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The Provost by John Galt

Part 2 out of 3

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were caller, would run out, being from their own pockets, whereas we
fought with the public purse in our hand; and by dint of exhortation
to that effect, I carried the majority to go into my plan, which in
the end was most gratifying, for the kirk was in a manner made as
good as new, and the contributional stock of the Smeddumites was
entirely rookit by the lawyers, who would fain have them to form
another, assuring them that, no doubt, the legal point was in their
favour. But every body knows the uncertainty of a legal opinion;
and although the case was given up, for lack of a fund to carry it
on, there was a living ember of discontent left in its ashes, ready
to kindle into a flame on the first puff of popular dissatisfaction.


The spirit by which the Smeddumites were actuated in ecclesiastical
affairs, was a type and taste of the great distemper with which all
the world was, more or less, at the time inflamed, and which cast
the ancient state and monarchy of France into the perdition of
anarchy and confusion. I think, upon the whole, however, that our
royal burgh was not afflicted to any very dangerous degree, though
there was a sort of itch of it among a few of the sedentary orders,
such as the weavers and shoemakers, who, by the nature of sitting
long in one posture, are apt to become subject to the flatulence of
theoretical opinions; but although this was my notion, yet knowing
how much better the king and government were acquainted with the
true condition of things than I could to a certainty be, I kept a
steady eye on the proceedings of the ministers and parliament at
London, taking them for an index and model for the management of the
public concerns, which, by the grace of God, and the handling of my
friends, I was raised up and set forward to undertake.

Seeing the great dread and anxiety that was above, as to the
inordinate liberty of the multitude, and how necessary it was to
bridle popularity, which was become rampant and ill to ride, kicking
at all established order, and trying to throw both king and nobles
from the saddle, I resolved to discountenance all tumultuous
meetings, and to place every reasonable impediment in the way of
multitudes assembling together: indeed, I had for many years been
of opinion, that fairs were become a great political evil to the
regular shop-keepers, by reason of the packmen, and other travelling
merchants, coming with their wares and under-selling us; so that
both private interest and public principle incited me on to do all
in my power to bring our fair-days into disrepute. It cannot be
told what a world of thought and consideration this cost me before I
lighted on the right method, nor, without a dive into the past times
of antiquity, is it in the power of man to understand the
difficulties of the matter.

Some of our fair-days were remnants of the papistical idolatry, and
instituted of old by the Pope and Cardinals, in order to make an
income from the vice and immorality that was usually rife at the
same. These, in the main points, were only market-days of a blither
kind than the common. The country folks came in dressed in their
best, the schools got the play, and a long rank of sweety-wives and
their stands, covered with the wonted dainties of the occasion,
occupied the sunny side of the High Street; while the shady side
was, in like manner, taken possession of by the packmen, who, in
their booths, made a marvellous display of goods of an inferior
quality, with laces and ribands of all colours, hanging down in
front, and twirling like pinnets in the wind. There was likewise
the allurement of some compendious show of wild beasts; in short, a
swatch of every thing that the art of man has devised for such
occasions, to wile away the bawbee.

Besides the fairs of this sort, that may be said to be of a pious
origin, there were others of a more boisterous kind, that had come
of the times of trouble, when the trades paraded with war-like
weapons, and the banners of their respective crafts; and in every
seventh year we had a resuscitation of King Crispianus in all his
glory and regality, with the man in the coat-of-mail, of bell-metal,
and the dukes, and lord mayor of London, at the which, the influx of
lads and lasses from the country was just prodigious, and the
rioting and rampaging at night, the brulies and the dancing, was
worse than Vanity Fair in the Pilgrim's Progress.

To put down, and utterly to abolish, by stress of law, or authority,
any ancient pleasure of the commonality, I had learned, by this
time, was not wisdom, and that the fairs were only to be effectually
suppressed by losing their temptations, and so to cease to call
forth any expectation of merriment among the people. Accordingly,
with respect to the fairs of pious origin, I, without expounding my
secret motives, persuaded the council, that, having been at so great
an expense in new-paving the streets, we ought not to permit the
heavy caravans of wild beasts to occupy, as formerly, the front of
the Tolbooth towards the Cross; but to order them, for the future,
to keep at the Greenhead. This was, in a manner, expurgating them
out of the town altogether; and the consequence was, that the
people, who were wont to assemble in the High Street, came to be
divided, part gathering at the Greenhead, round the shows, and part
remaining among the stands and the booths; thus an appearance was
given of the fairs being less attended than formerly, and gradually,
year after year, the venerable race of sweety-wives, and chatty
packmen, that were so detrimental to the shopkeepers, grew less and
less numerous, until the fairs fell into insignificance.

At the parade fair, the remnant of the weapon-showing, I proceeded
more roundly to work, and resolved to debar, by proclamation, all
persons from appearing with arms; but the deacons of the trades
spared me the trouble of issuing the same, for they dissuaded their
crafts from parading. Nothing, however, so well helped me out as
the volunteers, of which I will speak by and by; for when the war
began, and they were formed, nobody could afterwards abide to look
at the fantastical and disorderly marching of the trades, in their
processions and paradings; so that, in this manner, all the glory of
the fairs being shorn and expunged, they have fallen into disrepute,
and have suffered a natural suppression.


The volunteers began in the year 1793, when the democrats in Paris
threatened the downfall and utter subversion of kings, lords, and
commons. As became us who were of the council, we drew up an
address to his majesty, assuring him that our lives and fortunes
were at his disposal. To the which dutiful address, we received, by
return of post, a very gracious answer; and, at the same time, the
lord-lieutenant gave me a bit hint, that it would be very pleasant
to his majesty to hear that we had volunteers in our town, men of
creditable connexions, and willing to defend their property.

When I got this note from his lordship, I went to Mr Pipe, the wine-
merchant, and spoke to him concerning it, and we had some discreet
conversation on the same; in the which it was agreed between us
that, as I was now rather inclined to a corpulency of parts, and
being likewise chief civil magistrate, it would not do to set myself
at the head of a body of soldiers, but that the consequence might be
made up to me in the clothing of the men; so I consented to put the
business into his hands upon this understanding. Accordingly, he
went the same night with me to Mr Dinton, that was in the general
merchandising line, a part-owner in vessels, a trafficker in corn,
and now and then a canny discounter of bills, at a moderate rate, to
folk in straits and difficulties. And we told him--the same being
agreed between us, as the best way of fructifying the job to a
profitable issue--that, as provost, I had got an intimation to raise
a corps of volunteers, and that I thought no better hand could be
got for a co-operation than him and Mr Pipe, who was pointed out to
me as a gentleman weel qualified for the command.

Mr Dinton, who was a proud man, and an offset from one of the county
families, I could see was not overly pleased at the preferment over
him given to Mr Pipe, so that I was in a manner constrained to loot
a sort a-jee, and to wile him into good-humour with all the ability
in my power, by saying that it was natural enough of the king and
government to think of Mr Pipe as one of the most proper men in the
town, he paying, as he did, the largest sum of the king's dues at
the excise, and being, as we all knew, in a great correspondence
with foreign ports--and I winkit to Mr Pipe as I said this, and he
could with a difficulty keep his countenance at hearing how I so
beguiled Mr Dinton into a spirit of loyalty for the raising of the

The ice being thus broken, next day we had a meeting, before the
council met, to take the business into public consideration, and we
thereat settled on certain creditable persons in the town, of a
known principle, as the fittest to be officers under the command of
Mr Pipe, as commandant, and Mr Dinton, as his colleague under him.
We agreed among us, as the custom was in other places, that they
should be elected major, captain, lieutenants, and ensigns, by the
free votes of the whole corps, according to the degrees that we had
determined for them. In the doing of this, and the bringing it to
pass, my skill and management was greatly approved and extolled by
all who had a peep behind the curtain.

The town-council being, as I have intimated, convened to hear the
gracious answer to the address read, and to take into consideration
the suggesting anent the volunteering, met in the clerk's chamber,
where we agreed to call a meeting of the inhabitants of the town by
proclamation, and by a notice in the church. This being determined,
Mr Pipe and Mr Dinton got a paper drawn up, and privately, before
the Sunday, a number of their genteeler friends, including those
whom we had noted down to be elected officers, set their names as
willing to be volunteers.

On the Sunday, Mr Pittle, at my instigation, preached a sermon,
showing forth the necessity of arming ourselves in the defence of
all that was dear to us. It was a discourse of great method and
sound argument, but not altogether so quickened with pith and bir as
might have been wished for; but it paved the way to the reading out
of the summons for the inhabitants to meet the magistrates in the
church on the Thursday following, for the purpose, as it was worded
by the town-clerk, to take into consideration the best means of
saving the king and kingdom in the then monstrous crisis of public

The discourse, with the summons, and a rumour and whispering that
had in the mean time taken place, caused the desired effect; in so
much, that, on the Thursday, there was a great congregation of the
male portion of the people. At the which, old Mr Dravel--a genteel
man he was, well read in matters of history, though somewhat over-
portioned with a conceit of himself--got up on the table, in one of
the table-seats forenent the poopit, and made a speech suitable to
the occasion; in the which he set forth what manful things had been
done of old by the Greeks and the Romans for their country, and,
waxing warm with his subject, he cried out with a loud voice,
towards the end of the discourse, giving at the same time a stamp
with his foot, "Come, then, as men and as citizens; the cry is for
your altars and your God."

"Gude save's, Mr Dravel, are ye gane by yoursel?" cried Willy Coggle
from the front of the loft, a daft body that was ayefar ben on all
public occasions--"to think that our God's a Pagan image in need of
sick feckless help as the like o' thine?" The which outcry of Willy
raised a most extraordinary laugh at the fine paternoster, about the
ashes of our ancestors, that Mr Dravel had been so vehemently
rehearsing; and I was greatly afraid that the solemnity of the day
would be turned into a ridicule. However, Mr Pipe, who was upon the
whole a man no without both sense and capacity, rose and said, that
our business was to strengthen the hands of government, by coming
forward as volunteers; and therefore, without thinking it necessary,
among the people of this blessed land, to urge any arguments in
furtherance of that object, he would propose that a volunteer corps
should be raised; and he begged leave of me, who, as provost, was in
the chair, to read a few words that he had hastily thrown together
on the subject, as the outlines of a pact of agreement among those
who might be inclined to join with him. I should here, however,
mention, that the said few words of a pact was the costive product
overnight of no small endeavour between me and Mr Dinton as well as

When he had thus made his motion, Mr Dinton, as we had concerted,
got up and seconded the same, pointing out the liberal spirit in
which the agreement was drawn, as every person signing it was
eligible to be an officer of any rank, and every man had a vote in
the preferment of the officers. All which was mightily applauded;
and upon this I rose, and said, "It was a pleasant thing for me to
have to report to his majesty's government the loyalty of the
inhabitants of our town, and the unanimity of the volunteering
spirit among them--and to testify," said I, "to all the world, how
much we are sensible of the blessings of the true liberty we enjoy,
I would suggest that the matter of the volunteering be left entirely
to Mr Pipe and Mr Dinton, with a few other respectable gentlemen, as
a committee, to carry the same into effect;" and with that I looked,
as it were, round the church, and then said, "There's Mr Oranger, a
better couldna be joined with them." He was a most creditable man,
and a grocer, that we had waled out for a captain; so I desired,
having got a nod of assent from him, that Mr Oranger's name might be
added to their's, as one of the committee. In like manner I did by
all the rest whom we had previously chosen. Thus, in a manner,
predisposing the public towards them for officers.

In the course of the week, by the endeavours of the committee, a
sufficient number of names was got to the paper, and the election of
the officers came on on the Tuesday following; at which, though
there was a sort of a contest, and nothing could be a fairer
election, yet the very persons that we had chosen were elected,
though some of them had but a narrow chance. Mr Pipe was made the
commandant, by a superiority of only two votes over Mr Dinton.


It was an understood thing at first, that, saving in the matter of
guns and other military implements, the volunteers were to be at all
their own expenses; out of which, both tribulation and
disappointment ensued; for when it came to be determined about the
uniforms, Major Pipe found that he could by no possibility wise all
the furnishing to me, every one being disposed to get his
regimentals from his own merchant; and there was also a division
anent the colour of the same, many of the doucer sort of the men
being blate of appearing in scarlet and gold-lace, insisting with a
great earnestness, almost to a sedition, on the uniform being blue.
So that the whole advantage of a contract was frustrated, and I
began to be sorry that I had not made a point of being,
notwithstanding the alleged weight and impediment of my corpulence,
the major-commandant myself. However, things, after some time,
began to take a turn for the better; and the art of raising
volunteers being better understood in the kingdom, Mr Pipe went into
Edinburgh, and upon some conference with the lord advocate, got
permission to augment his force by another company, and leave to
draw two days' pay a-week for account of the men, and to defray the
necessary expenses of the corps. The doing of this bred no little
agitation in the same; and some of the forward and upsetting spirits
of the younger privates, that had been smitten, though not in a
disloyal sense, with the insubordinate spirit of the age, clamoured
about the rights of the original bargain with them, insisting that
the officers had no privilege to sell their independence, and a deal
of trash of that sort, and finally withdrew from the corps, drawing,
to the consternation of the officers, the pay that had been taken in
their names; and which the officers could not refuse, although it
was really wanted for the contingencies of the service, as Major
Pipe himself told me.

When the corps had thus been rid of these turbulent spirits, the men
grew more manageable and rational, assenting by little and little to
all the proposals of the officers, until there was a true military
dominion of discipline gained over them; and a joint contract was
entered into between Major Pipe and me, for a regular supply of all
necessaries, in order to insure a uniform appearance, which, it is
well known, is essential to a right discipline. In the end, when
the eyes of men in civil stations had got accustomed to military
show and parade, it was determined to change the colour of the cloth
from blue to red, the former having at first been preferred, and
worn for some time; in the accomplishment of which change I had (and
why should I disguise the honest fact?) my share of the advantage
which the kingdom at large drew, in that period of anarchy and
confusion, from the laudable establishment of a volunteer force.


During the same just and necessary war for all that was dear to us,
in which the volunteers were raised, one of the severest trials
happened to me that ever any magistrate was subjected to. I had, at
the time, again subsided into an ordinary counsellor; but it so fell
out that, by reason of Mr Shuttlethrift, who was then provost,
having occasion and need to go into Glasgow upon some affairs of his
own private concerns, he being interested in the Kilbeacon cotton-
mill; and Mr Dalrye, the bailie, who should have acted for him,
being likewise from home, anent a plea he had with a neighbour
concerning the bounds of their rigs and gables; the whole authority
and power of the magistrates devolved, by a courtesy on the part of
their colleague, Bailie Hammerman, into my hands.

For some time before, there had been an ingathering among us of
sailor lads from the neighbouring ports, who on their arrival, in
order to shun the pressgangs, left their vessels and came to scog
themselves with us. By this, a rumour or a suspicion rose that the
men-of-war's men were suddenly to come at the dead hour of the night
and sweep them all away. Heaven only knows whether this notice was
bred in the fears and jealousies of the people, or was a humane
inkling given, by some of the men-of-war's men, to put the poor
sailor lads on their guard, was never known. But on a Saturday
night, as I was on the eve of stepping into my bed, I shall never
forget it--Mrs Pawkie was already in, and as sound as a door-nail--
and I was just crooking my mouth to blow out the candle, when I
heard a rap. As our bed-room window was over the door, I looked
out. It was a dark night; but I could see by a glaik of light from
a neighbour's window, that there was a man with a cocked hat at the

"What's your will?" said I to him, as I looked out at him in my
nightcap. He made no other answer, but that he was one of his
majesty's officers, and had business with the justice.

I did not like this Englification and voice of claim and authority;
however, I drew on my stockings and breeks again, and taking my
wife's flannel coaty about my shoulders--for I was then troubled
with the rheumatiz--I went down, and, opening the door, let in the

"I come," said he, "to show you my warrant and commission, and to
acquaint you that, having information of several able-bodied seamen
being in the town, I mean to make a search for them."

I really did not well know what to say at the moment; but I begged
him, for the love of peace and quietness, to defer his work till the
next morning: but he said he must obey his orders; and he was sorry
that it was his duty to be on so disagreeable a service, with many
other things, that showed something like a sense of compassion that
could not have been hoped for in the captain of a pressgang.

When he had said this, he then went away, saying, for he saw my
tribulation, that it would be as well for me to be prepared in case
of any riot. This was the worst news of all; but what could I do?
I thereupon went again to Mrs Pawkie, and shaking her awake, told
her what was going on, and a terrified woman she was. I then
dressed myself with all possible expedition, and went to the town-
clerk's, and we sent for the town-officers, and then adjourned to
the council-chamber to wait the issue of what might betide.

In my absence, Mrs Pawkie rose out of her bed, and by some wonderful
instinct collecting all the bairns, went with them to the minister's
house, as to a place of refuge and sanctuary.

Shortly after we had been in the council-room, I opened the window
and looked out, but all was still; the town was lying in the
defencelessness of sleep, and nothing was heard but the clicking of
the town-clock in the steeple over our heads. By and by, however, a
sough and pattering of feet was heard approaching; and shortly
after, in looking out, we saw the pressgang, headed by their
officers, with cutlasses by their side, and great club-sticks in
their hands. They said nothing; but the sound of their feet on the
silent stones of the causey, was as the noise of a dreadful engine.
They passed, and went on; and all that were with me in the council
stood at the windows and listened. In the course of a minute or two
after, two lassies, with a callan, that had been out, came flying
and wailing, giving the alarm to the town. Then we heard the
driving of the bludgeons on the doors, and the outcries of terrified
women; and presently after we saw the poor chased sailors running in
their shirts, with their clothes in their hands, as if they had been
felons and blackguards caught in guilt, and flying from the hands of

The town was awakened with the din as with the cry of fire; and
lights came starting forward, as it were, to the windows. The women
were out with lamentations and vows of vengeance. I was in a state
of horror unspeakable. Then came some three or four of the
pressgang with a struggling sailor in their clutches, with nothing
but his trousers on--his shirt riven from his back in the fury.
Syne came the rest of the gang and their officers, scattered as it
were with a tempest of mud and stones, pursued and battered by a
troop of desperate women and weans, whose fathers and brothers were
in jeopardy. And these were followed by the wailing wife of the
pressed man, with her five bairns, clamouring in their agony to
heaven against the king and government for the outrage. I couldna
listen to the fearful justice of their outcry, but sat down in a
corner of the council-chamber with my fingers in my ears.

In a little while a shout of triumph rose from the mob, and we heard
them returning, and I felt, as it were, relieved; but the sound of
their voices became hoarse and terrible as they drew near, and, in a
moment, I heard the jingle of twenty broken windows rattle in the
street. My heart misgave me; and, indeed, it was my own windows.
They left not one pane unbroken; and nothing kept them from
demolishing the house to the ground-stone but the exhortations of
Major Pipe, who, on hearing the uproar, was up and out, and did all
in his power to arrest the fury of the tumult. It seems, the mob
had taken it into their heads that I had signed what they called the
press-warrants; and on driving the gang out of the town, and
rescuing the man, they came to revenge themselves on me and mine;
which is the cause that made me say it was a miraculous instinct
that led Mrs Pawkie to take the family to Mr Pittle's; for, had they
been in the house, it is not to be told what the consequences might
have been.

Before morning the riot was ended, but the damage to my house was
very great; and I was intending, as the public had done the deed,
that the town should have paid for it. "But," said Mr Keelivine,
the town-clerk, "I think you may do better; and this calamity, if
properly handled to the Government, may make your fortune," I
reflected on the hint; and accordingly, the next day, I went over to
the regulating captain of the pressgang, and represented to him the
great damage and detriment which I had suffered, requesting him to
represent to government that it was all owing to the part I had
taken in his behalf. To this, for a time, he made some scruple of
objection; but at last he drew up, in my presence, a letter to the
lords of the admiralty, telling what he had done, and how he and his
men had been ill-used, and that the house of the chief-magistrate of
the town had been in a manner destroyed by the rioters.

By the same post I wrote off myself to the lord advocate, and
likewise to the secretary of state, in London; commanding, very
properly, the prudent and circumspect manner in which the officer
had come to apprize me of his duty, and giving as faithful an
account as I well could of the riot; concluding with a simple
notification of what had been done to my house, and the outcry that
might be raised in the town were any part of the town's funds to be
used in the repairs.

Both the lord advocate and Mr Secretary of State wrote me back by
retour of post, thanking me for my zeal in the public service; and I
was informed that, as it might not be expedient to agitate in the
town the payment of the damage which my house had received, the
lords of the treasury would indemnify me for the same; and this was
done in a manner which showed the blessings we enjoy under our most
venerable constitution; for I was not only thereby enabled, by what
I got, to repair the windows, but to build up a vacant steading; the
same which I settled last year on my dochter, Marion, when she was
married to Mr Geery, of the Gatherton Holme.


The affair of the pressgang gave great concern to all of the
council; for it was thought that the loyalty of the burgh would be
called in question, and doubted by the king's ministers,
notwithstanding our many assurances to the contrary; the which sense
and apprehension begat among us an inordinate anxiety to manifest
our principles on all expedient occasions. In the doing of this,
divers curious and comical things came to pass; but the most comical
of all was what happened at the Michaelmas dinner following the

The weather, for some days before, had been raw for that time of the
year, and Michaelmas-day was, both for wind and wet and cold, past
ordinar; in so much that we were obligated to have a large fire in
the council-chamber, where we dined. Round this fire, after
drinking his majesty's health and the other appropriate toasts, we
were sitting as cozy as could be; and every one the longer he sat,
and the oftener his glass visited the punch-bowl, waxed more and
more royal, till everybody was in a most hilarious temperament,
singing songs and joining chorus with the greatest cordiality.

It happened, among others of the company, there was a gash old carl,
the laird of Bodletonbrae, who was a very capital hand at a joke;
and he, chancing to notice that the whole of the magistrates and
town-council then present wore wigs, feigned to become out of all
bounds with the demonstrations of his devotion to king and country;
and others that were there, not wishing to appear any thing behind
him in the same, vied in their sprose of patriotism, and bragging in
a manful manner of what, in the hour of trial, they would be seen to
do. Bodletonbrae was all the time laughing in his sleeve at the way
he was working them on, till at last, after they had flung the
glasses twice or thrice over their shoulders, he proposed we should
throw our wigs in the fire next. Surely there was some glammer
about us that caused us not to observe his devilry, for the laird
had no wig on his head. Be that, however, as it may, the
instigation took effect, and in the twinkling of an eye every scalp
was bare, and the chimley roaring with the roasting of gude kens how
many powdered wigs well fattened with pomatum. But scarcely was the
deed done, till every one was admonished of his folly, by the laird
laughing, like a being out of his senses, at the number of bald
heads and shaven crowns that his device had brought to light, and by
one and all of us experiencing the coldness of the air on the
nakedness of our upper parts.

The first thing that we then did was to send the town-officers, who
were waiting on as usual for the dribbles of the bottles and the
leavings in the bowls, to bring our nightcaps, but I trow few were
so lucky as me, for I had a spare wig at home, which Mrs Pawkie, my
wife, a most considerate woman, sent to me; so that I was, in a
manner, to all visibility, none the worse of the ploy; but the rest
of the council were perfect oddities within their wigs, and the
sorest thing of all was, that the exploit of burning the wigs had
got wind; so that, when we left the council-room, there was a great
congregation of funny weans and misleart trades' lads assembled
before the tolbooth, shouting, and like as if they were out of the
body with daffing, to see so many of the heads of the town in their
night-caps, and no, maybe, just so solid at the time as could have
been wished. Nor did the matter rest here; for the generality of
the sufferers being in a public way, were obligated to appear the
next day in their shops, and at their callings, with their
nightcaps--for few of them had two wigs like me--by which no small
merriment ensued, and was continued for many a day. It would
hardly, however, be supposed, that in such a matter anything could
have redounded to my advantage; but so it fell out, that by my
wife's prudence in sending me my other wig, it was observed by the
commonality, when we sallied forth to go home, that I had on my wig,
and it was thought I had a very meritorious command of myself, and
was the only man in the town fit for a magistrate; for in everything
I was seen to be most cautious and considerate. I could not,
however, when I saw the turn the affair took to my advantage, but
reflect on what small and visionary grounds the popularity of public
men will sometimes rest.


Shortly after the affair recorded in the foregoing chapter, an event
came to pass in the burgh that had been for some time foreseen.

My old friend and adversary, Bailie M'Lucre, being now a man well
stricken in years, was one night, in going home from a gavawlling
with some of the neighbours at Mr Shuttlethrift's, the
manufacturer's, (the bailie, canny man, never liket ony thing of the
sort at his own cost and outlay,) having partaken largely of the
bowl, for the manufacturer was of a blithe humour--the bailie, as I
was saying, in going home, was overtaken by an apoplexy just at the
threshold of his own door, and although it did not kill him
outright, it shoved him, as it were, almost into the very grave; in
so much that he never spoke an articulate word during the several
weeks he was permitted to doze away his latter end; and accordingly
he died, and was buried in a very creditable manner to the
community, in consideration of the long space of time he had been a
public man among us.

But what rendered the event of his death, in my opinion, the more
remarkable, was, that I considered with him the last remnant of the
old practice of managing the concerns of the town came to a period.
For now that he is dead and gone, and also all those whom I found
conjunct with him, when I came into power and office, I may venture
to say, that things in yon former times were not guided so
thoroughly by the hand of a disinterested integrity as in these
latter years. On the contrary, it seemed to be the use and wont of
men in public trusts, to think they were free to indemnify
themselves in a left-handed way for the time and trouble they
bestowed in the same. But the thing was not so far wrong in
principle as in the hugger-muggering way in which it was done, and
which gave to it a guilty colour, that, by the judicious stratagem
of a right system, it would never have had. In sooth to say,
through the whole course of my public life, I met with no greater
difficulties and trials than in cleansing myself from the old
habitudes of office. For I must in verity confess, that I myself
partook, in a degree, at my beginning, of the caterpillar nature;
and it was not until the light of happier days called forth the
wings of my endowment, that I became conscious of being raised into
public life for a better purpose than to prey upon the leaves and
flourishes of the commonwealth. So that, if I have seemed to speak
lightly of those doings that are now denominated corruptions, I hope
it was discerned therein that I did so rather to intimate that such
things were, than to consider them as in themselves commendable.
Indeed, in their notations, I have endeavoured, in a manner, to be
governed by the spirit of the times in which the transactions
happened; for I have lived long enough to remark, that if we judge
of past events by present motives, and do not try to enter into the
spirit of the age when they took place, and to see them with the
eyes with which they were really seen, we shall conceit many things
to be of a bad and wicked character that were not thought so harshly
of by those who witnessed them, nor even by those who, perhaps,
suffered from them. While, therefore, I think it has been of a
great advantage to the public to have survived that method of
administration in which the like of Bailie M'Lucre was engendered, I
would not have it understood that I think the men who held the
public trusts in those days a whit less honest than the men of my
own time. The spirit of their own age was upon them, as that of
ours is upon us, and their ways of working the wherry entered more
or less into all their trafficking, whether for the commonality, or
for their own particular behoof and advantage.

I have been thus large and frank in my reflections anent the death
of the bailie, because, poor man, he had outlived the times for
which he was qualified; and, instead of the merriment and jocularity
that his wily by-hand ways used to cause among his neighbours, the
rising generation began to pick and dab at him, in such a manner,
that, had he been much longer spared, it is to be feared he would
not have been allowed to enjoy his earnings both with ease and
honour. However, he got out of the world with some respect, and the
matters of which I have now to speak, are exalted, both in method
and principle, far above the personal considerations that took
something from the public virtue of his day and generation.


It was in the course of the winter, after the decease of Bailie
M'Lucre, that the great loss of lives took place, which every body
agreed was one of the most calamitous things that had for many a
year befallen the town.

Three or four vessels were coming with cargoes of grain from
Ireland; another from the Baltic with Norawa deals; and a third from
Bristol, where she had been on a charter for some Greenock

It happened that, for a time, there had been contrary winds, against
which no vessel could enter the port, and the ships, whereof I have
been speaking, were all lying together at anchor in the bay, waiting
a change of weather. These five vessels were owned among ourselves,
and their crews consisted of fathers and sons belonging to the
place, so that, both by reason of interest and affection, a more
than ordinary concern was felt for them; for the sea was so rough,
that no boat could live in it to go near them, and we had our fears
that the men on board would be very ill off. Nothing, however,
occurred but this natural anxiety, till the Saturday, which was
Yule. In the morning the weather was blasty and sleety, waxing more
and more tempestuous till about mid-day, when the wind checked
suddenly round from the nor-east to the sou-west, and blew a gale as
if the prince of the powers of the air was doing his utmost to work
mischief. The rain blattered, the windows clattered, the shop-
shutters flapped, pigs from the lum-heads came rattling down like
thunder-claps, and the skies were dismal both with cloud and carry.
Yet, for all that, there was in the streets a stir and a busy
visitation between neighbours, and every one went to their high
windows, to look at the five poor barks that were warsling against
the strong arm of the elements of the storm and the ocean.

Still the lift gloomed, and the wind roared, and it was as doleful a
sight as ever was seen in any town afflicted with calamity, to see
the sailors' wives, with their red cloaks about their heads,
followed by their hirpling and disconsolate bairns, going one after
another to the kirkyard, to look at the vessels where their helpless
breadwinners were battling with the tempest. My heart was really
sorrowful, and full of a sore anxiety to think of what might happen
to the town, whereof so many were in peril, and to whom no human
magistracy could extend the arm of protection. Seeing no abatement
of the wrath of heaven, that howled and roared around us, I put on
my big-coat, and taking my staff in my hand, having tied down my hat
with a silk handkerchief, towards gloaming I walked likewise to the
kirkyard, where I beheld such an assemblage of sorrow, as few men in
situation have ever been put to the trial to witness.

In the lea of the kirk many hundreds of the town were gathered
together; but there was no discourse among them. The major part
were sailors' wives and weans, and at every new thud of the blast, a
sob rose, and the mothers drew their bairns closer in about them, as
if they saw the visible hand of a foe raised to smite them. Apart
from the multitude, I observed three or four young lasses standing
behind the Whinnyhill families' tomb, and I jealoused that they had
joes in the ships; for they often looked to the bay, with long necks
and sad faces, from behind the monument. A widow woman, one old
Mary Weery, that was a lameter, and dependent on her son, who was on
board the Louping Meg, (as the Lovely Peggy was nicknamed at the
shore,) stood by herself, and every now and then wrung her hands,
crying, with a woeful voice, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh
away, blessed be the name of the Lord;"--but it was manifest to all
that her faith was fainting within her. But of all the piteous
objects there, on that doleful evening, none troubled my thoughts
more than three motherless children, that belonged to the mate of
one of the vessels in the jeopardy. He was an Englishman that had
been settled some years in the town, where his family had neither
kith nor kin; and his wife having died about a month before, the
bairns, of whom the eldest was but nine or so, were friendless
enough, though both my gudewife, and other well-disposed ladies,
paid them all manner of attention till their father would come home.
The three poor little things, knowing that he was in one of the
ships, had been often out and anxious, and they were then sitting
under the lea of a headstone, near their mother's grave, chittering
and creeping closer and closer at every squall. Never was such an
orphan-like sight seen.

When it began to be so dark that the vessels could no longer be
discerned from the churchyard, many went down to the shore, and I
took the three babies home with me, and Mrs Pawkie made tea for
them, and they soon began to play with our own younger children, in
blythe forgetfulness of the storm; every now and then, however, the
eldest of them, when the shutters rattled and the lum-head roared,
would pause in his innocent daffing, and cower in towards Mrs
Pawkie, as if he was daunted and dismayed by something he knew not

Many a one that night walked the sounding shore in sorrow, and fires
were lighted along it to a great extent; but the darkness and the
noise of the raging deep, and the howling wind, never intermitted
till about midnight: at which time a message was brought to me,
that it might be needful to send a guard of soldiers to the beach,
for that broken masts and tackle had come in, and that surely some
of the barks had perished. I lost no time in obeying this
suggestion, which was made to me by one of the owners of the Louping
Meg; and to show that I sincerely sympathized with all those in
affliction, I rose and dressed myself, and went down to the shore,
where I directed several old boats to be drawn up by the fires, and
blankets to be brought, and cordials prepared, for them that might
be spared with life to reach the land; and I walked the beach with
the mourners till the morning.

As the day dawned, the wind began to abate in its violence, and to
wear away from the sou-west into the norit, but it was soon
discovered that some of the vessels with the corn had perished; for
the first thing seen, was a long fringe of tangle and grain along
the line of the highwater mark, and every one strained with greedy
and grieved eyes, as the daylight brightened, to discover which had
suffered. But I can proceed no further with the dismal recital of
that doleful morning. Let it suffice here to be known, that,
through the haze, we at last saw three of the vessels lying on their
beam-ends with their masts broken, and the waves riding like the
furious horses of destruction over them. What had become of the
other two was never known; but it was supposed that they had
foundered at their anchors, and that all on board perished.

The day being now Sabbath, and the whole town idle, every body in a
manner was down on the beach, to help and mourn as the bodies, one
after another, were cast out by the waves. Alas! few were the
better of my provident preparation, and it was a thing not to be
described, to see, for more than a mile along the coast, the new-
made widows and fatherless bairns, mourning and weeping over the
corpses of those they loved. Seventeen bodies were, before ten
o'clock, carried to the desolated dwelling of their families; and
when old Thomas Pull, the betheral, went to ring the bell for public
worship, such was the universal sorrow of the town, that Nanse
Donsie, an idiot natural, ran up the street to stop him, crying, in
the voice of a pardonable desperation, "Wha, in sic a time, can
praise the Lord?"


The calamity of the storm opened and disposed the hearts of the
whole town to charity; and it was a pleasure to behold the manner in
which the tide of sympathy flowed towards the sufferers. Nobody
went to the church in the forenoon; but when I had returned home
from the shore, several of the council met at my house to confer
anent the desolation, and it was concerted among us, at my
suggestion, that there should be a meeting of the inhabitants called
by the magistrates, for the next day, in order to take the public
compassion with the tear in the eye--which was accordingly done by
Mr Pittle himself from the pulpit, with a few judicious words on the
heavy dispensation. And the number of folk that came forward to
subscribe was just wonderful. We got well on to a hundred pounds in
the first two hours, besides many a bundle of old clothes. But one
of the most remarkable things in the business was done by Mr
Macandoe. He was, in his original, a lad of the place, who had gone
into Glasgow, where he was in a topping line; and happening to be on
a visit to his friends at the time, he came to the meeting and put
down his name for twenty guineas, which he gave me in bank-notes--a
sum of such liberality as had never been given to the town from one
individual man, since the mortification of fifty pounds that we got
by the will of Major Bravery that died in Cheltenham, in England,
after making his fortune in India. The sum total of the
subscription, when we got my lord's five-and-twenty guineas, was
better than two hundred pounds sterling--for even several of the
country gentlemen were very generous contributors, and it is well
known that they are not inordinately charitable, especially to town
folks--but the distribution of it was no easy task, for it required
a discrimination of character as well as of necessities. It was at
first proposed to give it over to the session. I knew, however,
that, in their hands, it would do no good; for Mr Pittle, the
minister, was a vain sort of a body, and easy to be fleeched, and
the bold and the bardy with him would be sure to come in for a
better share than the meek and the modest, who might be in greater
want. So I set myself to consider what was the best way of
proceeding; and truly upon reflection, there are few events in my
history that I look back upon with more satisfaction than the part I
performed in this matter; for, before going into any division of the
money, I proposed that we should allot it to three classes--those
who were destitute; those who had some help, but large families; and
those to whom a temporality would be sufficient--and that we should
make a visitation to the houses of all the sufferers, in order to
class them under their proper heads aright. By this method, and
together with what I had done personally in the tempest, I got great
praise and laud from all reflecting people; and it is not now to be
told what a consolation was brought to many a sorrowful widow and
orphan's heart, by the patience and temperance with which the fund
of liberality was distributed; yet because a small sum was reserved
to help some of the more helpless at another time, and the same was
put out to interest in the town's books, there were not wanting
evil-minded persons who went about whispering calumnious innuendos
to my disadvantage; but I know, by this time, the nature of the
world, and how impossible it is to reason with such a seven-headed
and ten-horned beast as the multitude. So I said nothing; only I
got the town-clerk's young man, who acted as clerk to the committee
of the subscription, to make out a fair account of the distribution
of the money, and to what intent the residue had been placed in the
town-treasurer's hand; and this I sent unto a friend in Glasgow to
get printed for me, the which he did; and when I got the copies, I
directed one to every individual subscriber, and sent the town-
drummer an end's errand with them, which was altogether a proceeding
of a method and exactness so by common, that it not only quenched
the envy of spite utterly out, but contributed more and more to give
me weight and authority with the community, until I had the whole
sway and mastery of the town.


Death is a great reformer of corporate bodies, and we found, now and
then, the benefit of his helping hand in our royal burgh. From the
time of my being chosen into the council; and, indeed, for some
years before, Mr Hirple had been a member, but, from some secret and
unexpressed understanding among us, he was never made a bailie; for
he was not liked; having none of that furthy and jocose spirit so
becoming in a magistrate of that degree, and to which the gifts of
gravity and formality make but an unsubstantial substitute. He was,
on the contrary, a queer and quistical man, of a small stature of
body, with an outshot breast, the which, I am inclined to think, was
one of the main causes of our never promoting him into the
ostensible magistracy; besides, his temper was exceedingly brittle;
and in the debates anent the weightiest concerns of the public, he
was apt to puff and fiz, and go off with a pluff of anger like a
pioye; so that, for the space of more than five-and-twenty years, we
would have been glad of his resignation; and, in the heat of
argument, there was no lack of hints to that effect from more than
one of his friends, especially from Bailie Picken, who was himself a
sharp-tempered individual, and could as ill sit quiet under a
contradiction as any man I ever was conjunct with. But just before
the close of my second provostry, Providence was kind to Mr Hirple,
and removed him gently away from the cares, and troubles, and the
vain policy of this contending world, into, as I hope and trust, a
far better place.

It may seem, hereafter, to the unlearned readers among posterity,
particularly to such of them as may happen not to be versed in that
state of things which we were obligated to endure, very strange that
I should make this special mention of Mr Hirple at his latter end,
seeing and observing the small store and account I have thus set
upon his talents and personalities. But the verity of the reason is
plainly this: we never discovered his worth and value till we had
lost him, or rather, till we found the defect and gap that his death
caused, and the affliction that came in through it upon us in the
ill-advised selection of Mr Hickery to fill his vacant place.

The spunky nature of Mr Hirple was certainly very disagreeable often
to most of the council, especially when there was any difference of
opinion; but then it was only a sort of flash, and at the vote he
always, like a reasonable man, sided with the majority, and never
after attempted to rip up a decision when it was once so settled.
Mr Hickery was just the even down reverse of this. He never, to be
sure, ran himself into a passion, but then he continued to speak and
argue so long in reply, never heeding the most rational things of
his adversaries, that he was sure to put every other person in a
rage; in addition to all which, he was likewise a sorrowful body in
never being able to understand how a determination by vote ought to
and did put an end to every questionable proceeding; so that he was,
for a constancy, ever harping about the last subject discussed, as
if it had not been decided, until a new difference of opinion arose,
and necessitated him to change the burden and o'ercome of his
wearysome speeches.

It may seem remarkable that we should have taken such a plague into
the council, and be thought that we were well served for our folly;
but we were unacquaint with the character of the man--for although a
native of the town, he was in truth a stranger, having, at an early
age, espoused his fortune, and gone to Philadelphia in America; and
no doubt his argol-bargolous disposition was an inheritance
accumulated with his other conquest of wealth from the mannerless
Yankees. Coming home and settling among us, with a power of money,
(some said eleven thousand pounds,) a short time before Mr Hirple
departed this life, we all thought, on that event happening, it
would be a very proper compliment to take Mr Hickery into the
council, and accordingly we were so misfortunate as to do so; but I
trow we soon had reason to repent our indiscretion, and none more
than myself, who had first proposed him.

Mr Hickery having been chosen to supply the void caused by the death
of Mr Hirple, in the very first sederunt of the council after his
election, he kithed in his true colours.

Among other things that I had contemplated for the ornament and
edification of the burgh, was the placing up of lamps to light the
streets, such as may be seen in all well regulated cities and towns
of any degree. Having spoken of this patriotic project to several
of my colleagues, who all highly approved of the same, I had no
jealousy or suspicion that a design so clearly and luminously useful
would meet with any other opposition than, may be, some doubt as to
the fiscal abilities of our income. To be sure Mr Dribbles, who at
that time kept the head inns, and was in the council, said, with a
wink, that it might be found an inconvenience to sober folk that
happened, on an occasion now and then, to be an hour later than
usual among their friends, either at his house or any other, to be
shown by the lamps to the profane populace as they were making the
best of their way home; and Mr Dippings, the candlemaker, with less
public spirit than might have been expected from one who made such a
penny by the illuminations on news of victory, was of opinion that
lamps would only encourage the commonality to keep late hours; and
that the gentry were in no need of any thing of the sort, having
their own handsome glass lanterns, with two candles in them,
garnished and adorned with clippit paper; an equipage which he
prophesied would soon wear out of fashion when lamps were once
introduced, and the which prediction I have lived to see verified;
for certainly, now-a-days, except when some elderly widow lady, or
maiden gentlewoman, wanting the help and protection of man, happens
to be out at her tea and supper, a tight and snod serving lassie,
with a three-cornered glass lantern, is never seen on the causey.
But, to return from this digression; saving and excepting the
remarks of Mr Dribbles and Mr Dippings, and neither of them could be
considered as made in a sincere frame of mind, I had no foretaste of
any opposition. I was, therefore, but ill prepared for the worrying
argument with which Mr Hickery seized upon the scheme, asserting and
maintaining, among other apparatus-like reasoning, that in such a
northern climate as that of Scotland, and where the twilight was of
such long duration, it would be a profligate waste of the public
money to employ it on any thing so little required as lamps were in
our streets.

He had come home from America in the summer time, and I reminded
him, that it certainly could never be the intention of the
magistrates to light the lamps all the year round; but that in the
winter there was a great need of them; for in our northern climate
the days were then very short, as he would soon experience, and
might probably recollect. But never, surely, was such an endless
man created. For, upon this, he immediately rejoined, that the
streets would be much more effectually lighted, than by all the
lamps I proposed to put up, were the inhabitants ordered to sit with
their window-shutters open. I really did not know what answer to
make to such a proposal, but I saw it would never do to argue with
him; so I held my tongue quietly, and as soon as possible, on a
pretence of private business, left the meeting, not a little
mortified to find such a contrary spirit had got in among us.

After that meeting of the council, I went cannily round to all the
other members, and represented to them, one by one, how proper it
was that the lamps should be set up, both for a credit to the town,
and as a conformity to the fashion of the age in every other place.
And I took occasion to descant, at some length, on the untractable
nature of Mr Hickery, and how it would be proper before the next
meeting to agree to say nothing when the matter was again brought on
the carpet, but just to come to the vote at once. Accordingly this
was done, but it made no difference to Mr Hickery; on the contrary,
he said, in a vehement manner, that he was sure there must be some
corrupt understanding among us, otherwise a matter of such
importance could not have been decided by a silent vote; and at
every session of the council, till some new matter of difference
cast up, he continued cuckooing about the lamp-job, as he called it,
till he had sickened every body out of all patience.


The first question that changed the bark of Mr Hickery, was my
proposal for the side plainstones of the high street. In the new
paving of the crown of the causey, some years before, the rise in
the middle had been levelled to an equality with the side loans, and
in disposing of the lamp-posts, it was thought advantageous to place
them halfway from the houses and the syvers, between the loans and
the crown of the causey, which had the effect at night, of making
the people who were wont, in their travels and visitations, to keep
the middle of the street, to diverge into the space and path between
the lamp-posts and the houses. This, especially in wet weather, was
attended with some disadvantages; for the pavement, close to the
houses, was not well laid, and there being then no ronns to the
houses, at every other place, particularly where the nepus-gables
were towards the streets, the rain came gushing in a spout, like as
if the windows of heaven were opened. And, in consequence, it began
to be freely conversed, that there would be a great comfort in
having the sides of the streets paved with flags, like the
plainstones of Glasgow, and that an obligation should be laid on the
landlords, to put up ronns to kepp the rain, and to conduct the
water down in pipes by the sides of the houses;--all which furnished
Mr Hickery with fresh topics for his fasherie about the lamps, and
was, as he said, proof and demonstration of that most impolitic,
corrupt, and short-sighted job, the consequences of which would
reach, in the shape of some new tax, every ramification of society;-
-with divers other American argumentatives to the same effect.
However, in process of time, by a judicious handling and the help of
an advantageous free grassum, which we got for some of the town
lands from Mr Shuttlethrift the manufacturer, who was desirous to
build a villa-house, we got the flagstone part of the project
accomplished, and the landlords gradually, of their own free-will,
put up the ronns, by which the town has been greatly improved and

But new occasions call for new laws; the side pavement,
concentrating the people, required to be kept cleaner, and in better
order, than when the whole width of the street was in use; so that
the magistrates were constrained to make regulations concerning the
same, and to enact fines and penalties against those who neglected
to scrape and wash the plainstones forenent their houses, and to
denounce, in the strictest terms, the emptying of improper utensils
on the same; and this, until the people had grown into the habitude
of attending to the rules, gave rise to many pleas, and contentious
appeals and bickerings, before the magistrates. Among others
summoned before me for default, was one Mrs Fenton, commonly called
the Tappit-hen, who kept a small change-house, not of the best
repute, being frequented by young men, of a station of life that
gave her heart and countenance to be bardy, even to the bailies. It
happened that, by some inattention, she had, one frosty morning,
neglected to soop her flags, and old Miss Peggy Dainty being early
afoot, in passing her door committed a false step, by treading on a
bit of a lemon's skin, and her heels flying up, down she fell on her
back, at full length, with a great cloyt. Mrs Fenton, hearing the
accident, came running to the door, and seeing the exposure that
perjink Miss Peggy had made of herself, put her hands to her sides,
and laughed for some time as if she was by herself. Miss Peggy,
being sorely hurt in the hinder parts, summoned Mrs Fenton before
me, where the whole affair, both as to what was seen and heard, was
so described, with name and surname, that I could not keep my
composure. It was, however, made manifest, that Mrs Fenton had
offended the law, in so much, as her flags had not been swept that
morning; and therefore, to appease the offended delicacy of Miss
Peggy, who was a most respectable lady in single life, I fined the
delinquent five shillings.

"Mr Pawkie," said the latheron, "I'll no pay't. Whar do ye expeck a
widow woman like me can get five shillings for ony sic nonsense?"

"Ye must not speak in that manner, honest woman," was my reply; "but
just pay the fine."

"In deed and truth, Mr Pawkie," quo she, "it's ill getting a breek
off a highlandman. I'll pay no sic thing--five shillings--that's a

I thought I would have been constrained to send her to prison, the
woman grew so bold and contumacious, when Mr Hickery came in, and
hearing what was going forward, was evidently working himself up to
take the randy's part; but fortunately she had a suspicion that all
the town-council and magistrates were in league against her, on
account of the repute of her house, so that when he enquired of her
where she lived, with a view, as I suspect, of interceding, she
turned to him, and with a leer and a laugh, said, "Dear me, Mr
Hickery, I'm sure ye hae nae need to speer that!"

The insinuation set up his birses; but she bamboozled him with her
banter, and raised such a laugh against him, that he was fairly
driven from the council room, and I was myself obliged to let her
go, without exacting the fine.

Who would have thought that this affair was to prove to me the means
of an easy riddance of Mr Hickery? But so it turned out; for
whether or not there was any foundation for the traffickings with
him which she pretended, he never could abide to hear the story
alluded to, which, when I discerned, I took care, whenever he showed
any sort of inclination to molest the council with his propugnacity,
to joke him about his bonny sweetheart, "the Tappit-hen," and he
instantly sang dumb, and quietly slipped away; by which it may be
seen how curiously events come to pass, since, out of the very first
cause of his thwarting me in the lamps, I found, in process of time,
a way of silencing him far better than any sort of truth or reason.


I have already related, at full length, many of the particulars
anent the electing of the first set of volunteers; the which, by
being germinated partly under the old system of public intromission,
was done with more management and slight of art than the second.
This, however, I will ever maintain, was not owing to any greater
spirit of corruption; but only and solely to following the ancient
dexterous ways, that had been, in a manner, engrained with the very
nature of every thing pertaining to the representation of government
as it existed, not merely in burgh towns, but wheresoever the crown
and ministers found it expedient to have their lion's paw.

Matters were brought to a bearing differently, when, in the second
edition of the late war, it was thought necessary to call on the
people to resist the rampageous ambition of Bonaparte, then champing
and trampling for the rich pastures of our national commonwealth.
Accordingly, I kept myself aloof from all handling in the
pecuniaries of the business; but I lent a friendly countenance to
every feasible project that was likely to strengthen the confidence
of the king in the loyalty and bravery of his people. For by this
time I had learnt, that there was a wake-rife common sense abroad
among the opinions of men; and that the secret of the new way of
ruling the world was to follow, not to control, the evident dictates
of the popular voice; and I soon had reason to felicitate myself on
this prudent and seasonable discovery. For it won me great
reverence among the forward young men, who started up at the call of
their country; and their demeanour towards me was as tokens and
arles, from the rising generation, of being continued in respect and
authority by them. Some of my colleagues, who are as well not
named, by making themselves over busy, got but small thank for their
pains. I was even preferred to the provost, as the medium of
communicating the sentiments of the volunteering lads to the lord-
lieutenant; and their cause did not suffer in my hands, for his
lordship had long been in the habit of considering me as one of the
discreetest men in the burgh; and although he returned very civil
answers to all letters, he wrote to me in the cordial erudition of
an old friend--a thing which the volunteers soon discerned, and
respected me accordingly.

But the soldiering zeal being spontaneous among all ranks, and
breaking forth into ablaze without any pre-ordered method, some of
the magistrates were disconcerted, and wist not what to do. I'll no
take it upon me to say that they were altogether guided by a desire
to have a finger in the pie, either in the shape of the honours of
command or the profits of contract. This, however, is certain, that
they either felt or feigned a great alarm and consternation at
seeing such a vast military power in civil hands, over which they
had no natural control; and, as was said, independent of the crown
and parliament. Another thing there could be no doubt of: in the
frame of this fear they remonstrated with the government, and
counselled the ministers to throw a wet blanket on the ardour of the
volunteering, which, it is well known, was very readily done; for
the ministers, on seeing such a pressing forward to join the banners
of the kingdom, had a dread and regard to the old leaven of
Jacobinism, and put a limitation on the number of the armed men that
were to be allowed to rise in every place--a most ill-advised
prudence, as was made manifest by what happened among us, of which I
will now rehearse the particulars, and the part I had in it myself.

As soon as it was understood among the commonality that the French
were determined to subdue and make a conquest of Britain, as they
had done of all the rest of Europe, holding the noses of every
continental king and potentate to the grindstone, there was a
prodigious stir and motion in all the hearts and pulses of Scotland,
and no where in a more vehement degree than in Gudetown. But, for
some reason or an other which I could never dive into the bottom of,
there was a slackness or backwardness on the part of government in
sending instructions to the magistrates to step forward; in so much
that the people grew terrified that they would be conquered, without
having even an opportunity to defend, as their fathers did of old,
the hallowed things of their native land; and, under the sense of
this alarm, they knotted themselves together, and actually drew out
proposals and resolutions of service of their own accord; by which
means they kept the power of choosing their officers in their own
hands, and so gave many of the big-wigs of the town a tacit
intimation that they were not likely to have the command.

While things were in this process, the government had come to its
senses; and some steps and measures were taken to organize volunteer
corps throughout the nation. Taking heart from them, other corps
were proposed on the part of the gentry, in which they were
themselves to have the command; and seeing that the numbers were to
be limited, they had a wish and interest to keep back the real
volunteer offers, and to get their own accepted in their stead. A
suspicion of this sort getting vent, an outcry of discontent thereat
arose against them; and to the consternation of the magistrates, the
young lads, who had at the first come so briskly forward, called a
meeting of their body, and, requesting the magistrates to be
present, demanded to know what steps had been taken with their offer
of service; and, if transmitted to government, what answer had been

This was a new era in public affairs; and no little amazement and
anger was expressed by some of the town-council, that any set of
persons should dare to question and interfere with the magistrates.
But I saw it would never do to take the bull by the horns in that
manner at such a time; so I commenced with Bailie Sprose, my lord
being at the time provost, and earnestly beseeched him to attend the
meeting with me, and to give a mild answer to any questions that
might be put; and this was the more necessary, as there was some
good reason to believe, that, in point of fact, the offer of service
had been kept back.

We accordingly went to the meeting, where Mr Sprose, at my
suggestion, stated, that we had received no answer; and that we
could not explain how the delay had arisen. This, however, did not
pacify the volunteers; but they appointed certain of their own
number, a committee, to attend to the business, and to communicate
with the secretary of state direct; intimating, that the members of
the committee were those whom they intended to elect for their
officers. This was a decisive step, and took the business entirely
out of the hands of the magistrates; so, after the meeting, both Mr
Sprose and myself agreed, that no time should be lost in
communicating to the lord-lieutenant what had taken place.

Our letter, and the volunteers' letter, went by the same post; and
on receiving ours, the lord-lieutenant had immediately some
conference with the secretary of state, who, falling into the views
of his lordship, in preferring the offers of the corps proposed by
the gentry, sent the volunteers word in reply, that their services,
on the terms they had proposed, which were of the least possible
expense to government, could not be accepted.

It was hoped that this answer would have ended the matter; but there
were certain propugnacious spirits in the volunteers' committee; and
they urged and persuaded the others to come into resolutions, to the
effect that, having made early offers of service, on terms less
objectionable in every point than those of many offers subsequently
made and accepted, unless their offer was accepted, they would
consider themselves as having the authority of his majesty's
government to believe and to represent, that there was, in truth, no
reason to apprehend that the enemy meditated any invasion and these
resolutions they sent off to London forthwith, before the
magistrates had time to hear or to remonstrate against the use of
such novel language from our burgh to his majesty's ministers.

We, however, heard something; and I wrote my lord, to inform him
that the volunteers had renewed their offer, (for so we understood
their representation was;) and he, from what he had heard before
from the secretary of state, not expecting the effect it would have,
answered me, that their offer could not be accepted. But to our
astonishment, by the same post, the volunteers found themselves
accepted, and the gentlemen they recommended for their officers
gazetted; the which, as I tell frankly, was an admonition to me,
that the peremptory will of authority was no longer sufficient for
the rule of mankind; and, therefore, I squared my after conduct more
by a deference to public opinion, than by any laid down maxims and
principles of my own; the consequence of which was, that my
influence still continued to grow and gather strength in the
community, and I was enabled to accomplish many things that my
predecessors would have thought it was almost beyond the compass of
man to undertake.


In the course of these notandums, I have, here and there, touched on
divers matters that did not actually pertain to my own magisterial
life, further than as showing the temper and spirit in which
different things were brought to a bearing; and, in the same way, I
will now again step aside from the regular course of public affairs,
to record an occurrence which, at the time, excited no small
wonderment and sympathy, and in which it was confessed by many that
I performed a very judicious part. The event here spoken of, was
the quartering in the town, after the removal of that well-behaved
regiment, the Argyle fencibles, the main part of another, the name
and number of which I do not now recollect; but it was an English
corps, and, like the other troops of that nation, was not then
brought into the sobriety of discipline to which the whole British
army has since been reduced, by the paternal perseverance of his
Royal Highness the Duke of York; so that, after the douce and
respectful Highlanders, we sorely felt the consequences of the
outstropolous and galravitching Englishers, who thought it no
disgrace to fill themselves as fou as pipers, and fight in the
streets, and march to the church on the Lord's day with their band
of music. However, after the first Sunday, upon a remonstrance on
the immorality of such irreligious bravery, Colonel Cavendish, the
commandant, silenced the musicians.

Among the officers, there was one Captain Armour, an extraordinar
well demeaned, handsome man, who was very shy of accepting any
civility from the town gentry, and kept himself aloof from all our
ploys and entertainments, in such a manner, that the rest of the
officers talked of him, marvelling at the cause, for it was not his
wont in other places.

One Sabbath, during the remembering prayer, Mr Pittle put up a few
words for criminals under sentence of death, there being two at the
time in the Ayr jail, at the which petition I happened to look at
Captain Armour, who, with the lave of the officers, were within the
magistrates' loft, and I thought he had, at the moment, a likeness
to poor Jeanie Gaisling, that was executed for the murder of her
bastard bairn.

This notion at the time disturbed me very much, and one thought
after another so came into my head, that I could pay no attention to
Mr Pittle, who certainly was but a cauldrife preacher, and never
more so than on that day. In short, I was haunted with the fancy,
that Captain Armour was no other than the misfortunate lassie's poor
brother, who had in so pathetical a manner attended her and the
magistrates to the scaffold; and, what was very strange, I was not
the only one in the kirk who thought the same thing; for the
resemblance, while Mr Pittle was praying, had been observed by many;
and it was the subject of discourse in my shop on the Monday
following, when the whole history of that most sorrowful concern was
again brought to mind. But, without dwelling at large on the
particularities, I need only mention, that it began to be publicly
jealoused that he was indeed the identical lad, which moved every
body; for he was a very good and gallant officer, having risen by
his own merits, and was likewise much beloved in the regiment.
Nevertheless, though his sister's sin was no fault of his, and could
not impair the worth of his well-earned character, yet some of the
thoughtless young ensigns began to draw off from him, and he was
visited, in a manner, with the disgrace of an excommunication.

Being, however, a sensible man, he bore it for a while patiently,
may be hoping that the suspicion would wear away; but my lord, with
all his retinue, coming from London to the castle for the summer,
invited the officers one day to dine with him and the countess, when
the fact was established by a very simple accident.

Captain Armour, in going up the stairs, and along the crooked old
passages of the castle, happened to notice that the colonel, who was
in the van, turned to the wrong hand, and called to him to take the
other way, which circumstance convinced all present that he was
domestically familiar with the labyrinths of the building; and the
consequence was, that, during dinner, not one of the officers spoke
to him, some from embarrassment and others from pride.

The earl perceiving their demeanour, enquired of the colonel, when
they had returned from the table to the drawing-room, as to the
cause of such a visible alienation, and Colonel Cavendish, who was
much of the gentleman, explaining it, expressing his grief that so
unpleasant a discovery had been made to the prejudice of so worthy a
man, my lord was observed to stand some time in a thoughtful
posture, after which he went and spoke in a whisper to the countess,
who advised him, as her ladyship in the sequel told me herself, to
send for me, as a wary and prudent man. Accordingly a servant was
secretly dispatched express to the town on that errand; my lord and
my lady insisting on the officers staying to spend the evening with
them, which was an unusual civility at the PRO FORMA dinners at the

When I arrived, the earl took me into his private library, and we
had some serious conversation about the captain's sister; and, when
I had related the circumstantialities of her end to him, he sent for
the captain, and with great tenderness, and a manner most kind and
gracious, told him what he had noticed in the conduct of the
officers, offering his mediation to appease any difference, if it
was a thing that could be done.

While my lord was speaking, the captain preserved a steady and
unmoved countenance: no one could have imagined that he was
listening to any thing but some grave generality of discourse; but
when the earl offered to mediate, his breast swelled, and his face
grew like his coat, and I saw his eyes fill with water as he turned
round, to hide the grief that could not be stifled. The passion of
shame, however, lasted but for a moment. In less time than I am in
writing these heads, he was again himself, and with a modest
fortitude that was exceedingly comely, he acknowledged who he was,
adding, that he feared his blameless disgrace entailed effects which
he could not hope to remove, and therefore it was his intention to
resign his commission. The earl, however, requested that he would
do nothing rashly, and that he should first allow him to try what
could be done to convince his brother officers that it was unworthy
of them to act towards him in the way they did. His lordship then
led us to the drawing-room, on entering which, he said aloud to the
countess in a manner that could not be misunderstood, "In Captain
Armour I have discovered an old acquaintance, who by his own merits,
and under circumstances that would have sunk any man less conscious
of his own purity and worth, has raised himself, from having once
been my servant, to a rank that makes me happy to receive him as my

I need not add, that this benevolence of his lordship was followed
with a most bountiful alteration towards the captain from all
present, in so much that, before the regiment was removed from the
town, we had the satisfaction of seeing him at divers of the town-
ploys, where he received every civility.


At the conclusion of my second provostry, or rather, as I think,
after it was over, an accident happened in the town that might have
led to no little trouble and contention but for the way and manner
that I managed the same. My friend and neighbour, Mr Kilsyth, an
ettling man, who had been wonderful prosperous in the spirit line,
having been taken on for a bailie, by virtue of some able handling
on the part of Deacon Kenitweel, proposed and propounded, that there
should be a ball and supper for the trades; and to testify his sense
of the honour that he owed to all the crafts, especially the
wrights, whereof Mr Kenitweel was then deacon, he promised to send
in both wine, rum, and brandy, from his cellar, for the company. I
did not much approve of the project, for divers reasons; the
principal of which was, because my daughters were grown into young
ladies, and I was, thank God, in a circumstance to entitle them to
hold their heads something above the trades. However, I could not
positively refuse my compliance, especially as Mrs Pawkie was
requested by Bailie Kilsyth, and those who took an active part in
furtherance of the ploy, to be the lady directress of the occasion.
And, out of an honour and homage to myself, I was likewise entreated
to preside at the head of the table, over the supper that was to
ensue after the dancing.

In its own nature, there was surely nothing of an objectionable
principle, in a "trades' ball;" but we had several young men of the
gentle sort about the town, blythe and rattling lads, who were
welcome both to high and low, and to whom the project seemed worthy
of a ridicule. It would, as I said at the time, have been just as
well to have made it really a trades' ball, without any adulteration
of the gentry; but the hempies alluded to jouked themselves in upon
us, and obligated the managers to invite them; and an ill return
they made for this discretion and civility, as I have to relate.

On the nightset for the occasion, the company met in the assembly-
room, in the New-inns, where we had bespoke a light genteel supper,
and had M'Lachlan, the fiddler, over from Ayr, for the purpose.
Nothing could be better while the dancing lasted; the whole concern
wore an appearance of the greatest genteelity. But when supper was
announced, and the company adjourned to partake of it, judge of the
universal consternation that was visible in every countenance, when,
instead of the light tarts, and nice jellies and sillybobs that were
expected, we beheld a long table, with a row down the middle of
rounds of beef, large cold veal-pies on pewter plates like tea-
trays, cold boiled turkeys, and beef and bacon hams, and, for
ornament in the middle, a perfect stack of celery.

The instant I entered the supper-room, I saw there had been a plot:
poor Bailie Kilsyth, who had all the night been in triumph and
glory, was for a season speechless; and when at last he came to
himself, he was like to have been the death of the landlord on the
spot; while I could remark, with the tail of my eye, that secret
looks of a queer satisfaction were exchanged among the beaux before
mentioned. This observe, when I made it, led me to go up to the
bailie as he was storming at the bribed and corrupt innkeeper, and
to say to him, that if he would leave the matter to me, I would
settle it to the content of all present; which he, slackening the
grip he had taken of the landlord by the throat, instantly conceded.
Whereupon, I went back to the head of the table, and said aloud,
"that the cold collection had been provided by some secret friends,
and although it was not just what the directors could have wished,
yet it would be as well to bring to mind the old proverb, which
instructs us no to be particular about the mouth of a gi'en horse."
But I added, "before partaking thereof, wel'll hae in our bill frae
the landlord, and settle it,"--and it was called accordingly. I
could discern, that this was a turn that the conspirators did not
look for. It, however, put the company a thought into spirits, and
they made the best o't. But, while they were busy at the table, I
took a canny opportunity of saying, under the rose to one of the
gentlemen, "that I saw through the joke, and could relish it just as
well as the plotters; but as the thing was so plainly felt as an
insult by the generality of the company, the less that was said
about it the better; and that if the whole bill, including the cost
of Bailie Kilsyth's wine and spirits, was defrayed, I would make no
enquiries, and the authors might never be known." This admonishment
was not lost, for by-and-by, I saw the gentleman confabbing
together; and the next morning, through the post, I received a
twenty-pound note in a nameless letter, requesting the amount of it
to be placed against the expense of the ball. I was overly well
satisfied with this to say a great deal of what I thought, but I
took a quiet step to the bank, where, expressing some doubt of the
goodness of the note, I was informed it was perfectly good, and had
been that very day issued from the bank to one of the gentlemen,
whom, even at this day, it would not be prudent to expose to danger
by naming.

Upon a consultation with the other gentlemen, who had the management
of the ball, it was agreed, that we should say nothing of the gift
of twenty pounds, but distribute it in the winter to needful
families, which was done; for we feared that the authors of the
derision would be found out, and that ill-blood might be bred in the


But although in the main I was considered by the events and
transactions already rehearsed, a prudent and sagacious man, yet I
was not free from the consequences of envy. To be sure, they were
not manifested in any very intolerant spirit, and in so far they
caused me rather molestation of mind than actual suffering; but
still they kithed in evil, and thereby marred the full satisfactory
fruition of my labours and devices. Among other of the outbreakings
alluded to that not a little vexed me, was one that I will relate,
and just in order here to show the animus of men's minds towards me.

We had in the town a clever lad, with a geni of a mechanical turn,
who made punch-bowls of leather, and legs for cripples of the same
commodity, that were lighter and easier to wear than either legs of
cork or timber. His name was Geordie Sooplejoint, a modest, douce,
and well-behaved young man--caring for little else but the
perfecting of his art. I had heard of his talent, and was curious
to converse with him; so I spoke to Bailie Pirlet, who had taken him
by the hand, to bring him and his leather punch-bowl, and some of
his curious legs and arms, to let me see them; the which the bailie
did, and it happened that while they were with me, in came Mr Thomas
M'Queerie, a dry neighbour at a joke.

After some generality of discourse concerning the inventions,
whereon Bailie Pirlet, who was naturally a gabby prick-me-dainty
body, enlarged at great length, with all his well dockit words, as
if they were on chandler's pins, pointing out here the utility of
the legs to persons maimed in the wars of their country, and showing
forth there in what manner the punch-bowls were specimens of a new
art that might in time supplant both China and Staffordshire ware,
and deducing therefrom the benefits that would come out of it to the
country at large, and especially to the landed interest, in so much
as the increased demand which it would cause for leather, would
raise the value of hides, and per consequence the price of black
cattle--to all which Mr M'Queerie listened with a shrewd and a
thirsty ear; and when the bailie had made an end of his paternoster,
he proposed that I should make a filling of Geordie's bowl, to try
if it did not leak.

"Indeed, Mr Pawkie," quo' he, "it will be a great credit to our town
to hae had the merit o' producing sic a clever lad, who, as the
bailie has in a manner demonstrated, is ordained to bring about an
augmentation o' trade by his punch-bowls, little short of what has
been done wi' the steam-engines. Geordie will be to us what James
Watt is to the ettling town of Greenook, so we can do no less than
drink prosperity to his endeavours."

I did not much like this bantering of Mr M'Queerie, for I saw it
made Geordie's face grow red, and it was not what he had deserved;
so to repress it, and to encourage the poor lad, I said, "Come,
come, neighbour, none of your wipes--what Geordie has done, is but
arles of what he may do."

"That's no to be debated," replied Mr M'Queerie, "for he has shown
already that he can make very good legs and arms; and I'm sure I
shouldna be surprised were he in time to make heads as good as a

I never saw any mortal man look as that pernickity personage, the
bailie, did at this joke, but I suppressed my own feelings; while
the bailie, like a bantam cock in a passion, stotted out of his
chair with the spunk of a birslet pea, demanding of Mr M'Queerie an
explanation of what he meant by the insinuation. It was with great
difficulty that I got him pacified; but unfortunately the joke was
oure good to be forgotten, and when it was afterwards spread abroad,
as it happened to take its birth in my house, it was laid to my
charge, and many a time was I obligated to tell all about it, and
how it couldna be meant for me, but had been incurred by Bailie
Pirlet's conceit of spinning out long perjink speeches.


Nor did I get every thing my own way, for I was often thwarted in
matters of small account, and suffered from them greater disturbance
and molestation than things of such little moment ought to have been
allowed to produce within me; and I do not think that any thing
happened in the whole course of my public life, which gave me more
vexation than what I felt in the last week of my second provostry.

For many a year, one Robin Boss had been town drummer; he was a
relic of some American-war fencibles, and was, to say the God's
truth of him, a divor body, with no manner of conduct, saving a very
earnest endeavour to fill himself fou as often as he could get the
means; the consequence of which was, that his face was as plooky as
a curran' bun, and his nose as red as a partan's tae.

One afternoon there was a need to send out a proclamation to abolish
a practice that was growing into a custom, in some of the bye parts
of the town, of keeping swine at large--ordering them to be confined
in proper styes, and other suitable places. As on all occasions
when the matter to be proclaimed was from the magistrates, Thomas,
on this, was attended by the town-officers in their Sunday garbs,
and with their halberts in their hands; but the abominable and
irreverent creature was so drunk, that he wamblet to and fro over
the drum, as if there had not been a bane in his body. He was
seemingly as soople and as senseless as a bolster.--Still, as this
was no new thing with him, it might have passed; for James Hound,
the senior officer, was in the practice, when Robin was in that
state, of reading the proclamations himself.--On this occasion,
however, James happened to be absent on some hue and cry quest, and
another of the officers (I forget which) was appointed to perform
for him. Robin, accustomed to James, no sooner heard the other man
begin to read, than he began to curse and swear at him as an
incapable nincompoop--an impertinent term that he was much addicted
to. The grammar school was at the time skailing, and the boys
seeing the stramash, gathered round the officer, and yelling and
shouting, encouraged Robin more and more into rebellion, till at
last they worked up his corruption to such a pitch, that he took the
drum from about his neck, and made it fly like a bombshell at the
officer's head.

The officers behaved very well, for they dragged Robin by the lug
and the horn to the tolbooth, and then came with their complaint to
me. Seeing how the authorities had been set at nought, and the
necessity there was of making an example, I forthwith ordered Robin
to be cashiered from the service of the town; and as so important a
concern as a proclamation ought not to be delayed, I likewise, upon
the spot, ordered the officers to take a lad that had been also a
drummer in a marching regiment, and go with him to make the

Nothing could be done in a more earnest and zealous public spirit
than this was done by me. But habit had begot in the town a
partiality for the drunken ne'er-do-well, Robin; and this just act
of mine was immediately condemned as a daring stretch of arbitrary
power; and the consequence was, that when the council met next day,
some sharp words flew from among us, as to my usurping an undue
authority; and the thank I got for my pains was the mortification to
see the worthless body restored to full power and dignity, with no
other reward than an admonition to behave better for the future.
Now, I leave it to the unbiassed judgment of posterity to determine
if any public man could be more ungraciously treated by his
colleagues than I was on this occasion. But, verily, the council
had their reward.


The divor, Robin Boss, being, as I have recorded, reinstated in
office, soon began to play his old tricks. In the course of the
week after the Michaelmas term at which my second provostry ended,
he was so insupportably drunk that he fell head foremost into his
drum, which cost the town five-and-twenty shillings for a new one--
an accident that was not without some satisfaction to me; and I trow
I was not sparing in my derisive commendations on the worth of such
a public officer. Nevertheless, he was still kept on, some
befriending him for compassion, and others as it were to spite me.

But Robin's good behaviour did not end with breaking the drum, and
costing a new one.--In the course of the winter it was his custom to
beat, "Go to bed, Tom," about ten o'clock at night, and the reveille
at five in the morning.--In one of his drunken fits he made a
mistake, and instead of going his rounds as usual at ten o'clock, he
had fallen asleep in a change house, and waking about the midnight
hour in the terror of some whisky dream, he seized his drum, and
running into the streets, began to strike the fire-beat in the most
awful manner.

It was a fine clear frosty moonlight, and the hollow sound of the
drum resounded through the silent streets like thunder.--In a moment
every body was a-foot, and the cry of "Whar is't? whar's the fire?"
was heard echoing from all sides.--Robin, quite unconscious that he
alone was the cause of the alarm, still went along beating the
dreadful summons. I heard the noise and rose; but while I was
drawing on my stockings, in the chair at the bed-head, and telling
Mrs Pawkie to compose herself, for our houses were all insured, I
suddenly recollected that Robin had the night before neglected to go
his rounds at ten o'clock as usual, and the thought came into my
head that the alarm might be one of his inebriated mistakes; so,
instead of dressing myself any further, I went to the window, and
looked out through the glass, without opening it, for, being in my
night clothes, I was afraid of taking cold.

The street was as throng as on a market day, and every face in the
moonlight was pale with fear.--Men and lads were running with their
coats, and carrying their breeches in their hands; wives and maidens
were all asking questions at one another, and even lasses were
fleeing to and fro, like water nymphs with urns, having stoups and
pails in their hands.--There was swearing and tearing of men, hoarse
with the rage of impatience, at the tolbooth, getting out the fire-
engine from its stance under the stair; and loud and terrible afar
off, and over all, came the peal of alarm from drunken Robin's drum.

I could scarcely keep my composity when I beheld and heard all this,
for I was soon thoroughly persuaded of the fact. At last I saw
Deacon Girdwood, the chief advocate and champion of Robin, passing
down the causey like a demented man, with a red nightcap, and his
big-coat on--for some had cried that the fire was in his yard.--
"Deacon," cried I, opening the window, forgetting in the jocularity
of the moment the risk I ran from being so naked, "whar away sae
fast, deacon?"

The deacon stopped and said, "Is't out? is't out?"

"Gang your ways home," quo' I very coolly, "for I hae a notion that
a' this hobleshow's but the fume of a gill in your friend Robin's

"It's no possible!" exclaimed the deacon.

"Possible here or possible there, Mr Girdwood," quo' I, "it's oure
cauld for me to stand talking wi' you here; we'll learn the rights
o't in the morning; so, good-night;" and with that I pulled down the
window. But scarcely had I done so, when a shout of laughter came
gathering up the street, and soon after poor drunken Robin was
brought along by the cuff of the neck, between two of the town-
officers, one of them carrying his drum. The next day he was put
out of office for ever, and folk recollecting in what manner I had
acted towards him before, the outcry about my arbitrary power was
forgotten in the blame that was heaped upon those who had espoused
Robin's cause against me.


For a long period of time, I had observed that there was a gradual
mixing in of the country gentry among the town's folks. This was
partly to be ascribed to a necessity rising out of the French
Revolution, whereby men of substance thought it an expedient policy
to relax in their ancient maxims of family pride and consequence;
and partly to the great increase and growth of wealth which the
influx of trade caused throughout the kingdom, whereby the merchants
were enabled to vie and ostentate even with the better sort of
lairds. The effect of this, however, was less protuberant in our
town than in many others which I might well name, and the cause
thereof lay mainly in our being more given to deal in the small way;
not that we lacked of traders possessed both of purse and
perseverance; but we did not exactly lie in the thoroughfare of
those mighty masses of foreign commodities, the throughgoing of
which left, to use the words of the old proverb, "goud in goupins"
with all who had the handling of the same. Nevertheless, we came in
for our share of the condescensions of the country gentry; and
although there was nothing like a melting down of them among us,
either by marrying or giving in marriage, there was a communion that
gave us some insight, no overly to their advantage, as to the extent
and measure of their capacities and talents. In short, we
discovered that they were vessels made of ordinary human clay; so
that, instead of our reverence for them being augmented by a freer
intercourse, we thought less and less of them, until, poor bodies,
the bit prideful lairdies were just looked down upon by our gawsie
big-bellied burgesses, not a few of whom had heritable bonds on
their estates. But in this I am speaking of the change when it had
come to a full head; for in verity it must be allowed that when the
country gentry, with their families, began to intromit among us, we
could not make enough of them. Indeed, we were deaved about the
affability of old crabbit Bodle of Bodletonbrae, and his sister,
Miss Jenny, when they favoured us with their company at the first
inspection ball. I'll ne'er forgot that occasion; for being then in
my second provostry, I had, in course of nature, been appointed a
deputy lord-lieutenant, and the town-council entertaining the
inspecting officers, and the officers of the volunteers, it fell as
a duty incumbent on me to be the director of the ball afterwards,
and to the which I sent an invitation to the laird and his sister
little hoping or expecting they would come. But the laird, likewise
being a deputy lord-lieutenant, he accepted the invitation, and came
with his sister in all the state of pedigree in their power. Such a
prodigy of old-fashioned grandeur as Miss Jenny was!--but neither
shop nor mantuamaker of our day and generation had been the better
o't. She was just, as some of the young lasses said, like Clarissa
Harlowe, in the cuts and copperplates of Mrs Rickerton's set of the
book, and an older and more curious set than Mrs Rickerton's was not
in the whole town; indeed, for that matter, I believe it was the
only one among us, and it had edified, as Mr Binder the bookseller
used to say, at least three successive generations of young ladies,
for he had himself given it twice new covers. We had, however, not
then any circulating library. But for all her antiquity and
lappets, it is not to be supposed what respect and deference Miss
Jenny and her brother, the laird, received--nor the small praise
that came to my share, for having had the spirit to invite them.
The ball was spoken of as the genteelest in the memory of man,
although to my certain knowledge, on account of the volunteers, some
were there that never thought to mess or mell in the same chamber
with Bodletonbrae and his sister, Miss Jenny.


Intending these notations for the instruction of posterity, it would
not be altogether becoming of me to speak of the domestic effects
which many of the things that I have herein jotted down had in my
own family. I feel myself, however, constrained in spirit to lift
aside a small bit of the private curtain, just to show how Mrs
Pawkie comported herself in the progressive vicissitudes of our
prosperity, in the act and doing of which I do not wish to throw any
slight on her feminine qualities; for, to speak of her as she
deserves at my hand, she has been a most excellent wife, and a
decent woman, and had aye a ruth and ready hand for the needful.
Still, to say the truth, she is not without a few little weaknesses
like her neighbours, and the ill-less vanity of being thought far
ben with the great is among others of her harmless frailities.

Soon after the inspection ball before spoken of, she said to me that
it would be a great benefit and advantage to our family if we could
get Bodletonbrae and his sister, and some of the other country
gentry, to dine with us. I was not very clear about how the benefit
was to come to book, for the outlay I thought as likely o'ergang the
profit; at the same time, not wishing to baulk Mrs Pawkie of a ploy
on which I saw her mind was bent, I gave my consent to her and my
daughters to send out the cards, and make the necessary
preparations. But herein I should not take credit to myself for
more of the virtue of humility than was my due; therefore I open the
door of my secret heart so far ajee, as to let the reader discern
that I was content to hear our invitations were all accepted.

Of the specialities and dainties of the banquet prepared, it is not
fitting that I should treat in any more particular manner, than to
say they were the best that could be had, and that our guests were
all mightily well pleased. Indeed, my wife was out of the body with
exultation when Mrs Auchans of that Ilk begged that she would let
her have a copy of the directions she had followed in making a
flummery, which the whole company declared was most excellent. This
compliment was the more pleasant, as Lady Auchans was well known for
her skill in savoury contrivances, and to have anything new to her
of the sort was a triumph beyond our most sanguine expectations. In
a word, from that day we found that we had taken, as it were, a step
above the common in the town. There were, no doubt, some who envied
our good fortune; but, upon the whole, the community at large were
pleased to see the consideration in which their chief magistrate was
held. It reflected down, as it were, upon themselves a glaik of the
sunshine that shone upon us; and although it may be a light thing,
as it is seemingly a vain one, to me to say, I am now pretty much of
Mrs Pawkie's opinion, that our cultivation of an intercourse with
the country gentry was, in the end, a benefit to our family, in so
far as it obtained, both for my sons and daughters, a degree of
countenance that otherwise could hardly have been expected from
their connexions and fortune, even though I had been twice provost.


But a sad accident shortly after happened, which had the effect of
making it as little pleasant to me to vex Mr Hickery with a joke
about the Tappit-hen, as it was to him. Widow Fenton, as I have
soberly hinted; for it is not a subject to be openly spoken of, had
many ill-assorted and irregular characters among her customers; and
a gang of play-actors coming to the town, and getting leave to
perform in Mr Dribble's barn, batches of the young lads, both gentle
and semple, when the play was over, used to adjourn to her house for
pies and porter, the commodities in which she chiefly dealt. One
night, when the deep tragedy of Mary Queen of Scots was the play,
there was a great concourse of people at "The Theatre Royal," and
the consequence was, that the Tappit-hen's house, both but and ben,
was, at the conclusion, filled to overflowing.

The actress that played Queen Elizabeth, was a little-worth
termagant woman, and, in addition to other laxities of conduct, was
addicted to the immorality of taking more than did her good, and
when in her cups, she would rant and ring fiercer than old Queen
Elizabeth ever could do herself. Queen Mary's part was done by a
bonny genty young lady, that was said to have run away from a
boarding-school, and, by all accounts, she acted wonderful well.
But she too was not altogether without a flaw, so that there was a
division in the town between their admirers and visiters; some
maintaining, as I was told, that Mrs Beaufort, if she would keep
herself sober, was not only a finer woman, but more of a lady, and a
better actress, than Miss Scarborough, while others considered her
as a vulgar regimental virago.

The play of Mary Queen of Scots, causing a great congregation of the
rival partizans of the two ladies to meet in the Tappit-hen's
public, some contention took place about the merits of their
respective favourites, and, from less to more, hands were raised,
and blows given, and the trades'-lads, being as hot in their
differences as the gentlemen, a dreadful riot ensued. Gillstoups,
porter bottles, and penny pies flew like balls and bomb-shells in
battle. Mrs Fenton, with her mutch off, and her hair loose, with
wide and wild arms, like a witch in a whirlwind, was seen trying to
sunder the challengers, and the champions. Finding, however, her
endeavours unavailing, and fearing that murder would be committed,
she ran like desperation into the streets, crying for help. I was
just at the time stepping into my bed, when I heard the uproar, and,
dressing myself again, I went out to the street; for the sound and
din of the riot came raging through the silence of the midnight,
like the tearing and swearing of the multitude at a house on fire,
and I thought no less an accident could be the cause.

On going into the street, I met several persons running to the scene
of action, and, among others, Mrs Beaufort, with a gallant of her
own, and both of them no in their sober senses. It's no for me to
say who he was; but assuredly, had the woman no been doited with
drink, she never would have seen any likeness between him and me,
for he was more than twenty years my junior. However, onward we all
ran to Mrs Fenton's house, where the riot, like a raging caldron
boiling o'er, had overflowed into the street.

The moment I reached the door, I ran forward with my stick raised,
but not with any design of striking man, woman, or child, when a
ramplor devil, the young laird of Swinton, who was one of the most
outstrapolous rakes about the town, wrenched it out of my grip, and
would have, I dare say, made no scruple of doing me some dreadful
bodily harm, when suddenly I found myself pulled out of the crowd by
a powerful-handed woman, who cried, "Come, my love; love, come:" and
who was this but that scarlet strumpet, Mrs Beaufort, who having
lost her gallant in the crowd, and being, as I think, blind fou, had
taken me for him, insisting before all present that I was her dear
friend, and that she would die for me--with other siclike
fantastical and randy ranting, which no queen in a tragedy could by
any possibility surpass. At first I was confounded and overtaken,
and could not speak; and the worst of all was, that, in a moment,
the mob seemed to forget their quarrel, and to turn in derision on
me. What might have ensued it would not be easy to say; but just at
this very critical juncture, and while the drunken latheron was
casting herself into antic shapes of distress, and flourishing with
her hands and arms to the heavens at my imputed cruelty, two of the
town-officers came up, which gave me courage to act a decisive part;
so I gave over to them Mrs Beaufort, with all her airs, and, going
myself to the guardhouse, brought a file of soldiers, and so quelled
the riot. But from that night I thought it prudent to eschew every
allusion to Mrs Fenton, and tacitly to forgive even Swinton for the
treatment I had received from him, by seeming as if I had not
noticed him, although I had singled him out by name.

Mrs Pawkie, on hearing what I had suffered from Mrs Beaufort, was
very zealous that I should punish her to the utmost rigour of the
law, even to drumming her out of the town; but forbearance was my
best policy, so I only persuaded my colleagues to order the players
to decamp, and to give the Tappit-hen notice, that it would be
expedient for the future sale of her pies and porter, at untimeous
hours, and that she should flit her howff from our town. Indeed,
what pleasure would it have been to me to have dealt unmercifully,
either towards the one or the other? for surely the gentle way of
keeping up a proper respect for magistrates, and others in
authority, should ever be preferred; especially, as in cases like
this, where there had been no premeditated wrong. And I say this
with the greater sincerity; for in my secret conscience, when I
think of the affair at this distance of time, I am pricked not a
little in reflecting how I had previously crowed and triumphed over
poor Mr Hickery, in the matter of his mortification at the time of
Miss Peggy Dainty's false step.


Heretofore all my magisterial undertakings and concerns had thriven
in a very satisfactory manner. I was, to be sure, now and then, as
I have narrated, subjected to opposition, and squibs, and a jeer;
and envious and spiteful persons were not wanting in the world to
call in question my intents and motives, representing my best
endeavours for the public good as but a right-handed method to
secure my own interests. It would be a vain thing of me to deny,
that, at the beginning of my career, I was misled by the wily
examples of the past times, who thought that, in taking on them to
serve the community, they had a privilege to see that they were
full-handed for what benefit they might do the public; but as I
gathered experience, and saw the rising of the sharp-sighted spirit
that is now abroad among the affairs of men, I clearly discerned
that it would be more for the advantage of me and mine to act with a
conformity thereto, than to seek, by any similar wiles or devices,
an immediate and sicker advantage. I may therefore say, without a
boast, that the two or three years before my third provostry were as
renowned and comfortable to myself, upon the whole, as any
reasonable man could look for. We cannot, however, expect a full
cup and measure of the sweets of life, without some adulteration of
the sour and bitter; and it was my lot and fate to prove an
experience of this truth, in a sudden and unaccountable falling off
from all moral decorum in a person of my brother's only son,
Richard, a lad that was a promise of great ability in his youth.

He was just between the tyning and the winning, as the saying is,
when the playactors, before spoken off, came to the town, being then
in his eighteenth year. Naturally of a light-hearted and funny
disposition, and possessing a jocose turn for mimickry, he was a
great favourite among his companions, and getting in with the
players, it seems drew up with that little-worth, demure daffodel,
Miss Scarborough, through the instrumentality of whose condisciples
and the randy Mrs Beaufort, that riot at Widow Fenton's began, which
ended in expurgating the town of the whole gang, bag and baggage.
Some there were, I shall here mention, who said that the expulsion
of the players was owing to what I had heard anent the intromission
of my nephew; but, in verity, I had not the least spunk or spark of
suspicion of what was going on between him and the miss, till one
night, some time after, Richard and the young laird of Swinton, with
others of their comrades, forgathered, and came to high words on the
subject, the two being rivals, or rather, as was said, equally in
esteem and favour with the lady.

Young Swinton was, to say the truth of him, a fine bold rattling
lad, warm in the temper, and ready with the hand, and no man's foe
so much as his own; for he was a spoiled bairn, through the
partiality of old Lady Bodikins, his grandmother, who lived in the
turreted house at the town-end, by whose indulgence he grew to be of
a dressy and rakish inclination, and, like most youngsters of the
kind, was vain of his shames, the which cost Mr Pittle's session no
little trouble. But--not to dwell on his faults--my nephew and he
quarrelled, and nothing less would serve them than to fight a duel,
which they did with pistols next morning; and Richard received from
the laird's first shot a bullet in the left arm, that disabled him
in that member for life. He was left for dead on the green where
they fought--Swinton and the two seconds making, as was supposed,
their escape.

When Richard was found faint and bleeding by Tammy Tout, the town-
herd, as he drove out the cows in the morning, the hobleshow is not
to be described; and my brother came to me, and insisted that I
should give him a warrant to apprehend all concerned. I was grieved
for my brother, and very much distressed to think of what had
happened to blithe Dicky, as I was wont to call my nephew when he
was a laddie, and I would fain have gratified the spirit of revenge
in myself; but I brought to mind his roving and wanton pranks, and I
counselled his father first to abide the upshot of the wound,
representing to him, in the best manner I could, that it was but the
quarrel of the young men, and that maybe his son was as muckle in
fault as Swinton.

My brother was, however, of a hasty temper, and upbraided me with my
slackness, on account, as he tauntingly insinuated, of the young
laird being one of my best customers, which was a harsh and
unrighteous doing; but it was not the severest trial which the
accident occasioned to me; for the same night, at a late hour, a
line was brought to me by a lassie, requesting I would come to a
certain place--and when I went there, who was it from but Swinton
and the two other young lads that had been the seconds at the duel.

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