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ship were, however, Scott's early journeys to the Highlands. Among his father's clients was one Alexander Stewart of Invernahyle, who had been "out" both in the Fifteen and the Forty-five. Scott must have made his acquaintance at an early age, for he speaks of having seen him in arms when Paul Jones came near sacking Edinburgh. He was then but eight years old; and at ten, under the influence of his tales of Prestonpans and Culloden (at both of which Stewart had played a distinguished part), he had become "a valiant Jacobite." "I believe there never was a man who united the ardour of a soldier and tale-teller-a man of 'talk as they call it in Gaelic-in such an excellent degree, and he was as fond of telling as I was of hearing," wrote Scott in 1806. During an autumn holiday the young writer's apprentice visited Stewart at his Highland home; but it was when serving a writ on some tenants of his brother-in-law, Stewart of Appin, that he first became acquainted with the neighbourhood of Loch Katrine. He had a file of soldiers to back him, and the sergeant who commanded them told him stories of Rob Roy which, like everything else that interested him, stuck firmly in his memory.

The circle of his Edinburgh acquaintances gradually widened.

"About 1788," he writes, "I began to feel and take my ground in society. A ready wit, a good deal of enthusiasm, and a perception that soon ripened into tact and observation of character, rendered me an acceptable companion to many young

men whose acquisitions in philosophy and science were infinitely superior to anything I could boast."

By this society he was stimulated to give his attention to more solid and serious studies than hitherto. He was a member of various debating clubs, then as now a feature of Edinburgh university life. Chief of these was the celebrated Speculative Society, whose last most distinguished member was R. L. Stevenson. He thus became acquainted with Francis Jeffrey, future editor of the Edinburgh Review, Lord Advocate of Scotland, world-famed judge and critic.

But before this time his apprenticeship was up, and he had begun to read for the Scottish Bar. Though examinations in those days were no serious matter-one day each sufficed for the "trials" in Civil Law and Scots Law-yet Scott calls the years he spent on these legal studies the only ones in his life in which he "applied to learning with stern, steady, and undeviating industry." Every morning he used to get up and walk two miles from George Square to Prince's Street, where before seven o'clock he beat up his friend William Clerk, and went through with him questions in Roman Law and Erskine's Institutes of the Laws of Scotland. In the summer of 1792 both assumed the gown. The courts rose the next day, but not before Scott had received his first guinea fee.

CHAPTER II

LOVE AND MARRIAGE

B

EFORE treating of Scott in his capacity as lawyer it was no unimportant side of his character I propose to touch upon a matter which left the deepest impression both upon his life and writings, although his systematic reticence and his healthy-minded interest in men and things did much to conceal this. Scott was disappointed in love.

Writing in his Journal in old age, he thus refers to the painful experience of his youth :—

"What a romance to tell! And told it will some day be. And then my three years' dreaming and my two years of wakening will be chronicled, doubtless. But the dead will feel no pain."

But the story never has been fully told nor ever can be. We only know the merest fragments. The lady was Williamina Belsches, whose father became soon afterwards Sir John Stuart of Fettercairn. The acquaintance is said to have begun in the Greyfriars Churchyard, Edinburgh, on a certain rainy Sunday when young Walter Scott offered Miss Belsches the shelter of his umbrella, and escorted her to her door. She wore a green cloak like Lilian Redgauntlet when

she came to see the young advocate, Alan Fairford. Scott is supposed to have described his first sight of her to David Erskine of Cardross, in one of a series of letters relating to his attachment which were burnt. The mothers of the young people seem to have known one another, and for many Sundays they continued to walk home together. But Walter's father tried to nip the affair in the bud by warning Sir John

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Stuart of an intimacy which he thought likely to lead to no good, owing to the inequality of their prospects in life. His interference, however (which was unknown to his son), seems to have been fruitless, and the two continued to meet both at Edinburgh and in the country.

"Young Walter Scott," according to a lady of his acquaintance, "was a comely creature." He had a strongly built figure, with a finely formed head superbly set upon a classically moulded bust; his lameness was

eyes,

scarcely apparent. He had a fresh complexion, clear and faultless teeth; "his smile was always delightful." But he was no lady-killer; and he was proud, not complacent, when he first found that "a pretty young woman could think it worth her while" to sit and talk with him by the hour whilst others danced. And we are even told on the authority of the "first woman of real fashion," who, as he himself said, "took him up," that he seemed to her bashful and awkward in those early days. It was probably, however, as much delicacy occasioned by the uncertainty of his prospects as natural diffidence which prevented the young advocate from declaring himself for the long period of five years; but something in the nature of an informal engagement seems to have been agreed upon in the summer of 1795.

A letter from Miss Stuart in August of that year caused Scott, prepared for the worst, tears of joy. “I read over her epistle," he says, "about ten times a day, and always with new admiration for her generosity and candour," with, too, an accompanying sense of his own unworthiness in having entertained suspicions as to her conduct towards him. "Oh for November!" he goes

on.

How "Our meeting will be a little embarrassing. will she look, etc., are the important subjects of my present conjectures-how different from what they were three weeks ago!" He believed himself to have begun. to "dwindle, peak, and pine" from hopeless anxiety; "but now," he declares, "after the charge I have received, it were a shame to resemble Pharaoh's lean kine."

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