A REMINISCENCE OF THE CIRCUIT.
BY PROFESSOR AYTOUN.
[MAGA. August 1847.]
"Hallo, Tom! Are you not up yet? Why,
man, the judges have gone down to the
court half an hour ago, escorted by the most ragged
regiment of ruffians that ever handled a Lochaberaxe."
Such was my matutinal salutation to my friend
Thomas Strachan, as I entered his room on a
splendid spring morning. Tom and I were early
college allies. We had attended, or rather, to
speak more correctly, taken out tickets for the
different law classes during the same sessions.
We had fulminated together within the walls of
the Juridical Society on legal topics which might
have broken the heart of Erskine, and rewarded
ourselves diligently thereafter with the usual relaxations
of a crab and a comfortable tumbler.
We had aggravated the same grinder with our
deplorable exposition of the Pandects; and finally
assumed, on the same day, the full-blown honours
of the Advocate's wig and gown. Nor did our
fraternal parallel end there: for although we had
walked the boards of the Parliament House with
praiseworthy diligence for a couple of sessions,
neither of us had experienced the dulcet sensation
which is communicated to the palm by the contact
of the first professional guinea. In vain did we
attempt to insinuate ourselves into the good graces
of the agents, and coin our intellects into such
jocular remarks as are supposed to find most favour
in the eyes of facetious practitioners. In vain did
I carry about with me, for a whole week, an artificial
process most skilfully made up; and in vain
did Tom compound and circulate a delectable ditty,
entitled "The Song of the Multiplepoinding." Not
a single solicitor would listen to our wooing, or
even intrust us with the task of making the simplest
motion. I believe they thought me too fast, and
Tom too much of a genius; and, therefore, both of
us were left among the ranks of the briefless army
of the stove. This would not do. Our souls
burned within us with a noble thirst for legal fame
and fees. We held a consultation (without an
agent) at the Rainbow, and finally determined that
since Edinburgh would not hear us, Jedburgh
should have the privilege of monopolising our
maiden eloquence at the ensuing justiciary circuit.
Jedburgh presents a capital field to the ambition
of a youthful advocate. Very few counsel go that
way; the cases are usually trifling, and the juries
easily bamboozled. It has besides this immense
advantage—that should you by any accident happen
to break down, nobody will in all probability
be the wiser for it, provided you have the good
sense to ingratiate yourself with the circuit-clerk.
Tom and I arrived at Jedburgh the afternoon
before the circuit began. I was not acquainted
with a human being within the parliamentary
boundaries of that respectable borough, and therefore
experienced but a slight spasm of disappointment
when informed by the waiter at the inn, that
no inquiries had yet been made after me, on the
part of writers desirous of professional assistance.
Strachan had been wiser. Somehow or other, he
had got a letter of introduction to one Bailie Beerie,
a notable civic dignitary of the place; and, accordingly,
on presenting his credentials, was invited by
that functionary to dinner, with a hint that he
"might maybe see a wheen real leddies in the
evening." This pointed so plainly to a white choker
and dress boots, that Strachan durst not take the
liberty of volunteering the attendance of his friend;
and accordingly I had been left alone to wile away,
as I best might, the tedium of a sluggish evening.
Before starting, however, Tom pledged himself to
return in time for supper; as he entertained a painful
conviction that the party would be excessively
So long as it was light, I amused myself pretty
well by strolling along the banks of the river, and
enunciating a splendid speech for the panel in an
imaginary case of murder. However, before I
reached the peroration (which was to consist of a
vivid picture of the deathbed of a despairing jury-man,
conscience-stricken by the recollection of an
erroneous verdict), the shades of evening began to
close in; the trouts ceased to leap in the pool, and
the rooks desisted from their cawing. I returned
to discuss my solitary mutton at the inn; and then,
having nothing to do, sat down to a moderate libation,
and an odd number of the Temperance Magazine,
which valuable tract had been left for the
reformation of the traveller by some peripatetic
disciple of Father Mathew.
Nine o'clock came, but so did not Strachan. I
began to wax wroth, muttered anathemas against
my faithless friend, rang for the waiter, and—having
ascertained the fact that a Masonic Lodge was that
evening engaged in celebrating the festival of its
peculiar patron—I set out for the purpose of assisting
in the pious and mystic labours of the Brethren
of the Jedburgh St Jeremy. At twelve, when I
returned to my quarters, escorted by the junior
deacon, I was informed that Strachan had not made
his appearance, and accordingly I went to bed.
Next morning I found Tom, as already mentioned,
in his couch. There was a fine air of negligence
in the manner in which his habiliments were scattered
over the room. One glazed boot lay within
the fender, whilst the other had been chucked into
a coal-scuttle; and there were evident marks of
mud on the surface of his glossy kerseymeres.
Strachan himself looked excessively pale, and the
sole rejoinder he made to my preliminary remark
was, a request for soda-water.
"Tom," said I, inexpressibly shocked at the
implied confession of the nature of his vespers—"I
wonder you are not ashamed of yourself! Have
you no higher regard for the dignity of the bar you
represent, than to expose yourself before a Jedburgh
"Dignity be hanged!" replied the incorrigible
Strachan. "Bailie Beerie is a brick, and I won't
hear a word against him. But, O Fred! if you
only knew what you missed last night! Such a
splendid woman—by Jove, sir, a thoroughbred
angel. A bust like one of Titian's beauties, and
the voice of a lovelorn nightingale!"
"One of the Misses Beerie, I presume. Come,
Tom, I think I can fill up your portrait. Hair of
the auburn complexion, slightly running into the
carrot—skin fair, but freckled—greenish eyes—red
elbows—culpable ankles—elephantine waist—and
sentiments savouring of the Secession."
"Ring the bell for the waiter, and hold your
impious tongue. You never were farther from the
mark in your life. The wing of the raven is not
more glossy than her hair—and oh, the depth and
melting lustre of those dark unfathomable eyes!
Waiter! a bottle of soda-water, and you may put
in a thimbleful of cognac."
"Come, Tom!—none of your ravings. Is this
an actual Armida, or a new freak of your own imagination?"
"Bonâ fide—an angel in everything, barring the
"Then how the deuce did such a phenomenon
happen to emerge at the Bailie's?"
"That's the very question I was asking myself
during the whole time of dinner. She was clearly
not a Scotswoman. When she spoke, it was in the
sweet low accents of a southern clime; and she
waved away the proffered haggis with an air of the
"But the Bailie knew her?"
"Of course he did. I got the whole story out of
him after dinner, and, upon my honour, I think it
is the most romantic one I ever heard. About a
week ago, the lady arrived here without attendants.
Some say she came in the mail-coach—others in a
dark travelling chariot and pair. However, what
matters it? the jewel can derive no lustre or value
from the casket!"
"Yes—but one always likes to have some kind
of idea of the setting. Get on."
"She seemed in great distress, and inquired
whether there were any letters at the post-office
addressed to the Honourable Dorothea Percy. No
such epistle was to be found. She then interrogated
the landlord, whether an elderly lady, whose appearance
she minutely described, had been seen in
the neighbourhood of Jedburgh; but except old
Mrs Slammingham of Summertrees, who has been
bed-ridden for years, there was nobody in the
county who at all answered to the description. On
hearing this, the lady seemed profoundly agitated—shut
herself up in a private parlour, and refused
"Had she not a reticule with sandwiches, Tom?"
"Do not tempt me to commit justifiable homicide—you
see I am in the act of shaving.—At last the
landlady, who is a most respectable person, and
who felt deeply interested at the desolate situation
of the poor young lady, ventured to solicit an interview.
She was admitted. There are moments
when the sympathy of even the humblest friend is
precious. Miss Percy felt grateful for the interest
so displayed, and confided the tale of her griefs to
the matronly bosom of the hostess."
"And she told you?"
"No,—but she told Bailie Beerie. That active
magistrate thought it his duty to interfere. He
waited upon Miss Percy, and from her lips he
gathered the full particulars of her history. Percy
is not her real name, but she is the daughter of an
English peer of very ancient family. Her father
having married a second time, Dorothea was exposed
to the persecutions of a low-minded vulgar woman,
whose whole ideas were of that mean and mercenary
description which characterise the Caucasian race.
Naomi Shekels was the offspring of a Jew, and she
hated, whilst she envied, the superior charms of the
noble Norman maiden. But she had gained an
enormous supremacy over the wavering intellect
of the elderly Viscount; and Dorothea was commanded
to receive, with submission, the addresses
of a loathsome apostate, who had made a prodigious
fortune in the railways."
"One of the tribe of Issachar?"
"Exactly. A miscreant whose natural function
was the vending of cast habiliments. Conceive,
Fred, what the fair young creature must have felt
at the bare idea of such shocking spousals! She
besought, prayed, implored,—but all in vain.
Mammon had taken too deep a root in the paternal
heart,—the old coronet had been furbished up by
means of Israelitish gold, and the father could not
see any degradation in forcing upon his child an
alliance similar to his own."
"You interest me excessively."
"Is it not a strange tale?" continued Thomas,
adjusting a false collar round his neck. "I knew
you would agree with me when I came to the
pathetic part. Well, Fred, the altar was decked,
the ornaments ready, the Rabbi bespoke——"
"Do you mean to say, Strachan, that Lady
Dorothea was to have been married after the fashion
of the Jews?"
"I don't know exactly. I think Beerie said it
was a Rabbi; but that may have been a flight of
his own imagination. However, somebody was
ready to have tied the nuptial knot, and all the
joys of existence, and its hopes, were about to fade
for ever from the vision of my poor Dorothea!"
"Your Dorothea!" cried I in amazement. "Why,
Tom—you don't mean to insinuate that you have
gone that length already?"
"Did I say mine?" repeated Strachan, looking
somewhat embarrassed. "It was a mere figure of
speech: you always take one up so uncommonly
short.—Nothing remained for her but flight, or
submission to the cruel mandate. Like a heroic
girl, in whose veins the blood of the old crusaders
was bounding, she preferred the former alternative.
The only relation to whom she could apply in so
delicate a juncture, was an aged aunt, residing
somewhere in the north of Scotland. To her she
wrote, beseeching her, as she regarded the memory
of her buried sister, to receive her miserable child;
and she appointed this town, Jedburgh, as the place
"But where's the aunt?"
"That's just the mysterious part of the business.
The crisis was so imminent that Dorothea could
not wait for a reply. She disguised herself,—packed
up a few jewels which had been bequeathed
to her by her mother,—and, at the dead of night,
escaped from her father's mansion. Judge of her
terror when, on arriving here, panting and perhaps
pursued, she could obtain no trace whatever of her
venerable relative. Alone, inexperienced and unfriended,
I tremble to think what might have been
her fate, had it not been for the kind humanity of
"And what was the Bailie's line of conduct?"
"He behaved to her, Fred, like a parent. He
supplied her wants, and invited her to make his
house her home, at least until the aunt should appear.
But the noble creature would not subject
herself to the weight of so many obligations. She
accepted, indeed, his assistance, but preferred remaining
here until she could place herself beneath
legitimate guardianship. And doubtless," continued
Strachan with fervour, "her good angel is
watching over her."
"And this is the whole story?"
"Do you know, Tom, it looks uncommonly like
a piece of deliberate humbug!"
"Your ignorance misleads you, Fred. You
would not say so had you seen her. So sweet—so
gentle—with such a tinge of melancholy resignation
in her eye, like that of a virgin martyr about
to suffer at the stake! No one could look upon
her for a moment and doubt her purity and truth."
"Perhaps. But you must allow that we are not
living exactly in the age of romance. An elopement
with an officer of dragoons is about the farthest
extent of legitimate enterprise which is left
to a modern damsel; and, upon my word, I think
the story would have told better, had some such
hero been inserted as a sort of counterpoise to the
Jew. But what's the matter? Have you lost anything?"
"It is very odd!" said Strachan, "I am perfectly
certain that I had on my emerald studs last
night. I recollect that Dorothea admired them exceedingly.
Where on earth can I have put them?"
"I don't know, I'm sure. I suspect, Tom, you
and the Bailie were rather convivial after supper.
Is your watch wound up?"
"Of course it is. I assure you you are quite
wrong. It was a mere matter of four or five
tumblers. Very odd this! Why—I can't find
my watch neither!"
"Hallo! what the deuce! Have we fallen into
a den of thieves? This is a nice beginning to our
"I could swear, Fred, that I put it below my
pillow before I went to sleep. I remember, now,
that it was some time before I could fit in the key.
What can have become of it?"
"And you have not left your room since?"
"No, on my word of honour!"
"Pooh—pooh! Then it can't possibly be gone.
Look beneath the bolster."
But in vain did we search beneath bolster, mattress,
and blankets; yea, even downwards to the
fundamental straw. Not a trace was to be seen of
Cox Savoury's horizontal lever, jewelled, as Tom
pathetically remarked, in four special holes, and
warranted to go for a year without more than a
minute's deviation. Neither were the emerald
studs, the pride of Strachan's heart, forthcoming.
Boots, chambermaid, and waiter were collectively
summoned—all assisted in the search, and all
asseverated their own integrity.
"Are ye sure, sir, that ye brocht them hame?"
said the waiter, an acute lad, who had served his
apprenticeship at a commercial tavern in the Gorbals;
"Ye was gey an' fou when ye cam in here
"What do you mean, you rascal?"
"Ye ken ye wadna gang to bed till ye had
"Don't talk trash! It was the weakest cold-without
in the creation."
"And then ye had a sair fecht on politics wi'
anither man in the coffee-room."
"Ha! I remember now—the bagman, who is a
member of the League! Where is the commercial
"He gaed aff at sax preceesely, this morning, in
his gig, to Kelso."
"Then, by the head of Thistlewood!" cried
Strachan, frantically, "my ticker will be turned
into tracts against the Corn-laws!"
"Hoot na!" said the waiter, "I canna think
that. He looked an unco respectable-like man."
"No man can be respectable," replied the aristocratic
Thomas, "who sports such infernal opinions
as I heard him utter last night. My poor studs!
Fred—they were a gift from Mary Rivers before
we quarrelled, and I would not have lost them for
the universe! Only think of them being exposed
for sale at a free-trade bazaar!"
"Come, Tom—they may turn up yet."
"Never in this world, except at a pawnbroker's.
I could go mad to think that my last memorial of
Mary is in all probability glittering in the unclean
shirt of a bagman!"
"Had you not better apply to the Fiscal?"
"For what purpose? Doubtless the scoundrel
has driven off to the nearest railway, and is triumphantly
counting the mile-posts as he steams
to his native Leeds. No, Fred. Both watch and
studs are gone beyond the hope of redemption."
"The loss is certainly a serious one."
"No doubt of it: but a thought strikes me. You
recollect the edict, nautæ, caupones, stabularii? I
have not studied the civil law for nothing, and am
clearly of opinion that in such a case the landlord
"By Jove! I believe you are right. But it
would be as well to turn up Shaw and Dunlop for a
precedent before you make any row about it. Besides,
it may be rather difficult to establish that
you lost them at the inn."
"If they only refer the matter to my oath, I can
easily settle that point," replied Strachan. "Besides,
now that I think of it, Miss Percy can speak
to the watch. She asked me what o'clock it was
just before we parted on the stairs."
"Eh, what! Is the lady in this house?"
"To be sure—did I not tell you so?"
"I say, Tom—couldn't you contrive to let one
have a peep at this angel of yours?"
"Quite impossible. She is the shyest creature
in the world, and would shrink from the sight of a
"But, my dear Tom——"
"I can't do it, I tell you; so it's no use asking
"Well, I must say you are abominably selfish.
But what on earth are you going to do with that
red-and-blue Joinville? You can't go down to
court without a white neckcloth."
"I am not going down to court."
"Why, my good fellow! what on earth is the
meaning of this?"
"I am not going down to court, that's all. I
say, Fred, how do I look in this sort of thing?"
"Uncommonly like a cock-pheasant in full
plumage. But tell me what you mean?"
"Why, since you must needs know, I am going
up-stairs to breakfast with Miss Percy."
So saying, Mr Strachan made me a polite bow,
and left the apartment. I took my solitary way to
the court-house, marvelling at the extreme rapidity
of the effect which is produced by the envenomed
darts of Cupid.
On entering the court, I found that the business
had commenced. An enormous raw-boned fellow,
with a shock of the fieriest hair, and hands of such
dimensions that a mere glimpse of them excited
unpleasant sensations at your windpipe, was stationed
at the bar, to which, from previous practice,
he had acquired a sort of prescriptive right.
"James M'Wilkin, or Wilkinson, or Wilson,"
said the presiding judge, in a tone of disgust which
heightened with each successive alias, "attend to
the indictment which is about to be preferred
And certainly, if the indictment contained a true
statement of the facts, James M'Wilkin, or Wilkinson,
or Wilson, was about as thoroughpaced a marauder
as ever perambulated a common. He was
charged with sheep-stealing and assault; inasmuch
as, on a certain night subsequent to the Kelso fair,
he, the said individual with the plural denominations,
did wickedly and feloniously steal, uplift, and away
take from a field adjoining to the Northumberland
road, six wethers, the property, or in the lawful
possession, of Jacob Gubbins, grazier, then and
now, or lately, residing in Morpeth; and, moreover,
on being followed by the said Gubbins, who demanded
restitution of his property, he, the said
M'Wilkin, &c. had, in the most brutal manner,
struck, knocked down, and lavished divers kicks
upon the corporality of the Northumbrian bumpkin,
to the fracture of three of his ribs, and otherwise to
the injury of his person.
During the perusal of this formidable document
by the clerk, M'Wilkin stood scratching his poll,
and leering about him as though he considered the
whole ceremony as a sort of solemn joke. I never
in the course of my life cast eyes on a more nonchalant
or unmitigated ruffian.
"How do you say, M'Wilkin?" asked the judge;
"are you guilty or not guilty?"
"Not guilty, aff course. D'ye tak me for a fule?"
and M'Wilkin flounced down upon his seat, as
though he had been an ornament to society.
"Have you a counsel?" asked the judge.
"De'il ane—nor a bawbee," replied the free-booter.
Acting upon the noble principle of Scottish
jurisprudence, that no man shall undergo his trial
without sufficient legal advice, his lordship in the
kindest manner asked me to take charge of the
fortunes of the forlorn M'Wilkin. Of course I
made no scruples; for, so long as it was matter of
practice, I should have felt no hesitation in undertaking
the defence of Beelzebub. I therefore leaned
across the dock, and exchanged a few hurried sentences
with my first client.
"Why don't you plead guilty?"
"What for? I've been here before. Man, I'm
thinking ye're a saft ane!"
"Did you not steal the sheep?"
"Ay—that's just the question. Let them find
"But the grazier saw you?"
"I blackened his e'es."
"You'll be transported to a dead certainty."
"Deevil a fears, if ye're worth the price o' half
a mutchkin. I'm saying—get me a Hawick jury,
and it's a' richt. They ken me gey and weel thereabouts."
Although I was by no means satisfied in my own
mind that an intimate acquaintance with M'Wilkin
and his previous pursuits would be a strong recommendation
in his favour to any possible assize, I
thought it best to follow his instructions, and managed
my challenges so well that I secured a majority
of Hawickers. The jury being sworn in,
the cause proceeded; and certainly, before three
witnesses had been examined, it appeared to me
beyond all manner of doubt, that, in the language
of Tom Campbell, my unfortunate client was
"Doom'd the long coves of Sydney isle to see,"
as a permanent addition to that cultivated and
Patagonian population. The grazier stood to his
story like a man, and all efforts to break him down
by cross-examination were fruitless. There was
also another hawbuck who swore to the sheep, and
was witness to the assault; so that, in fact, the
evidence was legally complete.
Whilst I was occupied in the vain attempt to
make Gubbins contradict himself, there had been a
slight commotion in the court-room. On looking
round afterwards, I was astonished to behold my
friend Strachan seated in the Magistrate's box, next
to a very pretty and showily-dressed woman, to
whom he was paying the most marked and deliberate
attention. On the other side of her was an
individual in a civic chain, whose fat, pursy, apoplectic
appearance, and nose of the colour of an
Orleans plum, thoroughly realised my mental picture
of the Bailie. His small, blood-shot eyes
twinkled with magisterial dignity and importance;
and he looked, beside Miss Percy—for I could not
doubt that it was she—like a satyr in charge of
The last witness for the crown, a very noted
police-officer from Glasgow, was then put into the
box, to prove a previous conviction against my
friend M'Wilkin. This man bore a high reputation
in his calling, and was, indeed, esteemed as a sort
of Scottish Vidocq, who knew by headmark every
filcher of a handkerchief between Caithness and the
Border. He met the bold broad stare of the prisoner
with a kind of nod, as much as to assure him that
his time was very nearly up; and then deliberately
proceeded to take a hawk's-eye view of the assembly.
I noticed a sort of quiet sneer as he glanced at the
"Poor Strachan!" thought I. "His infatuation
must indeed be palpable, since even a common officer
can read his secret in a moment."
I might just as well have tried to shake Ailsa
Craig as to make an impression upon this witness;
however, heroically devoted to my trust, I hazarded
the attempt, and ended by bringing out several additional
tales of turpitude in the life and times of
"Make room there in the passage! The lady
has fainted," cried the macer.
I started to my feet, and was just in time to see
Miss Percy conveyed from the court, in an apparently
inanimate state, by the Bailie and the agitated
"Devilish fine-looking woman that!" observed
the Advocate-Depute across the table. "Where
did your friend Mr Strachan get hold of her?"
"I really don't know. I say—are you going to
address the jury for the crown?"
"It is quite immaterial. The case is distinctly
proved, and I presume you don't intend to
"I'm not so sure of that."
"Oh, well,—in that case I suppose I must say
a word or two. This closes the evidence for the
crown, my lord;" and the Depute began to turn
over his papers, preparatory to a short harangue.
He had just commenced his speech, when I felt
a hand laid upon my shoulder. I looked around:
Strachan was behind me, pale and almost breathless
"Fred—can I depend upon your friendship?"
"Of course you can. What's the row?"
"Have you ten pounds about you?"
"Yes—but what do you mean to do with them?
Surely you are not going to make a blockhead of
yourself by bolting?"
"No—no! give me the money—quick!"
"On your word of honour, Tom?"
"On my sacred word of honour!—That's a good
fellow—thank you, Fred;" and Strachan pocketed
the currency. "Now," said he, "I have just one
other request to make."
"Speak against time, there's a dear fellow! Spin
out the case as long as you can, and don't let the
jury retire for at least three quarters of an hour.
I know you can do it better than any other man at
"Are you in earnest, Tom?"
"Most solemnly. My whole future happiness—nay,
perhaps the life of a human being depends
"In that case I think I shall tip them an hour."
"Heaven reward you, Fred! I never can forget
"But where shall I see you afterwards?"
"At the hotel. Now, my dear boy, be sure that
you pitch it in, and, if possible, get the judge to
charge after you. Time's all that's wanted—adieu!"
and Tom disappeared in a twinkling.
I had little leisure to turn over the meaning of
this interview in my mind, for the address of my
learned opponent was very short and pithy. He
merely pointed out the clear facts, as substantiated
by evidence, and brought home to the unhappy
M'Wilkin; and concluded by demanding a verdict
on both charges contained in the indictment against
"Do you wish to say anything, sir?" said the
judge to me, with a kind of tone which indicated
his hope that I was going to say nothing. Doubtless
his lordship thought that, as a very young
counsel, I would take the hint; but he was considerably
mistaken in his man. I came to the bar
for practice—I went on the circuit with the solemn
determination to speak in every case, however desperate;
and it needed not the admonition of Strachan
to make me carry my purpose into execution. What
did I care about occupying the time of the court?
His lordship was paid to listen, and could very
well afford to hear the man who was pleading for
M'Wilkin without a fee. I must say, however, that
he looked somewhat disgusted when I rose.
A first appearance is a nervous thing, but there is
nothing like going boldly at your subject. "Fiat
experimentum in corpore vili" is a capital maxim in
the Justiciary Court. The worse your case, the less
chance you have to spoil it; and I never had a
worse than M'Wilkin's.
I began by buttering the jury on their evident
intelligence and the high functions they had to
discharge, which of course were magnified to the
skies. I then went slap-dash at the evidence; and,
as I could say nothing in favour of my client, directed
a tremendous battery of abuse and insinuation
against his accuser.
"And who is this Gubbins, gentlemen, that you
should believe this most incredible, most atrocious,
and most clumsy apocrypha of his? I will tell you.
He is an English butcher—a dealer in cattle and in
bestial—one of those men who derive their whole
subsistence from the profits realised by the sale of
our native Scottish produce. This is the way in
which our hills are depopulated, and our glens converted
into solitudes. It is for him and his confederates—not
for us—that our shepherds watch and
toil, that our herds and flocks are reared, that the
richness of the land is absorbed! And who speaks
to the character of this Gubbins? You have heard
the pointless remarks made by my learned friend
upon the character of my unfortunate client; but
he has not dared to adduce in this court one single
witness in behalf of the character of his witness.
Gentlemen, he durst not do it! Gubbins has deponed
to you that he bought those sheep at the
fair of Kelso, from a person of the name of Shiells,
and that he paid the money for them. Where is
the evidence of that? Where is Shiells to tell us
whether he actually sold these sheep, or whether,
on the contrary, they were not stolen from him?
Has it been proved to you, gentlemen, that M'Wilkin
is not a friend of Shiells—that he did not receive
notice of the theft—that he did not pursue the robber,
and, recognising the stolen property by their
mark, seize them for the benefit of their owner?
No such proof at least has been led upon the part
of the crown, and in the absence of it, I ask you
fearlessly, whether you can possibly violate your
consciences by returning a verdict of guilty? Is
it not possible—nay, is it not extremely probable,
that Gubbins was the actual thief? Was it not his
interest, far more than M'Wilkin's, to abstract those
poor unhappy sheep, because it is avowedly his trade
to fill the insatiable maw of the Southron? And in
that case, who should be at the bar? Gubbins!
Gubbins, I say, who this day has the unparalleled
audacity to appear before an enlightened Scottish
jury, and to give evidence which, in former times,
might have led to the awful consequence of the
execution of an innocent man! And this is what
my learned friend calls evidence! Evidence to condemn
a fellow-countryman, gentlemen? No—not
to condemn a dog!"
Having thus summarily disposed of Gubbins, I
turned my artillery against the attendant drover
and the policeman. The first I indignantly denounced
as either an accomplice or a tool: the
second I smote more severely. Policemen are not
popular in Hawick; and, knowing this, I contrived
to blacken the Scottish Vidocq as a bloodhound.
But by far the finest flight of fancy in which I
indulged was reserved for the peroration. I was
not quite sure of the effect of my commentary on
the evidence, and therefore thought it might be
advisable to touch upon a national law.
"And now, gentlemen," said I, "assuming for
one moment that all my learned friend has said to
you is true—that the sheep really belonged to this
Gubbins, and were taken from him by M'Wilkin—let
us calmly and deliberately consider how far such
a proceeding can be construed into a crime. What
has my unfortunate client done that he should be
condemned by a jury of his countrymen? What
he stands charged with is simply this—that he has
prevented an Englishman from driving away the
produce of our native hills. And is this a crime?
It may be so, for aught I know, by statute; but
sure I am, that in the intention, to which alone you
must look, there lies a far deeper element of patriotism
than of deliberate guilt. Think for one moment,
gentlemen, of the annals of which we are so
proud—of the ballads still chanted in the hall and
in the hamlet—of the lonely graves and headstones
that are scattered all along the surface of the
southern muirs. Do not these annals tell us how
the princes and the nobles of the land were wont
to think it neither crime nor degradation to march
with their retainers across the Borders, and to harry
with fire and sword the fields of Northumberland
and Durham? Randolph and the Bruce have done
it, and yet no one dares to attach the stigma of
dishonour to their names. Do not our ballads tell
how at Lammas-tide,
'The doughty Earl of Douglas rade
Into England to fetch a prey?'
And who shall venture to impeach the honour of
the hero who fell upon the field of Otterbourne?
Need I remind you of those who have died in their
country's cause, and whose graves are still made
the object of many a pious pilgrimage? Need I
speak of Flodden, that woeful place, where the
Flowers of the Forest were left lying in one ghastly
heap around their king? Ah, gentlemen! have I
touched you now? True, it was in the olden time
that these things were done and celebrated; but
remember this, that society may change its place,
states and empires may rise and be consolidated,
but patriotism still lives enduring and undying as
of yore! And who shall dare to say that patriotism
was not the motive of M'Wilkin? Who shall presume
to analyse or to blame the instinct which may
have driven him to the deed? Call him not a felon—call
him rather a poet; for over his kindling imagination
fell the mighty shadow of the past. Old
thoughts, old feelings, old impulses, were burning
in his soul. He saw in Gubbins, not the grazier,
but the lawless spoiler of his country; and he rose,
as a Borderer should, to vindicate the honour of his
race. He may have been mistaken in what he did,
but the motive, at least, was pure. Honour it then,
gentlemen, for it is the same motive which is at all
times the best safeguard of a nation's independence;
and do honour likewise to yourselves by
pronouncing a unanimous verdict of acquittal in
favour of the prisoner at the bar!"
By the time I had finished this harangue, I was
wrought up to such a pitch of enthusiasm, that I
really considered M'Wilkin in the light of an extremely
ill-used individual, and the tears stood in
my eyes as I recapitulated the history of his wrongs.
Several of the jury, too, began to get extremely
excited, and looked as fierce as falcons when I reminded
them of the field of Flodden. But my hopes
were considerably damped when I heard the charge
of his lordship. With all respect for the eminent
senator who that day presided on the bench, I
think he went rather too far when he designated
my maiden-effort a rhapsody which could only be
excused on account of the inexperience of the
gentleman who uttered it. Passing from that unpleasant
style of stricture, he went seriatim over all
the crimes of M'Wilkin, and very distinctly indicated
his opinion that a more consummate ruffian
had seldom figured in the dock. When he concluded,
however, there was a good deal of whispering
in the jury-box, and at last the gentlemen of
the assize requested permission to retire.
"That was a fine flare-up of yours, Freddy," said
Anthony Whaup, the only other counsel for the
prisoners upon the circuit. "You came it rather
strong, though, in the national line. I don't think
our venerable friend overhead half likes your ideas
of international law."
"Why, yes—I confess he gave me a tolerable
wigging. But what would you have me do? I
must have said some thing."
"Oh, by Jove, your were perfectly right! I
always make a point of speaking myself; and I
can assure you that you did remarkably well. It
was a novel view, but decidedly ingenious, and may
lead to great results. If that fellow gets off, you
may rely upon it there will be some bloodshed
again upon the Border."
"And a jolly calendar, of course, for next circuit.
I say, Anthony,—how many cases have you
"Two thefts with habit and repute, a hamesucken,
rather a good forgery, and an assault with
intent to commit."
"Rather—but poor pay. I haven't sacked more
than nine guineas altogether. Gad!" continued
Anthony, stretching himself, "this is slow work.
I'd rather by a great deal be rowing on the canal."
"Hush! here come the jury."
They entered, took their seats, and each man in
succession answered to his name. I stole a glance
at M'Wilkin. He looked as leonine as ever, and
kept winking perseveringly to the Hawickers.
"Now, gentlemen," said the clerk of court,
"what is your verdict?"
The foreman rose.
"The jury, by a majority, find the charges
against the prisoner not proven."
"Hurrah!" shouted M'Wilkin, reckless of all
authority. "Hurrah! I say—you counsellor in
the wig—ye shanna want a sheep's head thae three
years, if there's ane to be had on the Border!"
And in this way I gained my first acquittal.
I found Strachan in his room with his face buried
in the bed-clothes. He was kicking his legs as
though he suffered under a violent fit of the toothache.
"I say, Tom, what's the matter? Look up,
man! Do you know I've got that scoundrel off?"
"Tom, I say? Tom, you dunderhead—what do
you mean by making an ass of yourself this way?
Get up, for shame, and answer me!"
Poor Strachan raised his head from the coverlet.
His eyes were absolutely pink, and his cheeks of
the tint of a lemon.
"O Fred, Fred!" said he with a series of interjectional
gasps, "I am the most unfortunate wretch
in the universe. All the hopes I had formerly
cherished are blighted at once in the bud! She is
gone, my friend—gone away from me, and, alas! I
fear, for ever!"
"The deuce she has! and how?"
"Oh what madness tempted me to lead her to
the court?—what infatuation it was to expose those
angelic features to the risk of recognition! Who
that ever saw those dove-like eyes could forget
"I have no objection to the eyes—they were
really very passable. But who twigged her?"
"An emissary of her father's—that odious miscreant
who was giving evidence at the trial."
"The policeman? Whew! Tom!—I don't like
"He was formerly the land-steward of the Viscount;—a
callous, cruel wretch, who was more than
suspected of having made away with his wife."
"And did he recognise her?"
"Dorothea says that she felt fascinated by the
glitter of his cold grey eye. A shuddering sensation
passed through her frame, just as the poor
warbler of the woods quivers at the approach of
the rattle-snake. A dark mist gathered before her
sight, and she saw no more until she awoke to consciousness
within my arms."
"Very pretty work, truly! And what then?"
"In great agitation, she told me that she durst
tarry no longer here. She was certain that the
officer would make it his business to track her, and
communicate her hiding-place to her family; and
she shook with horror when she thought of the odious
Israelitish bridegroom. 'The caverns of the
deep green sea—the high Tarpeian rock—the Leucadian
cliff of Sappho,' she said, 'all would be
preferable to that! And yet, O Thomas, to think
that we should have met so suddenly, and that to
part for ever!' 'Pon my soul, Fred, I am the most
miserable of created beings."
"Why, what on earth has become of her?"
"Gone—and I don't know whither. She would
not even apprise the Bailie of her departure, lest
she might leave some clue for discovery. She desired
me to see him, to thank him, and to pay him
for her,—all of which I promised to do. With one
kiss—one deep, burning, agonised kiss—which I
shall carry with me to my grave—she tore herself
away, sprang into the postchaise, and in another
moment was lost to me for ever!"
"And my ten pounds?" said I, in a tone of considerable
"Would you have had me think twice," asked
Strachan indignantly, "before I tendered my assistance
to a forlorn angel in distress, even though
she possessed no deeper claims on my sympathy?
I thought, Frederick, you had more chivalry in
your nature. You need not be uneasy about that
trifle; I shall be in funds some time about Christmas."
"Humph! I thought it was a P. P. transaction,
but no matter. And is this all the clue you have
got to the future residence of the lady?"
"No,—she is to write me from the nearest post-town.
You will see, Fred, when the letter arrives,
how well worthy she is of my adoration."
I have found, by long experience, that it is no
use remonstrating with a man who is head-over-ears
in love. The tender passion affects us differently,
according to our constitutions. One set of fellows,
who are generally the pleasantest, seldom get beyond
the length of flirtation. They are always at
it, but constantly changing, and therefore manage
to get through a tolerable catalogue of attachments
before they are finally brought to book. Such men
are quite able to take care of themselves, and require
but little admonition. You no doubt hear
them now and then abused for trifling with the affections
of young women—as if the latter had
themselves the slightest remorse in playing precisely
the same game!—but in most cases such
censure is undeserved, for they are quite as much
in earnest as their neighbours, so long as the impulse
lasts. The true explanation is, that they
have survived their first passion, and that their
faith is somewhat shaken in the boyish creed of the
absolute perfectibility of woman. The great disappointment
of life does not make them misanthropes—but
it forces them to caution, and to a
closer appreciation of character than is usually undertaken
in the first instance. They have become,
perhaps, more selfish—certainly more suspicious,
and though often on the verge of a proposal, they
never commit themselves without an extreme degree
Another set seem designed by nature to be the
absolute victims of woman. Whenever they fall
in love, they do it with an earnestness and an obstinacy
which is actually appalling. The adored object
of their affections can twine them round her
finger, quarrel with them, cheat them, caricature
them, or flirt with others, without the least risk of
severing the triple cord of attachment. They become
as tame as poodle-dogs, will submit patiently
to any manner of cruelty or caprice, and in fact
seem rather to be grateful for such treatment than
otherwise. Clever women usually contrive to secure
a captive of this kind. He is useful to them
in a hundred ways, never interferes with their
schemes, and, if the worst comes to the worst, they
can always fall back upon him as a pis-aller.
My friend Tom Strachan belonged decidedly to
this latter section. Mary Rivers, a remarkably
clever and very showy girl, but as arrant a flirt as
ever wore rosebud in her bosom, had engrossed the
whole of his heart before he reached the reflecting
age of twenty, and kept him for nearly five
years in a state of uncomplaining bondage. Not
that I believe she ever cared about him. Tom was
as poor as a church-mouse, and had nothing on
earth to look to except the fruits of his professional
industry, which, judging from all appearances, would
be a long time indeed in ripening. Mary was not
the sort of person to put up with love in a cottage,
even had Tom's circumstances been adequate to
defray the rent of a tenement of that description:
she had a vivid appreciation, not only of the substantials
but of the higher luxuries of existence.
But her vanity was flattered at having in her train
at least one devoted dangler, whom she could play
off, whenever opportunity required, against some
more valuable admirer. Besides, Strachan was a
man of family, tall, good-looking, and unquestionably
clever in his way: he also danced the polka
well, and was useful in the ball-room or the picnic.
So Mary Rivers kept him on in a kind of
blissful dream, just sunning him sufficiently with
her smiles to make him believe that he was beloved,
but never allowing matters to go so far as to lead
to the report that they were engaged. Tom asked
for nothing more. He was quite contented to indulge
for years in a dream of future bliss, and
wrote during the interval a great many more sonnets
than summonses. Unfortunately sonnets don't
pay well, so that his worldly affairs did not progress
at any remarkable ratio. And he only awoke to a
sense of his real situation, when Miss Rivers, having
picked a quarrel with him one day in the Zoological
Gardens, announced on the next to her friends
that she had accepted the hand of a bilious East
Tom made an awful row about it—grew as attenuated
and brown as an eel—and garnished his conversation
with several significant hints about suicide.
He was, however, saved from that ghastly alternative
by being drafted into a Rowing Club, who plied
their gondolas daily on the Union Canal. Hard exercise,
beer, and pulling had their usual sanatory
effect, and Tom gradually recovered his health, if
not his spirits.
It was at this very crisis that he fell in with this
mysterious Miss Percy. There was an immense
hole in his affections which required to be filled up;
and, as nature abhors a vacuum, he plugged it with
the image of Dorothea. The flight, therefore, of the
fair levanter, after so brief an intercourse, was quite
enough to upset him. He was in the situation of a
man who is informed over-night that he has succeeded
to a large fortune, and who gets a letter
next morning explaining that it is a mere mistake.
I was therefore not at all astonished either at his
paroxysms or his credulity.
We had rather a dreary dinner that day. The
judges always entertain the first day of circuit, and
it is considered matter of etiquette that the counsel
should attend. Sometimes these forensic feeds are
pleasant enough; but on the present occasion there
was a visible damp thrown over the spirits of the
party. His lordship was evidently savage at the
unforeseen escape of M'Wilkin, and looked upon
me, as I thought, with somewhat of a prejudiced
eye. Bailie Beerie and the other magistrates seemed
uneasy at their unusual proximity to a personage
who had the power of death and transportation, and
therefore abstained from emitting the accustomed
torrent of civic facetiousness. One of the sheriffs
wanted to be off on a cruise, and another was unwell
with the gout. The Depute Advocate was fagged;
Whaup surly as a bear with a sore ear, on account
of the tenuity of his fees; and Strachan, of course,
in an extremely unconversational mood. So I had
nothing for it but to eat and drink as plentifully as
I could, and very thankful I was that the claret was
We rose from table early. As I did not like to
leave Tom to himself in his present state of mind,
we adjourned to his room for the purpose of enjoying
a cigar; and there, sure enough, upon the table
lay the expected missive. Strachan dashed at it
like a pike pouncing upon a parr; I lay down upon
the sofa, lit my weed, and amused myself by watching
"Dear suffering angel!" said Tom at last, with
a sort of whimper, "Destiny has done its worst!
We have parted, and the first fond dream of our
love has vanished before the cold and dreary dawn
of reality! O my friend—we were like the two
birds in the Oriental fable, each doomed to traverse
the world before we could encounter our mate—we
met, and almost in the same hour the thunderbolt
burst above us!"
"Yes—two very nice birds," said I. "But what
does she say in the letter?"
"You may read it," replied Tom, and he handed
me the epistle. It was rather a superior specimen
of penmanship, and I don't choose to criticise the
style. Its tenor was as follows:—
"I am hardly yet, my dear friend, capable of
estimating the true extent of my emotions. Like
the buoyant seaweed torn from its native bed among
the submarine forest of the corals, I have been tossed
from wave to wave, hurried onwards by a stream
more resistless than that which sweeps through the
Gulf of Labrador, and far—far away as yet is the
wished-for haven of my rest. Hitherto my life has
been a tissue of calamity and woe. Over my head
since childhood, has stretched a dull and dreary
canopy of clouds, shutting me out for ever from a
glimpse of the blessed sun. Once, and but once
only have I seen a chasm in that envious veil—only
once and for a few, a very few moments, have
I gazed upon the blue empyrean, and felt my heart
expand and thrill to the glories of its liquid lustre.
That once—oh, Mr Strachan, can I ever forget it?—that
once comprises the era of the few hours which
were the silent witnesses of our meeting!
"Am I weak in writing to you thus? Perhaps
I am; but then, Thomas, I have never been taught
to dissemble. Did I, however, think it probable
that we should ever meet again—that I should hear
from your lips a repetition of that language which
now is chronicled in my soul—it may be that I
would not have dared to risk an avowal so candid
and so dear! As it is, it matters not. You have
been my benefactor, my kind consoler—my friend.
You have told me that you love; and in the fulness
and native simplicity of my heart, I believe you.
And if it be any satisfaction to you to know that
your sentiments have been at least appreciated,
believe that of all the pangs which the poor Dorothea
has suffered, this last agony of parting has
been incomparably the most severe.
"You asked me if there was no hope. Oh, my
Thomas! what would I not give could I venture to
answer, yes? But it cannot be! You are young
and happy, and will yet be fortunate and beloved:
why, then, should I permit so fair an existence to
be blighted by the upas-tree of destiny under which
I am doomed to languish? You shall not say that
I am selfish—you shall not hereafter reproach me
for having permitted you to share a burden too great
for both of us to carry. You must learn the one
great lesson of existence, to submit and to forget!
"I am going far away, to the margin of that
inhospitable shore which receives upon its rocks
the billows of the unbroken Atlantic—or haply,
amongst the remoter isles, I shall listen to the sea-mew's
cry. Do not weep for me. Amidst the myriad
of bright and glowing things which flutter over the
surface of this green creation, let one feeble, choking,
overburdened heart be forgotten! Follow me
not—seek me not—for, like the mermaid on the
approach of the mariner, I should shrink from the
face of man into the glassy caverns of the deep.
"Adieu, Thomas, adieu! Say what you will for
me to the noble and generous Beerie. Would to
heaven that I could send him some token in return
for all his kindness! But a good and gallant heart
is its own most adequate reward.
"They are putting to the horses—I can hear the
rumble of the chariot! Oh, once more, dear friend—alas,
too inexpressibly dear!—take my last farewell.
Adieu—my heart is breaking as I write the
bitter word!—forget me."
"Do you wonder at my sorrow now?" said Strachan,
as I laid down the passionate epistle.
"Why, no. It is well got up upon the whole,
and does credit to the lady's erudition. But I don't
see why she should insist so strongly upon eternal
separation. Have you no idea whereabouts that
aunt of hers may happen to reside?"
"Not the slightest."
"Because, judging from her letter, it must be
somewhere about Benbecula or Tiree. I shouldn't
even wonder if she had a summer box on St Kilda."
"Right! I did not think of that—you observe
she speaks of the remoter isles."
"To be sure, and for half a century there has not
been a mermaid seen to the east of the Lewis. Now,
take my advice, Tom—don't make a fool of yourself
in the meantime, but wait until the Court of Session
rises in July. That will allow plenty of time for
matters to settle; and if the old Viscount and that
abominable Abiram don't find her out before then,
you may depend upon it they will abandon the
search. In the interim, the lady will have cooled.
Walks upon the sea-shore are uncommonly dull
without something like reciprocal sentimentality.
The odds are, that the old aunt is addicted to snuff,
tracts, and the distribution of flannel, and before
August, the fair Dorothea will be yearning for a
sight of her adorer. You can easily gammon Anthony
Whaup into a loan of that yacht of his which
he makes such a boast of; and if you go prudently
about it, and flatter him on the score of his steering,
I haven't the least doubt that he will victual his
hooker and give you a cruise in it for nothing."
"Admirable, my dear Fred! We shall touch at
all the isles from Iona to Uist; and if Miss Percy
be indeed there—"
"You can carry her off on five minutes' notice,
and our long friend will be abundantly delighted.
Only, mind this! If you want my candid opinion
on the wisdom of such an alliance, I should strongly
recommend you to meddle no farther in the matter,
for I have my doubts about the Honourable Dorothea,
"Bah, Fred! Doubts after such a letter as that?
Impossible! No, my dear friend—your scheme is
admirable—unexceptionable, and I shall certainly
act upon it. But oh—it is a weary time till July!"
"Merely a short interval of green pease and
strawberries. I advise you, however, to fix down
Whaup as early as you can for the cruise."
The hint was rapidly taken. We sent for our
facetious friend, ordered supper, and in the course
of a couple of tumblers, persuaded him that his
knowledge of nautical affairs was not exceeded by
that of T. P. Cooke, and that he was much deeper
versed in the mysteries of sky-scraping than Fenimore
Cooper. Whaup gave in. By dint of a little
extra persuasion, I believe we might have coaxed
him into a voyage for Otaheite; and before we
parted for the evening it was agreed that Strachan
should hold himself in readiness to start for the
Western Islands about the latter end of July—Whaup
being responsible for the provisions and
champagne, whilst Tom pledged himself to cigars.
I never ascertained the exact amount of the sum
which Tom handed over to the Bailie. It must,
however, have been considerable, for he took to
retrenching his expenditure, and never once dropped
a hint about the ten pounds which I was so
singularly verdant as to lend him. The summer
session stole away as quickly as its predecessors,
though not, in so far as I was concerned, quite as
unprofitably, for I got a couple of Sheriff-court
papers to draw in consequence of my M'Wilkin
appearance. Tom, however, was very low about
himself, and affected solitude. He would not join
in any of the strawberry lunches or fish dinners so
attractive to the junior members of the bar; but
frequented the Botanical Gardens, where he might
be seen any fine afternoon, stretched upon the bank
beside the pond, concocting sonnets, or inscribing
the name of Dorothea upon the monument dedicated
Time, however, stole on. The last man who
was going to be married got his valedictory dinner
at the close of the session. Gowns were thrown
off, wigs boxed up, and we all dispersed to the
country wheresoever our inclination might lead us.
I resolved to devote the earlier part of the vacation
to the discovery of the town of Clackmannan—a
place of which I had often heard, but which no
human being whom I ever encountered had seen.
Whaup was not oblivious of his promise, and
Strachan clove unto him like a limpet.
We did not meet again until September was
well-nigh over. In common with Strachan, I had
adopted the resolution of changing my circuit, and
henceforth adhering to Glasgow, which, from its
superior supply of criminals, is the favourite resort
of our young forensic aspirants. So I packed
my portmanteau, invoked the assistance of Saint
Rollox, and started for the balmy west.
The first man I met in George's Square was my
own delightful Thomas. He looked rather thin;
was fearfully sun-burned; had on a pair of canvass
trousers most wofully bespattered with tar, and
evidently had not shaved for a fortnight.
"Why, Tom, my dear fellow!" cried I, "can
this possibly be you? What the deuce have you
been doing with yourself? You look as hairy as
"You should see Whaup,—he's rather worse off
than Friday. We have just landed at the Broomielaw,
but I was obliged to leave Anthony in a tavern
for fear we should be mobbed in the street. I'm
off by the rail to Edinburgh, to get some decent
toggery for us both. Lend me a pound-note, will
"Certainly—that's eleven, you recollect. But
what's the meaning of all this? Where is the
"Safe—under twenty fathoms of dark blue
water, at a place they call the Sneeshanish Islands.
Catch me going out again, with Anthony as steersman!"
"No doubt he is an odd sort of Palinurus. But
when did this happen?"
"Ten days ago. We were three days and nights
upon the rock, with nothing to eat except two
biscuits, raw mussels and tangle!"
"Mercy on us! and how did you get off?"
"In a kelp-boat from Harris. But I haven't
time for explanation just now. Go down, like a
good fellow, to the Broomielaw, No. 431—you will
find Anthony enjoying himself with beef steaks and
bottled stout, in the back parlour of the Cat and
Bagpipes. I must refer you to him for the details."
"One word more—you'll be back to the circuit?"
"Decidedly. To-morrow morning: as soon as I
can get my things together."
"And the lady—what news of her?"
The countenance of Strachan fell.
"Ah, my dear friend! I wish you had not
touched upon that string—you have set my whole
frame a-jarring. No trace of her—none—none!
I fear I shall never see her more!"
"Come! don't be down-hearted. One never
can tell what may happen. Perhaps you may
meet her sooner than you think."
"You are a kind-hearted fellow, Fred. But I've
lost all hope. Nothing but a dreary existence is
now before me, and—but, by Jupiter, there goes
the starting bell!"
Tom vanished, like Aubrey's apparition, with a
melodious twang, and a perceptible odour of tar;
and so, being determined to expiscate the matter,
I proceeded towards the Broomielaw, and in due
time became master of the locality of the Cat and
"Is there a Mr Whaup here?" I inquired of
Mrs M'Tavish, the landlady, who was filling a gill-stoup
at the bar.
"Here you are, old chap!" cried the hilarious
voice of Anthony from an inner apartment. "Turn
to the right, steer clear of the scrubbing brushes,
and help yourself to a mouthful of Guinness."
I obeyed. Heavens, what a figure he was!
His trousers were rent both at the knees and elsewhere,
and were kept together solely by means of
whip-cord. His shirt had evidently not benefited
by the removal of the excise duties upon soap, and
was screened from the scrutiny of the beholder by
an extempore paletot, fabricated out of sail-cloth,
without the remotest apology for sleeves.
Anthony, however, looked well in health, and
appeared to be in tremendous spirits.
"Tip us your fin, my old coxs'un!" said he,
winking at me over the rim of an enormous pewter
vessel which effectually eclipsed the lower segment
of his visage. "Blessed if I ain't as glad to see
you as one of Mother Carey's chickens in a squall."
"Come, Anthony! leave off your nautical nonsense,
and talk like a man of the world. What on
earth have you and Tom Strachan been after?"
"Nothing on earth, but a good deal on sea, and
a trifle on as uncomfortable a section of basalt as
ever served two unhappy buccaniers for bed, table,
and sofa. The chillness is not off me yet."
"But how did it happen?"
"Very simply: but I'll tell you all about it.
It's a long story, though, so if you please I shall
top off with something hot. I'm glad you've come,
however, for I had some doubts how far this sort
of original Petersham would inspire confidence as
to my credit in the bosom of the fair M'Tavish.
It's all right now, however, so here goes for my
But I shall not follow my friend through all the
windings of his discourse, varied though it certainly
was, like the adventures of the venerated Sinbad.
Suffice it to say, that they were hardly out of sight
of the Cumbraes before Tom confided the whole
tale of his sorrows to the callous Anthony, who, as
he expressed it, had come out for a lark, and had
no idea of rummaging the whole of the west coast
and the adjacent islands for a petticoat. Moved,
however, by the pathetic entreaties of Strachan,
and, perhaps, somewhat reconciled to the quest by
the dim vision of an elopement, Anthony magnanimously
waived his objections, and the two kept
cruising together in a little shell of a yacht, all
round the western Archipelago. Besides themselves,
there were only a man and a boy on board.
"It was slow work," said Anthony,—"deucedly
slow. I would not have minded the thing so much
if Strachan had been reasonably sociable; but it was
rather irksome, you will allow, when, after the boy
had brought in the kettle, and we had made everything
snug for the night, Master Strachan began to
maunder about the lady's eyes, and to tear his hair,
and to call himself the most miserable dog in existence.
I had serious thoughts, at one time, of leaving
him ashore on Mull or Skye, and making off
direct to the Orkneys; but good-nature was always
my foible, so I went on, beating from one place to
another, as though we had been looking for the
wreck of the Florida.
"I'll never take another cruise with a lover so
long as I live. Tom led me all manner of dances,
and we were twice fired at from farm-houses where
he was caterwauling beneath the windows with a
guitar. It seems he had heard that flame of his
sing a Spanish air at Jedburgh. Tom must needs
pick it up, and you have no idea how he pestered
me. Go where we would, he kept harping on that
abominable ditty, in the hope that his mistress
might hear him; and, when I remonstrated on the
absurdity of the proceeding, he quoted the case of
Blondel, and some trash out of Uhland's ballads.
Serenading on the west coast is by no means a
pleasant pastime. The nights are as raw as an
anchovy, and the midges particularly plentiful.
"Well, sir, we could find no trace of the lady
after all. Strachan got into low spirits, and I confess
that I was sometimes sulky—so we had an
occasional blow-up, which by no means added to
the conviviality of the voyage. One evening, just
at sundown, we entered the Sound of Sneeshanish—an
ugly place, let me tell you, at the best, but
especially to be avoided in any thing like a gale of
wind. The clouds in the horizon looked particularly
threatening, and I got a little anxious, for I
knew that there were some rocks about, and not a
lighthouse in the whole of the district.
"In an hour or two it grew as dark as a wolf's
throat. I could not for the life of me make out
where we were, for the Sound is very narrow in
some parts, and occasionally I thought that I could
hear breakers ahead.
"'Tom,' said I, 'Tom, you lubber!—for our
esteemed friend was, as usual, lying on the deck,
with a cigar in his mouth, twangling at that eternal
guitar—'take hold of the helm, will you, for a
minute, while I go down and look at the chart.'
"I was as cold as a cucumber; so, after having
ascertained, as I best could, the bearings about the
Sound, I rather think I did stop below for one moment—but
not longer—just to mix a glass of
swizzle by way of fortification, for I didn't expect
to get to bed that night. All of a sudden I heard
a shout from the bows, bolted upon deck, and there,
sure enough, was a black object right ahead, with
the surf shooting over it.
"'Luff, Tom! or we are all dead men;—Luff, I
say!' shouted I. I might as well have called to a
millstone. Tom was in a kind of trance.
"'O Dorothea!' said our friend.
"'To the devil with Dorothea!' roared I,
snatching the tiller from his hand.
"'It was too late. We went smash upon the
rock, with a force that sent us headlong upon the
deck, and Strachan staggered to his feet, bleeding
profusely at the proboscis.
"Down came the sail rattling about our ears,
and over lurched the yacht. I saw there was no
time to lose, so I leaped at once upon the rock,
and called upon the rest to follow me. They did
so, and were lucky to escape with no more disaster
than a ruffling of the cuticle on the basalt; for in
two minutes more all was over. Some of the timbers
had been staved in at the first concussion.
She rapidly filled,—and down went, before my eyes,
the Caption, the tidiest little craft that ever pitched
her broadside into the hull of a Frenchman!"
"Very well told indeed," said I, "only, Anthony,
it does strike me that the last paragraph is not
quite original. I've heard something like it in my
younger days, at the Adelphi. But what became
of you afterwards?"
"Faith, we were in a fix, as you may easily conceive.
All we could do was to scramble up the
rocks,—which, fortunately, were not too precipitous,—until
we reached a dry place, where we lay, huddled
together, until morning. When light came,
we found that we were not on the main land, but
on a kind of little stack in the very centre of the
channel, without a blade of grass upon it, or the
prospect of a sail in sight. This was a nice situation
for two members of the Scottish bar! The
first thing we did was to inquire into the state of
provisions, which we found to consist of a couple
of biscuits, that little Jim, the boy, happened to
have about him. Of course we followed the example
of the earlier navigators, and confiscated these
pro bono publico. We had not a drop of alcohol
among us, but, very luckily, picked up a small keg
of fresh water, which, I believe, was our salvation.
Strachan did not behave well. He wanted to keep
half-a-dozen cigars to himself; but such monstrous
selfishness could not be permitted, and the rest of
us took them from him by force. I shall always
blame myself for having weakly restored to him a
"And what followed?"
"Why, we remained three days upon the rock.
Fortunately the weather was moderate, so that we
were not absolutely washed away, but for all that
it was consumedly cold of nights. The worst thing,
however, was the deplorable state of our larder.
We finished the biscuits the first day, trusting to
be speedily relieved; but the sun set without a
vestige of a sail, and we supped sparingly upon
tangle. Next morning we were so ravenous that
we could have eaten raw squirrels. That day we
subsisted entirely upon shell-fish, and smoked out
all our cigars. On the third we bolted two old
gloves, buttons and all; and, do you know, Fred,
I began to be seriously alarmed about the boy Jim,
for Strachan kept eyeing him like an ogre, began
to mutter some horrid suggestions as to the propriety
of casting lots, and execrated his own stupidity
in being unprovided with a jar of pickles."
"O Anthony—for shame!"
"Well—I'm sure he was thinking about it, if he
did not say so. However, we lunched upon a shoe,
and for my own part, whenever I go upon another
voyage, I shall take the precaution of providing myself
with pliable French boots—your Kilmarnock leather
is so very intolerably tough! Towards evening,
to our infinite joy, we descried a boat entering
the Sound. We shouted, as you may be sure, like
demons. The Celtic Samaritans came up, and,
thanks to the kindness of Rory M'Gregor the master,
we each of us went to sleep that night with at
least two gallons of oatmeal porridge comfortably
stowed beneath our belts. And that's the whole
"And how do you feel after such unexampled
"Not a hair the worse. But this I know, that
if ever I am caught again on such idiotical errand
as hunting for a young woman through the Highlands,
my nearest of kin are at perfect liberty to
have me cognosced without opposition."
"Ah—you are no lover, Anthony. Strachan, now,
would go barefooted through Stony Arabia for the
mere chance of a casual glimpse at his mistress."
"All I can say, my dear fellow, is, that if connubial
happiness cannot be purchased without a
month's twangling on a guitar and three consecutive
suppers upon seaweed, I know at least one
respectable young barrister who is likely to die
unmarried. But I say, Fred, let us have a coach
and drive up to your hotel. You can lend me a
coat, I suppose, or something of the sort, until
Strachan arrives; and just be good enough, will
you, to settle with Mrs M'Tavish for the bill, for,
by all my hopes of a sheriffship, I have been thoroughly
purged of my tin."
The matter may not be of any especial interest
to the public; at the same time I think it right to
record the fact that Anthony Whaup owes me seven
shillings and eightpence unto this day.
"That is all I can tell you about it," said Mr
Hedger, as he handed me the last of three indictments,
with the joyful accompaniment of the fees.
"That is all I can tell you about it. If the alibi
will hold water, good and well—if not, M'Closkie
will be transported."
Hedger is the very best criminal agent I ever
met with. There is always a point in his cases—his
precognitions are perfect, and pleading, under
such auspices, becomes a kind of realised romance.
"By the way," said he, "is there a Mr Strachan
of your bar at circuit? I have a curious communication
from a prisoner who is desirous to have him
as her counsel."
"Indeed! I am glad to hear it. Mr Strachan is
a particular friend of mine, and will be here immediately.
I shall be glad to introduce you. Is it a
"No, but rather an odd one—a theft of money
committed at the Blenheim hotel. The woman
seems a person of education, but, as she obstinately
refuses to tell me her story, I know very little more
about it than is contained in the face of the indictment."
"What is her name?"
"Why you know that is a matter not very easily
ascertained. She called herself Euphemia Saville
when brought up for examination, and of course
she will be tried as such. She is well dressed,
and rather pretty, but she won't have any other
counsel than Mr Strachan; and singularly enough,
she has positively forbidden me to send him a fee
on the ground that he would take it as an insult."
"I should feel particularly obliged if the whole
public would take to insulting me perpetually in
that manner! But really this is an odd history.
Do you think she is acquainted with my friend?"
"I can't say," said he, "for, to tell you the truth,
I know nothing earthly about it. Only she was so
extremely desirous to have him engaged, that I
thought it not a little remarkable. I hope your
friend won't take offence if I mention what the
"Not in the least, you may be sure of that. And,
apropos, here he comes."
And in effect Whaup and Strachan now walked
into the counsel's apartment, demure, shaven, and
well dressed—altogether two very different-looking
individuals from the tatterdemalions of yesterday.
"Good morning, Fred," cried Whaup; "Servant,
Mr Hedger—lots of work going, eh? Are the
pleas nearly over yet?"
"Very nearly, I believe, Mr Whaup. Would
you have the kindness to——"
"Oh, certainly," said I. "Strachan, allow me
to introduce my friend Mr Hedger, who is desirous
of your professional advice."
"I say, Freddy," said Whaup, looking sulkily at
the twain as they retired to a window to consult,
"what's in the wind now? Has old Hedger got a
spite at any of his clients?"
"How should I know? What do you mean?"
"Because I should rather think," said Anthony,
"that in our friend Strachan's hands the lad runs a
remarkably good chance of a sea voyage to the
colonies, that's all."
"Fie for shame, Anthony! You should not bear
"No more I do—but I can't forget the loss of
the little Caption all through his stupid blundering;
and this morning he must needs sleep so long that
he lost the early train, and has very likely cut me
out of business for the sheer want of a pair of reputable
"Never mind—there is a good time coming."
"Which means, I suppose, that you have got the
pick of the cases? Very well: it can't be helped,
so I shall even show myself in court by way of
So saying, my long friend wrestled himself into
his gown, adjusted his wig knowingly upon his
cranium, and rushed toward the court-room as
vehemently as though the weal of the whole criminal
population of the west depended upon his individual
"Freddy, come here, if you please," said Strachan,
"this is a very extraordinary circumstance!
Do you know that this woman, Euphemia Saville,
though she wishes me to act as her counsel, has
positively refused to see me!"
"Very odd, certainly! Do you know her?"
"I never heard of the name in my life. Are you
sure, Mr Hedger, that there is no mistake?"
"Quite sure, sir. She gave me, in fact, a minute
description of your person, which perhaps I may be
excused from repeating."
"Oh, I understand," said Tom, fishingly; "complimentary,
"Why yes, rather so," replied Hedger hesitatingly;
and he cast at the same time a glance at
the limbs of my beloved friend, which convinced
me that Miss Saville's communication had, somehow
or other, borne reference to the shape of a
parenthesis. "But, at all events, you may be sure
she has seen you. I really can imagine no reason
for an interview. We often have people who take
the same kind of whims, and you have no idea of
their obstinacy. The best way will be to let the
Crown lead its evidence, and trust entirely to cross-examination.
I shall take care, at all events, that
her appearance shall not damage her. She is well
dressed, and I don't doubt will make use of her
"And a very useful thing that same cambric is,"
observed I. "Come, Tom, my boy, pluck up courage!
You have opportunity now for a grand display;
and if you can poke in something about
chivalry and undefended loveliness, you may be
sure it will have an effect on the jury. There is a
strong spice of romance in the composition of the
men of the Middle Ward."
"The whole thing, however, seems to me most
"Very; but that is surely an additional charm.
We seldom find a chapter from the Mysteries of
Udolfo transferred to the records of the Justiciary
Court of Scotland."
"Well, then, I suppose it must be so. Fred,
will you sit beside me at the trial? I'm not used
to this sort of thing as yet, and I possibly may feel
"Not a bit of you. At any rate I shall be there,
and of course you may command me."
In due time the case was called. Miss Euphemia
Saville ascended the trap stair, and took her
seat between a pair of policemen with exceedingly
I must allow that I felt a strong curiosity about
Euphemia. Her name was peculiar; the circumstances
under which she came forward were unusual;
and her predilection for Strachan was tantalising.
Her appearance, however, did little to
solve the mystery. She was neatly, even elegantly
dressed in black, with a close-fitting bonnet and
thick veil, which at first effectually obscured her
countenance. This, indeed, she partially removed
when called upon to plead to the indictment; but
the law of no civilised country that I know of is so
savage as to prohibit the use of a handkerchief, and
the fair Saville availed herself of the privilege by
burying her countenance in cambric. I could only
get a glimpse of some beautiful black braided hair
and a forehead that resembled alabaster. To all
appearance she was extremely agitated, and sobbed
as she answered to the charge.
The tender-hearted Strachan was not the sort of
man to behold the sorrows of his client without
emotion. In behalf of the junior members of the
Scottish bar I will say this, that they invariably
fight tooth and nail when a pretty girl is concerned,
and I have frequently heard bursts of impassioned
eloquence poured forth in defence of a pair of bright
eyes or a piquant figure, in cases where an elderly
or wizened dame would have run a strong chance
of finding no Cicero by her side. Tom accordingly
approached the bar for the purpose of putting some
questions to his client, but not a word could he extract
in reply. Euphemia drew down her veil, and
waved her hand with a repulsive gesture.
"I don't know what to make of her," said Strachan;
"only she seems to be a monstrous fine
woman. It is clear, however, that she has mistaken
me for somebody else. I never saw her in
my life before."
"Hedger deserves great credit for the way he
has got her up. Observe, Tom, there is no finery
about her; no ribbons or gaudy scarfs, which are
as unsuitable at a trial as at a funeral. Black is
your only wear to find favour in the eyes of a jury."
"True. It is a pity that so little attention is paid
to the æsthetics of criminal clothing. But here comes
the first witness—Grobey, I think, they call him—the
fellow who lost the money."
Mr Grobey mounted the witness-box like a cow
ascending a staircase. He was a huge, elephantine
animal of some sixteen stone, with bushy eyebrows
and a bald pate, which he ever and anon affectionately
caressed with a red and yellow bandana.
Strachan started at the sound of his voice, surveyed
him wistfully for a moment, and then said
to me in a hurried whisper—
"As I live, Fred, that is the identical bagman
who boned my emerald studs at Jedburgh!"
"You don't mean to say it?"
"Fact, upon my honour! There is no mistaking
his globular freetrading nose. Would it not be possible
to object to his evidence on that ground?"
"Mercy on us! no.—Reflect—there is no conviction."
"True. But he stole them nevertheless. I'll
ask him about them when I cross."
Mr Grobey's narrative, however, as embraced in
an animated dialogue with the public prosecutor,
threw some new and unexpected light upon the
matter. Grobey was a traveller in the employment
of the noted house of Barnacles, Deadeye, and
Company, and perambulated the country for the
benevolent purpose of administering to deficiency
of vision. In the course of his wanderings he had
arrived at the Blenheim, where, after a light supper
of fresh herrings, toasted cheese, and Edinburgh
ale, assisted, more Bagmannorum, by several
glasses of stiff brandy-and-water, he had retired to
his apartment to sleep off the labours of the day.
Somnus, however, did not descend that night with
his usual lightness upon Grobey. On the contrary,
the deity seemed changed into a ponderous weight,
which lay heavily upon the chest of the moaning
and suffocated traveller; and notwithstanding a
paralysis which appeared to have seized upon his
limbs, every external object in the apartment became
visible to him as by the light of a magic lantern.
He heard his watch ticking, like a living
creature, upon the dressing-table where he had left
it. His black morocco pocket-book was distinctly
visible beside the looking-glass, and two spectral
boots stood up amidst the varied shadows of the
night. Grobey was very uncomfortable. He began
to entertain the horrid idea that a fiend was
hovering through his chamber.
All at once he heard the door creaking upon its
hinges. There was a slight rustling of muslin, a
low sigh, and then momentary silence. "What, in
the name of John Bright, can that be?" thought
the terrified traveller; but he had not to wait long
for explanation. The door opened slowly—a female
figure, arrayed from head to foot in robes of virgin
whiteness, glided in, and fixed her eyes, with an
expression of deep solemnity and menace, upon the
countenance of Grobey. He lay breathless and
motionless beneath the spell. This might have
lasted for about a minute, during which time, as
Grobey expressed it, his very entrails were convulsed
with fear. The apparition then moved onwards,
still keeping her eyes upon the couch. She
stood for a moment near the window, raised her
arm with a monitory gesture to the sky, and then
all at once seemed to disappear as if absorbed in
the watery moonshine. Grobey was as bold a bagman
as ever flanked a mare with his gig-whip, but
this awful visitation was too much. Boots, looking-glass,
and table swam with a distracting whirl
before his eyes; he uttered a feeble yell, and immediately
lapsed into a swoon.
It was bright morning when he awoke. He
started up, rubbed his eyes, and endeavoured to
persuade himself that it was all an illusion. To
be sure there were the boots untouched, the coat,
the hat, and the portmanteau; but where—oh
where—were the watch and the plethoric pocket-book,
with its bunch of bank-notes and other minor
memoranda? Gone—spirited away; and with a
shout of despair old Grobey summoned the household.
The police were straightway taken into his confidence.
The tale of the midnight apparition—of
the Demon Lady—was told and listened to, at first
with somewhat of an incredulous smile; but when
the landlord stated that an unknown damosel had
been sojourning for two days at the hotel, that she
had that morning vanished in a hackney-coach
without leaving any trace of her address, and that,
moreover, certain spoons of undeniable silver were
amissing, Argus pricked up his ears, and after
some few preliminary inquiries, issued forth in quest
of the fugitive. Two days afterwards the fair Saville
was discovered in a temperance hotel; and although
the pocket-book had disappeared, both the
recognisable notes and the watch were found in her
possession. A number of pawn-tickets, also, which
were contained in her reticule, served to collect
from divers quarters a great mass of bijouterie,
amongst which were the Blenheim spoons.
Such was Mr Grobey's evidence as afterwards
supplemented by the police. Tom rose to cross-examine.
"Pray, Mr Grobey," said he, adjusting his gown
upon his shoulders with a very knowing and determined
air, as though he intended to expose his victim—"Pray,
Mr Grobey, are you any judge of studs?"
"I ain't a racing man," replied Grobey, "but I
knows an oss when I sees it."
"Don't equivocate, sir, if you please. Recollect
you are upon your oath," said Strachan, irritated
by a slight titter which followed upon Grobey's
answer. "I mean studs, sir—emerald studs for
"I ain't. But the lady is," replied Grobey.
"How do you mean, sir?"
"'Cos there vos five pair on them taken out of
pawn with her tickets."
"How do you know that, sir?"
"'Cos I see'd them."
"Were you at Jedburgh, sir, in the month of
"Do you recollect seeing me there?"
"Do you remember what passed upon that occasion?"
"You was rather confluscated, I think."
There was a general laugh.
"Mr Strachan," said the judge mildly, "I am
always sorry to interrupt a young counsel, but I
really cannot see the relevancy of these questions.
The court can have nothing to do with your communications
with the witness. I presume I need
not take a note of these latter answers."
"Very well, my lord," said Tom, rather discomfited
at being cut out of his revenge on the
bagman, "I shall ask him something else;" and
he commenced his examination in right earnest.
Grobey, however, stood steadfast to the letter of
his previous testimony.
Another witness was called; and to my surprise
the Scottish Vidocq appeared. He spoke to the
apprehension and the search, and also to the character
of the prisoner. In his eyes she had long
been chronicled as habit and repute a thief.
"You know the prisoner, then?" said Strachan
"I do. Any time these three years."
"Under what name is she known to you?"
"Betsy Brown is her real name, but she has
gone by twenty others."
"By twenty, do you say?"
"There, or thereabouts. She always flies at
high game; and, being a remarkably clever woman,
she passes herself off for a lady."
"Have you ever seen her elsewhere than in
I cannot tell what impulse it was that made me
twitch Strachan's gown at this moment. It was
not altogether a suspicion, but rather a presentiment
of coming danger. Strachan took the hint
and changed his line.
"Can you specify any of her other names?"
"I can. There are half-a-dozen of them here
on the pawn-tickets. Shall I read them?"
"If you please."
"One diamond ring, pledged in name of Lady
Emily Delaroche. A garnet brooch and chain—Miss
Maria Mortimer. Three gold seals—Mrs Markham
Vere. A watch and three emerald studs—the
Honourable Dorothea Percy——"
There was a loud shriek from the bar, and a
bustle—the prisoner had fainted.
I looked at Strachan. He was absolutely as
white as a corpse.
"My dear Tom," said I, "hadn't you better go
out into the open air?"
"No!" was the firm reply; "I am here to do
my duty, and I'll do it."
And in effect, the Spartan boy with the fox
gnawing into his side did not acquit himself more
heroically than my friend. The case was a clear
one, no doubt, but Tom made a noble speech, and
was highly complimented by the Judge upon his
ability. No sooner, however, had he finished it
than he left the Court.
I saw him two hours afterwards.
"Tom," said I, "about these emerald studs—I
think I could get them back from the Fiscal."
"Keep them to yourself. I'm off to India."
"Bah!—go down to the Highlands for a month."
Tom did so; purveyed himself a kilt; met an
heiress at the Inverness Meeting, and married her.
He is now the happy father of half-a-dozen children,
and a good many of us would give a trifle for
his practice. But to this day he is as mad as a
March hare if an allusion is made in his presence
to any kind of studs whatsoever.