Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Provost by John Galt

Part 1 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

all of which are in the Public Domain in the United States, unless a
copyright notice is included. Therefore, we do NOT keep these books
in compliance with any particular paper edition, usually otherwise.



During a recent visit to the West Country, among other old friends
we paid our respects to Mrs Pawkie, the relict of the Provost of
that name, who three several times enjoyed the honour of being chief
magistrate in Gudetown. Since the death of her worthy husband, and
the comfortable settlement in life of her youngest daughter, Miss
Jenny, who was married last year to Mr Caption, writer to the
signet, she has been, as she told us herself, "beeking in the lown
o' the conquest which the gudeman had, wi' sic an ettling o' pains
and industry, gathered for his family."

Our conversation naturally diverged into various topics, and, among
others, we discoursed at large on the manifold improvements which
had taken place, both in town and country, since we had visited the
Royal Burgh. This led the widow, in a complimentary way, to advert
to the hand which, it is alleged, we have had in the editing of that
most excellent work, entitled, "Annals of the Parish of Dalmailing,"
intimating, that she had a book in the handwriting of her deceased
husband, the Provost, filled with a variety of most curious matter;
in her opinion, of far more consequence to the world than any book
that we had ever been concerned in putting out.

Considering the veneration in which Mr Pawkie had been through life
regarded by his helpmate, we must confess that her eulogium on the
merits of his work did not impress us with the most profound
persuasion that it was really deserving of much attention.
Politeness, however, obliged us to express an earnest desire to see
the volume, which, after some little hesitation, was produced.
Judge, then, of the nature of our emotions, when, in cursorily
turning over a few of the well-penned pages, we found that it far
surpassed every thing the lady had said in its praise. Such, indeed
was our surprise, that we could not refrain from openly and at once
assuring her, that the delight and satisfaction which it was
calculated to afford, rendered it a duty on her part to lose no time
in submitting it to the public; and, after lavishing a panegyric on
the singular and excellent qualities of the author, which was all
most delicious to his widow, we concluded with a delicate
insinuation of the pleasure we should enjoy, in being made the
humble instrument of introducing to the knowledge of mankind a
volume so replete and enriched with the fruits of his practical
wisdom. Thus, partly by a judicious administration of flattery, and
partly also by solicitation, backed by an indirect proposal to share
the profits, we succeeded in persuading Mrs Pawkie to allow us to
take the valuable manuscript to Edinburgh, in order to prepare it
for publication.

Having obtained possession of the volume, we lost no time till we
had made ourselves master of its contents. It appeared to consist
of a series of detached notes, which, together, formed something
analogous to an historical view of the different important and
interesting scenes and affairs the Provost had been personally
engaged in during his long magisterial life. We found, however that
the concatenation of the memoranda which he had made of public
transactions, was in several places interrupted by the insertion of
matter not in the least degree interesting to the nation at large;
and that, in arranging the work for the press, it would be requisite
and proper to omit many of the notes and much of the record, in
order to preserve the historical coherency of the narrative. But in
doing this, the text has been retained inviolate, in so much that
while we congratulate the world on the addition we are thus enabled
to make to the stock of public knowledge, we cannot but felicitate
ourselves on the complete and consistent form into which we have so
successfully reduced our precious materials; the separation of
which, from the dross of personal and private anecdote, was a task
of no small difficulty; such, indeed, as the editors only of the
autographic memoirs of other great men can duly appreciate.


It must be allowed in the world, that a man who has thrice reached
the highest station of life in his line, has a good right to set
forth the particulars of the discretion and prudence by which he
lifted himself so far above the ordinaries of his day and
generation; indeed, the generality of mankind may claim this as a
duty; for the conduct of public men, as it has been often wisely
said, is a species of public property, and their rules and
observances have in all ages been considered things of a national
concernment. I have therefore well weighed the importance it may be
of to posterity, to know by what means I have thrice been made an
instrument to represent the supreme power and authority of Majesty
in the royal burgh of Gudetown, and how I deported myself in that
honour and dignity, so much to the satisfaction of my superiors in
the state and commonwealth of the land, to say little of the great
respect in which I was held by the townsfolk, and far less of the
terror that I was to evil-doers. But not to be over circumstantial,
I propose to confine this history of my life to the public portion
thereof, on the which account I will take up the beginning at the
crisis when I first entered into business, after having served more
than a year above my time, with the late Mr Thomas Remnant, than
whom there was not a more creditable man in the burgh; and he died
in the possession of the functionaries and faculties of town-
treasurer, much respected by all acquainted with his orderly and
discreet qualities.

Mr Remnant was, in his younger years, when the growth of luxury and
prosperity had not come to such a head as it has done since, a
tailor that went out to the houses of the adjacent lairds and
country gentry, whereby he got an inkling of the policy of the
world, that could not have been gathered in any other way by a man
of his station and degree of life. In process of time he came to be
in a settled way, and when I was bound 'prentice to him, he had
three regular journeymen and a cloth shop. It was therefore not so
much for learning the tailoring, as to get an insight in the
conformity between the traffic of the shop and the board that I was
bound to him, being destined by my parents for the profession
appertaining to the former, and to conjoin thereto something of the
mercery and haberdashery: my uncle, that had been a sutler in the
army along with General Wolfe, who made a conquest of Quebec, having
left me a legacy of three hundred pounds because I was called after
him, the which legacy was a consideration for to set me up in due
season in some genteel business.

Accordingly, as I have narrated, when I had passed a year over my
'prenticeship with Mr Remnant, I took up the corner shop at the
Cross, facing the Tolbooth; and having had it adorned in a befitting
manner, about a month before the summer fair thereafter, I opened it
on that day, with an excellent assortment of goods, the best, both
for taste and variety, that had ever been seen in the burgh of
Gudetown; and the winter following, finding by my books that I was
in a way to do so, I married my wife: she was daughter to Mrs
Broderip, who kept the head inn in Irville, and by whose death, in
the fall of the next year, we got a nest egg, that, without a vain
pretension, I may say we have not failed to lay upon, and clock to
some purpose.

Being thus settled in a shop and in life, I soon found that I had a
part to perform in the public world; but I looked warily about me
before casting my nets, and therefore I laid myself out rather to be
entreated than to ask; for I had often heard Mr Remnant observe,
that the nature of man could not abide to see a neighbour taking
place and preferment of his own accord. I therefore assumed a
coothy and obliging demeanour towards my customers and the community
in general; and sometimes even with the very beggars I found a
jocose saying as well received as a bawbee, although naturally I
dinna think I was ever what could be called a funny man, but only
just as ye would say a thought ajee in that way. Howsever, I soon
became, both by habit and repute, a man of popularity in the town,
in so much that it was a shrewd saying of old James Alpha, the
bookseller, that "mair gude jokes were cracked ilka day in James
Pawkie's shop, than in Thomas Curl, the barber's, on a Saturday


I could plainly discern that the prudent conduct which I had adopted
towards the public was gradually growing into effect. Disputative
neighbours made me their referee, and I became, as it were, an
oracle that was better than the law, in so much that I settled their
controversies without the expense that attends the same. But what
convinced me more than any other thing that the line I pursued was
verging towards a satisfactory result, was, that the elderly folk
that came into the shop to talk over the news of the day, and to
rehearse the diverse uncos, both of a national and a domestic
nature, used to call me bailie and my lord; the which jocular
derision was as a symptom and foretaste within their spirits of what
I was ordained to be. Thus was I encouraged, by little and little,
together with a sharp remarking of the inclination and bent of men's
minds, to entertain the hope and assurance of rising to the top of
all the town, as this book maketh manifest, and the incidents
thereof will certificate.

Nothing particular, however, came to pass, till my wife lay in of
her second bairn, our daughter Sarah; at the christening of whom,
among divers friends and relations, forbye the minister, we had my
father's cousin, Mr Alexander Clues, that was then deacon convener,
and a man of great potency in his way, and possessed of an influence
in the town-council of which he was well worthy, being a person of
good discernment, and well versed in matters appertaining to the
guildry. Mr Clues, as we were mellowing over the toddy bowl, said,
that by and by the council would be looking to me to fill up the
first gap that might happen therein; and Dr Swapkirk, the then
minister, who had officiated on the occasion, observed, that it was
a thing that, in the course of nature, could not miss to be, for I
had all the douce demeanour and sagacity which it behoved a
magistrate to possess. But I cannily replied, though I was right
contented to hear this, that I had no time for governing, and it
would be more for the advantage of the commonwealth to look for the
counselling of an older head than mine, happen when a vacancy might
in the town-council.

In this conjuncture of our discoursing, Mrs Pawkie, my wife, who was
sitting by the fireside in her easy chair, with a cod at her head,
for she had what was called a sore time o't, said:-

"Na, na, gudeman, ye need na be sae mim; every body kens, and I ken
too, that ye're ettling at the magistracy. It's as plain as a
pikestaff, gudeman, and I'll no let ye rest if ye dinna mak me a
bailie's wife or a' be done" -

I was not ill pleased to hear Mrs Pawkie so spiritful; but I

"Dinna try to stretch your arm, gude-wife, further than your sleeve
will let you; we maun ca'canny mony a day yet before we think of

The which speech, in a way of implication, made Deacon Clues to
understand that I would not absolutely refuse an honour thrust upon
me, while it maintained an outward show of humility and moderation.

There was, however, a gleg old carlin among the gossips then
present, one Mrs Sprowl, the widow of a deceased magistrate, and she
cried out aloud:-

"Deacon Clues, Deacon Clues, I redd you no to believe a word that Mr
Pawkie's saying, for that was the very way my friend that's no more
laid himself out to be fleeched to tak what he was greenan for; so
get him intill the council when ye can: we a' ken he'll be a credit
to the place," and "so here's to the health of Bailie Pawkie that is
to be," cried Mrs Sprowl. All present pledged her in the toast, by
which we had a wonderful share of diversion. Nothing, however,
immediately rose out of this, but it set men's minds a-barming and
working; so that, before there was any vacancy in the council, I was
considered in a manner as the natural successor to the first of the
counsellors that might happen to depart this life.


In the course of the summer following the baptism, of which I have
rehearsed the particulars in the foregoing chapter, Bailie
Mucklehose happened to die, and as he was a man long and well
respected, he had a great funeral. All the rooms in his house were
filled with company; and it so fell out that, in the confusion,
there was neither minister nor elder to give the blessing sent into
that wherein I was, by which, when Mr Shavings the wright, with his
men, came in with the service of bread and wine as usual, there was
a demur, and one after another of those present was asked to say
grace; but none of them being exercised in public prayer, all
declined, when Mr Shavings said to me, "Mr Pawkie, I hope ye'll no

I had seen in the process, that not a few of the declinations were
more out of the awkward shame of blateness, than any inherent
modesty of nature, or diffidence of talent; so, without making a
phrase about the matter, I said the grace, and in such a manner that
I could see it made an impression. Mr Shavings was at that time
deacon of the wrights, and being well pleased with my conduct on
this occasion, when he, the same night, met the craft, he spoke of
it in a commendable manner; and as I understood thereafter, it was
thought by them that the council could not do better than make
choice of me to the vacancy. In short, not to spin out the thread
of my narration beyond necessity, let it here suffice to be known,
that I was chosen into the council, partly by the strong handling of
Deacon Shavings, and the instrumentality of other friends and well-
wishers, and not a little by the moderation and prudence with which
I had been secretly ettling at the honour.

Having thus reached to a seat in the council, I discerned that it
behoved me to act with circumspection, in order to gain a discreet
dominion over the same, and to rule without being felt, which is the
great mystery of policy. With this intent, I, for some time, took
no active part in the deliberations, but listened, with the doors of
my understanding set wide to the wall, and the windows of my
foresight all open; so that, in process of time, I became acquainted
with the inner man of the counsellors, and could make a guess, no
far short of the probability, as to what they would be at, when they
were jooking and wising in a round-about manner to accomplish their
own several wills and purposes. I soon thereby discovered, that
although it was the custom to deduce reasons from out the interests
of the community, for the divers means and measures that they wanted
to bring to a bearing for their own particular behoof, yet this was
not often very cleverly done, and the cloven foot of self-interest
was now and then to be seen aneath the robe of public principle. I
had, therefore, but a straightforward course to pursue, in order to
overcome all their wiles and devices, the which was to make the
interests of the community, in truth and sincerity, the end and
object of my study, and never to step aside from it for any
immediate speciality of profit to myself. Upon this, I have
endeavoured to walk with a constancy of sobriety; and although I
have, to a certainty, reaped advantage both in my own person and
that of my family, no man living can accuse me of having bent any
single thing pertaining to the town and public, from the natural
uprightness of its integrity, in order to serve my own private ends.

It was, however, sometime before an occasion came to pass, wherein I
could bring my knowledge and observations to operate in any
effectual manner towards a reformation in the management of the
burgh; indeed, I saw that no good could be done until I had subdued
the two great factions, into which it may be said the council was
then divided; the one party being strong for those of the king's
government of ministers, and the other no less vehement on the side
of their adversaries. I, therefore, without saying a syllable to
any body anent the same, girded myself for the undertaking, and with
an earnest spirit put my shoulder to the wheel, and never desisted
in my endeavours, till I had got the cart up the brae, and the whole
council reduced into a proper state of subjection to the will and
pleasure of his majesty, whose deputies and agents I have ever
considered all inferior magistrates to be, administering and
exercising, as they do, their power and authority in his royal name.

The ways and means, however, by which this was brought to pass,
supply matter for another chapter; and after this, it is not my
intent to say any thing more concerning my principles and opinions,
but only to show forth the course and current of things proceeding
out of the affairs, in which I was so called to form a part
requiring no small endeavour and diligence.


When, as is related in the foregoing chapter, I had nourished my
knowledge of the council into maturity, I began to cast about for
the means of exercising the same towards a satisfactory issue. But
in this I found a great difficulty, arising from the policy and
conduct of Mr Andrew M'Lucre, who had a sort of infeftment, as may
be said, of the office of dean of guild, having for many years been
allowed to intromit and manage the same; by which, as was insinuated
by his adversaries, no little grist came to his mill. For it had
happened from a very ancient date, as far back, I have heard, as the
time of Queen Anne, when the union of the kingdoms was brought to a
bearing, that the dean of guild among us, for some reason or
another, had the upper hand in the setting and granting of tacks of
the town lands, in the doing of which it was jealoused that the
predecessors of Mr M'Lucre, no to say an ill word of him, honest
man, got their loofs creeshed with something that might be called
agrassum, or rather, a gratis gift. It therefore seemed to me that
there was a necessity for some reformation in the office, and I
foresaw that the same would never be accomplished, unless I could
get Mr M'Lucre wised out of it, and myself appointed his successor.
But in this lay the obstacle; for every thing anent the office was,
as it were, in his custody, and it was well known that he had an
interest in keeping by that which, in vulgar parlance, is called
nine points of the law. However, both for the public good and a
convenience to myself, I was resolved to get a finger in the dean of
guild's fat pie, especially as I foresaw that, in the course of
three or four years, some of the best tacks would run out, and it
would be a great thing to the magistrate that might have the
disposal of the new ones. Therefore, without seeming to have any
foresight concerning the lands that were coming on to be out of
lease, I set myself to constrain Mr M'Lucre to give up the guildry,
as it were, of his own free-will; and what helped me well to this,
was a rumour that came down from London, that there was to be a
dissolution of the parliament.

The same day that this news reached the town, I was standing at my
shop-door, between dinner and tea-time. It was a fine sunny summer
afternoon. Standing under the blessed influence of the time by
myself at my shop-door, who should I see passing along the crown of
the causey, but Mr M'Lucre himself and with a countenance knotted
with care, little in unison with the sultry indolence of that sunny

"Whar awa sae fast, dean o' guild?" quo' I to him; and he stopped
his wide stepping, for he was a long spare man, and looting in his

"I'm just," said he, "taking a step to the provost's, to learn the
particulars of thir great news--for, as we are to hae the casting
vote in the next election, there's no saying the good it may bring
to us all gin we manage it wi' discretion."

I reflected the while of a minute before I made any reply, and then
I said -

"It would hae nae doubt of the matter, Mr M'Lucre, could it be
brought about to get you chosen for the delegate; but I fear, as ye
are only dean of guild this year, that's no to be accomplished; and
really, without the like of you, our borough, in the contest, may be
driven to the wall."

"Contest!" cried the dean of guild, with great eagerness; "wha told
you that we are to be contested?"

Nobody had told me, nor at the moment was I sensible of the force of
what I said; but, seeing the effect it had on Mr M'Lucre, I replied,

"It does not, perhaps, just now do for me to be more particular, and
I hope what I have said to you will gang no further; but it's a
great pity that ye're no even a bailie this year, far less the
provost, otherwise I would have great confidence."

"Then," said the dean of guild, "you have reason to believe that
there is to be a dissolution, and that we are to be contested?"

"Mr M'Lucre, dinna speer any questions," was my answer, "but look at
that and say nothing;" so I pulled out of my pocket a letter that
had been franked to me by the earl. The letter was from James
Portoport, his lordship's butler, who had been a waiter with Mrs
Pawkie's mother, and he was inclosing to me a five-pound note to be
given to an auld aunty that was in need. But the dean of guild knew
nothing of our correspondence, nor was it required that he should.
However, when he saw my lord's franking, he said, "Are the boroughs,
then, really and truly to be contested?"

"Come into the shop, Mr M'Lucre," said I sedately; "come in, and
hear what I have to say."

And he came in, and I shut and barred the half-door, in order that
we might not be suddenly interrupted.

"You are a man of experience, Mr M'Lucre," said I, "and have a
knowledge of the world, that a young man, like me, would be a fool
to pretend to. But I have shown you enough to convince you that I
would not be worthy of a trust, were I to answer any improper
questions. Ye maun, therefore, gie me some small credit for a
little discretion in this matter, while I put a question to
yourself. 'Is there no a possibility of getting you made the
provost at Michaelmas, or, at the very least, a bailie, to the end
that ye might be chosen delegate, it being an unusual thing for
anybody under the degree of a bailie to be chosen thereto?'"

"I have been so long in the guildry," was his thoughtful reply,
"that I fear it canna be very well managed without me."

"Mr M'Lucre," said I, and I took him cordially by the hand, "a
thought has just entered my head. Couldna we manage this matter
between us? It's true I'm but a novice in public affairs, and with
the mystery of the guildry quite unacquaint--if, however, you could
be persuaded to allow yourself to be made a bailie, I would, subject
to your directions, undertake the office of dean of guild, and all
this might be so concerted between us, that nobody would ken the
nature of our paction--for, to be plain with you, it's no to be
hoped that such a young counsellor as myself can reasonably expect
to be raised, so soon as next Michaelmas, to the magistracy, and
there is not another in the council that I would like to see chosen
delegate at the election but yourself."

Mr M'Lucre swithered a little at this, fearing to part with the bird
he had in hand; but, in the end, he said, that he thought what was
proposed no out of the way, and that he would have no objection to
be a bailie for the next year, on condition that I would, in the
following, let him again be dean of guild, even though he should be
called a Michaelmas mare, for it did not so well suit him to be a
bailie as to be dean of guild, in which capacity he had been long

I guessed in this that he had a vista in view of the tacks and
leases that were belyve to fall in, and I said -

"Nothing can be more reasonable, Mr M'Lucre; for the office of dean
of guild must be a very fashious one, to folks like me, no skilled
in its particularities; and I'm sure I'll be right glad and willing
to give it up, when we hae got our present turn served.--But to keep
a' things quiet between us, let us no appear till after the election
overly thick; indeed, for a season, we maun fight, as it were, under
different colours."

Thus was the seed sown of a great reformation in the burgh, the
sprouting whereof I purpose to describe in due season.


The sough of the dissolution of parliament, during the whole of the
summer, grew stronger and stronger, and Mr M'Lucre and me were
seemingly pulling at opposite ends of the rope. There was nothing
that he proposed in the council but what I set myself against with
such bir and vigour, that sometimes he could scarcely keep his
temper, even while he was laughing in his sleeve to see how the
other members of the corporation were beglammered. At length
Michaelmas drew near, when I, to show, as it were, that no ill blood
had been bred on my part, notwithstanding our bickerings, proposed
in the council that Mr M'Lucre should be the new bailie; and he on
his part, to manifest, in return, that there was as little heart-
burning on his, said "he would have no objections; but then he
insisted that I should consent to be dean of guild in his stead."

"It's true," said he in the council on that occasion, "that Mr
Pawkie is as yet but a greenhorn in the concerns of the burgh:
however, he'll never learn younger, and if he'll agree to this, I'll
gie him all the help and insight that my experience enables me to

At the first, I pretended that really, as was the truth, I had no
knowledge of what were the duties of dean of guild; but after some
fleeching from the other councillors, I consented to have the
office, as it were, forced upon me; so I was made dean of guild, and
Mr M'Lucre the new bailie.

By and by, when the harvest in England was over, the parliament was
dissolved, but no candidate started on my lord's interest, as was
expected by Mr M'Lucre, and he began to fret and be dissatisfied
that he had ever consented to allow himself to be hoodwinked out of
the guildry. However, just three days before the election, and at
the dead hour of the night, the sound of chariot wheels and of
horsemen was heard in our streets; and this was Mr Galore, the great
Indian nabob, that had bought the Beerland estates, and built the
grand place that is called Lucknoo House, coming from London, with
the influence of the crown on his side, to oppose the old member.
He drove straight to Provost Picklan's house, having, as we
afterwards found out, been in a secret correspondence with him
through the medium of Mrs Picklan, who was conjunct in the business
with Miss Nelly, the nabob's maiden sister. Mr M'Lucre was not a
little confounded at this, for he had imagined that I was the agent
on behalf of my lord, who was of the government side, so he wist not
what to do, in the morning when he came to me, till I said to him
briskly -

"Ye ken, bailie, that ye're trysted to me, and it's our duty to
support the nabob, who is both able and willing, as I have good
reason to think, to requite our services in a very grateful manner."
This was a cordial to his spirit, and, without more ado, we both of
us set to work to get the bailie made the delegate. In this I had
nothing in view but the good of my country by pleasuring, as it was
my duty, his majesty's government, for I was satisfied with my
situation as dean of guild. But the handling required no small
slight of skill.

The first thing was, to persuade those that were on the side of the
old member to elect Mr M'Lucre for delegate, he being, as we had
concerted, openly declared for that interest, and the benefit to be
gotten thereby having, by use and wont, been at an established and
regular rate. The next thing was to get some of those that were
with me on my lord's side, kept out of the way on the day of
choosing the delegate; for we were the strongest, and could easily
have returned the provost, but I had no clear notion how it would
advantage me to make the provost delegate, as was proposed. I
therefore, on the morning of the business, invited three of the
council to take their breakfast with me, for the ostensible purpose
of going in a body to the council chamber to choose the provost
delegate; but when we were at breakfast, John Snakers, my lad in the
shop, by my suggestion, warily got a bale of broad cloth so tumbled,
as it were by accident, at the door, that it could not be opened;
for it bent the key in such a manner in the lock, and crooket the
sneck, that without a smith there was no egress, and sorrow a smith
was to be had. All were out and around the tolbooth waiting for the
upshot of the choosing the delegate. Those that saw me in the mean
time, would have thought I had gone demented. I ramped and I
stamped; I banned and I bellowed like desperation. My companions,
no a bit better, flew fluttering to the windows, like wild birds to
the wires of their cage. However, to make a long tale short, Bailie
M'Lucre was, by means of this device, chosen delegate, seemingly
against my side. But oh! he was a slee tod, for no sooner was he so
chosen, than he began to act for his own behoof; and that very
afternoon, while both parties were holding their public dinner he
sent round the bell to tell that the potato crop on his back rig was
to be sold by way of public roup the same day. There wasna one in
the town that had reached the years of discretion, but kent what na
sort of potatoes he was going to sell; and I was so disturbed by
this open corruption, that I went to him, and expressed my great
surprise. Hot words ensued between us; and I told him very plainly
that I would have nothing further to say to him or his political
profligacy. However, his potatoes were sold, and brought upwards of
three guineas the peck, the nabob being the purchaser, who, to show
his contentment with the bargain, made Mrs M'Lucre, and the bailie's
three daughters, presents of new gowns and princods, that were not
stuffed with wool.

In the end, as a natural consequence, Bailie M'Lucre, as delegate,
voted for the Nabob, and the old member was thereby thrown out. But
although the government candidate in this manner won the day, yet I
was so displeased by the jookerie of the bailie, and the selfish
manner by which he had himself reaped all the advantage of the
election in the sale of his potatoes, that we had no correspondence
on public affairs till long after; so that he never had the face to
ask me to give up the guildry, till I resigned it of my own accord
after the renewal of the tacks to which I have alluded, by the which
renewals, a great increase was effected in the income of the town.


Bailie M'Lucre, as I have already intimated, was naturally a greedy
body, and not being content with the profits of his potatoe rig,
soon after the election he set up as an o'er-sea merchant, buying
beef and corn by agency in Ireland, and having the same sent to the
Glasgow market. For some time, this traffic yielded him a
surprising advantage; but the summer does not endure the whole year
round, nor was his prosperity ordained to be of a continuance. One
mishap befell him after another; cargoes of his corn heated in the
vessels, because he would not sell at a losing price, and so
entirely perished; and merchants broke, that were in his debt large
sums for his beef and provisions. In short, in the course of the
third year from the time of the election, he was rookit of every
plack he had in the world, and was obligated to take the benefit of
the divor's bill, soon after which he went suddenly away from the
town, on the pretence of going into Edinburgh, on some business of
legality with his wife's brother, with whom he had entered into a
plea concerning the moiety of a steading at the town-head. But he
did not stop on any such concern there; on the contrary, he was off,
and up to London in a trader from Leith, to try if he could get a
post in the government by the aid of the nabob, our member; who, by
all accounts, was hand and glove with the king's ministers. The
upshot of this journey to London was very comical; and when the
bailie afterwards came back, and him and me were again on terms of
visitation, many a jocose night we spent over the story of the same;
for the bailie was a kittle hand at a bowl of toddy; and his
adventure was so droll, especially in the way he was wont to
rehearse the particulars, that it cannot fail to be an edification
to posterity, to read and hear how it happened, and all about it. I
may therefore take leave to digress into the circumstantials, by way
of lightening for a time the seriousness of the sober and important
matter, whereof it is my intent that this book shall be a register
and record to future times.


Mr M'Lucre, going to London, as I have intimated in the foregoing
chapter, remained there, absent from us altogether about the space
of six weeks; and when he came home, he was plainly an altered man,
being sometimes very jocose, and at other times looking about him as
if he had been haunted by some ill thing. Moreover, Mrs Spell, that
had the post-office from the decease of her husband, Deacon Spell,
told among her kimmers, that surely the bailie had a great
correspondence with the king and government, for that scarce a week
passed without a letter from him to our member, or a letter from the
member to him. This bred no small consideration among us; and I was
somehow a thought uneasy thereat, not knowing what the bailie, now
that he was out of the guildry, might be saying anent the use and
wont that had been practised therein, and never more than in his own
time. At length, the babe was born.

One evening, as I was sitting at home, after closing the shop for
the night, and conversing concerning the augmentation of our worldly
affairs with Mrs Pawkie and the bairns--it was a damp raw night; I
mind it just as well as if it had been only yestreen--who should
make his appearance at the room door but the bailie himself, and a
blithe face he had?

"It's a' settled now," cried he, as he entered with a triumphant
voice; "the siller's my ain, and I can keep it in spite of them; I
don't value them now a cutty-spoon; no, not a doit; no the worth of
that; nor a' their sprose about Newgate and the pillory;"--and he
snapped his fingers with an aspect of great courage.

"Hooly, hooly, bailie," said I; "what's a' this for?" and then he
replied, taking his seat beside me at the fireside--"The plea with
the custom-house folk at London is settled, or rather, there canna
be a plea at a', so firm and true is the laws of England on my side,
and the liberty of the subject."

All this was Greek and Hebrew to me; but it was plain that the
bailie, in his jaunt, had been guilty of some notour thing, wherein
the custom-house was concerned, and that he thought all the world
was acquaint with the same. However, no to balk him in any
communication he might be disposed to make me, I said:-

"What ye say, bailie, is great news, and I wish you meikle joy, for
I have had my fears about your situation for some time; but now that
the business is brought to such a happy end, I would like to hear
all the true particulars of the case; and that your tale and tidings
sha'na lack slackening, I'll get in the toddy bowl and the gardevin;
and with that, I winket to the mistress to take the bairns to their
bed, and bade Jenny Hachle, that was then our fee'd servant lass, to
gar the kettle boil. Poor Jenny has long since fallen into a great
decay of circumstances, for she was not overly snod and cleanly in
her service; and so, in time, wore out the endurance of all the
houses and families that fee'd her, till nobody would take her; by
which she was in a manner cast on Mrs Pawkie's hands; who, on
account of her kindliness towards the bairns in their childhood, has
given her a howf among us. But, to go on with what I was
rehearsing; the toddy being ordered, and all things on the table,
the bailie, when we were quiet by ourselves, began to say -

"Ye ken weel, Mr Pawkie, what I did at the 'lection for the member
and how angry ye were yoursel about it, and a' that. But ye were
greatly mista'en in thinking that I got ony effectual fee at the
time, over and above the honest price of my potatoes; which ye were
as free to bid for, had ye liket, as either o' the candidates. I'll
no deny, however, that the nabob, before he left the town, made some
small presents to my wife and dochter; but that was no fault o'
mine. Howsever, when a' was o'er, and I could discern that ye were
mindet to keep the guildry, I thought, after the wreck o' my
provision concern, I might throw mair bread on the water and not
find it, than by a bit jaunt to London to see how my honourable
friend, the nabob, was coming on in his place in parliament, as I
saw none of his speeches in the newspaper.

"Well, ye see, Mr Pawkie, I gae'd up to London in a trader from
Leith; and by the use of a gude Scotch tongue, the whilk was the
main substance o' a' the bairns' part o' gear that I inherited from
my parents, I found out the nabob's dwelling, in the west end o' the
town of London; and finding out the nabob's dwelling, I went and
rappit at the door, which a bardy flunkie opened, and speer't what I
want it, as if I was a thing no fit to be lifted off a midden with a
pair of iron tongs. Like master, like man, thought I to myself; and
thereupon, taking heart no to be put out, I replied to the whipper-
snapper--'I'm Bailie M'Lucre o' Gudetown, and maun hae a word wi'
his honour.'

"The cur lowered his birsses at this, and replied, in a mair
ceeveleezed style of language, 'Master is not at home.' But I kent
what not at home means in the morning at a gentleman's door in
London; so I said, 'Very weel, as I hae had a long walk, I'll e'en
rest myself and wait till he come;' and with that, I plumpit down on
one of the mahogany chairs in the trance. The lad, seeing that I
was na to be jookit, upon this answered me, by saying, he would go
and enquire if his master would be at home to me; and the short and
the long o't was, that I got at last an audience o' my honourable

"'Well, bailie,' said he, 'I'm glad to see you in London,' and a
hantle o' ither courtly glammer that's no worth a repetition; and,
from less to mair, we proceeded to sift into the matter and end of
my coming to ask the help o' his hand to get me a post in the
government. But I soon saw, that wi a' the phraseology that lay at
his tongue end during the election, about his power and will to
serve us, his ain turn ser't, he cared so little for me. Howsever
after tarrying some time, and going to him every day, at long and
last he got me a tide-waiter's place at the custom-house; a poor
hungry situation, no worth the grassum at a new tack of the warst
land in the town's aught. But minnows are better than nae fish, and
a tide-waiter's place was a step towards a better, if I could have
waited. Luckily, however, for me, a flock of fleets and ships frae
the East and West Indies came in a' thegither; and there was sic a
stress for tide-waiters, that before I was sworn in and tested, I
was sent down to a grand ship in the Malabar trade frae China,
loaded with tea and other rich commodities; the captain whereof, a
discreet man, took me down to the cabin, and gave me a dram of wine,
and, when we were by oursels, he said to me -

"'Mr M'Lucre, what will you take to shut your eyes for an hour?'

"'I'll no take a hundred pounds,' was my answer.

"'I'll make it guineas,' quoth he.

"Surely, thought I, my eyne maun be worth pearls and diamonds to the
East India Company; so I answered and said -

"'Captain, no to argol-bargol about the matter,' (for a' the time, I
thought upon how I had not been sworn in;)--'what will ye gie me, if
I take away my eyne out of the vessel?'

"'A thousand pounds,' cried he.

"'A bargain be't,' said I. I think, however, had I stood out I
might hae got mair. But it doesna rain thousands of pounds every
day; so, to make a long tale short, I got a note of hand on the Bank
of England for the sum, and, packing up my ends and my awls, left
the ship.

"It was my intent to have come immediately home to Scotland; but the
same afternoon, I was summoned by the Board at the Custom-house for
deserting my post; and the moment I went before them, they opened
upon me like my lord's pack of hounds, and said they would send me
to Newgate. 'Cry a' at ance,' quoth I; 'but I'll no gang.' I then
told them how I was na sworn, and under no obligation to serve or
obey them mair than pleasured mysel'; which set them a' again a
barking worse than before; whereupon, seeing no likelihood of an end
to their stramash, I turned mysel' round, and, taking the door on my
back, left them, and the same night came off on the Fly to
Edinburgh. Since syne they have been trying every grip and wile o'
the law to punish me as they threatened; but the laws of England are
a great protection to the people against arbitrary power; and the
letter that I have got to-day frae the nabob, tells me that the
commissioners hae abandoned the plea."

Such was the account and narration that the bailie gave to me of the
particulars o' his journey to London; and when he was done, I could
not but make a moral reflection or two, on the policy of gentlemen
putting themselves on the leet to be members of Parliament; it being
a clear and plain thing, that as they are sent up to London for the
benefit of the people by whom they are chosen, the people should
always take care to get some of that benefit in hand paid down,
otherwise they run a great risk of seeing their representatives
neglecting their special interests, and treating them as entitled to
no particular consideration.


The next great handling that we had in the council after the general
election, was anent the choice of a minister for the parish. The
Rev. Dr Swapkirk having had an apoplexy, the magistrates were
obligated to get Mr Pittle to be his helper. Whether it was that,
by our being used to Mr Pittle, we had ceased to have a right
respect for his parts and talents, or that in reality he was but a
weak brother, I cannot in conscience take it on me to say; but the
certainty is, that when the Doctor departed this life, there was
hardly one of the hearers who thought Mr Pittle would ever be their
placed minister, and it was as far at first from the unanimous mind
of the magistrates, who are the patrons of the parish, as any thing
could well be, for he was a man of no smeddum in discourse. In
verity, as Mrs Pawkie, my wife, said, his sermons in the warm summer
afternoons were just a perfect hushabaa, that no mortal could
hearken to without sleeping. Moreover, he had a sorning way with
him, that the genteeler sort could na abide, for he was for ever
going from house to house about tea-time, to save his ain canister.
As for the young ladies, they could na endure him at all, for he had
aye the sough and sound of love in his mouth, and a round-about
ceremonial of joking concerning the same, that was just a fasherie
to them to hear. The commonality, however, were his greatest
adversaries; for he was, notwithstanding the spareness of his
abilities, a prideful creature, taking no interest in their hamely
affairs, and seldom visiting the aged or the sick among them.
Shortly, however, before the death of the doctor, Mr Pittle had been
very attentive to my wife's full cousin, Miss Lizy Pinkie, I'll no
say on account of the legacy of seven hundred pounds left her by an
uncle that made his money in foreign parts, and died at Portsmouth
of the liver complaint, when he was coming home to enjoy himself;
and Mrs Pawkie told me, that as soon as Mr Pittle could get a kirk,
I needna be surprised if I heard o' a marriage between him and Miss

Had I been a sordid and interested man, this news could never have
given me the satisfaction it did, for Miss Lizy was very fond of my
bairns, and it was thought that Peter would have been her heir; but
so far from being concerned at what I heard, I rejoiced thereat, and
resolved in secret thought, whenever a vacancy happened, Dr Swapkirk
being then fast wearing away, to exert the best of my ability to get
the kirk for Mr Pittle, not, however, unless he was previously
married to Miss Lizy; for, to speak out, she was beginning to stand
in need of a protector, and both me and Mrs Pawkie had our fears
that she might outlive her income, and in her old age become a cess
upon us. And it couldna be said that this was any groundless fear;
for Miss Lizy, living a lonely maiden life by herself, with only a
bit lassie to run her errands, and no being naturally of an active
or eydent turn, aften wearied, and to keep up her spirits gaed may
be, now and then, oftener to the gardevin than was just necessar, by
which, as we thought, she had a tavert look. Howsever, as Mr Pittle
had taken a notion of her, and she pleased his fancy, it was far
from our hand to misliken one that was sib to us; on the contrary,
it was a duty laid on me by the ties of blood and relationship, to
do all in my power to further their mutual affection into
matrimonial fruition; and what I did towards that end, is the burden
of this current chapter.

Dr Swapkirk, in whom the spark of life was long fading, closed his
eyes, and it went utterly out, as to this world, on a Saturday
night, between the hours of eleven and twelve. We had that
afternoon got an inkling that he was drawing near to his end. At
the latest, Mrs Pawkie herself went over to the manse, and stayed
till she saw him die. "It was a pleasant end," she said, for he was
a godly, patient man; and we were both sorely grieved, though it was
a thing for which we had been long prepared; and indeed, to his
family and connexions, except for the loss of the stipend, it was a
very gentle dispensation, for he had been long a heavy handful,
having been for years but, as it were, a breathing lump of
mortality, groosy, and oozy, and doozy, his faculties being shut up
and locked in by a dumb palsy.

Having had this early intimation of the doctor's removal to a better
world, on the Sabbath morning when I went to join the magistrates in
the council-chamber, as the usage is to go to the laft, with the
town-officers carrying their halberts before us, according to the
ancient custom of all royal burghs, my mind was in a degree prepared
to speak to them anent the successor. Little, however, passed at
that time, and it so happened that, by some wonder of inspiration,
(there were, however, folk that said it was taken out of a book of
sermons, by one Barrow an English Divine,) Mr Pittle that forenoon
preached a discourse that made an impression, in so much, that on
our way back to the council-chamber I said to Provost Vintner, that
then was -

"Really Mr Pittle seems, if he would exert himself, to have a nerve.
I could not have thought it was in the power of his capacity to have
given us such a sermon."

The provost thought as I did, so I replied--"We canna, I think, do
better than keep him among us. It would, indeed, provost, no be
doing justice to the young man to pass another over his head."

I could see that the provost wasna quite sure of what I had been
saying; for he replied, that it was a matter that needed

When we separated at the council-chamber, I threw myself in the way
of Bailie Weezle, and walked home with him, our talk being on the
subject of vacancy; and I rehearsed to him what had passed between
me and the provost, saying, that the provost had made no objection
to prefer Mr Pittle, which was the truth.

Bailie Weezle was a man no overladen with worldly wisdom, and had
been chosen into the council principally on account of being easily
managed. In his business, he was originally by trade a baker in
Glasgow, where he made a little money, and came to settle among us
with his wife, who was a native of the town, and had her relations
here. Being therefore an idle man, living on his money, and of a
soft and quiet nature, he was for the reason aforesaid chosen into
the council, where he always voted on the provost's side; for in
controverted questions every one is beholden to take a part, and he
thought it was his duty to side with the chief magistrate.

Having convinced the bailie that Mr Pittle had already, as it were,
a sort of infeoffment in the kirk, I called in the evening on my old
predecessor in the guildry, Bailie M'Lucre, who was not a hand to be
so easily dealt with; but I knew his inclinations, and therefore I
resolved to go roundly to work with him. So I asked him out to take
a walk, and I led him towards the town-moor, conversing loosely
about one thing and another, and touching softly here and there on
the vacancy.

When we were well on into the middle of the moor, I stopped, and,
looking round me, said, "Bailie, surely it's a great neglec of the
magistrates and council to let this braw broad piece of land, so
near the town, lie in a state o' nature, and giving pasturage to
only twa-three of the poor folk's cows. I wonder you, that's now a
rich man, and with eyne worth pearls and diamonds, that ye dinna
think of asking a tack of this land; ye might make a great thing

The fish nibbled, and told me that he had for some time entertained
a thought on the subject; but he was afraid that I would be overly

"I wonder to hear you, bailie," said I; "I trust and hope no one
will ever find me out of the way of justice; and to convince you
that I can do a friendly turn, I'll no objec to gie you a' my
influence free gratis, if ye'll gie Mr Pittle a lift into the kirk;
for, to be plain with you, the worthy young man, who, as ye heard
to-day, is no without an ability, has long been fond of Mrs Pawkie's
cousin, Miss Lizy Pinky; and I would fain do all that lies in my
power to help on the match.

The bailie was well pleased with my frankness, and before returning
home we came to a satisfactory understanding; so that the next thing
I had to do, was to see Mr Pittle himself on the subject.
Accordingly, in the gloaming, I went over to where he stayed: it
was with Miss Jenny Killfuddy, an elderly maiden lady, whose father
was the minister of Braehill, and the same that is spoken of in the
chronicle of Dalmailing, as having had his eye almost put out by a
clash of glaur, at the stormy placing of Mr Balwhidder.

"Mr Pittle," said I, as soon as I was in and the door closed. "I'm
come to you as a friend; both Mrs Pawkie and me have long discerned
that ye have had a look more than common towards our friend, Miss
Lizy, and we think it our duty to enquire your intents, before
matters gang to greater length."

He looked a little dumfoundered at this salutation, and was at a
loss for an answer, so I continued -

"If your designs be honourable, and no doubt they are, now's your
time; strike while the iron's hot. By the death of the doctor, the
kirk's vacant, the town-council have the patronage; and, if ye marry
Miss Lizy, my interest and influence shall not be slack in helping
you into the poopit." In short, out of what passed that night, on
the Monday following Mr Pittle and Miss Lizy were married; and by my
dexterity, together with the able help I had in Bailie M'Lucre, he
was in due season placed and settled in the parish; and the next
year more than fifty acres of the town-moor were inclosed on a nine
hundred and ninety-nine years' tack at an easy rate between me and
the bailie, he paying the half of the expense of the ditching and
rooting out of the whins; and it was acknowledged by every one that
saw it, that there had not been a greater improvement for many years
in all the country side. But to the best actions there will be
adverse and discontented spirits; and, on this occasion, there were
not wanting persons naturally of a disloyal opposition temper, who
complained of the inclosure as a usurpation of the rights and
property of the poorer burghers. Such revilings, however, are what
all persons in authority must suffer; and they had only the effect
of making me button my coat, and look out the crooser to the blast.


The attainment of honours and dignities is not enjoyed without a
portion of trouble and care, which, like a shadow, follows all
temporalities. On the very evening of the same day that I was first
chosen to be a bailie, a sore affair came to light, in the discovery
that Jean Gaisling had murdered her bastard bairn. She was the
daughter of a donsie mother, that could gie no name to her gets, of
which she had two laddies, besides Jean. The one of them had gone
off with the soldiers some time before; the other, a douce well-
behaved callan, was in my lord's servitude, as a stable boy at the
castle. Jeanie herself was the bonniest lassie in the whole town,
but light-headed, and fonder of outgait and blether in the causey
than was discreet of one of her uncertain parentage. She was, at
the time when she met with her misfortune, in the service of Mrs
Dalrymple, a colonel's widow, that came out of the army and settled
among us on her jointure.

This Mrs Dalrymple, having been long used to the loose morals of
camps and regiments, did not keep that strict hand over poor Jeanie,
and her other serving lass, that she ought to have done, and so the
poor guileless creature fell into the snare of some of the ne'er-do-
weel gentlemen that used to play cards at night with Mrs Dalrymple.
The truths of the story were never well known, nor who was the
father, for the tragical issue barred all enquiry; but it came out
that poor Jeanie was left to herself, and, being instigated by the
Enemy, after she had been delivered, did, while the midwife's back
was turned, strangle the baby with a napkin. She was discovered in
the very fact, with the bairn black in the face in the bed beside

The heinousness of the crime can by no possibility be lessened; but
the beauty of the mother, her tender years, and her light-
headedness, had won many favourers; and there was a great leaning in
the hearts of all the town to compassionate her, especially when
they thought of the ill example that had been set to her in the walk
and conversation of her mother. It was not, however, within the
power of the magistrates to overlook the accusation; so we were
obligated to cause a precognition to be taken, and the search left
no doubt of the wilfulness of the murder. Jeanie was in consequence
removed to the tolbooth, where she lay till the lords were coming to
Ayr, when she was sent thither to stand her trial before them; but,
from the hour she did the deed, she never spoke.

Her trial was a short procedure, and she was cast to be hanged--and
not only to be hanged, but ordered to be executed in our town, and
her body given to the doctors to make an atomy. The execution of
Jeanie was what all expected would happen; but when the news reached
the town of the other parts of the sentence, the wail was as the
sough of a pestilence, and fain would the council have got it
dispensed with. But the Lord Advocate was just wud at the crime,
both because there had been no previous concealment, so as to have
been an extenuation for the shame of the birth, and because Jeanie
would neither divulge the name of the father, nor make answer to all
the interrogatories that were put to her--standing at the bar like a
dumbie, and looking round her, and at the judges, like a demented
creature, and beautiful as a Flanders' baby. It was thought by
many, that her advocate might have made great use of her visible
consternation, and pled that she was by herself; for in truth she
had every appearance of being so. He was, however, a dure man, no
doubt well enough versed in the particulars and punctualities of the
law for an ordinary plea; but no of the right sort of knowledge and
talent to take up the case of a forlorn lassie, misled by ill
example and a winsome nature, and clothed in the allurement of
loveliness, as the judge himself said to the jury.

On the night before the day of execution, she was brought over in a
chaise from Ayr between two town-officers, and placed again in our
hands, and still she never spoke.

Nothing could exceed the compassion that every one had for poor
Jeanie, so she wasna committed to a common cell, but laid in the
council-room, where the ladies of the town made up a comfortable bed
for her, and some of them sat up all night and prayed for her; but
her thoughts were gone, and she sat silent.

In the morning, by break of day, her wanton mother, that had been
trolloping in Glasgow, came to the tolbooth door, and made a
dreadful wally-waeing, and the ladies were obligated, for the sake
of peace, to bid her be let in. But Jeanie noticed her not, still
sitting with her eyes cast down, waiting the coming on of the hour
of her doom. The wicked mother first tried to rouse her by weeping
and distraction, and then she took to upbraiding; but Jeanie seemed
to heed her not, save only once, and then she but looked at the
misleart tinkler, and shook her head. I happened to come into the
room at this time, and seeing all the charitable ladies weeping
around, and the randy mother talking to the poor lassie as loudly
and vehement as if she had been both deaf and sullen, I commanded
the officers, with a voice of authority, to remove the mother, by
which we had for a season peace, till the hour came.

There had not been an execution in the town in the memory of the
oldest person then living; the last that suffered was one of the
martyrs in the time of the persecution, so that we were not skilled
in the business, and had besides no hangman, but were necessitated
to borrow the Ayr one. Indeed, I being the youngest bailie, was in
terror that the obligation might have fallen to me.

A scaffold was erected at the Tron, just under the tolbooth windows,
by Thomas Gimblet, the master-of-work, who had a good penny of
profit by the job, for he contracted with the town-council, and had
the boards after the business was done to the bargain; but Thomas
was then deacon of the wrights, and himself a member of our body.

At the hour appointed, Jeanie, dressed in white, was led out by the
town-officers, and in the midst of the magistrates from among the
ladies, with her hands tied behind her with a black riband. At the
first sight of her at the tolbooth stairhead, a universal sob rose
from all the multitude, and the sternest e'e couldna refrain from
shedding a tear. We marched slowly down the stair, and on to the
foot of the scaffold, where her younger brother, Willy, that was
stable-boy at my lord's, was standing by himself, in an open ring
made round him in the crowd; every one compassionating the dejected
laddie, for he was a fine youth, and of an orderly spirit.

As his sister came towards the foot of the ladder, he ran towards
her, and embraced her with a wail of sorrow that melted every heart,
and made us all stop in the middle of our solemnity. Jeanie looked
at him, (for her hands were tied,) and a silent tear was seen to
drop from her cheek. But in the course of little more than a
minute, all was quiet, and we proceeded to ascend the scaffold.
Willy, who had by this time dried his eyes, went up with us, and
when Mr Pittle had said the prayer, and sung the psalm, in which the
whole multitude joined, as it were with the contrition of sorrow,
the hangman stepped forward to put on the fatal cap, but Willy took
it out of his hand, and placed it on his sister himself, and then
kneeling down, with his back towards her closing his eyes and
shutting his ears with his hands, he saw not nor heard when she was
launched into eternity.

When the awful act was over, and the stir was for the magistrates to
return, and the body to be cut down, poor Willy rose, and without
looking round, went down the steps of the scaffold; the multitude
made a lane for him to pass, and he went on through them hiding his
face, and gaed straight out of the town. As for the mother, we were
obligated, in the course of the same year, to drum her out of the
town, for stealing thirteen choppin bottles from William Gallon's,
the vintner's, and selling them for whisky to Maggie Picken, that
was tried at the same time for the reset.


Nothing very material, after Jeanie Gaisling's affair, happened in
the town till the time of my first provostry, when an event arose
with an aspect of exceeding danger to the lives and properties of
the whole town. I cannot indeed think of it at this day, though age
has cooled me down in all concerns to a spirit of composure, without
feeling the blood boil in my veins; so greatly, in the matter
alluded to, was the king's dignity and the rightful government, by
law and magistracy, insulted in my person.

From time out of mind, it had been an ancient and commendable custom
in the burgh, to have, on the king's birth-day, a large bowl of
punch made in the council-chamber, in order and to the end and
effect of drinking his majesty's health at the cross; and for
pleasance to the commonality, the magistrates were wont, on the same
occasion, to allow a cart of coals for a bonfire. I do not now, at
this distance of time, remember the cause how it came to pass, but
come to pass it did, that the council resolved for time coming to
refrain from giving the coals for the bonfire; and it so fell out
that the first administration of this economy was carried into
effect during my provostry, and the wyte of it was laid at my door
by the trades' lads, and others, that took on them the lead in
hobleshows at the fairs, and such like public doings. Now I come to
the issue and particulars.

The birth-day, in progress of time, came round, and the morning was
ushered in with the ringing of bells, and the windows of the houses
adorned with green boughs and garlands. It was a fine bright day,
and nothing could exceed the glee and joviality of all faces till
the afternoon, when I went up to the council-chamber in the
tolbooth, to meet the other magistrates and respectable characters
of the town, in order to drink the king's health. In going thither,
I was joined, just as I was stepping out of my shop, by Mr Stoup,
the excise gauger, and Mr Firlot, the meal-monger, who had made a
power of money a short time before, by a cargo of corn that he had
brought from Belfast, the ports being then open, for which he was
envied by some, and by the common sort was considered and reviled as
a wicked hard-hearted forestaller. As for Mr Stoup, although he was
a very creditable man, he had the repute of being overly austere in
his vocation, for which he was not liked over and above the dislike
that the commonality cherish against all of his calling; so that it
was not possible that any magistrate, such as I endeavoured to be,
adverse to ill-doers, and to vice and immorality of every kind,
could have met at such a time and juncture, a greater misfortune
than those two men, especially when it is considered, that the
abolition of the bonfire was regarded as a heinous trespass on the
liberties and privileges of the people. However, having left the
shop, and being joined, as I have narrated, by Mr Stoup and Mr
Firlot, we walked together at a sedate pace towards the tolbooth,
before which, and at the cross, a great assemblage of people were
convened; trades' lads, weavers with coats out at the elbow, the
callans of the school; in short, the utmost gathering and
congregation of the clan-jamphry, who the moment they saw me coming,
set up a great shout and howl, crying like desperation, "Provost,
'whar's the bonfire? Hae ye sent the coals, provost, hame to
yersel, or selt them, provost, for meal to the forestaller?" with
other such misleart phraseology that was most contemptuous, bearing
every symptom of the rebellion and insurrection that they were then
meditating. But I kept my temper, and went into the council-
chamber, where others of the respectable inhabitants were met with
the magistrates and town-council assembled.

"What's the matter, provost?" said several of them as I came in;
"are ye ill; or what has fashed you?" But I only replied, that the
mob without was very unruly for being deprived of their bonfire.
Upon this, some of those present proposed to gratify them, by
ordering a cart of coals, as usual; but I set my face against this,
saying, that it would look like intimidation were we now to comply,
and that all veneration for law and authority would be at an end by
such weakness on the part of those entrusted with the exercise of
power. There the debate, for a season, ended; and the punch being
ready, the table was taken out of the council-chamber and carried to
the cross, and placed there, and then the bowl and glasses--the
magistrates following, and the rest of the company.

Seeing us surrounded by the town-officers with their halberts, the
multitude made way, seemingly with their wonted civility, and, when
his majesty's health was drank, they shouted with us, seemingly,
too, as loyally as ever; but that was a traitorous device to throw
us off our guard, as, in the upshot, was manifested; for no sooner
had we filled the glasses again, than some of the most audacious of
the rioters began to insult us, crying, "The bonfire! the bonfire!--
No fire, no bowl!--Gentle and semple should share and share alike."
In short, there was a moving backwards and forwards, and a confusion
among the mob, with snatches of huzzas and laughter, that boded
great mischief; and some of my friends near me said to me no to be
alarmed, which only alarmed me the more, as I thought they surely
had heard something. However, we drank our second glass without any
actual molestation; but when we gave the three cheers, as the custom
was, after the same, instead of being answered joyfully, the mob set
up a frightful yell, and, rolling like the waves of the sea, came on
us with such a shock, that the table, and punch-bowl, and glasses,
were couped and broken. Bailie Weezle, who was standing on the
opposite side, got his shins so ruffled by the falling of the table,
that he was for many a day after confined to the house with two sore
legs; and it was feared he would have been a lameter for life.

The dinging down of the table was the signal of the rebellious ring
leaders for open war. Immediately there was an outcry and a
roaring, that was a terrification to hear; and I know not how it
was, but before we kent where we were, I found myself with many of
those who had been drinking the king's health, once more in the
council-chamber, where it was proposed that we should read the riot
act from the windows; and this awful duty, by the nature of my
office as provost, it behoved me to perform. Nor did I shrink from
it; for by this time my corruption was raised, and I was determined
not to let the royal authority be set at nought in my hands.

Accordingly, Mr Keelivine, the town clerk, having searched out among
his law books for the riot act, one of the windows of the council-
chamber was opened, and the bell man having, with a loud voice,
proclaimed the "O yes!" three times, I stepped forward with the book
in my hands. At the sight of me, the rioters, in the most audacious
manner, set up a blasphemous laugh; but, instead of finding me
daunted thereat, they were surprised at my fortitude; and, when I
began to read, they listened in silence. But this was a concerted
stratagem; for the moment that I had ended, a dead cat came whizzing
through the air like a comet, and gave me such a clash in the face
that I was knocked down to the floor, in the middle of the very
council-chamber. What ensued is neither to be told nor described;
some were for beating the fire-drum; others were for arming
ourselves with what weapons were in the tolbooth; but I deemed it
more congenial to the nature of the catastrophe, to send off an
express to Ayr for the regiment of soldiers that was quartered
there--the roar of the rioters without, being all the time like a
raging flood.

Major Target, however, who had seen service in foreign wars, was
among us, and he having tried in vain to get us to listen to him,
went out of his own accord to the rioters, and was received by them
with three cheers. He then spoke to them in an exhorting manner,
and represented to them the imprudence of their behaviour; upon
which they gave him three other cheers, and immediately dispersed
and went home. The major was a vain body, and took great credit to
himself, as I heard, for this; but, considering the temper of mind
the mob was at one time in, it is quite evident that it was no so
much the major's speech and exhortation that sent them off, as their
dread and terror of the soldiers that I had sent for.

All that night the magistrates, with other gentlemen of the town,
sat in the council-chamber, and sent out, from time to time, to see
that every thing was quiet; and by this judicious proceeding, of
which we drew up and transmitted a full account to the king and
government in London, by whom the whole of our conduct was highly
applauded, peace was maintained till the next day at noon, when a
detachment, as it was called, of four companies came from the
regiment in Ayr, and took upon them the preservation of order and
regularity. I may here notice, that this was the first time any
soldiers had been quartered in the town since the forty-five; and a
woeful warning it was of the consequences that follow rebellion and
treasonable practices; for, to the present day, we have always had a
portion of every regiment, sent to Ayr, quartered upon us.


Just about the end of my first provostry, I began to make a
discovery. Whether it was that I was a little inordinately lifted
up by reason of the dignity, and did not comport myself with a
sufficient condescension and conciliation of manner to the rest of
the town-council, it would be hard to say. I could, however,
discern that a general ceremonious insincerity was performed by the
members towards me, especially on the part of those who were in
league and conjunct with the town-clerk, who comported himself, by
reason of his knowledge of the law, as if he was in verity the true
and effectual chief magistrate of the burgh; and the effect of this
discovery, was a consideration and digesting within me how I should
demean myself, so as to regain the vantage I had lost; taking little
heed as to how the loss had come, whether from an ill-judged pride
and pretending in myself, or from the natural spirit of envy, that
darkens the good-will of all mankind towards those who get sudden
promotion, as it was commonly thought I had obtained, in being so
soon exalted to the provostry.

Before the Michaelmas I was, in consequence of this deliberation and
counselling with my own mind, fully prepared to achieve a great
stroke of policy for the future government of the town. I saw that
it would not do for me for a time to stand overly eminent forward,
and that it was a better thing, in the world, to have power and
influence, than to show the possession of either. Accordingly,
after casting about from one thing to another, I bethought with
myself, that it would be a great advantage if the council could be
worked with, so as to nominate and appoint My Lord the next provost
after me. In the proposing of this, I could see there would be no
difficulty; but the hazard was, that his lordship might only be made
a tool of instrumentality to our shrewd and sly town-clerk, Mr
Keelivine, while it was of great importance that I should keep the
management of my lord in my own hands. In this strait, however, a
thing came to pass, which strongly confirms me in the opinion, that
good-luck has really a great deal to say with the prosperity of men.
The earl, who had not for years been in the country, came down in
the summer from London, and I, together with the other magistrates
and council, received an invitation to dine with him at the castle.
We all of course went, "with our best breeding," as the old proverb
says, "helped by our brawest cleeding;" but I soon saw that it was
only a PRO FORMA dinner, and that there was nothing of cordiality in
all the civility with which we were treated, both by my lord and my
lady. Nor, indeed, could I, on an afterthought, blame our noble
entertainers for being so on their guard; for in truth some of the
deacons, (I'll no say any of the bailies,) were so transported out
of themselves with the glory of my lord's banquet, and the thought
of dining at the castle, and at the first table too, that when the
wine began to fiz in their noddles, they forgot themselves entirely,
and made no more of the earl than if he had been one of themselves.
Seeing to what issue the matter was tending, I set a guard upon
myself; and while my lord, out of a parly-voo politess, was egging
them on, one after another, to drink deeper and deeper of his old
wines, to the manifest detriment of their own senses, I kept myself
in a degree as sober as a judge, warily noting all things that came
to pass.

The earl had really a commendable share of common sense for a lord,
and the discretion of my conduct was not unnoticed by him; in so
much, that after the major part of the council had become, as it may
be said, out o' the body, cracking their jokes with one another,
just as if all present had been carousing at the Cross-Keys, his
lordship wised to me to come and sit beside him, where we had a very
private and satisfactory conversation together; in the which
conversation, I said, that it was a pity he would not allow himself
to be nominated our provost. Nobody had ever minted to him a
thought of the thing before; so it was no wonder that his lordship
replied, with a look of surprise, saying, "That so far from
refusing, he had never heard of any such proposal."

"That is very extraordinary, my lord," said I; "for surely it is for
your interests, and would to a certainty be a great advantage to the
town, were your lordship to take upon you the nominal office of
provost; I say nominal, my lord, because being now used to the
duties, and somewhat experienced therein, I could take all the
necessary part of the trouble off your lordship's hands, and so
render the provostry in your lordship's name a perfect nonentity."
Whereupon, he was pleased to say, if I would do so, and he commended
my talents and prudence, he would have no objection to be made the
provost at the ensuing election. Something more explicit might have
ensued at that time; but Bailie M'Lucre and Mr Sharpset, who was the
dean of guild, had been for about the space of half an hour carrying
on a vehement argument anent some concern of the guildry, in which,
coming to high words, and both being beguiled and ripened into folly
by the earl's wine, they came into such a manifest quarrel, that Mr
Sharpset pulled off the bailie's best wig, and flung it with a damn
into the fire: the which stramash caused my lord to end the
sederunt; but none of the magistrates, save myself, was in a
condition to go with his lordship to My Lady in the drawing-room.


Soon after the foregoing transaction, a thing happened that, in a
manner, I would fain conceal and suppress from the knowledge of
future times, although it was but a sort of sprose to make the world
laugh. Fortunately for my character, however, it did not fall out
exactly in my hands, although it happened in the course of my
provostry. The matter spoken of, was the affair of a Frenchman who
was taken up as a spy; for the American war was then raging, and the
French had taken the part of the Yankee rebels.

One day, in the month of August it was, I had gone on some private
concernment of my own to Kilmarnock, and Mr Booble, who was then
oldest Bailie, naturally officiated as chief magistrate in my stead.

There have been, as the world knows, a disposition on the part of
the grand monarque of that time, to invade and conquer this country,
the which made it a duty incumbent on all magistrates to keep a
vigilant eye on the in-comings and out-goings of aliens and other
suspectable persons. On the said day, and during my absence, a
Frenchman, that could speak no manner of English, somehow was
discovered in the Cross-Key inns. What he was, or where he came
from, nobody at the time could tell, as I was informed; but there he
was, having come into the house at the door, with a bundle in his
hand, and a portmanty on his shoulder, like a traveller out of some
vehicle of conveyance. Mrs Drammer, the landlady, did not like his
looks; for he had toozy black whiskers, was lank and wan, and
moreover deformed beyond human nature, as she said, with a parrot
nose, and had no cravat, but only a bit black riband drawn through
two button-holes, fastening his ill-coloured sark neck, which gave
him altogether something of an unwholesome, outlandish appearance.

Finding he was a foreigner, and understanding that strict
injunctions were laid on the magistrates by the king and government
anent the egressing of such persons, she thought, for the credit of
her house, and the safety of the community at large, that it behoved
her to send word to me, then provost, of this man's visibility among
us; but as I was not at home, Mrs Pawkie, my wife, directed the
messenger to Bailie Booble's. The bailie was, at all times, overly
ready to claught at an alarm; and when he heard the news, he went
straight to the council-room, and sending for the rest of the
council, ordered the alien enemy, as he called the forlorn
Frenchman, to be brought before him. By this time, the suspicion of
a spy in the town had spread far and wide; and Mrs Pawkie told me,
that there was a palid consternation in every countenance when the
black and yellow man--for he had not the looks of the honest folks
of this country--was brought up the street between two of the town-
officers, to stand an examine before Bailie Booble.

Neither the bailie, nor those that were then sitting with him, could
speak any French language, and "the alien enemy" was as little
master of our tongue. I have often wondered how the bailie did not
jealouse that he could be no spy, seeing how, in that respect, he
wanted the main faculty. But he was under the enchantment of a
panic, partly thinking also, perhaps, that he was to do a great
exploit for the government in my absence.

However, the man was brought before him, and there was he, and them
all, speaking loud out to one another as if they had been hard of
hearing, when I, on my coming home from Kilmarnock, went to see what
was going on in the council. Considering that the procedure had
been in handsome time before my arrival, I thought it judicious to
leave the whole business with those present, and to sit still as a
spectator; and really it was very comical to observe how the bailie
was driven to his wit's-end by the poor lean and yellow Frenchman,
and in what a pucker of passion the pannel put himself at every new
interlocutor, none of which he could understand. At last, the
bailie, getting no satisfaction--how could he?--he directed the
man's portmanty and bundle to be opened; and in the bottom of the
forementioned package, there, to be sure, was found many a mystical
and suspicious paper, which no one could read; among others, there
was a strange map, as it then seemed to all present.

"I' gude faith," cried the bailie, with a keckle of exultation,
"here's proof enough now. This is a plain map o' the Frith o'
Clyde, all the way to the tail of the bank o' Greenock. This muckle
place is Arran; that round ane is the craig of Ailsa; the wee ane
between is Plada. Gentlemen, gentlemen, this is a sore discovery;
there will be hanging and quartering on this." So he ordered the
man to be forthwith committed as a king's prisoner to the tolbooth;
and turning to me, said:- "My lord provost, as ye have not been
present throughout the whole of this troublesome affair, I'll e'en
gie an account mysel to the lord advocate of what we have done." I
thought, at the time, there was something fey and overly forward in
this, but I assented; for I know not what it was, that seemed to me
as if there was something neither right nor regular; indeed, to say
the truth, I was no ill pleased that the bailie took on him what he
did; so I allowed him to write himself to the lord advocate; and, as
the sequel showed, it was a blessed prudence on my part that I did
so. For no sooner did his lordship receive the bailie's terrifying
letter, than a special king's messenger was sent to take the spy
into Edinburgh Castle; and nothing could surpass the great
importance that Bailie Booble made of himself, on the occasion, on
getting the man into a coach, and two dragoons to guard him into

But oh! what a dejected man was the miserable Bailie Booble, and
what a laugh rose from shop and chamber, when the tidings came out
from Edinburgh that, "the alien enemy" was but a French cook coming
over from Dublin, with the intent to take up the trade of a
confectioner in Glasgow, and that the map of the Clyde was nothing
but a plan for the outset of a fashionable table--the bailie's
island of Arran being the roast beef, and the craig of Ailsa the
plum-pudding, and Plada a butter-boat. Nobody enjoyed the
jocularity of the business more than myself; but I trembled when I
thought of the escape that my honour and character had with the lord
advocate. I trow, Bailie Booble never set himself so forward from
that day to this.


After the close of the American war, I had, for various reasons of a
private nature, a wish to sequestrate myself for a time, from any
very ostensible part in public affairs. Still, however, desiring to
retain a mean of resuming my station, and of maintaining my
influence in the council, I bespoke Mr Keg to act in my place as
deputy for My Lord, who was regularly every year at this time chosen
into the provostry.

This Mr Keg was a man who had made a competency by the Isle-of-Man
trade, and had come in from the laighlands, where he had been
apparently in the farming line, to live among us; but for many a
day, on account of something that happened when he was concerned in
the smuggling, he kept himself cannily aloof from all sort of town
matters; deporting himself with a most creditable sobriety; in so
much, that there was at one time a sough that Mr Pittle, the
minister, our friend, had put him on the leet for an elder. That
post, however, if it was offered to him, he certainly never
accepted; but I jealouse that he took the rumour o't for a sign that
his character had ripened into an estimation among us, for he
thenceforth began to kithe more in public, and was just a patron to
every manifestation of loyalty, putting more lights in his windows
in the rejoicing nights of victory than any other body, Mr M'Creesh,
the candlemaker, and Collector Cocket, not excepted. Thus, in the
fulness of time, he was taken into the council, and no man in the
whole corporation could be said to be more zealous than he was. In
respect, therefore, to him, I had nothing to fear, so far as the
interests, and, over and above all, the loyalty of the corporation,
were concerned; but something like a quailing came over my heart,
when, after the breaking up of the council on the day of election,
he seemed to shy away from me, who had been instrumental to his
advancement. However, I trow he had soon reason to repent of that
ingratitude, as I may well call it; for when the troubles of the
meal mob came upon him, I showed him that I could keep my distance
as well as my neighbours.

It was on the Friday, our market-day, that the hobleshow began, and
in the afternoon, when the farmers who had brought in their victual
for sale were loading their carts to take it home again, the price
not having come up to their expectation. All the forenoon, as the
wives that went to the meal-market, came back railing with toom
pocks and basins, it might have been foretold that the farmers would
have to abate their extortion, or that something would come o't
before night. My new house and shop being forenent the market, I
had noted this, and said to Mrs Pawkie, my wife, what I thought
would be the upshot, especially when, towards the afternoon, I
observed the commonality gathering in the market-place, and no
sparing in their tongues to the farmers; so, upon her advice, I
directed Thomas Snakers to put on the shutters.

Some of the farmers were loading their carts to go home, when the
schools skailed, and all the weans came shouting to the market.
Still nothing happened, till tinkler Jean, a randy that had been
with the army at the siege of Gibraltar, and, for aught I ken, in
the Americas, if no in the Indies likewise;--she came with her meal-
basin in her hand, swearing, like a trooper, that if she didna get
it filled with meal at fifteen-pence a peck, (the farmers demanded
sixteen), she would have the fu' o't of their heart's blood; and the
mob of thoughtless weans and idle fellows, with shouts and yells,
encouraged Jean, and egged her on to a catastrophe. The corruption
of the farmers was thus raised, and a young rash lad, the son of
James Dyke o' the Mount, whom Jean was blackguarding at a dreadful
rate, and upbraiding on account of some ploy he had had with the
Dalmailing session anent a bairn, in an unguarded moment lifted his
hand, and shook his neive in Jean's face, and even, as she said,
struck her. He himself swore an affidavit that he gave her only a
ding out of his way; but be this as it may, at him rushed Jean with
open mouth, and broke her timbermeal-basin on his head, as it had
been an egg-shell. Heaven only knows what next ensued; but in a
jiffy the whole market-place was as white with scattered meal as if
it had been covered with snow, and the farmers were seen flying
helter skelter out at the townhead, pursued by the mob, in a hail
and whirlwind of stones and glaur. Then the drums were heard
beating to arms, and the soldiers were seen flying to their
rendezvous. I stood composedly at the dining-room window, and was
very thankful that I wasna provost in such a hurricane, when I saw
poor Mr Keg, as pale as a dish clout, running to and fro bareheaded,
with the town-officers and their halberts at his heels, exhorting
and crying till he was as hoarse as a crow, to the angry multitude,
that was raging and tossing like a sea in the market-place. Then it
was that he felt the consequence of his pridefulness towards me;
for, observing me standing in serenity at the window, he came, and
in a vehement manner cried to me for the love of heaven to come to
his assistance, and pacify the people. It would not have been
proper in me to have refused; so out I went in the very nick of
time: for when I got to the door, there was the soldiers in battle
array, coming marching with fife and drum up the gait with Major
Blaze at their head, red and furious in the face, and bent on some
bloody business. The first thing I did was to run to the major,
just as he was facing the men for a "charge bagonets" on the people,
crying to him to halt; for the riot act wasna yet read, and the
murder of all that might be slain would lie at his door; at which to
hear he stood aghast, and the men halted. Then I flew back to the
provost, and I cried to him, "Read the riot act!" which some of the
mob hearing, became terrified thereat, none knowing the penalties or
consequences thereof, when backed by soldiers; and in a moment, as
if they had seen the glimpse of a terrible spirit in the air, the
whole multitude dropped the dirt and stones out of their hands, and,
turning their backs, flew into doors and closes, and were skailed
before we knew where we were. It is not to be told the laud and
admiration that I got for my ability in this business; for the major
was so well pleased to have been saved from a battle, that, at my
suggestion, he wrote an account of the whole business to the
commander-in-chief, assuring him that, but for me, and my great
weight and authority in the town, nobody could tell what the issue
might have been; so that the Lord Advocate, to whom the report was
shown by the general, wrote me a letter of thanks in the name of the
government; and I, although not provost, was thus seen and believed
to be a person of the foremost note and consideration in the town.

But although the mob was dispersed, as I have related, the
consequences did not end there; for, the week following, none of the
farmers brought in their victual; and there was a great lamentation
and moaning in the market-place when, on the Friday, not a single
cart from the country was to be seen, but only Simon Laidlaw's, with
his timber caps and luggies; and the talk was, that meal would be
half-a-crown the peck. The grief, however, of the business wasna
visible till the Saturday--the wonted day for the poor to seek their
meat--when the swarm of beggars that came forth was a sight truly
calamitous. Many a decent auld woman that had patiently eiked out
the slender thread of a weary life with her wheel, in privacy, her
scant and want known only to her Maker, was seen going from door to
door with the salt tear in her e'e, and looking in the face of the
pitiful, being as yet unacquainted with the language of beggary; but
the worst sight of all was two bonny bairns, dressed in their best,
of a genteel demeanour, going from house to house like the hungry
babes in the wood: nobody kent who they were, nor whar they came
from; but as I was seeing them served myself at our door, I spoke to
them, and they told me that their mother was lying sick and ill at
home. They were the orphans of a broken merchant from Glasgow, and,
with their mother, had come out to our town the week before, without
knowing where else to seek their meat.

Mrs Pawkie, who was a tender-hearted mother herself, took in the
bairns on hearing this, and we made of them, and the same night,
among our acquaintance, we got a small sum raised to assist their
mother, who proved a very well-bred and respectable lady-like
creature. When she got better, she was persuaded to take up a
school, which she kept for some years, with credit to herself and
benefit to the community, till she got a legacy left her by a
brother that died in India, the which, being some thousands, caused
her to remove into Edinburgh, for the better education of her own
children; and its seldom that legacies are so well bestowed, for she
never forgot Mrs Pawkie's kindness, and out of the fore-end of her
wealth she sent her a very handsome present. Divers matters of
elegance have come to us from her, year by year, since syne, and
regularly on the anniversary day of that sore Saturday, as the
Saturday following the meal mob was ever after called.


I have had occasion to observe in the course of my experience, that
there is not a greater mollifier of the temper and nature of man
than a constant flowing in of success and prosperity. From the time
that I had been dean of guild, I was sensible of a considerable
increase of my worldly means and substance; and although Bailie
M'Lucre played me a soople trick at the election, by the inordinate
sale and roup of his potatoe-rig, the which tried me, as I do
confess, and nettled me with disappointment; yet things, in other
respects, went so well with me that, about the eighty-eight, I began
to put forth my hand again into public affairs, endowed both with
more vigour and activity than it was in the first period of my
magisterial functions. Indeed, it may be here proper for me to
narrate, that my retiring into the background during the last two or
three years, was a thing, as I have said, done on mature
deliberation; partly, in order that the weight of my talents might
be rightly estimated; and partly, that men might, of their own
reflections, come to a proper understanding concerning them. I did
not secede from the council. Could I have done that with propriety,
I would assuredly not have scrupled to make the sacrifice; but I
knew well that, if I was to resign, it would not be easy afterwards
to get myself again chosen in. In a word, I was persuaded that I
had, at times, carried things a little too highly, and that I had
the adversary of a rebellious feeling in the minds and hearts of the
corporation against me. However, what I did, answered the end and
purpose I had in view; folk began to wonder and think with
themselves, what for Mr Pawkie had ceased to bestir himself in
public affairs; and the magistrates and council having, on two or
three occasions, done very unsatisfactory things, it was said by
one, and echoed by another, till the whole town was persuaded of the
fact, that, had I lent my shoulder to the wheel, things would not
have been as they were. But the matter which did the most service
to me at this time, was a rank piece of idolatry towards my lord, on
the part of Bailie M'Lucre, who had again got himself most sickerly
installed in the guildry. Sundry tacks came to an end in this year
of eighty-eight; and among others, the Niggerbrae park, which, lying
at a commodious distance from the town, might have been relet with a
rise and advantage. But what did the dean of guild do? He, in some
secret and clandestine manner, gave a hint to my lord's factor to
make an offer for the park on a two nineteen years' lease, at the
rent then going--the which was done in my lord's name, his lordship
being then provost. The Niggerbrae was accordingly let to him, at
the same rent which the town received for it in the sixty-nine.
Nothing could be more manifest than that there was some jookerie
cookerie in this affair; but in what manner it was done, or how the
dean of guild's benefit was to ensue, no one could tell, and few
were able to conjecture; for my lord was sorely straitened for
money, and had nothing to spare out of hand. However, towards the
end of the year, a light broke in upon us.

Gabriel M'Lucre, the dean of guild's fifth son, a fine spirited
laddie, somehow got suddenly a cadetcy to go to India; and there
were uncharitably-minded persons, who said, that this was the
payment for the Niggerbrae job to my lord. The outcry, in
consequence, both against the dean of guild, and especially against
the magistrates and council for consenting thereto, was so
extraordinary, and I was so openly upbraided for being so long
lukewarm, that I was, in a manner, forced again forward to take a
prominent part; but I took good care to let it be well known, that,
in resuming my public faculties, I was resolved to take my own way,
and to introduce a new method and reformation into all our concerns.
Accordingly, at the Michaelmas following, that is, in the eighty-
nine, I was a second time chosen to the provostry, with an
understanding, that I was to be upheld in the office and dignity for
two years; and that sundry improvements, which I thought the town
was susceptible of, both in the causey of the streets and the
reparation of the kirk, should be set about under my direction; but
the way in which I handled the same, and brought them to a
satisfactory completeness and perfection, will supply abundant
matter for two chapters.


In ancient times, Gudetown had been fortified with ports and gates
at the end of the streets; and in troublesome occasions, the country
people, as the traditions relate, were in the practice of driving in
their families and cattle for shelter. This gave occasion to that
great width in our streets, and those of other royal burghs, which
is so remarkable; the same being so built to give room and stance
for the cattle. But in those days the streets were not paved at the
sides, but only in the middle, or, as it was called, the crown of
the causey; which was raised and backed upward, to let the rain-
water run off into the gutters. In progress of time, however, as
the land and kingdom gradually settled down into an orderly state,
the farmers and country folk having no cause to drive in their herds
and flocks, as in the primitive ages of a rampageous antiquity, the
proprietors of houses in the town, at their own cost, began, one
after another, to pave the spaces of ground between their steadings
and the crown of the causey; the which spaces were called lones, and
the lones being considered as private property, the corporation had
only regard to the middle portion of the street--that which I have
said was named the crown of the causey.

The effect of this separation of interests in a common good began to
manifest itself, when the pavement of the crown of the causey, by
neglect, became rough and dangerous to loaded carts and gentlemen's
carriages passing through the town; in so much that, for some time
prior to my second provostry, the carts and carriages made no
hesitation of going over the lones, instead of keeping the highway
in the middle of the street; at which many of the burgesses made
loud and just complaints.

One dark night, the very first Sunday after my restoration to the
provostry, there was like to have happened a very sore thing by an
old woman, one Peggy Waife, who had been out with her gown-tail over
her head for a choppin of strong ale. As she was coming home, with
her ale in a greybeard in her hand, a chaise in full bir came upon
her and knocked her down, and broke the greybeard and spilt the
liquor. The cry was terrible; some thought poor Peggy was killed
outright, and wives, with candles in their hands, started out at the
doors and windows. Peggy, however, was more terrified than damaged;
but the gentry that were in the chaise, being termagant English
travellers, swore like dragoons that the streets should be indicted
as a nuisance; and when they put up at the inns, two of them came to
me, as provost, to remonstrate on the shameful condition of the
pavement, and to lodge in my hands the sum of ten pounds for the
behoof of Peggy; the which was greater riches than ever the poor
creature thought to attain in this world. Seeing they were
gentlemen of a right quality, I did what I could to pacify them, by
joining in every thing they said in condemnation of the streets;
telling them, at the same time, that the improvement of the causey
was to be the very first object and care of my provostry. And I
bade Mrs Pawkie bring in the wine decanters, and requested them to
sit down with me and take a glass of wine and a sugar biscuit; the
civility of which, on my part, soon brought them into a peaceable
way of thinking, and they went away, highly commanding my politess
and hospitality, of which they spoke in the warmest terms, to their
companion when they returned to the inns, as the waiter who attended
them overheard, and told the landlord, who informed me and others of
the same in the morning. So that on the Saturday following, when
the town-council met, there was no difficulty in getting a minute
entered at the sederunt, that the crown of the causey should be
forthwith put in a state of reparation.

Having thus gotten the thing determined upon, I then proposed that
we should have the work done by contract, and that notice should be
given publicly of such being our intent. Some boggling was made to
this proposal, it never having been the use and wont of the
corporation, in time past, to do any thing by contract, but just to
put whatever was required into the hands of one of the council, who
got the work done in the best way he could; by which loose manner of
administration great abuses were often allowed to pass unreproved.
But I persisted in my resolution to have the causey renewed by
contract; and all the inhabitants of the town gave me credit for
introducing such a great reformation into the management of public

When it was made known that we would receive offers to contract,
divers persons came forward; and I was a little at a loss, when I
saw such competition, as to which ought to be preferred. At last, I
bethought me, to send for the different competitors, and converse
with them on the subject quietly; and I found in Thomas Shovel, the
tacksman of Whinstone-quarry, a discreet and considerate man. His
offer was, it is true, not so low as some of the others; but he had
facilities to do the work quickly, that none of the rest could
pretend to; so, upon a clear understanding of that, with the help of
the dean of guild M'Lucre's advocacy, Thomas Shovel got the
contract. At first, I could not divine what interest my old friend,
the dean of guild, had to be so earnest in behalf of the offering
contractor; in course of time, however, it spunkit out that he was a
sleeping partner in the business, by which he made a power of
profit. But saving two three carts of stones to big a dyke round
the new steading which I had bought a short time before at the town-
end, I had no benefit whatever. Indeed, I may take it upon me to
say, that should not say it, few provosts, in so great a concern,
could have acted more on a principle than I did in this; and if
Thomas Shovel, of his free-will, did, at the instigation of the dean
of guild, lay down the stones on my ground as aforesaid, the town
was not wronged; for, no doubt, he paid me the compliment at some
expense of his own profit.


The repair of the kirk, the next job I took in hand, was not so
easily managed as that of the causey; for it seems, in former times,
the whole space of the area had been free to the parish in general,
and that the lofts were constructions, raised at the special expense
of the heritors for themselves. The fronts being for their
families, and the back seats for their servants and tenants. In
those times there were no such things as pews; but only forms,
removeable, as I have heard say, at pleasure.

It, however, happened, in the course of nature, that certain forms
came to be sabbathly frequented by the same persons; who, in this
manner, acquired a sort of prescriptive right to them. And those
persons or families, one after another, finding it would be an ease
and convenience to them during divine worship, put up backs to their
forms. But still, for many a year, there was no inclosure of pews;
the first, indeed, that made a pew, as I have been told, was one
Archibald Rafter, a wright, and the grandfather of Mr Rafter, the
architect, who has had so much to do with the edification of the new
town of Edinburgh. This Archibald's form happened to be near the
door, on the left side of the pulpit; and in the winter, when the
wind was in the north, it was a very cold seat, which induced him to
inclose it round and round, with certain old doors and shutters,
which he had acquired in taking down and rebuilding the left wing of
the whinny hill house. The comfort in which this enabled him and
his family to listen to the worship, had an immediate effect; and
the example being of a taking nature, in the course of little more
than twenty years from the time, the whole area of the kirk had been
pewed in a very creditable manner.

Families thus getting, as it were, portions of the church, some,
when removing from the town, gave them up to their neighbours on
receiving a consideration for the expense they had been at in making
the pews; so that, from less to more, the pews so formed became a
lettable and a vendible property. It was, therefore, thought a hard
thing, that in the reparation which the seats had come to require in
my time, the heritors and corporation should be obligated to pay the
cost and expense of what was so clearly the property of others;
while it seemed an impossibility to get the whole tot of the
proprietors of the pews to bear the expense of new-seating the kirk.
We had in the council many a long and weighty sederunt on the
subject, without coming to any practical conclusion. At last, I
thought the best way, as the kirk was really become a disgrace to
the town, would be, for the corporation to undertake the repair
entirely, upon an understanding that we were to be paid eighteen
pence a bottom-room, per ANNUM, by the proprietors of the pews; and,
on sounding the heritors, I found them all most willing to consent
thereto, glad to be relieved from the awful expense of gutting and
replenishing such a great concern as the kirk was. Accordingly the
council having agreed to this proposal, we had plans and estimates
made, and notice given to the owners of pews of our intention. The
whole proceedings gave the greatest satisfaction possible to the
inhabitants in general, who lauded and approved of my discernment
more and more.

By the estimate, it was found that the repairs would cost about a
thousand pounds; and by the plan, that the seats, at eighteen pence
a sitter, would yield better than a hundred pounds a-year; so that
there was no scruple, on the part of the town-council, in borrowing
the money wanted. This was the first public debt ever contracted by
the corporation, and people were very fain to get their money lodged
at five per cent. on such good security; in so much, that we had a
great deal more offered than we required at that time and epoch.


The repair of the kirk was undertaken by contract with William
Plane, the joiner, with whom I was in terms at the time anent the
bigging of a land of houses on my new steading at the town-end. A
most reasonable man in all things he was, and in no concern of my
own had I a better satisfaction than in the house he built for me at
the conjuncture when he had the town's work in the kirk; but there
was at that period among us a certain person, of the name of Nabal
Smeddum, a tobacconist by calling, who, up to this season, had been
regarded but as a droll and comical body at a coothy crack. He was,
in stature, of the lower order of mankind, but endowed with an
inclination towards corpulency, by which he had acquired some show
of a belly, and his face was round, and his cheeks both red and
sleeky. He was, however, in his personalities, chiefly remarkable
for two queer and twinkling little eyes, and for a habitual custom
of licking his lips whenever he said any thing of pith or jocosity,
or thought that he had done so, which was very often the case. In
his apparel, as befitted his trade, he wore a suit of snuff-coloured
cloth, and a brown round-eared wig, that curled close in to his

Mr Smeddum, as I have related, was in some estimation for his
comicality; but he was a dure hand at an argument, and would not see
the plainest truth when it was not on his side of the debate. No
occasion or cause, however, had come to pass by which this inherent
cross-grainedness was stirred into action, till the affair of
reseating the kirk--a measure, as I have mentioned, which gave the
best satisfaction; but it happened that, on a Saturday night, as I
was going soberly home from a meeting of the magistrates in the
clerk's chamber, I by chance recollected that I stood in need of
having my box replenished; and accordingly, in the most innocent and
harmless manner that it was possible for a man to do, I stepped into
this Mr Smeddum, the tobacconist's shop, and while he was
compounding my mixture from the two canisters that stood on his
counter, and I was in a manner doing nothing but looking at the
number of counterfeit sixpences and shillings that were nailed
thereon as an admonishment to his customers, he said to me, "So,
provost, we're to hae a new lining to the kirk. I wonder, when ye
were at it, that ye didna rather think of bigging another frae the
fundament, for I'm thinking the walls are no o' a capacity of
strength to outlast this seating."

Knowing, as I did, the tough temper of the body, I can attribute my
entering into an argument with him on the subject to nothing but
some inconsiderate infatuation; for when I said heedlessly, the
walls are very good, he threw the brass snuff-spoon with an ecstasy
in to one of the canisters, and lifting his two hands into a posture
of admiration,--cried, as if he had seen an unco -

"Good! surely, provost, ye hae na had an inspection; they're crackit
in divers places; they're shotten out wi' infirmity in others. In
short, the whole kirk, frae the coping to the fundament, is a fabric
smitten wi' a paralytic."

"It's very extraordinar, Mr Smeddum," was my reply, "that nobody has
seen a' this but yoursel'."

"Na, if ye will deny the fact, provost," quo' he, "it's o' no
service for me to say a word; but there has to a moral certainty
been a slackness somewhere, or how has it happened that the wa's
were na subjected to a right inspection before this job o' the

By this time, I had seen the great error into the which I had
fallen, by entering on a confabulation with Mr Smeddum; so I said to
him, "It' no a matter for you and me to dispute about, so I'll thank
you to fill my box;" the which manner of putting an end to the
debate he took very ill; and after I left the shop, he laid the
marrow of our discourse open to Mr Threeper the writer, who by
chance went in, like mysel', to get a supply of rappee for the
Sabbath. That limb of the law discerning a sediment of litigation
in the case, eggit on Mr Smeddum into a persuasion that the seating
of the kirk was a thing which the magistrates had no legal authority
to undertake. At this critical moment, my ancient adversary and
seeming friend, the dean of guild, happened to pass the door, and
the bickering snuff-man seeing him, cried to him to come in. It was
a very unfortunate occurrence; for Mr M'Lucre having a secret
interest, as I have intimated, in the Whinstone quarry, when he
heard of taking down walls and bigging them up again, he listened
with greedy ears to the dubieties of Mr Threeper, and loudly, and to
the heart's content of Mr Smeddum, condemned the frailty and
infirmity of the kirk, as a building in general.

It would be overly tedious to mention, however, all the outs and ins
of the affair; but, from less to more, a faction was begotten, and
grew to head, and stirring among the inhabitants of the town, not
only with regard to the putting of new seats within the old walls,
but likewise as to the power of the magistrates to lay out any part
of the public funds in the reparation of the kirk; and the upshot
was, a contribution among certain malecontents, to enable Mr
Threeper to consult on all the points.

As in all similar cases, the parties applying for legal advice were
heartened into a plea by the opinion they got, and the town-council
was thrown into the greatest consternation by receiving notice that
the malecontents were going to extremities.

Two things I saw it was obligational on me to urge forward; the one
was to go on still with the reparations, and the other to contest
the law-suit, although some were for waiting in the first case till
the plea was settled, and in the second to make no defence, but to
give up our intention anent the new-seating. But I thought that, as
we had borrowed the money for the repairs, we should proceed; and I
had a vista that the contribution raised by the Smeddumites, as they

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest