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Book of Scottish Story
The Laird's Wooing


by John Galt

The laird began the record of his eighteenth year in these words :—

There lived at this time, on the farm-stead of Broomlands, a person that was a woman, by calling a widow; and she and her husband, when he was in this life, had atween them Annie Daisie, a dochter;—very fair she was to look upon, comely withal, and of a feleecity o’ nature.

This pretty Annie Daisie, I know not hoo, found favour in my eyes, and I made no scruple of going to the kirk every Sabbath day to see her, though Mr Glebeantiends was, to a certainty, a vera maksleepie preacher. When I forgathered with her by accident, I was all in a confusion; and when I would hae spoken to her wi’ kindly words, I could but look in her clear een and nicher like Willie Gouk, the haverel laddie; the which made her jeer me as if I had a want, and been daft likewise; so that seeing I cam no speed in courting for myself, I thocht o’ telling my mother ; but that was a kittle job,—howsoever, I took heart, and said—

"Mother!”

"Well, son,” she made answer, " what would ye ? "

"I’m going to be marriet," quo’ !

"Marriet!" cried she, spreading out her arms wi’ consternation. "And wha’s the bride?"

I didna like just to gie her an even down answer, but said I thought myself old enough for a helpmeet to my table, which caused her to respond with a laugh; whereupon I told her I was thinking of Annie Daisie.

"Ye’ll surely ne’er marry the like o’ her;—she’s only a gair’ner’s dochter.”

But I thocht of Adam and Eve, and said—"We’re a’ come of a gair’ner;"—the which caused her presently to wax vera wroth with me; and she stampit with her foot, and called me a blot on the ’scutcheon o’ Auldbiggins; then she sat down, and began to reflec’ with herself; and, after a season, she spoke rawtional about the connection, saying she had a wife in her mind for me, far more to the purpose than such a causey-dancer as Annie Daisie.

But I couldna hide to hear Annie Daisie mislikened, and yet I was feart to commit the sin of disobedience, for my mother had no mercy when she thought I rebelled against her authority ; so I sat down, and was in a tribulation, and then I speir’t, with a flutter of affliction, who it was that she had willed to be my wife.

“Miss Betty Graeme,” said she; "if she can be persuaded to tak sic a headowit.”

Now this Miss Betty Graeme was the tocherless sixth daughter o' a broken Glasgow provost, and made her leevin’ by seamstress-work and flowering lawn; but she was come of gentle blood, and was herself a gentle creature, though no sae blithe as bonnie Annie Daisie ; and for that I told my mother I would never take her, though it should be the death o’ me. Accordingly I ran out of the house, and took to the hills, and wistna where I was, till I found myself at the door of the Broomlands, with Annie Daisie before me, singing like a laverock as she watered the yrn of her ain spinning on the green. On seeing me, however, she stoppit, and cried— "Gude keep us a’, laird !—what’s frightened you to flee hither?”

But I was desperate, and I ran till her, and fell on my knees in a lover-like fashion; but wha would hae thocht it? —she dang me ower on my back, and as I lay on the ground she watered me with her watering-can, and was like to dee wi’ laughing: the which sign and manifestation of hatred on her part quenched the low o’ love on mine ; an’ I raise an’ went hame, drookit and dripping as I was, and told my mother I would be an obedient and dutiful son.

Soon after this, Annie Daisie was marriet to John Lounlans; and there was a fulsome phrasing about them when they were kirkit, as the comeliest couple in the parish. It was castor-oil to hear’t; and I was determined to be upsides with them, for the way she had jilted me.

In the meanwhile my mother, that never, when she had a turn in hand, alloo’t the grass to grow in her path, invited Miss Betty Graeme to stay a week with us ; the which, as her father’s family were in a straitened circumstance, she was glad to accept ; and being come, and her mother with her, I could discern a confabbing atween the twa auld leddies—Mrs Graeme shaking the head of scrupulosity, and my mother laying down the law and the gospel;—all denoting a matter-o’-money plot for me and Miss Betty.

At last it came to pass, on the morning of the third day, that Miss Betty did not rise to take her breakfast with us, but was indisposed; and when she came to her dinner, her een were bleared and begrutten. After dinner, however, my mother that day put down, what wasna common with her house-wifery, a bottle o’ port in a decanter, instead o’ the gardevin for toddy, and made Miss Betty drink a glass to mak her better, and me to drink three, saying, "Faint heart never won fair leddy.” Upon the whilk hint I took another myself, and drank a toast for better acquaintance with Miss Betty. Then the twa matrons raise to leave the room, and Miss Betty was rising too : but her mother laid her hand upon her shouther, and said—

"It’s our lot, my dear, and we maun bear with it.”

Thus it came to pass that I and Miss Betty were left by ourselves in a very comical situation.

There was silence for a space of time between us; at last she drew a deep sigh, and I responded, to the best o’ my ability, with another. Then she took out her pocket-napkin, and began to wipe her eyes. This is something like serious courting, thocht I to myself, for sighs and tears are the food of love; but I wasna yet just ready to greet; hoosever, I likewise took up my pocket-napkin, and made a sign of sympathy by blowing my nose, and then I said—

"Miss Betty Graeme, how would ye like to be Leddy of Auldbiggins, under my mother?”

"Oh, heavens!” cried she, in a voice that gart me a’ dinnle; and she burst into a passion of tears—the whilk to see so affectit me that I couldna help greeting too; the sight whereof made her rise and walk the room like a dementit bedlamite.

I was terrified, for her agitation wasna like the raptures I expectit; but I rose from my seat, and going round to the other side of the table where she was pacing the floor, I followed her, and pulling her by the skirt, said, in a gallant way, to raise her spirits—

"Miss Betty Graeme, will ye sit doon on my knee?”

I’ll ne’er forget the look she gied for answer; but it raised my courage, and I said, "E’en’s ye like, Meg Dorts"— and with a flourish o’ my heel, I left her to tune her pipes alane. This did the business, as I thocht; for though I saw her no more that night, yet the next morning she came to breakfast a subdued woman, and my mother, before the week was out, began to make preparations for the wedding.

But, lo and behold! one afternoon, as Miss Betty and me were taking a walk, at her own request, on the high road, by came a whisky with a young man in it, that had been a penny-clerk to her father, and before you could say, hey cockolorum! she was up in the gig, and doon at his side, and aff and away like the dust in a whirlwind.

I was very angry to be sae jiltit a second time, but it wasna with an anger like the anger I suffered for what I met with at the hands of Annie Daisie. It was a real passion. I ran hame like a clap o’ thunder, and raged and rampaged till Mrs Graeme was out of the house, bag and baggage. My mother thought I was gane wud, and stood and lookit at me, and didna daur to say nay to my commands. Whereas, the thocht o’ the usage I had gotten frae Annie Daisie bred a heart-sickness of humiliation, and I surely think that if she had not carried her scorn o' me sae far as to prefer a bare farmer lad like John Lounlans, I had hae sank into a decline, and sought the grave with a broken heart. But her marrying him roused my corruption, and was as souring to the milk of my nature. I could hae forgiven her the watering ; and had she gotten a gentleman of family, I would not have been overly miscontented; but to think, after the offer she had from a man of my degree, that she should take up with a tiller of the ground, a hewer of wood and a drawer of water, was gall and wormwood. Truly, it was nothing less than a kithing of the evil spirit of the democraws that sae withered the green bay-trees of the world, when I was made a captain in the volunteers, by order of the Lord Lieutenant, ‘cause, as his lordship said, of my stake in the country. — “The Last of the Lairds.”


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