Page images

came to me; and, as my heart was in an ecstacy of joy, I expressed it in my countenance as she entered the room. I ran up to her in the transport of my joy. She appeared to be extremely shocked and frighted; and has since confessed to me, that she apprehended my trouble had thrown me out of myself, till I communicated my happiness to her. She then advised me to retire to some place of security; for that the king was highly displeased, and even enraged at the petition that I had presented to him, and had complained of it severely. I sent for another chair; for I always discharged them immediately, lest I might be pursued. Her Grace said she would go to court, to see how the news of my Lord's escape were received. When the news was brought to the king, he flew into an excess of passion, and said he was betrayed, for it could not have been done without some confederacy. He instantly dispatched two persons to the Tower, to see that the other prisoners were well secured, lest they should follow the example. Some threw the blame upon one, some upon another: Duchess was the only one at court who knew it.



When I left the Duchess, I went to a house which Evans had found out for me, and where she promised to acquaint me where my Lord She got thither some few minutes after me, and told me, that, when she had seen him secure, she went in search of Mr Mills, who, by the time, had recovered himself from his astonishment; that he had returned to her house, where she had found him; and that he had removed my Lord from the first place, where she had desired him to wait, to the house of a poor woman, directly opposite to the guardhouse. She had but one small room up one pair of stairs, and a very small bed in it. We threw ourselves upon the bed, that we might not be heard walking up and down. She left us a bottle of wine and some bread, and Mrs Mills brought us some more in her pocket the next day. We subsisted on this provision from Thursday till Saturday night, when Mrs Mills came and conducted my Lord to the Venetian ambassador's. We did not communicate the affair to his excellency; but one of his servants concealed him in his own room till Wednesday, on which day the ambassador's coach and six was to go down to Dover to meet his brother. My Lord put on a livery, and went down in the retinue, without the least suspicion, to Dover, where Mr Mitchell, (which was the name of the ambassador's servant) hired a small vessel, and immediately set sail for Calais. The passage was so remarkably short, that the captain threw out this reflection, that the wind could not have served better if his passengers had been flying for their lives,-little thinking it to be really the case. Mr Mitchell might have easily returned without being suspected of having been concerned in my Lord's escape; but my Lord seemed inclined to have him continue with him, which he did, and has at present a good place under our young


This is as exact and as full an account of this affair, and of the persons concerned in it, as I could possibly give you, to the best of my memory; and you may rely on the truth of it.

For my part, I absconded to the house of a very honest man in Drury Lane, where I remained, till I were assured of my Lord's safe arrival on the continent. I then wrote to the Duchess of Buccleugh,

(every body thought till then that I was gone off with my Lord), to tell her that I understood I was suspected of having contrived my Lord's escape, as was very natural to suppose; that, if I could have been happy enough to have done it, I should be flattered to have the merit of it attributed to me; but that a bare suspicion, without proof, could never be a sufficient ground for my being punished for a supposed offence, though it might be motive enough to me to provide a place of security; so I entreated her to procure leave for me to go with safety about my business. So far from granting my request, they were resolved to secure me if possible. After several debates, Mr Solicitor General, who was an utter stranger to me, had the humanity to say, that, since I showed so much respect to government as not to appear in public, it would be cruel to make any search after me: upon which it was decided, that if I remained concealed, no farther search should be made; but, that if I appeared either in England or Scotland, I should be secured. But that was not sufficient for me, unless I could submit to expose my son to beggary. My Lord sent for me up to town in such haste, that I had no time to settle any thing before I left Scotland. I had in my hands all the family papers: I dared trust them to nobody. My house might have been searched without warning, consequently they were far from being secure there. In this distress, I had the precaution to bury them under ground; and nobody but the gardener and myself knew where they were. I did the same with other things of value. The event proved, that I had acted prudently; for after my departure they searched the house; and God knows what might have transpired from these papers.

All these circumstances rendered my presence absolutely necessary, otherwise they might have been lost; for, though they retained the highest preservation, after one very severe winter; for, when I took them up, they were as dry as if they came from the fire-side; yet they could not possibly have remained so much longer without prejudice. In short, as I had once exposed my life for the safety of the father, I could not do less than hazard it once more for the fortune of the son. I had never travelled on horseback but from York to London, as I told you; but the difficulties did not now arise from the severity of the season, but from the fear of being known and arrested. To avoid this, I bought three saddle horses, and set off with my dear Evans and a very trusty servant, whom I brought with me out of Scotland. We put up at all the smallest inns on the road that could take in a few horses, and where I thought I was not known; for I was thoroughly known in all the considerable inns on the north road. Thus I arrived safe at Traquair, where I thought myself secure; for the lieutenant of the county, being a friend of my Lord's, would not permit any search to be made for me, without sending me previous notice to abscond. Here I had the assurance to rest myself for two whole days, pretending that I was going to my own house with the leave of the government, and sent no notice to my own house, lest the magistrates of Dumfries might make too narrow inquiries about me: so they were ignorant of my arrival in the country till I were at home, where I still feigned to have permission to remain. To carry on the deceit the better, I sent for all my neighbours, and invited them to come to my house.

I took

up my papers at night, and sent them off to Traquair. It was a peculiar stroke of Providence that I made the dispatch I did; for they soon suspected me; and, by a very favourable accident, one of them was overheard to say to the magistrates of Dumfries, that the next day they would insist upon seeing my leave from government. This was bruited about; and, when I was told of it, I expressed my surprise that they had been so backward in coming to pay their respects; but, said I, better late than never be sure to tell them that they shall be welcome whenever they choose to come. This was after dinner; but I lost no time to put every thing in readiness, but with all possible secrecy; and the next morning before day-break I set off again for London with the same attendants; and, as before, I put up at the smallest inns, and arrived safe once more.

On my arrival, the report was still fresh of my journey into Scotland, in defiance of their prohibition. A lady informed me, that the King was extremely incensed at the news; that he had issued orders to have me arrested; adding, that I did whatever I pleased, in despite of all his designs; and that I had given him more anxiety and trouble than any woman in all Europe. For which reasons, I kept myself as closely concealed as possible, till the heat of these rumours had abated. In the meanwhile, I took the opinion of a very famous lawyer, who was a man of the strictest probity; he advised me to go off as soon as they had ceased searching for me. I followed his advice; and, about a fortnight after, I escaped without any accident whatever.

The reason he alleged for his opinion was this, that although, in other circumstances, a wife cannot be prosecuted for saving her husband; yet, in cases of high treason, according to the rigour of the law, the head of a wife is responsible for that of a husband, and, as the King was so highly incensed, there could be no answering for the consequences; and he therefore intreated me to leave the kingdom.

The King's resentment was greatly augmented by the petition which I presented, contrary to his express orders; but my Lord was very anxious that a petition might be presented, hoping that it would be at least serviceable to me. I was, in my own mind, convinced that it would answer no purpose; but, as I wished to please my Lord, I desired him to have it drawn up; and I undertook to make it come to the King's hand, notwithstanding all the precautions he had taken to avoid it. So the first day I heard that the King was to go to the drawing-room, I dressed myself in black, as if I had been in mourning, and sent for Mrs Morgan, (the same who accompanied me to the Tower); because, as I did not know his Majesty personally, I might have mistaken some other person for him. She staid by me, and told me when he was coming. I had also another lady with me; and we three remained in a room between the King's apartments and the drawing-room; so that he was obliged to go through it: and, as there were three windows in it, we sat in the middle one, that I might have time enough to meet him before he could pass. I threw myself at his feet, and told him in French, that I was the unfortunate Countess of Nithsdale, that he might not pretend to be ignorant of my person. But, perceiving that he wanted to go off without receiving my petition,

I caught hold of the skirt of his coat, that he might stop and hear me. He endeavoured to escape out of my hands; but I kept such strong hold, that he dragged me on my knees from the middle of the room to the very door of the drawing-room. At last one of the blue ribbons who attended his Majesty, took me round the waist, whilst another wrested the coat out of my hands. The petition which I had endeavoured to thrust into his pocket fell down in the scuffle, and I almost fainted away through grief and disappointment.

One of the gentlemen in waiting picked up the petition; and, as I knew that it ought to have been given to the Lord of the Bed-Chamber who was then in waiting, I wrote to him, and intreated him to do me the favour to read the petition which I had had the honour to present to his Majesty. Fortunately for me it happened to be my Lord Dorset, with whom Mrs Morgan was very intimate. Accordingly, she went into the drawing-room, and delivered him the letter which he received very graciously. He could not read it then, as he was at cards with the Prince; but, as soon as ever the game was over, he read it, and behaved, as I afterwards learned, with the warmest zeal for my interest, and was seconded by the Duke of Montrose, who had seen me in the antichamber, and wanted to speak to me. But I made him a sign not to come near me, lest his acquaintance might thwart, my designs. They read over the petition several times, but without any success; but it became the topic of their conversation the rest of the evening; and the harshness with which I had been treated, soon spread abroad, not much to the honour of the king. Many people reflected, that they had themselves presented petitions to the late king, and that he had never rejected any, even from the most indigent objects; but that this behaviour to a person of my quality was a strong instance of brutality.

These reflections, which circulated about, raised the king to the highest pitch of hatred and indignation against my person, as he has since allowed for when all the ladies whose husbands had been concerned in the affair, presented their petition for dower, mine was presented among the rest; but the king said I was not to be entitled to the same priviledge; and, in fact, I was excluded; and it was remarkable, that he would never suffer my name to be mentioned. For these reasons every body judged it prudent for me to leave the kingdom; for, so long as this hatred of the king subsisted, it was not probable that I could escape from falling into his hands. I accordingly went abroad.

This is the full narrative of what you desired, and of all the transactions which passed relative to this affair; nobody living, besides yourself, could have obtained it from me; but the obligations I owe you, throw me under the necessity of refusing you nothing that lies in my power to do.

As this is for yourself alone, your indulgence will excuse all the faults which must occur in this long recital. The truth you may depend upon. Attend to that, and overlook all deficiencies.

My Lord desires you to be assured of his sincere friendship.-I am, with the strongest attachment, my dear sister, yours most affectionately, (Signed) WINEFRED NITHSDALE.


From "December Tales."

Blow breezes, blow! the stream runs fast,
The rapids are near, and the daylight's past!

On the west of the Alleghany mountains rise the branches of the Youghiogeny river. The surrounding country is fertile and woody, and presents strong attractions for the sportsman, as does also the river, which abounds in fish. These were the principal considerations which induced me, in the autumn of the year 1812, to ramble forth with my dog and gun, amid uninhabited solitudes, almost unknown to human footsteps, and where nothing is heard but the rush of winds and the roar of waters.

On the second day after my departure from home, pursuing my amusement on the banks of the river, I chanced to behold a small boat, fastened by a rope of twisted grass to the bank of the stream. I examined it, and finding it in good condition, I determined to embrace the opportunity that presented itself of extending my sport; and my fishing tackle was put in requisition. I entered into the deminutive vessel, notwithstanding the remonstrances of my four-footed companion, who, by his barking, whining, and delay in coming on board, seemed to entertain manifold objections to the conveyance by water—a circumstance which somewhat surprised me. At last, however, his scruples being overcome, he entered into the boat, and I rowed off.

My success fully equalled my expectations, and evening overtook me before I thought of desisting from my employment. But there were attractions to a lover of nature which forbade my leaving the element on which I glided along. I have mentioned that it was autumn; immense masses of trees, whose fading leaves hung trembling from the branches, ready to be borne away by the next gust, spread their dark brown boundary on every side. To me this time of the year is indescribably beautiful. I love to dwell upon those sad and melancholy associations that suggest themselves to the mind when nature, in her garb of decay, presents herself to the eye: It reminds me that human pride and human happiness, like the perishing things around us, are hastening rapidly on to their deline; that the spring of life flies; that the summer of manhood passes away; and that the autumn of our

« PreviousContinue »