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Autobiographical Reminiscences of David Johnston
Chapter VIII


"Of all the passions that possess mankind
The love of novelty rules most the mind;
In search of this from realm to realm we roam,
Our fleets come fraught with every folly home."

NOTHING daunted, we started on our journey in rainy weather. Our wealth consisted of nine shillings sterling and a bundle of clothing each, which, although a little heavy at starting, we found by the time we had reached North Shields, we had none too much. For obvious reasons we took the lower road, leaving Haddington considerably to the south. In an increasing storm of wind and rain we found shelter in a miserable lodging-house in the town of North Berwick, for which we paid fourpence each. After a vain attempt to dry ourselves at the meager fire, we tumbled into our bed-bunk, and slept soundly on a tick filled with chaff. On the following morning we found the storm had increased to a hurricane and all the town in an uproar, with cries of "A wreck, a wreck! A ship is on the rocks, make haste to save."

Our frugal meal of bread and milk we left untouched and hastened to the harbor, which we reached just in time to see, in the midst of the howling storm, a dismasted brig in a most fearful condition. The hands seemed almost helplessly benumbed. The rigging, which they had failed to cut adrift, entangled the deck, so as to impede the progress of the work necessary to their salvation. But the master knew his craft and was well acquainted with the dangerous nature of the coast, and by dint of skill and straining exertion, kept clear of the rocks, to find a haven of safety. Moodily we retraced our steps to our four-penny hotel, nor was the silence broken until our frugal fast-breaking meal was nearly discussed, when the elder of the two Dauvids, returning to his normal condition, opened his mouth and said, "Aye, man, Dauvid, d'ye ken what I was thinking aboot?" "Na," said the younger sage, "I dinna ken what ye was thinking aboot, but I ken what I was thinking aboot." "Man," said the elder, "I was just thinking what a figure oor ship Eliza (the name we had given our Hilles-field craft) would have cut in siccan a storm as this; tell me your thoughts." I said that the scene at the harbor had bewildered my thoughts. Had we succeeded in launching the Eliza this very storm would have settled our career on this earth. As it is, I think we ought to look upon this as a Providential warning for the future.

Dauvid seemed hardly prepared for the depth of this philosophy, coming from one who had up to this period fallen so readily into all his wild vagaries, and was evidently touched. But our walk had made keen our appetites. Wet as we were, our twa penny baps frae Provost Brodie's, and twa pence worth of sweet milk, was freely and thankfully discussed, and we shouldered our bundles for Dunbar. The storm had moderated, but still it rained, and heavy roads impeded our progress, so that we arrived late and had to pay one shilling for our bed, thereby augmenting the monetary uneasiness which was daily fastening on our troubled spirits. Still the lions of Dunbar were not overlooked the harbor, the gift of Cromwell, and the castle which, in the absence of her husband, Black Agnes defended against Montague. This same Dunbar is famous in history. Here, it may be said, the keys of Scotland fell into the hands of the victorious Cromwell by the defeat of Leslie. Here Mary took her farewell of power and Scotland, and here Sir John Cope landed with his army from the north to oppose the Chevalier, but failed to succeed. On our way to Berwick-on-Tweed we pass the house from the window of which Cromwell sat watching the movements of his adversary. Leslie had taken up a position which challenged the admiration of Cromwell, who deemed it unassailable. The flower of the Scottish nobility were under Leslie. They became impatient of control and inactivity. Leslie, in an evil hour, yielded to their importunities, which Cromwell perceiving, exclaimed in his characteristic vocabulary, "The Lord hath delivered them into our hands. Trust in the Lord and keep your powder dry." There is a combination of circumstances that go to retard one's progress as a successful pedestrian; a big bundle, heavy roads, a gloomy atmosphere, an empty stomach, a light purse, a bad errand, and a seared conscience; and this compound was the only property we possessed on this earth. This was no wager-provoking trot. A good walker might make Berwick from Dunbar easily, but burdened as we were we had to avail ourselves of the hospitality of a kind-hearted old farmer, who allowed us to sleep in his barn on oat straw, for which privilege we were very grateful, but took the road too early to proffer our thanks. At an early hour in the afternoon of our fourth day's tramp we arrived at the town of Berwick, which, in the language of St. Stephens, is distinguished by the appellation of "our town of Berwick-upon-Tweed." In ancient times this town was the theater of many a bloody fight, where Wallace figured to advantage. Its aspect in peace is beautiful, its history is fraught with historic lore. Here is the conflux of the classic Tweed with the German ocean, the river being spanned by a magnificent bridge. Our tour in Northumberland will be theme enough for another chapter. Beloved Scotland, farewell.


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