David Deans, a moderately prosperous Scottish farmer in the early 1700’s. A vigorous, stern Presbyterian, he is hurt and stunned when his younger daughter is charged with child murder, and he finds comfort only in the devotion of his older daughter Jeanie, who indirectly gets him a more fertile farm while obtaining a pardon for her sister. Although David cannot wholly approve of Jeanie’s fiancé, he is reconciled to the marriage.
Jeanie Deans, a rather plain and simple girl who shows much moral earnestness and courage when she refuses to lie to save her sister from a death sentence and then goes to London at great risk to present her case before the queen. Her force and warmth impress the duke of Argyle and the queen, who obtain a pardon for her sister, give her father a better farm, and give her betrothed a good clerical position. As a result, she is able to marry, and eventually she bears three children.
Effie Deans, Jeanie’s spoiled, pretty younger sister. When Effie’s illegitimate child disappears, she is arrested and sentenced to hang for child murder. Released through the steadfast efforts of Jeanie, she marries her betrayer, the criminal known as Geordie Robertson, and when he later acquires a title under his rightful name of George Staunton, she becomes a court beauty. Years after, she and her husband return to Scotland, where he is killed by a young outlaw who is really his long-lost son. Effie then retires to a convent.
Reuben Butler, Jeanie’s betrothed, a sensible, educated, somewhat pedantic young minister. Unable to marry because of his impoverishment, his difficulties are cleared away when he gives Jeanie a hereditary claim on the duke, is given a church on one of the duke’s estates, and earns the respect of David.
(The entire section is 800 words.)