Transcribed from the 1911 T. N. Foulis edition by David Price, email email@example.com
[Picture: One of the Duke's huntsmen]
THE LIFE OF MANSIE WAUCH TAILOR IN DALKEITH WRITTEN BY HIMSELF AND EDITED BY D. M. MOIR ILLUSTRATED IN COLOUR BY CHARLES MARTIN HARDIE, R.S.A.
T.N.FOULIS London & Edinburgh 1 9 1 1
Turnbull & Spears, Printers, Edinburgh
TO JOHN GALT, ESQ., AUTHOR OF "ANNALS OF THE PARISH," "THE PROVOST," "AYRSHIRE LEGATEES," ETC.
THE FOLLOWING SKETCHES,
PRINCIPALLY OF HUMBLE SCOTTISH CHARACTER,
BY HIS SINCERE FRIEND AND ADMIRER,
[Picture: Mansie's shop door]
PRELIMINARIES TO THIS VOLUME
Having, within myself, made observation of late years, that all notable characters, whatsoever line of life they may have pursued, and to whatever business they might belong, have made a trade of committing to paper all the surprising occurrences and remarkable events that chanced to happen to them in the course of Providence, during their journey through life—that such as come after them might take warning and be benefited—I have found it incumbent on me, following a right example, to do the same thing; and have set down, in black and white, a good few uncos, that I should reckon will not soon be forgotten, provided they make as deep an impression on the world as they have done on me. To this decision I have been urged by the elbowing on of not a few judicious friends, among whom I would particularly remark James Batter, who has been most earnest in his request, and than whom a truer judge on anything connected with book-lear, or a better neighbour, does not breathe the breath of life: both of which positions will, I doubt not, appear as clear as daylight to the reader, in the course of the work: to say nothing of the approval the scheme met with from the pious Maister Wiggie, who has now gone to his account, and divers other advisers, that wished either the general good of the world, or studied their own particular profit.
Had the course of my pilgrimage lain just on the beaten track, I would not—at least I think so—have been o'ercome by ony perswasions to do what I have done; but as will be seen, in the twinkling of half-an-eye, by the judicious reader, I am a man that has witnessed much, and come through a great deal, both in regard to the times wherein I have lived, and the out-o'-the-way adventures in which it has been my fortune to be engaged. Indeed, though I say it myself, who might as well be silent, I that have never stirred, in a manner so to speak, from home, have witnessed more of the world we live in, and the doings of men, than many who have sailed the salt seas from the East Indies to the West; or, in the course of nature, visited Greenland, Jamaica, or Van Diemen's Land. The cream of the matter, and to which we would solicit the attention of old and young, rich and poor, is just this, that, unless unco doure indeed to learn, the inexperienced may gleam from my pages sundry grand lessons, concerning what they have a chance to expect in the course of an active life; and the unsteady may take a hint concerning what it is possible for one of a clear head and a stout heart to go through with.
Notwithstanding, however, these plain and evident conclusions, even after writing the whole out, I thought I felt a kind of a qualm of conscience about submitting an account of my actions and transactions to the world during my lifetime; and I had almost determined, for decency's sake, not to let the papers be printed till after I had been gathered to my fathers; but I took into consideration the duty that one man owes to another; and that my keeping back, and withholding these curious documents, would be in a great measure hindering the improvement of society, so far as I was myself personally concerned. Now this is a business, which James Batter agrees with me in thinking is carried on, furthered, and brought about, by every one furnishing his share of experience to the general stock. Let-a-be this plain truth, another point of argument for my bringing out my bit book at the present time is, that I am here to the fore bodily, with the use of my seven senses, to give day and date to all such as venture to put on the misbelieving front of Sadducees, with regard to any of the accidents, mischances, marvellous escapes, and extraordinary businesses therein related; and to show them, as plain as the bool of a pint stoup, that each and everything set down by me within its boards is just as true, as that a blind man needs not spectacles, or that my name is Mansie Wauch.
Perhaps as a person willing and anxious to give every man his due, it is necessary for me explicitly to mention, that, in the course of this book, I am indebted to my friend James Batter, for his able help in assisting me to spell the kittle words, and in rummaging out scraps of poem-books for headpieces to my different chapters which appear in the table of contents.
LIST OF CONTENTS
I. OUR OLD GRANDFATHER,
II. MY OWN FATHER,
The weaver he gied up the stair, Dancing and singing; A bunch o' bobbins at his back, Rattling and ringing.
III. COMING INTO THE WORLD,
—At first the babe Was sickly; and a smile was seen to pass Across the midwife's cheek, when, holding up The feeble wretch, she to the father said, "A fine man-child!" What else could they expect? The father being, as I said before, A weaver.
HOGG'S Poetic Mirror.
Bonny lassie, will ye go, will ye go, will ye go, Bonny lassie, will ye go to the Birks of Aberfeldy?
For a tailor is a man, a man, a man, And a tailor is a man.
Popular Heroic Song.
From his red poll a redder cowl hung down; His jacket, if through grease we guess, was brown; A vigorous scamp, some forty summers old; Rough Shetland stockings up his thighs were roll'd; While at his side horn-handled steels and knives Gleam'd from his pouch, and thirsted for sheep's lives.
ODOHERTY'S Miscellanea Classica.
VI. PUSHING MY FORTUNE,
Oh, love, love, lassie, Love is like a dizziness, It winna let a puir bodie Gang about their business.
VII. THE FOREWARNING,
I had a dream which was not all a dream.
Coming events cast their shadows before.
VIII. LETTING LODGINGS,
Then first he ate the white puddings, And syne he ate the black, O; Though muckle thought the Gudewife to hersell, Yet ne'er a word she spak, O. But up then started our Gudeman, And an angry man was he, O.
IX. BENJIE'S CHRISTENING,
We'll hap and row, hap and row, We'll hap and row the feetie o't. It is a wee bit weary thing, I dinnie bide the greetie o't.
An honest man, close button'd to the chin, Broad-cloth without, and a warm heart within.
This great globe and all that it inherits shall dissolve, And, like the baseless fabric of a vision, Leave not a rack behind.
X. THE RESURRECTION MEN,
How then was the Devil drest! He was in his Sunday's best; His coat was red, and his breeches were blue, With a hole behind where his tail came thro'. Over the hill, and over the dale, And he went over the plain: And backward and forward he switch'd his tail, As a gentleman switches his cane.
XI. TAFFY WITH THE PIGTAIL,
Song of the South,
In the sweet shire of Cardigan, Not far from pleasant Ivor-hall, An old man dwells, a little man; I've heard he once was tall. A long blue livery-coat has he, That's fair behind and fair before; Yet, meet him where you will, you see At once that he is poor.
Come from the hills where your hirsels are grazing, Come from the glen of the buck and the roe; Come to the crag where the beacon is blazing, Come with the buckler, the lance, and the bow: Many a banner spread Flutters above your head, Many a crest that is famous in story; Mount and make ready then, Sons of the mountain glen, Fight for the King, and our old Scottish glory.
SIR WALTER SCOTT'S Monastery.
XIII. THE CHINCOUGH PILGRIMAGE,
Man hath a weary pilgrimage As through the world he wends: On every stage from youth to age Still discontent attends. With heaviness he casts his eye Upon the road before, And still remembers with a sigh The days that are no more.
XIV. MY LORD'S RACES,
Aff they a' went galloping, galloping; Legs and arms a' walloping, walloping; De'il take the hindmost, quo' Duncan M'Calapin, The Laird of Tillyben, Joe.
He went a little further, And turn'd his head aside, And just by Goodman Whitfield's gate, Oh there the mare he spied. He ask'd her how she did, She stared him in the face, Then down she laid her head again— She was in wretched case.
Old Poulter's Mo.
XV. THE RETURN,
That sweet home is there delight, And thither they repair Communion with their own to hold! Peaceful as, at the fall of night, Two little lambkins gliding white Return unto the gentle air, That sleeps within the fold. Or like two birds to their lonely nest, Or wearied waves to their bay of rest, Or fleecy clouds when their race is run, That hang in their own beauty blest, 'Mid the calm that sanctifies the west Around the setting sun.
XVI. THE BLOODY CARTRIDGE,
So stands the Thracian herdsman with his spear Full in the gap, and hopes the hunted bear; And hears him in the rustling wood, and sees His course at distance by the bending trees; And thinks—Here comes my mortal enemy, And either he must fall in fight or I.
DRYDEN'S Palamon and Arcite.
Nay, never shake thy gory looks at me; Thou canst not say I did it!
XVII. MY FIRST AND LAST PLAY,
Pla. I' faith I like the audience that frequenteth there With much applause: a man shall not be chokt With the stench of garlick, nor be pasted firm With the barmy jacket of a beer-brewer.
Bra. 'Tis a good gentle audience, and I hope The boys will come one day in great request.
Jack Drum's Entertainment, 1601.
Out cam the gudeman, and laigh he louted; Out cam the gudewife, and heigh she shouted; And a the toun-neibours gather'd about it; And there he lay, I trow.
The Cauldrife Wooer.
XVIII. THE BARLEY FEVER: AND REBUKE,
Sages their solemn een may steek, And raise a philosophic reek, And, physically, causes seek, In clime and season: But tell me Whisky's name in Greek, I'll tell the reason.
XIX. THE AWFUL NIGHT,
Ha!—'twas but a dream; But then so terrible, it shakes my soul! Cold drops of sweat hang on my trembling flesh; My blood grows chilly, and I freeze with horror,
Richard the Third.
The Fire-king one day rather amorous felt; He mounted his hot copper filly; His breeches and boots were of tin, and the belt Was made of cast-iron, for fear it should melt With the heat of the copper colt's belly.
Oh! then there was glitter and fire in each eye, For two living coals were the symbols; His teeth were calcined, and his tongue was so dry, It rattled against them as though you should try To play the piano on thimbles.
XX. ADVENTURES IN THE SPORTING LINE,
A fig for them by law protected, Liberty's glorious feast; Courts for cowards were erected, Churches built to please the priest.
Wi' cauk and keel I'll win your bread, And spindles and whorles for them wha need, Whilk is a gentle trade indeed, To carry the Gaberlunzie on. I'll bow my leg and crook my knee, And draw a black clout owre my ee, A cripple or blind they will ca' me, While we shall be merry and sing.
KING JAMES V.
XXI. ANENT MUNGO GLEN,
"Earth to earth," and "dust to dust," The solemn priest hath said, So we lay the turf above thee now, And we seal thy narrow bed; But thy spirit, brother, soars away Among the faithful blest, Where the wicked cease from troubling, And the weary are at rest.
XXII. THE JUNE JAUNT,
The lapwing lilteth o'er the lea, With nimble wing she sporteth; By vows she'll flee from tree to tree Where Philomel resorteth: By break of day, the lark can say, I'll bid you a good-morrow, I'll streik my wing, and mounting sing, O'er Leader hauchs and Yarrow.
NICOL BURN, the Minstrel.
XXIII. CATCHING A TARTAR,
Fr. Sol. O, prennez misericorde! ayez pitie de moy!
Pist. Moy shall not serve, I will have forty moys! For I will fetch my rim out at thy throat, In drops of crimson blood.
XXIV. JAMES BATTER AND THE MAID OF DAMASCUS,
He chose a mournful muse Soft pity to infuse; He sung the Weaver wise and good, By too severe a fate, Fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen, Fallen from his high estate, And weltering in his blood.
All close they met, all eves, before the dusk Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil, Close in a bower of hyacinth and musk, Unknown of any, free from whispering tale.
XXV. A PHILISTINE IN THE COAL-HOLE,
They steeked doors, they steeked yetts, Close to the cheek and chin; They steeked them a' but a wee wicket, And Lammikin crapt in.
Ballad of the Lammikin.
Hame cam our gudeman at een, And hame cam he; And there he spied a man Where a man shouldna be. Hoo cam this man kimmer, And who can it be; Hoo cam this carle here, Without the leave o' me?
XXVI. BENJIE ON THE CARPET,
It's no in titles, nor in rank— It's no in wealth, like Lon'on bank, To purchase peace and rest; It's no in making muckle mair— It's no in books—it's no in lear, To make us truly blest.
XXVII. "PUGGIE, PUGGIE,"
Saw ye Johnie coming? quo' she, Saw ye Johnie coming? Wi' his blue bonnet on his head, And his doggie running?
XXVIII. SERIOUS MUSINGS,
My eyes are dim with childish tears, My heart is idly stirr'd, For the same sound is in mine ears, Which in those days I heard. Thus fares it still in our decay; And yet the wiser mind Mourns less for what age takes away, Than what it leaves behind.
He prayeth well, who loveth well Both man, and bird, and beast— He prayeth best, who loveth best All things both great and small; For the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
FROM OIL PAINTINGS BY CHARLES MARTIN HARDIE, R.S.A. ONE OF THE DUKE'S HUNTSMEN Frontispiece MANSIE'S SHOP DOOR Title-page MANSIE'S WEDDING: THE DANCE GAED Page 8 THROUGH THE LIGHTED HALL MANSIE AND NANCY 24 THE MINISTER'S LASSIE JESS: A 40 BLUE-EYED LASSIE OF A SERVING MAID MANSIE'S FATHER 56 REV. MR WIGGIE 72 THE FIRST DAY I GOT MY 104 REGIMENTALS ON THOMAS BURLINGS: ELDER 136 MUNGO GLEN 184 JAMES BATTER, MOSTLY BLINDED IN 216 BOTH HIS EYES, LOOKING FOR OUR NAME IN THE BOOK OF MARTYRS COUNTRY LASSIES BLEACHING THEIR 248 SNOW-WHITE LINEN THE WAITING GIRL, JEANIE AMOS 264 PETER FARREL 280 AN OLD DALKEITH BODY 312 THE LAZY CORNER, DALKEITH 344
* * * * *
The sun rises bright in France, And fair sets he; But he has tint the blithe blink he had In my ain countree.
CHAPTER ONE—IN THE TIME OF MY GRANDFATHER
Some of the rich houses and great folk pretend to have histories of the auncientness of their families, which they can count back on their fingers almost to the days of Noah's ark, and King Fergus the First; but whatever may spunk out after on this point, I am free to confess, with a safe conscience, in the meantime, that it is not in my power to come up within sight of them; having never seen or heard tell of anybody in our connexion, further back than auld granfaither, that I mind of when a laddie; and who it behoves to have belonged by birthright to some parish or other; but where-away, gude kens. James Batter mostly blinded both his eyes, looking all last winter for one of our name in the Book of Martyrs, to make us proud of; but his search, I am free to confess, worse than failed—as the only man of the name he could find out was a Sergeant Jacob Wauch, that lost his lug and his left arm, fighting like a Russian Turk against the godly, at the bloody battle of the Pentland Hills.
Auld granfaither died when I was a growing callant, some seven or eight years old; yet I mind him full well; it being a curious thing how early such matters take hold of one's memory. He was a straught, tall, old man, with a shining bell-pow, and reverend white locks hanging down about his haffets; a Roman nose, and two cheeks blooming through the winter of his long age like roses, when, poor body, he was sand-blind with infirmity. In his latter days he was hardly able to crawl about alone; but used to sit resting himself on the truff seat before our door, leaning forward his head on his staff, and finding a kind of pleasure in feeling the beams of God's own sun beaking on him. A blackbird, that he had tamed, hung above his head in a whand-cage of my father's making; and he had taken a pride in learning it to whistle two three turns of his own favourite sang, "Oure the water to Charlie."
I recollect, as well as yesterday, that, on the Sundays, he wore a braid bannet with a red worsted cherry on the top of it; and had a single-breasted coat, square in the tails, of light Gilmerton blue, with plaited white buttons, bigger than crown pieces. His waistcoat was low in the neck, and had flap pouches, wherein he kept his mull for rappee, and his tobacco-box. To look at him, with his rig-and-fur Shetland hose pulled up over his knees, and his big glancing buckles in his shoon, sitting at our door-cheek, clean and tidy as he was kept, was just as if one of the ancient patriarchs had been left on earth, to let succeeding survivors witness a picture of hoary and venerable eld. Poor body, many a bit Gibraltar-rock and gingerbread did he give to me, as he would pat me on the head, and prophesy I would be a great man yet; and sing me bits of old songs about the bloody times of the Rebellion, and Prince Charlie. There was nothing that I liked so well as to hear him set a-going with his auld-warld stories and lilts; though my mother used sometimes to say, "Wheest, granfaither, ye ken it's no canny to let out a word of thae things; let byganes be byganes, and forgotten." He never liked to give trouble, so a rebuke of this kind would put a tether to his tongue for a wee; but, when we were left by ourselves, I used aye to egg him on to tell me what he had come through in his far-away travels beyond the broad seas; and of the famous battles he had seen and shed his precious blood in; for his pinkie was hacked off by a dragoon of Cornel Gardener's, down by at Prestonpans, and he had catched a bullet with his ankle over in the north at Culloden. So it was no wonder that he liked to crack about these times, though they had brought him muckle and no little mischief, having obliged him to skulk like another Cain among the Highland hills and heather, for many a long month and day, homeless and hungry. Not dauring to be seen in his own country, where his head would have been chacked off like a sybo, he took leg-bail in a ship over the sea, among the Dutch folk; where he followed out his lawful trade of a cooper, making girrs for the herring barrels and so on; and sending, when he could find time and opportunity, such savings from his wages as he could afford, for the maintenance of his wife and small family of three helpless weans, that he had been obligated to leave, dowie and destitute, at their native home of pleasant Dalkeith.
At long and last, when the breeze had blown over, and the feverish pulse of the country began to grow calm and cool, auld granfaither took a longing to see his native land; and though not free of jeopardy from king's cutters on the sea, and from spies on shore, he risked his neck over in a sloop from Rotterdam to Aberlady, that came across with a valuable cargo of smuggled gin. When granfaither had been obliged to take the wings of flight for the preservation of his life and liberty, my father was a wean at grannie's breast: so, by her fending—for she was a canny industrious body, and kept a bit shop, in the which she sold oatmeal and red herrings, needles and prins, potatoes and tape, and cabbage, and what not—he had grown a strapping laddie of eleven or twelve, helping his two sisters, one of whom perished of the measles in the dear year, to go errands, chap sand, carry water, and keep the housie clean. I have heard him say, when auld granfaither came to their door at the dead of night, tirling, like a thief of darkness, at the window-brod to get in, that he was so altered in his voice and lingo that no living soul kenned him, not even the wife of his bosom; so he had to put grannie in mind of things that had happened between them, before she would allow my father to lift the sneck, or draw the bar. Many and many a year, for gude kens how long after, I have heard tell, that his speech was so Dutchified as to be scarcely kenspeckle to a Scotch European; but Nature is powerful, and, in the course of time, he came in the upshot to gather his words together like a Christian.
Of my auntie Bell, that, as I have just said, died of the measles in the dear year, at the age of fourteen, I have no story to tell but one, and that a short one, though not without a sprinkling of interest.
Among her other ways of doing, grannie kept a cow, and sold the milk round about to the neighbours in a pitcher, whiles carried by my father, and whiles by my aunties, at the ransom of a halfpenny the mutchkin. Well, ye observe, that the cow ran yeild, and it was as plain as pease that she was with calf:—Geordie Drouth, the horse-doctor, could have made solemn affidavy on that head. So they waited on, and better waited on for the prowie's calfing, keeping it upon draff and oat-strae in the byre; till one morning every thing seemed in a fair way, and my auntie Bell was set out to keep watch and ward.
Some of her companions, however, chancing to come by, took her out to the back of the house to have a game at the pallall; and, in the interim, Donald Bogie, the tinkler from Yetholm, came and left his little jackass in the byre, while he was selling about his crockery of cups and saucers, and brown plates, on the old one, through the town, in two creels.
In the middle of auntie Bell's game, she heard an unco noise in the byre; and, knowing that she had neglected her charge, she ran round the gable, and opened the door in a great hurry; when, seeing the beastie, she pulled it to again, and fleeing, half out of breath, into the kitchen cried,—"Come away, come away, mother, as fast as ye can. Eh, lyst, the cow's cauffed,—and it's a cuddie!"
CHAPTER TWO—MY OWN FATHER
My own father, that is to say, auld Mansie Wauch with regard to myself, but young Mansie with reference to my granfather after having run the errands, and done his best to grannie during his early years, was, at the age of thirteen, as I have heard him tell, bound a prentice to the weaver trade which from that day and date, for better for worse, he, prosecuted to the hour of his death:—I should rather have said to within a fortnight of it, for he lay for that time in the mortal fever, that cut through the thread of his existence. Alas! as Job says, "How time flies like a weaver's shuttle!"
He was a tall, thin, lowering man, blackaviced, and something in the physog like myself, though scarcely so weel-faured; with a kind of blueness about his chin, as if his beard grew of that colour—which I scarcely think it would do—but might arise either from the dust of the blue cloth, constantly flying about the shop, taking a rest there, or from his having a custom of giving it a rub now and then with his finger and thumb, both of which were dyed of that colour, as well as his apron, from rubbing against, and handling the webs of checkit claith in the loom.
Ill would it become me, I trust a dutiful son, to say that my father was any thing but a decent, industrious, hard-working man, doing everything for the good of his family, and winning the respect of all that knew the value of his worth. As to his decency, few—very few indeed—laid beneath the mools of Dalkeith kirkyard, made their beds there, leaving a better name behind them; and as to industry, it is but little to say that he toiled the very flesh off his bones, driving the shuttle from Monday morning till Saturday night, from the rising up of the sun, even to the going down thereof; and whiles, when opportunity led him, or occasion required, digging and delving away at the bit kail-yard, till moon and stars were in the lift, and the dews of heaven that fell on his head, were like the oil that flowed from Aaron's beard, even to the skirts of his garment. But what will ye say there? Some are born with a silver spoon in their mouths, and others with a parritch-stick. Of the latter was my father; for, with all his fechting, he never was able much more than to keep our heads above the ocean of debt. Whatever was denied him, a kind Providence, howsoever, enabled him to do that; and so he departed this life contented, leaving to my mother and me, the two survivors, the prideful remembrance of being, respectively, she the widow, and me the son, of an honest man. Some left with twenty thousand cannot boast as much; so every one has their comforts.
[Picture: Mansie's wedding]
Having never entered much into public life, further than attending the kirk twice every Sabbath—and thrice when there was evening service—the days of my father glided over like the waters of a deep river that make little noise in their course; so I do not know whether to lament or to rejoice at having almost nothing to record of him. Had Buonaparte as little ill to account for, it would be well this day for him:—but, losh me! I had almost skipped over his wedding.
In the five-and-twentieth year of his age, he had fallen in love with my mother, Marion Laverock, at the christening of a neighbour's bairn, where they both happened to forgather; little, I daresay, jealousing, at the time their eyes first met, that fate had destined them for a pair, and to be the honoured parents of me, their only bairn. Seeing my father's heart was catched as in the net of the fowler, she took every lawful means, such as adding another knot to her cockernony, putting up her hair in screw curls, and so on, to follow up her advantage; the result of all which was, that, after three months' courtship, she wrote a letter out to her friends at Loanhead, telling them of what was more than likely to happen, and giving a kind invitation to such of them as might think it worth their whiles to come in and be spectators of the ceremony.—And a prime day I am told they had of it, having, by advice of more than one, consented to make it a penny wedding; and hiring Deacon Laurie's malt-barn at five shillings, for the express purpose.
Many yet living, among whom James Batter, who was the best-man, and Duncan Imrie, the heelcutter in the Flesh-Market Close, are still above board to bear solemn testimony to the grandness of the occasion, and the uncountable numerousness of the company, with such a display of mutton-broth, swimming thick with raisins,—and roasted jiggets of lamb,—to say nothing of mashed turnips and champed potatoes,—as had not been seen in the wide parish of Dalkeith in the memory of man. It was not only my father's bridal day, but it brought many a lad and lass together by way of partners at foursome reels and Hieland jigs, whose courtship did not end in smoke, couple above couple dating the day of their happiness from that famous forgathering. There were no less than three fiddlers, two of them blind with the small-pox, and one naturally; and a piper with his drone and chanter, playing as many pibrochs as would have deaved a mill-happer,—all skirling, scraping, and bumming away throughither, the whole afternoon and night, and keeping half the countryside dancing, capering, and cutting, in strathspey step and quick time, as if they were without a weary, or had not a bone in their bodies. In the days of darkness, the whole concern would have been imputed to magic and glamour; and douce folk, finding how they were transgressing over their usual bounds, would have looked about them for the wooden pin that auld Michael Scott the warlock drave in behind the door, leaving the family to dance themselves to death at their leisure.
Had the business ended in dancing, so far well, for a sound sleep would have brought a blithe wakening, and all be tight and right again; but, alas and alackaday! the violent heat and fume of foment they were all thrown into, caused the emptying of so many ale-tankers, and the swallowing of so muckle toddy, by way of cooling and refreshing the company, that they all got as fou as the Baltic; and many ploys, that shall be nameless, were the result of a sober ceremony, whereby two douce and decent people, Mansie Wauch, my honoured father, and Marion Laverock, my respected mother, were linked thegither, for better for worse, in the lawful bonds of honest wedlock.
It seems as if Providence, reserving every thing famous and remarkable for me, allowed little or nothing of consequence to happen to my father, who had few cruiks in his lot; at least I never learned, either from him or any other body, of any adventures likely seriously to interest the world at large. I have heard tell, indeed, that he once got a terrible fright by taking the bounty, during the American war, from an Eirish corporal, of the name of Dochart O'Flaucherty, at Dalkeith Fair, when he was at his prenticeship; he, not being accustomed to malt-liquor, having got fouish and frisky—which was not his natural disposition—over a half a bottle of porter. From this it will easily be seen, in the first place, that it would be with a fight that his master would get him off, by obliging the corporal to take back the trepan money; in the second place, how long a date back it is since the Eirish began to be the death of us; and, in conclusion, that my honoured faither got such a fleg, as to spain him effectually, for the space of ten years, from every drinkable stronger than good spring-well water. Let the unwary take caution; and may this be a wholesome lesson to all whom it may concern.
In this family history it becomes me, as an honest man, to make passing mention of my father's sister, auntie Mysie, that married a carpenter and undertaker in the town of Jedburgh; and who, in the course of nature and industry, came to be in a prosperous and thriving way; indeed, so much so, as to be raised from the rank of a private head of a family; and at last elected, by a majority of two votes over a famous cow-doctor, a member of the town-council itself.
There is a good story, howsoever, connected with this business, with which I shall make myself free to wind up this somewhat fusty and fushionless chapter.
Well, ye see, some great lord,—I forget his name, but no matter,—that had made a most tremendous sum of money, either by foul or fair means, among the blacks in the East Indies, had returned, before he died, to lay his bones at home, as yellow as a Limerick glove, and as rich as Dives in the New Testament. He kept flunkies with plush small-clothes and sky-blue coats with scarlet-velvet cuffs and collars,—lived like a princie, and settled, as I said before, in the neighbourhood of Jedburgh.
The body, though as brown as a toad's back, was as prideful and full of power as old King Nebuchadneisher; and how to exhibit all his purple and fine linen, he aye thought and better thought, till at last the happy determination came over his mind like a flash of lightning, to invite the bailies, deacons, and town-council, all in a body, to come and dine with him.
Save us! what a brushing of coats, such a switching of stoury trowsers, and bleaching of white cotton stockings, as took place before the catastrophe of the feast, never before happened since Jeddert was a burgh. Some of them that were forward and geyan bold in the spirit, crowed aloud for joy, at being able to boast that they had received an invitation letter to dine with a great lord; while others as proud as peacocks of the honour, yet not very sure as to their being up to the trade of behaving themselves at the tables of the great, were mostly dung stupid with not knowing what to think. A council meeting or two was held in the gloamings, to take such a serious business into consideration; some expressing their fears and inward down-sinking, while others cheered them up with a fillip of pleasant consolation. Scarcely a word of the matter, for which they were summoned together by the town-officer—and which was about the mending of the old bell-rope—was discussed by any of them. So after a sowd of toddy was swallowed, with the hopes of making them brave men, and good soldiers of the magistracy, they all plucked up a proud spirit, and do or die, determined to march in a body up to the gate, and forward to the table of his lordship.
My uncle, who had been one of the ringleaders of the chicken-hearted, crap away up among the rest, with his new blue coat on, shining fresh from the ironing of the goose, but keeping well among the thick, to be as little kenspeckle as possible; for all the folk of the town were at their doors and windows to witness the great occasion of the town-council going a way up like gentlemen of rank to take their dinner with his lordship. That it was a terrible trial to all cannot be for a moment denied; yet some of them behaved themselves decently; and, if we confess that others trembled in the knees, as if they were marching to a field of battle, it was all in the course of human nature.
Yet ye would wonder how they came on by degrees; and, to cut a long tale short, at length found themselves in a great big room, like a palace in a fairy tale, full of grand pictures with gold frames, and looking-glasses like the side of a house, where they could see down to their very shoes. For a while they were like men in a dream, perfectly dazzled and dumfoundered; and it was five minutes before they could either see a seat, or think of sitting down. With the reflection of the looking-glasses, one of the bailies was so possessed within himself, that he tried to chair himself where chair was none, and landed, not very softly, on the carpet; while another of the deacons, a fat and dumpy man, as he was trying to make a bow, and throw out his leg behind him, stramped on a favourite Newfoundland dog's tail, that, wakening out of its slumbers with a yell that made the roof ring, played drive against my uncle, who was standing abaft, and wheeled him like a butterfly, side foremost, against a table with a heap of flowers on it, where, in trying to kep himself, he drove his head, like a battering-ram, through a looking-glass, and bleached back on his hands and feet on the carpet.
Seeing what had happened, they were all frightened; but his lordship, after laughing heartily, was politer, and knew better about manners than all that; so, bidding the flunkies hurry away with the fragments of the china jugs and jars, they found themselves, sweating with terror and vexation, ranged along silk settees, cracking about the weather and other wonderfuls.
Such a dinner! the fume of it went round about their hearts like myrrh and frankincense. The landlord took the head of the table, the bailies the right and left of him; the deacons and councillors were ranged along the sides, like files of soldiers; and the chaplain at the foot said grace. It is entirely out of the power of man to set down on paper all that they got to eat and drink; and such was the effect of French cookery, that they did not know fish from flesh. Howsoever, for all that, they laid their lugs in every thing that lay before them, and what they could not eat with forks they supped with spoons; so it was all to one purpose.
When the dishes were removing, each had a large blue glass bowl full of water, and a clean calendered red damask towel, put down by a smart flunkie before him; and many of them that had not helped themselves well to the wine, while they were eating their steaks and French frigassees, were now vexed to death on that score, imagining that nothing remained for them, but to dight their nebs and flee up.
Ignorant folk should not judge rashly, and the worthy town-council were here in error; for their surmises, however feasible, did the landlord wrong. In a minute they had fresh wine decanters ranged down before them, filled with liquors of all variety of colours, red, green, and blue; and the table was covered with dishes full of jargonelles and pippins, raisins and almonds, shell-walnuts and plumdamases, with nut-crackers, and everything else they could think of eating; so that, after drinking "The King, and long life to him," and "The constitution of the country at home and abroad," and "Success to trade," and "A good harvest," and "May ne'er waur be among us," and "Botheration to the French," and "Corny toes and short shoes to the foes of old Scotland," and so on, their tongues began at length not to be so tacked; and the weight of their own dignity, that had taken flight before his lordship, came back and rested on their shoulders.
In the course of the evening, his lordship whispered to one of the flunkies to bring in some things—they could not hear what—as the company might like them. The wise ones thought within themselves that the best aye comes hindmost; so in brushed a powdered valet, with three dishes on his arm of twisted black things, just like sticks of Gibraltar-rock, but different in the colour.
Bailie Bowie helped himself to a jargonelle, and Deacon Purves to a wheen raisins; and my uncle, to show that he was not frighted, and knew what he was about, helped himself to one of the long black things, which, without much ceremony, he shoved into his mouth and began to. Two or three more, seeing that my uncle was up to trap, followed his example, and chewed away like nine-year-olds.
Instead of the curious-looking black thing being sweet as honey—for so they expected—they soon found they had catched a Tartar; for it had a confounded bitter tobacco-taste. Manners, however, forbade them laying it down again, more especially as his lordship, like a man dumfoundered, was aye keeping his eye on them. So away they chewed, and better chewed, and whammelled them round in their mouths, first in one cheek, and then in the other, taking now and then a mouthful of drink to wash the trash down, then chewing away again, and syne another whammel from one cheek to the other, and syne another mouthful, while the whole time their eyes were staring in their heads like mad, and the faces they made may be imagined, but cannot be described. His lordship gave his eyes a rub, and thought he was dreaming; but no—there they were bodily, chewing, and whammelling, and making faces; so no wonder that, in keeping in his laugh, he sprung a button from his waistcoat, and was like to drop down from his chair, through the floor, in an ecstacy of astonishment, seeing they were all growing sea-sick, and pale as stucco images.
Frightened out of his wits at last that he would be the death of the whole council, and that more of them would poison themselves, he took up one of the segars—every one knows segars now, for they are fashionable among the very sweeps—which he lighted at the candle, and commenced puffing like a tobacco-pipe.
My uncle and the rest, if they were ill before, were worse now; so when they got to the open air, instead of growing better, they grew sicker and sicker, till they were waggling from side to side like ships in a storm; and, not knowing whether their heels or heads were uppermost, went spinning round about like pieries.
"A little spark may make muckle wark." It is perfectly wonderful what great events spring out of trifles, or what seem to common eyes but trifles. I do not allude to the nine days' deadly sickness, that was the legacy of every one that ate his segar, but to the awful truth, that, at the next election of councillors, my poor uncle Jamie was completely blackballed—a general spite having been taken to him in the town-hall, on account of having led the magistracy wrong, by doing what he ought to have let alone, thereby making himself and the rest a topic of amusement to the world at large, for many and many a month.
Others, to be sure, it becomes me to make mention, have another version of the story, and impute the cause of his having been turned out to the implacable wrath of old Bailie Bogie, whose best black coat, square in the tails, that he had worn only on the Sundays for nine years, was totally spoiled, on their way home in the dark from his lordship's, by a tremendous blash, that my unfortunate uncle happened, in the course of nature, to let flee in the frenzy of a deadly upthrowing.
CHAPTER THREE—THE COMING INTO THE WORLD OF MANSIE WAUCH
I have no distinct recollection of the thing myself, yet there is every reason to believe that I was born on the 15th of October 1765, in that little house standing by itself, not many yards from the eastmost side of the Flesh-market Gate, Dalkeith. My eyes opened on the light about two o'clock in a dark and rainy morning. Long was it spoken about that something great and mysterious would happen on that dreary night; as the cat, after washing her face, went mewing about, with her tail sweeing behind her like a ramrod; and a corbie, from the Duke's woods, tumbled down Jamie Elder's lum, when he had set the little still-a-going—giving them a terrible fright, as they all took it first for the devil, and then for an exciseman—and fell with a great cloud of soot, and a loud skraigh, into the empty kail-pot.
The first thing that I have any clear memory of, was my being carried out on my auntie's shoulder, with a leather cap tied under my chin, to see the Fair Race. Oh! but it was a grand sight! I have read since then the story of Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp, but this beat it all to sticks. There was a long row of tables covered with carpets of bonny patterns, heaped from one end to the other with shoes of every kind and size, some with polished soles, and some glittering with sparribles and cuddy-heels; and little red worsted boots for bairns, with blue and white edgings, hanging like strings of flowers up the posts at each end;—and then what a collection of luggies! the whole meal in the market-sacks on a Thursday did not seem able to fill them;—and horn-spoons, green and black freckled, with shanks clear as amber,—and timber caups,—and ivory egg-cups of every pattern. Have a care of us! all the eggs in Smeaton dairy might have found resting places for their doups in a row. As for the gingerbread, I shall not attempt a description. Sixpenny and shilling cakes, in paper, tied with skinie; and roundabouts, and snaps, brown and white quality, and parliaments, on stands covered with calendered linen, clean from the fold. To pass it was just impossible; it set my teeth a-watering, and I skirled like mad, until I had a gilded lady thrust into my little nieve; the which, after admiring for a minute, I applied my teeth to, and of the head I made no bones; so that in less than no time she had vanished, petticoats and all, no trace of her being to the fore, save and except long treacly daubs, extending east and west from ear to ear, and north and south from cape neb of the nose to the extremity of beardy-land.
But what, of all things, attracted my attention on that memorable day, was the show of cows, sheep, and horses, mooing, baaing and neighering; and the race—that was best! Od, what a sight!—we were jammed in the crowd of old wives, with their toys and shining ribands; and carter lads, with their blue bonnets; and young wenches, carrying home their fairings in napkins, as muckle as would hold their teeth going for a month;—there scarcely could be much for love, when there was so much for the stomach;—and men, with wooden legs, and brass virls at the end of them, playing on the fiddle,—and a bear that roared, and danced on its hind feet, with a muzzled mouth,—and Punch and Polly,—and puppie-shows, and more than I can tell,—when up came the horses to the starting-post. I shall never forget the bonny dresses of the riders. One had a napkin tied round his head, with the flaps fleeing at his neck; and his coat-tails were curled up into a big hump behind; it was so tight buttoned ye would not think he could have breathed. His corduroy trowsers (such like as I have often since made to growing callants) were tied round his ankles with a string; and he had a rusty spur on one shoe, which I saw a man take off to lend him. Save us! how he pulled the beast's head by the bridle, and flapped up and down on the saddle when he tried a canter! The second one had on a black velvet hunting-cap, and his coat stripped. I wonder he was not feared of cold, his shirt being like a riddle, and his nether nankeens but thin for such weather; but he was a brave lad; and sorry were the folks for him, when he fell off in taking over sharp a turn, by which old Pullen, the bell-ringer, who was holding the post, was made to coup the creels, and got a bloody nose.—And but the last was a wearyful one! He was all life, and as gleg as an eel. Up and down he went; and up and down philandered the beast on its hind-legs and its fore-legs, funking like mad; yet though he was not above thirteen, or fourteen at most, he did not cry out for help more than five or six times, but grippit at the mane with one hand, and at the back of the saddle with the other, till daft Robie, the hostler at the stables, claught hold of the beast by the head, and off they set. The young birkie had neither hat nor shoon, but he did not spare the stick; round and round they flew like mad. Ye would have thought their eyes would have loupen out; and loudly all the crowds were hurraing, when young hatless came up foremost, standing in the stirrups, the long stick between his teeth, and his white hair fleeing behind him in the wind like streamers on a frosty night.
The long and the short is, that I was sent to school, where I learned to read and spell, making great progress in the Single and Mother's Carritch. No, what is more, few could fickle me in the Bible, being mostly able to spell it all over, save the second of Ezra and the seventh of Nehemiah, which the Dominie himself could never read through twice in the same way, or without variations.
My father, to whom I was born, like Isaac to Abraham, in his old age, was an elder in the Relief Kirk, respected by all for his canny and douce behaviour, and, as I have observed before, a weaver to his trade. The cot and the kail-yard were his own, and had been auld granfaither's; but still he had to ply the shuttle from Monday to Saturday, to keep all right and tight. The thrums were a perquisite of my own, which I niffered with the gundy-wife for Gibraltar-rock, cut-throat, gib, or bull's-eyes.
[Picture: Mansie and Nancy]
Having come into the world before my time, and being of a pale face and delicate make, Nature never could have intended me for the naval or military line, or for any robustious trade or profession whatsoever. No, no, I never liked fighting in my life; peace was aye in my thoughts. When there was any riot in the streets, I fled, and scougged myself at the chimney-lug as quickly as I dowed; and, rather than double a nieve to a school-fellow, I pocketed many shabby epithets, got my paiks, and took the coucher's blow from laddies that could hardly reach up to my waistband.
Just after I was put to my prenticeship, having made free choice of the tailoring trade, I had a terrible stound of calf-love. Never shall I forget it. I was growing up, long and lank as a willow-wand. Brawns to my legs there were none, as my trowsers of other years too visibly effected to show. The long yellow hair hung down like a flax-wig, the length of my lantern jaws, which looked, notwithstanding my yapness and stiff appetite, as if eating and they had broken up acquaintanceship. My blue jacket seemed in the sleeves to have picked a quarrel with the wrists, and had retreated to a tait below the elbows. The haunch-buttons, on the contrary, appeared to have taken a strong liking to the shoulders, a little below which they showed their tarnished brightness. At the middle of the back the tails terminated, leaving the well-worn rear of my corduroys, like a full moon seen through a dark haze. Oh! but I must have been a bonny lad.
My first flame was the minister's lassie, Jess, a buxom and forward quean, two or three years older than myself. I used to sit looking at her in the kirk, and felt a droll confusion when our eyes met. It dirled through my heart like a dart, and I looked down at my psalm-book sheepish and blushing. Fain would I have spoken to her, but it would not do; my courage aye failed me at the pinch, though she whiles gave me a smile when she passed me. She used to go to the well every night with her two stoups, to draw water after the manner of the Israelites at gloaming; so I thought of watching to give her the two apples which I had carried in my pocket for more than a week for that purpose. How she started when I stappit them into her hand, and brushed by without speaking! I stood at the bottom of the close listening, and heard her laughing till she was like to split. My heart flap-flappit in my breast like a pair of fanners. It was a moment of heavenly hope; but I saw Jamie Coom, the blacksmith, who I aye jealoused was my rival, coming down to the well. I saw her give him one of the apples; and, hearing him say, with a loud gaffaw, "Where is the tailor?" I took to my heels, and never stopped till I found myself on the little stool by the fireside, and the hamely sound of my mother's wheel bum-bumming in my lug, like a gentle lullaby.
Every noise I heard flustered me, but I calmed in time, though I went to my bed without my supper. When I was driving out the gaislings to the grass on the next morn, who was it my ill fate to meet but the blacksmith. "Ou, Mansie," said Jamie Coom, "are ye gaun to take me for your best man? I hear you are to be cried in the kirk on Sunday?"
"Me!" answered I, shaking and staring.
"Yes!" said he; "Jess the minister's maid told me last night, that you had been giving up your name at the manse. Ay, it's ower true—for she showed me the apples ye gied her in a present. This is a bonny story, Mansie, my man, and you only at your prenticeship yet."
Terror and despair had struck me dumb. I stood as still and as stiff as a web of buckram. My tongue was tied, and I could not contradict him. Jamie folded his arms, and went away whistling, turning every now and then his sooty face over his shoulder, and mostly sticking his tune, as he could not keep his mouth screwed for laughing. What would I not have given to have laughed too!
There was no time to be lost; this was the Saturday. The next rising sun would shine on the Sabbath. Ah, what a case I was in! I could mostly have drowned myself, had I not been frighted. What could I do? My love had vanished like lightning; but oh, I was in a terrible gliff! Instead of gundy, I sold my thrums to Mrs Walnut for a penny, with which I bought at the counter a sheet of paper and a pen; so that in the afternoon I wrote out a letter to the minister, telling him what I had been given to hear, and begging him, for the sake of mercy, not to believe Jess's word, as I was not able to keep a wife, and as she was a leeing gipsy.
But, losh me! I have come on too far already, before mentioning a wonderful thing that happened to me when I was only seven years old. Few things in my eventful life have made a deeper impression on me than what I am going to relate.
It was the custom, in those times, for the different schools to have cock-fighting on Fastern's E'en: and the victor, as he was called, treated the other scholars to a football. Many a dust have I seen rise out of that business—broken shins and broken heads, sore bones and sound duckings—but this was none of these.
Our next neighbour was a flesher; and right before the window was a large stone, on which old wives with their weans would sometimes take a rest; so what does I, when I saw the whole hobble-shaw coming fleeing down the street, with the kick-ba' at their noses, but up I speels upon the stone (I was a wee chap with a daidley, a ruffled shirt, and leather cap edged with rabbit fur) that I might see all the fun. This one fell, and that one fell, and a third was knocked over and a fourth got a bloody nose: and so on; and there was such a noise and din, as would have deaved the workmen of Babel—when, lo! and behold! the ball played bounce mostly at my feet, and the whole mob after it. I thought I should have been dung to pieces; so I pressed myself back with all my might, and through went my elbow into Cursecowl's kitchen. It did not stick long there. Before you could say Jack Robinson, out flew the flesher in his killing-clothes; his face was as red as fire, and he had his pouch full of bloody knives buckled to his side. I skreighed out in his face when I looked at him, but he did not stop a moment for that. With a girn that was like to rive his mouth, he twisted his nieve in the back of my hair, and off with me hanging by the cuff of the neck, like a kittling. My eyes were like to loup out of my head, but I had no breath to cry. I heard him thraw the key, for I could not look down, the skin of my face was pulled so tight; and in he flang me like a pair of old boots into his booth, where I landed on my knees upon a raw bloody calf's skin. I thought I would have gone out of my wits, when I heard the door locked upon me, and looked round me in such an unearthly place. It had only one sparred window, and there was a garden behind; but how was I to get out? I danced round and round about, stamping my heels on the floor, and rubbing my begritten face with my coat sleeve. To make matters worse, it was wearing to the darkening. The floor was all covered with lappered blood, and sheep and calf skins. The calves and the sheep themselves, with their cuttit throats, and glazed een, and ghastly girning faces, were hanging about on pins, heels uppermost. Losh me! I thought on Bluebeard and his wives in the bloody chamber!
And all the time it was growing darker and darker, and more dreary; and all was as quiet as death itself. It looked, by all the world, like a grave, and me buried alive within it; till the rottens came out of their holes to lick the blood, and whisked about like wee evil spirits. I thought on my father and my mother, and how I should never see them more; for I was sure that Cursecowl would come in the dark, tie my hands and feet thegither, and lay me across the killing-stool. I grew more and more frightened; and it grew more and more dark. I thought all the sheep-heads were looking at one another, and then girn-girning at me. At last I grew desperate; and my hair was as stiff as wire, though it was as wet as if I had been douking in the Esk. I began to bite through the wooden spars with my teeth, and rugged at them with my nails, till they were like to come off—but no, it would not do. At length, when I had greeted myself mostly blind, and cried till I was as hoarse as a corbie, I saw auld Janet Hogg taking in her bit washing from the bushes, and I reeled and screamed till she heard me.—It was like being transported into heaven; for, in less than no time, my mother, with her apron at her eyes, was at the door; and Cursecowl, with a candle in the front of his hat, had scarcely thrawn the key, when out I flew; and she lifted up her foot (I dare say it was the first and last time in her life, for she was a douce woman) and gave him such a kick and a push that he played bleach over, head foremost, without being able to recover himself; and, as we ran down the close, we heard him cursing and swearing in the dark, like a devil incarnate.
CHAPTER SIX—MANSIE WAUCH ON THE PUSHING OF HIS FORTUNE
The days of the years of my prenticeship having glided cannily over on the working-board of my respected maister, James Hosey, where I sat sewing cross-legged like a busy bee, in the true spirit of industrious contentment, I found myself, at the end of the seven year, so well instructed in the tailoring trade, to which I had paid a near-sighted attention, that, without more ado, I girt myself round about with a proud determination of at once cutting my mother's apron string, and venturing to go without a hold. Thinks I to myself, "faint heart never won fair lady"; so, taking my stick in my hand, I set out towards Edinburgh, as brave as a Highlander, in search of a journeyman's place. When I think how many have been out of bread, month after month, making vain application at the house of call, I may set it down to an especial Providence, that I found a place, on the very first day, to my heart's content, in by at the Grassmarket, where I stayed for the space of six calendar months.
Had it not been from a real sense of the duty I owed to my future employers, whomsoever they might be, in making myself a first-rate hand in the cutting, shaping, and sewing line, I would not have found courage in my breast to have helped me out through such a long and dreary time. The change from our own town, where every face was friendly, and where I could ken every man I saw, by the cut of his coat, at half a mile's distance, to the bum and bustle of the High Street, the tremendous cannons of the Castle, packed full of soldiers ready for war, and the filthy, ill-smelling abominations of the Cowgate, where I put up, was almost more than could be tholed by man of woman born. My lodging was up six pair of stairs, in a room of Widow Randie's, which I rented for half-a-crown a week, coals included; and many a time, after putting out my candle, before stepping into my bed, I used to look out at the window, where I could see thousands and thousands of lamps, spreading for miles adown streets and through squares, where I did not know a living soul; and dreeing the awful and insignificant sense of being a lonely stranger in a foreign land. Then would the memory of past days return to me; yet I had the same trust in Heaven as I had before, seeing that they were the dividual stars above my head which I used to glour up at in wonder at Dalkeith—pleasant Dalkeith! ay, how different, with its bonny river Esk, its gardens full of gooseberry bushes and pear-trees, its grass parks spotted with sheep, and its grand green woods, from the bullying blackguards, the comfortless reek, and the nasty gutters of the Netherbow.
To those, nevertheless, that take the world as they find it, there are pleasures in all situations; nor was mine, bad though I allow it to be, entirely destitute of them; for our work-room being at the top of the stairs, and the light of heaven coming down through skylights, three in number, we could, by putting out our heads, have a vizzy of the grand ancient building of George Heriot's Hospital, with the crowds of young laddies playing through the grass parks, with their bit brown coaties, and shining leather caps, like a wheen puddocks; and all the sweet country out by Barrowmuirhead, and thereaway; together with the Corstorphine Hills—and the Braid Hills—and the Pentland Hills—and all the rest of the hills, covered here and there with tufts of blooming whins, as yellow as the beaten gold—spotted round about their bottoms with green trees, and growing corn, but with tops as bare as a gaberlunzie's coat—kepping the rowling clouds on their awful shoulders on cold and misty days; and freckled over with the flowers of the purple heather, on which the shy moorfowl take a delight to fatten and fill their craps, through the cosy months of the blythe summer time.
Let nobody take it amiss, yet I must bear witness to the truth, though the devil should have me. My heart was sea-sick of Edinburgh folk and town manners, for the which I had no stomach. I could form no friendly acquaintanceship with a living soul; so I abode by myself, like St John in the Isle of Patmos, on spare allowance, making a sheep-head serve me for three day's kitchen. I longed like a sailor that has been far at sea, and wasted and weatherbeaten, to see once more my native home; and, bundling up, flee from the noisy stramash to the loun dykeside of domestic privacy. Everything around me seemed to smell of sin and pollution, like the garments of the Egyptians with the ten plagues; and often, after I took off my clothes to lie down in my bed, when the watchmen that guarded us through the night in blue dreadnoughts with red necks, and battons, and horn-bouets, from thieves, murderers, and pickpockets, were bawling, "Half-past ten o'clock," did I commune with my own heart, and think within myself, that I would rather be a sober, poor, honest man in the country, able to clear my day and way by the help of Providence, than the Provost himself, my lord though he be, or even the Mayor of London, with his velvet gown trailing for yards in the glaur behind him—do what he likes to keep it up; or riding about the streets—as Joey Smith the Yorkshire Jockey, to whom I made a hunting cap, told me—in a coach made of clear crystal, and wheels of the beaten gold.
It was an awful business; dog on it, I ay wonder yet how I got through with it. There was no rest for soul or body, by night or day, with police-officers crying, "One o'clock, an' a frosty morning," knocking Eirishmen's teeth down their throats with their battons, hauling limmers by the lug and horn into the lock-up house, or over by to Bridewell, where they were set to beat hemp for a small wage, and got their heads shaved; with carters bawling, "Ye yo, yellow sand, yellow sand," with mouths as wide as a barn-door, and voices that made the drums of your ears dirl, and ring again like mad; with fishwives from Newhaven, Cockenzie, and Fisherrow, skirling, "Roug-a-rug, warstling herring," as if every one was trying to drown out her neighbour, till the very landladies, at the top of the seventeen story houses, could hear, if they liked to be fashed, and might come down at their leisure to buy them at three for a penny; men from Barnton, and thereaway on the Queensferry Road, halloing "Sour douk, sour douk"; tinklers skirmishing the edges of brown plates they were trying to make the old wives buy—and what not. To me it was a real hell upon earth.
Never let us repine, howsomever, but consider that all is ordered for the best. The sons of the patriarch Jacob found out their brother Joseph in a foreign land, and where they least expected it; so it was here—even here, where my heart was sickening unto death, from my daily and nightly thoughts being as bitter as gall—that I fell in with the greatest blessing of my life, Nanse Cromie!
In the flat below our workshop lived Mrs Whitteraick, the wife of Mr Whitteraick, a dealer in hens and hams in the poultry market, that had been fallen in with, when her gudeman was riding out on his bit sheltie in the Lauder direction, bargaining with the farmers for their ducks, chickens, gaislings, geese, turkey-pouts, howtowdies, guinea-hens, and other barn-door fowls; and, among his other calls, having happened to make a transaction with her father, anent some Anchovy-ducks, he, by a warm invitation, was kindly pressed to remain for the night.
The upshot of the business was, that, on mounting his pony to make the best of his way home, next morning after breakfast, Maister Whitteraick found he was shot through the heart with a stound of love; and that, unless a suitable remedy could be got, there was no hope for him on this side of time, let alone blowing out his brains, or standing before the minister. Right it was in him to run the risk of deciding on the last; and so well did he play his game, that, in two months from that date, after sending sundry presents on his part to the family, of smeaked hams and salt tongues—acknowledged on theirs, by return of carrier, in the shape of sucking pigs, jargonelle pears, skim-milk cheeses, and such like—matters were soldered; and Miss Jeanie Learig, made into Mrs Whitteraick by the blessing of Dr Blether, rode away into Edinburgh in a post-chaise, with a brown and a black horse, one blind and the other lame, seated cheek-by-jowl with her loving spouse, who, doubtless was busked out in his best, with a Manchester superfine blue coat, and double gilt buttons, a waterproof hat, silk stockings, with open-steek gushats, and bright yellow shamoy gloves.
A stranger among strangers, and not knowing how she might thole the company and conversation of town-life, Mrs Whitteraick, that was to be, hired a bit wench of a lassie from the neighbourhood, that was to follow her, come the term. And who think ye should this lassie be, but Nanse Cromie—afterwards, in the course of a kind Providence, the honoured wife of my bosom, and the mother of bonny Benjie.
In going up and down the stairs—it being a common entry, ye observe—me maybe going down with my everyday hat on to my dinner, and she coming up, carrying a stoup of water, or half-a-pound of pouthered butter on a plate, with a piece paper thrown over it—we frequently met half-way, and had to stand still to let one another pass. Nothing came out of these foregatherings, howsomever, for a month or two, she being as shy and modest as she was bonny, with her clean demity short-gown, and snow-white morning mutch, to say nothing of her cheery mouth, and her glancing eyes; and me unco douffie, in making up to strangers. We could not help, nevertheless, to take aye a stolen look of each other in passing; and I was a gone man, bewitched out of my seven senses, falling from my clothes, losing my stomach, and over the lugs in love, three weeks and some odd days before ever a single syllable passed between us.
Gude kens how long this Quaker-meeting-like silence would have continued, had we not chanced to foregather one gloaming; and I, having gotten a dram from one of our customers with a hump-back, at the Crosscausey, whose fashionable new coat I had been out fitting on, found myself as brave as a Bengal tiger, and said to her, "This is a fine day, I say, my dear Nancy."
The ice being once broken, every thing went on as smoothly as ye like; so, in the long run, we went like lightning from twohanded cracks on the stair-head, to stown walks, after work-hours, out by the West Port, and thereaway.
If ever a man loved, and loved like mad, it was me, Mansie Wauch—and I take no shame in the confession; but, knowing it all in the course of nature, declare it openly and courageously in the face of the wide world. Let them laugh who like; honest folk, I pity them; such know not the pleasures of virtuous affection. It is not in corrupted, sinful hearts that the fire of true love can ever burn clear. Alas, and ohon orie! they lose the sweetest, completest, dearest, truest pleasure that this world has in store for its children. They know not the bliss to meet, that makes the embrace of separation bitter. They never dreamed the dreams that make wakening to the morning light unpleasant. They never felt the raptures that can dirl like darts through a man's soul from a woman's eye. They never tasted the honey that dwells on a woman's lip, sweeter than yellow marygolds to the bee; or fretted under the fever of bliss that glows through the frame in pressing the hand of a suddenly met, and fluttering sweetheart. But tuts-tuts—hech-how! my day has long since passed: and this is stuff to drop from the lips of an auld fool. Nevertheless, forgive me, friends: I cannot help all-powerful nature.
[Picture: The minister's lassie Jess]
Nanse's taste being like my own, we amused one another in abusing great cities, which are all chokeful of the abominations of the Scarlet Woman; and it is curious how soon I learned to be up to trap—I mean in an honest way; for, when she said she was wearying the very heart out of her to be home again to Lauder, which she said was her native, and the true land of Goshen, I spoke back to her by way of answer—"Nancy, my dear, believe me that the real land of Goshen is out at Dalkeith; and if ye'll take up house with me, and enter into a way of doing, I daursay in a while, ye'll come to think so too."
What will ye say there? Matters were by-and-by settled full tosh between us; and, though the means of both parties were small, we were young, and able and willing to help one another. Nanse, out of her wages, had hained a trifle; and I had, safe lodged under lock-and-key in the Bank of Scotland, against the time of my setting up, the siller which was got by selling the bit house of granfaither's, on the death of my ever-to-be-lamented mother, who survived her helpmate only six months, leaving me an orphan lad in a wicked world, obliged to fend, forage and look out for myself.
Taking matters into account, therefore, and considering that it is not good for man to be alone, Nanse and me laid our heads together towards the taking a bit house in the fore-street of Dalkeith; and at our leisure kept a look-out about buying the plenishing—the expense of which, for different littles and littles, amounted to more than we expected; yet, to our hearts' content, we made some most famous second-hand bargains of sprechery, amongst the old-furniture warehousemen of the Cowgate. I might put down here the prices of the room-grate, the bachelor's oven, the cheese-toaster, and the warming-pan, especially, which, though it had a wheen holes in it, kept a fine polish; but, somehow or other, have lost the receipt and cannot make true affidavy.
Certain it is, whatever cadgers may say to the contrary, that the back is aye made for the burden; and, were all to use the means, and be industrious, many, that wyte bad harvests, and worse times, would have, like the miller in the auld sang, "A penny in the purse for dinner and for supper," or better to finish the verse, "Gin ye please a guid fat cheese, and lumps of yellow butter."
For two three days, I must confess, after Maister Wiggie had gone through the ceremony of tying us together, and Nanse and me found ourselves in the comfortable situation of man and wife, I was a wee dowie and desponding, thinking that we were to have a numerous small family, and where trade was to come from; but no sooner was my sign nailed up, with four iron hold-fasts, by Johnny Hammer, painted in black letters on a blue ground, with a picture of a jacket on one side and a pair of shears on the other,—and my shop-door opened to the public, with a wheen ready-made waistcoats, gallowses, leather-caps, and Kilmarnock cowls, hung up at the window, than business flowed in upon us in a perfect torrent. First one came in for his measure, and then another. A wife came in for a pair of red worsted boots for her bairn, but would not take them for they had not blue fringes. A bareheaded lassie, hoping to be handsel, threw down twopence, and asked tape at three yards for a halfpenny. The minister sent an old black coat beneath his maid's arm, pinned up in a towel, to get docked in the tails down into a jacket; which I trust I did to his entire satisfaction, making it fit to a hair. The Duke's butler himself patronized me, by sending me a coat which was all hair-powder and pomate, to get a new neck put to it. And James Batter, aye a staunch friend of the family, dispatched a barefoot cripple lassie down the close to me, with a brown paper parcel, tied with skinie, and having a memorandum letter sewed on the top of it, and wafered with a wafer. It ran as follows; "Maister Batter has sent down, per the bearer, with his compliments to Mr Wauch, a cuttikin of corduroy, deficient in the instep, which please let out, as required. Maister Wauch will also please be so good as observe that three of the buttons have sprung the thorls, which he will be obliged to him to replace, at his earliest convenience. Please send me a message what they may be; and have the account made out, article for article, and duly discharged, that I may send down the bearer with the change; and to bring me back the cuttikin and the account, to save time and trouble. I am, dear sir, your most obedient friend, and ever most sincerely,
No wonder than we attracted customers, for our sign was the prettiest ye ever saw, though the jacket was not just so neatly painted, as for some sand-blind creatures not to take it for a goose. I daresay there were fifty half-naked bairns glowring their eyes out of their heads at it, from morning till night; and, after they all were gone to their beds, both Nanse and me found ourselves so proud of our new situation in life, that we slipped out in the dark by ourselves, and had a prime look at it with a lantern.
CHAPTER SEVEN—MANSIE WAUCH AND HIS FOREWARNING
On first commencing business, I have freely confessed, I believe, that I was unco solicitous of custom, though less from sinful, selfish motives, than from the, I trust, laudable fear I had about becoming in a jiffy the father of a small family, every one with a mouth to fill and a back to cleid—helpless bairns, with nothing to look to or lean on, save and except the proceeds of my daily handiwork. Nothing, however, is sure in this world, as Maister Wiggie more than once took occasion to observe, when lecturing on the house built by the foolish man on the sea-sands; for months passed on, and better passed on; and these, added together by simple addition, amounted to three years; and still neither word nor wittens of a family, to perpetuate our name to future generations, appeared to be forthcoming.
Between friends, I make no secret of the matter, that this was a catastrophe which vexed me not a little, for more reasons than one. In the first place, youngsters being a bond of mutual affection between man and wife, sweeter than honey from the comb, and stronger than the Roman cement with which the old Picts built their bridges, that will last till the day of doom. In the second place, bairns toddling round a bit ingle make a house look like itself, especially in the winter time, when hailstanes rattle on the window, and winds roar like the voices of mighty giants at the lum-head; for then the maister of the dwelling finds himself like an ancient patriarch, and the shepherd of a flock, tender as young lambs, yet pleasant to his eye, and dear to his heart. And, in the third place (for I'll speak the truth and shame the deil) as I could not thole the gibes and idle tongues of a wheen fools that, for their diversion, would be asking me, "How the wife and bairns were; and if I had sent my auldest laddie to the school yet?"
I have swithered within myself for more than half-an-hour, whether I should relate a circumstance bordering a little on the supernatural line, that happened to me, as connected with the business of the bairns of which I have just been speaking; and, were it for no other reason, but just to plague the scoffer that sits in his elbow-chair, I have determined to jot down the whole miraculous paraphernally in black and white. With folk that will not listen to the voice of reason, it is needless to be wasterful of words; so them that like, may either prin their faith to my coat-sleeve, about what I am going to relate, or not—just as they choose. All that I can say in my defence, and as an affidavy to my veracity, is that I have been thirty year an elder of Maister Wiggie's kirk—and that is no joke. The matter I make free to consider is not a laughing concern, nor anything belonging to the Merry-Andrew line; and, if folk were but strong in the faith, there is no saying what may come to pass for their good. One might as well hold up their brazen face, and pretend not to believe any thing—neither the Witch of Endor raising up Samuel; nor Cornel Gardener's vision; nor Johnny Wilkes and the De'il; nor Peden's prophecies.
Nanse and me aye made what they call an anniversary of our wedding-day, which happened to be the fifth of November, the very same as that on which the Gunpowder Plot chances to be occasionally held—Sundays excepted. According to custom, this being the fourth year, we collected a good few friends to a tea-drinking; and had our cracks and a glass or two of toddy. Thomas Burlings, if I mind, was there, and his wife; and Deacon Paunch, he was a bachelor; and likewise James Batter; and David Sawdust and his wife, and their four bairns, good customers; and a wheen more, that, without telling a lie, I could not venture to particularize at this moment, though maybe I may mind them when I am not wanting—but no matter. Well, as I was saying, after they all went away, and Nanse and me, after locking the door, slipped to our bed, I had one of the most miraculous dreams recorded in the history of man; more especially if we take into consideration where, when, and to whom it happened.
At first I thought I was sitting by the fireside, where the cat and the kittling were playing with a mouse they had catched in the meal-kit, cracking with James Batter on check-reels for yarn, and the cleverest way of winding pirns, when, all at once, I thought myself transplanted back to the auld world—forgetting the tailoring-trade; broad and narrow cloth; worsted boots and Kilmarnock cowls; pleasant Dalkeith; our late yearly ploy; my kith and kindred; the friends of the people; the Duke's parks; and so on—and found myself walking beneath beautiful trees, from the branches of which hung apples, and oranges, and cocky-nuts, and figs, and raisins, and plumdamases, and corry-danders, and more than the tongue of man can tell, while all the birds and beasts seemed as tame as our bantings; in fact, just as they were in the days of Adam and Eve—Bengal tigers passing by on this hand, and Russian bears on that, rowing themselves on the grass, out of fun; while peacocks, and magpies, and parrots, and cockytoos, and yorlins, and grey-linties, and all birds of sweet voice and fair feather, sported among the woods, as if they had nothing to do but sit and sing in the sweet sunshine, having dread neither of the net of the fowler, the double-barrelled gun of the gamekeeper, nor the laddies' girn set with moorlings of bread. It was real paradise; and I found myself fairly lifted off my feet and transported out of my seven senses.
While sauntering about at my leisure, with my Sunday hat on, and a pair of clean white cotton stockings, in this heavenly mood, under the green trees, and beside the still waters, out of which beautiful salmon trouts were sporting and leaping, methought in a moment I fell down in a trance, as flat as a flounder, and I heard a voice visibly saying to me, "Thou shalt have a son; let him be christened Benjamin!" The joy that this vision brought my spirit thrilled through my bones, like the sounds of a blind man grinding "Rule Britannia" out of an organ, and my senses vanished from me into a kind of slumber, on rousing from which I thought I found myself walking, all dressed, with powdered hair, and a long tye behind, just like a grand gentleman, with a valuable bamboo walking-stick in my hand, among green yerbs and flowers, like an auncient hermit far away among the hills, at the back of beyont; as if broad cloth and buckram had never been heard tell of, and serge, twist, pocket-linings, and shamoy leather, were matters with which mortal man had no concern.
Speak of auld-light or new-light as ye like, for my own part I am not much taken up with any of your warlock and wizard tribe; I have no brew of your auld Major Weir, or Tam o' Shanter, or Michael Scott, or Thomas the Rhymer's kind, knocking in pins behind doors to make decent folk dance, jig, cut, and shuffle themselves to death—splitting the hills as ye would spelder a haddy, and playing all manner of evil pranks, and sinful abominations, till their crafty maister, Auld Nick, puts them to their mettle, by setting them to twine ropes out of sea-sand, and such like. I like none of your paternosters, and saying of prayers backwards, or drawing lines with chalk round ye, before crying,
"Redcowl, redcowl, come if ye daur; Lift the sneck, and draw the bar."
I never, in the whole course of my life, was fond of lending the sanction of my countenance to any thing that was not canny; and, even when I was a wee smout of a callant, with my jacket and trowsers buttoned all in one, I never would play, on Hallo'-'een night, at anything else but douking for apples, burning nuts, pulling kail-runts, foul water and clean, drapping the egg, or trying who was to be your sweetheart out of the lucky-bag.
As I have often thought, and sometimes taken occasion to observe, it would be well for us all to profit by experience—"burned bairns should dread the fire," as the proverb goes. After the miserable catastrophe of the playhouse, for instance—which I shall afterwards have occasion to commemorate in due time, and in a subsequent chapter of my eventful life—I would have been worse than mad, had I persisted, night after night, to pay my shilling for a veesy of vagrants in buckram, and limmers in silk, parading away at no allowance—as kings and queens, with their tale—speaking havers that only fools have throats wide enough to swallow, and giving themselves airs to which they have no more earthly title than the man in the moon. I say nothing, besides, of their throwing glamour in honest folks een; but I'll not deny that I have been told by them who would not lie, and were living witnesses of the transaction, that, as true as death, they had seen the tane of these ne'er-do-weels spit the other, through and through, with a weel-sharpened, old, Highland, forty-second Andrew Ferrary, in single combat; whereupon, as might reasonably be expected, he would, in the twinkling of a farthing rushlight, fall down as dead as a bag of sand; yet, by their rictum-ticktum, rise-up-Jack, slight-of-hand, hocus-pocus way, would be on his legs, brushing the stour from his breeches knees, before the green curtain was half-way down. James Batter himself once told me, that, when he was a laddie, he saw one of these clanjamphrey go in behind the scenes with nankeen trowsers, a blue coat out at the elbows, and fair hair hanging over his ears, and in less than no time, come out a real negro, as black as Robinson Crusoe's man Friday, with a jacket on his back of Macgregor tartan, and as good a pair of buckskin breeches as jockey ever mounted horse in at a Newmarket race. Where the silk stockings were wrought, and the Jerusalem sandals made, that he had on his feet, James Batter used doucely to observe he would leave every reasonable man to guess at a venture.
A good story not being the worse of being twice told, I repeat it over again, that I would have been worse than daft, after the precious warning it was my fortune to get, to have sanctioned such places with my presence, in spite of the remonstrances of my conscience—and of Maister Wiggie—and of the kirk-session. Whenever any thing is carried on out of the course of nature, especially when accompanied with dancing and singing, toot-tooing of clarionets, and bumming of bass-fiddles, ye may be as sure as you are born, that ye run a chance of being deluded out of your right senses—that the sounds are by way of lulling the soul asleep—and that, to the certainty of a without-a-doubt, you are in the heat and heart of one of the devil's rendevooses.
To say no more, I was once myself, for example, at one of our Dalkeith fairs, present in a hay-loft—I think they charged threepence at the door, but let me in with a grudge for twopence, but no matter—to see a punch and puppie-show business, and other slight-of-hand work. Well, the very moment I put my neb within the door, I was visibly convinced of the smell of burnt roset, with, which I understand they make lightning, and knew, as well as maybe, what they had been trafficking about with their black art; but, nevertheless, having a stout heart, I determined to sit still, and see what they would make of it, knowing well enough, that, as long as I had the Psalm-book in my pocket, they would be gay and clever to throw any of their blasted cantrips over me.
What do ye think they did? One of them, a wauf, drucken-looking scoundrel, fired a gold ring over the window, and mostly set fire to the thatch house opposite—which was not insured. Yet where think ye did the ring go to? With my living een I saw it taken out of auld Willie Turneep's waistcoat pouch, who was sitting blind fou, with his mouth open, on one of the back seats; so, by no earthly possibility could it have got there, except by whizzing round the gable, and in through the steeked door by the key-hole.
Folk may say what they chuse by way of apology, but I neither like nor understand such on-going as changing sterling silver half-crowns into copper penny-pieces, or mending a man's coat—as they did mine, after cutting a blad out of one of the tails—by the black-art.
But, hout-tout, one thing and another coming across me, had almost clean made me forget explaining to the world, the upshot of my extraordinary vision; but better late than never—and now for it.
Nanse, on finding herself in a certain way, was a thought dumfoundered; and instead of laughing, as she did at first, when I told her my dream, she soon came to regard the matter as one of sober earnest. The very prospect of what was to happen threw a gleam of comfort round our bit fireside; and, long ere the day had come about which was to crown our expectations, Nanse was prepared with her bit stock of baby's wearing apparel, and all necessaries appertaining thereto—wee little mutches with lace borders, and side-knots of blue three-ha'penny ribbon—long muslin frockies, vandyked across the breast, drawn round the waist with narrow nittings and tucked five rows about the tail—Welsh-flannel petticoaties—demity wrappers—a coral gumstick, and other uncos, which it does not befit the like of me to particularize. I trust, on my part, as far as in me lay, I was not found wanting; having taken care to provide a famous Dunlop cheese, at fivepence-halfpenny the pound—I believe I paled fifteen, in Joseph Gowdy's shop, before I fixed on it;—to say nothing of a bottle, or maybe two, of real peat-reek, Farintosh, small-still Hieland whisky—Glenlivat, I think, is the name o't—half a peck of shortbread, baken by Thomas Burlings, with three pounds of butter, and two ounces of carvie-seeds in it, let alone orange-peel, and a pennyworth of ground cinnamon—half a mutchkin of best cony brandy, by way of change—and a Musselburgh ankerstoke, to slice down for tea-drinkings and posset cups.
Everyone has reason to be thankful, and me among the rest; for many a worse provided for, and less welcome down-lying has taken place, time out of mind, throughout broad Scotland. I say this with a warm heart, as I am grateful for my all mercies. To hundreds above hundreds such a catastrophe brings scarcely any joy at all; but it was far different with me, who had a Benjamin to look for.
If the reader will be so kind as to look over the next chapter, he will find whether or not I was disappointed in my expectations.
CHAPTER EIGHT—LETTING LODGINGS
It would be curious if I passed over a remarkable incident, which at this time fell out. Being but new beginners in the world, the wife and I put our heads constantly together to contrive for our forward advancement, as it is the bounden duty of all to do. So our housie being rather large (two rooms and a kitchen, not speaking of the coal-cellar and a hen-house,) and having as yet only the expectation of a family, we thought we could not do better than get John Varnish the painter, to do off a small ticket, with "A Furnished Room to Let" on it, which we nailed out at the window; having collected into it the choicest of our furniture, that it might fit a genteeler lodger and produce a better rent—And a lodger soon we got.
Dog on it! I think I see him yet. He was a blackaviced Englishman, with curled whiskers and a powdered pow, stout round the waistband, and fond of good eating, let alone drinking, as we found to our cost. Well, he was our first lodger. We sought a good price, that we might, on bargaining, have the merit of coming down a tait; but no, no—go away wi' ye; it was dog-cheap to him. The half-guinea a-week was judged perfectly moderate; but if all his debts were—yet I must not cut before the cloth.
Hang expenses! was the order of the day. Ham and eggs for breakfast, let alone our currant jelly. Roast-mutton cold, and strong ale at twelve, by way of check, to keep away wind from the stomach. Smoking roast-beef, with scraped horse raddish, at four precisely; and toasted cheese, punch, and porter, for supper. It would have been less, had all the things been within ourselves. Nothing had we but the cauler new-laid eggs; then there was Deacon Heukbane's butcher's account; and John Cony's spirit account; and Thomas Burlings' bap account; and deevil kens how many more accounts, that came all in upon us afterwards. But the crowning of all was reserved for the end. It was no farce at the time, and kept our heads down at the water edge for many a day. I was just driving the hot goose along the seams of a Sunday jacket I was finishing for Thomas Clod the ploughman, when the Englisher came in at the shop door, whistling "Robert Adair," and "Scots wha ha'e wi' Wallace bled," and whiles, maybe, churming to himself like a young blackbird;—but I have not patience to go through with it. The long and the short of the matter, however, was, that, after rummaging among my two or three webs of broadcloth on the shelf, he pitched on a Manchester blue, five quarters wide, marked CXD.XF, which is to say, three-and-twenty shillings the yard. I told him it was impossible to make a pair of pantaloons to him in two hours; but he insisted upon having them, alive or dead, as he had to go down the same afternoon to dine with my Lord Duke, no less. I convinced him, that if I was to sit up all night, he could get them by five next morning, if that would do, as I would keep my laddie, Tammy Bodkin, out of his bed; but no—I thought he would have jumped out of his seven senses. "Just look," he said, turning up the inside seam of the leg—"just see—can any gentleman make a visit in such things as these? they are as full of holes as a coal-sieve. I wonder the devil why my baggage has not come forward. Can I get a horse and boy to ride express to Edinburgh for a ready-made article?"
[Picture: Mansie's father]
A thought struck me; for I had heard of wonderful advancement in the world, for those who had been so lucky as help the great at a pinch. "If ye'll no take it amiss, sir," said I, making my obedience, "a notion has just struck me."
"Well, what is it?" said he briskly.
"Well, sir, I have a pair of knee-breeches, of most famous velveteen, double tweel, which have been only once on my legs, and that no farther gone than last Sabbath. I'm pretty sure they would fit ye in the meantime; and I would just take a pleasure in driving the needle all night, to get your own ready."
"A clever thought," said the Englisher. "Do you think they would fit me?—Devilish clever thought, indeed."
"To a hair," I answered; and cried to Nanse to bring the velveteens.
I do not think he was ten minutes, when lo, and behold! out at the door he went, and away past the shop-window like a lamplighter. The buttons on the velveteens were glittering like gold at the knees. Alas! it was like the flash of the setting sun; I never beheld them more. He was to have been back in two or three hours, but the laddie, with the box on his shoulder, was going through the street crying "Hot penny-pies" for supper, and neither word nor wittens of him. I began to be a thought uneasy, and fidgeted on the board like a hen on a hot girdle. No man should do anything when he is vexed, but I could not help giving Tammy Bodkin, who was sewing away at the lining of the new pantaloons, a terrible whisk in the lug for singing to himself. I say I was vexed for it afterwards; especially as the laddie did not mean to give offence; and as I saw the blae marks of my four fingers along his chaft-blade.
The wife had been bothering me for a new gown, on strength of the payment of our grand bill; and in came she, at this blessed moment of time, with about twenty swatches from Simeon Calicoe's pinned on a screed of paper.
"Which of these do you think bonniest?" said Nanse, in a flattering way; "I ken, Mansie, you have a good taste."
"Cut not before the cloth," answered I, "gudewife," with a wise shake of my head. "It'll be time enough, I daresay, to make your choice to-morrow."
Nanse went out as if her nose had been blooding. I could thole it no longer; so, buttoning my breeches-knees, I threw my cowl into a corner, clapped my hat on my head, and away down in full birr to the Duke's gate.
I speired at the porter, if the gentleman with the velveteen breeches and powdered hair, that was dining with the Duke, had come up the avenue yet?
"Velveteen breeches and powdered hair!" said auld Paul laughing, and taking the pipe out of his cheek, "whose butler is't that ye're after?"
"Well," said I to him, "I see it all as plain as a pikestaff. He is off bodily; but may the meat and the drink he has taken off us be like drogs to his inside; and may the velveteens play crack, and cast the steeks at every step he takes!" It was no Christian wish; and Paul laughed till he was like to burst, at my expense. "Gang your ways hame, Mansie," said he to me, clapping me on the shoulder as if I had been a wean, "and give over setting traps, for ye see you have catched a Tartar."
This was too much; first to be cheated by a swindling loon, and then made game of by a flunkie; and, in my desperation, I determined to do some awful thing.
Nanse followed me in from the door, and asked what news?—I was ower big, and ower vexed to hear her; so, never letting on, I went to the little looking-glass on the drawers' head, and set it down on the table. Then I looked myself in it for a moment, and made a gruesome face. Syne I pulled out the little drawer, and got the sharping strap, the which I fastened to my button. Syne I took my razor from the box, and gave it five or six turns along first one side and then the other, with great precision. Syne I tried the edge of it along the flat of my hand. Syne I loosed my neckcloth, and laid it over the back of the chair; and syne I took out the button of my shirt neck, and folded it back. Nanse, who was, all time, standing behind, looking what I was after, asked me, "if I was going to shave without hot water?" when I said to her in a fierce and brave manner, (which was very cruel, considering the way she was in,) "I'll let you see that presently." The razor looked desperate sharp; and I never liked the sight of blood; but oh, I was in a terrible flurry and fermentation. A kind of cold trembling went through me; and I thought it best to tell Nanse what I was going to do, that she might be something prepared for it. "Fare ye well, my dear!" said I to her, "you will be a widow in five minutes—for here goes!" I did not think she could have mustered so much courage, but she sprang at me like a tiger; and, throwing the razor into the ass-hole, took me round the neck, and cried like a bairn. First she was seized with a fit of the hystericks, and then with her pains. It was a serious time for us both, and no joke; for my heart smote me for my sin and cruelty. But I did my best to make up for it. I ran up and down like mad for the Howdie, and at last brought her trotting along with me by the lug. I could not stand it. I shut myself up in the shop with Tammy Bodkin, like Daniel in the lions' den; and every now and then opened the door to spier what news. Oh, but my heart was like to break with anxiety! I paced up and down, and to and fro, with my Kilmarnock on my head, and my hands in my breeches pockets, like a man out of Bedlam. I thought it would never be over; but, at the second hour of the morning, I heard a wee squeel, and knew that I was a father; and so proud was I, that notwithstanding our loss, Lucky Bringthereout and me whanged away at the cheese and bread, and drank so briskly at the whisky and foot-yill, that, when she tried to rise and go away, she could not stir a foot. So Tammy and I had to oxter her out between us, and deliver the howdie herself—safe in at her own door.