The Heart of Mid-Lothian
Isab.--Alas! what poor ability's in me
To do him good?
Lucio.--Assay the power you have.
Measure for Measure.
When Mrs. Saddletree entered the apartment in which her guests had shrouded
their misery, she found the window darkened. The feebleness which followed his
long swoon had rendered it necessary to lay the old man in bed. The curtains
were drawn around him, and Jeanie sate motionless by the side of the bed. Mrs.
Saddletree was a woman of kindness, nay, of feeling, but not of delicacy. She
opened the half-shut window, drew aside the curtain, and, taking her kinsman by
the hand, exhorted him to sit up, and bear his sorrow like a good man, and a
Christian man, as he was. But when she quitted his hand, it fell powerless by his
side, nor did he attempt the least reply.
"Is all over?" asked Jeanie, with lips and cheeks as pale as ashes,--"and is there
nae hope for her?"
"Nane, or next to nane," said Mrs. Saddletree; "I heard the Judge-carle say it with
my ain ears--It was a burning shame to see sae mony o' them set up yonder in
their red gowns and black gowns, and to take the life o' a bit senseless lassie. I
had never muckle broo o' my gudeman's gossips, and now I like them waur than
ever. The only wiselike thing I heard onybody say, was decent Mr. John Kirk of
Kirk-knowe, and he wussed them just to get the king's mercy, and nae mair about
it. But he spake to unreasonable folk--he might just hae keepit his breath to hae
blawn on his porridge."
"But can the king gie her mercy?" said Jeanie, earnestly. "Some folk tell me he
canna gie mercy in cases of mur in cases like hers."
"Can he gie mercy, hinny?--I weel I wot he can, when he likes. There was young
Singlesword, that stickit the Laird of Ballencleuch, and Captain Hackum, the
Englishman, that killed Lady Colgrain's gudeman, and the Master of Saint Clair,
that shot the twa Shaws,* and mony mair in my time--to be sure they were gentle
blood, and had their, kin to speak for them--And there was Jock Porteous the
other day--I'se warrant there's mercy, an folk could win at it."
* [In 1828, the Author presented to the Roxburgh Club a curious volume
containing the "Proceedings in the Court-Martial held upon John, Master of
Sinclair, for the murder of Ensign Schaw, and Captain Schaw, 17th October