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French were at that time meditating in behalf of the Chevalier St. George. He is suddenly menaced by the threatened desertion of his proposed son-in-lawv, Sir Frederick Langley, who becomes jealous of Mr. Vere's talents in manæuvring, and suspicious that he intends to cheat him of his intended bride ; Vere takes advantage of this circumstance to persuade his daughter that his life and fortunes are at the mercy of this dubious confederate, and can only be saved by her consenting to an immediate union! She is rescued from the fate to which he had destined her, by the sudden appearance of the Black Dwarf, who proves to be the kinsman of Miss Vere's mother, to whom he had been fondly attached. A series of misfortunes, backed by the artifices of Vere, had driven him in a fit of gloomy misanthropy to renounce the world. Hobbie Elliot appears with an armed body to support bis benefactor—the failure of the French expedition is made known—the baffled conspirators disperse-Vere escapes abroad, but leaves his daughter full authority to follow her own inclinations--the Solitary seeks some more distant and runknown cell, and Earnscliff and Hobbie marry the objects of their affection, and are happily settled for life.
Such is the brief abstract of a tale of which the narrative is unusually artificial. Neither hero nor heroine excites interest of any sort, being just that sort of pattern people whom nobody cares a farthing about. The explanation of the dwarf's real circumstances and character, too long delayed from an obvious wish to protract the mystery, is at length huddled up so hastily that, for our parts, we cannot say we are able to comprehend more of the motives of this principal personage than that he was a mad man, and acted like one-an easy and summary mode of settling all difficulties. As for the hurry and military bustle of the conclusion, it is only worthy of the farce of the Miller and his Men, or any
olher modern melo-drama, ending with a front crouded with soldiers and sceneshifters, and a back scene in a state of conflagration.
We have dealt with this tale very much according to the clown's argument in favour of Master Froth-Look upon his face, I will be sworn on a book that his face is the worst part about him, and if his face be the worst part about him, how could Master Froth do the constable's wife any harm ? Even so we will take our oaths that the narrative is the worst part of the Black Dwarf, and that if the reader can tolerate it upon the sketch we have given him, he will find the work itself contains passages both of natural pathos and fantastic terror, not unworthy of the author of the scene of Stanie's burial, in the Antiquary, or the wild tone assumed in the character of Meg Merrilies.
The story which occupies the next three volumes is of much deeper interest, both as a tale and from its connexion with histori
cal facts and personages. It is entitled Old Mortality,' but should have been called the Tale of Old Mortality, for the personage so named is only quoted as the authority for the incidents. The story is thus given in the introduction:
““ According to the belief of most people, he was a native of either the county of Dumfries or Galloway, and lineally descended from some of those champions of the Covenant, whose deeds and sufierings were his favourite theme. He is said to have held, at one period of his life, a small moorland farm; but, whether from pecuniary losses, or domestic misfortune, he had long renounced that and every other gainful calling. In the language of Scripture, he left his house, his home, and his kindred, and wandered about until the day of his death, a period, it is said, of nearly thirty years.
“ During this long pilgrimage, the pious enthusiast regulated his circuit so as annually to visit the graves of the unfortunate Covenanters who suffered by the sword, or by the executioner, during the reigns in the two last monarchs of the Stuart line. These are most numerous in the western districts of Ayr, Galloway, and Dumfries; but they are also to be found in other parts of Scotland, wherever the fugitives had fought, or fallen, or suffered by military or civil execution. Their tombs are often apart from all human habitation, in the remote moors and wilds to which the wanderers had fled for concealment. But wherever they existed, Old Mortality was sure to visit them when his annual round brought them within bis reach. In the most lonely recesses of the mountains, the moor-fowl shooter has been often surprized to find him busied in cleaning the moss from the grey stones, renewing with his chissel the half-defaced inscriptions, and repairing the emblems of death with which these simple monuments are usually adorned. Motives of the most sincere, though fanciful devotion, induced the old man to dedicate so many years of existence to perform this tribute to the memory of the deceased warriors of the church. He considered himself as fulfilling a sacred duty, while renewing to the eyes of posterity the decaying emblems of the zeal and sufferings of their forefaihers, and thereby trimming, as it were, the beacon-light, which was to warn future generations to defend their religion even unto blood.
"“ In all his wanderings, the old pilgrim never seemed to need, or was known to accept, pecuniary assistance.
It is true his wants were very few, for wherever he went, he found ready quarters in the house of some Cameronian of his own sect, or of some other religious person, The hospitality which was reverentially paid to him he always acknowledged, by repairing the gravestones (if there existed any) belonging to the family or ancestors of his host. As the wanderer was usually to be seen bent on this pious task within the precincts of some country church-yard, or reclined on the solitary tombstone among the heath, disturbing the plover and the black-cock with the clink of his chissel and mallet, with his old white pony grazing by his side, he acquired, from his converse among the dead, the popular appellation of Old Mortality." '-yol. ii. pp. 15--18.
We believe we.can add a local habitation and a name to the accounts given of this remarkable old man. His name was Robert Patterson, and in the earlier part of his life he lived in the parish of Closeburn, in Dumfriesshire, where he was distinguished for depth of piety and devotional feeling. Whether domestic affliction, or some other cause, induced him to adopt the wandering course of life described in the tale which bears his name, we have not been informed: but he continued it for many years, and about fifteen years since closed his weary pilgrimage in the manner described in the introduction, being found on the highway, near Lockerby, in Dumfriesshire, exhausted and just expiring. The old pony, the companion of his wanderings, was found standing by the side of bis master. This remarkable personage is mentioned in a note upon Swift's Memoirs of Captain Johu Creighton, in Mr. Scott's edition of that author.
The tale, as may be supposed from the title thus explained, is laid during the period of the persecution of the Presbyterians in Scotland, in the reign of Charles II. The scene opens with a description of a popular assembly of the period, brought together for the purpose of mustering the military vassals of the crown, and afterwards shooting at the popinjay, a custom, we believe, which is still kept up in Ayrshire, and we may add in several parts of the continent. The reluctance of the Presbyterians to appear at these musters gives rise to a ludicrous incident. Lady Margaret Bellenden, a personage of great dignity and cavalierism, is, by the recusancy of her ploughman to bear arms, compelled to fill feudal ranks by the admission of a balf-witted boy entitled Goose Gibbie, who, arrayed in the panoply of a man-at-arms of the day, is led forth under the banners of her valiant butler, John Gudyill But mark the consequences.
• No sooner had the horses struck a canter than Gibbie's jack-boots, which the poor boy's legs were incapable of steadying, began to play alternately against the horse's flanks, and being armed with long-rowelled spurs, overcame the patience of the animal, which bounced and plunged, while poor Gibbie's entreaties for aid never reached the ears of the too heedless butler, being drowned partly in the concave of the steel cap in which his head was immersed, and partly in the martial tune of the Gallant Græmes, which Mr. Gudyill whistled with all his power of lungs.
• The upshot was, that the steed speedily took the matter into his own hands, and having gambolled hither and thither to the great amusement of all the spectators, set off at full speed towards the huge family-coach already described. Gibbie's pike, escaping from its sling, had fallen to a level direction across his hands, which, I grieve to say, were seeking dishonourable safety in as strong a grasp of the mane as their muscles could manage. His casque, too, had slipped completely VOL. XVI. NO. XXXII.
over his face, so that he saw as little in front as he did in rear. Indeed, if he could, it would have. availed him little in the circumstances; for his horse, as if in league with the disaffected, ran full tilt towards the solemn equipage of the Duke, which the projecting lance threatened to perforate from window to window, at the risk of transfixing as many in its passage as the celebrated thrust of Orlando, which, according to the Italian epic poet, broached as many Moors as a Frenchman spits frogs.
* On beholding the bent of this misdirected career, a panic shoot of Iningled terror and wrath was set up by the whole equipage, insides and outsides, at once, which had the blessed effect of averting rhe threatened misfortune. The capricious horse of Goose Gibbie was terrified by the noise, and stumbling as he turned short round, kicked and plunged violently so soon as he recovered. The jack boots, the original cause of the disaster, maintaining the reputation they had acquired when worn by better cavaliers, answered every plunge by a fresh prick of the spurs, and, by their ponderous weight, kept their place in the stirrups. Not so Goose Gibbie, who was fairly spurned out of those wide and ponderous greaves, and precipitated over the horse's head, to the infinite amusement af all the spectators. · His lance and helmet had forsaken him in his fall, and, for the completion of his disgrace, Lady Margaret Bellenden, not perfectly aware that it was one of her warriors who was furnishing so much entertainment, came up in time to see her diminutive man-at-arins stripped of his lion's hide, of the buff coat, that is, in which he was muffled,'-vol. ii. pp. 61-64.
Upon this ludicrous incident turns the fate, as we shall presently see, of the principal personages of the drama. These are Edith Bellenden, the grand-daughter and heiress of Lady Margaret, and a youth of the Presbyterian persuasion, named Morton, son of a gallant officer who had served the Scotch parliament, in the former civil wars, but by his death had become the dependent of a sordid and avaricious uncle, the Laird of Milnwood. This young gentleman gains the prize at the shooting match, and proceeds to entertain bis friends and competitors at a neighbouring public house. The barmony of the meeting is disturbed by a fray which arises between a serjeant of the hing's Life-guards, a man of high descent, but of brutal and insolent manners, nick-named Bothwell, from being derived from the last Scottish earls of that name, and a stranger, of a dark and sullen aspect, great strength of body and severity of manners, who proves afterwards to be one of the outlawed Presbyterians, named John Balfour, of Burley, at this time in circumstances of peculiar danger, being in the act of flight, in consequence of bis share in the assassination of James Sharpe, Archbishop of St. Andrews. Bothwell is foiled, and thrown upon the Aoor of the tavern by the strong-linbed covenanter. • His comrade, Halliday, inmediately drew his sword: “You have
killed my serjeant,” he exclaimed to the victorious wrestler," and by all that's sacred you shall answer it!"
"“ Stand back !" cried Morton and his companions," it was all fair play; your comrade sought a fall, and he has gou it.”
" That is true enough,” said Bothwell, as-he slowly rose; "put up your bilbo, Tom. I did not think there was a crop-ear of them all could have laid the best cap and feather in the King's Life Guards on the floor of a rascally change-house. ---Hark ye, friend, give me your hand.” The stranger held out his hand. “I promise you," said Bothwell, squeezing his hand very hard, " that the time shall come when we will ineet again, and try this game over in a more earnest manner."
• “ And I'll promise you,” said the stranger, returning the grasp with equal firmness, that, when we next meet, I will lay your head as low as it lay even now, when you shall lack the power to lift it up again.”
““ Well, beloved,” answered Bothwell, “ if thou be’st a whig, thou art a stout and a brave one, and so good even to thee--Had'st best take thy nag before the cornet makes his round; for, I promise thee, · he has stay'd less suspicious-looking persons."
• The stranger seemed to think that the hint was not to be neglected; he flung down his reckoning, and going into the stable, saddled and brought out a powerful black horse, now recruited by rest and forage, and turning to Morton, observed, “I ride towards Milnwood, which I hear is your home; will you give me the advantage and protection of your company?”
“ Certainly,” said Morton, although there was something of gloomy and relentless severity in the man's manner from which his mind recoiled. His companions, after a courteous good night, broke up
and went off in different directions, some keeping them company for about a mile, until they dropped off
' one by one, and the travellers were left alone.'-vol ii. pp. 83-85. We may
here briefly notice that Francis Stewart, the grandson and representative of the last Earl of Bothwell, who was himself a grandson of James V. of Scotland, was so much reduced in circumstances, as actually to ride a private in the Life-guards at this period, as we learn from the Memoirs of Creighton, who was his comrade. Nothing else is known of him, and the character assigned to him in the novel is purely imaginary.
Balfour and Morton having left the village together, the former in the course of their journey discovers himself to Morton as an ancient comrade of his father, and on bearing the kettle-drums and trumpets of a body of horse approaching, prevails upon him to give him refuge in his uncle's house of Milnwood. And here, like Don Quixote, when he censured the anachronisms of Mr. Peter's puppet-show, we beg to inform our novelist that cavalry never march to the sound of music by night, any more than the Moors of Jansuena used bells. F F 2