Part 3 out of 11
your visiting England--with the character of your Laird of the
Solway Lakes--with the lawless habits of the people on that
frontier country, where warrants are not easily executed owing to
the jealousy entertained by either country of the legal
interference of the other; remember, that even Sir John Fielding
said to my father that he could never trace a rogue beyond the
Briggend of Dumfries--think that the distinctions of Whig and
Tory, Papist and Protestant, still keep that country in a loose
and comparatively lawless state--think of all this, my dearest
Darsie, and remember that, while at this Mount Sharon of yours,
you are residing with a family actually menaced with forcible
interference, and who, while their obstinacy provokes violence,
are by principle bound to abstain from resistance.
Nay, let me tell you, professionally, that the legality of the
mode of fishing practised by your friend Joshua is greatly
doubted by our best lawyers; and that, if the stake-nets be
considered as actually an unlawful obstruction raised in the
channel of the estuary, an assembly of persons who shall proceed,
VIA FACTI, to pull dawn and destroy them, would not, in the eye
of the law, be esteemed guilty of a riot. So, by remaining where
you are, YOU are likely to be engaged in a quarrel with which you
have nothing to do, and thus to enable your enemies, whoever
these may be, to execute, amid the confusion of a general hubbub,
whatever designs they may have against your personal safety.
Black-fishers, poachers, and smugglers are a sort of gentry that
will not be much checked, either by your Quaker's texts, or by
your chivalry. If you are Don Quixote enough to lay lance in
rest, in defence of those of the stake-net, and of the sad-
coloured garment, I pronounce you but a lost knight; for, as I
said before, I doubt if these potent redressers of wrongs, the
justices and constables, will hold themselves warranted to
interfere. In a word, return, my dear Amadis; the adventure of
the Solway-nets is not reserved for your worship. Come back, and
I will be your faithful Sancho Panza upon a more hopeful quest.
We will beat about together, in search of this Urganda, the
Unknown She of the Green Mantle, who can read this, the riddle of
thy fate, better than wise Eppie of Buckhaven, [Well known in the
Chap-Book, called the History of Buckhaven.] or Cassandra
I would fain trifle, Darsie; for, in debating with you, jests
will sometimes go farther than arguments; but I am sick at heart
and cannot keep the ball up. If you have a moment's regard for
the friendship we have so often vowed to each other, let my
wishes for once prevail over your own venturous and romantic
temper. I am quite serious in thinking that the information
communicated to my father by this Mr. Herries, and the admonitory
letter of the young lady, bear upon each other; and that, were
you here, you might learn something from one or other, or from
both, that; might throw light on your birth and parentage. You
will not, surely, prefer an idle whim to the prospect which is
thus held out to you?
I would, agreeably to the hint I have received in the young
lady's letter (for I am confident that such is her condition),
have ere now been with you to urge these things, instead of
pouring them out upon paper. But you know that the day for my
trials is appointed; I have already gone through the form of
being introduced to the examinators, and have gotten my titles
assigned me. All this should not keep me at home, but my father
would view any irregularity upon this occasion as a mortal blow
to the hopes which he has cherished most fondly during his life;
viz. my being called to the bar with some credit. For my own
part, I know there is no great difficulty in passing these formal
examinations, else how have some of our acquaintance got through
them? But, to my father, these formalities compose an august and
serious solemnity, to which he has long looked forward, and my
absenting myself at this moment would wellnigh drive him
distracted. Yet I shall go altogether distracted myself, if I
have not an instant assurance from you that you are hastening
hither. Meanwhile I have desired Hannah to get your little crib
into the best order possible. I cannot learn that my father has
yet written to you; nor has he spoken more of his communication
with Birrenswork; but when I let him have some inkling of the
dangers you are at present incurring, I know my request that you
will return immediately will have his cordial support.
Another reason yet--I must give a dinner, as usual, upon my
admission, to our friends; and my father, laying aside all his
usual considerations of economy, has desired it may be in the
best style possible. Come hither then, dear Darsie! or, I
protest to you, I shall send examination, admission-dinner, and
guests to the devil, and come, in person, to fetch you with a
vengeance. Thine, in much anxiety, A. F.
ALEXANDER FAIRFORD, W.S., TO MR. DARSIE LATIMER
DEAR MR. DARSIE,
Having been your FACTOR LOCO TUTORIS or rather, I ought to say,
in correctness (since I acted without warrant from the court),
your NEGOTIORUM GESTOR, that connexion occasions my present
writing. And although having rendered an account of my
intromissions, which have been regularly approved of, not only by
yourself (whom I could not prevail upon to look at more than the
docket and sum total), but also by the worthy Mr. Samuel
Griffiths of London, being the hand through whom the remittances
were made, I may, in some sense, be considered as to you FUNCTUS
OFFICIO; yet to speak facetiously, I trust you will not hold me
accountable as a vicious intromitter, should I still consider
myself as occasionally interested in your welfare. My motives
for writing, at this time, are twofold.
I have met with a Mr. Herries of Birrenswork, a gentleman of very
ancient descent, but who hath in time past been in difficulties,
nor do I know if his affairs are yet well redd. Birrenswork says
that he believes he was very familiar with your father, whom he
states to have been called Ralph Latimer of Langcote Hall, in
Westmoreland; and he mentioned family affairs, which it may be of
the highest importance to you to be acquainted with; but as he
seemed to decline communicating them to me, I could not civilly
urge him thereanent. Thus much I know, that Mr. Herries had his
own share in the late desperate and unhappy matter of 1745, and
was in trouble about it, although that is probably now over.
Moreover, although he did not profess the Popish religion openly,
he had an eye that way. And both of these are reasons why I have
hesitated to recommend him to a youth who maybe hath not
altogether so well founded his opinions concerning Kirk and
State, that they might not be changed by some sudden wind of
doctrine. For I have observed ye, Master Darsie, to be rather
tinctured with the old leaven of prelacy--this under your leave;
and although God forbid that you should be in any manner
disaffected to the Protestant Hanoverian line, yet ye have ever
loved to hear the blawing, blazing stories which the Hieland
gentlemen tell of those troublous times, which, if it were their
will, they had better pretermit, as tending rather to shame than
to honour. It is come to me also by a sidewind, as I may say,
that you have been neighbouring more than was needful among some
of the pestilent sect of Quakers--a people who own neither priest
nor king, nor civil magistrate, nor the fabric of our law, and
will not depone either IN CIVILIBUS or CRIMINALIBUS, be the loss
to the lieges what it may. Anent which heresies, it were good ye
read 'The Snake in the Grass' or 'The Foot out of the Snare,'
being both well-approved tracts, touching these doctrines.
Now, Mr. Darsie, ye are to judge for yourself whether ye can
safely to your soul's weal remain longer among these Papists and
Quakers--these defections on the right hand, and failings away on
the left; and truly if you can confidently resist these evil
examples of doctrine, I think ye may as well tarry in the bounds
where ye are, until you see Mr. Herries of Birrenswork, who does
assuredly know more of your matters than I thought had been
communicated to any man in Scotland. I would fain have
precognosced him myself on these affairs, but found him unwilling
to speak out, as I have partly intimated before.
To call a new cause--I have the pleasure to tell you, that Alan
has passed his private Scots Law examinations with good
approbation--a great relief to my mind; especially as worthy Mr.
Pest told me in my ear there was no fear of 'the callant', as he
familiarly called him, which gives me great heart. His public
trials, which are nothing in comparison save a mere form, are to
take place, by order of the Honourable Dean of Faculty, on
Wednesday first; and on Friday he puts on the gown, and gives a
bit chack of dinner to his friends and acquaintances, as is, you
know, the custom. Your company will be wished for there, Master
Darsie, by more than him, which I regret to think is impossible
to have, as well by your engagements, as that our cousin, Peter
Fairford, comes from the West on purpose, and we have no place to
offer him but your chamber in the wall. And, to be plain with
you, after my use and wont, Master Darsie, it may be as well that
Alan and you do not meet till he is hefted as it were to his new
calling. You are a pleasant gentleman, and full of daffing,
which may well become you, as you have enough (as I understand)
to uphold your merry humour. If you regard the matter wisely,
you would perchance consider that a man of substance should have
a douce and staid demeanour; yet you are so far from growing
grave and considerate with the increase of your annual income,
that the richer you become, the merrier I think you grow. But
this must be at your own pleasure, so far as you are concerned.
Alan, however (overpassing my small savings), has the world to
win; and louping and laughing, as you and he were wont to do,
would soon make the powder flee out of his wig, and the pence out
of his pocket. Nevertheless, I trust you will meet when you
return from your rambles; for there is a time, as the wise man
sayeth, for gathering, and a time for casting away; it is always
the part of a man of sense to take the gathering time first. I
remain, dear sir, your well-wishing friend; and obedient to
PS.--Alan's Thesis is upon the title DE PERICULO ET COMMODO REI
VENDITAE, and is a very pretty piece of Latinity.--Ross House, in
our neighbourhood, is nearly finished, and is thought to excel
Duff House in ornature.
DARSIE LATIMER TO ALAN FAIRFORD
The plot thickens, Alan. I have your letter, and also one from
your father. The last makes it impossible for me to comply with
the kind request which the former urges. No--I cannot be with
you, Alan; and that, for the best of all reasons--I cannot and
ought not to counteract your father's anxious wishes. I do not
take it unkind of him that he desires my absence. It is natural
that he should wish for his son what his son so well deserves--
the advantage of a wiser and steadier companion than I seem to
him. And yet I am sure I have often laboured hard enough to
acquire that decency of demeanour which can no more be suspected
of breaking bounds, than an owl of catching a butterfly.
But it was in vain that I have knitted my brows till I had the
headache, in order to acquire the reputation of a grave, solid,
and well-judging youth. Your father always has discovered, or
thought that he discovered, a hare-brained eccentricity lying
folded among the wrinkles of my forehead, which rendered me a
perilous associate for the future counsellor and ultimate judge.
Well, Corporal Nym's philosophy must be my comfort--'Things must
be as they may.'--I cannot come to your father's house, where he
wishes not to see me; and as to your coming hither,--by all that
is dear to me, I vow that if you are guilty of such a piece of
reckless folly--not to say undutiful cruelty, considering your
father's thoughts and wishes--I will never speak to you again as
long as I live! I am perfectly serious. And besides, your
father, while he in a manner prohibits me from returning to
Edinburgh, gives me the strongest reasons for continuing a little
while longer in this country, by holding out the hope that I may
receive from your old friend, Mr. Herries of Birrenswork, some
particulars concerning my origin, with which that ancient
recusant seems to be acquainted.
That gentleman mentioned the name of a family in Westmoreland,
with which he supposes me connected. My inquiries here after
such a family have been ineffectual, for the borderers, on either
side, know little of each other. But I shall doubtless find some
English person of whom to make inquiries, since the confounded
fetterlock clapped on my movements by old Griffiths, prevents me
repairing to England in person. At least, the prospect of
obtaining some information is greater here than elsewhere; it
will be an apology for my making a longer stay in this
neighbourhood, a line of conduct which seems to have your
father's sanction, whose opinion must be sounder than that of
your wandering damoselle.
If the road were paved with dangers which leads to such a
discovery, I cannot for a moment hesitate to tread it. But in
fact there is no peril in the case. If the Tritons of the Solway
shall proceed to pull down honest Joshua's tide-nets, I am
neither Quixote enough in disposition, nor Goliath enough in
person, to attempt their protection. I have no idea of
attempting to prop a falling house by putting my shoulders
against it. And indeed, Joshua gave me a hint that the company
which he belongs to, injured in the way threatened (some of them
being men who thought after the fashion of the world), would
pursue the rioters at law, and recover damages, in which probably
his own ideas of non-resistance will not prevent his
participating. Therefore the whole affair will take its course
as law will, as I only mean to interfere when it may be necessary
to direct the course of the plaintiffs to thy chambers; and I
request they may find thee intimate with all the Scottish
statutes concerning salmon fisheries, from the LEX AQUARUM,
As for the Lady of the Mantle, I will lay a wager that the sun so
bedazzled thine eyes on that memorable morning, that everything
thou didst look upon seemed green; and notwithstanding James
Wilkinson's experience in the Fusileers, as well as his negative
whistle, I will venture to hold a crown that she is but a what-
shall-call-'um after all. Let not even the gold persuade you to
the contrary. She may make a shift to cause you to disgorge
that, and (immense spoil!) a session's fees to boot, if you look
not all the sharper about you. Or if it should be otherwise, and
if indeed there lurk some mystery under this visitation, credit
me, it is one which thou canst not penetrate, nor can I as yet
even attempt to explain it; since, if I prove mistaken, and
mistaken I may easily be, I would be fain to creep into
Phalaris's bull, were it standing before me ready heated, rather
than be roasted with thy raillery. Do not tax me with want of
confidence; for the instant I can throw any light on the matter
thou shalt have it; but while I am only blundering about in the
dark, I do not choose to call wise folks to see me, perchance,
break my nose against a post. So if you marvel at this,
E'en marvel on till time makes all things plain.
In the meantime, kind Alan, let me proceed in my diurnal.
On the third or fourth day after my arrival at Mount Sharon,
Time, that bald sexton to whom I have just referred you, did
certainly limp more heavily along with me than he had done at
first. The quaint morality of Joshua, and Huguenot simplicity of
his sister, began to lose much of their raciness with their
novelty, and my mode of life, by dint of being very quiet, began
to feel abominably dull. It was, as thou say'st, as if the
Quakers had put the sun in their pockets--all around was soft and
mild, and even pleasant; but there was, in the whole routine, a
uniformity, a want of interest, a helpless and hopeless languor,
which rendered life insipid. No doubt, my worthy host and
hostess felt none of this void, this want of excitation, which
was becoming oppressive to their guest. They had their little
round of occupations, charities, and pleasures; Rachel had her
poultry-yard and conservatory, and Joshua his garden. Besides
this, they enjoyed, doubtless, their devotional meditations; and,
on the whole, time glided softly and imperceptibly on with them,
though to me, who long for stream and cataract, it seemed
absolutely to stand still. I meditated returning to Shepherd's
Bush, and began to think, with some hankering, after little
Benjie and the rod. The imp has ventured hither, and hovers
about to catch a peep of me now and then; I suppose the little
sharper is angling for a few more sixpences. But this would have
been, in Joshua's eyes, a return of the washed sow to wallowing
in the mire, and I resolved, while I remained his guest, to spare
him so violent a shock to his prejudices. The next point was, to
shorten the time of my proposed stay; but, alas! that I felt to
be equally impossible. I had named a week; and however rashly my
promise had been pledged, it must be held sacred, even according
to the letter, from which the Friends permit no deviation.
All these considerations wrought me up to a kind of impatience
yesterday evening; so that I snatched up my hat, and prepared for
a sally beyond the cultivated farm and ornamented grounds of
Mount Sharon, just as if I were desirous to escape from the
realms of art, into those of free and unconstrained nature.
I was scarcely more delighted when I first entered this peaceful
demesne, than I now was--such is the instability and
inconsistency of human nature!--when I escaped from it to the
open downs, which had formerly seemed so waste and dreary, The
air I breathed felt purer and more bracing. The clouds, riding
high upon a summer breeze, drove, in gay succession, over my
head, now obscuring the sun, now letting its rays stream in
transient flashes upon various parts of the landscape, and
especially upon the broad mirror of the distant Firth of Solway.
I advanced on the scene with the light step of a liberated
captive; and, like John Bunyan's Pilgrim, could have found in my
heart to sing as I went on my way. It seemed as if my gaiety had
accumulated while suppressed, and that I was, in my present
joyous mood, entitled to expend the savings of the previous week.
But just as I was about to uplift a merry stave, I heard, to my
joyful surprise, the voices of three or more choristers, singing,
with considerable success, the lively old catch,
For all our men were very very merry,
And all our men were drinking:
There were two men of mine,
Three men of thine,
And three that belonged to old Sir Thom o' Lyne;
As they went to the ferry, they were very very merry,
And all our men were drinking.'
[The original of this catch is to be found in Cowley's witty
comedy of THE GUARDIAN, the first edition. It does not exist in
the second and revised edition, called THE CUTTER OF COLEMAN
CAPTAIN BLADE. Ha, ha, boys, another catch.
AND ALL OUR MEN ARE VERY VERY MERRY,
AND ALL OUR MEN WERE DRINKING.
CUTTER. ONE MAN OF MINE.
DOGREL. TWO MEN OF MINE.
BLADE. THREE MEN OF MINE.
CUTTER. AND ONE MAN OF MINE.
OMNES. AS WE WENT BY THE WAY WE WERE DRUNK, DRUNK, DAMNABLY
DRUNK, AND ALL OUR MEN WERE VERY VERY MERRY, &c.
Such are the words, which are somewhat altered and amplified in
the text. The play was acted in presence of Charles II, then
Prince of Wales, in 1641. The catch in the text has been happily
set to music.]
As the chorus ended, there followed a loud and hearty laugh by
way of cheers. Attracted by sounds which were so congenial to my
present feelings, I made towards the spot from which they came,--
cautiously, however, for the downs, as had been repeatedly hinted
to me, had no good name; and the attraction of the music, without
rivalling that of the sirens in melody, might have been followed
by similarly inconvenient consequences to an incautious amateur.
I crept on, therefore, trusting that the sinuosities of the
ground, broken as it was into knells and sand-pits, would permit
me to obtain a sight of the musicians before I should be observed
by them. As I advanced, the old ditty was again raised. The
voices seemed those of a man and two boys; they were rough, but
kept good time, and were managed with too much skill to belong to
the ordinary country people.
Jack looked at the sun, and cried, Fire, fire, fire;
Tom stabled his keffel in Birkendale mire;
Jem started a calf, and halloo'd for a stag;
Will mounted a gate-post instead of his nag:
For all our men were very very merry,
And all our men were drinking;
There were two men of mine,
Three men of thine,
And three that belonged to old Sir Thom o' Lyne;
As they went to the ferry, they were very very merry,
For all our men were drinking.
The voices, as they mixed in their several parts, and ran through
them, untwisting and again entwining all the links of the merry
old catch, seemed to have a little touch of the bacchanalian
spirit which they celebrated, and showed plainly that the
musicians were engaged in the same joyous revel as the MENYIE of
old Sir Thom o' Lyne. At length I came within sight of them,
three in number, where they sat cosily niched into what you might
call a BUNKER, a little sand-pit, dry and snug, and surrounded by
its banks, and a screen of whins in full bloom.
The only one of the trio whom I recognized as a personal
acquaintance was the notorious little Benjie, who, having just
finished his stave, was cramming a huge luncheon of pie-crust
into his mouth with one hand, while in the other he held a
foaming tankard, his eyes dancing with all the glee of a
forbidden revel; and his features, which have at all times a
mischievous archness of expression, confessing the full sweetness
of stolen waters, and bread eaten in secret.
There was no mistaking the profession of the male and female, who
were partners with Benjie in these merry doings. The man's long
loose-bodied greatcoat (wrap-rascal as the vulgar term it), the
fiddle-case, with its straps, which lay beside him, and a small
knapsack which might contain his few necessaries; a clear grey
eye; features which, in contending with many a storm, had not
lost a wild and, careless expression of glee, animated at
present, when he was exercising for his own pleasure the arts
which he usually practised for bread,--all announced one of those
peripatetic followers of Orpheus whom the vulgar call a
strolling fiddler. Gazing more attentively, I easily discovered
that though the poor musician's eyes were open, their sense was
shut, and that the ecstasy with which he turned them up to heaven
only derived its apparent expression from his own internal
emotions, but received no assistance from the visible objects
around. Beside him sat his female companion, in a man's hat, a
blue coat, which seemed also to have been an article of male
apparel, and a red petticoat. She was cleaner, in person and in
clothes, than such itinerants generally are; and, having been in
her day a strapping BONA ROBA, she did not even yet neglect some
attention to her appearance; wore a large amber necklace, and
silver ear-rings, and had her laid fastened across her breast
with a brooch of the same metal.
The man also looked clean, notwithstanding the meanness of his
attire, and had a decent silk handkerchief well knotted about his
throat, under which peeped a clean owerlay. His beard, also,
instead of displaying a grizzly stubble, unmowed for several
days, flowed in thick and comely abundance over the breast, to
the length of six inches, and mingled with his hair, which was
but beginning to exhibit a touch of age. To sum up his
appearance, the loose garment which I have described was secured
around him by a large old-fashioned belt, with brass studs, in
which hung a dirk, with a knife and fork, its usual
accompaniments. Altogether, there was something more wild and
adventurous-looking about the man than I could have expected to
see in an ordinary modern crowder; and the bow which he now and
then drew across the violin, to direct his little choir, was
decidedly that of no ordinary performer.
You must understand that many of these observations were the
fruits of after remark; for I had scarce approached so near as to
get a distinct view of the party, when my friend Benjie's
lurching attendant, which he calls by the appropriate name of
Hemp, began to cock his tail and ears, and, sensible of my
presence, flew, barking like a fury, to the place where I had
meant to lie concealed till I heard another song. I was obliged,
however, to jump on my feet, and intimidate Hemp, who would
otherwise have bit me, by two sound kicks on the ribs, which sent
him howling back to his master.
Little Benjie seemed somewhat dismayed at my appearance; but,
calculating on my placability, and remembering, perhaps, that the
ill-used Solomon was no palfrey of mine, he speedily affected
great glee, and almost in one breath assured the itinerants that
I was 'a grand gentleman, and had plenty of money, and was very
kind to poor folk;' and informed me that this was 'Willie
Steenson--Wandering Willie the best fiddler that ever kittled
thairm with horse-hair.'
The woman rose and curtsied; and Wandering Willie sanctioned his
own praises with a nod, and the ejaculation, 'All is true that
the little boy says.'
I asked him if he was of this country.
'THIS country!' replied the blind man--'I am of every country in
broad Scotland, and a wee bit of England to the boot. But yet I
am, in some sense, of this country; for I was born within hearing
of the roar of Solway. Will I give your honour a touch of the
He preluded as he spoke, in a manner which really excited my
curiosity; and then, taking the old tune of Galashiels for his
theme, he graced it with a number of wild, complicated, and
beautiful variations; during which it was wonderful to observe
how his sightless face was lighted up under the conscious pride
and heartfelt delight in the exercise of his own very
'What think you of that, now, for threescore and twa?'
I expressed my surprise and pleasure.
'A rant, man--an auld rant,' said Willie; 'naething like the
music ye hae in your ballhouses and your playhouses in Edinbro';
but it's weel aneugh anes in a way at a dykeside. Here's another
--it's no a Scotch tune, but it passes for ane--Oswald made it
himsell, I reckon--he has cheated mony ane, but he canna cheat
He then played your favourite air of Roslin Castle, with a number
of beautiful variations, some of which I am certain were almost
'You have another fiddle there, my friend,' said I--'Have you a
comrade?' But Willie's ears were deaf, or his attention was
still busied with the tune.
The female replied in his stead, 'O aye, sir--troth we have a
partner--a gangrel body like oursells. No but my hinny might
have been better if he had liked; for mony a bein nook in mony a
braw house has been offered to my hinny Willie, if he wad but
just bide still and play to the gentles.'
'Whisht, woman! whisht!' said the blind man, angrily, shaking
his locks; 'dinna deave the gentleman wi' your havers. Stay in a
house and play to the gentles!--strike up when my leddy pleases,
and lay down the bow when my lord bids! Na, na, that's nae life
for Willie. Look out, Maggie--peer out, woman, and see if ye can
see Robin coming. Deil be in him! He has got to the lee-side of
some smuggler's punch-bowl, and he wunna budge the night, I
'That is your consort's instrument,' said I--' Will you give me
leave to try my skill?' I slipped at the same time a shilling
into the woman's hand.
'I dinna ken whether I dare trust Robin's fiddle to ye,' said
Willie, bluntly. His wife gave him a twitch. 'Hout awa,
Maggie,' he said in contempt of the hint; 'though the gentleman
may hae gien ye siller, he may have nae bowhand for a' that, and
I'll no trust Robin's fiddle wi' an ignoramus. But that's no sae
muckle amiss,' he added, as I began to touch the instrument; 'I
am thinking ye have some skill o' the craft.'
To confirm him in this favourable opinion, I began to execute
such a complicated flourish as I thought must have turned
Crowdero into a pillar of stone with envy and wonder. I scaled
the top of the finger-board, to dive at once to the bottom--
skipped with flying fingers, like Timotheus, from shift to shift
--struck arpeggios and harmonic tones, but without exciting any
of the astonishment which I had expected.
Willie indeed listened to me with considerable attention; but I
was no sooner finished, than he immediately mimicked on his own
instrument the fantastic complication of tones which I had
produced, and made so whimsical a parody of my performance, that,
although somewhat angry, I could not help laughing heartily, in
which I was joined by Benjie, whose reverence for me held him
under no restraint; while the poor dame, fearful, doubtless, of
my taking offence at this familiarity, seemed divided betwixt her
conjugal reverence for her Willie, and her desire to give him a
hint for his guidance.
At length the old man stopped of his own accord, and, as if he
had sufficiently rebuked me by his mimicry, he said, 'But for a'
that, ye will play very weel wi' a little practice and some gude
teaching. But ye maun learn to put the heart into it, man--to
put the heart into it.'
I played an air in simpler taste, and received more decided
'That's something like it man. Od, ye are a clever birkie!'
The woman touched his coat again. 'The gentleman is a gentleman,
Willie--ye maunna speak that gate to him, hinnie.'
'The deevil I maunna!' said Willie; 'and what for maunna I?--If
he was ten gentles, he canna draw a bow like me, can he?'
'Indeed I cannot, my honest friend,' said I; 'and if you will go
with me to a house hard by, I would be glad to have a night with
Here I looked round, and observed Benjie smothering a laugh,
which I was sure had mischief in it. I seized him suddenly by
the ear, and made him confess that he was laughing at the
thoughts of the reception which a fiddler was likely to get from
the Quakers at Mount Sharon. I chucked him from me, not sorry
that his mirth had reminded me in time of what I had for the
moment forgotten; and invited the itinerant to go with me to
Shepherd's Bush, from which I proposed to send word to Mr. Geddes
that I should not return home that evening. But the minstrel
declined this invitation also. He was engaged for the night, he
said, to a dance in the neighbourhood, and vented a round
execration on the laziness or drunkenness of his comrade, who had
not appeared at the place of rendezvous.
'I will go with you instead of him,' said I, in a sudden whim;
'and I will give you a crown to introduce me as your comrade.'
'YOU gang instead of Rob the Rambler! My certie, freend, ye are
no blate!' answered Wandering Willie, in a tone which announced
death to my frolic.
But Maggie, whom the offer of the crown had not escaped, began to
open on that scent with a maundering sort of lecture. 'Oh
Willie! hinny Willie, whan will ye learn to be wise? There's a
crown to be win for naething but saying ae man's name instead of
anither. And, wae's me! I hae just a shilling of this
gentleman's gieing, and a boddle of my ain; and ye wunna, bend
your will sae muckle as to take up the siller that's flung at
your feet! Ye will die the death of a cadger's powney, in a
wreath of drift! and what can I do better than lie doun and die
wi' you? for ye winna let me win siller to keep either you or
'Haud your nonsense tongue, woman,' said Willie, but less
absolutely than before. 'Is he a real gentleman, or ane of the
'I'se uphaud him a real gentleman,' said the woman.
'I'se uphaud ye ken little of the matter,' said Willie; 'let us
see haud of your hand, neebor, gin ye like.
I gave him my hand. He said to himself, 'Aye, aye, here are
fingers that have seen canny service.' Then running his hand
over my hair, my face, and my dress, he went on with his
soliloquy; 'Aye, aye, muisted hair, braidclaith o' the best, and
seenteen hundred linen on his back, at the least o' it. And how
do you think, my braw birkie, that you are to pass for a tramping
'My dress is plain,' said I,--indeed I had chosen my most
ordinary suit, out of compliment to my Quaker friends,--'and I
can easily pass for a young farmer out upon a frolic. Come, I
will double the crown I promised you.'
'Damn your crowns!' said the disinterested man of music. 'I
would like to have a round wi' you, that's certain;--but a
farmer, and with a hand that never held pleugh-stilt or pettle,
that will never do. Ye may pass for a trades-lad from Dumfries,
or a student upon the ramble, or the like o' that. But hark ye,
lad; if ye expect to be ranting among the queans o' lasses where
ye are gaun, ye will come by the waur, I can tell ye; for the
fishers are wild chaps, and will bide nae taunts.'
I promised to be civil and cautious; and, to smooth the good
woman, I slipped the promised piece into her hand. The acute
organs of the blind man detected this little manoeuvre.
'Are ye at it again wi' the siller, ye jaud? I'll be sworn ye
wad rather hear ae twalpenny clink against another, than have a
spring from Rory Dall, [Blind Rorie, a famous musician according
to tradition.] if he was-coming alive again anes errand. Gang
doun the gate to Lucky Gregson's and get the things ye want, and
bide there till ele'en hours in the morn; and if you see Robin,
send him on to me.'
'Am I no gaun to the ploy, then?' said Maggie, in a disappointed
'And what for should ye?' said her lord and master; 'to dance a'
night, I'se warrant, and no to be fit to walk your tae's-length
the morn, and we have ten Scots miles afore us? Na, na. Stable
the steed, and pit your wife to bed, when there's night wark to
'Aweel, aweel, Willie hinnie, ye ken best; but oh, take an unco
care o' yoursell, and mind ye haena the blessing o' sight.'
'Your tongue gars me whiles tire of the blessing of hearing,
woman,' replied 'Willie, in answer to this tender exhortation.
But I now put in for my interest. 'Hollo, good folks, remember
that I am to send the boy to Mount Sharon, and if you go to the
Shepherd's Bush, honest woman, how the deuce am I to guide the
blind man where he is going? I know little or nothing of the
'And ye ken mickle less of my hinnie, sir,' replied Maggie, 'that
think he needs ony guiding; he's the best guide himsell that
ye'll find between Criffell and Carlisle. Horse-road and foot-
path, parish-road and kirk-road, high-road and cross-road, he
kens ilka foot of ground in Nithsdale.'
'Aye, ye might have said in braid Scotland, gudewife,' added the
fiddler. 'But gang your ways, Maggie, that's the first wise word
ye hae spoke the day. I wish it was dark night, and rain, and
wind, for the gentleman's sake, that I might show him there is
whiles when ane had better want een than have them; for I am as
true a guide by darkness as by daylight.'
Internally as well pleased that my companion was not put to give
me this last proof of his skill, I wrote a note with a pencil,
desiring Samuel to bring my horses at midnight, when I thought my
frolic would be wellnigh over, to the place to which the bearer
should direct him, and I sent little Benjie with an apology to
the worthy Quakers.
As we parted in different directions, the good woman said, 'Oh,
sir, if ye wad but ask Willie to tell ye ane of his tales to
shorten the gate! He can speak like ony minister frae the
pu'pit, and he might have been a minister himsell, but'--
'Haud your tongue, ye fule!' said Willie,--'But stay, Meg--gie
me a kiss, ne maunna part in anger, neither.'--And thus our
[It is certain that in many cases the blind have, by constant
exercise of their other organs, learned to overcome a defect
which one would think incapable of being supplied. Every reader
must remember the celebrated Blind Jack of Knaresborough, who
lived by laying out roads.]
THE SAME TO THE SAME
You are now to conceive us proceeding in our different directions
across the bare downs. Yonder flies little Benjie to the
northward with Hemp scampering at his heels, both running as if
for dear life so long as the rogue is within sight of his
employer, and certain to take the walk very easy so soon as he is
out of ken. Stepping westward, you see Maggie's tall form and
high-crowned hat, relieved by the fluttering of her plaid upon
the left shoulder, darkening as the distance diminishes her size
and as the level sunbeams begin to sink upon the sea. She is
taking her quiet journey to the Shepherd's Bush.
Then, stoutly striding over the lea, you have a full view of
Darsie Latimer, with his new acquaintance, Wandering Willie, who,
bating that he touched the ground now and then with his staff,
not in a doubtful groping manner, but with the confident air of
an experienced pilot, heaving the lead when he has the soundings
by heart, walks as firmly and boldly as if he possessed the eyes
of Argus. There they go, each with his violin slung at his back,
but one of them at least totally ignorant whither their course is
And wherefore did you enter so keenly into such a mad frolic?
says my wise counsellor.--Why, I think, upon the whole, that as a
sense of loneliness, and a longing for that kindness which is
interchanged in society, led me to take up my temporary residence
at Mount Sharon, the monotony of my life there, the quiet
simplicity of the conversation of the Geddeses, and the
uniformity of their amusements and employments, wearied out my
impatient temper, and prepared me for the first escapade which
chance might throw in my way.
What would I have given that I could have procured that solemn
grave visage of thine, to dignify this joke, as it has done full
many a one of thine own! Thou hast so happy a knack of doing the
most foolish things in the wisest manner, that thou mightst pass
thy extravagances for rational actions, even in the eyes of
From the direction which my guide observed, I began to suspect
that the dell at Brokenburn was our probable destination; and it
became important to me to consider whether I could, with
propriety, or even perfect safety, intrude myself again upon the
hospitality of my former host. I therefore asked Willie whether
we were bound for the laird's, as folk called him.
'Do ye ken the laird?' said Willie, interrupting a sonata of
Corelli, of which he had whistled several bars with great
'I know the laird a little,' said I; 'and therefore I was
doubting whether I ought to go to his town in disguise.'
'I should doubt, not a little only, but a great deal, before I
took ye there, my chap,' said Wandering Willie; 'for I am
thinking it wad be worth little less than broken banes baith to
you and me. Na, na, chap, we are no ganging to the laird's, but
to a blithe birling at the Brokenburn-foot, where there will be
mony a braw lad and lass; and maybe there may be some of the
laird's folks, for he never comes to sic splores himsell. He is
all for fowling-piece and salmon-spear, now that pike and musket
are out of the question.'
'He has been at soldier, then?' said I.
'I'se warrant him a soger,' answered Willie; 'but take my advice,
and speer as little about him as he does about you. Best to let
sleeping dogs lie. Better say naething about the laird, my man,
and tell me instead, what sort of a chap ye are that are sae
ready to cleik in with an auld gaberlunzie fiddler? Maggie says
ye're gentle, but a shilling maks a' the difference that Maggie
kens between a gentle and a semple, and your crowns wad mak ye a
prince of the blood in her een. But I am ane that ken full weel
that ye may wear good claithes, and have a saft hand, and yet
that may come of idleness as weel as gentrice.'
I told him my name, with the same addition I had formerly given
to Mr. Joshua Geddes; that I was a law-student, tired of my
studies, and rambling about for exercise and amusement.
'And are ye in the wont of drawing up wi' a' the gangrel bodies
that ye meet on the high-road, or find cowering in a sand-bunker
upon the links?' demanded Willie.
'Oh, no; only with honest folks like yourself, Willie,' was my
'Honest folks like me! How do ye ken whether I am honest, or
what I am? I may be the deevil himsell for what ye ken; for he
has power to come disguised like an angel of light; and besides
he is a prime fiddler. He played a sonata to Corelli, ye ken.'
There was something odd in this speech, and the tone in which it
was said. It seemed as if my companion was not always in his
constant mind, or that he was willing to try if he could frighten
me. I laughed at the extravagance of his language, however, and
asked him in reply, if he was fool enough to believe that the
foul fiend would play so silly a masquerade.
'Ye ken little about it--little about it,' said the old man,
shaking his head and beard, and knitting his brows, 'I could tell
ye something about that.'
What his wife mentioned of his being a tale-teller, as well as a
musician, now occurred to me; and as you know I like tales of
superstition, I begged to have a specimen of his talent as we
'It is very true,' said the blind man, 'that when I am tired of
scraping thairm or singing ballants, I whiles mak a tale serve
the turn among the country bodies; and I have some fearsome anes,
that make the auld carlines shake on the settle, and the bits o'
bairns skirl on their minnies out frae their beds. But this that
I am gaun to tell you was a thing that befell in our ain house in
my father's time--that is, my father was then a hafflins callant;
and I tell it to you that it may be a lesson to you, that are but
a young, thoughtless chap, wha ye draw up wi' on a lonely road;
for muckle was the dool and care that came o't to my gudesire.'
He commenced his tale accordingly, in a distinct narrative tone
of voice which he raised and depressed with considerable skill;
at times sinking almost into a whisper, and turning his clear but
sightless eyeballs upon my face, as if it had been possible for
him to witness the impression which his narrative made upon my
features. I will not spare you a syllable of it, although it be
of the longest; so I make a dash--and begin
WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE.
Ye maun have heard of Sir Robert Redgauntlet of that Ilk, who
lived in these parts before the dear years. The country will
lang mind him; and our fathers used to draw breath thick if ever
they heard him named. He was out wi' the Hielandmen in
Montrose's time; and again he was in the hills wi' Glencairn in
the saxteen hundred and fifty-twa; and sae when King Charles the
Second came in, wha was in sic favour as the Laird of
Redgauntlet? He was knighted at Lonon court, wi' the king's ain
sword; and being a redhot prelatist, he came down here,
rampauging like a lion, with commissions of lieutenancy (and of
lunacy, for what I ken) to put down a' the Whigs and Covenanters
in the country. Wild wark they made of it; for the Whigs were as
dour as the Cavaliers were fierce, and it was which should first
tire the other. Redgauntlet was ay for the strong hand; and his
name is kend as wide in the country as Claverhouse's or Tam
Dalyell's. Glen, nor dargle, nor mountain, nor cave, could hide
the puir hill-folk when Redgauntlet was out with bugle and
bloodhound after them, as if they had been sae mony deer. And
troth when they fand them, they didna mak muckle mair ceremony
than a Hielandman wi' a roebuck--it was just, 'Will ye tak the
test?'--if not, 'Make ready--present--fire!'--and there lay the
Far and wide was Sir Robert hated and feared. Men thought he had
a direct compact with Satan--that he was proof against steel--and
that bullets happed aff his buff-coat like hailstanes from a
hearth--that he had a mear that would turn a hare on the side of
Carrifra-gawns [A precipitous side of a mountain in Moffatdale.]
--and muckle to the same purpose, of whilk mair anon. The best
blessing they wared on him was, 'Deil scowp wi' Redgauntlet!' He
wasna a bad master to his ain folk, though, and was weel aneugh
liked by his tenants; and as for the lackies and troopers that
raid out wi' him to the persecutions, as the Whigs caa'd those
killing times, they wad hae drunken themsells blind to his health
at ony time.
Now you are to ken that my gudesire lived on Redgauntlet's grund
--they ca' the place Primrose Knowe. We had lived on the grund,
and under the Redgauntlets, since the riding days, and lang
before. It was a pleasant bit; and I think the air is callerer
and fresher there than onywhere else in the country. It's a'
deserted now; and I sat on the broken door-cheek three days
since, and was glad I couldna see the plight the place was in;
but that's a' wide o' the mark. There dwelt my gudesire, Steenie
Steenson, a rambling, rattling chiel' he had been in his young
days, and could play weel on the pipes; he was famous at 'Hoopers
and Girders'--a' Cumberland couldna, touch him at 'Jockie
Lattin'--and he had the finest finger for the back-lilt between
Berwick and Carlisle. The like o' Steenie wasna the sort that
they made Whigs o'. And so he became a Tory, as they ca' it,
which we now ca' Jacobites, just out of a kind of needcessity,
that he might belang to some side or other. He had nae ill will
to the Whig bodies, and liked little to see the blude rin,
though, being obliged to follow Sir Robert in hunting and
hoisting, watching and warding, he saw muckle mischief, and maybe
did some, that he couldna avoid.
Now Steenie was a kind of favourite with his master, and kend a'
the folks about the castle, and was often sent for to play the
pipes when they were at their merriment. Auld Dougal MacCallum,
the butler, that had followed Sir Robert through gude and ill,
thick and thin, pool and stream, was specially fond of the pipes,
and ay gae my gudesire his gude word wi' the laird; for Dougal
could turn his master round his finger.
Weel, round came the Revolution, and it had like to have broken
the hearts baith of Dougal and his master. But the change was
not a'thegether sae great as they feared, and other folk thought
for. The Whigs made an unco crawing what they wad do with their
auld enemies, and in special wi' Sir Robert Redgauntlet. But
there were ower mony great folks dipped in the same doings, to
mak a spick and span new warld. So Parliament passed it a' ower
easy; and Sir Robert, bating that he was held to hunting foxes
instead of Covenanters, remained just the man he was. [The
caution and moderation of King William III, and his principles of
unlimited toleration, deprived the Cameronians of the opportunity
they ardently desired, to retaliate the injuries which they had
received during the reign of prelacy, and purify the land, as
they called it, from the pollution of blood. They esteemed the
Revolution, therefore, only a half measure, which neither
comprehended the rebuilding the Kirk in its full splendour, nor
the revenge of the death of the Saints on their persecutors.]
His revel was as loud, and his hall as weel lighted, as ever it
had been, though maybe he lacked the fines of the nonconformists,
that used to come to stock his larder and cellar; for it is
certain he began to be keener about the rents than his tenants
used to find him before, and they behoved to be prompt to the
rent-day, or else the laird wasna pleased. And he was sic an
awsome body, that naebody cared to anger him; for the oaths he
swore, and the rage that he used to get into, and the looks that
he put on, made men sometimes think him a devil incarnate.
Weel, my gudesire was nae manager--no that he was a very great
misguider--but he hadna the saving gift, and he got twa terms'
rent in arrear. He got the first brash at Whitsunday put ower
wi' fair word and piping; but when Martinmas came, there was a
summons from the grund-officer to come wi' the rent on a day
preceese, or else Steenie behoved to flit. Sair wark he had to
get the siller; but he was weel-freended, and at last he got the
haill scraped thegether--a thousand merks--the maist of it was
from a neighbour they ca'd Laurie Lapraik--a sly tod. Laurie had
walth o' gear--could hunt wi' the hound and rin wi' the hare--and
be Whig or Tory, saunt or sinner, as the wind stood. He was a
professor in this Revolution warld, but he liked an orra sough of
this warld, and a tune on the pipes weel aneugh at a bytime; and
abune a', he thought he had gude security for the siller he lent
my gudesire ower the stocking at Primrose Knowe.
Away trots my gudesire to Redgauntlet Castle wi' a heavy purse
and a light heart, glad to be out of the laird's danger. Weel,
the first thing he learned at the castle was, that Sir Robert had
fretted himsell into a fit of the gout, because he did not appear
before twelve' o'clock. It wasna a'thegether for sake of the
money, Dougal thought; but because he didna like to part wi' my
gudesire aff the grund. Dougal was glad to see Steenie, and
brought him into the great oak parlour, and there sat the laird
his leesome lane, excepting that he had beside him a great, ill-
favoured jackanape, that was a special pet of his; a cankered
beast it was, and mony an ill-natured trick it played--ill to
please it was, and easily angered--ran about the haill castle,
chattering and yowling, and pinching, and biting folk, specially
before ill weather, or disturbances in the state. Sir Robert
caa'd it Major Weir, after the warlock that was burnt; [A
celebrated wizard, executed at Edinburgh for sorcery and other
crimes.] and few folk liked either the name or the conditions of
the creature--they thought there was something in it by ordinar--
and my gudesire was not just easy in mind when the door shut on
him, and he saw himself in the room wi' naebody but the laird,
Dougal MacCallum, and the major, a thing that hadna chanced to
Sir Robert sat, or, I should say, lay, in a great armed chair,
wi' his grand velvet gown, and his feet on a cradle; for he had
baith gout and gravel, and his face looked as gash and ghastly as
Satan's. Major Weir sat opposite to him, in a red laced coat,
and the laird's wig on his head; and ay as Sir Robert girned wi'
pain, the jackanape girned too, like a sheep's-head between a
pair of tangs--an ill-faur'd, fearsome couple they were. The
laird's buff-coat was hung on a pin behind him, and his
broadsword and his pistols within reach; for he keepit up the
auld fashion of having the weapons ready, and a horse saddled day
and night, just as he used to do when he was able to loup on
horseback, and away after ony of the hill-folk he could get
speerings of. Some said it was for fear of the Whigs taking
vengeance, but I judge it was just his auld custom--he wasna,
gien to fear onything. The rental-book, wi' its black cover and
brass clasps, was lying beside him; and a book of sculduddry
sangs was put betwixt the leaves, to keep it open at the place
where it bore evidence against the Goodman of Primrose Knowe, as
behind the hand with his mails and duties. Sir Robert gave my
gudesire a look, as if he would have withered his heart in his
bosom. Ye maun ken he had a way of bending his brows, that men
saw the visible mark of a horseshoe in his forehead, deep dinted,
as if it had been stamped there.
'Are ye come light-handed, ye son of a toom whistle?' said Sir
Robert. 'Zounds! if you are'--
My gudesire, with as gude acountenance as he could put on, made a
leg, and placed the bag of money on the table wi' a dash, like a
man that does something clever. The laird drew it to him
hastily--'Is it all here, Steenie, man?'
'Your honour will find it right,' said my gudesire.
'Here, Dougal,' said the laird, 'gie Steenie a tass of brandy
downstairs, till I count the siller and write the receipt.'
But they werena weel out of the room, when Sir Robert gied a
yelloch that garr'd the castle rock. Back ran Dougal--in flew
the livery-men--yell on yell gied the laird, ilk ane mair awfu'
than the ither. My gudesire knew not whether to stand or flee,
but he ventured back into the parlour, where a' was gaun hirdy-
girdie--naebody to say 'come in,' or 'gae out.' Terribly the
laird roared for cauld water to his feet, and wine to cool his
throat; and Hell, hell, hell, and its flames, was ay the word in
his mouth. They brought him water, and when they plunged his
swollen feet into the tub, he cried out it was burning; and folk
say that it DID bubble and sparkle like a seething cauldron. He
flung the cup at Dougal's head, and said he had given him blood
instead of burgundy; and, sure aneugh, the lass washed clotted
blood aff the carpet; the neist day. The jackanape they caa'd
Major Weir, it jibbered and cried as if it was mocking its
master; my gudesire's head was like to turn--he forgot baith
siller and receipt, and downstairs he banged; but as he ran, the
shrieks came faint and fainter; there was a deep-drawn shivering
groan, and word gaed through the castle that the laird was dead.
Weel, away came my gudesire, wi' his finger in his mouth, and his
best hope was that Dougal had seen the money-bag, and heard the
laird speak of writing the receipt. The young laird, now Sir
John, came from Edinburgh, to see things put to rights. Sir John
and his father never gree'd weel. Sir John had been bred an
advocate, and afterwards sat in the last Scots Parliament and
voted for the Union, having gotten, it was thought, a rug of the
compensations--if his father could have come out of his grave, he
would have brained him for it on his awn hearthstane. Some
thought it was easier counting with the auld rough knight than
the fair-spoken young ane--but mair of that anon.
Dougal MacCallum, poor body, neither grat nor grained, but gaed
about the house looking like a corpse, but directing, as was his
duty, a' the order of the grand funeral. Now Dougal looked ay
waur and waur when night was coming, and was ay the last to gang
to his bed, whilk was in a little round just opposite the chamber
of dais, whilk his master occupied while he was living, and where
he now lay in state, as they caa'd it, weel-a-day! The night
before the funeral, Dougal could keep his awn counsel nae langer;
he came doun with his proud spirit, and fairly asked auld
Hutcheon to sit in his room with him for an hour. When they were
in the round, Dougal took ae tass of brandy to himsell, and gave
another to Hutcheon, and wished him all health and lang life, and
said that, for himsell, he wasna lang for this world; for that,
every night since Sir Robert's death, his silver call had sounded
from the state chamber, just as it used to do at nights in his
lifetime, to call Dougal to help to turn him in his bed. Dougal
said that being alone with the dead on that floor of the tower
(for naebody cared to wake Sir Robert Redgauntlet like another
corpse) he had never daured to answer the call, but that now his
conscience checked him for neglecting his duty; for, 'though
death breaks service,' said MacCallum, 'it shall never break my
service to Sir Robert; and I will answer his next whistle, so be
you will stand by me, Hutcheon.'
Hutcheon had nae will to the wark, but he had stood by Dougal in
battle and broil, and he wad not fail him at this pinch; so down
the carles sat ower a stoup of brandy, and Hutcheon, who was
something of a clerk, would have read a chapter of the Bible; but
Dougal would hear naething but a blaud of Davie Lindsay, whilk
was the waur preparation.
When midnight came, and the house was quiet as the grave, sure
enough the silver whistle sounded as sharp and shrill as if Sir
Robert was blowing it, and up got the twa auld serving-men, and
tottered into the room where the dead man lay. Hutcheon saw
aneugh at the first glance; for there were torches in the room,
which showed him the foul fiend, in his ain shape, sitting on the
laird's coffin! Ower he cowped as if he had been dead. He could
not tell how lang he lay in a trance at the door, but when he
gathered himself, he cried on his neighbour, and getting nae
answer, raised the house, when Dougal was found lying dead within
twa steps of the bed where his master's coffin was placed. As
for the whistle, it was gaen anes and ay; but mony a time was it
heard at the top of the house on the bartizan, and amang the auld
chimneys and turrets where the howlets have their nests. Sir
John hushed the matter up, and the funeral passed over without
But when a' was ower, and the laird was beginning to settle his
affairs, every tenant was called up for his arrears, and my
gudesire for the full sum that stood against him in the rental-
book. Weel, away he trots to the castle, to tell his story, and
there he is introduced to Sir John, sitting in his father's
chair, in deep mourning, with weepers and hanging cravat, and a
small wallring rapier by his side, instead of the auld broadsword
that had a hundredweight of steel about it, what with blade,
chape, and basket-hilt. I have heard their communing so often
tauld ower, that I almost think I was there mysell, though I
couldna be born at the time. (In fact, Alan, my companion
mimicked, with a good deal of humour, the flattering,
conciliating tone of the tenant's address, and the hypocritical
melancholy of the laird's reply. His grandfather, he said, had,
while he spoke, his eye fixed on the rental-book, as if it were a
mastiff-dog that he was afraid would spring up and bite him).
'I wuss ye joy, sir, of the head seat, and the white loaf, and
the braid lairdship. Your father was a kind man to friends and
followers; muckle grace to you, Sir John, to fill his shoon--his
boots, I suld say, for he seldom wore shoon, unless it were muils
when he had the gout.'
'Aye, Steenie,' quoth the laird, sighing deeply, and putting his
napkin to his een, 'his was a sudden call, and he will be missed
in the country; no time to set his house in order--weel prepared
Godward, no doubt, which is the root of the matter--but left us
behind a tangled heap to wind, Steenie.--Hem! hem! We maun go
to business, Steenie; much to do, and little time to do it in.'
Here he opened the fatal volume. I have heard of a thing they
call Doomsday Book--I am clear it has been a rental of back-
'Stephen,' said Sir John, still in the same soft, sleekit tone of
voice--'Stephen Stevenson, or Steenson, ye are down here for a
year's rent behind the hand--due at last term.'
STEPHEN. 'Please your honour, Sir John, I paid it to your
SIR JOHN. 'Ye took a receipt, then, doubtless, Stephen; and can
STEPHEN. 'Indeed I hadna time, an it like your honour; for nae
sooner had I set doun the siller, and just as his honour, Sir
Robert, that's gaen, drew it till him to count it, and write out
the receipt, he was ta'en wi' the pains that removed him.'
'That was unlucky,' said Sir John, after a pause. 'But ye maybe
paid it in the presence of somebody, I want but a TALIS QUALIS
evidence, Stephen. I would go ower strictly to work with no poor
STEPHEN. 'Troth, Sir John, there was naebody in the room but
Dougal MacCallum the butler. But, as your honour kens, he has
e'en followed his auld master.
'Very unlucky again, Stephen,' said Sir John, without altering
his voice a single note. (The man to whom ye paid the money is
dead--and the man who witnessed the payment is dead too--and the
siller, which should have been to the fore, is neither seen nor
heard tell of in the repositories. How am I to believe a' this?'
STEPHEN. 'I dinna, ken, your honour; but there is a bit
memorandum note of the very coins; for, God help me! I had to
borrow out of twenty purses; and I am sure that ilka man there
set down will take his grit oath for what purpose I borrowed the
SIR JOHN. 'I have little doubt ye BORROWED the money, Steenie.
It is the PAYMENT to my father that I want to have some proof
STEPHEN. 'The siller maun be about the house, Sir John. And
since your honour never got it, and his honour that was canna
have taen it wi' him, maybe some of the family may have seen it.'
SIR JOHN. 'We will examine the servants, Stephen; that is but
But lackey and lass, and page and groom, all denied stoutly that
they had ever seen such a bag of money as my gudesire described.
What was waur, he had unluckily not mentioned to any living soul
of them his purpose of paying his rent. Ae quean had noticed
something under his arm, but she took it for the pipes.
Sir John Redgauntlet ordered the servants out of the room, and
then said to my gudesire, 'Now, Steenie, ye see ye have fair
play; and, as I have little doubt ye ken better where to find the
siller than ony other body, I beg, in fair terms, and for your
own sake, that you will end this fasherie; for, Stephen, ye maun
pay or flit.'
'The Lord forgie your opinion,' said Stephen, driven almost to
his wit's end--'I am an honest man.'
'So am I, Stephen,' said his honour; 'and so are all the folks in
the house, I hope. But if there be a knave amongst us, it must
be he that tells the story he cannot prove.' He paused, and then
added, mair sternly, 'If I understand your trick, sir, you want
to take advantage of some malicious reports concerning things in
this family, and particularly respecting my father's sudden
death, thereby to cheat me out of the money, and perhaps take
away my character, by insinuating that I have received the rent I
am demanding. Where do you suppose this money to be? I insist
My gudesire saw everything look so muckle against him, that he
grew nearly desperate--however, he shifted from one foot to
another, looked to every corner of the room, and made no answer.
'Speak out, sirrah,' said the laird, assuming a look of his
father's, a very particular ane, which he had when he was angry--
it seemed as if the wrinkles of his frown made that selfsame
fearful shape of a horse's shoe in the middle of his brow;--
'Speak out, sir! I WILL know your thoughts;--do you suppose that
I have this money?'
'Far be it frae me to say so,' said Stephen.
'Do you charge any of my people with having taken it?'
'I wad be laith to charge them that may be innocent,' said my
gudesire; 'and if there be any one that is guilty, I have nae
'Somewhere the money must be, if there is a word of truth in your
story,' said Sir John; 'I ask where you think it is--and demand a
'In HELL, if you will have my thoughts of it,' said my gudesire,
driven to extremity, 'in hell! with your father, his jackanape,
and his silver whistle.'
Down the stairs he ran (for the parlour was nae place for him
after such a word) and he heard the laird swearing blood and
wounds behind him, as fast; as ever did Sir Robert, and roaring
for the bailie and the baron-officer.
Away rode my gudesire to his chief creditor (him they ca'd Laurie
Lapraik) to try if he could make onything out of him; but when he
tauld his story, he got but the worst word in his wame--thief,
beggar, and dyvour, were the saftest terms; and to the boot of
these hard terms, Laurie brought up the auld story of his dipping
his hand in the blood of God's saunts, just as if a tenant could
have helped riding with the laird, and that a laird like Sir
Robert Redgauntlet. My gudesire was, by this time, far beyond
the bounds of patience, and, while he and Laurie were at deil
speed the liars, he was wanchancie aneugh to abuse Lapraik's
doctrine as weel as the man, ond said things that garr'd folks'
flesh grue that heard them;--he wasna just himsell, and he had
lived wi' a wild set in his day.
At last they parted, and my gudesire was to ride hame through the
wood of Pitmurkie, that is a' fou of black firs, as they say.--I
ken the wood, but the firs may be black or white for what I can
tell.--At the entry of the wood there is a wild common, and on
the edge of the common, a little lonely change-house, that was
keepit then by an ostler-wife, they suld hae caa'd her Tibbie
Faw, and there puir Steenie cried for a mutchkin of brandy, for
he had had no refreshment the haill day. Tibbie was earnest wi'
him to take a bite of meat, but he couldna think o't, nor would
he take his foot out of the stirrup, and took off the brandy
wholely at twa draughts, and named a toast at each:--the first
was the memory of Sir Robert Redgauntlet, and might he never lie
quiet in his grave till he had righted his poor bond-tenant; and
the second was a health to Man's Enemy, if he would but get him
back the pock of siller or tell him what came o't, for he saw the
haill world was like to regard him as a thief and a cheat, and he
took that waur than even the ruin of his house and hauld.
On he rode, little caring where. It was a dark night turned, and
the trees made it yet darker, and he let the beast take its ain
road through the wood; when all of a sudden, from tired and
wearied that it was before, the nag began to spring and flee, and
stend, that my gudesire could hardly keep the saddle. Upon the
whilk, a horseman, suddenly riding up beside him, said, 'That's a
mettle beast of yours, freend; will you sell him?' So saying, he
touched the horse's neck with his riding-wand, and it fell into
its auld heigh-ho of a stumbling trot. 'But his spunk's soon out
of him, I think,' continued the stranger, 'and that is like mony
a man's courage, that thinks he wad do great things till he come
to the proof.'
My gudesire scarce listened to this, but spurred his horse, with
'Gude e'en to you, freend.'
But it's like the stranger was ane that doesna lightly yield his
point; for, ride as Steenie liked, be was ay beside him at the
selfsame pace. At last my gudesire, Steenie Steenson, grew half
angry, and, to say the truth, half feared.
'What is it that ye want with me, freend?' he said. 'If ye be a
robber, I have nae money; if ye be a leal man, wanting company, I
have nae heart to mirth or speaking; and if ye want to ken the
road, I scarce ken it mysell.'
'If you will tell me your grief,' said the stranger, 'I am one
that, though I have been sair miscaa'd in the world, am the only
hand for helping my freends.'
So my gudesire, to ease his ain heart, mair than from any hope of
help, told him the story from beginning to end.
'It's a hard pinch,' said the stranger; 'but I think I can help
'If you could lend the money, sir, and take a lang day--I ken nae
other help on earth,' said my gudesire.
'But there may be some under the earth,' said the stranger.
'Come, I'll be frank wi' you; I could lend you the money on bond,
but you would maybe scruple my terms. Now, I can tell you, that
your auld laird is disturbed in his grave by your curses, and the
wailing of your family, and if ye daur venture to go to see him,
he will give you the receipt.'
My gudesire's hair stood on end at this proposal, but he thought
his companion might be some humoursome chield that was trying to
frighten him, and might end with lending him the money. Besides,
he was bauld wi' brandy, and desperate wi' distress; and he said
he had courage to go to the gate of hell, and a step farther, for
that receipt. The stranger laughed.
Weel, they rode on through the thickest of the wood, when, all of
a sudden, the horse stopped at the door of a great house; and,
but that he knew the place was ten miles off, my father would
have thought he was at Redgauntlet Castle. They rode into the
outer courtyard, through the muckle faulding yetts and aneath the
auld portcullis; and the whole front of the house was lighted,
and there were pipes and fiddles, and as much dancing and deray
within as used to be at Sir Robert's house at Pace and Yule, and
such high seasons. They lap off, and my gudesire, as seemed to
him, fastened his horse to the very ring he had tied him to that
morning, when he gaed to wait on the young Sir John.
'God!' said my gudesire, 'if Sir Robert's death be but a dream!'
He knocked at the ha' door just as he was wont, and his auld
acquaintance, Dougal MacCallum--just after his wont, too,--came
to open the door, and said, 'Piper Steenie, are ye there, lad?
Sir Robert has been crying for you.'
My gudesire was like a man in a dream--he looked for the
stranger, but he was gane for the time. At last he just tried to
say, 'Ha! Dougal Driveower, are ye living? I thought ye had
'Never fash yoursell wi' me,' said Dougal, 'but look to yoursell;
and see ye tak naethlng frae ony body here, neither meat, drink,
or siller, except just the receipt that is your ain.'
So saying, he led the way out through halls and trances that were
weel kend to my gudesire, and into the auld oak parlour; and
there was as much singing of profane sangs, and birling of red
wine, and speaking blasphemy and sculduddry, as had ever been in
Redgauntlet Castle when it was at the blithest.
But, Lord take us in keeping, what a set of ghastly revellers
they were that sat around that table! My gudesire kend mony that
had long before gane to their place, for often had he piped to
the most part in the hall of Redgauntlet. There was the fierce
Middleton, and the dissolute Rothes, and the crafty Lauderdale;
and Dalyell, with his bald head and a beard to his girdle; and
Earlshall, with Cameron's blude on his hand; and wild Bonshaw,
that tied blessed Mr. Cargill's limbs till the blude sprung; and
Dunbarton Douglas, the twice-turned traitor baith to country and
king. There was the Bluidy Advocate MacKenyie, who, for his
worldly wit and wisdom had been to the rest as a god. And there
was Claverhouse, as beautiful as when he lived, with his long,
dark, curled locks streaming down over his laced buff-coat, and
his left hand always on his right spule-blade, to hide the wound
that the silver bullet had made. [See Note 2.] He sat apart
from them all, and looked at them with a melancholy, haughty
countenance; while the rest hallooed, and sang, and laughed, that
the room rang. But their smiles were fearfully contorted from
time to time; and their laugh passed into such wild sounds as
made my gudesire's very nails grow blue, and chilled the marrow
in his banes.
They that waited at the table were just the wicked serving-men
and troopers, that had done their work and cruel bidding on
earth. There was the Lang Lad of the Nethertown, that helped to
take Argyle; and the bishop's summoner, that they called the
Deil's Rattle-bag; and the wicked guardsmen in their laced coats;
and the savage Highland Amorites, that shed blood like water; and
many a proud serving-man, haughty of heart and bloody of hand,
cringing to the rich, and making them wickeder than they would
be; grinding the poor to powder, when the rich had broken them to
fragments. And mony, mony mair were coming and ganging, a' as
busy in their vocation as if they had been alive.
Sir Robert Redgauntlet, in the midst of a' this fearful riot,
cried, wi' a voice like thunder, on Steenie Piper to come to the
board-head where he was sitting; his legs stretched out before
him, and swathed up with flannel, with his holster pistols aside
him, while the great broadsword rested against his chair, just as
my gudesire had seen him the last time upon earth--the very
cushion for the jackanape was close to him, but the creature
itself was not there--it wasna its hour, it's likely; for he
heard them say as he came forward, 'Is not the major come yet?'
And another answered, 'The jackanape will be here betimes the
morn.' And when my gudesire came forward, Sir Robert, or his
ghaist, or the deevil in his likeness, said, 'Weel, piper, hae ye
settled wi' my son for the year's rent?'
With much ado my father gat breath to say that Sir John would not
settle without his honour's receipt.
'Ye shall hae that for a tune of the pipes, Steenie,' said the
appearance of Sir Robert--'Play us up "Weel hoddled, Luckie".'
Now this was a tune my gudesire learned frae a warlock, that
heard it when they were worshipping Satan at their meetings, and
my gudesire had sometimes played it at the ranting suppers in
Redgauntlet Castle, but never very willingly; and now he grew
cauld at the very name of it, and said, for excuse, he hadna his
pipes wi' him.
'MacCallum, ye limb of Beelzebub,' said the fearfu' Sir Robert,
'bring Steenie the pipes that I am keeping for him!'
MacCallum brought a pair of pipes might have served the piper of
Donald of the Isles. But he gave my gudesire a nudge as he
offered them; and looking secretly and closely, Steenie saw that
the chanter was of steel, and heated to a white heat; so he had
fair warning not to trust his fingers with it. So he excused
himself again, and said he was faint and frightened, and had not
wind aneugh to fill the bag.
'Then ye maun eat and drink, Steenie,' said the figure; 'for we
do little else here; and it's ill speaking between a fou man and
Now these were the very words that the bloody Earl of Douglas
said to keep the king's messenger in hand while he cut the head
off MacLellan of Bombie, at the Threave Castle, [The reader is
referred for particulars to Pitscottie's HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.]
and that put Steenie mair and mair on his guard. So he spoke up
like a man, and said he came neither to eat, or drink. or make
minstrelsy; but simply for his ain--to ken what was come o' the
money he had paid, and to get a discharge for it; and he was so
stout-hearted by this time that he charged Sir Robert for
conscience-sake (he had no power to say the holy name) and as he
hoped for peace and rest, to spread no snares for him, but just
to give him his ain.
The appearance gnashed its teeth and laughed, but it took from a
large pocket-book the receipt, and handed it to Steenie. 'There
is your receipt, ye pitiful cur; and for the money, my dog-whelp
of a son may go look for it in the Cat's Cradle.'
My gudesire uttered mony thanks, and was about to retire when Sir
Robert roared aloud, 'Stop, though, thou sack-doudling son of a
whore! I am not done with thee. HERE we do nothing for nothing;
and you must return on this very day twelvemonth, to pay your
master the homage that you owe me for my protection.'
My father's tongue was loosed of a suddenty, and he said aloud,
'I refer mysell to God's pleasure, and not to yours.'
He had no sooner uttered the word than all was dark around him;
and he sank on the earth with such a sudden shock, that he lost
both breath and sense.
How lang Steenie lay there, he could not tell; but when he came
to himsell, he was lying in the auld kirkyard of Redgauntlet
parochine just at the door of the family aisle, and the scutcheon
of the auld knight, Sir Robert, hanging over his head. There was
a deep morning fog on grass and gravestane around him, and his
horse was feeding quietly beside the minister's twa cows.
Steenie would have thought the whole was a dream, but he had the
receipt in his hand, fairly written and signed by the auld laird;
only the last letters of his name were a little disorderly,
written like one seized with sudden pain.
Sorely troubled in his mind, he left that dreary place, rode
through the mist to Redgauntlet Castle, and with much ado he got
speech of the laird.
'Well, you dyvour bankrupt,' was the first word, 'have you
brought me my rent?'
'No,' answered my gudesire, 'I have not; but I have brought your
honour Sir Robert's receipt for it.'
'Wow, sirrah? Sir Robert's receipt! You told me he had not
given you one.'
'Will your honour please to see if that bit line is right?'
Sir John looked at every line, and at every letter, with much
attention; and at last, at the date, which my gudesire had not
observed,--'FROM MY APPOINTED PLACE," he read, 'THIS TWENTY-FIFTH
OF NOVEMBER.'--'What!--That is yesterday!--Villain, thou must
have gone to hell for this!'
'I got it from your honour's father--whether he be in heaven or
hell, I know not,' said Steenie.
'I will delate you for a warlock to the Privy Council!' said Sir
John. 'I will send you to your master, the devil, with the help
of a tar-barrel and a torch!'
'I intend to delate mysell to the Presbytery,' said Steenie, 'and
tell them all I have seen last night, whilk are things fitter for
them to judge of than a borrel man like me.'
Sir John paused, composed himsell, and desired to hear the full
history; and my gudesire told it him from point to point, as I
have told it you--word for word, neither more nor less,
Sir John was silent again for a long time, and at last he said,
very composedly, 'Steenie, this story of yours concerns the
honour of many a noble family besides mine; and if it be a
leasing-making, to keep yourself out of my danger, the least you
can expect is to have a redhot iron driven through your tongue,
and that will be as bad as scauding your fingers wi' a redhot
chanter. But yet it may be true, Steenie; and if the money cast
up I shall not know what to think of it. But where shall we find
the Cat's Cradle? There are cats enough about the old house, but
I think they kitten without the ceremony of bed or cradle.'
'We were best ask Hutcheon,' said my gudesire; 'he kens a' the
odd corners about as weel as--another serving-man that is now
gane, and that I wad not like to name.'
Aweel, Hutcheon, when he was asked, told them, that a ruinous
turret, lang disused, next to the clock-house, only accessible by
a ladder, for the opening was on the outside, and far above the
battlements, was called of old the Cat's Cradle.
'There will I go immediately,' said Sir John; and he took (with
what purpose, Heaven kens) one of his father's pistols from the
hall-table, where they had lain since the night he died, and
hastened to the battlements.
It was a dangerous place to climb, for the ladder was auld and
frail, and wanted ane or twa rounds. However, up got Sir John,
and entered at the turret-door, where his body stopped the only
little light that was in the bit turret. Something flees at him
wi' a vengeance, maist dang him back ower--bang gaed the knight's
pistol, and Hutcheon, that held the ladder, and my gudesire that
stood beside him, hears a loud skelloch. A minute after, Sir
John flings the body of the jackanape down to them, and cries
that the siller is fund, and that they should come up and help
him. And there was the bag of siller sure aneugh, and mony orra
thing besides, that had been missing for mony a day. And Sir
John, when he had riped the turret weel, led my gudesire into the
dining-parlour, and took him by the hand and spoke kindly to him,
and said he was sorry he should have doubted his word and that he
would hereafter be a good master to him to make amends.
'And now, Steenie,' said Sir John, 'although this vision of yours
tend, on the whole, to my father's credit, as an honest man, that
he should, even after his death, desire to see justice done to a
poor man like you, yet you are sensible that ill-dispositioned
men might make bad constructions upon it, concerning his soul's
health. So, I think, we had better lay the haill dirdum on that
ill-deedie creature, Major Weir, and say naething about your
dream in the wood of Pitmurkie. You had taken ower muckle brandy
to be very certain about onything; and, Steenie, this receipt'
(his hand shook while he held it out),--'it's but a queer kind of
document, and we will do best, I think, to put it quietly in the
'Od, but for as queer as it is, it's a' the voucher I have for my
rent,' said my gudesire, who was afraid, it may be, of losing the
benefit of Sir Robert's discharge.
'I will bear the contents to your credit in the rental-book, and
give you a discharge under my own hand,' said Sir John, 'and that
on the spot. And, Steenie, if you can hold your tongue about
this matter, you shall sit, from this term downward, at an easier
'Mony thanks to your honour,' said Steenie, who saw easily in
what corner the wind was; 'doubtless I will be comformable to all
your honour's commands; only I would willingly speak wi' some
powerful minister on the subject, for I do not like the sort of
sommons of appointment whilk your honour's father'--
'Do not call the phantom my father!' said Sir John, interrupting
'Weel, then, the thing that was so like him,' said my gudesire;
'he spoke of my coming back to see him this time twelvemonth, and
it's a weight on my conscience.'
'Aweel, then,' said Sir John, 'if you be so much distressed in
mind, you may speak to our minister of the parish; he is a douce
man, regards the honour of our family, and the mair that he may
look for some patronage from me.'
Wi' that, my father readily agreed that the receipt should be
burnt, and the laird threw it into the chimney with his ain hand.
Burn it would not for them, though; but away it flew up the lum,
wi' a lang train of sparks at its tail, and a hissing noise like
My gudesire gaed down to the Manse, and the minister, when he had
heard the story, said it was his real opinion that though my
gudesire had gaen very far in tampering with dangerous matters,
yet, as he had refused the devil's arles (for such was the offer
of meat and drink) and had refused to do homage by piping at his
bidding, he hoped, that if he held a circumspect walk hereafter,
Satan could take little advantage by what was come and gane.
And, indeed, my gudesire, of his ain accord, lang foreswore baith
the pipes and the brandy--it was not even till the year was out,
and the fatal day past, that he would so much as take the fiddle,
or drink usquebaugh or tippeny.
Sir John made up his story about the jackanape as he liked
himsell; and some believe till this day there was no more in the
matter than the filching nature of the brute. Indeed, ye'll no
hinder some to threap that it was nane o' the auld Enemy that
Dougal and my gudesire saw in the laird's room, but only that
wanchancy creature, the major, capering on the coffin; and that,
as to the blawing on the laird's whistle that was heard after he
was dead, the filthy brute could do that as weel as the laird
himsell, if no better. But Heaven kens the truth, whilk first
came out by the minister's wife, after Sir John and her ain
gudeman were baith in the moulds. And then my gudesire, wha was
failed in his limbs, but not in his judgement or memory--at least
nothing to speak of--was obliged to tell the real narrative to
his friends, for the credit of his good name. He might else have
been charged for a warlock. [See Note 3.]
The shades of evening were growing thicker around us as my
conductor finished his long narrative with this moral--'Ye see,
birkie, it is nae chancy thing to tak a stranger traveller for a
guide, when you are in an uncouth land.'
'I should not have made that inference,' said I. 'Your
grandfather's adventure was fortunate for himself, whom it saved
from ruin and distress; and fortunate for his landlord also, whom
it prevented from committing a gross act of injustice.'
'Aye, but they had baith to sup the sauce o't sooner or later,'
said Wandering Willie--'what was fristed wasna forgiven. Sir
John died before he was much over three-score; and it was just
like of a moment's illness. And for my gudesire, though he
departed in fullness of life, yet there was my father, a yauld
man of forty-five, fell down betwixt the stilts of his pleugh,
and rase never again, and left nae bairn but me, a puir
sightless, fatherless, motherless creature, could neither work
nor want. Things gaed weel aneugh at first; for Sir Redwald
Redgauntlet, the only son of Sir John, and the oye of auld Sir
Robert, and, waes me! the last of the honourable house, took the
farm aff our hands, and brought me into his household to have
care of me. He liked music, and I had the best teachers baith
England and Scotland could gie me. Mony a merry year was I wi'
him; but waes me! he gaed out with other pretty men in the
Forty-five--I'll say nae mair about it--My head never settled
weel since I lost him; and if I say another word about it, deil a
bar will I have the heart to play the night.--Look out, my gentle
chap,' he resumed in a different tone, 'ye should see the lights
at Brokenburn glen by this time.'
THE SAME TO THE SAME
Tam Luter was their minstrel meet,
Gude Lord as he could lance,
He play'd sae shrill, and sang sae sweet,
Till Towsie took a trance.
Auld Lightfoot there he did forleet,
And counterfeited France;
He used himself as man discreet,
And up took Morrice danse sae loud,
At Christ's Kirk on the Green that day.
KING JAMES I.
I continue to scribble at length, though the subject may seem
somewhat deficient in interest. Let the grace of the narrative,
therefore, and the concern we take in each other's matters, make
amends for its tenuity. We fools of fancy who suffer ourselves,
like Malvolio, to be cheated with our own visions, have,
nevertheless, this advantage over the wise ones of the earth,
that we have our whole stock of enjoyments under our own command,
and can dish for ourselves an intellectual banquet with most
moderate assistance from external objects. It is, to be sure,
something like the feast which the Barmecide served up to
Alnaschar; and we cannot expect to get fat upon such diet. But
then, neither is there repletion nor nausea, which often succeed
the grosser and more material revel. On the whole, I still pray,
with the Ode to Castle Building--
Give me thy hope which sickens not the heart;
Give me thy wealth which has no wings to fly;
Give me the bliss thy visions can impart:
Thy friendship give me, warm in poverty!
And so, despite thy solemn smile and sapient shake of the head, I
will go on picking such interest as I can out of my trivial
adventures, even though that interest should be the creation of
my own fancy; nor will I cease to indict on thy devoted eyes the
labour of perusing the scrolls in which I shall record my
My last broke off as we were on the point of descending into the
glen at Brokenburn, by the dangerous track which I had first
travelled EN CROUPE, behind a furious horseman, and was now again
to brave under the precarious guidance of a blind man.
It was now getting dark; but this was no inconvenience to my
guide, who moved on, as formerly, with instinctive security of
step, so that we soon reached the bottom, and I could see lights
twinkling in the cottage which had been my place of refuge on a
former occasion. It was not thither, however, that our course
was directed. We left the habitation of the laird to the left,
and turning down the brook, soon approached the small hamlet
which had been erected at the mouth of the stream, probably on
account of the convenience which it afforded as a harbour to the
fishing-boats. A large, low cottage, full in our front, seemed
highly illuminated; for the light not only glanced from every
window and aperture in its frail walls, but was even visible from
rents and fractures in the roof, composed of tarred shingles,
repaired in part by thatch and divot.
While these appearances engaged my attention, that of my
companion was attracted by a regular succession of sounds, like a
bouncing on the floor, mixed with a very faint noise of music,
which Willie's acute organs at once recognized and accounted for,
while to me it was almost inaudible. The old man struck the
earth with his staff in a violent passion. 'The whoreson fisher
rabble! They have brought another violer upon my walk! They are
such smuggling blackguards, that they must run in their very
music; but I'll sort them waur than ony gauger in the country.--
Stay--hark--it 's no a fiddle neither--it's the pipe and tabor
bastard, Simon of Sowport, frae the Nicol Forest; but I'll pipe
and tabor him!--Let me hae ance my left hand on his cravat, and
ye shall see what my right will do. Come away, chap--come away,
gentle chap--nae time to be picking and waling your steps.' And
on he passed with long and determined strides, dragging me along
I was not quite easy in his company; for, now that his minstrel
pride was hurt, the man had changed from the quiet, decorous, I
might almost say respectable person, which he seemed while he
told his tale, into the appearance of a fierce, brawling,
dissolute stroller. So that when he entered the large hut, where
a great number of fishers, with their wives and daughters, were
engaged in eating, drinking, and dancing, I was somewhat afraid
that the impatient violence of my companion might procure us an
But the universal shout of welcome with which Wandering Willie
was received--the hearty congratulations--the repeated 'Here's t'
ye, Willie!'--'Where hae ya been, ye blind deevil?' and the call
upon him to pledge them--above all, the speed with which the
obnoxious pipe and tabor were put to silence, gave the old man
such effectual assurance of undiminished popularity and
importance, as at once put his jealousy to rest, and changed his
tone of offended dignity into one better fitted to receive such
cordial greetings. Young men and women crowded round, to tell
how much they were afraid some mischance had detained him, and
how two or three young fellows had set out in quest of him.
'It was nae mischance, praised be Heaven,' said Willie, 'but the
absence of the lazy loon Rob the Rambler, my comrade, that didna
come to meet me on the Links; but I hae gotten a braw consort in
his stead, worth a dozen of him, the unhanged blackguard.'
'And wha is't tou's gotten, Wullie, lad?' said half a score of
voices, while all eyes were turned on your humble servant, who
kept the best countenance he could, though not quite easy at
becoming the centre to which all eyes were pointed.
'I ken him by his hemmed cravat,' said one fellow; 'it's Gil
Hobson, the souple tailor frae Burgh. Ye are welcome to
Scotland, ye prick-the-clout loon,' he said, thrusting forth a
paw; much the colour of a badger's back, and of most portentous
'Gil Hobson? Gil whoreson!' exclaimed Wandering Willie; 'it's a
gentle chap that I judge to be an apprentice wi' auld Joshua
Geddes, to the quaker-trade.'
'What trade be's that, man?' said he of the badger-coloured
'Canting and lying,'--said Willie, which produced a thundering
laugh; 'but I am teaching the callant a better trade, and that
is, feasting and fiddling.'
Willie's conduct in thus announcing something like my real
character, was contrary to compact; and yet I was rather glad he
did so, for the consequence of putting a trick upon these rude
and ferocious men, might, in case of discovery, have been
dangerous to us both, and I was at the same time delivered from
the painful effort to support a fictitious character. The good
company, except perhaps one or two of the young women whose looks
expressed some desire for better acquaintance, gave themselves no
further trouble about me; but, while the seniors resumed their
places near an immense bowl or rather reeking cauldron of brandy-
punch, the younger arranged themselves on the floor and called
loudly on Willie to strike up.
With a brief caution to me, to 'mind my credit, for fishers have
ears, though fish have none,' Willie led off in capital style,
and I followed, certainly not so as to disgrace my companion,
who, every now and then, gave me a nod of approbation. The
dances were, of course, the Scottish jigs, and reels, and
'twasome dances', with a strathspey or hornpipe for interlude;
and the want of grace on the part of the performers was amply
supplied by truth of ear, vigour and decision of step, and the
agility proper to the northern performers. My own spirits rose
with the mirth around me, and with old Willie's admirable
execution, and frequent 'weel dune, gentle chap, yet;'--and, to
confess the truth, I felt a great deal more pleasure in this
rustic revel, than I have done at the more formal balls and
concerts in your famed city, to which I have sometimes made my
way. Perhaps this was because I was a person of more importance
to the presiding matron of Brokenburn-foot, than I had the means
of rendering myself to the far-famed Miss Nickie Murray, the
patroness of your Edinburgh assemblies. The person I mean was a
buxom dame of about thirty, her fingers loaded with many a silver
ring, and three or four of gold; her ankles liberally displayed
from under her numerous blue, white, and scarlet; short
petticoats, and attired in hose of the finest and whitest lamb's-
wool, which arose from shoes of Spanish cordwain, fastened with
silver buckles. She took the lead in my favour, and declared,
'that the brave young gentleman should not weary himself to death
wi' playing, but take the floor for a dance or twa.'
'And what's to come of me, Dame Martin?' said Willie.
'Come o' thee?' said the dame; 'mishanter on the auld beard o'
ye! ye could play for twenty hours on end, and tire out the
haill countryside wi' dancing before ye laid down your bow,
saving for a by-drink or the like o' that.'
'In troth, dame,' answered Willie, 'ye are no sae far wrang; sae
if my comrade is to take his dance, ye maun gie me my drink, and
then bob it away like Madge of Middlebie.'
The drink was soon brought; but while Willie was partaking of it,
a party entered the hut, which arrested my attention at once, and
intercepted the intended gallantry with which I had proposed to
present my hand to the fresh-coloured, well-made, white-ankled
Thetis, who had obtained me manumission from my musical task.
This was nothing less than the sudden appearance of the old woman
whom the laird had termed Mabel; Cristal Nixon, his male
attendant; and the young person who had said grace to us when I
supped with him.
This young person--Alan, thou art in thy way a bit of a conjurer
--this young person whom I DID NOT describe, and whom you, for
that very reason, suspected was not an indifferent object to me
--is, I am sorry to say it, in very fact not so much so as in
prudence she ought. I will not use the name of love on this
occasion; for I have applied it too often to transient whims and
fancies to escape your satire, should I venture to apply it now.
For it is a phrase, I must confess, which I have used--a romancer
would say, profaned--a little too often, considering how few
years have passed over my head. But seriously, the fair chaplain
of Brokenburn has been often in my head when she had no business
there; and if this can give thee any clue for explaining my
motives in lingering about the country, and assuming the
character of Willie's companion, why, hang thee, thou art welcome
to make use of it--a permission for which thou need'st not thank
me much, as thou wouldst not have failed to assume it whether it
were given or no.
Such being my feelings, conceive how they must have been excited,
when, like a beam upon a cloud, I saw this uncommonly beautiful
girl enter the apartment in which they were dancing; not,
however, with the air of an equal, but that of a superior, come
to grace with her presence the festival of her dependants. The
old man and woman attended, with looks as sinister as hers were
lovely, like two of the worst winter months waiting upon the
When she entered--wonder if thou wilt--she wore A GREEN MANTLE,
such as thou hast described as the garb of thy fair client, and
confirmed what I had partly guessed from thy personal
description, that my chaplain and thy visitor were the same
person. There was an alteration on her brow the instant she
recognized me. She gave her cloak to her female attendant, and,
after a momentary hesitation, as if uncertain whether to advance
or retire, she walked into the room with dignity and composure,
all making way, the men unbonneting, and the women curtsying
respectfully, as she assumed a chair which was reverently placed
for her accommodation, apart from others.
There was then a pause, until the bustling mistress of the
ceremonies, with awkward but kindly courtesy, offered the young
lady a glass of wine, which was at first declined, and at length
only thus far accepted, that, bowing round to the festive
company, the fair visitor wished them all health and mirth, and
just touching the brim with her lip, replaced it on the salver.
There was another pause; and I did not immediately recollect,
confused as I was by this unexpected apparition, that it belonged
to me to break it. At length a murmur was heard around me, being
expected to exhibit,--nay, to lead down the dance,--in
consequence of the previous conversation.
'Deil's in the fiddler lad,' was muttered from more quarters than
one--'saw folk ever sic a thing as a shame-faced fiddler before?'
At length a venerable Triton, seconding his remonstrances with a
hearty thump on my shoulder, cried out, 'To the floor--to the
floor, and let us see how ye can fling--the lasses are a'
Up I jumped, sprang from the elevated station which constituted
our orchestra, and, arranging my ideas as rapidly as I could,
advanced to the head of the room, and, instead of offering my
hand to the white-footed Thetis aforesaid, I venturously made the
same proposal to her of the Green Mantle.
The nymph's lovely eyes seemed to open with astonishment at the
audacity of this offer; and, from the murmurs I heard around me,
I also understood that it surprised, and perhaps offended, the
bystanders. But after the first moment's emotion, she wreathed
her neck, and drawing herself haughtily up, like one who was
willing to show that she was sensible of the full extent of her
own condescension, extended her hand towards me, like a princess
gracing a squire of low degree.
There is affectation in all this, thought I to myself, if the
Green Mantle has borne true evidence--for young ladies do not
make visits, or write letters to counsel learned in the law, to
interfere in the motions of those whom they hold as cheap as this
nymph seems to do me; and if I am cheated by a resemblance of
cloaks, still I am interested to show myself, in some degree,
worthy of the favour she has granted with so much state and
reserve. The dance to be performed was the old Scots Jig, in
which you are aware I used to play no sorry figure at La Pique's,
when thy clumsy movements used to be rebuked by raps over the
knuckles with that great professor's fiddlestick. The choice of
the tune was left to my comrade Willie, who, having finished his
drink, feloniously struck up the well-known and popular measure,
Merrily danced the Quaker's wife,
And merrily danced the Quaker.
An astounding laugh arose at my expense, and I should have been
annihilated, but that the smile which mantled on the lip of my
partner, had a different expression from that of ridicule, and
seemed to say, 'Do not take this to heart.' And I did not, Alan
--my partner danced admirably, and I like one who was determined,
if outshone, which I could not help, not to be altogether thrown
into the shade.
I assure you our performance, as well as Willie's music, deserved
more polished spectators and auditors; but we could not then have
been greeted with such enthusiastic shouts of applause as
attended while I handed my partner to her seat, and took my place
by her side, as one who had a right to offer the attentions usual
on such an occasion. She was visibly embarrassed, but I was
determined not to observe her confusion, and to avail myself of
the opportunity of learning whether this beautiful creature's
mind was worthy of the casket in which nature had lodged it.
Nevertheless, however courageously I formed this resolution, you
cannot but too well guess the difficulties I must needs have felt
in carrying it into execution; since want of habitual intercourse
with the charmers of the other sex has rendered me a sheepish
cur, only one grain less awkward than thyself. Then she was so
very beautiful, and assumed an air of so much dignity, that I was
like to fall under the fatal error of supposing she should only
be addressed with something very clever; and in the hasty raking
which my brains underwent in this persuasion, not a single idea
occurred that common sense did not reject as fustian on the one
hand, or weary, flat, and stale triticism on the other. I felt
as if my understanding were no longer my own, but was alternately
under the dominion of Aldeborontiphoscophornio, and that of his
facetious friend Rigdum-Funnidos. How did I envy at that moment
our friend Jack Oliver, who produces with such happy complacence
his fardel of small talk, and who, as he never doubts his own
powers of affording amusement, passes them current with every
pretty woman he approaches, and fills up the intervals of chat by
his complete acquaintance with the exercise of the fan, the
FLACON, and the other duties of the CAVALIERE SERVENTE. Some of
these I attempted, but I suppose it was awkwardly; at least the
Lady Green Mantle received them as a princess accepts the homage
of a clown.
Meantime the floor remained empty, and as the mirth of the good
meeting was somewhat checked, I ventured, as a DERNIER RESSORT,
to propose a minuet. She thanked me, and told me haughtily
enough, 'she was here to encourage the harmless pleasures of
these good folks, but was not disposed to make an exhibition of
her own indifferent dancing for their amusement.'
She paused a moment, as if she expected me to suggest something;
and as I remained silent and rebuked, she bowed her head more
graciously, and said, 'Not to affront you, however, a country-
dance, if you please.'
What an ass was I, Alan, not to have anticipated her wishes!
Should I not have observed that the ill-favoured couple, Mabel
and Cristal, had placed themselves on each side of her seat, like
the supporters of the royal arms? the man, thick, short, shaggy,
and hirsute, as the lion; the female, skin-dried, tight-laced,