The Miller of Doune: a
In the reign of James the
Fifth, the mill on the Teath, near Doune, was possessed, as it had been
for abune a century, by a family of the name of Marshall.
They were a bauld and a strong race of men, and when the miller of whom
were now to speak was in his prime, it used to be a common saying in
the kintra, " Better get a kick frae a naigs foot, than a stroke frae
John Marshall;" and even now that he was threescore and one, there were
unco few that liked to come to grips wi him. But though John kent he
need fear nae man, and would carry things wi a high hand when needfu,
yet he was onything but quarrelsome, and was aye mair ready to gree wi
a man than to fight wi him; and as he was a gash sensible man, and
thoroughly honest, he had mony friens and weel-wishers, and was muckle
respeckit in the hale kintra side.
Johns family consisted of twa sons and a dochter, who had lost their
mither when they were but weans. The eldest, james, was as like what his
father was at the same age, as twa peas; only, if onything, a thought
stronger. William, the next, was mair slender; but though he couldna put
the stane, nor fling the fore-hammer, within mony an ell o James, yet
he could jump higher than ony man he had ever met wi; and as for rinnin,
naebody could come near him. Of Jeanie Marshall we need say nae mair
than that she was a sensible, spirited, light-hearted lassie, the pride
of her brothers, and her fathers darling.
It happened ae night, as the miller was coming back frae gien his horse
a drink at the water, that he heard something cheep-cheeping in the
grass at the roadside, and every now and then it gied a bit flee up in
the air, and then doun again; and upon looking at it again, the miller
saw that it was a robin chased by a whuttrit, which was trying to grip
it ; and the miller said to himsel, "I canna thole to see the puir bit
burdie riven a to coopens afore my very een ; "so he banged aff the
horse, and ran and got it up in his hand, and he let drive sic a kick at
the whuttrit, that the beast gaed up in the lift, and ower the hedge,
just as if it had been a kuisten snawba.
On lookin at the robin, John saw some straes stickin tot wi burd-lime,
which had stoppit it frae fleein, and he begood to pike them aff; but
Clod, who was a restless brute, and was wearyin for his stable, tuggit
and ruggit sae at the helter, that the miller could come nae speed ava.
"And now," says the miller, "gif I set you doun, puir thing, as ye are,
some beast or anither will come and worry ye; and its no in my power to
get on that dancing deevils back wi ae handsae gang ye in there; and
he lifted up the flap o his pouch, and pat in the robin.
Now, John Marshall kentna that a this time there was a man at the back
o' the hedge wi a cockit gun in his hand, ready to shoot the whuttrit;
but who, when he saw the miller jump aff his horse, took doun the gun
frae his shouther, to watch the upshot ot; and when he heard what the
miller said, and saw him put the robin in his pouch, he thought to
himsel, "I rnaun ken something mair about this man ;" sae he follows the
miller at a distance. And when he sees him come out o the stable, and
into the house, and the door steekit, and a quiet, he slips up to a
window which was a wee bit open, and whaur he could hear and see a that
gaed on. The first thing he sees is the miller and his family
preparing for family worship, for that was a thing John Marshall neer
missed; and after the psalm was dune, the miller spreads the Bible
before him, and pittin his hand into his pouch for his napkin, to dight
his spectacles, out comes napkin, an' burd, an a.
"Od," says Jeanie, saftly, "gif my father hasna brought hame a robin."
"Whaur got ye the bit robin, father?" said William.
"Neer ye mind, William, my man, said the miller; "Im gaun to read ye
a part o the Word o' God, and that will do ye mair gude than onything I
hae to tell ye ;" and as he pat out his hand to tak the corner o his
napkin, the robin gied him a dab. "Aye, neebor!" says the miller. "But
yere no to blame, puir beastie, for ye wasna to ken whether I meant ye
ill or gude. And now that I think ot, continued the miller, "Ill pass
by our regular order the night, and read ye that chapter whaur were
tauld that no even a sparrow shall fa to the grund without the Lord
When he had finished it, they a went doun on their knees, and the
miller, amang ither things, prayed that He, wha took care even o the
bit burds o the air, would watch for their welfare, and gie them grace
to resist a temptation, and to live a gude and a godly life, like men
and like Christians. And when it was ower, and Jeanie was putting by the
Bible, a dirl comes to the door.
"See whas that, ]eanie," cried the miller. Sae Jeanie opens it, and
when she comes back, she says, "Its ane John Murdoch, father, whas
travellt a gey lang bit the day; but gif its no convenient to tak him
in, hell just trudge on."
"Bring him ben, lassie, quoth the miller. Sae in walks John Murdoch, a
plain, honest, kintra-like chiel ; and " Guid een to you, miller," says
"The same to you, frien," says John Marshall; "and sit ye doun, and pit
by your bonnet. Were gaun to hae our parritch belyve, and if yell tak
your share o them, and stay a night wi us, well mak ye welcome."
"Wi a my heart," says John Murdoch, sitting himsel down. And yeve
gotten a bit burdie on the table, I see,but its a wee douf ways, I
"Ou aye, quoth the miller, "the puir things gotten a bit fright the
night; and its a stickin wi burd-lime, and l kenna how to get it aff
"Let me seet," says John Murdoch, " I hae some bit notion o thae
things." An he took a the straes aff it, and dighted and cleaned its
feathers, and made it just as rights ever.
"And whaufll we put it now? " said he.
"Od," quoth the miller, " it would amaist be a pity to put it out at
the window the night; sae, Jeanie, see, if theres naething to haud it
till the morns morning.
"Well sune manage that," said Jeanie, takin' doun an auld cage.
The robin being safely disposed of. John Murdoch began to speak to the
miller of a heap o things, and he had the best ot on maist o them ;
but when he cam to speak o kye, and on kintra matters, I hae ye now,
man, thought the miller; but faith he found John Murdoch his match
there too; and he said to himsel, " Od, but hes a queer man that, sure
eneugh." And John Murdoch gaed on tellin a wheen funny stories. The
miller leugh and better leugh, and Jeanie was sae taen up about them,
that in she rins twa handfus o saut instead o° meal into the parritch,
and them sauted afore. Sae when theyre set on the table, John Murdoch
gets the first platefu; and when he tastes them, he says very gravely,
"No that ill; but maybe yell hae run out o saut ?"
"Saut ! cried William, do they want saut?" and in gangs a spoonfu.
"Gudesake !" cried he, turning roun' to John Murdoch.
"Whats wrang with them, William? said the miller.
Ou, naething, naething, father--- only theyre as sauts lick, thats
"Gae awa wi your havers/ cried Jeanie; "Let me taste them. Bless me !
an how in a the wide warl could that happen? I neer made sic a
mistak in a my days, an I canna account fort in no gate.
"Now dinna ye gang and vex yourself about it," said john Murdoch, " for
theyll just gaur the yill there gang doun a the better. "
"If thats the gate ot, cried the miller, "theyll need strong yill
frae the first ; sae, Jeanie, put ye that sma thing by, and bring the
"Na, na, gudeman," says John Murdoch, "if we do that, weel be fou ; sae
lets begin wi the sma thing first, and we can tak the strong yill
afterwards, at our leisure.
"Weel, weel, said the miller, "sae oet."
Sae after supper they fell to the strong yill, and to crackin', and the
miller took his share int, but nane o his family said onything maist ;
but they couldna keep their een aff John Murdoch when he was lookin at
their father, though they found that they couldna look him steady in the
face when he tumed to them, just frae something in his ee, they couldna
"And its a bonuie place this o' yours, miller," said John Murdoch ; "
and nae doubt you and your folk afore ye hae been a gey while int.
"Deed hae we," said the miller, a wee gravely, "and, as ye say, its a
gey bonnie bit place."
John Murdoch was gaun to ask something mair about it, but he stopped on
getting a particular look frae Jeanie, and changed the subject ; but the
miller noticed it, and guessing the reason, said to John Murdoch, "Ye
see, frien, that me and my forefathers hae had this place for about twa
hunder years, and were sweert to leavet, and my baims ken that, and
dinna like to speak ot."
"And whats makin ye leavet ? " says John Murdoch; thats to say, if
its no ony secret."
"Ou, nane ava," says the miller; "its just this, ye see: its owner
thinks that its worth mair rent, and maybe he counts on our gien him
mair than the value ot rather than gang awa, sae hes just put the
double ont, and gang we maun; for to stay here at that rate, would just
rin awa wi the wee thing I hae laid by for my bairns, which I would be
sweert to see. Its no very muckle, to be sure; but I can say this, John
Murdoch, that it wasna gotten either by cheating or idleness. However,
we needna weary you wi our concerns, sae come, wes drink King James,
and lang life to him."
"Wi a my heart, miller," quoth John Murdoch. "And nae doubt yell a
be gaun to the sports thats sune to be hauden at Stirling ; they say
therell be grand fun, and I was just thinking that your auld son there
wadna hae a bad chance o winning at puttin the stane,
or flinging the mell.
"And I ken," cried Jeanie, "wha wad hae some chance at the race, gif
there's to be ane."
"Dinna brag, baims, said the miller, " and then, if yere waured,
theres naething to be ashamed o; but whether we gang there or no, time
will show; in the meantime, Jeanie, bring anither bottle o strong yill."
"Miller, " quoth john Murdoch, "ken ye what hour its?"
"Me!" said the miller, "not I maybe half an hour after nine."
"Because it just wants five minutes of eleven, quoth John Murdoch.
"Five minutes o eleven! cried the miller, "and me no in my bed! Faith,
then, frien, since ye dinna seem fort yoursel, well just let the yill
stan, and be aff to our nests; sae a gude soun sleep to you.
"And the same to you and yours," quoth John Murdoch, as he raise and
gaed awa wi William.
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