BY the terms of his father's
will, Robert, on his brother's leaving the kingdom,
became the legal possessor of the farm. He wanted
three years of one-and-twenty; but as his mother
agreed to assist him in its management, it was
thought for the interest of the family that he
should succeed to it without delay.
No sooner was this point settled
than the young man, who had ever shown a sulky
antipathy to Mrs Mason, began to treat her with a
rudeness that was too marked to be overlooked; nor
did he receive any check from his mother for his
bearish behaviour, except when she now and then, in
a feeble tone, exclaimed, ' Hoot, Robby, that's no
right.' The girls, too, who had just begun to appear
sensible of the advantage of those habits of
diligence and decorum to which Mrs Mason had
introduced them, were no sooner under their mother's
directions than they relaxed into indolence, and
became as pert and obstreperous as ever. Mrs Mason
saw that the reign of anarchy was fast approaching.
She likewise saw that her presence, which retarded
it, was considered by all the family a restraint;
she therefore determined to come to an explanation
on the subject, and as soon as possible to change
In pursuance of her design, Mrs
Mason took the very first opportunity of speaking to
Robert and his mother; and after reminding them that
the term agreed on between her and the late farmer,
as a trial of her plan, had nearly expired, she
informed them that, for reasons on which she should
not now enter, she thought it best for both parties
that her stay should not extend beyond it. Robert
looked surprised, and even vexed; but it was the
vexation of pride. He, however, remained silent. His
mother, though much at a loss in what way to take
Mrs Mason's notice, thought it necessary to speak
for both; but she did not speak much to the purpose.
Jealous of Mrs Mason's superior sense, and at the
same time conscious of the obligations she owed to
her unwearied benevolence, she felt her presence as
a burthen ; but not being able to trace the cause of
this feeling to its true and real source, which was
no other than her own ignorance and pride, she durst
not, even to herself, own that she disliked her.
'I'm sure,' said she, 'I
hope—I'm sure—for my part—I say, I'm sure—that, as
far as I ken, we have done a' in oor poo'er to make
ye comfortable; but to be sure I ay thought it was
nae place for you. Our ways were a' sae different,
though I am sure ye ha' been very kind: I'm sure
we're a' sensible o' that; but young folk dinna like
to be contradickit; they're no ay sae wise as ane
wad wish them; but they're just neebor-like. I'm
sure if it's onything they have said that gars ye
think o' leaving us, I canna help't; but I hope
ye'll no blame me, for I'm sure Robby kens how often
I have said, that they ought a' to be civil to you.'
'What need ye be clashing sae
mickle about it,' cried Robert, interrupting her; '
we did weel eneugh before she cam, and we'll do weel
eneugh when she's gane.' So saying, he went away,
banging the door after him with even more than usual
Mrs Mason took no notice of his
behaviour; but, unwilling to continue a conversation
so little agreeable, she went to her own room, which
she had for the last ten days seldom quitted but at
the hour of meals. Disappointed in the hopes she had
formed, of finding a home in the house of a
kinswoman, and mortified by the seeming neglect of
the family at Gowan Brae, on whose friendship she
had depended with undoubting confidence, her spirits
were inclined to sadness; but she would not give way
to the depression. Recollecting how mercifully all
the events of her life had hitherto been ordered,
she chased away despondency by trust in God; and,
resolving to act to the best of her judgment,
fearlessly left the consequences to His disposal.
After some consideration, she
resolved to apply to William Morison and his wife to
take her as a lodger. They were poor; and therefore
the small sum she could afford to pay might to them
be particularly useful. They were humble, and
therefore would not refuse to be instructed in
matters which they had never before had any
opportunity to learn. She might then do good to them
and to their children; and where she could do most
good, there did Mrs Mason think it would be most for
her happiness to go.
No sooner did she give a hint of
her intention to Morison and his wife, than she
perceived, from their brightened looks, that she had
judged truly in imagining that her offer would be
received with joy.—These poor people had been sorely
visited by affliction; but their good principles and
good sense had taught them to make a proper use of
the visitation, in checking the spirit of pride and
presumption. Their resignation to the will of God
was cheerful and unfeigned, and therefore led to
redoubled efforts of industry; but their exertions
had not as yet effectually relieved them from the
extreme poverty to which they had been reduced.
After gratefully acknowledging their sense of Mrs
Mason's kindness, in giving their house a
preference, and declaring how much they deemed
themselves honoured by having her beneath their
roof, they looked at each other and paused, as if
struck by the recollection of some invincible
obstacle. Mrs Mason perceived their embarrassment,
and asked the cause.
'What makes you hesitate?' said
she, ' I am afraid you think seven shillings a week
too little for my board and lodging; but you know I
am to find my own wheaten bread, and my own tea,
'O Madam, you are o'er
generous,' cried Peggy, interrupting her; ' you give
o'er mickle by a great deal; but still I fear, that
in winter we may not be able to make things
comfortable to you. Were it in summer we should do
'Then why not in winter?' said
Mrs Mason; ' I shall advance money to buy coals if
that be all.'
'Don't speak of it, Peggy,' said
William, gently pulling his wife's sleeve; ' though
it be winter, we shall do weel eneugh, there's nae
'Na, na, gudeman,' returned
Peggy, 'you're no sae strong yet as to be able to
sleep without a bed through the winter in this cauld
house; it mauna be.'
' Without a bed !' cried Mrs
Mason; ' why should he be without a bed?'
'Why, Madam,' said William, '
since my wife has let the cat out o' the bag, as the
saying is, it's as weel to tell you the truth. We
have not a bed in the house but one; and that was
bought for us by gude Mr Stewart of Gowan Brae, at
the time that a' our furniture was rouped aff frae
our house at-'
'Had we been now as we were
then,' cried Peggy, ' how comfortable could we have
made Mrs Mason ! She should have had no more to do
but just to speak her wishes.'
'I don't fear being comfortable
enough as it is,' said Mrs Mason; ' but what is
become of the bed I slept on for so many weeks, and
which you so kindly offered for my accommodation
during all the time of Mrs MacClarty's illness?'
'O the want o' a bed was
naething then,' returned Peggy; ' the weather was
warm, and some weel-laid straw did us vastly weel;
for my own part I could put up with it all the year
through; but my gudeman has been sae weakly since he
had the rheumatism, that I would be feared for his
being the waur o't.'
'And did you really put
yourselves to such a shift in order to oblige me ?'
said Mrs Mason. ' What kindness ! what delicacy in
concealing the extent of the obligation ! it grieves
me to learn that hearts so warm should have
experienced misfortune; and by the hint you gave of
selling off your furniture on leaving-, I fear your
circumstances have not been so prosperous as I
heartily wish them.'
'Since my misfortunes have been
in some measure brought on by my own indiscrei on, I
ought not to complain,' said William.
' Indeed, Madam, he does himself
wrang,' cried Peggy, ' he never was guilty o' ony
indiscretion in his days ; but just only trusted
o'er far to the honesty and discretion of a fau'se-hearted
loon, that cheated mony a man that ken'd mair o'
business than he did. It was nae fau't o' William's
that the man was a rogue; yet he blames himsel in a
way that vexes me to hear him.'
'I do blame myself/ said William
; ' for had I been contented to go on with my
business, as my father did before me, on a scale
within my means, my profits, though small, would
have been certain. But I wished to raise my wife and
bairns above their station ; and God, who saw the
pride of my heart, has punished me.'
'If you only risked your own,'
said Mrs Mason, ' your ambition was blameless, and
your exertions laudable.
'Alas ! Madam,' returned
William, ' no man that enters into what they call
speculations in business can say that he risks only
his own : he risks the money of his friends, and of
his neighbours, and of all who, from confidence in
his honesty, give him trust or credit. Grant that
neither friend nor neighbour had suffered— and I
hope to God that in the end none will suffer a
farthing's loss by me—yet how can I answer to my
conscience for the ruin I have brought upon my wife
and children ? Nay, Peggy, you must not hinder me to
speak. You ken that had your honest father seen what
has happened, it would ha' brought his grey hairs wi'
sorrow to the grave. He told me that he gi'ed ye to
me wi' better will than to a richer man, because he
ken'd I loved ye weel, and would ay be kind to ye,
and that the siller he had gathered wi' mickle care
and toil, I wouldna lightly spend upon my pleasure—
O I canna bear to think on't! When I look round
these bare wa's, and see what I have reduced you to,
I think mysel' little better than a villain !'
Peggy hastily brushing away a
falling tear, held out her hand to her husband,
saying with a smile, ' Ye maun be an unco sort o'
villain, William, for I would rather beg my bread wi'
you through the warld than be the greatest lady in
the land ! But what will Mrs Mason think of us?'
'I think,' said Mrs Mason, '
that you are a worthy couple, and that you deserve
to be happy, and will be happy too, in the end—not
the less so, perhaps, for having known misfortune.'
' O that you could gar my
gudeman think sae !' cried Peggy; 1 I'm
ay telling him that if he wouldna tine heart we ha'
tint naething. We are yet but young, we ha'
promising bairns, gude health, and the warld for the
winning; what should we desire mair ! Could we but
contrive to make the house fit to receive you, I
should have no fears for the future. You would bring
a blessing with you ; I'm sure you would.'
Mrs Mason obviated every
difficulty, by saying, that she meant to furnish her
own apartment; and after a little further
conversation, in which everything was arranged to
mutual satisfaction, she set out on her return to
the farm, animated by the delightful hope of having
it in her power to dispense a degree of happiness to
her fellow creatures. As she slowly proceeded
homeward, an elderly man, mounted on a good horse,
prepared for carrying double, passed her on the
road, and having stopped a minute at Mrs MacClarty's
door, turned again to meet her. On coming up, he
said he was sent by Mr Stewart of Gowan Brae, with
his and Miss Mary's compliments, to beg that she
would do them the favour of going there to dinner,
and that they should send her back in a few days.
Observing that Mrs Mason hesitated concerning what
answer she should give, the faithful old servant
proceeded to enforce the message, by telling her he
was sure it would do them good to see her, 'for I am
far mista'en, madam/ said he, ' if they dinna stand
in need o' comfort.'
'Has any misfortune befallen the
family?' asked Mrs Mason, anxiously.
'1 kenna, madam,' returned the
servant, 'whether it can be weel called a
misfortune; for a marriage may be vexatious to ane's
friends that's nae misfortune in the end.'
'And Miss Stewart has occasioned
this vexation, I suppose?' said Mrs Mason.
'Ye guess right,' returned the
old man ; ' she has made a match to please hersel',
and as she has brewed sae she maun drink \ but my
poor master taks it sair to heart; and it is e'en
hard eneugh that the bairn should cross him maist
that he never crossed in his life.'
Mrs Mason made no reply; but
directing him to the stable to put up his horse for
half an hour, said she should then be ready to
accompany him. Having informed her cousin, in
friendly terms, of the arrangements she had made
with the Morisons, and assured her of the
continuance of her kindness and goodwill, she
quickly made what little preparations were necessary
for her departure, and was on the road to Gowan Brae
before Mrs MacClarty had recovered her astonishment.
As Mrs Mason rode from the door,
Robert made his appearance. His mother, on seeing
him, burst into a violent flood of tears, and
accused him as the cause of her losing the best
friend that she ever had in the world—' one who,'
she said, ' was a credit to her family, and an
honour and a credit to them all.' She reminded him
of all that she had done for them in sickness—how
she had attended his dying father— what exertions
she had made to save his brother's life—what care
she had taken of the family—how little trouble she
had given, and how generously she had paid for the
little trouble she occasioned. ' And now,' cried
she, 'she'll be just the same friend to the Morisons
she has been to us ! I wou'dna wonder that they got
every farthing she has in the warld. Scores o' fine
silk goons, and grand petticoats and stockings; and
sic a sight o' mutches and laces as wad fill twa o'
Miss Tweedy's shop ! Ay, ay, the Morisons will get
it a', and a' her money foreby! They'll no be the
fools to part wi' her that we ha' been; they're o'er
cunning for that!'
Robert, who, in his treatment of
Mrs Mason, had had no other end in view than the
immediate gratification of his own bad temper, was
enraged at this representation of the advantages
which his neighbour's family were likely to derive
from the event. Far, however, from acknowledging
that he had been to blame, he insolently retorted on
his mother, and poured on her a torrent of abuse.
The poor woman attempted to speak in her own
justification; but her voice was drowned in the
louder and more vehement accents of her hopeful son.
She had then no other resource but tears, and
bitterly did sheweep—bitterly did she lament. Her
tears and lamentations aggravated the stings of
conscience in Robert's heart; but where the passions
are habitually uncontrolled, the stings of
conscience have no other effect than to increase the
Had Mrs MacClarty been capable
of reasoning, how would her soul have been wrung
with remorse, had she then said to herself—There
was a time when this boy's passions might have been
subdued; when, with
little care, he might have learned to control them.