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The astrologer marked the remarkable circumstance in his diary, and continued his exhibitions in various parts of the empire until the period was about to expire during which his existence had been warranted as actually ascertained. At last, while he was exhibiting to a numerous audience his usual tricks of legerdemain, the hands whose activity had so often baffled the closest observer suddenly lost their power, the cards dropped from them, and he sunk down a disabled paralytic. In this state the artist languished for two years, when he was at length removed by death. It is said that the diary of this modern astrologer will soon be given to the public.
The fact, if truly reported, is one of those singular coincidences which occasionally appear, differing so widely from ordinary calculation, yet without which irregularities human life would not present to mortals, looking into futurity, the abyss of impenetrable darkness which it is the pleasure of the Creator it should offer to them. Were everything to happen in the ordinary train of events, the future would be subject to the rules of arithmetic, like the chances of gaming. But extraordinary events and wonderful runs of luck defy the calculations of mankind and throw impenetrable darkness on future contingencies.
To the above anecdote, another, still more recent, may be here added. The author was lately honoured with a letter from a gentleman deeply skilled in these mysteries, who kindly undertook to calculate the nativity of the writer of Guy Mannering, who might be supposed to be friendly to the divine art which he professed. But it was impossible to supply data for the construction of a horoscope, had the native been otherwise desirous of it, since all those who could supply the minutiæ of day, hour, and minute have been long removed from the mortal sphere.
Haying thus given some account of the first idea, or rude sketch, of the story, which was soon departed from, the Author, in following out the plan of the present edition, has to mention the prototypes of the principal characters in Guy Mannering.
Some circumstances of local situation gave the Author in his youth an opportunity of seeing a little, and hearing a great deal, about that degraded class who are called gipsies; who are in most cases a mixed race between the ancient Egyptians who arrived in Europe about the beginning of the fifteenth century and vagrants of European descent.
The individual gipsy upon whom the character of Meg
Merrilies was founded was well known about the middle of the last century by the name of Jean Gordon, an inhabitant of the village of Kirk Yetholm, in the Cheviot Hills, adjoining to the English Border. The Author gave the public some account of this remarkable person in one of the early numbers of Blackwood's Magazine, to the following purpose :
My father remembered old Jean Gordon of Yetholm, who had great sway among her tribe. She was quite a Meg Merrilies, and possessed the savage virtue of fidelity in the same perfection. Having been often hospitably received at the farmhouse of Lochside, near Yetholm, she had carefully abstained from committing any depredations on the farmer's property. But her sons (nine in number) had not, it seems, the same delicacy, and stole a brood-sow from their kind entertainer. Jean was so much mortified at this ungrateful conduct, and so much ashamed of it, that she absented herself from Lochside for several years.
It happened in course of time that, in consequence of some temporary pecuniary necessity, the goodman of Lochside was obliged to go to Newcastle to raise some money to pay his rent. He succeeded in his purpose, but, returning through the mountains of Cheviot, he was benighted and lost his way.
A light glimmering through the window of a large waste barn, which had survived the farm-house to which it had once belonged, guided him to a place of shelter; and when he knocked at the door it was opened by Jean Gordon. Her very remarkable figure, for she was nearly six feet high, and her equally remarkable features and dress, rendered it impossible to mistake her for a moment, though he had not seen her for years; and to meet with such a character in so solitary a place, and probably at no great distance from her clan, was a grievous surprise to the poor man, whose rent (to lose which would have been ruin) was about his person.
Jean set up a loud shout of joyful recognition-"Eh, sirs ! the winsome gudeman 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 plenty of meat in the barn, however it might be come by, and preparations were going on for a plentiful repast, 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 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 Scotch 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.
6«E'en the winsome gudeman of Lochside, poor body," replied Jean; “he's been at Newcastle seeking for 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 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!” 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 granddaughter 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 grandmother 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 granddaughter 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 obserying 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 tal] 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 in