« PreviousContinue »
been ruin to him) was about his person. Jean set up a loud shout of joyful recognition—“ Eh Sirs! the winsome Gude-man of Lochside ! Light down, light down, for ye maunna gang farther the night and a friend's house sae near.” The farmer was obliged to dismount and accept of the gipsy's offer of supper and a bed. There was abundance of provisions in the barn, however it might be come by, and preparations were going on for a plentiful supper, which the farmer, to the great increase of his anxiety, observed was calculated for ten or twelve guests of the same description probably with his landlady. Jean left him in no doubt on the subject. She brought up the story of the stolen sow, and noticed how much pain and vexation it bad given her; like other philosophers, she remarked that the world grows 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 that he would make her his purse-keeper, since the bairns, as she called her sons, would soon return 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 pennyless. This arrangement being made, the farmer lay down on a sort of shake-down, as the Scotch call it
, upon some straw, but, as will easily be believed, slept not. About midnight the gang returned with various articles of plun- der, and talked over their exploits in language which made the farmer tremble. They were not long in discovering their guest and demanded of Jean whom she had got there? “ E'en the winsome Gude-man of Lochside, poor body," replied Jean," he's been at Newcastle seeking for siller to pay his rent, honest man, but the de’il be lick'd he's been able to gather in, and so 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 it be true or no.” Jean set up her throat in exclamations against the breach of hospitality, but without producing any change of their determination. The farmer sovn heard their stifled whispers and light steps by his bedside, and understood they were rummaging his clothes. When they found the money which the foresight 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. So soon as day relurned, 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 one of their number, a friend to justice, * Rummage his pockets.
who had slept during the whole discussion, waked suddenly, and gave his casting vote for condemnation in the emphatic words, “ Hang them a'.”-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. Jean had among other demerits, or merits, as you may chuse to rank it, that of being a staunch jacobite. She chanced 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 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 murtherers often got her head above water, and while she had voice left continued to exclaim at such intervals, “ Charlie yet, Charlie vet.” When a child, and among the scenes which she frequented, I have often heard these stories, and cried piteously for the fate of poor Jean Gordon, who, with all the vices and irregularities of her degraied tribe and wandering profession, was always mentioned by those who had known her, with a sort of compassionate regret.'
Although these strong resemblances occur so frequently, and with such peculiar force, as almost to impress us with the conviction that the author sketched from nature, and not from fancy alone; yet we hesitate to draw any positive conclusion, sensible that a character dashed off as the representative of a certain class of men will bear, if executed with fidelity to the general outlines, not only that resemblance which he ought to possess as knight of the shire,' but also a special affinity to some particular individual. It is scarcely possible it should be otherwise. When Emery appears on the stage as a Yorkshire peasant, with the habit, manner, and dialect peculiar to the character, and which he assumes with so much truth and fidelity, those unacquainted with the province or its inhabitants see merely the abstract idea, the beau ideal of a Yorkshireman. But to those who are intimate with both, the action and manner of the comedian almost necessarily recal the idea of some individual native (altogether unknown probably to the performer) to whom bis exterior and manners bear a casual resemblance. We are therefore on the whole inclined to believe, that the incidents are frequently copied from actual occurrences, but that the characters are either entirely fictitious, or if any traits have been borrowed froin real life, as in the anecdote which we have quoted respecting Invernahyle, they have been carefully disguised and blended with such as are purely imaginary. We now proceed to a more particular examination of the volumes before us. They are entitled “Tales of my Landlord:' why so entitled, ex
cepting to introduce a quotation from Don Quixote, it is difficult to conceive: for Tales of my Landlord they are not, nor is it indeed easy to say whose tales they ought to be called. There is a proem, as it is termed, supposed to be written by Jedediah Cleishbotham, the schoolmaster and parish clerk of the village of Gandercleugh, in which we are given to understand that these Tales were compiled by his deceased usher, Mr. Peter Pattieson, from the narratives or conversations of such travellers as frequented the Wallace Inn, in that village. Of this proem we shall only say that it is written in the quaint style of that prefixed by Gay to his Pastorals, being, as Jobnson terms it, such imitation as he could obtain of obsolete language, and by consequence in a style that was never written nor spoken in any age or place?
The first of the Tales thus ushered in is entitled the Black Dwarf. It contains some striking scenes, but it is even more than usually deficient in the requisites of a luminous and interesting narrative, as will appear from the following abridgment.
Two deer-stalkers, one the Laird of Earnscliff, a gentleman of family and property, the other Hobbie Elliot, of the Heugh-foot, a stout border yeoman, are returning by night from their sports on the hills of Liddesdale, and in the act of crossing a moor reported to be haunted, when they perceive, to the great terror of the farmer, the being from whom the story takes its name, bewailing himself to the moon and the stones of a druidical circle, which our author has previously introduced to the reader's knowledge, as a supposed scene of witchery and an object of superstitious terror. The Black Dwarf is thus described :
" The height of the object, which seemed even to decrease as they approached it, appeared to be under four feet, and its form, so far as the imperfect light afforded them the means of discerning, was very nearly as broad as long, or rather of a spherical shape, which could only be occasioned by some strange personal deformity. The young sportsman baied this extraordinary appearance twice, without receiving any answer, or attending to the pinches by which his companion endeavoured to intimate that their best course was to walk on, without giving farther disturbance to a being of such singular and preternatural exterior. To the third repeated demand of “ Who are you? What do you here at this hour of night?"- a voice replied, whose shrill, uncouth, and dissonant tones made Elliot step two paces back, and startled even his companion, “ Pass on your way, and ask nought at them that ask nought at you."
““ What do you here so far from shelter? Are you benighted on your journey? Will you follow us home, (God forbid ! ejaculated Hobbie Elliot, involuntarily,) and I will give you a lodging?"
““ I would sooner lodge by mysel in the deepest of the Tarras-flow," again whispered Hobbie.
““ Pass on your way,” rejoined the figure, the harsh tones of his voice still more exalted by passion. “I want not your guidance-1 want not your lodging-it is five years since my head was under a human roof, and I trust it was for the last time.”
After a desperate refusal on the part of the misanthropical dwarf to hold any communication with the hunters, they proceed on their journey to Hobbie's house, of Heughfoot, where they are courteous!y received by his grandmother, his sisters, and Grace Armstrong, a fair cousin, with whom the doughty yeoman is described to be enamoured. The domestic scene is painted with the knowledge of the language and manners of that class of society, which give interest to the picture of Dandie Dinmont and his family, in Guy Mannering. But we do not think it equal to the more simple sketch contained in the earlier novel. This must frequently be the case, when an author, in repeated efforts, brings before us characters of the sanie genus. He is, as it were, compelled to dwell upon the specific differences and distinctions instead of the general characteristics, or, in other words, rather to shew wherein Hobbie Elliot differs from Dandie Dinmont than to describe the former as he really was.
The mysterious dwarf, with speed almost supernatural, builds himself a house of stones and turf, incloses it with a rude wall, within which he cultivates a patch of garden ground, and all this he accomplishes by the assistance of chance passengers who occasionally stopped to aid him in a task which seemed so unfitted for a being of his distorted shape. Against this whole tale we were tempted to state the objection of utter improbability. We are given however to understand that such an individual, so misused by nature in his birth, did actually, within these twenty years, appear in a lone valley in the moors of Tweedale, and so build a mansion without any assistance but that of passengers as aforesaid, and said house so constructed did so inhabit. The singular circumstances of his hideous appearance, of the apparent ease with which he constructed liis place of abode, of the total ignorance of all the vicinity respecting his birth or history, excited, in the minds of the common people, a superstitious terror not inferior to that which the romance describes the appearance of the Black Dwarf to have spread through Liddesdale. The real recluse possessed intelligence and information beyond his apparent condition, which the neighbours, in their simplicity, were sometimes disposed to think preternatural. He once resided (and perhaps still lives) in the vale formed by the Manor-water which falls into the Tweed near Peebles, a glen long honoured by the residence of the late venerable Professor Ferguson. The Black Dwarf is consulted (from an opinion of his super
natural skill) by many in his vicinity, which gives opportunity to the author to introduce us to his dramatis personæ :—these are Willie of Westhurnflat, a thorough-paced border robber, who is perhaps placed somewhat too late in the story, and Miss Isabella Vere, daughter of the Laird of Ellieslaw, betwixt whom and Earnscliff a mutual attachment subsists. But, as is usual in such cases, her father, who belonged to the jacobite party in politics, and was deeply concerned in their intrigues, was hostile to the match. This unaccommodating sire had resolved to confer the hand of Miss Vere upon Sir Frederick Langley, an English baronet, of his own political creed, and whom he wished to bind yet more closely to his interest. These, with a confidante cousin of no importance, and a gay cavalier called Mareschal, who embarks in bis kinsman Ellieslaw's plots with as much lively heedlessness as could be desired; and finally, a grave steward called Ratcliffe, who receives and accounts to Mr. Vere for the rents of some extensive English estates, which had belonged, as was supposed, to his deceased wife, fill
up the drumatis persona. This list of personages is not numerous, yet the tale is far from corresponding in simplicity. On the contrary, it abounds with plots, elopements, ravishments, and rescues, and all the violent events which are so common in romance, and of such rare occurrence in real life.
Willie of Westburnflat, the robber aforesaid, opens the campaigu by burning the house of our honest friend Hobbie Elliot. The gathering of the borderers for redress and vengeance, their pursuit of the freebooter, and the siege of his tower, are all told with the spirit which shews a mind accustomed to the contemplation of such scenes. The robber, for his ransom, offers to deliver up his fair prisoner, who proves to be, not Grace Armstrong, but Miss Vere, whom her father, finding his plans on her freedom of choice likely to be deranged by the interference of the steward Ratcliffe, who seems to possess a mysterious authority over the conduct of his patron, had procured to be carricd off by this freebooter, in order to place her the more absolutely at his paternal disposal. She is restored to the Castle of Ellieslaw by her lover Earnscliff, who (of course) had been foremost in her rescue. This ought not to be slurred over, being one of the few attempts which the poor gentleman makes to kill a giant, or otherwise to distinguish himself during the volume. In the meanwhile, the influence of the Black Dwarf with the robber obtains the freedom of Grace Armstrong, and the Solitary contrives also to throw in the way of her betrothed husband a purse of gold, sufficient to reimburse all his losses.
Ellieslaw, during these proceedings, is arranging every thing for a rising of the Jacobites, in order to cover the invasion which the