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So much was his great strength reduced, that, as he gazed upon the water, one of his stag-hounds leaping forward to caress him had almost thrown him down; but for such accidents as this he cared very little. We travelled merrily homeward. As we went up some hill, a couple of children hung on the back of the carriage. He suspended his cudgel over them with a grotesque face of awfulness.
The brats understood the countenance, and only clung the faster. • They do not much mind the Sheriff,' said he to us, with a serio-comic smile, and affecting to speak low. We came home late, and an order was issued that no one should dress. Though I believe he himself caused the edict to be made, he transgressed it more than any
of the party."
I am not sure whether the Royal Academician, Turner, was at Abbotsford at the time of Mr Adolphus's last visit ; but several little excursions, such as the one here described, were made in the company of this great artist, who had come to Scotland for the purpose of making drawings to illustrate the scenery of Sir Walter's poems. On several such occasions I was of the party—and one day deserves to be
specially remembered. Sir Walter took Mr. Turner that morning, with his friend Skene and myself, to Smailholm Crags; and it was while lounging about them, while the painter did his sketch, that he told Mr
Skene how the habit of lying on the turf there among the sheep and lambs, when a lame infant, had given his mind a peculiar tenderness for those animals which it had ever since retained.* He seemed to enjoy the scene of his childhood —yet there was many a touch of sadness both in his eye and his voice. He then carried us to Dryburgh, but excused himself from attending Mr Turner into the inclosure. Mr Skene and I perceived that it would be better for us to leave him alone, and we both accompanied Turner. Lastly, we must not omit to call at Bemerside - for of that ancient residence of the most ancient family now subsisting on Tweedside, he was resolved there must be a fit memorial by this graceful hand. The good laird and lady were of course flattered with this fondness of respect, and after walking about a little while among the huge old trees that surround the tower, we ascended to, I think, the third tier of its vaulted apartments, and had luncheon in a stately hall, arched also in stone, but with well-sized windows (as being out of harm's way) duly blazoned with shields and crests, and the time-honoured motto, BETIDE, BETIDE — being the first words of a prophetic couplet ascribed to Thomas the Rhymer :
“ Betide, betide, whate'er betide,
There shall be Haigs in Bemerside.”
See ante, Vol. I. p.
Mr. Turner's sketch of this picturesque Peel, and its “ brotherhood of venerable trees,” is probably familiar to most of
readers.* Mr Cadell brought the artist to Abbotsford, and was also I think of this Bemerside party. I must not omit to record how gratefully all Sir Walter's family felt at the time, and still remember, the delicate and watchful tenderness of Mr Cadell's conduct on this occasion. He so managed that the Novels just finished should remain in types, but not thrown off until the author should have departed; so as to give opportunity for revising and abridging them. He might well be the bearer of cheering news as to their greater concerns, for the sale of the Magnum had, in spite of political turbulences and distractions, gone on successfully. But he probably strained a point to make things appear still better than they really were. He certainly spoke so as satisfy his friend that he need give himself no sort of uneasiness about the pecuniary results of idleness and travel. It was about this time that we observed Sir Walter beginning to entertain the notion that his debts were paid off. By degrees, dwelling on this fancy, he believed in it fully and implicitly. It was a gross delusion — but neither Cadell nor any one else had the heart to disturb it by any formal statement of figures. It con
* See Scott's Poetical Works, edition 1833, vol. v.
tributed greatly more than any circumstance besides to soothe Sir Walter's feelings, when it became at last necessary that he should tear himself from his land and his house, and the trees which he had nursed, And with all that was done and forborne, the hour when it came was a most heavy one.
Very near the end there came some unexpected things to cast a sunset brilliancy over Abbotsford. His son, the Major, arrived with tidings that he had obtained leave of absence from his regiment, and should be in readiness to sail with his father. This was a mighty relief to us all, on Miss Scott's account as well as his, for my occupations did not permit me to think of going with him, and there was no other near connexion at hand. But Sir Walter was delighted - indeed, dearly as he loved all his children, he had a pride in the Major that stood quite by itself, and the hearty approbation which looked through his eves whenever turned on him, sparkled brighter than ever as his own physical strength decayed. Young Walter had on this occasion sent down a horse or two to winter at Abbotsford. One was a remarkably tall and handsome animal, jet black all over, and when the Major appeared on it one morning, equipped for a little sport with the greyhounds, Sir Walter insisted on being put upon Douce Davie, and conducted as far as the Cauldshiels loch to see the day's work begun. He halted on the high bank to the
north of the lake, and I remained to hold his bridle, in case of
any frisk on the part of the Covenanter at the “ tumult great of dogs and men.” We witnessed a very pretty chase or two on the opposite side of the water - but his eye followed always the tall black steed and his rider. The father might well assure Lady Davy, that “ a handsomer fellow never put foot into stirrup.”
But when he took a very high high wall of loose stones, at which everybody else craned, as easily and elegantly as if it had been a puddle in his stride, the old man's rapture was extreme. “ Look at him," said he — “only look at him. Now, isn't he a fine fellow ?”.
This was the last time, I believe, that Sir Walter mounted on horseback.
He does not seem to have written many farewell letters; but here is one to a very old friend, Mr Kirkpatrick Sharpe. He had, apparently, subscribed for Lodge's splendid book of British Portraits, and then, receiving a copy ex dono auctoris,* sent his own numbers, as they arrived, to this gentleman payment in kind for many courteous gifts and communications of antiquarian and genealogical interest.
Sir Walter's letter to Mr Lodge's publisher is now prefixed to that magnificent book; the circulation of which has been, to the honour of the public, so great, that I need not introduce the beautiful eulogium here.