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The Heart of Mid-Lothian

Chapter I.11
Then she stretched out her lily hand,
And for to do her best;
"Hae back thy faith and troth, Willie,
God gie thy soul good rest!"
Old Ballad.
"Come in," answered the low and sweet-toned voice he loved best to hear, as
Butler tapped at the door of the cottage. He lifted the latch, and found himself
under the roof of affliction. Jeanie was unable to trust herself with more than one
glance towards her lover, whom she now met under circumstances so agonising
to her feelings, and at the same time so humbling to her honest pride. It is well
known, that much, both of what is good and bad in the Scottish national
character, arises out of the intimacy of their family connections. "To be come of
honest folk," that is, of people who have borne a fair and unstained reputation, is
an advantage as highly prized among the lower Scotch, as the emphatic
counterpart, "to be of a good family," is valued among their gentry. The worth and
respectability of one member of a peasant's family is always accounted by
themselves and others, not only a matter of honest pride, but a guarantee for the
good conduct of the whole. On the contrary, such a melancholy stain as was now
flung on one of the children of Deans, extended its disgrace to all connected with
him, and Jeanie felt herself lowered at once, in her own eyes, and in those of her
lover. It was in vain that she repressed this feeling, as far subordinate and too
selfish to be mingled with her sorrow for her sister's calamity. Nature prevailed;
and while she shed tears for her sister's distress and danger, there mingled with
them bitter drops of grief for her own degradation.
As Butler entered, the old man was seated by the fire with his well-worn pocket
Bible in his hands, the companion of the wanderings and dangers of his youth,
and bequeathed to him on the scaffold by one of those, who, in the year 1686,
sealed their enthusiastic principles with their blood. The sun sent its rays through
a small window at the old man's back, and, "shining motty through the reek," to
use the expression of a bard of that time and country, illumined the grey hairs of
the old man, and the sacred page which he studied. His features, far from
handsome, and rather harsh and severe, had yet from their expression of
habitual gravity, and contempt for earthly things, an expression of stoical dignity
amidst their sternness. He boasted, in no small degree, the attributes which
Southey ascribes to the ancient Scandinavians, whom he terms "firm to inflict,
and stubborn to endure." The whole formed a picture, of which the lights might
have been given by Rembrandt, but the outline would have required the force
and vigour of Michael Angelo.
 
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