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The Cottagers of Glenburnie
Chapter IX. Domestic Rebellion


MRS MASON enjoyed the reward of her exertions, and of Grizzel's labour, in a night of sweet and uninterrupted repose. She was awakened at early dawn by the farmer calling his sons to get up to prepare for the labours of the day; and looking out beheld the clouds already decked in the colours of the morning, inviting her to the most glorious sight on which the eye of man can look. The invitation was not given in vain, she rose and dressed herself: and taking her staff and crutch, she sallied from her room, earnestly wishing to escape observation.

The young men, in no hurry to obey their father's summons, were still in bed. On passing through the dark passage where they slept, she could not help wondering at the perverted ingenuity which could contrive to give the sleeping rooms of a country house all the disadvantages which attend the airless abodes of poverty in the crowded lanes of great and populous cities.

From the length of time that the outer door had been shut, the closeness of the house had become very unpleasant to her lungs. Welcome therefore was the reviving breeze of morning ! Welcome the freshness of the coming day, which now burst upon the senses. It was not, indeed, until she had removed some paces from the house that she fully felt its influence; for while near the door, the smell of the squashy pool, and its neighbour, the dunghill, were so powerful as to subdue the fragrance of earth's fruits and flowers.

Having taken the road towards the river, she, on its first turning, found herself in full view of the waterfall, and was arrested by admiration at the many beauties of the scene. Seating herself upon a projecting rock, she contemplated the effulgent glory of the heavens, as they brightened into splendour at the approach of the lord of day ; and when her eyes were dazzled by the scene, turned to view the living waters, pouring their crystal flood over the craggy precipice, shaded by the spreading boughs of birch and alder.

The good woman's heart glowed with rapture: but it did not vainly glow, as does the heart or the imagination of many a pretender to superior taste; for the rapture of her heart was fraught with gratitude. She saw the God of nature in His works, and blessed the goodness which, even in the hour of creation, ordained that they should not only contribute to the use, but add to the enjoyments of the human race. ' The eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing ;' and He who implanted these desires, has He not mercifully provided for their gratification? What are all the works of man, what all the pomp and splendour of monarchs, compared with the grandeur of such a scene? But the sights that are designed by man as proofs of his creative skill, are only to be seen by the rich and great; while the glorious works of God are exhibited to all. Whilst she pursued this thought a little farther, it occurred to Mrs Mason that all that is' rare is in general useless; and that all that is most truly valuable is given in common, and placed within the reach of the poor and lowly. ' Let the poor then j praise Thee !' she exclaimed. ' Let the lowly in heart rejoice in Thy salvation. Let us rejoice in the light which shines from on high to illumine the soul, as Thy sun illumines the earth ! O that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His mercies to the children of men.'

While Mrs Mason was thus indulging the grateful feelings of her heart by sending up her tribute of praise to the Almighty Giver of all good, her ears were suddenly assailed by the harsh sound of discord; and on moving a few steps she discovered that a violent dispute had taken place between the farmer and his eldest son. In the hope of making peace she advanced towards them, but before she turned the corner she paused, doubting whether it were not better to take no notice of having heard the fray. The voices stopped; and proceeding, she saw the farmer hastily unsaddling a horse; and the son at the same moment issuing from the door, but pulled back by his mother, who held the skirt of his coat, saying, ' I tell ye, Sandy, ye mauna gang to anger your father.'

'But I sal gang,' cried Sandy, in a sullen tone. ' I winna be hindered. I sal gang, I tell ye, whether my father likes it or no.'

'Ye may gang, ye dour loon,' says the father; ' but if ye do, ye sal repent it as lang as ye live.'

'Hoot na,' returned the mother, ' ye'll forgi'e him ; and ye had as weel let him gang, for ye see he winna be hindered!'

'Where is the young man going to?' asked Mrs Mason.

'"Where sud he be for gain' to, but to the fair?' returned the mother; 'it's only natural. But our gudeman's unco particular, and never lets the lads get ony daffin.'

'Daffin !' cried the farmer; ' is druckenness daffin T Did na he gang last year, and come hame as drunk as a beast ? And ye wad have him tak the brown mare too, without ever speiring my leave: saddled and bridled too, forsooth, like ony gentleman in the land ! But ye sal baith repent it: I tell ye, ye'se repent it.'

'O, I did na ken o' the mare.'

'But is it possible,' said Mrs Mason, addressing herself to the young man, 'is it possible that you should think of going to any place in direct opposition to your father's will? I thought you would have been better acquainted with your duty than to break the commands of God, by treating your parents in such a manner.'

'I am sure he has been weel taught,' said the mother; but I kenna how it is, our bairns never mind a word we say !'

'But he will mind you,' said Mrs Mason, ' and set a better example of obedience to his brothers and sisters, than he is now doing. Come, I must reconcile all parties. Will you not give me your hand?'

'I'll no stay frae the fair for naebody,' said the sullen youth, endeavouring to pass; 'a' the folk in the Glen are gain', and I'll gang too, say what ye wull.'

Mrs Mason scarcely believed it possible that he could be so very hardy, until she saw him set off with sullen and determined step, followed by his mother's eye, who, on seeing him depart, exclaimed, 'Hech me ! ye're an unco laddie.'

The farmer appeared to feel more deeply, but he said nothing. Grasping the mane of the mare, he turned to lead her down the road to his fields, and had advanced a few steps, when his wife called after him, to inquire what he was going to do with the saddle which he carried on his shoulders? ' Do wi' it!' repeated he, 'I have naething to do wi' it!' Then dashing it on the ground, he proceeded with quickened pace down the steep.

'Wae's me!' said Mrs MacClarty, 'the gudeman taks Sandie's dourness mickle to heart!'

'And is it any wonder that he should take it to heart?' said Mrs Mason. 'What can be more dreadful to a parent than to see a son, setting out in life, with such dispositions? What can be expected of one who is capable of such undutiful behaviour?'

'To be sure,' said the goodwife, ' the lad's unco wilfu'. There's nae gude in hindering him, for he maun ay tak his ain gait. But a' lads are just the same, and the gudeman shou'd na be sae hard on him, seeing he's yet but young.'

'Mistress !' hallooed the voice of Grizzel from the house; ' I wish ye wad come and speak to Meg. She winna be hinderit putting her fingers in the kirn, and licking the cream.'

'If I were at you,' cried Mrs MacClarty, ' I'd gar you—'

She was as good as her word; and in order to show Mrs Mason the good effect of her advice, she ran that moment into the kitchen, and gave her daughter a hearty slap upon the back. The girl went a few steps further off, and deliberately applied her tongue to the back of her hand, where part of the cream was still visible.

'Go, ye idle whippy!' said her mother, ' and let me 3ee how weel ye'll ca' the kirn.'

'I winna kirn the day,' returned Meg; ' I'm gain' to milk the kye. Jean may kirn; she has naething else to do.'

'I'm aye set to kirn,' says Jean, whimpering. ' I never saw sic wark. I tell ye, I winna kirn mair than Meg. Grizzy can milk the cows hersel'. She does na' want her help.'

'But, girls,' said Mrs Mason, ' when I was a little girl like either of you, I never thought of choosing my work; I considered it my business to follow my mother's directions. Young people ought to obey, and not to dictate.'

'Hear ye that!' said Mrs MacClarty : ' But Jean will gang to the kirn I ken, like a good bairn; and she sal get a dad o' butter to her bread.'

'But I winna hae't frae the hairin' knife,' said Jean, ' for the last I got stack i' my throat.'

'Bless me!' cried Mrs Mason, in amazement, ' how does your butter come to be so full of hairs? where do they come from ?'

'O, they are a' frae the cows,' returned Mrs MacClarty. 'There has been lang a hole in the milk sythe, and I have never been at the fash to get it mended; but as I tak ay care to sythe the milk through my fingers, I wonder how sae mony hairs win in.'

'Ye need na wonder at that,' observed Grizzel, ' for the house canna be soopit but the dirt flees into the kirn.'

'But do you not clean the churn before you put in the cream?' asked Mrs Mason, more and more astonished.

'Na, na,' returned Mrs MacClarty, 'that wadna be canny, ye ken. Naebody hereabouts would clean their kirn, for ony consideration. I never heard o' sic a thing i' my life.'

Mrs Mason found it difficult to conceal the disgust which this discovery excited; but resolving to be cautious of giving offence by the disclosure of her sentiments, she sat down in silence, to watch the farther operations of the morning. While Jean was slowly turning the churn with unwilling hand, her mother was busily employed in making the cheese. Part of the milk destined to that purpose was already put upon the fire, in the same iron pot in which the chickens had been feasting, and on which the hardened curd, at which they had been picking, was still visible towards the rim. The remainder of the milk was turned into a large tub. and to it that upon the fire was added, as soon as it was of a proper heat. So far, all was done well and cleverly. Mrs MacClarty then took down a bottle of rennet, or yearning, as she called it; and having poured in what she thought a sufficient quantity, tucked up the sleeve of her gown, and dashing in her arm, stirred the infusion with equal care and speed.

'I believe, cousin,' said Mrs Mason, hesitatingly, ' I believe—you forgot to wash your hands.'

'Hoot!' returned the good wife, ' my hands do weel eneugh. I canna be fashed to clean them at every turn.'

'But you go about your work with such activity,' rejoined Mrs Mason, 'that I should think it would give you little trouble, if you were once accustomed to it; and by all that I have observed, and I have had many opportunities of observation, I believe that in the management of a dairy, cleanliness is the first, the last, the one art needful.'

'Cleanly!' repeated Mrs MacClarty; 'nae ane ever said that I wasna' cleanly. There's no' a mair cleanly person i' the parish. Cleanly, indeed ! Ane wad think ye was speaking to a bairn.'

Mrs Mason offered a few words in explanation, and then retired to her own apartment, to which she saw it would be necessary to confine herself in order to enjoy any tolerable degree of comfort. She therefore began to consider how it might be rendered more airy and commodious; and, after dinner, observing that the farmer's mind still brooded on his son's behaviour, she gladly introduced the subject of her projected alterations, hoping thus to divert his thoughts into another channel. The first thing she proposed was to have hinges for the frame of the window, that it might open and shut at pleasure. To this the farmer said he should have no objection, but that ' he ken'd it wad soon be broken to pieces, blawin' wi' the wund.'

'O, but you mistake me,' said Mrs Mason. ' I intend that it should be fastened when open w ith an iron hook, as they constantly fasten the cottage windows in England.'

'And wha do ye think wad put in the cleek?' returned he. ' Is there ane, think ye, about this hoose, that wad be at sic a fash ?'

'Why, what trouble is there in it?' said Mrs Mason. ' It is only teaching your children to pay a little attention to such things, and they will soon come to find no trouble in them. They cannot too soon learn to be neat and regular in their ways.'

'Ilka place has just its ain gait,' said the goodwife, 'and ye needna think that ever we'll learn yours. And, indeed, to be plain wi' you, cousin, I think you have owre mony fykes. There, didna' ye keep Grizzy for mair than twa hours yesterday morning, soopin' and dustin' your room in every corner, and cleanin' out the twa bits o' buird, that are for naething but to set your feet on after a'.'

'But did you know how dirty they were ?' said Mrs Mason.

'Hoot! the chickens just got their meat on them for twa or three weeks, pour wee beasties ! the buirds war a wee thought clarted wi' parritch, but it was weel dried on, and ye wadna' been a bit the waar.'

'But are the boards the worse for being scoured ?' asked Mrs Mason; 'or would they have been the worse, if they had been scoured when you took them from the chickens, or, while they were feeding on them?'

'O to be sure it wad ha' been an easy matter to ha' scour't them then, if we had thought of being at the fash,' returned Mrs MacClarty.

'In my opinion,' rejoined Mrs Mason, ' this fearoj being fashed is the great bar to all improvement. I have seen this morning that you are not afraid of work, for you have exerted yourself with a degree of activity that no one could excel; yet you dread the small additional trouble that would make your house cheerful, clean, and comfortable. You dread the trouble of attention, more than the labour of your hands; and thus, if I mistake not, you often bring upon yourself trouble which timely attention would have spared. Would it not be well to have your children taught such habits of attention and regularity, as would make you more easy, and them more useful, both to themselves and you ?'

'As for my bairns,' returned Mrs MacClarty, ' if they pleasure me, they do weel eneugh.'

'There's a great spice o' good sense in what Mrs Mason has said, though,' said the farmer; ' but it's no easy for folk like us to be put out o' their ain gait.'

In truth, Mrs MacClarty was one of those seemingly good-natured people who are never to be put out of their own way; for she was obstinate to a degree ; and so perfectly self-satisfied, that she could not bear to think it possible that she might in any thing do better than she did. Thus, though she would not argue in favour of sloth or dirt in general, she nevertheless continued to be slothful and dirty, because she vindicated herself in every particular instance of either; and though she did not wish that her children should be idle, obstreperous, disobedient, and self-willed, she effectually formed them to those habits, and then took credit to herself for being one of the best of mothers !

Mrs Mason had discernment enough to see how much pride there was in that pretended contentment, which constantly repelled every idea of improvement. She saw that though Mrs MacClarty took no pains to teach her children what was truly useful, she encouraged, with respect to them, an undefined sentiment of ambition, which persuaded her, that her children were born to rise to something great, and that they would in time overtop their neighbours. Mrs Mason saw the unhappy effects which this would infallibly produce upon minds brought up in ignorance ; she therefore resolved to do all in her power to obviate the consequences ; and from the opinion she had formed of the farmer's sense and principles, had no doubt of his co-operating with her in the work of reformation.

While musing on the subject, as she sat by her window in the twilight, she saw the two younger lads run hastily past; and soon heard from their mother such an exclamation of sorrow as convinced her they had been the messengers of bad news. She therefore speedily proceeded but 1 and there she found the poor woman wringing her hands, and lamenting herself bitterly. The farmer entered at the same moment; and on seeing him she redoubled her lamentations, still calling out, ' O Sandy ! Sandy ! O that I should ha' lived to see this day! O Sandy ! Sandy !'

'Sandy !' repeated the alarmed father, ' what is the matter wi' Sandy ? for God's sake, speak ! Is my son gane ! is he killed?'

'No, no, he's war1 than killed ! O that I should have seen this day !'

'Speak Robert,' said Mrs Mason, 'you can tell what has befallen your brother ; let your father know the truth.' Robert was silent; but the youngest boy eagerly came fonvard, and said, ' that Jamie Bruce had brought word that Sandy was aff to be a soger.'

'And where did you see Jamie Bruce?' asked his father.

'It was Rob that spoke wi' him ; it wasna' me,' said the little boy, hanging down his head.

'Where could you, Rob, meet Jamie Bruce?' said the farmer. ' Did not I send you to the West Craft ? how could you then see ony ane comin' frae the fair ? Speak, sir! and tell truth, I desire you.'

'I just thought I wad gang a wee while up to the road to see the folk coming frae the fair before I gied to the Craft,' returned Robert. ' I kent there wad be time eneugh.'

'Aye,' said the father, sighing; ' it's just the way wi' ye a' ! ye just do what ye like yoursel's ! Now, see what comes o' it! Here's Sandy done for himsel' wi' a vengeance ! He too wad do naething but what he liked ! see what he'll make o't now, but to be tied up to a stake and lashed like a dog ! a disgrace, as he is, to us a' I wou'd rather he had ne'er been born !'

'Alake ! gudeman,' cried the poor mother, weeping bitterly; alake ! hae pity on me, and try to get him aff.'

'It will do nae gude,' says her husband, in a softened accent, and wiping a tear which stole down his cheek; ' it will do nae gude, I tell ye. We shall never have comfort in him while we live, for he is ane that will never be advised. Ye ken he never minds a word we say—yet I canna think o' his being made a reprobate.'

'He need not necessarily be a reprobate in the army,' said Mrs Mason. ' I should hope his principles will preserve him from that; and if he behaves well, he will be treated kindly, and may come in time to be promoted. But you are not yet certain that he is enlisted. The person who gave the information may himself have been misinformed. Make inquiry into the fact, and then take the steps that, on consideration, appear to be most prudent and judicious.'

The gleam of hope which was presented in these words, revived the spirits of the disconsolate parents ; and the father in haste set off for the village, to learn to a certainty the fate of his untoward son.

Evening was now far advanced. The cows, which the boys should have brought home to be milked, were still lowing in the West Croft; and when Mrs MacClarty desired Robert to go for them, she obtained no other answer, than that ' Grizzy might gang as weel as him.' Grizzel was busy in washing up the dishes wanted for supper, and which had remained unwashed from breakfast time till now. They had been left to the care of Meg, who had neglected them, and by this neglect made the task more difficult to Grizzy, who was, therefore, in very bad humour, and began loudly to complain of Meg and Rob; who, in their turns, raised their voices in defence and mutual accusation. The din of the squabble became insufferable. Mrs Mason retired from it with horror, and shut herself up in her room, where she meditated, with deep regret, on the folly of those who, having been placed by Almighty God in situations most favourable to the enjoyment of peace and the exercise of virtue are insensible to the blessing; and by permitting their passions to reign without control, destroy at once both peace and virtue.


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