No more shalt thou behold thy sister's face; Thou hast already had her last embrace. Elegy on Mrs. Anne Killigrew.
This second surprise had been accomplished for Jeanie Deans by the rod of the same benevolent enchanter, whose power had transplanted her father from the Crags of St. Leonard's to the banks of the Gare Loch. The Duke of Argyle was not a person to forget the hereditary debt of gratitude, which had been bequeathed to him by his grandfather, in favour of the grandson of old Bible Butler. He had internally resolved to provide for Reuben Butler in this kirk of Knocktarlitie, of which the incumbent had just departed this life. Accordingly, his agent received the necessary instructions for that purpose, under the qualifying condition always, that the learning and character of Mr. Butler should be found proper for the charge. Upon inquiry, these were found as highly satisfactory as had been reported in the case of David Deans himself.
By this preferment, the Duke of Argyle more essentially benefited his friend and _protegee_, Jeanie, than he himself was aware of, since he contributed to remove objections in her father's mind to the match, which he had no idea had been in existence.
We have already noticed that Deans had something of a prejudice against Butler, which was, perhaps, in some degree owing to his possessing a sort of consciousness that the poor usher looked with eyes of affection upon his eldest daughter. This, in David's eyes, was a sin of presumption, even although it should not be followed by any overt act, or actual proposal. But the lively interest which Butler had displayed in his distresses, since Jeanie set forth on her London expedition, and which, therefore, he ascribed to personal respect for himself individually, had greatly softened the feelings of irritability with which David had sometimes regarded him. And, while he was in this good disposition towards Butler, another incident took place which had great influence on the old man's mind. So soon as the shock of Effie's second elopement was over, it was Deans's early care to collect and refund to the Laird of Dumbiedikes the money which he had lent for Effie's trial, and for Jeanie's travelling expenses. The Laird, the pony, the cocked hat, and the tabacco-pipe, had not been seen at St. Leonard's Crags for many a day; so that, in order to pay this debt, David was under the necessity of repairing in person to the mansion of Dumbiedikes.
He found it in a state of unexpected bustle. There were workmen pulling down some of the old hangings, and replacing them with others, altering, repairing, scrubbing, painting, and white-washing. There was no knowing the old house, which had been so long the mansion of sloth and silence. The Laird himself seemed in some confusion, and his reception, though kind, lacked something of the reverential cordiality, with which he used to greet David Deans. There was a change also, David did not very well know of what nature, about the exterior of this landed proprietor--an improvement in the shape of his garments, a spruceness in the air with which they were put on, that were both novelties. Even the old hat looked smarter; the cock had been newly pointed, the lace had been refreshed, and instead of slouching backward or forward on the Laird's head, as it happened to be thrown on, it was adjusted with a knowing inclination over one eye.
David Deans opened his business, and told down the cash. Dumbiedikes steadily inclined his ear to the one, and counted the other with great accuracy, interrupting David, while he was talking of the redemption of the captivity of Judah, to ask him whether he did not think one or two of the guineas looked rather light. When he was satisfied on this point, had pocketed his money, and had signed a receipt, he addressed David with some little hesitation,--"Jeanie wad be writing ye something, gudeman?"
"About the siller?" replied David--"Nae doubt, she did."
"And did she say nae mair about me?" asked the Laird.
"Nae mair but kind and Christian wishes--what suld she hae said?" replied David, fully expecting that the Laird's long courtship (if his dangling after Jeanie deserves so active a name) was now coming to a point. And so indeed it was, but not to that point which he wished or expected.
"Aweel, she kens her ain mind best, gudeman. I hae made a clean house o' Jenny Balchristie, and her niece. They were a bad pack--steal'd meat and mault, and loot the carters magg the coals--I'm to be married the morn, and kirkit on Sunday."
Whatever David felt, he was too proud and too steady-minded to show any unpleasant surprise in his countenance and manner.
"I wuss ye happy, sir, through Him that gies happiness--marriage is an honourable state."
"And I am wedding into an honourable house, David--the Laird of Lickpelf's youngest daughter--she sits next us in the kirk, and that's the way I came to think on't."
There was no more to be said but again to wish the Laird joy, to taste a cup of his liquor, and to walk back again to St. Leonard's, musing on the mutability of human affairs and human resolutions. The expectation that one day or other Jeanie would be Lady Dumbiedikes, had, in spite of himself, kept a more absolute possession of David's mind than he himself was aware of. At least, it had hitherto seemed a union at all times within his daughter's reach, whenever she might choose to give her silent lover any degree of encouragement, and now it was vanished for ever. David returned, therefore, in no very gracious humour for so good a man. He was angry with Jeanie for not having encouraged the Laird--he was angry with the Laird for requiring encouragement--and he was angry with himself for being angry at all on the occasion.
On his return he found the gentleman who managed the Duke of Argyle's affairs was desirous of seeing him, with a view to completing the arrangement between them. Thus, after a brief repose, he was obliged to set off anew for Edinburgh, so that old May Hettly declared, "That a' this was to end with the master just walking himself aff his feet."
When the business respecting the farm had been talked over and arranged, the professional gentleman acquainted David Deans, in answer to his inquiries concerning the state of public worship, that it was the pleasure of the Duke to put an excellent young clergyman, called Reuben Butler, into the parish, which was to be his future residence.
"Reuben Butler!" exclaimed David--"Reuben Butler, the usher at Liberton?"
"The very same," said the Duke's commissioner; "his Grace has heard an excellent character of him, and has some hereditary obligations to him besides--few ministers will be so comfortable as I am directed to make Mr. Butler."
"Obligations?--The Duke?--Obligations to Reuben Butler--Reuben Butler a placed minister of the Kirk of Scotland?" exclaimed David, in interminable astonishment, for somehow he had been led by the bad success which Butler had hitherto met with in all his undertakings, to consider him as one of those step-sons of Fortune, whom she treats with unceasing rigour, and ends with disinheriting altogether.
There is, perhaps, no time at which we are disposed to think so highly of a friend, as when we find him standing higher than we expected in the esteem of others. When assured of the reality of Butler's change of prospects, David expressed his great satisfaction at his success in life, which, he observed, was entirely owing to himself (David). "I advised his puir grand-mother, who was but a silly woman, to breed him up to the ministry; and I prophesied that, with a blessing on his endeavours, he would become a polished shaft in the temple. He may be something ower proud o' his carnal learning, but a gude lad, and has the root of the matter--as ministers gang now, where yell find ane better, ye'll find ten waur, than Reuben Butler."
He took leave of the man of business, and walked homeward, forgetting his weariness in the various speculations to which this wonderful piece of intelligence gave rise. Honest David had now, like other great men, to go to work to reconcile his speculative principles with existing circumstances; and, like other great men, when they set seriously about that task, he was tolerably successful.
Ought Reuben Butler in conscience to accept of this preferment in the Kirk of Scotland, subject as David at present thought that establishment was to the Erastian encroachments of the civil power? This was the leading question, and he considered it carefully. "The Kirk of Scotland was shorn of its beams, and deprived of its full artillery and banners of authority; but still it contained zealous and fructifying pastors, attentive congregations, and, with all her spots and blemishes, the like of this Kirk was nowhere else to be seen upon earth."
David's doubts had been too many and too critical to permit him ever unequivocally to unite himself with any of the dissenters, who upon various accounts absolutely seceded from the national church. He had often joined in communion with such of the established clergy as approached nearest to the old Presbyterian model and principles of 1640. And although there were many things to be amended in that system, yet he remembered that he, David Deans, had himself ever been an humble pleader for the good old cause in a legal way, but without rushing into right-hand excesses, divisions and separations. But, as an enemy to separation, he might join the right-hand of fellowship with a minister of the Kirk of Scotland in its present model. _Ergo,_ Reuben Butler might take possession of the parish of Knocktarlitie, without forfeiting his friendship or favour--Q. E. D. But, secondly, came the trying point of lay-patronage, which David Deans had ever maintained to be a coming in by the window, and over the wall, a cheating and starving the souls of a whole parish, for the purpose of clothing the back and filling the belly of the incumbent.
This presentation, therefore, from the Duke of Argyle, whatever was the worth and high character of that nobleman, was a limb of the brazen image, a portion of the evil thing, and with no kind of consistency could David bend his mind to favour such a transaction. But if the parishioners themselves joined in a general call to Reuben Butler to be their pastor, it did not seem quite so evident that the existence of this unhappy presentation was a reason for his refusing them the comforts of his doctrine. If the Presbytery admitted him to the kirk, in virtue rather of that act of patronage than of the general call of the congregation, that might be their error, and David allowed it was a heavy one. But if Reuben Butler accepted of the cure as tendered to him by those whom he was called to teach, and who had expressed themselves desirous to learn, David, after considering and reconsidering the matter, came, through the great virtue of if, to be of opinion that he might safely so act in that matter.
There remained a third stumbling-block--the oaths to Government exacted from the established clergymen, in which they acknowledge an Erastian king and parliament, and homologate the incorporating Union between England and Scotland, through which the latter kingdom had become part and portion of the former, wherein Prelacy, the sister of Popery, had made fast her throne, and elevated the horns of her mitre. These were symptoms of defection which had often made David cry out, "My bowels--my bowels!--I am pained at the very heart!" And he remembered that a godly Bow-head matron had been carried out of the Tolbooth church in a swoon, beyond the reach of brandy and burnt feathers, merely on hearing these fearful words, "It is enacted by the Lords _spiritual_ and temporal," pronounced from a Scottish pulpit, in the proem to the Porteous Proclamation. These oaths were, therefore, a deep compliance and dire abomination--a sin and a snare, and a danger and a defection. But this shibboleth was not always exacted. Ministers had respect to their own tender consciences, and those of their brethren; and it was not till a later period that the reins of discipline were taken up tight by the General Assemblies and Presbyteries. The peacemaking particle came again to David's assistance. _If_ an incumbent was not called upon to make such compliances, and _if_ he got a right entry into the church without intrusion, and by orderly appointment, why, upon the whole, David Deans came to be of opinion, that the said incumbent might lawfully enjoy the spirituality and temporality of the cure of souls at Knocktarlitie, with stipend, manse, glebe, and all thereunto appertaining.
The best and most upright-minded men are so strongly influenced by existing circumstances, that it would be somewhat cruel to inquire too nearly what weight parental affection gave to these ingenious trains of reasoning. Let David Deans's situation be considered. He was just deprived of one daughter, and his eldest, to whom he owed so much, was cut off, by the sudden resolution of Dumbiedikes, from the high hope which David had entertained, that she might one day be mistress of that fair lordship. Just while this disappointment was bearing heavy on his spirits, Butler comes before his imagination--no longer the half-starved threadbare usher, but fat and sleek and fair, the beneficed minister of Knocktarlitie, beloved by his congregation--exemplary in his life--powerful in his doctrine--doing the duty of the kirk as never Highland minister did before--turning sinners as a colley dog turns sheep--a favourite of the Duke of Argyle, and drawing a stipend of eight hundred punds Scots, and four chalders of victual. Here was a match, making up in David's mind, in a tenfold degree, the disappointment in the case of Dumbiedikes, in so far as the goodman of St. Leonard's held a powerful minister in much greater admiration than a mere landed proprietor. It did not occur to him, as an additional reason in favour of the match, that Jeanie might herself have some choice in the matter; for the idea of consulting her feelings never once entered into the honest man's head, any more than the possibility that her inclination might perhaps differ from his own.
The result of his meditations was, that he was called upon to take the management of the whole affair into his own hand, and give, if it should be found possible without sinful compliance, or backsliding, or defection of any kind, a worthy pastor to the kirk of Knocktarlitie. Accordingly, by the intervention of the honest dealer in butter-milk who dwelt in Liberton, David summoned to his presence Reuben Butler. Even from this worthy messenger he was unable to conceal certain swelling emotions of dignity, insomuch, that, when the carter had communicated his message to the usher, he added, that "Certainly the Gudeman of St. Leonard's had some grand news to tell him, for he was as uplifted as a midden-cock upon pattens."
Butler, it may readily be conceived, immediately obeyed the summons. He was a plain character, in which worth and good sense and simplicity were the principal ingredients; but love, on this occasion, gave him a certain degree of address. He had received an intimation of the favour designed him by the Duke of Argyle, with what feelings those only can conceive who have experienced a sudden prospect of being raised to independence and respect from penury and toil. He resolved, however, that the old man should retain all the consequence of being, in his own opinion, the first to communicate the important intelligence. At the same time, he also determined that in the expected conference he would permit David Deans to expatiate at length upon the proposal, in all its bearings, without irritating him either by interruption or contradiction. This last was the most prudent plan he could have adopted; because, although there were many doubts which David Deans could himself clear up to his own satisfaction, yet he might have been by no means disposed to accept the solution of any other person; and to engage him in an argument would have been certain to confirm him at once and for ever in the opinion which Butler chanced to impugn.
He received his friend with an appearance of important gravity, which real misfortune had long compelled him to lay aside, and which belonged to those days of awful authority in which he predominated over Widow Butler, and dictated the mode of cultivating the crofts of Beersheba. He made known to Reuben, with great prolixity, the prospect of his changing his present residence for the charge of the Duke of Argyle's stock-farm in Dumbartonshire, and enumerated the various advantages of the situation with obvious self-congratulation; but assured the patient hearer, that nothing had so much moved him to acceptance, as the sense that, by his skill in bestial, he could render the most important services to his Grace the Duke of Argyle, to whom, "in the late unhappy circumstance" (here a tear dimmed the sparkle of pride in the old man's eye), "he had been sae muckle obliged."
"To put a rude Hielandman into sic a charge," he continued, "what could be expected but that he suld be sic a chiefest herdsman, as wicked Doeg the Edomite? whereas, while this grey head is to the fore, not a clute o' them but sall be as weel cared for as if they were the fatted kine of Pharaoh.--And now, Reuben, lad, seeing we maun remove our tent to a strange country, ye will be casting a dolefu' look after us, and thinking with whom ye are to hold counsel anent your government in thae slippery and backsliding times; and nae doubt remembering, that the auld man, David Deans, was made the instrument to bring you out of the mire of schism and heresy, wherein your father's house delighted to wallow; aften also, nae doubt, when ye are pressed wi' ensnaring trials and tentations and heart-plagues, you, that are like a recruit that is marching for the first time to the touk of drum, will miss the auld, bauld, and experienced veteran soldier that has felt the brunt of mony a foul day, and heard the bullets whistle as aften as he has hairs left on his auld pow."
It is very possible that Butler might internally be of opinion, that the reflection on his ancestor's peculiar tenets might have been spared, or that he might be presumptuous enough even to think, that, at his years, and with his own lights, he might be able to hold his course without the pilotage of honest David. But he only replied, by expressing his regret, that anything should separate him from an ancient, tried, and affectionate friend.
"But how can it be helped, man?" said David, twisting his features into a sort of smile--"How can we help it?--I trow, ye canna tell me that--Ye maun leave that to ither folk--to the Duke of Argyle and me, Reuben. It's a gude thing to hae friends in this warld--how muckle better to hae an interest beyond it!"
And David, whose piety, though not always quite rational, was as sincere as it was habitual and fervent, looked reverentially upward and paused. Mr. Butler intimated the pleasure with which he would receive his friend's advice on a subject so important, and David resumed.
"What think ye now, Reuben, of a kirk--a regular kirk under the present establishment?--Were sic offered to ye, wad ye be free to accept it, and under whilk provisions?--I am speaking but by way of query."
Butler replied, "That if such a prospect were held out to him, he would probably first consult whether he was likely to be useful to the parish he should be called to; and if there appeared a fair prospect of his proving so, his friend must be aware, that in every other point of view, it would be highly advantageous for him."
"Right, Reuben, very right, lad," answered the monitor, "your ain conscience is the first thing to be satisfied--for how sall he teach others that has himself sae ill learned the Scriptures, as to grip for the lucre of foul earthly preferment, sic as gear and manse, money and victual, that which is not his in a spiritual sense--or wha makes his kirk a stalking-horse, from behind which he may tak aim at his stipend? But I look for better things of you--and specially ye maun be minded not to act altogether on your ain judgment, for therethrough comes sair mistakes, backslidings and defections, on the left and on the right. If there were sic a day of trial put to you, Reuben, you, who are a young lad, although it may be ye are gifted wi' the carnal tongues, and those whilk were spoken at Rome, whilk is now the seat of the scarlet abomination, and by the Greeks, to whom the Gospel was as foolishness, yet nae-the-less ye may be entreated by your weel-wisher to take the counsel of those prudent and resolved and weather-withstanding professors, wha hae kend what it was to lurk on banks and in mosses, in bogs and in caverns, and to risk the peril of the head rather than renounce the honesty of the heart."
Butler replied, "That certainly, possessing such a friend as he hoped and trusted he had in the goodman himself, who had seen so many changes in the preceding century, he should be much to blame if he did not avail himself of his experience and friendly counsel."
"Eneugh said--eneugh said, Reuben," said David Deans, with internal exultation; "and say that ye were in the predicament whereof I hae spoken, of a surety I would deem it my duty to gang to the root o' the matter, and lay bare to you the ulcers and imposthumes, and the sores and the leprosies, of this our time, crying aloud and sparing not."
David Deans was now in his element. He commenced his examination of the doctrines and belief of the Christian Church with the very Culdees, from whom he passed to John Knox,--from John Knox to the recusants in James the Sixth's time--Bruce, Black, Blair, Livingstone,--from them to the brief, and at length triumphant period of the Presbyterian Church's splendour, until it was overrun by the English Independents. Then followed the dismal times of prelacy, the indulgences, seven in number, with all their shades and bearings, until he arrived at the reign of King James the Second, in which he himself had been, in his own mind, neither an obscure actor nor an obscure sufferer. Then was Butler doomed to hear the most detailed and annotated edition of what he had so often heard before,--David Deans's confinement, namely, in the iron cage in the Canongate Tolbooth, and the cause thereof.
We should be very unjust to our friend David Deans, if we should "pretermit"--to use his own expression--a narrative which he held essential to his fame. A drunken trooper of the Royal Guards, Francis Gordon by name, had chased five or six of the skulking Whigs, among whom was our friend David; and after he had compelled them to stand, and was in the act of brawling with them, one of their number fired a pocket-pistol, and shot him dead. David used to sneer and shake his head when any one asked him whether _he_ had been the instrument of removing this wicked persecutor from the face of the earth. In fact the merit of the deed lay between him and his friend, Patrick Walker, the pedlar, whose words he was so fond of quoting. Neither of them cared directly to claim the merit of silencing Mr. Francis Gordon of the Life-Guards, there being some wild cousins of his about Edinburgh, who might have been even yet addicted to revenge, but yet neither of them chose to disown or yield to the other the merit of this active defence of their religious rights. David said, that if he had fired a pistol then, it was what he never did after or before. And as for Mr. Patrick Walker, he has left it upon record, that his great surprise was, that so small a pistol could kill so big a man. These are the words of that venerable biographer, whose trade had not taught him by experience, that an inch was as good as an ell. "He," (Francis Gordon) "got a shot in his head out of a pocket-pistol, rather fit for diverting a boy than killing such a furious, mad, brisk man, which notwithstanding killed him dead!"*
* Note S. Death of Francis Gordon.
Upon the extensive foundation which the history of the kirk afforded, during its short-lived triumph and long tribulation, David, with length of breath and of narrative, which would have astounded any one but a lover of his daughter, proceeded to lay down his own rules for guiding the conscience of his friend, as an aspirant to serve in the ministry. Upon this subject, the good man went through such a variety of nice and casuistical problems, supposed so many extreme cases, made the distinctions so critical and nice betwixt the right hand and the left hand--betwixt compliance and defection--holding back and stepping aside--slipping and stumbling--snares and errors--that at length, after having limited the path of truth to a mathematical line, he was brought to the broad admission, that each man's conscience, after he had gained a certain view of the difficult navigation which he was to encounter, would be the best guide for his pilotage. He stated the examples and arguments for and against the acceptance of a kirk on the present revolution model, with much more impartiality to Butler than he had been able to place them before his own view. And he concluded, that his young friend ought to think upon these things, and be guided by the voice of his own conscience, whether he could take such an awful trust as the charge of souls without doing injury to his own internal conviction of what is right or wrong.
When David had finished his very long harangue, which was only interrupted by monosyllables, or little more, on the part of Butler, the orator himself was greatly astonished to find that the conclusion, at which he very naturally wished to arrive, seemed much less decisively attained than when he had argued the case in his own mind.
In this particular, David's current of thinking and speaking only illustrated the very important and general proposition, concerning the excellence of the publicity of debate. For, under the influence of any partial feeling, it is certain, that most men can more easily reconcile themselves to any favourite measure, when agitating it in their own mind, than when obliged to expose its merits to a third party, when the necessity of seeming impartial procures for the opposite arguments a much more fair statement than that which he affords it in tacit meditation. Having finished what he had to say, David thought himself obliged to be more explicit in point of fact, and to explain that this was no hypothetical case, but one on which (by his own influence and that of the Duke of Argyle) Reuben Butler would soon be called to decide.
It was even with something like apprehension that David Deans heard Butler announce, in return to this communication, that he would take that night to consider on what he had said with such kind intentions, and return him an answer the next morning. The feelings of the father mastered David on this occasion. He pressed Butler to spend the evening with him--He produced, most unusual at his meals, one, nay, two bottles of aged strong ale.--He spoke of his daughter--of her merits--her housewifery--her thrift--her affection. He led Butler so decidedly up to a declaration of his feelings towards Jeanie, that, before nightfall, it was distinctly understood she was to be the bride of Reuben Butler; and if they thought it indelicate to abridge the period of deliberation which Reuben had stipulated, it seemed to be sufficiently understood betwixt them, that there was a strong probability of his becoming minister of Knocktarlitie, providing the congregation were as willing to accept of him, as the Duke to grant him the presentation. The matter of the oaths, they agreed, it was time enough to dispute about, whenever the shibboleth should be tendered.
Many arrangements were adopted that evening, which were afterwards ripened by correspondence with the Duke of Argyle's man of business, who intrusted Deans and Butler with the benevolent wish of his principal, that they should all meet with Jeanie, on her return from England, at the Duke's hunting-lodge in Roseneath.
This retrospect, so far as the placid loves of Jeanie Deans and Reuben Butler are concerned, forms a full explanation of the preceding narrative up to their meeting on the island, as already mentioned.
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