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Book of Scottish Story
Miss Peggy Brodie


"If I were a man, instead of being a woman, as unfortunately I happen to be," said Miss Peggy Brodie to me, "I would call a meeting in public, on the part of the ladies, to petition the king for another war; for really, since the peace there is no such thing as any decent woman getting a husband, nor is there so much as the least stir or stramash now-a-days, even to put one in mind of such a thing. And the king, God bless him! is a man of sense, and understands what's what perfectly," continued Miss Peggy; "and I have not the least doubt that if he were only put in possession of the real state of the sex since the peace, he would give us a war at once, for it is cruel to keep so many women in this hopeless state."

"Indeed, mem," said I, looking as wise as I was able, "you may depend upon it, you are under a mistake."

"Don't tell me, sir," replied Miss Brodie; "you men think you know everything. As if I did not understand politics sufficient to know that the king grants all reasonable petitions. I tell you, Mr "What's-your-name, that the whole sex in Glasgow, from Crossmy-loof to the Rotten Row, and from Anderston to Camlachie, are in a state of the utmost distress since ever the peace;—and marriages may be made in heaven, or somewhere else that I do not know of, but there is none made hereaway, to my certain knowledge, since ever the sharpshooters laid down their arms, the strapping fallows!"

"I'm sure, mem," said I, "for a peaceable man, I have been sadly deaved about these sharpshooters."

"It's no for you to speak against the sharpshooters, Mr Thingumy!" said Miss Brodie, getting into a pet; "you that never bit a cartridge in your life, I know by your look! and kens nae mair about platoon exercise, and poother wallets, and ramrods, than my mother does! But fair fa' the time when we had a thriving war, an' drums rattlin' at every corner, an' fifer lads whistlin' up and down the streets on a market-day; an' spruce sergeants parading the Salt-market, pipe-clayed most beautiful! Then there was our ain sharpshooters, braw fallows, looking so noble in their green dresses, and lang feathers bobbing in their heads. Besides, there was the cavalry, and the Merchants' corps, and the Trades' and the Grocers' corps. Why. every young man of the least pluck was a soldier in these heartsome days, and had such speerit and such pith, and thought no more of taking a wife then, than he would of killing a Frenchman before his breakfast, if he could hae seen one."

"But, Miss Brodie," said I, "they were all so busy taking wives that they seem to have quite forgot to take you, in these happy times."

"Ye needna be so very particular in your remarks, Mr Thingumy; for it was entirely my own fault, an' I might hae gotten a husband any morning, just for going to the Green of Glasgow, where the lads were taking their morning's drill; for it was there a' my acquaintances got men, to my certain knowledge; and now it's naething but "Mistress" this, an' "Mistress" that, wi' a' the clippy lassocks that were just bairns the other day; and there they go, oxtering wi' their men, to be sure, an' laughin' at me. Weel, it's vera provoking sir, isn't it?"

"'Deed, mem," said I, "it's rather a lamentable case. But why did you not catch a green sharpshooter yourself, in those blessed days?"

"Hoot, Mr Balgownie, it was quite my ain faut, as I said. I was perfectly ignorant of the most common principles of the art, and knew no more of the way and manner o' catching a husband, no more than if I had never been born in Glasgow. In fac', I was a perfect simpleton, an' thought it the easiest matter in the warld; an' ye see, sir, I had a wee trifle o' siller, besides my looks (which, ye ken. Mr Thingumbob, were far from being disparageable); and so I was a perfect simple, and just thocht I was like the lass in the sang— Set her up on Tintock tap, The wind'll blaw a man till her.

But ne'er a man was blawn to me; an' there's a' my giggling acquaintances married, ane after the ither. There's Bell Mushat, an' Jeanie Doo, an' Mary Drab, an' Beanie Sma' an' Sally Daicle —naething but "marriet," "marriet;" and here's puir me and the cat, leading a single life until this blessed day. Hoch-hey! isn't it very angersome, sir?"

"It is really a case o' great distress, when one thinks o' your worth. Miss Brodie," said I, pathetically; "and it I did not happen to be engaged myself, it's impossible to say, but—"

"Ay, there it is!" exclaimed Miss Peggy. "there it is! Every decent, sensible man like you, that sees what I am, are just married—married themselves, and tied up. An' so I may just sit here, and blaw my fingers ower the fire wi' the cat. Hoch-hey!"

"But surely, Miss Brodie," said I, "you did not use due diligence in time and season, or you would not now be left at this sorrowful pass?"

"I let the sharpshooter times slip out o' my fingers, like a stupid simpleton, as I say; but no woman could have been more diligent than I hae been o' late years, an' a' to no purpose. Haven't I walked the Trongate? Haven't I walked the Green? Haven't I gone to a' the tea-drinkings within five miles, where I could get a corner for mysel? Haven't I gone to the kirk three times every Sunday, forby fast days, thanksgiving days, and evening preachings? Haven't I attended a' the Bible meetings, and missionary meetings, forby auxiliary societies, and branch associations? Wasn't I a member of a' the ladies' committees, and penny-a-week societies, frae Cranston Hill to the East Toll? Didn't I gang about collecting pennies, in cauld March weather, climbin' stairs, and knocking at doors like a beggar, until the folk were like to put me out, an' the vera weans on the stairs used lo pin clouts to our tails, an' ca' us penny-a-week auld maids? Eh! that was a sair business, sir, an' little thanks we got; an' I got the chilblains in the feet wi' the cauld, that keepit me frae sleep for three weeks."

"It's really lamentable; but I should have thought that the saintly plan was a good one."

"So it would have been, sir, if I had had more money; but, ye see, fifty pounds a year is thought nothing o' nowadays; an' these kinds o' people are terrible greedy o' siller. Na, na, sir, gie me the sharpshooters yet."

"Well now, Miss Brodie," said I, "as we're on the subject, let me hear how it was you lost your precious opportunities in the volunteering time."

"Oh, sir, that was the time—volunteering! There never was such days as the volunteering days. Drums here, and bands o' music there; sodgering up, and sodgering down; an' then the young men looked so tall in their regimentals, and it was such a pleasure just to get ane o' them by the arm, and to parade wi' them before the Tontine, an' then a' your acquaintances to meet you walking wi' a braw sharpshooter, and talking about you after in every house; and such shaking hands in the Trongate, and such treating us wi' cakes in Baxter's,—for the volunteering lads were sae free o' their siller in thae days, puir chields! Oh, thae were times!"

"There are no such times now, I fear, Miss Peggy."

"Oh, no, sir. An' then the lads thought nothing to take you to the play at night, in thae days; and what a beautiful thing it was to sit in the front o' the boxes o' the big theatre in Queen Street, wi' a red-coated, or a green-coated volunteer—it was so showy, and such an attraction, and a talk. To be sure, sir, it's no a' thegither right to go openly to common playhouses; but a man must be got some place, an' ye ken the sharpshooters couldna gang to the kirk in their green dress, puir fallows."

"But you never told me, Miss Brodie, what art or mystery there is in man-catching, and yet you speak as if some of your female friends had practised something past the common to that intent."

"It's not for me to speak to you about women's affairs, Mr Balgownie; but I can tell you one thing. Do you mind lang Miss M'Whinnie, dochter of auld Willie M'Whinnie, that was elder in Mr Dumdrone's kirk"

"I think I recollect her face," said I.

"Weel sir, this was the way she used to do. Ye see, she was a great walker (for she was a lang-leggit lass, although her father is a wee gutty body), and if ye took a walk in the Green or the Trongate, ye're sure to meet lang-leggit Nelly M'Whinnie. lamping wi' a parasol like a fishing-rod, simmer and winter, lookin' ower her shoulder now and then to see when she should fa' aft* her feet."

"Fall, Miss Brodie?—What do you mean by falling?"

"Hoot, sir, ye ken naething. Wasn't it by fa'in' that Nelly M.'Whinnie got a man? I'll tell you how. She used to walk by hersel, an' whenever she came near a handsome sharpshooter, or gentleman chield that she wished to pick acqaintance wi', she just pretended to gie a bit stumble, or to fall on one knee or so; and then, ye ken, the gentleman couldna do less than rin to lift her up, and ask if she was hurt, and so forth; an' then she wad answer so sweet, and thank him so kindly, that the man must sae something civil; and then she would say, 'Oh, sir, you are so obliging and so polite;' an' just in this way she made the pleasantest acquaintances, an' got a man by it, or a' was done."

"Ha, ha, ha! That is perfectly ridiculous, and hardly credible," said I.

"Na, ye needna laugh in the least," continued Miss Brodie, "for I'm telling you the truth; and didna the same lass break her arm wi' her fa'ing?"

"Break her arm, Miss Brodie! Are you serious?"

"It's perfectly true. Mr Balgownie. Ye see, sir, she was walking on speculation, in her usual manner, in the Green o' Glasgow it was, as I believe, and somewhere near the Humanity House, by the side of the Clyde, when she observed three strappin' fellows come blattering up behind her. This was an opportunity not to be let pass, an' the day being frosty, an' the road slightly slippery, afforded an excellent pretence for a stumble at least Weel, sir, just when the gentlemen had got within three yards o' her, Nellie gied a bit awkward sprauchle, and shot out a leg; but whether Nellie had mista'en her distance, or whether the men were up to her fa'in' system, an' wadna bite, never clearly appeared; but they werena forward in time to catch the lassie in their arms as she expected; an' after a sprauchle an' a stumble, down she came in good earnest, an' broke her arm."

"Ha, ha, ha! I would rather hear that story than any one of Mr Dumdrone's best discourses," said I. "But are you sure it's true?"

"Did I no see Miss M'Whinnie, the time she was laid up, wi' the broken arm in a sling ? But you see, sir, the gentlemen did gather round her when they saw she was fairly whomel't, an' gathered her up, nae doubt; an' as soon as she got better o' the broken arm, she took to fa'in' again. But I believe she never gaed farther than a stoyter or a stumble after that, till ance she got a man."

"And so. Miss Brodie, she did fall into a marriage?"

"Ou, 'deed did she, sir. A fallow caught her at last, as she fell; and there was nae mair walking the Trongate wi' the lang parasol, like a bellman's staff. But in the time o' the sharpshooters and the cavalry, and the Merchants' corps, and a' the corps, I mind as weel as yesterday, how a great illness Look place among the young women, and neither pills nor boluses were found to be of the least service, an' the doctors were perfectly puzzled and perplexed, and knew not what to recommend in this general distress. But the young women, ane and a', prescribed for themselves, from an inward understanding o' their complaints, and nothing, they said, would cure the prevailing sickness but a walk in the morning in the Green o' Glasgow.

Now, sir, it happened so providential, the whole time that this influenza lasted, that the Sharpshooter corps, and the Cavalry corps, and the Trades* corps, and the Merchants' corps, and the Grocers' corps, and a' the corps were exercising in the Green o' Glasgow, where a' the young ladies were walking for their health. It was so beautiful and good for the ladies, when they were sick, to see thae sharpshooters, how they marched, wheeled, an' whooped, an' whooped, an' ran this way, and that way, an' whiles they fired on their knees, an' then they would clap down on their backs, and fire at us, puir chields. And then, ye see, just when we had gotten an appetite for our breakfasts by our walk, the corps would be dismissed, and then the volunteer lads couldna but spread themselves among the ladies that were outside, just to spier after their complaints; an' then naething but link arm wi' the sharpshooters an' the other corps, dizzens in a row, an' be escorted hame to breakfast. Many a lass that was quite poorly and badly was relieved by these morning walks, and are now married women. Ah, thae were pleasant days, Mr Bal-gownie!"

"But, dear me, Miss Brodie," I said, "how did it happen that you were allowed to remain single all this time? Had you no wooers at all? "

"What do you mean, sir, by asking me such a question? Nae wooers! I tell you I had dizzens o' lads running after me night and day, in thae pleasant times."

"Well, but I don't mean in the common way. I mean, had you any real sweetheart—any absolute offer?"

"Offer, sir I Indeed I had more than one. Wasna there Peter Shanks, the hosier, that perfectly plagued me, the dirty body? But ye see, sir, I couldna bear the creature, though he had twa houses in Camlachie; for, to tell you my weakness, sir, my heart was set upon—"

"Upon whom, Miss Brodie? Ah, tell me!"

"Upon a sharpshooter."

"Bless my heart! But if you would just let me hear the tale."

"Ah, sir, it's a pitiful story," said Miss Peggy, becoming lachrymose.

"I delight in pitiful stories," said I, taking out my handkerchief.

"Weelj sir,—' love and grief are sair to bide,' as the sang says, and my heart wasna made o' the adamant rock; so ye see, sir, there was a lad they ca'd Pate Peters, an* he was in the sharpshooters; and he sat just quite near me in Mr Dumdrone's kirk, for ye see, sir, it was there we fell in. Oh, sir, Pate was a beautiful youth: teeth like the ivory, an' eyes as black as the slae, and cheeks as red as the rose."

"Ah, Miss Brodie, Miss Brodie!"

"An' when he was dressed in his sharpshooter's dress,—ah, sir, but ray heart was aye too, too susceptible. I will not trouble you, sir, wi' the history o' our love, which would have come to the most happy termination, but for a forward cutty of a companion o' mine, of the name of Jess Barbour. But there can be nae doubt but Pate Peters was a true lover o' me; for he used to come hame wi' me frae Mr Dumdrone's preaching whenever Jess wasna there, and I'm sure his heart burned wi' a reciprocal flame. But ae night, sir,— I'll ne'er forget that night!—I was coming hame frae a tea-drinking at Mr Warps', the manufacturer on the other side o' Clyde, when just as I got to the end o' the wooden brig next the Green, wha does I meet but Pate Peters!

"Weel, sir, it was a moonlight night,—just such as lovers walk about in, an' Pate and me linked arm-in-arm, walked and walked, round the Green o' Glasgow. We stopped by the side o' Clyde, an' lookit up at the moon.

"'Miss Peggy,' says he, 'do ye see that moon?'

"'Yes,' says I.

"'That changeable moon,' says he, 'is the emblem o' falseness in love.'

"'Yes, Mr Peters,' said I, an' my heart was ready to melt.

"'But I will never be false in love!' says he.

"'I hope you will be true until death,' says I.

"'To be sure I will, Miss Brodie,' says he; these were his very words."

"Ah, Miss Peggy," I said, as I saw she was unable to get on, "that is quite affecting."

"But he talked so sensibly, sir," continued Miss Brodie; "he spoke even of marriage as plain as a man could speak. 'Miss Peggy,' said he, 'do you remember what Mr Dumdrone, the minister, said last Sabbath? He said marriage was made in heaven; and he said that Solomon, the wisest of men, expressly said, in the Proverbs, he that getteth a good wife getteth a good thing'—Was not that plain speaking, Mr Balgownie?"

"Nothing could be plainer, Miss Peggy; but I'm interested in your story."

"Weel, sir, he came home to the door wi' me, and—it's not for me to tell the endearments that passed between us!—So, sir, I went to sleep wi' a light heart, an' was for several days considering and contriving about our marriage, when—what do you think?—in three weeks, word was brought to me that the false and cruel man was married to Jess Barbour 1"

"Bless me, Miss Brodie, what a woful story! It's just like a romance?" "So it is, Mr Balgownie," said Miss Peggy, all blubbered with weeping. "It's perfect romantic. Ye see, sir, what trials I had in love! But you're not going away in that manner, sir?"

"Oh, yes, Miss Brodie," said I, taking my hat; " I'm not able to stand it any longer."

"You're a feeling man," said she, shaking me by the hand; "you're a man o' sweet feeling, Mr Balgownie."

"You're an ill-used woman, Miss Brodie!—Adieu, Miss Brodie!"— The Dominie's Legacy.


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