by David Kennedy
Read by Marilyn Wright
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SAUNDERS M’GLASHAN was a handloom weaver in a
rural part of Scotland many years ago. Like many another Scotsman he was
strongly possessed with the desire to own the house he lived in. He
bought it before he had saved money enough to pay for it, and he toiled
day and night to clear the debt, but died in the struggle. When he was
dying he called his son to his bedside and said, "Saunders, ye’re
the eldest son, and ye maun be a faither to the ither bairns, see that
they a’ learn to read their Bibles and to write their names, and be
guid to your mither; and Saunders, promise me that ye’ll see that the
debt is paid." The son promised, and the father died and was buried
in the auld kirkyard.
Years passed, the balms were a’ married and awa’,
and Saunders was left alone with his mother. She grew frail and old, and
he nursed her with tender conscious care. On the evening of the longest
summer day she lay dying. Stretching her skinny hand out of the
bed-clothes she laid it on his head, now turning grey, and said:
"Saunders, ye’ve been a guid laddie, and I’m gaun to leave ye.
I bless ye, and Heaven will bless ye, for ye have dune Heaven’s biddin’,
and honoured your faither and mither. I’ll see your faither the morn,
and I’ll tell him that the bairns ate a’ weel, and that the debt was
paid lang or I left the earth." She died, and he laid her in the
kirkyard beside his father, and returned to the house he was born in—alone.
He sat down in his father’s chair.
"What’ll I dae," he said, "I think I’ll just keep the
hoose mysel’." This was easily done, for he lived very simply—parritch
or brose to breakfast, tatties and herrin’ to dinner, and brose or
parritch again to supper. But when winter set in his trials began.
One dark morning after lying awake for some time he said, "What
needs I lie gantin’ here, I’ll rise and get a licht. So he got his
flint and steel and tinder-box and set to work. The sparks from the
steel and flint would not ignite the tinder, so he struck vehemently,
missed the flint, and drove the steel deep into his knuckles.
"This’ll never dae," he cried, "I’m tired o’ this
life; I’m determined to hae a wife." He succeeded at last in
lighting the fire and made his parritch; but he burnt them, and the soot
came doon the lum and fell into them. "I’m pooshinin’ mysel’,"
he said, "I’m fa’in’ awa’ frae my claes, an’ my breeks
are hingin’ in wrunkles aboot me. I said in my haste this mornin’
that I wad hae a wife, an’ noo I say in my solemn leisure, ‘This
very day I shall hae a wife!’"
Saunders was a simple-minded man, but no simpleton. He knew nothing of
the ways of women. Various maidens had set their caps at him, but he had
never seen it. He knew his Bible well, and naturally turned to Solomon
for advice, but did not get much comfort there. "Hoo am I to
understand women," he said, "for Solomon was the wisest man!
that ever lived, and he said that! he couldna understand the ways
o’ women—it wasna for the want o’
opportunity ony way."
Instinct told him that when he went a-wooing his best dress should go
on; and looking in the glass he said, "I canna gang to see the
lassies wi’ a beard like that." So he shaved himself, altho’ he
was never known to shave except on Saturday; and he was such a strict
Sabbatarian that if he began to shave late on Saturday night, and the
clock chappit twelve when he had but one half of his face scrapit, he
would leave it till the Sunday was over. The shaving done, he rubbed his
chin, saying, with great simplicity, "I think that should dae for
the lassies noo." Then he turned and admired himself in the glass,
for vanity is the last thing that dies, even in man. "Ye’re no a
very ill-lookin’ man after a’, Saunders; but it’s a’ very weel
bein’ guid lookin’ and weel drest, but whatna woman am I gaun to
seek for my wife."
He got, at length, paper and pencil, and wrote~. down with great
deliberation six female names in large half text, carefully dotting all
the "i’s" and stroking all the - "t’s," and
surveyed the list as follows: "That’s a’ the women I mind aboot.
There’s nae great choice among them. I think—let me see,"
putting on his spectacles, "it’s no very wiselike gaun courtin’
when a body needs to wear specs. Several o’ them I’ve never spoken
till, but I suppose that’s of no consequence in this case. There’s
Mary Young, she’s no very young, at ony rate Elspeth M ‘Farlane, but
she’s blind o’ the richt e’e, and it’s not necessary that
Saunders M ‘Glashan should marry an imperfect woman. Kirsty Forsyth
she’s been married twice already, an’ surely twa men’s enough for
ony woman. Mary Morison, a very bonnie woman, but she’s gotten a
confounded lang tongue, an’ they say the hair upon her head’s no’
her am hair. I’m certain it’s her am tongue, at ony rate! Jeannie
Miller, wi’ plenty o' siller, not to be despised. Janet Henderson, wi
plenty o’ love. I ken that she has a gude heart, fot she was kind till
her mither lang bedfast; an’ when ony barefoot laddie braks his taes
he runs straighi to her hciose, and she dichts his nose and claps him on
the head, and says, ‘run awa’ hame noo, ye’!l be a man afore yer
mither!’ Noo, which o’ thae six will I gang to first? I think the
first four can bide awee, but the last twa—siller and love! love and
siller! Eh, wadna it be grand if a person could get them baith! but that’s
no allowed in the Christian dispensation. The patriarchs had mair
liberty— Abraham wad just hae ta’en them baith, but I’m no
Abraham. They say siller’s the god o’ the warld— I never had ony
mair use for siller than to buy meat and claes, to put a penny in the
plate on Sabbath, and gie a ixiwbee to a blind fiddler. But they say
heaven’s love and love’s heaven; an’ if I bring Janet Henderson to
my fireside, and she sits at that side darnin’ stockin’s, and I sit
at this side readin’ efter my day’s wark, an’ I lauch ower to her,
and she lauchs ower to me, isna that heaven upon earth? A body can get
on in this warld withoot siller, but they canna. get on in this warld
withoot love. I’ll gie Janet Henderson the first offer."
He put on his best hat,
and issued forth into the street. Instantly at all the windows
commanding a view of the street there were female noses flattened
against the panes. Voices might be heard crying:
mither! Come here! come here! come here! Look! look! look! there’s
Saunders M’Glashan wi’ his beard aff, and his Sabbath-day claes on
in the middle o’ the week; he’s lookin’ awfu’ melancholy—I
wonder wha’s dead?"
Quite unconscious of the
sensation he was creating, he walked gravely on towards the house 01
Janet Henderson. She at this moment, not knowing that her first offer
was so near, was sitting spinning, sighing and saying, "Eh,
preserve me! its a weary wand!
Naebody comin’ tae marry
Naebody comin’ tae woo;
Naebody comin’ tae marry me,
Naebody comin’ tae woo!"
The door opened, and
there stood Saunders M ‘Glashan.
"Eh! preserve me,
Saunders, is that you? A sicht o’ you’s guid for sair een!"
The maiden span and took
side-long glances. A woman can see mair wi’ the tail o’ her e’e
than a man can see wi’ his twa een wide open.
"Come awa’ in to
the fire. What’s up wi’ ye the day, Saunders? Ye’re awfu’ wee!
lickit up. I never saw ye lookin’ sae handsome. What is’t ye’re
"I’m gaun aboot
seekin’ a wife!"
"Eh, Saunders, if it’s
that ye want, ye needna want that very lang, I’m thinking."
"But ye dinna seem
to understand me; it’s you I want for a wife!"
think shame o’ yersel’, makin’ a fool o’ a young person in that
"I’m makin’ nae
fool o’ ye, Janet. This very day I’m determined to hae a wife. Ye
are the first I’ve spoken till. I houp there’s nae offence, Janet. I
didna mean ony. Eh! oh, very weel, if that’s the way o’t, it canna
be helped" (slowly unfolding the paper, which he had taken from his
waistcoat pocket) "I have several other women’s names markit doon
here to ca’ upon."
She saw the man meant
business, stopped her spinning, looked down, was long lost in thought,
raised her face, and broke the silence as follows, "Saunders (ahem)
M ‘Glashan (ahem) I’ve given your serious offer great
reflection; I’ve spoken to my heart, and the answer’s come back to
my tongue. I’m sorry to hurt yer feelin’s, Saunders, but what the
heart speaketh the tongue repeateth. A body maun act in thae matters
according to their conscience, for they maun gie an account at the last.
So I think, Saunders—I think I’ll just—I’ll just"— (covering
her face with her apron) "I’ll just talc’ ye. Eh! Saunders,
gae ‘wa’ wi’ ye! gae wa’! gae wa’ !" But the maiden did
not require to resist, for he made no attack, but solemnly sat in his
seat, and solemnly said, "I’m rale muckle obliged to ye, Janet;
it’ll no be necessary to ca’ on ony o’ thae ither lassies noo!"
He rose, thinking it was
all over, and turned towards the door, but the maiden was there first,
with her back at the door, and said, "Preserve me! what have I
dune? If my neebors come tae ken that I’ve ta’en ye at the very
first offer they’ll point the finger of scorn at me, and say ahint my
back as lang as I live, ‘That woman was deem’ for a man’;
so ye maun come here every day for the next month, and come in day licht,
so that they’ll a’ see ye comin’ an’ gaun, and they’ll say,
‘That woman’s no’ easy coortit I can tell ye; the puir man’s
wearin’ his shoon aff his feet!’ For, Saunders, though I’ll be ye’re
wife, Saunders, I’m determined to hae my dues o’ courtship a’ the
She lit the lamp of love
in his heart at last. For the first time in his long life he felt the
unmistakable holy, heavenly glow; his heart broke into a full storm of
love, and stopping down he took her yielding hand in his and said,
"Yes, I wull, yes, I wull! I’ll come twice every day, my Jo—my
Jo—Jaanet!" Before the unhappy man knew where he was he had
kissed the maiden—who was long expecting it; but the man blushed
crimson, for it was the first kiss he had gotten or given in fifty lang
Scottish kissless years -- while the woman stood with a look of supreme
satisfaction. She then lifted the corner of her apron and dichted her
moo and said to him, "Eh, Saunders M’Glashan, isna that rale
Kennedy," by kind permission of Mrs KENNEDY.FRASER).
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