The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg

It appears from tradition, as well as some parish registers still
extant, that the lands of Dalcastle (or Dalchastel, as it is often
spelled) were possessed by a family of the name of Colwan, about one
hundred and fifty years ago, and for at least a century previous to
that period. That family was supposed to have been a branch of the
ancient family of Colquhoun, and it is certain that from it spring the
Cowans that spread towards the Border. I find that, in the year 1687,
George Colwan succeeded his uncle of the same name, in the lands of
Dalchastel and Balgrennan; and, this being all I can gather of the
family from history, to tradition I must appeal for the remainder of
the motley adventures of that house. But, of the matter furnished by
the latter of these powerful monitors, I have no reason to complain: It
has been handed down to the world in unlimited abundance; and I am
certain that, in recording the hideous events which follow, I am only
relating to the greater part of the inhabitants of at least four
counties of Scotland matters of which they were before perfectly well
informed.

This George was a rich man, or supposed to be so, and was married, when
considerably advanced in life, to the sole heiress and reputed daughter
of a Baillie Orde, of Glasgow. This proved a conjunction anything but
agreeable to the parties contracting. It is well known that the
Reformation principles had long before that time taken a powerful hold
of the hearts and affections of the people of Scotland, although the
feeling was by no means general, or in equal degrees; and it so
happened that this married couple felt completely at variance on the
subject. Granting it to have been so, one would have thought that the
laird, owing to his retiring situation, would have been the one that
inclined to the stern doctrines of the reformers; and that the young
and gay dame from the city would have adhered to the free principles
cherished by the court party, and indulged in rather to extremity, in
opposition to their severe and carping contemporaries.

The contrary, however, happened to be the case. The laird was what his
country neighbours called “a droll, careless chap”, with a very limited
proportion of the fear of God in his heart, and very nearly as little
of the fear of man. The laird had not intentionally wronged or offended
either of the parties, and perceived not the necessity of deprecating
their vengeance. He had hitherto believed that he was living in most
cordial terms with the greater part of the inhabitants of the earth,
and with the powers above in particular: but woe be unto him if he was
not soon convinced of the fallacy of such damning security! for his
lady was the most severe and gloomy of all bigots to the principles of
the Reformation. Hers were not the tenets of the great reformers, but
theirs mightily overstrained and deformed. Theirs was an unguent hard
to be swallowed; but hers was that unguent embittered and overheated
until nature could not longer bear it. She had imbibed her ideas from
the doctrines of one flaming predestinarian divine alone; and these
were so rigid that they became a stumbling block to many of his
brethren, and a mighty handle for the enemies of his party to turn the
machine of the state against them.

The wedding festivities at Dalcastle partook of all the gaiety, not of
that stern age, but of one previous to it. There was feasting, dancing,
piping, and singing: the liquors were handed, around in great fulness,
the ale in large wooden bickers, and the brandy in capacious horns of
oxen. The laird gave full scope to his homely glee. He danced–he
snapped his fingers to the music–clapped his hands and shouted at the
turn of the tune. He saluted every girl in the hall whose appearance
was anything tolerable, and requested of their sweethearts to take the
same freedom with his bride, by way of retaliation. But there she sat
at the head of the hall in still and blooming beauty, absolutely
refusing to tread a single measure with any gentleman there. The only
enjoyment in which she appeared to partake was in now and then stealing
a word of sweet conversation with her favourite pastor about divine
things; for he had accompanied her home after marrying her to her
husband, to see her fairly settled in her new dwelling. He addressed
her several times by her new name, Mrs. Colwan; but she turned away her
head disgusted, and looked with pity and contempt towards the old
inadvertent sinner, capering away in the height of his unregenerated
mirth. The minister perceived the workings of her pious mind, and
thenceforward addressed her by the courteous title of Lady Dalcastle,
which sounded somewhat better, as not coupling her name with one of the
wicked: and there is too great reason to believe that, for all the
solemn vows she had come under, and these were of no ordinary binding,
particularly on the laird’s part, she at that time despised, if not
abhorred him, in her heart.

The good parson again blessed her, and went away. She took leave of him
with tears in her eyes, entreating him often to visit her in that
heathen land of the Amorite, the Hittite, and the Girgashite: to which
he assented, on many solemn and qualifying conditions–and then the
comely bride retired to her chamber to pray.

It was customary, in those days, for the bride’s-man and maiden, and a
few select friends, to visit the new-married couple after they had
retired to rest, and drink a cup to their healths, their happiness, and
a numerous posterity. But the laird delighted not in this: he wished to
have his jewel to himself; and, slipping away quietly from his jovial
party, he retired to his chamber to his beloved, and bolted the door.
He found her engaged with the writings of the Evangelists, and terribly
demure. The laird went up to caress her; but she turned away her head,
and spoke of the follies of aged men, and something of the broad way
that leadeth to destruction. The laird did not thoroughly comprehend
this allusion; but being considerably flustered by drinking, and
disposed to take all in good part, he only remarked, as he took off his
shoes and stockings, that, “whether the way was broad or narrow, it was
time that they were in their bed.”

“Sure, Mr. Colwan, you won’t go to bed to-night, at such an important
period of your life, without first saying prayers for yourself and me.”

When she said this, the laird had his head down almost to the ground,
loosing his shoe-buckle; but when he heard of prayers, on such a night,
he raised his face suddenly up, which was all over as flushed and red
as a rose, and answered:

“Prayers, Mistress! Lord help your crazed head, is this a night for
prayers?”

He had better have held his peace. There was such a torrent of profound
divinity poured out upon him that the laird became ashamed, both of
himself and his new-made spouse, and wist not what to say: but the
brandy helped him out.

“It strikes me, my dear, that religious devotion would be somewhat out
of place to-night,” said he. “Allowing that it is ever so beautiful,
and ever so beneficial, were we to ride on the rigging of it at all
times, would we not be constantly making a farce of it: It would be
like reading the Bible and the jestbook, verse about, and would render
the life of man a medley of absurdity and confusion.”

But, against the cant of the bigot or the hypocrite, no reasoning can
aught avail. If you would argue until the end of life, the infallible
creature must alone be right. So it proved with the laird. One
Scripture text followed another, not in the least connected, and one
sentence of the profound Mr. Wringhim’s sermons after another, proving
the duty of family worship, till the laird lost patience, and tossing
himself into bed, said carelessly that he would leave that duty upon
her shoulders for one night.

The meek mind of Lady Dalcastle was somewhat disarranged by this sudden
evolution. She felt that she was left rather in an awkward situation.
However, to show her unconscionable spouse that she was resolved to
hold fast her integrity, she kneeled down and prayed in terms so potent
that she deemed she was sure of making an impression on him. She did
so; for in a short time the laird began to utter a response so fervent
that she was utterly astounded, and fairly driven from the chain of her
orisons. He began, in truth, to sound a nasal bugle of no ordinary
calibre–the notes being little inferior to those of a military
trumpet. The lady tried to proceed, but every returning note from the
bed burst on her ear with a louder twang, and a longer peal, till the
concord of sweet sounds became so truly pathetic that the meek spirit
of the dame was quite overcome; and, after shedding a flood of tears,
she arose from her knees, and retired to the chimney-corner with her
Bible in her lap, there to spend the hours in holy meditation till such
time as the inebriated trumpeter should awaken to a sense of propriety.

The laird did not awake in any reasonable time; for, he being overcome
with fatigue and wassail, his sleep became sounder, and his Morphean
measures more intense. These varied a little in their structure; but
the general run of the bars sounded something in this way:
“Hic-hoc-wheew!” It was most profoundly ludicrous; and could not have
missed exciting risibility in anyone save a pious, a disappointed, and
humbled bride.

The good dame wept bitterly. She could not for her life go and awaken
the monster, and request him to make room for her: but she retired
somewhere, for the laird, on awaking next morning, found that he was
still lying alone. His sleep had been of the deepest and most genuine
sort; and, all the time that it lasted, he had never once thought of
either wives, children, or sweethearts, save in the way of dreaming
about them; but, as his spirit began again by slow degrees to verge
towards the boundaries of reason, it became lighter and more buoyant
from the effects of deep repose, and his dreams partook of that
buoyancy, yea, to a degree hardly expressible. He dreamed of the reel,
the jig, the strathspey, and the corant; and the elasticity of his
frame was such that he was bounding over the heads of maidens, and
making his feet skimmer against the ceiling, enjoying, the while, the
most ecstatic emotions. These grew too fervent for the shackles of the
drowsy god to restrain. The nasal bugle ceased its prolonged sounds in
one moment, and a sort of hectic laugh took its place. “Keep it
going–play up, you devils!” cried the laird, without changing his
position on the pillow. But this exertion to hold the fiddlers at their
work fairly awakened the delighted dreamer, and, though he could not
refrain from continuing, his laugh, beat length, by tracing out a
regular chain of facts, came to be sensible of his real situation.
“Rabina, where are you? What’s become of you, my dear?” cried the
laird. But there was no voice nor anyone that answered or regarded. He
flung open the curtains, thinking to find her still on her knees, as he
had seen her, but she was not there, either sleeping or waking.
“Rabina! Mrs. Colwan!” shouted he, as loud as he could call, and then
added in the same breath, “God save the king–I have lost my wife!”

He sprung up and opened the casement: the day-light was beginning to
streak the east, for it was spring, and the nights were short, and the
mornings very long. The laird half dressed himself in an instant, and
strode through every room in the house, opening the windows as he went,
and scrutinizing every bed and every corner. He came into the hall
where the wedding festival had been held; and as he opened the various
windowboards, loving couples flew off like hares surprised too late in
the morning among the early braird. “Hoo-boo! Fie, be frightened!”
cried the laird. “Fie, rin like fools, as if ye were caught in an
ill-turn!” His bride was not among them; so he was obliged to betake
himself to further search. “She will be praying in some corner, poor
woman,” said he to himself. “It is an unlucky thing this praying. But,
for my part, I fear I have behaved very ill; and I must endeavour to
make amends.”

The laird continued his search, and at length found his beloved in the
same bed with her Glasgow cousin who had acted as bridesmaid. “You sly
and malevolent imp,” said the laird; “you have played me such a trick
when I was fast asleep! I have not known a frolic so clever, and, at
the same time, so severe. Come along, you baggage you!”

“Sir, I will let you know that I detest your principles and your person
alike,” said she. “It shall never be said, Sir, that my person was at
the control of a heathenish man of Belial–a dangler among the
daughters of women–a promiscuous dancer–and a player of unlawful
games. Forgo your rudeness, Sir, I say, and depart away from my
presence and that of my kinswoman.

“Come along, I say, my charming Rab. If you were the pink of all
puritans, and the saint of all saints, you are my wife, and must do as
I command you.”

“Sir, I will sooner lay down my life than be subjected to your godless
will; therefore I say, desist, and begone with you.”

But the laird regarded none of these testy sayings: he rolled her in a
blanket, and bore her triumphantly away to his chamber, taking care to
keep a fold or two of the blanket always rather near to her mouth, in
case of any outrageous forthcoming of noise.

The next day at breakfast the bride was long in making her appearance.
Her maid asked to see her; but George did not choose that anybody
should see her but himself. He paid her several visits, and always
turned the key as he came out. At length breakfast was served; and
during the time of refreshment the laird tried to break several jokes;
but it was remarked that they wanted their accustomed brilliancy, and
that his nose was particularly red at the top.

Matters, without all doubt, had been very bad between the new-married
couple; for in the course of the day the lady deserted her quarters,
and returned to her father’s house in Glasgow, after having been a
night on the road; stage-coaches and steam-boats having then no
existence in that quarter.

Though Baillie Orde had acquiesced in his wife’s asseveration regarding
the likeness of their only daughter to her father, he never loved or
admired her greatly; therefore this behaviour nothing astounded him. He
questioned her strictly as to the grievous offence committed against
her, and could discover nothing that warranted a procedure so fraught
with disagreeable consequences. So, after mature deliberation, the
baillie addressed her as follows:

“Aye, aye, Raby! An’ sae I find that Dalcastle has actually refused to
say prayers with you when you ordered him; an’ has guidit you in a rude
indelicate manner, outstepping the respect due to my daughter–as my
daughter. But, wi’ regard to what is due to his own wife, of that he’s
a better judge nor me. However, since he has behaved in that manner to
MY DAUGHTER, I shall be revenged on him for aince; for I shall return
the obligation to ane nearer to him: that is, I shall take pennyworths
of his wife–an’ let him lick at that.”

“What do you mean, Sir?” said the astonished damsel.

“I mean to be revenged on that villain Dalcastle,” said he, “for what
he has done to my daughter. Come hither, Mrs. Colwan, you shall pay for
this.”

So saying, the baillie began to inflict corporal punishment on the
runaway wife. His strokes were not indeed very deadly, but he made a
mighty flourish in the infliction, pretending to be in a great rage
only at the Laird of Dalcastle. “Villain that he is!” exclaimed he, “I
shall teach him to behave in such a manner to a child of mine, be she
as she may; since I cannot get at himself, I shall lounder her that is
nearest to him in life. Take you that, and that, Mrs. Colwan, for your
husband’s impertinence!”

The poor afflicted woman wept and prayed, but the baillie would not
abate aught of his severity. After fuming and beating her with many
stripes, far drawn, and lightly laid down, he took her up to her
chamber, five stories high, locked her in, and there he fed her on
bread and water, all to be revenged on the presumptuous Laird of
Dalcastle; but ever and anon, as the baillie came down the stair from
carrying his daughter’s meal, he said to himself: “I shall make the
sight of the laird the blithest she ever saw in her life.”

Lady Dalcastle got plenty of time to read, and pray, and meditate; but
she was at a great loss for one to dispute with about religious tenets;
for she found that, without this advantage, about which there was a
perfect rage at that time, the reading and learning of Scripture texts,
and sentences of intricate doctrine, availed her naught; so she was
often driven to sit at her casement and look out for the approach of
the heathenish Laird of Dalcastle.