Mrs MacClarty was preparing ten meals for her
guests, Mrs Mason cast her exploring eye on the
house and furniture. She soon saw, that the place
they were in served the triple capacity of kitchen,
parlour, and bed-room. Its furniture was suitably
abundant. It consisted, on one side, of a dresser,
over which were shelves filled with plates and
dishes, which she supposed to be of pewter : but
they had been so be-dimmed by the quantities of
flies that sat upon them, that she could not
pronounce with certainty as to the metal they were
made of. On the shelf that projected immediately
next the dresser, was a number of delf and wooden
bowls, of different dimensions, with horn spoons,
etc. These, though arranged with apparent care, did
not entirely conceal from view the dirty nightcaps
and other articles, that were stuffed in behind.
Opposite the fire-place were two beds, each enclosed
in a sort of wooden closet, so firmly built as to
exclude the entrance of a breath of air except in
front, where were small folding doors, which were
now open, and exhibited a quantity of yarn hung up
in bunches— affording proof of the good wife's
industry. The portable furniture, as chairs, tables,
etc., were all, though clumsy, of good materials ;
so that Mrs Mason thought the place wanted nothing
but a little attention to neatness, and some more
light, to render it tolerably comfortable.
Miss Mary Stewart took upon herself the trouble of
making tea, and began the operation, by rinsing all
the cups and saucers through warm water; at which
Mrs MacClarty was so far from being offended, that
the moment she perceived her intention, she stepped
to a huge Dutch press, and having, with some
difficulty, opened the leaves, took from a store of
nice linen, which it presented to their view, a fine
damask napkin, of which she begged her to make use.
'You have a noble stock of linen, cousin,' said Mrs
Mason. ' Few farmers' houses in England could
produce the like; but I think this is rather too
fine for common use.'
'For common use!' cried Mrs MacClarty; 'na, na,
we're no sic fools as put our napery to use ! I have
a dizen table-claiths in that press, thretty years
old, that were never laid upon a table. They are a'
o' my mother's spinning. I have nine o' my ain makin'
forby, that never saw the sun but at the bookin
washing. Ye needna be telling us o' England !'
'It is no doubt a good thing,' said Mrs Mason, ' to
have a stock of goods of any kind, provided one has
a prospect of turning them to account; but I confess
I think the labour unprofitably employed, which,
during thirty years, is to produce no advantage, and
that linen of an inferior quality would be
preferable, as it would certainly be more useful. A
towel of nice clean huck-a-back would wipe a cup as
well, and better, than a damask napkin.'
'Towels!' cried Mrs MacClarty, 'na, na, we manna
pretend to towels : we just wipe up the things wi'
what comes in the gait.'
On saying this, the good woman, to show how exactly
she practised what she spoke, pulled out from
between the seed tub and her husband's dirty shoes
(which stood beneath the bench by the fireside), a
long blackened rag, and with it rubbed one of the
pewter plates, with which she stepped into the
closet for a roll of butter. ' There,' says she, ' I
am sure ye'll say that ye never ate better butter in
your life. There's no in a' Glenburnie better kye
than our's. I hope ye'll eat heartily, and I am sure
ye're heartily welcome.'
'Look, sister,' cried little William, ' see there
are the marks of a thumb and two fingers ! Do scrape
it off, it is so nasty.'
'Dear me,' said Mrs MacClarty, ' I did na mind that
I had been stirring the fire, and my hands were a
wee sooty; but it will soon scrape off; there's a
dirty knife will take it aff in a minute.'
'Stop, stop,' cried Miss Mary, ' that knife will
only make it worse ! pray let me manage it myself.'
She did so manage it, that the boys, who were very
hungry, contrived to eat it to their oatcakes with
great satisfaction; but though Mrs Mason made the
attempt, the disgust with which she began, was so
augmented by the sight of the numerous hairs which,
as the butter was spread, bristled up upon the
surface, that she found it impossible to proceed.
Here, thought she, is a home in which peace and
plenty seems to reign, and yet these blessings,
I thought invaluable, will not be sufficient to
afford me any comfort, from the mere want of
attention to the article of cleanliness. But may I
not remedy this ? She looked at Mrs MacClarty, and
in the mild features of a face, which,
notwithstanding all the disadvantages of slovenly
dress, and four days' soil (for this was Thursday),
was still handsome, she thought she perceived a
candour that might be convinced, and a good nature
that would not refuse to act upon conviction. Of the
countenances of the two girls she could not judge so
favourably. The elder appeared morose and sullen,
and the younger stupid and insensible. She was
confirmed in her opinion by observing, that though
their mother had several times desired them to go to
the field for their father, neither of them stirred
'Do you not hear your mother speaking to you?' said
Mr Stewart, in a tone of authority. The eldest
coloured, and hung down her head ; the younger girl
looked in his face with a stupid stare, but neither
of them made any answer.
'Y'll gang, I ken, my dear,' said Mrs MacClarty,
addressing herself to the younger; ' O ay, I ken
ye'll gang, like a good bairn, Jean.
Jean looked at her sister; and Mrs MacClarty,
ashamed of their disobedience, but still willing to
palliate the faults which her own indulgence had
created, said, ' that indeed they never liked to
leave her, poor things ! they were so bashful; but
that in time they would do weel eneugh.'
'They will never do well if they disobey their
mother,' said Mr Stewart; ' you ought to teach your
children to obey you, Mrs MacClarty, for their sakes
as well as for your own. Take my word for it, that
if you don't, they, as well as you, will suffer from
the consequences. But come, boys, we shall go to the
field ourselves, and see how the farmer's work goes
Mrs MacClarty, glad of his proposal, went to the
door to point the way. Having received her
directions, Mr Stewart, pointing to the pool at the
threshold, asked her how she could bear to have such
dirty doors. ' Why does not your husband fetch a
stone from the quarry?' said he. 'People, who are
far from stones and from gravel, may have some
excuse; but you have the materials within your
reach, and by half-a-day's labour could have your
door made clean and comfortable. How then can you
have gone on so long with it in this condition?'
'Indeed, I kenna, sir,' said Mrs MacClarty; ' the
gudeman just canna be fash'd.'
'And cannot you be fash'd to go to the end of the
house to throw out your dirty water? Don't you see
how small a drain would from that carry it down to
the river, instead of remaining here to stagnate,
and to suffocate you with intolerable stench !'
'O, we're just used to it,' said Mrs MacClarty, '
and we never mind it. We cou'dna be fash'd to gang
sae far wi' a' the slaistery.'
'But what,' returned Mr Stewart, ' will Mrs Mason
think of all this dirt? She has been used to see
things in a very different sort of order; and if you
will be advised by her, she will put you upon such a
method of doing everything about your house, as will
soon give it a very different appearance.'
'Ay,' said Mrs MacClarty, ' I aye feared she would
be owre nice for us. She has been sae lang amang the
Englishers, that she maun hae a hantel o' outlandish
notions. But we are owre auld to learn, and we just
do weel eneugh.'
Mr Stewart shook his head, and followed his sons,
who had by this time disengaged the gate from the
posts, to which it had been attached by an old cord
of many knots.
While Mr Stewart had been engaging the farmer's wife
in conversation at the door, his daughter had been
earnestly exhorting Mrs Mason to return to Gowan
Brae, and to give up all thoughts of remaining in a
situation in which she could not probably enjoy any
degree of comfort; but her arguments made no
impression. Mrs Mason adhered inflexibly to her
resolution of making a trial of the place; and, on
Mrs MacClarty's entrance, begged to see the room she
was to occupy.
'That you sal,' said Mrs MacClarty; ' but, indeed,
it's no in sic order as I could wish, for it's cram
fou o' woo'; it was put in there the day of the
sheep-shearing, and we have never ta'en the fash to
put it by; for, as I said before, we did not expect
ye till after the fair.' She then opened the door
that was placed in the middle, exactly between the
two beds, the recesses of which formed the entry of
the dark passage, through which they groped their
way to the spence, or inner apartment, which was
nearly of the same size as the kitchen. Mrs Mason
was prepared for seeing the fleeces, which were
piled up in the middle of the floor; but was struck
with dismay at the fusty smell, which denoted the
place to be without any circulation of air. She
immediately advanced to the window, in the intension
of opening it for relief. But, alas! it was not made
to open; and she heard for her comfort, that it was
the same with all the other windows in the house.
The bed, which was opposite to it, was shut up on
three sides, like those in the kitchen. At the foot
was a dark closet, in which Mrs Mason's trunks were
already placed. Between the window and the
fire-place was a large chest of drawers of mahogany;
and on the other side of the window an eight day
clock in a mahogany case. The backs of the chairs
were of the same foreign wood, betokening no saving
of expense; yet, upon the whole, all had a squalid
and gloomy aspect.
Mrs MacClarty tossed down the bed to show the
fineness of the ticking, and the abundance of the
blankets, which she took care to tell were all of
her own spinning. She received the expected tribute
of applause for her good housewifery, though Mrs
Mason could not help observing to her what a risk
she ran of having it all lost for want of air. ' See
the proof of what I say,' said she, 'in that
quantity of moths ! they will soon leave you little
to boast of your blankets.'
'Moths !' repeated Mrs MacClarty, ' there never was
sic a sight o' moths as in this room; we are just
eaten up wi' them, and I am sure I kenna how they
can win in, for no ae breath o' wind ever blew here
'That is just the thing that induces them to breed
in this place,' returned Mrs Mason. ' Plenty of air
would soon rid you of the grievance; since the
window is unfortunately fast, I must beg to have a
fire kindled here as soon as your maid comes from
'A fire !' repeated Mrs MacClarty, ' I thought you
had found it owre warm.'
'It is not to increase the heat that I ask for a
fire,' returned Mrs Mason, ' but to increase the
circulation of air. If the doors are left open, the
air will come sweeping in to feed the fire, and the
room will by that means be ventilated, which it
greatly stands in need of. I can at present breathe
in it no longer.'
By the help of Miss Mary's arm, Mrs Mason got out
into the open air, and gladly assented to her
friend's proposal of taking a view of the garden,
which lay at the back of the house. On going to the
wicket by which it entered, they found it broken, so
that they were obliged to wait until the stake which
propped it was removed : nor was this the only
difficulty they had to encounter; the path, which
was very narrow, was damp, by sippings from the
dirty pool : and on each side of it the ground
immediately rose, and the docks and nettles which
covered it, consequently grew so high, that they had
no alternative but to walk sideways, or to
'Ye'll see a bonny garden if ye gang on,' said Mrs
MacClarty. ' My son's unco proud o't.'
'I wonder your son can let these weeds grow here so
rank,' said Miss Mary; ' I think if he is proud of
the garden he should take some pains to make the
entrance to it passable ?'
'Oh, it does weel eneugh for us,' returned the
contented mother. 'But saw ye ever sic fine suthern
wood ? or sic a bed of thyme ? we have twa
rosebushes down yonder too, but we canna get at them
for the nettles. My son gets to them by speeling the
wa,' but he would do ony thing for flowers. His
father's often angry at the time he spends on them.'
'Your husband then has not much taste for the
garden, I suppose,' said Mrs Mason; ' and indeed so
it appears, for here is ground enough to supply a
large family with fruit and vegetables all the year
round ; but I see scarcely any thing but cabbages
'Na, na, we have some leeks too,' said Mrs MacClarty,
' and green kail in winter in plenty. We dinna
pretend to kick-shaws; green kail's gude eneugh for
'But,' said Miss Mary, ' any one may pretend to what
they can produce by their own labour. Were your
children to dress and weed this garden, there might
be a pretty walk; there you might have a plot of
green peas ; there another of beans and under your
window you might have a nice border of flowers to
regale you with their sweet smell. They might do
this too at very little trouble.'
'Ay, but they canna be fashed,' said Mrs MacClarty ;
' and it does just weel eneugh.'
Mr Stewart now appeared, and with him the farmer,
who saluted Mrs Mason with a hearty welcome, and
pressed all the party to go in and taste his whisky,
to prevent, as he said, the tea from doing them any
harm. As the car was now ready, Mr Stewart begged to
be excused from accepting the invitation ; and after
laying a kind injunction on Mrs Mason, to consider
no place so much her home as Gowan Brae, he set off
with his family on their return homewards.