Cottagers of Glenburnie Chapter VIII.
MASON, unwilling to give trouble, and anxious not to
disgust her new acquaintances by the appearance of
fastidiousness, gave no further directions
concerning her apartment, than was barely necessary
towards putting it in a habitable state. This being
done, she entered cheerfully into conversation with
the fanner, whom she found possessed of much plain
good sense, and a greater stock of information than
she could have supposed within his reach. She was
struck with the force and rationality of his
observations on various subjects, and almost sorry
when their chat was interrupted by a call to supper,
which was now upon the table. It consisted, besides
the family dishes of sowens and milk, of a large
trencher full of new potatoes, the first of the
season, and intended as a treat for the stranger.
The farmer and his three sons sat down on one side,
the good wife and her two daughters on the other,
leaving the arm chair at the head for Mrs Mason, and
a stool at the foot for Grizzy, who sat with her
back to the table, only turning round occasionally
to help herself.
When all were seated, the farmer, taking off a large
blue bonnet, which, on account of his bald crown, he
seldom parted with through the day, and looking
round to see that all were attentive, invited them
to join in the act of devotion which preceded every
meal, by saying, ' Let us ask a blessing.'
Mrs Mason, who had been so long accustomed to
consider the standing posture as expressive of
greater reverence, immediately stood up; but she was
the only one that moved; all the rest of the party
keeping their seats, while the farmer, with great
solemnity, pronounced a short but emphatic prayer.
This being finished, Mrs Mason was desired to help
herself; and such was the impression made by the
pious thankfulness which breathed in the devotional
exercise in which she had just engaged, that viands
less acceptable to her palate would at that moment
have been eaten with relish. The sowens were
excellent: the milk was sweet; and the fresh raised
potatoes, bursting from the coats in which they had
been boiled, might have feasted a queen. It is
indeed ten thousand to one that any queen ever
tasted of the first of vegetables in this its
highest state of perfection. Mrs Mason was liberal
of her praise ; and both the farmer and his wife
were highly gratified by her expressions of
The meal concluded as it had begun, with prayer; and
Mrs Mason retired to her room under a full
conviction, that in the society of people who so
sincerely served and worshipped God, all the
materials of happiness would be within her reach.
Her bed appeared so inviting from the delicate
whiteness of the linen, that she hastened to enjoy
in it the sweets of repose; but no sooner had her
head reached the pillow, than she became sick, and
was so overcome by a feeling of suffocation that she
was obliged to sit up for air. Upon examination she
found, that the smell which annoyed her proceeded
from new feathers put into the pillow before they
had been properly dried, and when they were
consequently full of the animal oil, which, when it
becomes rancid, sends forth an intolerable
effluvium. Having removed the annoyance, and made of
her clothes a bundle to support her head, she again
composed herself to sleep, but, alas ! in vain for
the enemy by whom she was now attacked, she found to
be sworn against sleep. The assault was made by such
numbers in all quarters, and carried on with such
dexterity by the merciless and agile foe, that after
a few ineffectual attempts at offensive and
defensive warfare, she at length resigned herself to
absolute despair. The disgusting idea of want of
cleanliness, which their presence excited, was yet
more insufferable than the piercing of their little
fangs. But, on recollecting how long the room had
been filled with the fleeces, she gladly flattered
herself, that they were only accidental guests, and
that she might soon be able to effect their
As day advanced, the enemy retired; and poor Mrs
Mason, fatigued and wearied, at length sunk to rest.
Happily she was undisturbed by the light 5 for
though her window, which was exactly opposite to the
bed, was not shaded by a curtain, the veil of dust
which it had contracted in the eighteen years it had
stood unwiped, was too thick to permit the rays of
the sun to penetrate. '
As the clock struck eight, she hastened out of bed,
vexed at having lost so much of the day in sleep;
and on perceiving, when about half dressed, that she
had in her room neither water nor hand-basin to wash
in,' she threw on her dimity bed-gown, and went out
to the kitchen, to procure a supply of these
necessary articles. She there found Meg and Jean ;
the former standing at the table, from which the
porridge dishes seemed to have been just removed ;
the latter killing flies at the window. Mrs Mason
addressed herself to Meg, and after a courteous good
morrow, asked her where she should find a
hand-basin? ' I dinna ken,' said Meg, drawing her
finger through the milk that had been spilled upon
the table. ' Where is your mother?' asked Mrs Mason.
' I dinna ken,' returned Meg, continuing to dabble
her hands through the remaining fragments of the
'If you are going to clean that table,' said Mrs
Mason, ' you will give yourself more work than you
need, by daubing it all over with the porridge ;
bring your cloth, and I shall show you how I learned
to clean our tables when I was a girl like you.'
Meg continued to make lines with her fore finger.
'Come,' said Mrs Mason, ' shall I teach you?'
'Na,' said Meg, ' I sal dight nane o't. I'm ga'an'
to the schule.'
'But that need not hinder you to wipe up the table
before you go,' said Mrs Mason. ' You might have
cleaned it up as bright as a looking-glass in the
time that you have spent in spattering it and
dirtying your fingers. Would it not be pleasanter
for you to make it clean than to leave it dirty?'
'I'll no be at the fash,' returned Meg, making off
to the door as she spoke.
Before she got out, she was met by her mother, who,
on seeing her, exclaimed, 'Are ye no awa yet bairns
! I never saw the like. Sic a fecht to get you to
the schule ! Nae wonner ye learn little, when you're
at it. Gae awa like good bairns; for there's nae
schulin' in the morn, ye ken; it's the fair day.'
Meg set off after some farther parley, but Jean
continued to catch the flies at the window, taking
no notice of her mother's exhortations, though again
repeated in pretty nearly the same terms.
'Dear me!' said the mother, 'what's the matter wi'
the bairn ! what for winna ye gang, when Meg's gane
? Rin, and ye'll be after her or she wins to the end
o' the loan.'
I'm no ga'an the day,' says Jean, turning away her
'And whatfore are no ye ga'an, my dear?' says her
'Cause I hinna got my questions,' replied Jean.'
'O, but ye may gang for a' that,' said her mother; '
the maister will no be angry. Gang, like a gude
'Na,' said Jean, ' but he will be angry, for I didna
get them the last time either.'
'And whatfor didna ye get them, my dear?' said Mrs
MacClarty, in a soothing tone.
'Cause they were kittle, and I couldna be fashed ;'
replied the hopeful girl, catching, as she spoke,
another handful of flies.
Her mother, finding that entreaties were of no
avail, endeavoured to speak in a more peremptory
accent; and even laid her commands upon her daughter
to depart immediately; but she had too often
permitted her commands to be disputed, to be
surprised at their being now treated with
disrespect. Jean repeated her determined purpose of
not going to school that day; and the firmer she
became in opposition, the authoritative tone of the
mother gradually weakened ; till at length by
saying, that 'if she did nagang to the schule, she
suldna stand there,' she acknowledged herself to be
defeated, and the point to be given up.
Mrs Mason, who had stood an unobserved spectator of
this scene, was truly shocked at such a dereliction
of the parental authority, which she believed must
inevitably produce consequences of the most
deplorable nature. She came forward, and stopping
the little girl, as she was slinking out at the
door, asked her, ' if she really meant to disobey
her mother, by staying from school?' Jean made no
answer, but the indulgent mother, unwilling that any
one should open her eyes to that to which she
resolved to be blind, instantly made her spoilt
child's apology, by observing, that ' the poor thing
had na' gotten her questions, and didna like to
gang, for fear o' the maister's anger.'
'But ought she not to have got her questions, as her
master enjoined, instead of idling here all the
morning?' said Mrs Mason.
'Ou ay,' returned Mrs MacClarty, ' she shu'd ha'
gotten her questions, nae doubt; but it was unco
fashious, and ye see she hasna a turn that gait,
poor thing ! but in time she'll do weel eneugh.'
'Those who wait till evening for sunrise,' said Mrs
Mason, ' will find that they have lost the day. If
you permit your daughter, while a child, to disobey
her parent and her teacher, she will never learn to
obey her God. But, perhaps I interfere too far. If I
do, you must forgive me ; for, with the strong
impression which I have upon my mind of the
consequences o a right education, I am tempted to
forget that my advice may sometimes be
'Hoot,' said Mrs MacClarty, who did not perfectly
comprehend the speech, ' maiden's bairns are aye
weel-bred, ye ken, cousin j but I fear ye hinna
sleepit weel, that ye have been sae lang o' rising.
Its a lang time since the kettle has been boiling
for your breakfast.'
'I shall be ready for it very soon,' said Mrs Mason
; ' but I came in search of a basin and water, which
Grizzy has forgot to put in my room, and until I
wash, I can proceed no further in dressing myself.'
'Dear me,' replied Mrs MacClarty, ' I'm sure you're
weel eneugh. Your hands ha' nae need of washing, I
trow. Ye ne'er do a turn to file them.'
'You can't surely be in earnest,' replied Mrs Mason.
' Do you think I could sit down to breakfast with
unwashed hands ? I never heard of such a thing, and
never saw it done in my life.'
'I see nae gude o' sic nicety,' returned her friend
; ' but it is easy to gie ye water eneugh, though I
am sure I dinna ken what to put it in, unless ye tak
ane o' the parridge plates : or may be the calf's
luggie may do better, for it 'ill gie you eneugh o'
'Your own bason will do better than either,' said
Mrs Mason. ' Give me the loan of it for this
morning, and I shall return it immediately, as you
must doubtless often want it through the day.'
'Na, na,' returned Mrs MacClarty, ' I dinna fash wi'
sae mony fykes. There's ay water standing in
something or other, for ane to ca' their hands
through when they're blacket. The gudeman indeed is
a wee conceity like yoursel,' an' he coft a brown
bason for his shaving in on Saturdays, but it's in
use a' the week haudin' milk,' or I'm sure ye'd be
welcome to it. I shall see an get it ready for the
Poor Mrs Mason, on whose nerves the image presented
by this description of the alternate uses of the
utensil in question, produced a sensible effect,
could scarcely command voice to thank her cousin for
the civil offer. Being, however, under the necessity
of choosing for the present, she without hesitation
preferred the calf's luggie to the porridge plate;
and indeed considered the calf as being so much the
cleanlier animal than his mistress, that she would
in every way have preferred him for an associate.
Mrs Mason was not ill-pleased to find that she was
to breakfast by herself; the rest of the family,
having long ago finished their morning repast, were
now engaged in the several occupations of the day.
The kail-pot was already on the fire to make broth
for dinner, and Mrs MacClarty busied in preparing
the vegetables which were to be boiled in it. When
her guest, on hearing her desire Grizzel to make
haste, and sit down to her wheel, thought it time to
remind her, that her bed was still to make, and her
room to be put in order; and that Grizzel's
assistance would be necessary for both.
It was not easy to persuade the good woman that it
would not be time enough in the dusk of the evening;
but as Mrs Mason declared it essential to her
comfort, Grizzy was ordered to attend her, and to do
whatever she desired. By her directions, the stout
girl fell to work, and hoisted out the bed and
bed-clothes, which she carried to the barn-yard; the
only place about the house where there was a spot of
green grass. The check curtains followed, and in
their removal effected the sudden ruin of many a
goodly cobweb, which had never before met with the
smallest molestation. When the lower valance was
removed, it displayed a scene still more
extraordinary; a hoard of the remains of the old
shoes that had ever been worn by any member of the
family; staves of broken tubs, ends of decayed rope,
and a long etcetera of useless articles, so covered
with blue mould and dust, that it seemed surprising
the very spiders did not quit the colony in disgust.
Mrs Mason sickened at the sight. Perceiving what an
unpleasant task she should be obliged to impose on
her assistant, she deemed herself in justice bound
to recompense her for the trouble; and, holding up a
half-crown piece, told her, that if she performed
all she required of her on the present occasion, it
should be her own. No sooner was Grizzy made certain
of the reward, which had till now been promised in
indefinite terms, than she began in such good
earnest, that Mrs Mason was glad to get out of the
room. After three large buckets full of dirt and
trumpery had been carried out, she came to Mrs Mason
for fresh instructions. She then proceeded to wash
the bedposts with soap and water, after which, the
chairs, the tables, the clock-case, the very walls
of the room, as well as everything it contained, all
underwent a complete cleaning.
The window, in which were nine tolerably large panes
of glass, was no sooner rendered transparent, than
Grizzy cried out in ecstasy, 'that she couldna' have
thought it would have made sic a change. Dear me !
how heartsome it looks now, to what it us't!' said
the girl, her spirit rising in proportion to the
exertion of her activity.
'And in how short a time has it been cleaned !' said
Mrs Mason. ' Yet, had it been regularly cleaned once
a week, as it ought to have been, it would have cost
far less trouble. By the labour of a minute or two,
we may keep it constantly bright; and surely few
days pass in which so much time may not be spared.
Let us now go to the kitchen window, and make it
likewise clean.' Grizzy with alacrity obeyed. But
before the window could be approached, it was found
necessary to remove the heap of dusty articles piled
up in the window sill, which served the purpose of
family library, and repository of what is known by
the term odds and ends.
Mrs MacClarty, who had sat down to spin, did not at
first seem willing to take any notice of what was
going forward; but on perceiving her maid beginning
to meddle with the things in the window, she could
no longer remain a neutral spectator of the scene.
Stopping her wheel, she, in a voice indicating the
reverse of satisfaction, asked what she was about?
Mrs Mason took it upon her to reply. ' We are going
to make your window bright and clean for you,
cousin,' said she. ' If you step into my room, and
take a look at mine, you will see what a difference
there is in it; and this, if these broken panes were
mended, would look every bit as well.'
'It does weel enough] returned Mrs MacClarty ;' it
wants nae cleanin'. It does just weel eneugh. What's
the guid o' takin' up the lassie's time wi' nonsense
? she'll break the window too, and the bairns hae
broken eneugh o' it already.'
'But if these panes were mended, and the window
cleaned, without and within,' said Mrs Mason, ' you
cannot think how much more cheerful the kitchen
'And how long will it bide clean, if it were ?' said
Mrs MacClarty. ' It would be as ill as ever in a
month, and wha cou'd be at the fash o' ay cleanin'
'Even once a month would keep it tolerable, but once
a week would keep it very nice; your little girls
might rub it bright of a morning, without the least
trouble in the world. They might learn, too, to
whiten the window-sill, and to keep it free from
rubbish, by laying the books, and all these
articles, in their proper places, instead of letting
them remain here covered with dust. You cannot
imagine what good it would do your young people, did
they learn betimes to attend to such matters; for,
believe me cousin, habits of neatness, and of
activity, and of attention, have a greater effect
upon the temper and disposition than most people are
'If my bairns do as weel as I hae done, they'll do
weel eneugh,' said Mrs MacClarty, turning her wheel
with great speed.
Mr MacClarty's voice was just at that moment heard
calling on Grizzy to drive the fowls out of the
corn-field, which necessarily put a stop to all
further proceedings against the window. Mrs Mason
therefore returned to her own apartment; and greatly
pleased with the appearance which it now assumed,
cheerfully sat down to her accustomed labours of the
needle, of which she was such complete mistress,
that it gave no interruption to the train of her
reflections. On taking a view of her present
situation, and comparing it with the past, she
carefully suppressed every feeling that could lead
to discontent. Instead of murmuring at the loss of
those indulgences, which long habit had almost
converted into necessaries of life, she blessed God
for the enjoyment ol such a state of health as none
of the luxuries of wealth could purchase ; and for
which those who possessed them so often sighed in
vain. Considering all the events of her life as
ordered under the wise dispensation of Providence,
she looked to the subordinate situation in which she
had been placed, as a school in which it was
intended that she should learn the important lesson
of humility ; and when she looked back, it was for
the purpose of inquiring how she had fulfilled the
duties of the lot assigned her.
She was now, for the first time in her life,
completely her own mistress; but she was already
sensible, that the idea of a life completely
independent of the will of others is merely
visionary, and that in all situations, some portion
of one's own will must necessarily be sacrificed.
She saw that the more nearly people approached each
other in their habits and opinions, the less would
the sacrifice be felt; but while she entertained a
hope of being able to do more good in her present
situation than she could in any other, she resolved
to remain where she was. ' Surely,' said she to
herself, ' I must be of some use to the children of
these good people. They are ill brought up, but they
do not seem deficient in understanding; and if I can
once convince them of the advantage they will derive
from listening to my advice, I may make a lasting
impression on their minds.'
While engaged by these reflections, as she busily
pursued her work, she was startled by a sudden
noise, followed by an immediate diminution of light;
and on looking up, perceived her window all over
bespattered with mud. A tittering laugh betrayed the
aggressors, and directed her attention to the side
where they stood, and from which she knew they could
not retreat without being seen. She therefore
continued quietly on the watch, and in a little time
saw Jean and her younger brother issue from the
spot, and hastily run down the bank that led to the
Mrs Mason had been for above twenty years employed
in studying the tempers and dispositions of children
; but as she had never before seen an instance of
what appeared to be unprovoked malignity in the
youthful mind, she was greatly shocked at the
discovery \ and thought it incumbent on her to
inform their mother of the incident, and to give her
opinion of it in the plainest terms.
Mrs MacClarty perceiving that Mrs Mason had
something extraordinary to communicate, stopped her
wheel to listen ; and when the window was mentioned,
asked, with great anxiety, whether it was broken?' '
No,' said Mrs Mason, ' the mud they threw at it was
too soft to break the glass ; it is not to the
injury done the windows that I wish to call your
attention, but to the dispositions of your children
; for what must the dispositions be that lead them
to take pleasure in such an act ?'
'Hoot,' said Mrs MacClarty, 'is that it a'? ane
wou'd ha' thought the window had been a' to shivers,
by the way you spoke. If its but a wee clarted,
there's nae sae muckle ill done. I told ye it was
nonsense to be at sae muckle fash aboot it; for that
it would na' get leave to bide clean lang.'
'But if your children were better taught,' said Mrs
Mason, ' it might get leave to bide clean long
enough. If the same activity which they have
displayed in dirtying it, had been directed into
proper channels, your cottage might have been kept
in order by their little hands, and your garden, and
all about your doors, made neat and beautiful.
Children are naturally active; but unless their
activity be early bent to useful purposes, it will
only lead them into mischief. Were your children'
'Hoot,' said Mrs MacClarty, peevishly, ' my bairns
are just like other folks. A' laddies are full o'
mischief. I'm sure there's no a yard i' the town
where they can get a flower or apple keepit for
them. I wonder what ye would ha' said if ye had seen
the minister's yetts the day after they were
painted, slacked and blacketa' owre wi' dirt, by the
laddies frae the schule ?'
'I would have said,' returned Mrs Mason, 'what I
said before, that all that bent to mischief in the
children arises from the neglect of the parents, in
not directing their activity into proper channels.
Do you not think that each of these boys would, if
properly trained, find as much amusement in works
that would tend to ornament the village, or in
cultivating a few shrubs and flowers to adorn the
walls of their own cottages, as they now appear to
find in mischief and destruction? Do you not think,
that that girl of yours might have been so brought
up as to have had more pleasure in cleaning a window
of her father's house, than in bedaubing it with
mud? Allowing the pleasure of being mis-chieviously
active, and the pleasure of being usefully active,
to be at present equal; do you think that the
consequences will not be different? " Train up a
child in the way he should go," says Solomon, and
depend upon it, that in the way you train him he
will go, whether you desire it or not. If you permit
a child to derive all his pleasure from doing ill to
others, he Świll not, when he is grown up, be
inclined to do much good. He will, even from his
youth, be conscious of deserving the ill will of his
neighbours, and must of course have no good will to
them. His temper will thus be soured. If he succeeds
in life he will be proud and overbearing; if he does
not, he will become sulky, and morose, and
'Weel,' said the farmer, who had been listening to
the latter part of the conversation, ' it's a' true
that ye say, but how is it to be helpit ? Do you
think corrupt nature can be subdued in ony other way
than by the grace of God?'
'If I read my Bible right,' returned Mrs Mason, '
the grace of God is a gift which, like all the other
gifts of divine love, must be sought by the
appointed means. It is the duty of a parent to put
his children upon the way of thus seeking it; and,
as far as it is in his power, to remove the
obstacles that would prevent it.'
'The minister himsel' could speak nae better,'
returned the farmer. ' But when folks gi' their
bairns the best education in their power, what mair
can they do?'
'In answer to your question,' replied Mrs Mason, ' I
will put one to you. Suppose you had a field which
produced only briers and thorns, what method would
you take to bring it into heart?'
'I would nae doubt rate out the briers and thorns,
as weel as I could,' returned the farmer.
'And after you had opened the soil by ploughing, and
enriched it by the proper manure, you would sow good
seed in it, and expect, by the blessing of heaven,
to reap, in harvest, the reward of your labours,'
said Mrs Mason.
'To be sure I would,' said the farmer.
'And do you imagine,' said Mrs Mason, ' that the
human soul requires less care in culturing it than
is neccssary to your field? Is it merely by teaching
them to say their questions, or even teaching them
to read, that the briers and thorns of pride and
self-will will be rooted up from your children's
'We maun trust a' to the grace of God,' said the
'God forbid that we should put trust in aught
beside,' returned Mrs Mason; ' but if we hope for a
miraculous interposition of divine grace, in favour
of ourselves or of our children, without taking the
means that God has appointed, our hope does not
spring from faith but from presumption. It is just
as if you were neither to plough nor sow your
fields, and yet expect that Providence would bless
you with an abundant crop.'
'But what means ought we to use that we do not use?'
said the farmer. 'We send our bairns to the schule,
and we take them to the kirk, and we do our best to
set them a good example. I ken na what we could do
'You are a good man,' said Mrs Mason, with
complacency ; 'and happy will it be for your
children if they follow your example. But let us
drop all allusion to them in particular, and speak
only of training up youth to virtue, as a general
principle. By what you say, you think it sufficient
to sow the seed; I contend for the necessity of
preparing the soil to receive it ; and say, that
without such preparation, it will never take root,
'I canna' contradict you,' returned the farmer; 'but
I wish you to explain it better. If you mean that we
ought to give our bairns lessons at hame, I can tell
you that we have not time for it, nor are we
book-learned eneugh to make fine speeches to them,
as the like of you might do; and if we were, I fear
it wad do little gude.'
'Believe me,' replied Mrs Mason, 'set lessons, and
fine harangues, make no part of my plan of
preparation, which consists of nothing else than a
watchful attention to the first appearances of what
is in its nature evil, and whether it comes in the
shape of self-will, passion, or perverseness,
nipping it in the very bud; while, on the other
hand, I would tenderly cherish every kindly
affection, and enforce attention to the feelings of
others; by which means I would render children
kind-hearted, tractable, and obedient. This is what
I call the preparation of the soil: now let us see
the consequences.When a child, who has been
accustomed to prompt and cheerful obedience, learns
to read the commandment, honour thy father and thy
mother, will he not be more apt to practise the duty
then inculcated than one who had from infancy
indulged in contrary habits? And what doth the
gospel teach ? doth it not urge us to subdue all
selfish and vindictive passions, in order that we
may cherish the most perfect love to God and man?
Now, if we have permitted our children to indulge
these passions, how do we prepare them for
practising the gospel precepts? Their duty to God
and man requires, that they should make the best use
of every power of mind and body : the activity
natural to youth is a power included in this rule;
and if we permit them to waste it in effecting
mischief, and in destroying or disturbing the
happiness of others, can we say that we are not
counteracting the express will of our divine Master?
How can we flatter ourselves, that with such habits
the divine precepts will make much impression on
Before Mrs Mason had finished her speech, her voice
was drowned in the noise of a violent quarrel that
had taken place between the farmer's two elder sons.
Perceiving that the dispute would not be easily
settled, she retired to her room ; but was overtaken
in the passage by Mrs MacClarty, who said in a
whisper, ' I hope ye'll say naething o' Jenny's
playing the truant frae the schule. Her father mauna
ken o't, he wad be sae angry.'' Alas !' said Mrs
Mason, ' you know not how much you are your child's
enemy ! but I shall be silent'
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