and the
ebb had not yet commenced. The moon shone broad and bright upon the
placid face of the Solway Firth, and showed a slight ripple upon the
stakes, the tops of which were just visible above the waves, and on
the dark-coloured buoys which marked the upper edge of the enclosure of
nets. At a much greater distance--for the estuary is here very wide--the
line of the English coast was seen on the verge of the water, resembling
one of those fog-banks on which mariners are said to gaze, uncertain
whether it be land or atmospherical delusion.
'We shall be undisturbed for some hours,' said Mr. Geddes; 'they will
not come down upon us: till the state of the tide permits them to
destroy the tide-nets. Is it not strange to think that human passions
will so soon transform such a tranquil scene as this into one of
devastation and confusion?'
It was indeed a scene of exquisite stillness; so much so, that the
restless waves of the Solway seemed, if not absolutely to sleep, at
least to slumber; on the shore no night-bird was heard--the cock had not
sung his first matins, and we ourselves walked more lightly than by day,
as if to suit the sounds of our own paces to the serene tranquillity
around us. At length, the plaintive cry of a dog broke the silence, and
on our return to the cottage, we found that the younger of the three
animals which had gone along with John Davies, unaccustomed, perhaps,
to distant journeys, and the duty of following to heel, had strayed from
the party, and, unable to rejoin them, had wandered back to the place of
its birth.
'Another feeble addition to our feeble garrison,' said Mr. Geddes, as he
caressed the dog, and admitted it into the cottage. 'Poor thing! as thou
art incapable of doing any mischief, I hope thou wilt sustain none. At
least thou mayst do us the good service of a sentinel, and permit us to
enjoy a quiet repose, under the certainty that thou wilt alarm us when
the enemy is at hand.'
There were two beds in the superintendent's room, upon which we threw
ourselves. Mr. Geddes, with his happy equanimity of temper, was asleep
in the first five minutes. I lay for some time in doubtful and anxious
thoughts, watching the fire, and the motions of the restless dog, which,
disturbed probably at the absence of John Davies, wandered from the
hearth to the door and back again, then came to the bedside and licked
my hands and face, and at length, experiencing no repulse to its
advances, established itself at my feet, and went to sleep, an example
which I soon afterwards followed.
The rage of narration, my dear Alan--for I will never relinquish the
hope that what I am writing may one day reach your hands--has
not forsaken me, even in my confinement, and the extensive though
unimportant details into which I have been hurried, renders it necessary
that I commence another sheet. Fortunately, my pygmy characters
comprehend a great many words within a small space of paper.

The morning was dawning, and Mr. Geddes and I myself were still sleeping
soundly, when the alarm was given by my canine bedfellow, who first
growled deeply at intervals, and at length bore more decided testimony
to the approach of some enemy. I opened the door of the cottage, and
perceived, at the distance of about two hundred yards, a small but close
column of men, which I would have taken for a dark hedge, but that I
could perceive it was advancing rapidly and in silence.
The dog flew towards them, but instantly ran howling back to me, having
probably been chastised by a stick or a stone. Uncertain as to the plan
of tactics or of treaty which Mr. Geddes might think proper to adopt, I
was about to retire into the cottage, when he suddenly joined me at the
door, and, slipping his arm through mine, said, 'Let us go to meet them
manfully; we have done nothing to be ashamed of.--Friends,' he said,
raising his voice as we approached them, 'who and what are you, and with
what purpose are you here on my property?'
A loud cheer was the answer returned, and a brace of fiddlers who
occupied the front of the march immediately struck up the insulting air,
the words of which begin--
Merrily danced the Quaker's wife,
And merrily danced the Quaker.
Even at that moment of alarm, I think I recognized the tones of the
blind fiddler, Will, known by the name of Wandering Willie, from his
itinerant habits. They continued to advance swiftly and in great order,
in their front
The fiery fiddlers playing martial airs;
when, coming close up, they surrounded us by a single movement, and
there was a universal cry, 'Whoop, Quaker--whoop, Quaker! Here have we
them both, the wet Quaker and the dry one.'
'Hang up the wet Quaker to dry, and wet the dry one with a ducking,'
answered another voice.
'Where is the sea-otter, John Davies, that destroyed more fish than any
sealch upon Ailsa Craig?' exclaimed a third voice. 'I have an old crow
to pluck with him, and a pock to put the feathers in.'
We stood perfectly passive; for, to have attempted resistance against
more than a hundred men, armed with guns, fish-spears, iron-crows,
spades, and bludgeons, would have been an act of utter insanity. Mr.
Geddes, with his strong sonorous voice, answered the question about the
superintendent in a manner the manly indifference of which compelled
them to attend to him.
'John Davies,' he said, 'will, I trust, soon be at Dumfries'--
'To fetch down redcoats and dragoons against us, you canting old
A blow was, at the same time, levelled at my friend, which I parried by
interposing the stick I had in my hand. I was instantly struck down, and
have a faint recollection of hearing some crying, 'Kill the young spy!'
and others, as I thought, interposing on my behalf. But a second blow
on the head, received in the scuffle, soon deprived me of sense and
consciousness, and threw me into it state of insensibility, from which
I did not recover immediately. When I did come to myself, I was lying
on the bed from which I had just risen before the fray, and my poor
companion, the Newfoundland puppy, its courage entirely cowed by the
tumult of the riot, had crept as close to me as it could, and lay
trembling and whining, as if under the most dreadful terror. I doubted
at first whether I had not dreamed of the tumult, until, as I attempted
to rise, a feeling of pain and dizziness assured me that the injury
I had sustained was but too real. I gathered together my senses
listened--and heard at a distance the shouts of the rioters, busy,
doubtless, in their work of devastation. I made a second effort to rise,
or at least to turn myself, for I lay with my face to the wall of
the cottage, but I found that my limbs were secured, and my motions
effectually prevented--not indeed by cords, but by linen or cloth
bandages swathed around my ankles, and securing my arms to my sides.
Aware of my utterly captive condition, I groaned betwixt bodily pain and
mental distress,
A voice by my bedside whispered, in a whining tone, 'Whisht a-ye,
hinnie--Whisht a-ye; haud your tongue, like a gude bairn--ye have cost
us dear aneugh already. My hinnie's clean gane now.'
Knowing, as I thought, the phraseology of the wife of the itinerant
musician, I asked her where her husband was, and whether he had been
'Broken,' answered the dame, 'all broken to pieces; fit for naught but
to be made spunks of--the best blood that was in Scotland.'
'Broken?--blood?--is your husband wounded; has there been bloodshed
broken limbs?'
'Broken limbs I wish,' answered the beldam, 'that my hinnie had broken
the best bane in his body, before he had broken his fiddle, that was the
best blood in Scotland--it was a Cremony, for aught that I ken.'
'Pshaw--only his fiddle?' said I.
'I dinna ken what waur your honour could have wished him to do, unless
he had broken his neck; and this is muckle the same to my hinnie Willie
and me. Chaw, indeed! It is easy to say chaw, but wha is to gie us ony
thing to chaw?--the bread-winner's gane, and we may e'en sit down and
'No, no,' I said, 'I will pay you for twenty such fiddles.'
'Twenty such! is that a' ye ken about it? the country hadna the like
o't. But if your honour were to pay us, as nae doubt wad be to your
credit here and hereafter, where are ye to get the siller?'
'I have enough of money,' said I, attempting to reach my hand towards my
side-pocket; 'unloose these bandages, and I will pay you on the spot.'
This hint appeared to move her, and she was approaching the bedside, as
I hoped, to liberate me from my bonds, when a nearer and more desperate
shout was heard, as if the rioters were close by the hut.
'I daurna I daurna,' said the poor woman, 'they would murder me and my
hinnie Willie baith, and they have misguided us aneugh already;--but if
there is anything worldly I could do for your honour, leave out loosing
What she said recalled me to my bodily suffering. Agitation, and the
effects of the usage I had received, had produced a burning thirst. I
asked for a drink of water.
'Heaven Almighty forbid that Epps Ainslie should gie ony sick gentleman
cauld well-water, and him in a fever. Na, na, hinnie, let me alane, I'll
do better for ye than the like of that.'
'Give me what you will,' I replied; 'let it but be liquid and cool.'
The woman gave me a large horn accordingly, filled with spirits and
water, which, without minute inquiry concerning the nature of its
contents, I drained at a draught. Either the spirits taken in such a
manner acted more suddenly than usual on my brain, or else there was
some drug mixed with the beverage. I remember little after drinking it
off, only that the appearance of things around me became indistinct;
that the woman's form seemed to multiply itself, and to flit in various
figures around me, bearing the same lineaments as she herself did. I
remember also that the discordant noises and cries of those without the
cottage seemed to die away in a hum like that with which a nurse hushes
her babe. At length I fell into a deep sound sleep, or rather, a state
of absolute insensibility.
I have reason to think this species of trance lasted for many hours;
indeed, for the whole subsequent day and part of the night. It was not
uniformly so profound, for my recollection of it is chequered with many
dreams, all of a painful nature, but too faint and too indistinct to be
remembered. At length the moment of waking came, and my sensations were
A deep sound, which, in the confusion of my senses, I identified with
the cries of the rioters, was the first thing of which I was sensible;
next, I became conscious that I was carried violently forward in some
conveyance, with an unequal motion, which gave me much pain. My position
was horizontal, and when I attempted to stretch my hands in order to
find some mode of securing myself against this species of suffering, I
found I was bound as before, and the horrible reality rushed on my
mind that I was in the hands of those who had lately committed a great
outrage on property, and were now about to kidnap, if not to murder me.
I opened my eyes, it was to no purpose--all around me was dark, for
a day had passed over during my captivity. A dispiriting sickness
oppressed my head--my heart seemed on fire, while my feet and hands were
chilled and benumbed with want of circulation. It was with the utmost
difficulty that I at length, and gradually, recovered in a sufficient
degree the power of observing external sounds and circumstances; and
when I did so, they presented nothing consolatory.
Groping with my hands, as far as the bandages would permit, and
receiving the assistance of some occasional glances of the moonlight, I
became aware that the carriage in which I was transported was one of the
light carts of the country, called TUMBLERS, and that a little attention
had been paid to my accommodation, as I was laid upon some sacks covered
with matting, and filled with straw. Without these, my condition would
have been still more intolerable, for the vehicle, sinking now on one
side, and now on the other, sometimes sticking absolutely fast and
requiring the utmost exertions of the animal which drew it to put it
once more in motion, was subjected to jolts in all directions, which
were very severe. At other times it rolled silently and smoothly over
what seemed to be wet sand; and, as I heard the distant roar of the
tide, I had little doubt that we were engaged in passing the formidable
estuary which divides the two kingdoms.
There seemed to be at least five or six people about the cart, some on
foot, others on horseback; the former lent assistance whenever it was in
danger of upsetting, or sticking fast in the quicksand; the others rode
before and acted as guides, often changing the direction of the vehicle
as the precarious state of the passage required.
I addressed myself to the men around the cart, and endeavoured to move
their compassion. I had harmed, I said, no one, and for no action in my
life had deserved such cruel treatment, I had no concern whatever in
the fishing station which had incurred their displeasure, and my
acquaintance with Mr. Geddes was of a very late date. Lastly, and as my
strongest argument, I endeavoured to excite their fears, by informing
them that my rank in life would not permit me to be either murdered or
secreted with impunity; and to interest their avarice, by the promises
I made them of reward, if they would effect my deliverance. I only
received a scornful laugh in reply to my threats; my promises might have
done more, for the fellows were whispering together as if in hesitation,
and I began to reiterate and increase my offers, when the voice of one
of the horsemen, who had suddenly come up, enjoined silence to the
men on foot, and, approaching the side of the cart, said to me, with
a strong and determined voice, 'Young man, there is no personal harm
designed to you. If you remain silent and quiet, you may reckon on
good treatment; but if you endeavour to tamper with these men in the
execution of their duty, I will take such measures for silencing you, as
you shall remember the longest day you have to live.'
I thought I knew the voice which uttered these threats; but, in such
a situation, my perceptions could not be supposed to be perfectly
accurate. I was contented to reply, 'Whoever you are that speak to me, I
entreat the benefit of the meanest prisoner, who is not to be subjected,
legally to greater hardship than is necessary for the restraint of his
person. I entreat that these bonds, which hurt me so cruelly, may be
slackened at least, if not removed altogether.'
'I will slacken the belts,' said the former speaker; 'nay, I will
altogether remove them, and allow you to pursue your journey in a more
convenient manner, provided you will give me your word of honour that
you will not attempt an escape?'
'NEVER!' I answered, with an energy of which despair alone could have
rendered me capable--'I will never submit to loss of freedom a moment
longer than I am subjected to it by force.'
'Enough,' he replied; 'the sentiment is natural; but do not on your side
complain that I, who am carrying on an important undertaking, use the
only means in my power for ensuring its success.'
I entreated to know what it was designed to do with me; but my
conductor, in a voice of menacing authority, desired me to be silent on
my peril; and my strength and spirits were too much exhausted to permit
my continuing a dialogue so singular, even if I could have promised
myself any good result by doing so.
It is proper here to add, that, from my recollections at the time, and
from what has since taken place, I have the strongest possible belief
that the man with whom I held this expostulation was the singular person
residing at Brokenburn, in Dumfriesshire, and called by the fishers of
that hamlet, the Laird of the Solway Lochs. The cause for his inveterate
persecution I cannot pretend even to guess at.
In the meantime, the cart was dragged heavily and wearily on, until the
nearer roar of the advancing tide excited the apprehension of another
danger. I could not mistake the sound, which I had heard upon another
occasion, when it was only the speed of a fleet horse which saved me
from perishing in the quicksands. Thou, my dear Alan, canst not but
remember the former circumstances; and now, wonderful contrast! the very
man, to the best of my belief, who then saved me from peril, was
the leader of the lawless band who had deprived me of my liberty. I
conjectured that the danger grew imminent; for I heard some words and
circumstances which made me aware that a rider hastily fastened his own
horse to the shafts of the cart in order to assist the exhausted animal
which drew it, and the vehicle was now pulled forward at a faster pace,
which the horses were urged to maintain by blows and curses. The
men, however, were inhabitants of the neighbourhood; and I had strong
personal reason to believe that one of them, at least, was intimately
acquainted with all the depths and shallows of the perilous paths in
which we were engaged. But they were in imminent danger themselves; and
if so, as from the whispering and exertions to push on with the cart
was much to be apprehended, there was little doubt that I should be left
behind as a useless encumbrance, and that, while I was in a condition
which rendered every chance of escape impracticable. These were awful
apprehensions; but it pleased Providence to increase them to a point
which my brain was scarcely able to endure.
As we approached very near to a black line, which, dimly visible as it
was, I could make out to be the shore, we heard two or three sounds,
which appeared to be the report of fire-arms. Immediately all was bustle
among our party to get forward. Presently a fellow galloped up to us,
crying out, 'Ware hawk! ware hawk! the land-sharks are out from Burgh,
and Allonby Tom will lose his cargo if you do not bear a hand.'
Most of my company seemed to make hastily for the shore on receiving
this intelligence. A driver was left with the cart; but at length, when,
after repeated and hairbreadth escapes, it actually stuck fast in a
slough or quicksand, the fellow, with an oath, cut the harness, and, as
I presume, departed with the horses, whose feet I heard splashing over
the wet sand and through the shallows, as he galloped off.
The dropping sound of fire-arms was still continued, but lost almost
entirely in the thunder of the advancing surge. By a desperate effort I
raised myself in the cart, and attained a sitting posture, which served
only to show me the extent of my danger. There lay my native land--my
own England--the land where I was born, and to which my wishes, since
my earliest age, had turned with all the prejudices of national
feeling--there it lay, within a furlong of the place where I yet was;
that furlong, which an infant would have raced over in a minute, was yet
a barrier effectual to divide me for ever from England and from life. I
soon not only heard the roar of this dreadful torrent, but saw, by
the fitful moonlight, the foamy crests of the devouring waves, as they
advanced with the speed and fury of a pack of hungry wolves.
The consciousness that the slightest ray of hope, or power of
struggling, was not left me, quite overcame the constancy which I had
hitherto maintained. My eyes began to swim--my head grew giddy and mad
with fear--I chattered and howled to the howling and roaring sea. One
or two great waves already reached the cart, when the conductor of the
party whom I have mentioned so often, was, as if by magic, at my side.
He sprang from his horse into the vehicle, cut the ligatures which
restrained me, and bade me get up and mount in the fiend's name.
Seeing I was incapable of obeying, he seized me as if I had been a
child of six months old, threw me across the horse, sprang on behind,
supporting with one hand, while he directed the animal with the other.
In my helpless and painful posture, I was unconscious of the degree
of danger which we incurred; but I believe at one time the horse was
swimming, or nearly so; and that it was with difficulty that my stern
and powerful assistant kept my head above water. I remember particularly
the shock which I felt when the animal, endeavouring to gain the bank,
reared, and very nearly fell back on his burden. The time during which
I continued in this dreadful condition did not probably exceed two or
three minutes, yet so strongly were they marked with horror and agony,
that they seem to my recollection a much more considerable space of
When I had been thus snatched from destruction, I had only power to say
to my protector,--or oppressor,--for he merited either name at my hand,
'You do not, then, design to murder me?'
He laughed as he replied, but it was a sort of laughter which I scarce
desire to hear again,--'Else you think I had let the waves do the work?
But remember, the shepherd saves his sheep from the torrent--is it to
preserve its life?--Be silent, however, with questions or entreaties.
What I mean to do, thou canst no more discover or prevent, than a man,
with his bare palm, can scoop dry the Solway.'
I was too much exhausted to continue the argument; and, still numbed and
torpid in all my limbs, permitted myself without reluctance to be placed
on a horse brought for the purpose. My formidable conductor rode on the
one side, and another person on the other, keeping me upright in the
saddle. In this manner we travelled forward at a considerable rate,
and by by-roads, with which my attendant seemed as familiar as with the
perilous passages of the Solway.
At length, after stumbling through a labyrinth of dark and deep lanes,
and crossing more than one rough and barren heath, we found ourselves on
the edge of a highroad, where a chaise and four awaited, as it appeared,
our arrival. To my great relief, we now changed our mode of conveyance;
for my dizziness and headache had returned in so strong a degree, that I
should otherwise have been totally unable to keep my seat on horseback,
even with the support which I received.
My doubted and dangerous companion signed to me to enter the
carriage--the man who had ridden on the left side of my horse stepped in
after me, and drawing up the blinds of the vehicle, gave the signal for
instant departure.
I had obtained a glimpse of the countenance of my new companion, as by
the aid of a dark lantern the drivers opened the carriage door, and
I was wellnigh persuaded that I recognized in him the domestic of the
leader of this party, whom I had seen at his house in Brokenburn on a
former occasion. To ascertain the truth of my suspicion, I asked him
whether his name was not Cristal Nixon.
'What is other folk's names to you,' he replied, gruffly, 'who cannot
tell your own father and mother?'
'You know them, perhaps!' I exclaimed eagerly. 'You know them! and with
that secret is connected the treatment which I am now receiving? It must
be so, for in my life have I never injured any one. Tell me the cause of
my misfortunes, or rather, help me to my liberty, and I will reward you
'Aye, aye,' replied my keeper; 'but what use to give you liberty, who
know nothing how to use it like a gentleman, but spend your time with
Quakers and fiddlers, and such like raff! If I was your--hem, hem, hem!'
Here Cristal stopped short, just on the point, as it appeared, when some
information was likely to escape him. I urged him once more to be my
friend, and promised him all the stock of money which I had about me,
and it was not inconsiderable, if he would assist in my escape.
He listened, as if to a proposition which had some interest, and
replied, but in a voice rather softer than before, 'Aye, but men do not
catch old birds with chaff, my master. Where have you got the rhino you
are so flush of?'
'I will give you earnest directly, and that in banknotes,' said I; but
thrusting my hand into my side-pocket, I found my pocket-book was gone.
I would have persuaded myself that it was only the numbness of my hands
which prevented my finding it; but Cristal Nixon, who bears in his
countenance that cynicism which is especially entertained with human
misery, no longer suppressed his laughter.
'Oh, ho! my young master,' he said; 'we have taken good enough care you
have not kept the means of bribing poor folk's fidelity. What, man, they
have souls as well as other people, and to make them break trust is
a deadly sin. And as for me, young gentleman, if you would fill Saint
Mary's Kirk with gold, Cristal Nixon would mind it no more than so many
I would have persisted, were it but in hopes of his letting drop that
which it concerned me to know, but he cut off further communication, by
desiring me to lean back in the corner and go to sleep.
'Thou art cock-brained enough already,' he added, 'and we shall have thy
young pate addled entirely, if you do not take some natural rest.'
I did indeed require repose, if not slumber; the draught which I had
taken continued to operate, and, satisfied in my own mind that no
attempt on my life was designed, the fear of instant death no longer
combated the torpor which crept over me--I slept, and slept soundly, but
still without refreshment.
When I awoke, I found myself extremely indisposed; images of the past,
and anticipations of the future, floated confusedly through my brain.
I perceived, however, that my situation was changed, greatly for the
better. I was in a good bed, with the curtains drawn round it; I heard
the lowered voice and cautious step of attendants, who seemed to respect
my repose; it appeared as if I was in the hands either of friends, or of
such as meant me no personal harm.
I can give but an indistinct account of two or three broken and feverish
days which succeeded, but if they were chequered with dreams and
visions of terror, other and more agreeable objects were also sometimes
presented. Alan Fairford will understand me when I say, I am convinced I
saw G.M. during this interval of oblivion. I had medical attendance, and
was bled more than once. I also remember a painful operation performed
on my head, where I had received a severe blow on the night of the riot.
My hair was cut short, and the bone of the skull examined, to discover
if the cranium had received any injury.
On seeing the physician, it would have been natural to have appealed
to him on the subject of my confinement, and I remember more than once
attempting to do so. But the fever lay like a spell upon my tongue, and
when I would have implored the doctor's assistance, I rambled from the
subject, and spoke I know not what nonsense. Some power, which I
was unable to resist, seemed to impel me into a different course of
conversation from what I intended, and though conscious, in some degree,
of the failure, I could not mend it; and resolved, therefore, to be
patient, until my capacity of steady thought and expression was restored
to me with my ordinary health, which had sustained a severe shock from
the vicissitudes to which I had been exposed. [See Note 6.]

Two or three days, perhaps more, perhaps less, had been spent in bed,
where I was carefully attended, and treated, I believe, with as much
judgement as the case required, and I was at length allowed to quit
my bed, though not the chamber. I was now more able to make some
observation on the place of my confinement.
The room, in appearance and furniture, resembled the best apartment in
a farmer's house; and the window, two stories high, looked into a
backyard, or court, filled with domestic poultry. There were the usual
domestic offices about this yard. I could distinguish the brewhouse and
the barn, and I heard, from a more remote building, the lowing of the
cattle, and other rural sounds, announcing a large and well-stocked
farm. These were sights and sounds qualified to dispel any apprehension
of immediate violence. Yet the building seemed ancient and strong, a
part of the roof was battlemented, and the walls were of great thickness;
lastly, I observed, with some unpleasant sensations, that the windows
of my chamber had been lately secured with iron stanchions, and that
the servants who brought me victuals, or visited my apartment to render
other menial offices, always locked the door when they retired.
The comfort and cleanliness of my chamber were of true English growth,
and such as I had rarely seen on the other side of the Tweed; the very
old wainscot, which composed the floor and the panelling of the room,
was scrubbed with a degree of labour which the Scottish housewife rarely
bestows on her most costly furniture.
The whole apartments appropriated to my use consisted of the bedroom, a
small parlour adjacent, within which was a still smaller closet having
a narrow window which seemed anciently to have been used as a shot-hole,
admitting, indeed, a very moderate portion of light and air, but without
its being possible to see anything from it except the blue sky, and
that only by mounting on a chair. There were appearances of a separate
entrance into this cabinet, besides that which communicated with the
parlour, but it had been recently built up, as I discovered by removing
a piece of tapestry which covered the fresh mason-work. I found some
of my clothes here, with linen and other articles, as well as my
writing-case, containing pen, ink, and paper, which enables me, at my
leisure (which, God knows, is undisturbed enough) to make this record of
my confinement. It may be well believed, however, that I do not trust
to the security of the bureau, but carry the written sheets about my
person, so that I can only be deprived of them by actual violence. I
also am cautious to write in the little cabinet only, so that I can
hear any person approach me through the other apartments, and have time
enough to put aside my journal before they come upon me.
The servants, a stout country fellow and a very pretty milkmaid-looking
lass, by whom I am attended, seem of the true Joan and Hedge school,
thinking of little and desiring nothing beyond the very limited sphere
of their own duties or enjoyments, and having no curiosity whatever
about the affairs of others. Their behaviour to me in particular, is,
at the same time, very kind and very provoking. My table is abundantly
supplied, and they seem anxious to comply with my taste in that
department. But whenever I make inquiries beyond 'what's for dinner',
the brute of a lad baffles me by his ANAN, and his DUNNA KNAW, and if
hard pressed, turns his back on me composedly, and leaves the room. The
girl, too, pretends to be as simple as he; but an arch grin, which
she cannot always suppress, seems to acknowledge that she understands
perfectly well the game which she is playing, and is determined to keep
me in ignorance. Both of them, and the wench in particular, treat me
as they would do a spoiled child, and never directly refuse me anything
which I ask, taking care, at the same time, not to make their words good
by effectually granting my request. Thus, if I desire to go out, I am
promised by Dorcas that I shall walk in the park at night, and see the
cows milked, just as she would propose such an amusement to a child. But
she takes care never to keep her word, if it is in her power to do so.
In the meantime, there has stolen on me insensibly an indifference to
my freedom--a carelessness about my situation, for which I am unable to
account, unless it be the consequence of weakness and loss of blood. I
have read of men who, immured as I am, have surprised the world by the
address with which they have successfully overcome the most formidable
obstacles to their escape; and when I have heard such anecdotes, I
have said to myself, that no one who is possessed only of a fragment
of freestone, or a rusty nail to grind down rivets and to pick locks,
having his full leisure to employ in the task, need continue the
inhabitant of a prison. Here, however, I sit, day after day, without a
single effort to effect my liberation.
Yet my inactivity is not the result of despondency, but arises, in
part at least, from feelings of a very different cast. My story, long
a mysterious one, seems now upon the verge of some strange development;
and I feel a solemn impression that I ought to wait the course of
events, to struggle against which is opposing my feeble efforts to the
high will of fate. Thou, my Alan, wilt treat as timidity this passive
acquiescence, which has sunk down on me like a benumbing torpor; but if
thou hast remembered by what visions my couch was haunted, and dost but
think of the probability that I am in the vicinity, perhaps under the
same roof with G.M., thou wilt acknowledge that other feelings than
pusillanimity have tended in some degree to reconcile me to my fate.
Still I own it is unmanly to submit with patience to this oppressive
confinement. My heart rises against it, especially when I sit down to
record my sufferings in this journal, and I am determined, as the first
step to my deliverance, to have my letters sent to the post-house. ----
I am disappointed. When the girl Dorcas, upon whom I had fixed for a
messenger, heard me talk of sending a letter, she willingly offered her
services, and received the crown which I gave her (for my purse had not
taken flight with the more valuable contents of my pocket-book) with a
smile which showed her whole set of white teeth.
But when, with the purpose of gaining some intelligence respecting my
present place of abode, I asked to which post-town she was to send or
carry the letter, a stolid 'ANAN' showed me she was either ignorant of
the nature of a post-office, or that, for the present, she chose to seem
so.--'Simpleton!' I said, with some sharpness.
'O Lord, sir!' answered the girl, turning pale, which they always do
when I show any sparks of anger, 'Don't put yourself in a passion--I'll
put the letter in the post.
'What! and not know the name of the post-town?' said I, out of patience.
'How on earth do you propose to manage that?'
'La you there, good master. What need you frighten a poor girl that is
no schollard, bating what she learned at the Charity School of Saint
'Is Saint Bees far from this place, Dorcas? Do you send your letters
there?' said I, in a manner as insinuating, and yet careless, as I could
'Saint Bees! La, who but a madman--begging your honour's pardon--it's a
matter of twenty years since fader lived at Saint Bees, which is twenty,
or forty, or I dunna know not how many miles from this part, to the
West, on the coast side; and I would not have left Saint Bees, but that
'Oh, the devil take your father!' replied I.
To which she answered, 'Nay, but thof your honour be a little
how-come-so, you shouldn't damn folk's faders; and I won't stand to it,
for one.'
'Oh, I beg you a thousand pardons--I wish your father no ill in the
world--he was a very honest man in his way.'
'WAS an honest man!' she exclaimed; for the Cumbrians are, it would
seem, like their neighbours the Scotch, ticklish on the point of
ancestry,--'He IS a very honest man as ever led nag with halter on head
to Staneshaw Bank Fair. Honest! He is a horse-couper.'
'Right, right,' I replied; 'I know it--I have heard of your father-as
honest as any horse-couper of them all. Why, Dorcas, I mean to buy a
horse of him.'
'Ah, your honour,' sighed Dorcas, 'he is the man to serve your honour
well--if ever you should get round again--or thof you were a bit off the
hooks, he would no more cheat you than'--
'Well, well, we will deal, my girl, you may depend on't. But tell me
now, were I to give you a letter, what would you do to get it forward?'
'Why, put it into Squire's own bag that hangs in hall,' answered poor
Dorcas. 'What else could I do? He sends it to Brampton, or to Carloisle,
or where it pleases him, once a week, and that gate.'
'Ah!' said I; 'and I suppose your sweetheart John carries it?'
'Noa--disn't now--and Jan is no sweetheart of mine, ever since he danced
at his mother's feast with Kitty Rutlege, and let me sit still; that a
'It was most abominable in Jan, and what I could never have thought of
him,' I replied.
'Oh, but a did though--a let me sit still on my seat, a did.'
'Well, well, my pretty May, you will get a handsomer fellow than
Jan--Jan's not the fellow for you, I see that.'
'Noa, noa,' answered the damsel; 'but he is weel aneugh for a' that,
mon. But I carena a button for him; for there is the miller's son, that
suitored me last Appleby Fair, when I went wi' oncle, is a gway canny
lad as you will see in the sunshine.'
'Aye, a fine stout fellow. Do you think he would carry my letter to
'To Carloisle! 'Twould be all his life is worth; he maun wait on clap
and hopper, as they say. Odd, his father would brain him if he went to
Carloisle, bating to wrestling for the belt, or sic loike. But I ha'
more bachelors than him; there is the schoolmaster, can write almaist as
weel as tou canst, mon.'
'Then he is the very man to take charge of a letter; he knows the
trouble of writing one.'
'Aye, marry does he, an tou comest to that, mon; only it takes him four
hours to write as mony lines. Tan, it is a great round hand loike, that
one can read easily, and not loike your honour's, that are like midge's
taes. But for ganging to Carloisle, he's dead foundered, man, as cripple
as Eckie's mear.'
'In the name of God,' said I, 'how is it that you propose to get my
letter to the post?'
'Why, just to put it into Squire's bag loike,' reiterated Dorcas; 'he
sends it by Cristal Nixon to post, as you call it, when such is his
Here I was, then, not much edified by having obtained a list of Dorcas's
bachelors; and by finding myself, with respect to any information
which I desired, just exactly at the point where I set out. It was of
consequence to me, however, to accustom, the girl to converse with me
familiarly. If she did so, she could not always be on her guard,
and something, I thought, might drop from her which I could turn to
'Does not the Squire usually look into his letter-bag, Dorcas?' said I,
with as much indifference as I could assume.
'That a does,' said Dorcas; 'and a threw out a letter of mine to Raff
Miller, because a said'--
'Well, well, I won't trouble him with mine,' said I, 'Dorcas; but,
instead, I will write to himself, Dorcas. But how shall I address him?'
'Anan?' was again Dorcas's resource.
'I mean how is he called? What is his name?'
'Sure you honour should know best,' said Dorcas.
'I know? The devil! You drive me beyond patience.'
'Noa, noa! donna your honour go beyond patience--donna ye now,'
implored the wench. 'And for his neame, they say he has mair nor ane
in Westmoreland and on the Scottish side. But he is but seldom wi'
us, excepting in the cocking season; and then we just call him Squoire
loike; and so do my measter and dame.'
'And is he here at present?' said I.
'Not he, not he; he is a buck-hoonting, as they tell me, somewhere up
the Patterdale way; but he comes and gangs like a flap of a whirlwind,
or sic loike.'
I broke off the conversation, after forcing on Dorcas a little silver
to buy ribbons, with which she was so much delighted that she exclaimed,
'God! Cristal Nixon may say his worst on thee; but thou art a civil
gentleman for all him; and a quoit man wi' woman folk loike.'
There is no sense in being too quiet with women folk, so I added a kiss
with my crown piece; and I cannot help thinking that I have secured
a partisan in Dorcas. At least, she blushed, and pocketed her little
compliment with one hand, while, with the other, she adjusted her
cherry-coloured ribbons, a little disordered by the struggle it cost me
to attain the honour of a salute.
As she unlocked the door to leave the apartment, she turned back,
and looking on me with a strong expression of compassion, added the
remarkable words, 'La--be'st mad or no, thou'se a mettled lad, after
There was something very ominous in the sound of these farewell words,
which seemed to afford me a clue to the pretext under which I was
detained in confinement, My demeanour was probably insane enough, while
I was agitated at once by the frenzy incident to the fever, and the
anxiety arising from my extraordinary situation. But is it possible they
can now establish any cause for confining me arising out of the state of
my mind?
If this be really the pretext under which I am restrained from my
liberty, nothing but the sedate correctness of my conduct can remove the
prejudices which these circumstances may have excited in the minds of
all who have approached me during my illness. I have heard--dreadful
thought!--of men who, for various reasons, have been trepanned into
the custody of the keepers of private madhouses, and whose brain,
after years of misery, became at length unsettled, through irresistible
sympathy with the wretched beings among whom they were classed. This
shall not be my case, if, by strong internal resolution, it is in human
nature to avoid the action of exterior and contagious sympathies.
Meantime I sat down to compose and arrange my thoughts, for my purposed
appeal to my jailer--so I must call him--whom I addressed in the
following manner; having at length, and after making several copies,
found language to qualify the sense of resentment which burned in
the first, drafts of my letter, and endeavoured to assume a tone more
conciliating. I mentioned the two occasions on which he had certainly
saved my life, when at the utmost peril; and I added, that whatever was
the purpose of the restraint, now practised on me, as I was given to
understand, by his authority, it could not certainly be with any view
to ultimately injuring me. He might, I said, have mistaken me for some
other person; and I gave him what account I could of my situation and
education, to correct such an error. I supposed it next possible, that
he might think me too weak for travelling, and not capable of taking
care of myself; and I begged to assure him, that I was restored to
perfect health, and quite able to endure the fatigue of a journey.
Lastly, I reminded him, in firm though measured terms, that the
restraint which I sustained was an illegal one, and highly punishable
by the laws which protect the liberties of the subject. I ended by
demanding that he would take me before a magistrate; or, at least, that
he would favour me with a personal interview and explain his meaning
with regard to me.
Perhaps this letter was expressed in a tone too humble for the
situation of an injured man, and I am inclined to think so when I again
recapitulate its tenor. But what could I do? I was in the power of one
whose passions seem as violent as his means of gratifying them appear
unbounded. I had reason, too, to believe (this to thee, Alan) that all
his family did not approve of the violence of his conduct towards me; my
object, in fine, was freedom, and who would not sacrifice much to attain
I had no means of addressing my letter excepting 'For the Squire's
own hand.' He could be at no great distance, for in the course of
twenty-four hours I received an answer. It was addressed to Darsie
Latimer, and contained these words: 'You have demanded an interview with
me. You have required to be carried before a magistrate. Your first wish
shall be granted--perhaps the second also. Meanwhile, be assured that
you are a prisoner for the time, by competent authority, and that
such authority is supported by adequate power. Beware, therefore, of
struggling with a force sufficient to crush you, but abandon yourself to
that train of events by which we are both swept along, and which it is
impossible that either of us can resist.'
These mysterious words were without signature of any kind, and left
me nothing more important to do than to prepare myself for the meeting
which they promised. For that purpose I must now break off, and make
sure of the manuscript--so far as I can, in my present condition, be
sure of anything--by concealing it within the lining of my coat, so as
not to be found without strict search.

The important interview expected at the conclusion of my last took place
sooner than I had calculated; for the very day I received the letter,
and just when my dinner was finished, the squire, or whatever he is
called, entered the room so suddenly that I almost thought I beheld an
apparition. The figure of this man is peculiarly noble and stately,
and his voice has that deep fullness of accent which implies unresisted
authority. I had risen involuntarily as he entered; we gazed on each
other for a moment in silence, which was at length broken by my visitor.
'You have desired to see me,' he said. 'I am here; if you have aught
to say let me hear it; my time is too brief to be consumed in childish
'I would ask of you,' said I, 'by what authority I am detained in this
place of confinement, and for what purpose?'
'I have told you already,' said he, 'that my authority is sufficient,
and my power equal to it; this is all which it is necessary for you at
present to know.'
'Every British subject has a right to know why he suffers restraint,'
I replied; 'nor can he be deprived of liberty without a legal warrant.
Show me that by which you confine me thus.'
'You shall see more,' he said; 'you shall see the magistrate by whom it
is granted, and that without a moment's delay.'
This sudden proposal fluttered and alarmed me; I felt, nevertheless,
that I had the right cause, and resolved to plead it boldly, although
I could well have desired a little further time for preparation. He
turned, however, threw open the door of the apartment, and commanded me
to follow him. I felt some inclination, when I crossed the threshold of
my prison-chamber, to have turned and run for it; but I knew not where
to find the stairs--had reason to think the outer doors would be secured
and, to conclude, so soon as I had quitted the room to follow the proud
step of my conductor, I observed that I was dogged by Cristal Nixon, who
suddenly appeared within two paces of me, and with whose great personal
strength, independent of the assistance he might have received from
his master, I saw no chance of contending. I therefore followed,
unresistingly and in silence; along one or two passages of much greater
length than consisted with the ideas I had previously entertained of
the size of the house. At length a door was flung open, and we entered
a large, old-fashioned parlour, having coloured glass in the windows,
oaken panelling on the wall, a huge grate, in which a large faggot
or two smoked under an arched chimney-piece of stone which bore some
armorial device, whilst the walls were adorned with the usual number
of heroes in armour, with large wigs instead of helmets, and ladies in
sacques, smelling to nosegays.
Behind a long table, on which were several books, sat a smart
underbred-looking man, wearing his own hair tied in a club, and who,
from the quire of paper laid before him, and the pen which he handled
at my entrance, seemed prepared to officiate as clerk. As I wish to
describe these persons as accurately as possible, I may add, he wore a
dark-coloured coat, corduroy breeches, and spatterdashes. At the
upper end of the same table, in an ample easy-chair covered with black
leather, reposed a fat personage, about fifty years old, who either was
actually a country justice, or was well selected to represent such a
character. His leathern breeches were faultless in make, his jockey
boots spotless in the varnish, and a handsome and flourishing pair of
boot-garters, as they are called, united the one part of his garments to
the other; in fine, a richly-laced scarlet waistcoat and a purple coat
set off the neat though corpulent figure of the little man, and threw an
additional bloom upon his plethoric aspect. I suppose he had dined,
for it was two hours past noon, and he was amusing himself, and aiding
digestion, with a pipe of tobacco. There was an air of importance in his
manner which corresponded to the rural dignity of his exterior, and a
habit which he had of throwing out a number of interjectional sounds,
uttered with a strange variety of intonation running from bass up to
treble in a very extraordinary manner, or breaking off his sentences
with a whiff of his pipe, seemed adopted to give an air of thought and
mature deliberation to his opinions and decisions. Notwithstanding
all this, Alan, it might be DOOTED, as our old Professor used to say,
whether the Justice was anything more then an ass. Certainly, besides a
great deference for the legal opinion of his clerk, which might be quite
according to the order of things, he seemed to be wonderfully under the
command of his brother squire, if squire either of them were, and indeed
much more than was consistent with so much assumed consequence of his
'Ho--ha--aye--so--so--hum--humph--this is the young man, I
suppose--hum--aye--seems sickly. Young gentleman, you may sit down.'
I used the permission given, for I had been much more reduced by my
illness than I was aware of, and felt myself really fatigued, even by
the few paces I had walked, joined to the agitation I suffered.
'And your name, young man, is--humph--aye--ha--what is it?'
'Darsie Latimer.'
'Right--aye--humph--very right. Darsie Latimer is the very
thing--ha--aye--where do you come from?'
'From Scotland, sir,' I replied.
'A native of Scotland--a--humph--eh--how is it?'
'I am an Englishman by birth, sir.'
'Right--aye--yes, you are so. But pray, Mr. Darsie Latimer, have you
always been called by that name, or have you any other?--Nick, write
down his answers, Nick.'
'As far as I remember, I never bore any other,' was my answer.
'How, no? well, I should not have thought so, Hey, neighbour, would
Here he looked towards the other squire, who had thrown himself into a
chair; and, with his legs stretched out before him, and his arms folded
on his bosom, seemed carelessly attending to what was going forward.
He answered the appeal of the Justice by saying, that perhaps the young
man's memory did not go back to a very early period.
'Ah--eh--ha--you hear the gentleman. Pray, how far may your memory be
pleased to run back to?--umph?'
'Perhaps, sir, to the age of three years, or a little further.'
'And will you presume to say, sir,' said the squire, drawing himself
suddenly erect in his seat, and exerting the strength of his powerful
voice, 'that you then bore your present name?'
I was startled at the confidence with which this question was put, and
in vain rummaged my memory for the means of replying. 'At least,' I
said, 'I always remember being called Darsie; children, at that early
age, seldom get more than their Christian name.'
'Oh, I thought so,' he replied, and again stretched himself on his seat,
in the same lounging posture as before.
'So you were called Darsie in your infancy,' said the Justice;
'and--hum--aye--when did you first take the name of Latimer?'
'I did not take it, sir; it was given to me.'
'I ask you,' said the lord of the mansion, but with less severity in his
voice than formerly, 'whether you can remember that you were ever called
Latimer, until you had that name given you in Scotland?'
'I will be candid: I cannot recollect an instance that I was so called
when in England, but neither can I recollect when the name was first
given me; and if anything is to be founded on these queries and my
answers, I desire my early childhood may be taken into consideration.'
'Hum--aye--yes,' said the Justice; 'all that requires consideration
shall be duly considered. Young man--eh--I beg to know the name of your
father and mother?'
This was galling a wound that has festered for years, and I did not
endure the question so patiently as those which preceded it; but
replied, 'I demand, in my turn, to know if I am before an English
Justice of the Peace?'
'His worship, Squire Foxley, of Foxley Hall, has been of the quorum
these twenty years,' said Master Nicholas.
'Then he ought to know, or you, sir, as his clerk, should inform him,'
said I, 'that I am the complainer in this case, and that my complaint
ought to be heard before I am subjected to cross-examination.'
'Humph--hoy--what, aye--there is something in that, neighbour,' said
the poor Justice, who, blown about by every wind of doctrine, seemed
desirous to attain the sanction of his brother squire.
'I wonder at you, Foxley,' said his firm-minded acquaintance; 'how can
you render the young man justice unless you know who he is?'
'Ha--yes--egad, that's true,' said Mr. Justice Foxley; 'and now--looking
into the matter more closely--there is, eh, upon the whole--nothing
at all in what he says--so, sir, you must tell your father's name, and
'It is out of my power, sir; they are not known to me, since you must
needs know so much of my private affairs.'
The Justice collected a great AFFLATUS in his cheeks, which puffed them
up like those of a Dutch cherub, while his eyes seemed flying out of his
head, from the effort with which he retained his breath. He then blew
it forth with,--'Whew!--Hoom--poof--ha!--not know your parents,
youngster?--Then I must commit you for a vagrant, I warrant you. OMNE
IGNOTUM PRO TERRIBILI, as we used to say at Appleby school; that is,
every one that is not known to the Justice; is a rogue and a vagabond.
Ha!--aye, you may sneer, sir; but I question if you would have known the
meaning of that Latin, unless I had told you.'
I acknowledged myself obliged for a new edition of the adage, and an
interpretation which I could never have reached alone and unassisted. I
then proceeded to state my case with greater confidence. The Justice
was an ass, that was clear; but if was scarcely possible he could be so
utterly ignorant as not to know what was necessary in so plain a case as
mine. I therefore informed him of the riot which had been committed on
the Scottish side of the Solway Firth, explained how I came to be placed
in my present situation, and requested of his worship to set me at
liberty. I pleaded my cause with as much earnestness as I could, casting
an eye from time to time upon the opposite party, who seemed entirely
indifferent to all the animation with which I accused him.
As for the Justice, when at length I had ceased, as really not
knowing what more to say in a case so very plain, he replied,
'Ho--aye--aye--yes--wonderful! and so this is all the gratitude you show
to this good gentleman for the great charge and trouble he hath had with
respect to and concerning of you?'
'He saved my life, sir, I acknowledge, on one occasion certainly, and
most probably on two; but his having done so gives him no right over my
person. I am not, however, asking for any punishment or revenge; on the
contrary, I am content to part friends with the gentleman, whose motives
I am unwilling to suppose are bad, though his actions have been, towards
me, unauthorized and violent.'
This moderation, Alan, thou wilt comprehend, was not entirely dictated
by my feelings towards the individual of whom I complained; there were
other reasons, in which regard for him had little share. It seemed,
however, as if the mildness with which I pleaded my cause had more
effect upon him than anything I had yet said. We was moved to the point
of being almost out of countenance; and took snuff repeatedly, as if to
gain time to stifle some degree of emotion.
But on Justice Foxley, on whom my eloquence was particularly designed to
make impression, the result was much less favourable. He consulted in a
whisper with Mr. Nicholas, his clerk--pshawed, hemmed, and elevated
his eyebrows, as if in scorn of my supplication. At length, having
apparently made up his mind, he leaned back in his chair, and smoked
his pipe with great energy, with a look of defiance, designed to make me
aware that all my reasoning was lost on him.
At length, when I stopped, more from lack of breath than want of
argument, he opened his oracular jaws, and made the following reply,
interrupted by his usual interjectional ejaculations, and by long
volumes of smoke:--'Hem--aye--eh--poof. And, youngster, do you think
Matthew Foxley, who has been one of the quorum for these twenty years,
is to be come over with such trash as would hardly cheat an apple-woman?
Poof--poof--eh! Why, man--eh--dost thou not know the charge is not a
bailable matter--and that--hum--aye--the greatest man--poof--the Baron
of Graystock himself, must stand committed? and yet you pretend to have
been kidnapped by this gentleman, and robbed of property, and what not;
and--eh--poof--you would persuade me all you want is to get away from
him? I do believe--eh--that it IS all you want. Therefore, as you are
a sort of a slip-string gentleman, and--aye--hum--a kind of idle
apprentice, and something cock-brained withal, as the honest folks
of the house tell me--why, you must e'en remain under custody of your
guardian, till your coming of age, or my Lord Chancellor's warrant,
shall give you the management of your own affairs, which, if you can
gather your brains again, you will even then not be--aye--hem--poof--in
particular haste to assume.'
The time occupied by his worship's hums, and haws, and puffs of tobacco
smoke, together with the slow and pompous manner in which he spoke, gave
me a minute's space to collect my ideas, dispersed as they were by the
extraordinary purport of this annunciation.
'I cannot conceive, sir,' I replied, 'by what singular tenure this
person claims my obedience as a guardian; it is a barefaced imposture. I
never in my life saw him, until I came unhappily to this country, about
four weeks since.'
'Aye, sir--we--eh--know, and are aware--that--poof--you do not like
to hear some folk's names; and that--eh--you understand me--there are
things, and sounds, and matters, conversation about names, and suchlike,
which put you off the hooks--which I have no humour to witness.
Nevertheless, Mr. Darsie--or--poof--Mr. Darsie Latimer--or--poof,
poof--eh--aye, Mr. Darsie without the Latimer--you have acknowledged
as much to-day as assures me you will best be disposed of under the
honourable care of my friend here--all your confessions--besides that,
poof--eh--I know him to be a most responsible person--a--hay--aye--most
responsible and honourable person--Can you deny this?'
'I know nothing of him,' I repeated; 'not even his name; and I have not,
as I told you, seen him in the course of my whole life, till a few weeks
'Will you swear to that?' said the singular man, who seemed to await the
result of this debate, secure as a rattle-snake is of the prey which
has once felt its fascination. And while he said these words in deep
undertone, he withdrew his chair a little behind that of the Justice, so
as to be unseen by him or his clerk, who sat upon the same side; while
he bent on me a frown so portentous, that no one who has witnessed the
look can forget it during the whole of his life. The furrows of the
brow above the eyes became livid and almost black, and were bent into
a semicircular, or rather elliptical form, above the junction of the
eyebrows. I had heard such a look described in an old tale of DIABLERIE,
which it was my chance to be entertained with not long since; when
this deep and gloomy contortion of the frontal muscles was not unaptly
described as forming the representation of a small horseshoe.
The tale, when told, awaked a dreadful vision of infancy, which
the withering and blighting look now fixed on me again forced on
my recollection, but with much more vivacity. Indeed, I was so much
surprised, and, I must add, terrified, at the vague ideas which were
awakened in my mind by this fearful sign, that I kept my eyes fixed on
the face in which it was exhibited, as on a frightful vision; until,
passing his handkerchief a moment across his countenance, this
mysterious man relaxed at once the look which had for me something
so appalling. 'The young man will no longer deny that he has seen me
before,' said he to the Justice, in a tone of complacency; 'and I trust
he will now be reconciled to my temporary guardianship, which may end
better for him than he expects.'
'Whatever I expect,' I replied, summoning my scattered recollections
together, 'I see I am neither to expect justice nor protection from this
gentleman, whose office it is to render both to the lieges. For you,
sir, how strangely you have wrought yourself into the fate of an unhappy
young man or what interest you can pretend in me, you yourself only can
explain. That I have seen you before is certain; for none can forget the
look with which you seem to have the power of blighting those upon whom
you cast it.'
The Justice seemed not very easy under this hint,'Ha!--aye,' he said;
'it is time to be going, neighbour. I have a many miles to ride, and I
care not to ride darkling in these parts. You and I, Mr. Nicholas, must
be jogging.'
The Justice fumbled with his gloves, in endeavouring to draw them on
hastily, and Mr. Nicholas bustled to get his greatcoat and whip. Their
landlord endeavoured to detain them, and spoke of supper and beds. Both,
pouring forth many thanks for his invitation, seemed as if they would
much rather not, and Mr. Justice Foxley was making a score of apologies,
with at least a hundred cautionary hems and eh-ehs, when the girl Dorcas
burst into the room, and announced a gentleman on justice business.
'What gentleman?--and whom does he want?'
'He is cuome post on his ten toes,' said the wench; 'and on justice
business to his worship loike. I'se uphald him a gentleman, for he
speaks as good Latin as the schule-measter; but, lack-a-day! he has
gotten a queer mop of a wig.'
The gentleman, thus announced and described, bounced into the room.
But I have already written as much as fills a sheet of my paper, and my
singular embarrassments press so hard on me that I have matter to fill
another from what followed the intrusion of--my dear Alan--your crazy
client--Poor Peter Peebles!

Sheet 2.
I have rarely in my life, till the last alarming days, known what it
was to sustain a moment's real sorrow. What I called such, was, I am
now well convinced, only the weariness of mind which, having nothing
actually present to complain of, turns upon itself and becomes anxious
about the past and the future; those periods with which human life has
so little connexion, that Scripture itself hath said, 'Sufficient for
the day is the evil thereof.'
If, therefore, I have sometimes abused prosperity, by murmuring at
my unknown birth and uncertain rank in society, I will make amends by
bearing my present real adversity with patience and courage, and, if I
can, even with gaiety. What can they--dare they-do to me? Foxley, I am
persuaded, is a real Justice of Peace, and country gentleman of estate,
though (wonderful to tell!) he is an ass notwithstanding; and
his functionary in the drab coat must have a shrewd guess at the
consequences of being accessory to an act of murder or kidnapping. Men
invite not such witnesses to deeds of darkness. I have also--Alan, I
have hopes, arising out of the family of the oppressor himself. I am
encouraged to believe that G.M. is likely again to enter on the field.
More I dare not here say; nor must I drop a hint which another eye than
thine might be able to construe. Enough, my feelings are lighter than
they have been; and, though fear and wonder are still around me, they
are unable entirely to overcloud the horizon.
Even when I saw the spectral form of the old scarecrow of the Parliament
House rush into the apartment where I had undergone so singular an
examination, I thought of thy connexion with him, and could almost have
parodied Lear--
Death!--nothing could have thus subdued nature
To such a lowness, but his 'learned lawyers.'
He was e'en as we have seen him of yore, Alan, when, rather to keep thee
company than to follow my own bent, I formerly frequented the halls of
justice. The only addition to his dress, in the capacity of a traveller,
was a pair of boots, that seemed as if they might have seen the field
of Sheriffmoor; so large and heavy that, tied as they were to the
creature's wearied hams with large bunches of worsted tape of various
colours, they looked as if he had been dragging them along, either for a
wager or by way of penance.
Regardless of the surprised looks of the party on whom he thus intruded
himself, Peter blundered into the middle of the apartment, with his head
charged like a ram's in the act of butting, and saluted them thus:--
'Gude day to ye, gude day to your honours. Is't here they sell the fugie
I observed that on his entrance, my friend--or enemy--drew himself
back, and placed himself as if he would rather avoid attracting the
observation of the new-comer. I did the same myself, as far as I was
able; for I thought it likely that Mr. Peebles might recognize me, as
indeed I was too frequently among the group of young juridical aspirants
who used to amuse themselves by putting cases for Peter's solution, and
playing him worse tricks; yet I was uncertain whether I had better avail
myself of our acquaintance to have the advantage, such as it might
be, of his evidence before the magistrate, or whether to make him,
if possible, bearer of a letter which might procure me more effectual
assistance. I resolved, therefore, to be guided by circumstances, and
to watch carefully that nothing might escape me. I drew back as far as
I could, and even reconnoitred the door and passage, to consider whether
absolute escape might not be practicable. But there paraded Cristal
Nixon, whose little black eyes, sharp as those of a basilisk, seemed,
the instant when they encountered mine, to penetrate my purpose.
I sat down, as much out of sight of all parties as I could, and listened
to the dialogue which followed--a dialogue how much more interesting to
me than any I could have conceived, in which Peter Peebles was to be one
of the dramatis personae!
'Is it here where ye sell the warrants--the fugies, ye ken?' said Peter.
'Hey--eh--what!' said Justice Foxley; 'what the devil does the fellow
mean?--What would you have a warrant for?'
'It is to apprehend a young lawyer that is IN MEDITATIONE FUGAE; for he
has ta'en my memorial and pleaded my cause, and a good fee I gave
him, and as muckle brandy as he could drink that day at his father's
house--he loes the brandy ower weel for sae youthful a creature.'
'And what has this drunken young dog of a lawyer done to you, that
you are come to me--eh--ha? Has he robbed you? Not unlikely if he be a
lawyer--eh--Nick--ha?' said Justice Foxley.
'He has robbed me of himself, sir,' answered Peter; 'of his help,
comfort, aid, maintenance, and assistance, whilk, as a counsel to a
client, he is bound to yield me RATIONE OFFICII--that is it, ye see. He
has pouched my fee, and drucken a mutchkin of brandy, and now he's ower
the march, and left my cause, half won half lost--as dead a heat as e'er
was run ower the back-sands. Now, I was advised by some cunning laddies
that are used to crack a bit law wi' me in the House, that the best
thing I could do was to take heart o' grace and set out after him; so I
have taken post on my ain shanks, forby a cast in a cart, or the like. I
got wind of him in Dumfries, and now I have run him ower to the English
side, and I want a fugie warrant against him.'
How did my heart throb at this information, dearest Alan! Thou art near
me then, and I well know with what kind purpose; thou hast abandoned all
to fly to my assistance; and no wonder that, knowing thy friendship and
faith, thy sound sagacity and persevering disposition, 'my bosom's
lord should now sit lightly on his throne'; that gaiety should almost
involuntarily hover on my pen; and that my heart should beat like that
of a general, responsive to the drums of his advancing ally, without
whose help the battle must have been lost.
I did not suffer myself to be startled by this joyous surprise, but
continued to bend my strictest attention to what followed among this
singular party. That Poor Peter Peebles had been put on this wildgoose
chase by some of his juvenile advisers in the Parliament House, he
himself had intimated; but he spoke with much confidence, and the
Justice, who seemed to have some secret apprehension of being put to
trouble in the matter, and, as sometimes occurs on the English frontier,
a jealousy lest the superior acuteness of their northern neighbours
might overreach their own simplicity, turned to his clerk with a
perplexed countenance.
'Eh--oh--Nick--d--n thee--Hast thou got nothing to say? This is more
Scots law, I take it, and more Scotsmen.' (Here he cast a side-glance at
the owner of the mansion, and winked to his clerk.) 'I would Solway were
as deep as it is wide, and we had then some chance of keeping of them
Nicholas conversed an instant aside with the supplicant, and then
'The man wants a border-warrant, I think; but they are only granted for
debt--now he wants one to catch a lawyer.'
'And what for no?' answered Peter Peebles, doggedly; 'what for no, I
would be glad to ken? If a day's labourer refuse to work, ye'll grant a
warrant to gar him do out his daurg--if a wench quean rin away from
her hairst, ye'll send her back to her heuck again--if sae mickle as a
collier or a salter make a moonlight flitting, ye will cleek him by the
back-spaul in a minute of time--and yet the damage canna amount to mair
than a creelfu' of coals, and a forpit or twa of saut; and here is a
chield taks leg from his engagement, and damages me to the tune of sax
thousand punds sterling; that is, three thousand that I should win, and
three thousand mair that I am like to lose; and you that ca' yourself a
justice canna help a poor man to catch the rinaway? A bonny like justice
I am like to get amang ye!'
'The fellow must be drunk,' said the clerk.
'Black fasting from all but sin,' replied the supplicant; 'I havena had
mair than a mouthful of cauld water since I passed the Border, and deil
a ane of ye is like to say to me, "Dog, will ye drink?"'
The Justice seemed moved by this appeal. 'Hem---tush, man,' replied he;
'thou speak'st to us as if thou wert in presence of one of thine own
beggarly justices--get downstairs--get something to eat, man (with
permission of my friend to make so free in his house), and a mouthful to
drink, and I warrant we get ye such justice as will please ye.'
'I winna refuse your neighbourly offer,' said Poor Peter Peebles, making
his bow; 'muckle grace be wi' your honour, and wisdom to guide you in
this extraordinary cause.'
When I saw Peter Peebles about to retire from the room, I could not
forbear an effort to obtain from him such evidence as might give me some
credit with the Justice. I stepped forward, therefore, and, saluting
him, asked him if he remembered me?
After a stare or two, and a long pinch of snuff, recollection seemed
suddenly to dawn on Peter Peebles. 'Recollect ye!' he said; 'by my troth
do I.---Haud him a grip, gentlemen!--constables, keep him fast! where
that ill-deedie hempy is, ye are sure that Alan Fairford is not far off.
Haud him fast, Master Constable; I charge ye wi' him, for I am mista'en
if he is not at the bottom of this rinaway business. He was aye getting
the silly callant Alan awa wi' gigs, and horse, and the like of that, to
Roslin, and Prestonpans, and a' the idle gates he could think of. He's a
rinaway apprentice, that ane.'
'Mr. Peebles,' I said, 'do not do me wrong. I am sure you can say no
harm of me justly, but can satisfy these gentlemen, if you will, that I
am a student of law in Edinburgh--Darsie Latimer by name.'
'Me satisfy! how can I satisfy the gentlemen,' answered Peter, 'that am
sae far from being satisfied mysell? I ken naething about your name, and
can only testify, NIHIL NOVIT IN CAUSA.'
'A pretty witness you have brought forward in your favour,' said Mr.
Foxley. 'But--ha--aye---I'll ask him a question or two. Pray, friend,
will you take your oath to this youth being a runaway apprentice?'
'Sir,' said Peter, 'I will make oath to onything in reason; when a case
comes to my oath it's a won cause: But I am in some haste to prie your
worship's good cheer;' for Peter had become much more respectful in
his demeanour towards the Justice since he had heard some intimation of
'You shall have--eh--hum--aye--a bellyful, if it be possible to fill it.
First let me know if this young man be really what he pretends. Nick,
make his affidavit.'
'Ow, he is just a wud harum-scarum creature, that wad never take to his
studies; daft, sir, clean daft.'
'Deft!' said the Justice; 'what d'ye mean by deft--eh?'
'Just Fifish,' replied Peter; 'wowf--a wee bit by the East Nook or sae;
it's a common case--the ae half of the warld thinks the tither daft. I
have met with folk in my day that thought I was daft mysell; and, for my
part, I think our Court of Session clean daft, that have had the great
cause of Peebles against Plainstanes before them for this score of
years, and have never been able to ding the bottom out of it yet.'
'I cannot make out a word of his cursed brogue,' said the Cumbrian
justice; 'can you, neighbour--eh? What can he mean by DEFT?'
'He means MAD,' said the party appealed to, thrown off his guard by
impatience of this protracted discussion.
'Ye have it--ye have it,' said Peter; 'that is, not clean skivie, but--'
Here he stopped, and fixed his eye on the person he addressed with an
air of joyful recognition.--'Aye, aye, Mr. Herries of Birrenswork, is
this your ainsell in blood and bane? I thought ye had been hanged at
Kennington Common, or Hairiebie, or some of these places, after the
bonny ploy ye made in the Forty-five.'
'I believe you are mistaken, friend,' said Herries, sternly, with whose
name and designation I was thus made unexpectedly acquainted.
'The deil a bit,' answered the undaunted Peter Peebles; I mind ye weel,
for ye lodged in my house the great year of Forty-five, for a great
year it was; the Grand Rebellion broke out, and my cause--the great
cause--Peebles against Plainstanes, ET PER CONTRA--was called in the
beginning of the winter session, and would have been heard, but that
there was a surcease of justice, with your plaids, and your piping, and
your nonsense.'
'I tell you, fellow,' said Herries, yet more fiercely, 'you have
confused me with some of the other furniture of your crazy pate.'
'Speak like a gentleman, sir,' answered Peebles; 'these are not legal
phrases, Mr. Herries of Birrenswork. Speak in form of law, or I sall bid
ye gude day, sir. I have nae pleasure in speaking to proud folk, though
I am willing to answer onything in a legal way; so if you are for
a crack about auld langsyne, and the splores that you and Captain
Redgimlet used to breed in my house, and the girded cask of brandy that
ye drank and ne'er thought of paying for it (not that I minded it muckle
in thae days, though I have felt a lack of it sin syne), why I will
waste an hour on ye at ony time.--and where is Captain Redgimlet now?
he was a wild chap, like yoursell, though they arena sae keen after you
poor bodies for these some years bygane; the heading and hanging is weel
ower now--awful job--awful job--will ye try my sneeshing?'
He concluded his desultory speech by thrusting out his large bony paw,
filled with a Scottish mull of huge dimensions, which Herries, who had
been standing like one petrified by the assurance of this unexpected
address, rejected with a contemptuous motion of his hand, which spilled
some of the contents of the box.
'Aweel, aweel,' said Peter Peebles, totally unabashed by the repulse,
'e'en as ye like, a wilful man maun hae his way; but,' he added,
stooping down and endeavouring to gather the spilled snuff from the
polished floor, 'I canna afford to lose my sneeshing for a' that ye are
gumple-foisted wi' me.'
My attention had been keenly awakened, during this extraordinary and
unexpected scene. I watched, with as much attention as my own agitation
permitted me to command, the effect produced on the parties concerned.
It was evident that our friend, Peter Peebles, had unwarily let out
something which altered the sentiments of Justice Foxley and his clerk
towards Mr. Herries, with whom, until he was known and acknowledged
under that name, they had appeared to be so intimate. They talked with
each other aside, looked at a paper or two which the clerk selected
from the contents of a huge black pocket-book, and seemed, under the
influence of fear and uncertainty, totally at a loss what line of
conduct to adopt.
Herries made a different, and far more interesting figure. However
little Peter Peebles might resemble the angel Ithuriel, the appearance
of Herries, his high and scornful demeanour, vexed at what seemed
detection yet fearless of the consequences, and regarding the whispering
magistrate and his clerk with looks in which contempt predominated over
anger or anxiety, bore, in my opinion, no slight resemblance to
the regal port
And faded splendour wan
with which the poet has invested the detected King of the powers of the
As he glanced round, with a look which he had endeavoured to compose to
haughty indifference, his eye encountered mine, and, I thought, at
the first glance sank beneath it. But he instantly rallied his natural
spirit, and returned me one of those extraordinary looks, by which he
could contort so strangely the wrinkles on his forehead. I started; but,
angry at myself for my pusillanimity, I answered him by a look of the
same kind, and catching the reflection of my countenance in a large
antique mirror which stood before me, I started again at the real or
imaginary resemblance which my countenance, at that moment, bore to that
of Herries. Surely my fate is somehow strangely interwoven with that of
this mysterious individual. I had no time at present to speculate upon
the subject, for the subsequent conversation demanded all my attention.
The Justice addressed Herries, after a pause of about five minutes, in
which, all parties seemed at some loss how to proceed. He spoke with
embarrassment, and his faltering voice, and the long intervals which
divided his sentences, seemed to indicate fear of him whom he addressed.
'Neighbour,' he said, 'I could not have thought this; or, if I--eh--DID
think--in a corner of my own mind as it were--that you, I say--that you
might have unluckily engaged in--eh--the matter of the Forty-five--there
was still time to have forgot all that.'
'And is it so singular that a man should have been out in the
Forty-five?' said Herries, with contemptuous composure;--'your father, I
think, Mr. Foxley, was out with Derwentwater in the Fifteen.'
'And lost half of his estate,' answered Foxley, with more rapidity than
usual; 'and was very near--hem--being hanged into the boot. But this
is--another guess job--for--eh--Fifteen is not Forty-five; and my father
had a remission, and you, I take it, have none.'
'Perhaps I have,' said Herries indifferently; 'or if I have not, I am
but in the case of half a dozen others whom government do not think
worth looking after at this time of day, so they give no offence or
'But you have given both, sir,' said Nicholas Faggot, the clerk, who,
having some petty provincial situation, as I have since understood,
deemed himself bound to be zealous for government, 'Mr. Justice Foxley
cannot be answerable for letting you pass free, now your name and
surname have been spoken plainly out. There are warrants out against you
from the Secretary of State's office.'
'A proper allegation, Mr. Attorney! that, at the distance of so
many years, the Secretary of State should trouble himself about the
unfortunate relics of a ruined cause,' answered Mr. Herries.
'But if it be so,' said the clerk, who seemed to assume more confidence
upon the composure of Herries's demeanour; 'and if cause has been given
by the conduct of a gentleman himself, who hath been, it is
alleged, raking up old matters, and mixing them with new subjects of
disaffection--I say, if it be so, I should advise the party, in his
wisdom, to surrender himself quietly into the lawful custody of the next
Justice of Peace--Mr. Foxley, suppose--where, and by whom, the matter
should be regularly inquired into. I am only putting a case,' he added,
watching with apprehension the effect which his words were likely to
produce upon the party to whom they were addressed.
'And were I to receive such advice,' said Herries, with the same
composure as before--'putting the case, as you say, Mr. Faggot--I
should request to see the warrant which countenanced such a scandalous
Mr. Nicholas, by way of answer, placed in his hand a paper, and seemed
anxiously to expect the consequences which were to ensue. Mr. Herries
looked it over with the same equanimity as before, and then continued,
'And were such a scrawl as this presented to me in my own house, I would
throw it into the chimney, and Mr. Faggot upon the top of it.'
Accordingly, seconding the word with the action, he flung the warrant
into the fire with one hand, and fixed the other, with a stern and
irresistible grip, on the breast of the attorney, who, totally unable to
contend with him, in either personal strength or mental energy, trembled
like a chicken in the raven's clutch. He got off, however, for the
fright; for Herries, having probably made him fully sensible of the
strength of his grasp, released him, with a scornful laugh.
'Deforcement--spulzie-stouthrief--masterful rescue!' exclaimed Peter
Peebles, scandalized at the resistance offered to the law in the person
of Nicholas Faggot. But his shrill exclamations were drowned in the
thundering voice of Herries, who, calling upon Cristal Nixon, ordered
him to take the bawling fool downstairs, fill his belly, and then give
him a guinea, and thrust him out of doors. Under such injunctions, Peter
easily suffered himself to be withdrawn from the scene.
Herries then turned to the Justice, whose visage, wholly abandoned by
the rubicund hue which so lately beamed upon it, hung out the same pale
livery as that of his dismayed clerk. 'Old friend and acquaintance,'
he said, 'you came here at my request on a friendly errand, to convince
this silly young man of the right which I have over his person for the
present. I trust you do not intend to make your visit the pretext of
disquieting me about other matters? All the world knows that I have been
living at large, in these northern counties, for some months, not to say
years, and might have been apprehended at any time, had the necessities
of the state required, or my own behaviour deserved it. But no English
magistrate has been ungenerous enough to trouble a gentleman under
misfortune, on account of political opinions and disputes which have
been long ended by the success of the reigning powers. I trust, my good
friend, you will not endanger yourself by taking any other view of the
subject than you have done ever since we were acquainted?'
The Justice answered with more readiness, as well as more spirit than
usual, 'Neighbour Ingoldsby--what you say--is--eh--in some sort
true; and when you were coming and going at markets, horse-races,
and cock-fights, fairs, hunts, and such-like--it was--eh--neither my
business nor my wish to dispel--I say--to inquire into and dispel the
mysteries which hung about you; for while you were a good companion
in the field, and over a bottle now and then--I did not--eh--think
it necessary to ask--into your private affairs. And if I thought
you were--ahem--somewhat unfortunate in former undertakings, and
enterprises, and connexions, which might cause you to live unsettledly
and more private, I could have--eh--very little pleasure--to aggravate
your case by interfering, or requiring explanations, which are often
more easily asked than given. But when there are warrants and witnesses
to names--and those names, christian and surname, belong to--eh--an
attainted person--charged--I trust falsely--with--ahem-taking advantage
of modern broils and heart-burnings to renew our civil disturbances, the
case is altered; and I must--ahem--do my duty.'
The Justice, got on his feet as he concluded this speech, and looked
as bold as he could. I drew close beside him and his clerk, Mr. Faggot,
thinking the moment favourable for my own liberation, and intimated
to Mr. Foxley my determination to stand by him. But Mr. Herries only
laughed at the menacing posture which we assumed. 'My good neighbour,'
said he, 'you talk of a witness. Is yon crazy beggar a fit witness in an
affair of this nature?'
'But you do not deny that you are Mr. Herries of Birrenswork, mentioned
in the Secretary of State's warrant?' said Mr. Foxley.
'How can I deny or own anything about it?' said Herries, with a sneer.
'There is no such warrant in existence now; its ashes, like the poor
traitor whose doom it threatened, have been dispersed to the four winds
of heaven. There is now no warrant in the world.'
'But you will not deny,' said the Justice, 'that you were the person
named in it; and that--eh--your own act destroyed it?'
'I will neither deny my name nor my actions, Justice,' replied Mr.
Herries, 'when called upon by competent authority to avow or defend
them. But I will resist all impertinent attempts either to intrude into
my private motives, or to control my person. I am quite well prepared to
do so; and I trust that you, my good neighbour and brother sportsman,
in your expostulation, and my friend Mr. Nicholas Faggot here, in his
humble advice and petition that I should surrender myself, will consider
yourselves as having amply discharged your duty to King George and
The cold and ironical tone in which he made this declaration; the look
and attitude, so nobly expressive of absolute confidence in his own
superior strength and energy, seemed to complete the indecision which
had already shown itself on the side of those whom he addressed.
The Justice looked to the clerk--the clerk to the Justice; the former
HA'D, EH'D, without bringing forth an articulate syllable; the latter
only said, 'As the warrant is destroyed, Mr. Justice, I presume you do
not mean to proceed with the arrest?'
'Hum--aye--why, no--Nicholas--it would not be quite advisable--and as
the Forty-five was an old affair--and--hem--as my friend here will,
I hope, see his error--that is, if he has not seen it already--and
renounce the Pope, the Devil, and the Pretender--I mean no harm,
neighbour--I think we--as we have no POSSE, or constables, or the
like--should order our horses--and, in one word, look the matter over.'
'Judiciously resolved,' said the person whom this decision affected;
'but before you go, I trust you will drink and be friends?'
'Why,' said the Justice, rubbing his brow, 'our business has
been--hem--rather a thirsty one.'
'Cristal Nixon,' said Mr. Herries, 'let us have a cool tankard
instantly, large enough to quench the thirst of the whole commission.'
While Cristal was absent on this genial errand, there was a pause, of
which I endeavoured to avail myself by bringing back the discourse to
my own concerns. 'Sir,' I said to Justice Foxley, 'I have no direct
business with your late discussion with Mr. Herries, only just thus
far--You leave me, a loyal subject of King George, an unwilling prisoner
in the hands of a person whom you have reason to believe unfriendly to
the king's cause. I humbly submit that this is contrary to your duty
as a magistrate, and that you ought to make Mr. Herries aware of the
illegality of his proceedings, and take steps for my rescue, either upon
the spot, or, at least, as soon as possible after you have left this
'Young man,' said Mr. Justice Foxley, 'I would have you remember you are
under the power, the lawful power--ahem--of your guardian.'
'He calls himself so, indeed,' I replied; 'but he has shown no evidence
to establish so absurd a claim; and if he had, his circumstances, as an
attainted traitor excepted from pardon, would void such a right if it
existed. I do therefore desire you, Mr. Justice, and you, his clerk, to
consider my situation, and afford me relief at your peril.'
'Here is a young fellow now,' said the Justice, with much-embarrassed
looks, 'thinks that I carry the whole statute law of England in my head,
and a POSSE COMITATUS to execute them in my pocket! Why, what good would
my interference do?--but--hum--eh--I will speak to your guardian in your
He took Mr. Herries aside, and seemed indeed to urge something upon him
with much earnestness; and perhaps such a species of intercession was
all which, in the circumstances, I was entitled to expect from him.
They often looked at me as they spoke together; and as Cristal Nixon
entered with a huge four-pottle tankard, filled with the beverage
his master had demanded, Herries turned away from Mr. Foxley somewhat
impatiently, saying with emphasis, 'I give you my word of honour, that
you have not the slightest reason to apprehend anything on his account.'
He then took up the tankard, and saying aloud in Gaelic, 'SLAINT AN
REY,' [The King's health.] just tasted the liquor, and handed the
tankard to Justice Foxley, who, to avoid the dilemma of pledging him to
what might be the Pretender's health, drank to Mr. Herries's own, with
much pointed solemnity, but in a draught far less moderate.
The clerk imitated the example of his principal, and I was fain to
follow their example, for anxiety and fear are at least as thirsty as
sorrow is said to be. In a word, we exhausted the composition of ale,
sherry, lemon-juice, nutmeg, and other good things, stranded upon the
silver bottom of the tankard the huge toast, as well as the roasted
orange, which had whilom floated jollily upon the brim, and rendered
legible Dr. Byrom's celebrated lines engraved thereon--
God bless the King!--God bless the Faith's defender!
God bless--No harm in blessing--the Pretender.
Who that Pretender is, and who that King,--
God bless us all!--is quite another thing.
I had time enough to study this effusion of the Jacobite muse, while the
Justice was engaged in the somewhat tedious ceremony of taking leave.
That of Mr. Faggot was less ceremonious; but I suspect something besides
empty compliment passed betwixt him and Mr. Herries; for I remarked that
the latter slipped a piece of paper into the hand of the former, which
might perhaps be a little atonement for the rashness with which he had
burnt the warrant, and imposed no gentle hand on the respectable minion
of the law by whom it was exhibited; and I observed that he made this
propitiation in such a manner as to be secret from the worthy clerk's
When this was arranged, the party took leave of each other with much
formality on the part of Squire Foxley, amongst whose adieus the
following phrase was chiefly remarkable: 'I presume you do not intend to
stay long in these parts?'
'Not for the present, Justice, you may be sure; there are good reasons
to the contrary. But I have no doubt of arranging my affairs so that we
shall speedily have sport together again.'
He went to wait upon the Justice to the courtyard; and, as he did
so, commanded Cristal Nixon to see that I returned into my apartment.
Knowing it would be to no purpose to resist or tamper with that stubborn
functionary, I obeyed in silence, and was once more a prisoner in my
former quarters.
I spent more than an hour, after returning to the apartment which I may
call my prison, in reducing to writing the singular circumstances which
I had just witnessed. Methought I could now form some guess at the
character of Mr. Herries, upon whose name and situation the late
scene had thrown considerable light--one of those fanatical Jacobites,
doubtless, whose arms, not twenty years since, had shaken the British
throne, and some of whom, though their party daily diminished in
numbers, energy, and power, retained still an inclination to renew the
attempt they had found so desperate. He was indeed perfectly different
from the sort of zealous Jacobites whom it had been my luck hitherto to
meet with. Old ladies of family over their hyson, and grey-haired lairds
over their punch, I had often heard utter a little harmless treason;
while the former remembered having led down a dance with the Chevalier,
and the latter recounted the feats they had performed at Preston,
Clifton, and Falkirk.
The disaffection of such persons was too unimportant to excite the
attention of government. I had heard, however, that there still
existed partisans of the Stuart family of a more daring and dangerous
description; men who, furnished with gold from Rome, moved, secretly and
in disguise, through the various classes of society, and endeavoured to
keep alive the expiring zeal of their party.
I had no difficulty in assigning an important post among this class of
persons, whose agency and exertion are only doubted by those who look
on the surface of things, to this Mr. Herries, whose mental energies, as
well as his personal strength and activity, seemed to qualify him
well to act so dangerous a part; and I knew that all along the Western
Border, both in England and Scotland, there are so many nonjurors, that
such a person may reside there with absolute safety, unless it becomes,
in a very especial degree, the object of the government to secure his
person; and which purpose, even then, might be disappointed by early
intelligence, or, as in the case of Mr. Foxley, by the unwillingness
of provincial magistrates to interfere in what is now considered an
invidious pursuit of the unfortunate.
There have, however, been rumours lately, as if the present state of the
nation or at least of some discontented provinces, agitated by a
variety of causes but particularly by the unpopularity of the present
administration, may seem to this species of agitators a favourable
period for recommencing their intrigues; while, on the other hand,
government may not, at such a crisis, be inclined to look upon them
with the contempt which a few years ago would have been their most
appropriate punishment.
That men should be found rash enough to throw away their services and
lives in a desperate cause, is nothing new in history, which abounds
with instances of similar devotion--that Mr. Herries is such an
enthusiast is no less evident; but all this explains not his conduct
towards me. Had he sought to make me a proselyte to his ruined cause,
violence and compulsion were arguments very unlikely to prevail with any
generous spirit. But even if such were his object, of what use to him
could be the acquisition of a single reluctant partisan, who could bring
only his own person to support any quarrel which he might adopt? He had
claimed over me the rights of a guardian; he had more than hinted that
I was in a state of mind which could not dispense with the authority of
such a person. Was this man, so sternly desperate in his purpose--he
who seemed willing to take on his own shoulders the entire support of
a cause which had been ruinous to thousands--was he the person that had
the power of deciding on my fate? Was it from him those dangers flowed,
to secure me against which I had been educated under such circumstances
of secrecy and precaution?
And if this was so, of what nature was the claim which he asserted?--Was
it that of propinquity? And did I share the blood, perhaps the features,
of this singular being?--Strange as it may seem, a thrill of awe, which
shot across my mind at that instant, was not unmingled with a wild and
mysterious feeling of wonder, almost amounting to pleasure. I remembered
the reflection of my own face in the mirror at one striking moment
during the singular interview of the day, and I hastened to the outward
apartment to consult a glass which hung there, whether it were possible
for my countenance to be again contorted into the peculiar frown which
so much resembled the terrific look of Herries. But I folded my brows
in vain into a thousand complicated wrinkles, and I was obliged to
conclude, either that the supposed mark on my brow was altogether
imaginary, or that it could not be called forth by voluntary effort; or,
in fine, what seemed most likely, that it was such a resemblance as the
imagination traces in the embers of a wood fire, or among the varied
veins of marble, distinct at one time, and obscure or invisible at
another, according as the combination of lines strikes the eye or
impresses the fancy.
While I was moulding my visage like a mad player, the door suddenly
opened, and the girl of the house entered. Angry and ashamed at being
detected in my singular occupation, I turned round sharply, and, I
suppose, chance produced the change on my features which I had been in
vain labouring to call forth.
The girl started back, with her 'Don't ya look so now--don't ye, for
love's sake--you be as like the ould squoire as--But here a comes,' she
said, huddling away out of the room; 'and if you want a third, there is
none but ould Harry, as I know of, that can match ye for a brent broo!'
As the girl muttered this exclamation, and hastened out of the room,
Herries entered. He stopped on observing that I had looked again to the
mirror, anxious to trace the look by which the wench had undoubtedly
been terrified. He seemed to guess what was passing in my mind, for, as
I turned towards him, he observed, 'Doubt not that it is stamped on your
forehead--the fatal mark of our race; though it is not now so apparent
as it will become when age and sorrow, and the traces of stormy passions
and of bitter penitence, shall have drawn their furrows on your brow.'
'Mysterious man,' I replied, 'I know not of what you speak; your
language is as dark as your purposes!'
'Sit down, then,' he said, 'and listen; thus far, at least, must the
veil of which you complain be raised. When withdrawn, it will only
display guilt and sorrow--guilt followed by strange penalty, and sorrow
which Providence has entailed upon the posterity of the mourners.'
He paused a moment, and commenced his narrative, which he told with the
air of one, who, remote as the events were which he recited, took
still the deepest interest in them. The tone of his voice, which I have
already described as rich and powerful, aided by its inflections the
effects of his story, which I will endeavour to write down, as nearly as
possible, in the very words which he used.
'It was not of late years that the English learned that their best
chance of conquering their independent neighbours must be by introducing
amongst them division and civil war. You need not be reminded of the
state of thraldom to which Scotland was reduced by the unhappy wars
betwixt the domestic factions of Bruce and Baliol, nor how, after
Scotland had been emancipated from a foreign yoke by the conduct and
valour of the immortal Bruce, the whole fruits of the triumphs of
Bannockburn were lost in the dreadful defeats of Dupplin and Halidon;
and Edward Baliol, the minion and feudatory of his namesake of England,
seemed, for a brief season, in safe and uncontested possession of the
throne so lately occupied by the greatest general and wisest prince in
Europe. But the experience of Bruce had not died with him. There
were many who had shared his martial labours, and all remembered the
successful efforts by which, under circumstances as disadvantageous as
those of his son, he had achieved the liberation of Scotland.
'The usurper, Edward Baliol, was feasting with a few of his favourite
retainers in the castle of Annan, when he was suddenly surprised by a
chosen band of insurgent patriots. Their chiefs were, Douglas, Randolph,
the young Earl of Moray, and Sir Simon Fraser; and their success was so
complete, that Baliol was obliged to fly for his life scarcely
clothed, and on a horse which there was no leisure to saddle. It was of
importance to seize his person, if possible, and his flight was closely
pursued by a valiant knight of Norman descent, whose family had been
long settled in the marches of Dumfriesshire. Their Norman appellation
was Fitz-Aldin, but this knight, from the great slaughter which he had
made of the Southron, and the reluctance which he had shown to admit
them to quarter during the former war of that bloody period, had
acquired the name of Redgauntlet, which he transmitted to his
'Redgauntlet!' I involuntarily repeated.
'Yes, Redgauntlet,' said my alleged guardian, looking at me keenly;
'does that name recall any associations to your mind?'
'No,' I replied, 'except that I had lately heard it given to the hero of
a supernatural legend.'
'There are many such current concerning the family,' he answered; and
then proceeded in his narrative.
'Alberick Redgauntlet, the first of his house so termed, was, as may be
supposed from his name, of a stern and implacable disposition, which
had been rendered more so by family discord. An only son, now a youth
of eighteen, shared so much the haughty spirit of his father, that he
became impatient of domestic control, resisted paternal authority, and
finally fled from his father's house, renounced his political opinions,
and awakened his mortal displeasure by joining the adherents of Baliol.
It was said that his father cursed, in his wrath, his degenerate
offspring, and swore that if they met he should perish by his hand.
Meantime, circumstances seemed to promise atonement for this great
deprivation. The lady of Alberick Redgauntlet was again, after many
years, in a situation which afforded her husband the hope of a more
dutiful heir.
'But the delicacy and deep interest of his wife's condition did not
prevent Alberick from engaging in the undertaking of Douglas and Moray.
He had been the most forward in the attack of the castle, and was now
foremost in the pursuit of Baliol, eagerly engaged in dispersing or
cutting down the few daring followers who endeavoured to protect the
usurper in his flight.
'As these were successively routed or slain, the formidable Redgauntlet,
the mortal enemy of the House of Baliol, was within two lances' length
of the fugitive Edward Baliol, in a narrow pass, when a youth, one of
the last who attended the usurper in his flight, threw himself
between them, received the shock of the pursuer, and was unhorsed and
overthrown. The helmet rolled from his head, and the beams of the sun,
then rising over the Solway, showed Redgauntlet the features of his
disobedient son, in the livery, and wearing the cognizance, of the
'Redgauntlet beheld his son lying before his horse's feet; but he also
saw Baliol, the usurper of the Scottish crown, still, as it seemed,
within his grasp, and separated from him only by the prostrate body of
his overthrown adherent. Without pausing to inquire whether young Edward
was wounded, he dashed his spurs into his horse, meaning to leap over
him, but was unhappily frustrated in his purpose. The steed made indeed
a bound forward, but was unable to clear the body of the youth, and
with its hind foot struck him in the forehead, as he was in the act of
rising. The blow was mortal. It is needless to add, that the pursuit was
checked, and Baliol escaped.
'Redgauntlet, ferocious as he is described, was yet overwhelmed with the
thoughts of the crime he had committed. When he returned to his castle,
it was to encounter new domestic sorrows. His wife had been prematurely
seized with the pangs of labour upon hearing the dreadful catastrophe
which had taken place. The birth of an infant boy cost her her life.
Redgauntlet sat by her corpse for more than twenty-four hours without
changing either feature or posture, so far as his terrified domestics
could observe. The Abbot of Dundrennan preached consolation to him in
vain. Douglas, who came to visit in his affliction a patriot of such
distinguished zeal, was more successful in rousing his attention. He
caused the trumpets to sound an English point of war in the courtyard,
and Redgauntlet at once sprang to his arms, and seemed restored to the
recollection which had been lost in the extent of his misery.
'From that moment, whatever he might feel inwardly, he gave way to no
outward emotion. Douglas caused his infant to be brought; but even the
iron-hearted soldiers were struck with horror to observe that, by the
mysterious law of nature, the cause of his mother's death, and the
evidence of his father's guilt, was stamped on the innocent face of the
babe, whose brow was distinctly marked by the miniature resemblance of a
horseshoe. Redgauntlet himself pointed it out to Douglas, saying, with a
ghastly smile, "It should have been bloody."
'Moved, as he was, to compassion for his brother-in-arms, and steeled
against all softer feelings by the habits of civil war, Douglas
shuddered at this sight, and displayed a desire to leave the house which
was doomed to be the scene of such horrors. As his parting advice, he
exhorted Alberick Redgauntlet to make a pilgrimage to Saint Ninian's of
Whiteherne, then esteemed a shrine of great sanctity; and departed with
a precipitation which might have aggravated, had that been possible,
the forlorn state of his unhappy friend. But that seems to have been
incapable of admitting any addition. Sir Alberick caused the bodies
of his slaughtered son and the mother to be laid side by side in the
ancient chapel of his house, after he had used the skill of a celebrated
surgeon of that time to embalm them; and it was said that for many weeks
he spent; some hours nightly in the vault where they reposed.
'At length he undertook the proposed pilgrimage to Whiteherne, where
he confessed himself for the first time since his misfortune, and was
shrived by an aged monk, who afterwards died in the odour of sanctity.
It is said that it was then foretold to the Redgauntlet, that on account
of his unshaken patriotism his family should continue to be powerful
amid the changes of future times; but that, in detestation of his
unrelenting cruelty to his own issue, Heaven had decreed that the valour
of his race should always be fruitless, and that the cause which they
espoused should never prosper.
'Submitting to such penance as was there imposed, Sir Alberick went,
it is thought, on a pilgrimage either to Rome, or to the Holy Sepulchre
itself. He was universally considered as dead; and it was not till
thirteen years afterwards, that in the great battle of Durham, fought
between David Bruce and Queen Philippa of England, a knight, bearing
a horseshoe for his crest, appeared in the van of the Scottish army,
distinguishing himself by his reckless and desperate valour; who being
at length overpowered and slain, was finally discovered to be the brave
and unhappy Sir Alberick Redgauntlet.'
'And has the fatal sign,' said I, when Herries had ended his narrative,
'descended on all the posterity of this unhappy house?'
'It has been so handed down from antiquity, and is still believed,' said
Herries. 'But perhaps there is, in the popular evidence, something of
that fancy which creates what it sees. Certainly, as other families have
peculiarities by which they are distinguished, this of Redgauntlet is
marked in most individuals by a singular indenture of the forehead,
supposed to be derived from the son of Alberick, their ancestor, and
brother to the unfortunate Edward, who had perished in so piteous a
manner. It is certain there seems to have been a fate upon the House of
Redgauntlet, which has been on the losing side in almost all the civil
broils which have divided the kingdom of Scotland from David Bruce's
days, till the late valiant and unsuccessful attempt of the Chevalier
Charles Edward.'
He concluded with a deep sigh, as one whom the subject had involved in a
train of painful reflections.
'And am I then,' I exclaimed, 'descended from this unhappy race? Do you
belong to it? And if so, why do I sustain restraint and hard usage at
the hands of a relation?'
'Inquire no further for the present,' he said. 'The line of conduct
which I am pursuing towards you is dictated, not by choice but by
necessity. You were withdrawn from the bosom of your family and the
care of your legal guardian, by the timidity and ignorance of a doting
mother, who was incapable of estimating the arguments or feelings of
those who prefer honour and principle to fortune, and even to life. The
young hawk, accustomed only to the fostering care of its dam, must be
tamed by darkness and sleeplessness, ere it is trusted on the wing for
the purposes of the falconer.'
I was appalled at this declaration, which seemed to threaten a long
continuance, and a dangerous termination, of my captivity. I deemed it
best, however, to show some spirit, and at the same time to mingle a
tone of conciliation. 'Mr. Herries,' I said '(if I call you rightly by
that name), let us speak upon this matter without the tone of mystery
and fear in which you seem inclined to envelop it. I have been long,
alas! deprived of the care of that affectionate mother to whom you
allude--long under the charge of strangers--and compelled to form my
own resolutions upon the reasoning of my own mind. Misfortune--early
deprivation--has given me the privilege of acting for myself; and
constraint shall not deprive me of an Englishman's best privilege.'
'The true cant of the day,' said Herries, in a tone of scorn. 'The
privilege of free action belongs to no mortal--we are tied down by
the fetters of duty--our mortal path is limited by the regulations
of honour--our most indifferent actions are but meshes of the web of
destiny by which we are all surrounded.'
He paced the room rapidly, and proceeded in a tone of enthusiasm
which, joined to some other parts of his conduct, seems to intimate an
over-excited imagination, were it not contradicted by the general tenor
of his speech and conduct.
'Nothing,' he said, in an earnest yet melancholy voice--'nothing is the
work of chance--nothing is the consequence of free-will--the liberty of
which the Englishman boasts gives as little real freedom to its owner as
the despotism, of an Eastern sultan permits to his slave. The usurper,
William of Nassau, went forth to hunt, and thought, doubtless, that it
was by an act of his own royal pleasure that the horse of his murdered
victim was prepared for his kingly sport. But Heaven had other views;
and before the sun was high, a stumble of that very animal over an
obstacle so inconsiderable as a mole-hillock, cost the haughty rider
his life and his usurped crown, Do you think an inclination of the rein
could have avoided that trifling impediment? I tell you, it crossed his
way as inevitably as all the long chain of Caucasus could have done.
Yes, young man, in doing and suffering, we play but the part allotted by
Destiny, the manager of this strange drama, stand bound to act no more
than is prescribed, to say no more than is set down for us; and yet we
mouth about free-will and freedom of thought and action, as if Richard
must not die, or Richmond conquer, exactly where the Author has decreed
it shall be so!'
He continued to pace the room after this speech, with folded arms and
downcast looks; and the sound of his steps and tone of his voice brought
to my remembrance, that I had heard this singular person, when I met him
on a former occasion, uttering such soliloquies in his solitary chamber.
I observed that, like other Jacobites, in his inveteracy against the
memory of King William, he had adopted the party opinion, that the
monarch, on the day he had his fatal accident, rode upon a horse once
the property of the unfortunate Sir John Friend, executed for high
treason in 1698.
It was not my business to aggravate, but, if possible, rather to soothe
him in whose power I was so singularly placed. When I conceived that the
keenness of his feelings had in some degree subsided, I answered him
as follows:--'I will not--indeed I feel myself incompetent to argue
a question of such metaphysical subtlety, as that which involves the
limits betwixt free-will and predestination. Let us hope we may live
honestly and die hopefully, without being obliged to form a decided
opinion upon a point so far beyond our comprehension.'
'Wisely resolved,' he interrupted, with a sneer--'there came a note from
some Geneva, sermon.'
'But,' I proceeded, 'I call your attention to the fact that I, as well
as you, am acted upon by impulses, the result either of my own free
will, or the consequences of the part which is assigned to me by
destiny. These may be--nay, at present they are--in direct contradiction
to those by which you are actuated; and how shall we decide which
shall have precedence?--YOU perhaps feel yourself destined to act as my
jailer. I feel myself, on the contrary, destined to attempt and effect
my escape. One of us must be wrong, but who can say which errs till the
event has decided betwixt us?'
'I shall feel myself destined to have recourse to severe modes of
restraint,' said he, in the same tone of half jest, half earnest which I
had used.
'In that case,' I answered, 'it will be my destiny to attempt everything
for my freedom.'
'And it may be mine, young man,' he replied, in a deep and stern tone,
'to take care that you should rather die than attain your purpose.'
This was speaking out indeed, and I did not allow him to go unanswered.
'You threaten me in vain,' said I; 'the laws of my country will protect
me; or whom they cannot protect, they will avenge.'
I spoke this firmly, and he seemed for a moment silenced; and the scorn
with which he at last answered me, had something of affectation in it.
'The laws!' he said; 'and what, stripling, do you know of the laws of
your country? Could you learn jurisprudence under a base-born blotter
of parchment, such as Saunders Fairford; or from the empty pedantic
coxcomb, his son, who now, forsooth, writer himself advocate? When
Scotland was herself, and had her own king and legislature, such
plebeian cubs, instead of being called to the bar of her supreme courts,
would scarce have been admitted to the honour of bearing a sheepskin
Alan, I could not bear this, but answered indignantly, that he knew not
the worth and honour from which he was detracting.
'I know as much of these Fairfords as I do of you,' he replied.
'As much,' said I, 'and as little; for you can neither estimate their
real worth nor mine. I know you saw them when last in Edinburgh.'
'Ha!' he exclaimed, and turned on me an inquisitive look.
'It is true,' said I; 'you cannot deny it; and having thus shown you
that I know something of your motions, let me warn you I have modes of
communication with which you are not acquainted. Oblige me not to use
them to your prejudice.'
'Prejudice me!' he replied. 'Young man, I smile at, and forgive your
folly. Nay, I will tell you that of which you are not aware, namely,
that it was from letters received from these Fairfords that I first
suspected, what the result of my visit to them confirmed, that you were
the person whom I had sought for years.'
'If you learned this,' said I, 'from the papers which were about my
person on the night when I was under the necessity of becoming your
guest at Brokenburn, I do not envy your indifference to the means of
acquiring information. It was dishonourable to'--
'Peace, young man,' said Herries, more calmly than I might have
expected; 'the word dishonour must not be mentioned as in conjunction
with my name. Your pocket-book was in the pocket of your coat, and did
not escape the curiosity of another, though it would have been sacred
from mine, My servant, Cristal Nixon, brought me the intelligence after
you were gone. I was displeased with the manner in which he had acquired
his information; but it was not the less my duty to ascertain its truth,
and for that purpose I went to Edinburgh. I was in hopes to persuade
Mr. Fairford to have entered into my views; but I found him too much
prejudiced to permit me to trust him. He is a wretched, yet a timid
slave of the present government, under which our unhappy country is
dishonourably enthralled; and it would have been altogether unfit and
unsafe to have entrusted him with the secret either of the right which
I possess to direct your actions, or of the manner in which I purpose to
exercise it.'
I was determined to take advantage of his communicative humour, and
obtain, if possible, more light upon his purpose. He seemed most
accessible to being piqued on the point of honour, and I resolved to
avail myself, but with caution, of his sensibility upon that topic. 'You
say,' I replied, 'that you are not friendly to indirect practices, and
disapprove of the means by which your domestic obtained information
of my name and quality--Is it honourable to avail yourself of that
knowledge which is dishonourably obtained?'
'It is boldly asked,' he replied; 'but, within certain necessary
limits, I dislike not boldness of expostulation. You have, in this short
conference, displayed more character and energy than I was prepared to
expect. You will, I trust, resemble a forest plant, which has indeed,
by some accident, been brought up in the greenhouse, and thus rendered
delicate and effeminate, but which regains its native firmness and
tenacity when exposed for a season to the winter air. I will answer
your question plainly. In business, as in war, spies and informers are
necessary evils, which all good men detest; but which yet all prudent
men must use, unless they mean to fight and act blindfold. But nothing
can justify the use of falsehood and treachery in our own person.'
'You said to the elder Mr. Fairford,' continued I, with the same
boldness, which I began to find was my best game, 'that I was the son of
Ralph Latimer of Langcote Hall? How do you reconcile this with your late
assertion that my name is not Latimer?'
He coloured as he replied, 'The doting old fool lied; or perhaps mistook
my meaning. I said, that gentleman might be your father. To say truth,
I wished you to visit England, your native country; because, when you
might do so, my rights over you would revive.'
This speech fully led me to understand a caution which had been often
impressed upon me, that, if I regarded my safety, I should not cross
the southern Border; and I cursed my own folly, which kept me fluttering
like a moth around the candle, until I was betrayed into the calamity
with which I had dallied. 'What are those rights,' I said, 'which you
claim over me? To what end do you propose to turn them?'
'To a weighty one, you may be certain,' answered Mr. Herries; 'but I do
not, at present, mean to communicate to you either its nature or extent.
You may judge of its importance, when, in order entirely to possess
myself of your person, I condescended to mix myself with the fellows who
destroyed the fishing station of yon wretched Quaker. That I held him in
contempt, and was displeased at the greedy devices with which he ruined
a manly sport, is true enough; but, unless as it favoured my designs on
you, he might have, for me, maintained his stake-nets till Solway should
cease to ebb and flow.'
'Alas!' I said, 'it doubles my regret to have been the unwilling cause
of misfortune to an honest and friendly man.'
'Do not grieve for that,' said Herries; 'honest Joshua is one of
those who, by dint of long prayers, can possess themselves of widow's
houses--he will quickly repair his losses. When he sustains any mishap,
he and the other canters set it down as a debt against Heaven, and, by
way of set-off, practise rogueries without compunction, till the they
make the balance even, or incline it to the winning side. Enough of this
for the present.--I must immediately shift my quarters; for, although I
do not fear the over-zeal of Mr. Justice Foxley or his clerk will
lead them to any extreme measure, yet that mad scoundrel's unhappy
recognition of me may make it more serious for them to connive at me,
and I must not put their patience to an over severe trial. You must
prepare to attend me, either as a captive or a companion; if as the
latter, you must give your parole of honour to attempt no escape. Should
you be so ill advised as to break your word once pledged, be assured
that I will blow your brains out without a moment's scruple.'
'I am ignorant of your plans and purposes,' I replied, 'and cannot but
hold them dangerous. I do not mean to aggravate my present situation by
any unavailing resistance to the superior force which detains me; but
I will not renounce the right of asserting my natural freedom should it
favourable opportunity occur. I will, therefore, rather be your prisoner
than your confederate.'
'That is spoken fairly,' he said; 'and yet not without the canny caution
of one brought up in the Gude Town of Edinburgh. On my part, I will
impose no unnecessary hardship upon you; but, on the contrary, your
journey shall be made as easy as is consistent with your being kept
safely. Do you feel strong enough to ride on horseback as yet, or would
you prefer a carriage? The former mode of travelling is best adapted to
the country through which we are to travel, but you are at liberty to
choose between them.'
I said, 'I felt my strength gradually returning, and that I should much
prefer travelling on horseback. A carriage,' I added, 'is so close'--
'And so easily guarded,' replied Herries, with a look as if he would
have penetrated my very thoughts,--'that, doubtless, you think horseback
better calculated for an escape.'
'My thoughts are my own,' I answered; 'and though you keep my person
prisoner, these are beyond your control.'
'Oh, I can read the book,' he said, 'without opening the leaves. But I
would recommend to you to make no rash attempt, and it will be my
care to see that you have no power to make any that is likely to
be effectual. Linen, and all other necessaries for one in your
circumstances, are amply provided, Cristal Nixon will act as your
valet,--I should rather, perhaps, say, your FEMME DE CHAMBRE. Your
travelling dress you may perhaps consider as singular; but it is such
as the circumstances require; and, if you object to use the articles
prepared for your use, your mode of journeying will be as personally
unpleasant as that which conducted you hither.--Adieu--We now know each
other better than we did--it will not be my fault if the consequences of
further intimacy be not a more favourable mutual opinion.'
He then left me, with a civil good night, to my own reflections,
and only turned back to say that we should proceed on our journey
at daybreak next morning, at furthest; perhaps earlier, he said; but
complimented me by supposing that, as I was a sportsman, I must always
be ready for a sudden start.
We are then at issue, this singular man and myself. His personal views
are to a certain point explained. He has chosen an antiquated and
desperate line of politics, and he claims, from some pretended tie of
guardianship or relationship, which he does not deign to explain but
which he seems to have been able to pass current on a silly country
Justice and his knavish clerk, a right to direct and to control my
motions. The danger which awaited me in England, and which I might have
escaped had I remained in Scotland, was doubtless occasioned by the
authority of this man. But what my poor mother might fear for me as a
child--what my English friend, Samuel Griffiths, endeavoured to guard
against during my youth and nonage, is now, it seems, come upon me;
and, under a legal pretext, I am detained in what must be a most illegal
manner, by a person, foe, whose own political immunities have been
forfeited by his conduct. It matters not--my mind is made up neither
persuasion nor threats shall force me into the desperate designs which
this man meditates. Whether I am of the trifling consequence which my
life hitherto seems to intimate, or whether I have (as would appear from
my adversary's conduct) such importance, by birth or fortune, as may
make me a desirable acquisition to a political faction, my resolution
is taken in either case. Those who read this journal, if it shall be
perused by impartial eyes, shall judge of me truly; and if they consider
me as a fool in encountering danger unnecessarily, they shall have no
reason to believe me a coward or a turncoat, when I find myself engaged
in it. I have been bred in sentiments of attachment to the family on the
throne and in these sentiments I will live and die. I have, indeed, some
idea that Mr. Herries has already discovered that I am made of different
and more unmalleable metal than he had at first believed. There were
letters from my dear Alan Fairford, giving a ludicrous account of my
instability of temper, in the same pocket-book, which, according to the
admission of my pretended guardian, fell under the investigation of
his domestic during the night I passed at Brokenburn, where, as I now
recollect, my wet clothes, with the contents of my pockets, were, with
the thoughtlessness of a young traveller, committed too rashly to the
care of a strange servant. And my kind friend and hospitable landlord,
Mr. Alexander Fairford, may also, and with justice, have spoken of my
levities to this man. But he shall find he has made a false estimate
upon these plausible grounds, since--
I must break off for the present.

There is at length a halt--at length I have gained so much privacy as to
enable me to continue my journal. It has become a sort of task of duty
to me, without the discharge of which I do not feel that the business
of the day is performed. True, no friendly eye may ever look upon these
labours, which have amused the solitary hours of an unhappy prisoner.
Yet, in the meanwhile, the exercise of the pen seems to act as a
sedative upon my own agitated thoughts and tumultuous passions. I never
lay it down but I rise stronger in resolution, more ardent in hope. A
thousand vague fears, wild expectations, and indigested schemes,
hurry through one's thoughts in seasons of doubt and of danger. But by
arresting them as they flit across the mind, by throwing them on paper,
and even by that mechanical act compelling ourselves to consider them
with scrupulous and minute attention, we may perhaps escape becoming the
dupes of our own excited imagination; just as a young horse is cured of
the vice of starting by being made to stand still and look for some time
without any interruption at the cause of its terror.
There remains but one risk, which is that of discovery. But besides the
small characters, in which my residence in Mr. Fairford's house enabled
me to excel, for the purpose of transferring as many scroll sheets as
possible to a huge sheet of stamped paper, I have, as I have elsewhere
intimated, had hitherto the comfortable reflection that if the record
of my misfortunes should fall into the hands of him by whom they are
caused, they would, without harming any one, show him the real character
and disposition of the person who has become his prisoner--perhaps his
victim. Now, however, that other names, and other characters, are to be
mingled with the register of my own sentiments, I must take additional
care of these papers, and keep them in such a manner that, in case
of the least hazard of detection, I may be able to destroy them at a
moment's notice. I shall not soon or easily forget the lesson I have
been taught, by the prying disposition which Cristal Nixon, this man's
agent and confederate, manifested at Brokenburn, and which proved the
original cause of my sufferings.
My laying aside the last sheet of my journal hastily was occasioned by
the unwonted sound of a violin, in the farmyard beneath my windows. It
will not appear surprising to those who have made music their study,
that, after listening to a few notes, I became at once assured that the
musician was no other than the itinerant, formerly mentioned as present
at the destruction of Joshua Geddes's stake-nets, the superior delicacy
and force of whose execution would enable me to swear to his bow amongst
a whole orchestra. I had the less reason to doubt his identity, because
he played twice over the beautiful Scottish air called Wandering Willie;
and I could not help concluding that he did so for the purpose of
intimating his own presence, since what the French called the nom de
guerre of the performer was described by the tune.
Hope will catch at the most feeble twig for support in extremity. I knew
this man, though deprived of sight, to be bold, ingenious, and perfectly
capable of acting as a guide. I believed I had won his goodwill,
by having, in a frolic, assumed the character of his partner; and I
remembered that in a wild, wandering, and disorderly course of life,
men, as they become loosened from the ordinary bonds of civil society,
hold those of comradeship more closely sacred; so that honour is
sometimes found among thieves, and faith and attachment in such as the
law has termed vagrants. The history of Richard Coeur de Lion and his
minstrel, Blondel, rushed, at the same time, on my mind, though I
could not even then suppress a smile at the dignity of the example when
applied to a blind fiddler and myself. Still there was something in all
this to awaken a hope that, if I could open a correspondence with
this poor violer, he might be useful in extricating me from my present
His profession furnished me with some hope that this desired
communication might be attained; since it is well known that, in
Scotland, where there is so much national music, the words and airs
of which are generally known, there is a kind of freemasonry amongst
performers, by which they can, by the mere choice of a tune, express
a great deal to the hearers. Personal allusions are often made in this
manner, with much point and pleasantry; and nothing is more usual at
public festivals, than that the air played to accompany a particular
health or toast, is made the vehicle of compliment, of wit, and
sometimes of satire. [Every one must remember instances of this festive
custom, in which the adaptation of the tune to the toast was remarkably
felicitous. Old Neil Gow, and his son Nathaniel, were peculiarly happy
on such occasions.]
While these things passed through my mind rapidly, I heard my friend
beneath recommence, for the third time, the air from which his own
name had been probably adopted, when he was interrupted by his rustic
'If thou canst play no other spring but that, mon, ho hadst best put up
ho's pipes and be jogging. Squoire will be back anon, or Master Nixon,
and we'll see who will pay poiper then.'
Oho, thought I, if I have no sharper ears than those of my friends Jan
and Dorcas to encounter, I may venture an experiment upon them; and, as
most expressive of my state of captivity, I sang two or three lines of
the 137th Psalm--
By Babel's streams we sat and wept.
The country people listened with attention, and when I ceased, I heard
them whisper together in tones of commiseration, 'Lack-a-day, poor soul!
so pretty a man to be beside his wits!'
'An he be that gate,' said Wandering Willie, in a tone calculated to
reach my ears, 'I ken naething will raise his spirits like a spring.'
And he struck up, with great vigour and spirit, the lively Scottish air,
the words of which instantly occurred to me--
Oh whistle and I'll come t'ye, my lad,
Oh whistle and I'll come t'ye, my lad;
Though father and mother and a' should gae mad,
Oh whistle and I'll come t'ye, my lad.
I soon heard a clattering noise of feet in the courtyard, which I
concluded to be Jan and Dorcas dancing a jig in their Cumberland wooden
clogs. Under cover of this din, I endeavoured to answer Willie's signal
by whistling, as loud as I could---
Come back again and loe me
When a' the lave are gane.
He instantly threw the dancers out, by changing his air to
There's my thumb, I'll ne'er beguile thee.
I no longer doubted that a communication betwixt us was happily
established, and that, if I had an opportunity of speaking to the poor
musician, I should find him willing to take my letter to the post,
to invoke the assistance of some active magistrate, or of the
commanding-officer of Carlisle Castle, or, in short, to do whatever
else I could point out, in the compass of his power, to contribute to
my liberation. But to obtain speech of him, I must have run the risk
of alarming the suspicions of Dorcas, if not of her yet more stupid
Corydon. My ally's blindness prevented his receiving any communication
by signs from the window--even if I could have ventured to make
them, consistently with prudence--so that notwithstanding the mode of
intercourse we had adopted was both circuitous and peculiarly liable to
misapprehension, I saw nothing I could do better than to continue it,
trusting my own and my correspondent's acuteness in applying to the airs
the meaning they were intended to convey. I thought of singing the words
themselves of some significant song, but feared I might, by doing so,
attract suspicion. I endeavoured, therefore, to intimate my speedy
departure from my present place of residence, by whistling the
well-known air with which festive parties in Scotland usually conclude
the dance:--
Good night and joy be wi' ye a',
For here nae langer maun I stay;
There's neither friend nor foe, of mine
But wishes that I were away.
It appeared that Willie's powers of intelligence were much more active
than mine, and that, like a deaf person accustomed to be spoken to by
signs, he comprehended, from the very first notes, the whole meaning I
intended to convey; and he accompanied me in the air with his violin,
in such a manner as at once to show he understood my meaning, and to
prevent my whistling from being attended to.
His reply was almost immediate, and was conveyed in the old martial air
of 'Hey, Johnnie lad, cock up your beaver.' I ran over the words, and
fixed on the following stanza, as most applicable to my circumstances:--
Cock up your beaver, and cock it fu' sprush;
We'll over the Border and give them a brush;
There's somebody there we'll teach better behaviour,
Hey, Johnnie lad, cock up your beaver.
If these sounds alluded, as I hope they do, to the chance of assistance
from my Scottish friends, I may indeed consider that a door is open to
hope and freedom. I immediately replied with:--
My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands wherever I go.
Farewell to the Highlands! farewell to the North!
The birth-place of valour, the cradle of worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.
Willie instantly played, with a degree of spirit which might have
awakened hope in Despair herself, if Despair could be supposed to
understand Scotch music, the fine old Jacobite air,
For a' that, and a' that,
And twice as much as a' that.
I next endeavoured to intimate my wish to send notice of my condition to
my friends; and, despairing to find an air sufficiently expressive of my
purpose, I ventured to sing a verse, which, in various forms, occurs so
frequently in old ballads--
Whare will I get a bonny boy
That will win hose and shoon:
That will gae down to Durisdeer,
And bid my merry men come?
He drowned the latter part of the verse by playing, with much emphasis,
Kind Robin loes me.
Of this, though I ran over the verses of the song in my mind, I could
make nothing; and before I could contrive any mode of intimating my
uncertainty, a cry arose in the courtyard that Cristal Nixon was coming.
My faithful Willie was obliged to retreat; but not before he had half
played, half hummed, by way of farewell,
Leave thee--leave thee, lad--
I'll never leave thee;
The stars shall gae withershins
Ere I will leave thee.
I am thus, I think, secure of one trusty adherent in my misfortunes;
and, however whimsical it may be to rely much on a man of his idle
profession and deprived of sight withal, it is deeply impressed on
my mind that his services may be both useful and necessary. There
is another quarter from which I look for succour, and which I have
indicated to thee, Alan, in more than one passage of my journal. Twice,
at the early hour of daybreak, I have seen the individual alluded to in
the court of the farm, and twice she made signs of recognition in
answer to the gestures by which I endeavoured to make her comprehend my
situation; but on both occasions she pressed her finger on her lips, as
expressive of silence and secrecy.
The manner in which G.M. entered upon the scene for the first time,
seems to assure me of her goodwill, so far as her power may reach; and I
have many reasons to believe it is considerable. Yet she seemed hurried
and frightened during the very transitory moments of our interview, and
I think was, upon the last occasion, startled by the entrance of some
one into the farmyard, just as she was on the point of addressing me.
You must not ask whether I am an early riser, since such objects are
only to be seen at daybreak; and although I have never again seen her,
yet I have reason to think she is not distant. It was but three
nights ago, that, worn out by the uniformity of my confinement, I had
manifested more symptoms of despondence than I had before exhibited,
which I conceive may have attracted the attention of the domestics,
through whom the circumstance might transpire. On the next morning, the
following lines lay on my table; but how conveyed there, I cannot tell.
The hand in which they were written is a beautiful Italian manuscript:--
As lords their labourers' hire delay,
Fate quits our toil with hopes to come,
Which, if far short of present pay,
Still, owns a debt and names a sum.
Quit not the pledge, frail sufferer, then,
Although a distant date be given;
Despair is treason towards man,
And blasphemy to Heaven.
That these lines were written with the friendly purpose of inducing me
to keep up my spirits, I cannot doubt; and I trust the manner in which I
shall conduct myself may show that the pledge is accepted.
The dress is arrived in which it seems to be my self-elected guardian's
pleasure that I shall travel; and what does it prove to be?--A skirt, or
upper-petticoat of camlet, like those worn by country ladies of moderate
rank when on horseback, with such a riding-mask as they frequently use
on journeys to preserve their eyes and complexion from the sun and dust,
and sometimes, it is suspected, to enable then to play off a little
coquetry. From the gayer mode of employing the mask, however, I suspect
I shall be precluded; for instead of being only pasteboard, covered with
black velvet, I observe with anxiety that mine is thickened with a plate
of steel, which, like Quixote's visor, serves to render it more strong
and durable.
This apparatus, together with a steel clasp for securing the mask behind
me with a padlock, gave me fearful recollections of the unfortunate
being, who, never being permitted to lay aside such a visor, acquired
the well-known historical epithet of the Man in the Iron Mask. I
hesitated a moment whether I should, so far submit to the acts of
oppression designed against me as to assume this disguise, which was,
of course, contrived to aid their purposes. But when I remembered Mr.
Herries's threat, that I should be kept close prisoner in a carriage,
unless I assumed the dress which should be appointed for me; and I
considered the comparative degree of freedom which I might purchase
by wearing the mask and female dress as easily and advantageously
purchased. Here, therefore, I must pause for the present, and await what
the morning may bring forth.
[To carry on the story from the documents before us, we think it proper
here to drop the journal of the captive Darsie Latimer, and adopt,
instead, a narrative of the proceedings of Alan Fairford in pursuit of
his friend, which forms another series in this history.]

The reader ought, by this time, to have formed some idea of the
character of Alan Fairford. He had a warmth of heart which the study
of the law and of the world could not chill, and talents which they had
rendered unusually acute. Deprived of the personal patronage enjoyed by
most of his contemporaries, who assumed the gown under the protection of
their aristocratic alliances and descents, he early saw that he should
have that to achieve for himself which fell to them as a right of birth.
He laboured hard in silence and solitude, and his labours were crowned
with success. But Alan doted on his friend Darsie, even more than he
loved his profession, and, as we have seen, threw everything aside when
he thought Latimer in danger; forgetting fame and fortune, and hazarding
even the serious displeasure of his father, to rescue him whom he loved
with an elder brother's affection. Darsie, though his parts were more
quick and brilliant than those of his friend, seemed always to the
latter a being under his peculiar charge, whom he was called upon
to cherish and protect in cases where the youth's own experience was
unequal to the exigency; and now, when, the fate of Latimer seeming
worse than doubtful, Alan's whole prudence and energy were to be exerted
in his behalf, an adventure which might have seemed perilous to most
youths of his age had no terrors for him. He was well acquainted with
the laws of his country, and knew how to appeal to them; and, besides
his professional confidence, his natural disposition was steady, sedate,
persevering, and undaunted. With these requisites he undertook a quest
which, at that time, was not unattended with actual danger, and had much
in it to appal a more timid disposition.
Fairford's first inquiry concerning his friend was of the chief
magistrate of Dumfries, Provost Crosbie, who had sent the information
of Darsie's disappearance. On his first application, he thought he
discerned in the honest dignitary a desire to get rid of the subject.
The provost spoke of the riot at the fishing station as an 'outbreak
among those lawless loons the fishermen, which concerned the sheriff,'
he said, 'more than us poor town council bodies, that have enough to do
to keep peace within burgh, amongst such a set of commoners as the town
are plagued with.'
'But this is not all, Provost Crosbie,' said Mr. Alan Fairford; 'A young
gentleman of rank and fortune has disappeared amongst their hands--you
know him. My father gave him a letter to you--Mr. Darsie Latimer.'
'Lack-a-day, yes! lack-a-day, yes!' said the provost; 'Mr. Darsie
Latimer--he dined at my house--I hope he is well?'
'I hope so too,' said Alan, rather indignantly; 'but I desire more
certainty on that point. You yourself wrote my father that he had
'Troth, yes, and that is true,' said the provost. 'But did he not go
back to his friends in Scotland? it was not natural to think he would
stay here.'
'Not unless he is under restraint,' said Fairford, surprised at the
coolness with which the provost seemed to take up the matter.
'Rely on it, sir,' said Mr. Crosbie, 'that if he has not returned to his
friends in Scotland, he must have gone to his friends in England.'
'I will rely on no such thing,' said Alan; 'if there is law or justice
in Scotland, I will have the thing cleared to the very bottom.'
'Reasonable, reasonable,' said the provost, 'so far as is possible; but
you know I have no power beyond the ports of the burgh.'
'But you are in the commission besides, Mr. Crosbie; a justice of peace
for the county.'
'True, very true--that is,' said the cautious magistrate, 'I will not
say but my name may stand on the list, but I cannot remember that I have
ever qualified.' [By taking the oaths to government.]
'Why, in that case,' said young Fairford, 'there are ill-natured people
might doubt your attachment to the Protestant line, Mr. Crosbie.'
'God forbid, Mr. Fairford! I who have done and suffered in the
Forty-five. I reckon the Highlandmen did me damage to the amount of
100l. Scots, forby all they ate and drank--no, no, sir, I stand beyond
challenge; but as for plaguing myself with county business, let them
that aught the mare shoe the mare. The commissioners of supply would see
my back broken before they would help me in the burgh's work, and all
the world kens the difference of the weight between public business in
burgh and landward. What are their riots to me? have we not riots enough
of our own?--But I must be getting ready, for the council meets this
forenoon. I am blithe to see your father's son on the causeway of our
ancient burgh, Mr. Alan Fairford. Were you a twelve-month aulder, we
would make a burgess of you, man. I hope you will come and dine with
me before you go away. What think you of to-day at two o'clock--just a
roasted chucky and a drappit egg?'
Alan Fairford resolved that his friend's hospitality should not, as it
seemed the inviter intended, put a stop to his queries. 'I must delay
you for a moment,' he said, 'Mr. Crosbie; this is a serious affair; a
young gentleman of high hopes, my own dearest friend, is missing--you
cannot think it will be passed over slightly, if a man of your high
character and known zeal for the government do not make some active
inquiry. Mr. Crosbie, you are my father's friend, and I respect you as
such--but to others it will have a bad appearance.'
The withers of the provost were not unwrung; he paced the room in much
tribulation, repeating, 'But what can I do, Mr. Fairford? I warrant
your friend casts up again--he will come back again, like the ill
shilling--he is not the sort of gear that tynes--a hellicat boy, running
through the country with a blind fiddler and playing the fiddle to
a parcel of blackguards, who can tell where the like of him may have
scampered to?'
'There are persons apprehended, and in the jail of the town, as I
understand from the sheriff-substitute,' said Mr. Fairford; 'you
must call them before you, and inquire what they know of this young
'Aye, aye--the sheriff-depute did commit some poor creatures, I
believe--wretched ignorant fishermen bodies, that had been quarrelling
with Quaker Geddes and his stake-nets, whilk, under favour of your gown
be it spoken, Mr. Fairford, are not over and above lawful, and the town
clerk thinks that they may be lawfully removed VIA FACTI--but that is by
the by. But, sir, the creatures were a' dismissed for want of evidence;
the Quaker would not swear to them, and what could the sheriff and me
do but just let them loose? Come awa, cheer up, Master Alan, and take a
walk till dinner-time--I must really go to the council.'
'Stop a moment, provost,' said Alan; 'I lodge a complaint before you as
a magistrate, and you will find it serious to slight it over. You must
have these men apprehended again.'
'Aye, aye--easy said; but catch them that can,' answered the provost;
'they are ower the march by this time, or by the point of Cairn.--Lord
help ye! they are a kind of amphibious deevils, neither land nor water
beasts neither English nor Scots--neither county nor stewartry, as we
say--they are dispersed like so much quicksilver. You may as well try to
whistle a sealgh out of the Solway, as to get hold of one of them till
all the fray is over.'
'Mr. Crosbie, this will not do,' answered the young counsellor; 'there
is a person of more importance than such wretches as you describe
concerned in this unhappy business--I must name to you a certain Mr.
He kept his eye on the provost as he uttered the name, which he did
rather at a venture, and from the connexion which that gentleman, and
his real or supposed niece, seemed to have with the fate of Darsie
Latimer, than from any distinct cause of suspicion which he entertained.
He thought the provost seemed embarrassed, though he showed much desire
to assume an appearance of indifference, in which he partly succeeded.
'Herries!' he said--'What Herries?--There are many of that name--not
so many as formerly, for the old stocks are wearing out; but there is
Herries of Heathgill, and Herries of Auchintulloch, and Herries'--
'To save you further trouble, this person's designation is Herries of
'Of Birrenswork?' said Mr. Crosbie; 'I have you now, Mr. Alan. Could you
not as well have said, the Laird of Redgauntlet?'
Fairford was too wary to testify any surprise at this identification of
names, however unexpected. 'I thought,' said he, 'he was more generally
known by the name of Herries. I have seen and been in company with him
under that name, I am sure.'
'Oh aye; in Edinburgh, belike. You know Redgauntlet was unfortunate a
great while ago, and though he was maybe not deeper in the mire than
other folk, yet, for some reason or other, he did not get so easily
'He was attainted, I understand; and has no remission,' said Fairford.
The cautious provost only nodded, and said, 'You may guess, therefore,
why it is so convenient he should hold his mother's name, which is also
partly his own, when he is about Edinburgh. To bear his proper name
might be accounted a kind of flying in the face of government, ye
understand. But he has been long connived at--the story is an old
story--and the gentleman has many excellent qualities, and is of a very
ancient and honourable house--has cousins among the great folk--counts
kin with the advocate and with the sheriff--hawks, you know, Mr. Alan,
will not pike out hawks' een--he is widely connected--my wife is a
fourth cousin of Redgauntlet's.'
HINC ILLAE LACHRYMAE! thought Alan Fairford to himself; but the hint
presently determined him to proceed by soft means and with caution. 'I
beg you to understand,' said Fairford, 'that in the investigation I am
about to make, I design no harm to Mr. Herries, or Redgauntlet--call him
what you will. All I wish is, to ascertain the safety of my friend. I
know that he was rather foolish in once going upon a mere frolic, in
disguise, to the neighbourhood of this same gentleman's house. In his
circumstances, Mr. Redgauntlet may have misinterpreted the motives, and
considered Darsie Latimer as a spy. His influence, I believe, is great
among the disorderly people you spoke of but now?'
The provost answered with another sagacious shake of his head, that
would have done honour to Lord Burleigh in the CRITIC.
'Well, then,' continued Fairford,' is it not possible that, in the
mistaken belief that Mr. Latimer was a spy, he may, upon such suspicion,
have caused him to be carried off and confined somewhere? Such things
are done at elections, and on occasions less pressing than when men
think their lives are in danger from an informer.'
'Mr. Fairford,' said the provost, very earnestly, 'I scarce think such
a mistake possible; or if, by any extraordinary chance, it should have
taken place, Redgauntlet, whom I cannot but know well, being as I have
said my wife's first cousin (fourth cousin, I should say) is altogether
incapable of doing anything harsh to the young gentleman--he might send
him ower to Ailsay for a night or two, or maybe land him on the north
coast of Ireland, or in Islay, or some of the Hebrides; but depend upon
it, he is incapable of harming a hair of his head.'
'I am determined not to trust to that, provost,' answered Fairford
firmly; 'and I am a good deal surprised at your way of talking so
lightly of such an aggression on the liberty of the subject. You are
to consider, and Mr. Herries or Mr. Redgauntlet's friends would do very
well also to consider, how it would sound in the ears of an English
Secretary of State, that an attainted traitor (for such is this
gentleman) has not only ventured to take up his abode in this
realm--against the king of which he has been in arms--but is suspected
of having proceeded, by open force and violence, against the person
of one of the lieges, a young man who is neither without friends nor
property to secure his being righted.'
The provost looked at the young counsellor with a face in which
distrust, alarm, and vexation seemed mingled. 'A fashious job,' he said
at last, 'a fashious job; and it will be dangerous meddling with it.
I should like ill to see your father's son turn informer against an
unfortunate gentleman.'
'Neither do I mean it,' answered Alan, 'provided that unfortunate
gentleman and his friends give me a quiet opportunity of securing my
friend's safety. If I could speak with Mr. Redgauntlet, and hear his own
explanation, I should probably be satisfied. If I am forced, to denounce
him to government, it will be in his new capacity of a kidnapper. I may
not be able, nor is it my business, to prevent his being recognized in
his former character of an attainted person, excepted from the general
'Master Fairford,' said the provost, 'would ye ruin the poor innocent
gentleman on an idle suspicion?'
'Say no more of it, Mr. Crosbie; my line of conduct is
determined--unless that suspicion is removed.'
'Weel, sir,' said the provost, 'since so it be, and since you say that
you do not seek to harm Redgauntlet personally, I'll ask a man to dine
with us to-day that kens as much about his matters as most folk. You
must think, Mr. Alan Fairford, though Redgauntlet be my wife's near
relative, and though, doubtless, I wish him weel, yet I am not the
person who is like to be intrusted with his incomings and outgoings. I
am not a man for that--I keep the kirk, and I abhor Popery--I have stood
up for the House of Hanover, and for liberty and property--I carried
arms, sir, against the Pretender, when three of the Highlandmen's
baggage-carts were stopped at Ecclefechan; and I had an especial loss of
a hundred pounds'--
'Scots,' interrupted Fairford. 'You forget you told me all this before.'
'Scots or English, it was too much for me to lose,' said the provost;
so you see I am not a person to pack or peel with Jacobites, and such
unfreemen as poor Redgauntlet.'
'Granted, granted, Mr. Crosbie; and what then?' said Alan Fairford.
'Why, then, it follows, that if I am to help you at this pinch, if
cannot be by and through my ain personal knowledge, but through some
fitting agent or third person.'
'Granted again,' said Fairford. 'And pray who may this third person be?'
'Wha but Pate Maxwell of Summertrees--him they call Pate-in-Peril.'
'An old Forty-five man, of course?' said Fairford.
'Ye may swear that,' replied the provost--'as black a Jacobite as the
auld leaven can make him; but a sonsy, merry companion, that none of us
think it worth while to break wi' for all his brags and his clavers.
You would have thought, if he had had but his own way at Derby, he would
have marched Charlie Stuart through between Wade and the Duke, as a
thread goes through the needle's ee, and seated him in Saint James's
before you could have said haud your hand. But though he is a windy body
when he gets on his auld-warld stories, he has mair gumption in him than
most people--knows business, Mr. Alan, being bred to the law; but never
took the gown, because of the oaths, which kept more folk out then than
they do now--the more's the pity.'
'What! are you sorry, provost, that Jacobitism is upon the decline?'
said Fairford.
'No, no,' answered the provost--'I am only sorry for folks losing the
tenderness of conscience which they used to have. I have a son breeding
to the bar, Mr. Fairford; and, no doubt, considering my services and
sufferings, I might have looked for some bit postie to him; but if the
muckle tykes come in--I mean a' these Maxwells, and Johnstones, and
great lairds, that the oaths used to keep out lang syne--the bits o'
messan doggies, like my son, and maybe like your father's son, Mr. Alan,
will be sair put to the wall.'
'But to return to the subject, Mr. Crosbie,' said Fairford, 'do you
really think it likely that this Mr. Maxwell will be of service in this
'It's very like he may be, for he is the tongue of the trump to the
whole squad of them,' said the provost; 'and Redgauntlet, though he will
not stick at times to call him a fool, takes more of his counsel than
any man's else that I am aware of. If Fate can bring him to a communing,
the business is done. He's a sharp chield, Pate-in-Peril.'
'Pate-in-Peril!' repeated Alan; 'a very singular name.'
'Aye, and it was in as queer a way he got it; but I'll say naething
about that,' said the provost, 'for fear of forestalling his market;
for ye are sure to hear it once at least, however oftener, before the
punch-bowl gives place to the teapot.--And now, fare ye weel; for there
is the council-bell clinking in earnest; and if I am not there before it
jows in, Bailie Laurie will be trying some of his manoeuvres.'
The provost, repeating his expectation of seeing Mr. Fairford at two
o'clock, at length effected his escape from the young counsellor, and
left him at a considerable loss how to proceed. The sheriff, it seems,
had returned to Edinburgh, and he feared to find the visible repugnance
of the provost to interfere with this Laird of Birrenswork, or
Redgauntlet, much stronger amongst the country gentlemen, many of
whom were Catholics as well as Jacobites, and most others unwilling to
quarrel with kinsmen and friends, by prosecuting with severity political
offences which had almost run a prescription.
To collect all the information in his power, and not to have recourse
to the higher authorities until he could give all the light of which
the case was capable, seemed the wiser proceeding in a choice of
difficulties. He had some conversation with the procurator-fiscal, who,
as well as the provost, was an old correspondent of his father. Alan
expressed to that officer a purpose of visiting Brokenburn, but was
assured by him, that it would be a step attended with much danger to his
own person, and altogether fruitless; that the individuals who had
been ringleaders in the riot were long since safely sheltered in their
various lurking-holes in the Isle of Man, Cumberland, and elsewhere; and
that those who might remain would undoubtedly commit violence on any
who visited their settlement with the purpose of inquiring into the late
There were not the same objections to his hastening to Mount Sharon,
where he expected to find the latest news of his friend; and there
was time enough to do so, before the hour appointed for the provost's
dinner. Upon the road, he congratulated himself on having obtained one
point of almost certain information. The person who had in a manner
forced himself upon his father's hospitality, and had appeared desirous
to induce Darsie Latimer to visit England, against whom, too, a sort of
warning had been received from an individual connected with and residing
in his own family, proved to be a promoter of the disturbance in which
Darsie had disappeared.
What could be the cause of such an attempt on the liberty of an
inoffensive and amiable man? It was impossible it could be merely owing
to Redgauntlet's mistaking Darsie for a spy; for though that was the
solution which Fairford had offered to the provost, he well knew that,
in point of fact, he himself had been warned by his singular visitor of
some danger to which his friend was exposed, before such suspicion could
have been entertained; and the injunctions received by Latimer from his
guardian, or him who acted as such, Mr. Griffiths of London, pointed to
the same thing. He was rather glad, however, that he had not let Provost
Crosbie into his secret further than was absolutely necessary; since it
was plain that the connexion of his wife with the suspected party was
likely to affect his impartiality as a magistrate.
When Alan Fairford arrived at Mount Sharon, Rachel Geddes hastened to
meet him, almost before the servant could open the door. She drew back
in disappointment when she beheld a stranger, and said, to excuse her
precipitation, that 'she had thought it was her brother Joshua returned
from Cumberland.'
'Mr. Geddes is then absent from home?' said Fairford, much disappointed
in his turn.
'He hath been gone since yesterday, friend,' answered Rachel, once more
composed to the quietude which characterizes her sect, but her pale
cheek and red eye giving contradiction to her assumed equanimity.
'I am,' said Fairford, hastily, 'the particular friend of a young man
not unknown to you, Miss Geddes--the friend of Darsie Latimer--and
am come hither in the utmost anxiety, having understood from Provost
Crosbie, that he had disappeared in the night when a destructive attack
was made upon the fishing-station of Mr. Geddes.'
'Thou dost afflict me, friend, by thy inquiries,' said Rachel, more
affected than before; 'for although the youth was like those of the
worldly generation, wise in his own conceit, and lightly to be moved by
the breath of vanity, yet Joshua loved him, and his heart clave to him
as if he had been his own son. And when he himself escaped from the sons
of Belial, which was not until they had tired themselves with reviling,
and with idle reproach, and the jests of the scoffer, Joshua, my
brother, returned to them once and again, to give ransom for the
youth called Darsie Latimer, with offers of money and with promise of
remission, but they would not hearken to him. Also, he went before the
head judge, whom men call the sheriff, and would have told him of the
youth's peril; but he would in no way hearken to him unless he would
swear unto the truth of his words, which thing he might not do without
sin, seeing it is written, Swear not at all--also, that our conversation
shall be yea or nay. Therefore, Joshua returned to me disconsolate,
and said, "Sister Rachel, this youth hath run into peril for my sake;
assuredly I shall not be guiltless if a hair of his head be harmed,
seeing I have sinned in permitting him to go with me to the fishing
station when such evil was to be feared. Therefore, I will take my
horse, even Solomon, and ride swiftly into Cumberland, and I will make
myself friends with Mammon of Unrighteousness, among the magistrates of
the Gentiles, and among their mighty men; and it shall come to pass that
Darsie Latimer shall be delivered, even if it were at the expense of
half my substance." And I said, "Nay, my brother, go not, for they
will but scoff at and revile thee; but hire with thy silver one of the
scribes, who are eager as hunters in pursuing their prey, and he shall
free Darsie Latimer from the men of violence by his cunning, and thy
soul shall be guiltless of evil towards the lad." But he answered and
said, "I will not be controlled in this matter." And he is gone forth
and hath not returned, and I fear me that he may never return; for
though he be peaceful, as becometh one who holds all violence as offence
against his own soul, yet neither the floods of water, nor the fear of
the snare, nor the drawn sword of the adversary brandished in the path,
will overcome his purpose. Wherefore the Solway may swallow him up, or
the sword of the enemy may devour him--nevertheless, my hope is better
in Him who directeth all things, and ruleth over the waves of the sea,
and overruleth the devices of the wicked, and who can redeem us even as
a bird from the fowler's net.'
This was all that Fairford could learn from Miss Geddes; but he heard
with pleasure that the good Quaker, her brother, had many friends among
those of his own profession in Cumberland, and without exposing himself
to so much danger as his sister seemed to apprehend, he trusted he might
be able to discover some traces of Darsie Latimer. He himself rode back
to Dumfries, having left with Miss Geddes his direction in that
place, and an earnest request that she would forward thither whatever
information she might obtain from her brother.
On Fairford's return to Dumfries, he employed the brief interval which
remained before dinner-time, in writing an account of what had befallen
Latimer and of the present uncertainty of his condition, to Mr. Samuel
Griffiths, through whose hands the remittances for his friend's service
had been regularly made, desiring he would instantly acquaint him with
such parts of his history as might direct him in the search which he
was about to institute through the border counties, and which he pledged
himself not; to give up until he had obtained news of his friend, alive
or dead, The young lawyer's mind felt easier when he had dispatched this
letter. He could not conceive any reason why his friend's life should be
aimed at; he knew Darsie had done nothing by which his liberty could
be legally affected; and although, even of late years, there had been
singular histories of men, and women also, who had been trepanned,
and concealed in solitudes and distant islands in order to serve some
temporary purpose, such violences had been chiefly practised by the rich
on the poor, and by the strong on the feeble; whereas, in the present
case, this Mr. Herries, or Redgauntlet, being amenable, for more reasons
than one, to the censure of the law, must be the weakest in any struggle
in which it could be appealed to. It is true, that his friendly anxiety
whispered that the very cause which rendered this oppressor less
formidable, might make him more desperate. Still, recalling his
language, so strikingly that of the gentleman, and even of the man
of honour, Alan Fairford concluded, that though, in his feudal pride,
Redgauntlet might venture on the deeds of violence exercised by the
aristocracy in other times, he could not be capable of any action of
deliberate atrocity. And in these convictions he went to dine with
Provost Crosbie, with a heart more at ease than might have been
expected. [See Note 7.]

Five minutes had elapsed after the town clock struck two, before
Alan Fairford, who had made a small detour to put his letter into the
post-house, reached the mansion of Mr. Provost Crosbie, and was at once
greeted by the voice of that civic dignitary, and the rural dignitary
his visitor, as by the voices of men impatient for their dinner.
'Come away, Mr. Fairford--the Edinburgh time is later than ours,' said
the provost.
And, 'Come away, young gentleman,' said the laird; 'I remember your
father weel at the Cross thirty years ago--I reckon you are as late in
Edinburgh as at London, four o'clock hours--eh?'
'Not quite so degenerate,' replied Fairford; 'but certainly many
Edinburgh people are so ill-advised as to postpone their dinner
till three, that they may have full time to answer their London
'London correspondents!' said Mr. Maxwell; 'and pray what the devil have
the people of Auld Reekie to do with London correspondents?' [Not much
in those days, for within my recollection the London post; was brought
north in a small mail-cart; and men are yet as live who recollect when
it came down with only one single letter for Edinburgh, addressed to the
manager of the British Linen Company.]
'The tradesmen must have their goods,' said Fairford.
'Can they not buy our own Scottish manufactures, and pick their
customers pockets in a more patriotic manner?'
'Then the ladies must have fashions,' said Fairford.
'Can they not busk the plaid over their heads, as their mothers did? A
tartan screen, and once a year a new cockernony from Paris, should
serve a countess. But ye have not many of them left, I think--Mareschal,
Airley, Winton, Vemyss, Balmerino, all passed and gone--aye, aye, the
countesses and ladies of quality will scarce take up too much of your
ball-room floor with their quality hoops nowadays.'
'There is no want of crowding, however, sir,' said Fairford; 'they begin
to talk of a new Assembly room.'
'A new Assembly room!' said the old Jacobite laird--'Umph--I mind
quartering three hundred men in the old Assembly room [I remember
hearing this identical answer given by an old Highland gentleman of the
Forty-Five, when he heard of the opening of the New Assembly Rooms in
George Street.]--But come, come--I'll ask no more questions--the answers
all smell of new lords new lands, and do but spoil my appetite, which
were a pity, since here comes Mrs. Crosbie to say our mutton's ready.'
It was even so. Mrs. Crosbie had been absent, like Eve, 'on hospitable
cares intent,' a duty which she did not conceive herself exempted from,
either by the dignity of her husband's rank in the municipality, or the
splendour of her Brussels silk gown, or even by the more highly prized
lustre of her birth; for she was born a Maxwell, and allied, as her
husband often informed his friends, to several of the first families in
the county. She had been handsome, and was still a portly, good-looking
woman of her years; and though her peep into the kitchen had somewhat
heightened her complexion, it was no more than a modest touch of rouge
might have done.
The provost was certainly proud of his lady, nay, some said he was
afraid of her; for of the females of the Redgauntlet family there went a
rumour, that, ally where they would, there was a grey mare as surely in
the stables of their husbands, as there is a white horse in Wouvermans'
pictures. The good dame, too, was supposed to have brought a spice of
politics into Mr. Crosbie's household along with her; and the provost's
enemies at the council-table of the burgh used to observe that he
uttered there many a bold harangue against the Pretender, and in favour
of King George and government, of which he dared not have pronounced
a syllable in his own bedchamber; and that, in fact, his wife's
predominating influence had now and then occasioned his acting,
or forbearing to act, in a manner very different from his general
professions of zeal for Revolution principles. If this was in any
respect true, it was certain, on the other hand, that Mrs. Crosbie, in
all external points, seemed to acknowledge the 'lawful sway and right
supremacy' of the head of the house, and if she did not in truth
reverence her husband, she at least seemed to do so.
This stately dame received Mr. Maxwell (a cousin of course) with
cordiality, and Fairford with civility; answering at the same time with
respect, to the magisterial complaints of the provost, that dinner was
just coming up. 'But since you changed poor Peter MacAlpin, that used
to take care of the town-clock, my dear, it has never gone well a single
'Peter MacAlpin, my dear,' said the provost,' made himself too busy for
a person in office, and drunk healths and so forth, which it became no
man to drink or to pledge, far less one that is in point of office a
servant of the public, I understand that he lost the music bells in
Edinburgh, for playing "Ower the Water to Charlie," upon the tenth of
June. He is a black sheep, and deserves no encouragement.'
'Not a bad tune though, after all,' said Summertrees; and, turning to
the window, he half hummed, half whistled, the air in question, then
sang the last verse aloud:
'Oh I loe weel my Charlie's name,
Though some there be that abhor him;
But oh to see the deil gang hame
Wi' a' the Whigs before him!
Over the water, and over the sea,
And over the water to Charlie;
Come weal, come woe, we'll gather and go,
And live or die with Charlie.'
Mrs. Crosbie smiled furtively on the laird, wearing an aspect at the
same time of deep submission; while the provost, not choosing to hear
his visitor's ditty, took a turn through the room, in unquestioned
dignity and independence of authority.
'Aweel, aweel, my dear,' said the lady, with a quiet smile of
submission, 'ye ken these matters best, and you will do your
pleasure--they are far above my hand--only, I doubt if ever the
town-clock will go right, or your meals be got up so regular as I should
wish, till Peter MacAlpin gets his office back again. The body's auld,
and can neither work nor want, but he is the only hand to set a clock.'
It may be noticed in passing, that notwithstanding this prediction,
which, probably, the fair Cassandra had the full means of accomplishing,
it was not till the second council day thereafter that the misdemeanours
of the Jacobite clock-keeper were passed over, and he was once more
restored to his occupation of fixing the town's time, and the provost's
Upon the present occasion the dinner passed pleasantly away. Summertrees
talked and jested with the easy indifference of a man who holds himself
superior to his company. He was indeed an important person, as was
testified by his portly appearance; his hat laced with POINT D'ESPAGNE;
his coat and waistcoat once richly embroidered, though now almost
threadbare; the splendour of his solitaire, and laced ruffles, though
the first was sorely creased, and the other sullied; not to forget the
length of his silver-hilted rapier. His wit, or rather humour, bordered
on the sarcastic, and intimated a discontented man; and although he
showed no displeasure when the provost attempted a repartee, yet it
seemed that he permitted it upon mere sufferance, as a fencing-master,
engaged with a pupil, will sometimes permit the tyro to hit him, solely
by way of encouragement. The laird's own jests, in the meanwhile, were
eminently successful, not only with the provost and his lady, but with
the red-cheeked and red-ribboned servant-maid who waited at table, and
who could scarce perform her duty with propriety, so effectual were the
explosions of Summertrees. Alan Fairford alone was unmoved among all
this mirth; which was the less wonderful, that, besides the important
subject which occupied his thoughts, most of the laird's good things
consisted in sly allusions to little parochial or family incidents,
with which the Edinburgh visitor was totally unacquainted: so that the
laughter of the party sounded in his ear like the idle crackling of
thorns under the pot, with this difference, that they did not accompany
or second any such useful operation as the boiling thereof.
Fairford was glad when the cloth was withdrawn; and when Provost Crosbie
(not without some points of advice from his lady touching the precise
mixture of the ingredients) had accomplished the compounding of a noble
bowl of punch, at which the old Jacobite's eyes seemed to glisten, the
glasses were pushed round it, filled, and withdrawn each by its owner,
when the provost emphatically named the toast, 'The King,' with an
important look to Fairford, which seemed to say, You can have no doubt
whom I mean, and therefore there is no occasion to particularize the
Summertrees repeated the toast, with a sly wink to the lady, while
Fairford drank his glass in silence.
'Well, young advocate,' said the landed proprietor, 'I am glad to see
there is some shame, if there is little honesty, left in the Faculty.
Some of your black gowns, nowadays, have as little of the one as of the
'At least, sir,' replied Mr. Fairford, 'I am so much of a lawyer as not
willingly to enter into disputes which I am not retained to support--it
would be but throwing away both time and argument.'
'Come, come,' said the lady, 'we will have no argument in this house
about Whig or Tory--the provost kens what he maun SAY, and I ken what he
should THINK; and for a' that has come and gane yet, there may be a time
coming when honest men may say what they think, whether they be provosts
or not.'
'D'ye hear that, provost?' said Summertrees; 'your wife's a witch, man;
you should nail a horseshoe on your chamber door--Ha, ha, ha!'
This sally did not take quite so well as former efforts of the laird's
wit. The lady drew up, and the provost said, half aside, 'The sooth
bourd is nae bourd. [The true joke is no joke.] You will find the
horseshoe hissing hot, Summertrees.'
'You can speak from experience, doubtless, provost,' answered the
laird; 'but I crave pardon--I need not tell Mrs. Crosbie that I have all
respect for the auld and honourable House of Redgauntlet.'
'And good reason ye have, that are sae sib to them,' quoth the lady,
'and kend weel baith them that are here, and them that are gane.'
'In troth, and ye may say sae, madam,' answered the laird; 'for poor
Harry Redgauntlet, that suffered at Carlisle, was hand and glove with
me; and yet we parted on short leave-taking.'
'Aye, Summertrees,' said the provost; 'that was when you played
Cheat-the-woodie, and gat the by-name of Pate-in-Peril. I wish you would
tell the story to my young friend here. He likes weel to hear of a sharp
trick, as most lawyers do.'
'I wonder at your want of circumspection, provost,' said the
laird,--much after the manner of a singer when declining to sing the
song that is quivering upon his tongue's very end. 'Ye should mind there
are some auld stories that cannot be ripped up again with entire safety
to all concerned. TACE is Latin for a candle,'
'I hope,' said the lady, 'you are not afraid of anything being said out
of this house to your prejudice, Summertrees? I have heard the story
before; but the oftener I hear it, the more wonderful I think it.'
'Yes, madam; but it has been now a wonder of more than nine days, and it
is time it should be ended,' answered Maxwell.
Fairford now thought it civil to say, 'that he had often heard of Mr.
Maxwell's wonderful escape, and that nothing could be more agreeable to
him than to hear the right version of it.'
But Summertrees was obdurate, and refused to take up the time of the
company with such 'auld-warld nonsense.'
'Weel, weel,' said the provost, 'a wilful man maun hae his way. What do
your folk in the country think about the disturbances that are beginning
to spunk out in the colonies?'
'Excellent, sir, excellent. When things come to the worst; they will
mend; and to the worst they are coming. But as to that nonsense ploy
of mine, if ye insist on hearing the particulars,'--said the laird, who
began to be sensible that the period of telling his story gracefully was
gliding fast away.
'Nay,' said the provost, 'it was not for myself, but this young
'Aweel, what for should I not pleasure the young gentlemen? I'll
just drink to honest folk at hame and abroad, and deil ane else. And
then--but you have heard it before, Mrs. Crosbie?'
'Not so often as to think it tiresome, I assure ye,' said the lady; and
without further preliminaries, the laird addressed Alan Fairford.
'Ye have heard of a year they call the FORTY-FIVE, young gentleman;
when the Southrons' heads made their last acquaintance with Scottish
claymores? There was a set of rampauging chields in the country then
that they called rebels--I never could find out what for--Some men
should have been wi' them that never came, provost--Skye and the Bush
aboon Traquair for that, ye ken.--Weel, the job was settled at last.
Cloured crowns were plenty, and raxed necks came into fashion. I dinna
mind very weel what I was doing, swaggering about the country with dirk
and pistol at my belt for five or six months, or thereaway; but I had
a weary waking out of a wild dream. When did I find myself on foot in a
misty morning, with my hand, just for fear of going astray, linked into
a handcuff, as they call it, with poor Harry Redgauntlet's fastened into
the other; and there we were, trudging along, with about a score more
that had thrust their horns ower deep in the bog, just like ourselves,
and a sergeant's guard of redcoats, with twa file of dragoons, to
keep all quiet, and give us heart to the road. Now, if this mode of
travelling was not very pleasant, the object did not particularly
recommend it; for, you understand, young man, that they did not trust
these poor rebel bodies to be tried by juries of their ain kindly
countrymen, though ane would have thought they would have found Whigs
enough in Scotland to hang us all; but they behoved to trounce us away
to be tried at Carlisle, where the folk had been so frightened, that
had you brought a whole Highland clan at once into the court, they would
have put their hands upon their een, and cried, "hang them a'," just to
be quit of them.'
'Aye, aye,' said the provost, 'that was a snell law, I grant ye.'
'Snell!' said the wife, 'snell! I wish they that passed it had the jury
I would recommend them to!'
'I suppose the young lawyer thinks it all very right,' said Summertrees,
looking at Fairford--'an OLD lawyer might have thought otherwise.
However, the cudgel was to be found to beat the dog, and they chose
a heavy one. Well, I kept my spirits better than my companion, poor
fellow; for I had the luck to have neither wife nor child to think
about, and Harry Redgauntlet had both one and t'other.--You have seen
Harry, Mrs. Crosbie?'
'In troth have I,' said she, with the sigh which we give to early
recollections, of which the object is no more. 'He was not so tall as
his brother, and a gentler lad every way. After he married the great
English fortune, folk called him less of a Scottishman than Edward.'
'Folk lee'd, then,' said Summertrees; 'poor Harry was none of your
bold-speaking, ranting reivers, that talk about what they did yesterday,
or what they will do to-morrow; it was when something was to do at the
moment that you should have looked at Harry Redgauntlet. I saw him at
Culloden, when all was lost, doing more than twenty of these bleezing
braggarts, till the very soldiers that took him cried not to hurt
him--for all somebody's orders, provost--for he was the bravest fellow
of them all. Weel, as I went by the side of Harry, and felt him raise my
hand up in the mist of the morning, as if he wished to wipe his eye--for
he had not that freedom without my leave--my very heart was like to
break for him, poor fellow. In the meanwhile, I had been trying and
trying to make my hand as fine as a lady's, to see if I could slip it
out of my iron wristband. You may think,' he said, laying his broad bony
hand on the table, 'I had work enough with such a shoulder-of-mutton
fist; but if you observe, the shackle-bones are of the largest, and so
they were obliged to keep the handcuff wide; at length I got my hand
slipped out, and slipped in again; and poor Harry was sae deep in his
ain thoughts, I could not make him sensible what I was doing.'
'Why not?' said Alan Fairford, for whom the tale began to have some
'Because there was an unchancy beast of a dragoon riding close beside
us on the other side; and if I had let him into my confidence as well as
Harry, it would not have been long before a pistol-ball slapped through
my bonnet.--Well, I had little for it but to do the best I could for
myself; and, by my conscience, it was time, when the gallows was staring
me in the face. We were to halt for breakfast at Moffat. Well did I know
the moors we were marching over, having hunted and hawked on every acre
of ground in very different times. So I waited, you see, till I was on
the edge of Errickstane-brae--Ye ken the place they call the Marquis's
Beef-stand, because the Annandale loons used to put their stolen cattle
in there?'
Fairford intimated his ignorance,
'Ye must have seen it as ye came this way; it looks as if four hills
were laying their heads together, to shut out daylight from the dark
hollow space between them. A d--d deep, black, blackguard-looking
abyss of a hole it is, and goes straight down from the roadside, as
perpendicular as it can do, to be a heathery brae. At the bottom, there
is a small bit of a brook, that you would think could hardly find, its
way out from the hills that are so closely jammed round it.'
'A bad pass, indeed,' said Alan.
'You may say that,' continued the laird. 'Bad as it was, sir, it was
my only chance; and though my very flesh creeped when I thought what a
rumble I was going to get, yet I kept my heart up all the same. And so,
just when we came on the edge of this Beef-stand of the Johnstones, I
slipped out my hand from the handcuff, cried to Harry Gauntlet, 'Follow
me!'--whisked under the belly of the dragoon horse--flung my plaid round
me with the speed of lightning--threw myself on my side, for there was
no keeping my feet, and down the brae hurled I, over heather and fern,
and blackberries, like a barrel down Chalmer's Close, in Auld Reekie.
G--, sir, I never could help laughing when I think how the scoundrel
redcoats must have been bumbazed; for the mist being, as I said, thick,
they had little notion, I take it, that they were on the verge of such
a dilemma. I was half way down--for rowing is faster wark than
rinning--ere they could get at their arms; and then it was flash, flash,
flash--rap, rap, rap--from the edge of the road; but my head was too
jumbled to think anything either of that or the hard knocks I got among
the stones. I kept my senses thegither, whilk has been thought wonderful
by all that ever saw the place; and I helped myself with my hands as
gallantly as I could, and to the bottom I came. There I lay for half
a moment; but the thoughts of a gallows is worth all the salts and
scent-bottles in the world for bringing a man to himself. Up I sprang,
like a four-year-auld colt. All the hills were spinning round with me,
like so many great big humming-tops. But there was nae time to think of
that neither; more especially as the mist had risen a little with the
firing. I could see the villains, like sae mony craws on the edge of
the brae; and I reckon that they saw me; for some of the loons were
beginning to crawl down the hill, but liker auld wives in their red
cloaks, coming frae a field preaching, than such a souple lad as I was.
Accordingly, they soon began to stop and load their pieces. Good-e'en to
you, gentlemen, thought I, if that is to be the gate of it. If you have
any further word with me, you maun come as far as Carriefraw-gauns. And
so off I set, and never buck went faster ower the braes than I did; and
I never stopped till I had put three waters, reasonably deep, as the
season was rainy, half a dozen mountains, and a few thousand acres
of the worst moss and ling in Scotland, betwixt me and my friends the
'It was that job which got you the name of Pate-in-Peril,' said the
provost, filling the glasses, and exclaiming with great emphasis,
while his guest, much animated with the recollections which the
exploit excited, looked round with an air of triumph for sympathy and
applause,--'Here is to your good health; and may you never put your neck
in such a venture again.' [The escape of a Jacobite gentleman while on
the road to Carlisle to take his trial for his share in the affair of
1745, took place at Errickstane-brae, in the singular manner ascribed to
the Laird of Summertrees in the text. The author has seen in his youth
the gentleman to whom the adventure actually happened. The distance of
time makes some indistinctness of recollection, but it is believed the
real name was MacEwen or MacMillan.]
'Humph!--I do not know,' answered Summertrees. 'I am not like to be
tempted with another opportunity--[An old gentleman of the author's name
was engaged in the affair of 1715, and with some difficulty was saved
from the gallows by the intercession of the Duchess of Buccleugh and
Monmouth. Her Grace, who maintained a good deal of authority over her
clan, sent for the object of her intercession, and warning him of the
risk which he had run, and the trouble she had taken on his account,
wound up her lecture by intimating that in case of such disloyalty
again, he was not to expect her interest in his favour. 'An it please
your Grace,' said the stout old Tory, 'I fear I am too old to see
another opportunity.'] Yet who knows?' And then he made a deep pause.
'May I ask what became of your friend, sir?' said Alan Fairford.
'Ah, poor Harry!' said Summertrees. 'I'll tell you what, sir, it takes
time to make up one's mind to such a venture, as my friend the provost
calls it; and I was told by Neil Maclean,--who was next file to us,
but had the luck to escape the gallows by some sleight-of-hand trick
or other,--that, upon my breaking off, poor Harry stood like one
motionless, although all our brethren in captivity made as much tumult
as they could, to distract the attention of the soldiers. And run he did
at last; but he did not know the ground, and either from confusion, or
because he judged the descent altogether perpendicular, he fled up
the hill to the left, instead of going down at once, and so was easily
pursued and taken. If he had followed my example, he would have found
enough among the shepherds to hide him, and feed him, as they did me,
on bearmeal scenes and braxy mutton, till better days came round again.'
[BRAXY MUTTON.--The flesh of sheep that has died of disease, not by
the hand of the butcher. In pastoral countries it is used as food with
little scruple.]
'He suffered then for his share in the insurrection?' said Alan.
'You may swear that,' said Summertrees. 'His blood was too red to be
spared when that sort of paint was in request. He suffered, sir, as
you call it--that is, he was murdered in cold blood, with many a pretty
fellow besides. Well, we may have our day next--what is fristed is not
forgiven--they think us all dead and buried--but'--Here he filled his
glass, and muttering some indistinct denunciations, drank it off, and
assumed his usual manner, which had been a little disturbed towards the
end of the narrative.
'What became of Mr. Redgauntlet's child?' said Fairford.
MISTER Redgauntlet! He was Sir Henry Redgauntlet, as his son, if the
child now lives, will be Sir Arthur--I called him Harry from intimacy,
and Redgauntlet, as the chief of his name--His proper style was Sir
Henry Redgauntlet.'
'His son, therefore, is dead?' said Alan Fairford. 'It is a pity so
brave a line should draw to a close.'
'He has left a brother,' said Summertrees, 'Edward Hugh Redgauntlet, who
has now the representation of the family. And well it is; for though he
be unfortunate in many respects, he will keep up the honour of the house
better than a boy bred up amongst these bitter Whigs, the relations of
his elder brother Sir Henry's lady. Then they are on no good terms with
the Redgauntlet line--bitter Whigs they are in every sense. It was a
runaway match betwixt Sir Henry and his lady. Poor thing, they would not
allow her to see him when in confinement--they had even the meanness to
leave him without pecuniary assistance; and as all his own property was
seized upon and plundered, he would have wanted common necessaries, but
for the attachment of a fellow who was a famous fiddler--a blind man--I
have seen him with Sir Henry myself, both before the affair broke out
and while it was going on. I have heard that he fiddled in the streets
of Carlisle, and carried what money he got to his master, while he was
confined in the castle.'
'I do not believe a word of it,' said Mrs. Crosbie, kindling with
indignation. 'A Redgauntlet would have died twenty times before he had
touched a fiddler's wages.'
'Hout fye--hout fye--all nonsense and pride,' said the Laird of
Summertrees. 'Scornful dogs will eat dirty puddings, cousin Crosbie--ye
little ken what some of your friends were obliged to do yon time for a
sowp of brose, or a bit of bannock. G--d, I carried a cutler's wheel for
several weeks, partly for need, and partly for disguise--there I went
bizz--bizz--whizz--zizz, at every auld wife's door; and if ever you want
your shears sharpened, Mrs. Crosbie, I am the lad to do it for you, if
my wheel was but in order.'
'You, must ask my leave first,' said the provost; 'for I have been told
you had some queer fashions of taking a kiss instead of a penny, if you
liked your customer.'
'Come, come, provost,' said the lady; rising, 'if the maut gets abune
the meal with you, it is time for me to take myself away--And you will
come to my room, gentlemen, when you want a cup of tea.'
Alan Fairford was not sorry for the lady's departure. She seemed too
much alive to the honour of the house of Redgauntlet, though only a
fourth cousin, not to be alarmed by the inquiries which he proposed
to make after the whereabout of its present head. Strange confused
suspicions arose in his mind, from his imperfect recollection of the
tale of Wandering Willie, and the idea forced itself upon him that his
friend Darsie Latimer might be the son of the unfortunate Sir Henry. But
before indulging in such speculations, the point was to discover what
had actually become of him. If he were in the hands of his uncle, might
there not exist some rivalry in fortune, or rank, which might induce so
stern a man as Redgauntlet to use unfair measures towards a youth whom
he would find himself unable to mould to his purpose? He considered
these points in silence, during several revolutions of the glasses
as they wheeled in galaxy round the bowl, waiting until the provost,
agreeably to his own proposal, should mention the subject, for which he
had expressly introduced him to Mr. Maxwell of Summertrees.
Apparently the provost had forgot his promise, or at least was in no
great haste to fulfil it. He debated with great earnestness upon the
Stamp Act, which was then impending over the American colonies, and upon
other political subjects of the day, but said not a word of Redgauntlet.
Alan soon saw that the investigation he meditated must advance, if at
all, on his own special motion, and determined to proceed accordingly.
Acting upon this resolution, he took the first opportunity afforded by
a pause in the discussion of colonial politics, to say, 'I must remind
you, Provost Crosbie, of your kind promise to procure some intelligence
upon the subject I am so anxious about.'
'Gadso!' said the provost, after a moment's hesitation, 'it is very
true.--Mr. Maxwell, we wish to consult you on a piece of important
business. You must know indeed I think you must have heard, that the
fishermen at Brokenburn, and higher up the Solway, have made a raid upon
Quaker Geddes's stake-nets, and levelled all with the sands.'
'In troth I heard it, provost, and I was glad to hear the scoundrels had
so much pluck left as to right themselves against a fashion which would
make the upper heritors a sort of clocking-hens, to hatch the fish that
folk below them were to catch and eat.'
'Well, sir,' said Alan, 'that is not the present point. But a young
friend of mine was with Mr. Geddes at the time this violent procedure
took place, and he has not since been heard of. Now, our friend, the
provost, thinks that you may be able to advise'--
Here he was interrupted by the provost and Summertrees speaking out
both at once, the first endeavouring to disclaim all interest in the
question, and the last to evade giving an answer.
'Me think!' said the provost; 'I never thought twice about it, Mr.
Fairford; it was neither fish, nor flesh, nor salt herring of mine.'
'And I "able to advise"!' said Mr. Maxwell of Summertrees; 'what the
devil can I advise you to do, excepting to send the bellman through the
town to cry your lost sheep, as they do spaniel dogs or stray ponies?'
'With your pardon,' said Alan, calmly, but resolutely, 'I must ask a
more serious answer.'
'Why, Mr. Advocate,' answered Summertrees, 'I thought it was your
business to give advice to the lieges, and not to take it from poor
stupid country gentlemen.'
'If not exactly advice, it is sometimes our duty to ask questions, Mr.
'Aye, sir, when you have your bag-wig and your gown on, we must
allow you the usual privilege of both gown and petticoat, to ask what
questions you please. But when you are out of your canonicals, the case
is altered. How come you, sir, to suppose that I have any business with
this riotous proceeding, or should know more than you do what happened
there? the question proceeds on an uncivil supposition.'
'I will explain,' said Alan, determined to give Mr. Maxwell no
opportunity of breaking off the conversation. 'You are an intimate of
Mr. Redgauntlet--he is accused of having been engaged in this affray,
and of having placed under forcible restraint the person of my friend,
Darsie Latimer, a young man of property and consequence, whose fate I am
here for the express purpose of investigating. This is the plain
state of the case; and all parties concerned,--your friend, in
particular,--will have reason to be thankful for the temperate manner
in which it is my purpose to conduct the matter, if I am treated with
proportionate frankness.'
'You have misunderstood me,' said Maxwell, with a tone changed to
more composure; 'I told you I was the friend of the late Sir Henry
Redgauntlet, who was executed, in 1745, at Hairibie, near Carlisle, but
I know no one who at present bears the name of Redgauntlet.'
'You know Mr. Herries of Birrenswork,' said Alan, smiling, 'to whom the
name of Redgauntlet belongs?'
Maxwell darted a keen reproachful look towards the provost, but
instantly smoothed his brow, and changed his tone to that of confidence
and candour.
'You must not be angry, Mr. Fairford, that the poor persecuted nonjurors
are a little upon the QUI VIVE when such clever young men as you are
making inquiries after us. I myself now, though I am quite out of the
scrape, and may cock my hat at the Cross as I best like, sunshine or
moonshine, have been yet so much accustomed to walk with the lap of my
cloak cast over my face, that, faith, if a redcoat walk suddenly up
to me, I wish for my wheel and whetstone again for a moment. Now
Redgauntlet, poor fellow, is far worse off--he is, you may have heard,
still under the lash of the law,--the mark of the beast is still on his
forehead, poor gentleman,--and that makes us cautious--very cautious,
which I am sure there is no occasion to be towards you, as no one of
your appearance and manners would wish to trepan a gentleman under
'On the contrary, sir,' said Fairford, 'I wish to afford Mr.
Redgauntlet's friends an opportunity to get him out of the scrape, by
procuring the instant liberation of my friend Darsie Latimer. I will
engage that if he has sustained no greater bodily harm than a short
confinement, the matter may be passed over quietly, without inquiry; but
to attain this end, so desirable for the man who has committed a great
and recent infraction of the laws, which he had before grievously
offended, very speedy reparation of the wrong must be rendered.'
Maxwell seemed lost in reflection, and exchanged a glance or two, not of
the most comfortable or congratulatory kind, with his host the provost.
Fairford rose and walked about the room, to allow them an opportunity
of conversing together; for he was in hopes that the impression he
had visibly made upon Summertrees was likely to ripen into something
favourable to his purpose. They took the opportunity, and engaged in
whispers to each other, eagerly and reproachfully on the part of the
laird, while the provost answered in an embarrassed and apologetical
tone. Some broken words of the conversation reached Fairford, whose
presence they seemed to forget, as he stood at the bottom of the room,
apparently intent upon examining the figures upon a fine Indian screen,
a present to the provost from his brother, captain of a vessel in the
Company's service. What he overheard made it evident that his errand,
and the obstinacy with which he pursued it, occasioned altercation
between the whisperers.
Maxwell at length let out the words, 'A good fright; and so send him
home with his tail scalded, like a dog that has come a-privateering on
strange premises.'
The provost's negative was strongly interposed--'Not to be thought
of'--'making bad worse'--'my situation'--'my utility'--'you cannot
conceive how obstinate--just like his father'.
They then whispered more closely, and at length the provost raised his
drooping crest, and spoke in a cheerful tone. 'Come, sit down to your
glass, Mr. Fairford; we have laid our heads thegither, and you shall see
it will not be our fault if you are not quite pleased, and Mr.
Darsie Latimer let loose to take his fiddle under his neck again. But
Summertrees thinks it will require you to put yourself into some bodily
risk, which maybe you may not be so keen of.'
'Gentlemen,' said Fairford, 'I will not certainly shun any risk by which
my object may be accomplished; but I bind it on your consciences--on
yours, Mr. Maxwell, as a man of honour and a gentleman; and on yours,
provost, as a magistrate and a loyal subject, that you do not mislead me
in this matter.'
'Nay, as for me,' said Summertrees, 'I will tell you the truth at
once, and fairly own that I can certainly find you the means of seeing
Redgauntlet, poor man; and that I will do, if you require it, and
conjure him also to treat you as your errand requires; but poor
Redgauntlet is much changed--indeed, to say truth, his temper never was
the best in the world; however, I will warrant you from any very great
'I will warrant myself from such,' said Fairford, 'by carrying a proper
force with me.'
'Indeed,' said Summertrees, 'you will, do no such thing; for, in the
first place, do you think that we will deliver up the poor fellow into
the hands of the Philistines, when, on the contrary, my only reason for
furnishing you with the clue I am to put into your hands, is to settle
the matter amicably on all sides? And secondly, his intelligence is so
good, that were you coming near him with soldiers, or constables, or the
like, I shall answer for it, you will never lay salt on his tail.'
Fairford mused for a moment. He considered that to gain sight of this
man, and knowledge of his friend's condition, were advantages to be
purchased at every personal risk; and he saw plainly, that were he to
take the course most safe for himself, and call in the assistance of
the law, it was clear he would either be deprived of the intelligence
necessary to guide him, or that Redgauntlet would be apprised of his
danger, and might probably leave the country, carrying his captive
along with him. He therefore repeated, 'I put myself on your honour, Mr.
Maxwell; and I will go alone to visit your friend. I have little; doubt
I shall find him amenable to reason; and that I shall receive from him a
satisfactory account of Mr. Latimer.'
'I have little doubt that you will,' said Mr. Maxwell of Summertrees;
'but still I think it will be only in the long run, and after having
sustained some delay and inconvenience. My warrandice goes no further.'
'I will take it as it is given,' said Alan Fairford. 'But let me ask,
would it not be better, since you value your friend's safety so highly
and surely would not willingly compromise mine, that the provost or you
should go with me to this man, if he is within any reasonable distance,
and try to make him hear reason?'
'Me!--I will not go my foot's length,' said the provost; and that, Mr.
Alan, you may be well assured of. Mr. Redgauntlet is my wife's fourth
cousin, that is undeniable; but were he the last of her kin and mine
both, it would ill befit my office to be communing with rebels.'
'Aye, or drinking with nonjurors,' said Maxwell, filling his glass. 'I
would as soon expect; to have met Claverhouse at a field-preaching. And
as for myself, Mr. Fairford, I cannot go, for just the opposite reason.
It would be INFRA DIG. in the provost of this most flourishing and loyal
town to associate with Redgauntlet; and for me it would be NOSCITUR A
SOCIO. There would be post to London, with the tidings that two such
Jacobites as Redgauntlet and I had met on a braeside--the Habeas Corpus
would be suspended--Fame would sound a charge from Carlisle to the
Land's End--and who knows but the very wind of the rumour might blow my
estate from between my fingers, and my body over Errickstane-brae again?
No, no; bide a gliff--I will go into the provost's closet, and write a
letter to Redgauntlet, and direct you how to deliver it.'
'There is pen and ink in the office,' said the provost, pointing to the
door of an inner apartment, in which he had his walnut-tree desk and
east-country cabinet.
'A pen that can write, I hope?' said the old laird.
'It can write and spell baith in right hands,' answered the provost, as
the laird retired and shut the door behind him.

The room was no sooner deprived of Mr. Maxwell of Summertrees's
presence, than the provost looked very warily above, beneath, and around
the apartment, hitched his chair towards that of his remaining guest,
and began to speak In a whisper which could not have startled 'the
smallest mouse that creeps on floor.'
'Mr. Fairford,' said he, 'you are a good lad; and, what is more, you are
my auld friend your father's son. Your father has been agent for this
burgh for years, and has a good deal to say with the council; so there
have been a sort of obligations between him and me; it may have been now
on this side and now on that; but obligations there have been. I am but
a plain man, Mr. Fairford; but I hope you understand me?'
'I believe you mean me well, provost; and I am sure,' replied Fairford,
'you can never better show your kindness than on this occasion.'
'That's it--that's the very point I would be at, Mr. Alan,' replied the
provost; 'besides, I am, as becomes well my situation, a stanch friend
to kirk and king, meaning this present establishment in church and
state; and so, as I was saying, you may command my best--advice.'
'I hope for your assistance and co-operation also,' said the youth.
'Certainly, certainly,' said the wary magistrate. 'Well, now, you see
one may love the kirk, and yet not ride on the rigging of it; and one
may love the king, and yet not be cramming him eternally down the throat
of the unhappy folk that may chance to like another king better. I have
friends and connexions among them, Mr. Fairford, as your father may have
clients--they are flesh and blood like ourselves, these poor Jacobite
bodies--sons of Adam and Eve, after all; and therefore--I hope you
understand me?--I am a plain-spoken man.'
'I am afraid I do not quite understand you,' said Fairford; 'and if you
have anything to say to me in private, my dear provost, you had better
come quickly out with it, for the Laird of Summertrees must finish his
letter in a minute or two.'
'Not a bit, man--Pate is a lang-headed fellow, but his pen does not
clear the paper as his greyhound does the Tinwald-furs. I gave him
a wipe about that, if you noticed; I can say anything to
Pate-in-Peril--Indeed, he is my wife's near kinsman.'
'But your advice, provost,' said Alan, who perceived that, like a shy
horse, the worthy magistrate always started off from his own purpose
just when he seemed approaching to it.
'Weel, you shall have it in plain terms, for I am a plain man. Ye see,
we will suppose that any friend like yourself were in the deepest hole
of the Nith, sand making a sprattle for your life. Now, you see, such
being the case, I have little chance of helping you, being a fat,
short-armed man, and no swimmer, and what would be the use of my jumping
in after you?'
'I understand you, I think,' said Alan Fairford. 'You think that Darsie
Latimer is in danger of his life?'
'Me!--I think nothing about it, Mr. Alan; but if he were, as I trust he
is not, he is nae drap's blood akin to you, Mr. Alan.'
'But here your friend, Summertrees,' said the young lawyer, 'offers me a
letter to this Redgauntlet of yours--What say you to that?'
'Me!' ejaculated the provost, 'me, Mr. Alan? I say neither buff nor
stye to it--But ye dinna ken what it is to look a Redgauntlet in the
face;--better try my wife, who is but a fourth cousin, before ye venture
on the laird himself--just say something about the Revolution, and see
what a look she can gie you.'
I shall leave you to stand all the shots from that battery, provost.'
replied Fairford. 'But speak out like a man--Do you think Summertrees
means fairly by me?'
'Fairly--he is just coming--fairly? I am a plain man, Mr. Fairford--but
ye said FAIRLY?'
'I do so,' replied Alan, 'and it is of importance to me to know, and
to you to tell me if such is the case; for if you do not, you may be an
accomplice to murder before the fact, and that under circumstances which
may bring it near to murder under trust.'
'Murder!--who spoke of murder?' said the provost; no danger of that, Mr.
Alan--only, if I were you--to speak my plain mind'--Here he approached
his mouth to the ear of the young lawyer, and, after another acute pang
of travail, was safely delivered of his advice in the following abrupt
words:--'Take a keek into Pate's letter before ye deliver it.'
Fairford started, looked the provost hard in the face, and was silent;
while Mr. Crosbie, with the self-approbation of one who has at length
brought himself to the discharge of a great duty, at the expense of a
considerable sacrifice, nodded and winked to Alan, as if enforcing his
advice; and then swallowing a large glass of punch, concluded, with
the sigh of a man released from a heavy burden, 'I am a plain man, Mr.
'A plain man?' said Maxwell, who entered the room at that moment, with
the letter in his hand,--'Provost, I never heard you make use of the
word but when you had some sly turn of your own to work out.'
The provost looked silly enough, and the Laird of Summertrees directed
a keen and suspicious glance upon Alan Fairford, who sustained it with
professional intrepidity.--There was a moment's pause.
'I was trying,' said the provost, 'to dissuade our young friend from his
wildgoose expedition.'
'And I,' said Fairford, 'am determined to go through with it. Trusting
myself to you, Mr. Maxwell, I conceive that I rely, as I before said, on
the word of a gentleman.'
'I will warrant you,' said Maxwell, 'from all serious consequences--some
inconveniences you must look to suffer.'
'To these I shall be resigned,' said Fairford, 'and stand prepared to
run my risk.'
'Well then,' said Summertrees, 'you must go'--
'I will leave you to yourselves, gentlemen,' said the provost, rising;
'when you have done with your crack, you will find me at my wife's
'And a more accomplished old woman never drank catlap,' said Maxwell,
as he shut the door; 'the last word has him, speak it who will--and yet
because he is a whillywhaw body, and has a plausible tongue of his own,
and is well enough connected, and especially because nobody could ever
find out whether he is Whig or Tory, this is the third time they
have made him provost!--But to the matter in hand. This letter, Mr.
Fairford,' putting a sealed one into his hand, 'is addressed, you
observe, to Mr. H--of B--, and contains your credentials for that
gentlemen, who is also known by his family name of Redgauntlet, but
less frequently addressed by it, because it is mentioned something
invidiously in a certain Act of Parliament. I have little doubt he will
assure you of your friend's safety, and in a short time place him at
freedom--that is, supposing him under present restraint. But the point
is, to discover where he is--and, before you are made acquainted with
this necessary part of the business, you must give me your assurance of
honour that you will acquaint no one, either by word or letter, with the
expedition which you now propose to yourself.'
'How, sir?' answered Alan; 'can you expect that I will not take the
precaution of informing some person of the route I am about to take,
that in case of accident it may be known where I am, and with what
purpose I have gone thither?'
'And can you expect,' answered Maxwell, in the same tone, 'that I am to
place my friend's safety, not merely in your hands, but in those of any
person you may choose to confide in, and who may use the knowledge to
his destruction? Na--na--I have pledged my word for your safety, and you
must give me yours to be private in the matter--giff-gaff, you know.'
Alan Fairford could not help thinking that this obligation to secrecy
gave a new and suspicious colouring to the whole transaction; but,
considering that his friend's release might depend upon his accepting
the condition, he gave it in the terms proposed, and with the purpose of
abiding by it.
'And now, sir,' he said, 'whither am I to proceed with this letter? Is
Mr. Herries at Brokenburn?'
'He is not; I do not think he will come thither again until the business
of the stake-nets be hushed up, nor would I advise him to do so--the
Quakers, with all their demureness, can bear malice as long as other
folk; and though I have not the prudence of Mr. Provost, who refuses to
ken where his friends are concealed during adversity, lest, perchance,
he should be asked to contribute to their relief, yet I do not think it
necessary or prudent to inquire into Redgauntlet's wanderings, poor man,
but wish to remain at perfect freedom to answer, if asked at, that I
ken nothing of the matter. You must, then, go to old Tom Trumbull's at
Annan,--Tam Turnpenny, as they call him,--and he is sure either to know
where Redgauntlet is himself, or to find some one who can give a shrewd
guess. But you must attend that old Turnpenny will answer no question on
such a subject without you give him the passport, which at present you
must do, by asking him the age of the moon; if he answers, "Not light
enough to land a cargo," you are to answer, "Then plague on Aberdeen
Almanacks," and upon that he will hold free intercourse with you.
And now, I would advise you to lose no time, for the parole is often
changed--and take care of yourself among these moonlight lads, for laws
and lawyers do not stand very high in their favour.'
'I will set out this instant,' said the young barrister; 'I will but bid
the provost and Mrs. Crosbie farewell, and then get on horseback so soon
as the ostler of the George Inn can saddle him;--as for the smugglers,
I am neither gauger nor supervisor, and, like the man who met the devil,
if they have nothing to say to me, I have nothing to say to them.'
'You are a mettled young man,' said Summertrees, evidently with
increasing goodwill, on observing an alertness and contempt of
danger, which perhaps he did not expect from Alan's appearance and
profession,--'a very mettled young fellow indeed! and it is almost a
pity'--Here he stopped abort.
'What is a pity?' said Fairford.
'It is almost a pity that I cannot go with you myself, or at least send
a trusty guide.'
They walked together to the bedchamber of Mrs. Crosbie, for it was in
that asylum that the ladies of the period dispensed their tea, when the
parlour was occupied by the punch-bowl.
'You have been good bairns to-night, gentlemen,' said Mrs. Crosbie; 'I
am afraid, Summertrees, that the provost has given you a bad browst; you
are not used to quit the lee-side of the punch-bowl in such a hurry. I
say nothing to you, Mr. Fairford, for you are too young a man yet for
stoup and bicker; but I hope you will not tell the Edinburgh fine folk
that the provost has scrimped you of your cogie, as the sang says?'
'I am much obliged for the provost's kindness, and yours, madam,'
replied Alan; 'but the truth is, I have still a long ride before me this
evening and the sooner I am on horse-back the better.'
'This evening?' said the provost, anxiously; 'had you not better take
daylight with you to-morrow morning?'
'Mr. Fairford will ride as well in the cool of the evening,' said
Summertrees, taking the word out of Alan's mouth.
The provost said no more, nor did his wife ask any questions, nor
testify any surprise at the suddenness of their guest's departure.
Having drunk tea, Alan Fairford took leave with the usual ceremony.
The Laird of Summertrees seemed studious to prevent any further
communication between him and the provost, and remained lounging on
the landing-place of the stair while they made their adieus--heard the
provost ask if Alan proposed a speedy return, and the latter reply that
his stay was uncertain, and witnessed the parting shake of the hand,
which, with a pressure more warm than usual, and a tremulous, 'God bless
and prosper you!' Mr. Crosbie bestowed on his young friend. Maxwell even
strolled with Fairford as far as the George, although resisting all
his attempts at further inquiry into the affairs of Redgauntlet, and
referring him to Tom Trumbull, alias Turnpenny, for the particulars
which he might find it necessary to inquire into.
At length Alan's hack was produced--an animal long in neck, and high
in bone, accoutred with a pair of saddle-bags containing the rider's
travelling wardrobe. Proudly surmounting his small stock of necessaries,
and no way ashamed of a mode of travelling which a modern Mr.
Silvertongue would consider as the last of degradations, Alan Fairford
took leave of the old Jacobite, Pate-in-Peril, and set forward on the
road to the loyal burgh of Annan. His reflections during his ride were
none of the most pleasant. He could not disguise from himself that he
was venturing rather too rashly into the power of outlawed and desperate
persons; for with such only, a man in the situation of Redgauntlet could
be supposed to associate. There were other grounds for apprehension,
Several marks of intelligence betwixt Mrs. Crosbie and the Laird of
Summertrees had not escaped Alan's acute observation; and it was plain
that the provost's inclinations towards him, which he believed to be
sincere and good, were not firm enough to withstand the influence of
this league between his wife and friend. The provost's adieus, like
Macbeth's amen, had stuck in his throat, and seemed to intimate that he
apprehended more than he dared give utterance to.
Laying all these matters together, Alan thought, with no little anxiety
on the celebrated lines of Shakespeare,
-- A drop,
That in the ocean seeks another drop, &c.
But pertinacity was a strong feature in the young lawyer's character.
He was, and always had been, totally unlike the 'horse hot at hand,' who
tires before noon through his own over eager exertions in the beginning
of the day. On the contrary, his first efforts seemed frequently
inadequate to accomplishing his purpose, whatever that for the time
might be; and it was only as the difficulties of the task increased,
that his mind seemed to acquire the energy necessary to combat and
subdue them. If, therefore, he went anxiously forward upon his uncertain
and perilous expedition, the reader must acquit him of all idea, even
in a passing thought, of the possibility of abandoning his search, and
resigning Darsie Latimer to his destiny.
A couple of hours' riding brought him to the little town of Annan,
situated on the shores of the Solway, between eight and nine o'clock.
The sun had set, but the day was not yet ended; and when he had alighted
and seen his horse properly cared for at the principal inn of the place,
he was readily directed to Mr. Maxwell's friend, old Tom Trumbull, with
whom everybody seemed well acquainted. He endeavoured to fish out from
the lad that acted as a guide, something of this man's situation and
profession; but the general expressions of 'a very decent man'--'a very
honest body'--'weel to pass in the world,' and such like, were all that
could be extracted from him; and while Fairford was following up the
investigation with closer interrogatories, the lad put an end to them by
knocking at the door of Mr. Trumbull, whose decent dwelling was a little
distance from the town, and considerably nearer to the sea. It was one
of a little row of houses running down to the waterside, and having
gardens and other accommodations behind. There was heard within
the uplifting of a Scottish psalm; and the boy saying, 'They are at
exercise, sir,' gave intimation they might not be admitted till prayers
were over.
When, however, Fairford repeated the summons with the end of his whip,
the singing ceased, and Mr. Trumbull himself, with his psalm-book in his
hand, kept open by the insertion of his forefinger between the leaves,
came to demand the meaning of this unseasonable interruption.
Nothing could be more different than his whole appearance seemed to be
from the confidant of a desperate man, and the associate of outlaws in
their unlawful enterprises. He was a tall, thin, bony figure, with white
hair combed straight down on each side of his face, and an iron-grey hue
of complexion; where the lines, or rather, as Quin said of Macklin, the
cordage, of his countenance were so sternly adapted to a devotional and
even ascetic expression, that they left no room for any indication of
reckless daring or sly dissimulation. In short, Trumbull appeared a
perfect specimen of the rigid old Covenanter, who said only what he
thought right, acted on no other principle but that of duty, and, if he
committed errors, did so under the full impression that he was serving
God rather than man.
'Do you want me, sir?' he said to Fairford, whose guide had slunk to
the rear, as if to escape the rebuke of the severe old man,--'We were
engaged, and it is the Saturday night.'
Alan Fairford's preconceptions were so much deranged by this man's
appearance and manner, that he stood for a moment bewildered, and would
as soon have thought of giving a cant password to a clergyman descending
from the pulpit, as to the respectable father of a family just
interrupted in his prayers for and with the objects of his care. Hastily
concluding Mr. Maxwell had passed some idle jest on him, or rather that
he had mistaken the person to whom he was directed, he asked if he spoke
to Mr. Trumbull.
'To Thomas Trumbull,' answered the old man--'What may be your business,
sir?' And he glanced his eye to the book he held in his hand, with a
sigh like that of a saint desirous of dissolution.
'Do you know Mr. Maxwell of Summertrees?' said Fairford.
'I have heard of such a gentleman in the country-side, but have no
acquaintance with him,' answered Mr. Trumbull; 'he is, as I have heard,
a Papist; for the whore that sitteth on the seven hills ceaseth not yet
to pour forth the cup of her abomination on these parts.'
'Yet he directed me hither, my good friend,' said Alan. 'Is there
another of your name in this town of Annan?'
'None,' replied Mr. Trumbull, 'since my worthy father was removed; he
was indeed a shining light.--I wish you good even, sir.'
'Stay one single instant,' said Fairford; 'this is a matter of life and
'Not more than the casting the burden of our sins where they should be
laid,' said Thomas Trumbull, about to shut the door in the inquirer's
'Do you know,' said Alan Fairford, 'the Laird of Redgauntlet?'
'Now Heaven defend me from treason and rebellion!' exclaimed Trumbull.
'Young gentleman, you are importunate. I live here among my own people,
and do not consort with Jacobites and mass-mongers.'
He seemed about to shut the door, but did NOT shut it, a circumstance
which did not escape Alan's notice.
'Mr. Redgauntlet is sometimes,' he said, 'called Herries of Birrenswork;
perhaps you may know him under that name.'
'Friend, you are uncivil,' answered Mr. Trumbull; 'honest men have
enough to do to keep one name undefiled. I ken nothing about those who
have two. Good even to you, friend.'
He was now about to slam the door in his visitor's face without
further ceremony, when Alan, who had observed symptoms that the name
of Redgauntlet did not seem altogether so indifferent to him as he
pretended, arrested his purpose by saying, in a low voice, 'At least you
can tell me what age the moon is?'
The old man started, as if from a trance, and before answering, surveyed
the querist with a keen penetrating glance, which seemed to say, 'Are
you really in possession of this key to my confidence, or do you speak
from mere accident?'
To this keen look of scrutiny, Fairford replied by a smile of
The iron muscles of the old man's face did not, however, relax, as he
dropped, in a careless manner, the countersign, 'Not light enough to
land a cargo.'
'Then plague of all Aberdeen Almanacks!'
'And plague of all fools that waste time,' said Thomas Trumbull, 'Could
you not have said as much at first? And standing wasting time, and
encouraging; lookers-on, in the open street too? Come in by--in by.'
He drew his visitor into the dark entrance of the house, and shut
the door carefully; then putting his head into an apartment which the
murmurs within announced to be filled with the family, he said aloud, 'A
work of necessity and mercy--Malachi, take the book--You will sing six
double verses of the hundred and nineteen-and you may lecture out of the
Lamentations. And, Malachi,'--this he said in an undertone,--'see you
give them a a creed of doctrine that will last them till I come back; or
else these inconsiderate lads will be out of the house, and away to the
publics, wasting their precious time, and, it may be, putting themselves
in the way of missing the morning tide.'
An inarticulate answer from within intimated Malachi's acquiescence in
the commands imposed; and, Mr. Trumbull, shutting the door, muttered
something about fast bind, fast find, turned the key, and put it into
his pocket; and then bidding his visitor have a care of his steps, and
make no noise, he led him through the house, and out at a back-door,
into a little garden. Here a plaited alley conducted them, without
the possibility of their being seen by any neighbour, to a door in the
garden-wall, which being opened, proved to be a private entrance into
a three-stalled stable; in one of which was a horse, that whinnied on
their entrance. 'Hush, hush!' cried the old man, and presently seconded
his exhortations to silence by throwing a handful of corn into the
manger, and the horse soon converted his acknowledgement of their
presence into the usual sound of munching and grinding his provender.
As the light was now failing fast, the old man, with much more alertness
than might have been expected from the rigidity of his figure, closed
the window-shutters in an instant, produced phosphorus and matches,
and lighted a stable-lantern, which he placed on the corn-bin, and then
addressed Fairford. 'We are private here, young man; and as some time
has been wasted already, you will be so kind as to tell me what is your
errand. Is it about the way of business, or the other job?'
'My business with you, Mr. Trumbull, is to request you will find me the
means of delivering this letter, from Mr. Maxwell of Summertrees to the
Laird of Redgauntlet.'
'Humph--fashious job! Pate Maxwell will still be the auld man--always
Pate-in-Peril--Craig-in-Peril, for what I know. Let me see the letter
from him.'
He examined it with much care, turning it up and down, and looking at
the seal very attentively. 'All's right, I see; it has the private mark
for haste and speed. I bless my Maker that I am no great man, or great
man's fellow; and so I think no more of these passages than just to help
them forward in the way of business. You are an utter stranger in these
parts, I warrant?'
Fairford answered in the affirmative.
'Aye--I never saw them make a wiser choice--I must call some one to
direct you what to do--Stay, we must go to him, I believe. You are well
recommended to me, friend, and doubtless trusty; otherwise you may
see more than I would like to show, or am in the use of showing in the
common line of business.'
Saying this, he placed his lantern on the ground, beside the post of one
of the empty stalls, drew up a small spring bolt which secured it to
the floor, and then forcing the post to one side, discovered a small
trap-door. 'Follow me,' he said, and dived into the subterranean descent
to which this secret aperture gave access.
Fairford plunged after him, not without apprehensions of more kinds than
one, but still resolved to prosecute the adventure.
The descent, which was not above six feet, led to a very narrow passage,
which seemed to have been constructed for the precise purpose of
excluding every one who chanced to be an inch more in girth than was his
conductor. A small vaulted room, of about eight feet square, received
them at the end of this lane. Here Mr. Trumbull left Fairford alone, and
returned for an instant, as he said, to shut his concealed trap-door.
Fairford liked not his departure, as it left him in utter darkness;
besides that his breathing was much affected by a strong and stifling
smell of spirits, and other articles of a savour more powerful than
agreeable to the lungs. He was very glad, therefore, when he heard the
returning steps of Mr. Trumbull, who, when once more by his side, opened
a strong though narrow door in the wall, and conveyed Fairford into
an immense magazine of spirit-casks, and other articles of contraband
There was a small, light at the end of this range of well-stocked
subterranean vaults, which, upon a low whistle, began to flicker and
move towards them. An undefined figure, holding a dark lantern, with the
light averted, approached them, whom Mr. Trumbull thus addressed:--'Why
were you not at worship, Job; and this Saturday at e'en?'
'Swanston was loading the JENNY, sir; and I stayed to serve out the
'True--a work of necessity, and in the way of business. Does the JUMPING
JENNY sail this tide?'
'Aye, aye, sir; she sails for'--
'I did not ask you WHERE she sailed for, Job,' said the old gentleman,
interrupting him. 'I thank my Maker, I know nothing of their incomings
or outgoings. I sell my article fairly and in the ordinary way of
business; and I wash my hands of everything else. But what I wished to
know is, whether the gentleman called the Laird of the Solway Lakes is
on the other side of the Border even now?'
'Aye, aye,' said Job, 'the laird is something in my own line, you
know--a little contraband or so, There is a statute for him--But no
matter; he took the sands after the splore at the Quaker's fish-traps
yonder; for he has a leal heart, the laird, and is always true to the
country-side. But avast--is all snug here?'
So saying, he suddenly turned on Alan Fairford the light side of the
lantern he carried, who, by the transient gleam which it threw in
passing on the man who bore it, saw a huge figure, upwards of six
feet high, with a rough hairy cap on his head, and a set of features
corresponding to his bulky frame. He thought also he observed pistols at
his belt.
'I will answer for this gentleman,' said Mr. Trumbull; 'he must be
brought to speech of the laird.'
'That will be kittle steering,' said the subordinate personage; 'for I
understood that the laird and his folk were no sooner on the other
side than the land-sharks were on them, and some mounted lobsters from
Carlisle; and so they were obliged to split and squander. There are new
brooms out to sweep the country of them, they say; for the brush was a
hard one; and they say there was a lad drowned;--he was not one of the
laird's gang, so there was the less matter.'
'Peace! prithee, peace, Job Rutledge,' said honest, pacific Mr.
Trumbull. 'I wish thou couldst remember, man, that I desire to know
nothing of your roars and splores, your brooms and brushes. I dwell here
among my own people; and I sell my commodity to him who comes in the
way of business; and so wash my hands of all consequences, as becomes
a quiet subject and an honest man. I never take payment, save in ready
'Aye, aye,' muttered he with the lantern, 'your worship, Mr. Trumbull,
understands that in the way of business.'
'Well, I hope you will one day know, Job,' answered Mr. Trumbull,--'the
comfort of a conscience void of offence, and that fears neither gauger
nor collector, neither excise nor customs. The business is to pass this
gentleman to Cumberland upon earnest business, and to procure him speech
with the Laird of the Solway Lakes--I suppose that can be done? Now I
think Nanty Ewart, if he sails with the brig this morning tide, is the
man to set him forward.'
'Aye, aye, truly is he,' said Job; 'never man knew the Border, dale and
fell, pasture and ploughland, better than Nanty; and he can always bring
him to the laird, too, if you are sure the gentleman's right. But indeed
that's his own look-out; for were he the best man in Scotland, and the
chairman of the d--d Board to boot, and had fifty men at his back, he
were as well not visit the laird for anything but good. As for Nanty, he
is word and blow, a d--d deal fiercer than Cristie Nixon that they keep
such a din about. I have seen them both tried, by'--
Fairford now found himself called upon to say something; yet his
feelings, upon finding himself thus completely in the power of a canting
hypocrite, and of his retainer, who had so much the air of a determined
ruffian, joined to the strong and abominable fume which they snuffed up
with indifference, while it almost deprived him of respiration, combined
to render utterance difficult. He stated, however, that he had no evil
intentions towards the laird, as they called him, but was only the
bearer of a letter to him on particular business, from Mr. Maxwell of
'Aye, aye,' said Job, 'that may be well enough; and if Mr. Trumbull is
satisfied that the service is right, why, we will give you a cast in
the JUMPING JENNY this tide, and Nanty Ewart will put you on a way of
finding the laird, I warrant you.'
'I may for the present return, I presume, to the inn where I left my
horse?' said Fairford.
'With pardon,' replied Mr. Trumbull, 'you have been ower far ben with
us for that; but Job will take you to a place where you may sleep
rough till he calls you. I will bring you what little baggage you can
need--for those who go on such errands must not be dainty. I will myself
see after your horse, for a merciful man is merciful to his beast--a
matter too often forgotten in our way of business.'
'Why, Master Trumbull,' replied Job, 'you know that when we are chased,
it's no time to shorten sail, and so the boys do ride whip and spur.'
He stopped in his speech, observing the old man had vanished through
the door by which he had entered--'That's always the way with old
Turnpenny,' he said to Fairford; 'he cares for nothing of the trade but
the profit--now, d--me, if I don't think the fun of it is better worth
while. But come along, my fine chap; I must stow you away in safety
until it is time to go aboard.'

Fairford followed his gruff guide among a labyrinth of barrels and
puncheons, on which he had more than once like to have broken his nose,
and from thence into what, by the glimpse of the passing lantern upon a
desk and writing materials, seemed to be a small office for the
dispatch of business. Here there appeared no exit; but the smuggler, or
smuggler's ally, availing himself of a ladder, removed an old picture,
which showed a door about seven feet from the ground, and Fairford,
still following Job, was involved in another tortuous and dark passage,
which involuntarily reminded him of Peter Peebles's lawsuit. At the end
of this labyrinth, when he had little guess where he had been conducted,
and was, according to the French phrase, totally DESORIENTE, Job
suddenly set down the lantern, and availing himself of the flame to
light two candles which stood on the table, asked if Alan would choose
anything to eat, recommending, at all events, a slug of brandy to
keep out the night air. Fairford declined both, but inquired after his
'The old master will take care of that himself,' said Job Rutledge; and
drawing back in the direction in which he had entered, he vanished from
the farther end of the apartment, by a mode which the candles, still
shedding an imperfect light, gave Alan no means of ascertaining. Thus
the adventurous young lawyer was left alone in the apartment to which he
had been conducted by so singular a passage.
In this condition, it was Alan's first employment to survey, with some
accuracy, the place where he was; and accordingly, having trimmed the
lights, he walked slowly round the apartment, examining its appearance
and dimensions. It seemed to be such a small dining-parlour as is
usually found in the house of the better class of artisans, shopkeepers,
and such persons, having a recess at the upper end, and the usual
furniture of an ordinary description. He found a door, which he
endeavoured to open, but it was locked on the outside. A corresponding
door on the same side of the apartment admitted him into a closet, upon
the front shelves of which were punch-bowls, glasses, tea-cups, and the
like, while on one side was hung a horseman's greatcoat of the coarsest
materials, with two great horse-pistols peeping out of the pocket,
and on the floor stood a pair of well-spattered jack-boots, the usual
equipment of the time, at least for long journeys.
Not greatly liking the contents of the closet, Alan Fairford shut the
door, and resumed his scrutiny round the walls of the apartment, in
order to discover the mode of Job Rutledge's retreat. The secret passage
was, however, too artificially concealed, and the young lawyer had
nothing better to do than to meditate on the singularity of his present
situation. He had long known that the excise laws had occasioned an
active contraband trade betwixt Scotland and England, which then, as
now, existed, and will continue to exist until the utter abolition of
the wretched system which establishes an inequality of duties betwixt
the different parts of the same kingdom; a system, be it said in
passing, mightily resembling the conduct of a pugilist, who should tie
up one arm that he might fight the better with the other. But Fairford
was unprepared for the expensive and regular establishments by which the
illicit traffic was carried on, and could not have conceived that the
capital employed in it should have been adequate to the erection of
these extensive buildings, with all their contrivances for secrecy of
communication. He was musing on these circumstances, not without some
anxiety for the progress of his own journey, when suddenly, as he
lifted his eyes, he discovered old Mr. Trumbull at the upper end of the
apartment, bearing in one hand a small bundle, in the other his dark
lantern, the light of which, as he advanced, he directed full upon
Fairford's countenance.
Though such an apparition was exactly what he expected, yet he did
not see the grim, stern old man present himself thus suddenly without
emotion; especially when he recollected, what to a youth of his pious
education was peculiarly shocking, that the grizzled hypocrite was
probably that instant arisen from his knees to Heaven, for the purpose
of engaging in the mysterious transactions of a desperate and illegal
The old man, accustomed to judge with ready sharpness of the physiognomy
of those with whom he had business, did not fail to remark something
like agitation in Fairford's demeanour. 'Have ye taken the rue?' said
he. 'Will ye take the sheaf from the mare, and give up the venture?'
'Never!' said Fairford, firmly, stimulated at once by his natural
spirit, and the recollection of his friend; 'never, while I have life
and strength to follow it out!'
'I have brought you,' said Trumbull, 'a clean shirt, and some stockings,
which is all the baggage you can conveniently carry, and I will cause
one of the lads lend you a horseman's coat, for it is ill sailing or
riding without one; and, touching your valise, it will be as safe in
my poor house, were it full of the gold of Ophir, as if it were in the
depth of the mine.' 'I have no doubt of it,' said Fairford.
'And now,' said Trumbull, again, 'I pray you to tell me by what name I
am to name you to Nanty (which is Antony) Ewart?'
'By the name of Alan Fairford,' answered the young lawyer.
'But that,' said Mr. Trumbull, in reply, 'is your own proper name and
'And what other should I give?' said the young man; 'do you think I
have any occasion for an alias? And, besides, Mr. Trumbull,' added Alan,
thinking a little raillery might intimate confidence of spirit, 'you
blessed yourself, but a little while since, that you had no acquaintance
with those who defiled their names so far as to be obliged to change
'True, very true,' said Mr. Trumbull; 'nevertheless, young man, my grey
hairs stand unreproved in this matter; for, in my line of business, when
I sit under my vine and my fig-tree, exchanging the strong waters of the
north for the gold which is the price thereof, I have, I thank Heaven,
no disguises to keep with any man, and wear my own name of Thomas
Trumbull, without any chance that the same may be polluted. Whereas,
thou, who art to journey in miry ways, and amongst a strange people,
mayst do well to have two names, as thou hast two shirts, the one to
keep the other clean.'
Here he emitted a chuckling grunt, which lasted for two vibrations of
the pendulum exactly, and was the only approach towards laughter in
which old Turnpenny, as he was nicknamed, was ever known to indulge.
'You are witty, Mr. Trumbull,' said Fairford; 'but jests are no
arguments--I shall keep my own name.'
'At your own pleasure,' said the merchant; 'there is but one name
which,' &c. &c, &c.
We will not follow the hypocrite through the impious cant which he
added, in order to close the subject.
Alan followed him, in silent abhorrence, to the recess in which the
beaufet was placed, and which was so artificially made as to conceal
another of those traps with which the whole building abounded. This
concealment admitted them to the same winding passage by which the young
lawyer had been brought thither. The path which they now took amid
these mazes, differed from the direction in which he had been guided
by Rutledge. It led upwards, and terminated beneath a garret window.
Trumbull opened it, and with more agility than his age promised,
clambered out upon the leads. If Fairford's journey had been hitherto in
a stifled and subterranean atmosphere, it was now open, lofty, and airy
enough; for he had to follow his guide over leads and slates, which
the old smuggler traversed with the dexterity of a cat. It is true, his
course was facilitated by knowing exactly where certain stepping-places
and holdfasts were placed, of which Fairford could not so readily avail
himself; but, after a difficult and somewhat perilous progress along
the roofs of two or three houses, they at length descended by a skylight
into a garret room, and from thence by the stairs into a public-house;
for such it appeared, by the ringing of bells, whistling for waiters and
attendance, bawling of 'House, house, here!' chorus of sea songs, and
the like noises.
Having descended to the second story, and entered a room there in which
there was a light, old Mr. Trumbull rang the bell of the apartment
thrice, with an interval betwixt each, during which he told deliberately
the number twenty. Immediately after the third ringing the landlord
appeared, with stealthy step, and an appearance of mystery on his buxom
visage. He greeted Mr. Trumbull, who was his landlord as it proved, with
great respect, and expressed some surprise at seeing him so late, as he
termed it, 'on Saturday e'en.'
'And I, Robin Hastie,' said the landlord to the tenant, am more
surprised than pleased, to hear sae muckle din in your house, Robie, so
near the honourable Sabbath; and I must mind you that it is contravening
the terms of your tack, whilk stipulates that you should shut your
public on Saturday at nine o'clock, at latest.'
'Yes, sir,' said Robin Hastie, no way alarmed at the gravity of the
rebuke, 'but you must take tent that I have admitted naebody but you,
Mr. Trumbull (who by the way admitted yoursell), since nine o'clock for
the most of the folk have been here for several hours about the lading,
and so on, of the brig. It is not full tide yet, and I cannot put the
men out into the street. If I did, they would go to some other public,
and their souls would be nane the better, and my purse muckle the waur;
for how am I to pay the rent if I do not sell the liquor?'
'Nay, then,' said Thomas Trumbull, 'if it is a work of necessity, and
in the honest independent way of business, no doubt there is balm in
Gilead. But prithee, Robin, wilt thou see if Nanty Ewart be, as is most
likely, amongst these unhappy topers; and if so, let him step this way
cannily, and speak to me and this young gentleman. And it's dry talking,
Robin--you must minister to us a bowl of punch--ye ken my gage.'
'From a mutchkin to a gallon, I ken your honour's taste, Mr. Thomas
Trumbull,' said mine host; 'and ye shall hang me over the signpost if
there be a drap mair lemon or a curn less sugar than just suits you.
There are three of you--you will be for the auld Scots peremptory
pint-stoup for the success of the voyage?' [The Scottish pint of liquid
measure comprehends four English measures of the same denomination. The
jest is well known of my poor countryman, who, driven to extremity by
the raillery of the Southern, on the small denomination of the Scottish
coin, at length answered, 'Aye, aye! But the deil tak them that has the
'Better pray for it than drink for it, Robin,' said Mr. Trumbull. 'Yours
is a dangerous trade, Robin; it hurts mony a ane--baith host and guest.
But ye will get the blue bowl, Robin--the blue bowl--that will sloken
all their drouth, and prevent the sinful repetition of whipping for
an eke of a Saturday at e'en. Aye, Robin, it is a pity of Nanty
Ewart--Nanty likes the turning up of his little finger unco weel, and we
maunna stint him, Robin, so as we leave him sense to steer by.'
'Nanty Ewart could steer through the Pentland Firth though he were as
drunk as the Baltic Ocean,' said Robin Hastie; and instantly tripping
downstairs, he speedily returned with the materials for what he called
his BROWST, which consisted of two English quarts of spirits, in a huge
blue bowl, with all the ingredients for punch in the same formidable
proportion. At the same time he introduced Mr. Antony or Nanty Ewart,
whose person, although he was a good deal flustered with liquor,
was different from what Fairford expected. His dress was what is
emphatically termed the shabby genteel--a frock with tarnished lace--a
small cocked hat, ornamented in a similar way--a scarlet waistcoat, with
faded embroidery, breeches of the same, with silver knee-bands, and he
wore a smart hanger and a pair of pistols in a sullied swordbelt.
'Here I come, patron,' he said, shaking hands with Mr. Trumbull. 'Well,
I see you have got some grog aboard.'
'It is not my custom, Mr. Ewart,' said the old gentleman, 'as you well
know, to become a chamberer or carouser thus late on Saturday at e'en;
but I wanted to recommend to your attention a young friend of ours,
that is going upon a something particular journey, with a letter to our
friend the Laird from Pate-in-Peril, as they call him.'
'Aye--indeed?--he must be in high trust for so young a gentleman. I wish
you joy, sir,' bowing to Fairford. 'By'r lady, as Shakespeare says, you
are bringing up a neck for a fair end. Come, patron, we will drink to
Mr. What-shall-call-um. What is his name? Did you tell me? And have I
forgot it already.'
'Mr. Alan Fairford,' said Trumbull.
'Aye, Mr. Alan Fairford--a good name for a fair trader--Mr. Alan
Fairford; and may he be long withheld from the topmost round of
ambition, which I take to be the highest round of a certain ladder.'
While he spoke, he seized the punch-ladle, and began to fill the
glasses. But Mr. Trumbull arrested his hand, until he had, as he
expressed himself, sanctified the liquor by a long grace; during the
pronunciation of which he shut indeed his eyes, but his nostrils became
dilated, as if he were snuffing up the fragrant beverage with peculiar
When the grace was at length over, the three friends sat down to their
beverage, and invited Alan Fairford to partake. Anxious about his
situation, and disgusted as he was with his company, he craved, and with
difficulty obtained permission, under the allegation of being fatigued,
heated, and the like, to stretch himself on a couch which was in
the apartment, and attempted at least to procure some rest before
high-water, when the vessel was to sail.
He was at length permitted to use his freedom, and stretched himself on
the couch, having his eyes for some time fixed on the jovial party he
had left, and straining his ears to catch if possible a little of their
conversation. This he soon found was to no purpose for what did actually
reach his ears was disguised so completely by the use of cant words and
the thieves-latin called slang, that even when he caught the words, he
found himself as far as ever from the sense of their conversation. At
length he fell asleep.
It was after Alan had slumbered for three or four hours, that he was
wakened by voices bidding him rise up and prepare to be jogging. He
started up accordingly, and found himself in presence of the same party
of boon companions; who had just dispatched their huge bowl of punch. To
Alan's surprise, the liquor had made but little innovation on the
brains of men who were accustomed to drink at all hours, and in the most
inordinate quantities. The landlord indeed spoke a little thick, and the
texts of Mr. Thomas Trumbull stumbled on his tongue; but Nanty was one
of those topers, who, becoming early what bon vivants term flustered,
remain whole nights and days at the same point of intoxication; and,
in fact, as they are seldom entirely sober, can be as rarely seen
absolutely drunk. Indeed, Fairford, had he not known how Ewart had been
engaged whilst he himself was asleep, would almost have sworn when he
awoke, that the man was more sober than when he first entered the room.
He was confirmed in this opinion when they descended below, where two or
three sailors and ruffian-looking fellows awaited their commands. Ewart
took the whole direction upon himself, gave his orders with briefness
and precision, and looked to their being executed with the silence and
celerity which that peculiar crisis required. All were now dismissed
for the brig, which lay, as Fairford was given to understand, a little
farther down the river, which is navigable for vessels of light burden
till almost within a mile of the town.
When they issued from the inn, the landlord bid them goodbye. Old
Trumbull walked a little way with them, but the air had probably
considerable effect on the state of his brain; for after reminding
Alan Fairford that the next day was the honourable Sabbath, he became
extremely excursive in an attempt to exhort him to keep it holy. At
length, being perhaps sensible that he was becoming unintelligible, he
thrust a volume into Fairford's hand--hiccuping at the same time--'Good
book--good book--fine hymn-book--fit for the honourable Sabbath, whilk
awaits us to-morrow morning.' Here the iron tongue of time told
five from the town steeple of Annan, to the further confusion of Mr.
Trumbull's already disordered ideas. 'Aye? Is Sunday come and gone
already? Heaven be praised! Only it is a marvel the afternoon is sae
dark for the time of the year--Sabbath has slipped ower quietly, but we
have reason to bless oursells it has not been altogether misemployed.
I heard little of the preaching--a cauld moralist, I doubt, served that
out--but, eh--the prayer--I mind it as if I had said the words mysell.'
Here he repeated one or two petitions, which were probably a part of his
family devotions, before he was summoned forth to what he called the
way of business. 'I never remember a Sabbath pass so cannily off in my
life.' Then he recollected himself a little, and said to Alan, 'You
may read that book, Mr. Fairford, to-morrow, all the same, though it be
Monday; for, you see, it was Saturday when we were thegither, and now
it's Sunday and it's dark night--so the Sabbath has slipped clean away
through our fingers like water through a sieve, which abideth not; and
we have to begin again to-morrow morning, in the weariful, base, mean,
earthly employments, whilk are unworthy of an immortal spirit--always
excepting the way of business.'
Three of the fellows were now returning to the town, and, at Ewart's
command, they cut short the patriarch's exhortation, by leading him back
to his own residence. The rest of the party then proceeded to the brig,
which only waited their arrival to get under weigh and drop down the
river. Nanty Ewart betook himself to steering the brig, and the very
touch of the helm seemed to dispel the remaining influence of the liquor
which he had drunk, since, through a troublesome and intricate channel,
he was able to direct the course of his little vessel with the most
perfect accuracy and safety.
Alan Fairford, for some time, availed himself of the clearness of the
summer morning to gaze on the dimly seen shores betwixt which they
glided, becoming less and less distinct as they receded from each other,
until at length, having adjusted his little bundle by way of pillow, and
wrapped around him the greatcoat with which old Trumbull had equipped
him, he stretched himself on the deck, to try to recover the slumber out
of which he had been awakened. Sleep had scarce begun to settle on
his eyes, ere he found something stirring about his person. With ready
presence of mind he recollected his situation, and resolved to show no
alarm until the purpose of this became obvious; but he was soon relieved
from his anxiety, by finding it was only the result of Nanty's attention
to his comfort, who was wrapping around him, as softly as he could, a
great boatcloak, in order to defend him from the morning air.
'Thou art but a cockerel,' he muttered, 'but 'twere pity thou wert
knocked off the perch before seeing a little more of the sweet and sour
of this world--though, faith, if thou hast the usual luck of it, the
best way were to leave thee to the chance of a seasoning fever.'
These words, and the awkward courtesy with which the skipper of the
little brig tucked the sea-coat round Fairford, gave him a confidence of
safety which he had not yet thoroughly possessed. He stretched himself
in more security on the hard planks, and was speedily asleep, though his
slumbers were feverish and unrefreshing.
It has been elsewhere intimated that Alan Fairford inherited from his
mother a delicate constitution, with a tendency to consumption; and,
being an only child, with such a cause for apprehension, care, to the
verge of effeminacy, was taken to preserve him from damp beds, wet
feet, and those various emergencies to which the Caledonian boys of much
higher birth, but more active habits, are generally accustomed. In man,
the spirit sustains the constitutional weakness, as in the winged
tribes the feathers bear aloft the body. But there is a bound to these
supporting qualities; and as the pinions of the bird must at length grow
weary, so the VIS ANIMI of the human struggler becomes broken down by
continued fatigue.
When the voyager was awakened by the light of the sun now riding high
in heaven, he found himself under the influence of an almost intolerable
headache, with heat, thirst, shooting across the back and loins, and
other symptoms intimating violent cold, accompanied with fever. The
manner in which he had passed the preceding day and night, though
perhaps it might have been of little consequence to most young men, was
to him, delicate in constitution and nurture, attended with bad and even
perilous consequences. He felt this was the case, yet would fain have
combated the symptoms of indisposition, which, indeed, he imputed
chiefly to sea-sickness. He sat up on deck, and looked on the scene
around, as the little vessel, having borne down the Solway Firth, was
beginning, with a favourable northerly breeze, to bear away to the
southward, crossing the entrance of the Wampool river, and preparing to
double the most northerly point of Cumberland.
But Fairford felt annoyed with deadly sickness, as well as by pain of
a distressing and oppressive character; and neither Criffel, rising in
majesty on the one hand, nor the distant yet more picturesque outline of
Skiddaw and Glaramara upon the other, could attract his attention in
the manner in which it was usually fixed by beautiful scenery, and
especially that which had in it something new as well as striking. Yet
it was not in Alan Fairford's nature to give way to despondence, even
when seconded by pain. He had recourse, in the first place, to his
pocket; but instead of the little Sallust he had brought with him, that
the perusal of a classical author might help to pass away a heavy hour,
he pulled out the supposed hymn-book with which he had been presented
a few hours before, by that temperate and scrupulous person, Mr. Thomas
Trumbull, ALIAS Turnpenny. The volume was bound in sable, and its
exterior might have become a psalter. But what was Alan's astonishment
to read on the title page the following words:--'Merry Thoughts for
Merry Men; or Mother Midnight's Miscellany for the Small Hours;' and
turning over the leaves, he was disgusted with profligate tales, and
more profligate songs, ornamented with figures corresponding in infamy
with the letterpress.
'Good God!' he thought, 'and did this hoary reprobate summon his family
together, and, with such a disgraceful pledge of infamy in his bosom,
venture to approach the throne of his Creator? It must be so; the book
is bound after the manner of those dedicated to devotional subjects,
and doubtless the wretch, in his intoxication, confounded the books
he carried with him, as he did the days of the week.' Seized with the
disgust with which the young and generous usually regard the vices of
advanced life, Alan, having turned the leaves of the book over in hasty
disdain, flung it from him, as far as he could, into the sea. He then
had recourse to the Sallust, which he had at first sought for in vain.
As he opened the book, Nanty Ewart, who had been looking over his
shoulder, made his own opinion heard.
'I think now, brother, if you are so much scandalized at a little piece
of sculduddery, which, after all, does nobody any harm, you had better
have given it to me than have flung it into the Solway.'
'I hope, sir,' answered Fairford, civilly, 'you are in the habit of
reading better books.'
'Faith,' answered Nanty, 'with help of a little Geneva text, I could
read my Sallust as well as you can;' and snatching the book from Alan's
hand, he began to read, in the Scottish accent:--"'IGITUR EX DIVITIIS
HABERE." [The translation of the passage is thus given by Sir Henry
Steuart of Allanton:--'The youth, taught to look up to riches as the
sovereign good, became apt pupils in the school of Luxury. Rapacity and
profusion went hand in hand. Careless of their own fortunes, and eager
to possess those of others, shame and remorse, modesty and moderation,
every principle gave way.'--WORKS OF SALLUST, WITH ORIGINAL ESSAYS, vol.
ii. p.17.]--There is a slap in the face now, for an honest fellow that
has been buccaneering! Never could keep a groat of what he got, or hold
his fingers from what belonged to another, said you? Fie, fie, friend
Crispus, thy morals are as crabbed and austere as thy style--the one has
as little mercy as the other has grace. By my soul, it is unhandsome
to make personal reflections on an old acquaintance, who seeks a little
civil intercourse with you after nigh twenty years' separation. On my
soul, Master Sallust deserves to float on the Solway better than Mother
Midnight herself.'
'Perhaps, in some respects, he may merit better usage at our hands,'
said Alan; 'for if he has described vice plainly, it seems to have been
for the purpose of rendering it generally abhorred.'
'Well,' said the seaman, 'I have heard of the Sortes Virgilianae, and
I dare say the Sortes Sallustianae are as true every tittle. I have
consulted honest Crispus on my own account, and have had a cuff for
my pains. But now see, I open the book on your behalf, and behold
what occurs first to my eye!--Lo you there--"CATILINA ... OMNIUM
the evil qualities of Catiline's associates, the author adds, 'If it
happened that any as yet uncontaminated by vice were fatally drawn into
his friendship, the effects of intercourse and snares artfully
spread, subdued every scruple, and early assimilated them to their
conductors.'--Ibidem, p. 19.] That is what I call plain speaking on the
part of the old Roman, Mr. Fairford. By the way, that is a capital name
for a lawyer.
'Lawyer as I am,' said Fairford, 'I do not understand your innuendo.'
'Nay, then,' said Ewart, 'I can try it another way, as well as the
hypocritical old rascal Turnpenny himself could do. I would have you to
know that I am well acquainted with my Bible-book, as well as with my
friend Sallust.' He then, in a snuffling and canting tone, began to
think you of that?' he said, suddenly changing his manner. 'Have I
touched you now, sir?'
'You are as far off as ever,' replied Fairford.
'What the devil! and you a repeating frigate between Summertrees and the
laird! Tell that to the marines--the sailors won't believe it. But you
are right to be cautious, since you can't say who are right, who not.
But you look ill; it's but the cold morning air. Will you have a can
of flip, or a jorum of hot rumbo? or will you splice the mainbrace'
(showing a spirit-flask). 'Will you have a quid--or a pipe--or a
cigar?--a pinch of snuff, at least, to clear your brains and sharpen
your apprehension?'
Fairford rejected all these friendly propositions.
'Why, then,' continued Ewart, 'if you will do nothing for the free
trade, I must patronize it myself.'
So saying, he took a large glass of brandy.
'A hair of the dog that bit me,' he continued,--'of the dog that will
worry me one day soon; and yet, and be d--d to me for an idiot, I must
always have hint at my throat. But, says the old catch'--Here he sang,
and sang well--
'Let's drink--let's drink--while life we have;
We'll find but cold drinking, cold drinking in the grave.
All this,' he continued, 'is no charm against the headache. I wish I
had anything that could do you good. Faith, and we have tea and coffee
aboard! I'll open a chest or a bag, and let you have some in an instant.
You are at the age to like such catlap better than better stuff.'
Fairford thanked him, and accepted his offer of tea.
Nanty Ewart was soon heard calling about, 'Break open yon chest--take
out your capful, you bastard of a powder-monkey; we may want it again.
No sugar? all used up for grog, say you? knock another loaf to pieces,
can't ye? and get the kettle boiling, ye hell's baby, in no time at
By dint of these energetic proceedings he was in a short time able to
return to the place where his passenger lay sick and exhausted, with a
cup, or rather a canful, of tea; for everything was on a large scale
on board of the JUMPING JENNY. Alan drank it eagerly, and with so much
appearance of being refreshed that Nanty Ewart swore he would have
some too, and only laced it, as his phrase went, with a single glass of
brandy. [See Note 8.]

We left Alan Fairford on the deck of the little smuggling brig, in that
disconsolate situation, when sickness and nausea, attack a heated and
fevered frame, and an anxious mind. His share of sea-sickness, however,
was not so great as to engross his sensations entirely, or altogether
to divert his attention from what was passing around. If he could not
delight in the swiftness and agility with which the 'little frigate'
walked the waves, or amuse himself by noticing the beauty of the
sea-views around him, where the distant Skiddaw raised his brow, as if
in defiance of the clouded eminence of Criffel, which lorded it over the
Scottish side of the estuary, he had spirits and composure enough to pay
particular attention to the master of the vessel, on whose character his
own safety in all probability was dependent.
Nanty Ewart had now given the helm to one of his people, a bald-pated,
grizzled old fellow, whose whole life had been spent in evading
the revenue laws, with now and then the relaxation of a few months'
imprisonment, for deforcing officers, resisting seizures, and the like
Nanty himself sat down by Fairford, helped him to his tea, with such
other refreshments as he could think of, and seemed in his way sincerely
desirous to make his situation as comfortable as things admitted.
Fairford had thus an opportunity to study his countenance and manners
more closely.
It was plain, Ewart, though a good seaman, had not been bred upon that
element. He was a reasonably good scholar, and seemed fond of showing it
by recurring to the subject of Sallust and Juvenal; while, on the other
hand, sea-phrases seldom chequered his conversation. He had been in
person what is called a smart little man; but the tropical sun had burnt
his originally fair complexion to a dusty red; and the bile which was
diffused through his system, had stained it with a yellowish black--what
ought to have been the white part of his eyes, in particular, had a hue
as deep as the topaz. He was very thin, or rather emaciated, and his
countenance, though still indicating alertness and activity, showed a
constitution exhausted with excessive use of his favourite stimulus.
'I see you look at me hard,' said he to Fairford. 'Had you been an
officer of the d--d customs, my terriers' backs would have been up. He
opened his breast, and showed Alan a pair of pistols disposed between
his waistcoat and jacket, placing his finger at the same time upon the
cock of one of them. 'But come, you are an honest fellow, though you're
a close one. I dare say you think me a queer customer; but I can tell
you, they that see the ship leave harbour know little of the seas she
is to sail through. My father, honest old gentleman, never would have
thought to see me master of the JUMPING JENNY.'
Fairford said, it seemed very clear indeed that Mr. Ewart's education
was far superior to the line he at present occupied.
'Oh, Criffel to Solway Moss!' said the other. Why, man, I should have
been an expounder of the word, with a wig like a snow-wreath, and a
stipend like--like--like a hundred pounds a year, I suppose. I can spend
thrice as much as that, though, being such as I am. Here he sang a scrap
of an old Northumbrian ditty, mimicking the burr of the natives of that
'Willy Foster's gone to sea,
Siller buckles at his knee,
He'll come back and marry me--
Canny Willy Foster.'
'I have no doubt,' said Fairford, 'your present occupation is more
lucrative; 'but I should have thought the Church might have been more'--
He stopped, recollecting that it was not his business to say anything
'More respectable, you mean, I suppose?' said Ewart, with a sneer, and
squirting the tobacco-juice through his front teeth; then was silent for
a moment, and proceeded in a tone of candour which some internal touch
of conscience dictated. 'And so it would, Mr. Fairford--and happier,
too, by a thousand degrees--though I have had my pleasures too. But
there was my father (God bless the old man!) a true chip of the old
Presbyterian block, walked his parish like a captain on the quarterdeck,
and was always ready to do good to rich and poor--Off went the laird's
hat to the minister, as fast as the poor man's bonnet. When the eye saw
him--Pshaw! what have I to do with that now?--Yes, he was, as Virgil
hath it, "VIR SAPIENTIA ET PIETATE GRAVIS." But he might have been the
wiser man, had he kept me at home, when he sent me at nineteen to study
Divinity at the head of the highest stair in the Covenant Close. It
was a cursed mistake in the old gentleman. What though Mrs. Cantrips of
Kittlebasket (for she wrote herself no less) was our cousin five
times removed, and took me on that account to board and lodging at six
shillings instead of seven shillings a week? it was a d--d bad saving,
as the case proved. Yet her very dignity might have kept me in order;
for she never read a chapter excepting out of a Cambridge Bible, printed
by Daniel, and bound in embroidered velvet. I think I see it at this
moment! And on Sundays, when we had a quart of twopenny ale, instead
of butter-milk, to our porridge, it was always served up in a silver
posset-dish. Also she used silver-mounted spectacles, whereas even my
father's were cased in mere horn. These things had their impression at
first, but we get used to grandeur by degrees. Well, sir!--Gad, I can
scarce get on with my story--it sticks in my throat--must take a trifle
to wash it down. Well, this dame had a daughter--Jess Cantrips, a
black-eyed, bouncing wench--and, as the devil would have it, there was
the d--d five-story stair--her foot was never from it, whether I went
out or came home from the Divinity Hall. I would have eschewed her,
sir--I would, on my soul; for I was as innocent a lad as ever came from
Lammermuir; but there was no possibility of escape, retreat, or flight,
unless I could have got a pair of wings, or made use of a ladder seven
stories high, to scale the window of my attic. It signifies little
talking--you may suppose how all this was to end--I would have married
the girl, and taken my chance--I would, by Heaven! for she was a pretty
girl, and a good girl, till she and I met; but you know the old song,
"Kirk would not let us be." A gentleman, in my case, would have settled
the matter with the kirk-treasurer for a small sum of money; but the
poor stibbler, the penniless dominie, having married his cousin of
Kittlebasket, must next have proclaimed her frailty to the whole parish,
by mounting the throne of Presbyterian penance, and proving, as Othello
says, "his love a whore," in face of the whole congregation.
'In this extremity I dared not stay where I was, and so thought to go
home to my father. But first I got Jack Radaway, a lad from the same
parish, and who lived in the same infernal stair, to make some inquiries
how the old gentleman had taken the matter. I soon, by way of answer,
learned, to the great increase of my comfortable reflections, that the
good old man made as much clamour as if such a thing as a man's eating
his wedding dinner without saying grace had never happened since Adam's
time. He did nothing for six days but cry out, "Ichabod, Ichabod, the
glory is departed from my house!" and on the seventh he preached a
sermon, in which he enlarged on this incident as illustrative of one of
the great occasions for humiliation, and causes of national defection. I
hope the course he took comforted himself--I am sure it made me ashamed
to show my nose at home. So I went down to Leith, and, exchanging my
hoddin grey coat of my mother's spinning for such a jacket as this, I
entered my name at the rendezvous as an able-bodied landsman, and
sailed with the tender round to Plymouth, where they were fitting out
a squadron for the West Indies. There I was put aboard the FEARNOUGHT,
Captain Daredevil--among whose crew I soon learned to fear Satan (the
terror of my early youth) as little as the toughest Jack on board. I had
some qualms at first, but I took the remedy' (tapping the case-bottle)
'which I recommend to you, being as good for sickness of the soul as for
sickness of the stomach--What, you won't?--very well, I must, then--here
is to ye.'
'You would, I am afraid, find your education of little use in your new
condition?' said Fairford.
'Pardon me, sir,' resumed the captain of the JUMPING JENNY; 'my handful
of Latin, and small pinch of Greek, were as useless as old junk, to be
sure; but my reading, writing and accompting, stood me in good stead,
and brought me forward; I might have been schoolmaster--aye, and master,
in time; but that valiant liquor, rum, made a conquest of me rather too
often, and so, make what sail I could, I always went to leeward. We were
four years broiling in that blasted climate, and I came back at last
with a little prize-money. I always had thoughts of putting things to
rights in the Covenant Close, and reconciling myself to my father. I
found out Jack Hadaway, who was TUPTOWING away with a dozen of wretched
boys, and a fine string of stories he had ready to regale my ears
withal. My father had lectured on what he called "my falling away," for
seven Sabbaths, when, just as his parishioners began to hope that the
course was at an end, he was found dead in his bed on the eighth Sunday
morning. Jack Hadaway assured me, that if I wished to atone for my
errors, by undergoing the fate of the first martyr, I had only to go
to my native village, where the very stones of the street would rise
up against me as my father's murderer. Here was a pretty item--well, my
tongue clove to my mouth for an hour, and was only able at last to
utter the name of Mrs. Cantrips. Oh, this was a new theme for my Job's
comforter. My sudden departure--my father's no less sudden death--had
prevented the payment of the arrears of my board and lodging--the
landlord was a haberdasher, with a heart as rotten as the muslin
wares he dealt in. Without respect to her age or gentle kin, my Lady
Kittlebasket was ejected from her airy habitation--her porridge-pot,
silver posset-dish, silver-mounted spectacles, and Daniel's Cambridge
Bible, sold, at the Cross of Edinburgh, to the caddie who would bid
highest for them, and she herself driven to the workhouse, where she got
in with difficulty, but was easily enough lifted out, at the end of the
month, as dead as her friends could desire. Merry tidings this to me,
who had been the d----d' (he paused a moment) 'ORIGO MALI--Gad, I think
my confession would sound better in Latin than in English!
'But the best jest was behind--I had just power to stammer out something
about Jess--by my faith he HAD an answer! I had taught Jess one trade,
and, like a prudent girl, she had found out another for herself;
unluckily, they were both contraband, and Jess Cantrips, daughter of the
Lady Kittlebasket, had the honour to be transported to the plantations,
for street-walking and pocket-picking, about six months before I touched
He changed the bitter tone of affected pleasantry into an attempt to
laugh, then drew his swarthy hand across his swarthy eyes, and said in a
more natural accent, 'Poor Jess!'
There was a pause--until Fairford, pitying the poor man's state of mind,
and believing he saw something in him that, but for early error and
subsequent profligacy, might have been excellent and noble, helped on
the conversation by asking, in a tone of commiseration, how he had been
able to endure such a load of calamity.
'Why, very well,' answered the seaman; 'exceedingly well--like a tight
ship in a brisk gale. Let me recollect. I remember thanking Jack, very
composedly, for the interesting and agreeable communication; I then
pulled out my canvas pouch, with my hoard of moidores, and taking out
two pieces, I bid Jack keep the rest till I came back, as I was for a
cruise about Auld Reekie. The poor devil looked anxiously, but I shook
him by the hand, and ran downstairs, in such confusion of mind, that
notwithstanding what I had heard, I expected to meet Jess at every
It was market-day, and the usual number of rogues and fools were
assembled at the Cross. I observed everybody looked strange on me, and I
thought some laughed. I fancy I had been making queer faces enough, and
perhaps talking to myself, When I saw myself used in this manner, I held
out my clenched fists straight before me, stooped my head, and, like a
ram when he makes his race, darted off right down the street, scattering
groups of weatherbeaten lairds and periwigged burgesses, and bearing
down all before me. I heard the cry of "Seize the madman!" echoed, in
Celtic sounds, from the City Guard, with "Ceaze ta matman!"--but pursuit
and opposition were in vain. I pursued my career; the smell of the sea,
I suppose, led me to Leith, where, soon after, I found myself walking
very quietly on the shore, admiring the tough round and sound cordage
of the vessels, and thinking how a loop, with a man at the end of one of
them, would look, by way of tassel.
'I was opposite to the rendezvous, formerly my place of refuge--in
I bolted--found one or two old acquaintances, made half a dozen
new ones--drank for two days--was put aboard the tender--off to
Portsmouth--then landed at the Haslar hospital in a fine hissing-hot
fever. Never mind--I got better--nothing can kill me--the West Indies
were my lot again, for since I did not go where I deserved in the
next world, I had something as like such quarters as can be had in
this--black devils for inhabitants--flames and earthquakes, and so
forth, for your element. Well, brother, something or other I did or
said--I can't tell what--How the devil should I, when I was as drunk
as David's sow, you know? But I was punished, my lad--made to kiss the
wench that never speaks but when she scolds, and that's the gunner's
daughter, comrade. Yes, the minister's son of no matter where--has the
cat's scratch on his back! This roused me, and when we were ashore with
the boat, I gave three inches of the dirk, after a stout tussle, to the
fellow I blamed most, and took the bush for it. There were plenty of
wild lads then along shore--and, I don't care who knows--I went on the
account, look you--sailed under the black flag and marrow-bones--was a
good friend to the sea, and an enemy to all that sailed on it.'
Fairford, though uneasy in his mind at finding himself, a lawyer, so
close to a character so lawless, thought it best, nevertheless, to put a
good face on the matter, and asked Mr. Ewart, with as much unconcern as
he could assume, 'whether he was fortunate as a rover?'
'No, no--d--n it, no,' replied Nanty; 'the devil a crumb of butter was
ever churned that would stick upon my bread. There was no order among
us--he that was captain to-day, was swabber to-morrow; and as for
plunder--they say old Avery, and one or two close hunks, made money; but
in my time, all went as it came; and reason good, for if a fellow had
saved five dollars, his throat would have been cut in his hammock. And
then it was a cruel, bloody work.--Pah,--we'll say no more about it.
I broke with them at last, for what they did on board of a bit of a
snow--no matter what it was bad enough, since it frightened me--I took
French leave, and came in upon the proclamation, so I am free of all
that business. And here I sit, the skipper of the JUMPING JENNY--a
nutshell of a thing, but goes through the water like a dolphin. If it
were not for yon hypocritical scoundrel at Annan, who has the best end
of the profit, and takes none of the risk, I should be well enough--as
well as I want to be. Here is no lack of my best friend,'--touching his
case-bottle;--'but, to tell you a secret, he and I have got so used to
each other, I begin to think he is like a professed joker, that makes
your sides sore with laughing if you see him but now and then; but if
you take up house with him, he can only make your head stupid. But I
warrant the old fellow is doing the best he can for me, after all.'
'And what may that be?' said Fairford.
'He is KILLING me,' replied Nanty Ewart; 'and I am only sorry he is so
long about it.'
So saying he jumped on his feet, and, tripping up and down the deck,
gave his orders with his usual clearness and decision, notwithstanding
the considerable quantity of spirits which he had contrived to swallow
while recounting his history.
Although far from feeling well, Fairford endeavoured to rouse himself
and walk to the head of the brig, to enjoy the beautiful prospect, as
well as to take some note of the course which the vessel held. To his
great surprise, instead of standing across to the opposite shore
from which she had departed, the brig was going down the Firth, and
apparently steering into the Irish Sea. He called to Nanty Ewart, and
expressed his surprise at the course they were pursuing, and asked
why they did not stand straight across the Firth for some port in
'Why, this is what I call a reasonable question, now,' answered Nanty;
'as if a ship could go as straight to its port as a horse to the stable,
or a free-trader could sail the Solway as securely as a King's cutter!
Why, I'll tell ye, brother--if I do not see a smoke on Bowness, that
is the village upon the headland yonder, I must stand out to sea for
twenty-four hours at least, for we must keep the weather-gage if there
are hawks abroad.'
'And if you do see the signal of safety, Master Ewart, what is to be
done then?'
'Why then, and in that case, I must keep off till night, and then run
you, with the kegs and the rest of the lumber, ashore at Skinburness,'
'And then I am to meet with this same laird whom I have the letter for?'
continued Fairford.
'That,' said Ewart, 'is thereafter as it may be; the ship has its
course--the fair trader has his port--but it is not easy to say where
the laird may be found. But he will be within twenty miles of us, off or
on--and it will be my business to guide you to him.'
Fairford could not withstand the passing impulse of terror which crossed
him, when thus reminded that he was so absolutely in the power of a man,
who, by his own account, had been a pirate, and who was at present, in
all probability, an outlaw as well as a contraband trader. Nanty Ewart
guessed the cause of his involuntary shuddering.
'What the devil should I gain,' he said, 'by passing so poor a card as
you are? Have I not had ace of trumps in my hand, and did I not play it
fairly? Aye, I say the JUMPING JENNY can run in other ware as well as
kegs. Put SIGMA and TAU to Ewart, and see how that will spell--D'ye take
me now?'
'No indeed,' said Fairford; 'I am utterly ignorant of what you allude
'Now, by Jove!' said Nanty Ewart, 'thou art either the deepest or the
shallowest fellow I ever met with--or you are not right after all. I
wonder where Summertrees could pick up such a tender along-shore. Will
you let me see his letter?'
Fairford did not hesitate to gratify his wish, which, he was aware, he
could not easily resist. The master of the JUMPING JENNY looked at
the direction very attentively, then turned the letter to and fro, and
examined each flourish of the pen, as if he were judging of a piece
of ornamented manuscript; then handled it back to Fairford, without a
single word of remark.
'Am I right now?' said the young lawyer.
'Why, for that matter,' answered Nanty, 'the letter is right, sure
enough; but whether you are right or not, is your own business rather
than mine.' And, striking upon a flint with the back of a knife, he
kindled a cigar as thick as his finger, and began to smoke away with
great perseverance.
Alan Fairford continued to regard him with a melancholy feeling, divided
betwixt the interest he took in the unhappy man, and a not unnatural
apprehension for the issue of his own adventure.
Ewart, notwithstanding the stupefying nature of his pastime, seemed
to guess what was working in his passenger's mind; for, after they had
remained some time engaged in silently observing each other, he suddenly
dashed his cigar on the deck, and said to him, 'Well then, if you are
sorry for me, I am sorry for you. D--n me, if I have cared a button for
man or mother's son, since two years since when I had another peep of
Jack Hadaway. 'The fellow was got as fat as a Norway whale--married to a
great Dutch-built quean that had brought him six children. I believe
he did not know me, and thought I was come to rob his house; however, I
made up a poor face, and told him who I was. Poor Jack would have given
me shelter and clothes, and began to tell me of the moidores that were
in bank, when I wanted them. Egad, he changed his note when I told him
what my life had been, and only wanted to pay me my cash and get rid
of me. I never saw so terrified a visage. I burst out a-laughing in his
face, told him it was all a humbug, and that the moidores were all his
own, henceforth and for ever, and so ran off. I caused one of our people
send him a bag of tea and a keg of brandy, before I left--poor Jack!
I think you are the second person these ten years, that has cared a
tobacco-stopper for Nanty Ewart.'
'Perhaps, Mr. Ewart,' said Fairford, 'you live chiefly with men too
deeply interested for their own immediate safety, to think much upon the
distress of others?'
'And with whom do you yourself consort, I pray?' replied Nanty, smartly.
'Why, with plotters, that can make no plot to better purpose than their
own hanging; and incendiaries, that are snapping the flint upon wet
tinder. You'll as soon raise the dead as raise the Highlands--you'll as
soon get a grunt from a dead sow as any comfort from Wales or Cheshire.
You think because the pot is boiling, that no scum but yours can come
uppermost--I know better, by--. All these rackets and riots that you
think are trending your way have no relation at all to your interest;
and the best way to make the whole kingdom friends again at once, would
be the alarm of such an undertaking as these mad old fellows are trying
to launch into.
'I really am not in such secrets as you seem to allude to,' said
Fairford; and, determined at the same time to avail himself as far as
possible of Nanty's communicative disposition, he added, with a smile,'
And if I were, I should not hold it prudent to make them much the
subject of conversation. But I am sure, so sensible a man as Summertrees
and the laird may correspond together without offence to the state.'
'I take you, friend--I take you,' said Nanty Ewart, upon whom, at
length, the liquor and tobacco-smoke began to make considerable
innovation. 'As to what gentlemen may or may not correspond about, why
we may pretermit the question, as the old professor used to say at the
Hall; and as to Summertrees, I will say nothing, knowing him to be an
old fox. But I say that this fellow the laird is a firebrand in the
country; that he is stirring up all the honest fellows who should be
drinking their brandy quietly, by telling them stories about their
ancestors and the Forty-five; and that he is trying to turn all waters
into his own mill-dam, and to set his sails to all winds. And because
the London people are roaring about for some pinches of their own,
he thinks to win them to his turn with a wet finger. And he gets
encouragement from some, because they want a spell of money from him;
and from others, because they fought for the cause once and are ashamed
to go back; and others, because they have nothing to lose; and others,
because they are discontented fools. But if he has brought you, or any
one, I say not whom, into this scrape, with the hope of doing any good,
he's a d--d decoy-duck, and that's all I can say for him; and you are
geese, which is worse than being decoy-ducks, or lame-ducks either.
And so here is to the prosperity of King George the Third, and the true
Presbyterian religion, and confusion to the Pope, the Devil, and the
Pretender! I'll tell you what, Mr. Fairbairn, I am but tenth owner of
this bit of a craft, the JUMPING JENNY--but tenth owner and must sail
her by my owners' directions. But if I were whole owner, I would not
have the brig be made a ferry-boat for your Jacobitical, old-fashioned
Popish riff-raff, Mr. Fairport--I would not, by my soul; they should
walk the plank, by the gods, as I have seen better men do when I sailed
under the What-d'ye-callum colours. But being contraband goods, and on
board my vessel, and I with my sailing orders in my hand, why, I am to
forward them as directed--I say, John Roberts, keep her up a bit with
the helm.--and so, Mr. Fairweather, what I do is--as the d--d villain
Turnpenny says--all in the way of business.'
He had been speaking with difficulty for the last five minutes, and
now at length dropped on the deck, fairly silenced by the quantity of
spirits which he had swallowed, but without having showed any glimpse of
the gaiety, or even of the extravagance, of intoxication.
The old sailor stepped forward and flung a sea-cloak over the
slumberer's shoulders, and added, looking at Fairford, 'Pity of him he
should have this fault; for without it, he would have been as clever a
fellow as ever trod a plank with ox leather.'
'And what are we to do now?' said Fairford.
'Stand off and on, to be sure, till we see the signal, and then obey
So saying, the old man turned to his duty, and left the passenger to
amuse himself with his own meditations. Presently afterward a light
column of smoke was seen rising from the little headland.
'I can tell you what we are to do now, master,' said the sailor. 'We'll
stand out to sea, and then run in again with the evening tide, and
make Skinburness; or, if there's not light, we can run into the
Wampool river, and put you ashore about Kirkbride or Leaths, with the
Fairford, unwell before, felt this destination condemned him to an agony
of many hours, which his disordered stomach and aching head were ill
able to endure. There was no remedy, however, but patience, and the
recollection that he was suffering in the cause of friendship. As the
sun rose high, he became worse; his sense of smell appeared to acquire
a morbid degree of acuteness, for the mere purpose of inhaling and
distinguishing all the various odours with which he was surrounded, from
that of pitch to all the complicated smells of the hold. His heart, too,
throbbed under the heat, and he felt as if in full progress towards a
high fever.
The seamen, who were civil and attentive considering their calling,
observed his distress, and one contrived to make an awning out of an
old sail, while another compounded some lemonade, the only liquor which
their passenger could be prevailed upon to touch. After drinking it off,
he obtained, but could not be said to enjoy, a few hours of troubled

Alan Fairford's spirit was more ready to encounter labour than his frame
was adequate to support it. In spite of his exertions, when he awoke,
after five or six hours' slumber, he found that he was so much disabled
by dizziness in his head and pains in his limbs, that he could not raise
himself without assistance. He heard with some pleasure that they were
now running right for the Wampool river, and that he would be put on
shore in a very short time. The vessel accordingly lay to, and presently
showed a weft in her ensign, which was hastily answered by signals from
on shore. Men and horses were seen to come down the broken path which
leads to the shore; the latter all properly tackled for carrying their
loading. Twenty fishing barks were pushed afloat at once, and crowded
round the brig with much clamour, laughter, cursing, and jesting. Amidst
all this apparent confusion there was the essential regularity. Nanty
Ewart again walked his quarter-deck as if he had never tasted spirits
in his life, issued the necessary orders with precision, and saw them
executed with punctuality. In half an hour the loading of the brig was
in a great measure disposed in the boats; in a quarter of an hour more,
it was landed on the beach, and another interval of about the same
duration was sufficient to distribute it on the various strings of
packhorses which waited for that purpose, and which instantly dispersed,
each on its own proper adventure. More mystery was observed in loading
the ship's boat with a quantity of small barrels, which seemed to
contain ammunition. This was not done until the commercial customers
had been dismissed; and it was not until this was performed that Ewart
proposed to Alan, as he lay stunned with pain and noise, to accompany
him ashore.
It was with difficulty that Fairford could get over the side of the
vessel, and he could not seat himself on the stern of the boat without
assistance from the captain and his people. Nanty Ewart, who saw nothing
in this worse than an ordinary fit of sea-sickness, applied the usual
topics of consolation. He assured his passenger that he would be quite
well by and by, when he had been half an hour on terra firma, and
that he hoped to drink a can and smoke a pipe with him at Father
Crackenthorp's, for all that he felt a little out of the way for riding
the wooden horse.
'Who is Father Crackenthorp?' said Fairford, though scarcely able to
articulate the question.
'As honest a fellow as is of a thousand,' answered Nanty.
'Ah, how much good brandy he and I have made little of in our day! By my
soul, Mr. Fairbird, he is the prince of skinkers, and the father of
the free trade--not a stingy hypocritical devil like old Turnpenny
Skinflint, that drinks drunk on other folk's cost, and thinks it sin
when he has to pay for it--but a real hearty old cock;--the sharks have
been at and about him this many a day, but Father Crackenthorp knows how
to trim his sails--never a warrant but he hears of it before the ink's
dry. He is BONUS SOCIUS with headborough and constable. The king's
exchequer could not bribe a man to inform against him. If any such
rascal were to cast up, why, he would miss his ears next morning, or
be sent to seek them in the Solway. He is a statesman, [A small landed
proprietor.] though he keeps a public; but, indeed, that is only for
convenience and to excuse his having cellarage and folk about him; his
wife's a canny woman--and his daughter Doll too. Gad, you'll be in port
there till you get round again; and I'll keep my word with you, and
bring you to speech of the laird.
Gad, the only trouble I shall have is to get you out of the house;
for Doll is a rare wench, and my dame a funny old one, and Father
Crackenthorp the rarest companion! He'll drink you a bottle of rum or
brandy without starting, but never wet his lips with the nasty Scottish
stuff that the canting old scoundrel Turnpenny has brought into fashion.
He is a gentleman, every inch of him, old Crackenthorp; in his own way,
that is; and besides, he has a share in the JUMPING JENNY, and many a
moonlight outfit besides. He can give Doll a pretty penny, if he likes
the tight fellow that would turn in with her for life.'
In the midst of this prolonged panegyric on Father Crackenthorp, the
boat touched the beach, the rowers backed their oars to keep her afloat,
whilst the other fellows lumped into the surf, and, with the most rapid
dexterity, began to hand the barrels ashore.
'Up with them higher on the beach, my hearties,' exclaimed Nanty
Ewart--'High and dry--high and dry--this gear will not stand wetting.
Now, out with our spare hand here--high and dry with him too.
What's that?--the galloping of horse! Oh, I hear the jingle of the
packsaddles--they are our own folk.'
By this time all the boat's load was ashore, consisting of the little
barrels; and the boat's crew, standing to their arms, ranged themselves
in front, waiting the advance of the horses which came clattering along
the beach. A man, overgrown with corpulence, who might be distinguished
in the moonlight panting with his own exertions, appeared at the head
of the cavalcade, which consisted of horses linked together, and
accommodated with packsaddles, and chains for securing the kegs which
made a dreadful clattering.
'How now, Father Crackenthorp?' said Ewart--'Why this hurry with your
horses? We mean to stay a night with you, and taste your old brandy, and
my dame's homebrewed. The signal is up, man, and all is right.'
'All is wrong, Captain Nanty,' cried the man to whom he spoke; 'and you
are the lad that is like to find it so, unless you bundle off--there are
new brooms bought at Carlisle yesterday to sweep the country of you and
the like of you--so you were better be jogging inland.
'How many rogues are the officers? If not more than ten, I will make
'The devil you will!' answered Crackenthorp. 'You were better not, for
they have the bloody-backed dragoons from Carlisle with them.'
'Nay, then,' said Nanty, 'we must make sail. Come, Master Fairlord,
you must mount and ride. He does not hear me--he has fainted, I
believe--What the devil shall I do? Father Crackenthorp, I must leave
this young fellow with you till the gale blows out--hark ye--goes
between the laird and the t'other old one; he can neither ride nor
walk--I must send him up to you.'
'Send him up to the gallows!' said Crackenthorp; 'there is Quartermaster
Thwacker, with twenty men, up yonder; an he had not some kindness for
Doll, I had never got hither for a start--but you must get off, or they
will be here to seek us, for his orders are woundy particular; and these
kegs contain worse than whisky--a hanging matter, I take it.'
'I wish they were at the bottom of Wampool river, with them they belong
to,' said Nanty Ewart. 'But they are part of cargo; and what to do with
the poor young fellow--'
'Why, many a better fellow has roughed it on the grass with a cloak o'er
him,' said Crackenthorp. 'If he hath a fever, nothing is so cooling as
the night air.'
'Yes, he would be cold enough in the morning, no doubt; but it's a kind
heart and shall not cool so soon if I can help it,' answered the captain
'Well, captain, an ye will risk your own neck for another man's, why not
take him to the old girls at Fairladies?'
'What, the Miss Arthurets! The Papist jades! But never mind; it will
do--I have known them take in a whole sloop's crew that were stranded on
the sands.'
'You may run some risk, though, by turning up to Fairladies; for I tell
you they are all up through the country.'
'Never mind--I may chance to put some of them down again,' said Nanty,
cheerfully. 'Come, lads, bustle to your tackle. Are you all loaded?'
'Aye, aye, captain; we will be ready in a jiffy,' answered the gang.
'D--n your captains! Have you a mind to have me hanged if I am taken?
All's hail-fellow, here.'
'A sup at parting,' said Father Crackenthorp, extending a flask to Nanty
'Not the twentieth part of a drop,' said Nanty. 'No Dutch courage for
me--my heart is always high enough when there's a chance of fighting;
besides, if I live drunk, I should like to die sober. Here, old
Jephson--you are the best-natured brute amongst them--get the lad
between us on a quiet horse, and we will keep him upright, I warrant.'
As they raised Fairford from the ground, he groaned heavily, and asked
faintly where they were taking him to.
'To a place where you will be as snug and quiet as a mouse in his hole,'
said Nanty, 'if so be that we can get you there safely. Good-bye, Father
Crackenthorp--poison the quartermaster, if you can.'
The loaded horses then sprang forward at a hard trot, following each
other in a line, and every second horse being mounted by a stout fellow
in a smock frock, which served to conceal the arms with which most of
these desperate men were provided. Ewart followed in the rear of the
line, and, with the occasional assistance of old Jephson, kept his young
charge erect in the saddle. He groaned heavily from time to time; and
Ewart, more moved with compassion for his situation than might have been
expected from his own habits, endeavoured to amuse him and comfort him,
by some account of the place to which they were conveying him--his words
of consolation being, however, frequently interrupted by the necessity
of calling to his people, and many of them being lost amongst the
rattling of the barrels, and clinking of the tackle and small chains by
which they are secured on such occasions.
'And you see, brother, you will be in safe quarters at Fairladies--good
old scrambling house--good old maids enough, if they were not
Papists,--Hollo, you Jack Lowther; keep the line, can't ye, and shut
your rattle-trap, you broth of a--? And so, being of a good family, and
having enough, the old lasses have turned a kind of saints, and nuns,
and so forth. The place they live in was some sort of nun-shop long ago,
as they have them still in Flanders; so folk call them the Vestals of
Fairladies--that may be, or may not be; and I care not whether it be or
no.--Blinkinsop, hold your tongue, and be d--d!--And so, betwixt great
alms and good dinners, they are well thought of by rich and poor, and
their trucking with Papists is looked over. There are plenty of priests,
and stout young scholars, and such-like, about the house it's a hive of
them. More shame that government send dragoons out after-a few honest
fellows that bring the old women of England a drop of brandy, and let
these ragamuffins smuggle in as much papistry and--Hark!--was that
a whistle? No, it's only a plover. You, Jem Collier, keep a look-out
ahead--we'll meet them at the High Whins, or Brotthole bottom, or
nowhere. Go a furlong ahead, I say, and look sharp.--These Misses
Arthurets feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, and such-like
acts--which my poor father used to say were filthy rags, but he dressed
himself out with as many of them as most folk.--D--n that stumbling
horse! Father Crackenthorp should be d--d himself for putting an honest
fellow's neck in such jeopardy.'
Thus, and with much more to the same purpose, Nanty ran on, increasing,
by his well-intended annoyance, the agony of Alan Fairford, who,
tormented by a racking pain along the back and loins, which made the
rough trot of the horse torture to him, had his aching head still
further rended and split by the hoarse voice of the sailor, close to
his ear. Perfectly passive, however, he did not even essay to give
any answer; and indeed his own bodily distress was now so great and
engrossing, that to think of his situation was impossible, even if he
could have mended it by doing so.
Their course was inland; but in what direction, Alan had no means of
ascertaining. They passed at first over heaths and sandy downs; they
crossed more than one brook, or beck, as they are called in that
country--some of them of considerable depth--and at length reached
a cultivated country, divided, according to the English fashion of
agriculture, into very small fields or closes, by high banks, overgrown
with underwood, and surmounted by hedge-row trees, amongst which winded
a number of impracticable and complicated lanes, where the boughs
projecting from the embankments on each side, intercepted the light of
the moon, and endangered the safety of the horsemen. But through this
labyrinth the experience of the guides conducted them without a blunder,
and without even the slackening of their pace. In many places, however,
it was impossible for three men to ride abreast; and therefore the
burden of supporting Alan Fairford fell alternately to old Jephson
and to Nanty; and it was with much difficulty that they could keep him
upright in his saddle.
At length, when his powers of sufferance were quite worn out, and he was
about to implore them to leave him to his fate in the first cottage or
shed--or under a haystack or a hedge--or anywhere, so he was left at
ease, Collier, who rode ahead, passed back the word that they were at
the avenue to Fairladies--'Was he to turn up?'
Committing the charge of Fairford to Jephson, Nanty dashed up to the
head of the troop, and gave his orders.--'Who knows the house best?'
'Sam Skelton's a Catholic,' said Lowther.
'A d--d bad religion,' said Nanty, of whose Presbyterian education a
hatred of Popery seemed to be the only remnant. 'But I am glad there is
one amongst us, anyhow. You, Sam, being a Papist, know Fairladies and
the old maidens I dare say; so do you fall out of the line, and wait
here with me; and do you, Collier, carry on to Walinford bottom, then
turn down the beck till you come to the old mill, and Goodman Grist the
Miller, or old Peel-the-Causeway, will tell you where to stow; but I
will be up with you before that.'
The string of loaded horses then struck forward at their former pace,
while Nanty, with Sam Skelton, waited by the roadside till the rear came
up, when Jephson and Fairford joined them, and, to the great relief
of the latter, they began to proceed at an easier pace than formerly,
suffering the gang to precede them, till the clatter and clang attending
their progress began to die away in the distance. They had not proceeded
a pistol-shot from the place where they parted, when a short turning
brought them in front of an old mouldering gateway, whose heavy
pinnacles were decorated in the style of the seventeenth century, with
clumsy architectural ornaments; several of which had fallen down from
decay, and lay scattered about, no further care having been taken than
just to remove them out of the direct approach to the avenue. The great
stone pillars, glimmering white in the moonlight, had some fanciful
resemblance to supernatural apparitions, and the air of neglect all
around, gave an uncomfortable idea of the habitation to those who passed
its avenue.
'There used to be no gate here,' said Skelton, finding their way
unexpectedly stopped.
'But there is a gate now, and a porter too,' said a rough voice from
within. 'Who be you, and what do you want at this time of night?'
'We want to come to speech of the ladies--of the Misses Arthuret,' said
Nanty; 'and to ask lodging for a sick man.'
'There is no speech to be had of the Miss Arthurets at this time of
night, and you may carry your sick man to the doctor,' answered the
fellow from within, gruffly; 'for as sure as there is savour in salt,
and scent in rosemary, you will get no entrance--put your pipes up and
be jogging on.'
'Why, Dick Gardener,' said Skelton, 'be thou then turned porter?'
'What, do you know who I am?' said the domestic sharply.
'I know you, by your by-word,' answered the other; 'What, have you
forgot little Sam Skelton, and the brock in the barrel?'
'No, I have not forgotten you,' answered the acquaintance of Sam
Skelton; 'but my orders are peremptory to let no one up the avenue this
night, and therefore'--
'But we are armed, and will not be kept back,' said Nanty. 'Hark ye,
fellow, were it not better for you to take a guinea and let us in, than
to have us break the door first, and thy pate afterwards? for I won't
see my comrade die at your door be assured of that.'
'Why, I dunna know,' said the fellow; 'but what cattle were those that
rode by in such hurry?'
'Why, some of our folk from Bowness, Stoniecultrum, and thereby,'
answered Skelton; 'Jack Lowther, and old Jephson, and broad Will
Lamplugh, and such like.'
'Well,' said Dick Gardener, 'as sure as there is savour in salt, and
scent in rosemary, I thought it had been the troopers from Carlisle and
Wigton, and the sound brought my heart to my mouth.'
'Had thought thou wouldst have known the clatter of a cask from the
clash of a broadsword, as well as e'er a quaffer in Cumberland,' said
'Come, brother, less of your jaw and more of your legs, if you please,'
said Nanty; 'every moment we stay is a moment lost. Go to the ladies,
and tell them that Nanty Ewart, of the JUMPING JENNY, has brought
a young gentleman, charged with letters from Scotland to a certain
gentleman of consequence in Cumberland--that the soldiers are out, and
the gentleman is very ill and if he is not received at Fairladies he
must be left either to die at the gate, or to be taken, with all his
papers about him, by the redcoats.'
Away ran Dick Gardener with this message; and, in a few minutes, lights
were seen to flit about, which convinced Fairford, who was now, in
consequence of the halt, a little restored to self-possession, that they
were traversing the front of a tolerably large mansion-house.
'What if thy friend, Dick Gardener, comes not back again?' said Jephson
to Skelton.
'Why, then,' said the person addressed, 'I shall owe him just such a
licking as thou, old Jephson, had from Dan Cooke, and will pay as duly
and truly as he did.'
The old man was about to make an angry reply, when his doubts were
silenced by the return of Dick Gardener, who announced that Miss
Arthuret was coming herself as far as the gateway to speak with them.
Nanty Ewart cursed in a low tone the suspicions of old maids and the
churlish scruples of Catholics, that made so many obstacles to helping
a fellow creature, and wished Miss Arthuret a hearty rheumatism or
toothache as the reward of her excursion; but the lady presently
appeared, to cut short further grumbling. She was attended by a
waiting-maid with a lantern, by means of which she examined the party
on the outside, as closely as the imperfect light, and the spars of the
newly-erected gate, would permit.
'I am sorry we have disturbed you so late, Madam Arthuret,' said Nanty;
'but the case is this'--
'Holy Virgin,' said she, 'why do you speak so loud? Pray, are you not
the captain of the SAINTE GENEVIEVE?'
'Why, aye, ma'am,' answered Ewart, 'they call the brig so at Dunkirk,
sure enough; but along shore here, they call her the JUMPING JENNY.'
'You brought over the holy Father Buonaventure, did you not?'
'Aye, aye, madam, I have brought over enough of them black cattle,'
answered Nanty. 'Fie! fie! friend,' said Miss Arthuret; 'it is a pity
that the saints should commit these good men to a heretic's care.'
'Why, no more they would, ma'am,' answered Nanty, 'could they find a
Papist lubber that knew the coast as I do; then I am trusty as steel
to owners, and always look after cargo--live lumber, or dead flesh,
or spirits, all is one to me; and your Catholics have such d--d large
hoods, with pardon, ma'am, that they can sometimes hide two faces under
them. But here is a gentleman dying, with letters about him from the
Laird of Summertrees to the Laird of the Lochs, as they call him, along
Solway, and every minute he lies here is a nail in his coffin.'
'Saint Mary! what shall we do?' said Miss Arthuret; 'we must admit him,
I think, at all risks. You, Richard Gardener, help one of these men to
carry the gentleman up to the Place; and you, Selby, see him lodged at
the end of the long gallery. You are a heretic, captain, but I think you
are trusty, and I know you have been trusted--but if you are imposing on
'Not I, madam--never attempt to impose on ladies of your experience--my
practice that way has been all among the young ones. Come, cheerly, Mr.
Fairford--you will be taken good care of--try to walk.'
Alan did so; and, refreshed by his halt, declared himself able to walk
to the house with the sole assistance of the gardener.
'Why, that's hearty. Thank thee, Dick, for lending him thine arm'--and
Nanty slipped into his hand the guinea he had promised.--'Farewell,
then, Mr. Fairford, and farewell, Madam Arthuret, for I have been too
long here.'
So saying, he and his two companions threw themselves on horseback, and
went off at a gallop. Yet, even above the clatter of their hoofs did the
incorrigible Nanty hollo out the old ballad--
A lovely lass to a friar came,
To confession a-morning early;--
'In what, my dear, are you to blame?
Come tell me most sincerely?'
'Alas! my fault I dare not name--
But my lad he loved me dearly.'
'Holy Virgin!' exclaimed Miss Seraphina, as the unhallowed sounds
reached her ears; 'what profane heathens be these men, and what frights
and pinches we be put to among them! The saints be good to us, what a
night has this been!--the like never seen at Fairladies. Help me to make
fast the gate, Richard, and thou shalt come down again to wait on it,
lest there come more unwelcome visitors--Not that you are unwelcome,
young gentleman, for it is sufficient that you need such assistance as
we can give you, to make you welcome to Fairladies--only, another time
would have done as well--but, hem! I dare say it is all for the best.
The avenue is none of the smoothest, sir, look to your feet. Richard
Gardener should have had it mown and levelled, but he was obliged to go
on a pilgrimage to Saint Winifred's Well, in Wales.' (Here Dick gave
a short dry cough, which, as if he had found it betrayed some internal
feeling a little at variance with what the lady said, he converted into
a muttered SANCTA WINIFREDA, ORA PRO NOBIS. Miss Arthuret, meantime,
proceeded) 'We never interfere with our servants' vows or penances,
Master Fairford--I know a very worthy father of your name, perhaps a
relation--I say, we never interfere with our servants vows. Our Lady
forbid they should not know some difference between our service and a
heretic's.--Take care, sir, you will fall if you have not a care. Alas!
by night and day there are many stumbling-blocks in our paths!'
With more talk to the same purpose, all of which tended to show a
charitable and somewhat silly woman with a strong inclination to her
superstitious devotion, Miss Arthuret entertained her new guest, as,
stumbling at every obstacle which the devotion of his guide, Richard,
had left in the path, he at last, by ascending some stone steps
decorated on the side with griffins, or some such heraldic anomalies,
attained a terrace extending in front of the Place of Fairladies; an
old-fashioned gentleman's house of some consequence, with its range of
notched gable-ends and narrow windows, relieved by here and there an old
turret about the size of a pepper-box. The door was locked during the
brief absence of the mistress; a dim light glimmered through the sashed
door of the hall, which opened beneath a huge stone porch, loaded with
jessamine and other creepers. All the windows were dark as pitch.
Miss Arthuret tapped at the door. 'Sister, sister Angelica.' 'Who is
there?' was answered from within; 'is it you, sister Seraphina?'
'Yes, yes, undo the door; do you not know my voice?'
'No doubt, sister,' said Angelica, undoing bolt and bar; 'but you know
our charge, and the enemy is watchful to surprise us--INCEDIT SICUT LEO
VORANS, saith the breviary. Whom have you brought here? Oh, sister, what
have you done?'
'It is a young man,' said Seraphina, hastening to interrupt her sister's
remonstrance, 'a relation, I believe, of our worthy Father Fairford;
left at the gate by the captain of that blessed vessel the SAINTE
GENEVIEVE--almost dead--and charged with dispatches to '--
She lowered her voice as she mumbled over the last words.
'Nay, then, there is no help,' said Angelica; 'but it is unlucky.'
During this dialogue between the vestals of Fairladies, Dick Gardener
deposited his burden in a chair, where the young lady, after a moment
of hesitation, expressing a becoming reluctance to touch the hand of a
stranger, put her finger and thumb upon Fairford's wrist, and counted
his pulse.
'There is fever here, sister,' she said; 'Richard must call Ambrose, and
we must send some of the febrifuge.'
Ambrose arrived presently, a plausible and respectable-looking old
servant, bred in the family, and who had risen from rank to rank in
the Arthuret service till he was become half-physician, half-almoner,
half-butler, and entire governor; that is, when the Father Confessor,
who frequently eased him of the toils of government, chanced to be
abroad. Under the direction, and with the assistance of this venerable
personage, the unlucky Alan Fairford was conveyed to a decent apartment
at the end of a long gallery, and, to his inexpressible relief,
consigned to a comfortable bed. He did not attempt to resist the
prescription of Mr. Ambrose, who not only presented him with the
proposed draught, but proceeded so far as to take a considerable
quantity of blood from him, by which last operation he probably did his
patient much service.

On the next morning, when Fairford awoke, after no very refreshing
slumbers, in which were mingled many wild dreams of his father and of
Darsie Latimer,--of the damsel in the green mantle and the vestals of
Fairladies,--of drinking small beer with Nanty Ewart and being immersed
in the Solway with the JUMPING JENNY,--he found himself in no condition
to dispute the order of Mr. Ambrose, that he should keep his bed, from
which, indeed, he could not have raised himself without assistance. He
became sensible that his anxiety, and his constant efforts for some days
past, had been too much for his health, and that, whatever might be his
impatience, he could not proceed in his undertaking until his strength
was re-established.
In the meanwhile, no better quarters could have been found for an
invalid. The attendants spoke under their breath, and moved only on
tiptoe--nothing was done unless PAR ORDONNANCE DU MEDECIN. Aesculapius
reigned paramount in the premises at Fairladies. Once a day, the ladies
came in great state to wait upon him and inquire after his health, and
it was then that; Alan's natural civility, and the thankfulness which
he expressed for their timely and charitable assistance, raised him
considerably in their esteem. He was on the third day removed to a
better apartment than that in which he had been at first accommodated.
When he was permitted to drink a glass of wine, it was of the first
quality; one of those curious old-fashioned cobwebbed bottles being
produced on the occasion, which are only to be found in the crypts of
old country-seats, where they may have lurked undisturbed for more than
half a century.
But however delightful a residence for an invalid, Fairladies, as
its present inmate became soon aware, was not so agreeable to a
convalescent. When he dragged himself to the window so soon as he could
crawl from bed, behold it was closely grated, and commanded no view
except of a little paved court. This was nothing remarkable, most
old Border houses having their windows so secured. But then Fairford
observed, that whosoever entered or left the room always locked the
door with great care and circumspection; and some proposals which he
made to take a walk in the gallery, or even in the garden, were so
coldly received, both by the ladies and their prime minister, Mr.
Ambrose, that he saw plainly such an extension of his privileges as a
guest would not be permitted.
Anxious to ascertain whether this excessive hospitality would permit
him his proper privilege of free agency, he announced to this important
functionary, with grateful thanks for the care with which he had been
attended, his purpose to leave Fairladies next morning, requesting only,
as a continuance of the favours with which he had been loaded, the
loan of a horse to the next town; and, assuring Mr. Ambrose that his
gratitude would not be limited by such, a trifle, he slipped three
guineas into his hand, by way of seconding his proposal. The fingers of
that worthy domestic closed as naturally upon the honorarium, as if a
degree in the learned faculty had given him a right to clutch it; but
his answer concerning Alan's proposed departure was at first evasive,
and when he was pushed, it amounted to a peremptory assurance that he
could not be permitted to depart to-morrow; it was as much as his life
was worth, and his ladies would not authorize it.
'I know best what my own life is worth,' said Alan; 'and I do not value
it in comparison to the business which requires my instant attention.'
Receiving still no satisfactory answer from Mr. Ambrose, Fairford
thought it best to state his resolution to the ladies themselves, in
the most measured, respectful, and grateful terms; but still such as
expressed a firm determination to depart on the morrow, or next day
at farthest. After some attempts to induce him to stay, on the alleged
score of health, which were so expressed that he was convinced they were
only used to delay his departure, Fairford plainly told them that he was
entrusted with dispatches of consequence to the gentleman known by the
name of Herries, Redgauntlet, and the Laird of the Lochs; and that it
was matter of life and death to deliver them early.
'I dare say, Sister Angelica,' said the elder Miss Arthuret, that the
gentleman is honest; and if he is really a relation of Father Fairford,
we can run no risk.'
'Jesu Maria!' exclaimed the younger. 'Oh, fie, Sister Seraphina! Fie,
fie!--'VADE RETRO--get thee behind me!'
'Well, well; but, sister--Sister Angelica--let me speak with you in the
So out the ladies rustled in their silks and tissues, and it was a good
half-hour ere they rustled in again, with importance and awe on their
'To tell you the truth, Mr. Fairford, the cause of our desire to delay
you is--there is a religious gentleman in this house at present'--
'A most excellent person indeed'--said the sister Angelica.
'An anointed of his Master!' echoed Seraphina,--'and we should be glad
that, for conscience' sake, you would hold some discourse with him
before your departure.'
'Oho!' thought Fairford, 'the murder is out--here is a design of
conversion! I must not affront the good ladies, but I shall soon send
off the priest, I think.' He then answered aloud, 'that he should be
happy to converse with any friend of theirs--that in religious matters
he had the greatest respect for every modification of Christianity,
though, he must say, his belief was made up to that in which he had
been educated; nevertheless, if his seeing the religious person they
recommended could in the least show his respect'--
'It is not quite that,' said Sister Seraphina, 'although I am sure the
day is too short to hear him--Father Buonaventure, I mean--speak upon
the concerns of our souls; but'--
'Come, come, Sister Seraphina,' said the younger, 'it is needless
to talk so much about it. His--his Eminence--I mean Father
Buonaventure--will himself explain what he wants this gentleman to
'His Eminence!' said Fairford, surprised--'is this gentleman so high in
the Catholic Church? The title is given only to Cardinals, I think.'
'He is not a Cardinal as yet,' answered Seraphina; 'but I assure you,
Mr. Fairford, he is as high in rank as he is eminently endowed with good
gifts, and'--
'Come away,' said Sister Angelica. 'Holy Virgin, how you do talk! What
has Mr. Fairford to do with Father Buonaventure's rank? Only, sir, you
will remember that the Father has been always accustomed to be treated
with the most profound deference; indeed'--
'Come away, sister,' said Sister Seraphina, in her turn; 'who talks now,
I pray you? Mr. Fairford will know how to comport himself.'
'And we had best both leave the room,' said the younger lady, 'for here
his Eminence comes.'
She lowered her voice to a whisper as she pronounced the last words; and
as Fairford was about to reply, by assuring her that any friend of hers
should be treated by him with all the ceremony he could expect, she
imposed silence on him, by holding up her finger.
A solemn and stately step was now heard in the gallery; it might have
proclaimed the approach not merely of a bishop or cardinal, but of
the Sovereign Pontiff himself. Nor could the sound have been more
respectfully listened to by the two ladies, had it announced that the
Head of the Church was approaching in person. They drew themselves,
like sentinels on duty, one on each side of the door by which the
long gallery communicated with Fairford's apartment, and stood there
immovable, and with countenances expressive of the deepest reverence.
The approach of Father Buonaventure was so slow, that Fairford had time
to notice all this, and to marvel in his mind what wily and ambitious
priest could have contrived to subject his worthy but simple-minded
hostesses to such superstitious trammels. Father Buonaventure's entrance
and appearance in some degree accounted for the whole.
He was a man of middle life, about forty or upwards; but either care, or
fatigue, or indulgence, had brought on the appearance of premature
old age, and given to his fine features a cast of seriousness or even
sadness. A noble countenance, however, still remained; and though his
complexion was altered, and wrinkles stamped upon his brow in many a
melancholy fold, still the lofty forehead, the full and well-opened eye,
and the well-formed nose, showed how handsome in better days he
must have been. He was tall, but lost the advantage of his height
by stooping; and the cane which he wore always in his hand, and
occasionally used, as well as his slow though majestic gait, seemed to
intimate that his form and limbs felt already some touch of infirmity.
The colour of his hair could not be discovered, as, according to the
fashion, he wore a periwig. He was handsomely, though gravely dressed in
a secular habit, and had a cockade in his hat; circumstances which did
not surprise Fairford, who knew that a military disguise was very often
assumed by the seminary priests, whose visits to England, or residence
there, subjected them to legal penalties.
As this stately person entered the apartment, the two ladies facing
inward, like soldiers on their post when about to salute a superior
officer, dropped on either hand of the father a curtsy so profound that
the hoop petticoats which performed the feat seemed to sink down to
the very floor, nay, through it, as if a trap-door had opened for the
descent of the dames who performed this act of reverence.
The father seemed accustomed to such homage, profound as it was; he
turned his person a little way first towards one sister, and then
towards the other, while, with a gracious inclination of his person,
which certainly did not amount to a bow, he acknowledged their curtsy.
But he passed forward without addressing them, and seemed by doing so to
intimate that their presence in the apartment was unnecessary.
They accordingly glided out of the room, retreating backwards, with
hands clasped and eyes cast upwards, as if imploring blessings on the
religious man whom they venerated so highly. The door of the apartment
was shut after them, but not before Fairford had perceived that there
were one or two men in the gallery, and that, contrary to what he had
before observed, the door, though shut, was not locked on the outside.
'Can the good souls apprehend danger from me to this god of their
idolatry?' thought Fairford. But he had no time to make further
observations, for the stranger had already reached the middle of his
Fairford rose to receive him respectfully, but as he fixed his eyes on
the visitor, he thought that the father avoided his looks. His reasons
for remaining incognito were cogent enough to account for this, and
Fairford hastened to relieve him, by looking downwards in his turn;
but when again he raised his face, he found the broad light eye of the
stranger so fixed on him that he was almost put out of countenance by
the steadiness of his gaze. During this time they remained standing.
'Take your seat, sir,' said the father; 'you have been an invalid.'
He spoke with the tone of one who desires an inferior to be seated in
his presence, and his voice was full and melodious.
Fairford, somewhat surprised to find himself overawed by the airs of
superiority, which could be only properly exercised towards one over
whom religion gave the speaker influence, sat down at his bidding, as
if moved by springs, and was at a loss how to assert the footing of
equality on which he felt that they ought to stand. The stranger kept
the advantage which he had obtained.
'Your name, sir, I am informed, is Fairford?' said the father.
Alan answered by a bow.
'Called to the Scottish bar,' continued his visitor, 'There is, I
believe, in the West, a family of birth and rank called Fairford of
Alan thought this a strange observation from a foreign ecclesiastic,
as his name intimated Father Buonaventure to be; but only answered he
believed there was such, a family.
'Do you count kindred with them, Mr. Fairford?' continued the inquirer.
'I have not the honour to lay such a claim,' said Fairford.
'My father's industry has raised his family from a low and obscure
situation--I have no hereditary claim to distinction of any kind. May I
ask the cause of these inquiries?'
'You will learn it presently,' said Father Buonaventure, who had given
a dry and dissatisfied HEM at the young man's acknowledging a plebeian
descent. He then motioned to him to be silent, and proceeded with his
'Although not of condition, you are, doubtless, by sentiments and
education, a man of honour and a gentleman?'
'I hope so, sir,' said Alan, colouring with displeasure. 'I have not
been accustomed to have it questioned.'
'Patience, young man,' said the unperturbed querist--'we are on serious
business, and no idle etiquette must prevent its being discussed
seriously. You are probably aware that you speak to a person proscribed
by the severe and unjust laws of the present government?'
'I am aware of the statute 1700, chapter 3,' said Alan, 'banishing from
the realm priests and trafficking Papists, and punishing by death, on
summary conviction, any such person who being so banished may return.
But I have no means of knowing you, sir, to be one of those persons; and
I think your prudence may recommend to you to keep your own counsel.'
'It is sufficient, sir; and I have no apprehensions of disagreeable
consequences from your having seen me in this house,' said the priest.
'Assuredly no,' said Alan. 'I consider myself as indebted for my life to
the mistresses of Fairladies; and it would be a vile requital on my
part to pry into or make known what I may have seen or heard under
this hospitable roof. If I were to meet the Pretender himself in such
a situation, he should, even at the risk of a little stretch to my
loyalty, be free from any danger from my indiscretion.'
'The Pretender!' said the priest, with some angry emphasis; but
immediately softened his tone and added, 'No doubt, however, that
person is a pretender; and some people think his pretensions are not ill
founded. But, before running into politics, give me leave to say, that I
am surprised to find a gentleman of your opinions in habits of intimacy
with Mr. Maxwell of Summertrees and Mr. Redgauntlet, and the medium of
conducting the intercourse betwixt them.'
'Pardon me, sir,' replied Alan Fairford; 'I do not aspire to the honour
of being reputed their confidant or go-between. My concern with those
gentlemen is limited to one matter of business, dearly interesting to
me, because it concerns the safety--perhaps the life--of my dearest
'Would you have any objection to entrust me with the cause of your
journey?' said Father Buonaventure. 'My advice may be of service to you,
and my influence with one or both these gentlemen is considerable.'
Fairford hesitated a moment, and, hastily revolving all circumstances,
concluded that he might perhaps receive some advantage from propitiating
this personage; while, on the other hand, he endangered nothing by
communicating to him the occasion of his journey. He, therefore, after
stating shortly that he hoped Mr. Buonaventure would render him the same
confidence which he required on his part, gave a short account of Darsie
Latimer--of the mystery which hung over his family--and of the disaster
which had befallen him. Finally, of his own resolution to seek for his
friend, and to deliver him, at the peril of his own life.
The Catholic priest, whose manner it seemed to be to avoid all
conversation which did not arise from his own express motion, made
no remarks upon what he had heard, but only asked one or two abrupt
questions, where Alan's narrative appeared less clear to him; then
rising from his seat, he took two turns through the apartment, muttering
between his teeth, with emphasis, the word 'madman!' But apparently he
was in the habit of keeping all violent emotions under restraint; for he
presently addressed Fairford with the most perfect indifference.
'If,' said he, 'you thought you could do so without breach of
confidence, I wish you would have the goodness to show me the letter
of Mr. Maxwell of Summertrees. I desire to look particularly at the
Seeing no cause to decline this extension of his confidence, Alan,
without hesitation, put the letter into his hand. Having turned it
round as old Trumbull and Nanty Ewart had formerly done, and, like them,
having examined the address with much minuteness, he asked whether he
had observed these words, pointing to a pencil-writing upon the under
side of the letter. Fairford answered in the negative, and, looking
at the letter, read with surprise, 'CAVE NE LITERAS BELLEROPHONTIS
ADFERRES'; a caution which coincided so exactly with the provost's
admonition, that he would do well to inspect the letter of which he was
bearer, that he was about to spring up and attempt an escape, he knew
not wherefore, or from whom.
'Sit still, young man,' said the father, with the same tone of authority
which reigned in his whole manner, although mingled with stately
courtesy. 'You are in no danger--my character shall be a pledge for your
safety. By whom do you suppose these words have been written?'
Fairford could have answered, 'By Nanty Ewart,' for he remembered seeing
that person scribble something with a pencil, although he was not well
enough to observe with accuracy where or upon what. But not knowing
what suspicions, or what worse consequences the seamen's interest in his
affairs might draw upon him, he judged it best to answer that he knew
not the hand.
Father Buonaventure was again silent for a moment or two, which he
employed in surveying the letter with the strictest attention; then
stepped to the window, as if to examine the address and writing of the
envelope with the assistance of a stronger light, and Alan Fairford
beheld him, with no less amazement than high displeasure, coolly and
deliberately break the seal, open the letter, and peruse the contents.
'Stop, sir, hold!' he exclaimed, so soon as his astonishment permitted
him to express his resentment in words; 'by what right do you dare'--
'Peace, young gentleman,' said the father, repelling him with a wave
of his hand; 'be assured I do not act without warrant--nothing can pass
betwixt Mr