« PreviousContinue »
“Jean left him in no doubt on the subject. She brought to his recollection the story of the stolen sow, and mentioned how much pain and vexation it had given her. Like other philosophers, she remarked that the world grew worse daily; and, like other parents, that the bairns got out of her guiding, and neglected the old gipsy regulations, which commanded them to respect, in their depredations, the property of their benefactors. The end of all this was, an inquiry what money the farmer had about him; and an urgent request, or command, that he would make her his purse-keeper, since the bairns, as she called her sons, would be soon home. The poor farmer made a virtue of necessity, told his story, and surrendered his gold to Jean's custody. She made him put a few shillings in his pocket, observing it would excite suspicion should he be found travelling altogether penniless.
“This arrangement being made, the farmer lay down on a sort of shake-down, as the Scots call it, or bed-clothes disposed upon some straw, but, as will easily be believed, slept not.
“About midnight the gang returned, with various articles of plunder, and talked over their exploits in language which made the farmer tremble. They were not long in discovering they had a guest, and demanded of Jean whom she had got there.
“ 'Een the winsome Gudeman of Lochside, poor body,' replied Jean; "he's been at Newcastle seeking siller to pay his rent, honest man, but deil-be-lickit he's been able to gather in, and sae he's gaun e'en hame wi’ a toom purse and a sair heart.'
«That may be, Jean,' replied one of the banditti, 'but we maun ripe his pouches a bit, and see if the tale be true or no.' Jean set up her throat in exclamations against this breach of hospitality, but without producing any change in their determination. The farmer soon heard their stifled whispers and light steps by his bedside, and understood they were rummaging his clothes. When they found the money which the providence of Jean Gordon had made him retain, they held a consultation if they should take it or no; but the smallness of the booty, and the vehemence of Jean's remonstrances, determined them in the negative. They caroused and went to rest. As soon as day dawned,
Jean roused her guest, produced his horse, which she had accommodated behind the hallan, and guided him for some miles, till he was on the high-road to Lochside. She then restored his whole property; nor could his earnest entreaties prevail on her to accept so much as a single guinea.
“I have heard the old people at Jedburgh say, that all Jean's sons were condemned to die there on the same day. It is said the jury were equally divided, but that a friend to justice, who had slept during the whole discussion, waked suddenly, and gave his vote for condemnation, in the emphatic words, 'Hang them a'!' Unanimity is not required in a Scottish jury, so the verdict of guilty was returned. Jean was present, and only said, “The Lord help the innocent in a day like this!' Her own death was accompanied with circumstances of brutal outrage, of which poor Jean was in many respects wholly undeserving. She had, among other demerits, or merits, as the reader may choose to rank it, that of being a stanch Jacobite. She chanced to be at Carlisle upon a fair or market-day, soon after the year 1746, where she gave vent to her political partiality, to the great offence of the rabble of that city. Being zealous in their loyalty, when there was no danger, in proportion to the tameness with which they had surrendered to the Highlanders in 1745, the mob inflicted upon poor Jean Gordon no slighter penalty than that of ducking her to death in the Eden. It was an operation of some time, for Jean was a stout woman, and, struggling with her murderers, often got her head above water; and, while she had voice left, continued to exclaim at such intervals, •Charlie yet! Charlie yet l'When a child, and among the scenes which she frequented, I have often heard these stories, and cried piteously for poor Jean Gordon. “Before quitting the Border gipsies, I may mention, that
my grandfather, while riding over Charterhouse moor, then a very extensive common, fell suddenly among a large band of them, who were carousing in a hollow of the moor, surrounded by bushes. They instantly seized on his horse's bridle with many shouts of welcome, exclaiming (for he was well known to most of them) that they had often dined at his expense, and he must
now stay and share their good cheer. My ancestor was a little alarmed, for, like the Goodman of Lochside, he had more money about his person than he cared to risk in such society. However, being naturally a bold lively-spirited man, he entered into the humour of the thing, and sate down to the feast, which consisted of all the varieties of game, poultry, pigs, and so forth, that could be collected by a wide and indiscriminate system of plunder. The dinner was a very merry one; but my relative got a hint from some of the older gipsies to retire just when –
• The mirth and fun grew fast and furious,' and, mounting his horse accordingly, he took a French leave of his entertainers, but without experiencing the least breach of hospitality. I believe Jean Gordon was at this festival.” (Blackwood's Magazine, vol. i. p. 54.) Notwithstanding the failure of Jean's issue, for which
Weary fa' the waefu' wuddie, a grand-daughter survived her, whom I remember to have seen: that is, as Dr. Johnson had a shadowy recollection of Queen Anne, as a stately lady in black, adorned with diamonds, so my memory is haunted by a solemn remembrance of a woman of more than female height, dressed in a long red cloak, who commenced acquaintance by giving me an apple, but whom, nevertheless, I looked on with as much awe, as the future Doctor, High Church and Tory as he was doomed to be, could look upon the Queen. I conceive this woman to have been Madge Gordon, of whom an impressive account is given in the same article in which her mother Jean is mentioned, but not by the present writer:
“The late Madge Gordon was at this time accounted the Queen of the Yetholm clans. She was, we believe, a grand-daughter of the celebrated Jean Gordon, and was said to have much resembled her in appearance. The following account of her is extracted from the letter of a friend, who for many years enjoyed frequent and favourable opportunities of observing the characteristic peculiarities of the Yetholm tribes:-'Madge Gordon was descended from the Faas by the mother's side, and was married to a Young. She was a remarkable personage - of a very commanding presence, and high stature, being nearly six feet high. She had a large
aquiline nose - penetrating eyes, even in her old age - bushy hair, that hung around her shoulders from beneath a gipsy bonnet of straw a short cloak of a peculiar fashion, and a long staff nearly as tall as herself. I remember her well; every week she paid my father a visit for her awmous, when I was a little boy, and I looked upon Madge with no common degree of awe and terror. When she spoke vehemently, (for she made loud complaints,) she used to strike her staff upon the floor, and throw herself into an attitude which it was impossible to regard with indifference. She used to say that she could bring from the remotest part of the island, friends to avenge her quarrel, while she sat motionless in her cottage; and she frequently boasted that there was a time when she was of still more considerable importance, for there were at her wedding fifty saddled asses, and unsaddled asses without number. If Jean Gordon was the prototype of the character of Meg Merrilies, I imagine Madge must have sat to the unknown author as the representative of her person.'' - (Blackwood's Magazine, vol. i. p. 56.)
How far Blackwood's ingenious correspondent was right, how far mistaken in his conjecture, the reader has been informed.
To pass to a character of a very different description, Dominie Sampson, the reader may easily suppose that a poor modest humble scholar, who has won his way through the classics, yet has fallen to leeward in the voyage of life, is no uncommon personage in a country, where a certain portion of learning is easily attained by those who are willing to suffer hunger and thirst in exchange for acquiring Greek and Latin. But there is a far more exact prototype of the worthy Dominie, upon which is founded the part which he performs in the romance, and which, for certain particular reasons, must be expressed very generally.
Such a preceptor as Mr. Sampson is supposed to have been, was actually tutor in the family of a gentleman of considerable property. The young lads, his pupils, grew up and went out in the world, but the tutor continued to reside in the family, no uncommon circumstance in Scotland, (in former days,) where food and shelter were readily afforded to humble friends and dependents. The Laird's predecessors had been imprudent, he
himself was passive and unfortunate. Death swept away his sons, whose success in life might have balanced his own bad luck and incapacity. Debts increased and funds diminished, until ruin
The estate was sold; and the old man was about to remove from the house of his fathers, to go he knew not whither, when, like an old piece of furniture, which, left alone in its wonted corner, may hold together for a long while, but breaks to pieces on an attempt to move it, he fell down on his own threshold under a paralytic affection.
The tutor awakened as from a dream. He saw his patron dead, and that his patron's only remaining child, an elderly woman, now neither graceful nor beautiful, if she had ever been either the one or the other, had by this calamity become a hopeless and penniless orphan. He addressed her nearly in the words which Dominie Sampson uses to Miss Bertram, and professed his determination not to leave her. Accordingly, roused to the exercise of talents which had long slumbered, he opened a little school, and supported his patron's child for the rest of her life, treating her with the same humble observance and devoted attention which he had used towards her in the days of her prosperity.
Such is the outline of Dominie Sampson's real story, in which there is neither romantic incident nor sentimental passion; but which, perhaps, from the rectitude and simplicity of character which it displays, may interest the heart and fill the eye of the reader as irresistibly, as if it respected distresses of a more dignified or refined character.
These preliminary notices concerning the tale of Guy Mannering, and some of the characters introduced, may save the author and reader, in the present instance, the trouble of writing and perusing a long string of detached notes. I may add, that the motto of this novel was taken from the “Lay of the Last Minstrel,” to evade the conclusions of those who began to think that, as the author of Waverley never quoted the works of Sir Walter Scott, he must have reason for doing so, and that the circumstance might argue an identity between them.