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Cosmopolis

An International Review.

No. I.-- JANUARY, 1896.

WEIR OF HERMISTON.

[The following unfinished romance is the last work of the late Robert

Louis Stevenson. The theme is one on which his mind had long been working. He did not, however, betake himself in earnest to the composition till the last weeks of his life (see Vailima Letters, pp. 230, 231, and Epilogue), and the chapters which he lived long enough to write, and which will be printed in this and succeeding numbers of COSMOPOLIS, constitute, it may be surmised, little more than a third part of the intended book. They were dictated by the author to his step-daughter and devoted amanuensis, Mrs. Strong, during the month of November and the first days of December, 1894 ; and the last lines were written on the very morning of his sudden seizure and death. None of his earlier work had been produced at such a sustained pitch of invention, or with so little labour in the way of correction or recasting, and the amount of editorial revision which the text has required has been slight in the extreme. The date of the principal action is the winter and spring of 1813-14 ; the place, partly Edinburgh and partly the wild hill-country about the wells of Clyde and Tweed (the name Crossmichael, borrowed from a village in Galloway, must not be taken, by those who may happen to be familiar with it, as indicating the real locality). The character of Adam Weir, Lord Hermiston, has been in some degree suggested by that of a historical personage, Robert Macqueen, Lord Braxfield (b. 1722, d. 1799); but the plot and circumstances are wholly imaginary.

SIDNEY COLVIN.] Copyright (in 1'.S..1.) 1896 by Stone & KIMBALL.]

1

INTRODUCTORY.

In the wild end of a moorland parish, far out of the sight of any house, there stands a cairn among the heather, and a little by east of it, in the going down of the braeside, a monument with some verses half defaced. It was here that Claverhouse shot with his own hand the Praying Weaver of Balweary, and the chisel of Old Mortality has clinked on that lonely gravestone. Public and domestic history have thus marked with a bloody finger this hollow among the hills; and since the Cameronian gave his life there, two hundred years ago, in a glorious folly, and without comprehension or regret, the silence of the moss has been broken once again by the report of firearms and the cry of the dying.

The Deil's Hags was the old name. But the place is now called Francie's Cairn. For a while it was told that Francie walked. Aggie Hogg met him in the gloaming by the cairnside, and he spoke to her, with chattering teeth, so that his words were lost. He pursued Rob Todd (if anyone could have believed Robbie) for the space of half a mile with pitiful entreaties. But the age is one of incredulity ; these superstitious decorations speedily fell off ; and the facts of the story itself, like the bones of a giant buried there and half dug up, survived, naked and imperfect, in the memory of the scattered neighbours. To this day, of winter nights, when the sleet is on the window and the cattle are quiet in the byre, there will be told again, amid the silence of the young and the additions and corrections of the old, the tale of the Justice-Clerk and of his son, young Hermiston, that vanished from men's knowledge ; of the two Kirsties and the Four Black Brothers of the Cauldstaneslap ; and of Frank Innes, “the young fool advocate," that came into these moorland parts to find his destiny.

CHAPTER 1.

LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR.

THE LORD JUSTICE-CLERK was a stranger in that part of the country; but his lady wife was known there from a child, as her race had been before her. The old “riding Rutherfords of Hermiston," of whom she was the last descendant, had been famous men of yore, ill neighbours, ill subjects, and ill husbands to their wives, though not their properties. Tales of them were rife in twenty miles about; and their name was even printed in the page of our Scots histories, not always to their credit. One bit the dust at Flodden ; one was hanged at his peel* door by James the Fifth ; another fell dead in a carouse with Tom Dalyell ; while a fourth (and that was Jean's own father) died presiding at a Hell-Fire Club, of which he was the founder. There were many heads shaken in Crossmichael at that judgment; the more so as the man had a villainous reputation among high and low, and both with the godly and the worldly. At that very hour of his demnise, he had ten going pleas before the session, eight of them oppressive. And the same doom extended even to his agents ; his grieve,t that had been his right hand in many a left-hand business, being cast from his horse one night and drowned in a peat-hag on the Kye-skairs ; and his very doeri (although lawyers have long spoons) surviving him not long, and dying on a sudden in a bloody flux.

In all these generations, while a male Rutherford was in the saddle with his lads, or brawling in a change-house, there would be always a white-faced wife immured at home in the old peel, or the later mansion-house. It seemed this succession of martyrs bided long, but took their vengeance in the end, and that was in the person of the last descendant, Jean. She bore the name of the Rutherfords, but she was the daughter of their trembling wives. At the first she was not wholly without charm. Neighbours recalled in her, as a child, a strain of elfin wilfulness, gentle little mutinies, sad little gaieties, even a morning gleam of beauty that was not to be Tower, fortified house.

+ Bailiff.

Attorney

fulfilled. She withered in the growing, and (whether it was the sins of her sires or the sorrows of her mothers) came to her maturity depressed, and, as it were, defaced; no blood of life in her, no. grasp or gaiety; pious, anxious, tender, tearful, and incompetent.

It was a wonder to many that she had married-seeming so wholly of the stuff that makes old maids. But chance cast her in the path of Adam Weir, then the new Lord-Advocate, a recognised, risen man, the conqueror of many obstacles, and thus late in the day beginning to think upon a wife. He was one who looked rather to obedience than beauty, yet it would seem he was struck with her at the first look. “ Wha's she?" he said, turning to his host; and, when he had been told, “Ay,” says he, "she looks menseful." She minds me--"; and then, after a pause (which some have been daring enough to set down to sentimental recollections), “Is she releegious ?” he asked, and was shortly after, at his own request, presented. The acquaintance, which it seems profane to call a courtship, was pursued with Mr. Weir's accustomed industry, and was long a legend, or rather a source of legends, in the Parliament House. He was described coming, rosy with much port, into the drawing-room, walking direct up to the lady, and assailing her with pleasantries, to which the embarrassed fair one responded, in what seemed a kind of agony, “Eh, Mr. Weir !” or “O, Mr. Weir !" or "Keep me, Mr. Weir !” eve of their engagement, it was related that one had drawn near to the tender couple, and had overheard the lady cry out, with the tones of one who talked for the sake of talking, “Keep me, Mr. Weir, and what became of him?" and the profound accents of the suitor reply, “Haangit,f mem, haangit.” The motives upon either side were much debated. Mr. Weir must have supposed his bride to be somehow suitable ; perhaps he belonged to that class of men who think a weak head the ornament of womenan opinion invariably punished in this life. Her descent and her estate were beyond question. Her wayfaring ancestors and her litigious father had done well by Jean. There was ready money and there were broad acres, ready to fall wholly to the husband, to lend dignity to his descendants, and to himself a title, when he should be called upon the Bench. On * Discreet.

† Hanged.

On the very

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