But this poor farce has neither truth nor art
To please the fancy or to touch the heart
Dark but not awful dismal but yet mean,
With anxious bustle moves the cumbrous scene,
Presents no objects tender or profound,
But spreads its cold unmeaning gloom around
'Your majesty,' said Mannering, laughing, 'has solemnised your
abdication by an act of mercy and charity. That fellow will scarce
think of going to law.'
'O, you are quite wrong,' said the experienced lawyer. 'The only
difference is, I have lost my client and my fee. He'll never rest
till he finds somebody to encourage him to commit the folly he has
predetermined. No! no! I have only shown you another weakness of
my character: I always speak truth of a Saturday night.'
'And sometimes through the week, I should think,' said Mannering,
continuing the same tone.
'Why, yes; as far as my vocation will permit. I am, as Hamlet
says, indifferent honest, when my clients and their solicitors do
not make me the medium of conveying their double-distilled lies to
the bench. But oportet vivere! it is a sad thing. And now to our
business. I am glad my old friend Mac-Morlan has sent you to me;
he is an active, honest, and intelligent man, long sheriff-
substitute of the county of--under me, and still holds the office.
He knows I have a regard for that unfortunate family of
Ellangowan, and for poor Lucy. I have not seen her since she was
twelve years old, and she was then a sweet pretty girl, under the
management of a very silly father. But my interest in her is of an
early date. I was called upon, Mr. Mannering, being then sheriff
of that county, to investigate the particulars of a murder which
had been committed near Ellangowan the day on which this poor
child was born; and which, by a strange combination that I was
unhappily not able to trace, involved the death or abstraction of
her only brother, a boy of about five years old. No, Colonel, I
shall never forget the misery of the house of Ellangowan that
morning! the father half-distracted--the mother dead in premature
travail--the helpless infant, with scarce any one to attend it,
coming wawling and crying into this miserable world at such a
moment of unutterable misery. We lawyers are not of iron, sir, or
of brass, any more than you soldiers are of steel. We are
conversant with the crimes and distresses of civil society, as you
are with those that occur in a state of war, and to do our duty in
either case a little apathy is perhaps necessary. But the devil
take a soldier whose heart can be as hard as his sword, and his
dam catch the lawyer who bronzes his bosom instead of his
forehead! But come, I am losing my Saturday at e'en. Will you have
the kindness to trust me with these papers which relate to Miss
Bertram's business? and stay--to-morrow you'll take a bachelor's
dinner with an old lawyer,--I insist upon it--at three precisely,
and come an hour sooner. The old lady is to be buried on Monday;
it is the orphan's cause, and we'll borrow an hour from the Sunday
to talk over this business, although I fear nothing can be done if
she has altered her settlement, unless perhaps it occurs within
the sixty days, and then, if Miss Bertram can show that she
possesses the character of heir-at-law, why--But, hark! my lieges
are impatient of their interregnum. I do not invite you to rejoin
us, Colonel; it would be a trespass on your complaisance, unless
you had begun the day with us, and gradually glided on from wisdom
to mirth, and from mirth to-to-to--extravagance. Good-night.
Harry, go home with Mr. Mannering to his lodging. Colonel, I
expect you at a little past two to-morrow.'
The Colonel returned to his inn, equally surprised at the childish
frolics in which he had found his learned counsellor engaged, at
the candour and sound sense which he had in a moment summoned up
to meet the exigencies of his profession, and at the tone of
feeling which he displayed when he spoke of the friendless orphan.
In the morning, while the Colonel and his most quiet and silent of
all retainers, Dominie Sampson, were finishing the breakfast which
Barnes had made and poured out, after the Dominie had scalded
himself in the attempt, Mr. Pleydell was suddenly ushered in. A
nicely dressed bob-wig, upon every hair of which a zealous and
careful barber had bestowed its proper allowance of powder; a
well-brushed black suit, with very clean shoes and gold buckles
and stock-buckle; a manner rather reserved and formal than
intrusive, but withal showing only the formality of manner, by no
means that of awkwardness; a countenance, the expressive and
somewhat comic features of which were in complete repose--all
showed a being perfectly different from the choice spirit of the
evening before. A glance of shrewd and piercing fire in his eye
was the only marked expression which recalled the man of 'Saturday
'I am come,' said he, with a very polite address, 'to use my regal
authority in your behalf in spirituals as well as temporals; can I
accompany you to the Presbyterian kirk, or Episcopal meeting-
house? Tros Tyriusve, a lawyer, you know, is of both religions, or
rather I should say of both forms;--or can I assist in passing the
fore-noon otherwise? You'll excuse my old-fashioned importunity, I
was born in a time when a Scotchman was thought inhospitable if he
left a guest alone a moment, except when he slept; but I trust you
will tell me at once if I intrude.'
'Not at all, my dear sir,' answered Colonel Mannering. 'I am
delighted to put myself under your pilotage. I should wish much to
hear some of your Scottish preachers whose talents have done such
honour to your country--your Blair, your Robertson, or your Henry;
and I embrace your kind offer with all my heart. Only,' drawing
the lawyer a little aside, and turning his eye towards Sampson,
'my worthy friend there in the reverie is a little helpless and
abstracted, and my servant, Barnes, who is his pilot in ordinary,
cannot well assist him here, especially as he has expressed his
determination of going to some of your darker and more remote
places of worship.'
The lawyer's eye glanced at Dominie Sampson. 'A curiosity worth
preserving; and I'll find you a fit custodier. Here you, sir (to
the waiter), go to Luckie Finlayson's in the Cowgate for Miles
Macfin the cadie, he'll be there about this time, and tell him I
wish to speak to him.'
The person wanted soon arrived. 'I will commit your friend to this
man's charge,' said Pleydell; 'he'll attend him, or conduct him,
wherever he chooses to go, with a happy indifference as to kirk or
market, meeting or court of justice, or any other place whatever;
and bring him safe home at whatever hour you appoint; so that Mr.
Barnes there may be left to the freedom of his own will.'
This was easily arranged, and the Colonel committed the Dominie to
the charge of this man while they should remain in Edinburgh.
'And now, sir, if you please, we shall go to the Grey-friars
church, to hear our historian of Scotland, of the Continent, and
They were disappointed: he did not preach that morning. 'Never
mind,' said the Counsellor, 'have a moment's patience and we shall
do very well.'
The colleague of Dr. Robertson ascended the pulpit. [Footnote:
This was the celebrated Doctor Erskine, a distinguished clergyman,
and a most excellent man.] His external appearance was not
prepossessing. A remarkably fair complexion, strangely contrasted
with a black wig without a grain of powder; a narrow chest and a
stooping posture; hands which, placed like props on either side of
the pulpit, seemed necessary rather to support the person than to
assist the gesticulation of the preacher; no gown, not even that
of Geneva, a tumbled band, and a gesture which seemed scarce
voluntary, were the first circumstances which struck a stranger.
'The preacher seems a very ungainly person,' whispered Mannering
to his new friend.
'Never fear, he's the son of an excellent Scottish lawyer;
[Footnote: The father of Doctor Erskine was an eminent lawyer, and
his Institutes of the Law of Scotland are to this day the text-
book of students of that science.] he'll show blood, I'll warrant
The learned Counsellor predicted truly. A lecture was delivered,
fraught with new, striking, and entertaining views of Scripture
history, a sermon in which the Calvinism of the Kirk of Scotland
was ably supported, yet made the basis of a sound system of
practical morals, which should neither shelter the sinner under
the cloak of speculative faith or of peculiarity of opinion, nor
leave him loose to the waves of unbelief and schism. Something
there was of an antiquated turn of argument and metaphor, but it
only served to give zest and peculiarity to the style of
elocution. The sermon was not read: a scrap of paper containing
the heads of the discourse was occasionally referred to, and the
enunciation, which at first seemed imperfect and embarrassed,
became, as the preacher warmed in his progress, animated and
distinct; and although the discourse could not be quoted as a
correct specimen of pulpit eloquence, yet Mannering had seldom
heard so much learning, metaphysical acuteness, and energy of
argument brought into the service of Christianity.
'Such,' he said, going out of the church, 'must have been the
preachers to whose unfearing minds, and acute though sometimes
rudely exercised talents, we owe the Reformation.'
'And yet that reverend gentleman,' said Pleydell, 'whom I love for
his father's sake and his own, has nothing of the sour or
pharisaical pride which has been imputed to some of the early
fathers of the Calvinistic Kirk of Scotland. His colleague and he
differ, and head different parties in the kirk, about particular
points of church discipline; but without for a moment losing
personal regard or respect for each other, or suffering malignity
to interfere in an opposition steady, constant, and apparently
conscientious on both sides.'
'And you, Mr. Pleydell, what do you think of their points of
'Why, I hope, Colonel, a plain man may go to heaven without
thinking about them at all; besides, inter nos, I am a member of
the suffering and Episcopal Church of Scotland--the shadow of a
shade now, and fortunately so; but I love to pray where my fathers
prayed before me, without thinking worse of the Presbyterian forms
because they do not affect me with the same associations.' And
with this remark they parted until dinner-time.
From the awkward access to the lawyer's mansion, Mannering was
induced to form very moderate expectations of the entertainment
which he was to receive. The approach looked even more dismal by
daylight than on the preceding evening. The houses on each side of
the lane were so close that the neighbours might have shaken hands
with each other from the different sides, and occasionally the
space between was traversed by wooden galleries, and thus entirely
closed up. The stair, the scale-stair, was not well cleaned; and
on entering the house Mannering was struck with the narrowness and
meanness of the wainscotted passage. But the library, into which
he was shown by an elderly, respectable-looking man-servant, was a
complete contrast to these unpromising appearances. It was a well-
proportioned room, hung with a portrait or two of Scottish
characters of eminence, by Jamieson, the Caledonian Vandyke, and
surrounded with books, the best editions of the best authors, and
in particular an admirable collection of classics.
'These,' said Pleydell, 'are my tools of trade. A lawyer without
history or literature is a mechanic, a mere working mason; if he
possesses some knowledge of these, he may venture to call himself
But Mannering was chiefly delighted with the view from the
windows, which commanded that incomparable prospect of the ground
between Edinburgh and the sea--the Firth of Forth, with its
islands, the embayment which is terminated by the Law of North
Berwick, and the varied shores of Fife to the northward, indenting
with a hilly outline the clear blue horizon.
When Mr. Pleydell had sufficiently enjoyed the surprise of his
guest, he called his attention to Miss Bertram's affairs. 'I was
in hopes,' he said, 'though but faint, to have discovered some
means of ascertaining her indefeasible right to this property of
Singleside; but my researches have been in vain. The old lady was
certainly absolute fiar, and might dispose of it in full right of
property. All that we have to hope is, that the devil may not have
tempted her to alter this very proper settlement. You must attend
the old girl's funeral to-morrow, to which you will receive an
invitation, for I have acquainted her agent with your being here
on Miss Bertram's part; and I will meet you afterwards at the
house she inhabited, and be present to see fair play at the
opening of the settlement. The old cat had a little girl, the
orphan of some relation, who lived with her as a kind of slavish
companion. I hope she has had the conscience to make her
independent, in consideration of the peine forte et dure to which
she subjected her during her lifetime.'
Three gentlemen now appeared, and were introduced to the stranger.
They were men of good sense, gaiety, and general information, so
that the day passed very pleasantly over; and Colonel Mannering
assisted, about eight o'clock at night, in discussing the
landlord's bottle, which was, of course, a magnum. Upon his return
to the inn he found a card inviting him to the funeral of Miss
Margaret Bertram, late of Singleside, which was to proceed from
her own house to the place of interment in the Greyfriars
churchyard at one o'clock afternoon.
At the appointed hour Mannering went to a small house in the
suburbs to the southward of the city, where he found the place of
mourning indicated, as usual in Scotland, by two rueful figures
with long black cloaks, white crapes and hat-bands, holding in
their hands poles, adorned with melancholy streamers of the same
description. By two other mutes, who, from their visages, seemed
suffering under the pressure of some strange calamity, he was
ushered into the dining-parlour of the defunct, where the company
were assembled for the funeral.
In Scotland the custom, now disused in England, of inviting the
relations of the deceased to the interment is universally
retained. On many occasions this has a singular and striking
effect, but it degenerates into mere empty form and grimace in
cases where the defunct has had the misfortune to live unbeloved
and die unlamented. The English service for the dead, one of the
most beautiful and impressive parts of the ritual of the church,
would have in such cases the effect of fixing the attention, and
uniting the thoughts and feelings of the audience present in an
exercise of devotion so peculiarly adapted to such an occasion.
But according to the Scottish custom, if there be not real feeling
among the assistants, there is nothing to supply the deficiency,
and exalt or rouse the attention; so that a sense of tedious form,
and almost hypocritical restraint, is too apt to pervade the
company assembled for the mournful solemnity. Mrs. Margaret
Bertram was unluckily one of those whose good qualities had
attached no general friendship. She had no near relations who
might have mourned from natural affection, and therefore her
funeral exhibited merely the exterior trappings of sorrow.
Mannering, therefore, stood among this lugubrious company of
cousins in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth degree, composing
his countenance to the decent solemnity of all who were around
him, and looking as much concerned on Mrs. Margaret Bertram's
account as if the deceased lady of Singleside had been his own
sister or mother. After a deep and awful pause, the company began
to talk aside, under their breaths, however, and as if in the
chamber of a dying person.
'Our poor friend,' said one grave gentleman, scarcely opening his
mouth, for fear of deranging the necessary solemnity of his
features, and sliding his whisper from between his lips, which
were as little unclosed as possible--'our poor friend has died
well to pass in the world.'
'Nae doubt,' answered the person addressed, with half-closed eyes;
'poor Mrs. Margaret was aye careful of the gear.'
'Any news to-day, Colonel Mannering?' said one of the gentlemen
whom he had dined with the day before, but in a tone which might,
for its impressive gravity, have communicated the death of his
'Nothing particular, I believe, sir,' said Mannering, in the
cadence which was, he observed, appropriated to the house of
'I understand,' continued the first speaker, emphatically, and
with the air of one who is well informed--'I understand there IS a
'And what does little Jenny Gibson get?'
'A hundred, and the auld repeater.'
'That's but sma' gear, puir thing; she had a sair time o't with
the auld leddy. But it's ill waiting for dead folk's shoon.'
'I am afraid,' said the politician, who was close by Mannering,
'we have not done with your old friend Tippoo Sahib yet, I doubt
he'll give the Company more plague; and I am told, but you'll know
for certain, that East India Stock is not rising.'
'I trust it will, sir, soon.'
'Mrs. Margaret,' said another person, mingling in the
conversation, 'had some India bonds. I know that, for I drew the
interest for her; it would be desirable now for the trustees and
legatees to have the Colonel's advice about the time and mode of
converting them into money. For my part I think--but there's Mr.
Mortcloke to tell us they are gaun to lift.'
Mr. Mortcloke the undertaker did accordingly, with a visage of
professional length and most grievous solemnity, distribute among
the pall-bearers little cards, assigning their respective
situations in attendance upon the coffin. As this precedence is
supposed to be regulated by propinquity to the defunct, the
undertaker, however skilful a master of these lugubrious
ceremonies, did not escape giving some offence. To be related to
Mrs. Bertram was to be of kin to the lands of Singleside, and was
a propinquity of which each relative present at that moment was
particularly jealous. Some murmurs there were on the occasion, and
our friend Dinmont gave more open offence, being unable either to
repress his discontent or to utter it in the key properly
modulated to the solemnity. 'I think ye might hae at least gi'en
me a leg o' her to carry,' he exclaimed, in a voice considerably
louder than propriety admitted. 'God! an it hadna been for the
rigs o' land, I would hae gotten her a' to carry mysell, for as
mony gentles as are here.'
A score of frowning and reproving brows were bent upon the
unappalled yeoman, who, having given vent to his displeasure,
stalked sturdily downstairs with the rest of the company, totally
disregarding the censures of those whom his remarks had
And then the funeral pomp set forth; saulies with their batons and
gumphions of tarnished white crape, in honour of the well-
preserved maiden fame of Mrs. Margaret Bertram. Six starved
horses, themselves the very emblems of mortality, well cloaked and
plumed, lugging along the hearse with its dismal emblazonry, crept
in slow state towards the place of interment, preceded by Jamie
Duff, an idiot, who, with weepers and cravat made of white paper,
attended on every funeral, and followed by six mourning coaches,
filled with the company. Many of these now gave more free loose to
their tongues, and discussed with unrestrained earnestness the
amount of the succession, and the probability of its destination.
The principal expectants, however, kept a prudent silence, indeed
ashamed to express hopes which might prove fallacious; and the
agent or man of business, who alone knew exactly how matters
stood, maintained a countenance of mysterious importance, as if
determined to preserve the full interest of anxiety and suspense.
At length they arrived at the churchyard gates, and from thence,
amid the gaping of two or three dozen of idle women with infants
in their arms, and accompanied by some twenty children, who ran
gambolling and screaming alongside of the sable procession, they
finally arrived at the burial-place of the Singleside family. This
was a square enclosure in the Greyfriars churchyard, guarded on
one side by a veteran angel without a nose, and having only one
wing, who had the merit of having maintained his post for a
century, while his comrade cherub, who had stood sentinel on the
corresponding pedestal, lay a broken trunk among the hemlock,
burdock, and nettles which grew in gigantic luxuriance around the
walls of the mausoleum. A moss-grown and broken inscription
informed the reader that in the year 1650 Captain Andrew Bertram,
first of Singleside, descended of the very ancient and honourable
house of Ellangowan, had caused this monument to be erected for
himself and his descendants. A reasonable number of scythes and
hour-glasses, and death's heads and cross-bones, garnished the
following sprig of sepulchral poetry to the memory of the founder
of the mausoleum:--
Nathaniel's heart, Bezaleel's hand
If ever any had,
These boldly do I say had he,
Who lieth in this bed.
Here, then, amid the deep black fat loam into which her ancestors
were now resolved, they deposited the body of Mrs. Margaret
Bertram; and, like soldiers returning from a military funeral, the
nearest relations who might be interested in the settlements of
the lady urged the dog-cattle of the hackney coaches to all the
speed of which they were capable, in order to put an end to
farther suspense on that interesting topic.