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Wilson's Border Tales
Ups and Downs


OR, DAVID STUART’S ACCOUNT OF HIS PILGRIMAGE.

Old David Stuart was the picture of health—a personification of contentment. When I knew him, his years must have considerably exceeded threescore; but his good-natured face was as ruddy as health could make it; his hair, though mingled with grey, was as thick and strong as if he had been but twenty; his person was still muscular and active; and, moreover, he yet retained, in all their freshness, the feelings of his youth, and no small portion of the simplicity of his childhood. I loved David, not only because he was a good man, but because there was a great deal of character or originality about him; and, though his brow was cheerful, the clouds of sorrow had frequently rested upon it. More than once, when seated by his parlour fire, and when he had finished his pipe, and his afternoon tumbler stood on the table beside him, I have heard him give the following account of the ups and downs—the trials, the joys, and sorrows—which he had encountered in his worldly pilgrimage; and, to preserve the interest of the history, I shall give it in David’s own idiom, and in his own words.

"I ne’er was a great traveller," David was wont to begin: "though the length o’ Edinburgh, and as far south as Newcastle, is a’ that my legs ken about geography. But I’ve had a good deal o’ crooks and thraws, and ups and downs, in the world, for a’ that. My faither was in the droving line, and lived in the parish o’ Coldstream. He did a good deal o’ business, baith about the fairs on the Borders, at Edinburgh market every week, and sometimes at Morpeth. He was a bachelor till he was five-and-forty, and he had a very decent lass keep’d his house, they ca’d Kirsty Simson. Kirsty was a remarkably weel-faur’d woman, and a number o’ the farm lads round about used to come and see her, as weel as trades’ chields frae about Coldstream and Birgham—no that she gied them ony encouragement, but that it was her misfortune to hae a good-looking face. So, there was ae night that my faither cam’ hame frae Edinburgh, and, according to his custom, he had a drap in his e’e—yet no sae meikle but that he could see a lad or twa hingin’ about the house. He was very angry; and, ‘Kirsty,’ said he, ‘I dinna like thae youngsters to come about the house.’

"’I’m sure, Sir," said she, ‘I dinna encourage them.’

"’Weel, Kirsty,’ said he, ‘if that’s the way, if ye hae nae objections, I’ll marry ye mysel’.’

"’I dinna see what objections I should hae,’ said she, and, without ony mair courtship, in a week or twa they were married; and, in course o’ time, I was born. I was sent to school when I was about eight years auld, but my education ne’er got far’er than the Rule o’ Three. Before I was fifteen, I assisted my faither at the markets, and, in a short time, he could trust me to buy and sell. There was one very dark night in the month o’ January, when I was little mair than seventeen, my faither and me were gaun to Morpeth, and we were wishing to get forward wi’ the beasts as far as Whittingham; but just as we were about half a mile doun the loanin’ frae Glanton, it cam’ awa ane the dreadfu’est storms that e’er mortal was out in. The snaw, literally, fell in a solid mass, and every now and then the wind cam’ roarin’ and howlin’ frae the hills, and the fury o’ the drift was terrible. I was driven stupid and half suffocated. My faither was on a strong mare, and I wa’ on a bit powney, and amang the cattle there was a camstairy three-year-auld bull, that wad neither hup nor drive. We had it tied by the fore leg and the horns; but, the moment the drift broke owre us, the creature grew perfectly unmanageable; forward it wadna gang. My faither had strucken at it, when the mad animal plunged its horns into the side o’ the mare, and he fell to the ground. I could just see what had happened, and that was a’. I jumped aff the powney, and ran forward. ‘O faither!’ says I, ‘ye’re no hurt, are ye? He was trying to rise, but before I could reach him—indeed, before I had the words weel out o’ my mouth—the animal made a drive at him! ‘O Davy!’ he cried, and he ne’er spak mair! We generally carried pistols, and I had presence o’ mind to draw ane mit o’ the breast-pocket o’ my big coat, and shoot the animal dead on the spot. I tried to raise my faither in my arms, and dark as it was, I could see his blood upon the snaw—and a dreadfu’ sight it was for a son to see! I couldna see where he had been hurt; and still, though he groaned but once, I didna think he was dead, and I strove and strove again to lift him upon the back o’ the powney, and take him back to Glanton; but, though I fought wi’ my heart like to burst a’ the time, I couldna accomplish it. ‘Oh, what shall I do?’ said I, and cried and shouted for help—for the snaw fell sae fast, and the drift was sae terrible, that I was feared that, even if he werena dead, he wad be smothered and buried up before I could ride to Glanton and back. And, as I cried, our poor dog Rover came couring to my faither’s body and licked his hand, and its pitiful howls mingled wi’ the shrieks o’ the wind. No kennin’ what to do, I lifted my faither to the side o’ the road, and tried to place him, half sitting like, wi’ his back to the drift, by the foot o’ the hedge. ‘Oh, watch there, Rover,’ said I, and the poor dog ran yowlin’ to his feet, and did as I desired it. I sprang upon the back o’ the powney, and flew up to the town. Within five minutes I was back, and, in a short time, a number o’ folk wi’ lichts cam’ to our assistance. My faither was covered wi’ blood, but without the least sign o’ life. I thought my heart wad break, and, for a time, my screams were heard aboon the ragin’ o’ the storm. My faither was conveyed up to the inn, and, on being stripped, it was found that the horn o’ the animal had entered his back below the left shouther; and when a Doctor frae Ainwick saw the body next day, he said he must have died instantly—and, as I have told ye, he never spoke, but just cried, ‘O Davy!’

"My feelings were in such a state, that I couldna write mysel’, and I got a minister to send a letter to my mother, puir woman, stating what had happened. An acquaintance o’ my faither’s looked after the cattle, and disposed o’ them at Morpeth; and I, having hired a hearse at Alnwick, got the body o’ my faither taen hame. A sorrowfu’ hame-gaun it was, ye may weel think. Before ever we reached the house, I heard the shrieks o’ my puir mither. ‘O my faitherless bairn,’ she cried, as I entered the door; but before she could rise to meet me, she got a glent o’ the coffin which they were takin’ out o’ the hearse, and utterin’ a sudden scream, her head fell back, and she gaed clean awa.

"After my faither’s funeral, we found that he had died worth only about four hundred pounds, when his debts were paid; and as I had been bred in the droving line, though I was rather young, I just continued it, and my mother and me kept house thegither.

"This was the only thing particular that happened to me for the next thirteen years, or till I was thirty. My mother still kept the house, and I had nae thoughts o’ marrying: no but that I had gallanted a wee bit wi’ the lasses now and then, but it was naething serious, and was only to be neighbour like. I had ne’er seen ane that I could think o’ takin’ for better for warse; and, anither thing, if I had seen ane to please me, I didna think my mither would be comfortable wi’ a young wife in the house. Weel, ye see, as I was telling ye, things passed on in this way till I was thirty, when a respectable flesher in Edinburgh, that I did a good deal o’ business wi’ and that had just got married, says to me, in the Grassmarket, ae day—‘Davy,’ says he, ‘ye’re no gaun out o’ the toun the night—will ye come and tak’ tea and supper wi’ the wife and me, and a friend or twa?’

"’I dinna care though I do,’ says I, ‘but I’m no just in a tea-drinkin’ dress.’

"‘Ne’er mind the dress, says he. So, at the hour appointed, I stepped awa owre to Hanover Street, in the New Town, where he lived, and was shown into a fine carpeted room, wi’ a great looking-glass, in a gilt frame, owre the chimley-piece—ye could see yoursel’ at full length in’t the moment you entered the door. I was confounded at the carpets, and the glass, and the sofa, nae less; and, thinks I, ‘This shows what kind o’ bargains ye get frae me.’ There were three or four leddies sitting in the room, and ‘Mr. Stuart, leddies,’ said the flesher; ‘Mr. Stuart, Mrs. So-andso,’ said he again—‘Miss Murray, Mr. Stuart.’ I was like to drap at the impudence o’ the creatur—he handed me about as if I had been a bairn at a dancin’ school. ‘Your servant, leddies,’ said I, and didna ken where to look, when I got a glimpse o’ my face in the glass, and saw it was as red as crimson. But I was mair than ever put about when the tea was brought in, and the creatur says to me, ‘Mr. Stuart, will you assist the leddies?’ ‘Confound him, thought I, ‘has he brought me here to mak’ a fule o’ me!’ I did attempt to hand round the tea and toast; when, wi’ downright confusion, I let a cup fall on Miss Murray’s gown. I could have died wi’ shame. ‘Never mind—never mind, Sir!’ said she; ‘there is no harm done;’ and she spoke sae proper and sae kindly, I was in love wi’ her very voice. But when I got time to observe her face, it was a perfect picture; and, through the hale night after, I could do naething but look at, and think o’ Miss Murray.

"‘Man,’ says I to the flesher, the next time I saw him, ‘wha was you Miss Murray?’ ‘No match for a Grassmarket dealer, Davy,’ says he. ‘I was thinkin’ that,’ says I; ‘but I wad like to be acquainted wi’ her.’ ‘Ye shall be that,’ says he; and, after that, there was seldom a month passed that I was in Edinburgh but I saw Miss Murray. But as to courtin’, that was out o’ the question.

"A short time after this, a relation o’ my mither’s, wha had been a merchant in London, deed; and it was said we were his nearest heirs; and that, as he had left nae will, if we applied, we wad get the property—which was worth about five thousand pounds. Weel, three or four years passed awa, and we heard something about the lawsuit, but naething about the money. I was vexed for having onything to say to it. I thought it was only wasting a candle to chase a Will-o’-the-Wisp. About the time I speak o’, my mither had turned very frail. I saw there was a wastin’ awa o’ nature, and she wadna be lang beside me. The day before her death, she took my hand, and ‘Davy,’ says she to me—‘Davy,’ poor body, she repeated—(I think I hear her yet)— ‘it wad been a great comfort to me, if I had seen ye settled wi’ a decent partner before I deed—but it’s no to be.’

"Weel, as I was saying, my mither deed, and I found the house very dowie without her. It wad be about three months after her death—I had been at Whitsunbank; and, when I cam’ hame, the servant lassie put a letter into my hands; and, ‘Maister,’ says she, ‘there’s a letter—can it be for you, think ye?’ for it was directed ‘David Stuart, Esquire, (nae less)------by Coldstream.’ So I opened the seal, and, to my surprise and astonishment, I found it was frae the man o’ business I had employed in London, stating that I had won the law plea, and that I might get the money whene’er I wanted it. I sent for the siller the very next post. Now, ye see, I was sick and tired o’ being a bachelor, I had lang wished to be settled in a comfortable matrimonial way—that is, frae e’er I had seen Miss Murray. But ye see, while I was a drover, I was very little at hame—indeed, I was waur than an Arawbian—and had very little peace or comfort either—and I thought it was nae use takin’ a wife until something better might cast up. But this wasna the only reason. There wasna a woman on earth that I thought I could live happy wi’ but Miss Murray, and she belanged to a genteel family—whether she had only siller or no, I declare, as I’m to be judged hereafter, I never did inquire. But I saw plainly it wadna do for a rough country drover, jauped up to the very elbows, and sportin’ a handfu’ o’ pound notes the day, and no’ worth a penny the morn—I say I saw plainly it wadna do for the like o’ me to draw up by her elbow, and say—‘Here’s a fine day, ma’am,’ or, ‘Hae ye ony objections to a walk?’ or something o’ that sort. But it was weel on for five years since I had singled her out and, though I never said a word anent the subject o’ matrimony, yet I had reason to think she had a shrewd guess that my heart louped quicker when she opened her lips, than if a regiment o’ infantry had stealed behint me unobserved, and fired their muskets ower my shouther; and I sometimes thought that her een looked as if she wished to say—‘Are ye no gaun to ask me, David?’

"But still, when I thought she had been brought up a leddy in a kind o’ manner, I durstna venture to mint the matter; but I was fully resolved and determined, should I succeed in getting the money I was trying for, to break the business clean aff hand. So, ye see, as soon as I got the siller, what does I do, but sits down and writes her a letter, (and sic a letter!) I tauld her a’ my mind as freely as though I had been speakin’ to you. Weel, ye see, I gaed bang through to Edinburgh at once, no three days after my letter; and up I goes to the Lawnmarket, where she was living wi’ her mither, and raps at the door without ony ceremony. But, when I had wrapped, I was in a swither whether to staun till they came out or no; for my heart began to imitate the knocker, or rather to tell me how I ought to have knocked; for it wasna a loud, solid, drover’s knock like mine, but it kept rit-tit-tatting on my breast like the knock o’ a hair-dresser’s ‘prentice bringing a bandbox fu’ o’ curls and ither knick-knackeries, for a leddy to pick and choose on for a fancy-ball; and my face lowed as though ye were haudin’ a candle to it; when out comes the servant, and I stammers out—‘Is your mistress in,’ says I. ‘Yes, Sir,’ says she, ‘walk in.’ And in I walked; but I declare I didna ken whether the floor carried me, or I carried the floor; and wha should I see but an auld leddy wi’ spectacles—the maiden’s mistress, sure enough, though no mine, but my mother-in-law that was to be. So she looked at me and I looked at her. She made a low curtsy, and I tried to mak’ a bow; while, all the time, ye might hae heard my heart beatin’ at the opposite side o’ the room. ‘Sir,’ says she. ‘Ma’am,’ says I. I wad hae jumped out o’ the window, had it no been four stories high; but, since I’ve gane this far, I maun say something thinks I. ‘I’ve ta’en the liberty o’ callin’, ma’am, says I. ‘Very happy to see ye, Sir,’ says she. Weel, thinks I, I’m glad to hear that, however; but, had it been to save my life, I didna ken what to say next. So I sat down; and at length I ventured to ask—‘Is your daughter, Mis Jean, at hame, ma’am?’ says I. ‘I wate is she,’ quo she. ‘Jean!’ she cried wi’ a voice that made the house a’ dirl again. ‘Comin’ mother,’ cried my flower o’ the forest; and in she cam’ skippin’ like a perfect fairy. But when she saw me, she started as if she had seen an apparition, and coloured up to the very e’ebrows. As for me, I trembled like an ash leaf, and stepped forward to meet her. I dinna think she was sensible o’ me takin’ her by the hand; and I was just beginning to say again, ‘I’ve taken the liberty,’ when the auld wife had the sense and discretion to leave us by oursel’s. I’m sure and certain I never experienced such a relief since I was born. My head was absolutely singing wi’ dizziness and love. I made twa or three attempts to say something grand, but I never got half-a-dozen words out; and, finding it a’ nonsense, I threw my arms around her waist, pressed her beatin’ breast to mine, and, stealin’ a hearty kiss, the whole story that I had made such a wark about was owre in a moment. She made a wee bit fuss, and cried, ‘O fie!’ and ‘Sir!’ or something o’ that kind; but I held her to my breast, declared my intentions manfully; that I had been dying for her for five years, and now that I was a gentleman, I thought I might venture to speak. In fact, I held her in my arms until she next door to said, ‘Yes!’

"Within a week, we had a’thing settled. I found out she had nae fortune. Her mother belanged to a kind o’ auld family, that, like mony ithers, cam’ down the brae wi’ Prince Charles, poor fallow; and, they were baith rank Episcopawlians. I found the mither had just sae meikle a-year frae some o’ her far-awa’ relations; and, had it no’ been that they happened to ca’ me Stuart, and I tauld her a rigmarole about my grandfaither and Culloden, so that she soon made me out a pedigree, about which I kenned nae mare than the man o’ the moon, but keept saying ‘yes,’ and ‘certainly’ to a’ she said—I say, but for that, and confound me, if she wadna hae curled up her nose at me and my five thousand pounds into the bargain, though her lassie should hae starved. But Jeanie was a perfect angel. She was about two or three and thirty, wi’ light brown hair, hazel een, and a waist as jimp and sma’ as ye ever saw upon a human creature. She dressed maist as plain as a Quakeress, but was a pattern o’ neatness. Indeed, a blind man might seen she was a leddy born and bred; and then for sense—haud at ye there—I wad matched her against the minister and the kirk elders put thegither. But she took that o’ her mither—o’ whom mair by and by.

"As I was saying, she was an Episcopawlian—a downright, open-day defender o’ Archbishop Laud and the bloody Claverhouse; and she wished to prove down through me the priority and supremacy o’ bishops ower Presbyteries:—just downright nonsense, ye ken—but there’s nae accounting for sooperstition. A great deal depends on how a body’s brought up. But what vexed me maist was to think that she wad be gaun to ae place o’ public worship on the Sabbath, and me to anither, just like twa strangers; and, maybe, if her minister preached half an hour langer than mine, or mine half an hour langer than hers, or when we had nae intermission, then there was the denner spoiled, and the servant no kenned what time to hae it ready; for the mistress said ane o’clock, and the maister said twa o’clock. Now, I wadna gie tippence for a cauld denner.

"But, as I was telling ye about the auld wife, she thocht fit to read baith us a bit o’ a lecture.

"‘Now, bairns,’ said she, ‘I beseech ye, think weel what ye are about; for it were better to rue at the very foot o’ the altar, than to rue but ance afterwards, and that ance be for ever. I dinna say this to cast a damp upon your joy, nor that I doubt your affection for ane anither; but I say it as ane who has been a wife, and seen a good deal o’ the world; an’, oh, bairns! I say it as a mother! Marriage without love is like the sun in January—often clouded, often trembling through storms, but aye without heat; and its pillow is comfortless as a snow-wreath. But, although love be the principal thing, remember it is not the only thing necessary. Are ye sure that ye are perfectly acquainted wi’ each other’s characters and tempers? Aboon a’, are ye sure that ye esteem and respect ane anither? Without this, and ye may think that ye like each other, but it’s no real love. It’s no that kind o’ liking that’s to last through married years, and be like a singing bird in your breasts to the end o’ your days. No, Jeanie, unless your very souls be, as it were, cemented thegither, unless ye see something in him that ye see in naebody else, and unless he sees something in you that he sees in naebody else, dinna marry still. Passionate lovers dinna aye mak’ affectionate husbands. Powder will bleeze fiercely awa in a moment; but the smothering peat retains fire and heat among its very ashes. Remember that, in baith man and woman, what is passion to-day may be disgust the morn. Therefore, think now; for it will be ower late to think o’ my advice hereafter.’

"‘Troth, ma’am,’ said I, ‘and I’m sure I’ll be very proud to ca’ sic a sensible auld body mither!’

"‘Rather may ye be proud to call my bairn your wife,’ said she; ‘for, where a man ceases to be proud o’ his wife, upon all occasions, and at all times, or where a wife has to blush for her husband, ye may say fareweel to their happiness. However, David,’ continued she, ‘I dinna doubt but ye will mak’ a gude husband; for ye’re a sensible, and, I really think, a deservin’ lad, and, were it nae mare than your name, the name o’ Stuart wad be a passport to my heart. There’s but ae thing that I’m feared on—just ae fault that I see in ye—indeed, I may say it’s the beginning o’ a’ ithers, and I wad fain hae ye promise to mend it; for it has brought mair misery upon the marriage state than a’ the sufferings o’ poverty and the afflictions o’ death put thegither.’

"‘Mercy me, ma’am!’ exclaimed I, ‘what de ye mean? Ye’ve surely been misinformed.’

" ‘I’ve observed it mysel’, David,’ said she, seriously.

‘Goodness, ma’am! ye confound me!’ says I; ‘if its onything that’s bad, I’ll deny it point blank.’

"‘Ye mayna think it bad,’ says she, again, ‘but I fear ye like a dram, and my bairn’s happiness demands that I should speak o’ it.’

"‘A dram!’ says I; preserve us! is there ony ill in a dram!—that’s the last thing that I wad hae thought about.’

"‘Ask the broken-hearted wife,’ says she, ‘if there be ony ill in a dram—ask the starving family—ask the jailor and the grave-digger—ask the doctor and the minister o’ religion—ask where ye see roups o’ furniture at the cross, or the auctioneer’s flag wavin’ frae the window—ask a deathbed—ask eternity, David Stuart, and they will tell ye if there be ony ill in a dram.’

"‘I hope, ma’am,’ says I, and I was a guid deal nettled; ‘I hope, ma’am, ye dinna tak’ me to be a drunkard? I can declare freely, that, unless maybe at a time by chance (and the best o’ us will mak’ a slip now and then), I never tak’ aboon twa or three glasses at a time. Indeed, three’s just my set. I aye say to my cronies, there is nae luck till the second tumbler, and nae peace after the fourth. So, ye perceive, there’s not the smallest danger o’ me.’

‘Ah, but, David,’ replied she, ‘there is danger. Habits grow stronger, nature weaker, and resolution offers less and less resistance; and ye may come to make four, five, or six glasses your set; and frae that to a bottle—your grave—and my bairn a broken-hearted widow.’

"‘Really, ma’am,’ says I, ‘ye talked very sensibly before, but ye are awa wi’ the harrows now—quite unreasonable a’thegither. However, to satisfy ye upon that score, I’ll mak’ a vow this very moment, that, except’-----

"‘Mak’ nae rash vows,’ says she; ‘for a breath mak’s them, and less than a breath unmak’s them. But mind that while ye wad be comfortable wi’ your cronies, my bairn wad be frettin’ her lane; and, though she might sae naething when ye cam’ hame, that wadna be the way to wear her love round your neck like a chain o’ gold; but, night after night, it wad break away link by link, till the whole was lost; and, if ye didna hate, ye wad soon find ye were disagreeable to each other. Nae true woman will condescend to love ony man lang, wha can find society he prefers to hers in an alehouse. I dinna mean to say that ye should never enter a company; but dinna mak’ a practice o’t.’

"Weel, the wedding morning cam’, and I really thought it was a great blessin’ folks hadna to be married every day. My neckcloth wadna tie as it used to tie, and, but that I wadna swear at onybody on the day o’ my marriage, I’m sure I wad hae wished some ill wish on the fingers o’ the laundress. She had starched the muslins!—a circumstance, I am perfectly certain, unheard of in the memory o’ man, and a thing which my mother ne’er did. I was stiff, crumpled, and clumsy. I vowed it was insupportable. It was within half an hour o’ the time o’ gaun to the chapel. I had tried a ‘rose-knot,’ a ‘witch-knot,’ a ‘chaise-driver’s knot,’ and a ‘running knot,’ wi’ every kind o’ knot that fingers could twist the neckcloth into, but the confounded starch made every ane look waur than anither. Three neckcloths I had rendered unwearable, and the fourth I tied in a ‘beau-not’ in dispair. The frill o’ my sark-breast wadna lie in the position in which I wanted it! For the first time, my very hair rose in rebellion—it wadna lie right; and I cried, ‘The mischief tak’ the barber!’ The only part o’ my dress wi’ which I was satisfied, was a spotless pair o’ nankeen pantaloons. I had a dog they ca’d Mettle—it was a son o’ poor Rover, that I mentioned to ye before. Weel, it had been raining through the night, and Mettle had been out in the street. The instinct o’ the poor dumb brute was puzzled to comprehend the change that had recently taken place in my appearance and habits, and its curiosity was excited. I was sitting before the looking-glass, and had just finished tying my cravat, when Mettle cam’ bouncing into the room; he looked up in my face inquisitively, and, to unriddle mair o’ the matter, placed his unwashed paws upon my unsoiled nankeens. Every particular claw left its ugly impression. It was provoking beyond endurance. I raised my hand to strike him, but the poor brute wagged his tail, and I only pushed him down. saying, ‘Sorrow tak’ ye Mettle! do ye see what ye’ve dune?’ So I had to gang to the kitchen fire and stand before it to dry the damp, dirty foot prints o’ the offender. I then found that the waistcoat wadna sit without wrinkles, such as I had ne’er seen before upon a waistcoat o’ mine. The coat, too, was insupportably tight below the arms; and, as I turned half round before the glass, I saw that it hung loose between the shouthers! ‘As sure as a gun,’ says I, ‘the stupid soul o’ a tailor has sent me hame the coat o’ a humph-back in a mistak’!’ My hat was fitted on in every possible manner—owre the brow and aff the brow—now straight, now cocked to the right side, and again to the left—but to no purpose; I couldna place it to look like mysel’, or as I wished. But half-past eight chimed frae St. Giles’s. I had ne’er before spent ten minutes to dress, shaving included, and that morning I had begun at seven! There was not another moment to spare; I let my hat fit as it would, seized my gloves, and rushed down stairs, and up to the Lawnmarket, where I knocked joyfully at the door o’ my bonny bride.

"When we were about to depart for the chapel, the auld leddy rose to gie us her blessing, and placed Jeanie’s hand within mine. She shed a few quiet tears (a common circumstance wi’ mithers on similar occasions), and ‘Now Jeanie,’ said she, ‘before ye go, I have just anither word or twa to say to ye’

"‘Dearsake, ma’am!’ said I, for I was out o’ a’ patience, ‘we’ll do very weel wi’ what we’ve heard just now, and ye can say onything ye like when we come back’

"There was only an elderly gentleman and a young leddy accompanied us to the chapel; for Jeanie and her mother said that that was mair genteel than to have a gilravish o’ folk at our heels. For my part, I thought, as we were to be married, we micht as weel mak’ a wedding o’t. I, however, thought it prudent to agree to their wish, which I did the mair readily, as I had nae particular acquaintance in Edinburgh. The only point that I wad not concede was being conveyed to the chapel in a coach. That my plebian blood, notwithstanding my royal name o’ Stuart, could not overcome. ‘Save us a’!’ said I, ‘if I wadna walk to be married, what in the three kingdoms wad tempt me to walk?’

"‘Weel,’ said the auld leddy, ‘my daughter will be the first o’ our family that ever gaed on foot to the altar.’

"‘An’ I assure ye, Ma’am,’ said I, ‘that I would be the first o’ my family that ever gaed in ony ither way; and, in my opinion, to gang on foot shows a demonstration o’ affection and free-will, whereas gaun in a carriage looks as if there were unwillingness or compulsion in the matter.’ So she gied up the controversy. Weel, the four o’ us walked awa doun the Lawnmarket and High Street, and turned into a close, by the tap o’ Canongate, where the Episcopawlian chapel was situated. For several days, I had read ower the marriage service in the prayer book, in order to master the time to say ‘I will,’ and other matters. Nevertheless, no sooner did I see the white gown of the clergyman, and feel Jeanie’s hand trembling in mine, than he micht as weel hae spoken in Gaelic. I mind something about the ring, and, when the minister was done, I whispered to the best man, ‘Is a’ ower now?’ ‘Yes,’ said he. ‘Heeven be thankit!’ thought I.

"Weel, ye see, after being married, and as I had been used to an active life a’ my days, I had nae skill in gaun about like a gentleman wi’ my hands in my pockets, and I was anxious to tak’ a farm. But Jeanie didna like the proposal, and my mother-in-law wadna hear tell o’t; so, by her advice, I put out the money, and we lived upon the interest. For six years everything gaed straight, and we were just as happy and as comfortable as a family could be. We had three bairns; the eldest was a daughter, and we ca’d her Margaret, after her grandmother, who lived wi’ us; the second was a son, and I named him Andrew, after my faither; and our third, and youngest, we ca’d Jeanie, after her mother. They were as clever, bonny, and obedient bairns as ye could see, and everybody admired them. There was ane Lucky Macnaughtan kept a tavern in Edinburgh at the time. A sort o’ respectable folk used to frequent the house, and I was in the habit o’ gaun at night to smoke my pipe, and hear the news about Bonaparte and the rest o’ them; but it was very seldom that I exceeded three tumblers Weel, among the customers there was ane tha I had got very intimate wi’—as genteel and decent a looking man as ye could see—indeed, I took him to be a particular serious and honest man. So there was ae night that I was rather mair than ordinary hearty, and says he to me, ‘Mr. Stuart,’ says he, ‘will you lend your name to a bit paper for me?’ ‘No I thank ye, Sir,’ says I; ‘I ne’ver wish to be caution for onybody.’ ‘It’s of no consequence,’ said he, and there was no more passed. But, as I was rising to gang hame, ‘Come, tak’ anither, Mr. Stuart,’ said he; ‘I’m next the wa’ wi’ ye—I’ll stand treat.’ Wi’ sair pressing I was prevailed upon to sit doun again, and we had anither and anither, till I was perfectly insensible. What took place, or how I got hame, I couldna tell, and the only thing I remember was a head fit to split the next day, and Jeanie very ill-pleased and powty ways. However, I thought nae mair about it, and I was extremely glad I had refused to be bond for the person who asked me; for, within three months, I learned that he had broken and absconded wi’ a vast o’ siller. It was just a day or twa after I had heard the intelligence I was telling Jeanie and her mother o’ the circumstance, and what an escape I had had, when the servant lassie showed a bank clerk into the room. ‘Tak’ a seat, Sir,’ said I, for I had dealings wi’ the bank. ‘This is a bad business, Mr. Stuart,’ said he. ‘What business?’ said I, quite astonished. ‘Your being security for Mr. So-and-so,’ said he. ‘Me!’ cried I, starting up in the middle o’ the floor—’ Me!—the scoundrel—I denied him point blank!’ ‘There is your own signature for a thousand pounds,’ said the clerk. ‘A thousand furies!’ exclaimed I, stamping my foot; ‘it’s a forgery—an infernal forgery!’ ‘Mr. Such-an-one is witness to your hand-writing,’ said the clerk. I was petrified; I could hae drawn down the roof o’ the house upon my head to bury me! In a moment, a confused recollection o’ the proceedings at Lucky Macnaughtan’s flashed across my memory, like a flame from the bottomless pit! There was a look o’ witherin’ reproach in my mother-in-law’s een, and I heard her mutterin’ between her teeth—‘I aye said what his three tumblers wad come to.’ But my dear Jeanie bore it like a Christian, as she is. She cam’ forward to me—an’ poor thing, she kissed my cheek, and says she—‘Dinna distress yoursel’, David, dear—it canna be helped now—let us pray that this may be a lesson for the future.’ I flung my arm round her neck—I couldna speak—but, at last, I said—‘O Jeanie, it will be a lesson—and your affection will be a lesson!’ Some o’ your book-learned folk wad ca’ this conduct philosophy in Jeanie; but I, wha kenned every thought in her heart, was aware that it proceeded from her resignation as a true Christian, and her affection as a dutiful wife. Weel, the upshot was, I had robbed mysel’ out o’ a thousand pounds as simply as ye wad snuff out a candle. You have heard the saying, that sorrow ne’er comes singly; and I am sure, in a’ my experience, I have found its truth. At that period, I had two thousand pounds, bearing six per cent., lying in the hands o’ a gentleman o’ immense property. Everybody believed him to be as sure as the bank. Scores o’ folk had money in his hands. The interest was paid punctually, and I hadna the least suspicion. Weel was looking ower the papers one morning at breakfast, and I happened to glance at the list o’ bankrupts—(a thing I’m no in the habit o’ doing)—when, mercy me! whose name should I see, but the very gentleman’s that had my twa thousand pounds! I had the papers in one hand, and a saucer in the other. The saucer and the coffee gaed smash upon the hearth! I trembled frae head to foot ‘O David! what’s the matter? cried Jeanie! ‘Matter!’ cried I; ‘matter! I’m ruined!— we’re a’ ruined!’ But it’s o’ nae use dwelling on this. The fallow didna pay eighteenpence to the pound—and there was three thousand gaen out o’ my five! It was nae use, wi’ a young family, to talk o’ living on the interest o’ our money now. ‘We maun tak’ a farm,’ says I; and baith Jeanie and her mother saw there was naething else for it. So I took a farm, which lay partly in the Lammermuirs, and partly in the Merse. It took the thick end o’ eight hundred pounds to stock it. However, we were very comfortable in it—I found mysel’ far mair at hame than I had been in Edinburgh; for I had employment for baith mind and hands, and Jeanie very soon made an excellent farmer’s wife. Auld granny, too, said she never had been sae happy; and the bairns were as healthy as the day was lang. We couldna exactly say that we were making what ye may ca’ siller; yet we were losing nothing, and every year laying by a little. There was a deepish burn ran near the onstead. We had been about three years in the farm, and our youngest lassie was about nine years auld. It was the summer time; and she had been padling in the burn, and sooming feathers and bits o’ sticks; I was looking after something that had gaen wrang about the threshin’ machine, when I heard an unco noise get up, and bairns screamin’. I looked out, and I saw them runnin’ and shoutin’—‘Miss Jeanie! Miss Jeanie!’ I rushed out to the barnyard. ‘What is’t, bairns?" cried I. ‘Miss Jeanie!—Miss Jeanie!’ said they, pointing to the burn. I flew as fast as my feet could carry me. The burn, after a spate on the hills, often cam’ awa in a moment ‘wi’ a fury that naething could resist. The flood had come awa upon my bairn—and there, as I ran, did I see her bonny yellow hair whirled round and round, sinking out o’ my sight and carried awa down wi’ the stream. There was a linn about thirty yards frae where I saw her, and oh! how I rushed to snatch a grip o’ her before she was carried ower the rocks! But it was in vain—a moment sooner, and I might hae saved her—but she was hurled ower the precipice when I was within an arm’s length, and making a grasp at her bit frock! My poor little Jeanie was baith felled and drowned. I plunged into the wheel below the linn, and got her out in my arms. I ran wi’ her to the house, and I laid my drowned bairn on her mother’s knee. Everything that could be done was done, and a doctor was brought frae Dunse; but the spark o’ life was out o’ my bit Jeanie. I felt the bereavement very bitterly; and for mony a day, when Margaret and Andrew sat down at the table by our sides, my heart filled; for, as I was helpin’ their plates, I wad put out my hand again to help anither, but there was nae ither left to help. But Jeanie took our bairn’s death far sairer to heart than even I did. For several years she never was hersel’ again, and just seemed dwinin’ awa. Sea-bathing was strongly recommended; and, as she had a friend in Portobello, I got her to gang there for a week or twa during summer. ‘Our daughter, Margaret, was now about eighteen, and her brother, Andrew, about fifteen, and, as I thought it would do them good, I allowed them to gang wi’ their mither to the bathing. They were awa for about a month, and I firmly believe that Jeanie was a great deal the better o’t, But it was a dear bathing to me, on mony accounts, for a’ that. Margaret was an altered lassie a’thegither. She used to be as blithe as a lark in May, and now there was nae gettin’ her to do onything; but she sat couring and unhappy, and seighin’ every handel-a-while, as though she were miserable. It was past my comprehension, and her mother could assign nae particular reason for it. As for Andrew, he did naething but yammer, yammer, frae morn till night, about the sea; or sail boats, rigged wi’ thread and paper sails, in the burn. When he was at the bathing he had been doun aboot Leith, and had seen the ships, and naething wad serve him but he would be a sailor. Night and day did he torment my life out to set him to sea. But I wadna hear tell o’t—his mother was perfectly wild against it, and poor auld granny was neither to haud nor to bind. We had suffered enough frae the burn at our door, without trusting our only son upon the wide ocean. However, all we could say had nae effect—the craik was never out o’ his head—and it was still—‘I will be a sailor.’ Ae night he didna come in as usual for his four-hours, and supper-time cam’, and we sent a’ round about to seek him, but naebody had heard o’ him. We were in unco distress, and it struck me at ance that he had run to sea. I saddled my hors that very night and set out for Leith, but could get na trace o’ him. This was a terrible trial to us, and ye may think what it was when I tell ye it was mair than a twelve-month before we heard tell o’ him; and the first accounts we had, was a letter by his ain hand, written frae Bengal. We had had a cart down at Dunse for some bits o’ things, and the lad brought the letter in his pocket; and weel do I mind how Jeanie cam’ fleein’ wi’ it open in her hand across the fields to where I was looking after some workers thinin’ turnips, crying—‘David! David!—here’s a letter frae Andrew!’ ‘Read it! read it!’ cried I—for my een were blind wi’ joy. But Andrew’s rinnin’ awa wasna the only trial that we had to bear up against at this time. As I was tellin’ ye, there was an unco change ower Margaret since she had come frae the bathing; and a while after, a young lad, that her mother said they had met wi’ at Portobello, began to come about the house. He was the son o’ a merchant in Edinburgh, and pretended that he had come to learn to be a farmer wi’ a neighbour o’ ours. He was a wild, thoughtless, foppish-looking lad, and I didna like him; but Margaret, silly thing, was clean daft about him. Late and early I found him about the house, and I tauld him, I couldna allow him, nor ony person, to be within my doors at any such hours. Weel, this kind o’ wark was carried on for mair than a year; and a’ that I could say or do, Margaret and him were never separate; till, at last, he drapped aff comin’ to the house, and our daughter did naething but seigh and greet. I found that, after bringing her to the point o’ marriage, he either wadna, or durstna, fulfil his promise, unless I wad pay into his loof a thousand pounds as her portion. I could afford my daughter nae sic sum, and especially no to be thrown awa on the like o’ him. But Jeanie cam’ to me wi’ the tears on her cheeks, and ‘O David!’ says she, ‘there’s naething for it, but partin’ wi’ a thousand pounds on the ae hand, or our bairn’s death—and her—shame! on the ither!’ Oh! if a knife had been driven through my heart, it couldna pierced it like the word shame! As a faither, what could I do? I paid him the money, and they were married.

"It’s o’ nae use tellin’ ye how I gaed back in the farm. In the year sixteen, my crops warna worth takin’ aff the ground, and I had twa score o’ sheep smothered the same winter. I fell behint wi’ my rent; and household furniture, farm-stock, and everything I had, were to be sold off. The day before the sale, wi’ naething but a bit bundle carrying in my hand, I took Jeanie on my ae arm, and her puir auld mither on the other, and wi’ a sad and sorrowfu’ heart, we gaed out o’ the door o’ the hame where our bairns had been brought up, and a sheriff’s officer steeked it behint us. Weel, we gaed to Coldstream, and we took a bit room there, and furnished it wi’ a few things that a friend bought back for us at our sale. We were very sair pinched. Margaret’s gudeman ne’er looked near us, nor rendered us the least assistance, and she hadna it in her power. There was nae ither alternative that I could see; and I was just gaun to apply for labouring wark, when we got a letter frae Andrew, enclosing a fifty pound bank note. Mony a tear did Jeanie and me shed ower that letter. He informed us that he had been appointed mate o’ an East Indiaman, and begged that we would keep ourselves easy; for, while he had a sixpence, his faither and mither should hae the half o’t. Margaret’s husband very soon squandered away the money he had got frae me, as weel as the property he had got frae his faither; and, to escape the jail, he ran off, and left his wife and family. They cam’ to stop wi’ me; and, for five years, we heard naething o’ him. We had begun a shop in the spirit and grocery line; and, really, we were remarkably fortunate. It was about six years after I had begun business, ae night, just after the shop was shut, Jeanie, and her mother, wha was then about ninety, and Margaret and her bairns, and mysel’, were a’ sittin’ round the fire, when a rap cam’ to the door—ane o’ the bairns ran and opened it, and twa gentlemen cam’ in. Margaret gied a shriek, and ane o’ them flung himsel’ at her feet. ‘Mother!—faither!’—said the other. ‘do ye no ken me?’ It was our son Andrew, and Margaret’s gudeman I jamp up, and Jeanie jamp up; auld granny raise totterin’ to her feet, and the bairns screamed, puir things. I got hand o’ Andrew, and his mother got hand o’ him, and wi’ a’ grat wi’ joy. It was such a night o’ happiness as I had never kenned before. Andrew had been made a ship captain. Margaret’s husband had repented o’ a’ his follies and was in a good way o’ doing in India; and everything has gane right, and prospered wi’ our whole family, frae that day to this."


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