The Heart of Mid-Lothian
To man, in this his trial state,
The privilege is given,
When tost by tides of human fate,
To anchor fast on heaven.
It was with a firm step that Deans sought his daughter's apartment, determined to
leave her to the light of her own conscience in the dubious point of casuistry in
which he supposed her to be placed.
The little room had been the sleeping apartment of both sisters, and there still
stood there a small occasional bed which had been made for Effie's
accommodation, when, complaining of illness, she had declined to share, as in
happier times, her sister's pillow. The eyes of Deans rested involuntarily, on
entering the room, upon this little couch, with its dark-green coarse curtains, and
the ideas connected with it rose so thick upon his soul as almost to incapacitate
him from opening his errand to his daughter. Her occupation broke the ice. He
found her gazing on a slip of paper, which contained a citation to her to appear
as a witness upon her sister's trial in behalf of the accused. For the worthy
magistrate, determined to omit no chance of doing Effie justice, and to leave her
sister no apology for not giving the evidence which she was supposed to
possess, had caused the ordinary citation, or subpoena, of the Scottish criminal
court, to be served upon her by an officer during his conference with David.
This precaution was so far favourable to Deans, that it saved him the pain of
entering upon a formal explanation with his daughter; he only said, with a hollow
and tremulous voice, "I perceive ye are aware of the matter."
"O father, we are cruelly sted between God's laws and man's laws--What shall
we do?--What can we do?"
Jeanie, it must be observed, had no hesitation whatever about the mere act of
appearing in a court of justice. She might have heard the point discussed by her
father more than once; but we have already noticed that she was accustomed to
listen with reverence to much which she was incapable of understanding, and
that subtle argunents of casuistry found her a patient, but unedified hearer. Upon
receiving the citation, therefore, her thoughts did not turn upon the chimerical
scruples which alarmed her father's mind, but to the language which had been
held to her by the stranger at Muschat's Cairn. In a word, she never doubted but
she was to be dragged forward into the court of justice, in order to place her in
the cruel position of either sacrificing her sister by telling the truth, or committing
perjury in order to save her life. And so strongly did her thoughts run in this