Part 1 out of 4
Penelope's Experiences in Scotland
being extracts from the commonplace book of Penelope Hamilton
Part First--In Town.
I. A Triangular Alliance.
II. Edina, Scotia's Darling Seat.
III. A Vision in Princes Street.
IV. Susanna Crum cudna say.
V. We emulate the Jackdaw.
VI. Edinburgh society, past and present.
VII. Francesca meets th' unconquer'd Scot.
VIII. `What made th' Assembly shine?'.
IX. Omnia presbyteria est divisa in partes tres.
X. Mrs. M'Collop as a sermon-taster.
XI. Holyrood awakens.
XII. Farewell to Edinburgh.
XIII. The spell of Scotland.
Part Second--In the Country.
XIV. The wee theekit hoosie in the loaning.
XV. Jane Grieve and her grievances.
XVI. The path that led to Crummylowe.
XVII. Playing `Sir Patrick Spens.'
XVIII. Paris comes to Pettybaw.
XIX. Fowk o' Fife.
XX. A Fifeshire tea-party.
XXI. International bickering.
XXII. Francesca entertains the green-eyed monster.
XXIII. Ballad revels at Rowardennan.
XXIV. Old songs and modern instances.
XXV. A treaty between nations.
XXVI. `Scotland's burning! Look out!.'
XXVII. Three magpies and a marriage.
Chapter I. A Triangular Alliance.
`Edina, Scotia's Darling seat!
All hail thy palaces and towers!'
Edinburgh, April 189-.
22 Breadalbane Terrace.
We have travelled together before, Salemina, Francesca, and I, and
we know the very worst there is to know about one another. After
this point has been reached, it is as if a triangular marriage had
taken place, and, with the honeymoon comfortably over, we slip along
in thoroughly friendly fashion. I use no warmer word than`friendly'
because, in the first place, the highest tides of feeling do not
visit the coasts of triangular alliances; and because, in the second
place, `friendly' is a word capable of putting to the blush many a
more passionate and endearing one.
Every one knows of our experiences in England, for we wrote volumes
of letters concerning them, the which were widely circulated among
our friends at the time, and read aloud under the evening lamps in
the several cities of our residence.
Since then few striking changes have taken place in our history.
Salemina returned to Boston for the winter, to find, to her
amazement, that for forty odd years she had been rather
On arriving in New York, Francesca discovered that the young lawyer
whom for six months she had been advising to marry somebody more
worthy than herself was at last about to do it. This was somewhat
in the nature of a shock, for Francesca had been in the habit, ever
since she was seventeen, of giving her lovers similar advice, and up
to this time no one of them has ever taken it. She therefore has
had the not unnatural hope, I think, of organising at one time or
another all these disappointed and faithful swains into a celibate
brotherhood; and perhaps of driving by the interesting monastery
with her husband and calling his attention modestly to the fact that
these poor monks were filling their barren lives with deeds of
piety, trying to remember their Creator with such assiduity that
they might, in time, forget Her.
Her chagrin was all the keener at losing this last aspirant to her
hand in that she had almost persuaded herself that she was as fond
of him as she was likely to be of anybody, and that on the whole she
had better marry him and save his life and reason.
Fortunately she had not communicated this gleam of hope by letter,
feeling, I suppose, that she would like to see for herself the light
of joy breaking over his pale cheek. The scene would have been
rather pretty and touching, but meantime the Worm had turned and
despatched a letter to the Majestic at the quarantine station,
telling her that he had found a less reluctant bride in the person
of her intimate friend Miss Rosa Van Brunt; and so Francesca's dream
of duty and sacrifice was over.
Salemina says she was somewhat constrained for a week and a trifle
cynical for a fortnight, but that afterwards her spirits mounted on
ever ascending spirals to impossible heights, where they have since
remained. It appears from all this that although she was piqued at
being taken at her word, her heart was not in the least damaged. It
never was one of those fragile things which have to be wrapped in
cotton, and preserved from the slightest blow--Francesca's heart.
It is made of excellent stout, durable material, and I often tell
her with the care she takes of it, and the moderate strain to which
it is subjected, it ought to be as good as new a hundred years
As for me, the scene of my own love-story is laid in America and
England, and has nought to do with Edinburgh. It is far from
finished; indeed, I hope it will be the longest serial on record,
one of those charming tales that grow in interest as chapter after
chapter unfolds, until at the end we feel as if we could never part
with the delightful people.
I should be, at this very moment, Mrs. William Beresford, a highly
respectable young matron who painted rather good pictures in her
spinster days, when she was Penelope Hamilton of the great American
working-class, Unlimited; but first Mrs. Beresford's dangerous
illness and then her death, have kept my dear boy a willing prisoner
in Cannes, his heart sadly torn betwixt his love and duty to his
mother and his desire to be with me. The separation is virtually
over now, and we two, alas! have ne'er a mother or a father between
us, so we shall not wait many months before beginning to comfort
each other in good earnest.
Meantime Salemina and Francesca have persuaded me to join their
forces, and Mr. Beresford will follow us to Scotland in a few short
weeks, when we shall have established ourselves in the country.
We are overjoyed at being together again, we three women folk. As I
said before, we know the worst of one another, and the future has no
terrors. We have learned, for example, that--
Francesca does not like an early morning start. Salemina refuses to
arrive late anywhere. Penelope prefers to stay behind and follow
Francesca scorns to travel third class. So does Salemina, but she
will if urged.
Penelope hates a four-wheeler. Salemina is nervous in a hansom.
Francesca prefers a barouche or a landau.
Salemina likes a steady fire in the grate. Penelope opens a window
and fans herself.
Salemina inclines to instructive and profitable expeditions.
Francesca loves processions and sightseeing. Penelope abhors all of
Salemina likes history. Francesca loves fiction. Penelope adores
poetry and detests facts.
Penelope likes substantial breakfasts. Francesca dislikes the sight
of food in the morning.
In the matter of breakfasts, when we have leisure to assert our
individual tastes, Salemina prefers tea, Francesca cocoa, and I,
coffee. We can never, therefore, be served with a large comfortable
pot of anything, but are confronted instead with a caravan of silver
jugs, china jugs, bowls of hard and soft sugar, hot milk, cold milk,
hot water, and cream, while each in her secret heart wishes that the
other two were less exigeante in the matter of diet and beverages.
This does not sound promising, but it works perfectly well in
practice by the exercise of a little flexibility.
As we left dear old Dovermarle Street and Smith's Private Hotel
behind, and drove to the station to take the Flying Scotsman, we
indulged in floods of reminiscence over the joys of travel we had
tasted together in the past, and talked with lively anticipation of
the new experiences awaiting us in the land of heather.
While Salemina went to purchase the three first-class tickets, I
superintended the porters as they disposed our luggage in the van,
and in so doing my eye lighted upon a third-class carriage which
was, for a wonder, clean, comfortable, and vacant. Comparing it
hastily with the first-class compartment being held by Francesca, I
found that it differed only in having no carpet on the floor, and a
smaller number of buttons in the upholstering. This was really
heartrending when the difference in fare for three persons would be
at least twenty dollars. What a delightful sum to put aside for a
rainy day!--that is, be it understood, what a delightful sum to put
aside and spend on the first rainy day! for that is the way we
always interpret the expression.
When Salemina returned with the tickets, she found me, as usual,
bewailing our extravagance.
Francesca descended suddenly from her post, and, wresting the
tickets from her duenna, exclaimed, "'I know that I can save the
country, and I know no other man can!' as William Pitt said to the
Duke of Devonshire. I have had enough of this argument. For six
months of last year we discussed travelling third class and
continued to travel first. Get into that clean hard-seated, ill-
upholstered third-class carriage immediately, both of you; save room
enough for a mother with two babies, and man carrying a basket of
fish, and an old woman with five pieces of hand-luggage and a dog;
meanwhile I will exchange the tickets."
So saying, she disappeared rapidly among the throng of passengers,
guards, porters, newspaper boys, golfers with bags of clubs, young
ladies with bicycles, and old ladies with tin hat-boxes.
"What decision, what swiftness of judgment, what courage and
energy!" murmured Salemina. "Isn't she wonderfully improved since
that unexpected turning of the Worm?"
Francesca rejoined us just as the guard was about to lock us in, and
flung herself down, quite breathless from her unusual exertion.
"Well, we are travelling third for once, and the money is saved, or
at least it is ready to spend again at the first opportunity. The
man didn't wish to exchange the tickets at all. He says it is never
done. I told him they were bought by a very inexperienced American
lady (that is you, Salemina) who knew almost nothing of the
distinctions between first and third class, and naturally took the
best, believing it to be none too good for a citizen of the greatest
republic on the face of the earth. He said the tickets had been
stamped on. I said so should I be if I returned without exchanging
them. He was a very dense person, and didn't see my joke at all,
but then, it is true, there were thirteen men in line behind me,
with the train starting in three minutes, and there is nothing so
debilitating to a naturally weak sense of humour as selling tickets
behind a grating, so I am not really vexed with him. There! we are
quite comfortable, pending the arrival of the babies, the dog, and
the fish, and certainly no vendor of periodic literature will dare
approach us while we keep these books in evidence."
She had Laurence Hutton's Literary Landmarks and Royal Edinburgh, by
Mrs. Oliphant; I had Lord Cockburn's Memorials of his Time; and
somebody had given Salemina, at the moment of leaving London, a work
on `Scotias's darling seat,' in three huge volumes. When all this
printed matter was heaped on the top of Salemina's hold-all on the
platform, the guard had asked, "Do you belong to these books,
"We may consider ourselves injured in going from London to Edinburgh
in a third-class carriage in eight or ten hours, but listen to
this," said Salemina, who had opened one of her large volumes at
random when the train started.
"'The Edinburgh and London Stage-coach begins on Monday, 13th
October 1712. All that desire ... let them repair to the Coach and
Horses at the head of the Canongate every Saturday, or the Black
Swan in Holborn every other Monday, at both of which places they may
be received in a coach which performs the whole journey in thirteen
days without any stoppage (if God permits) having eighty able
horses. Each passenger paying 4 pounds, 10 shillings for the whole
journey, allowing each 20 lbs. weight and all above to pay 6 pence
per lb. The coach sets off at six in the morning' (you could never
have caught it, Francesca!), `and is performed by Henry Harrison.'
And here is a `modern improvement,' forty-two years later. In July
1754, the Edinburgh Courant advertises the stage-coach drawn by six
horses, with a postilion on one of the leaders, as a `new, genteel,
two-end glass machine, hung on steel springs, exceedingly light and
easy, to go in ten days in summer and twelve in winter. Passengers
to pay as usual. Performed (if God permits) by your dutiful
servant, Hosea Eastgate. CARE IS TAKEN OF SMALL PARCELS ACCORDING TO
"It would have been a long, wearisome journey," said I
contemplatively; "but, nevertheless, I wish we were making it in
1712 instead of a century and three-quarters later."
"What would have been happening, Salemina?" asked Francesca
politely, but with no real desire to know.
"The Union had been already established five years," began Salemina
Salemina is used to these interruptions and eruptions of illiteracy
on our part. I think she rather enjoys them, as in the presence of
such complete ignorance as ours her lamp of knowledge burns all the
"Anne was on the throne," she went on, with serene dignity.
"I know all about Anne!" exclaimed Francesca. "She came from the
Midnight Sun country, or up that way. She was very extravagant, and
had something to do with Jingling Geordie in The Fortunes of Nigel.
It is marvellous how one's history comes back to one!"
"Quite marvellous," said Salemina dryly; "or at least the state in
which it comes back is marvellous. I am not a stickler for dates,
as you know, but if you could only contrive to fix a few periods in
your minds, girls, just in a general way, you would not be so
shamefully befogged. Your Anne of Denmark, Francesca, was the wife
of James VI. of Scotland, who was James I. of England, and she died
a hundred years before the Anne I mean,--the last of the Stuarts,
you know. My Anne came after William and Mary, and before the
"Which William and Mary?"
But this was too much even for Salemina's equanimity, and she
retired behind her book in dignified displeasure, while Francesca
and I meekly looked up the Annes in a genealogical table, and tried
to decide whether `b.1665' meant born or beheaded.
Chapter II. Edina, Scotia's Darling Seat.
The weather that greeted us on our unheralded arrival in Scotland
was of the precise sort offered by Edinburgh to her unfortunate
`After a youth by woes o'ercast,
After a thousand sorrows past,
The lovely Mary once again
Set foot upon her native plain.'
John Knox records of those memorable days: `The very face of heaven
did manifestlie speak what comfort was brought to this country with
hir--to wit, sorrow, dolour, darkness and all impiety--for in the
memorie of man never was seen a more dolorous face of the heavens
than was seen at her arryvall . . . the myst was so thick that
skairse micht onie man espy another; and the sun was not seyn to
shyne two days befoir nor two days after.'
We could not see Edina's famous palaces and towers because of the
haar, that damp, chilling, drizzling, dripping fog or mist which the
east wind summons from the sea; but we knew that they were there,
shrouded in the heart of that opaque, mysterious greyness, and that
before many hours our eyes would feast upon their beauty.
Perhaps it was the weather, but I could think of nothing but poor
Queen Mary! She had drifted into my imagination with the haar, so
that I could fancy her homesick gaze across the water as she
murmured, `Adieu, ma chere France! Je ne vous verray jamais plus!'-
-could fancy her saying as in Allan Cunningham's verse:-
`The sun rises bright in France,
And fair sets he;
But he hath tint the blithe blink he had
In my ain countree.'
And then I recalled Mary's first good-night in Edinburgh: that
`serenade of 500 rascals with vile fiddles and rebecks'; that
singing, `in bad accord,' of Protestant psalms by the wet crowd
beneath the palace windows, while the fires on Arthur's Seat shot
flickering gleams of welcome through the dreary fog. What a lullaby
for poor Mary, half Frenchwoman and all Papist!
It is but just to remember the `indefatigable and undissuadable'
John Knox's statement, `the melody lyked her weill, and she willed
the same to be continewed some nightis after.' For my part,
however, I distrust John Knox's musical feeling, and incline
sympathetically to the Sieur de Brantome's account, with its `vile
fiddles' and `discordant psalms,' although his judgment was
doubtless a good deal depressed by what he called the si grand
brouillard that so dampened the spirits of Mary's French retinue.
Ah well, I was obliged to remember, in order to be reasonably happy
myself, that Mary had a gay heart, after all; that she was but
nineteen; that, though already a widow, she did not mourn her young
husband as one who could not be comforted; and that she must soon
have been furnished with merrier music than the psalms, for another
of the sour comments of the time is, `Our Queen weareth the dule
[weeds], but she can dance daily, dule and all!'
These were my thoughts as we drove through invisible streets in the
Edinburgh haar, turned into what proved next day to be a Crescent,
and drew up to an invisible house with a visible number 22 gleaming
over a door which gaslight transformed into a probability. We
alighted, and though we could scarcely see the driver's outstretched
hand, he was quite able to discern a half-crown, and demanded three
The noise of our cab had brought Mrs. M'Collop to the door,--good
(or at least pretty good) Mrs. M'Collop, to whose apartments we had
been commended by English friends who had never occupied them.
Dreary as it was without, all was comfortable within-doors, and a
cheery (one-and-sixpenny) fire crackled in the grate. Our private
drawing-room was charmingly furnished, and so large that,
notwithstanding the presence of a piano, two sofas, five small
tables, cabinets, desks, and chairs,--not forgetting a dainty five-
o'clock tea equipage,--we might have given a party in the remaining
"If this is a typical Scotch lodging, I like it; and if it is Scotch
hospitality to lay the cloth and make the fire before it is asked
for, then I call it simply Arabian in character!" and Salemina drew
off her damp gloves, and extended her hands to the blaze.
"And isn't it delightful that the bill doesn't come in for a whole
week?" asked Francesca. "We have only our English experiences on
which to found our knowledge, and all is delicious mystery. The tea
may be a present from Mrs. M'Collop, and the sugar may not be an
extra; the fire may be included in the rent of the apartment, and
the piano may not be taken away to-morrow to enhance the attractions
of the dining-room floor." (It was Francesca, you remember, who had
`warstled' with the itemised accounts at Smith's Private Hotel in
London, and she who was always obliged to turn pounds, shillings,
and pence into dollars and cents before she could add or subtract.)
"Come and look at the flowers in my bedroom," I called, "four great
boxes full! Mr. Beresford must have ordered the carnations, because
he always does; but where did the roses come from, I wonder?"
I rang the bell, and a neat white-aproned maid appeared.
"Who brought these flowers, please?"
"I cudna say, mam."
"Thank you; will you be good enough to ask Mrs. M'Collop?"
In a moment she returned with the message, "There will be a letter
in the box, mam."
"It seems to me the letter should be in the box now, if it is ever
to be," I thought, and I presently drew this card from among the
`Lady Baird sends these Scotch roses as a small return for the
pleasure she has received from Miss Hamilton's pictures. Lady Baird
will give herself the pleasure of calling to-morrow; meantime she
hopes that Miss Hamilton and her party will dine with her some
evening this week.'
"How nice!" exclaimed Salemina.
"The celebrated Miss Hamilton's undistinguished party presents its
humble compliments to Lady Baird," chanted Francesca, "and having no
engagements whatever, and small hope of any, will dine with her on
any and every evening she may name. Miss Hamilton's party will wear
its best clothes, polish its mental jewels, and endeavour in every
possible way not to injure the gifted Miss Hamilton's reputation
among the Scottish nobility."
I wrote a hasty note of thanks to Lady Baird, and rang the bell.
"Can I send a message, please?" I asked the maid.
"I cudna say, mam."
"Will you be good enough to ask Mrs. M'Collop, please?"
"The Boots will tak' it at seeven o'clock, mam."
"Thank you; is Fotheringay Crescent near here?"
"I cudna say, mam."
"Thank you; what is your name, please?"
I waited in well-grounded anxiety, for I had no idea that she knew
her name, or that if she had ever heard it, she could say it; but,
to my surprise, she answered almost immediately, "Susanna Crum,
What a joy it is in a vexatious world, where things `gang aft
agley,' to find something absolutely right.
If I had devoted years to the subject, having the body of Susanna
Crum before my eyes every minute of the time for inspiration,
Susanna Crum is what I should have named that maid. Not a vowel
could be added, not a consonant omitted. I said so when first I saw
her, and weeks of intimate acquaintance only deepened my reverence
for the parental genius that had so described her to the world.
Chapter III. A vision in Princes Street.
When we awoke next morning the sun had forgotten itself and was
shining in at Mrs. M'Collop's back windows.
We should have arisen at once to burn sacrifices and offer
oblations, but we had seen the sun frequently in America, and had no
idea (poor fools!) that it was anything to be grateful for, so we
accepted it, almost without comment, as one of the perennial
providences of life.
When I speak of Edinburgh sunshine I do not mean, of course, any
such burning, whole-souled, ardent warmth of beam as one finds in
countries where they make a specialty of climate. It is, generally
speaking, a half-hearted, uncertain ray, as pale and transitory as a
martyr's smile; but its faintest gleam, or its most puerile attempt
to gleam, is admired and recorded by its well-disciplined
constituency. Not only that, but at the first timid blink of the
sun the true Scotsman remarks smilingly, `I think now we shall be
having settled weather!' It is a pathetic optimism, beautiful but
quite groundless, and leads one to believe in the story that when
Father Noah refused to take Sandy into the ark, he sat down
philosophically outside, saying, with a glance at the clouds,
`Aweel! the day's just aboot the ord'nar', an' I wouldna won'er if
we saw the sun afore nicht!'
But what loyal son of Edina cares for these transatlantic gibes, and
where is the dweller within her royal gates who fails to succumb to
the sombre beauty of that old grey town of the North? `Grey! why,
it is grey or grey and gold, or grey and gold and blue, or grey and
gold and blue and green, or grey and gold and blue and green and
purple, according as the heaven pleases and you choose your ground!
But take it when it is most sombrely grey, where is another such
So says one of her lovers, and so the great army of lovers would
say, had they the same gift of language; for
`Even thus, methinks, a city reared should be, . . .
Yea, an imperial city that might hold
Five time a hundred noble towns in fee. . . .
Thus should her towers be raised; with vicinage
Of clear bold hills, that curve her very streets,
As if to indicate, `mid choicest seats
Of Art, abiding Nature's majesty.'
We ate a hasty breakfast that first morning, and prepared to go out
for a walk into the great unknown, perhaps the most pleasurable
sensation in the world. Francesca was ready first, and, having
mentioned the fact several times ostentatiously, she went into the
drawing-room to wait and read the Scotsman. When we went thither a
few minutes later we found that she had disappeared.
"She is below, of course," said Salemina. "She fancies that we
shall feel more ashamed at our tardiness if we find her sitting on
the hall bench in silent martyrdom."
There was no one in the hall, however, save Susanna, who inquired if
we would see the cook before going out.
"We have no time now, Susanna," I remarked. "We are anxious to have
a walk before the weather changes, if possible, but we shall be out
for luncheon and in for dinner, and Mrs. M'Collop may give us
anything she pleases. Do you know where Miss Francesca is?"
"I cudna s---"
"Certainly, of course you couldn't; but I wonder if Mrs. M'Collop
Mrs. M'Collop appeared from the basement, and vouchsafed the
information that she had seen `the young leddy rinnin' after the
"Running after the regiment!" repeated Salemina automatically.
"What a reversal of the laws of nature? Why, in Berlin, it was
always the regiment that used to run after her!"
We learned in what direction the soldiers had gone, and pursuing the
same path found the young lady on the corner of a street near by.
She was quite unabashed. "You don't know what you have missed!" she
said excitedly. "Let us get into this tram, and possibly we can
head them off somewhere. They may be going into battle, and if so,
my heart's blood is at their service. It is one of those
experiences that come only once in a lifetime. There were pipes and
there were kilts! (I didn't suppose they ever really wore them
outside of the theatre!) When you have seen the kilts swinging,
Salemina, you will never be the same woman afterwards! You never
expected to see the Olympian gods walking, did you? Perhaps you
thought they always sat on practicable rocks and made stiff
gestures, from the elbow, as they do in the Wagner operas? Well,
these gods walked, if you can call the inspired gait a walk! If
there is a single spinster left in Scotland, it is because none of
these ever asked her to marry him. Ah, how grateful I ought to be
that I am free to say `yes', if a kilt ever asks me to be his! Poor
Penelope, yoked to your commonplace trousered Beresford! (I wish
the tram would go faster!) You must capture one of them, by fair
means or foul, Penelope, and Salemina and I will hold him down while
you paint him,--there they are, they are there somewhere, don't you
There they were indeed, filing down the grassy slopes of the
Gardens, swinging across one of the stone bridges, and winding up
the Castlehill to the Esplanade like a long glittering snake; the
streamers of their Highland bonnets waving, their arms glistening in
the sun, and the bagpipes playing `The March of the Cameron Men.'
The pipers themselves were mercifully hidden from us on that first
occasion, and it was well, for we could never have borne another
feather's weight of ecstasy.
It was in Princes Street that we had alighted,--named thus for the
prince who afterwards became George IV.--and I hope he was, and is,
properly grateful. It ought never to be called a street, this most
magnificent of terraces, and the world has cause to bless that
interdict of the Court of Session in 1774 which prevented the
Gradgrinds of the day from erecting buildings along its south side,-
-a sordid scheme that would have been the very superfluity of
It was an envious Glasgow body who said grudgingly, as he came out
of Waverley Station, and gazed along its splendid length for the
first time, "Weel, wi' a' their haverin', it's but half a street
onyway!"--which always reminded me of the Western farmer who came
from his native plains to the beautiful Berkshire hills. "I've
always heard o' this scenery," he said. "Blamed if I can find any
scenery; but if there was, nobody could see it, there's so much high
ground in the way!"
To think that not so much more than a hundred years ago Princes
Street was nought but a straight country road, the `Lang Dykes' and
the `Lang Gait,' as it was called.
We looked down over the grassy chasm that separates the New from the
Old Town; looked our first on Arthur's Seat, that crouching lion of
a mountain; saw the Corstorphine Hill, and Calton heights, and
Salisbury Crags, and finally that stupendous bluff of rock that
culminates so majestically in Edinburgh Castle. There is something
else which, like Susanna Crum's name, is absolutely and ideally
right! Stevenson calls it one of the most satisfactory crags in
nature--a Bass rock upon dry land, rooted in a garden, shaken by
passing trains, carrying a crown of battlements and turrets, and
describing its warlike shadow over the liveliest and brightest
thoroughfare of the new town. It dominates the whole countryside
from water and land. The men who would have the courage to build
such a castle in such a spot are all dead; all dead, and the world
is infinitely more comfortable without them. They are all gone, and
no more like unto them will ever be born, and we can most of us
count upon dying safely in our beds, of diseases bred of modern
civilisation. But I am glad that those old barbarians, those
rudimentary creatures working their way up into the divine likeness,
when they were not hanging, drawing, quartering, torturing, and
chopping their neighbours, and using their heads in conventional
patterns on the tops of gate-posts, did devote their leisure
intervals to rearing fortresses like this. Edinburgh Castle could
not be conceived, much less built, nowadays, when all our energy is
consumed in bettering the condition of the `submerged tenth'! What
did they care about the `masses,' that `regal race that is now no
more,' when they were hewing those blocks of rugged rock and piling
them against the sky-line on the top of that great stone mountain!
It amuses me to think how much more picturesque they left the world,
and how much better we shall leave it; though if an artist were
requested to distribute individual awards to different generations,
you could never persuade him to give first prizes to the centuries
that produced steam laundries, trolleys, X rays, and sanitary
What did they reck of Peace Congresses and bloodless arbitrations
when they lighted the beacon-fires, flaming out to the gudeman and
his sons ploughing or sowing in the Lang Dykes the news that their
`ancient enemies of England had crossed the Tweed'!
I am the most peaceful person in the world, but the Castle was too
much for my imagination. I was mounted and off and away from the
first moment I gazed upon its embattled towers, heard the pipers in
the distance, and saw the Black Watch swinging up the green steps
where the huge fortress `holds its state.' The modern world had
vanished, and my steed was galloping, galloping, galloping back into
the place-of-the-things-that-are-past, traversing centuries at every
`To arms! Let every banner in Scotland float defiance to the
breeze!' (So I heard my new-born imaginary spirit say to my real
one.) `Yes, and let the Deacon Convener unfurl the sacred Blue
Blanket, under which every liege burgher of the kingdom is bound to
answer summons! The bale-fires are gleaming, giving alarm to Hume,
Haddington, Dunbar, Dalkeith, and Eggerhope. Rise, Stirling, Fife,
and the North! All Scotland will be under arms in two hours. One
bale-fire: the English are in motion! Two: they are advancing!
Four in a row: they are of great strength! All men in arms west of
Edinburgh muster there! All eastward, at Haddington! And every
Englishman caught in Scotland is lawfully the prisoner of whoever
takes him!' (What am I saying? I love Englishmen, but the spell is
upon me!) `Come on, Macduff!' (The only suitable and familiar
challenge my warlike tenant can summon at the moment.) `I am the
son of a Gael! My dagger is in my belt, and with the guid
broadsword at my side I can with one blow cut a man in twain! My
bow is cut from the wood of the yews of Glenure; the shaft is from
the wood of Lochetive, the feathers from the great golden eagles of
Locktreigside! My arrowhead was made by the smiths of the race of
Macphedran! Come on, Macduff!'
And now a shopkeeper has filled his window with royal Stuart
tartans, and I am instantly a Jacobite.
`The Highland clans wi' sword in hand,
Frae John o' Groat's to Airly,
Hae to a man declar'd to stand
Or fa' wi' Royal Charlie.
`Come through the heather, around him gather,
Come Ronald, come Donald, come a'thegither,
And crown your rightfu' lawfu' king,
For wha'll be king but Charlie?'
It is the eve of the battle of Prestonpans. Is it not under the
Rock of Dunsappie on yonder Arthur's Seat that our Highland army
will encamp to-night? At dusk the prince will hold a council of his
chiefs and nobles (I am a chief and a noble), and at daybreak we
shall march through the old hedgerows and woods of Duddingston,
pipes playing and colours flying, bonnie Charlie at the head, his
claymore drawn and the scabbard flung away! (I mean awa'!)--
`Then here's a health to Charlie's cause,
And be't complete an' early;
His very name my heart's blood warms
To arms for Royal Charlie!
`Come through the heather, around him gather,
Come Ronald, come Donald, come a'thegither,
And crown your rightfu', lawfu' king,
For wha'll be king but Charlie?'
I hope that those in authority will never attempt to convene a Peace
Congress in Edinburgh, lest the influence of the Castle be too
strong for the delegates. They could not resist it nor turn their
backs upon it, since, unlike other ancient fortresses, it is but a
stone's-throw from the front windows of all the hotels. They might
mean never so well, but they would end by buying dirk hat-pins and
claymore brooches for their wives, their daughters would all run
after the kilted regiment and marry as many of the pipers as asked
them, and before night they would all be shouting with the noble
`Where's the coward who would not dare
To fight for such a land?'
While I was rhapsodising, Salemina and Francesca were shopping in
the Arcade, buying some of the cairngorms, and Tam O'Shanter purses,
and models of Burns's cottage, and copies of Marmion in plaided
covers, and thistle belt-buckles, and bluebell penwipers, with which
we afterwards inundated our native land. When my warlike mood had
passed, I sat down upon the steps of the Scott monument and watched
the passers-by in a sort of waking dream. I suppose they were the
usual professors and doctors and ministers who are wont to walk up
and down the Edinburgh streets, with a sprinkling of lairds and
leddies of high degree and a few Americans looking at the shop
windows to choose their clan tartans; but for me they did not exist.
In their places stalked the ghosts of kings and queens and knights
and nobles; Columba, Abbot of Iona; Queen Margaret and Malcolm--she
the sweetest saint in all the throng; King David riding towards
Drumsheugh forest on Holy Rood day, with his horns and hounds and
huntsmen following close behind; Anne of Denmark and Jingling
Geordie; Mary Stuart in all her girlish beauty, with the four Maries
in her train; and lurking behind, Bothwell, `that ower sune
stepfaither,' and the murdered Rizzio and Darnley; John Knox, in his
black Geneva cloak; Bonnie Prince Charlie and Flora Macdonald;
lovely Annabella Drummond; Robert the Bruce; George Heriot with a
banner bearing on it the words `I distribute chearfully'; James I.
carrying The King's Quair; Oliver Cromwell; and a long line of
heroes, martyrs, humble saints, and princely knaves.
Behind them, regardless of precedence, came the Ploughman Poet and
the Ettrick Shepherd, Boswell and Dr.Johnson, Dr.John Brown and
Thomas Carlyle, Lady Nairne and Drummond of Hawthornden, Allan
Ramsay and Sir Walter; and is it not a proof of the Wizard's magic
art, that side by side with the wraiths of these real people walked,
or seemed to walk, the Fair Maid of Perth, Jeanie Deans, Meg
Merrilies, Guy Mannering, Ellen, Marmion, and a host of others so
sweetly familiar and so humanly dear that the very street-laddies
could have named and greeted them as they passed by?
Chapter IV. Susanna Crum cudna say.
Life at Mrs. M'Collop's apartments in 22 Breadalbane Terrace is
about as simple, comfortable, dignified, and delightful as it well
Mrs. M'Collop herself is neat, thrifty, precise, tolerably genial,
and `verra releegious.'
Her partner, who is also the cook, is a person introduced to us as
Miss Diggity. We afterwards learned that this is spelled Dalgety,
but it is not considered good form, in Scotland, to pronounce the
names of persons and places as they are written. When, therefore, I
allude to the cook, which will be as seldom as possible, I shall
speak of her as Miss Diggity-Dalgety, so that I shall be presenting
her correctly both to the eye and to the ear, and giving her at the
same time a hyphenated name, a thing which is a secret object of
aspiration in Great Britain.
In selecting our own letters and parcels from the common stock on
the hall table, I perceive that most of our fellow-lodgers are
hyphenated ladies, whose visiting-cards diffuse the intelligence
that in their single persons two ancient families and fortunes are
united. On the ground floor are the Misses Hepburn-Sciennes
(pronounced Hebburn-Sheens); on the floor above us are Miss
Colquhoun (Cohoon) and her cousin Miss Cockburn-Sinclair (Coburn-
Sinkler). As soon as the Hepburn-Sciennes depart, Mrs. M'Collop
expects Mrs. Menzies of Kilconquhar, of whom we shall speak as Mrs.
Mingess of Kinyuchar. There is not a man in the house; even the
Boots is a girl, so that 22 Breadalbane Terrace is as truly a castra
puellarum as was ever the Castle of Edinburgh with its maiden
princesses in the olden time.
We talked with Miss Diggity-Dalgety on the evening of our first day
at Mrs. M'Collop's, when she came up to know our commands. As
Francesca and Salemina were both in the room, I determined to be as
Scotch as possible, for it is Salemina's proud boast that she is
taken for a native of every country she visits.
"We shall not be entertaining at present, Miss Diggity," I said, "so
you can give us just the ordinary dishes,--no doubt you are
accustomed to them: scones, baps or bannocks with marmalade,
finnan-haddie or kippered herring for breakfast; tea,--of course we
never touch coffee in the morning" (here Francesca started with
surprise); "porridge, and we like them well boiled, please" (I hope
she noted the plural pronoun; Salemina did, and blanched with envy);
"minced collops for luncheon, or a nice little black-faced chop;
Scotch broth, pease brose or cockyleekie soup at dinner, and haggis
now and then, with a cold shape for dessert. That is about the sort
of thing we are accustomed to,--just plain Scotch living."
I was impressing Miss Diggity-Dalgety,--I could see that clearly;
but Francesca spoiled the effect by inquiring, maliciously, if we
could sometimes have a howtowdy wi' drappit eggs, or her favourite
dish, wee grumphie wi' neeps.
Here Salemina was obliged to poke the fire in order to conceal her
smiles, and the cook probably suspected that Francesca found
howtowdy in the Scotch glossary; but we amused each other vastly,
and that is our principal object in life.
Miss Diggity-Dalgety's forebears must have been exposed to foreign
influences, for she interlards her culinary conversation with French
terms, and we have discovered that this is quite common. A `jigget'
of mutton is of course a gigot, and we have identified an `ashet' as
an assiette. The `petticoat tails' she requested me to buy at the
confectioner's were somewhat more puzzling, but when they were
finally purchased by Susanna Crum they appeared to be ordinary
little cakes; perhaps, therefore, petits gastels, since gastel is an
old form of gateau, as was bel for beau. Susanna, on her part,
speaks of the wardrobe in my bedroom as an `awmry.' It certainly
contains no weapons, so cannot be an armoury, and we conjecture that
her word must be a corruption of armoire.
"That was a remarkable touch about the black-faced chop," laughed
Salemina, when Miss Diggity-Dalgety had retired; "not that I believe
they ever say it."
"I am sure they must," I asserted stoutly, "for I passed a flesher's
on my way home, and saw a sign with `Prime Black-Faced Mutton'
printed on it. I also saw `Fed Veal,' but I forgot to ask the cook
"We ought really to have kept house in Edinburgh," observed
Francesca, looking up from the Scotsman. "One can get a `self-
contained residential flat' for twenty pounds a month. We are such
an enthusiastic trio that a self-contained flat would be everything
to us; and if it were not fully furnished, here is a firm that
wishes to sell a `composite bed' for six pounds, and a `gent's
stuffed easy' for five. Added to these inducements there is
somebody who advertises that parties who intend `displenishing' at
the Whit Term would do well to consult him, as he makes a specialty
of second-handed furniture and `cyclealities.' What are
`cyclealities,' Susanna?" (She had just come in with coals.)
"I cudna say, mam."
"Thank you; no, you need not ask Mrs. M'Collop; it is of no
Susanna Crum is a most estimable young woman, clean, respectful,
willing, capable, and methodical, but as a Bureau of Information she
is painfully inadequate. Barring this single limitation she seems
to be a treasure-house of all good practical qualities; and being
thus clad and panoplied in virtue, why should she be so timid and
She wears an expression which can mean only one of two things:
either she has heard of the national tomahawk and is afraid of
violence on our part, or else her mother was frightened before she
was born. This applies in general to her walk and voice and manner,
but is it fear that prompts her eternal `I cudna say,' or is it
perchance Scotch caution and prudence? Is she afraid of projecting
her personality too indecently far? Is it the indirect effect of
heresy trials on her imagination? Does she remember the thumbscrew
of former generations? At all events, she will neither affirm nor
deny, and I am putting her to all sorts of tests, hoping to discover
finally whether she is an accident, an exaggeration, or a type.
Salemina thinks that our American accent may confuse her. Of course
she means Francesca's and mine, for she has none; although we have
tempered ours so much for the sake of the natives, that we can
scarcely understand each other any more. As for Susanna's own
accent, she comes from the heart of Aberdeenshire, and her
intonation is beyond my power to reproduce.
We naturally wish to identify all the national dishes; so, "Is this
cockle soup, Susanna?" I ask her, as she passes me the plate at
"I cudna say."
"This vegetable is new to me, Susanna; is it perhaps sea-kale?"
"I canna say, mam."
Then finally, in despair, as she handed me a boiled potato one day,
I fixed my searching Yankee brown eyes on her blue-Presbyterian,
non-committal ones, and asked, "What is this vegetable, Susanna?"
In an instant she withdrew herself, her soul, her ego, so utterly
that I felt myself gazing at an inscrutable stone image, as she
replied, "I cudna say, mam."
This was too much! Her mother may have been frightened, very badly
frightened, but this was more that I could endure without protest.
The plain boiled potato is practically universal. It is not only
common to all temperate climates, but it has permeated all classes
of society. I am confident that the plain boiled potato has been
one of the chief constituents in the building up of that frame in
which Susanna Crum conceals her opinions and emotions. I remarked,
therefore, as an, apparent afterthought, "Why, it is a potato, is it
What do you think she replied, when thus hunted into a corner,
pushed against a wall, driven to the very confines of her personal
and national liberty? She subjected the potato to a second careful
scrutiny, and answered, "I wudna say it's no'!"
Now there is no inherited physical terror in this. It is the
concentrated essence of intelligent reserve, caution, and obstinacy;
it is a conscious intellectual hedging; it is a dogged and
determined attempt to build up barriers of defence between the
questioner and the questionee: it must be, therefore, the offspring
of the catechism and the heresy trial.
Once again, after establishing an equally obvious fact, I succeeded
in wringing from her the reluctant admission, "It depends," but she
was so shattered by the bulk and force of this outgo, so fearful
that in some way she had imperilled her life or reputation, so
anxious concerning the effect that her unwilling testimony might
have upon unborn generations, that she was of no real service the
rest of the day.
I wish that the Lord Advocate, or some modern counterpart of
Braxfield, the hanging judge, would summon Susanna Crum as a witness
in an important case. He would need his longest plummet to sound
the depths of her consciousness.
I have had no legal experience, but I can imagine the scene.
"Is the prisoner your father, Susanna Crum?"
"I cudna say, my lord."
"You have not understood the question, Susanna. Is the prisoner
"I cudna say, my lord."
"Come, come, my girl! you must answer the questions put you by the
court. You have been an inmate of the prisoner's household since
your earliest consciousness. He provided you with food, lodging,
and clothing during your infancy and early youth. You have seen him
on annual visits to your home, and watched him as he performed the
usual parental functions for your younger brothers and sisters. I
therefore repeat, is the prisoner your father, Susanna Crum?"
"I wudna say he's no', my lord."
"This is really beyond credence! What do you conceive to be the
idea involved in the word `father,' Susanna Crum?"
"It depends, my lord."
And this, a few hundred years earlier, would have been the natural
and effective moment for the thumbscrews.
I do not wish to be understood as defending these uncomfortable
appliances. They would never have been needed to elicit information
from me, for I should have spent my nights inventing matter to
confess in the daytime. I feel sure that I should have poured out
such floods of confessions and retractations that if all Scotland
had been one listening ear it could not have heard my tale. I am
only wondering if, in the extracting of testimony from the common
mind, the thumbscrew might not have been more necessary with some
nations than with others.
Chapter V. We emulate the Jackdaw.
Invitations had been pouring in upon us since the delivery of our
letters of introduction, and it was now the evening of our debut in
Edinburgh society. Francesca had volunteered to perform the task of
leaving cards, ordering a private victoria for the purpose, and
arraying herself in purple and fine linen.
"Much depends upon the first impression," she had said. "Miss
Hamilton's `party' may not be gifted, but it is well-dressed. My
hope is that some of our future hostesses will be looking from the
second-story front-windows. If they are, I can assure them in
advance that I shall be a national advertisement."
It is needless to remark that as it began to rain heavily as she was
leaving the house, she was obliged to send back the open carriage,
and order, to save time, one of the public cabs from the stand in
"Would you mind having the lamiter, being first in line?" asked
Susanna of Salemina, who had transmitted the command.
When Salemina fails to understand anything, the world is kept in
complete ignorance.--Least of all would she stoop to ask a humble
maidservant to translate the vernacular of the country; so she
replied affably, "Certainly, Susanna, that is the kind we always
prefer. I suppose it is covered?"
Francesca did not notice, until her coachman alighted to deliver the
first letter and cards, that he had one club foot and one wooden
leg; it was then that the full significance of `lamiter' came to
her. He was covered, however, as Salemina had supposed, and the
occurrence gave us a precious opportunity of chaffing that dungeon
of learning. He was tolerably alert and vigorous, too, although he
certainly did not impart elegance to a vehicle, and he knew every
street in the court end of Edinburgh, and every close and wynd in
the Old Town. On this our first meeting with him, he faltered only
when Francesca asked him last of all to drive to `Kildonan House,
Helmsdale'; supposing, not unnaturally, that it was as well known an
address as Morningside House, Tipperlinn, whence she had just come.
The lamiter had never heard of Kildonan House nor of Helmsdale, and
he had driven in the streets of Auld Reekie for thirty years. None
of the drivers whom he consulted could supply any information;
Susanna Crum cudna say that she had ever heard of it, nor could Mrs.
M'Collop, nor could Miss Diggity-Dalgety. It was reserved for Lady
Baird to explain that Helmsdale was two hundred and eighty miles
north, and that Kildonan House was ten miles from the Helmsdale
railway station, so that the poor lamiter would have had a weary
drive even had he known the way. The friends who had given us
letters to Mr. and Mrs. Jameson-Inglis (Jimmyson-Ingals) must have
expected us either to visit John o' Groats on the northern border,
and drop in on Kildonan House en route, or to send our note of
introduction by post and await an invitation to pass the summer. At
all events, the anecdote proved very pleasing to our Edinburgh
acquaintances. I hardly know whether, if they should visit America,
they would enjoy tales of their own stupidity as hugely as they did
the tales of ours, but they really were very appreciative in this
particular, and it is but justice to ourselves to say that we gave
them every opportunity for enjoyment.
But I must go back to our first grand dinner in Scotland. We were
dressed at quarter-past seven, when, in looking at the invitation
again, we discovered that the dinner-hour was eight o'clock, not
seven-thirty. Susanna did not happen to know the exact approximate
distance to Fotheringay Crescent, but the maiden Boots affirmed that
it was only two minutes' drive, so we sat down in front of the fire
It was Lady Baird's birthday feast to which we had been bidden, and
we had done our best to honour the occasion. We had prepared a
large bouquet tied with the Maclean tartan (Lady Baird is a
Maclean), and had printed in gold letters on one of the ribbons,
`Another for Hector,' the battle-cry of the clan. We each wore a
sprig of holly, because it is the badge of the family, while I added
a girdle and shoulder-knot of tartan velvet to my pale green gown,
and borrowed Francesca's emerald necklace,--persuading her that she
was too young to wear such jewels in the old country.
Francesca was miserably envious that she had not thought of tartans
first. "You may consider yourself `geyan fine,' all covered over
with Scotch plaid, but I wouldn't be so `kenspeckle' for worlds!"
she said, using expressions borrowed from Mrs. M'Collop; "and as for
disguising your nationality, do not flatter yourself that you look
like anything but an American. I forgot to tell you the
conversation I overheard in the tram this morning, between a mother
and daughter, who were talking about us, I dare say. `Have they any
proper frocks for so large a party, Bella?' asked the mother.
"'I thought I explained in the beginning, mamma, that they are
"'Still, you know they are only travelling,--just passing through,
as it were; they may not be familiar with our customs, and we do
want our party to be a smart one.'
"'Wait until you see them, mamma, and you will probably feel like
hiding your diminished head! It is my belief that if an American
lady takes a half-hour journey in a tram she carries full evening
dress and a diamond necklace, in case anything should happen on the
way. I am not in the least nervous about their appearance. I only
hope that they will not be too exuberant; American girls are so
frightfully vivacious and informal, I always feel as if I were being
taken by the throat!'"
"A picturesque, though rather vigorous expression; however, it does
no harm to be perfectly dressed," said Salemina consciously, putting
a steel embroidered slipper on the fender and settling the holly in
the silver folds of her gown; "then when they discover that we are
all well bred, and that one of us is intelligent, it will be the
more credit to the country that gave us birth."
"Of course it is impossible to tell what country did give YOU
birth," retorted Francesca, "but that will only be to your
advantage--away from home!"
Francesca is inflexibly, almost aggressively American, but Salemina
is a citizen of the world. If the United States should be involved
in a war, I am confident that Salemina would be in front with the
other Gatling guns, for in that case a principle would be at stake;
but in all lesser matters she is extremely unprejudiced. She
prefers German music, Italian climate, French dressmakers, English
tailors, Japanese manners, and American--American something--I have
forgotten just what; it is either the ice-cream soda or the form of
government,--I can't remember which.
"I wonder why they named it `Fotheringay' Crescent," mused
Francesca. "Some association with Mary Stuart, of course. Poor,
poor, pretty lady! A free queen only six years, and think of the
number of beds she slept in, and the number of trees she planted; we
have already seen, I am afraid to say how many. When did she
govern, when did she scheme, above all when did she flirt, with all
this racing and chasing over the country? Mrs. M'Collop calls Anne
of Denmark a `sad scattercash' and Mary an `awfu' gadabout,' and I
am inclined to agree with her. By the way, when she was making my
bed this morning, she told me that her mother claimed descent from
the Stewarts of Appin, whoever they may be. She apologised for
Queen Mary's defects as if she were a distant family connection. If
so, then the famous Stuart charm has been lost somewhere, for Mrs
M'Collop certainly possesses no alluring curves of temperament."
"I am going to select some distinguished ancestors this very minute,
before I go to my first Edinburgh dinner," said I decidedly. "It
seems hard that ancestors should have everything to do with settling
our nationality and our position in life, and we not have a word to
say. How nice it would be to select one's own after one had arrived
at years of discretion, or to adopt different ones according to the
country one chanced to be visiting! I am going to do it; it is
unusual, but there must be a pioneer in every good movement. Let me
think: do help me, Salemina! I am a Hamilton to begin with; I
might be descended from the logical Sir William himself, and thus
become the idol of the university set!"
"He died only about thirty years ago, and you would have to be his
daughter: that would never do," said Salemina. "Why don't you take
Thomas Hamilton, Earl of Melrose and Haddington? He was Secretary
of State, King's Advocate, Lord President of the Court of Session,
and all sorts of fine things. He was the one King James used to
call `Tam o' the Cowgate'!"
"Perfectly delightful! I don't care so much about his other titles,
but `Tam o' the Cowgate' is irresistible. I will take him. He was
my--what was he?"
"He was at least your great-great-great-great-grandfather; that is a
safe distance. Then there's that famous Jenny Geddes, who flung her
fauld-stule at the Dean in St. Giles',--she was a Hamilton too, if
you fancy her!"
"Yes, I'll take her with pleasure," I responded thankfully. "Of
course I don't know why she flung the stool,--it may have been very
reprehensible; but there is always good stuff in stool-flingers;
it's the sort of spirit one likes to inherit in diluted form. Now,
whom will you take?"
"I haven't even a peg on which to hang a Scottish ancestor," said
"Oh, nonsense! think harder. Anybody will do as a starting-point;
only you must be honourable and really show relationship, as I did
with Jenny and Tam."
"My aunt Mary-Emma married a Lindsay," ventured Salemina
"That will do," I answered delightedly.
"'The Gordons gay in English blude
They wat their hose and shoon;
The Lindsays flew like fire aboot
Till a' the fray was dune.'
You can play that you are one of the famous `licht Lindsays,' and
you can look up the particular ancestor in your big book. Now,
Francesca, it's your turn!"
"I am American to the backbone," she declared, with insufferable
dignity. "I do not desire any foreign ancestors."
"Francesca!" I expostulated. "Do you mean to tell me that you can
dine with a lineal descendant of Sir Fitzroy Donald Maclean,
Baronet, of Duart and Morven, and not make any effort to trace your
genealogy back further than your parents?"
"If you goad me to desperation," she answered, "I will wear an
American flag in my hair, declare that my father is a Red Indian, or
a pork-packer, and talk about the superiority of our checking system
and hotels all the evening. I don't want to go, any way. It is
sure to be stiff and ceremonious, and the man who takes me in will
ask me the population of Chicago and the amount of wheat we exported
last year,--he always does."
"I can't see why he should," said I. "I am sure you don't look as
if you knew."
"My looks have thus far proved no protection," she replied sadly.
"Salemina is so flexible, and you are so dramatic, that you enter
into all these experiences with zest. You already more than half
believe in that Tam o' the Cowgate story. But there'll be nothing
for me in Edinburgh society; it will be all clergymen--"
"Ministers" interjected Salemina.
--"all ministers and professors. My Redfern gowns will be
unappreciated, and my Worth evening frocks worse than wasted!"
"There are a few thousand medical students," I said encouragingly,
"and all the young advocates, and a sprinkling of military men--they
know Worth frocks."
"And," continued Salemina bitingly, "there will always be, even in
an intellectual city like Edinburgh, a few men who continue to
escape all the developing influences about them, and remain
commonplace, conventional manikins, devoted to dancing and flirting.
Never fear, they will find you!"
This sounds harsh, but nobody minds Salemina, least of all
Francesca, who well knows that she is the apple of that spinster's
eye. But at this moment Susanna opens the door (timorously, as if
there might be a panther behind it) and announces the cab (in the
same tone in which she would announce the beast); we pick up our
draperies, and are whirled off by the lamiter to dine with the
Chapter VI. Edinburgh society, past and present.
`Wha last beside his chair shall fa'
He is the king amang us three!'
It was the Princess Dashkoff who said, in the latter part of the
eighteenth century, that of all the societies of men of talent she
had met with in her travels, Edinburgh's was the first in point of
One might make the same remark to-day, perhaps, and not depart
widely from the truth. One does not find, however, as many noted
names as are associated with the annals of the Cape and Poker Clubs
or the Crochallan Fencibles, those famous groups of famous men who
met for relaxation (and intoxication, I should think) at the old
Isle of Man Arms or in Dawney's Tavern in the Anchor Close. These
groups included such shining lights as Robert Fergusson the poet,
and Adam Ferguson the historian and philosopher, Gavin Wilson, Sir
Henry Raeburn, David Hume, Erskine, Lords Newton, Gillies, Monboddo,
Hailes, Kames, Henry Mackenzie, and the Ploughman Poet himself, who
has kept alive the memory of the Crochallans in many a jovial verse
like that in which he describes Smellie, the eccentric philosopher
`Shrewd Willie Smellie to Crochallan came,
The old cocked hat, the grey surtout the same,
His bristling beard just rising in its might;
`Twas four long nights and days to shaving night';
or in the characteristic picture of William Dunbar, a wit of the
time, and the merriest of the Fencibles:-
`As I cam by Crochallan
I cannily keekit ben;
Rattlin', roarin' Willie
Was sitting at yon boord en';
Sitting at yon boord en',
And amang guid companie!
Rattlin', roarin' Willie,
Ye're welcome hame to me!'
or in the verses on Creech, Burns's publisher, who left Edinburgh
for a time in 1789. The `Willies,' by the way, seem to be
especially inspiring to the Scottish balladists.
`Oh, Willie was a witty wight,
And had o' things an unco slight!
Auld Reekie aye he keepit tight
And trig and braw;
But now they'll busk her like a fright--
I think perhaps the gatherings of the present time are neither quite
as gay nor quite as brilliant as those of Burns's day, when
`Willie brewed a peck o' maut,
An' Rob an' Allan cam to pree';
but the ideal standard of those meetings seems to be voiced in the
`Wha last beside his chair shall fa',
He is the king amang us three!'
As they sit in their chairs nowadays to the very end of the feast,
there is doubtless joined with modern sobriety a soupcon of modern
dulness and discretion.
To an American the great charm of Edinburgh is its leisurely
atmosphere: `not the leisure of a village arising from the
deficiency of ideas and motives, but the leisure of a city reposing
grandly on tradition and history; which has done its work, and does
not require to weave its own clothing, to dig its own coals, or
smelt its own iron.'
We were reminded of this more than once, and it never failed to
depress us properly. If one had ever lived in Pittsburg, Fall
River, or Kansas City, I should think it would be almost impossible
to maintain self-respect in a place like Edinburgh, where the
citizens `are released from the vulgarising dominion of the hour.'
Whenever one of Auld Reekie's great men took this tone with me, I
always felt as though I were the germ in a half-hatched egg, and he
were an aged and lordly cock gazing at me pityingly through my
shell. He, lucky creature, had lived through all the struggles
which I was to undergo; he, indeed, was released from `the
vulgarising dominion of the hour'; but I, poor thing, must grow and
grow, and keep pecking at my shell, in order to achieve existence.
Sydney Smith says in one of his letters, `Never shall I forget the
happy days passed there [in Edinburgh], amidst odious smells,
barbarous sounds, bad suppers, excellent hearts, and the most
enlightened and cultivated understandings.' His only criticism of
the conversation of that day (1797-1802) concerned itself with the
prevalence of that form of Scotch humour which was called wut; and
with the disputations and dialectics. We were more fortunate than
Sydney Smith, because Edinburgh has outgrown its odious smells,
barbarous sounds, and bad suppers and, wonderful to relate, has kept
its excellent hearts and its enlightened and cultivated
understandings. As for mingled wut and dialectics, where can one
find a better foundation for dinner-table conversation?
The hospitable board itself presents no striking differences from
our own, save the customs of serving sweets in soup-plates with
dessert-spoons, of a smaller number of forks on parade, of the
invariable fish-knife at each plate, of the prevalent `savoury' and
`cold shape,' and the unusual grace and skill with which the hostess
carves. Even at very large dinners one occasionally sees a lady of
high degree severing the joints of chickens and birds most daintily,
while her lord looks on in happy idleness, thinking, perhaps, how
greatly times have changed for the better since the ages of strife
and bloodshed, when Scottish nobles
`Carved at the meal with gloves of steel,
And drank their wine through helmets barred.'
The Scotch butler is not in the least like an English one. No man
could be as respectable as he looks, not even an elder of the kirk,
whom he resembles closely. He hands your plate as if it were a
contribution-box, and in his moments of ease, when he stands behind
the `maister,' I am always expecting him to pronounce a benediction.
The English butler, when he wishes to avoid the appearance of
listening to the conversation, gazes with level eye into vacancy;
the Scotch butler looks distinctly heavenward, as if he were
brooding on the principle of co-ordinate jurisdiction with mutual
subordination. It would be impossible for me to deny the key of the
wine-cellar to a being so steeped in sanctity, but it has been done,
I am told, in certain rare and isolated cases.
As for toilets, the men dress like all other men (alas, and alas,
that we should say it, for we were continually hoping for a kilt!)
though there seems to be no survival of the finical Lord Napier's
spirit. Perhaps you remember that Lord and Lady Napier arrived at
Castlemilk in Lanarkshire with the intention of staying a week, but
announced next morning that a circumstance had occurred which
rendered it indispensable to return without delay to their seat in
Selkirkshire. This was the only explanation given, but it was
afterwards discovered that Lord Napier's valet had committed the
grievous mistake of packing up a set of neckcloths which did not
correspond IN POINT OF DATE with the shirts they accompanied!
The ladies of the `smart set' in Edinburgh wear French fripperies
and chiffons, as do their sisters every where, but the other women
of society dress a trifle more staidly than their cousins in London,
Paris, or New York. The sobriety of taste and severity of style
that characterise Scotswomen may be due, like Susanna Crum's
dubieties, to the haar, to the shorter catechism, or perhaps in some
degree to the presence of three branches of the Presbyterian Church
among them; the society that bears in its bosom three separate and
antagonistic kinds of Presbyterianism at the same time must have its
In Lord Cockburn's time the `dames of high and aristocratic breed'
must have been sufficiently awake to feminine frivolities to be both
gorgeously and extravagantly arrayed. I do not know in all
literature a more delicious and lifelike word-portrait than Lord
Cockburn gives of Mrs. Rochead, the Lady of Inverleith, in the
Memorials. It is quite worthy to hang beside a Raeburn canvas; one
can scarce say more.
`Except Mrs. Siddons in some of her displays of magnificent royalty,
nobody could sit down like the Lady of Inverleith. She would sail
like a ship from Tarshish, gorgeous in velvet or rustling silk, done
up in all the accompaniments of fans, ear-rings, and finger-rings,
falling sleeves, scent-bottle, embroidered bag, hoop, and train;
managing all this seemingly heavy rigging with as much ease as a
full-blown swan does its plumage. She would take possession of the
centre of a large sofa, and at the same moment, without the
slightest visible exertion, cover the whole of it with her bravery,
the graceful folds seeming to lay themselves over it, like summer
waves. The descent from her carriage, too, where she sat like a
nautilus in its shell, was a display which no one in these days
could accomplish or even fancy. The mulberry-coloured coach,
apparently not too large for what it contained, though she alone was
in it; the handsome, jolly coachman and his splendid hammer-cloth
loaded with lace; the two respectful liveried footmen, one on each
side of the richly carpeted step,--these were lost sight of amidst
the slow majesty with which the Lady of Inverleith came down and
touched the earth.'
My right-hand neighbour at Lady Baird's dinner was surprised at my
quoting Lord Cockburn. One's attendant squires here always seem
surprised when one knows anything; but they are always delighted,
too, so that the amazement is less trying. True, I had read the
Memorials only the week before, and had never heard of them previous
to that time; but that detail, according to my theories, makes no
real difference. The woman who knows how and when to `read up,' who
reads because she wants to be in sympathy with a new environment;
the woman who has wit and perspective enough to be stimulated by
novel conditions and kindled by fresh influences, who is susceptible
to the vibrations of other people's history, is safe to be fairly
intelligent and extremely agreeable, if only she is sufficiently
modest. I think my neighbour found me thoroughly delightful after
he discovered my point of view. He was an earl; and it always takes
an earl a certain length of time to understand me. I scarcely know
why, for I certainly should not think it courteous to interpose any
real barriers between the nobility and that portion of the `masses'
represented in my humble person.
It seemed to me at first that the earl did not apply himself to the
study of my national peculiarities with much assiduity, but wasted
considerable time in gazing at Francesca, who was opposite. She is
certainly very handsome, and I never saw her lovelier than at that
dinner; her eyes were like stars, and her cheeks and lips a splendid
crimson, for she was quarrelling with her attendant cavalier about
the relative merits of Scotland and America, and they apparently
ceased to speak to each other after the salad.
When the earl had sufficiently piqued me by his devotion to his
dinner and his glances at Francesca, I began a systematic attempt to
achieve his (transient) subjugation. Of course I am ardently
attached to Willie Beresford and prefer him to any earl in Britain,
but one's self-respect demands something in the way of food. I
could see Salemina at the far end of the table radiant with success,
the W.S. at her side bending ever and anon to catch the (artificial)
pearls of thought that dropped from her lips. "Miss Hamilton
appears simple" (I thought I heard her say); "but in reality she is
as deep as the Currie Brig!" Now where did she get that allusion?
And again, when the W.S. asked her whither she was going when she
left Edinburgh, "I hardly know," she replied pensively. "I am
waiting for the shade of Montrose to direct me, as the Viscount
Dundee said to your Duke of Gordon." The entranced Scotsman little
knew that she had perfected this style of conversation by long
experience with the Q.C.'s of England. Talk about my being as deep
as the Currie Brig (whatever it may be); Salemina is deeper than the
Atlantic Ocean! I shall take pains to inform her Writer to the
Signet, after dinner, that she eats sugar on her porridge every
morning; that will show him her nationality conclusively.
The earl took the greatest interest in my new ancestors, and
approved thoroughly of my choice. He thinks I must have been named
for Lady Penelope Belhaven, who lived in Leven Lodge, one of the
country villas of the Earls of Leven, from whom he himself is
descended. "Does that make us relatives?" I asked. "Relatives,
most assuredly," he replied, "but not too near to destroy the charm
He thought it a great deal nicer to select one's own forebears than
to allow them all the responsibility, and said it would save a world
of trouble if the method could be universally adopted. He added
that he should be glad to part with a good many of his, but doubted
whether I would accept them, as they were `rather a scratch lot.'
(I use his own language, which I thought delightfully easy for a
belted earl.) He was charmed with the story of Francesca and the
lamiter, and offered to drive me to Kildonan House, Helmsdale, on
the first fine day. I told him he was quite safe in making the
proposition, for we had already had the fine day, and we understood
that the climate had exhausted itself and retired for the season.
The gentleman on my left, a distinguished Dean of the Thistle, gave
me a few moments' discomfort by telling me that the old custom of
`rounds' of toasts still prevailed at Lady Baird's on formal
occasions, and that before the ladies retired every one would be
called upon for appropriate `sentiments.'
"What sort of sentiments?" I inquired, quite overcome with terror.
"Oh, epigrammatic sentences expressive of moral feelings or
virtues," replied my neighbour easily. "They are not quite as
formal and hackneyed now as they were in the olden time, when some
of the favourite toasts were `May the pleasure of the evening bear
the reflections of the morning!' `May the friends of our youth be
the companions of our old age!' `May the honest heart never feel
distress!' `May the hand of charity wipe the eye of sorrow!'"
"I can never do it in the world!" I ejaculated. "Oh, one ought
never, never to leave one's own country! A light-minded and cynical
English gentleman told me that I should frequently be called upon to
read hymns and recite verses of Scripture at family dinners in
Edinburgh, and I hope I am always prepared to do that; but nobody
warned me that I should have to evolve epigrammatic sentiments on
the spur of the moment."
My confusion was so evident that the good dean relented and
confessed that he was imposing upon my ignorance. He made me laugh
heartily at the story of a poor dominie at Arndilly. He was called
upon in his turn, at a large party, and having nothing to aid him in
an exercise to which he was new save the example of his
predecessors, lifted his glass after much writhing and groaning and
gave, "The reflection of the moon in the cawm bosom of the lake!"
At this moment Lady Baird glanced at me, and we all rose to go into
the drawing-room; but on the way from my chair to the door, whither
the earl escorted me, he said gallantly, "I suppose the men in your
country do not take champagne at dinner? I cannot fancy their
craving it when dining beside an American woman!"
That was charming, though he did pay my country a compliment at my
expense. One likes, of course, to have the type recognised as fine;
at the same time his remark would have been more flattering if it
had been less sweeping.
When I remember that he offered me his ancestors, asked me to drive
two hundred and eighty miles, and likened me to champagne, I feel
that, with my heart already occupied and my hand promised, I could
hardly have accomplished more in the course of a single dinner-hour.
Chapter VII. Francesca meets th' unconquer'd Scot.
Francesca's experiences were not so fortunate; indeed, I have never
seen her more out of sorts than she was during our long chat over
the fire, after our return to Breadalbane Terrace.
"How did you get on with your delightful minister?" inquired
Salemina of the young lady, as she flung her unoffending wrap over
the back of a chair. "He was quite the handsomest man in the room;
who is he?"
"He is the Reverend Ronald Macdonald, and the most disagreeable,
condescending, ill-tempered prig I ever met!"
"Why, Francesca!" I exclaimed. "Lady Baird speaks of him as her
favourite nephew, and says he is full of charm."
"He is just as full of charm as he was when I met him," returned the
girl nonchalantly; "that is, he parted with none of it this evening.
He was incorrigibly stiff and rude, and oh! so Scotch! I believe if
one punctured him with a hat-pin, oatmeal would fly into the air!"
"Doubtless you acquainted him, early in the evening, with the
immeasurable advantages of our sleeping-car system, the superiority
of our fast-running elevators, and the height of our buildings?"
"I mentioned them," Francesca answered evasively.
"You naturally inveighed against the Scotch climate?"
"Oh, I alluded to it; but only when he said that our hot summers
must be insufferable."
"I suppose you repeated the remark you made at luncheon, that the
ladies you had seen in Princes Street were excessively plain?"
"Yes, I did!" she replied hotly; "but that was because he said that
American girls generally looked bloodless and frail. He asked if it
were really true that they ate chalk and slate pencils. Wasn't that
unendurable? I answered that those were the chief solid article of
food, but that after their complexions were established, so to
speak, their parents often allowed them pickles and native claret to
vary the diet."
"What did he say to that?" I asked.
"Oh, he said, `Quite so, quite so'; that was his invariable response
to all my witticisms. Then when I told him casually that the shops
looked very small and dark and stuffy here, and that there were not
as many tartans and plaids in the windows as we had expected, he
remarked that as to the latter point, the American season had not
opened yet! Presently he asserted that no royal city in Europe
could boast ten centuries of such glorious and stirring history as
Edinburgh. I said it did not appear to be stirring much at present,
and that everything in Scotland seemed a little slow to an American;
that he could have no idea of push or enterprise until he visited a
city like Chicago. He retorted that, happily, Edinburgh was
peculiarly free from the taint of the ledger and the counting-house;
that it was Weimar without a Goethe, Boston without its twang!"
"Incredible!" cried Salemina, deeply wounded in her local pride.
"He never could have said `twang' unless you had tried him beyond
"I dare say I did; he is easily tried," returned Francesca. "I
asked him, sarcastically, if he had ever been in Boston. `No,' he
said, `it is not necessary to GO there! And while we are discussing
these matters,' he went on, `how is your American dyspepsia these
days,--have you decided what is the cause of it?'
"'Yes, we have,' said I, as quick as a flash; `we have always taken
in more foreigners than we could assimilate!' I wanted to tell him
that one Scotsman of his type would upset the national digestion
anywhere, but I restrained myself."
"I am glad you did restrain yourself--once," exclaimed Salemina.
"What a tactful person the Reverend Ronald must be, if you have
reported him faithfully! Why didn't you give him up, and turn to
your other neighbour?"
"I did, as soon as I could with courtesy; but the man on my left was
the type that always haunts me at dinners; if the hostess hasn't one
on her visiting-list she imports one for the occasion. He asked me
at once of what material the Brooklyn Bridge is made. I told him I
really didn't know. Why should I? I seldom go over it. Then he
asked me whether it was a suspension bridge or a cantilever. Of
course I didn't know; I am not an engineer."
"You are so tactlessly, needlessly candid," I expostulated. "Why
didn't you say boldly that the Brooklyn Bridge is a wooden
cantilever, with gutta-percha braces? He didn't know, or he
wouldn't have asked you. He couldn't find out until he reached
home, and you would never have seen him again; and if you had, and
he had taunted you, you could have laughed vivaciously and said you
were chaffing. That is my method, and it is the only way to
preserve life in a foreign country. Even my earl, who did not
thirst for information (fortunately), asked me the population of the
Yellowstone Park, and I simply told him three hundred thousand, at a
"That would never have satisfied my neighbour," said Francesca.
"Finding me in such a lamentable state of ignorance, he explained
the principle of his own stupid Forth Bridge to me. When I said I
understood perfectly, just to get into shallower water, where we
wouldn't need any bridge, the Reverend Ronald joined in the
conversation, and asked me to repeat the explanation to him.
Naturally I couldn't, and he knew that I couldn't when he asked me,
so the bridge man (I don't know his name, and don't care to know it)
drew a diagram of the national idol on his dinner-card and gave a
dull and elaborate lecture upon it. Here is the card, and now that
three hours have intervened I cannot tell which way to turn the
drawing so as to make the bridge right side up; if there is anything
puzzling in the world, it is these architectural plans and diagrams.
I am going to pin it to the wall and ask the Reverend Ronald which
way it goes."
"Do you mean that he will call upon us?" we cried in concert.
"He asked if he might come and continue our `stimulating'
conversation, and as Lady Baird was standing by I could hardly say
no. I am sure of one thing: that before I finish with him I will
widen his horizon so that he will be able to see something beside
Scotland and his little insignificant Fifeshire parish! I told him
our country parishes in America were ten times as large as his. He
said he had heard that they covered a good deal of territory, and
that the ministers' salaries were sometimes paid in pork and
potatoes. That shows you the style of his retorts!"
"I really cannot decide which of you was the more disagreeable,"
said Salemina; "if he calls, I shall not remain in the room."
"I wouldn't gratify him by staying out," retorted Francesca. "He is
extremely good for the circulation; I think I was never so warm in
my life as when I talked with him; as physical exercise he is equal
to bicycling. The bridge man is coming to call, too. I made him a
diagram of Breadalbane Terrace, and a plan of the hall and
staircase, on my dinner-card. He was distinctly ungrateful; in
fact, he remarked that he had been born in this very house, but
would not trust himself to find his way upstairs with my plan as a
guide. He also said the American vocabulary was vastly amusing, so
picturesque, unstudied, and fresh."
"That was nice, surely," I interpolated.
"You know perfectly well that it was an insult."
"Francesca is very like that young man," laughed Salemina, "who,
whenever he engaged in controversy, seemed to take off his flesh and
sit in his nerves."
"I'm not supersensitive," replied Francesca, "but when one's
vocabulary is called picturesque by a Britisher, one always knows he
is thinking of cowboys and broncos. However, I shifted the weight
into the other scale by answering `Thank you. And your phraseology
is just as unusual to us.' `Indeed?' he said with some surprise.
`I supposed our method of expression very sedate and uneventful.'
`Not at all,' I returned, `when you say, as you did a moment ago,
that you never eat potato to your fish.' `But I do not,' he urged
obtusely. `Very likely,' I argued, `but the fact is not of so much
importance as the preposition. Now I eat potato WITH my fish.'
`You make a mistake,' he said, and we both laughed in spite of
ourselves, while he murmured, `eating potato WITH fish--how
extraordinary.' Well, the bridge man may not add perceptibly to the
gaiety of the nations, but he is better than the Reverend Ronald. I
forgot to say that when I chanced to be speaking of doughnuts, that
`unconquer'd Scot' asked me if a doughnut resembled a peanut? Can
you conceive such ignorance?"
"I think you were not only aggressively American, but painfully
provincial," said Salemina, with some warmth. "Why in the world
should you drag doughnuts into a dinner-table conversation in
Edinburgh? Why not select topics of universal interest?"
"Like the Currie Brig or the shade of Montrose," I murmured slyly.
"To one who has ever eaten a doughnut, the subject is of
transcendent interest; and as for one who has not--well, he should
be made to feel his limitations," replied Francesca, with a yawn.
"Come, let us forget our troubles in sleep; it is after midnight."
About half an hour later she came to my bedside, her dark hair
hanging over her white gown, her eyes still bright.
"Penelope," she said softly, "I did not dare tell Salemina, and I
should not confess it to you save that I am afraid Lady Baird will
complain of me; but I was dreadfully rude to the Reverend Ronald! I
couldn't help it; he roused my worst passions. It all began with
his saying he thought international marriages presented even more
difficulties to the imagination than the other kind. I hadn't said
anything about marriages nor thought anything about marriages of any
sort, but I told him INSTANTLY I considered that every international
marriage involved two national suicides. He said that he shouldn't
have put it quite so forcibly, but that he hadn't given much thought
to the subject. I said that I had, and I thought we had gone on
long enough filling the coffers of the British nobility with
"FRANCES!" I interrupted. "Don't tell me that you made that vulgar,
cheap newspaper assertion!"
"I did," she replied stoutly, "and at the moment I only wished I
could make it stronger. If there had been anything cheaper or more
vulgar, I should have said it, but of course there isn't. Then he
remarked that the British nobility merited and needed all the
support it could get in these hard times, and asked if we had not
cherished some intention in the States, lately, of bestowing it in
greenbacks instead of gold! I threw all manners to the winds after
that and told him that there were no husbands in the world like
American men, and that foreigners never seemed to have any proper
consideration for women. Now, were my remarks any worse than his,
after all, and what shall I do about it anyway?"
"You should go to bed first," I murmured sleepily; "and if you ever
have an opportunity to make amends, which I doubt, you should devote
yourself to showing the Reverend Ronald the breadth of your own
horizon instead of trying so hard to broaden his. As you are
extremely pretty, you may possibly succeed; man is human, and I dare
say in a month you will be advising him to love somebody more worthy
than yourself. (He could easily do it!) Now don't kiss me again,
for I am displeased with you; I hate international bickering!"
"So do I," agreed Francesca virtuously, as she plaited her hair,
"and there is no spectacle so abhorrent to every sense as a narrow-
minded man who cannot see anything outside of his own country. But
he is awfully good-looking,--I will say that for him: and if you
don't explain me to Lady Baird, I will write to Mr. Beresford about
the earl. There was no bickering there; it was looking at you two
that made us think of international marriages."
"It must have suggested to you that speech about filling the coffers
of the British nobility," I replied sarcastically, "inasmuch as the
earl has twenty thousand pounds a year, probably, and I could barely
buy two gold hairpins to pin on the coronet. There, do go away and
leave me in peace!"
"Good night again, then," she said, as she rose reluctantly from the
foot of the bed. "I doubt if I can sleep for thinking what a pity
it is that such an egotistic, bumptious, pugnacious, prejudiced,
insular, bigoted person should be so handsome! And who wants to
marry him any way, that he should be so distressed about
international alliances? One would think that all female America
was sighing to lead him to the altar!"
Chapter VIII. `What made th' Assembly shine?'
Two or three days ago we noted an unusual though subdued air of
excitement at 22 Breadalbane Terrace, where for a week we had been
the sole lodgers. Mrs. Menzies, whom we call Mingess, has returned
to Kilconquhar, which she calls Kinyuchar; Miss Cockburn-Sinclair
has purchased her wedding outfit and gone back to Inverness, where
she will be greeted as Coburn-Sinkler; the Hepburn-Sciennes will be
leaving to-morrow, just as we have learned to pronounce their names;
and the sound of the scrubbing-brush is heard in the land. In
corners where all was clean and spotless before, Mrs. M'Collop is
digging with the broom, and the maiden Boots is following her with a
damp cloth. The stair carpets are hanging on lines in the back
garden, and Susanna, with her cap rakishly on one side, is always to
be seen polishing the stair-rods. Whenever we traverse the halls we
are obliged to leap over pails of suds, and Miss Diggity-Dalgety has
given us two dinners which bore a curious resemblance to washing-day
repasts in suburban America.
"Is it spring house-cleaning?" I ask Mistress M'Collop.
"Na, na," she replies hurriedly; "it's the meenisters."
On the 19th of May we are a maiden castle no longer. Black coats
and hats ring at the bell, and pass in and out of the different
apartments. The hall table is sprinkled with letters, visiting-
cards, and programmes which seem to have had the alphabet shaken out
upon them, for they bear the names of professors, doctors,
reverends, and very reverends, and fairly bristle with A.M.'s,
M.A.'s, A.B.'s, D.D.'s, and LL.D.'s. The voice of family prayer is
lifted up from the dining-room floor, and paraphrases and hymns
float down the stairs from above. Their Graces the Lord High
Commissioner and the Marchioness of Heatherdale will arrive to-day
at Holyrood Palace, there to reside during the sittings of the
General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and to-morrow the Royal
Standard will be hoisted at Edinburgh Castle from reveille to
retreat. His Grace will hold a levee at eleven. Directly His Grace
leaves the palace after the levee, the guard of honour will proceed
by the Canongate to receive him on his arrival at St. Giles' Church,
and will then proceed to Assembly Hall to receive him on his arrival
there. The Sixth Inniskilling Dragoons and the First Battalion
Royal Scots will be in attendance, and there will be Unicorns,
Carricks, pursuivants, heralds, mace-bearers, ushers, and pages,
together with the Purse-bearer, and the Lyon King-of-Arms, and the
national anthem, and the royal salute; for the palace has awakened
and is `mimicking its past.'
`Should the weather be wet, the troops will be cloaked at the
discretion of the commanding officer.' They print this instruction
as a matter of form, and of course every man has his macintosh
ready. The only hope lies in the fact that this is a national
function, and `Queen's weather' is a possibility. The one personage
for whom the Scottish climate will occasionally relax is Her Majesty
Queen Victoria, who for sixty years has exerted a benign influence
on British skies and at least secured sunshine on great parade days.
Such women are all too few!
In this wise enters His Grace the Lord High Commissioner to open the
General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; and on the same day
there arrives by the railway (but travelling first class) the
Moderator of the Church of Scotland Free, to convene its separate
supreme Courts in Edinburgh. He will have no Union Jacks, Royal
Standards, Dragoons, bands, or pipers; he will bear his own purse
and stay at an hotel; but when the final procession of all comes, he
will probably march beside His Grace the Lord High Commissioner, and
they will talk together, not of dead-and-gone kingdoms, but of the
one at hand, where there are no more divisions in the ranks, and
where all the soldiers are simply `king's men,' marching to victory
under the inspiration of a common watchword.
It is a matter of regret to us that the U.P.'s, the third branch of
Scottish Presbyterianism, could not be holding an Assembly during
this same week, so that we might the more easily decide in which
flock we really belong. 22 Breadalbane Terrace now represents all
shades of religious opinion within the bounds of Presbyterianism.
We have an Elder, a Professor of Biblical Criticism, a Majesty's
Chaplain, and even an ex-Moderator under our roof, and they are
equally divided between the Free and the Established bodies.
Mrs. M'Collop herself is a pillar of the Free Kirk, but she has no
prejudice in lodgers, and says so long as she `mak's her rent she
doesna care aboot their releegious principles.' Miss Diggity-
Dalgety is the sole representative of United Presbyterianism in the
household, and she is somewhat gloomy in Assembly time. To belong
to a dissenting body, and yet to cook early and late for the purpose
of fattening one's religious rivals, is doubtless trying to the
temper; and then she asserts that `meenisters are aye tume [empty].'
"You must put away your Scottish ballads and histories now,
Salemina, and keep your Concordance and your umbrella constantly at
This I said as we stood on George IV. Bridge and saw the ministers
glooming down from the Mound in a dense Assembly fog. As the
presence of any considerable number of priests on an ocean steamer
is supposed to bring rough weather, so the addition of a few hundred
parsons to the population of Edinburgh is believed to induce rain,--
or perhaps I should say, more rain.
Of course, when one is in perfect bodily health one can more readily
resist the infection of disease. Similarly if Scottish skies were
not ready and longing to pour out rain, were not ignobly weak in
holding it back, they would not be so susceptible to the depressing
influences of visiting ministers. This is Francesca's theory as
stated to the Reverend Ronald, who was holding an umbrella over her
ungrateful head at the time; and she went on to boast of a
convention she once attended in California, where twenty-six
thousand Christian Endeavourers were unable to dim the American
sunshine, though they stayed ten days.
"Our first duty, both to ourselves and to the community," I
continued to Salemina, "is to learn how there can be three distinct
kinds of proper Presbyterianism. Perhaps it would be a graceful act
on our part if we should each espouse a different kind; then there
would be no feeling among our Edinburgh friends. And again what is
this `union' of which we hear murmurs? Is it religious or
political? Is it an echo of the 1707 Union you explained to us last
week, or is it a new one? What is Disestablishment? What is
Disruption? Are they the same thing? What is the Sustentation
Fund? What was the Non-Intrusion party? What was the Dundas
Despotism? What is the argument at present going on about taking
the Shorter Catechism out of the schools? What is the Shorter
Catechism, any way,--or at least what have they left out of the
Longer Catechism to make it shorter,--and is the length of the
Catechism one of the points of difference? then when we have looked
up Chalmers and Candlish, we can ask the ex-Moderator and the
Professor of Biblical Criticism to tea; separately, of course, lest
there should be ecclesiastical quarrels."
Salemina and Francesca both incline to the Established church, I
lean instinctively toward the Free; but that does not mean that we
have any knowledge of the differences that separate them. Salemina
is a conservative in all things; she loves law, order, historic
associations, old customs; and so when there is a regularly
established national church,--or, for that matter, a regularly
established anything, she gravitates to it by the law of her being.
Francesca's religious convictions, when she is away from her own
minister and native land, are inclined to be flexible. The church
that enters Edinburgh with a marquis and a marchioness representing
the Crown, the church that opens its Assembly with splendid
processions and dignified pageants, the church that dispenses
generous hospitality from Holyrood Palace,--above all, the church
that escorts its Lord High Commissioner from place to place with
bands and pipers,--that is the church to which she pledges her
constant presence and enthusiastic support.
As for me, I believe I am a born protestant, or `come-outer,' as
they used to call dissenters in the early days of New England. I
have not yet had time to study the question, but as I lack all
knowledge of the other two branches of Presbyterianism, I am enabled
to say unhesitatingly that I belong to the Free Kirk. To begin
with, the very word `free' has a fascination for the citizen of a
republic; and then my theological training was begun this morning by
a gifted young minister of Edinburgh whom we call the Friar, because
the first time we saw him in his gown and bands (the little spot of
sheer whiteness beneath the chin, that lends such added spirituality
to a spiritual face) we fancied that he looked like some pale
brother of the Church in the olden time. His pallor, in a land of
rosy redness and milky whiteness; his smooth, fair hair, which in
the light from the stained-glass window above the pulpit looked
reddish gold; the Southern heat of passionate conviction that
coloured his slow Northern speech; the remoteness of his
personality; the weariness of his deep-set eyes, that bespoke such
fastings and vigils as he probably never practised,--all this led to
our choice of the name.
As we walked toward St. Andrew's Church and Tanfield Hall, where he
insisted on taking me to get the `proper historical background,' he
told me about the great Disruption movement. He was extremely
eloquent,--so eloquent that the image of Willie Beresford tottered
continually on its throne, and I found not the slightest difficulty
in giving an unswerving allegiance to the principles presented by
such an orator.
We went first to St. Andrew's, where the General Assembly met in
1843, and where the famous exodus of the Free Protesting Church took
place,--one of the most important events in the modern history of
the United Kingdom.
The movement was promoted by the great Dr. Chalmers and his party,
mainly to abolish the patronage of livings, then in the hands of
certain heritors or patrons, who might appoint any minister they
wished, without consulting the congregation. Needless to say, as a
free-born American citizen, and never having had a heritor in the
family, my blood easily boiled at the recital of such tyranny. In
1834 the Church had passed a law of its own, it seems, ordaining
that no presentee to a parish should be admitted, if opposed by the
majority of the male communicants. That would have been well enough
could the State have been made to agree, though I should have gone
further, personally, and allowed the female communicants to have
some voice in the matter.
The Friar took me into a particularly chilly historic corner, and,
leaning against a damp stone pillar, painted the scene in St.
Andrew's when the Assembly met in the presence of a great body of
spectators, while a vast throng gathered without, breathlessly
awaiting the result. No one believed that any large number of
ministers would relinquish livings and stipends and cast their bread
upon the waters for what many thought a `fantastic principle.' Yet
when the Moderator left his place, after reading a formal protest
signed by one hundred and twenty ministers and seventy-two elders,
he was followed first by Dr. Chalmers, and then by four hundred and