The Hawick Spate by Alexander Campbell

The bursting of water-spouts is a phenomenon not often witnessed in Scotland; yet that such an accident has sometimes happened there, there are not a few melancholy tales to prove; and to this testimony we could add the story with which the following pages are occupied.

About the close of the seventeenth century, the town of Hawick was visited with such a calamity as that just spoken of, although we believe it was not attended with any singularly disastrous consequences. The water-spout which burst over the town, on the occasion alluded to, was of such immense magnitude, that the deluge of waters it discharged filled the main street in an instant from side to side, to the depth of from four to five feet. But it did not remain long here. The inclination of the street gave it motion, and away it swept with the force and impetuosity of a swollen river, carrying everything before it; and in its furious career razing no fewer than fifteen houses to their foundations.

Yet, if it had not been for the danger with which it was attended, and the loss which it occasioned, an onlooker, if placed in a situation of safety himself, could not possibly help being amazed, nay, sometimes laughing outright, at the ludicrous scenes which such an unusual and unlooked for visitor as the water occasioned; and particularly at the odd display of floating objects of all kinds that were hurrying along on the bosom of the impetuous stream; and which, from their utter unfitness, in most cases, for such aquatic feats as they had been thus suddenly called on to perform, presented a very laughable appearance. There were chairs, tables, baskets, beds, stools, &c., &c.,—sometimes in whole fleets, sometimes in detached squadrons—all scudding along, and apparently rivalling each other in speed, as if rejoicing in this new power of locomotion. Now, the basket might be seen giving the “go by” to the stool, and now the stool to the basket. Here might be seen a table, neck and neck with a window shutter; and there an envious chaff bed doing its best to make up with a hamper of greens, which having got into a rapid current, was bidding defiance to competition, and looking with most profound contempt on the unavailing efforts of its pursuers. All this, a lively imagination would discover in the march of the “Hawick Spate,” as the inundation of which we speak was called.

But all the objects that floated down this heaven-descended stream, were not of the same ludicrous or uninteresting character with those enumerated. There was, at any rate, one exception, and one calculated to excite very different feelings in the beholder from those alluded to. This object was a cradle; and it was tenanted. A little mariner, unconscious of his danger, was on board the frail bark. Borne on by the current, the cradle swept rapidly along, unobserved by any one; for all were too intent on seeking their own personal safety, or on saving their property, to pay any attention to the concerns of others; or, if the cradle was seen, there was no one who would venture into the rushing torrent to rescue the little voyager from the apparently inevitable fate which awaited him. On, onward, the cradle sailed on the bosom of the stream, now wheeling rapidly round in the eddies created by sudden obstructions, and now shooting along like an arrow with the liberated waters.

But all is not lost that’s in danger. In a secluded spot at a short distance from the town, there happened to be, at the moment of which we speak, one of those gipsy encampments which, though still to be met with occasionally, are now more rare than they were then. This encampment was situated on one of the sloping sides of a deep hollow or ravine; and it so chanced that this was precisely the course which the waters took that rushed from the town; and thus everything which was borne along with them, and that had not been previously stranded, or otherwise arrested in its progress, floated past the bivouac of the gipsies—but, observe, past only, if they thought them not worth capturing; for the gipsies, with all the ready tact of their calling, in making the most of circumstances, had instantly bethought them of turning the present calamity to good account, by securing everything they could lay their hands upon; and in the end their booty was far from being inconsiderable.

Ranged along the edge of the stream, the gipsies, old and young, male and female, might have been seen at this moment, eagerly and busily employed, with long sticks, fishing in such articles as came within their reach. Some of their number, however, more daring or more greedy of spoil, might also have been seen far advanced into the water, pursuing, at the imminent risk of their lives, the same profitable pastime. It was while they were thus employed, that our little mariner and his bark came in sight of the gipsies. A general cry of surprise—not unmingled with compassion, at least on the part of the female members of the gang—burst from them when the cradle hove in sight, as they concluded that it was more than probable that it contained a child.

“Save the infant! save the infant!” exclaimed several of the women at once. But this was much easier said than done; for the cradle was floating down the very centre of the stream, which, though now a good deal diffused, and thus rendered shallower, was yet at least from four to five feet deep in the middle; and, besides this, the bottom was irregular, and interspersed with partial hollows, some of which would have taken the tallest man in the gang over the head. Aware of this, there was an evident hesitation on the part of the men to incur the risk of seizing the cradle although there were two motives to induce them to the attempt. The one was humanity—the other, a much less creditable one, interest; a child being at all times an acquisition to a gipsy gang, for the purpose of exciting charity.

Which of these two motives was the stronger on this occasion, we will not say; but certain it is, that there was an anxious desire on the part of all to save the infant which was presumed to be in the cradle.

One of the most eager for the accomplishment of this humane purpose, among the females of the gang, was a stout, masculine woman of the name of Jean Gordon, who hastily kilting up her petticoats, dashed into the stream when the cradle came in sight, with the view of intercepting it; but the water was too deep for her, and she was obliged to stop short long before she reached the line of the cradle’s direction. Finding this, and highly excited by disappointment and anxiety, she frantically called on some of the men to try and effect the rescue of the child.

“John Young! John Young! save the wean!—save the wean!” she exclaimed, addressing herself to a tall athletic man, who was the farthest out in the stream, and who was at the moment busily employed in endeavouring to secure a chest of drawers which were in the act of tumbling past him. “I’m sure I’ve seen ye do baulder things than that, John, and for far less. O man, for the love o’ God, and yer ain soul, save the puir innocent!” For it had now been ascertained that there actually was a child in the cradle.

The man thus appealed to by Jean made no reply, but steadily eyed for a moment the approaching object of her solicitude, to which he was now at liberty to pay attention, as the chest of drawers had fairly got out of his reach. The cradle, in the meantime, came gliding rapidly onwards; but it was evident that it would pass at the distance of several yards from where Young stood.

Young, who was an excellent and a fearless swimmer, marked this, and took his measures accordingly; for he had determined on making an effort to save the infant. Having waded in to the shoulders, he waited till the cradle had arrived within a few feet of the line on which he stood, when he made a bold and sudden push into the centre of the stream, and so well calculated his distance, that, after making a few strokes—for he had lost his footing—he came in contact with it at the exact point on which he had reckoned. Seizing now the cradle with one hand, and keeping himself afloat with the other, Young prudently gave way to the current, and allowed himself to be borne along with it until an opportunity should present itself for his striking in for the shore. The situation of Young, however, was a perilous one; but he did not want the stimulus of approbation to enable him to go through with his humane purpose. Jean Gordon ran along the margin of the stream, keeping up with the floating, rather than swimming man, and anon raising her voice with these words of encouragement.

“That’s my brave man!” she shouted, as she dashed through hedge and bush in her onward progress, with her eye fixed on the cradle, and regardless of all obstructions that lay in her path. “That’s my brave man! Haud on, John—haud on! Never mind the ragin o’ the waters, John, but be o’ stout heart; for the Lord’s wi’ ye, and ’ll bear ye up wi’ a strong arm. This way noo, John—this way noo,” she added, pointing to a small inlet where there was no current, and which promised an easy landing-place. “This way, John,” she said, and dashed into the water to assist the voyagers to land.

Young, approving of Jean’s suggestion, made a strong effort to free himself from the current, and succeeded in getting into the still and shallow water, where he quickly gained his feet; Jean, at the same moment, pouncing on the child, which she took from the cradle and hugged to her bosom in a rapture of joy.

“Faith, it was a teuch job, Jean,” said Young, now shaking himself like a huge water-dog; “but it’s a guid ane, and I houp ’ll stan’ against twa or throe o’ my sins.”

“Nae doot o’t, John—nae doot o’t,” replied Jean, gazing fondly on the infant as she spoke. “It’s a guid deed, and will be remembered to yer advantage baith here and hereafter. A bonny bairn it is, in troth,” she went on, now apostrophizing the infant; “and ’ll be sair missed by somebody, I warrant.”

Having said this, she wrapped up the child in the blankets in which it had been enveloped in the cradle, and, accompanied by Young, returned to the encampment, which they found breaking up, and the gang hurriedly preparing to depart—a sudden move, indeed, but one for which there was good reason. The gipsies had rescued a number of things from the water, which it was certain their owners would miss, and which, therefore, it was not improbable they might institute some troublesome inquiries after, if they remained much longer where they were; and it was thought best to avoid this annoyance by decamping. Urged on by these considerations, the packing up was soon completed; and, in a very few minutes, the whole troop was on the march towards Yetholm, in the neighbourhood of which they again pitched their tents.

Our story does not require, neither would it be in the least interesting, to follow any further the subsequent wanderings of the erratic tribe to which we have introduced the reader; nor would it afford any entertainment to trace the infant years of the little one whom they had rescued from the flood. It is enough to say that he grew up, under the maternal care and tendance of Jean Gordon—who had especially attached herself to him—a stout and active lad, bearing the name of his foster-mother, which had been conferred upon him by the general consent of the gang, in consequence of their mutual attachment.

Young Gordon—the name by which we will now designate the little hero of the “Hawick Spate” evinced, at a very early period, a singularly bold and daring disposition; which, added to great physical strength, and a restless and enterprising spirit, promised, in due time, to place him at the head of the little community to which he belonged. But, though a wild and somewhat reckless character, young Gordon was not without some redeeming qualities. Gipsy though he was, he had a dash of honour and good feeling about him; and would, at any time, as soon do a good thing as a bad—perhaps sooner. In truth, all that was evil in him might have been fairly traced to the circumstances in which he was placed; while, whatever was good might, with equal truth and justice, have been attributed to his original nature.

Such, then, was Gordon in his twentieth year, for to this age had he attained when we resume our story.

As the gang to which Gordon belonged, was, one day, at this period, migrating from one place to another, they met an Irish regiment on its march to Stirling, to join the forces there assembled under the Duke of Argyle, who was preparing to march against the Earl of Mar, then in arms for the exiled family of Stuart.

Gordon, who had never seen an entire regiment before, was captivated with the warlike appearance it presented; and was suddenly struck with the desire of becoming a soldier—a desire which, in accordance with the impetuosity of his nature, he resolved instantly to gratify. With this view, but concealing his movements from his associates, he made up to a sergeant, and offered himself as a recruit. The sergeant, after eying him for a moment, and jading him, as he said, “a likely fellow,” very gladly accepted his offer, and at once enlisted him.

Gordon, having thus secured the object of his wishes, asked permission to take leave of his friends before marching away with the regiment—a request which was at once granted, on the condition that he should be accompanied by a couple of soldiers, to insure his return. On joining his former associates, he informed them of the step he had taken, and added, that he had now come to bid them farewell. The intelligence struck them all with surprise and regret; for he was a general favourite, and, indeed, had now become the chief hope of the erratic family. But there was none among them who felt so much on this occasion as Jean Gordon.

On hearing of the step her adopted son had taken, she gave way to the most poignant grief.

“Oh, my bairn! my bairn!” she cried, “are ye gaun to leave me? Can ye hae the heart to desert her wha has carried ye in her arms through frost and snaw, through wind and weet—frae the time ye was a cradled wean till ye was able to tak the road yersel—wha has tended ye nicht an’ day, wi’ a mother’s care, frae that time till this hoor—and wha has mony and aft the time sheltered ye in her bosom frae the biting blast which was like to cut short the thread o’ her ain life? Ay, warm and dry hae I aften keepit ye then, when I was mysel’ perishin wi’ baith hunger and cauld, nane o’ whilk, I trow, e’er came near ye. But ye shanna gang wi’ the redcoats, Gordon,” she added, with a determined air; “rather than ye should do that, I’ll tell the haill secret we hae a’ keepit sae lang, although it should bring every ane o’ us to the gibbet—and that’ll prevent ye gaun, I jalouse.”

“That ye won’t, old devil,” here chimed in a ferocious-looking member of the gang. “We’ll tak care o’ that. Ye ken we hae a way o’ disposing o’ tell-tales, Jean; and, if ye talk o’ peaching, ye shall hae a taste o’t, I warrant.”

To this threat Jean made no reply, and probably she would have entirely disregarded it, had there been no other inducement for her to keep silence on the subject she hinted at. But other inducements there were. Had she divulged the secret to which she alluded, and which was no other than that of Gordon’s real parentage, she would have exposed two brothers and a husband to the vengeance of the law—and this consideration at once checked the resolution she had begun to entertain.

To return to our story. Jean’s expostulations with Gordon on the step he had taken, and her appeals to his gratitude, in behalf of her wish to induce him to remain with her, were not unheeded by the young man, who readily acknowledged, with a tear in his eye while he spoke, all her kindnesses to him. But it was now too late. The deed was done, and there was no recalling it; neither, it must be confessed, did Gordon wish it should be recalled.

We have said that there was none of the little community to which Gordon belonged, who felt so much at the prospect of his leaving them as Jean; but this was not strictly correct. There was another who felt even more than she did; although these feelings were not, in every particular, of precisely the same description. That other person was Jean’s daughter—a little black-eyed gipsy of about eighteen years of age, and between whom and Gordon there had long subsisted a mutual attachment.

On learning of the sudden step which her lover had taken, the poor girl wept bitterly, and was not consoled until Gordon had repeatedly and solemnly assured her of a continuance of his love, and that he would very soon return to her—“When,” he said—but this sentence he finished in a whisper into her ear—“you shall become my wife, Rosie.”

The gipsy girl held down her head and blushed. Gordon flung his arms around her neck—tenderly embraced her—and, in a few minutes afterwards, was on the march with his regiment.

In a few days after the arrival of the latter at Stirling, the Duke of Argyle, having learned that the Earl of Mar was approaching, with the view of giving him battle, mustered his army, which included the regiment to which Gordon belonged, and marched out to meet him. The opposing armies came in sight of each other on Sheriffmuir, where, as is well known, a pretty severe encounter took place, in which both sides claimed the victory. In this engagement, the regiment in which Gordon served was stationed on the left wing of the royal forces, which was opposed to the Highlanders in Mar’s army, and thus involved in the most sanguinary part of the conflict.

Soon after the commencement of the battle, our young soldier was fortunate enough to save the life of an officer of the King’s army. This officer, who was mounted, was unhorsed by a Highlander, who had previously wounded him severely in the thigh with his broadsword, and was about to complete his destruction with the same weapon as he lay defenceless on the ground, when Gordon ran him through the heart with his bayonet. In the next instant, and before the person whose life Gordon had saved, could inform him who he was, or thank him for his opportune and very effective aid, the tide of battle rolled over the spot, and they were separated. Nor did they meet again—and thus each remained in ignorance of who the other was.

It was not long after this, however, before Gordon himself required the aid which he had so timeously afforded another, and that under nearly similar circumstances. He was attacked by a ferocious mountaineer of immense stature, who made a cut at him with his broadsword; but Gordon not only adroitly warded off the blow with his musket, but succeeded in inflicting a deep wound on his antagonist with his bayonet. Enraged to find himself thus baffled by a stripling, and smarting with pain, the infuriated Celt beat down Gordon’s firelock, and rushed in upon him, with the intention of dispatching him with his dirk. But this was not so easily done. Finding his musket no longer of any avail, Gordon dropped it on the ground, and, quick as lightning, sprang upon and grappled with his enemy; and thus, in turn, prevented him making use of his weapons. A desperate struggle now ensued between the combatants, each endeavouring to overturn the other; and, for a moment or two, it was doubtful which would eventually be thrown. But the superior strength of the Highlander finally prevailed, and Gordon fell, with his remorseless foe above him. In the next instant, the Highlander’s dirk gleamed in the air, and was already on its descent towards the heart of the prostrate youth, when, ere the blow could be struck, both the weapon and the hand which held it fell to the ground. The arm of the Highlander had been severed, at this critical moment, by the sabre of a dragoon, who had approached the combatants unperceived by either. Thus miraculously freed from the danger of immediate death, Gordon sprang to his feet, and assisted the trooper in completing the destruction of his assailant, whom they instantly despatched. But the perils of the day to the young soldier did not terminate with this adventure; another soon after befell him, that threatened to end more fatally.

When making his way back to join his regiment, which had shifted its ground in the tumult of fight, he suddenly found himself intercepted by a party of the enemy, by whom he was taken prisoner, and immediately after disarmed, bound, and sent to the rear, where he found several others in the same unhappy situation with himself. On the termination of the conflict, the prisoners were marched to a small village, at the distance of eight or ten miles from the field of battle; and, on the following day, a kind of court-martial, formed of a few straggling officers hastily brought together, was held on them, when, after a trial which lasted only a few minutes, the whole were condemned to death, for being in arms—so ran the words of their doom—against their lawful king, James VII.; and the hour of two in the afternoon, of the same day, was appointed for carrying the sentence into effect.

The unfortunate men were now remanded to the several apartments in which they had been confined previous to their trial, and recommended to pass the short time they had to live in making their peace with God.

In the meantime a rude gibbet was hastily erected; and, at the appointed hour, the prisoners, and amongst these, Gordon, were marched to the place of execution, surrounded by a strong party of troopers. Dreadful as was his situation, however, young Gordon blenched not. His bearing was manly; and, in that fearful hour, his indomitable spirit enabled him to contemplate his approaching death with the calmness and resolution of a martyr. There was but one thought that unmanned him in this trying hour, when he allowed his imagination to dwell on it. This thought was of his Rosie, the object of his heart’s fondest affections. But he checked the enervating reflection, and prepared to meet his doom with becoming fortitude.

The preparations for the tragical scene being completed, the prisoners were brought forward, and tied up, one after the other, to the fatal beam. Everything being now in readiness, the signal was about to be given which would have closed the world on the unfortunate men for ever, when all at once a loud and confused cry arose that the enemy was approaching. In an instant the gibbet was deserted by the troopers who surrounded it, who galloped off wildly in all directions in utter ignorance of the quarter from which the threatened danger was coming.

Gordon, whose presence of mind had never for a moment forsaken him, perceiving the opportunity for escape which thus so unexpectedly presented itself, instantly took advantage of it. Having hurriedly desired the brother in misfortune who stood next him to unloose the rope with which his arms were bound, he freed himself from the noose which was about his neck, and, with the rapidity of thought, drew from his pocket a large clasp knife, and cut the bands by which his fellow-prisoners were pinioned, and set them all at liberty. Having effected this generous purpose, Gordon leaped to the ground, and called out that every one should now endeavour to save himself—a recommendation which it will readily be believed was very soon attended to.

In the meantime, however, the troopers having discovered that they had been frightened by a false alarm, which, indeed, it had been, hastened back to carry the sentence of the prisoners into effect; when, finding that they had made their escape, they commenced a furious pursuit, and succeeded in overtaking several of the unfortunate men, whom they instantly cut down—adopting this summary procedure in preference to the more tedious and troublesome one of carrying them back to the gibbet.

Gordon, who had by this time gained a rising ground, where he had thrown himself down breathless and exhausted, saw this prompt execution done on two or three of the fugitives; and, in dread of sharing a similar fate, again started to his feet, and resumed his flight.

But this movement threatened to have been fatal to him. He was perceived by two troopers, who immediately gave chase after him; and, as the height which he had taken, though pretty steep, was free from any obstruction which could arrest the progress of horsemen, they gained fast upon, him. Poor Gordon now gave himself up for lost, and thought that he had but escaped the halter to perish by the sword. Still, however, he struggled on; but his pursuers, continuing to gain on him, were soon so near that he could distinctly hear the abusive epithets and deep curses in which they at once expressed their impatience, the length of the chase, and their eagerness to accomplish the destruction of him who caused it. A few minutes more, without the intervention of some fortunate circumstance, and Gordon would have been under the sabres of his pursuers; but such a circumstance did at this moment interpose, and he was once more saved from a fate that seemed inevitable. A ledge of rock impassable to horsemen, but easily accessible by a person on foot, suddenly presented itself. For this place of safety Gordon made with all possible speed, and with a desperate effort quickly gained a sufficient height to defy further pursuit from the troopers. But although he was out of the reach of their swords, he had not the same security from their bullets; and this he soon found. Two shots were fired at him by his pursuers, and both hit the rock so close by his head, that some of the splinters struck him in the face, and wounded him pretty severely. The aim of the troopers had been so well taken, that Gordon had no doubt, if they got another round at him, that he would be brought down; but, fortunately, he was able to clear the summit of the ledge before they had time to reload, and was thus secure, for a time at least, from all further danger from his pursuers.

Although now dreadfully exhausted, Gordon continued his flight until he became so worn out that he found it impossible to proceed. When reduced to this extremity, he crawled into a retired field that lay at some distance from any road, and flung himself at fall length behind a low wall by which it was intersected. Here he soon fell into a profound sleep, in which all the dangers he had passed, and all the perils to which he might yet be exposed, were for a time forgotten. In this situation, however, he had not remained above an hour, when he was awakened by some one shaking him by the shoulder. He started to his feet in the utmost alarm, having no doubt that it was an enemy who had discovered his retreat, but was soon relieved from his fears by perceiving a person in the dress of a shepherd standing before him.

“Whar hae ye come frae, honest lad?” said the man, in a kindly voice, and with an expression of sympathy in his countenance, excited by the fatigued and haggard appearance of the young man.

“From the Borders,” replied Gordon, not caring to come to particulars with a stranger in such troublesome times, and uncertain what treatment he might meet with by claiming connection with either of the contending parties between whom the kingdom was then divided.

“I’m jalousin,” said the stranger, with an expressive smile, as he eyed some of the fragments of military costume which were still about Gordon’s person—“I am jalousin that ye hae been oot, young man. Do ye ken a place they ca’ Shirramuir?” he added, with a knowing, but good-humoured look, which at once induced Gordon not only to acknowledge that he did, but to tell him his precise situation, together with all that had lately befallen him.

“Aweel, aweel, freen,” said the man, when Gordon had concluded—“It’s a’ the same to me what side ye war on, for I carena a sheep’s head for ony o’ them. Sae, ye’ll come alang wi’ me, an’ I’ll gie ye a nicht’s quarters, and some refreshment, o’ whilk ye seem to me to staun muckle in need; for, in troth, lad, ye are sair forfochten like.”

Having said this, the kind-hearted shepherd conducted Gordon to his house, which was close at hand, and gave him all the entertainment he had so generously promised. Here Gordon remained all night; and, on the following morning, prepared for his departure, having now resolved to return to his old friends, the gipsies.

Previous to his setting out, his kind host suggested that he should strip himself of everything about his apparel that might discover the side to which he had belonged—a suggestion with which Gordon immediately complied; when his entertainer supplied the deficiencies thus occasioned, by presenting him with a shepherd’s plaid and bonnet, to which he added a small sum of money.

Thus provided, refreshed, and, we may add, disguised, Gordon took the road, and on the third day thereafter, arrived in safety at the encampment of his old friends, which, knowing their haunts, he had no difficulty in finding.

The joy of the whole gang, and particularly of Jean and her daughter, on seeing him so soon again, was excessive. Jean hugged him to her bosom, and in a rapture of delight, poured out upon him a torrent of the most endearing epithets; while her daughter, though not less overjoyed, sought, with maidenly modesty, to conceal the happiness she felt. But it would not hide. The smile and the tear which she could not suppress, betrayed the secret of her feelings. This excitement over on all sides, Gordon gradually fell into his former position in the little community, and resumed the habits and wandering life which his short, but eventful military career had interrupted; and in this way time ran on until other three or four years had elapsed.

About the end of this period, as Gordon, with two or three more of his associates, was one day passing through Jedburgh, where there was, at the time, a recruiting party stationed, two soldiers, after looking earnestly at him for some minutes, suddenly made up to him, and asked if his name was not Gordon, and if he had not once belonged to the —— Regiment of Foot. To both of these questions Gordon at once replied in the affirmative, not being aware that he had any reason to do otherwise; for it had never occurred to him that, by not rejoining his regiment after the battle of Sheriffmuir, he had rendered himself liable to a charge of desertion; still less did he think that he had actually been all this time a deserter. But so it certainly was; and so he now found it to be.

“Then,” said one of the soldiers, on his acknowledging both circumstances, “you come along with, us, my lad; you are our prisoner.” And both the men drew their side-arms to make good their capture.

Gordon was now carried to the quarters of the commanding officer of the recruiting party, and by him was immediately sent off, escorted by three soldiers, to Edinburgh Castle, to stand trial for desertion from his Majesty’s service.

In a few days after his arrival there, a court-martial was summoned, when Gordon’s identity, and the facts of his enlistment and desertion having been proven, he was condemned to be shot—the utmost penalty of military law having been adjudged him, as the desertion had taken place in time of war, and at a period when fidelity was most especially required.

Thus was poor Gordon twice exposed to the horrors of a violent death by judicial sentence; but still his natural courage did not fail him. He again boldly prepared to meet the fate which seemed determined to overtake him, and which now certainly seemed quite inevitable, as there was not the slightest chance of any circumstance occurring in this case to avert it.

The place selected for the impending tragedy was the Portobello Sands; and thither the unfortunate culprit, accompanied by the whole garrison, was conveyed on the day appointed for his execution.

Amongst the official persons of note who were present on this melancholy occasion was the Duke of Argyle, who had arrived in Edinburgh on the preceding day; and who, as commander-in-chief of the King’s forces in Scotland, conceived it his duty to attend the execution of the criminal. All the ceremonies usual on occasions of this kind having been gone through, and the regiment formed into three sides of a square, the unfortunate prisoner was conducted to the spot, marked by his coffin being placed on it, where he was to receive his death. The execution party, consisting of twelve men, placed in three rows of four each, were advanced within a few paces of their object, when the front rank knelt down, the second stooped, and the third stood upright, that thus three several fires might be delivered, and the destruction of the victim be secured.

Gordon had now also knelt down, and there was only the signal wanting—of which the prisoner had, as is usual in such cases, the control—to complete the tragedy, when, just as the unhappy man was about to make that signal, the Duke of Argyle, who had been eyeing him attentively for some time, suddenly left those with whom he had been conversing, and waving to the execution party to withhold their fire, galloped up to the culprit, whom he thus abruptly addressed:—

“Young man, were you at the battle of Sherriffmuir?”

To this question, so unexpectedly put, it was some time before Gordon could make any reply; his mind being wholly absorbed by thoughts appropriate to his awful situation. When first put to him, therefore, he merely looked at the querist with a vacant stare, as if wholly unconscious of the purport of what had been said to him. In a few seconds, however, he recollected himself, and, with a firm voice, replied that he was at that battle.

“Did you see me,” continued the Duke, on his making this answer, “in any situation of particular peril on that day!”

Gordon now in his turn looked at the Duke with a scrutinizing eye, and thought that he recognised a face which he had seen before. He began, in short, to imagine that there was a resemblance, though he did not think it by any means so strong as to warrant him in saying so, between the person who now addressed him, and the officer whose life he had saved at Sheriffmuir.

“I do not know, sir,” said Gordon in reply to the last question put to him, “that I saw you in any situation of particular peril on that day; but I saw an officer of our army in such a situation, and I believe I helped a little to bring him out of the scrape.”

“You ran the fellow who was about to slay that officer through the body with your bayonet, did you not?” exclaimed the Duke, with eager rapidity.

“I did, sir,” said Gordon, who yet knew nothing of the quality of the person who addressed him.

“Exactly,” replied Argyle. “Well, sir,” he continued, “the life you saved was mine, and I shall now try to repay the debt by saving yours, if I can.”

Having said this, the Duke turned round and waved to the officer who was in command of the troops present to come to him.

On his approach—“Colonel,” he said, “I wish this execution delayed. Do you, therefore, sir, if you please, order the firing party to retire, and let the regiment be marched back to its quarters. I, of course, take the whole responsibility of this proceeding on myself, Colonel.”

The officer to whom this was addressed bowed and retired to execute the orders given him; and in a few minutes thereafter, the regiment, in the centre of which Gordon was placed, marched off the ground to the sound of cheerful music.

On reaching the Castle, the Duke desired Gordon to be brought before him, when he proceeded to examine minutely into the particulars of his case, with the view, evidently, of eliciting as many favourable and extenuating circumstances as possible; and he evinced great satisfaction in finding that there were a good many of these. There was the youth and inexperience of the prisoner; the fact of his having been only a day or two enlisted; of his having received no bounty (which was the case); the evidence that his crime had proceeded from ignorance of military law, and not from design; and, above all, there was to be taken into account his treatment by the insurgents—considerations, all of which were crowned by the fact of his having saved the life of the commander-in-chief.

On the conclusion of this examination, Gordon was placed again in confinement; and for an entire week he heard nothing more of the proceedings regarding him. Early one morning, however, at the end of this period, the Duke of Argyle, entered his apartment, when, pulling out a paper from his pocket—

“Gordon,” he said, “your life is saved. His Majesty’s clemency has been extended to you, in consideration of the extenuating circumstances in your case; and here is your pardon. Here, also,” he continued, producing another paper, which he handed to the prisoner, “is your discharge. And here again,” he said, placing a purse of money in Gordon’s hand, and smiling as he spoke, “is a passport. And now, my good fellow,” he added, “take my advice, and return to your friends as soon as possible.”

We will not take up the reader’s time by attempting to describe Gordon’s feelings on this occasion. Suffice it to say, that they were as wild, and tumultuous, and joyful as such a singular and unexpected change in his situation can be supposed to have been capable of exciting. These feelings, however, did not distract him so much as to prevent him following the Duke’s counsel, which exactly jumped with his own inclinations.

After thanking his benefactor in the most grateful language he could command, he instantly quitted the apartment in which he had been confined, and hurried out of the castle, neither looking to the right nor to the left, till he had reached the heart of the city, when he stopped for a moment to breathe and to reflect on his happiness, which was so great, however, that he had some difficulty in believing in its reality.

In an hour afterwards, Gordon once more set out to join his old friends, whose encampment he reached on the following day, and again resumed his old habits and station in the erratic community. Again, too, three or four additional years passed away; but they did not pass now without bringing some of the changes which are interwoven with the lot of mankind, and which fall to the share equally of gipsy and prince. During these three or four years, Jean Gordon’s husband, and her two brothers, had been gathered to their fathers, her daughter had attained the stature and the years of womanhood, and she herself was beginning to feel the weakened energies of age. Another change in this little community, during these three or four years, was the elevation of Gordon to the chief place in it—a situation to which he was unanimously elected on the death of Jean’s husband, who had hitherto been looked up to as the head of the fraternity.

It was about this period, and as the gang were one day strolling up the banks of the Tweed, near a place called Upsetlington, under the conduct of Gordon, who was leading them on one of their usual wandering expeditions, a salmon cobble, in which were two persons, were seen sweeping down the river, which, being swollen to an unusual height with nearly an entire week’s heavy and incessant rain, was at this moment tearing along with the most dreadful fury. The day, besides, was widely tempestuous; and, as the wind was blowing directly in the teeth of the current, there was a roughness in the middle of the stream which would have endangered the safety of a much better sea-boat than a salmon-cobble—a truth this, which was but too evident on the present occasion.

The cobble, which was now being borne down by the stream, seemed to have completely freed itself from the control of those on board of it, and was careering along with an impetuosity and total want of direction, which left no doubt on the minds of those who beheld it that a catastrophe was at hand. It was evident, in short, that the boat must very soon be swamped and overset; and in this opinion the persons on board of her seemed themselves to concur, as they made no other effort to save themselves than waving their hands, from time to time, to those on the banks, to intimate their distress, and to invite their assistance.

But, although these unfortunate persons had been willing to make any effort to extricate themselves from their perilous situation, they could not; for their oars had been swept away by the current, and they were thus left perfectly helpless.

Gordon marked the desperate situation of the unwilling voyagers, and on the instant determined on making an effort to save them.

Near the spot where he stood looking on this appalling scene, there happened to be another cobble lying, which its owner had drawn high up on the bank, to keep it out of the reach of the current; and its two oars were still in it.

Gordon eyed the boat for a moment, and in that moment his resolution was taken. He seized the cobble with both hands, and being a remarkably powerful man, with one effort hurled it into the stream. This done, he leapt into it, grasped the oars, in the use of which he was singularly expert, and dashed headlong after the runaway bark, which, at the imminent risk of his own life, and with great exertion, he succeeded in capturing and bringing safely to shore.

The persons thus saved, by the gallantry of Gordon, from inevitable death, proved to be the owner of the cobble, and a Mr Riddell, from Hawick, a respectable elderly man, and reputed to be extremely wealthy, whom the former had been endeavouring to ferry across the river.

When the party had fairly landed, Mr Riddel took Gordon by the hand, and, pressing it warmly, thanked him, in the most grateful terms, for the important service he had rendered him. “But, young man,” he added, “I do not mean to pay you with thanks alone. It is my intention to give you a much more substantial proof of my gratitude than mere words. Thank God, I am able to do so; and the will is not wanting. You shall go with me to Hawick, my young friend, and I will then see in what way I can best shew my sense of the obligation I owe you. In the meantime, take this,” he said, handing Gordon a purse, “as an earnest for the future. But you must come to Hawick with me. This you must do—I will take no denial. I am childless, man,” he added, smiling, “although I was not always so; and there’s no saying, if ye quit this wandering life of yours, and betake ye to an honest calling, what good fortune may arise to you out of this day’s occurrences.”

“Nae sayin, indeed,” here chimed in Jean Gordon, who had been listening to what Mr Riddel said with intense interest, and with a degree of agitation which it would have been very difficult for a mere onlooker to have accounted for.

“Nae sayin, indeed, what guid fortune may arise to the lad oot o’ what has happened this day. To Hawick wi’ ye he maun gang, Mr Riddel,” continued Jean, who know every individual in the country for fifty miles round; “an’ he couldna gang wi’ a nearer freen, tak my word for that.”

“He could not go with one who would be more willing to be his friend, at any rate, Jean,” said Mr Riddel, who also knew the gipsy well, both by sight and name, and smiling as he spoke.

“An’ guid richt he has to your friendship, Mr Riddel,” replied Jean.

“That he has, Jean,” said the former. “The man who has saved my life has indeed a good right to my friendship; and he shall have it.”

“He has maybe ither claims on ye forbye that, though, Mr Riddel.”

“Indeed! Well, he may; although that is surely enough. But what other claims do you allude to, Jean? I shall be glad to know what they are, that I may discharge them all at once.”

“Then you shall know, Mr Riddel,” replied Jean, with a sudden determination of manner. “They’re noo awa that micht tak ony scaith frae what I’ll noo tell ye; an’, forbye, it’s a thing I hae lang resolved upon, an’ sae I’ll e’en tak this opportunity o’ doin’t. Come aside wi’ me, here, a wee bit, Mr Riddel,” added Jean; “an’ you, too, Gordon,” she said; “come, till I speak to ye baith.” And she led the way to a little distance from the other persons who were present on the occasion, and who had hitherto been auditors of all that passed.

“Mr Riddel,” now said Jean, “do ye mind the Hawick Spate?”

“Mind it!” replied the person addressed—“to be sure I do, Jean; I have but too much reason to mind it.” And here Mr Riddel’s voice became tremulous with emotion. “It deprived me of my only child—of the only child I ever had. This you doubtless know, Jean,” he continued; “as everybody in Hawick, and for many miles round it, who recollects the spate, knows that my child—and a fine little fellow he was—was swept away in his cradle, by the stream, and never afterwards heard tell of. The cradle was, indeed, found,” added Mr Riddel, in a melancholy tone, “but not the infant. But why do ye ask this question, Jean?”

“Just to bring to yer recollection the very circumstance ye hae mentioned, Mr Riddel,” replied the gipsy. “Noo, sir,” she went on, “tak a look o’ that lad, [pointing to Gordon,] an’ tell me if ye wad ken him to be yer ain son. And you, Gordon,” she said, “look at that gentleman, an’ see if ye wad tak him to be yer faither; for, as God’s in heaven,” she continued, “that’s the relationship in which ye twa staun to are anither!”

“Woman! what do you mean?” exclaimed Mr. Riddel in an angry tone. “Are you deranged? What absurd nonsense is this you talk? I never had any son but the child that was drowned.”

“I didna say ye had, Mr. Riddel,” replied Jean; “but that’s yer son, nevertheless. This I swear, by a’ my hopes o’ a hereafter!”

“Gracious God!—explain, woman! explain!” exclaimed Mr. Riddel, now greatly agitated—a glimmering of the possibility of what had actually occurred suddenly bursting on his mind. “Tell me, I beseech you, what you mean at once, and without further evasion.”

Thus entreated, Jean Gordon proceeded to detail the whole of the circumstances connected with the saving of the child (whom, we presume, we need not inform the reader in more explicit terms, was, indeed, the son of the person to whose paternity Jean ascribed him) from the Hawick flood.

When she had concluded—

“Extraordinary! most extraordinary!” exclaimed Mr. Riddel, now overwhelmed with a variety of new and strange feelings. “Can it be possible? O God! thy ways are inscrutable. But what proof have I of the truth of your story, Jean?” said the agitated father, gazing on his son.

“Proof!” exclaimed the gipsy; “look at the lad, Mr. Riddel—look at him, closely; an’ if ye dinna find proof enough in that face, ye’ll be hard to convince. Is he no your very counterpart?”

This part of Jean’s evidence was, indeed, of the most irrefragable kind; for the resemblance was remarkably striking.

“An’ if that’ll no satisfy ye,” she went on, “is there no half-a-dozen an’ mair o’ oor folk, that saw the hail affair, an’ that’ll swear to the truth o’ a’ that I’ve said?—an’ ye may tak them up, ane by ane, this minute, if ye like, an’ examine them a’ separately on the subject; an’ if ye find ane o’ them contradick me in the sma’est particular, dinna believe ae word o’ what I hae said. An’, if that’ll no convince ye yet, Mr Riddell,” she continued, “ye shall hae mair proof still. Come here, Gordon,” she said, addressing the young man, who, in silent amazement, was listening to this extraordinary denouement—“sit down.” He obeyed; and she pulled off the shoe and stocking from his left leg. Then holding up the lad’s naked foot, “Do ye ken thae twa taes, then, Mr Riddell?” she inquired, pointing, at the same time, to the little toe and the one adjoining to which the former was united.

“He is my son! he is my son! I can no longer doubt it,” exclaimed Mr Riddel, in a rapture of joy, on seeing this proof of his identity. And he rushed towards Gordon, and folded him in his arms.

“Oh! cruel woman!” he said, after the first burst of emotion had so far subsided as to allow him to speak—“to keep my boy so long from me, and to cause me so many weary nights and days, and long years of sorrow and mourning on his account! But I forgive you,” he immediately added; “I forgive you, in consideration of the happiness which you have this day conferred on me, late though it be.”

“You may forgie me, Mr Riddel,” said the now repentant gipsy; “but I canna forgie mysel. I hae made some amends, noo, hooever,” she continued; “an’ that’s a relief to my conscience. But I hae still another score o’ the same kind to pay off in another quarter; and it shall be dune at a’ hazards—but o’ this, mair hereafter. I hae dune ye a great wrang, Mr Riddel,” continued Jean; “but I was aye kind to yer bairn. I hae been a mother to him ever since I first took him in my arms, as I daur say he will, sae far as he recollects, bear witness. He’ll say that muckle for me, I’m sure.”

“That I will, Jean,” said Gordon, taking her kindly by the hand; “an’ may I be forgotten by Him that’s aboon when I forget you, or yer motherly kindness to and care owre me!”

“Enough, enough, Francis Riddel,” said his father—“for that was the name, my son, I intended to have given you, and it is the name by which I shall now and henceforth designate you—I forgive her. Nay, I not only forgive her, man, but, if she will quit this wandering life of hers, I will see to her future subsistence and comfort as long as she lives.”

“Many thanks, Mr Riddel, for your goodness,” said Jean, “but I’m no just yet prepared for that step. But, when I am, which will maybe be very sune, I’ll no fail to seek the shelter ye sae kindly offer me.”

It is, perhaps, full time, now, that we should say what were the feelings of Francis—as we, too, must now call him—in the singular circumstances in which he thus so suddenly and unexpectedly found himself placed. These were of a mingled kind. He felt all the joy natural on such an impressive occasion as that of having a lost—or, at least, an unknown—parent restored. He felt, too, a satisfaction in the promotion which his personal interests would now certainly experience, and with the idea of the respectable footing on which he would now be placed with the world. But there were two circumstances in particular that weighed against these, and tended to lessen the effect they would otherwise have had. One of these was his attachment to the wandering life to which he had been accustomed, and which he saw, with regret, he must now abandon. The other, and by far the most distressing one to him—was the probability that he would now also be called upon to renounce his beloved Rosie. On this point, however, he determined to remain obstinate, and rather to forfeit his father’s favour, with all the advantages that might accrue from it, than to abandon her to whom he already considered himself bound by the most sacred ties. On this subject, however, Francis prudently resolved to say nothing, in the meantime, but just to allow matters to take their course, till proper time and place should present themselves for announcing his resolution, and carrying that resolution into effect.

Mr Riddel now again repeated his proposal, that his son should instantly accompany him home; and, with this proposal, Francis complied, although he certainly did not do so without much secret reluctance and regret, for the reasons which have been already explained.

After bidding, then, a kind adieu to his former associates—a most affectionate one to Jean, whom he bound, by a solemn promise, to call upon him, in a few days, at Hawick—and whispering two or three words of consolation into Rosie’s ear—Francis set off with his father; and, in due time, both arrived in safety at Mr. Riddel’s residence, in the town above named, where the former was quickly installed in all the rights and privileges of a son and heir, and as such was recognised by all his father’s friends and acquaintances; his mother having been by this time many years dead.

In about four weeks after the occurrence of the circumstances just related, the gipsy gang to which Francis Riddel had belonged, appeared one evening, about dusk, at their old station in the vicinity of Hawick. It was the precise spot where Francis had been rescued from the flood some seven and twenty years before, and was a favourite locality of the wandering tribes.

Delighted with the intelligence of their arrival, which soon reached him, Francis, carefully however concealing his intention from his father, stole down to the gipsy encampment, where, as he expected, he found his beloved Rosie, to see whom, indeed, was the chief, if not the sole object of his visit. The joy of the lovers at meeting—for they had not seen or heard of each other since they parted on the day of the adventure on the Tweed—need not be dwelt upon, as it was exactly what is usual in such cases; but other circumstances arose from this interview which it may be more worth while to record.

“My father,” said Francis, addressing Rosie, as they sat together on a green bank, at a little distance from the gipsy encampment, “has set his face against our marriage. He has said that in nothing will he oppose me, but in that. But that, if I disobey him there, well as he loves me, he will disinherit me, and leave me penniless. ‘Marry a gipsy girl,’ he said, ‘and bring disgrace upon your connections! Never, never, with my consent.’ Ha! ha!” exclaimed Francis, contemptuously, “little does he know, honest man, what a trifle all his wealth and all his possessions are, and would be, were they ten times greater, when put into the scale against such love as mine for thee, Rosie. He may keep his wealth, for I will marry——”

“The Laird o’ Upha’s dochter,” suddenly struck in Jean Gordon, who had now approached the lovers, unperceived. “Ay, the Laird o’ Upha’s dochter,” she repeated. “She’ll be yer wife, Francis. Winna she?”

“No, indeed, Jean, not her, whoever she be,” said Francis, laughingly, and flinging his arms affectionately around Rosie’s neck. “Not her, but my own sweet, dark-eyed gipsy girl here—your daughter, Jean.”

“The Laird o’ Upha’s dochter, I tell ye, ye’ll marry, nevertheless, Francis. Not mine; for I hae nane. Yer faither ’ll then hae nae objection to yer linkin to, I’m thinkin; for a weel-tochered lass she’ll be—an’ o’ gentle bluid has she come.”

From this point, the little that now remains of our story will be best conducted to its termination, by plain and concise narrative. Francis and Rosie now learned, with, overwhelming amazement, that the latter was indeed a daughter of Maitland of Uphall’s, an old and highly respectable family, and not of Jean Gordon’s; and that she had been stolen in her infancy by the gang with which she was now associated. Jean, also, now informed them that she had already announced at Uphall that their daughter still lived, and had accompanied this announcement by a promise to restore her within three days to her parents.

The circumstance of Rosie’s real parentage, Francis lost no time in communicating to his father, who heard it at first with incredulity; but promised that, if the facts were found to be as stated, he would not only withdraw his objections to their marriage, but would do all in his power to promote it.

To this, we have only to add, that the identity of Rosie having been proven to Uphall’s entire satisfaction, he acknowledged her as his child, and soon after gave his consent to her union to Francis Riddel, who had been equally expeditious, as in the case of his own father, in informing him of his claims on his daughter.

The lovers were accordingly married, and lived many happy years together, filling a highly respectable station in society, and esteemed by all who knew them for the strict propriety of their conduct in all the relations of life.

They left sons and daughters, who inherited their wealth, which was very considerable, but none of whom ever experienced, so far as ever we heard, any of their vicissitudes.