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The Provost by John Galt

Part 3 out of 3

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"Bailie," said the laird on behalf of himself and friends, "though
you are the uncle of poor Dick, we have resolved to throw ourselves
into your hands, for we have not provided any money to enable us to
flee the country; we only hope you will not deal overly harshly with
us till his fate is ascertained."

I was greatly disconcerted, and wist not what to say; for knowing
the rigour of our Scottish laws against duelling, I was wae to see
three brave youths, not yet come to years of discretion, standing in
the peril and jeopardy of an ignominious end, and that, too, for an
injury done to my own kin; and then I thought of my nephew and of my
brother, that, maybe, would soon be in sorrow for the loss of his
only son. In short, I was tried almost beyond my humanity. The
three poor lads, seeing me hesitate, were much moved, and one of
them (Sandy Blackie) said, "I told you how it would be; it was even-
down madness to throw ourselves into the lion's mouth." To this
Swinton replied, "Mr Pawkie, we have cast ourselves on your mercy as
a gentleman."

What could I say to this, but that I hoped they would find me one;
and without speaking any more at that time--for indeed I could not,
my heart beat so fast--I bade them follow me, and taking them round
by the back road to my garden yett, I let them in, and conveyed them
into a warehouse where I kept my bales and boxes. Then slipping
into the house, I took out of the pantry a basket of bread and a
cold leg of mutton, which, when Mrs Pawkie and the servant lassies
missed in the morning, they could not divine what had become of; and
giving the same to them, with a bottle of wine--for they were very
hungry, having tasted nothing all day--I went round to my brother's
to see at the latest how Richard was. But such a stang as I got on
entering the house, when I heard his mother wailing that he was
dead, he having fainted away in getting the bullet extracted; and
when I saw his father coming out of the room like a demented man,
and heard again his upbraiding of me for having refused a warrant to
apprehend the murderers--I was so stunned with the shock, and with
the thought of the poor young lads in my mercy, that I could with
difficulty support myself along the passage into a room where there
was a chair, into which I fell rather than threw myself. I had not,
however, been long seated, when a joyful cry announced that Richard
was recovering, and presently he was in a manner free from pain; and
the doctor assured me the wound was probably not mortal. I did not,
however, linger long on hearing this; but hastening home, I took
what money I had in my scrutoire, and going to the malefactors,
said, "Lads, take thir twa three pounds, and quit the town as fast
as ye can, for Richard is my nephew, and blood, ye ken, is thicker
than water, and I may be tempted to give you up."

They started on their legs, and shaking me in a warm manner by both
the hands, they hurried away without speaking, nor could I say more,
as I opened the back yett to let them out, than bid them take tent
of themselves.

Mrs Pawkie was in a great consternation at my late absence, and when
I went home she thought I was ill, I was so pale and flurried, and
she wanted to send for the doctor, but I told her that when I was
calmed, I would be better; however, I got no sleep that night. In
the morning I went to see Richard, whom I found in a composed and
rational state: he confessed to his father that he was as muckle to
blame as Swinton, and begged and entreated us, if he should die, not
to take any steps against the fugitives: my brother, however, was
loth to make rash promises, and it was not till his son was out of
danger that I had any ease of mind for the part I had played. But
when Richard was afterwards well enough to go about, and the
duellers had come out of their hidings, they told him what l had
done, by which the whole affair came to the public, and I got great
fame thereby, none being more proud to speak of it than poor Dick
himself, who, from that time, became the bosom friend of Swinton; in
so much that, when he was out of his time as a writer, and had gone
through his courses at Edinburgh, the laird made him his man of
business, and, in a manner, gave him a nest egg.


Upon a consideration of many things, it appears to me very strange,
that almost the whole tot of our improvements became, in a manner,
the parents of new plagues and troubles to the magistrates. It
might reasonably have been thought that the lamps in the streets
would have been a terror to evil-doers, and the plainstone side-
pavements paths of pleasantness to them that do well; but, so far
from this being the case, the very reverse was the consequence. The
servant lasses went freely out (on their errands) at night, and at
late hours, for their mistresses, without the protection of
lanterns, by which they were enabled to gallant in a way that never
could have before happened: for lanterns are kenspeckle
commodities, and of course a check on every kind of gavaulling.
Thus, out of the lamps sprung no little irregularity in the conduct
of servants, and much bitterness of spirit on that account to
mistresses, especially to those who were of a particular turn, and
who did not choose that their maidens should spend their hours a-
field, when they could be profitably employed at home.

Of the plagues that were from the plainstones, I have given an
exemplary specimen in the plea between old perjink Miss Peggy
Dainty, and the widow Fenton, that was commonly called the Tappit-
hen. For the present, I shall therefore confine myself in this NOTA
BENA to an accident that happened to Mrs Girdwood, the deacon of the
coopers' wife--a most managing, industrious, and indefatigable
woman, that allowed no grass to grow in her path.

Mrs Girdwood had fee'd one Jeanie Tirlet, and soon after she came
home, the mistress had her big summer washing at the public washing-
house on the green--all the best of her sheets and napery--both what
had been used in the course of the winter, and what was only washed
to keep clear in the colour, were in the boyne. It was one of the
greatest doings of the kind that the mistress had in the whole
course of the year, and the value of things intrusted to Jeanie's
care was not to be told, at least so said Mrs Girdwood herself.

Jeanie and Marion Sapples, the washerwoman, with a pickle tea and
sugar tied in the corners of a napkin, and two measured glasses of
whisky in an old doctor's bottle, had been sent with the foul
clothes the night before to the washing-house, and by break of day
they were up and at their work; nothing particular, as Marion said,
was observed about Jeanie till after they had taken their breakfast,
when, in spreading out the clothes on the green, some of the ne'er-
do-weel young clerks of the town were seen gaffawing and haverelling
with Jeanie, the consequence of which was, that all the rest of the
day she was light-headed; indeed, as Mrs Girdwood told me herself,
when Jeanie came in from the green for Marion's dinner, she couldna
help remarking to her goodman, that there was something fey about
the lassie, or, to use her own words, there was a storm in her tail,
light where it might. But little did she think it was to bring the
dule it did to her.

Jeanie having gotten the pig with the wonted allowance of broth and
beef in it for Marion, returned to the green, and while Marion was
eating the same, she disappeared. Once away, aye away; hilt or hair
of Jeanie was not seen that night. Honest Marion Sapples worked
like a Trojan to the gloaming, but the light latheron never came
back; at last, seeing no other help for it, she got one of the other
women at the washing-house to go to Mrs Girdwood and to let her know
what had happened, and how the best part of the washing would,
unless help was sent, be obliged to lie out all night.

The deacon's wife well knew the great stake she had on that occasion
in the boyne, and was for a season demented with the thought; but at
last summoning her three daughters, and borrowing our lass, and Mr
Smeddum the tobacconist's niece, she went to the green, and got
everything safely housed, yet still Jeanie Tirlet never made her

Mrs Girdwood and her daughters having returned home, in a most
uneasy state of mind on the lassie's account, the deacon himself
came over to me, to consult what he ought to do as the head of a
family. But I advised him to wait till Jeanie cast up, which was
the next morning. Where she had been, and who she was with, could
never be delved out of her; but the deacon brought her to the
clerk's chamber, before Bailie Kittlewit, who was that day acting
magistrate, and he sentenced her to be dismissed from her servitude
with no more than the wage she had actually earned. The lassie was
conscious of the ill turn she had played, and would have submitted
in modesty; but one of the writers' clerks, an impudent whipper-
snapper, that had more to say with her than I need to say, bade her
protest and appeal against the interlocutor, which the daring gipsy,
so egged on, actually did, and the appeal next court day came before
me. Whereupon, I, knowing the outs and ins of the case, decerned
that she should be fined five shillings to the poor of the parish,
and ordained to go back to Mrs Girdwood's, and there stay out the
term of her servitude, or failing by refusal so to do, to be sent to
prison, and put to hard labour for the remainder of the term.

Every body present, on hearing the circumstances, thought this a
most judicious and lenient sentence; but so thought not the other
servant lasses of the town; for in the evening, as I was going home,
thinking no harm, on passing the Cross-well, where a vast
congregation of them were assembled with their stoups discoursing
the news of the day, they opened on me like a pack of hounds at a
tod, and I verily believed they would have mobbed me had I not made
the best of my way home. My wife had been at the window when the
hobleshow began, and was just like to die of diversion at seeing me
so set upon by the tinklers; and when I entered the dining-room she
said, "Really, Mr Pawkie, ye're a gallant man, to be so weel in the
good graces of the ladies." But although I have often since had
many a good laugh at the sport, I was not overly pleased with Mrs
Pawkie at the time--particularly as the matter between the deacon's
wife and Jeanie did not end with my interlocutor. For the
latheron's friend in the court having discovered that I had not
decerned she was to do any work to Mrs Girdwood, but only to stay
out her term, advised her to do nothing when she went back but go to
her bed, which she was bardy enough to do, until my poor friend, the
deacon, in order to get a quiet riddance of her, was glad to pay her
full fee, and board wages for the remainder of her time. This was
the same Jeanie Tirlet that was transported for some misdemeanour,
after making both Glasgow and Edinburgh owre het to hold her.


Shortly after the foregoing tribulation, of which I cannot take it
upon me to say that I got so well rid as of many other vexations of
a more grievous nature, there arose a thing in the town that caused
to me much deep concern, and very serious reflection. I had been,
from the beginning, a true government man, as all loyal subjects
ought in duty to be; for I never indeed could well understand how it
would advantage, either the king or his ministers, to injure and do
detriment to the lieges; on the contrary, I always saw and thought
that his majesty, and those of his cabinet, had as great an interest
in the prosperity and well-doing of the people, as it was possible
for a landlord to have in the thriving of his tenantry.
Accordingly, giving on all occasions, and at all times and seasons,
even when the policy of the kingdom was overcast with a cloud, the
king and government, in church and state, credit for the best
intentions, however humble their capacity in performance might seem
in those straits and difficulties, which, from time to time,
dumfoundered the wisest in power and authority, I was exceedingly
troubled to hear that a newspaper was to be set up in the burgh, and
that, too, by hands not altogether clean of the coom of jacobinical

The person that first brought me an account of this, and it was in a
private confidential manner, was Mr Scudmyloof, the grammar
schoolmaster, a man of method and lear, to whom the fathers of the
project had applied for an occasional cast of his skill, in the way
of Latin head-pieces, and essays of erudition concerning the free
spirit among the ancient Greeks and Romans; but he, not liking the
principle of the men concerned in the scheme, thought that it would
be a public service to the community at large, if a stop could be
put, by my help, to the opening of such an ettering sore and king's
evil as a newspaper, in our heretofore and hitherto truly royal and
loyal burgh; especially as it was given out that the calamity, for I
can call it no less, was to be conducted on liberal principles,
meaning, of course, in the most afflicting and vexatious manner
towards his majesty's ministers.

"What ye say," said I to Mr Scudmyloof when he told me the news, "is
very alarming, very much so indeed; but as there is no law yet
actually and peremptorily prohibiting the sending forth of
newspapers, I doubt it will not be in my power to interfere."

He was of the same opinion; and we both agreed it was a rank
exuberance of liberty, that the commonality should be exposed to the
risk of being inoculated with anarchy and confusion, from what he,
in his learned manner, judiciously called the predilections of
amateur pretension. The parties engaged in the project being Mr
Absolom the writer--a man no overly reverential in his opinion of
the law and lords when his clients lost their pleas, which, poor
folk, was very often--and some three or four young and inexperienced
lads, that were wont to read essays, and debate the kittle points of
divinity and other hidden knowledge, in the Cross-Keys monthly,
denying the existence of the soul of man, as Dr Sinney told me, till
they were deprived of all rationality by foreign or British spirits.
In short, I was perplexed when I heard of the design, not knowing
what to do, or what might be expected from me by government in a
case of such emergency as the setting up of a newspaper so
declaredly adverse to every species of vested trust and power; for
it was easy to forsee that those immediately on the scene would be
the first opposed to the onset and brunt of the battle. Never can
any public man have a more delicate task imposed upon him, than to
steer clear of offence in such a predicament. After a full
consideration of the business, Mr Scudmyloof declared that he would
retire from the field, and stand aloof; and he rehearsed a fine
passage in the Greek language on that head, pat to the occasion, but
which I did not very thoroughly understand, being no deacon in the
dead languages, as I told him at the time.

But when the dominie had left me, I considered with myself, and
having long before then observed that our hopes, when realized, are
always light in the grain, and our fears, when come to pass, less
than they seemed as seen through the mists of time and distance, I
resolved with myself to sit still with my eyes open, watching and
saying nothing; and it was well that I deported myself so prudently;
for when the first number of the paper made its appearance, it was
as poor a job as ever was "open to all parties, and influenced by
none;" and it required but two eyes to discern that there was no
need of any strong power from the lord advocate to suppress or
abolish the undertaking; for there was neither birr nor smeddum
enough in it to molest the high or to pleasure the low; so being
left to itself, and not ennobled by any prosecution, as the schemers
expected, it became as foisonless as the "London Gazette" on
ordinary occasions. Those behind the curtain, who thought to bounce
out with a grand stot and strut before the world, finding that even
I used it as a convenient vehicle to advertise my houses when need
was, and which I did by the way of a canny seduction of policy,
joking civilly with Mr Absolom anent his paper trumpet, as I called
it, they were utterly vanquished by seeing themselves of so little
account in the world, and forsook the thing altogether; by which
means it was gradually transformed into a very solid and decent
supporter of the government--Mr Absolom, for his pains, being
invited to all our public dinners, of which he gave a full account,
to the great satisfaction of all who were present, but more
particularly to those who were not, especially the wives and ladies
of the town, to whom it was a great pleasure to see the names of
their kith and kin in print. And indeed, to do Mr Absolom justice,
he was certainly at great pains to set off every thing to the best
advantage, and usually put speeches to some of our names which
showed that, in the way of grammaticals, he was even able to have
mended some of the parliamentary clishmaclavers, of which the
Londoners, with all their skill in the craft, are so seldom able to
lick into any shape of common sense.

Thus, by a judicious forbearance in the first instance, and a canny
wising towards the undertaking in the second, did I, in the third,
help to convert this dangerous political adversary into a very
respectable instrument of governmental influence and efficacy.


The spirit of opposition that kithed towards me in the affair of
Robin Boss, the drummer, was but an instance and symptom of the new
nature then growing up in public matters. I was not long done with
my second provostry, when I had occasion to congratulate myself on
having passed twice through the dignity with so much respect; for,
at the Michaelmas term, we had chosen Mr Robert Plan into the
vacancy caused by the death of that easy man, Mr Weezle, which
happened a short time before. I know not what came over me, that Mr
Plan was allowed to be chosen, for I never could abide him; being,
as he was, a great stickler for small particularities, more zealous
than discreet, and even more intent to carry his own point, than to
consider the good that might flow from a more urbane spirit. Not
that the man was devoid of ability--few, indeed, could set forth a
more plausible tale; but he was continually meddling, keeking, and
poking, and always taking up a suspicious opinion of every body's
intents and motives but his own. He was, besides, of a retired and
sedentary habit of body; and the vapour of his stomach, as he was
sitting by himself, often mounted into his upper story, and begat,
with his over zealous and meddling imagination, many unsound and
fantastical notions. For all that, however, it must be acknowledged
that Mr Plan was a sincere honest man, only he sometimes lacked the
discernment of the right from the wrong; and the consequence was,
that, when in error, he was even more obstinate than when in the
right; for his jealousy of human nature made him interpret falsely
the heat with which his own headstrong zeal, when in error, was ever
very properly resisted.

In nothing, however, did his molesting temper cause so much
disturbance, as when, in the year 1809, the bigging of the new
school-house was under consideration. There was, about that time, a
great sough throughout the country on the subject of education, and
it was a fashion to call schools academies; and out of a delusion
rising from the use of that term, to think it necessary to decry the
good plain old places, wherein so many had learnt those things by
which they helped to make the country and kingdom what it is, and to
scheme for the ways and means to raise more edificial structures and
receptacles. None was more infected with his distemperature than Mr
Plan; and accordingly, when he came to the council-chamber, on the
day that the matter of the new school-house was to be discussed, he
brought with him a fine castle in the air, which he pressed hard
upon us; representing, that if we laid out two or three thousand
pounds more than we intended, and built a beautiful academy and got
a rector thereto, with a liberal salary, and other suitable masters,
opulent people at a distance--yea, gentlemen in the East and West
Indies--would send their children to be educated among us, by which,
great fame and profit would redound to the town.

Nothing could be more plausibly set forth; and certainly the
project, as a notion, had many things to recommend it; but we had no
funds adequate to undertake it; so, on the score of expense,
knowing, as I did, the state of the public income, I thought it my
duty to oppose it IN TOTO; which fired Mr Plan to such a degree,
that he immediately insinuated that I had some end of my own to
serve in objecting to his scheme; and because the wall that it was
proposed to big round the moderate building, which we were
contemplating, would inclose a portion of the backside of my new
steading at the Westergate, he made no scruple of speaking, in a
circumbendibus manner, as to the particular reasons that I might
have for preferring it to his design, which he roused, in his way,
as more worthy of the state of the arts and the taste of the age.

It was not easy to sit still under his imputations; especially as I
could plainly see that some of the other members of the council
leant towards his way of thinking. Nor will I deny that, in
preferring the more moderate design, I had a contemplation of my own
advantage in the matter of the dyke; for I do not think it any shame
to a public man to serve his own interests by those of the
community, when he can righteously do so.

It was a thing never questionable, that the school-house required
the inclosure of a wall, and the outside of that wall was of a
natural necessity constrained to be a wing of inclosure to the
ground beyond. Therefore, I see not how a corrupt motive ought to
have been imputed to me, merely because I had a piece of ground that
marched with the spot whereon it was intended to construct the new
building; which spot, I should remark, belonged to the town before I
bought mine. However, Mr Plan so worked upon this material, that,
what with one thing and what with another, he got the council
persuaded to give up the moderate plan, and to consent to sell the
ground where it had been proposed to build the new school, and to
apply the proceeds towards the means of erecting a fine academy on
the Green.

It was not easy to thole to be so thwarted, especially for such an
extravagant problem, by one so new to our councils and
deliberations. I never was more fashed in my life; for having
hitherto, in all my plans for the improvement of the town, not only
succeeded, but given satisfaction, I was vexed to see the council
run away with such a speculative vagary. No doubt, the popular
fantasy anent education and academies, had quite as muckle to do in
the matter as Mr Plan's fozey rhetoric, but what availed that to me,
at seeing a reasonable undertaking reviled and set aside, and
grievous debts about to be laid on the community for a bubble as
unsubstantial as that of the Ayr Bank. Besides, it was giving the
upper hand in the council to Mr Plan, to which, as a new man, he had
no right. I said but little, for I saw it would be of no use; I,
however, took a canny opportunity of remarking to old Mr Dinledoup,
the English teacher, that this castle-building scheme of an academy
would cause great changes probably in the masters; and as, no doubt,
it would oblige us to adopt the new methods of teaching, I would
like to have a private inkling of what salary he would expect on
being superannuated.

The worthy man was hale and hearty, not exceeding three score and
seven, and had never dreamt of being superannuated. He was,
besides, a prideful body, and, like all of his calling, thought not
a little of himself. The surprise, therefore, with which he heard
me was just wonderful. For a space of time he stood still and
uttered nothing; then he took his snuff-box out of the flap pocket
of his waistcoat, where he usually carried it, and, giving three
distinct and very comical raps, drew his mouth into a purse. "Mr
Pawkie," at last he said; "Mr Pawkie, there will be news in the
world before I consent to be superannuated."

This was what I expected, and I replied, "Then, why do not you and
Mr Scudmyloof, of the grammar school, represent to the magistrates
that the present school-house may, with a small repair, serve for
many years." And so I sowed an effectual seed of opposition to Mr
Plan, in a quarter he never dreamt of; the two dominies, in the
dread of undergoing some transmogrification, laid their heads
together, and went round among the parents of the children, and
decried the academy project, and the cess that the cost of it would
bring upon the town; by which a public opinion was begotten and
brought to a bearing, that the magistrates could not resist; so the
old school-house was repaired, and Mr Plan's scheme, as well as the
other, given up. In this, it is true, if I had not the satisfaction
to get a dyke to the backside of my property, I had the pleasure to
know that my interloping adversary was disappointed; the which was a
sort of compensation.


The general election in 1812 was a source of trouble and uneasiness
to me; both because our district of burghs was to be contested, and
because the contest was not between men of opposite principles, but
of the same side. To neither of them had I any particular leaning;
on the contrary, I would have preferred the old member, whom I had,
on different occasions, found an accessible and tractable
instrument, in the way of getting small favours with the government
and India company, for friends that never failed to consider them as
such things should be. But what could I do? Providence had placed
me in the van of the battle, and I needs must fight; so thought
every body, and so for a time I thought myself. Weighing, however,
the matter one night soberly in my mind, and seeing that whichever
of the two candidates was chosen, I, by my adherent loyalty to the
cause for which they were both declared, the contest between them
being a rivalry of purse and personality, would have as much to say
with the one as with the other, came to the conclusion that it was
my prudentest course not to intermeddle at all in the election.
Accordingly, as soon as it was proper to make a declaration of my
sentiments, I made this known, and it caused a great wonderment in
the town; nobody could imagine it possible that I was sincere, many
thinking there was something aneath it, which would kithe in time to
the surprise of the public. However, the peutering went on, and I
took no part. The two candidates were as civil and as liberal, the
one after the other, to Mrs Pawkie and my daughters, as any
gentlemen of a parliamentary understanding could be. Indeed, I
verily believe, that although I had been really chosen delegate, as
it was at one time intended I should be, I could not have hoped for
half the profit that came in from the dubiety which my declaration
of neutrality caused; for as often as I assured the one candidate
that I did not intend even to be present at the choosing of the
delegate, some rich present was sure to be sent to my wife, of which
the other no sooner heard than he was upsides with him. It was just
a sport to think of me protesting my neutrality, and to see how
little I was believed. For still the friends of the two candidates,
like the figures of the four quarters of the world round Britannia
in a picture, came about my wife, and poured into her lap a most
extraordinary paraphernalia from the horn of their abundance.

The common talk of the town was, that surely I was bereft of my
wonted discretion, to traffic so openly with corruption; and that it
could not be doubted I would have to face the House of Commons, and
suffer the worst pains and penalties of bribery. But what did all
this signify to me, who was conscious of the truth and integrity of
my motives and talents? "They say!--what say they?--let them say!"-
-was what I said, as often as any of my canny friends came to me,
saying, "For God's sake, Mr Pawkie, tak'tent"--"I hope, Mr Pawkie,
ye ken the ground ye stand on"--or, "I wish that some folks were
aware of what's said about them." In short, I was both angered and
diverted by their clishmaclavers; and having some need to go into
Glasgow just on the eve of the election, I thought I would, for
diversion, give them something in truth to play with; so saying
nothing to my shop lad the night before, nor even to Mrs Pawkie,
(for the best of women are given to tattling), till we were in our
beds, I went off early on the morning of the day appointed for
choosing the delegate.

The consternation in the town at my evasion was wonderful. Nobody
could fathom it; and the friends and supporters of the rival
candidates looked, as I was told, at one another, in a state of
suspicion that was just a curiosity to witness. Even when the
delegate was chosen, every body thought that something would be
found wanting, merely because I was not present. The new member
himself, when his election was declared, did not feel quite easy;
and more than once, when I saw him after my return from Glasgow, he
said to me, in a particular manner--"But tell me now, bailie, what
was the true reason of your visit to Glasgow?" And, in like manner,
his opponent also hinted that he would petition against the return;
but there were some facts which he could not well get at without my
assistance--insinuating that I might find my account in helping him.

At last, the true policy of the part I had played began to be
understood; and I got far more credit for the way in which I had
turned both parties so well to my own advantage, than if I had been
the means of deciding the election by my single vote.


But the new member was, in some points, not of so tractable a nature
as many of his predecessors had been; and notwithstanding all the
couthy jocosity and curry-favouring of his demeanour towards us
before the election, he was no sooner returned, than he began, as it
were, to snap his fingers in the very faces of those of the council
to whom he was most indebted, which was a thing not of very easy
endurance, considering how they had taxed their consciences in his
behalf; and this treatment was the more bitterly felt, as the old
member had been, during the whole of his time, as considerate and
obliging as could reasonably be expected; doing any little job that
needed his helping hand when it was in his power, and when it was
not, replying to our letters in a most discreet and civil manner.
To be sure, poor man, he had but little to say in the way of
granting favours; for being latterly inclined to a whiggish
principle, he was, in consequence, debarred from all manner of
government patronage, and had little in his gift but soft words and
fair promises. Indeed, I have often remarked, in the course of my
time, that there is a surprising difference, in regard to the
urbanities in use among those who have not yet come to authority, or
who have been cast down from it, and those who are in the full
possession of the rule and domination of office; but never was the
thing plainer than in the conduct of the new member.

He was by nature and inclination one of the upsetting sort; a kind
of man who, in all manner of business, have a leaven of
contrariness, that makes them very hard to deal with; and he, being
conjunct with his majesty's ministers at London, had imbibed and
partook of that domineering spirit to which all men are ordained, to
be given over whenever they are clothed in the garments of power.
Many among us thought, by his colleaguing with the government, that
we had got a great catch, and they were both blythe and vogie when
he was chosen; none doubting but he would do much good servitude to
the corporation, and the interests of the burgh. However he soon
gave a rebuff, that laid us all on our backs in a state of the
greatest mortification. But although it behoved me to sink down
with the rest, I was but little hurt: on the contary, I had a good
laugh in my sleeve at the time; and afterwards, many a merry tumbler
of toddy with my brethren, when they had recovered from their
discomfiture. The story was this:-

About a fortnight after the election, Mr Scudmyloof, the
schoolmaster, called one day on me, in my shop, and said, "That
being of a nervous turn, the din of the school did not agree with
him; and that he would, therefore, be greatly obligated to me if I
would get him made a gauger." There had been something in the
carriage of our new member, before he left the town, that was not
satisfactory to me, forbye my part at the election, the which made
me loth to be the first to ask for any grace, though the master was
a most respectable and decent man; so I advised Mr Scudmyloof to
apply to Provost Pickandab, who had been the delegate, as the person
to whose instrumentality the member was most obliged; and to whose
application, he of course would pay the greatest attention.

Whether Provost Pickandab had made any observe similar to mine, I
never could rightly understand, though I had a notion to that
effect: he, however, instead of writing himself, made the
application for Mr Scudmyloof an affair of the council; recommending
him as a worthy modest man, which he really was, and well qualified
for the post. Off went this notable letter, and by return of post
from London, we got our answer as we were all sitting in council;
deliberating anent the rebuilding of the Crosswell, which had been
for some time in a sore state of dilapidation; and surely never was
any letter more to the point and less to the purpose of an
applicant. It was very short and pithy, just acknowledging receipt
of ours; and adding thereto, "circumstances do not allow me to pay
any attention to such applications." We all with one accord, in
sympathy and instinct, threw ourselves back in our chairs at the
words, looking at Provost Pickandab, with the pragmatical epistle in
his hand, sitting in his place at the head of the table, with the
countenance of consternation.

When I came to myself, I began to consider that there must have been
something no right in the provost's own letter on the subject, to
cause such an uncourteous rebuff; so after condemning, in very
strong terms, the member's most ungenteel style, in order to procure
for myself a patient hearing, I warily proposed that the provost's
application should be read, a copy thereof being kept, and I had
soon a positive confirmation of my suspicion. For the provost,
being fresh in the dignity of his office, and naturally of a
prideful turn, had addressed the parliament man as if he was under
an obligation to him; and as if the council had a right to command
him to get the gauger's post, or indeed any other, for whomsoever
they might apply. So, seeing whence the original sin of the affair
had sprung, I said nothing; but the same night I wrote a humiliated
letter from myself to the member, telling him how sorry we all were
for the indiscretion that had been used towards him, and how much it
would pleasure me to heal the breach that had happened between him
and the burgh, with other words of an oily and conciliating policy.

The indignant member, by the time my letter reached hand, had cooled
in his passion, and, I fancy, was glad of an occasion to do away the
consequence of the rupture; for with a most extraordinary alacrity
he procured Mr Scudmyloof the post, writing me, when he had done so,
in the civilest manner, and saying many condescending things
concerning his regard for me; all which ministered to maintain and
uphold my repute and consideration in the town, as superior to that
of the provost.


It was at the Michaelmas 1813 that I was chosen provost for the
third time, and at the special request of my lord the earl, who,
being in ill health, had been advised by the faculty of doctors in
London to try the medicinal virtues of the air and climate of
Sicily, in the Mediterranean sea; and there was an understanding on
the occasion, that I should hold the post of honour for two years,
chiefly in order to bring to a conclusion different works that the
town had then in hand.

At the two former times when I was raised to the dignity, and indeed
at all times when I received any advancement, I had enjoyed an
elation of heart, and was, as I may say, crouse and vogie; but
experience had worked a change upon my nature, and when I was
saluted on my election with the customary greetings and gratulations
of those present, I felt a solemnity enter into the frame of my
thoughts, and I became as it were a new man on the spot. When I
returned home to my own house, I retired into my private chamber for
a time, to consult with myself in what manner my deportment should
be regulated; for I was conscious that heretofore I had been overly
governed with a disposition to do things my own way, and although
not in an avaricious temper, yet something, I must confess, with a
sort of sinister respect for my own interests. It may be, that
standing now clear and free of the world, I had less incitement to
be so grippy, and so was thought of me, I very well know; but in
sobriety and truth I conscientiously affirm, and herein record, that
I had lived to partake of the purer spirit which the great mutations
of the age had conjured into public affairs, and I saw that there
was a necessity to carry into all dealings with the concerns of the
community, the same probity which helps a man to prosperity in the
sequestered traffic of private life.

This serious and religious communing wrought within me to a benign
and pleasant issue, and when I went back in the afternoon to dine
with the corporation in the council-room, and looked around me on
the bailies, the councillors, and the deacons, I felt as if I was
indeed elevated above them all, and that I had a task to perform, in
which I could hope for but little sympathy from many; and the first
thing I did was to measure, with a discreet hand, the festivity of
the occasion.

At all former and precedent banquets, it had been the custom to give
vent to muckle wanton and luxurious indulgence, and to galravitch,
both at hack and manger, in a very expensive manner to the funds of
the town. I therefore resolved to set my face against this for the
future; and accordingly, when we had enjoyed a jocose temperance of
loyalty and hilarity, with a decent measure of wine, I filled a
glass, and requesting all present to do the same, without any
preliminary reflections on the gavaulling of past times, I drank
good afternoon to each severally, and then rose from the table, in a
way that put an end to all the expectations of more drink.

But this conduct did not give satisfaction to some of the old hands,
who had been for years in the habit and practice of looking forward
to the provost's dinner as to a feast of fat things. Mr Peevie, one
of the very sickerest of all the former sederunts, came to me next
morning, in a remonstrating disposition, to enquire what had come
over me, and to tell me that every body was much surprised, and many
thought it not right of me to break in upon ancient and wonted
customs in such a sudden and unconcerted manner.

This Mr Peevie was, in his person, a stumpy man, well advanced in
years. He had been, in his origin, a bonnet-maker; but falling heir
to a friend that left him a property, he retired from business about
the fiftieth year of his age, doing nothing but walking about with
an ivory-headed staff, in a suit of dark bluecloth with yellow
buttons, wearing a large cocked hat, and a white three-tiered wig,
which was well powdered every morning by Duncan Curl, the barber.
The method of his discourse and conversation was very precise, and
his words were all set forth in a style of consequence, that took
with many for a season as the pith and marrow of solidity and sense.
The body, however, was but a pompous trifle, and I had for many a
day held his observes and admonishments in no very reverential
estimation. So that, when I heard him address me in such a
memorializing manner, I was inclined and tempted to set him off with
a flea in his lug. However, I was enabled to bridle and rein in
this prejudicial humour, and answer him in his own way.

"Mr Peevie," quo' I, "you know that few in the town hae the repute
that ye hae for a gift of sagacity by common, and therefore I'll
open my mind to you in this matter, with a frankness that would not
be a judicious polity with folk of a lighter understanding."

This was before the counter in my shop. I then walked in behind it,
and drew the chair that stands in the corner nearer to the fire, for
Mr Peevie. When he was seated thereon, and, as was his wont in
conversation, had placed both his hands on the top of his staff, and
leant his chin on the same, I subjoined.

"Mr Peevie, I need not tell to a man of your experience, that folk
in public stations cannot always venture to lay before the world the
reasons of their conduct on particular occasions; and therefore,
when men who have been long in the station that I have filled in
this town, are seen to step aside from what has been in time past,
it is to be hoped that grave and sensible persons like you, Mr
Peevie, will no rashly condemn them unheard; nevertheless, my good
friend, I am very happy that ye have spoken to me anent the stinted
allowance of wine and punch at the dinner, because the like thing
from any other would have made me jealouse that the complaint was
altogether owing to a disappointed appetite, which is a corrupt
thing, that I am sure would never affect a man of such a public
spirit as you are well known to be."

Mr Peevie, at this, lifted his chin from off his hands, and dropping
his arms down upon his knees, held his staff by the middle, as he
replied, looking upward to me,

"What ye say, Provost Pawkie, has in it a solid commodity of
judgment and sensibility; and ye may be sure that I was not without
a cogitation of reflection, that there had been a discreet argument
of economy at the bottom of the revolution which was brought to a
criticism yesterday's afternoon. Weel aware am I, that men in
authority cannot appease and quell the inordinate concupiscence of
the multitude, and that in a' stations of life there are persons who
would mumpileese the retinue of the king and government for their
own behoof and eeteration, without any regard to the cause or effect
of such manifest predilections. But ye do me no more than a
judicature, in supposing that, in this matter, I am habituated wi'
the best intentions. For I can assure you, Mr Pawkie, that no man
in this community has a more literal respect for your character than
I have, or is more disposed for a judicious example of continence in
the way of public enterteenment than I have ever been; for, as you
know, I am of a constipent principle towards every extravagant and
costive outlay. Therefore, on my own account, I had a satisfaction
at seeing the abridgement which you made of our former inebrieties;
but there are other persons of a conjugal nature, who look upon such
castrations as a deficiency of their rights, and the like of them
will find fault with the best procedures."

"Very true, Mr Peevie," said I, "that's very true; but if his
Majesty's government, in this war for all that is dear to us as men
and Britons, wish us, who are in authority under them, to pare and
save, in order that the means of bringing the war to a happy end may
not be wasted, an example must be set, and that example, as a loyal
subject and a magistrate, it's my intent so to give, in the hope and
confidence of being backed by every person of a right way of

"It's no to be deputed, Provost Pawkie," replied my friend, somewhat
puzzled by what I had said; "it's no to be deputed, that we live in
a gigantic vortex, and that every man is bound to make an energetic
dispensation for the good of his country; but I could not have
thought that our means had come to sic an alteration and extremity,
as that the reverent homage of the Michaelmas dinners could have
been enacted, and declared absolute and abolished, by any
interpolation less than the omnipotence of parliament."

"Not abolished, Mr Peevie," cried I, interrupting him; "that would
indeed be a stretch of power. No, no; I hope we're both ordained to
partake of many a Michaelmas dinner thegether yet; but with a meted
measure of sobriety. For we neither live in the auld time nor the
golden age, and it would not do now for the like of you and me, Mr
Peevie, to be seen in the dusk of the evening, toddling home from
the town-hall wi' goggling een and havering tongues, and one of the
town-officers following at a distance in case of accidents; sic
things ye ken, hae been, but nobody would plead for their

Mr Peevie did not relish this, for in truth it came near his own
doors, it having been his annual practice for some years at the
Michaelmas dinner to give a sixpence to James Hound, the officer, to
see him safe home, and the very time before he had sat so long, that
honest James was obligated to cleek and oxter him the whole way; and
in the way home, the old man, cagie with what he had gotten, stood
in the causey opposite to Mr M'Vest's door, then deacon of the
taylors, and trying to snap his fingers, sang like a daft man,

'The sheets they were thin and the blankets were sma',
And the taylor fell through the bed, thimble and a'."

So that he was disconcerted by my innuendo, and shortly after left
the shop, I trow, with small inclination to propagate any sedition
against me, for the abbreviation I had made of the Michaelmas


I had long been sensible that, in getting Mr Pittle the kirk, I had
acted with the levity and indiscretion of a young man; but at that
time I understood not the nature of public trust, nor, indeed, did
the community at large. Men in power then ruled more for their own
ends than in these latter times; and use and wont sanctioned and
sanctified many doings, from the days of our ancestors, that, but to
imagine, will astonish and startle posterity. Accordingly, when Mr
Pittle, after a lingering illness, was removed from us, which
happened in the first year of my third provostry, I bethought me of
the consequences which had ensued from his presentation, and
resolved within myself to act a very different part in the filling
up of the vacancy. With this intent, as soon as the breath was out
of his body, I sent round for some of the most weighty and best
considered of the councillors and elders, and told them that a great
trust was, by the death of the minister, placed in our hands, and
that, in these times, we ought to do what in us lay to get a
shepherd that would gather back to the establishment the flock which
had been scattered among the seceders, by the feckless crook and
ill-guiding of their former pastor.

They all agreed with me in this, and named one eminent divine after
another; but the majority of voices were in favour of Dr Whackdeil
of Kirkbogle, a man of weight and example, both in and out the
pulpit, so that it was resolved to give the call to him, which was
done accordingly.

It however came out that the Kirkbogle stipend was better than ours,
and the consequence was, that having given the call, it became
necessary to make up the deficiency; for it was not reasonable to
expect that the reverend doctor, with his small family of nine
children, would remove to us at a loss. How to accomplish this was
a work of some difficulty, for the town revenues were all eaten up
with one thing and another; but upon an examination of the income,
arising from what had been levied on the seats for the repair of the
church, it was discovered that, by doing away a sinking fund, which
had been set apart to redeem the debt incurred for the same, and by
the town taking the debt on itself, we could make up a sufficiency
to bring the doctor among us. And in so far as having an orthodox
preacher, and a very excellent man for our minister, there was great
cause to be satisfied with that arrangement.

But the payment of the interest on the public debt, with which the
town was burdened, began soon after to press heavily on us, and we
were obligated to take on more borrowed money, in order to keep our
credit, and likewise to devise ways and means, in the shape of
public improvements, to raise an income to make up what was
required. This led me to suggest the building of the new bridge,
the cost of which, by contract, there was no reason to complain of,
and the toll thereon, while the war lasted, not only paid the
interest of the borrowed money by which it was built, but left a
good penny in the nook of the treasurer's box for other purposes.

Had the war continued, and the nation to prosper thereby as it did,
nobody can doubt that a great source of wealth and income was opened
to the town; but when peace came round, and our prosperity began to
fall off, the traffic on the bridge grew less and less, insomuch
that the toll, as I now understand, (for since my resignation, I
meddle not with public concerns,) does not yield enough to pay the
five per cent on the prime cost of the bridge, by which my
successors suffer much molestation in raising the needful money to
do the same. However, every body continues well satisfied with Dr
Whackdeil, who was the original cause of this perplexity; and it is
to be hoped that, in time, things will grow better, and the revenues
come round again to idemnify the town for its present tribulation.


As I have said, my third provostry was undertaken in a spirit of
sincerity, different in some degree from that of the two former; but
strange and singular as it may seem, I really think I got less
credit for the purity of my intents, than I did even in the first.
During the whole term from the election in the year 1813 to the
Michaelmas following, I verily believe that no one proposal which I
made to the council was construed in a right sense; this was partly
owing to the repute I had acquired for canny management, but chiefly
to the perverse views and misconceptions of that Yankee thorn-in-
the-side, Mr Hickery, who never desisted from setting himself
against every thing that sprang from me, and as often found some
show of plausibility to maintain his argumentations. And yet, for
all that, he was a man held in no esteem or respect in the town; for
he had wearied every body out by his everlasting contradictions. Mr
Plan was likewise a source of great tribulation to me; for he was
ever and anon coming forward with some new device, either for
ornament or profit, as he said, to the burgh; and no small portion
of my time, that might have been more advantageously employed, was
wasted in the thriftless consideration of his schemes: all which,
with my advanced years, begat in me a sort of distaste to the
bickerings of the council chamber; so I conferred and communed with
myself, anent the possibility of ruling the town without having
recourse to so unwieldy a vehicle as the wheels within wheels of the
factions which the Yankee reformator, and that projectile Mr Plan,
as he was called by Mr Peevie, had inserted among us.

I will no equivocate that there was, in this notion, an appearance
of taking more on me than the laws allowed; but then my motives were
so clean to my conscience, and I was so sure of satisfying the
people by the methods I intended to pursue, that there could be no
moral fault in the trifle of illegality which, may be, I might have
been led on to commit. However, I was fortunately spared from the
experiment, by a sudden change in the council.--One day Mr Hickery
and Mr Plan, who had been for years colleaguing together for their
own ends, happened to differ in opinion, and the one suspecting that
this difference was the fruit of some secret corruption, they
taunted each other, and came to high words, and finally to an open
quarrel, actually shaking their neeves across the table, and, I'll
no venture to deny, maybe exchanging blows.

Such a convulsion in the sober councils of a burgh town was never
heard of. It was a thing not to be endured, and so I saw at the
time, and was resolved to turn it to the public advantage.
Accordingly, when the two angry men had sat back in their seats,
bleached in the face with passion, and panting and out of breath, I
rose up in my chair at the head of the table, and with a judicial
solemnity addressed the council, saying, that what we had witnessed
was a disgrace not to be tolerated in a Christian land; that unless
we obtained indemnity for the past, and security for the future, I
would resign; but in doing so I would bring the cause thereof before
the Fifteen at Edinburgh, yea, even to the House of Lords at London;
so I gave the offending parties notice, as well as those who, from
motives of personal friendship, might be disposed to overlook the
insult that had been given to the constituted authority of the king,
so imperfectly represented in my person, as it would seem, by the
audacious conflict and misdemeanour which had just taken place.

This was striking while the iron was hot: every one looked at my
sternness with surprise, and some begged me to be seated, and to
consider the matter calmly.--"Gentlemen," quo' I, "dinna mistake me.
I never was in more composure all my life.--It's indeed no on my own
account that I feel on this occasion. The gross violation of all
the decent decorum of magisterial authority, is not a thing that
affects me in my own person; it's an outrage against the state; the
prerogatives of the king's crown are endamaged; atonement must be
made, or punishment must ensue. It's a thing that by no possibility
can be overlooked: it's an offence committed in open court, and we
cannot but take cognizance thereof."

I saw that what I said was operating to an effect, and that the two
troublesome members were confounded. Mr Hickery rose to offer some
apology; but, perceiving I had now got him in a girn, I interposed
my authority, and would not permit him to proceed.

"Mr Hickery," said I, "it's of no use to address yourself to me. I
am very sensible that ye are sorry for your fault; but that will not
do. The law knows no such thing as repentance; and it is the law,
not me nor our worthy friends here, that ye have offended. In
short, Mr Hickery, the matter is such that, in one word, either you
and Mr Plan must quit your seats at this table of your own free-
will, or I must quit mine, and mine I will not give up without
letting the public know the shame on your part that has compelled

He sat down and I sat down; and for some time the other councillors
looked at one another in silence and wonder. Seeing, however, that
my gentle hint was not likely to be taken, I said to the town-clerk,
who was sitting at the bottom of the table,

"Sir, it's your duty to make a minute of everything that is done and
said at the sederunts of the council; and as provost, I hereby
require of you to record the particularities of this melancholy

Mr Keelevine made an endeavour to dissuade me; but I set him down
with a stern voice, striking the table at the same time with all my
birr, as I said, "Sir, you have no voice here. Do you refuse to
perform what I order? At your peril I command the thing to be

Never had such austerity been seen in my conduct before. The whole
council sat in astonishment; and Mr Keelevine prepared his pen, and
took a sheet of paper to draw out a notation of the minute, when Mr
Peevie rose, and after coughing three times, and looking first at me
and syne at the two delinquents, said -

"My Lord Provost, I was surprised, and beginning to be confounded,
at the explosion which the two gentlemen have committed. No man can
designate the extent of such an official malversation, demonstrated,
as it has been here, in the presence of us all, who are the lawful
custodiers of the kingly dignity in this his majesty's royal burgh.
I will, therefore, not take it upon me either to apologise or to
obliviate their offence; for, indeed, it is an offence that merits
the most condign animadversion, and the consequences might be
legible for ever, were a gentleman, so conspicable in the town as
you are, to evacuate the magistracy on account of it. But it is my
balsamic advice, that rather than promulgate this matter, the two
malcontents should abdicate, and that a precept should be placarded
at this sederunt as if they were not here, but had resigned and
evaded their places, precursive to the meeting."

To this I answered, that no one could suspect me of wishing to push
the matter further, provided the thing could be otherwise settled;
and therefore, if Mr Plan and Mr Hickery would shake hands, and
agree never to notice what had passed to each other, and the other
members and magistrates would consent likewise to bury the business
in oblivion, I would agree to the balsamic advice of Mr Peevie, and
even waive my obligation to bind over the hostile parties to keep
the king's peace, so that the whole affair might neither be known
nor placed upon record.

Mr Hickery, I could discern, was rather surprised; but I found that
I had thus got the thief in the wuddy, and he had no choice; so both
he and Mr Plan rose from their seats in a very sheepish manner, and
looking at us as if they had unpleasant ideas in their minds, they
departed forth the council-chamber; and a minute was made by the
town-clerk that they, having resigned their trust as councillors,
two other gentlemen at the next meeting should be chosen into their

Thus did I, in a manner most unexpected, get myself rid and clear of
the two most obdurate oppositionists, and by taking care to choose
discreet persons for their successors, I was enabled to wind the
council round my finger, which was a far more expedient method of
governing the community than what I had at one time meditated, even
if I could have brought it to a bearing. But, in order to
understand the full weight and importance of this, I must describe
how the choice and election was made, because, in order to make my
own power and influence the more sicker, it was necessary that I
should not be seen in the business.


Mr Peevie was not a little proud of the part he had played in the
storm of the council, and his words grew, if possible, longer-nebbit
and more kittle than before, in so much that the same evening, when
I called on him after dusk, by way of a device to get him to help
the implementing of my intents with regard to the choice of two
gentlemen to succeed those whom he called "the expurgated
dislocators," it was with a great difficulty that I could expiscate
his meaning. "Mr Peevie," said I, when we were cozily seated by
ourselves in his little back parlour--the mistress having set out
the gardevin and tumblers, and the lass brought in the hot water--"I
do not think, Mr Peevie, that in all my experience, and I am now
both an old man and an old magistrate, that I ever saw any thing
better managed than the manner in which ye quelled the hobleshow
this morning, and therefore we maun hae a little more of your
balsamic advice, to make a' heal among us again; and now that I
think o't, how has it happent that ye hae never been a bailie? I'm
sure it's due both to your character and circumstance that ye should
take upon you a portion of the burden of the town honours.
Therefore, Mr Peevie, would it no be a very proper thing, in the
choice of the new councillors, to take men of a friendly mind
towards you, and of an easy and manageable habit of will."

The old man was mightily taken with this insinuation, and
acknowledged that it would give him pleasure to be a bailie next
year. We then cannily proceeded, just as if one thing begat
another, to discourse anent the different men that were likely to do
as councillors, and fixed at last on Alexander Hodden the blanket
merchant, and Patrick Fegs the grocer, both excellent characters of
their kind. There was not, indeed, in the whole burgh at the time,
a person of such a flexible easy nature as Mr Hodden; and his
neighbour, Mr Fegs, was even better, for he was so good-tempered,
and kindly, and complying, that the very callants at the grammar
school had nicknamed him Barley-sugar Pate.

"No better than them can be," said I to Mr Peevie; "they are
likewise both well to do in the world, and should be brought into
consequence; and the way o't canna be in better hands than your own.
I would, therefore, recommend it to you to see them on the subject,
and, if ye find them willing, lay your hairs in the water to bring
the business to a bearing."

Accordingly, we settled to speak of it as a matter in part decided,
that Mr Hodden and Mr Fegs were to be the two new councillors; and
to make the thing sure, as soon as I went home I told it to Mrs
Pawkie as a state secret, and laid my injunctions on her not to say
a word about it, either to Mrs Hodden or to Mrs Fegs, the wives of
our two elect; for I knew her disposition, and that, although to a
certainty not a word of the fact would escape from her, yet she
would be utterly unable to rest until she had made the substance of
it known in some way or another; and, as I expected, so it came to
pass. She went that very night to Mrs Rickerton, the mother of Mr
Feg's wife, and, as I afterwards picked out of her, told the old
lady that may be, ere long, she would hear of some great honour that
would come to her family, with other mystical intimations that
pointed plainly to the dignities of the magistracy; the which, when
she had returned home, so worked upon the imagination of Mrs
Rickerton, that, before going to bed, she felt herself obliged to
send for her daughter, to the end that she might be delivered and
eased of what she had heard. In this way Mr Fegs got a foretaste of
what had been concerted for his advantage; and Mr Peevie, in the
mean time, through his helpmate, had, in like manner, not been idle;
the effect of all which was, that next day, every where in the town,
people spoke of Mr Hodden and Mr Fegs as being ordained to be the
new councillors, in the stead of the two who had, as it was said,
resigned in so unaccountable a manner, so that no candidates
offered, and the election was concluded in the most candid and
agreeable spirit possible; after which I had neither trouble nor
adversary, but went on, in my own prudent way, with the works in
hand--the completion of the new bridge, the reparation of the
tolbooth steeple, and the bigging of the new schools on the piece of
ground adjoining to my own at the Westergate; and in the doing of
the latter job I had an opportunity of manifesting my public spirit;
for when the scheme, as I have related, was some years before given
up, on account of Mr Plan's castles in the air for educating tawny
children from the East and West Indies, I inclosed my own ground,
and built the house thereon now occupied by Collector Gather's
widow, and the town, per consequence, was not called on for one
penny of the cost, but saved so much of a wall as the length of mine
extended--a part not less than a full third part of the whole. No
doubt, all these great and useful public works were not done without
money; but the town was then in great credit, and many persons were
willing and ready to lend; for every thing was in a prosperous
order, and we had a prospect of a vast increase of income, not only
from the toll on the new bridge, but likewise from three very
excellent shops which we repaired on the ground floor of the
tolbooth. We had likewise feued out to advantage a considerable
portion of the town moor; so that had things gone on in the way they
were in my time, there can be no doubt that the burgh would have
been in very flourishing circumstances, and instead of being
drowned, as it now is, in debt, it might have been in the most
topping way; and if the project that I had formed for bringing in a
supply of water by pipes, had been carried into effect, it would
have been a most advantageous undertaking for the community at

But my task is now drawing to an end; and I have only to relate what
happened at the conclusion of the last act of my very serviceable
and eventful life, the which I will proceed to do with as much
brevity as is consistent with the nature of that free and faithful
spirit in which the whole of these notandums have been indited.


Shortly after the Battle of Waterloo, I began to see that a change
was coming in among us. There was less work for the people to do,
no outgate in the army for roving and idle spirits, and those who
had tacks of the town lands complained of slack markets; indeed, in
my own double vocation of the cloth shop and wine cellar, I had a
taste and experience of the general declension that would of a
necessity ensue, when the great outlay of government and the
discharge from public employ drew more and more to an issue. So I
bethought me, that being now well stricken in years, and, though I
say it that should not, likewise a man in good respect and
circumstances, it would be a prudent thing to retire and secede
entirely from all farther intromissions with public affairs.

Accordingly, towards the midsummer of the year 1816, I commenced in
a far off way to give notice, that at Michaelmas I intended to
abdicate my authority and power, to which intimations little heed
was at first given; but gradually the seed took with the soil, and
began to swell and shoot up, in so much that, by the middle of
August, it was an understood thing that I was to retire from the
council, and refrain entirely from the part I had so long played
with credit in the burgh.

When people first began to believe that I was in earnest, I cannot
but acknowledge I was remonstrated with by many, and that not a few
were pleased to say my resignation would be a public loss; but these
expressions, and the disposition of them, wore away before
Michaelmas came; and I had some sense of the feeling which the
fluctuating gratitude of the multitude often causes to rise in the
breasts of those who have ettled their best to serve the ungrateful
populace. However, I considered with myself that it would not do
for me, after what I had done for the town and commonality, to go
out of office like a knotless thread, and that, as a something was
of right due to me, I would be committing an act of injustice to my
family if I neglected the means of realizing the same. But it was a
task of delicacy, and who could I prompt to tell the town-council to
do what they ought to do? I could not myself speak of my own
services--I could ask nothing. Truly it was a subject that cost me
no small cogitation; for I could not confide it even to the wife of
my bosom. However, I gained my end, and the means and method
thereof may advantage other public characters, in a similar strait,
to know and understand.

Seeing that nothing was moving onwards in men's minds to do the act
of courtesy to me, so justly my due, on the Saturday before
Michaelmas I invited Mr Mucklewheel, the hosier, (who had the year
before been chosen into the council, in the place of old Mr Peevie,
who had a paralytic, and never in consequence was made a bailie,) to
take a glass of toddy with me, a way and method of peutering with
the councillors, one by one, that I often found of a great efficacy
in bringing their understandings into a docile state; and when we
had discussed one cheerer with the usual clishmaclaver of the times,
I began, as we were both birzing the sugar for the second, to speak
with a circumbendibus about my resignation of the trusts I had so
long held with profit to the community.

"Mr Mucklewheel," quo' I "ye're but a young man, and no versed yet,
as ye will be, in the policy and diplomatics that are requisite in
the management of the town, and therefore I need not say any thing
to you about what I have got an inkling of, as to the intents of the
new magistrates and council towards me. It's very true that I have
been long a faithful servant to the public, but he's a weak man who
looks to any reward from the people; and after the experience I have
had, I would certainly prove myself to be one of the very weakest,
if I thought it was likely, that either anent the piece of plate and
the vote of thanks, any body would take a speciality of trouble."

To this Mr Mucklewheel answered, that he was glad to hear such a
compliment was intended; "No man," said he, "more richly deserves a
handsome token of public respect, and I will surely give the
proposal all the countenance and support in my power possible to

"As to that," I replied, pouring in the rum and helping myself to
the warm water, "I entertain no doubt, and I have every confidence
that the proposal, when it is made, will be in a manner unanimously
approved. But, Mr Mucklewheel, what's every body's business, is
nobody's. I have heard of no one that's to bring the matter
forward; it's all fair and smooth to speak of such things in holes
and corners, but to face the public with them is another sort of
thing. For few men can abide to see honours conferred on their
neighbours, though between ourselves, Mr Mucklewheel, every man in a
public trust should, for his own sake, further and promote the
bestowing of public rewards on his predecessors; because looking
forward to the time when he must himself become a predecessor, he
should think how he would feel were he, like me, after a magistracy
of near to fifty years, to sink into the humility of a private
station, as if he had never been any thing in the world. In sooth,
Mr Mucklewheel, I'll no deny that it's a satisfaction to me to think
that may be the piece of plate and the vote of thanks will be
forthcoming; at the same time, unless they are both brought to a
bearing in a proper manner, I would rather nothing was done at all."

"Ye may depend on't," said Mr Mucklewheel, "that it will be done
very properly, and in a manner to do credit both to you and the
council. I'll speak to Bailie Shuttlethrift, the new provost, to
propose the thing himself, and that I'll second it."

"Hooly, hooly, friend," quo' I, with a laugh of jocularity, no ill-
pleased to see to what effect I had worked upon him; "that will
never do; ye're but a greenhorn in public affairs. The provost maun
ken nothing about it, or let on that he doesna ken, which is the
same thing, for folk would say that he was ettling at something of
the kind for himself, and was only eager for a precedent. It would,
therefore, ne'er do to speak to him. But Mr Birky, who is to be
elected into the council in my stead, would be a very proper person.
For ye ken coming in as my successor, it would very naturally fall
to him to speak modestly of himself compared with me, and therefore
I think he is the fittest person to make the proposal, and you, as
the next youngest that has been taken in, might second the same."

Mr Mucklewheel agreed with me, that certainly the thing would come
with the best grace from my successor.

"But I doubt," was my answer, "if he kens aught of the matter; ye
might however enquire. In short, Mr Mucklewheel, ye see it requires
a canny hand to manage public affairs, and a sound discretion to
know who are the fittest to work in them. If the case were not my
own, and if I was speaking for another that had done for the town
what I have done, the task would be easy. For I would just rise in
my place, and say as a thing of course, and admitted on all hands,
'Gentlemen, it would be a very wrong thing of us, to let Mr
Mucklewheel, (that is, supposing you were me,) who has so long been
a fellow-labourer with us, to quit his place here without some mark
of our own esteem for him as a man, and some testimony from the
council to his merits as a magistrate. Every body knows that he has
been for near to fifty years a distinguished character, and has
thrice filled the very highest post in the burgh; that many great
improvements have been made in his time, wherein his influence and
wisdom was very evident; I would therefore propose, that a committee
should be appointed to consider of the best means of expressing our
sense of his services, in which I shall be very happy to assist,
provided the provost will consent to act as chairman.'

"That's the way I would open the business; and were I the seconder,
as you are to be to Mr Birky, I would say,

"'The worthy councillor has but anticipated what every one was
desirous to propose, and although a committee is a very fit way of
doing the thing respectfully, there is yet a far better, and that
is, for the council now sitting to come at once to a resolution on
the subject, then a committee may be appointed to carry that
resolution into effect.'

"Having said this, you might advert first to the vote of thanks, and
then to the piece of plate, to remain with the gentleman's family as
a monumental testimony of the opinion which was entertained by the
community of his services and character."

Having in this judicious manner primed Mr Mucklewheel as to the
procedure, I suddenly recollected that I had a letter to write to
catch the post, and having told him so, "Maybe," quo' I, "ye would
step the length of Mr Birky's and see how he is inclined, and by the
time I am done writing, ye can be back; for after all that we have
been saying, and the warm and friendly interest you have taken in
this business, I really would not wish my friends to stir in it,
unless it is to be done in a satisfactory manner."

Mr Mucklewheel accordingly went to Mr Birky, who had of course heard
nothing of the subject, but they came back together, and he was very
vogie with the notion of making a speech before the council, for he
was an upsetting young man. In short, the matter was so set
forward, that, on the Monday following, it was all over the town
that I was to get a piece of plate at my resignation, and the whole
affair proceeded so well to an issue, that the same was brought to a
head to a wish. Thus had I the great satisfaction of going to my
repose as a private citizen with a very handsome silver cup, bearing
an inscription in the Latin tongue, of the time I had been in the
council, guildry, and magistracy; and although, in the outset of my
public life, some of my dealings may have been leavened with the
leaven of antiquity, yet, upon the whole, it will not be found, I
think, that, one thing weighed with another, I have been an
unprofitable servant to the community. Magistrates and rulers must
rule according to the maxims and affections of the world; at least,
whenever I tried any other way, strange obstacles started up in the
opinions of men against me, and my purest intents were often more
criticised than some which were less disinterested; so much is it
the natural humour of mankind to jealouse and doubt the integrity of
all those who are in authority and power, especially when they see
them deviating from the practices of their predecessors. Posterity,
therefore, or I am far mistaken, will not be angered at my plain
dealing with regard to the small motives of private advantage of
which I have made mention, since it has been my endeavour to show
and to acknowledge, that there is a reforming spirit abroad among
men, and that really the world is gradually growing better--slowly I
allow; but still it is growing better, and the main profit of the
improvement will be reaped by those who are ordained to come after

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