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Wilson's Border Tales
The Trip


The late Duke of Hamilton, with many excellent qualities, possessed some peculiarities of character better calculated, perhaps, to afford amusement than to support the dignity of his rank. He was fond of fun and frolic, and much delighted in specimens of good practical joking.

It was in this spirit that the merry Duke, on one occasion, invited his worthy ground-bailie, at Smerly Bay—a harbour in a certain island on the west coast—to dine on board his yacht, which was then lying in the bay above-mentioned. Too proud of the honour to hesitate about accepting so flattering a mark of his Grace’s favour, Mr. Mathieson, who was a stout, elderly, little personage, with many becks, and bows, and "wreathed smiles," at once expressed his readiness to attend his Grace, at the time appointed, on board the Charlotte.

Punctual to his engagement, and dressed in his best, the worthy Bailie presented himself, in the hour of cause, on the little quay of Smerly Bay, where, agreeably to previous arrangement, he was to find the yacht’s pinnace waiting to convey him on board. The boat, with two stout fellows in it, was there. The Bailie was shipped; and, after about a fifteen minutes pull, found himself standing on the deck of the little Charlotte, to which he was welcomed by the Duke himself, and two or three waggish friends of his Grace, who were, at the time, on a tour with him, in the yacht, through some of the Western Isles.

As hospitable as facetious, the Duke lost no time in priming his humble friend, the Bailie, from a case-bottle of brandy, which he ordered to be brought on deck for that special purpose. Nothing loath, the honest man took a jorum or two of the stimulating liquor—just enough to put him in spirits, and to inspire him with the confidence necessary to an entire enjoyment of his present happy position.

By and by, the party—including, of course, the Bailie— were summoned. to the cabin to dinner. It was an excellent one, and the guests were just the men to do it justice. The worthy Bailie, amongst the rest, played a capital knife and fork—a sort of thing in which he rather excelled at all times. Dinner over, drinking materials were produced, and the party set fairly in for a merry bout; and a merry bout they had. The Bailie cracked away like a pen-gun, and fell as happy as a man could do.

When the revels had thus continued for some time, the Duke, as if suddenly struck with a good thought, proposed, as it was a fine afternoon, they should get the yacht under way, and make a run as far as Campbelltown, which, being only, as his Grace said, about twenty miles distant, they would easily make out before nightfall—the wind being quite fair. To this proposal all, excepting the Bailie, at once acceded. But the Bailie demurred. He had matters of his Grace’s to attend to (he said), that would by no means allow of his absence.

"Besides," continued the worthy man, "I couldna think o’ gaun awa frae hame in this abrupt manner, and withoot giein my family some notice o’ my proceedings. They wad think I was drowned."

"Bailie!" exclaimed the Duke, slapping him jocosely on the shoulder, "as to any neglect of my affairs which your absence might occasion, I give you a full quittance before-hand; and as to your abrupt departure alarming your family I shall provide for that by sending the boat on shore, to give them satisfactory information regarding the case. So, go you must, Bailie."

"Weel, weel, your Grace, on thae conditions; and since you insist on’t, I’ll offer nae mair objections. But I maun be back by the morn’s nicht at farthest."

"I promise you shall," replied the Duke.

This matter adjusted, the party proceeded in their revels for some time, and then all in a great flow of spirits ascended the deck, to see the vessel getting under way.

This was a proceeding very soon accomplished; for the yacht was well manned. In a very few minutes her anchor was up, and her white canvas spread to the gale. It was blowing a fine fresh breeze, and the party, including Bailie Mathieson, had the satisfaction both of seeing and feeling the lively little craft bounding over the waves.

Our good friend the Bailie, who was, by this time, himself a little in the wind, stood with spectacles on nose—for his sight was very indifferent—looking with such interest at the receding shores of his native place. Gradually they disappeared from his view; amongst the last objects he saw being his own house, a very pretty little white one, that stood conspicuous on the high ground that overlooked the bay.

Having spent some time on deck in looking around them, the party, at the Duke’s suggestion, again descended to the cabin, and again commenced their revels. These they now kept up to a late hour of the night, and until they could carry on no longer—at least some of them; and amongst whom was our worthy friend the Bailie, who, in the joy of his heart, got so completely sewed up that he had to be carried to bed by the steward and the mate.

"Faith, man, but she’s gaun through’t cleverly!" said the Bailie, in very thick, and all but unintelligible English, to his bearers, as they pitched him into his bed; the remark being elicited by a sudden plunge of the vessel, and the gurgling noise of the water on the outer wall of his sleeping berth. "We’ll be in Campbelltown in the twinklin o’ a bed-post, an’ we carry on at this rate," he added, at the same time turning himself round in his bed, and settling himself for a luxurious snooze. In half a minute after, a loud snoring from the Bailie’s berth announced that all was well, and that the worthy man was now oblivious of all earthly concerns.

Leaving the Bailie thus comfortably disposed of, we shall ascend the deck, and see how the little Charlotte is getting on. Had the reader been there, and being unaware of what was going forward, he would have been a little surprised to find that the Duke’s yacht, in place of holding on her course for Campbelltown, was scudding right back again for Smerly Bay.

This was the case, then; and therein lay a certain practical joke, which the merry Duke and his friends purposed playing off on the worthy Bailie. Their joke was to carry the unconscious voyageur back to the precise spot from whence they had taken him; and, as they hoped, to enjoy some amusement from his mistaking his locality when he should get on deck in the morning—a design in which they calculated on being favoured by his short-sightedness, and by the confusion of head which the night’s debauch must occasion.

In furtherance of this plot, the vessel had been put about the moment the Bailie was put to bed, and hence came it that she was now retracing her way. Long ere daylight, the Charlotte was again at anchor, and in precisely the same spot from which she had departed some three or four hours before.

On awaking in the morning, the first thing the worthy Bailie did was to raise himself up in the bed, the next to thurst his head, garnished with a red cowl, out of the narrow crib, to listen for sounds that might convey to him some idea of what the vessel was about—whether sailing, or at anchor. All was still. There was no sound but the list-less tramping of two or three feet on deck, and no motion whatever. The vessel, then, the Bailie concluded, was at anchor. She was in Campbelltown harbour.

Under this impression, the worthy man got up; and, in his curiosity to see the place—having never been there before—hurried on deck in his shirt and trousers.

"Hech! a bonny place," exclaimed the Bailie, scanning the scenery around him, and shewing clearly that the night’s sleep he had got had not altogether overcome the effects of the prior evening’s potations.

"Is is not, Bailie!" said the Duke, who at this moment joined his worthy officer on deck.

"Just as bonny a place, your Grace, as I hae seen," repeated the Bailie, still continuing his delightful survey of the shore. "There’s a bit white house there on the hill," went on the Bailie, pointing to his own domicile; "that maun be a bit pleasant place to leeve in."

"Why, your own, Bailie, is, I think, just as good. It is as well situated, and looks as well," said the Duke.

"Ou, ‘deed is’t, your Grace," replied the Bailie; "but that seems fully a mair roomy-lookin house than mine, and staunts a hantle higher; but there’s a wunnerfu likeness between them, after a’. Most astonishin."

"Yes; I think there is a sort of resemblance," said the Duke; "but not a very striking one."

"Deil o’ me, beggin your Grace’s pardon," said the Bailie, who had now taken a more comprehensive survey of the land around him, "if I ever saw twa places so like as this and Smerly! There’s a hill precisely whar we hae ane, and o’ the very same shape; and there’s anither just whar Ben Moran stauns; and there’s a water exactly whar we hae ane; and, Gude’s my life! there’s twa houses staunin exactly whar our minister’s and the doctor’s staun. ‘Od, its amazin!"

"The resemblance of the two places has been often remarked," said the Duke carelessly; "and I do think there are two or three points in which they have a distant likeness to each other."

At this moment, the steward announced breakfast on the table, when the Duke and his officer—the latter having previously dispatched one of the men for his coat and waistcoat—descended to the cabin, where the rest of the party were now assembled, none of them having yet been on deck.

A wink from the Duke intimated to them that the Bailie had bitten, and was under the desired illusion. Taking the hint—"Well, Bailie, what think you of Campbelltown?" said one of the gentlemen. "Isn’t it a pretty place?"

"Very bonny place, sir; very bonny place," replied the Bailie.

"Have you observed its resemblance to Smerly, Bailie?" said another.

"Indeed have I, sir," replied the latter; "I was just remarkin’t to his Grace. It’s just uncommon the likeness."

Breakfast over, it was proposed that the party should go on shore for an hour or two. The proposal was agreeable to all; and accordingly on shore they went, or at least towards it—for we must not land them until we have mentioned that, ere they quite reached their landing-place, the Bailie was surprised by another extraordinary point of resemblance between his new quarters and his old. This was the astonishing likeness of the two little quays. They appeared perfect counterparts of each other, and the Bailie said so.

"Never saw ony twa things sae like in my life," he said. "They maun hae been built by the same man, after the same plan, at the same time, and o’ the same materials; for deil a grain o’ difference is between them that I can see. It’s really queer."

"Chance coincidences, my good friend," said the Duke, in a tone of indifference; "but I certainly agree with you in thinking that there is a very odd correspondence between the two quays."

The boat having reached the quay, the party landed. There was only one solitary person on it at the time but this person happened to be an intimate friend of the Bailie’s. The latter, on coming near, very near him—for hbe could not discern any but large objects at a distance of a score of yards—at once recognised him, and, advancing towards him with extended hands—

"God bless me, Mr. Tamson, are you here too? What in a’ the world’s brought ye here, and whan did ye come?"

Mr. Thomson looked at his friend, the Bailie, with an expression of the utmost surprise; while the Duke and his friends—unable to restrain their mirth at the oddity of the scene, and yet desirous of concealing it—kept at a little distance, one after the other turning round every instant, to give way to those bursts of laughter which they could not control. Attracted by this additional perplexing circumstance, Mr. Thomson continued for some seconds to look from the Bailie to the Duke and his party, and again from the latter to the former, without answering his friend’s query. At length—

"What do ye mean, Bailie?" he said, with a look of undiminished surprise. "Whan cam I here, and what’s brocht me here! What is’t ye mean? Thae’s funny questions to put to a man that’s at hame." It was now the Bailie’s turn to be puzzled.

"Whan did this become your hame, Mr. Tamson?" said the Bailie with a smile of great perplexity. "Ye hae shifted your camp unco quickly. It’s no four-and-twenty hours since I left ye in a different place, that I aye understood was your hame."

"Ye’re for bein’ jokey this morning, Bailie," said Mr. Thomson, somewhat angrily, and pushing past his friend, without saying another word, believing himself to be the butt of some jest which he could not understand. The Bailie looked after him in great perplexity and amusement; but, at length, came to the conclusion that his friend’s intellect must have had a shake from some deranging cause or other; and it crossed the Bailie’s compassionate mind that it would be well done to have the unfortunate man seized and carried home to his friends in the Duke’s yacht. This, on reflection, however, appearing rather a violent proceeding, he abandoned the idea.

As it would be tedious to both reader and writer to repeat the subsequent illusory experiences of the worthy Bailie, seeing that they were all nearly the same in detail, suffice it to say, in conclusion, that the honest man now met several friends, one after the other; and that their manner towards him, on his expressing his surprise at seeing them—a surprise that greatly increased with every additional friend he met—very nearly convinced him of two things— that all his acquaintance had gone mad, and had all, by some unaccountable unanimity of purpose, come to Campbelltown.

In short, it was not until the Duke and his party had enjoyed a series of scenes with the worthy Bailie of the most ludicrous character, and until a series of circumstances which he could not possibly mistake, had forced themselves on his notice, that he became aware of the trick that had been played upon him.


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