The Life of Mansie Wauch - tailor in Dalkeith
by D. M. Moir
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What I had seen and witnessed made my thoughts heavy and my heart sad; I could not get the better of it. I looked round and round me, as we jogged along over the height, down on the far distant country, that spread out as if it had been a great big picture, with hills, and fields, and woods; and I could still see to the norward the ships lying at their anchors on the sea, and the shores of Fife far far beyond it. It was a great and a grand sight; and made me turn from the looking at it into my own heart, causing me to think more and more of the glory of the Maker's handiworks, and less and less of the littleness of prideful man. But Tammie had gotten his drappikie, and the tongue of the body would not lie still a moment; so he blethered on from one thing to another, as we jogged along, till I was forced at the last to give up thinking, and begin a twa-handed crack with him.

"Have you your snuff-box upon ye?" said Tammie. "Gi'e me a pinch."

Having given him the box, I observed to him, that "it was beginning to grow dark and dowie."

"'Deed is't," said Tammie; "but a body can now scarcely meet on the road wi' ony think waur than themsell. Mony a witch, de'il, and bogle, however, did my grannie see and hear tell of, that used to scud and scamper hereaway langsyne like maukins."

"Witches!" quo' I. "No, no, Tammie, all these things are out of the land now; and muckle luck to them. But we have other things to fear; what think ye of highway robbers?"

"Highway robbers!" said Tammie. "Kay, kay; I'll tell ye of something that I met in wi' mysell. Ae dark winter night, as I was daundering hame frae Pathhead—it was pitmirk, and about the twall—losh me, I couldna see my finger afore me!—that a stupid thocht cam into my head that I wad never wun hame, but be either killed, lost, murdered, or drowned, between that and the dawing. All o' a sudden I sees a light coming dancing forrit amang the trees; and my hair began to stand up on end. Then, in the next moment—save us a'!—I sees anither light, and forrit, forrit they baith cam, like the een of some great fiery monster, let loose frae the pit o' darkness by its maister, to seek whom it might devour."

"Stop, Tammie," said I to him, "ye'll wauken Benjie. How far are we from Dalkeith?"

[Picture: Thomas Burlings]

"Twa mile and a bittock," answered Tammie. "But wait a wee.—Up cam the two lights snoov-snooving, nearer and nearer; and I heard distinctly the sound of feet that werena men's—cloven feet, maybe—but nae wheels. Sae nearer it cam and nearer, till the sweat began to pour owre my een as cauld as ice; and, at lang and last, I fand my knees beginning to gi'e way; and, after tot-tottering for half a minute, I fell down, my staff playing bleach out before me. When I cam to mysell, and opened my een, there were the twa lights before me, bleez-bleezing, as if they wad blast my sight out. And what did they turn out to be, think ye? The de'il or spunkie, whilk o' them?"

"I'm sure I canna tell," said I.

"Naithing mair then," answered Tammie, "but twa bowets; ane tied to ilka knee of auld Doofie, the half-crazy horse-doctor, mounted on his lang-tailed naig, and away through the dark by himsell, at the dead hour o' night, to the relief of a man's mare seized with the batts, somewhere down about Oxenford."

I was glad that Tammie's story had ended in this way, when out came another tramping on its heels.

"Do you see the top of yon black trees to the eastward there, on the braehead?"

"I think I do," was my reply. "But how far, think ye, are we from home now?"

"About a mile and a half," said Tammie.—"Weel, as to the trees, I'll tell ye something about them.

"There was an auld widow-leddy lived langsyne about the town-end of Dalkeith. A sour, cankered, curious body—she's dead and rotten lang ago. But what I was gaun to say, she had a bonny bit fair-haired, blue-ee'd lassie of a servant-maid that lodged in the house wi' her, just by all the world like a lamb wi' an wolf; a bonnier quean, I've heard tell, never steppit in leather shoon; so all the young lads in the gate-end were wooing at her, and fain to have her; but she wad only have ae joe for a' that. He was a journeyman wright, a trades-lad, and they had come, three or four year before, frae the same place thegither—maybe having had a liking for ane anither since they were bairns; so they were gaun to be married the week after Da'keith Fair, and a' was settled. But what, think ye, happened? He got a drap drink, and a recruiting party listed him in the king's name, wi' pitting a white shilling in his loof.

"When the poor lassie heard what had come to pass, and how her sweetheart had ta'en the bounty, she was like to gang distrackit, and took to her bed. The doctor never took up her trouble; and some said it was a fever. At last she was roused out o't, but naebody ever saw her laugh after; and frae ane that was as cantie as a lintie, she became as douce as a Quaker, though she aye gaed cannily about her wark, as if amaist naething had happened. If she was ony way light-headed before, to be sure she wasna that noo; but just what a decent quean should be, sitting for hours by the kitchen fire her lane, reading the Bible, and thinking, wha kens, of what wad become o' the wicked after they died; and so ye see—"

"What light is yon?" said I, interrupting him, wishing him like to break off.

"Ou, it's just the light on some of the coal-hills. The puir blackened creatures will be gaun down to their wark. It's an unyearthly kind of trade, turning night intil day, and working like moudiewarts in the dark, when decent folks are in their beds sleeping.—And so, as I was saying, ye see, it happened ae Sunday night that a chap cam to the back door; and the mistress too heard it. She was sitting in the foreroom wi' her specs on, reading some sermon book; but it was the maid that answered.

"In a while thereafter, she rang her bell, being a curious body, and aye anxious to ken a' thing of her ain affairs, let alane her neighbours; so, after waiting a wee, she rang again,—and better rang; then lifting up her stick, for she was stiff with the rheumaticks and decay of nature, she hirpled into the kitchen,—but feint a hait saw she there, save the open Bible lying on the table, the cat streekit out before the fire, and the candle burning—the candle—na, I daur say I am wrang there, I believe it was a lamp, for she was a near ane. As for her maiden, there was no trace of her."

"What do ye think came owre her then?" said I to him, liking to be at my wits' end. "Naething uncanny, I daur say?"

"Ye'll hear in a moment," answered Tammie, "a' that I ken o' the matter. Ye see—as I asked ye before—yon trees on the hill-head to the eastward; just below yon black cloud yonder?"

"Preceesely," said I—"I see them well enough."

"Weel, after a' thochts of finding her were gi'en up, and it was fairly concluded, that it was the auld gudeman that had come and chappit her out, she was fund in a pond among yon trees, floating on her back, wi' her Sunday's claes on!!"

"Drowned?" said I to him.

"Drowned—and as stiff as a deal board," answered Tammie. "But when she was drowned—or how she came to be drowned—or who it was drowned her—has never been found out to this blessed moment."

"Maybe," said I, lending in my word—"maybe she had grown demented, and thrown herself in i' the dark."

"Or maybe," said Tammie, "the deil flew away wi' her in a flash o' fire; and, soosing her down frae the lift, she landit in that hole, where she was fund floating. But—wo!—wo!" cried he to his horse, coming across its side with his whip—"We maun be canny; for this brig has a sharp turn (it was the Cow Brig, ye know), and many a one, both horse and man, have got their necks broken, by not being wary enough of that corner."

This made me a thought timorous, having the bit laddie Benjie fast asleep in my arms; and as I saw that Tammie's horse was a wee fidgety, and glad, I dare say, poor thing, to find itself so near home. We heard the water, far down below, roaring and hushing over the rocks, and thro' among the Duke's woods—big, thick, black trees, that threw their branches, like giant's arms, half across the Esk, making all below as gloomy as midnight; while over the tops of them, high, high aboon, the bonnie wee starries were twink-twinkling far amid the blue. But there was no end to Tammie's tongue.

"Weel," said he, "speaking o' the brig, I'll tell you a gude story about that. Auld Jamie Bowie, the potato merchant, that lived at the Gate-end, had a horse and cart that met wi' an accident just at the turn o' the corner yonder; and up cam a chield sair forfaughten, and a' out of breath, to Jamie's door, crying like the prophet Jeremiah to the auld Jews, 'Rin, rin away doun to the Cow Brig; for your cart's dung to shivers, and the driver's killed, as weel as the horse!'

"James ran in for his hat; but as he was coming out at the door, he met another messenger, such as came running across the plain to David, to acquaint him of the death of Absalom, crying, 'Rin away doun, Jamie, rin away doun; your cart is standing yonder, without either horse or driver; for they're baith killed!'

"Jamie thanked Heaven that the cart was to the fore; then, rinning back for his stick, which he had forgotten, he stopped a moment to bid his wife not greet so loud, and was then rushing out in full birr, when he ran foul of a third chield, that mostly knocked doun the door in his hurry. 'Awfu' news, man, awfu' news,' was the way o't, with this second Eliphaz the Temanite. 'Your cart and horse ran away—and threw the driver, puir fellow, clean owre the brig into the water. No a crunch o' him is to be seen or heard tell of; for he was a' smashed to pieces!! It's an awfu' business!'

"'But where's the horse? and where's the cart, then?' askit Jamie, a thought brisker. 'Where's the horse and cart, then, my man? Can ye tell me ought of that?'

"'Ou,' said he, 'they're baith doun at the Toll yonder, no a hair the waur.'

"'That's the best news I've heard the nicht, my man.—Goodwife, I say, Goodwife; are ye deaf or donnart? Give this lad a dram; and, as it rather looks like a shower, I'll e'en no go out the night.—I'll easy manage to find another driver, though half a hundred o' the blockheads should get their brains knocked out.'

"Is not that a gude ane noo?" quo' Tammie, laughing. '"Od Jamie Bowie was a real ane. He wadna let them light a candle by his bedside to let him see to dee; he gied them a curse, and said that was needless extravagance."

Dog on it, thought I to myself, the further in the deeper. This beats the round-shouldered, horse-couper with the Japan hat, skinning his reeking horse, all to sticks; and so I again fell into a gloomy sort of a musing; when, just as we came opposite the Duke's gate, with the deers on each side of it, two men rushed out upon us, and one of them seized Tammie's horse by the bridle, as the other one held his horse-pistol to my nose, and bade me stop in the King's name!

"Hold your hand, hold your hand, for the sake of mercy!" cried I. "Spare the father of a small family that will starve on the street if ye take my life!! Hae—hae—there's every coin and copper I have about me in the world! Be merciful, be merciful; and do not shed blood, that will not, cannot be rubbed out of your conscience. Take all that we have—horse and cart and all if ye like; only spare our lives, and let us away home!"

"De'il's in the man," quo' Tammie, "horse and cart! that's a gude one! Na, na, lads; fire away gin ye like; for as lang as I hae a drap o' bluid in me, ye'll get neither. Better be killed than starve. Do your best, ye thieves that ye are; and I'll hae baith of ye hanged neist week before the Fifteen!"

Every moment I expected my head to be shot off, till I got my hand clapped on Tammie's mouth, and could get cried to them—"Shoot him then, lads; shoot him then, lads, if he wants it; but take my siller like Christians, and let me away with my poor deeing bairn!"

The two men seemed a something dumfoundered with what they heard; and I began to think them, if they were highway robbers, a wee slow at their trade; when, what think ye did they turn out to be—only guess? Nothing more nor less than two excise officers, that had got information of some smuggled gin, coming up in a cart from Fisherrow Harbour, and were lurking on the road-side, looking out for spuilzie!!

When they quitted us giggling, I could not keep from laughing too; though the sights I had seen, and the fright I had got, made me nervish and eerie; so blithe was I when the cart rattled on our own street, and I began to waken Benjie, as we were not above a hundred yards from our own door.

In this day's adventures, I saw the sin and folly of my conduct visibly, as I jumped out of the cart at our close mouth. So I determined within myself, with a strong determination, to behave more sensibly for the future, and think no more about limekilns and coal-pits; but to trust, for Benjie's recovery from the chincough, to a kind Providence, together with Daffy's elixir, and warm blankets.


It was on a fine summer morning, somewhere about four o'clock, when I wakened from my night's rest, and was about thinking to bestir myself, that I heard the sound of voices in the kail-yard stretching south from our back windows. I listened—and I listened—and I better listened—and still the sound of the argle-bargling became more distinct, now in a fleeching way, and now in harsh angry tones, as if some quarrelsome disagreement had taken place. I had not the comfort of my wife's company in this dilemmy; she being away, three days before, on the top of Tammie Trundle the carrier's cart, to Lauder, on a visit to her folks there; her mother (my gudemother like) having been for some time ill with an income in her leg, which threatened to make a lameter of her in her old age, the two doctors there—not speaking of the blacksmith, and sundry skeely old women—being able to make nothing of the business; so nobody happened to be with me in the room saving wee Benjie, who was lying asleep at the back of the bed, with his little Kilmarnock on his head, as sound as a top. Nevertheless, I looked for my clothes; and, opening one half of the window shutter, I saw four young birkies, well dressed—indeed three of them customers of my own—all belonging to the town; two of them young doctors, one of them a writer's clerk, and the other a grocer. The whole appeared very fierce and fearsome, like turkey-cocks; swaggering about with warlike arms as if they had been the king's dragoons; and priming a pair of pistols, which one of the surgeons, a spirity, outspoken lad, Maister Blister, was holding in his grip.

I jealoused at once what they were after, being now a wee up to fire-arms; so I saw that scaith was to come of it; and that I would be wanting in my duty on four heads,—first, as a Christian; second, as a man; third, as a subject; and fourth, as a father; if I withheld myself from the scene; nor lifted up my voice, however fruitlessly, against such crying iniquity as the wanton letting out of human blood; so forth I hastened, half dressed, with my grey stockings rolled up my thighs over my corduroys, and my old hat above my cowl, to the kail-yard of contention.

I was just in the nick of time; and my presence checked the effusion of blood for a little—but wait a wee. So high and furious were at least three of the party, that I saw it was catching water in a sieve to waste words on them, knowing as clearly as the sun serves the world, that interceding would be of no avail. However, I made a feint, and threatened to bowl away for a magistrate, if they would not desist from their barbarous and bloody purpose; but, i'fegs, I had better kept my counsel till it was asked for.

"Tailor Mansie," blustered out Maister Thomas Blister with a furious cock of his eye—he was a queer Eirish birkie, come over for his education—"since ye have ventured to thrust your nose, ma vourneen," said he, "where nobody invited ye, you must just stay," added he, "and abide by the consequences. This is an affair of honour, you take, don't ye? and if ye venture to stir one foot from the spot, och then, ma bouchal," said he, "by the poker of St Patrick, but whisk through ye goes one of these leaden playthings, as sure as ye ever spoiled a coat, or cabbaged broadcloth! Ye have now come out, ye observe,—hark ye," said he, "and are art and part in the business; and if one, or both, of the principals be killed, poor devils," said he, "we are all alike liable to take our trial before the Justiciary Court, hark ye; and by the powers," said he, "I doubt not but, on proper consideration, machree, that they will allow us to get off mercifully, on this side of swinging, by a verdict of manslaughter—and be hanged to them!"

'Od, I found myself immediately in a scrape; but how to get out of it baffled my gumption. It set me all a shivering; yet I thought that, come the worst when it should, they surely would not hang the father of a helpless small family, that had nothing but his needle for their support, if I made a proper affidavy, about having tried to make peace between the youths. So, conscience being a brave supporter, I abode in silence, though not without many queer and qualmish thoughts, and a pit-patting of the heart, not unco pleasant in the tholing.

"Blood and wounds!" bawled Maister Thomas Blister, "it would be a disgrace for ever on the honourable profession of physic," egging on poor Maister Willy Magneezhy, whose face was as white as double-bleached linen, "to make an apology for such an insult. Arrah, my honey! you not fit to doctor a cat,—you not fit to bleed a calf,—you not fit to poultice a pig,—after three years' apprenticeship," said he, "and a winter with Doctor Monro? By the cupping-glasses of 'Pocrates," said he, "and by the pistol of Gallon, but I would have caned him on the spot if he had just let out half as much to me! Look ye, man," said he, "look ye, man, he is all shaking" (this was a God's truth); "he'll turn tail. At him like fire, Willie."

Magneezhy, though sadly frightened, looked a thought brighter; and made a kind of half step forward. "Say that ye'll ask my pardon once more,—and if not," whined the poor lad, with a voice broken and trembling, "then we must just shoot one another."

"Devil a bit," answered Maister Bloatsheet, "devil a bit. No, sir; you must down on your bare knees, and beg ten thousand pardons for calling me out here, in a raw morning; or I'll have a shot at you, whether you will or not."

"Will you stand that?" said Blister, with eyes like burning coals. "By the living jingo, and the holy poker, Magneezhy, if you stand that,—if you stand that, I say, I stand no longer your second, but leave you to disgrace and a caning. If he likes to shoot you like a dog, and not as a gentleman, then, cuishla machree,—let him do it, and be done!"

"No, sir," replied Magneezhy with a quivering voice, which he tried in vain, poor fellow, to render warlike (he had never been in the volunteers like me). "Hand us the pistols, then; and let us do or die!"

"Spoken like a hero, and brother of the lancet: as little afraid at the sight of your own blood, as at that of your patients," said Blister. "Hand over the pistols."

It was an awful business. Gude save us, such goings on in a Christian land! While Mr Bloatsheet, the young writer, was in the act of cocking the bloody weapon, I again, but to no purpose, endeavoured to slip in a word edgeways. Magneezhy was in an awful case; if he had been already shot, he could not have looked more clay and corpse-like; so I took up a douce earnest confabulation, while the stramash was drawing to a bloody conclusion, with Mr Harry Molasses, the fourth in the spree, who was standing behind Bloatsheet with a large mahogany box under his arm, something in shape like that of a licensed packman, ganging about from house to house, through the country-side, selling toys and trinkets; or niffering plaited ear-rings, and suchlike, with young lasses, for old silver coins or cracked teaspoons.

"Oh!" answered he, very composedly, as if it had been a canister full of black-rapee or black-guard, that he had just lifted down from his top-shelf, "it's just Doctor Blister's saws, whittles, and big knives, in case any of their legs or arms be blown away, that he may cut them off." Little would have prevented me sinking down through the ground, had I not remembered at the preceese moment, that I myself was a soldier, and liable, when the hour of danger threatened, to be called out, in marching-order, to the field of battle. But by this time the pistols were in the hands of the two infatuated young men, Mr Bloatsheet, as fierce as a hussar dragoon, and Magneezhy as supple in the knees as if he was all on oiled hinges; so the next consideration was to get well out of the way, the lookers-on running nearly as great a chance of being shot as the principals, they not being accustomed, like me for instance, to the use of arms; on which account, I scougged myself behind a big pear-tree; both being to fire when Blister gave the word "Off!"

I had scarcely jouked into my hidy-hole, when "crack—crack" played the pistols like lightning; and as soon as I got my cowl taken from my eyes, and looked about, woes me! I saw Magneezhy clap his hand to his brow, wheel round like a peerie, or a sheep seized with the sturdie, and then play flap down on his broadside, breaking the necks of half-a-dozen cabbage-stocks—three of which were afterwards clean lost, as we could not put them all into the pot at one time. The whole of us ran forward, but foremost was Bloatsheet, who seizing Magneezhy by the hand, cried, with a mournful face, "I hope you forgive me? Only say this as long as you have breath; for I am off to Leith harbour in half a minute."

The blood was running over poor Magneezhy's eyes, and drib-dribbling from the neb of his nose, so he was truly in a pitiful state; but he said with more strength than I thought he could have mustered,—"Yes, yes, fly for your life. I am dying without much pain—fly for your life, for I am a gone man!"

Bloatsheet bounced through the kail-yard like a maukin, clamb over the bit wall, and off like mad; while Blister was feeling Magneezhy's pulse with one hand, and looking at his doctor's watch, which he had in the other. "Do ye think that the poor lad will live, doctor?" said I to him.

He gave his head a wise shake, and only observed, "I dare say, it will be a hanging business among us. In what direction do you think, Mansie, we should all take flight?"

But I answered bravely, "Flee them that will, I'se flee nane. If I am taken prisoner, the town-officers maun haul me from my own house; but, nevertheless, I trust the visibility of my innocence will be as plain as a pikestaff to the eyes of the Fifteen!"

"What, then, Mansie, will we do with poor Magneezhy? Give us your advice in need."

"Let us carry him down to my own bed," answered I; "I would not desert a fellow-creature in his dying hour! Help me down with him, and then flee the country as fast as you are able!"

We immediately proceeded, and lifted the poor lad, who had now dwalmed away, upon our wife's hand-barrow—Blister taking the feet, and me the oxters, whereby I got my waistcoat all japanned with blood; so, when we got him laid right, we proceeded to carry him between us down the close, just as if he had been a sticked sheep, and in at the back door, which cost us some trouble, being narrow, and the barrow getting jammed in; but, at long and last, we got him streeked out above the blankets, having previously shooken Benjie, and wakened him out of his morning's nap.

All this being accomplished and got over, Blister decamped, leaving me my leeful lane, excepting Benjie, who was next to nobody, in the house with the dying man. What a frightful face he had, all smeared over with blood and powder—and I really jealoused, that if he died in that room it would be haunted for evermair, he being in a manner a murdered man; so that, even should I be acquitted of art and part, his ghost might still come to bother us, making our house a hell upon earth, and frighting us out of our seven senses. But in the midst of my dreadful surmises, when all was still, so that you might have heard a pin fall, a knock-knock-knock, came to the door, on which, recovering my senses, I dreaded first that it was the death-chap, and syne that the affair had got wind, and that it was the beagles come in search of me; so I kissed little Benjie, who was sitting on his creepie, blubbering and greeting for his parritch, while a tear stood in my own eye as I went forward to lift the sneck to let the officers, as I thought, harrie our house, by carrying off me, its master; but it was, thank Heaven, only Tammie Bodkin, coming in whistling to his work, with some measuring papers hanging round his neck.

"Ah, Tammie," said I to him, my heart warming at a kent face, and making the laddie, although my bounden servant by a regular indenture of five years, a friend in my need, "come in, my man. I fear ye'll hae to take charge of the business for some time to come; mind what I tell'd ye about the shaping and the cutting, and no making the goose ower warm; as I doubt I am about to be harled away to the tolbooth."

Tammie's heart swelled to his mouth. "Ah, maister," he said, "ye're joking. What should ye have done that ye should be ta'en to sic an ill place?"

"Ay, Tammie, lad," answered I, "it is but ower true."

"Weel, weel," quo' Tammie—I really thought it a great deal of the laddie—"weel, weel, they canna prevent me coming to sew beside ye; and if I can take the measure of customers without, ye can cut the claith within. But what is't for, maister?"

"Come in here," said I to him, "and believe your ain een, Tammie, my man."

"Losh me!" cried the poor laddie, glowring at the bloody face of the man in the bed, and starting back on his tip-toes. "Ay—ay—ay! maister; save us, maister; ay—ay—ay—you have na cloured his harnpan with the guse? Ay, maister, maister! whaten an unearthly sight!! I doubt they'll hang us a'; you for doing't—and me on suspicion—and Benjie as art and part, puir thing! But I'll rin for a doctor. Will I, maister?"

The thought had never struck me before, being in a sort of a manner dung stupid; but catching up the word, I said with all my pith and birr, "Rin, rin, Tammie, rin for life and death!"

Tammie bolted like a nine-year-old, never looking behind his tail; so, in less than ten minutes, he returned, hauling along old Doctor Peelbox, whom he had waukened out of his bed, in a camblet morning-gown, and a pair of red slippers, by the lug and horn, at the very time I was trying to quiet young Benjie, who was following me up and down the house, as I was pacing to and fro in distraction, girning and whingeing for his breakfast.

"Bad business, bad business; bless us, what is this?" said the old Doctor, who was near-sighted, staring at Magneezhy's bloody face through his silver spectacles—"what's the matter?"

The poor patient knew at once his master's tongue, and lifting up one of his eyes, the other being stiff and barkened down, said in a melancholy voice, "Ah, master, do you think I'll get better?"

Doctor Peelbox, old man as he was, started back as if he had been a French dancing-master, or had stramped on a hot bar of iron. "Tom, Tom, is this you? what, in the name of wonder, has done this?" Then feeling his wrist—"but your pulse is quite good. Have you fallen, boy? Where is the blood coming from?"

"Somewhere about the hairy scalp," answered Magneezhy, in their own queer sort of lingo. "I doubt some artery's cut through!"

The Doctor immediately bade him lie quiet and hush, as he was getting a needle and silken thread ready to sew it up; ordering me to have a basin and water ready, to wash the poor lad's physog. I did so as hard as I was able, though I was not sure about the blood just; old Doctor Peelbox watching over my shoulder with a lighted penny candle in one hand, and the needle and thread in the other, to see where the blood spouted from. But we were as daft as wise; so he bade me take my big shears, and cut out all the hair on the fore part of the head as bare as my loof; and syne we washed, and better washed; so Magneezhy got the other eye up, when the barkened blood was loosed; looking, though as pale as a clean shirt, more frighted than hurt; until it became plain to us all, first to the Doctor, syne to me, and syne to Tammie Bodkin, and last of all to Magneezhy himself, that his skin was not so much as peeled. So we helped him out of the bed, and blithe was I to see the lad standing on the floor, without a hold, on his own feet.

I did my best to clean his neckcloth and shirt of the blood, making him look as decentish as possible, considering circumstances; and lending him, as the scripture commands, my tartan mantle to hide the infirmity of his bloody trowsers and waistcoat. Home went he and his master together; me standing at our close mouth, wishing them a good-morning, and blithe to see their backs. Indeed, a condemned thief with the rope about his neck, and the white cowl tied over his eyes, to say nothing of his hands yerked together behind his back, and on the nick of being thrown over, could not have been more thankful for a reprieve than I was, at the same blessed moment. It was like Adam seeing the deil's rear marching out of Paradise, if one may be allowed to think such a thing.

The whole business, tag-rag and bob-tail, soon, however, spunked out, and was the town talk for more than one day.—But you'll hear.

At the first I pitied the poor lads, that I thought had fled for ever and aye from their native country, to Bengal, Seringapatam, Copenhagen, Botany Bay, or Jamaica, leaving behind them all their friends and old Scotland, as they might never hear of the goodness of Providence in their behalf. But wait a wee.

Would you believe it? As sure's death, the whole was but a wicked trick played by that mischievous loon Blister and his cronies, upon one that was a simple and soft-headed callant. De'il a hait was in the one pistol but a pluff of powder; and in the other, a cartridge-paper, full of blood, was rammed down upon the charge; the which, hitting Magneezhy on the ee-bree, had caused a business that seemed to have put him out of life, and nearly put me (though one of the volunteers) out of my seven senses.


The time of Tammie Bodkin's apprenticeship being nearly worn through, it behoved me, as a man attentive to business, and the interests of my family, to cast my eyes around me in search of a callant to fill his place; as it is customary in our trade for young men, when their time is out, taking a year's journeymanship in Edinburgh, to perfect them in the more intricate branches of the business, and learn the newest manner of the French and London fashions, by cutting cloth for the young advocates, the college students, the banking-house clerks, the half-pay ensigns, and the rest of the principal tip-top bucks.

Having, though I say it myself, the word of being a canny maister, more than one brought their callants to me, on reading the bill of "An apprentice wanted," pasted on my shop-window.

Offering to bind them for the regular time, yet not wishing to take but one, I thought best not to fix in a hurry, and make choice of him that seemed more exactly cut out for my purpose. In the course of a few weeks three or four cast up, among whom was a laddie of Ben Aits the mealmonger, and a son of William Burlings the baker; to say little of the callant of Saunders Broom the sweep, that would fain have put his blackit-looking bit creature with the one eye and the wooden leg under my wing; but I aye looked to respectability in these matters; so glad was I when I got the offer of Mungo Glen.—But more of this in half a minute.

I must say I was glad of any feasible excuse to make to the sweep, to get quit of him and his laddie, the father being a drucken ne'er-do-weel, that I wonder did not fall long ere this time of day from some chimney-head, and get his neck broken. So I told him at long and last, when he came papping into my shop, plaguing me every time he passed, that I had fitted myself; and that there would be no need of his taking the trouble to call again. Upon which he gave his blacked nieve a desperate thump on the counter, making the observation, that out of respect for him I might have given his son the preference. Though I was a wee puzzled for an answer, I said to him for want of a better, that having a timber leg, he could not well creuk his hough to the shop-board for our trade.

"Hout, touts," said Saunders, giving his lips a smack—"Creuk his hough, ye body you! Do you think his timber leg canna screw off?—That'll no pass."

I was a little dumfoundered at this cleverness. So I said, more on my guard—"True, true, Saunders, but he's ower little."

"Ower little, and be hanged to ye!" cried the disrespectful fellow, wheeling about on his heel, as he grasped the sneck of the shop-door, and gave a girn that showed the only clean parts of his body—to wit the whites of his eyes, and his sharp teeth:—"Ower little!—Pu, pu!—He's like the blackamoor's pig, then, Maister Wauch—he's like the blackamoor's pig—he may be ver' leetle, but he be tam ould"; and with this he showed his back, clapping the door at his tail without wishing a good-day; and I am scarcely sorry when I confess, that I never cut cloth for either father or son from that hour to this one, the losing of such a customer being no great matter at best, and almost clear gain compared with saddling myself with a callant with only one eye and one leg; the one having fallen a victim to the dregs of the measles, and the other having been harled off by a farmer's threshing-mill. However, I got myself properly suited;—but ye shall hear.

Our neighbour Mrs Grassie, a widow woman, unco intimate with our wife, and very attentive to Benjie when he had the chincough, had a far-away cousin of the name of Glen, that held out among the howes of the Lammermoor hills—a distant part of the country, ye observe. Auld Glen, a decent-looking body of a creature, had come in with his sheltie about some private matters of business—such as the buying of a horse, or something to that effect, where he could best fall in with it, either at our fair, or the Grassmarket, or suchlike; so he had up-pitting, free of expense, from Mrs Grassie, on account of his relationship; Glen being second cousin to Mrs Grassie's brother's wife, which is deceased. I might, indeed, have mentioned, that our neighbour herself had been twice married, and had the misery of seeing out both her gudemen; but such was the will of fate, and she bore up with perfect resignation.

Having made a bit warm dinner ready, for she was a tidy body, and knew what was what, she thought she could not do better than ask in a reputable neighbour to help her friend to eat it, and take a cheerer with him; as, maybe, being a stranger here, he would not like to use the freedom of drinking by himself—a custom which is at the best an unsocial one—especially with none but women-folk near him; so she did me the honour to make choice of me—though I say it, who should not say it;—and when we got our jug filled for the second time, and began to grow better acquainted, ye would really wonder to see how we became merry, and cracked away just like two pen-guns. I asked him, ye see, about sheep and cows, and corn and hay, and ploughing and threshing, and horses and carts, and fallow land, and lambing-time, and har'st, and making cheese and butter, and selling eggs, and curing the sturdie, and the snifters, and the batts, and such like;—and he, in his turn, made enquiry regarding broad and narrow cloth, Kilmarnock cowls, worsted comforters, Shetland hose, mittens, leather-caps, stuffing and padding, metal and mule buttons, thorls, pocket-linings, serge, twist, buckram, shaping and sewing, back-splaying, cloth-runds, goosing the labroad, botkins, black thread, patent shears, measuring, and all the other particulars belonging to our trade, which he said, at long and last after we had joked together, was a power better one than the farming line.

"Ye should make your son ane, then," said I, "if ye think so. Have ye any bairns?"

"Ye've hit the nail on the head.—'Od, man, if ye wasna so far away, I would bind our auldest callant to yoursell, I'm sae weel pleased wi' your gentlemanly manners. But I'm speaking havers."

"Havers here or havers there, what," said I, "is to prevent ye boarding him, at a cheap rate, either with our friend Mrs Grassie, or with the wife? Either of the two would be a sort of mother to him."

'"Deed I daur say would they," answered Maister Glen, stroking his chin, which was gey rough, and had not got a clean since Sunday, having had four days of sheer growth—our meeting, you will observe by this, being on the Thursday afternoon—"'Deed would they.—'Od, I maun speak to the mistress about it."

On the head of this we had another jug, three being cannie, after which we were both a wee tozy-mozy; and I daresay Mrs Grassie saw plainly that we were getting into a state where we would not easily make a halt; so, without letting on, she brought in the tea-things before us, and showed us a playbill, to tell us that a company of strolling playactors had come in a body in the morning, with a whole cartful of scenery and grand dresses; and were to make an exhibition at seven o'clock, at the ransom of a shilling a-head, in Laird Wheatley's barn.

Many a time and often had I heard of playacting; and of players making themselves kings and queens, and saying a great many wonderful things; but I had never before an opportunity of making myself a witness to the truth of these hearsays. So Maister Glen, being as full of nonsense, and as fain to have his curiosity gratified as myself, we took upon us the stout resolution to go out together, he offering to treat me; and I determined to run the risk of Maister Wiggie, our minister's rebuke, for the transgression, hoping it would make no lasting impression on his mind, being for the first and only time. Folks should not on all occasions be over scrupulous.

After paying our money at the door, never, while I live and breathe, will I forget what we saw and heard that night; it just looks to me, by all the world, when I think on it, like a fairy dream. The place was crowded to the full; Maister Glen and me having nearly got our ribs dung in before we found a seat, the folks behind being obliged to mount the back benches to get a sight. Right to the forehand of us was a large green curtain, some five or six ells wide, a good deal the worse of the wear, having seen service through two-three summers; and, just in the front of it, were eight or ten penny candles stuck in a board fastened to the ground, to let us see the players' feet like, when they came on the stage—and even before they came on the stage—for the curtain being scrimpit in length, we saw legs and sandals moving behind the scenes very neatly; while two blind fiddlers they had brought with them played the bonniest ye ever heard. 'Od, the very music was worth a sixpence of itself.

The place, as I said before, was choke-full, just to excess; so that one could scarcely breathe. Indeed, I never saw any part so crowded, not even at a tent preaching, when the Rev. Mr Roarer was giving his discourses on the building of Solomon's Temple. We were obligated to have the windows opened for a mouthful of fresh air, the barn being as close as a baker's oven, my neighbour and me fanning our red faces with our hats, to keep us cool; and, though all were half stewed, we certainly had the worst of it, the toddy we had taken having fermented the blood of our bodies into a perfect fever.

Just at the time that the two blind fiddlers were playing the Downfall of Paris, a handbell rang, and up goes the green curtain; being hauled to the ceiling, as I observed with the tail of my eye, by a birkie at the side, that had hold of a rope. So, on the music stopping, and all becoming as still as that you might have heard a pin fall, in comes a decent old gentleman at his leisure, well powdered, with an old-fashioned coat on, waistcoat with flap-pockets, brown breeches with buckles at the knees, and silk stockings with red gushats on a blue ground. I never saw a man in such distress; he stamped about, and better stamped about, dadding the end of his staff on the ground, and imploring all the powers of heaven and earth to help him to find out his runaway daughter, that had decamped with some ne'er-do-weel loon of a half-pay captain, that keppit her in his arms from her bedroom-window, up two pair of stairs.

Every father and head of a family must have felt for a man in his situation, thus to be robbed of his dear bairn, and an only daughter too, as he told us over and over again, as the salt, salt tears ran gushing down his withered face, and he aye blew his nose on his clean calendered pocket-napkin. But, ye know the thing was absurd to suppose that we should know, any inkling about the matter, having never seen him or his daughter between the een before, and not kenning them by headmark; so, though we sympathized with him, as folks ought to do with a fellow-creature in affliction, we thought it best to hold our tongues, to see what might cast up better than he expected. So out he went stumping at the other side, determined, he said, to find them out, though he should follow them to the world's end, Johnny Groat's House, or something to that effect.

Hardly was his back turned, and almost before he could cry Jack Robison, in comes the birkie and the very young lady the old gentleman described, arm-and-arm together, smoodging and laughing like daft. Dog on it! it was a shameless piece of business. As true as death, before all the crowd of folk, he put his arm round her waist, and called her his sweetheart, and love, and dearie, and darling, and everything that is fine. If they had been courting in a close together on a Friday night, they could not have said more to one another, or gone greater lengths. I thought such shame to be an eye-witness to sic ongoings, that I was obliged at last to hold up my hat before my face, and look down; though, for all that, the young lad, to be such a blackguard as his conduct showed, was well enough faured, and had a good coat to his back with double gilt buttons and fashionable lapells, to say little of a very well-made pair of buckskins, a thought the worse of the wear to be sure, but which, if they had been well cleaned, would have looked almost as good as new. How they had come we never could learn, as we neither saw chaise nor gig; but, from his having spurs on his boots, it is more than likely that they had lighted at the back-door of the barn from a horse, she riding on a pad behind him, maybe, with her hand round his waist.

The father looked to be a rich old bool, both from his manner of speaking, and the rewards he seemed to offer for the apprehension of his daughter; but to be sure, when so many of us were present that had an equal right to the spuilzie, it would not be a great deal a thousand pounds, when divided, still it was worth the looking after; so we just bidit a wee.

Things were brought to a bearing, howsoever, sooner than either themselves, I daresay, or anybody else present, seemed to have the least glimpse of; for, just in the middle of their fine goings-on, the sound of a coming foot was heard, and the lassie, taking guilt to her, cried out, "Hide me, hide me, for the sake of goodness, for yonder comes my old father!"

No sooner said than done. In he stappit her into a closet; and, after shutting the door on her, he sat down upon a chair, pretending to be asleep in the twinkling of a walking-stick. The old father came bouncing in, and seeing the fellow as sound as a top, he ran forward and gave him such a shake as if he would have shooken him all sundry; which soon made him open his eyes as fast as he had steeked them. After blackguarding the chield at no allowance, cursing him up hill and down dale, and calling him every name but a gentleman, he held his staff over his crown, and gripping him by the cuff of the neck, asked him, in a fierce tone, what he had made of his daughter. Never since I was born did I ever see such brazenfaced impudence! The rascal had the brass to say at once, that he had not seen word or wittens of the lassie for a month, though more than a hundred folk sitting in his company had beheld him dauting her with his arm round her jimpy waist, not five minutes before. As a man, as a father, as an elder of our kirk, my corruption was raised, for I aye hated lying as a poor cowardly sin, and an inbreak on the ten commandments; and I found my neighbour, Mr Glen, fidgeting on the seat as well as me; so I thought, that whoever spoke first would have the best right to be entitled to the reward; whereupon, just as he was in the act of rising up, I took the word out of his mouth, saying, "Dinna believe him, auld gentleman—dinna believe him, friend; he's telling a parcel of lees. Never saw her for a month! It's no worth arguing, or calling witnesses; just open that press-door, and ye'll see whether I'm speaking truth or not!"

The old man stared, and looked dumfoundered; and the young one, instead of running forward with his double nieves to strike me, the only thing I was feared for, began a-laughing, as if I had done him a good turn. But never since I had a being, did I ever witness such an uproar and noise as immediately took place. The whole house was so glad that the scoundrel had been exposed, that they set up siccan a roar of laughter, and thumped away at siccan a rate at the boards with their feet, that at long and last, with pushing and fidgeting, clapping their hands, and holding their sides, down fell the place they call the gallery; all the folk in't being hurl'd topsy-turvy, head foremost among the saw-dust on the floor below; their guffawing soon being turned to howling, each one crying louder than another at the top note of their voices, "Murder! murder! hold off me; murder! my ribs are in; murder! I'm killed—I'm speechless!" and other lamentations to that effect; so that a rush to the door took place, in the which every thing was overturned—the door-keeper being wheeled away like wildfire—the furms stramped to pieces—the lights knocked out—and the two blind fiddlers dung head-foremost over the stage, the bass fiddle cracking like thunder at every bruise. Such tearing, and swearing, and tumbling, and squealing, was never witnessed in the memory of man since the building of Babel: legs being likely to be broken, sides staved in, eyes knocked out, and lives lost—there being only one door, and that a small one; so that, when we had been carried off our feet that length, my wind was fairly gone, and a sick dwalm came over me, lights of all manner of colours, red, blue, green, and orange, dancing before me, that entirely deprived me of common sense; till, on opening my eyes in the dark, I found myself leaning with my broadside against the wall on the opposite side of the close. It was some time before I minded what had happened; so dreading skaith, I found first the one arm, and then the other, to see if they were broken—syne my head—and finally both of my legs; but all as well as I could discover, was skin-whole and scart-free. On perceiving this, my joy was without bounds, having a great notion that I had been killed on the spot. So I reached round my hand, very thankfully, to take out my pocket-napkin, to give my brow a wipe, when lo, and behold! the tail of my Sunday's coat was fairly off and away, docked by the hainch buttons.

So much for plays and playactors—the first and last, I trust in grace, that I shall ever see. But indeed I could expect no better, after the warning that Maister Wiggie had more than once given us from the pulpit on the subject. Instead, therefore, of getting my grand reward for finding the old man's daughter, the whole covey of them, no better than a set of swindlers, took leg-bail, and made that very night a moonlight flitting; and Johnny Hammer, honest man, that had wrought from sunrise to sunset for two days, fitting up their place by contract, instead of being well paid for his trouble as he deserved, got nothing left him but a ruckle of his own good deals, all dung to shivers.


On the morning after the business of the playhouse had happened, I had to take my breakfast in my bed, a thing very uncommon to me, being generally up by cock-craw, except on Sunday mornings whiles, when each one, according to the bidding of the Fourth Commandment, has a license to do as he likes; having a desperate sore head, and a squeamishness at the stomach, occasioned, I jealouse in a great measure, from what Mr Glen and me had discussed at Widow Grassie's, in the shape of warm toddy, over our cracks concerning what is called the agricultural and manufacturing interests. So our wife, poor body, put a thimbleful of brandy, Thomas Mixem's real, into my first cup of tea, which had a wonderful virtue in putting all things to rights; so that I was up and had shaped a pair of lady's corsets, an article in which I sometimes dealt, before ten o'clock, though, the morning being rather cold, I did not dispense with my Kilmarnock.

At eleven in the forenoon, or thereabouts, maybe five minutes before or after, but no matter, in comes my crony Maister Glen, rather dazed-like about the een; and with a large piece of white sticking-plaister, about half a nail wide, across one of his cheeks, and over the bridge of his nose; giving him a wauf, outlandish, and rather blackguard sort of appearance; so that I was a thought uneasy at what neighbours might surmise concerning our intimacy; but the honest man accounted for the thing in a very feasible manner, from the falling down on that side of his head of one of the brass candlesticks, while he was lying on his broadside before one of the furms in the stramash.

His purpose of calling was to tell me, that he could not leave the town without looking in upon me to bid me farewell; more betoken, as he intended sending in his son Mungo by the carrier for trial, to see how the line of life pleased him, and how I thought he would answer—a thing which I was glad came from his side of the house, being likely to be in the upshot the best for both parties. Yet I thought he would find our way of doing so canny and comfortable, that it was not very likely he could ever start objections; and I must confess, that I looked forward with no small degree of pride, seeing the probability of my soon having the son of a Lammermoor farmer sitting crosslegged, cheek for jowl with me on the board, and bound to serve me at all lawful times, by night and day, by a regular indenture of five years. Maister Glen insisted on the laddie having a three months' trial; and then, after a trifling show of standing out, just to make him aware that I could be elsewhere fitted if I had a mind, I agreed that the request was reasonable, and that I had no earthly objections to conforming with it. So, after giving him his meridian and a bite of shortbread, we shook hands, and parted in the understanding that his son would arrive on the top of limping Jamie the carrier's cart, in the course, say, of a fortnight.

Through the whole of the forepart of the day, I remained rather queerish, as if something was working about my inwards, and a droll pain between my eyes. The wife saw the case I was in, and advised me, for the sake of the fresh air, to take a step into the bit garden, and try a hand at the spade, the smell of the new earth being likely to operate as a cordial; but no—it would not do; and when I came in at one o'clock to my dinner, the steam of the fresh broth, instead of making me feel, as usual, as hungry as a hawk, was like to turn my stomach, while the sight of the sheep's head, one of the primest ones I had seen the whole season, looked, by all the world, like the head of a boiled blackamoor, and made me as sick as a dog; so I could do nothing but take a turn out again, and swig away at the small beer, that never seemed able to slocken my drouth. At long and last, I minded having heard Andrew Redbeak, the excise-officer, say, that nothing ever put him right after a debosh except something they call a bottle of soda-water; so my wife dispatched Benjie to the place where we knew it could be found, and he returned in a jiffie with a thing like a blacking-bottle below his daidly, as he was bidden. There being a wire over the cork for some purpose or other, or maybe just to look neat, we had some fight to get it torn away, but at last we succeeded. I had turned about for a jug, and the wife was rummaging for the screw, while Benjie was fiddling away with his fingers at the cork—Save us! all at once it gave a thud like thunder, driving the cork over poor Benjie's head, while it squirted there-up in his eyes like a fire-engine, and I had only just time to throw down the jug, and up with the bottle to my mouth. Luckily, for the sixpence it cost, there was a drop left, which tasted, by all the world, just like brisk dish-washings; but for all that, it had a wonderful power of setting me to rights; and my noddle in a while began to clear up, like a March-day after a heavy shower.

I mind very well too, on the afternoon of the dividual same day, that my door-neighbour, Thomas Burlings, popped in; and, in our two-handed crack over the counter, after asking me in a dry, curious way, if I had come by no skaith in the business of the play, he said, the thing had now spread far and wide, and was making a great noise in the world. I thought the body a wee sharp in his observes; so I pretended to take it quite lightly, proceeding in my shaping-out a pair of buckskin breeches, which I was making for one of the Duke's huntsmen; so seeing he was off the scent, he said in a more jocose way:—

"Well, speaking about buckskins, I'll tell ye a good story about that."

"Let us hear't," said I; for I was in that sort of queerish way, that I did not care much about being very busy.

"Ye'se get it as I heard it," quo' Thomas; "and it's no less worth telling, that it bears a good moral application in its tail; after the same fashion that a blister does good by sucking away the vicious humours of the body, thereby making the very pain it gives precious." And here—though maybe it was just my thought—the body stroked his chin, and gave me a kind of half gley, as much as saying, "take that to ye, neighbour." But I deserved it all, and could not take it ill off his hand; being, like myself, one of the elders of our kirk, and an honest enough, precise-speaking man.

"Ye see, ye ken," said Thomas, "that the Breadalbane Fencibles, a wheen Highland birkies, were put into camp at Fisherrow links, maybe for the benefit of their douking, on account of the fiddle {175}—or maybe in case the French should land at the water-mouth—or maybe to give the regiment the benefit of the sea air—or maybe to make their bare houghs hardier, for it was the winter time, frost and snaw being as plenty as ye like, and no sae scarce as pantaloons among the core—or for some ither reason, guid, bad, or indifferent, which disna muckle matter; but ye see, the lang and the short o' the story is, that there they were encamped, man and mother's son of them, going through their dreels by day, and sleeping by night—the privates in their tents, and the offishers in their marquees, living in the course of nature on their usual rations of beef, and tammies, and so on. So, ye understand me, there was nae such smart ordering of things in the army in those days, the men not having the beef served out to them by a butcher, supplying each company or companies by a written contract, drawn up between him and the paymaster before 'sponsible witnesses; but ilka ane bringing what pleased him, either tripe, trotters, steaks, cow's-cheek, pluck, hough, spar-rib, jigget, or so forth."

"'Od!" said I, "Thomas, ye crack like a minister. Where did ye happen to pick up all that knowledge?"

"Where should I have got it, but from an auld half-pay sergeant-major, that lived in our spare room, and had been out in the American war, having seen a power of service, and been twice wounded, once in the aff-cuit, and the other time in the cuff of the neck."

"I thought as muckle," said I—"Weel, say on, man, it's unco entertaining."

"Weel," continued he, "let me see where I was at when ye stoppit me; for maybe I'll hae to begin at the beginning again. For gif ye yinterrupt me, or edge in a word, or put me out by asking questions, I lose the thread of my discourse, and canna proceed."

"Ou, let me see," said I, "ye was about the contract concerning the beef."

"Preceesely," quo' Thomas, stretching out his fore-finger—"ye've said it to a hair. At that time, as I was observing, the butcher didna supply a company or companies, according to the terms of a contract, drawn up before 'sponsible witnesses, between him and the paymaster; but the soldiers got beef-money along with their pay; with which said money, given them, ye observe, for said purpose, they were bound and obligated, in terms of the statute, to buy, purchase, and provide the said beef, twice a-week or oftener, as it might happen; an orderly offisher making inspection of the camp-kettles regularly every forenoon at one o'clock or thereabouts.

"So, as ye'll pay attention to observe, there was a private in Captain M'Tavish's company, the second to the left of the centre, of the name of Duncan MacAlpine, a wee, hardy, blackaviced, in-knee'd creature, remarkable for nothing that ever I heard tell of, except being reported to have shotten a gauger in Badenough, or thereabouts; and for having a desperate red nose, the effects, ye observe, of drinking spirituous liquors; ye observe, I daur say, what I am saying—the effects of drinking malt speerits.

"Weel, week after week passed over, and better passed over, and Duncan played aff his tricks, like anither Herman Boaz, the slight o'-hand juggler, him that's suspeckit to be in league and paction with the de'il. But ye'll hear."

"'Od, it's diverting, Thomas," said I to him; "gang on, man."

"Weel, ye see, as I was observing—Let me see where I was at?—Ou ay, having a paction with the de'il. So, when all were watching beside the camp-kettles, some stirring them with spurtles, or parritch-sticks, or forks, or whatever was necessary, the orderly offisher made a point and practice of regularly coming by, about the chap of one past meridian, as I observed to ye before, to make inspection of what ilka ane had wared his pay on, and what he had got simmering in the het water for his dinner.

"So, on the day concerning which I am about to speak, it fell out, as usual, that he happened to be making his rounds, halting a moment, or twa maybe, before ilka pot; the man that had the charge thereof, by the way of stirring like, clapping down his lang fork, and bringing up the piece of meat, or whatever he happened to be making kail of it, to let the inspector see whether it was lamb, pork, beef, mutton, or veal. For, ye observe," continued Thomas, giving me, as I took it to myself, another queer side-look, "the purpose of the offisher making the inspection, was to see that they laid out their pay-money conform to military regulation; and not to fyling their stamicks, and ruining baith sowl and body, by throwing it away on whisky—as but ower mony, that aiblins should have kenned better, have dune but too often."

"'Tis but ower true," said I till him; "but the best will fa' intil a faut sometimes. We have a' our failings, Thomas."

"Just so," answered Thomas; "but where was I at?—Ou, about the whisky. Weel, speaking about the whisky, ye see the offisher, Lovetenant Todrick I b'lief they called him, had made an observe about Duncan's kettle; so, when he came to him, Duncan was sitting in the lown side of a dyke, with his red nose, and a pipe in his cheek, on a big stane, glowring frae him anither way; and, as I was saying, when he came to him he said,

"'Weel, Duncan MacAlpine, what have ye in your kettle the day, man?'

"And Duncan, rinning down his lang fork, answered in his ain Highland brogue way—'Please your honours, just my auld favourite, tripe.'

"''Deed, Duncan,' said Lovetenant Todrick, or whatever they caa'd him, 'it is an auld favourite surely, for I have never seen ye have onything else for your dinner, man.'

"'Every man to his taste, please your honour,' answered Duncan MacAlpine; 'let ilka ane please her nain sell'—hauling up a screed half a yard lang. 'Ilka man to his taste, please your honour, Lovetenant Todrick.'"

"'Od, man," said I to him, "'Od, man, ye're a deacon at telling a story. Ye're a queer hand. Weel, what came next?"

"What think ye should come next?" quo' Thomas drily.

"I'm sure I dinna ken," answered I.

"Weel," said he, "I'll tell—but where was I at?"

"Ou, at the observe of Lovetenant Todrick, or what they caa'd him, about the tripe; and the answer of Duncan MacAlpine on that head, 'That ilka man has his ain taste.'"

"'Vera true,' said Lovetenant Todrick, 'but lift it out a' the-gither on that dish, till I get my specs on; for never since I was born, did I ever see before boiled tripe with buttons and button-holes intill't.'"

At this I set up a loud laughing, which I could not help, though it was like to split my sides; but Thomas Burlings bade me whisht till I heard him out.

"'Buttons and button-holes!' quo' Duncan MacAlpine. 'Look again, wi' yer specs; for ye're surely wrang, Lovetenant Todrick.'"

"'Buttons and button-holes! and 'deed I am surely right, Duncan,' answered the Lovetenant Todrick, taking his specs deliberately off the brig o' his nose, and faulding them thegither, as he put them first into his shagreen case, and syne into his pocket—'Howsomever, Duncan MacAlpine, I'll pass ye ower for this time, gif ye take my warning, and for the future ware your pay-money on wholesome butcher's meat, like a Christian, and no be trying to delude your ain stamick, and your offisher's een, by holding up, on a fork, such a heathenish mak-up for a dish, as the leg of a pair o' buckskin breeches!'"

"Buckskin breeches!" said I, "and did he really and actually boil siccan trash to his dinner?"

"Nae sae far south as that yet, friend," answered Thomas. "Duncan was not so bowed in the intellect as ye imagine, and had some spice of cleverality about his queer manoeuvres.—Eat siccan trash to his dinner! Nae mair, Mansie, than ye intend to eat that iron guse ye're rinning along that piece claith; but he wanted to make his offishers believe that his pay gaed the right way: like the Pharisees of old that keepit praying, in ell-lang faces, about the corners of the streets, and gaed hame wi' hearts full of wickedness and a' manner of cheatrie."

"And what way did his pay gang, then?" asked I; "and how did he live?"

"I telled ye before, frien," answered Thomas, "that he was a deboshed creature; and, like ower mony in the world, likit weel what didna do him ony good. It's a wearyfu' thing that whisky. I wish it could be banished to Botany Bay.

"It is that," said I. "Muckle and nae little sin does it breed and produce in this world."

"I'm glad," quoth Thomas, stroking down his chin in a slee way, "I'm glad the guilty should see the folly o' their ain ways; it's the first step, ye ken, till amendment;—and indeed I tell't Maister Wiggie, when he sent me here, that I could almost become guid for your being mair wary of your conduct for the future time to come."

This was like a thunder-clap to me, and I did not know for a jiffie what to feel, think, or do, more than perceiving that it was a piece of devilish cruelty on their parts, taking things on this strict. As for myself, I could freely take sacred oath on the Book, that I had not had a dram in my head for four months before; the knowledge of which made my corruption rise like lightning, as a man is aye brave when he is innocent; so, giving my pow a bit scart, I said briskly, "So ye're after some session business in this visit, are ye?"

"Ye've just guessed it," answered Thomas Burlings, sleeking down his front hair with his fingers in a sober way; "we had a meeting this forenoon; and it was resolved ye should stand a public rebuke in the meeting-house on Sunday next."

"Hang me, if I do!" answered I, thumping my nieve down with all my might on the counter, and throwing back my cowl behind me in a corner. "No, man!" added I, snapping with great pith my finger and thumb in Thomas's eyes, "not for all the ministers and elders that ever were cleckit! They may do their best; and ye may tell them so, if ye like. I was born a free man; I live in a free country; I am the subject of a free king and constitution; and I'll be shot before I submit to such rank, diabolical papistry."

"Hooly and fairly," quoth Thomas, staring a wee astonished like, and not a little surprised to see my birse up in this manner; for, when he thought upon shearing a lamb, he found he had catched a tartar; so, calming down as fast as ye like, he said, "Hooly and fairly Mansie" (or Maister Wauch, I believe, he did me the honour to call me), "they'll maybe no be sae hard as they threaten. But ye ken, my friend, I'm speaking to ye as a brither; it was an unco-like business for an elder, not only to gang till a play, which is ane of the deevil's rendevouses, but to gang there in a state of liquor: making yoursell a world's wonder—and you an elder of our kirk! I put the question to yourself soberly."

His threatening I could despise, and could have fought, cuffed, and kicked with all the ministers and elders of the General Assembly, to say nothing of the Relief Synod and the Burgher Union, before I would have demeaned myself to yield to what my inward spirit plainly told me to be rank cruelty and injustice; but ah! his calm, brotherly, flattering way I could not thole with, and the tears came rapping into my eyes, faster than it cared my manhood to let be seen; so I said till him, "Weel, weel, Thomas, I ken I have done wrong; and I am sorry for't: they'll never find me in siccan a scrape again."

Thomas Burlings then came forward in a friendly way, and shook hands with me; telling that he would go back and plead before them in my behalf. He said this over again, as we parted at my shop-door; and, to do him justice, surely he had not been worse than his word, for I have aye attended the kirk as usual, standing, when it came to my rotation, at the plate, and nobody, gentle or semple, ever spoke to me on the subject of the playhouse, or minted the matter of the Rebuke from that day to this.

[Picture: Mungo Glen]


In the course of a fortnight from the time I parted with Maister Glen, the Lauder carrier, limping Jamie, brought his callant to our shop-door in his hand. He was a tall slender laddie, some fourteen years old, and sore grown away from his clothes. There was something genty and delicate-like about him, having a pale sharp face, blue eyes, a nose like a hawk's, and long yellow hair hanging about his haffets, as if barbers were unco scarce cattle among the howes of the Lammermoor hills. Having a general experience of human nature, I saw that I would have something to do towards bringing him into a state of rational civilization; but, considering his opportunities, he had been well educated, and I liked his appearance on the whole not that ill.

To divert him a while, as I did not intend yoking him to work the first day, I sent out Benjie with him, after giving him some refreshment of bread and milk, to let him see the town and all the uncos about it. I told Benjie first to take him to the auld kirk, which is one wonderful building, steeple and aisle; and as for mason-work, far before anything to be seen or heard tell of in our day; syne to Lugton brig, which is one grand affair, hanging over the river Esk and the flour-mills like a rainbow—syne to the Tolbooth, which is a terror to evil-doers, and from which the Lord preserve us all!—syne to the Market, where ye'll see lamb, beef, mutton, and veal, hanging up on cleeks, in roasting and boiling pieces—spar-rib, jigget, shoulder, and heuk-bane, in the greatest prodigality of abundance;—and syne down to the Duke's gate, by looking through the bonny white-painted iron-stanchels of which, ye'll see the deer running beneath the green trees; and the palace itself, in the inside of which dwells one that needs not be proud to call the king his cousin.

Brawly did I know, that it is a little after a laddie's being loosed from his mother's apron-string, and hurried from home, till the mind can make itself up to stay among fremit folk; or that the attention can be roused to anything said or done, however simple in the uptake. So, after Benjie brought Mungo home again, gey forfaughten and wearied-out like, I bade the wife give him his four-hours, and told him he might go to his bed as soon as he liked. Jealousing also, at the same time, that creatures brought up in the country have strange notions about them with respect to supernaturals—such as ghosts, brownies, fairies, and bogles—to say nothing of witches, warlocks, and evil-spirits, I made Benjie take off his clothes and lie down beside him, as I said, to keep him warm; but, in plain matter of fact (between friends), that the callant might sleep sounder, finding himself in a strange bed, and not very sure as to how the house stood as to the matter of a good name.

Knowing by my own common sense, and from long experience of the ways of a wicked world, that there is nothing like industry, I went to Mungo's bedside in the morning, and wakened him betimes. Indeed, I'm leeing there—I need not call it wakening him—for Benjie told me, when he was supping his parritch out of his luggie at breakfast-time, that he never winked an eye all night, and that sometimes he heard him greeting to himself in the dark—such and so powerful is our love of home and the force of natural affection. Howsoever, as I was saying, I took him ben the house with me down to the workshop, where I had begun to cut out a pair of nankeen trowsers for a young lad that was to be married the week after to a servant-maid of Maister Wiggie's,—a trig quean, that afterwards made him a good wife, and the father of a numerous small family.

Speaking of nankeen, I would advise every one, as a friend, to buy the Indian, and not the British kind—the expense of outlay being ill hained, even at sixpence a yard—the latter not standing the washing, but making a man's legs, at a distance, look like a yellow yorline.

It behoved me now as a maister, bent on the improvement of his prentice, to commence learning Mungo some few of the mysteries of our trade; so having showed him the way to crook his hough (example is better than precept, as James Batter observes), I taught him the plan of holding the needle; and having fitted his middle-finger with a bottomless thimble of our own sort, I set him to sewing the cotton-lining into one leg, knowing that it was a part not very particular, and not very likely to be seen; so that the matter was not great, whether the stitching was exactly regular, or rather in the zigzag line. As is customary with all new beginners, he made a desperate awkward hand at it, and of which I would of course have said nothing, but that he chanced to brog his thumb, and completely soiled the whole piece of work with the stains of blood; which, for one thing, could not wash out without being seen; and, for another, was an unlucky omen to happen to a marriage garment.

Every man should be on his guard; this was a lesson I learned when I was in the volunteers, at the time Buonaparte was expected to land down at Dunbar. Luckily for me in this case, I had, by some foolish mistake or another, made an allowance of a half yard, over and above what I found I could manage to shape on; so I boldly made up my mind to cut out the piece altogether, it being in the back seam. In that business I trust I showed the art of a good tradesman, having managed to do it so neatly that it could not be noticed without the narrowest inspection; and having the advantage of a covering by the coat-flaps, had indeed no chance of being so, except on desperately windy days.

In the week succeeding that on which this unlucky mischance happened, an accident almost as bad befell, though not to me, further than that everyone is bound by the Ten Commandments, to say nothing of his own conscience, to take a part in the afflictions that befall their door-neighbours.

When the voice of man was wheisht, and all was sunk in the sound sleep of midnight, it chanced that I was busy dreaming that I was sitting one of the spectators, looking at another play-acting piece of business. Before coming this length, howsoever, I should by right have observed, that ere going to bed I had eaten for my supper part of a black pudding, and two sausages, that Widow Grassie had sent in a compliment to my wife, being a genteel woman, and mindful of her friends—so that I must have had some sort of nightmare, and not been exactly in my seven senses—else I could not have been even dreaming of siccan a place. Well, as I was saying, in the playhouse I thought I was; and all at once I heard Maister Wiggie, like one crying in the wilderness, hallooing with a loud voice through the window, bidding me flee from the snares, traps, and gin-nets of the Evil One; and from the terrors of the wrath to come. I was in a terrible funk; and just as I was trying to rise from the seat, that seemed somehow glued to my body, and would not let me, to reach down my hat, which, with its glazed cover, was hanging on a pin to one side, my face all red, and glowing like a fiery furnace, for shame of being a second time caught in deadly sin, I heard the kirk-bell jow-jowing, as if it was the last trump summoning sinners to their long and black account; and Maister Wiggie thrust in his arm in his desperation, in a whirlwind of passion, claughting hold of my hand like a vice to drag me out head-foremost. Even in my sleep, howsoever, it appears that I like free-will, and ken that there are no slaves in our blessed country; so I tried with all my might to pull against him, and gave his arm such a drive back, that he seemed to bleach over on his side, and raised a hullaballoo of a yell, that not only wakened me, but made me start upright in my bed.

For all the world such a scene! My wife was roaring "Murder, murder!—Mansie Wauch, will ye no wauken?—Murder, murder! ye've felled me wi' your nieve,—ye've felled me outright,—I'm gone for evermair,—my haill teeth are doun my throat. Will ye no wauken, Mansie Wauch?—will ye no wauken?—Murder, murder!—I say murder, murder, murder, murder!!!"

"Who's murdering us?" cried I, throwing my cowl back on the pillow, and rubbing my eyes in the hurry of a tremendous fright.—"Who's murdering us?—where's the robbers?—send for the town-officer!!"

"O Mansie!—O Mansie!" said Nanse, in a kind of greeting tone, "I daursay ye've felled me—but no matter, now I've gotten ye roused. Do ye no see the haill street in a bleeze of flames? Bad is the best; we maun either be burned to death, or out of house and hall, without a rag to cover our nakedness. Where's my son?—where's my dear bairn Benjie?"

In a most awful consternation, I jumped at this out to the middle of the floor, hearing the causeway all in an uproar of voices; and seeing the flichtering of the flames glancing on the houses in the opposite side of the street, all the windows of which were filled with the heads of half-naked folks, in round-eared mutches or Kilmarnocks; their mouths open, and their eyes staring with fright; while the sound of the fire-engine, rattling through the streets like thunder, seemed like the dead-cart of the plague, come to hurry away the corpses of the deceased for interment in the kirk-yard.

Never such a spectacle was witnessed in this world of sin and sorrow since the creation of Adam. I pulled up the window and looked out—and, lo and behold! the very next house to our own was all in a low from cellar to garret; the burning joists hissing and cracking like mad; and the very wind that blew along, as warm as if it had been out of the mouth of a baker's oven!!

It was a most awful spectacle! more by token to me, who was likely to be intimately concerned with it; and beating my brow with my clenched nieve, like a distracted creature, I saw that the labour of my whole life was likely to go for nought, and me to be a ruined man; all the earnings of my industry being laid out on my stock in trade, and on the plenishing of our bit house. The darkness of the latter days came over my spirit like a vision before the prophet Isaiah; and I could see nothing in the years to come but beggary and starvation; myself a fallen-back old man, with an out-at-the-elbows coat, a greasy hat, and a bald pow, hirpling over a staff, requeeshting an awmous—Nanse a broken-hearted beggar wife, torn down to tatters, and weeping like Rachel when she thought on better days—and poor wee Benjie going from door to door with a meal-pock on his back.

The thought first dung me stupid, and then drove me to desperation; and not even minding the dear wife of my bosom, that had fainted away as dead as a herring, I pulled on my trowsers like mad, and rushed out into the street, bareheaded and barefoot as the day that Lucky Bringthereout dragged me into the world.

The crowd saw in the twinkling of an eyeball that I was a desperate man, fierce as Sir William Wallace, and not to be withstood by gentle or semple. So most of them made way for me; they that tried to stop me finding it a bad job, being heeled over from right to left, on the broad of their backs, like flounders without respect of age or person; some old women that were obstrapulous being gey sore hurt, and one of them with a pain in her hainch even to this day. When I had got almost to the door-cheek of the burning house, I found one grupping me by the back like grim death; and, in looking over my shoulder, who was it but Nanse herself, that, rising up from her faint, had pursued me like a whirlwind. It was a heavy trial, but my duty to myself in the first place, and to my neighbours in the second, roused me up to withstand it; so, making a spend like a grey-hound, I left the hindside of my shirt in her grasp, like Joseph's garment in the nieve of Potiphar's wife, and up the stairs head-foremost among the flames.

Mercy keep us all! what a sight for mortal man to glowr at with his living eyes! The bells were tolling amid the dark, like a summons from above for the parish of Dalkeith to pack off to another world; the drums were beat-beating as if the French were coming, thousand on thousand, to kill, slay, and devour every maid and mother's son of us; the fire-engine pump-pump-pumping like daft, showering the water like rainbows, as if the windows of heaven were opened, and the days of old Noah come back again; and the rabble throwing the good furniture over the windows like onion peelings, where it either felled the folk below, or was dung to a thousand shivers on the causey. I cried to them, for the love of goodness, to make search in the beds, in case there might be any weans there, human life being still more precious than human means; but not a living soul was seen but a cat, which, being raised and wild with the din, would on no consideration allow itself to be catched. Jacob Dribble found that to his cost; for, right or wrong, having a drappie in his head, he swore like a trooper that he would catch her, and carry her down beneath his oxter; so forward he weired her into a corner, crouching on his hunkers. He had much better have left it alone; for it fuffed over his shoulder like wildfire, and scarting his back all the way down, jumped like a lamplighter head-foremost through the flames, where, in the raging and roaring of the devouring element, its pitiful cries were soon hushed to silence for ever and ever, Amen!

At long and last, a woman's howl was heard on the street, lamenting, like Hagar over young Ishmael in the wilderness of Beersheba, and crying that her old grannie, that was a lameter, and had been bedridden for four years come the Martinmas following, was burning to a cinder in the fore-garret. My heart was like to burst within me when I heard this dismal news, remembering that I myself had once an old mother, that was now in the mools; so I brushed up the stair like a hatter, and burst open the door of the fore-garret—for in the hurry I could not find the sneck, and did not like to stand on ceremony. I could not see my finger before me, and did not know my right hand from the left, for the smoke; but I groped round and round, though the reek mostly cut my breath, and made me cough at no allowance, till at last I catched hold of something cold and clammy, which I gave a pull, not knowing what it was, but found out to be the old wife's nose. I cried out as loud as I was able for the poor creature to hoise herself up into my arms; but, receiving no answer, I discovered in a moment that she was suffocated, the foul air having gone down her wrong hause; and, though I had aye a terror at looking at, far less handling a dead corpse, there was something brave within me at the moment, my blood being up; so I caught hold of her by the shoulders, and harling her with all my might out of her bed, got her lifted on my back heads and thraws, in the manner of a boll of meal, and away as fast as my legs could carry me.

There was a providence in this haste; for, ere I was half-way down the stair, the floor fell with a thud like thunder; and such a combustion of soot, stour, and sparks arose, as was never seen or heard tell of in the memory of man since the day that Samson pulled over the pillars in the house of dragon, and smoored all the mocking Philistines as flat as flounders. For the space of a minute I was as blind as a beetle, and was like to be choked for want of breath; however, as the dust began to clear up, I saw an open window, and hallooed down to the crowd for the sake of mercy to bring a ladder, to save the lives of two perishing fellow-creatures, for now my own was also in imminent jeopardy. They were long of coming, and I did not know what to do; so thinking that the old wife, as she had not spoken, was maybe dead already, I was once determined just to let her drop down upon the street; but I knew that the so doing would have cracked every bone in her body, and the glory of my bravery would thus have been worse than lost. I persevered, therefore, though I was fit to fall down under the dead weight, she not being able to help herself, and having a deal of beef in her skin for an old woman of eighty; but I got a lean, by squeezing her a wee between me and the wall.

I thought they would never have come, for my shoeless feet were all bruised, and bleeding from the crunched lime and the splinters of broken stones; but at long and last, a ladder was hoisted up, and having fastened a kinch of ropes beneath her oxters, I let her slide down over the upper step, by way of a pillyshee, having the satisfaction of seeing her safely landed in the arms of seven old wives, that were waiting with a cosey warm blanket below. Having accomplished this grand manoeuvre, wherein I succeeded in saving the precious life of a woman of eighty, that had been four long years bedridden, I tripped down the steps myself like a nine-year-old, and had the pleasure, when the roof fell in, to know that I for one had done my duty; and that, to the best of my knowledge, no living creature except the poor cat had perished within the jaws of the devouring element.

But, bide a wee; the work was, as yet, only half done. The fire was still roaring and raging, every puff of wind that blew through the black firmament, driving the red sparks high into the air, where they died away like the tail of a comet, or the train of a skyrocket; the joisting crazing, cracking, and tumbling down; and now and then the bursting cans playing flee in a hundred flinders from the chimney-heads. One would have naturally enough thought that our engine could have drowned out a fire of any kind whatsoever in half a second, scores of folk driving about with pitcherfuls of water, and scaling half of it on one another and the causey in their hurry; but woe's me! it did not play puh on the red-het stones, that whizzed like iron in a smiddy trough; so, as soon as it was darkness and smoke in one place, it was fire and fury in another.

My anxiety was great; seeing that I had done my best for my neighbours, it behoved me now, in my turn, to try and see what I could do for myself; so, notwithstanding the remonstrances of my friend James Batter—whom Nanse, knowing I had bare feet, had sent out to seek me, with a pair of shoon in his hand; and who, in scratching his head, mostly rugged out every hair of his wig with sheer vexation—I ran off, and mounted the ladder a second time, and succeeded, after muckle speeling, in getting upon the top of the wall; where, having a bucket slung up to me by means of a rope, I swashed down such showers on the top of the flames, that I soon did more good, in the space of five minutes, than the engine and the ten men, that were all in a broth of perspiration with pumping it, did the whole night over: to say nothing of the multitude of drawers of water, men, wives, and weans, with their cuddies, leglins, pitchers, pails, and water-stoups; having the satisfaction, in a short time, to observe every thing getting as black as the crown of my hat, and the gable of my own house becoming as cool as a cucumber.

Being a man of method, and acquainted with business, I could have liked to have given a finishing stitch to my work before descending the ladder; but, losh me! sic a whingeing, girning, greeting, and roaring, got up all of a sudden, as was never seen or heard of since bowed Joseph raised the meal-mob, and burned Johnnie Wilkes in effigy; and, looking down, I saw Benjie, the bairn of my own heart, and the callant Glen, my apprentice on trial, that had both been as sound as tops till this blessed moment, standing in their nightgowns and their little red cowls, rubbing their eyes, cowering with cold and fright, and making an awful uproar, crying on me to come down and not be killed. The voice of Benjie especially pierced through and through my heart, like a two-edged sword, and I could on no manner of account suffer myself to bear it any longer, as I jealoused the bairn would have gone into convulsion fits if I had not heeded him; so, making a sign to them to be quiet, I came my ways down, taking hold of one in ilka hand, which must have been a fatherly sight to the spectators that saw us. After waiting on the crown of the causey for half an hour, to make sure that the fire was extinguished, and all tight and right, I saw the crowd scaling, and thought it best to go in too, carrying the two youngsters along with me. When I began to move off, however, siccan a cheering of the multitude got up as would have deafened a cannon; and though I say it myself, who should not say it, they seemed struck with a sore amazement at my heroic behaviour, following me with loud cheers even to the threshold of my own door.

From this folk should condescend to take a lesson, seeing that, though the world is a bitter bad world, yet that good deeds are not only a reward to themselves, but call forth the applause of Jew and Gentile: for the sweet savour of my conduct on this memorable night remained in my nostrils for goodness knows the length of time, many praising my brave humanity in public companies and assemblies of the people, such as strawberry ploys, council meetings, dinner parties, and so forth; and many in private conversation at their own ingle-cheek, by way of two-handed crack; in stage-coach confab, and in causey talk in the forenoon, before going in to take their meridians. Indeed, between friends, the business proved in the upshot of no small advantage to me, bringing to me a sowd of strange faces, by way of customers, both gentle and semple, that I verily believe had not so muckle as ever heard of my name before, and giving me many a coat to cut, and cloth to shape, that, but for my gallant behaviour on the fearsome night aforesaid, would doubtless have been cut, sewed, and shaped by other hands. Indeed, considering the great noise the thing made in the world, it is no wonder that every one was anxious to have a garment of wearing apparel made by the individual same hands that had succeeded, under Providence, in saving the precious life of an old woman of eighty, that had been bedridden, some say, four years come Yule, and others, come Martinmas.

When we got to the ingle-side, and, barring the door, saw that all was safe, it was now three in the morning; so we thought it by much the best way of managing, not to think of sleeping any more, but to be on the look-out—as we aye used to be when walking sentry in the volunteers—in case the flames should, by ony mischancy accident or other, happen to break out again. My wife blamed my hardihood muckle, and the rashness with which I had ventured at once to places where even masons and sclaters were afraid to put foot on; yet I saw, in the interim, that she looked on me with a prouder eye—knowing herself the helpmate of one that had courageously risked his neck, and every bone in his skin, in the cause of humanity. I saw this as plain as a pikestaff, as, with one of her kindest looks, she insisted on my putting on a better happing to screen me from the cold, and on my taking something comfortable inwardly towards the dispelling of bad consequences. So, after half a minute's stand-out, by way of refusal like, I agreed to a cupful of het-pint, as I thought it would be a thing Mungo Glen might never have had the good fortune to have tasted; and as it might operate by way of a cordial on the callant Benjie, who kept aye smally, and in a dwining way. No sooner said than done—and off Nanse brushed in a couple of hurries to make the het-pint.

After the small beer was put into the pan to boil, we found to our great mortification, that there were no eggs in the house, and Benjie was sent out with a candle to the hen house, to see if any of the hens had laid since gloaming, and fetch what he could get. In the middle of the mean time, I was expatiating to Mungo on what taste it would have, and how he had never seen anything finer than it would be, when in ran Benjie, all out of breath, and his face as pale as a dishclout.

"What's the matter, Benjie, what's the matter?" said I to him, rising up from my chair in a great hurry of a fright—"Has onybody killed ye? or is the fire broken out again? or has the French landed? or have ye seen a ghost? or are—"

"Eh, crifty!" cried Benjie, coming till his speech, "they're a' aff—cock and hens and a'—there's naething left but the rotten nest-egg in the corner!"

This was an awful dispensation, of which more hereafter. In the midst of the desolation of the fire—such is the depravity of human nature—some ne'er-do-weels had taken advantage of my absence to break open the hen-house door; and our whole stock of poultry, the cock along with our seven hens—two of them tappit, and one muffed—were carried away bodily, stoop and roop.

On this subject, howsoever, I shall say no more in this chapter, but merely observe in conclusion, that as to our het-pint, we were obligated to make the best of a bad bargain, making up with whisky what it wanted in eggs; though our banquet could not be called altogether a merry one, the joys of our escape from the horrors of the fire being damped, as it were by a wet blanket, on account of the nefarious pillaging of our hen-house.


The situation of me and my family at this time affords an example of the truth of the old proverb, that "ae evil never comes its lane"; being no sooner quit of our dread concerning the burning, than we were doomed by Providence to undergo the disaster of the rookery of our hen-house. I believe I have mentioned the number of our stock—to wit, a cock and seven hens, eight in all; but I neglected, on account of their size, or somehow overlooked, the two bantams, than which two more neat or curiouser-looking creatures were not to be seen in the whole country-side. The hennie was quite a conceit of a thing, and laid an egg not muckle bigger than my thimble; while, for its size, the bit he-ane was, for spirit in the fechting line, a perfect wee deevil incarnate.

Most fortunately for my family in this matter, it so happened that, by paying in half-a-crown a-year, I was a regular member of a society for prosecuting all whom it might concern, that dabbled with foul fingers in the sinful and lawless trade of thievery, breaking the eighth commandment at no allowance, and drawing on their heads not only the passing punishments of this world, by way of banishment to Botany Bay, or hanging at the Luckenbooths, but the threatened vengeance of one that will last for ever and ever.

Accordingly, putting on my hat about nine o'clock, or thereabouts, when the breakfast things were removing from the bit table, I poppit out, in the first and foremost instance, to take a vizzy of the depredation the flames had made in our neighbourhood. Losh keep us all, what a spectacle of wreck and ruination! The roof was clean off and away, as if a thunderbolt from heaven had knocked it down through the two floors, carrying every thing before it like a perfect whirlwind. Nought were standing but black, bare walls, a perfect picture of desolation; some with the bit pictures on nails still hanging up where the rooms were like; and others with old coats hanging on pins; and empty bottles in boles, and so on. Indeed, Jacob Glowr, who was standing by my side with his specs on, could see as plain as a pikestaff, a tea-kettle still on the fire, in the hearth-place of one of the gable garrets, where Miss Jenny Withershins lived, but happened luckily, at the era of the conflagration, to be away to Prestonpans, on a visit to some of her far-away cousins, providentially for her safety, greviously, at that very time, smitten with the sciatics.

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