Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

place of refuge, when the mob, inflamed by a sedi- rious, deep, and dangerous, as these circumstances tious preaclier, broke forth on him with the cries of have given rise to, the blood of each reador shall be The sword of the Lord

and of Gideon-bring forth curdled, and his epidermis crisped into goose skin. the wicked Haman? Since that time how many But, hist!-here comes the landlord, with tidings, I hearts have throbbed within these walls, as the toll- suppose. that the chaise is ready" ing of the neighbouring

bell announced to them how It was no such thing--the tidings bore, that no fast the sands of their life were ebbing; how many chaise could be had that evening, for Sir Peter Pliem must have sunk at the sound-how many were sup- had carried foward my landlord's two pairs of horses ported by stubborn pride and dogged resolution-how that morning to the ancient royal borough of Bub-, many by the consolations of religion? Have there bleburgh, to look after his interest there. But as not been some, who, looking back on the motives of Bubbleburgh is only one of a set of five boroughs their crimes, were scarce able to understand how they which club their shares for a member of parliament, should have had such temptation as to seduce them Sir Peter's adversary had judiciously watched his from virtue ? and have there not, perhaps, been departure, in order to commence a canvass in the no others, who, sensible of their innocence, were divided less royal borough of Bitem, which, as all the world between indignation at the undeserved doom which knows, lies at the very termination of Sir Peter's they were to undergo, consciousness that they had avenue, and has been held in leading-strings by him not deserved it, and racking anxiety to discover some and his ancestors for time immemorial. Now Sir way in which they might yet vindicate themselves ? Peter was thus placed in the situation of an ambi. Do you

suppose any of these deep, powerful, and agi- tious monarch, who, after having commenced a tating

feelings, can be recorded and perused without daring inroad into his enemies' territories, is suddenly exciting a corresponding depth of deep, powerful, and recalled by an invasion of his own hereditary domí agitating interest?-0do but wait till I publish

the nions. He was obliged in consequence to return from want of a novel or a tragedy for some time to come. Of horses which had carried him that morning

to Causes Celebres of Caledonia, and you will find no the half-won borough of Bubbleburgh to look after The true thing will triumph over the brightest inven- Bubbleburgh, were now forcibly detained to transport tions of the most ardent imagination. Magna est him, his agent, his valet, his jester, and his hard veritas, et prævalebit."'. "I have understood,” said I, encouraged by the drinker, across the country to Bitem. The cause

of affability of my rattling entertainer, " that less of this this detention, which to me was of as little conseinterest must attach to Scottish jurisprudence

than to enough to my companions to reconcile them to the that of any other

country. The general morality of delay. Like eagles, they smelled the battle afar off, our people, their sober and prudent habits". "Secure them," said the barrister, "against any and entered at full career into the Bubbleburgh

ordered a magnum of claret and beds at the Wallace, great increase of professional thieves and depreda- and Bitem politics, with all the probable "petitions tors, but not

against wild and wayward starts of fancy and complaints” to which they were likely to give and passion, producing

crimes of an extraordinary rise. description, which are precisely those to the detail of which we listen with thrilling interest. England has

In the midst of an anxious, animated, and to me, been much longer a highly civilized country; her sub- most unintelligible discussion, concerning provosts, jects have been very strictly amenable to laws admi- bailies, deacons, sets of boroughs, leets, town-clerks nistered without fear or favour, a complete division the lawyer recollected himself. “Poor Dunover, we

burgesses, resident and non-resident, all of a sudden of labour has taken place among her subjects, and must not forget him;" and the landlord was dispatehthe very thieves and robbers form a distinct

class in ed in quest of the pauvre honteux, with an earnestly society, subdivided among themselves according to civil invitation to him for the rest of the evening: 1 the subject of their depredations, and the mode in could not help asking the young gentlemen if they which they carry them on, acting upon regular habits knew the history of this

poor man; and the counseland principles, which can be calculated and antici- lor applied himself to his pocket to recover the me pated at Bow Street, Hatton Garden, or the

Old Bai- morial or brief from which he had stated his cause.

"He has been a candidate for our remedium misethe farmer expects that, in spite of all his care, a cer-rabile,” said Mr. Hardie, "commonly called a cessio tain number of weeds will rise with the corn, and bonorum. As there are divines who have doubted the can tell you beforehand their names and appearance. eternity of future punishments, so the Scotch law. But Scotland is like one of her own Highland glens, yers seem to have thought that the crime of poverty and the moralist who reads the records of her crimi- might be atoned for by something short of perpetual nal jurisprudence, will find as many curious anoma: imprisonment. After a month's confinement, you lous facts in the history of mind, as the botanist will must know, a prisoner for debt is entitled on a suffie detect

rare specimens among her dingles and cliffs." cient statement to our Supreme Court, setting forth

And that's all the good you have obtained from the amount of his funds and the nature of his mise three perúsals of the Commentaries on Scottish fortunes and surrendering all his effects to his credi. Criminal Jurisprudence?" said his companion. “I sup- cors, to claim to be discharged from prison." pose the learned author very little thinks that the

facts “I had heard," I replied, " of such a humane reguwhich his erudition and acuteness have accumulated lation." for the illustration of legal doctrines, might be so ar “Yes," said Halkit," and the beauty of it is as ranged as to form a sort of appendix to the half-bound the foreign fellow

said you may get the cessio when and slip-shod volumes of the circulating library" the bonorums are all spent-But what are you puz

"I'll bet you a pint of claret," said the elder law- zling in your pockets to seek your only memorial yer, " that he will not feel sore at the comparison. among old play-bills letters requesting a meeting of But as we say at the bar, 'I beg I may not be inter- the Faculty, rules of the Speculative Society, syllarupted;' I have much more to say upon my Scottish bus' of lectures--all the miscellaneous contents of a collection of Causes Célèbres. You will please re- young advocate's pocket, which contains every thing collect the scope and motive given for the contrivance but briefs and bank notes? Can you not state a case and execution of many extraordinary and daring of cessio without your memorial? Why it is done crimes, by the long civil dissensions of Scotland-by every Saturday. The events follow each other as the hereditary jurisdictions, which, until 1948, rested regularly as clock work, and one form of conde the investigation of crimes in judges, ignorant, par- scendence might suit every one of them.” tial, or interested-by the habits of the gentry, shut * This is very unlike the variety of distress which uy 1 their distant and solitary mansion-houses, this gentleman stated to fall under the consideration nursing their revengeful passions just to keep their of your judges," said I. blood from stagnating--not to mention that amiable True," replied Halkit;. "but Hardie spoke of national qualification, called the perfervidum inge- criminal jurisprudence, and this business is purely nium Scotorum, which our lawyers join in alleging civil. I could plead a cessio myself without the inas a reason for the severity of some of our enact- spiring honours of a gown and three-tailed periwigments When I come to treat of matters so myste- Listen.-My client was bred a journeyman weaver

nade some little money+-fook a farm--for conduct-'| office for the decent maintenance of his family, and mg a farm, like driving a gig, comes by nature) late that, after a train of constant and uninterrupted mis severe times-induced to sign bills with a friend, for fortune, he could trace a dawn of prosperity to his which he

received no value landlord sequestrates having the good fortune to be Aung froin the top of a creditors accept a composition-pursuer sets up a mail-coach into the river Gander, in company with public-house-fails a second time-is incarcerated for an advocate and a writer to the signet. The reader a debt of ten pounds seven shillings and sixpence- will not perhaps deem himself equally obliged to the his debts amount to blank-his losses to blank-his aceidern, since it brings upon him the foilowing nar funds to blank-leaving a balance of blank in his fa: rative, founded upon the conversation of the evening vour. There is no opposition, your lordships will please grant commission to take his oath." Hardie now renounced this ineffectual search, in

CHAPTER II. which there was perhaps a little affectation, and told

Whoe'er's been at Paris must needs know the Grève us the tale of poor Dunover's distresses, with a tone The fatal retreat of the unfortunate brave, in which a degree of feeling, which he seemed Where honour and justice most oddly contribute, ashamed of as unprofessional, mingled with his at- To ease heroes' pains by an halter and gibbet. tempts at wit, and did him more honour. It was one

There death breaks the shackles which force had put on, of those tales which seem to argue a sort of ill-luck

And the hangman completer what the judge but began; or fatality attached to the hero. A well-informed, Thore the square of the poet, and knight of the post, industrious, and blameless, but poor and bashful man, Find their pains no more baulk'd, and their hopes no more had in vain essayed all the usual means by which

cross'd.

PRIOR. others acquire independence, yet had never succeeded In former times, England had her Tyburn, to which beyond the attainment of bare subsistence. During the devoted victims of justice were conducted in soa brief gleam of hope, rather than of actual prosperity, lemn procession up what is now called Oxford-Road. he had added a wife and family to his cares, but the In Edinburgh, a large open street, or rather oblong dawn was speedily overcasta Every thing retrogra- square, surrounded

by high
houses, called

the Grassded with him towards the verge of the miry Slough market, was used for the same melancholy purpose. of Despond, which yawns for insolvent debtors; and I was not ill chosen for such a scene, being of conafter catching at each twig, and experiencing the pro- siderable extent, and therefore fit to accommodate a tracted agony of feeling them one by one elude his great number of spectators, such as are usually asgrasp, he actually sunk into the miry pit whence he sembled by this melancholy spectacle. On the other he ha l been extricated by the professional exertions hand, few of the houses which surround it were, of Hardie.

even in early times, inhabited by persons of fashion "And, I suppose, now you have dragged this poor so that those

likely to be offended or over deeply af devil ashore, you will leave him balf naked on the fected by such unpleasant exhibitions were not in the beach to provide for himself ?" said Halkit. Hark way of having their quiet

disturbed by them. The ye," -and he whispered something in his ear, of which houses in the Grass-market are, generally speaking, the penetrating and insinuating words, "Interest with of a mean description;, yet the place is not without my Lord," alone reached mine.

some features of grandeur, being overhung by the It is pessimi esempli," said Hardie laughing, southern

side of the huge rock on which the castle "to provide for a ruined client, but I was thinking stands, and by the moss-grown battlements and turof what you mention, provided it can be managed reted walls of that ancient fortress. But hush! here he comes.'

It was the castom, until within these thirty years, The recent relation of the poor man's misfortunes or thereabouts, to use this esplanade for the scene of had given him, I was pleased to observe, a claim to public executions. The fatal day was announced to the attention and respect of the young men, who he public, by the appearance of a huge black galtreated him with great civility, and gradually engaged lows-tree towards the eastern end of the Grass-marhim in a conversation, which, much to my satisfac- ket. This ill-omened apparition

was of great height, tion, again turned upon the Causes Célebres of Scot- with a scaffold surrounding it

, and a double ladder land. Emboldened by the kindness with which he placed against it, for the ascent of the unhappy crimiwas treated, Mr. Dunover began to contribute his nal and the executioner. As this apparatus was share to the amusement of the evening, Jails, like always arranged before dawn, it seemed as if the other places, have their ancient traditions, known gallows had grown out of the earth in the course of only to the inhabitants, and handed down from one one night, like the production of some foul demon; set of the melancholy lodgers to the next who occupy and I well remember the fright with which the schooltheir cells. Some of these, which Dunover men- boys, when I was one of their number, used to regard tioned, were interesting, and served to illustrate the these ominous signs of deadly preparation. On the narratives of remarkable trials, which Hardie had at night after the execution the gallows again disappear. his finger ends, and which his companion was also ed, and was conveyed in silence and darkness to the well skilled in. This sort of conversation passed place where it was usually deposited, which was one away the evening till the early hour when Mr. of the vaults under the Parliament-house, or courts Dunover chose to retire to rest, and I also retreated of justice. This mode of execution is now exchanged to take

down memorandums of what I had learned, for one similar to that in front of Newgate, with in order to add another narrative to those which it what beneficial effect is uncertain. The mental sufhad been my chief amusement to collech, and to ferings of the convict are indeed shortened. He no write ont in detail. The two young men ordered a longer stalks between the attendant clergymen, broiled bone, Madeira negus, and a pack of cards, and dressed in his grave-clothes, through w 'onsiderable commenced a game at picquet.

part of the

city, looking like a moving and walking Next morning the travellers left Gandercleugh. I corpse, while yet an inhabitant of this world; but, as afterwards learned from the papers that both have the ultimate purpose of punishment has in view the been since engaged in the great political cause of prevention of crimes, it may at least be doubted, Bubbleburgh and Bitem, a summary,case, and en- whether, in abridging the melancholy ceremony, we titled to particular dispatch; but which, it is thought, have not in part diminished that appalling effect upon nevertheless, may qullast the duration of the parlia- the spectators which

is the useful end of all sucn

inment to which the contest refers. Mr. Halkit, as the dictions, and in consideration of which alone, unless newspapers informed me, acts as agent or solicitor ; in very particular cases, capital sentences can be al. and Mr. Hardie opened for Sir Peter Plyem with sin- Logether justified. gular ability, and to such good purpose, that I under- On the 7th day of September, 1736, these ominous stand he has since had fewer play-bills and more preparations for execution were descried in the place briefs in his pocket. And both the young gentlemen we have described, and at an early hour the space deserve their good fortune; for I learned from Dun- around began to be occupied by several groups, who over, who called on me some weeks afterwards, and gazed on the scaffold and gibbet with a stern and communicated the intelligence with tears in his eyes, vindictive show of satisfaction very seldom testified that ther interest had availed to obtain him a small | by the populace, whose good-nature in most cases forgets the crime of the condemned person, and dwells condemned to death, chiefly on the evidence of an only on his misery. But the act of which the expect- accomplice. ed culprit had been convicted was of a description Many thought, that, in consideration of the men's calculated nearly and closely to awaken and irritate erroneous opinion of the nature of the action they had the resentful feelings of the multitude. The tale is committed, justice might have been satisfied with a well known; yet it is necessary to recapitulate its less forfeiture than that of two lives. On the other leading circumstances, for the better understanding hand, from the audacity of the fact, a severe example what is to follow; and the narrative may prove long, was judged necessary; and such was the opinion of but I trust not uninteresting, even to those who have the government. When it became apparent that the heard its general issue. At any rate, some detail is sentence of death was to be executed, files, and other necessary, in order to render intelligible the subse- implements necessary for their escape, were trans quent events of our narrative.

mitted secretly to the culprits by a friend from with. Contraband trade, though it strikes at the root of out. By these means they sawed a bar out of one of legitimate government, by encroaching on its reve- the prison-windows, and might have made their

esnues,---though it injures the fair trader, and debauches cape bụt for the obstinacy of Wilson, who, as he the minds of those engaged in it, is not usually was daringly resolute, was doggedly pertinacious of looked upon, either by the vulgar or by their betters, his opinion. His comrade, Robertson, a young and in a very heinous point of view. On the contrary, in slender man, proposed to make the experiment of those counties where il prevails, the cleverest, boidest

, passing the foremost through the gap they had made, and most intelligent of the peasantry, are uniformly and enlarging it from the outside, if necessary, to al engaged in illicit transactions, and very often with low Wilson free passage. Wilson, however, insisted the sanction of the farmers and inferior gentry on making the first experiment, and being a robust Smuggling

was almost universal in Scotland in the and lusty man, he not only found it impossible to get reigns of George I. and 11. ; for the people, unac- through betwixt the bars, but, by his struggles, he customed to imposts, and regarding them as an un- jammed himself so fast, that he was unable to draw just aggression upon their ancient liberties, made no his body back again. In these circumstances discoscruple to elude them whenever it was possible to do so. very became unavoidable, and sufficient precautions

The county of Fife, bounded by two friths on the were taken by the jailer to prevent any repetition of south and north, and by the sea on the east, and the same attempt. "Robertson uttered not a word of having a number of small seaports, was long famed reflection on his companion for the consequences of for maintaining successfully a contraband trade; and, his obstinacy, but it appeared from the sequel, that as there were many seafaring men residing there, who Wilson's mind was deeply impressed with the recolhad been pirates and buccaneers in their youth, there lection, that, but for him, his comrade, over whose were not wanting a sufficient number of daring men mind he exercised considerable influence, would not to carry it on. Among these, a fellow, called Andrew have engaged in the criminal enterprise which had Wilson, originally a baker in the village of Pathhead, terminated thus fatally; and that now he had bewas particularly obnoxious to the revenue officers. come his destroyer a second time, since, but for his He was possessed of great personal strength, courage, obstinacy, Robertson might have effected his escape. and curining, -was perfectly acquainted with the Minds like Wilson's, even when exercised in evil coast, and capable of conducting the most desperate practices, sometimes retain the power of thinking enterprises. On several occasions he succeeded in and resolving with enthusiastic generosity... His baffling the pursuit and researches of the king's offi- whole thoughts were now bent on the possibility of cers; but he became so much the object of their sus- saving Robertson's life, without the least respect to picious and watchful attention, that at length he was his own. The resolution which he adopted, and the totally ruined by repeated seizures. The man became manner in which he carried it into effect, were strikdesperate. He considered himself as robbed and ing and unusual. plundered; and took it into his head, that he had a Adjacent to the Tolbooth or city jail of Edinburgh right to make reprisals, as he could find

opportunity. is one of three churches into which the cathedral ot Where the heart is prepared for evil, opportunity is St. Giles is now divided, called, from its vicinity, the seldom long wanting. This Wilson learned, that Tolbooth Church. It was the custom, that criminals the Collector of the Customs at Kirkaldy had come to under sentence of death were brought to this church, Pitten weem, in the course of his official round of with a sufficient guard, to hear and join in public duty, with a considerable sum of public money in his worship on the Sabbath before execution. It was custody: As the amount was greatly within the supposed that the hearts of these unfortunate persons, value of the goods which had been seized from him, however hardened before against feelings of devotion, Wilson felt no scruple of conscience in resolving to could not but

be accessible to them

upon uniting reimburse himself for his losses, at the expense of the their thoughts and voices, for the last time, along Collector and the revenue. He associated with him with their fellow-mortals, in addressing their Creator. self one Robertson, and two other idle young men, And to the rest of the congregation, it was thought whom, having been concerned in the same illicit it could not but be impressive and affecting, to find trade, he persuaded to view the transaction in the their devotions mingling with those, who, sent by the same justifiable light in which he himself considered doom of an earthly tribunal to appear where the it. They watched the motions of the Collector ; they whole earth is judged, might be considered as beings broke forcibly into the house where he lodged, -Wil- trembling on the verge of eternity. The practice, son, with two of his associates, entering the Collect- however edifying, has been discontinued, in conseor's apartment, while Robertson, the fourth, kept quence of the incident we are about to detail. watch at tils door with a drawn cutlass in his hand. The clergyman, whose daty it was to officiate in The officer of the customs, conceiving his life in the Tolbooth Church, had concluded an affecting disdanger, escaped out of his bedroom window, and fled course, part of which was particularly directed to the in his shirt, so that the

plunderers, with much ease, unfortunate men, Wilson and Robertson, who were possessed themselves of about two hundred pounds in the pew set apart for the persons in their unhappy of public money. This robbery was committed in a situation, each secured betwixt two soldiers of the very, audacious manner, for several persons were city guard. The clergyman had reminded them, that passing in the street at the time. But Robertson, the next congregation they must join would be that representing the noise they heard as a dispute or fray of the just, or of the unjust: that the psalms they now detwixt the Collector and the people of the house, the heard must be exchanged, in the space of two brief worthy citizens of Pittenweem felt themselves no days, for eternal

hallelujah's, or eternal lamentations; way called

on to interfere in behalf of the obnoxious and that this fearful alternative must depend upon the revenue officer; so, satisfying themselves with this state to which they might be able to bring their winds very superficial account of the matter, like the Levite before the moment of awful preparation: that they w the parable, they passed on the opposite side of should not despair on account of the suddenness of the way. An alarmi was at length given, military the summons, but rather to feel this comfort in their were calied in the depredators were pursued, the misery, that, though all who now lifted the voice, boots recovered, and Wilson and Robertson tried and I bent the knee in conjunction with them, lay unda the same sentence of certain death, they only had the commission. It was only by his military skill, ana advantage of knowing the precise moment at which an alert and resolute character as an officer of police, it should be executed upon them. Therefore," urged that he merited this promotion, for he is said to have the good man, his voice trembling with emotion, been a man of profligate habits, an unnatural son, and " redeem the time, my unhappy brethren, which is a brutal husband. "He was, however, useful in his

st left; and remember, that, with the grace of Him station, and his harsh and fierce habits rendered him to whom space and time are but as nothing, salva- formidable to rioters or disturbers of the public

peace. tion may yet be assured, even in the pittance of delay The corps in which he held his command is, or perwhich the laws of your country afford you." haps we should rather say was, a body of about one hạn

Robertson was observed to weep at these words; dred and twenty soldiers, divided into three companies but Wilson seemed as one whose brain had not en and regularly armed,elothed, and embodied. They were tirely received their meaning, or whose thoughts were chiefly veterans who enlisted in this corps, having the deeply impressed with some different subject; --an ex- benefit of working at their trades when they were off pression so natural to a person in his situation, that duty. These men had the charge of preserving pubit excited neither suspicion nor surprise.

lic order, repressing riots and street robberies, acting, The benediction

was pronounced as usual, and the in short, as an armed police, and attending on all congregation was dismissed, many lingering to in- public occasions where confusion or popular disturbdolge their curiosity with a more fixed look at the ance might be expected. Poor Ferguson, whose irtwo criminals, who now, as well as their guards, rose regularities sometimes led him into unpleasant ren. up, as if to depart when the crowd should permit contres with these inilitary conservators of publicorshem. A murmur of compassion was heard to per- der, and who mentions them so often that he may be vade the spectators, the more general, perhaps, on termed their poet laureate thus admonishes his read account of the alleviating circumstances of the case;ers, warned oubtless by his own experience: when all at once, Wilson, who, as we have already *Gade folk, as ye come frac the fair, noticed, was a very strong man, seized two of the sol

Bide yont frae this black squad; diers, one with each hand, and calling at the same

There's nae sic savages elke where you time to his companion, "Run, Geordie, run!" threw

Allow'd to wear cockad.". himself on a third, and fastened his

teeth on the col. In fact, the soldiers of the City Guard, being, as Jar of his coat. Robertson stood for a second as if we have said. in general discharged veterans, who thunderstruck, and unable to avail himself of the op- had strength enough remaining for this municipal portunity of escape; but the cry of "Run, run!" be-duty, and being, moreover, for the greater part, Highing echoed from many around, whose feelings sur landers, were neither by birth, tucation, or former prised them into a very natural interest in his behalf, habits, trained to endure with much patience the in he shook off the grasp of the remaining soldier, threw sults of the rabble, or the provoking petulance of tru himself over the pew, mixed with the dispersing con- ant schoolboys, and idle debauchees of all descripgregation, none of whom felt inclined to stop a poor tions, with whom their occupation brought them into wretch taking this last chance for his life; gained the contact. On the contrary, the tempers of the poor old door of the church, and was lost to all pursuit. fellows were soured by the indignities with which the

The generous intrepidity which Wilson bad dis mob distinguished them on many occasions, and freplayed on this occasion augmented the feeling of quently might have required the soothing strains of compassion which attended his fate. The public, the poet we have just quotedwhere their own prejudices are not concerned, are easily engaged on the side of disinterestedness and

"O soldiers ! for your ain dear sakes,
For Scotland's

love, the Land of Cakes,
humanity, admired Wilson's behaviour, and rejoiced Gie not her bairns sic deadly paiks,
in Robertson's escape. This general feeling was so

Nor be sae rude, great, that it excited a vague report that Wilson

Wi' firelock or Lochaber-axe, would be rescued at the place of execution, either

As spili their bluid !" by the mob or by some of his old associates, or by On all occasions when a holyday licensed some rict some second extraordinary and unexpected exertion and irregularity, a skirmish with these veterans was of strength and courage on his own part. The ma- a favourite recreation with the rabble

of Edinburgh. gistrates thought it their duty to provide against the These pages may perhaps see the light when many possibility of disturbance. They ordered out, for pro- have in fresh recollection such onsets as we allude to. tection of the execution of the sentence, the greater But the venerable corps, with whom the contention part of their own City Guard, under the command of was held, may now be considered as totally extinct. Captain Porteous, a man whose name became too of late the gradual diminution of these

civic soldiers, memorable from the melancholy circumstances of reminds one of the abatement of King Lear's hundred the day, and subsequent events. It may be neces- knights. The edicts of each succeeding set of magiesary to say a word about this person, and the corps trates have, like those of Goneril and Regan, dimi. which he commanded. But the subject is of import- nished this venerable band with the similar questivn, ance sufficient to deserve another chapter. "What need we five-and-twenty?-ten ?-Lor five?!

And it is now nearly come to, "What need one?". A spectre may indeed here and there still be seen, of an

old gray-headed and gray-bearded Highlander, with CHAPTER III.

war-worn features, but bent double by age; dressed in And thou, great god of aqun-vitær

an old-fashioned cocked hat, bound with white tape Wha sways the empire of this city,

instead of silver lace; and in coat, waistcoat, and (When fou we're sometimes capernoity.) Be thou prepared,

breeches of a muddy-coloured red, bearing in his To save us frae that black banditti,

withered hand an ancient weapon, called a LochaberThe City Guard!

axe; a long pole, namely, with an axe at the extremi.

FERGU$ON's Dan Dags. ty, and a hook at the back of the hatchet.t Such a CAPTAIN JOHN PORTEOUS, 'a name memorable in phantom of former days still creeps, I have been in the traditions of Edinburgh, as well as in the records formed, round the statue of Charles the Second, in of criminal jurisprudence, was the son of a citizen of the Parliament Square, as if the image of a Stewart Edinburgh, who endeavoured to breed him up to his were the last refuge for any memorial of our ancient own mechanical tradeof a tailor. The youth, however, manners; and one or two others are supposed to glide had a wild

and irreclaimable propensity to dissipation, around the door of the guard housc assigned to them which finally sent him to serve in the corps long main in the Luckenbooths, when their ancient refuge in the tained in the service of the States of Holland, and called the Scotch Dutch. Here he learned military disci- the corpus, which might be creased to three hundred men when

• The Lord Provost was ex officio commander and colonel of pline; and, returning afterwards, in the course of an the times required it. No other drum but theirs was allowed to ide and wandering life, to his native city, his services sound on the High Street between the Luckenbooths and he were required by the magistrates of Edinburgh in the Netherbow. disturbed year 1715, for disciplining their City Guard, scale a gateway, by grappling the top of the door and swingine

This hook was to enable the bearer of the Lochaber axe w in which he shortly afterwards received a captain's himseit

up by the staff of his weapon:

forgets the crime of the condemned person, and dwells condemned to death, chiefly on the evidence of an only on his misery. But the act of which the expect accomplice. ed culprit had been convicted was of a description Many thought, that, in consideration of the men's calculated nearly and closely to awaken and irritate erroneous opinion of the nature of the action they had the resentful feelings of the multitude. The tale is committed, justice might have been satisfied with a well known; yet it is necessary to recapitulate its less forfeiture than that of two lives. On the other leading circumstances, for the better understanding hand, from the audacity of the fact, a severe example what is to follow; and the narrative may prove long, was judged necessary; and such was the opinion of but I trust not uninteresting, even to those who have the government. When it became apparent that the heard its general issue. At any rate, some detail is sentence of death was to be executed, files, and other necessary, in order to render intelligible the subse- implements necessary for their escape, were transquent events of our narrative.

mitted secretly to the culprits by a friend from withContraband trade, though it strikes at the root of out. By these means they sawed a bar out of one of legitimate government, by encroaching on its reve- the prison-windows, and might have made their

esnues,-though it injures the fair trader, and debauches cape, but for the obstinacy of Wilson, who, as he the minds of those engaged in it--is not usually was daringly resolute, was doggedly pertinacious of looked upon, either by the vulgar or by their betters, his opinion. His comrade, Robertson, a young and in a very heinous point of view. On the contrary, in slender man, proposed to make the experiment of those counties where il prevails, the cleverest, boldest, passing the foremost through the gap they had made, and most intelligent of the peasantry, are uniformly and enlarging it from the outside, if necessary, to alengaged in illicit transactions, and very often with low Wilson free passage. Wilson, however, insisted the sanction of the farmers and inferior gentry. on making the first experiment, and being a robust Smuggling was almost universal in Scotland in the and lusty man, he not only found it impossible to get reigns of George I. and 11. ; for the people, unac-through betwixt the bars, but, by his struggles, he customed to imposts, and regarding them as an un- jammed himself so fast, that he was unable to draw just aggression upon their ancient liberties, made no his body back again. In these circumstances discoscruple to elude them whenever it was possible to do so. very became unavoidable, and sufficient precautions

The county of Fife, bounded by two friths on the were taken by the jailer to prevent any repetition of south and north, and by the sea on the east, and the same attempt. "Robertson uttered not a word of having a number of small seaports, was long famed reflection on his companion for the consequences of for maintaining successfully a contraband trade; and, his obstinacy, but it appeared from the sequel, that as there were many seafaring men residing there, who Wilson's mind was deeply impressed with the recolhad been pirates and buccaneers in their youth, there lection, that, but for him, his comrade, over whose were not wanting a sufficient number of daring men mind he exercised considerable influence, would not to carry it on. Among these, a fellow, called Andrew have engaged in the criminal enterprise which had Wilson, originally a baker in the village of Pathhead, terminated thus fatally; and that now he had be was particularly obnoxious to the revenue officers. come his destroyer a second time, since, but for his He was possessed of great personal strength, courage, obstinacy, Robertson might have effected his escape. and cunning, ---was perfectly acquainted with the Minds like Wilson's, even when exercised in evil coast, and capable of conducting the most desperate practices, sometimes retain the power of thinking enterprises. On several occasions he succeeded in and resolving with enthusiastic generosity. His baffling the pursuit and researches of the king's offi- whole thoughts were now bent on the possibility of cers; but he became so much the object of their sus- saving Robertson's life, without the least respect to picious and watchful attention, that at length he was his own. The resolution which he adopted, and the totally ruined by repeated seizures. The man became manner in which he carried it into effect, were strikdesperate. He considered himself as robbed and ing and unusual. plundered; and took it into bis head, that he had a Adjacent to the Tolbooth or city jail of Edinburgh right to make reprisals, as he could find opportunity. is one of three churches into which the cathedral of Where the heart is prepared for evil, opportunity is St. Giles is now divided, called, from its vicinity, the seldom long wanting. This Wilson learned, that Tolbooth Church. It was the custom, that criminals the Collector of the Customs at Kirkaldy had come to under sentence of death were brought to this church, Pitten weem, in the course of his official round of with a sufficient guard, to hear and join in public duty, with a considerable sum of public money in his worship on the Sabbath before execution. It was custody... As the amount was greatly within the supposed that the hearts of these unfortunate persons, value of the goods which had been seized from him, however hardened before against feelings of devotion, Wilson felt no scruple of conscience in resolving to could not but be accessible to them upon uniting reimburse himself for his losses, at the expense of the their thoughts and voices, for the last time, along Collector

and the revenue. He associated with him with their fellow-mortals, in addressing their Creator. self one Robertson, and two other idle young men, And to the rest of the congregation, it was thought whom, having been concerned in the same illicit it could not but be impressive and affecting, to find trade, he persuaded to view the transaction in the their devotions mingling with those, who, sent by the same justifiable light in which he himself considered doom of an earthly tribunal to appear where the it. They watched the motions of the Collector;

they whole earth is judged, might be considered as beings broke forcibly into the house where he lodged, ---Wil-trembling on the verge of eternity. The practice, son, with two of his associates, entering the Collect- however edifying, has been discontinued, in conse or's apartment, while Robertson, the fourth, kept quence of the incident we are about to detail. watch at lins door with a drawn cutlass in his hand. The clergyman,

whose daty

it was to officiate in The officer of the customs, conceiving his life in the Tolbooth Church, had concluded an affecting disdanger, escaped out of his bedroom window, and fled course, part of which was particularly directed io the in his shirt, so that the plunderers, with much ease, unfortunate men, Wilson and Robertson, who were Dossessed themselves of about two hundred pounds in the pew

set apart for the persons in their

unhappy of public money. This robbery was committed in a situation, each secured betwixt two soldiers of the very, audacious manner, for several persons were city guard. The clergyman had reminded them, that passing in the street at the time. But Robertson, the next congregation they must join would be that representing the noise they heard as a dispute or fray of the just, or of the

unjust: that the psalms they now Detwixt the Collector and the people of the house, the heard must be exchanged, in the space of two brief worthy citizens of Pittenweem felt themselves no days, for eternal hallelujah's, or eternal lamentations; way called

on to interfere in behalf of the obnoxious and that this fearful alternative must depend upon the revenue officer; so, satisfying themselves with this state to which they might be able to bring their ainds very superficial account of the matter, like the Levite before the moment of awful preparation: that they In the parable, they passed on the opposite side of should not despair on account of the suddenness of the way. An alarni was at length given, military the summons, but rather to feel this comfort in their were calied in, the depredators were pursued, the misery, that, though all who now lifted the voice, so

recovered, and Wilson and Robertson tried and bent the knee in conjunction with them, lay unde

« VorigeDoorgaan »