It does strike an observer that our ancestors were
kindlier than we are, in their narrower spheres, and more practical and
less metaphysical natures. A neighbour was a neighbour then, let him be
what he might. They took him as they found him; if necessary, opposed
him to their heart's content, but even while at feud with him,
condemning him unscrupulously, and giving exceedingly little licence to
his foibles, thy retained a good many of the charities of life at his
command. People were not cosmopolitan then, and men of the world,
instead of men of nations, counties, "parochins." No doubt they were far
too confined in their ideas, but still the overplus of benevolence was
in favour of the neighbour.
Katie did not look as if she needed forbearance;
Katie stood her ground, a very well satisfied, triumphant woman. "What
brought me here? aiblins my feet, Euphame"and Katie shewed those
preposterous little shoes"and they had not far to come. Do you not ken,
have you not heard, that I 'm one of the gentlewomen to my Lady Wintoun,
a baron's lady, Euphame, and you only serve a laird's wife? But it is no
fault of yours, Euphame."
"A Papist, Katie! Can it be that you serve a born and
"What for should I not serve her? Is that the way to
open her een? Not that we have any traffic thegither about beads and
masses, and pulpits and bands; she's a frail, silly woman, Euphame. I 'm
more likely to ill-treat her than she is to misuse me, although I 'm
sure I never speak above my breath in her chamber."
"But to live under the roof with Papists, Katie, to
Bee their bowings and crossings, and hear the idolatry of their mass!"
"I tell you, Euphame, I see and hear none of them; I
could go' to the parish kirk of Tranent or Cockenzie if I liked, for
Master Ludovic got me leave. But it is a long gate, and you mind I was
aye sleepy-headed in the kirk, and I might be challenged by the
minister. What is to hinder me from reading a chapter at hame?"
"What does hinder you, and who is depriving you of
the blessing that lies in the obligation to assemble ourselves together,
"But, Euphame, who sent me to Setoun? Who among your
good folk would have taken me in after I had to quit Lady Somerville's?"
"Oh, Katie, Katie! what drove you to fly from Lady
"And my mother is a widow, too, Euphame, as well as
yours, that you made sic a fracas about, and she is poor enough also,
though she's rich in love to me."
"Katie, I would have bidden at hame and helped her."
"Tout, Euphame, you do not ken. Would you, with Mark
glowering over you, and finding fault every minute? Mind Mark is at home
now, Euphame, and he is a clever workman, and helps to keep my mother."
"I am glad to hear it, Katie," said Euphame,
"Well, then she has Mark and Mysie, though poor Jean
is no more to be spoken of. I do not want to renew old quarrels with
you, Euphame Napier; I 'm not reflecting; I 'm very well off and
attended to at Setoun. The Earl is thrang with his politics. They
whisper that he has a bee in his bannet, and that he'll burn his
fingers; but never you leet, Euphame, it is no business of ours. And
there's Helen Lindesay; she's only half a Setoun, and a lady, but I maun
say she's very condescending to me; and there's Master Ludovic would
divert me from morning to night if I liked."
"Na, Katie, you should not listen to the young
gentleman; it is not becoming your place; it is a default in your trust;
ill will come of it."
"Now, that is so like you, Euphame Napier; and Helen
Lindesay would lecture me, for as slight a footing as she has in the
great house; she enters into the dining-room after they 're all seated,
and lakes her place below the priest, who's either shut up or abroad
with my lord, save at meal-times, or during chapel hours, and she's no
more a Papist than I am. I would not thole such indignity from the
grandest king that ever breathed. Helen Lindesay would persuade me that
Master Ludovic's saucy; maybe he was saucy lang syne to Helen, for as
careless as they are now; and for as humble as she pretends to be,
wanting to work like you, Euphame, only my lord would be madand
protesting, with her white face and her lips parting in straight lines,
that she would rather have been born a herd's daughter, and toiled in
honest poverty among the friends who might have thought much of her,
than lived a noble house's dependant. But about Master Ludovic, Euphame;
idle, graceless, good-natured Master Ludovic; he's all that, Euphame. I
can take care of myself; yes, Euphame, after Jean, I can take care of
"But who is to take care of him?"
"Why, nobodymy lord is full of his plots, and my
lady of her ailments, and Master Ludovic is not like the son and heir,
only the cousin who might be the heir; and when he's standing before my
frame, or behind my chair, or teaching me the last country dance, or
strolling with me in the woods, some day, perchance, love will get the
upper hand, and wit and worldly wisdom be crushed out of sight and
hearing-and he'll make me a lady, Euphame; I'll not say but I'll be
Lady Wintoun yet." And Katie crossed her white arms and bridled with
vanity. "And you'll all stand out of my gate, and my mother will be a
proud woman when little Katie will bring her honour and not scorn;" and
Katie commenced to sing with tenfold shrillness,
"My soger laddie is over the sea An' he will bring
gold and money to me; An' when he comes hame he'll mak me a lady; My
blessing gang wi' my soger laddie;" and then varying the measure, she
"Now wat ye wha I met yestreen, Coming down the
street, my jo ? My mistress in her tartan screen, Sae bonny, braw, and
sweet, my jo.
The young wigmaker had already written the song while
he was wooing lovely Ross,who stooped to him from the higher circles of
Edinburgh, and whom he never ceased to pet fondly,though he had not yet
published it, in the little bookseller's shop whose ballads and
broad-sheets made his fortune; and Katie added explanatory notes of her
own,"That is Edinburgh Katie, like me, Euphame; and the lad is a young
laird or lord likeaha, Euphame, brokener ships have come to land."
Euphame stood dumb and rigid, and she positively
seemed to grow and expand in stature and stateliness, while she looked
down on Katie, blushing, laughing, and singing at her elbow.'
"And so, Katie, you mean to entice and delude the
young man? O Katie, I 'm bitterly ashamed of you and your upbringing,
though you were aye an ill bairn among Lady Somerville's maidens."
Katie, always as variable as a child, began to pout
and fire up, and cry all at once, "You've a sharp tongue, Euphame
Napierwhere got you that weapon? Was it a part of your upbringing? and
how dare you disparage me? I 'm fond of gallant Master Ludovic, and he's
fond enough of me, and only the world stands between us; and who but you
would say I did wrong to gar him speak out and wed a loving bride? Will
he be the better or the worse of it? Will he be the happier or the
sorrier man? I will obey my gudeman and tend him in a way that no proud
lady would ever devise. What can you say to that, Euphame?"
"Katie, Katie, I would rather want a man than commit
a default of trust. I would die before I would seek a man."
"I do not seek him, woman," protested Katie,
passionately; "he seeks me to while away his idle moments ilka day, when
he's not shooting or fishing, or riding, or gossiping at the
change-house, or trying to learn the flute, and write versesbut he's no
scholar, no half so great a scholar as our Mark, though he's my lord's
nephew, and a braw, braw man in his blue velvet suit. The painter who is
to paint the summer-house, is to take my likeness for a nymph,(Euphame,
will you tell me what a nymph means? for I 'm not a scholar myself).
They pay me homage upat the grand house,
Master Ludovic and the servants, (my lord and my lady pursue their owe
paths and never meddle,) and even Helen Lindesay is kind though she's
grave and thoughtful, and it is not her part to object. I'll only take
the wind when it blaws in my barn door, and who, save a saint, would
blame meand not all the saints that I've heard tell ofa true saint out
of a book, like you and Helen; but you are very disagreeable, Euphame."
"Katie, Katie," repeated Euphame for the third time,
sorrowfully, "to deign to divert a man for your own ends!"
"But, Euphame, you do not think. I would make an ill
puir man's wife, and how am I to get a man out of my degree? For you, I
believe you dinna want a man, you 're so denk and stour, Euphame
"I cannot say I want a man," replied Euphame,
modestly, her opinion extorted from her; "a married life may be my
portion, but I cannot say that I see clearly how it would all tally."
"Eh! Euphame, would you be a wanter, a lone
womanyou that never kenned a father, would you never be fended for or
dawted by a gudeman? You that has trowed how single women are hidden and
dung, and passed over, and forgotten, and mocked, and lichtlied, until
they shrink out of sight in their still, dull, eerie housesfor single
women are aye frighted for highwaymen, and mad dogs, and evil spirits;
I've wondered at you often, Euphame, but I wonder sair the day."
Euphame looked up faithfully and heartily. "'He
setteth the solitary in families,' and I have not been used to families,
Katie. He maketh her to rejoice more than she that has borne seven. The
single woman belongeth to the Lord. Katie, what should we want with a
man, whose breath is in his nostrils, when we've the Lord, the Lord's
work, the Lord's praise, the Lord's blessing ? He may send us a grand
man, if it be His will, and for our benefit, only we maun be sure where
he comes fromthen, good and well; but without himlisten, lass the
single woman 'is still more the Lord's.'"
Katie's countenance was restless. "I cannot mount
with you, Euphame. I'm just a simple lass, needing a helpmeet. I do not
think that text is for me. But, Euphame, how plain you're busked. Is
that for religion?"
"It is for the occasion, Katie; and I think what is
suitable is religious."
"And, Euphame, have you aye the crystal rose you got
from my Lady Somerville?"
"Oh yes, Katie."
"And I'll wager you've never pinned it in your
breast, and sported it before my Lady Ormeslaw?"
Euphame looked slightly vexed in her turn. "No, I
Lave not worn it, Katie. It's aboon me, and I have not told my Lady
Ormeslaw, becausebecause she might not credit me, or approve my will.
She's a good woman, but in some things she's more unbelieving than Mrs
Jonet; and besides, she might tell the laird, and there would be a
phrase about it, and I would like that ill."
"I do not ken why you make sic a mystery about your
crystal rose, since it was fairly come by, unless you've a taste for
secretsnot me, Euphame. And let me tell you, lass," finished Katie,
defiantly, " they are unchancy ware. Now, I must be going, Euphame. I
suppose you'll not come to speer after me among the Catholics of Setoun?
Eh! lass, you're feared for having your orthodoxy soiled, and I dare say
you're not at liberty to bid me to Ormeslaw, or you've your doubts of
shewing the auld laird and the wise lady so bad an example; but we'll
forgather sometimes in the fields, or at the kirk preachings or the
Tranent market, if you dare countenance a ploy; and, Euphame, I maun
have some of these big, black brambles on the bank at your back. I am
not hot, but there's dust in my throat, and I can never pass a bramble."
"No, no," opposed Euphame; "the lady is keeping them
for tarts and jam."
"There is enough to preserve into conserves for an
"The bairns have never got among them yet. The lady
is to wale the finest, and then the bairns are to be let pull and eat.
I've never touched one myself not that I care for brambles."
"No, I ken, Euphame. But I could not pass even a
green bramble," persisted Katie, pressing forward against the
resistance, tearing her flying ribands and laces on the thorns, and
staining her ruby mouth black. "I'll wash my face belyve in the burn.
They are such fine big brambles! There is one half the size of a plum.
I've been picking the hips as I travelled along, but they are sickrife,
they are not a treat like the ripe brambles. The bairns will never miss
them, Euphame, or yon may sing them a song, or tell them a story, or
screw up your grave face drolly, and they'll forget their loss; but you
cannot do that, Euphame, though you would convert yourself into a
dragon, guarding their fruit, and accounting for every berry, like the
bairn made to whistle as he pulled the miser's cherries."
The old Katie plucking rose-buds while she might,
snatching even at the smallest gratification of her appetitenot
acquainted with self-denialnever rising above, or looking out of
herself; like the French philosopher, lapped in enjoyment, as he
saunters along the sunny road to the bold mountain landscape, his
pockets full of chestnuts, some of which he munches at intervals, while
he carves others into grotesque absurdities and glimpses of the
beautiful, and when his mouth is empty, recites the gloomy stanzas of a
frenzied national poet, as an admirable and agreeable contrast to his
own lazy position. Fancy the lounging attitudes, the half-gipsy
face,but of no Zingarri cast, rather of a half-African, tropical
type,the rich voice cadencing the poetry of doom. (He need not resent
being compared to foolish, cunning little Katie; for in likening the
deliberate animalism of the man, however graceful and jovial, to the
instinctive animalism of the little girl, it is evident the latter has
the worst of it.)
Euphame and Katie parted. Euphame very much impressed
with the meeting, and interested in further encounters. Katiein her
exultation, as that character which the good Vicar so unhesitatingly
condemned, "a female fortune-hunter"much pleased with the ease of the
indifferent, engrossed great house, and very proud of Master Ludovic's
negligent, undesirable notice. (Well for Katie, and greatly more than
she deserved, that it was no worse,that Master Ludovic would not
trouble himself to propose a borrowed coach-and-six, a mock marriage,
villainy, and ruin, that though in practice indefinitely more hardened,
his original constitution did not depress him deep below Katie's scale;
he was merely a fopling whom the Spectator would have castigated for the
simple impudence of "staring" in public places, to whom one of the smart
professed females who wrote the letters published in the essays would
have recommended a lesson in "knotting" as an employment for his vacant
time. He was no worse than a vapid young fellow, who cared less for
sport thanas those were the days of unexampled coxcombery in dress the
contemplation of "the long pocket," "the frosted button," "the scallop
flap," "the clouded cane," and the last new snuff-box.) Katie, for her
part, was not inclined to make a great matter of a talk with Euphame
Napier, and quite determined to deride and set at naught her wishes,
when Euphame took up the burden of the poor, sickly, Papist great lady,
and would have urged on Katie to be more tender in her attention to her
wants, and to speak a word in season to lighten her spiritual darkness,
and would have read to her in illustration the passage so delightful to
Euphame, concerning the great Syrian captain and his sympathetic wife
and servants, and the little Hebrew maid who was to cut the Gordian knot
of his sore and humbling disease.
The company within Ormeslaw were old friends of the
family, come for a little quiet gaiety when the summer and harvest toils
were over, and the November leisure, after the mart was killed, afforded
holidays in anticipation of the new year. In these family parties
Euphame had her full share. Lady Blarney found it necessary that her
gentlewoman should not only be a well-bred girl who could read and
write, but that she should be able to behave in company.
It does not seem, in reality, that in the general
family life of even strict Covenanters there was any powerful objection
to harmless mirth and sober pleasure. Public merry-making they opposed
austerely, but private entertainment fared better. The habits of the
world were so utterly dissipated, that virtue was prudery, and
temperance abstinence, in its criticism. Those who worked and studied of
a morning, and had a family concert of an eveningwho kept a chaplain,
and were punctual in the ritual of devotionreckoned themselves
fulfilling all pious and chastened excellence in the sister kingdom; and
it is probable that in Scotland the charge of moroseness and harshness
in domestic circles was frequently applied on hardly greater
provocation. It is quoted as a disparaging fact, by an avowed enemy,
that a Covenanting divine, about the time of the Union, while preaching
against "cock-ups"a style of female head-dress opposed to his taste and
judgmentstopped short in the middle of his harangue, and admitted (with
mingled humour and indignation) that his daughter at that moment sat
crowned with the offence in his own seat in the church. "Who does not
remember the benign Vicar and his parallel strait, some score of years
later ? If mere memory can be trusted, the daughter of the maiden of
Polwarth looked back to her venerable father and mother, with the
cheerful indulgence of benevolent old age, sitting together at the head
of the room to view their children and grandchildren dancing together
before them. As a testimony against the mad gambling of the period,
cards were forbidden; but there is small reason to suppose that the
fireside groups had not their forfeits, their "questions and commands,"
their jests, their freaks. Undoubtedly they had their proverbs, songs,
and stories; and it does not impair the interest of the latter, while it
gives the deeper tint of truth, and the loftier form of heroism, and the
subtle life of the spirit, that these were not so much of "the Buck of
Beveland" and "the patient Grizel," as of the sufferers and wanderers in
the "Scotch Worthies" and the "Cloud of "Witnesses: how Guthrie's blood
dropped from the grizzly head, fixed on the "iron prin," down on the
Duke of Hamilton's coach, and could never be wiped out; how Peden rested
with his head in his hands by Ritchie's peaceful grave; how Donald
Cargill leapt the linn at Ericht; how Habbie Nisbet lay among the meadow
grass when the dragoons rode by; how Marion Arnot's child was carried
forty miles concealed in a web of blue cloth to be baptized by a godly,
prescribed man; how bravely Margaret Maclauchlan and Margaret Wilson
died in the waves of the Solway; and howeh, sirs! eh, sirs!the provost
of "Whithorn, who cried savagely, "Give the cummers another dip!" was
seized on the moment by a quenchless thirst, and was followed
continually by a frightened domestic bearing an oft-replenished bicker
of water, for wine or ale would not pacify him; but, drink as he would,
draught after draught, his pangs were not slaked until the agonies of
death got hold of him. Mingled with the tragedies arose the stern mirth
of the escapes from martial law, the resistance of the persecution, the
triumph of the Revolution settlement; and, blending with the fascination
of the discourse, awoke the old pathetic, chivalrous strains of "Johnny
Armstrong's Lament," and "The Bloody Battle of Harlaw," and "The Dowie
Dens of Yarrow."
The guests at Ormeslaw were two honest men, old and
young, George Logan of Leith, and John Kerr of Morriston, and their
gentle dames were Isabel Fowler of Burncastle, and Grizel Cochrane of
Ochiltree. We have no record of the men, save that they were "undaunted
and successful chields" in their fellows' estimation, during the
spring-time of their romance. Logan, indeed, was the descendant of an
unhappy race, but he was no nearer than grandson to the banished man,
and he had retrieved his fortunes by prosaic prosperity; but with the
women, not Euphame Napier alone claimed the honour of an acquaintance,
nor Euphame's generation.
"With weeping and with laughter, Still is the story
told," how young Grizel Cochrane played the man to save her father from
the gallows-tree, to which knight and noble, preacher and priest,
trooped in one dreary, never-ending procession; and old men still strike
their staffs on the floor with ineffable glee, and quaver forth the
cutting satire, which declares that the greed of gain is the product of
all countries and of all ages, and that, fired with the ignoble passion,
those dour, serious Scotchmen beleaguered the heiress of the Glen, and
strove for her broad lands and her red and white money, until all
Scotland rang with the base melee of their wooing. Not Portia was
more beset, and Portia had rules appointed for her guidancebut this
poor-rich Scotch lass was left to her own discretion amidst the
multitude of her suitors, and by what talisman was she to elect her
champion, and proclaim her victor? Only Penelope endured so mean a
concourse for so selfish an end.
"Ten came east, and ten came west, And ten came rowin'
ower the water."
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