I have experienced many
days both of sorrow and of sadness, in the course of my life and
experience, (said old John Brotherton of Peebles;) but with me my past
sorrows were always like an auld almanac—a book that I never opened. Yet
weel do I remember the five sunniest days of my existeonce. They were days
of brightness and of joy, without a spot to cloud them. They took place,
also, at very various periods of my existence. I no doubt have had,
independent of them, many pleasant, warm, bonny days—days wherein I was
both pleased and happy. But they passed away like any other fine day, and
they werena remembered for a week. But very different from the like of
these ordinary fine days, were those which I allude to as the five sunny
days of my existence. They were days of pure, unadulterated, uncloyed,
almost insupportable delight. They were days, the remembered sunshine of
which will not set in my breast, until my life set in the grave. But I
will give you an account of them.
The first occurred when I
was about twenty years of age. It was a delightful evening in the month of
September, on the second day of the month, and just about five minutes
past six o’clock. I had just dropped work—for I was a souter, or more
appropriately a cordwainer—and had thrown off my apron and washed my face,
and was taking a saunter up off the Tweed abit, on the road leading down
to Innerleithen. I cannot say that I had any object in view, beyond just
the healthful recreation of a walk in the fields, after the labours of the
day. The sun seemed to be maybe about a dozen of yards aboon the hill top;
but there wasna a cloud in the whole sky, save ae wee bit yellow one,
hardly broader than the brim of a Quaker’s hat, that was keeking owre the
hill, as if to kep the sun. Oh, it was a glorious evening! I daresay it
never was equalled at the season of the year. I am sure the leaves, poor
things, that were falling here and there from the trees and hedges, if
they could have thought would hae been vexed to fall frae their branches,
while a’ nature was basking in such sunniness.
I met several shearers, wi’
their hooks owre their arms, just as I was gaun out o’ the town, and I
spoke to them, and they spoke to me, but some o’ them nodded and laughed
at me, and said—"She’s coming, Johnny."
"Wha’s coming?" said I.
And they laughed again, and
said—"Gang forward and see."
So I went forward, and sure
enough, who should I see standing beside a yett, with a hook owre her
shouther, and picking the prickles of a day-nettle out of her hand, but
bonny Kate Lowrie—not only the comeliest lass in the burgh o’ Peebles, but
in all the wide county. I had long been desperately in love with Katie,
but I had never ventured to say as meikle to her; though I was aware that
she was conscious of the state of my feelings. We had aften walked
together on an evening, and I had gien her her fairing, and the like of
that, but I never could get the length of talking about love or marriage;
and scores of times had her and me walked by the side of each other, for
half an hour at a time, without either of us speaking a word, beyond
saying—‘ Eh, but this is a fine night!’ half a dozen times owre— so ye may
guess that we were a bashfu’ couple.
But on the night referred
to, as I have said, I saw her standing at a yett, taking a thorn of some
kind out of her hand; and I stepped forward and said to her—"What has got
into your hand, Katie?"
"It’s a jaggy frae a
day-nettle, I think, John," said she.
"Let me try if I can tak it
She blushed, and the
setting sun just streamed across her face. I’ll declare I never saw a
woman look so beautiful in my born days. Ye might have lighted a candle at
my heart at the moment, I am certain. But I did get her bonny soft hand in
mine; and as I held it, I am certain I would not have exchanged that hand
to have held the sceptre of the king that sits upon the throne. I soon got
out the prickles—but I was so overjoyed at having her hand in mine that
when they were out, I still held it in my left hand.; while, whither it
was by accident or how, I canna tell, but I slipped my right hand round
her waist; and in this fashion we sauntered away. But instead of going
straight to the town, we saundered away down to Tweed-side.
Weel do I remember of
pressing her to my breast in more than mortal joy, and of saying to her—"O
Katie, Katie, woman, will ye be mine?—will ye marry me, and mak me the
happiest man that ever put his foot in a shoe on the face of this
She hung her head, and poor
thing! her bosom heaved like a frighted bird’s. But, oh! what ecstasy it
was to feel its heaving! For a good hour did I stand pressing her breast
to mine, and always saying—"Will ye, Katie? Oh will ye, woman?"
At last, with a great
effort, and her very heart bursting with pure affection, she flung her
arms owre my shouthers, and said—I will, John!
Oh! of all the words that
ever a human being heard, nothing could match the music of those three
words to me. It was sweeter than the harp of a fairy soughing owre a
moonlight sea, when the winds of heaven are sleeping.
"Oh, bless ye! bless
ye!—for ever bless ye!" cried I—"Katie, ye hae made me the happiest man in
a’ Peebles." "an’ I trust I shall make ye the happiest wife," said she.
I absolutely danced wi’
joy, and clapped my hands aboon my head. If ever there was a man
intoxicated wi’ joy, it was me that night; and I am certain that her joy
was nothing less than mine, though she did not express it so
Neither the one nor the
other of us heard the town clock chap nine. Three hours flew owre our
heads as if they hadna been three minutes. I set her to her faither’s
door, and just as she was putting her hand upon the sneck—"Eh, John!"
whispered she, "where can I hae left my hook?"
"That’s weel minded," said
I; "I remember I took it off yer shouther, and put it owre the yett, when
I was takin’ the prickles oot o’ yer finger."
Ye may think of what baith
of us had been thinking about, when neither of us missed the hook, or
remembered leaving it till that moment. We went to seek it, with her arm
through mine (and close to my side I pressed it), and. there, accordingly,
did we find the hook upon the yett where I had placed it.
She was rather feared to
gang into the house, on account of her being out so late, for her faither
and mother were strict sort o’ folk. Therefore, I volunteered to go in wi’
her and explain at once how matters stood. For, bashful as I was before
telling my mind to her, I had broken the ice now, and was as bold as
She hesitated for some
time; but I urged the thing, and she consented, and into her faither’s I
went wi’ her. I wasna long in making the auld man acquainted wi’ the
nature of my visit, and frankly asked him if he had any sort of objection
to taking me for a son-in-law.
"I watna," said he, "but I
daresay no. I dinna see ony reasonable objection that I ought to hae. What
do ye say Tibbie?" added he to his wife.
"Me?" added she; "what
would ye hae me to say? Johnny is a decent lad and a guid tradesman; and
if he likes Katie, and Katie likes him, I dinna see that you or I can do
onything in the matter, but just leave it to their twa sells."
"Weel, John," said her
faither to me, "as Tibbie says, I suppose it will just have to rest
between yoursels. If ye are baith agreeable, we are agreeable."
I wonder I didna jump
through the roof of the house. Joy almost deprived me of my specific
gravity. Never since I was born, had I experienced such sensations of
Now, this was what I call
my first real sunny day. It was a day of memorable joy—and joy, too, of a
particular description, and which a man can feel but once in the course of
I can say, without vanity,
that I had always been a saving lad, and, therefore, in the course of two
or three weeks, I took a house, which I furnished very respectably. And my
second sunny day, was that on which Katie, and her faither, and her
mother, and a lass that was an intimate acquaintance of hers, came a’ to
my new house together—Katie never to leave it again—for the minister just
came in after them. Oh! when I heard the minister pronounce us one,
and gie us his benediction as man and wife—and, aboon all, when I thought
that she was now mine—mine for ever—that nothing upon earth could
separate us—I almost wondered that poor sinful mortals such as we are,
should be permitted to enjoy such unspeakable happiness on this side of
time. The very tears stood in my eyes wi’ perfect ecstacy, and I could not
forbear, before the minister and them a’, of squeezing her hand, and
saying—"My ain Katie!"
It was October, but a very
mild day, and a very sunny day—indeed it might, in all respects, have
passed for a day in August. After dinner, the room became rather warm, and
the window was drawn down from the top. There was a lark singing its
autumn song right aboon the house, and its loud sweet notes came pouring
in by the window.
"Poor thing," thought I,
"your joys are ending, and mine are only beginning; but, I trust, in the
autumn of my days, to sing as blithely as ye do now."
I gied another glance at my
ain Katie, and as I contemplated her lovely countenance, I felt as a man
that was never to know sorrow; for I didna see how it was possible for
sorrow to be where such angel sweetness existed.
That was my second sunny
day; and my third followed after it in the natural course of time; for the
event that rendered it memorable was neither more nor less than the birth
of my first-born—my only son. I was walking out in the fields when the
tidings were brought to me; and when I found that I had cause to offer
thanks for a living mother and a living child, wi’ perfect joy the tears
ran down my cheeks. I silently prayed for my Katie and for "my
bairn." When I thought that a man-son was born unto me, and that I was
indeed a faither, the pride and the joy of my heart were almost too great
for me to bear. I would not have exchanged the natural and honourable
title of faither, to have been made Emperor of Russia and King of
It was a glorious day in
the height of summer, and as I hurried home to see, to kiss, my bairn and
its mother, I believe the very flowers by the roadside were conscious that
it was a faither, a new made faither, that trampled on them,
I did it so quickly and so lightly. But great as my joy then was, it was
nothing to be compared with what I felt when I saw my Katie and our bairn,
and when my lips touched theirs. O man! I then did feel the full, the
overflowing ecstasy of a faither’s heart. Never shall I forget it. That
was the third of my five sunny days.
The fourth was of a
different description, but gied me unmingled satisfaction, and perhaps I
may say, was in some sort the foundation of the one which succeeded.
Now, I must make you
sensible that Katie made a very notable wife. In her household affairs,
she set an example that was worthy of imitation by every wife in Peebles.
There was naething wasted in her house, and the shadow of onything
extravagant was never seen within her door.
One night, about six weeks
after our marriage, she and I were sitting at the fireside, by our two
sells (for we never made our house a howff for neighbours and their
clashes), when she said to me very seriously—"John, I’ve often heard it
said that the first hundred pounds is worse to make than the next five
hundred. Do ye no think it possible for you and me to save a hundred?"
"I watna, my dear," said I,
"though I say it myself, there are none belonging to the craft that
can make better wages than I can, and if it is your desire to make the
endeavour—wi’ all my heart, say I."
So the thing was agreed
upon, and we set about it the very next day. I got a strong wooden box
made, wi’ a hole on the top, just about long enough and broad enough to
let in a penny-piece edgeways; and I caused a bit leather, like a tongue,
to be nailed owre the inside of the hole, so that whatever was put in,
cauldun be taken out again till the box was broken open.
For many a day, both her
and me wrought hard, both late and early, to accomplish it. We neither
allowed the back to gang bare or shabby, nor did we scrimp our cogie,
during our endeavours, but we avoided every sixpence, every farthing of
At length Katie says to me
one day, just after dennertime—"John, I daresay we will have the hundred
pounds now. If ye have nae objection we will open the box and see."
It was the very thing which
I had been wishing her to propose for months; and up I banged upon the
kist, and put my hand on the head on the bed, where the box was kept. It
was terrible heavy, and it required both my hands to lift it down.
I forced up the lid, and
having locked the door, I placed the box upon the table. The sun was
streaming in at the window sae bright that ye would have said it was aware
of the satisfaction of Katie and mysel, as we saw it streaming upon the
heap of treasure which our own industry had gathered together. It took us
from two in the afternoon until six at night to count it; for it consisted
of gold, silver, and copper; and we counted it thrice over, before we made
it come twice to the same sum. At last we were satisfied that it amounted
to one hundred and fifteen pounds, seven shillings and eightpence
When I ascertained that the
object of my desire, and of my late and early savings, was accomplished, I
was that happy that I almost knocked owre the table where it was all
spread out, counted into parcels of twenty shillings. I threw my arms
round Katie, wi’ as meikle rapture as I did on my first sunny day, when
she said—"I will, John;" for the object was of her proposing, and she had
the entire merit of the transaction. It was a grand sight to see the
sinking sun throwing the shadow of the hundred and odd, twenty shilling
towers across the table, and to the far side of the floor. Folk talk of
the beauty of rainbows, but there never was a rainbow to be compared wi’
the appearance of our floor that evening, wi’ a’ the shadows of the piles
of siller running across it. That was my fourth sunny day.
Finding that I was now a
man of capital, I took a shop in the front street, and commenced business
as a maister boot and shoe-maker. Katie was remarkably civil in the shop,
and I always tried to put good stuff into the hands of customers, so that
in a very short time I carried on a very prosperous concern. I also rose
very high in the opinion of my fellow-craftsmen; and, wonderful to relate!
I heard that it was their determination to elect me to the high and
honourable office of deacon of the corporation of our ancient and
respectable trade, in the ancient burgh of Peebles.
This was a height to which
my ambition never could have aspired, and when I heard of the intention of
the brethren, it really made me that I couldna sleep. It made me not only
dream that I was a deacon, but a king, a prince, a bashaw—a dear kens
what—but anything but plain John Brotherton, I thought it was a hoax that
some of the craft were wishing to play off on me; therefore, I spoke of
the subject with great caution. But when it was put into my head, there
was nothing on the earth that I so much desired. I thought what an honour
it would be when I was dead and gone, for my son to be able to say—"My
father was deacon of the ancient company of cordwainers in Peebles!"
"What a sound that will
have!" thought I. On the morning of the election I awoke fearing,
believing, hoping, trembling. I could hardly put on my clothes. However,
the choosing of office bearers began, and I was declared duly elected
deacon of the company of cordwainers. It was with difficulty that I
refrained from clapping my hands in the court, and I am positive that I
would not have been able to do it, had it not been that the brethren came
crowding round me to shake hands wi’ me.
I went home in very high
glee, as ye may well suppose, and Katie met me wi’ great joy in her looks.
When the supper was set upon the table—"Katie, my dear," said I, "send out
for a bottle of strong ale."
"A bottle of strong ale,
John?" quoth she, in surprise; "remember that though ye hae been appointed
deacon o’ the shoemakers ye are but a mortal man! Remember, John, that it
was by drinking wholesome water, wi’ pickles of oatmeal in it, that
enabled you to save a hundred pounds and so to become deacon of the trade.
But had ye sent for bottles of strong ale to your supper, ye would neither
have saved the one, nor been made the other. Na, na, John, think nae mair
"Weel, weel," said I, "ye
are right, Katie—I canna deny it."
That was what I call my
fifth sunny day—a remarkable day in my existence, standing out from among
the rest, and crowned wi’ happiness."