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
we’re now to speak was in his prime, it used to be a common saying in
the kintra, " Better get a kick frae a naig’s 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 frien’s and weel-wishers, and was muckle
respeckit in the hale kintra side.
John’s 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 father’s 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’ to’t 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 it’s no in my power to
get on that dancing deevil’s back wi’ ae hand—sae 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 o’t; 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 ne’er
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.
"Ne’er ye mind, William, my man,” said the miller; "I’m 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
ye’re no to blame, puir beastie, for ye wasna to ken whether I meant ye
ill or gude. And now that I think o’t,” continued the miller, "I’ll pass
by our regular order the night, and read ye that chapter whaur we’re
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 wha’s that, ]eanie," cried the miller. Sae Jeanie opens it, and
when she comes back, she says, "It’s ane John Murdoch, father, wha’s
travell’t a gey lang bit the day; but gif it’s no convenient to tak him
in, he’ll just trudge on."
"Bring him ben, lassie,” quoth the miller. Sae in walks John Murdoch, a
plain, honest, kintra-like chiel ; and " Guid e’en to you, miller," says
"The same to you, frien’," says John Marshall; "and sit ye doun, and pit
by your bonnet. We’re gaun to hae our parritch belyve, and if ye’ll tak
your share o’ them, and stay a’ night wi’ us, we’ll mak ye welcome."
"Wi’ a’ my heart," says John Murdoch, sitting himsel down. “ And ye’ve
gotten a bit burdie on the table, I see,—but it’s a wee douf ways, I
"Ou aye,” quoth the miller, "the puir thing’s gotten a bit fright the
night; and it’s a’ stickin’ wi’ burd-lime, and l kenna how to get it aff”
"Let me see’t," 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 right’s 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 there’s naething to haud it
till the morn’s morning.”
"We’ll 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 o’t 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 he’s 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 ta’en up about them,
that in she rins twa handfu’s o’ saut instead o° meal into the parritch,
and them sauted afore. Sae when they’re set on the table, John Murdoch
gets the first platefu’; and when he tastes them, he says very gravely,
"No that ill; but maybe ye’ll 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.
"What’s wrang with them, William?” said the miller.
“Ou, naething, naething, father--- only they’re as saut’s lick, that’s
"Gae awa wi’ your havers/’ cried Jeanie; "Let me taste them. Bless me !
an’ how in a’ the wide warl’ could that happen? I ne’er made sic a
mistak in a’ my days, an’ I canna account for’t in no gate.”
"Now dinna ye gang and vex yourself about it," said john Murdoch, " for
they’ll just gaur the yill there gang doun a’ the better. "
"If that’s the gate o’t,” cried the miller, "they’ll 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, wee’l be fou ; sae
let’s begin wi’ the sma’ thing first, and we can tak the strong yill
afterwards, at our leisure.”
"Weel, weel,” said the miller, "sae oe’t."
Sae after supper they fell to the strong yill, and to crackin', and the
miller took his share in’t, 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 it’s a bonuie place this o' yours, miller," said John Murdoch ; "
and nae doubt you and your folk afore ye hae been a gey while in’t.”
"Deed hae we," said the miller, a wee gravely, "and, as ye say, it’s 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 we’re sweert to leave’t, and my baims ken that, and
dinna like to speak o’t."
"And what’s makin’ ye leave’t ? " says John Murdoch; “that’s to say, if
its no ony secret."
"Ou, nane ava," says the miller; "it’s just this, ye see: it’s owner
thinks that it’s worth mair rent, and maybe he counts on our gien him
mair than the value o’t rather than gang awa, sae he’s just put the
double on’t, 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. It’s 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, we’s drink King James,
and lang life to him."
"Wi’ a’ my heart, miller," quoth John Murdoch. "And nae doubt ye’ll a’
be gaun to the sports that’s sune to be hauden at Stirling ; they say
there’ll 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 ye’re waured,
there’s 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 it’s?"
"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 for’t yoursel, we’ll 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.