One was a female, who had grievous ill Wrought in revenge, and she enjoy'd it still; Sullen she was, and threatening; in her eye Glared the stern triumph that she dared to die. Crabbe.
The summons of preparation arrived after Jeanie Deans had resided in the metropolis about three weeks.
On the morning appointed she took a grateful farewell of Mrs. Glass, as that good woman's attention to her particularly required, placed herself and her movable goods, which purchases and presents had greatly increased, in a hackney-coach, and joined her travelling companions in the housekeeper's apartment at Argyle House. While the carriage was getting ready, she was informed that the Duke wished to speak with her; and being ushered into a splendid saloon, she was surprised to find that he wished to present her to his lady and daughters.
"I bring you my little countrywoman, Duchess," these were the words of the introduction. "With an army of young fellows, as gallant and steady as she is, and, a good cause, I would not fear two to one."
"Ah, papa!" said a lively young lady, about twelve years old, "remember you were full one to two at Sheriffmuir, and yet" (singing the well-known ballad)--
"Some say that we wan, and some say that they wan, And some say that nane wan at a', man But of ae thing I'm sure, that on Sheriff-muir A battle there was that I saw, man."
"What, little Mary turned Tory on my hands?--This will be fine news for our countrywoman to carry down to Scotland!"
"We may all turn Tories for the thanks we have got for remaining Whigs," said the second young lady.
"Well, hold your peace, you discontented monkeys, and go dress your babies; and as for the Bob of Dunblane,
'If it wasna weel bobbit, weel bobbit, weel bobbit, If it wasna weel bobbit, we'll bob it again.'"
"Papa's wit is running low," said Lady Mary: "the poor gentleman is repeating himself--he sang that on the field of battle, when he was told the Highlanders had cut his left wing to pieces with their claymores."
A pull by the hair was the repartee to this sally.
"Ah! brave Highlanders and bright claymores," said the Duke, "well do I wish them, 'for a' the ill they've done me yet,' as the song goes.--But come, madcaps, say a civil word to your countrywoman--I wish ye had half her canny hamely sense; I think you may be as leal and true-hearted."
The Duchess advanced, and, in a few words, in which there was as much kindness as civility, assured Jeanie of the respect which she had for a character so affectionate, and yet so firm, and added, "When you get home, you will perhaps hear from me."
"And from me." "And from me." "And from me, Jeanie," added the young ladies one after the other, "for you are a credit to the land we love so well."
Jeanie, overpowered by these unexpected compliments, and not aware that the Duke's investigation had made him acquainted with her behaviour on her sister's trial, could only answer by blushing, and courtesying round and round, and uttering at intervals, "Mony thanks! mony thanks!"
"Jeanie," said the Duke, "you must have _doch an' dorroch,_ or you will be unable to travel."
There was a salver with cake and wine on the table. He took up a glass, drank "to all true hearts that lo'ed Scotland," and offered a glass to his guest.
Jeanie, however, declined it, saying, "that she had never tasted wine in her life."
"How comes that, Jeanie?" said the Duke,--"wine maketh glad the heart, you know."
"Ay, sir, but my father is like Jonadab the son of Rechab, who charged his children that they should drink no wine."
"I thought your father would have had more sense," said the Duke, "unless indeed he prefers brandy. But, however, Jeanie, if you will not drink, you must eat, to save the character of my house."
He thrust upon her a large piece of cake, nor would he permit her to break off a fragment, and lay the rest on a salver.
"Put it in your pouch, Jeanie," said he; "you will be glad of it before you see St. Giles's steeple. I wish to Heaven I were to see it as soon as you! and so my best service to all my friends at and about Auld Reekie, and a blithe journey to you."
And, mixing the frankness of a soldier with his natural affability, he shook hands with his prote'ge'e, and committed her to the charge of Archibald, satisfied that he had provided sufficiently for her being attended to by his domestics, from the unusual attention with which he had himself treated her.
Accordingly, in the course of her journey, she found both her companions disposed to pay her every possible civility, so that her return, in point of comfort and safety, formed a strong contrast to her journey to London.
Her heart also was disburdened of the weight of grief, shame, apprehension, and fear, which had loaded her before her interview with the Queen at Richmond. But the human mind is so strangely capricious, that, when freed from the pressure of real misery, it becomes open and sensitive to the apprehension of ideal calamities. She was now much disturbed in mind, that she had heard nothing from Reuben Butler, to whom the operation of writing was so much more familiar than it was to herself.
"It would have cost him sae little fash," she said to herself; "for I hae seen his pen gan as fast ower the paper, as ever it did ower the water when it was in the grey goose's wing. Wae's me! maybe he may be badly--but then my father wad likely hae said somethin about it--Or maybe he may hae taen the rue, and kensna how to let me wot of his change of mind. He needna be at muckle fash about it,"--she went on, drawing herself up, though the tear of honest pride and injured affection gathered in her eye, as she entertained the suspicion,-- "Jeanie Deans is no the lass to pu' him by the sleeve, or put him in mind of what he wishes to forget. I shall wish him weel and happy a' the same; and if he has the luck to get a kirk in our country, I sall gang and hear him just the very same, to show that I bear nae malice." And as she imagined the scene, the tear stole over her eye.
In these melancholy reveries, Jeanie had full time to indulge herself; for her travelling companions, servants in a distinguished and fashionable family, had, of course, many topics of conversation, in which it was absolutely impossible she could have either pleasure or portion. She had, therefore, abundant leisure for reflection, and even for self-tormenting, during the several days which, indulging the young horses the Duke was sending down to the North with sufficient ease and short stages, they occupied in reaching the neighbourhood of Carlisle.
In approaching the vicinity of that ancient city, they discerned a considerable crowd upon an eminence at a little distance from the high road, and learned from some passengers who were gathering towards that busy scene from the southward, that the cause of the concourse was, the laudable public desire "to see a doomed Scotch witch and thief get half of her due upo' Haribeebroo' yonder, for she was only to be hanged; she should hae been boorned aloive, an' cheap on't."
"Dear Mr. Archibald," said the dame of the dairy elect, "I never seed a woman hanged in a' my life, and only four men, as made a goodly spectacle."
Mr. Archibald, however, was a Scotchman, and promised himself no exuberant pleasure in seeing his countrywoman undergo "the terrible behests of law." Moreover, he was a man of sense and delicacy in his way, and the late circumstances of Jeanie's family, with the cause of her expedition to London, were not unknown to him; so that he answered drily, it was impossible to stop, as he must be early at Carlisle on some business of the Duke's, and he accordingly bid the postilions get on.
The road at that time passed at about a quarter of a mile's distance from the eminence, called Haribee or Harabee-brow, which, though it is very moderate in size and height, is nevertheless seen from a great distance around, owing to the flatness of the country through which the Eden flows. Here many an outlaw, and border-rider of both kingdoms, had wavered in the wind during the wars, and scarce less hostile truces, between the two countries. Upon Harabee, in latter days, other executions had taken place with as little ceremony as compassion; for these frontier provinces remained long unsettled, and, even at the time of which we write, were ruder than those in the centre of England.
The postilions drove on, wheeling as the Penrith road led them, round the verge of the rising ground. Yet still the eyes of Mrs. Dolly Dutton, which, with the head and substantial person to which they belonged, were all turned towards the scene of action, could discern plainly the outline of the gallows-tree, relieved against the clear sky, the dark shade formed by the persons of the executioner and the criminal upon the light rounds of the tall aerial ladder, until one of the objects, launched into the air, gave unequivocal signs of mortal agony, though appearing in the distance not larger than a spider dependent at the extremity of his invisible thread, while the remaining form descended from its elevated situation, and regained with all speed an undistinguished place among the crowd. This termination of the tragic scene drew forth of course a squall from Mrs. Dutton, and Jeanie, with instinctive curiosity, turned her head in the same direction.
The sight of a female culprit in the act of undergoing the fatal punishment from which her beloved sister had been so recently rescued, was too much, not perhaps for her nerves, but for her mind and feelings. She turned her head to the other side of the carriage, with a sensation of sickness, of loathing, and of fainting. Her female companion overwhelmed her with questions, with proffers of assistance, with requests that the carriage might be stopped--that a doctor might be fetched--that drops might be gotten--that burnt feathers and asafoetida, fair water, and hartshorn, might be procured, all at once, and without one instant's delay. Archibald, more calm and considerate, only desired the carriage to push forward; and it was not till they had got beyond sight of the fatal spectacle, that, seeing the deadly paleness of Jeanie's countenance, he stopped the carriage, and jumping out himself, went in search of the most obvious and most easily procured of Mrs. Dutton's pharmacopoeia--a draught, namely, of fair water.
While Archibald was absent on this good-natured piece of service, damning the ditches which produced nothing but mud, and thinking upon the thousand bubbling springlets of his own mountains, the attendants on the execution began to pass the stationary vehicle in their way back to Carlisle.
From their half-heard and half-understood words, Jeanie, whose attention was involuntarily rivetted by them, as that of children is by ghost stories, though they know the pain with which they will afterwards remember them, Jeanie, I say, could discern that the present victim of the law had died game, as it is termed by those unfortunates; that is, sullen, reckless, and impenitent, neither fearing God nor regarding man.
"A sture woife, and a dour," said one Cumbrian peasant, as he clattered by in his wooden brogues, with a noise like the trampling of a dray-horse.
"She has gone to ho master, with ho's name in her mouth," said another; "Shame the country should be harried wi' Scotch witches and Scotch bitches this gate--but I say hang and drown."
"Ay, ay, Gaffer Tramp, take awa yealdon, take awa low--hang the witch, and there will be less scathe amang us; mine owsen hae been reckan this towmont."
"And mine bairns hae been crining too, mon," replied his neighbour.
"Silence wi' your fule tongues, ye churls," said an old woman, who hobbled past them, as they stood talking near the carriage; "this was nae witch, but a bluidy-fingered thief and murderess."
"Ay? was it e'en sae, Dame Hinchup?" said one in a civil tone, and stepping out of his place to let the old woman pass along the footpath--"Nay, you know best, sure--but at ony rate, we hae but tint a Scot of her, and that's a thing better lost than found."
The old woman passed on without making any answer.
"Ay, ay, neighbour," said Gaffer Tramp, "seest thou how one witch will speak for t'other--Scots or English, the same to them."
His companion shook his head, and replied in the same subdued tone, "Ay, ay, when a Sark-foot wife gets on her broomstick, the dames of Allonby are ready to mount, just as sure as the by-word gangs o' the hills,--
If Skiddaw hath a cap, Criffel, wots full weel of that."
"But," continued Gager Tramp, "thinkest thou the daughter o' yon hangit body isna as rank a witch as ho?"
"I kenna clearly," returned the fellow, "but the folk are speaking o' swimming her i' the Eden." And they passed on their several roads, after wishing each other good-morning.
Just as the clowns left the place, and as Mr. Archibald returned with some fair water, a crowd of boys and girls, and some of the lower rabble of more mature age, came up from the place of execution, grouping themselves with many a yell of delight around a tall female fantastically dressed, who was dancing, leaping, and bounding in the midst of them. A horrible recollection pressed on Jeanie as she looked on this unfortunate creature; and the reminiscence was mutual, for by a sudden exertion of great strength and agility, Madge Wildfire broke out of the noisy circle of tormentors who surrounded her, and clinging fast to the door of the calash, uttered, in a sound betwixt laughter and screaming, "Eh, d'ye ken, Jeanie Deans, they hae hangit our mother?" Then suddenly changing her tone to that of the most piteous entreaty, she added, "O gar them let me gang to cut her down!--let me but cut her down!--she is my mother, if she was waur than the deil, and she'll be nae mair kenspeckle than half-hangit Maggie Dickson,* that cried saut mony a day after she had been hangit; her voice was roupit and hoarse, and her neck was a wee agee, or ye wad hae kend nae odds on her frae ony other saut-wife."
* Note Q. Half-hanged Maggie Dickson.
Mr. Archibald, embarrassed by the madwoman's clinging to the carriage, and detaining around them her noisy and mischievous attendants, was all this while looking out for a constable or beadle, to whom he might commit the unfortunate creature. But seeing no such person of authority, he endeavoured to loosen her hold from the carriage, that they might escape from her by driving on. This, however, could hardly be achieved without some degree of violence; Madge held fast, and renewed her frantic entreaties to be permitted to cut down her mother. "It was but a tenpenny tow lost," she said, "and what was that to a woman's life?" There came up, however, a parcel of savage-looking fellows, butchers and graziers chiefly, among whose cattle there had been of late a very general and fatal distemper, which their wisdom imputed to witchcraft. They laid violent hands on Madge, and tore her from the carriage, exclaiming-- "What, doest stop folk o' king's high-way? Hast no done mischief enow already, wi' thy murders and thy witcherings?"
"Oh, Jeanie Deans--Jeanie Deans!" exclaimed the poor maniac, "save my mother, and I will take ye to the Interpreter's house again,--and I will teach ye a' my bonny sangs,--and I will tell ye what came o' the." The rest of her entreaties were drowned in the shouts of the rabble.
"Save her, for God's sake!--save her from those people!" exclaimed Jeanie to Archibald.
"She is mad, but quite innocent; she is mad, gentlemen," said Archibald; "do not use her ill, take her before the Mayor."
"Ay, ay, we'se hae care enow on her," answered one of the fellows; "gang thou thy gate, man, and mind thine own matters."
"He's a Scot by his tongue," said another; "and an he will come out o' his whirligig there, I'se gie him his tartan plaid fu' o' broken banes."
It was clear nothing could be done to rescue Madge; and Archibald, who was a man of humanity, could only bid the postilions hurry on to Carlisle, that he might obtain some assistance to the unfortunate woman. As they drove off, they heard the hoarse roar with which the mob preface acts of riot or cruelty, yet even above that deep and dire note, they could discern the screams of the unfortunate victim. They were soon out of hearing of the cries, but had no sooner entered the streets of Carlisle, than Archibald, at Jeanie's earnest and urgent entreaty, went to a magistrate, to state the cruelty which was likely to be exercised on this unhappy creature.
In about an hour and a half he returned, and reported to Jeanie, that the magistrate had very readily gone in person, with some assistance, to the rescue of the unfortunate woman, and that he had himself accompanied him; that when they came to the muddy pool, in which the mob were ducking her, according to their favourite mode of punishment, the magistrate succeeded in rescuing her from their hands, but in a state of insensibility, owing to the cruel treatment which she had received. He added, that he had seen her carried to the workhouse, and understood that she had been brought to herself, and was expected to do well.
This last averment was a slight alteration in point of fact, for Madge Wildfire was not expected to survive the treatment she had received; but Jeanie seemed so much agitated, that Mr. Archibald did not think it prudent to tell her the worst at once. Indeed, she appeared so fluttered and disordered by this alarming accident, that, although it had been their intention to proceed to Longtown that evening, her companions judged it most advisable to pass the night at Carlisle.
This was particularly agreeable to Jeanie, who resolved, if possible, to procure an interview with Madge Wildfire. Connecting some of her wild flights with the narrative of George Staunton, she was unwilling to omit the opportunity of extracting from her, if possible, some information concerning the fate of that unfortunate infant which had cost her sister so dear. Her acquaintance with the disordered state of poor Madge's mind did not permit her to cherish much hope that she could acquire from her any useful intelligence; but then, since Madge's mother had suffered her deserts, and was silent for ever, it was her only chance of obtaining any kind of information, and she was loath to lose the opportunity.
She coloured her wish to Mr. Archibald by saying that she had seen Madge formerly, and wished to know, as a matter of humanity, how she was attended to under her present misfortunes. That complaisant person immediately went to the workhouse, or hospital, in which he had seen the sufferer lodged, and brought back for reply, that the medical attendants positively forbade her seeing any one. When the application for admittance was repeated next day, Mr. Archibald was informed that she had been very quiet and composed, insomuch that the clergyman who acted as chaplain to the establishment thought it expedient to read prayers beside her bed, but that her wandering fit of mind had returned soon after his departure; however, her countrywoman might see her if she chose it. She was not expected to live above an hour or two.
Jeanie had no sooner received this information than she hastened to the hospital, her companions attending her. They found the dying person in a large ward, where there were ten beds, of which the patient's was the only one occupied.
Madge was singing when they entered--singing her own wild snatches of songs and obsolete airs, with a voice no longer overstrained by false spirits, but softened, saddened, and subdued by bodily exhaustion. She was still insane, but was no longer able to express her wandering ideas in the wild notes of her former state of exalted imagination. There was death in the plaintive tones of her voice, which yet, in this moderated and melancholy mood, had something of the lulling sound with which a mother sings her infant asleep. As Jeanie entered she heard first the air, and then a part of the chorus and words, of what had been, perhaps, the song of a jolly harvest-home.
"Our work is over--over now, The goodman wipes his weary brow, The last long wain wends slow away, And we are free to sport and play.
"The night comes on when sets the sun, And labour ends when day is done. When Autumn's gone and Winter's come, We hold our jovial harvest-home."
Jeanie advanced to the bedside when the strain was finished, and addressed Madge by her name. But it produced no symptoms of recollection. On the contrary, the patient, like one provoked by interruption, changed her posture, and called out with an impatient tone, "Nurse--nurse, turn my face to the wa', that I may never answer to that name ony mair, and never see mair of a wicked world."
The attendant on the hospital arranged her in her bed as she desired, with her face to the wall and her back to the light. So soon as she was quiet in this new position, she began again to sing in the same low and modulated strains, as if she was recovering the state of abstraction which the interruption of her visitants had disturbed. The strain, however, was different, and rather resembled the music of the Methodist hymns, though the measure of the song was similar to that of the former:
"When the fight of grace is fought-- When the marriage vest is wrought-- When Faith hath chased cold Doubt away, And Hope but sickens at delay--
"When Charity, imprisoned here, Longs for a more expanded sphere, Doff thy robes of sin and clay; Christian, rise, and come away."
The strain was solemn and affecting, sustained as it was by the pathetic warble of a voice which had naturally been a fine one, and which weakness, if it diminished its power, had improved in softness. Archibald, though a follower of the court, and a pococurante by profession, was confused, if not affected; the dairy-maid blubbered; and Jeanie felt the tears rise spontaneously to her eyes. Even the nurse, accustomed to all modes in which the spirit can pass, seemed considerably moved.
The patient was evidently growing weaker, as was intimated by an apparent difficulty of breathing, which seized her from time to time, and by the utterance of low listless moans, intimating that nature was succumbing in the last conflict. But the spirit of melody, which must originally have so strongly possessed this unfortunate young woman, seemed, at every interval of ease, to triumph over her pain and weakness. And it was remarkable that there could always be traced in her songs something appropriate, though perhaps only obliquely or collaterally so, to her present situation. Her next seemed the fragment of some old ballad:
"Cauld is my bed, Lord Archibald, And sad my sleep of sorrow; But thine sall be as sad and cauld, My fause true-love! to-morrow.
"And weep ye not, my maidens free, Though death your mistress borrow; For he for whom I die to-day Shall die for me to-morrow."
Again she changed the tune to one wilder, less monotonous, and less regular. But of the words, only a fragment or two could be collected by those who listened to this singular scene:
"Proud Maisie is in the wood, Walking so early; Sweet Robin sits on the bush, Singing so rarely.
"'Tell me, thou bonny bird. When shall I marry me?' 'When six braw gentlemen Kirkward shall carry ye.'
"'Who makes the bridal bed, Birdie, say truly?'-- 'The grey-headed sexton, That delves the grave duly.
"The glow-worm o'er grave and stone Shall light thee steady; The owl from the steeple sing, 'Welcome, proud lady.'"
Her voice died away with the last notes, and she fell into a slumber, from which the experienced attendant assured them that she never would awake at all, or only in the death agony.
The nurse's prophecy proved true. The poor maniac parted with existence, without again uttering a sound of any kind. But our travellers did not witness this catastrophe. They left the hospital as soon as Jeanie had satisfied herself that no elucidation of her sister's misfortunes was to be hoped from the dying person.*
* Note R. Madge Wildfire.
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