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Tales of the Scottish Peasantry
Auld Peter and his Foster Son


Passing over that endless diversity of disposition which, in every day life, distinguishes one individual from another, without being so marked as to excite much attention, one does occasionally meet an oddity which stands out in prominent relief from the plain surface of society—a something original, which does not seem to be under the control of those principles which regulate the conduct of others. In these instances, the peculiarities may be the most amiable, or the most pitiable, or the most disgusting, or they may be simply ludicrous; or, as it sometimes happens, the lights and shadows of the individual's character may be so strongly contrasted as to excite a strange mixture of feelings in the bosoms of those who contemplate it. At times a man may be met with who seems to be seriously impressed with the importance of religion, and who, apparently, takes a deep interest in its ordinances and outward observances; while he cannot refrain from cheating and oppressing his fellow-creatures, as often as an opportunity for doing so, without incurring public odium, or the dread of positive punishment, presents itself. Such a man may be chargeable with the most sordid meanness, and the vilest duplicity, and yet, if a judgment were to be formed from his conversation, he would be taken as a perfect model of piety and resignation to the will of his Maker. On the other hand, there are not wanting instances of individuals who give themselves little concern about these matters, who regard with comparative indifference the religious institutions and observances of the country, and of whom it might almost be said, that " they cared for none of these things;" ,yet, nevertheless, they may he strictly conscientious in their dealings with others; they may also be generous to their friends, benevolent to the poor, and in every other respect highly useful members of society. These anomalous characters have long been sad puzzles in mental science: nor does it appear that they could be accounted for upon anything like rational grounds till a comparatively recent date, when it was discovered that the brain was the apparatus, so to speak, with which mind must work to produce an impression on matter— that this apparatus consists of a number of different organs, the particular development of any one of which, from the increased power which it gives to the mind in that direction, will give a decided turn to the character, in the same manner as a man can travel faster on a full-sized horse than on a small pony; and farther, that each of these organs, under certain circumstances and conditions, may act, in a great measure, independently of the others. Upon this principle the eccentricities of, at least, one of the characters about to be noticed in the following story may he easily explained. As to the story itself, the incidents which it embraces were communicated to its present narrator, several years ago, by an acquaintance, who had himself been an eye-witness to some of them. There being thus in it more of truth than fiction, the reader need hardly expect to find there the plot, and that regular succession of events, all combining to bring about some unlooked for result, which constitutes the great charm of a work of fancy. But to it, such as it is, we must now proceed.

"Auld Peter," as he was commonly designated, once lived, and, for any thing which is known to the contrary, may be still living in B------ Lane, in the city of Glasgow. Though well advanced in years, as late as 1835, he was stout and healthy; and, without being an extraordinary, he was in some respects a peculiar, character. In youth, he had been bred a gardener. This occupation he had followed through life, but, not being very fortunate in procuring situations, for a number of years past he had ceased to seek after them, and satisfied himself with cultivating the gardens of a number of wealthy citizens who lived in his neighbourhood, at so much per day, or per hour, according to the length of his job.

Three or four times every season, Peter might have been seen swaggering home with "a sheet too much in the wind"— . that is to say, he carried more sail than accorded exactly with his ballast, and thus he sometimes lost the power of steering himself in the proper direction. Just as he had come about to the starboard tack, he would sheer off again to the larboard, and run upon it till he was fairly aground in the quicksands of some gutter at the road side; or, if he chanced to be in the country, till he stuck fast, not upon a rock, but in a thorn hedge, or something else of the same kind, which impeded his farther progress. On these occasions his " leeway" always made a considerable item in the reckoning; and sometimes, after "lying to" for more than a minute, instead of advancing to his destined port, he would go "right astern!" In this respect, Peter resembled a steamboat, which, by merely reversing the motion of her paddle-wheels, can go either way, rather than a ship which can progress only with her head first.

Among other plans which Peter had tried to enable him to meet this extra expenditure, and, if possible, to better his fortune, one was the keeping of lodgers. These consisted exclusively of trades' people, masons, wrights, etc. To them he was a kind landlord and from his wife being unremitting in her care for their comfort, his beds were seldom empty. In general matters he was remarkably indulgent: the little faults and failings of those who sojourned with him he passed over without notice, but in two particulars he was inclined to be rather strict; and, inconsistent as it may seem, these were, that none of them should get drunk, and that the whole should attend regularly every night at family worship, or the reading, as he termed it Whether he was himself drunk or sober, he could never rest satisfied unless a portion of Scripture had been read, part of a psalm sung, and what he considered an appropriate prayer offered up. When he chanced to be in the former of these conditions, as might have been expected, rather odd scenes sometimes occurred. While some verses of the chapter which had been selected were read three or four times, others were passed over with a long yawn. The singing was in general managed with tolerable decorum, from being under the direction of another; but the prayer, though offered up in tones which were really intended to be solemn, was frequently like anything save what an address to the Omnipotent and Omnipresent Ruler of the "Universe should be.

Another of Peter's foibles was card-playing: a pack of cards was kept almost constantly lying on the table, and, as soon as he came in from his day's work, it was his custom to get engaged in a game with as many of his lodgers as could be persuaded to join in this sort of dissipation. He made it a point, however, never to play for money, in which, according to his idea of the matter, lay the whole of the sin of card-playing : yet he was as zealous in his play as if the winning or losing of a whole world had depended upon every game; and when he chanced to be successful, he would have played on and on till next morning without showing the slightest symptom of getting tired; but when the tide of fortune happened to flow in a contrary direction, the cards were thrown by at an early hour, and the Scriptures were called for.

"D'ye hear," was his usual exclamation on these occasions; "hand me the Bible that I may read and mak' preparation for gaun to our beds in a reasonable time, like ither Christians."

With all these inconsistencies, Peter was not a hypocrite, He believed in the truth of the religion which he professed; and, though it could not restrain him from certain pieces of folly, in other respects it had a considerable influence on his character and manners. As already hinted, he was a laborious and hard working man; and what was still more extraordinary, he possessed no inconsiderable share of benevolence, and was ever ready to assist, as far as he possibly could, those who were in distress.

Having thus described Auld Peter as he was about the year 1835, we must now go back for the beginning of our story to an earlier period of his history. While residing in the country, previous to his marriage, he had become acquainted with a young woman, whom the reader, for the present, must be pleased to call Susan Anderson. There was nothing particular in their intimacy beyond what may be expected in common intimacies of the kind—that is to say, Peter never spoke of love to her in a direct form, though, perhaps, he might have been justly charged with certain of those gallantries which some unmarried men consider themselves called upon to display in the presence of every female between the ages of fifteen and five-and-thirty. For several years, however, he had not seen her: he was now married, had settled in Glasgow, and his wife had brought him several children, when Susan one day called on him with a child in her arms and tears in her eyes. Peter welcomed her with all his natural kindness of disposition, and soon began to inquire the cause of her distress.

Her story, which is only a counterpart to that of thousands, was soon told. A sawyer, by name John, or, as he was more commonly called, Jock Dempster, had pretended to be desperately in love with her, and promised to make her his wife as soon as he could make the necessary arrangements for their future comfort. She returned his supposed affection with unsuspecting simplicity; but only a few months had elapsed when he began to relax in his attentions, and to exhibit evident symptoms of being tired of her company. Nor did matters long remain thus: his next step was to collect those trifling sums of money which were owing him for work in the neighbourhood, and set off privately for Glasgow, where he no doubt expected to be free from any farther annoyance which she might think of giving him. The reader need scarcely be told that he was the father of her child—that she had traced him with some difficulty to the above mentioned city, and that she had now come to try if she could obtain that justice which the law awards in cases like her own. Success as yet depended entirely on circumstances. Among such an immense mass of human beings, innumerable difficulties remained to be encountered in the way of discovering and securing him. To obviate these, Peter did everything in his power, by giving his advice and assistance almost unasked. He instructed her, in the best manner he could, how to proceed, while his wife undertook to keep the child till she could make the necessary inquiries. Thus befriended, she commenced her search, and after a considerable time spent in questioning the people about the timber yards, etc., she succeeded in procuring what she deemed certain information concerning him. She had been previously instructed by Peter not to make him aware of her presence till she had provided herself with the means of preventing his flight; and her next care was to procure two officers. With these she entered the room where he was making merry with some boon companions, and, heedless alike of his promises, entreaties, and threatenings, got him conveyed straight to the gaol.

To all appearance, she had him now fairly in her power: the evidence was too clear to admit of his denying the charge which she brought against him, and the authorities of the place seemed willing to enforce the law in her behalf, as far as that was practicable. But with his confinement, aided, perhaps, by a conviction, that the cause was one in which he was likely to be worsted, the obduracy of his heart began to melt; he appeared once more to entertain a sense of right and wrong, and to be willing to do justice to the victim of his previous misconduct. This change of sentiment was carefully paraded, before Susan, who still continued to visit him in the prison, and to try, with feminine feeling, to make him more comfortable in his solitude, while she herself lodged with Peter, whose wife kept her child when she was abroad upon these expeditions. The thing had, if we may so speak, its desired effect: won over by these signs of contrition, which he was so careful to exhibit, and his promises to make ample restitution for the evil he had done, she consented to his liberation, and immediately put a stop to all farther proceedings against him.

For one day she had the pleasure of enjoying her triumph, and lived in the hope that he would deal honourably with her at last. But, in the language of the inspired penman, " If the Ethiopian change his skin, and the leopard his spots, then may they that are accustomed to do evil learn to do well." When evening came, he pretended some business with a former master which would detain him for half an hour; she had now no suspicion as to the integrity of his intentions, and he was permitted to go without a word. But his resolution had been already taken: at the end of two days he had not returned, and Susan was once more left to lament the facility with which she had listened to his vows of repentance, and believed his faithless promises.

After several days more spent in what at first appeared to be fruitless inquiries, she ascertained, that on the morning after leaving her, he had been seen on the road to Edinburgh, in which place, or in Leith, it was supposed he again intended to seek a concealment from the woman he had wronged. She had already spent nearly the whole of the little money she could command in paying officers' fees, etc., to get him arrested, and in treating him after he was set at liberty; but she still entertained the idea, that if she could discover him once more, she would profit by the lessons she had previously received, and not let him go so easily again. Peter and his wife were still willing to befriend her, and leaving her child to their care, and taking with her a small sum of money, which she had borrowed from them, she set off a second time in pursuit of the fugitive.

There are some individuals, whose ideas of gratitude and propriety will stand the test for a length of time, and, in moderately favourable circumstances, they may maintain a fair reputation for consistency and good conduct through life; but when severe trials come, and temptations follow each other in close succession, they lack that stern and unbending principle which prompts to virtuous perseverance, even in the midst of the most gloomy prospects; and it is no uncommon thing to see them giving way to expediency, or what they are pleased to think necessity, and yielding in the end to profligacy and ruin. To this class Susan seems to have belonged; for she never returned.

The boy, thus left without father or mother to care for him, was named Jock Dempster, after the first mentioned parent. During the helpless years of infancy, Peter's wife nursed him with almost as much care as she did her own children; and as he grew up, for a length of time, he experienced from Peter himself nearly the same treatment as if he had been a legitimate member of the family. At the proper age he was sent to school, and from the time which he spent there, he might have been a tolerable proficient in reading, writing, and arithmetic; but he would not learn, and in his eleventh or twelfth year he was, at best, but a sorry dabbler in the whole of these sciences. About this time he was also encouraged to try various sorts of common labour, by which, had he been so inclined, he might have afterwards earned his bread. To sum up the matter in a few words, he was, in most respects, treated more like a son than the son of a stranger; but somehow, there was from the beginning a marked difference between him and the other children of the family.

Common experience teaches us, that the parents often communicate a very considerable share of their looks and personal appearance to their offspring; and a closer scrutiny would almost lead to the belief, that along with these, in some instances, they also transmit many of their habits and propensities. Be this as it may, Jock showed a decided aversion to everything like close employment, in which respect he exactly resembled his father, who never wrought steadily, but only when he was driven to it by necessity. Almost from infancy he had been noted for smooth-tongued falsehood, and a very great proficiency at framing excuses for all sorts of errors and misdemeanors; and here again the reader need not be reminded how much of the same disgraceful qualities one of his parents had exhibited in his conduct toward the other. As he advanced in life, and began to earn trifling sums for little jobs which he was occasionally compelled to perform, he always manifested a greater inclination to steal away and spend them in the taverns and ale-houses, than to supply them to any useful purpose. Numbers of little things were also, from time to time, amissing in the neighbourhood, and could never afterwards be discovered. At first, some doubts were entertained as to what could have become of them; but by and by evidence began to appear of Jock's being tarry-fingered as well as slippery-tongued. As these habits became better known, he began to acquire a very bad fame in the immediate vicinity of his fo3ter-father's dwelling; very few cared for being much in his company, and this compelled him to seek his associates at a greater distance.

Among other places which he frequented, there were some houses on the outskirts of the town, in one of which lived a woman called Margaret Thompson, who had been lately married. For her he had, somehow or other, performed some little services, and, though she had heard rumours of his character, and did not greatly like him, she still considered herself bound to receive him with common civility. Among her neighbours, there was a girl named Jenny Stewart, who, when very young had learned the art of weaving with her father, after which she had spent several years in the country at service; but that parent having died some time ago, she had returned, and now supported herself and her widowed mother by her exertions at the loom. With her Jock had frequent opportunities of meeting in his visits to Margaret Thompson; and being both about the same age, and having arrived at that period when young persons of different sexes are apt to contract a sort of regard for each other, which, though not exactly love, is nevertheless nearly akin to it, they soon seemed to become mutually attached. Jock's real sentiments it was impossible to fathom; but Jenny was, at least, sincere in her friendship, and while almost every one else looked upon him as "a ne'er-do-weel," she still continued to regard him with pity, if not with affection.

Jock, however, did not seem destined to reign over the heart of the orphan girl without a rival. Shortly after their acquaintance commenced, a young lad called Robert Thompson, who was a cousin of Margaret's, after having spent some years with a farmer in the country, returned to the place of his nativity for the purpose of learning the art of weaving. As was natural, he became a visitor at his relation's, and there he, too, saw, and soon seemed to like, Jenny Stewart. This circumstance produced a sort of rivalry between the men, or boys, whichever the reader chooses to call them; and, as might have been expected, increased the attentions of both as often as they could find an opportunity of bestowing them apart. It also made Jock more careful, for the time, to conceal his misdeeds, and more assiduous in his endeavours to appear amiable in her eyes. Had the object of these attentions been one of those mixtures of littleness and levity, who can' never be in love with anything save admiration, such' an occurrence would have only increased her vanity, and, perhaps, made her alike indifferent to both. But, young as she was, she had a heart already formed for an exclusive attachment; and, unfortunately for herself, in the present instance, the kindness and attention of her last come admirer only made her cling more closely to the first, who was, unquestionably, by far the most worthless of the two.

Matters stood thus when Jock had reached his seventeenth year, and Peter, who hitherto had afforded him a home, as well as a considerable portion of his victuals, insisted on his betaking himself to some regular employment, by which he might provide honourably for his own wants; and, to stimulate him onward in the path of duty, fairly refused to shelter him any longer unless he did so. Jock pleaded hard for another week to consider as to what line he would adopt, and this was granted. But, instead of improving it by making preparations for active exertion, he continued to lounge idly from place to place as he had done before, and when the last days of his reprieve from toil were drawing to an end, he began to dream of going to America, where he had heard of people making large fortunes, and where he expected no doubt to do the same. This, however, he intended to keep a profound secret till he was on the point of sailing, or, perhaps, till he had sailed altogether for that country; and to raise money to pay his passage was now the prime object of his cogitations. As a first step on the road to realising the necessary sum, he contrived to obtain an interview with Jenny Stewart, and by telling her a long and pathetic story about the ill-usage he had received from Peter, and his determination to leave the house of that individual immediately, if he could only procure as much as would purchase a few tools with which to work for himself, and something over to support him till he could earn i fortnight's wages, he easily persuaded her to go to the master for whom she wrought and take up the price of the web upon which she was then employed for the purpose of giving it to him. In this speculation he was completely successful: he was now master of £1 8s., and with £1 12s. more he expected to be able to effectuate his purpose. His next attempt was, if possible, of a still less honourable kind. Margaret Thompson had a favourite game cock, for which, if he could lay his hands on him quietly, he believed he would make certain of from eight to ten shillings; and with the intention of trying to " wrest the proud bird from his perch," he continued to linger about the premises till the whole of the neighbours were in bed, and, as he fancied, fast asleep. His movements, however, had, unknown to him, been observed by his rival, who, judging that Jenny Stewart was the object of them, determined to watch him; and, just as he had brought chanticleer forth from a hole in the thatch, which he had made for the purpose— grasping the feathered prey firmly around the neck to prevent noise—he found himself in the hands of Robert Thompson, who, in personal strength, was more than a match for him.

"Sae, this is the way ye contrive to mak your living," said the captor; "but as ye dinna seem inclined to work, I maun try if I can lessen your expenses by getting free lodgings for ye." As he spoke these words, he gave him a slap on the face with his open hand, and a severe shake, neither of which boded any good will; but in performing the last mentioned operation, his foot slipped, and, to prevent himself from falling, he was compelled to let go his grasp. Jock, when at liberty, was as much an overmatch for his antagonist in speed, as his antagonist would have been an overmatch for him in strength; and, once free, he did not fail to make the best use of his heels. He was, however, perfectly aware, that he had now committed a crime—namely, that of housebreaking and theft—which would subject him to public odium, and that the fact of his being thus guilty was known to one who would make no secret of it. His plan of raising money, with which to pay his passage to America, was, moreover, at an end ; he had no reason to suppose that his former benefactor would again take him in; and such was the impression made upon his mind by these comfortless reflections, that he went, hot foot, to the quarters of a recruiting sergeant, and immediately enlisted.

He had now engaged with masters who had the power of enforcing obedience to their wishes, and from their employment, however hard or disagreeable it might be, there was no escaping. "We have no intention, however, of following him through his drillings and drubbings for awkwardness, or of giving a history of his soldiership. Suffice it to say, that several years passed quietly away, and the neighbours, who at first considered themselves well quit of him, had begun to forget that such a creature had ever been among them, when, in 1835, he again made his appearance, in all the pride of a military costume, and with all the airs of a finished soldier.

"By having done some services for the Cwrnal," he said, "he had got a furlo, and he didn't know how he could spend it better than by coming down to see his father and mother, and all them people who had been so kind to him when he was a lad."

Auld Peter, to whose habitation he went directly, and who had now forgotten the greater part of his former misconduct, was once more ready to receive him with open arms, and to treat him with the best the house could afford. Upon his former benefactor he bestowed the parental appellation with almost every alternate sentence: it even seemed that he paraded the words father and mother more frequently than the occasion required, and, indeed, a great deal oftener than a real relationship would have warranted. But at this piece of ostentation Peter did not appear to be at all offended: he saw that his outward man was greatly improved, he hoped that a corresponding change had been effected in his conduct, and he was willing to believe him when he asserted that he was perfectly reformed.

"I have entirely given up drinking, and all them lpw things," said he. "I never tastes a single glaas now; and I can assure you, the Curnal is anxious to have me made a non-commissioned officer as soon as possible, but somehow the thought of it doesn't agree with me."

As he began to feel moderately certain of being once more established in their good graces, Jock amused the family with a great many accounts of his escapes and exploits since he became a soldier, some of which bordered on the miraculous, if not on the incredible; but they all did their best to believe them, and that evening 'was a happy one with Auld Peter. The following day was Sunday, and to grace the stranger, some extras had been provided for the tea, which, on these occasions, formed the usual family breakfast. The bread, in particular, was to be toasted and buttered, and Jock at once volunteered his service to cut it into slices of a fashionable thickness. At first he proceeded with his self-imposed task in perfect silence, appearing to display great dexterity, but ever and anon casting a glance on either side to see if he was observed. He was evidently fishing for a little praise, but somehow no one thought of taking the bait, and when he could contain himself no longer, he stopped work, and looking toward the family, "Don't you see," he said, "how neatly I can do them things now?"

"Whatten things?" was Peter's brief reply, couched in words which made it also a question.

"Cutting the brade, I mean," said Jock: "don't you think I can do it better now, than when I went away? We're larned to do all them things neatly in the ragememt you know."

"Unco right," rejoined Peter; "but I guess, if onybody would learn me the way to get siller to buy bread, I could e'en cut it. as I've done afore, without muckle learnin !" This settled the matter for the present, and Jock soon after gave evidence that he was, at least, as great a proficient at eating bread, as he was at cutting it.

Notwithstanding his previous professions of perfect reformation, on the Monday following he contrived to persuade one of Peter's sons to accompany him to a public-house, where they spent the greater part of the day ; and when they returned in the afternoon, it was evident that they had both imbibed more proof spirits than prudence. Auld Peter, as the reader will recollect, was sometimes inclined to judge less charitably of the failings of others than of his own; in particular, he disliked to see any inmate of the dwelling—himself always excepted—in a state of intoxication; and at this piece of conduct he appeared to be rather offended. Albeit he had no objection to a dram himself, he could not brook the idea of any of his sons becoming drunkards; and when he considered how a very small beginning may sometimes lead to a fatal ending, he began to look coldly on his red-coated guest. The latter appeared to have some notion of what was passing within him, and more than half maudlin as he was, he strove with great assiduity to obliterate the unfavourable impression which his misconduct had made on the heart of his entertainer.

"I would be very sorry to do any of them things which you don't agree with, my dear father," said he. "But I only meant to give my brother here a glaas out of pure respect. Had it not been out of respect to him, and to the house where he was born, and out of love to yourself, my dear father, I wouldn't have never set my foot in one of them publics; for I doesn't like them at all."

"Ye had better gi'en him some ither thing than a glass,'' said Peter shortly, "or keepit your respect for him, an' your love for me to yoursel', till a better opportunity for showing them came round."

Jock did not drop the matter here; as the effects of the liquor wore off, he made repeated attempts to establish himself again in the good opinion of his host; but from the thoughtful expression which his countenance at times assumed, it was evident he had begun to fear that his reign in .the affections of Peter, and the time which he could saddle himself upon his hospitality were both drawing to a close.

Next morning he did not appear at the usual hour, and when breakfast was ready, thinking that he had lain too long in bed, some of the family went to tell him that it was time to rise. The bed, however, was empty, and the bed-clothes cold; but this excited little surprise, and no alarm. It was simply concluded that he had risen and gone out before the other members of the family were astir. Had they ever suffered from the visits of "the nightly thief," this circumstance might have caused some suspicion, or it might have produced an immediate examination to see that all was safe; but hitherto their property had been providentially protected from all attempts of the kind; long security has a tendency to lay vigilance asleep; and, to make them yet more secure, they knew that the whole of the chests, drawers, etc., in the house were locked, and they saw the keys hanging safely, where they had hung for many a year in the corner of one of the beds. Not a single thought ever crossed, their minds of anything, being wrong, and when, at breakfast time, one of the lodgers asked "What had hecome of Jock?"

"If Jock do weel for himsel', I care unco little what becomes o' him," was Peter's reply.

The forenoon passed, and the dinner hour was approaching, when Peter, finding that he must call upon some individuals belonging to the better class, came home to dress himself in a manner befitting the occasion. But what was his surprise when on going to his chest to take out his clothes, he found it awept of everything valuable, and left with only a few half-worn garments lying at the bottom ! A farther search was made, the other repositories of the house were instantly examined, and, to the utter dismay of Peter and his wife, they found them in the same condition. Chests, drawers, and all, had been ransacked—nothing had escaped either the eye or the ingenuity of the depredator; and scarcely a single article of wearing apparel, which was at all respectable, had been left within the door. Peter himself was in what has been called a peck of troubles, and when the lodgers returned to their dinners, his wife was wringing her hands in the hitterest distress.

"What's the matter now?" inquired one of them.

"Matter enough," was her reply. "That villain—that scoundrel—that sodger Jock—the foul fiend rive the heart out o' him!—if he hasna robbit the house o' every rag worth carrying awa', either last night or this morning. No ae steek has he left Peter or the laddies to pit on their backs—deil gae wi' him, and may he break ilka bane in his bouk, and his neck to the bargain the first time he gangs out-ower the door—Lord forgi'e me; for I dinna ken what I'm sayin'. But surely he's the greatest blackguard that ever set a croun to the lift, to come an' rob them wha had done sae muckle for him !"

From such an examination and valuation as could be made at the moment, it appeared that he had carried off clothes and other articles, equal in worth to hetween six and seven pounds. To people in easy circumstances, this might have been a small matter, but to those who could only provide for their daily wants, in the natural order in which they occurred, by their daily earnings, it involved something nearly akin to ruin. Still no one knew what to do for the recovery of the lost property, or where to look for the thief. So secretly and so ingeniously had he managed his nocturnal operations, that he had left no trace behind him; and not the slightest hope of a discovery could be indulged, till one of Peter's lodgers, more acute than the rest, happened to think of an attempt to waylay him at the coach-offices.

"If he had disposed of the property," this individual argued, "he must have waited till the brokers' shops were open, in which case he could not leave the town till the day was considerably advanced; while, on the other hand, if he intended to take it along with him, some time for packing would be necessary, and some conveyance would be required to carry it to its destination; so that in either way there was a chance of finding him among the passengers of the afternoon coaches."

This idea was acted upon without delay: inquiries were made at the various coach offices, and it was soon ascertained that an individual, answering exactly to his description, had paid for a seat in one of these vehicles running between Glasgow and Edinburgh. The necessary steps for having him arrested were immediately taken: a strict watch was kept, and it was expected that he must now fall into the snare which was laid for him; but, from having understood, as was supposed, that his person was in request, he never came to occupy the seat for which he had paid, and the coach started at the appointed time without him. The circumstance, however, gave evidence that he was still in the town; a close search was instituted, and next morning he was apprehended, in the company of a female of indifferent fame, in one of those dens of prostitution and crime, of which, sad to say, there are but too many in our country. It is almost superfluous to say that he was forthwith conveyed to prison; but still not the slightest evidence could be found by which to criminate him. The property had indeed been stolen—that was clearly proved— but beyond the mere circumstance of his having left the house clandestinely, at an early hour in the morning, there was not even a presumption of his being the thief; and, though no one seemed to doubt his guilt, the chances appeared to be as a hundred to one that he would escape after all.

It is hard, however,' for the evil doer to elude at every turn the consequences of his crimes; in one way or other punishment generally finds him out. The supposed culprit appeared to have plenty of money in his pocket, and, thus provided, he easily found means to procure a supply of spirits, with which, during the time that elapsed between his being taken into custody, and his being brought forward to answer for his conduct, he made so free that, when his examination came on, he was completely drunk; and the magistrate, before whom he appeared, ordered him to be remanded to prison till the following day. While staggering through the passages of the jail, to the apartment in which he had been previously confined, his bonnet fell off, and, as it rolled on the floor, a pair of braces fell out! Had he been sober, or if he had known that his examination would come on so soon, these were articles which he would have, no doubt, been more careful to conceal; but his love of liquor, and consequent intoxication, had prevented him from managing this part of the matter with his usual circumspection. Drunk as he was, he tried to recover the braces, however, and to thrust them into his bonnet again, with an eagerness which excited the suspicions of his conductors. By these they were immediately secured, and sent to Peter's family to see if they had been among the articles which were amissing; and thus the means of convicting a profligate and unprincipled villain of one crime were supplied by his indulgence in another. The braces were instantly identified, and sworn to as having belonged to Peter. A farther search was made, and before the infatuated soldier had recovered from the effects of his potations, some other articles were found upon his person, which served as incontestable proofs of his guilt. These, as it appeared, he had reserved from the spoil for his own particular use, and in so doing, with that infatuation which not un-frequently clings to evil doers, he had kept about him the silent witnesses of his crime.

When they were produced on the following day as so many evidences of the charge brought against him, and he was asked what he had to offer in his own defence, "I can offer nothing," was his reply, "but as how I was insulted the night before, and as I didn't like to take them sort of things without showing that I had some spirit, I went off next morning, and I picked up them articles in the dark, instead of some of my own, which were worth twice as much."

When asked how he could account for the door being opened, when the key was on the inside, and so much property removed by one who was unacquainted with the house: "Please your honour," said he, with a degree of cool effrontery which seemed to surprise even the Judge, "when as how it happens that a theft is committed, all the innocent men in the country are not called upon to account for them things ; and I cannot account for it, but as how the thief might have come after I went away." When told that the circumstance of his going away, and leaving the door of the house open under night, was in itself a crime punishable by law, he appeared for the first time rather at a loss what to say.

Without following him farther the foregoing may serve as a specimen of his manner of pleading, which was such a mixture of evasive impudence and cunning as to show that he was by no means new to the trade. All would not do, however; the examination was patiently and impartially conducted to an end, and when it concluded he was sentenced to sixty days' imprisonment, with the usual fare, bread and water; and the punishment of his past crimes seemed at last to have found him out. But at first he had money in his pocket, and with this auxiliary his natural disposition for trick enabled him to devise the means of mitigating, in various ways, the rigour of his sentence. His finances, however, at last failed, and then he was completely miserable; but to the no small surprise of his fellow-prisoners, who knew no means which he could have for obtaining it, before the term of his confinement expired, he again appeared to be in possession of the wherewithal; and when liberated he was able to get drunk before leaving Glasgow to join his regiment, which was then lying in Edinburgh.

While he went on his way "glorying in his shame," Jenny Stewart was seen returning to her home with a look of thoughtful sadness strongly depicted on her countenance.

"Ye'r looking ill the day, Jenny," said Margaret Thompson, who chanced to come up to her.

"Maybe I am," was Jenny's brief reply.

"I've been vext for you aye since I heard it," rejoined the other; "for it's a sad thing for a weel doing lass to tak up her head wi' the like o' him."

"The like o' wha?" inquired the young woman, with an evident increase of anxiety, but without blushing.

"Dinna, be angry," said the other, "for I'm only saying what I've heard ither folk say; and dinna think," she added with a degree of unaffected sympathy in her voice, which did not escape the notice of her listener—"dinna think that I want to laugh at your misfortunes, or triumph ower you in your distress; for e'en when ye was a lassie, I didna like to see that ne'er-db-weel Jock Dempster come sae muckle about you; and since he came back wi' his red coat, an' his fool's cap, to steal Auld Peter's claes, and folk began to notice that ye was concerned about him, and to say that ye was in love wi' him, I've felt mair on your account than I can tell."

"I'm no in love wi' him," said Jenny emphatically, and still no blush crossed her cheek,—"I'm no in love wi' him: we had only some acquaintance when we were baith young."

"Ah Jenny, Jenny!" rejoined the other, "ye'r just acting the part I've acted mysel'; but if ye would only tell me the cause o' your present distress, I would never mention it to anither, and it would maybe lighten your heart."

Jenny was at once won over by the deep sympathy which her friend thus evinced, and, without farther hesitation, though not without a good deal of embarrassment, she went on to make a candid confession of her own feelings and motives.

"I'm no in lov.e with him noo," she began; but I maun confess I likeit his company better than ony ither body's afore he gaed to the sodgers. In spite o' a' the ill things I heard about him, I aye thought he had a wark wi' me, and that I would be able to persuade him to do better some time, sooner or later. And when he came to me wi' a story about the ill usage Auld Peter had gi'en him, and said that he meant to do for himsel' noo, I canna tell ye how happy I felt; for I thought the time had come when he would gi'e ower his wierdless ways, and, to encourage him, I e'en gied him siller that I should hae keepit to provide for my poor frail mither. But a' wouldna do, and aff he gaed an' left me. And even after he was awa', it aye pleased me, somehow, to mind about the hours we had spent thegither; and mony a time I've stown out my lane to think upon him. Aweel, he came back, and he never thought o' coming to speer for me, though my mither was dead, and I was left maist without a freend. And then he stealt Auld Peter's claes, and I saw that it was a' ower wi' him; but still when he sent word to me that he was starvin', and sought siller to help to keep him leevin', I couldna refuse him a' I had. But what was war than a' .that, and what mak's my heart sair to think on't, noo when it is past, he persuaded me to meet him, and to gie him the last shilling I had in the world after he was set free,—no that I regard the siller, but the shame o' hein' seen in sic company."

"Aweel," rejoined the other, "I can hardly blame ye, when I consider the regard ye ance had for him. But I hope ye've now gi'en ower a' thoughts o' keepin' up a correspondence wi' him, or ever bein' sibber to him than ye are."

"May God, wha kens my heart, keep me frae ever bein' conneckit wi' sic a man!" ejaculated Jenny. "And, so far from having ony thoughts o' the kind, I'm sae ashamed o' my ain simplicity, and the cracks it has occasioned, that, if I could get a place, I would gang whaur I was never seen on earth afore, to be out o' the gait! "

"I'm glad to see you that way mindit," said Margaret; "and I think I can maybe help you a little to the accomplishment o' your wishes. My cousin Bob, wha, as ye ken, was at farm-service afore he learned the weaver-trade, has grown tired o' the loom, an' he's gaun to a place ca'd Double Dykes, mair than twenty miles frae this. But that's no what I was gaun to tell ye. The foreman—a freend o' his mither's—when he greed him, bade him send word if he could hear o' a steady lass, wha would engage for a year to work i' the house. Now, ye've been at service already, and ken a' about it, and ye've only to say that ye'll tak the placej and I'se warrant it's yours."

Jenny sighed deeply, and almost seemed as if she would have said, "I've been insensible to the merits, and the kindness o' your cousin ower lang." She did not say so, however, but she seemed well pleased with the prospect of obtaining a situation at a distance from her present residence, in the neighbourhood of which, as she said, she was now ashamed to be seen.

While these things were going on, the conduct of Jock Dempster had become so consistently and uniformly bad as to attract in a particular manner the notice of his officers. After having pardoned many of his minor offences, and tried in vain to reclaim him, by flogging and other expedients, it was at last resolved, in a court-martial, to inflict on him the last and most degrading punishment which can be offered to a soldier; and he was accordingly, with due formality, drummed out of his regiment! This to him would have been a light matter had he been acquainted with any means by which he could support himself without labour. Labour of all sorts he mortally hated, and, to avoid the distressing alternative of adopting it, he began to look around for those upon whose simplicity he might successfully prey—in other words, he began to look about for individuals whom he might dupe into the belief that he was a legitimate object of charity, and thus extort from them the means of living in idleness as long as possible. His first plan was to pretend that he was a deserter, and that a party of soldiers were close upon his heels to capture and convey him back to his regiment again, where, he said, he would have to undergo so many lashes, that he would a thousand times rather be shot than fall into their hands. To give an appearance of truth to this story, he had contrived to daub the letter D upon his breast, with some sort of black, or rather brown colouring, so as to resemble the burnt mark which is commonly bestowed on individuals thus disgraced for their first offence—his, as he pretended, being the second. Another method by which he frequently tried to extort charity was to secrete his clothes at some distance from a village or farm, dressing himself the while in a parcel of rags, which he carried for the purpose, and when he came to the place, by affirming that his habiliments had been nearly torn from his back while running through plantations and among rocks to escape his pursuers, he often succeeded in inducing benevolent individuals to give him a complete supply of such garments as came first to hand. These again he never failed to dispose of for what they would bring with the first favourable opportunity. It were almost an endless task to give an account of all the devices to which he had recourse.

Suffice it to say that by such arts he contrived to live like a gentleman for several weeks, making the most of the road wherever he went; and proceeding slowly the while toward Glasgow, where he no doubt expected to be able to dupe some of his former acquaintances more effectually than he had hitherto done.

A few hours after he reached the scene of his early exploits, he met his earliest benefactor on one of the bridges, and one might have thought he would have been ashamed to look him in the face. But, no!—he hesitated not a moment to address him with the greatest familiarity, and the greatest apparent ease. "My dear father," said he, "I am glad I have seen you! I trust we shall yet be friends, in spite of all them things which are past, and if my misfortunes were over, T am sure I could show you how dearly I love you." He was on the point of beginning to tell the story of his feigned misfortunes, but he already saw that it would be in vain. Auld Peter was not one of those who could be twice taken in the same snar£, and he passed on without once appearing to notice the individual who.thus addressed him, or even to be aware of his presence. The other cast a rather rueful look after him, and then sheered off in a different direction. This was the last meeting of Auld Peter and his foster son—as such we have mentioned it—and, so far as is known, he never heard of him afterwards. Heard of, however, he was, and in what manner it must now be our task to tell.

Shortly after the above mentioned occurrence, Robert Thompson, whose going to Double Dykes has been already noticed, accompanied Jenny Stewart as she went to the cowhouse in the evening to milk the cows ; and almost as soon as they were safely housed beside these animals, "My heart," said he, "has boded some mischief a' this afternoon."

"I'm sorry to hear that," rejoined Jenny; "but what reason can ye ha'e for boding mischief this afternoon mair than ony ither time?"

"I'll tell ye that enoo," was his reply. "We were but a short time yokit, when that ill-looking sinner, Peter Hepburn, as he ca's himsel', came to me pretending that he wantit to see the master; and, when I tell'd him he wasna at hame, he speer'd a' about him—whaur he was, and whether we expectit him hame the night? Now, I'm fjar cheatit if he dinna ha'e an e'e after the siller the master gat by hjs aunty. They say he has keys about him that will open ony lock in a' the parish; and, if that be true, how easy might he find his way to the master's writing desk, and pouch the siller, when you and the mistress are fast asleep, and no ane ken "what time he did it, or whether it was him or no!"

"That's terrible!" said Jenny, rising up from the cow she had just begun to milk, "that's terrible," she repeated; "but do you really think Peter Hepburn is a character o' that kind?"

"If a' be true that's said, he has done as ill already," was the answer. "And forbye, they say the woman he lives wi', though she has had twa or three bairns to him, is no his wife; and that doesna look very like an honest man."

"No like an honest man indeed!" said Jenny, with a feminine sense of delicacy, and the treatment which her sex had a right to look for in these connections. "Na, na—that settles the matter, and after that he is fit for onything! But what can we dae noo?"

"That's no a' yet," continued her companion: "a short time after he left us, wha d'ye think comes across the field but youi' auld acquaintance Jock Dempster! He didna come to me, however, but gaed to the hauflin when I was tillin' a headrig on the tither side o' the hedge, and tell'd him a lang story about desertin' frae the sodgers, and the sodgers being' after him to tak' him again. And then he sp'eer'd if he could get a nicht's lodgin's about the toun, and when the hauflin tell'd him that the master was frae hame lookin' after his aunty's effects, and that the mistress never quartered gangrels, he said he couldna help it. And then he speer'd a' about you, and about the house, and whether there was a wa' between it and the auld hay-loft; and when the hauflin tell'd him that it was just plaistered, he said the house would surely be cauld. I keepit out o' his sight as weel as I could; I'm maist sure he disna ken that I'm here. But what think ye o' a' this?"

"I dinna ken what to think," was Jenny's reply. "But I hope he'll never come back."

"Dinna trust ower muckle to that," rejoined her companion. "It's maybe shootin' at far marks, but, if I'm no mista'en again, him and Peter Hepburn are either to work to ane anither's hands, or else, ilka ane for himsel', about the siller; and I wou'dna wonder if they were baith back the nicht; for Jock is as fit for takin' a purse as preachin' a sermon, and as likely to fill a halter as an honest man's bannet!"

Though it was not without some reason that the young man had hazarded these conjectures, besides his care for his master's property, he had perhaps a secondary object in view—namely, that of establishing his own sagacity and penetration in Jenny's eyes, together with the concern which he felt for her safety. Whatever had been his intention, the starting nerves and terrified looks of the maiden, along with the hints which she gave, that she would not remain another hour at Double Dykes unless the whole of the men about the place kept her company, gave evidence of extreme agitation; and it was now his task to soothe rather than to excite her fears.

"Dinna terrify yoursel', Jenny," he said tenderly, and as he spoke he pressed her shoulder with his hand, which, as if instinctively, began, by slow degrees, to "slip round her neck," till, in the words of Burns, "his loof" was fairly upon her bosom." "'Dinna terrify yoursel'," he again repeated, "and ye may trust to a' the assistance I can gi'e ye. But ye ken the mistress is nervous, and, in her present state, if we were to raise an alarm it might be as muckle as her life is worth. Sae never ye leet a word about the matter, and I'll keep watch mysel' and warn the rest o' the men to the bargain; and, if the rogues come, they'll maybe no win sae easily awa' as they reckon on."

With some farther persuasion Jenny consented to adopt this plan; and though she started several times when the kitten made a noise by running across the floor, and, oftener than once, when the wind made a hollow moaning sound in the branches of the old tree at the end of the house, listened attentively to make certain that it was not human voices, nothing occurred to disturb the quiet till toward bed time, when she thought she heard a foot at the kitchen window, •which chanced to be uncovered, and then a gentle rap at the door. With trembling limbs and a beating heart she went to ask who was there, and her more serious apprehensions were soon dissipated by the well known voice of Jock Dempster, which now saluted her ear in "the softest, sweetest tones," not unmixed with a degree of pathos which seemed well calculated to excite pity.

Men and women, with all their boasted powers of memory, understanding, and reflection, are very often guided by the impulse of the moment. Young persons, moreover, and more particularly those of the fair sex, can rarely return courtesy with coldness, or apparent kindness with harsh words; and thus it was with Jenny. Though she could have wished to bid her visitor go hence, she could not resist his appeal when he asked leave to come in and warm himself; and, foolish as it may seem, she opened the door.

It would be tiresome to narrate particularly the conversation which followed. Jenny was not again to be cajoled into giving him money, and, when he saw that his endeavours in this way were fruitless, he asked her for a drink of water. With this she readily supplied him, but the moment he had tasted it he declared it was not good.

"It is quite warm, I assure you," he said. "Now, Jenny, couldn't you take one of them jugs and bring me a drink of good fresh water from the well! It may be the last good turn you may ever be able to do me in your life; for I may be catched and taken to hade-quarters and tied up, like one of them cows of yours, to a stake, and shot in a day or two!"

Jenny disliked the idea of leaving him alone in the house even for a moment, but she could not resist the piteous appeal which he had made; the well, moreover, was but a step from the door, and, taking a jug from the wall, she hastened to comply with his request. Scarcely had she disappeared, however, when Jock started up with the quickness, and almost with the noiselessness, of the lightning which flashes harmlessly on an autumnal evening, and snatching a bunch of keys from a nail on which they hung, he concealed them in his bosom. When he had slaked his thirst, he pretended that he must travel a great many miles before morning, and immediately betook himself to his journey with all possible speed. He proceeded no farther, however, than a small plantation at the distance of about a quarter of a mile from the place; here he lay till the middle of the night was passed, and then cautiously returned. As he approached the house, he took off his shoes and carried them in his hand, treading as softly as if the road had been paved with glass. When he had proceeded a little farther, he lay down, and, by an ambiguous sort of motion, which he appeared to have practised before, drew himself along, something after the manner of the serpent. By the same process he ascended the stair of the auld hay-loft, and stopped before the door to take from his bosom the bunch of keys with which he had provided himself in the kitchen. He soon found one to answer the lock, and checking the throw of the bolt so as not to produce the slightest noise, he found ready admittance. To find a passage through the slender partition which separated the place he now occupied from the house, was an easy task; but even after this had been effected^ it were difficult to say in what manner he proposed to avail himself of the advantage he had gained. Other doors, with the keys of which he was not provided, were to open before he could lay his hands on any valuable property; and, after all he had done, it is probable the thing might have turned out only one of those intended burglaries which are discovered next morning by certain unsuccessful attempts upon locks, windows, etc., without anything being a-missing.

Here, however, fortune seemed to favour the depredator; the door of the apartment which he now occupied stood open. This led him to another, and groping his way noiselessly along the wall, he came to a second door, which was also unlocked. Here he began to think it time to try if he could discover something which he could conveniently carry away. Fortunately, as he thought, his hand touched a writing desk, the lid of which appeared to be already open, and his heart bounded at the expectation of a rich prize. But on going round to the other end of it, what was his surprise, when, instead of money, his hand laid hold of the arm of a man, who instantly grappled with him, and tried to throw him down ! Jock was neither very brave nor very daring, but he struggled manfully to overcome his opponent, without which he had no hopes of being able to get away. A desperate strife followed, in which both parties rolled on the floor, while chairs and tables crashed around them. At last a pistol was fired, which did no harm ; and the first intruder had drawn a large knife from some concealment about his clothes, with the intent of inflicting a mortal wound on his antagonist; but before he could effect his purpose, the united screams of Jenny and her mistress had brought three or four men to the house, who instantly flew to the scene of strife with lighted candles, and Jock Dempster and Peter Hepburn were both easily secured.

Next morning the Sheriff-substitute was busily engaged in examinations as to the nature of the intended robbery, the names, occupations, and character of the offenders, and in endeavouring to procure evidence upon which to commit them for trial. When the devant soldier was questioned concerning his name, from a conviction that it was already known to at least one of the witnesses, he gave it readily; and when questioned farther as to the place of his nativity and his parents, "I can't say as how I ever knew any of them relations," said he, "but if you go to Glasgow, Peter------can tell you all about them, for he has seen them both."

"Ay, ay—it's just as I thought it would be!" screamed a half-frenzied female voice among the crowd of spectators who had gathered to witness the scene; and a meanly dressed and squalid-looking woman, apparently beyond the meridian of life, was seen elbowing her way to a position where she could have a clearer view of the prisoner. When she had gained her point, "Peter------" she said, throwing aside a portion of her grizzled hair which had escaped from under a dirty cap, and raising her voice to a pitch which seemed to indicate a certain degree of insanity, "Peter------, that's the man's name I left him wi', and now the son has been sent by .the hand of God to condemn the father.—You need not send them to Glasgow for your parents," she added, addressing the prisoner, "I am your mother, and it is to that wretched man you owe your birth— Peter Hepburn, as they call him; but that is not his name, for he called himself Jock Dempster when ye were born."

Need we say more? The father and son were both convicted upon the clearest evidence, and both were sentenced to transportation. Susan Anderson, who had lived with the former in the capacity, without the name, of a wife, and whose reason had been rather affected by the ill usage and privations which she had already borne, stunned by the last blow, went deranged, and was afterwards supported by the parish. Jenny Stewart and Robert Thompson were married some months after; to their care the poor maniac was committed by the kirk-session ; and. with them she continued to live till Providence saw meet to take her away by death. And from her fate it is to be hoped the young will learn to beware how they form intimacies with dissolute characters, or with those whose characters are unknown.

THE END.


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