THE EMERALD STUDS

A REMINISCENCE OF THE CIRCUIT.

BY PROFESSOR AYTOUN.

 

[MAGA. August 1847.]


CHAPTER I.

"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 slow.

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 Bailie?"

"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 wings."

"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 prettiest disgust!"

"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 all sustenance."

"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 of meeting."

"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 Beerie."

"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?"

"The whole."

"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 circuit practice."

"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 yestreen."

"What do you mean, you rascal?"

"Ye ken ye wadna gang to bed till ye had anither tumbler."

"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 villain?"

"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 is liable."

"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 stranger."

"But, my dear Tom——"

"I can't do it, I tell you; so it's no use asking me."

"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.

 

CHAPTER II.

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 against you."

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 that out."

"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 Florimel.

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 Magistrate's box.

"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 M'Wilkin.

"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 Strachan.

"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 speak?"

"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 with excitement.

"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."

"What's that?"

"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 the bar."

"Are you in earnest, Tom?"

"Most solemnly. My whole future happiness—nay, perhaps the life of a human being depends upon it."

"In that case I think I shall tip them an hour."

"Heaven reward you, Fred! I never can forget your kindness!"

"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 the prisoner.

"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 got?"

"Two thefts with habit and repute, a hamesucken, rather a good forgery, and an assault with intent to commit."

"Long?"

"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.

 

CHAPTER III.

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?"

No answer.

"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 them?"

"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 that."

"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 emotion.

"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 of deliberation.

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 India merchant.

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 tolerably sound.

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 his physiognomy.

"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."

"Dorothea."

"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, and——"

"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.

 

CHAPTER IV.

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 to Linnæus.

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 Robinson Crusoe."

"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 you?"

"Certainly—that's eleven, you recollect. But what's the meaning of all this? Where is the yacht?"

"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 Bagpipes.

"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 yarn."

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 cheroot."

"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 history."

"And how do you feel after such unexampled privation?"

"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.

 

CHAPTER V.

"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 heavy case?"

"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?"

Hedger winked.

"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 woman said?"

"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 malice."

"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 trousers."

"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 public advertisement."

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 exertions.

"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, I suppose—eh?"

"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 cambric handkerchief."

"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 mysterious."

"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 nervous."

"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 luxuriant whiskers.

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 example?"

"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 April last?"

"I was."

"Do you recollect seeing me there?"

"Perfectly."

"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 rising.

"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 Glasgow?"

"I have."

"Where?"

"At Jedburgh."

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.