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Wilson's

TALES OF THE BORDERS

AND OF SCOTLAND.

HISTORICAL, TRADITIONARY, & IMAGINATIVE.


REVISED BY
ALEXANDER LEIGHTON,
_One of the Original Editors and Contributors_.

VOL. XXIII.




CONTENTS.


THE LAWYER'S TALES (_Alexander Leighton_) - LORD KAMES'S PUZZLE.

THE ORPHAN (_John Mackay Wilson_).

THE BURGHER'S TALES (_Alexander Leighton_) - THE
BROWNIE OF THE WEST BOW.

GLEANINGS OF THE COVENANT (_Professor Thomas
Gillespie_) - THE LAST SCRAP.

THE STORY OF MARY BROWN (_Alexander Leighton_).

TIBBY FOWLER (_John Mackay Wilson_).

THE CRADLE OF LOGIE (_Alexander Leighton_).

THE DEATH OF THE CHEVALIER DE LA BEAUTÉ (_John Mackay Wilson_).

THE STORY OF THE PELICAN (_Alexander Leighton_).

THE WIDOW'S AE SON (_John Mackay Wilson_).

THE LAWYER'S TALES (_Alexander Leighton_) - THE
STORY OF MYSIE CRAIG.

THE TWIN BROTHERS (_John Mackay Wilson_).

THE GIRL FORGER (_Alexander Leighton_).

THE TWO RED SLIPPERS (_Alexander Leighton_).

THE FAITHFUL WIFE (_Alexander Leighton_).


WILSON'S
TALES OF THE BORDERS,
AND OF SCOTLAND.

* * * * *




THE LAWYER'S TALES.

LORD KAMES'S PUZZLE.


On looking over some Session papers which had belonged to Lord Kames,
with the object, I confess, of getting hold of some facts - those
entities called by Quintilian the bones of truth, the more by token, I
fancy, that they so often stick in the throat - which might contribute to
my legends, I came to some sheets whereon his lordship had written some
hasty remarks, to the effect that the case Napier _versus_ Napier was
the most curious puzzle that ever he had witnessed since he had taken
his seat on the bench. The papers were fragmentary, consisting of parts
of a Reclaiming Petition and some portion of a Proof that had been led
in support of a brieve of service; but I got enough to enable me to give
the story, which I shall do in such a connected manner as to take the
reader along with me, I hope pleasantly, and without any inclination to
choke upon the foresaid bones.

Without being very particular about the year, which really I do not know
with further precision than that it was within the first five years of
Lord Kames's senator-ship, I request the reader to fancy himself in a
small domicile in Toddrick's Wynd, in the old city of Edinburgh; and I
request this the more readily that, as we all know, Nature does not
exclude very humble places from the regions of romance, neither does she
deny to very humble personages the characters of heroes and heroines.
Not that I have much to say in the first instance either of the place or
the persons; the former being no more than a solitary room and a
bed-closet, where yet the throb of life was as strong and quick as in
the mansions of the great, and the latter composed of two persons - one,
a decent, hard-working woman called Mrs. Hislop, whose duty in this
world was to keep her employers clean in their clothes, wherein she
stood next to the minister, insomuch as cleanliness is next to
godliness - in other words, she was a washerwoman; the other being a
young girl, verging upon sixteen, called Henrietta, whose qualities,
both of mind and body, might be comprised in the homely eulogy, "as
blithe as bonnie." So it may be, that if you are alarmed at the humility
of the occupation of the one - even with your remembrance that Sir Isaac
Newton experimented upon soap-bubbles - as being so intractable in the
plastic-work of romance, you may be appeased by the qualities of the
other; for has it not been our delight to sing for a thousand years,
yea, in a thousand songs, too, the praises of young damsels, whether
under the names of Jenny or Peggy, or those of Clarinda or Florabella,
or whether engaged in herding flocks by Logan Waters, or dispensing
knights' favours under the peacock? But we cannot afford to dispose of
our young heroine in this curt way, for her looks formed parts of the
lines of a strange history; and so we must be permitted the privilege of
narrating that, while Mrs. Hislop's _protegée_ did not come within that
charmed circle which contains, according to the poets, so many angels
without wings, she was probably as fair every whit as Dowsabell. Yet,
after all, we are not here concerned with beauty, which, as a specialty
in one to one, and as a universality in all to all, is beyond the power
of written description. We have here to do simply with some traits
which, being hereditary, not derived from Mrs. Hislop, have a bearing
upon our strange legend: the very slightest cast in the eyes, which in
its piquancy belied a fine genial nature in the said Henney; and a
classic nose, which, partaking of the old Roman type, and indicating
pride, was equally untrue to a generosity of feeling which made friends
of all who saw her - _except one_. A strange exception this _one_; for
who, even in this bad world, could be an enemy to a creature who
conciliated sympathy as a love, and defied antipathy as an
impossibility? Who could _he_ be? or rather, who could _she_ be? for man
seems to be excluded by the very instincts of his nature. The question
may be answered by the evolution of facts; than which what other have we
even amidst the dark gropings into the mystery of our wonderful being?

Mrs. Hislop's head was over the skeil, wherein lay one of the linen
sheets of Mr. Dallas, the writer to the signet, which, with her broad
hands, she was busy twisting into the form of a serpent; and no doubt
there were indications of her efforts in the drops of perspiration which
stood upon her good-humoured, gaucy face, so suggestive of dewdrops
('bating the poetry) on the leaves of a big blush peony. In this work
she was interrupted by the entrance of Henney, who came rushing in as if
under the influence of some emotion which had taken her young heart by
surprise.

"What think ye, minny?" she cried, as she held up her hands.

"The deil has risen again from the grave where he was buried in
Kirkcaldy," was the reply, with a laugh.

"No, that's no it," continued the girl.

"Then what is it?" was the question.

"He's dead," replied Henney.

"Who is dead?" again asked Mrs. Hislop.

"The strange man," replied the girl.

And a reply, too, which brought the busy worker to a pause in her work,
for she understood who the _he_ was, and the information went direct
through the ear to the heart; but Henney, supposing that she was not
understood, added -

"The man who used to look at me with yon terrible eyes."

"Yes, yes, dear, I understand you," said the woman, as she let the coil
fall, and sat down upon a chair, under the influence of strong emotion.
"But who told you?"

"Jean Graham," replied the girl.

An answer which seemed, for certain reasons known to herself, to satisfy
the woman, for the never another word she said, any more than if her
tongue had been paralyzed by the increased action of her heart; but as
we usually find that when that organ in woman is quiet more useful
powers come into action, so the sensible dame began to exercise her
judgment. A few minutes sufficed for forming a resolution; nor was it
sooner formed than that it was begun to be put into action, yet not
before the excited girl was away, no doubt to tell some of her
companions of her relief from the bugbear of the man with the terrible
eyes. The formation of a purpose might have been observed in her
puckered lips and the speculation in her grey eyes. The spirit of
romance had visited the small house in Toddrick's Wynd, where for
fifteen years the domestic _lares_ had sat quietly surveying the economy
of poverty. She rose composedly from the chair into which the effect of
Henney's exclamation had thrown her, went to the blue chest which
contained her holiday suit, took out, one after another, the chintz
gown, the mankie petticoat, the curch, the red plaid; and, after washing
from her face the perspiration drops, she began to put on her humble
finery - all the operation having been gone through with that quiet
action which belongs to strong minds where resolution has settled the
quivering chords of doubt.

Following the dressed dame up the High Street, we next find her in the
writing-booth of Mr. James Dallas, writer to his Majesty's Signet. The
gentleman was, after the manner of his tribe, minutely scanning some
papers - that is, he was looking into them so sharply that you would have
inferred that he was engaged in hunting for "flaws;" a species of game
that is both a prey and a reward - _et praeda et premium_, as an old
proverb says. Nor shall we say he was altogether pleased when he found
his inquiry, whatever it might be, interrupted by the entrance of Mrs.
Margaret Hislop of Toddrick's Wynd; notwithstanding that to this
personage he and Mrs. Dallas, and all the Dallases, were indebted for
the whiteness of their linen. No doubt she would be wanting payment of
her account; yet why apply to him, and not to Mrs. Dallas? And, besides,
it needed only one glance of the writer's eye to show that his visitor
had something more of the look of a client than a cleaner of linen; a
conclusion which was destined to be confirmed, when the woman, taking up
one of the high-backed chairs in the room, placed it right opposite to
the man of law, and, hitching her round body into something like stiff
dignity, seated herself. Nor was this change from her usual deportment
the only one she underwent; for, as soon appeared, her style of speech
was to pass from broad Scotch, not altogether into the "Inglis" of the
upper ranks, but into a mixture of the two tongues; a feat which she
performed very well, and for which she had been qualified by having
lived in the service of the great.

"And so Mr. Napier of Eastleys is dead?" she began.

"Yes," answered the writer, perhaps with a portion of cheerfulness,
seeing he was that gentleman's agent, or "doer," as it was then called;
a word far more expressive, as many clients can testify, at least after
they are "done;" and seeing also that a dead client is not finally
"done" until his affairs are wound up and consigned to the green box.

"And wha is his heir, think ye?" continued his questioner.

"Why, Charles Napier, his nephew," answered the writer, somewhat
carelessly.

"I'm no just a'thegither sure of that, Mr. Dallas," said she, with
another effort at dignity, which was unfortunately qualified by a
knowing wink.

"The deil's in the woman," was the sharp retort, as the writer opened
his eyes wider than he had done since he laid down his parchments.

"The deil's in me or no in me," said she; "but this I'm sure of, that
Henrietta Hislop - that's our Henney, ye ken - the brawest and bonniest
lass in Toddrick's Wynd (and that's no saying little), is the lawful
heiress of Mr. John Napier of Eastleys, and was called Henrietta after
her mother."

"The honest woman's red wud," said the writer, laughing. "Why, Mrs.
Hislop, I always took you for a shrewd, sensible woman. Do you really
think that, because you bore a child to Mr. John Napier, therefore
Henney Hislop is the heiress of her reputed father?"

"_Me_ bear a bairn to Mr. Napier!" cried the offended client. "Wha ever
said I was the mother of Henney Hislop?"

"Everybody," replied he. "We never doubted it, though I admit she has
none of your features."

"Everybody is a leear, then," rejoined the woman tartly. "There's no a
drap of blood in the lassie's body can claim kindred with me or mine;
though, if it were so, it would be no dishonour, for the Hislops were
lairds of Highslaps in Ayrshire at the time of Malcolm Mucklehead."

"And whose daughter, by the mother's side, is she, then?" asked he, as
his curiosity began to wax stronger.

"Ay, you have now your hand on the cocked egg," replied she, with a look
of mystery. "The other was a wind ane, and you've just to sit a little
and you'll see the chick."

The writer settled himself into attention, and the good dame thought it
proper, like some preachers who pause two or three minutes (the best
part of their discourse) after they have given out the text, to raise a
wonder how long they intend to hold their tongue, and thereby produce
attention, to retain her speech until she had attained the due
solemnity.

"It is now," she began, in a low mysterious voice, "just sixteen years
come June, - and if ye want the day, it will be the 15th, - and if ye want
the hour, we may say eleven o'clock at night, when I was making ready
for my bed, - I heard a knock at my door, and the words of a woman, 'Oh,
Mrs. Hislop, Mrs. Hislop!' So I ran and opened the door; and wha think
ye I saw but Jean Graham, Mr. Napier's cook, with een like twa candles,
and her mouth as wide as if she had been to swallow the biggest sup of
porridge that ever crossed ploughman's craig?"

"'What's ado, woman?' said I, for I thought something fearful had
happened.

"'Oh,' cried she, 'my lady's lighter, and ye're to come to Meggat's
Land, even noo, this minute, and bide nae man's hindrance.'

"'And so I will,' said I, as I threw my red plaid ower my head; then I
blew out my cruse, and out we came, jolting each other in the dark
passage through sheer hurry and confusion - down the Canongate, t'll we
came to Meggat's Land, in at the kitchen door, ben a dark passage, up a
stair, then ben another passage, till we came to a back room, the door
of which was opened by somebody inside. I was bewildered - the light in
the room made my een reel; but I soon came to myself, when I saw a man
and Mrs. Kemp the howdie busy rowing something in flannel.

"'Get along,' said the man to Jean; 'you're not wanted here.'

"And as Jean made off, Mrs. Kemp turned to me -

"'Come here, Mrs. Hislop,' said she.

"So I slipt forward; but the never a word more was said for ten minutes,
they were so intent on getting the bairn all right - for ye ken, sir, it
was a new-born babe they were busy with: they were as silent as the
grave; and indeed everything was so still, that I heard their breathing
like a rushing of wind, though they breathed just as they were wont to
do. And when they had finished -

"'Mrs. Hislop,' said the man, as he turned to me, 'you're to take this
child and bring it up as your own, or anybody else's you like, except
Mr. Napier's, and you're never to say when or how you got it, for it's a
banned creature, with the curse upon it of a malison for the sins of him
who begot it and of her who bore it. Swear to it;' and he held up his
hand.

"And I swore; but I thought I would just take the advice of the Lord how
far my words would bind me to do evil, or leave me to do gude, when the
time came. So I took the bairn into my arms.

"'And wha will pay for the wet-nurse?' said I; 'for ye ken I am as dry
as a yeld crummie. But there is a woman in Toddrick's Wynd wha lost her
bairn yestreen: she is threatened wi' a milk-fever, and by my troth this
little stranger will cure her; but, besides the nourice-fee, there is my
trouble.'

"'I was coming to that,' said he, 'if your supple tongue had left you
power to hear mine. In this leathern purse there are twenty gowden
guineas - a goodly sum; but whether goodly or no, you must be content;
yea, the never a penny more you may expect, for all connection between
this child and this house or its master is to be from this moment
finished for ever.'

"And a gude quittance it was, I thought, with a bonny bairn and twenty
guineas on my side, and nothing on the other but maybe a father's anger
and salt tears, besides the wrath of God against those who forsake their
children. So with thankfulness enough I carried away my bundle; and
ye'll guess that Henney Hislop is now the young woman of fifteen who was
then that child of a day."

"And is this all the evidence," said the writer, "you have to prove that
Henrietta Hislop is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Napier?"

"Maybe no," replied she; "if ye weren't so like the English stranger wha
curst the Scotch kail because he did not see on the table the beef that
was coming from the kitchen, besides the haggis and the bread-pudding.
You've only as yet got the broth, and, for the rest, I will give you Mrs.
Kemp, wha told me, as a secret, that the child was brought into the
world by her own hands from the living body of Mrs. Napier. Will that
satisfy you?"

"No," replied Mr. Dallas, who had got deeper and deeper into a study.
"Mr. Napier, I know, was at home that evening when his wife bore a
child: that child never could have been given away without his consent;
and as for the consent itself, it is a still greater improbability,
seeing that he was always anxious for an heir to Eastleys."

"And so maybe he was," replied she; "but I see you are only at the beef
yet, and you may be better pleased when you have got the haggis, let
alone the pudding. Yea, it is even likely Mr. Napier wanted an heir,
and, what is more, he got one, at least an heiress; but sometimes God
gives and the devil misgives. And so it was here; for Mr. Napier took it
into his head that the child was not his, and, in place of being pleased
with an heir, he thought himself cursed with a bastard, begotten on his
wife by no other than Captain Preston, his lady's cousin. And where did
the devil find that poison growing but in the heart of Isabel Napier,
the sister of that very Charles who is now thinking he will heir
Eastleys by pushing aside poor Henney? And then the poison, like the old
apple, was so fair and tempting; for Mr. Napier had been married ten
years, and enjoyed the love that is so bonnie a 'little while when it is
new,' and yet had no children, till this one came so exactly nine months
after the captain's visit to Scotland, that Satan had little more to do
than hold up the temptation. You see, sir, how things come round; but
still, according to the old fashion, after a long, weary, dreary turn.
Mrs. Napier died next day after the birth; Mr. Napier lived a miserable
man; Henney was brought up in poverty, and sometimes distress, but now I
hope she has come to her kingdom."

Here Mrs. Hislop stopped; and as there could be no better winding-up of
a romance than by bringing her heroine to her kingdom at last, she felt
so well pleased with her conclusion, that she could afford to wait
longer for her expected applause than the fair story-tellers in the
_brigata_ under Queen Pampinea; and it was as well that she was thus
fortified, for the writer, in place of declaring his satisfaction, with
her proofs, seemed, as he lay back in his chair in a deep reverie, to be
occupied once more in hunting for flaws. At length, raising himself on
his chair, and fixing his eyes upon her with that look of scepticism
which a writer assumes when he addresses a would-be new client who wants
to push out an old one with a better right -

"Mrs. Hislop," said he, "if it had not been that I have always taken you
for an honest woman, I would say that you are art and part in
fabricating a story without a particle of foundation. There may possibly
be some mystery about the birth and parentage of the young girl. You may
have got her out of the house of Meggat's Land in the Canongate from a
man - not Mr. Napier, you admit - who may have been the father of it by
some mother residing in the house; and Mrs. Kemp may have been actuated,
by some unknown means, to remove the paternity from the right to the
wrong person. All this is possible; but that the child could be that one
which Mrs. Napier bore is impossible, for this reason - and I beg of you
to listen to it - that Mrs. Napier's child _was dead-born, and was,
according to good evidence, buried in the same coffin with the mother_."

A statement this, which, delivered in the solemn manner of an attorney
who was really honest, and who knew much of this history, appeared to
Mrs. Hislop so strange that her tongue was paralyzed; an effect which
had never before been produced by any one of all the five causes of the
metaphysicians. Even her eyes seemed to have lost their power of
movement; and as for her wits, they had, like those of the renowned
Astolpho, surely left, and taken refuge in the moon.

"If you are not satisfied with my words," continued the writer (no doubt
ironically, for where could he have found better evidence of the effect
of his statement?), "I will give you writing for the truth of what I
have said to you."

And rising and going towards a green tin box, he opened the same, and
taking therefrom a piece of paper, he resumed his seat.

"Now listen," said he, as he unfolded an old yellow-coloured sheet of
paper, and then he read these words: "'Your presence is requested at the
funeral of Henrietta Preston, my wife, and of a child still-born, from
my house, Meggat's Land, Canongate, to the burying-ground at St.
Cuthberts, on Friday the 19th of this month June, at one o'clock;' and
the name at this letter," continued Mr. Dallas, "is that of 'John Napier
of Eastleys.' Will that satisfy you?"

And the "doer" for Mr. Charles Napier, conceiving that he had at last
effectually "done" his client's opponent, seemed well pleased to sit and
witness the further effect of his evidence on the bewildered woman; but
we are to remember that a second stroke sometimes only takes away the
pain of the former, and a repetition of blows will quicken the reaction
which slumbered under the first. Whether this was so or not in our
present instance, or whether Mrs. Hislop had recovered her wits by a
process far shorter than that followed by the foresaid Astolpho, we know
not; but certain it is, that she recovered the powers of both her eyes
and her tongue in much less time than the writer expected, and in a
manner, too, very different from that for which he was probably
prepared.

"Weel," replied she, smiling, "it would just seem that even the haggis
has not pleased you, Mr. Dallas;" and, putting her hand into a big
side-pocket, that might have served a gaberlunzie for a wallet, she
extracted a small piece of paper. She continued: "But ye see a guid,
honest Scotchwoman's no to be suspected of being shabby at her own
table; so read ye that, which you may take for the bread-pudding."

And the writer, having taken the paper, and held it before his face for
so long a time that it might have suggested the suspicion that the words
therein written stuck in his eyes, and would not submit to that strange
process whereby, unknown to ourselves, we transfer written vocables to
the ear before we can understand them, turned a look upon the woman of
dark suspicion -

"Where, in God's name, got you this?" he said.

"Just read it out first," replied she. "Ye read yer ain paper, and why
no mine?"

And the writer read, perhaps more easily than he could understand, the
strange words:

"This child, born of my wife, and yet neither of my blood nor my
lineage, I repudiate, and, unable to push it back into the dark world of
nothing from which it came, I leave it with a scowl to the mercy which
countervaileth the terrible decree whereby the sins of the parent shall
be visited on the child. This I do on the 15th of June 17 - . JOHN NAPIER
of Eastleys, in the county of Mid-Lothian."

After reading this extraordinary denunciation, Mr. Dallas sat and
considered, as if at a loss what to say; but whether it was that
scepticism was at the root of his thoughts, or that he assumed it as a
mask to conceal misgivings to which he did not like to confess, he put a
question:

"Where got you this notable piece of evidence?"

"Ay," replied Mrs. Hislop, "you are getting reasonable on the last dish.
That bit of paper, which to me and my dear Henney is werth the haill
estate of Eastleys, was found by me carefully pinned to the flannel in
which the child was wrapt."

"Wonderful enough surely," repeated he, "_if true_" - the latter words
being pronounced with emphasis which made the rough liquid letter sound
like a hurling stone; "but," he continued, "the whole document, in its
terms of crimination and exposure, and not less the wild manner of its
application, is so unlike the act of a man not absolutely frantic, that
I cannot believe it to be genuine."

"But you know, Mr. Dallas," replied she, "that Mr. John Napier was a man
who, if he threw a stone, cared little whether it struck the kirk window
or the mill door."

"That is so far true; but, passionate and unforgiving as he was, he was
not so reckless as to be regardless whether the stone did not come back
on his own head."

"And it's no genuine!" she resumed, as, disregarding his latter words,
she relapsed into her more familiar dialect. "The Lord help ye! canna ye


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