Volume II

Chapter VII

Latimer’s Journal, in Continuation

Walter Scott


I HAVE rarely in my life, till the last alarming days, known what it was to sustain a moment’s real sorrow. What I called such, was, I am now well convinced, only the weariness of mind which, having nothing actually present to complain of, turns upon itself and becomes anxious about the past and the future; those periods with which human life has so little connexion, that Scripture itself hath said, “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.”

If, therefore, I have sometimes abused prosperity, by murmuring at my unknown birth and uncertain rank in society, I will make amends by bearing my present real adversity with patience and courage, and, if I can, even with gaiety. What can they—dare they-do to me? Foxley, I am persuaded, is a real Justice of Peace, and country gentleman of estate, though (wonderful to tell!) he is an ass notwithstanding; and his functionary in the drab coat must have a shrewd guess at the consequences of being accessory to an act of murder or kidnapping. Men invite not such witnesses to deeds of darkness. I have also—Alan, I have hopes, arising out of the family of the oppressor himself. I am encouraged to believe that G.M. is likely again to enter on the field. More I dare not here say; nor must I drop a hint which another eye than thine might be able to construe. Enough, my feelings are lighter than they have been; and, though fear and wonder are still around me, they are unable entirely to overcloud the horizon.

Even when I saw the spectral form of the old scarecrow of the Parliament House rush into the apartment where I had undergone so singular an examination, I thought of thy connexion with him, and could almost have parodied Lear

Death!—nothing could have thus subdued nature
To such a lowness, but his “learned lawyers.”

He was e’en as we have seen him of yore, Alan, when, rather to keep thee company than to follow my own bent, I formerly frequented the halls of justice. The only addition to his dress, in the capacity of a traveller, was a pair of boots, that seemed as if they might have seen the field of Sheriffmoor; so large and heavy that, tied as they were to the creature’s wearied hams with large bunches of worsted tape of various colours, they looked as if he had been dragging them along, either for a wager or by way of penance.

Regardless of the surprised looks of the party on whom he thus intruded himself, Peter blundered into the middle of the apartment, with his head charged like a ram’s in the act of butting, and saluted them thus:—

“Gude day to ye, gude day to your honours. Is’t here they sell the fugie warrants?”

I observed that on his entrance, my friend—or enemy—drew himself back, and placed himself as if he would rather avoid attracting the observation of the new-comer. I did the same myself, as far as I was able; for I thought it likely that Mr. Peebles might recognize me, as indeed I was too frequently among the group of young juridical aspirants who used to amuse themselves by putting cases for Peter’s solution, and playing him worse tricks; yet I was uncertain whether I had better avail myself of our acquaintance to have the advantage, such as it might be, of his evidence before the magistrate, or whether to make him, if possible, bearer of a letter which might procure me more effectual assistance. I resolved, therefore, to be guided by circumstances, and to watch carefully that nothing might escape me. I drew back as far as I could, and even reconnoitred the door and passage, to consider whether absolute escape might not be practicable. But there paraded Cristal Nixon, whose little black eyes, sharp as those of a basilisk, seemed, the instant when they encountered mine, to penetrate my purpose.

I sat down, as much out of sight of all parties as I could, and listened to the dialogue which followed—a dialogue how much more interesting to me than any I could have conceived, in which Peter Peebles was to be one of the dramatis personæ!

“Is it here where ye sell the warrants—the fugies, ye ken?” said Peter.

“Hey—eh—what!” said Justice Foxley; “what the devil does the fellow mean?—What would you have a warrant for?”

“It is to apprehend a young lawyer that is in meditatione fugæ; for he has ta’en my memorial and pleaded my cause, and a good fee I gave him, and as muckle brandy as he could drink that day at his father’s house—he loes the brandy ower weel for sae youthful a creature.”

“And what has this drunken young dog of a lawyer done to you, that you are come to me—eh—ha? Has he robbed you? Not unlikely if he be a lawyer—eh—Nick—ha?” said Justice Foxley.

“He has robbed me of himself, sir,” answered Peter; “of his help, comfort, aid, maintenance, and assistance, whilk, as a counsel to a client, he is bound to yield me ratione officii—that is it, ye see. He has pouched my fee, and drucken a mutchkin of brandy, and now he’s ower the march, and left my cause, half won half lost—as dead a heat as e’er was run ower the back-sands. Now, I was advised by some cunning laddies that are used to crack a bit law wi’ me in the House, that the best thing I could do was to take heart o’ grace and set out after him; so I have taken post on my ain shanks, forby a cast in a cart, or the like. I got wind of him in Dumfries, and now I have run him ower to the English side, and I want a fugie warrant against him.”

How did my heart throb at this information, dearest Alan! Thou art near me then, and I well know with what kind purpose; thou hast abandoned all to fly to my assistance; and no wonder that, knowing thy friendship and faith, thy sound sagacity and persevering disposition, “my bosom’s lord should now sit lightly on his throne’; that gaiety should almost involuntarily hover on my pen; and that my heart should beat like that of a general, responsive to the drums of his advancing ally, without whose help the battle must have been lost.

I did not suffer myself to be startled by this joyous surprise, but continued to bend my strictest attention to what followed among this singular party. That Poor Peter Peebles had been put on this wildgoose chase by some of his juvenile advisers in the Parliament House, he himself had intimated; but he spoke with much confidence, and the Justice, who seemed to have some secret apprehension of being put to trouble in the matter, and, as sometimes occurs on the English frontier, a jealousy lest the superior acuteness of their northern neighbours might overreach their own simplicity, turned to his clerk with a perplexed countenance.

“Eh—oh—Nick—d—n thee—Hast thou got nothing to say? This is more Scots law, I take it, and more Scotsmen.” (Here he cast a side-glance at the owner of the mansion, and winked to his clerk.) “I would Solway were as deep as it is wide, and we had then some chance of keeping of them out.”

Nicholas conversed an instant aside with the supplicant, and then reported:—

“The man wants a border-warrant, I think; but they are only granted for debt—now he wants one to catch a lawyer.”

“And what for no?” answered Peter Peebles, doggedly; “what for no, I would be glad to ken? If a day’s labourer refuse to work, ye’ll grant a warrant to gar him do out his daurg—if a wench quean rin away from her hairst, ye’ll send her back to her heuck again—if sae mickle as a collier or a salter make a moonlight flitting, ye will cleek him by the back-spaul in a minute of time—and yet the damage canna amount to mair than a creelfu’ of coals, and a forpit or twa of saut; and here is a chield taks leg from his engagement, and damages me to the tune of sax thousand punds sterling; that is, three thousand that I should win, and three thousand mair that I am like to lose; and you that ca’ yourself a justice canna help a poor man to catch the rinaway? A bonny like justice I am like to get amang ye!”

“The fellow must be drunk,” said the clerk.

“Black fasting from all but sin,” replied the supplicant; “I havena had mair than a mouthful of cauld water since I passed the Border, and deil a ane of ye is like to say to me, “Dog, will ye drink?”

The Justice seemed moved by this appeal. “Hem—tush, man,” replied he; “thou speak’st to us as if thou wert in presence of one of thine own beggarly justices—get downstairs—get something to eat, man (with permission of my friend to make so free in his house), and a mouthful to drink, and I warrant we get ye such justice as will please ye.”

“I winna refuse your neighbourly offer,” said Poor Peter Peebles, making his bow; “muckle grace be wi’ your honour, and wisdom to guide you in this extraordinary cause.”

When I saw Peter Peebles about to retire from the room, I could not forbear an effort to obtain from him such evidence as might give me some credit with the Justice. I stepped forward, therefore, and, saluting him, asked him if he remembered me?

After a stare or two, and a long pinch of snuff, recollection seemed suddenly to dawn on Peter Peebles. “Recollect ye!” he said; “by my troth do I.—Haud him a grip, gentlemen!—constables, keep him fast! where that ill-deedie hempy is, ye are sure that Alan Fairford is not far off. Haud him fast, Master Constable; I charge ye wi’ him, for I am mista’en if he is not at the bottom of this rinaway business. He was aye getting the silly callant Alan awa wi’ gigs, and horse, and the like of that, to Roslin, and Prestonpans, and a’ the idle gates he could think of. He’s a rinaway apprentice, that ane.”

“Mr. Peebles,” I said, “do not do me wrong. I am sure you can say no harm of me justly, but can satisfy these gentlemen, if you will, that I am a student of law in Edinburgh—Darsie Latimer by name.”

“Me satisfy! how can I satisfy the gentlemen,” answered Peter, “that am sae far from being satisfied mysell? I ken naething about your name, and can only testify, nihil novit in causa.”

“A pretty witness you have brought forward in your favour,” said Mr. Foxley. “But—ha—aye—I’ll ask him a question or two. Pray, friend, will you take your oath to this youth being a runaway apprentice?”

“Sir,” said Peter, “I will make oath to onything in reason; when a case comes to my oath it’s a won cause: But I am in some haste to prie your worship’s good cheer;” for Peter had become much more respectful in his demeanour towards the Justice since he had heard some intimation of dinner.

“You shall have—eh—hum—aye—a bellyful, if it be possible to fill it. First let me know if this young man be really what he pretends. Nick, make his affidavit.”

“Ow, he is just a wud harum-scarum creature, that wad never take to his studies; daft, sir, clean daft.”

“Deft!” said the Justice; “what d’ye mean by deft—eh?”

“Just Fifish,” replied Peter; “wowf—a wee bit by the East Nook or sae; it’s a common case—the ae half of the warld thinks the tither daft. I have met with folk in my day that thought I was daft mysell; and, for my part, I think our Court of Session clean daft, that have had the great cause of Peebles against Plainstanes before them for this score of years, and have never been able to ding the bottom out of it yet.”

“I cannot make out a word of his cursed brogue,” said the Cumbrian justice; “can you, neighbour—eh? What can he mean by deft?”

“He means mad,” said the party appealed to, thrown off his guard by impatience of this protracted discussion.

“Ye have it—ye have it,” said Peter; “that is, not clean skivie, but—”

Here he stopped, and fixed his eye on the person he addressed with an air of joyful recognition.—“Aye, aye, Mr. Herries of Birrenswork, is this your ainsell in blood and bane? I thought ye had been hanged at Kennington Common, or Hairiebie, or some of these places, after the bonny ploy ye made in the Forty-five.”

“I believe you are mistaken, friend,” said Herries, sternly, with whose name and designation I was thus made unexpectedly acquainted.

“The deil a bit,” answered the undaunted Peter Peebles; I mind ye weel, for ye lodged in my house the great year of Forty-five, for a great year it was; the Grand Rebellion broke out, and my cause—the great cause—Peebles against Plainstanes, et per contra—was called in the beginning of the winter session, and would have been heard, but that there was a surcease of justice, with your plaids, and your piping, and your nonsense.”

“I tell you, fellow,” said Herries, yet more fiercely, “you have confused me with some of the other furniture of your crazy pate.”

“Speak like a gentleman, sir,” answered Peebles; “these are not legal phrases, Mr. Herries of Birrenswork. Speak in form of law, or I sall bid ye gude day, sir. I have nae pleasure in speaking to proud folk, though I am willing to answer onything in a legal way; so if you are for a crack about auld langsyne, and the splores that you and Captain Redgimlet used to breed in my house, and the girded cask of brandy that ye drank and ne’er thought of paying for it (not that I minded it muckle in thae days, though I have felt a lack of it sin syne), why I will waste an hour on ye at ony time. And where is Captain Redgimlet now? he was a wild chap, like yoursell, though they arena sae keen after you poor bodies for these some years bygane; the heading and hanging is weel ower now—awful job—awful job—will ye try my sneeshing?”

He concluded his desultory speech by thrusting out his large bony paw, filled with a Scottish mull of huge dimensions, which Herries, who had been standing like one petrified by the assurance of this unexpected address, rejected with a contemptuous motion of his hand, which spilled some of the contents of the box.

“Aweel, aweel,” said Peter Peebles, totally unabashed by the repulse, “e’en as ye like, a wilful man maun hae his way; but,” he added, stooping down and endeavouring to gather the spilled snuff from the polished floor, “I canna afford to lose my sneeshing for a’ that ye are gumple-foisted wi’ me.”

My attention had been keenly awakened, during this extraordinary and unexpected scene. I watched, with as much attention as my own agitation permitted me to command, the effect produced on the parties concerned. It was evident that our friend, Peter Peebles, had unwarily let out something which altered the sentiments of Justice Foxley and his clerk towards Mr. Herries, with whom, until he was known and acknowledged under that name, they had appeared to be so intimate. They talked with each other aside, looked at a paper or two which the clerk selected from the contents of a huge black pocket-book, and seemed, under the influence of fear and uncertainty, totally at a loss what line of conduct to adopt.

Herries made a different, and far more interesting figure. However little Peter Peebles might resemble the angel Ithuriel, the appearance of Herries, his high and scornful demeanour, vexed at what seemed detection yet fearless of the consequences, and regarding the whispering magistrate and his clerk with looks in which contempt predominated over anger or anxiety, bore, in my opinion, no slight resemblance to

                The regal port
And faded splendour wan

with which the poet has invested the detected King of the powers of the air.

As he glanced round, with a look which he had endeavoured to compose to haughty indifference, his eye encountered mine, and, I thought, at the first glance sank beneath it. But he instantly rallied his natural spirit, and returned me one of those extraordinary looks, by which he could contort so strangely the wrinkles on his forehead. I started; but, angry at myself for my pusillanimity, I answered him by a look of the same kind, and catching the reflection of my countenance in a large antique mirror which stood before me, I started again at the real or imaginary resemblance which my countenance, at that moment, bore to that of Herries. Surely my fate is somehow strangely interwoven with that of this mysterious individual. I had no time at present to speculate upon the subject, for the subsequent conversation demanded all my attention.

The Justice addressed Herries, after a pause of about five minutes, in which, all parties seemed at some loss how to proceed. He spoke with embarrassment, and his faltering voice, and the long intervals which divided his sentences, seemed to indicate fear of him whom he addressed.

“Neighbour,” he said, “I could not have thought this; or, if I—eh—did think—in a corner of my own mind as it were—that you, I say—that you might have unluckily engaged in—eh—the matter of the Forty-five—there was still time to have forgot all that.”

“And is it so singular that a man should have been out in the Forty-five?” said Herries, with contemptuous composure;—“your father, I think, Mr. Foxley, was out with Derwentwater in the Fifteen.”

“And lost half of his estate,” answered Foxley, with more rapidity than usual; “and was very near—hem—being hanged into the boot. But this is—another guess job—for—eh—Fifteen is not Forty-five; and my father had a remission, and you, I take it, have none.”

“Perhaps I have,” said Herries indifferently; “or if I have not, I am but in the case of half a dozen others whom government do not think worth looking after at this time of day, so they give no offence or disturbance.”

“But you have given both, sir,” said Nicholas Faggot, the clerk, who, having some petty provincial situation, as I have since understood, deemed himself bound to be zealous for government, “Mr. Justice Foxley cannot be answerable for letting you pass free, now your name and surname have been spoken plainly out. There are warrants out against you from the Secretary of State’s office.”

“A proper allegation, Mr. Attorney! that, at the distance of so many years, the Secretary of State should trouble himself about the unfortunate relics of a ruined cause,” answered Mr. Herries.

“But if it be so,” said the clerk, who seemed to assume more confidence upon the composure of Herries’s demeanour; “and if cause has been given by the conduct of a gentleman himself, who hath been, it is alleged, raking up old matters, and mixing them with new subjects of disaffection—I say, if it be so, I should advise the party, in his wisdom, to surrender himself quietly into the lawful custody of the next Justice of Peace—Mr. Foxley, suppose—where, and by whom, the matter should be regularly inquired into. I am only putting a case,” he added, watching with apprehension the effect which his words were likely to produce upon the party to whom they were addressed.

“And were I to receive such advice,” said Herries, with the same composure as before—“putting the case, as you say, Mr. Faggot—I should request to see the warrant which countenanced such a scandalous proceeding.”

Mr. Nicholas, by way of answer, placed in his hand a paper, and seemed anxiously to expect the consequences which were to ensue. Mr. Herries looked it over with the same equanimity as before, and then continued, “And were such a scrawl as this presented to me in my own house, I would throw it into the chimney, and Mr. Faggot upon the top of it.”

Accordingly, seconding the word with the action, he flung the warrant into the fire with one hand, and fixed the other, with a stern and irresistible grip, on the breast of the attorney, who, totally unable to contend with him, in either personal strength or mental energy, trembled like a chicken in the raven’s clutch. He got off, however, for the fright; for Herries, having probably made him fully sensible of the strength of his grasp, released him, with a scornful laugh.

“Deforcement—spulzie-stouthrief—masterful rescue!” exclaimed Peter Peebles, scandalized at the resistance offered to the law in the person of Nicholas Faggot. But his shrill exclamations were drowned in the thundering voice of Herries, who, calling upon Cristal Nixon, ordered him to take the bawling fool downstairs, fill his belly, and then give him a guinea, and thrust him out of doors. Under such injunctions, Peter easily suffered himself to be withdrawn from the scene.

Herries then turned to the Justice, whose visage, wholly abandoned by the rubicund hue which so lately beamed upon it, hung out the same pale livery as that of his dismayed clerk. “Old friend and acquaintance,” he said, “you came here at my request on a friendly errand, to convince this silly young man of the right which I have over his person for the present. I trust you do not intend to make your visit the pretext of disquieting me about other matters? All the world knows that I have been living at large, in these northern counties, for some months, not to say years, and might have been apprehended at any time, had the necessities of the state required, or my own behaviour deserved it. But no English magistrate has been ungenerous enough to trouble a gentleman under misfortune, on account of political opinions and disputes which have been long ended by the success of the reigning powers. I trust, my good friend, you will not endanger yourself by taking any other view of the subject than you have done ever since we were acquainted?”

The Justice answered with more readiness, as well as more spirit than usual, “Neighbour Ingoldsby—what you say—is—eh—in some sort true; and when you were coming and going at markets, horse-races, and cock-fights, fairs, hunts, and such-like—it was—eh—neither my business nor my wish to dispel—I say—to inquire into and dispel the mysteries which hung about you; for while you were a good companion in the field, and over a bottle now and then—I did not—eh—think it necessary to ask—into your private affairs. And if I thought you were—ahem—somewhat unfortunate in former undertakings, and enterprises, and connexions, which might cause you to live unsettledly and more private, I could have—eh—very little pleasure—to aggravate your case by interfering, or requiring explanations, which are often more easily asked than given. But when there are warrants and witnesses to names—and those names, christian and surname, belong to—eh—an attainted person—charged—I trust falsely—with—ahem-taking advantage of modern broils and heart-burnings to renew our civil disturbances, the case is altered; and I must—ahem—do my duty.”

The Justice, got on his feet as he concluded this speech, and looked as bold as he could. I drew close beside him and his clerk, Mr. Faggot, thinking the moment favourable for my own liberation, and intimated to Mr. Foxley my determination to stand by him. But Mr. Herries only laughed at the menacing posture which we assumed. “My good neighbour,” said he, “you talk of a witness. Is yon crazy beggar a fit witness in an affair of this nature?”

“But you do not deny that you are Mr. Herries of Birrenswork, mentioned in the Secretary of State’s warrant?” said Mr. Foxley.

“How can I deny or own anything about it?” said Herries, with a sneer. “There is no such warrant in existence now; its ashes, like the poor traitor whose doom it threatened, have been dispersed to the four winds of heaven. There is now no warrant in the world.”

“But you will not deny,” said the Justice, “that you were the person named in it; and that—eh—your own act destroyed it?”

“I will neither deny my name nor my actions, Justice,” replied Mr. Herries, “when called upon by competent authority to avow or defend them. But I will resist all impertinent attempts either to intrude into my private motives, or to control my person. I am quite well prepared to do so; and I trust that you, my good neighbour and brother sportsman, in your expostulation, and my friend Mr. Nicholas Faggot here, in his humble advice and petition that I should surrender myself, will consider yourselves as having amply discharged your duty to King George and government.”

The cold and ironical tone in which he made this declaration; the look and attitude, so nobly expressive of absolute confidence in his own superior strength and energy, seemed to complete the indecision which had already shown itself on the side of those whom he addressed.

The Justice looked to the clerk—the clerk to the Justice; the former ha’d, eh’d, without bringing forth an articulate syllable; the latter only said, “As the warrant is destroyed, Mr. Justice, I presume you do not mean to proceed with the arrest?”

“Hum—aye—why, no—Nicholas—it would not be quite advisable—and as the Forty-five was an old affair—and—hem—as my friend here will, I hope, see his error—that is, if he has not seen it already—and renounce the Pope, the Devil, and the Pretender—I mean no harm, neighbour—I think we—as we have no posse, or constables, or the like—should order our horses—and, in one word, look the matter over.”

“Judiciously resolved,” said the person whom this decision affected; “but before you go, I trust you will drink and be friends?”

“Why,” said the Justice, rubbing his brow, “our business has been—hem—rather a thirsty one.”

“Cristal Nixon,” said Mr. Herries, “let us have a cool tankard instantly, large enough to quench the thirst of the whole commission.”

While Cristal was absent on this genial errand, there was a pause, of which I endeavoured to avail myself by bringing back the discourse to my own concerns. “Sir,” I said to Justice Foxley, “I have no direct business with your late discussion with Mr. Herries, only just thus far—You leave me, a loyal subject of King George, an unwilling prisoner in the hands of a person whom you have reason to believe unfriendly to the king’s cause. I humbly submit that this is contrary to your duty as a magistrate, and that you ought to make Mr. Herries aware of the illegality of his proceedings, and take steps for my rescue, either upon the spot, or, at least, as soon as possible after you have left this case——”

“Young man,” said Mr. Justice Foxley, “I would have you remember you are under the power, the lawful power—ahem—of your guardian.”

“He calls himself so, indeed,” I replied; “but he has shown no evidence to establish so absurd a claim; and if he had, his circumstances, as an attainted traitor excepted from pardon, would void such a right if it existed. I do therefore desire you, Mr. Justice, and you, his clerk, to consider my situation, and afford me relief at your peril.”

“Here is a young fellow now,” said the Justice, with much-embarrassed looks, “thinks that I carry the whole statute law of England in my head, and a posse comitatus to execute them in my pocket! Why, what good would my interference do?—but—hum—eh—I will speak to your guardian in your favour.”

He took Mr. Herries aside, and seemed indeed to urge something upon him with much earnestness; and perhaps such a species of intercession was all which, in the circumstances, I was entitled to expect from him.

They often looked at me as they spoke together; and as Cristal Nixon entered with a huge four-pottle tankard, filled with the beverage his master had demanded, Herries turned away from Mr. Foxley somewhat impatiently, saying with emphasis, “I give you my word of honour, that you have not the slightest reason to apprehend anything on his account.” He then took up the tankard, and saying aloud in Gaelic, “Slaint an rey,”1 just tasted the liquor, and handed the tankard to Justice Foxley, who, to avoid the dilemma of pledging him to what might be the Pretender’s health, drank to Mr. Herries’s own, with much pointed solemnity, but in a draught far less moderate.

The clerk imitated the example of his principal, and I was fain to follow their example, for anxiety and fear are at least as thirsty as sorrow is said to be. In a word, we exhausted the composition of ale, sherry, lemon-juice, nutmeg, and other good things, stranded upon the silver bottom of the tankard the huge toast, as well as the roasted orange, which had whilom floated jollily upon the brim, and rendered legible Dr. Byrom’s celebrated lines engraved thereon—

God bless the King!—God bless the Faith’s defender!
God bless—No harm in blessing—the Pretender.
Who that Pretender is, and who that King,—
God bless us all!—is quite another thing.

I had time enough to study this effusion of the Jacobite muse, while the Justice was engaged in the somewhat tedious ceremony of taking leave. That of Mr. Faggot was less ceremonious; but I suspect something besides empty compliment passed betwixt him and Mr. Herries; for I remarked that the latter slipped a piece of paper into the hand of the former, which might perhaps be a little atonement for the rashness with which he had burnt the warrant, and imposed no gentle hand on the respectable minion of the law by whom it was exhibited; and I observed that he made this propitiation in such a manner as to be secret from the worthy clerk’s principal.

When this was arranged, the party took leave of each other with much formality on the part of Squire Foxley, amongst whose adieus the following phrase was chiefly remarkable: “I presume you do not intend to stay long in these parts?”

“Not for the present, Justice, you may be sure; there are good reasons to the contrary. But I have no doubt of arranging my affairs so that we shall speedily have sport together again.”

He went to wait upon the Justice to the courtyard; and, as he did so, commanded Cristal Nixon to see that I returned into my apartment. Knowing it would be to no purpose to resist or tamper with that stubborn functionary, I obeyed in silence, and was once more a prisoner in my former quarters.

1.    The King’s health.    [back]

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