SOME years ago a Lord of Justiciary
was presiding at a circuit trial in Glasgow where several females were in
succession examined as witnesses. Whether it arose from their unusual
exposure in the witness-box (a square structure in the centre of the old
Court Hall, elevated considerably above the floor), from fear of their
expressions being laughed at, or from whatever other cause, certain it is
they spoke so inaudibly and indistinctly that the jury again and, again
complained, and his lordship as often admonished them to speak out; but,
notwithstanding repeated admonitions, they again and again resumed their
undertone till of new reminded ;—on this account the patience of the judge
was most severely tried, and by the time the examination was finished he
was visibly suppressing great irritation.
At this juncture there approached
through the crowd towards the witness-box a tall, stout fellow, with a
fustian sleeved jacket, capacious corduroy inexpressibles, blue
rig-and-fur hose, and strong clambers of shoes, well supplied with tackets—who,
with pavier-like thumps, tramped up the wooden steps into the box, laid
his bonnet on the seat, and sousing himself down on it, stared about with
seeming indifference, as if he had nothing more to do. This uncommon
nonchalance his lordship eyed with surprise, and having promptly ordered
him to stand up, he administered the oath, and then with a fearful scowl
and gruff manner addressed the occupant of the box
"Witness, let me tell you that my brother (meaning the other judge) and I
have this day been put to a great trouble examining witnesses who would
not, or could not, speak above their breath. Now, sir, I see you are a
strong young man, and, being a carter, as I understand, and accustomed to
speak out to your horses, you can have no such apology; and therefore let
me tell you once for all, that if you speak not at the top of your voice,
you shall be sent down to jail in an instant."
Ere this judicial volley was well
over, the witness, unconscious of any wrong done by him to call for such a
threat, changed colour, stared wildly around, hitched up the waistband of
his small clothes, and betrayed such strange symptoms that his lordship,
imputing them to disrespect or indifference, called out:
"Stand still, sir; mind what I have
said to you."
This acted like an electric shock on
the witness, for he instantly grasped the bar before him, stood
stock-still, and gaped like one petrified. His lordship then resumed his
seat, and called out to the witness:
"What’s your name?"
"Bauldy M’Luckie," was instantly
roared out in a voice more resembling the discharge of a piece of
artillery than the ordinary action of the vocal organs. The amazement of
the audience was succeeded by a burst of irrepressible laughter, and the
lengthened bawl of— "Si—lence," by the macer, while the effect of it on
his lordship was such that, instinctively dropping his pen, clapping both
hands to his ears, and looking at Bauldy, he exclaimed:
"What’s the meaning of that, sir?"
Bauldy, who thought his lordship now
meant to quarrel with him for not speaking loud enough, immediately
answered in the same tone:
"I never spoke louder to the brutes
in my life." A perfect explosion of laughter succeeded, which, for some
time, defied every effort of the macer and the court to suppress it; even
his lordship, whose kindness of heart was well known, smilingly observed:
"Surely you don’t consider us your
brutes, sir; you should know there’s a difference between roaring and
speaking. Remember where you are standing, sir."
This memento wrought on Bauldy
prodigiously; his hands clenched convulsively the bar in front, the
perspiration broke in drops on his face, his eyes seemed fixed, and his
whole frame fearfully agitated. In vain were questions put to him from
both sides of the bar—fruitless were expostulations or threats—his answers
were all of the non mi recordo class, except two, to which no
importance seemed to be attached by anyone unless Bauldy, namely:
That he staid wi’ his mither in the
Briggate; and he kent she was aulder than himsel’."
Seeing, therefore, that nothing
further could be elicited from Bauldy, his lordship, imputing it to
Bauldy’s wish to conceal the truth, in a surly manner ordered him to get
away. This operated like, a charm. Bauldy and bonnet were instantly in
motion. His precipitate tramp down the narrow steps, however, ended rather
ungracefully, for, having tripped himself, down he came, full length, on
the top of a man whose rueful gestures, under the weight and desperate
grasp of Bauldy, found no consolation or apology other than the convulsive
laughter of the audience, and the hasty remark of Bauldy at striding away.
"Did ye ere see sic a cankry buffer
On getting outside, Bauldy met his
mother and some cronies, to whom he related his trials, and his awful
"fear that they might knock the bottom frae ‘neath" his "feet, and send"
him "below in an instant, as his lordship said."