The Barley Feverand
By D.M. Moir (DELTA).
Sages their solemn een
And raise a philosophic reek,
And, physically, causes seek
In clime and season;
But tell me Whiskys name in Greek,
Ill tell the reason. ROBERT BURNS
On the morning after the
business of the playhouse happened, I had to take my breakfast in my
bed, a thing very uncommon for me, being generally up by cock-craw,
except on Sunday rnornings whiles, when ilka ane, according to the
bidding of the Fourth Commandment, has a license to do as he likes,
having a desperate sore head, and a squeamishness at the stomach,
occasioned, I jalouse, in a great measure from what Mr Glen and me had
discussed at Widow Grassies, in the shape of warm toddy, over our
cracks concerning what is called the agricultural and the manufacturing
interests. So our wife, puir body, pat a thimbleful of brandyThornas
Mixerns real-into my first cup of tea, which had a wonderful virtue in
putting all things to rights ; so that I was up and had shapit a pair of
leddys corsets (an article in which I sometimes dealt) before ten
oclock, though, the morning being gey cauld, I didna dispense with my
At eleven in the forenoon, or thereabouts,-maybe five minutes before
orafter, but nae matter,in comes my crony Maister Glen. rather
dazed-like about the een, and wif a large piece of white sticking-plaister,
about half-a-nail wide, across one of his cheeks, and over the brig o
his nose ; giving him a wauff, outlandish, and rather blackguard sort of
appearance, so that I was a thocht uneasy at what neebours might
surmeese concerning our intimacy ; but the honest man accounted for the
thing in a very feasible manner, from the falling down on that side of
his head of one of the brass candlesticks, while he was lying on his
braidside, before ane of the furms in the stramash.
His purpose of calling was to tell me that he couldna leave the town
without looking in upon me to bid me fareweel; mair betoken, as he
intended sending in his son Mungo wi the carrier for a trial, to see
how the line of life pleased him, and how I thocht he wad answer a
thing which I was glad came from his side of the house, being likely to
be in the upshot the best for both parties. Yet I thocht he wad find our
way of doing so canny and comfortable, that it wasna very likely he
could ever start objections; and I must confess, that I lookit forrit
with nae sma degree of pride, seeing the probability of my sune having
the son of a Lammermuir farmer sitting cross-leggit, cheek for jowl wi
me, on the board, and bound to serve me at all lawful times, by night
and day, by a regular indenture of five years. Maister Glen insisted on
the laddie having a three months trial; and then, after a wee show of
standing out, just to make him aware that I could be elsewhere fitted if
I had a mind, I agreed that the request was reasonable, and that I had
nae yearthly objections to conforming wit. So, after giein him his
meridian, and a bit of shortbread, we shook hands, and parted in the
understanding, that his son would arrive on the tap of limping Jamie the
carriers cart, in the course, say, of a fortnight.
Through the hale course of the forepart of the day, I remained geyan
queerish, as if something was working about my inwards, and a droll pain
atween my een. The wife saw the case I was in, and advised me, for the
sake of the fresh air, to take a step into the bit garden, and try a
hand at the spade, the smell of the fresh earth being likely to operate
as a cordial ; but na, it wadna do; and whan I came in at ane oclock to
my dinner, the steam of the fresh broth,instead of making me feel as
usual as hungry as a hawk, was like to turn my stamach, while the sight
of the sheeps head, ane o the primest anes I had seen the hale season,
made me as sick as a dog ; so I could dae naething but take a turn out
again, and swig awa at the sma beer that never seemed able to slocken
my drouth. At lang and last, I mindit having heard Andrew Redbeak, the
excise-offisher, say, that naething ever pat him right after a debosh,
except something they ca a bottle of soda-water; so my wife dispatched
Benjie to the place where he kent it could be found, and he returned in
a jiffie with a thing like a blacking-bottle below his daidly, as he was
bidden. There being a wire ower the cork, for some purpose or ither, or
maybe just to look neat, we had some fight to get it torn away, but at
last we succeeded. I had turned about for a jug, and the wife was
rummaging for a screw, while Benjie was fiddling away wi his fingers at
the corksauf us ! a at ance it gaed a thud like thunder, driving the
cork ower puir Benjies head, while it spouted up in his een like a
fire-engine, and I had only just time to throw down the jug. and up with
the bottle to my mouth. Luckily, for the sixpence it cost, there was a
drap ot left, which tasted by all the world just like brisk
dish-washings; but, for a that, it had a wonderful power of setting me
to rights ; and my noddle in a while began to clear up, like a Marchday
after a heavy shower.
I mind very weel too, on the afternoon of the dividual day, that my
door-neebour, Thomas Burlings, pappit in and, in our twa-handit crack
ower the counter, after asking me in a dry, curious way, if I had come
by nae skaith in the business of the play, he said, the thing had now
spread far and wide, and was making a great noise in the world. I thocht
the body a thocht sharp in his observes; so I pretended to take it quite
lightly, proceeding in my shaping-out a pair of buckskin-breeches, which
I was making for ane of the dukes huntsmen; so, seeing he was aff the
scent, he said in a mair jocose way
"Weel, speaking about buckskins, Ill tell ye a gude story about that.
"Let us heart," said I; for I was in that sort of queerish way, that I
didna care muckle about being very busy.
"Yese get it as I heard it," quo Thomas; "and its no less worth
telling, that it bears a gude moral application in its tail, after the
same fashion that a blister does gude by sucking away the vicious
humours of the body, thereby making the very pain it gies precious? And
here-though maybe it was just my thochtthe body strokit his chin, and
gied me a kind of half glee, as muckle as saying, "take that to ye,
neebour. But I deserved it all, and couldna take it ill aff his hand,
being, like mysel, ane of the elders of our kirk, and an honest enough,
"Ye see, ye ken," said Thomas, "that the Breadalbane Fencibles, a wheen
Highland birkies, were put into camp on Fisherraw links, maybe for the
benefit of their douking, on account of the fiddle or maybe in case the
French should land at the water-mouth or maybe to gie the regiment the
benefit of the sea air-or maybe to make their bare houghs hardier, for
it was the winter time, frost and snaw being as plenty as ye like, and
no sae scarce as pantaloons among the core, or for some ither reason,
gude, bad, or indifferent, which disna muckle matter. But, ye see, the
lang and the short o the story is, that there they were encamped, man
and mothers son of them, going through their dreels by day, and
sleeping by nightthe privates in their tents, and the offishers in
their markees ; living in the course of nature on their usual rations of
beef and tammies, and sae on. So, ye understand me, there was nae such
smart orderings of things in the army in thae days, the men not having
the beef served out to them by a butcher, supplying each company or
companies by a written contract, drawn up between him and the paymaster
before sponsible witnesses ; but ilka ane bringing what pleased him,
either tripe, trotters, steaks, cows-cheek, pluck, hough, spar-rib,
jiggot, or so forth.
"Od ! said I, "Thomas, ye crack like a minister. Where did ye happen to
pick up all that knowledge?"
"Where should I have got it? But from an auld half-pay sergeant-major,
that lived in our spare room, and had been out in the American war,
having seen a power of service, and been twice wounded,ance in the aff
cuit, and the ither time in the cuff of the neck.
"I thocht as muckle," said I; "but say on, man; its unco entertaining.
"Weel," continued he, "let me see where I was at when ye stoppit me; for
maybe Ill hae to begin at the beginning again. For gif ye yennterrupt
me, or edge in a word, or put me out by asking questions, I lose the
thread of my discourse, and canna proceed.
"Ou, let me see, said I, "ye was I about the contract concerning the
"Preceesely," quo Thomas, stretching out his forefinger; "yeve said it
to a hair. At that time, as I was observing, the butcher didna supply a
company or companies, according to the terms of a contract, drawn up
before sponsible witnesses, between him and the paymaster; but the
soldiers got beef-money along with their pay ; with which said money,
given them, ye observe, for said purpose, they were bound and obligated,
in terms of the statute, to buy, purchase, and provide the said beef,
twice a week or oftener, as it might happen ; an orderly offisher making
inspection of the camp-kettles regularly every forenoon at ane oclock
"So, as yell pay attention to observe, there was a private in Captain
MTavishs company, the second to the left of the centre, of the name of
Duncan MacAlpine, a wee, hardy, blackavised, in-kneed creature,
remarkable for naething that ever I heard tell of, except being reported
to have shotten a gauger in Badenoch, or thereabouts; and for having a
desperate red nose, the effects, ye observe, I daursay,the effects of
drinking malt speerits.
"Weel, week after week passed ower, and better passed ower, and Duncan
played aff his tricks, like anither Herman Boaz, the slight-o-hand
jugglerhim thats suspecket to be in league and paction with the dei].
But yell hear."
"Od, its diverting, Thornas, said I to him; "gang on, man.
"Weel, ye see, as I was observing. Let me see, where was I at? Ou ay,
having a paction wi the dei]. So, when all were watching beside the
camp-kettles, some stirring them wi spurtles, or parritch-sticks, or
forks, or whatever was necessary, the orderly offisher made a point and
practice of regularly coming by, about the chap of ane past meridian, as
I observed to ye before, to make inspection of what ilka ane had wared
his pay on ; and what he had got simmering in the het water for his
"So, on the day concerning which I am about to speak, it fell out, as
usual, that he happened to be making his rounds, halting a momentor twa,
maybebefore ilka pat ; the man that had the charge thereof, by the way
of stirring like, clapping down his lang fork, and bringing up the piece
of meat, or whatever he happened to be making kail of, to let the
inspector see whether it was lamb, pork, beef, mutton, or veal. For, ye
observe, continued Thomas, gieing me, as I took it to mysel, anither
queer side look, "the purpose of the offisher making the inspection, was
to see that they laid out their pay-money conform to military regulation
; and no to filling their stamicks, and ruining baith soul and body, by
throwing it away on whisky, as but ower mony, that aiblins should hae
kent better, have dune but ower aften.
"Tis but too true, said I till him ; "but the best will fa intil a
faut sometimes. We have a our failings, Thomas.
"Just so," answered Thomas; but where was I at? Ou, about the whisky.
Wee], speaking about the whisky : ye see, the offisher, Lovetenant
Todrick, I blief they called him, had made anobserve about Duncans
kettle ; so, when he cam to him, Duncan was sitting in the lown side of
a dyke, with his red nose, and a pipe in his cheek, on a big stane,
glowering frae him anither way ; and, as I was saying, when he cam to
him he said, Weel, Duncan MacAlpine, what have ye in your kettle the
And Duncan, rinning down his lang fork, answered in his ain Highland
brogue way Please your honour, just my auld favrite, tripe.
Deed, Duncan," said Lovetenant Todrick, or whatever they cad him, "
it is an auld favrite, surely, for I have never seen ye have onything
else for your denner, man.
"Every man to his taste, please your honour, answered Duncan MacAlpine;
"let ilka ane please her nainsel,"-- hauling up a screed half a yard
lang; "ilka man to his taste, please your honour, Loveteant Todrick.
"Od, man," said I to him; " od, man, yere a deacon at telling a
story. Ye`re a queer hand. Weel, what cam next?
"What think ye should come next ? quo Thomas, drily.
"Im sure I dinna ken, answered I.
"Weel," said he, "Ill tell; but where was I at?
"Ou, at the observe of Lovetenant Todrick, or what they caed him, about
the tripe; and the answer of Duncan MacAlpine on that head, that iika
man had his ain taste
"Vera true, said Lovetenant Todrick; but lift it out athegither on
that dish, till I get my specs on; for never since I was born, did I
ever see before boiled tripe with buttons and button-holes intilt.
At this I set up a loud laughing, which I couldna help, though it was
like to split my sides; but Thomas Burlings bade me whisht till I heard
"Buttons and button-holes ! quo Duncan MacAlpine. Look again, wi
yer specs; for yere surely wrang, Lovetenant Todrick. "
"Buttons and button-holes! and deed I am surely right, Duncan,
answered Lovetenant Todrick, taking his specs deliberately aff the brig
o his nose, and faulding them thegither, as he put them, first into his
morocco case, and syne into his pocket. Howsomever, Duncan MacAlpine,
Ill pass ye ower for this time, gif ye take my warning, and for the
future ware yer paymoney on wholesome butchers meat, like a Christian,
and no be trying to delude your ain stamick, and your offishers een, by
haddin up, on a fork, such aheathenish make-up for a dish, as the leg
of a pair o' buckskin breeches ! "
"Buckskin breechesI" said I ; and did he really and actually boil
siccan trash to his dinner ?"
Nae sae far south as that yet, friend," answered Thomas. "Duncan wasna
sae bowed in the intellect as ye imagine, and had some spice of
cleverality about his queer manoeuvres.Eat siccan trash to his dinner !
Nae mair, Mansie, than ye intend to eat that iron guse yere rinning
alang that piece I claith; but he wantit to make his offishers believe
that his pay gaed the right way-like the Pharisees of old that keepit
praying, in ell-lang faces, about the corners of the streets, and gaed
hame wi hearts full of wickedness ; and a manner of cheatrie.
"And what way did his pay gang then? askit I; "and hoo did he live ?
"I telled ye before, frien, answered Thomas, that he was a deboshed
creature; and, like ower mony in the warld, likit weel what didna do him
ony good. It is a wearyfu thing that whisky. I wish it could be
banished to Botany Bay."
"It is that, said I. "Muckle and nae little sin does it breed and
produce in this world."
"Im glad, quo Thomas, stroking down his chin in a slee way. "Im glad
the guilty should see the folly o their ain ways: its the first step,
ye ken, till amendment;and indeed I tellt Maister Wiggie, when he sent
me here, that I could almost become gude for yer being mair wary o yer
conduct for the future time to come. "
This was like a thunder-clap to me, and I didna ken, for a jiffy, what
to feel, think, or do, mair than perceiving that it was a piece of
devilish cruelty on their pairts, taking things on this strict. As for
myself, I could freely take sacred oath on the Book, that I hadna had a
dram in my head for four months before ; the knowledge of which made my
corruption rise like lightning, as a man is aye brave when he is
innocent; so, giein my pow a bit scart, I said briskly, "So yere after
some session business in this veesit, are ye ?
"Yeve just guessed it," answered Thomas Burlings, sleeking down his
front hair with his fingers, in a sober way; " we had a meeting this
forenoon; and it was resolved ye should stand a public rebuke in the
meeting-house, on Sunday next.
"Hang me, if I do ! answered I, thumping my nieve down with all my
might on the counter, and throwing back my cowl behind me, into a
"No, man ! added I, snapping with great pith my finger and thumb in
Thomass een; "no for all the ministers and elders that ever were
cleckit. They may do their best; and ye may tell them sae if ye like. I
was born a free man; I live in a free country; I am the subject of a
free king and constitution; and Ill be shot before I submit to such
rank diabolical papistry."'
"Hooly and fairly, quo Thomas, staring a wee astonished like, and not
a little surprised to see my birse up in this manner; for, when he
thought upon shearing a lamb, he fund he had catched a tartar; so,
calming down as fast as ye like, he said" Hooly and fairly, Mansie (or
Maister Wauch, I believe he did me the honour to ca me), " theyll
maybe no be sae hard as they threaten. But ye ken, my friend, Im
speaking to ye as a brither; it was an unco-like business for an elder,
not only to gang till a play, which is ane of the deevils rendezvouses,
but to gang there in a state of liquor; making yoursel a warlds
wonderand you an elder of our kirk ! ---I put the question to yourself
His threatening I could despise, and could have fought, cuffed, and
kickit, wi a the ministers and elders of the General Assembly, to say
naething of the Relief Synod, and the Burgher Union, before I wad
demeaned myself to yield to what my inward speerit plainly telled me to
be rank cruelty and injustice; but ah! his calm, britherly, flattering
way I couldna thole wi, and the tears came rapping into my een faster
than it cared my manhood to let be seen ; so I said till him,.
"Weel, weel, Thomas, I ken I have dune wrang; and I am sorry fort
theyll never find me in siccan a scrape again.
Thomas Burlings then cam forrit in a friendly way, and shook hands wi
me; telling that he wad go back and plead afore them in my behalf. He
said this ower again, as we pairted, at my shop door; and, to do him
justice, surely he hadna been waur than his word, for I have aye
attended the kirk as usual, standing, whan it came to my rotation, at
the plate, and naebody, gentle nor semple, ever spoke to me on the
subject of the playhouse, or minted the matter of the rebuke from that
day to this.
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