It was one cold
November morning, on the day of an intended voyage, when Mrs MCosey,
my landlady, tapped at my bed-chamber door, informing me that it was
"braid day light; but on reaching the caller air I found, by my
watch and the light of the moon, that I had full two hours to spare
for such sublunary delights as such a circumstance might create. A
traveller, when he has once taken his leave, and rung the changes of
"farewell, "adieu, "good-bye, and "God bless you, on the
connubial and domestic harmonies of his last lodgings, will rather
hazard his health by an exposure to the "pelting of the pitiless
storm," for a handful of hours, than try an experiment on his
landladys sincerity a second time, within the short space of the
same moon. If casualty should force him to make an abrupt return,
enviable must be his feelings if they withstand the cold unfriendly
welcome of "Yere no awa yet! delivered by some quivering Abigail,
in sylvan equipment, like one of Dians foresters, as she slowly and
uninvitingly opens the creaking doora commentary on the forbidding
salute. He enters, and the strong. caloric now beginning to thaw his
sensibilities, he makes for his room, which lie forgets is no longer
his; when, though he be still in the dark, he has no need of a
candle to enable him to discover that some kind remembrancer has
already been rummaging his corner cupboard, making lawful seizure
and removal ("convey the wise it call) of the contents of his
tea-caddy, butter-kit, sugar-bowl, and "comforter; to which he had
looked forward, on his return, as a small solace for the
disappointment of the morning, affording him the means of knocking
up a comfortable "check, without again distressing the exchequer.
I had therefore determined not to return to Mrs MCoseys; for
"frailty, thy name is woman; and I felt myself getting into a sad
frame of mind, as I involuntarily strolled a considerable distance
along the high road, pondering on the best means of walking "out of
the air, as Hamlet says, when, as the moon receded behind a black
cloud, my head came full butt against a wall; the concussion making
it ring, till I actually imagined I could distinguish something like
a tune from my brain. Surely, said I, this is no melody of my
making; as I now heard, like two voices trolling a merry stave--
Duncans comin', Donalds comin, &c.
Turning round to the direction from whence the sound seemed to
proceed, I perceived I was in the neighbourhood of the "Auld Kirk
Yard ; where, by the light from his lantern, I could discover the
old grave-digger at work--his bald head, with single white and
silvery-crisped forelock, making transits over the dark line of the
grave, like a white-crested dove, or a sea-gull, flaunting over the
One stride, and I had cleared the wall of the Auld Kirk Yard.
"You seem merry, old boy !You are conscious, I presume, that this
world has few troubles that can affect you in your present
"I was takin my medicine to keep my heart up, sir; but I wasna
merry: yet Im content wi my station, and am a thocht independent.
I court the company o nae man alive; I boo to nae man breathinI
quarrel nane wi my neebours;yet am I sought after by high and low,
rich and puir; the king himsel maun come under my rulethis rod of
airn ;though Im grown frail and feckless afore my time : for
healthy as my looks be, Irn aye, aye at deaths door; our work, ye
see, sir, s a below the breath; and thats a sair trade for takin
the wind oot o'a body. Then, I hae my trials,sair visitations, sic
as fa to the lot o nae man on this side the grave but mysel! It's
true, that when the wind gaes round merrily to the east, I get a sma
share o whats gaun ; but just look at that yird, sir, as bonnie
a healthy yird as ane could delight to lie in;neist, look at that
spear,a fortnights rust upon that dibble! Mind, I downa complain
; Live, and let live, say I
"But whats the use of talkin sae to a life-like, graceless,
thochtless, bairn-getting parish ?the feck o whom, after having
lived on the fat o the kintraside, naething will sair, but they
maun gang up to the town to lay their banes amang the gentles, and
creesh some hungry yird wi'their marrow ! The fa o the leaf is
come and gane ; an saving some twa or three consumptionsfor whilk
the Lord be thankit, as a sma fend---tak the parish a ower
headfrae head to tailand for ane that gaes out at my gate-end,
yell find a score come in at the howdies !
Damna famae majora quam quae aestimari possint.
(The loss of reputation is greater than can be reckoned.)
"I hae lost my Gaelic: sir; but ye speak like a sensible man. The
fame o the place is just as ye say, theres
ower mony merry pows int. But see, there is a sober pow, wi'a
siller clasp ont.
"With all due gravity, may I ask, whose property was that ?
"Hech, man! thats a skeigh tune for a dry whistle; sae, gin ye
please, well tak our morning first."
So saying, he took his spade, and cutting steps in the side of the
grave he was digging, he mounted to the surface ; then, walking off
a few paces, I saw him strike some dark substance lying on a flat
stone; when, to my astonishment, a Flibbertigibbet-looking creature
unrolled itself, from a rnortcloth, at my feet.
"Hannibal Grub, my prentice, sir, at your service. Hawney, tak the
shanker ower to Jenny Nailors, an'
bring a dooble-floorer to the gentleman; an', hear ye, say its for
the ministers wifefourpenny strunt, Grub, mind--nae pinchin. If
ye meet his reverence, honest man, tell him yere gaun for oil to
"That auld wizzened pow is a thats left o'the Laird o Nettleriggs.
It was lying face down, when I cam tillt this morning, maist
horrif`u to see; for he mann hae turned in his kist, or been buried
back upwards! It was ae blawy, sleety nicht, about this time twal-year,
when I was sent for express to speak wi the laird. Thinkin that he
maybe wanted the family lair snodded out, or a new coat o paint to
the staunchels, I set out without delay. I had four mile o gate to
gang on a darksome dreary road, an I couldna but say that I felt
mair eerie than I had ever felt in my ain plantin, amang honest
folk. Sae, wi your leave, Ill just put in ane o Jennys screws,
afore I gae ony farther. Heres wishing better acquaintance to us,
sir.Is this frae the Broon Coo, Grub?"
"Ay !"groaned an unearthly voice, as if the "Broon Cow"herself had
"Weel, I gaed, an I better gaed. The wind blew as twad blawn its
last; the fitfu changes o the shrouded moon threw flitting
shadows across my path ; whiles like a muckle colley, and syne as
if I stood on the brink o a dreadfu precipice, when I wad then
stand still, till the moon shone again. The bleach-field dogs sent
round their lang, uncanny bodings ; the vera cocks crawed,sic
horror had the time; the last leaves o hairst were driftin an
clatterin amang my feetwhiles hittin me like a whup on the face ;
or tappin me on the back, as if ane wad say, Saunders, this is
death! when I wad then stand stock-still again, my knees fechtin
an thumpin at ane anither, and my teeth gaun like a watchmans
rattle; while noos and thans, the wind wad howl and birr, as if the
Prince o'Air himsel were pipin to the clouds. I neer doubted thae
things to be the bodings o death ; but I thocht sic feydoms might
hae been better wared on a muckle better man than me. At length I
got to the house-door, as the lairds messan began to bark.
"Look to the door, Peggy ! quo the gudewife.
"Ay, mither. Jock, look to the door for your mither, will ye no?
"Look tillt yersel! Can I gang, when Im greetin this way
?Patelook to the door ! .
"Im greetin too, says Pate.
"Peggy Mucklewham, will ye no look to the door, for your deein
faithers sake ?
"Tuts! quo Peggy, Can ye not get up yerselfashin folk ?
"Weel, I then got entrancethe sneck being cannily lifted, an the
bairns makin a breenge into a hidin corner, until, by the light o
the fire, they kent my face.
"Ou, its auld Saunders, as sure as death. Ay, man, my faithers
real ill--hes just gaspin, and thats a! Hear till thatthats
him whistlin ! Hae ye no brought Towzie wi ye? Man, Pate and me
wad haen sic grand fun chasin the mawkins, when my mithers at the
kirk the morn.
"Are ye sorry to lose your faither, bairnies? quo I.
" Ou, ay, quo Pate, but I dinna like to look at him, he maks sic
awfu faces, man; but I hae been thrang greetin, sin four o clock
even ontwice as muckles Jock !
"A lang deep groan now was heard from out o the spence, whaur the
laird was lying ; and the bairnies, in a fricht, ran screeching to
anither apartment, leaving the youngest wean by the fireside, rowed
in ane o the auld mans black coats.
"Gude save us, lammie ! quo I, is there naebody tending your
puir auld faither? Whaurs uncle, larnmie? and aunty? and your
minnie, lammie? I mind weel the bit bairnies answer-- "Unkey a
doonaunty a'doondaddy a doon !
Mrs Mucklewham was a stout buirdly quean, like a house-end; and the
laird was just a bit hanfu o a cratura bit saxteen-to-tbe-
dizzen body. They were a pair owhom it was said, by the kintraside,
that they had married afore they had courted. The laird was an auld
man when he brought hame a woman thirty years younger than himsel
;-auld folk are twice bairns, and he was beginning to need nursing.
Its wonderfu to think how little a matter hinders gentle-bred folk
frae getting on in the warld ! A that Jenny Screameger wantit o
the complete leddy was the bit dirty penny siller ; an sae they
were joined thegither, without its ever being mentioned in the
contract, or understood, that they bound and obliged themselves to
hae a heart-liking for ane anither !
"She had been keepit by the gudeman geyan short by the tether; sae
as her hale life was made just a dull round till hero rising and
lying downeating, drinking, and sleeping--feeding the pigs, milking
the cowflyting the servant and skelping the weans a round
;unless when she dreamed o burials, or saw a spale at the
candleor heard o a murder committed in the neighbourhood-or a
marriage made or broken atfor a criminal to suffer on the gallows;
till at her advanced time o life it was grown just as neccessar
that food should be gotten for her minds maintenance, as it was for
"This is a sair time for ye, Mrs Mucklewhanmf quo I, as she cam
ben frae her bedroom gauntin.
"Hey! ho! hy! SaundersI haena closed an ee thae twa lang nichts !
But I hear theres something gaun to be dune nooHey! Ho! hy !
"I stappit ben wi her to the lairds room ; and I saw in his face
he was bespoken. Everything was laid out in the room, comfortable
and in apple-pie order, befitting the occasion. The straughtin
board, on whilk his deaths ee was fixed, stood up against the wa ;
here lay a bowt o tippeny knittin for binding his limbs, and as
mony black preens as wad hae stockit a shop; there hung his dead
shirt, o new hamespun claith, providently airing afore the fire.
"Gin ye be thrang, Saunders, ye needna wait on the gudemanye ken
his lengthand gie him a deep biel, quo the gudewife ; when just
as I laid my hand upon his brow, he fixed his ee upon me like a
hawk; an after anither kirkyard groanthe like I never heard from
mortal manhe seemed reviving, an new strength to be filling his
limbs, as he rose up on his elbow, on the bed, and laid his other
hand on mine--sic an icy hand as I never felt abune grund I thus
speaking to me in his seeming agony:
"Saunders, do not pray for me; I have been long a dead man ; lay
your hand upon my bosom, and you will feel the flames of hell
ascending to my soul ! I laid my hand upon his heart, and I
declare, sir, I thocht the flesh wad hae cindered aff the
finger-banes! The heat was just awfu!
"I was made life-renter of a sum which at my decease descends to
the younger branches of my fathers family; and my life has been
miserable to myselfa burden to othersand my death the desire of my
"Hes raving, Saunders-hes clean raving! An I canna persuade him
hes a deein man, quo Mrs Mucklewham, as she stapped forrit wi a
red bottle, to gie him a quatenin dram.
"Haud, hand l quo I, hell do without it,as the laird, raising
his voice, began again to speak :
"I had but one friend in the world,the highwayman that robbed me,
and then laid my skull open with
the butt-end of his whip ;would to God he had made me a beggar, and
saved my soul! I had no worse wish to bestow on him than that he
might be a life-renter for his poor relations. - Saunders, look on
the face of that un-feeling wornanmore horrible to me than death
itself ;look on my deserted death-bed, and my chamber decorated
like a charnel house? Horrible as the sensation of death is, as his
iron gropings are stealing round my heart, there is yet to me a
sight more hideous, and which I thank God I shall be spared
witnessingwhen the dead shall bury the dead!
"Mrs Mucklewham broke frae my weak handwrenched open his locked
teeth, and emptied the hale contents down his throatgrunds an'ao
his quatenin draught ; I felt myself a ug, as I saw his teeth
gnash thegither, an his lips close in quateness for ever.
"I gaed out wi the mortclaith ; I saw the gathering; I was present
when the bread an dram service were waiting for the grace :"Try
yet, John, quo ane. Begin yersel; yere dead sweer,
quo'anither ; when I heard ane break down an auld prayer into twa
blessins. Some were crackin about the rise o oats; some about the
fa o hay. His bit callans were there in rowth o claith; auld
elbows of coats mak gude breek-knees for bairns. I saw the coffin
carried out to the hearse without ane admiring its bonnie
gildingquite sair and melancholy to see ! I saw the bedral bodies,
wi their light-coloured gravats, an'rusty black cowls, stufting
their wide pouchesmaist pitifu, I thought, to behold. Then I saw
the house-servants, wha had drunk deepest o the cup o woe; till
sae mistaen were their notions o sorrow, that they were just by
the conception o'the mind o man. Then there was sic a clanjamphry
o beggars ; some praising the laird for virtues that they wha
kenned him kent they were failings in him ; an ithers were cracking
o familiarities wi him, that might hae been painful to his nearest
o kin to hear : there was but srna grief when they first gathered
; but when they learned there was nae awmous for them, I trow ony
tears that were shed at the burial were o their drappin.
"There was the witless idewit Jock Murra, mair mournfu to see than
a'that was sad there ; when just as the hearse began to move on, he
liltit up a rantin sang--
Mony an awmous Ive
I lookit round me when the company began to move on frae the house
wi the hearse ; but as I shall answer, sir, there wasna ae face
that lookit sad but might as well hae smiled; the vera look ot, in
a Christian land, broucht the saut tears gushing frae my ain auld
dry withered ee !
"In compliance with the friends request, as it was a lang road to
come back, his will had been read afore the interment when sae
rnuckle was left to ae hospital, an sae muckle to anither, as if
the only gude he had ever done was reserved for the day o his
burial; or like ane wha delays his letter till after the mail shuts,
and then pays thrice the sum to overtake the coach. It was the
certainty o thae things that made it the maist mournfu plantin I
eer made; an I threw the yird on him, as he was let down by
stranger hands (for the friends excused themselves frae gaun ony
farther, after they had heard his will), and happit him up, wi a
heavier heart than on the morning when I took my ain wifie frace my
side, an laid her in the clay.Youll excuse me, sir; heres
success to trade !"--The Auld Kirk Yard.