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The Heart of Mid-Lothian, Volume 2

Walter Scott

  Produced by David Widger




  By Walter Scott










  Isab.--Alas! what poor ability's in me To do him good? Lucio.--Assay the power you have. Measure for Measure.

  When Mrs. Saddletree entered the apartment in which her guests hadshrouded their misery, she found the window darkened. The feeblenesswhich followed his long swoon had rendered it necessary to lay the oldman in bed. The curtains were drawn around him, and Jeanie satemotionless by the side of the bed. Mrs. Saddletree was a woman ofkindness, nay, of feeling, but not of delicacy. She opened the half-shutwindow, drew aside the curtain, and, taking her kinsman by the hand,exhorted him to sit up, and bear his sorrow like a good man, and aChristian man, as he was. But when she quitted his hand, it fellpowerless by his side, nor did he attempt the least reply.

  "Is all over?" asked Jeanie, with lips and cheeks as pale as ashes,--"andis there nae hope for her?"

  "Nane, or next to nane," said Mrs. Saddletree; "I heard the Judge-carlesay it with my ain ears--It was a burning shame to see sae mony o' themset up yonder in their red gowns and black gowns, and to take the life o'a bit senseless lassie. I had never muckle broo o' my gudeman's gossips,and now I like them waur than ever. The only wiselike thing I heardonybody say, was decent Mr. John Kirk of Kirk-knowe, and he wussed themjust to get the king's mercy, and nae mair about it. But he spake tounreasonable folk--he might just hae keepit his breath to hae blawn onhis porridge."

  "But _can_ the king gie her mercy?" said Jeanie, earnestly. "Some folktell me he canna gie mercy in cases of mur in cases like hers."

  "_Can_ he gie mercy, hinny?--I weel I wot he can, when he likes. Therewas young Singlesword, that stickit the Laird of Ballencleuch, andCaptain Hackum, the Englishman, that killed Lady Colgrain's gudeman, andthe Master of Saint Clair, that shot the twa Shaws,* and mony mair in mytime--to be sure they were gentle blood, and had their, kin to speak forthem--And there was Jock Porteous the other day--I'se warrant there'smercy, an folk could win at it."

  * [In 1828, the Author presented to the Roxburgh Club a curious volumecontaining the "Proceedings in the Court-Martial held upon John, Masterof Sinclair, for the murder of Ensign Schaw, and Captain Schaw, 17thOctober 1708."]

  "Porteous?" said Jeanie; "very true--I forget a' that I suld maist mind.--Fare ye weel, Mrs. Saddletree; and may ye never want a friend in thehour of distress!"

  "Will ye no stay wi' your father, Jeanie, bairn?--Ye had better," saidMrs. Saddletree.

  "I will be wanted ower yonder," indicating the Tolbooth with her hand,"and I maun leave him now, or I will never be able to leave him. I fearnafor his life--I ken how strong-hearted he is--I ken it," she said, layingher hand on her bosom, "by my ain heart at this minute."

  "Weel, hinny, if ye think it's for the best, better he stay here and resthim, than gang back to St. Leonard's."

  "Muckle better--muckle better--God bless you!--God bless you!--At no ratelet him gang till ye hear frae me," said Jeanie.

  "But ye'll be back belive?" said Mrs. Saddletree, detaining her; "theywinna let ye stay yonder, hinny."

  "But I maun gang to St. Leonard's--there's muckle to be dune, and littletime to do it in--And I have friends to speak to--God bless you--takecare of my father."

  She had reached the door of the apartment, when, suddenly turning, shecame back, and knelt down by the bedside.--"O father, gie me yourblessing--I dare not go till ye bless me. Say but 'God bless ye, andprosper ye, Jeanie'--try but to say that!"

  Instinctively, rather than by an exertion of intellect, the old manmurmured a prayer, that "purchased and promised blessings might bemultiplied upon her."

  "He has blessed mine errand," said his daughter, rising from her knees,"and it is borne in upon my mind that I shall prosper."

  So saying, she left the room.

  Mrs. Saddletree looked after her, and shook her head. "I wish she binnaroving, poor thing--There's something queer about a' thae Deanses. Idinna like folk to be sae muckle better than other folk--seldom comesgude o't. But if she's gaun to look after the kye at St. Leonard's,that's another story; to be sure they maun be sorted.--Grizzie, come uphere, and tak tent to the honest auld man, and see he wants naething.--Yesilly tawpie" (addressing the maid-servant as she entered), "what garr'dye busk up your cockemony that gate?--I think there's been enough the dayto gie an awfa' warning about your cockups and your fallal duds--see whatthey a' come to," etc. etc. etc.

  Leaving the good lady to her lecture upon worldly vanities, we musttransport our reader to the cell in which the unfortunate Effie Deans wasnow immured, being restricted of several liberties which she had enjoyedbefore the sentence was pronounced.

  When she had remained about an hour in the state of stupified horror sonatural in her situation, she was disturbed by the opening of the jarringbolts of her place of confinement, and Ratcliffe showed himself. "It'syour sister," he said, "wants to speak t'ye, Effie."

  "I canna see naebody," said Effie, with the hasty irritability whichmisery had rendered more acute--"I canna see naebody, and least of a'her--Bid her take care o' the auld man--I am naething to ony o' them now,nor them to me."

  "She says she maun see ye, though," said Ratcliffe; and Jeanie, rushinginto the apartment, threw her arms round her sister's neck, who writhedto extricate herself from her embrace.

  "What signifies coming to greet ower me," said poor Effie, "when you havekilled me?--killed me, when a word of your mouth would have savedme--killed me, when I am an innocent creature--innocent of that guilt atleast--and me that wad hae wared body and soul to save your finger frombeing hurt?"

  "You shall not die," said Jeanie, with enthusiastic firmness; "say whatyou like o' me--think what you like o' me--only promise--for I doubt yourproud heart--that ye wunna harm yourself, and you shall not die thisshameful death."

  "A _shameful_ death I will not die, Jeanie, lass. I have that in myheart--though it has been ower kind a ane--that wunna bide shame. Gaehame to our father, and think nae mair on me--I have eat my last earthlymeal."

  "Oh, this was what I feared!" said Jeanie.

  "Hout, tout, hinny," said Ratcliffe; "it's but little ye ken o' thaethings. Ane aye thinks at the first dinnle o' the sentence, they haeheart eneugh to die rather than bide out the sax weeks; but they aye bidethe sax weeks out for a' that. I ken the gate o't weel; I hae fronted thedoomster three times, and here I stand, Jim Ratcliffe, for a' that. Had Itied my napkin strait the first time, as I had a great mind till't--andit was a' about a bit grey cowt, wasna worth ten punds sterling--wherewould I have been now?"

  "And how _did_ you escape?" said Jeanie, the fates of this man, at firstso odious to her, having acquired a sudden interest in her eyes fromtheir correspondence with those of her sister.

  "_How_ did I escape?" said Ratcliffe, with a knowing wink,--"I tell ye I'scapit in a way that naebody will escape from this Tolbooth while I keepthe keys."

  "My sister shall come out in the face of the sun," said Jeanie; "I willgo to London, and beg her pardon from the king and queen. If theypardoned Porteous, they may pardon her; if a sister asks a sister's lifeon her bended knees, they will pardon her--they _shall_ pardon her--andthey will win a thousand hearts by it."

  Effie listened in bewildered astonishment, and so earnest was hersister's enthusiastic assurance, that she almost involuntarily caught agleam of hope; but it instantly faded away.

  "Ah, Jeanie! the king and queen live in London, a thousand miles fromthis--far ayont the saut sea; I'll be gane before ye win there."

  "You are mistaen," said Jeanie; "it is no sae far, and they go to it byland; I learned something about thae things from Reuben Butler."

  "Ah, Jeanie! ye never learned onything but what was gude frae the folk yekeepit company wi'; but!--but!"--she wrung her hands and wept bitterly.

  "Dinna think on that now," said Jeanie; "there will be time for that ifthe present space be redeemed. Fare ye weel. Unless I die by the road, Iwill see the king's face that gies grace--O, sir" (to Ratcliffe), "bekind to her--She ne'er ken'd what it was to need a stranger's kindnesstill now.--Fareweel--fareweel, Effie!--Dinna speak to me--I maunna greetnow--my head's ower dizzy already!"

  She tore herself from her sister's arms, and left the cell. Ratcliffefollowed her, and beckoned her into a small room. She obeyed his signal,but not without trembling.

  "What's the fule thing shaking for?" said he; "I mean nothing butcivility to you. D--n me, I respect you, and I can't help it. You have somuch spunk, that d--n me, but I think there's some chance of yourcarrying the day. But you must not go to the king till you have made somefriend; try the duke--try MacCallummore; he's Scotland's friend--I kenthat the great folks dinna muckle like him--but they fear him, and thatwill serve your purpose as weel. D'ye ken naebody wad gie ye a letter tohim?"

  "Duke of Argyle!" said Jeanie, recollecting herself suddenly, "what washe to that Argyle that suffered in my father's time--in the persecution?"

  "His son or grandson, I'm thinking," said Ratcliffe, "but what o' that?"

  "Thank God!" said Jeanie, devoutly clasping her hands.

  "You whigs are aye thanking God for something," said the ruffian. "Buthark ye, hinny, I'll tell ye a secret. Ye may meet wi' rough customers onthe Border, or in the Midland, afore ye get to Lunnon. Now, deil ane o'them will touch an acquaintance o' Daddie Ratton's; for though I amretired frae public practice, yet they ken I can do a gude or an ill turnyet--and deil a gude fellow that has been but a twelvemonth on the lay,be he ruffler or padder, but he knows my gybe* as well as the jark** ofe'er a queer cuffin*** in England--and there's rogue's Latin for you."

  * Pass.** Seal.*** Justice of Peace.

  It was indeed totally unintelligible to Jeanie Deans, who was onlyimpatient to escape from him. He hastily scrawled a line or two on adirty piece of paper, and said to her, as she drew back when he offeredit, "Hey!--what the deil--it wunna bite you, my lass--if it does naegude, it can do nae ill. But I wish you to show it, if you have onyfasherie wi' ony o' St. Nicholas's clerks."

  "Alas!" said she, "I do not understand what you mean."

  "I mean, if ye fall among thieves, my precious,--that is a Scripturephrase, if ye will hae ane--the bauldest of them will ken a scart o' myguse feather. And now awa wi' ye--and stick to Argyle; if onybody can dothe job, it maun be him."

  After casting an anxious look at the grated windows and blackened wallsof the old Tolbooth, and another scarce less anxious at the hospitablelodging of Mrs. Saddletree, Jeanie turned her back on that quarter, andsoon after on the city itself. She reached St. Leonard's Crags withoutmeeting any one whom she knew, which, in the state of her mind, sheconsidered as a great blessing. "I must do naething," she thought, as shewent along, "that can soften or weaken my heart--it's ower weak alreadyfor what I hae to do. I will think and act as firmly as I can, and speakas little."

  There was an ancient servant, or rather cottar, of her father's, who hadlived under him for many years, and whose fidelity was worthy of fullconfidence. She sent for this woman, and explaining to her that thecircumstances of her family required that she should undertake a journey,which would detain her for some weeks from home, she gave her fullinstructions concerning the management of the domestic concerns in herabsence. With a precision, which, upon reflection, she herself could nothelp wondering at, she described and detailed the most minute steps whichwere to be taken, and especially such as were necessary for her father'scomfort. "It was probable," she said, "that he would return to St.Leonard's to-morrow! certain that he would return very soon--all must bein order for him. He had eneugh to distress him, without being fashedabout warldly matters."

  In the meanwhile she toiled busily, along with May Hettly, to leavenothing unarranged.

  It was deep in the night when all these matters were settled; and whenthey had partaken of some food, the first which Jeanie had tasted on thateventful day, May Hettly, whose usual residence was a cottage at a littledistance from Deans's house, asked her young mistress, whether she wouldnot permit her to remain in the house all night? "Ye hae had an awfu'day," she said, "and sorrow and fear are but bad companions in thewatches of the night, as I hae heard the gudeman say himself."

  "They are ill companions indeed," said Jeanie; "but I maun learn to abidetheir presence, and better begin in the house than in the field."

  She dismissed her aged assistant accordingly,--for so slight was thegradation in their rank of life, that we can hardly term May aservant,--and proceeded to make a few preparations for her journey.

  The simplicity of her education and country made these preparations verybrief and easy. Her tartan screen served all the purposes of ariding-habit and of an umbrella; a small bundle contained such changes oflinen as were absolutely necessary. Barefooted, as Sancho says, she hadcome into the world, and barefooted she proposed to perform herpilgrimage; and her clean shoes and change of snow-white thread stockingswere to be reserved for special occasions of ceremony. She was not aware,that the English habits of comfort attach an idea of abject misery to theidea of a barefooted traveller; and if the objection of cleanliness hadbeen made to the practice, she would have been apt to vindicate herselfupon the very frequent ablutions to which, with Mahometan scrupulosity, aScottish damsel of some condition usually subjects herself. Thus far,therefore, all was well.

  From an oaken press, or cabinet, in which her father kept a few oldbooks, and two or three bundles of papers, besides his ordinary accountsand receipts, she sought out and extracted from a parcel of notes ofsermons, calculations of interest, records of dying speeches of themartyrs, and the like, one or two documents which she thought might be ofsome use to her upon her mission. But the most important difficultyremained behind, and it had not occurred to her until that very evening.It was the want of money; without which it was impossible she couldundertake so distant a journey as she now meditated.

  David Deans, as we have said, was easy, and even opulent in hiscircumstances. But his wealth, like that of the patriarchs of old,consisted in his kine and herds, and in two or three sums lent out atinterest to neighbours or relatives, who, far from being in circumstancesto pay anything to account of the principal sums, thought they did allthat was incumbent on them when, with considerable difficulty, theydischarged the "annual rent." To these debtors it would be in vain,therefore, to apply, even with her father's concurrence; nor could shehope to obtain such concurrence, or assistance in any mode, without sucha series of explanations and debates as she felt might deprive hertotally of the power of taking the step, which, however daring andhazardous, she felt was absolutely necessary for trying the last chancein favour of her sister. Without departing from filial reverence, Jeaniehad an inward conviction that the feelings of her father, however just,and upright, and honourable, were too little in unison with the spirit ofthe time to admit of his being a good judge of the measures to be adoptedin this crisis. Herself more flexible in manner, though no less uprightin principle, she felt that to ask his consent to her pilgrimage would beto encounter the risk of drawing down his positive prohibition, and underthat she believed her journey could not be blessed in its progress andevent. Accordingly, she had determined upon the means by which she mightcommunicate to him her undertaking and its purpose, shortly
after heractual departure. But it was impossible to apply to him for money withoutaltering this arrangement, and discussing fully the propriety of herjourney; pecuniary assistance from that quarter, therefore, was laid outof the question.

  It now occurred to Jeanie that she should have consulted with Mrs.Saddletree on this subject. But, besides the time that must nownecessarily be lost in recurring to her assistance Jeanie internallyrevolted from it. Her heart acknowledged the goodness of Mrs.Saddletree's general character, and the kind interest she took in theirfamily misfortunes; but still she felt that Mrs. Saddletree was a womanof an ordinary and worldly way of thinking, incapable, from habit andtemperament, of taking a keen or enthusiastic view of such a resolutionas she had formed; and to debate the point with her, and to rely upon herconviction of its propriety, for the means of carrying it into execution,would have been gall and wormwood.

  Butler, whose assistance she might have been assured of, was greatlypoorer than herself. In these circumstances, she formed a singularresolution for the purpose of surmounting this difficulty, the executionof which will form the subject of the next chapter.