"Here’s a bonny day,
sir," said old Willie Grant, "and the Whitadder’s in excellent trim—will
ye get your gad and your creel, and we’ll awa see what sort o’ sport there
is. If I’m no mista’en the tronts will rise as fast as ye throw the line
"Oh, I canna be fashed,"
said the individual to whom he spoke.
"What’s that I hear ye
say?" added Willie, seriously—‘Ye canna be fashed!’ can ye no! Do ye think
ye could be fashed to read the ‘Cottagers o’ Glenburnie?’ Ye would there
see the meaning and the effects o’ ‘I canna be fashed,’ illustrated. But
if ye can be fashed to hear, I’ll gie ye an example in my ain case; and I
asure ye, that those four words ‘1—canna— be—fashed ‘—(he spoke them very
slowly, laying emphasis on each)—I say, sir, those four words hae cost me
a thousand pounds twice told. I got them for naething; but, certes, they
proved a dear bargain in the lang run. They hae made me acquainted wi’ a
sair skin, a sair heart, and an empty pocket. I hae nae remembrance wha
learned me the words, nor am I altogether certain but that they are words
that just spring out o’ the laziness and indolence o’ our dispositions
like weeds out o’ a neglected soil. But weel do I remember the first time
when I was made to hae a feeling remembrance o’ having used them. My
faither was a bit sma’ laird in East Lothian—no very far frae Dunglass—and
the property consisted o’ between thirty and forty acres, so that he
managed to bring up a family o’ five o’ us very comfortably, and rather
respectably—and the more especially as my mother was a very thrifty woman.
I was the third o’ the family; and, as I was gaun to say to ye, there was
ae day that we were o’ gilravishing about the floor, and wheeling ane
anither in a little wheelbarrow that my faither had got a cartwright in
Dunbar to mak for us—(for he was a man that liked to see his bairns
happy)—when, says he to me—
"Willie, tie yer whings,
and dinna let yershoon be shaughlin aff yer feet in that gaet, or ye maun
gang barefoot. Folk shouldna hae shoon that dinna ken hoo to wear them."
"I canna be fashed, faither,"
said I, and continued running after the wheelbarrow; but, before ever I
wist, and before I thought that I had done ill, he gied me a cuff i’ the
haffits, that made me birl half donner’t by the cheek o’ the lum.
"Ay, man!" says he, "what’s
that I hear ye say—‘ye canna be fashed!’ Let me hear the words come
out o’ your lips again if ye daur, and I’ll knock the life out o’ ye."
That was the first time
that I particularly remember o’ having made use o’ the phrase, and I am
only sorry that the clout which my faither gied me, didna drive it out o’
my head frae that day henceforth, and for ever; though, truly, it had nae
such effect, as ye shall hear, and as I experienced to my sorrow. I sat
down whinging till my faither gaed out o’ the house, and, as soon as his
back was turned, I dried my een, and began to drive about the barrow again
wi’ my brothers and sisters; but I hadna run aboon ten minutes, till my
mother, wha was tired wi’ the noise we were making cried—
"Willie, laddie, gie me off
your stockings instantly—preserve us! the callant has holes in their heels
ye might put yer nieve through!—there’s what ye’ve dune wi’ your runing
about without yer whings tied."
"Hoot, mother," cried I, "I
canna be fashed—darn them again’ nicht."
"I’ll ‘canna be fashed’
ye—ye lazy monkey, ye. Did your faither no gie ye enough for that no
ten minutes syne, and ye’ll tell me ony siccan a story!"
She grippit me by the neck,
and, for my faither’s ae clout, she gied me ten, at every cuff
saying—"I’ll canna be fashes ye!" And, at last, she threw off my
shoon, and pulled the stockings off my legs, and pushed me away frae her
wi’ a great drive, crying—"Now, only let me hear ye making use o’ thae
words again, and ye’ll maybe see what I can be fashed to do."
"O, dear me!" thought I,
"what ill have I done?" And I sat down and I grat, and I
roared most heartily, and I kicked my bare feet upon the floor.
"Kick away there, my man,"
said my mother—for she was a woman that never got into what ye could call
a passion in her family, as I have seen some mothers do—"kick away there,"
says she; "and if ye drive a hole in the heels o’ the stockings you’ve on
now, ye’ll darn them yoursel’."
But this, sir, was only the
first thrashing that I got for "I canna be fashed"—it wasna the last, by a
score o’ times. My faither was a man that never liked to lay out a
shilling where it could be saved; and he always grudged to employ other
people to do anything when he thought it could be done within his own
house—that is, by the members o’ his own family—therefore, about the back
end o’ spring, or the fore end o’ summer, he would have said to us—
"Now, bairns, had awa to
your beds, and before schooltime the morn, gang and howe the potatoes, or
weed the corn." I never durst say onything then, but slipped away to bed
very unwillingly—just feeling as if I felt it a trouble to put off my
claes. But before sunrise in the morning, when my brothers would have
wakened me, I used to rub my een, and gaunt, and say—
And my faither, frae the
hen-a-house, would have cried out wi’ a voice that made the very nails on
my fingers shake—
"What’s that he’s saying
?—I’ll be fashed him!"
Then up I would have got
shrugging my shouthers, and wriggling them frae side to side, and cried
peevishly to one—"Where’s my stockings?"—and to another, "Where’s my
Then my faither would have
cried out again—"I’ll seek it for ye!" Then I soon found it, and
got out o’ the house wi’ the rest o’ them.
It was precisely the same
thing when my brothers used to shake me in the morning, and say— "Get up,
Willie—ye haena your task yet."
I had invariably the same
answer for them on such occasions also. I appeared as if naething could
drive it out o’ me. I have heard auld wives say, if ye were taking infants
to ony part o’ the globe ye like, and keeping them where they never would
hear a human voice, nor speech o’ one kind nor another, that they would
speak Hebrew! Now, I verily believe, that, if ye had done the same by
me—if ye had taken me, when a week auld, into the deserts o’ Arawbia, wi’
naething but dummies round about me, and not a living soul nor a living
thing endowed wi’ the power o’ speech allowed to see me nor come near me—I
say, that I verily believe the first words I would have spoken, would have
been—"I canna be fashed!" in guid braid Scotch. The words literally
seemed born wi’ me. And, as I was telling ye about getting up to learn my
tasks in a morning, many, many is the time, in the cauldest day o’ winter,
that my favourite phrase has caused the tawse to warm my hands, when the
fingers o’ a’ the rest o’ the scholars were dinnlin’ wi’ cauld, and they
were holding them at their mouths, and blowing their hot breath on them to
take out the frost. My faither should have paid no coal-money for me. And
more than this, the four insignificant and carelessly-uttered words which
I allude to, while I was at school, always kept me near the bottom o’ the
class, or, if I rose one or two towards the top, it was purely on account
others having been away from the school for a day, or half a day, and
having to take the foot o’ the class on account their absence as a matter
o’ course. Often and often I could have trapped their heels, and taken my
place aboon them--and the teacher kenned it as weel, and many a weary time
has he said to me—"Oh, ye stupid stirk! why do ye stand there?—why didna
ye trap him?"
And once in particular, I
remember, I answered him—"I couldna be fashed, sir!"
"Fashed!" he cried,
in a perfect fury, and he raised the tawse to his teeth—fashed, sirrah!"
he cried again—"then I’ll learn ye to be fashed, sir!"
But o’ a’ the belabourings
I ever got frae either faither or mother, for the same cause, they were
naething to the school maister’s. It’s a miracle to me that there was a
tail left of his tawse; for he loundered me round the school and
round the school; and, aye as he loundered, he girned his teeth together,
and he cried—"Heard ever onybody the like o’ that! Canna be fashed,
truly!—I’ll fash ye, my man!—I’ll learn ye to gie me an answer o’ that
But a’ the thrashings that
faither, and mother, and maister could thrash at me, on every occasion,
the confounded words were aye uppermost—they were perpetually at my tongue
end. I was just an easy, indolent being—one that seemed disposed to steal
through the world wi’ my hands in my pocket as smoothly as possible. When
I grew to be a lad, I daresay those that kenned me best were surprised
that I could be fashed to gang a courting, like other youngsters. But even
then, when others would brush themselves up, and put on their
half-best coat, and the like o’ that, in order that they might look as
smart as possible, I have thought to myself, I wonder if I should shave
and wash my face, and gie mysel’ a redd-up before I gang to see her
the night; but perpetually I used to say to mysel’—"Ou, I daresay I canna
be fashed— I’ll do very weel as I am." And there wasna less than three or
four young lasses that I had a particular liking for—an each o’ them, I
daresay, would made an excellent wife, and I could a’ been very happy wi’
ony o’ them—but they all broke off acquaintance wi’ me, "just," as they
said to their friends, ‘because I was o’ such a slovenly disposition, that
I couldna ever be fashed to mak mysel’ purposelike when I gaed to see a
The like o’ this was very
galling to me; but it hadna the effect o’ making a better o’ me. I couldna
be fashed to be ony better, let come what might. "Losh-a-day," thought I
"I wonder what folk would hae me to be at, or how they can gie themsels
sae meikle trouble, and be sae particular!"
But, beyond all others,
there was one young woman that I had an affection for in a very
extraordinary degree. She was as dear to me as the apple o’ my ee; and I
am sure she could hae done onything wi’ me--save to break me o’ my habit
o’ saying—I "canna be fashed." That was beyond her power. It was my fixed
intention to marry her; and, indeed, not only was the wedding-day set, but
her wedding-gown and my coat were made, and the ring was bought, and she
had spoken to her bride’s maid; and, besides buying a’ sort o’ things
hersel’, she had got her mother to have her providing packed up, and
everything was in readiness just to be lifted to our new house—that is,
the house we were to occupy. Now, when all this had taken place, there was
one bonny starlight night that we were walking together, just as happy as
twa wood-pigeons, and talking owre the settlement o’ everything, that she
said to me—
"What did the joiner say
last night, Willie?—will he be sure no to disappoint us wi’ the
furniture?—for I would like everything right at the very first."
"Eh! weel-minded, my dear,"
says I; "I really forgot to gang and see him, for I was sae tired when I
got hame last night, that—I couldna be fashed."
"That was silly o’ ye man,"
said she; "it was very thoughtless. But I hope ye didna forget to gie in
the marriage lines to the minister?" (The session-clerk was ill at
"Save us a’, hinny!" said
I, "weel, I’m sure that dings everything! But as sure as death! as I told
ye, I was sae tired, that I never minded a word about it till bed-time
when I had my waistcoat unbuttoned and my shoon off, and I couldna be
fashed to put them on again, and at ony rate it was owre late."
"Very weel, Willie," said
she, and apparently a good deal hurt, "I wouldna thought it o’ ye—but no
"No, love," said I, "it’s
no great matter, sure enough, for this is only Saturday night, and I’ll
just call in at the manse in the by-going, as I gang hame, and tell the
minister a’ about it. The thing can be done in a minute."
"Indeed no," said she,
"though I should never be cried, ye are to go no such a way. This is
Saturday night—the morn is the Sabbath, and the minister will be at his
studies, and ye are not to disturb him on my account."
"Very well, love," said I,
"we’ll just have to put off a week, then."
"Maybe sae," said she. But I thought
there was something unco dry in her manner o’ saying "maybe sae." However
as I couldna be fashed to call upon the minister that night, I
took nae mair notice o’ the subject.
I could hardly get a word
out o’ her after this, for above an hour that I remained in her company.
However, she rather came to a little (for she was a kind-hearted lassie),
when we were about to part; and we promised faithfully to meet one another
at the usual trysting-place, on the Wednesday night following, at eight
o’clock, within a minute; and I was to have everything arranged wi’ the
minister and the joiner in the meantime.
On the Sunday morning, the
minister passed me between the manse and the kirk, and says he, quite
familiarly—for he was a man that had nae stiffness about him—
"Willie, I thought you was
to have been cried to-day."
"I beg your pardon, sir,"
said, I; "but it was all my neglect; for I couldna be fashed until last
night, and then I thought ye would be at your studies, and it was owre
late to trouble ye."
"You were very
considerate," said he, wi’ a smile; "but I’ll save you the trouble next
"I’ll be obliged to ye,
sir," said I, taking off my hat.
In going home, I overtook
the joiner—no, I’m wrong, the joiner overtook me—and, after he had
observed that it was a fine day, and I had said it was, and he had
asked me what I had thought o’ the sermon, and so on, I said to him—"Now,
I expect that ye’ll no disappoint me wi’ the furniture."
"Ye needa be feared o’
that, Mr. Grant," said he, "ye ken ye proposed that it was to be a
ready-money transaction. It’s no every day that we meet wi’ job’s o’ that
kind, and ye may tak my word on’t, I’ll no disappoint ye--both for your
sake and mine."
"Weel," thought I, "that’s
twa things off my head—Isabella will surely be pleased now (for they ca’d
her Isabella). I’ve been fortunate in meetin’ wi’ them baith—in killin’
twa birds wi’ ae stane."