Next morning the parents met, and it
being agreed that all their little ones should be interred in one
grave, and that the funeral should take place on the following day,
the necessary preparations were accordingly made. In the meantime,
Matty went over to her brother John Maxwell, to tell him, if
possible, to persuade David Williams not to attend the funeral, as
she was sure he could not stand it. "He hadna closed his ee," she
said, "since that terrible night, and had neither ate nor drank, but
had just wandered up and down between the house and the fields,
moaning as if his heart would break." John Maxwell promised to speak
to David, but when he did so, he found him so determined on
attending, that it was needless to say any more on the subject.
On the morning of the funeral, David Williams appeared very composed
; and John Maxwell was saying to some of the neighbours that he
thought he would be quite able to attend, when word was brought that
Geordie Turnbull had died that morning of lock-jaw, brought on, it
was supposed, as much from the idea of his having been bitten by a
witch, or one that was not canny, as from the injury done to him.
This news made an evident impression on David Williams, and he
became so restless and uneasy, and felt himself so unwell, that he
at one time declared he would not go to the funeral; but getting
afterwards somewhat more composed, he joined the melancholy
procession, and conducted himself with firmness and propriety from
the time of their setting out till all the coffins were lowered into
the grave. But the first
spadeful of earth was scarcely thrown in, when the people were
startled by his breaking into a long and loud laugh ;—
"There she’s!—there she’s!” he
exclaimed; and, darting through the astonished multitude, he made
with all his speed to the gate of the churchyard.
"Oh! stop him,—will naebody stop him?” cried his distracted wife;
and immediately a number of his friends and acquaintances set off
after him, the remainder of the people crowding to the churchyard
wall, whence there was an extensive view over the surrounding
country. But quickly as those ran who followed him, David Williams
kept far ahead of them, terror lending him wings,—till at length, on
slackening his pace, William Russel, who was the only one near,
gained on him, and endeavoured, by calling in a kind and soothing
manner, to prevail on him to return. This only made him increase his
speed, and William would have been thrown behind farther than ever,
had he not taken a short cut, which brought him very near him.
"Thank God, he will get him now!" cried the people in the
churchyard; when David Williams, turning suddenly to the right, made
with the utmost speed towards a rising ground, at the end of which
was a freestone quarry of great depth. At this sight a cry of horror
arose from the crowd, and most fervently did they pray that he might
yet be overtaken; and great was their joy when they saw that, by the
most wonderful exertion, William Russel had got up so near as to
stretch out his arm to catch him; but at that instant his foot
slipped, and ere he could recover himself, the unhappy man, who had
now gained the summit, loudly shouting, sprung into the air.
"God preserve us!” cried the people, covering their eyes that they
might not see a fellow-creature dashed in pieces: - "it is all
"Then help me to lift his poor wife," said Isabel Lawson. "And now
stan’ back, and gie her a’ the air, that she may draw her breath."
"She’s drawn her last breath already, I’m doubting," said Janet
Ogilvie, an old skilful woman; and her fears were found to be too
"An’ what will become o’ the poor orphans?” said Isabel.
She had scarcely spoken, when Sir George Beaumont advanced, and,
taking one of the children in each hand, he motioned the people to
return towards the grave.
"The puir bairns are provided for now," whispered one to another, as
they followed to witness the completion of the mournful ceremony. It
was hastily finished in silence, and Sir George having said a few
words to his steward, and committed the orphans to his care, set out
on his way to the Hermitage, the assembled multitude all standing
uncovered as he passed, to mark their respect for his goodness and
As might have been expected, the late unhappy occurrences greatly
affected Lady Beaumont’s health, and Sir George determined to quit
the Hermitage for a time; and directions were accordingly given to
prepare for their immediate removal. While this was doing, the
friend who had been with Elie Anderson in the prison happened to
call at the Hermitage, and the servants crowded about her, eager to
learn what had induced Elie to commit such crimes. When she had
repeated what Elie had said, a young woman, one of the servants,
exclaimed, " I know who’s been the cause of this; for if Bet,"——and
she suddenly checked herself.
"That must mean Betsy Pringle," said Robert, who was her sweetheart,
and indeed engaged to her; "so you will please let us hear what you
have to say against her, or own that you’re a slanderer."
"I have no wish to make mischief," said the servant; "and as what I
said came out without much thought, I would rather say no more; but
I’ll not be called a slanderer neither."
"Then say what you have to say,” cried Robert; "it’s the only way to
settle the matter."
"Well, then," said she, "since I must do it, I shall. Soon after I
came here, I was one day walking with the bairns and Betsy Pringle,
when we met a woman rather oddly dressed, and who had something
queer in her manner, and, when she had left us, I asked Betsy who it
was. ‘ Why,’ said Betsy, ‘ I don’t know a great deal about her, as
she comes from another part of the country; but if what a friend of
mine told me lately is true, this Elie Anderson, as they call her,
should have been hanged.’
"`Hanged!’ cried Miss Charlotte; ‘and why should she be hanged,
"‘Never you mind, Miss Charlotte,’ said Betsy, ‘I’m speaking to
"‘You can tell me some other tirne,’ said I.
"‘Nonsense,’ cried Betsy, ‘what can a bairn know about it? Weel,’
continued she, ‘it was believed that she had made away with John
Anderson, her gudeman.’
"‘What’s a gudeman, Betsy?’ asked Miss Charlotte.
"‘A husband,’ answered she.
"‘And what’s making away with him, Betsy? ’
"‘What need you care ?’ said Betsy.
"‘You may just as well tell me,’ said Miss Charlotte; ‘or I’ll ask
Elie Anderson herself all about it, the first time I meet her.’
"‘That would be a good ‘joke,’ said Betsy, laughing; ‘how Elie
Anderson would look to hear a bairn like you speaking about a
gudeman, and making away with him ; however,’ she continued, ‘ that
means killing him.’
"‘Killing him! ’ exclaimed Miss Charlotte. ‘Oh, the wretch ; and how
did she kill him, Betsy?’ -
"‘You must ask no more questions, miss,’ said Betsy, and the subject
"‘Betsy,’ said I to her afterwards, you should not have mentioned
these things before the children ; do you forget how noticing they
"‘Oh, so they are,’ said Betsy, but only for the moment; and I’ll
wager Miss Charlotte has forgotten it all
"But, poor thing," Fanny added, "she remembered it but too well."’
"I’ll not believe this," cried Robert.
"Let Betsy be called, then, ” said the housekeeper, "and we’ll soon
get at the truth." Betsy came, was questioned by the housekeeper,
and acknowledged the fact.
"Then," said Robert, "you have murdered my master’s daughter, and
you and I can never be more to one another than we are at this
moment;" and he hastily left the room.
Betsy gazed after him for an instant, and then fell on the floor.
She was immediately raised up and conveyed to bed, but recovering
soon after, and expressing a wish to sleep, her attendant left her.
The unhappy woman, feeling herself unable to face her mistress after
what had happened, immediately got up, and, jumping from the window,
fled from the Hermitage. The first accounts they had of her were
contained in a letter from herself to Lady Beaumont, written on her
death-bed, wherein `she described the miserable life she had led
since quitting the Hermitage, and entreating her ladyship’s
forgiveness for the unhappiness which she had occasioned.
"Let what has happened," said Lady Beaumont, "be a warning to those
who have the charge of them, to ‘beware of what they say to
children’; —a sentiment which Sir George considered as so just and
important, that he had it engraven on the stone which covered the
little innocents, that their fate and its cause might be had win
everlasting remembrance."—THE ODD VOLUME