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Book of Scottish Story
The Penny Wedding

By Alex. Campbell

Part 2

Leaving our musician in the discharge of his duty, we shall step over to where Jeanie Harrison is seated, to learn what she thinks of her partner, and what the Misses Murray, the daughters of a neighbouring farmer, between whom she sat, think of him, and of Jeanie having danced with a fiddler.

Premising that the Misses Murray, not being by any means beauties themselves, entertained a very reasonable and justifiable dislike and jealousy of all their own sex to whom nature had been more bountiful in this particular ; and finding, moreover, that, from their excessively bad tempers (this, however, of course, not admitted by the ladies themselves), they could neither practise nor share in the amenities which usually mark the intercourse of the sexes, they had set up for connoisseurs in the articles of propriety and decorum, of which they professed to be profound judges—premising this, then, we proceed to quote the conversation that passed between the three ladies—that is, the Misses Murray and Miss Harrison ; the latter taking her seat between them after dancing with the fiddler.

"My certy!” exclaimed the elder, with a very dignified toss of the head, "ye warna nice, Jeanie, to dance wi’ a fiddler. I wad hae been very ill aff, indeed, for a partner before I wad hae taen up wi’ such a ragamuffm."

"An’ to go an’ ask him too!” said the younger, with an imitative toss. "I wadna ask the best man in the land to dance wi’ me, let alane a fiddler! If they dinna choose to come o’ their ain accord, they may stay.”

"Tuts, lassies, it was a’ a piece o’ fun,” said the good-humoured girl. “I’m sure everybody saw that but yersels. Besides, the man’s well aneugh—na, a gude deal mair than that, if he was only a wee better clad. There’s no a better-lookin man in the room; and I wish, lassies,” she added, "ye may get as guid dancers in your partners—that’s a’.”

"Umph! a bonny like taste ye hae, Jeanie, an’ a very strange notion o’ propriety!” exclaimed the elder, with another toss of the head.

"To dance wi’ a fiddler!" simpered out the younger—who, by the way, was no chicken either, being but a trifle on the right side of thirty.

"Ay, to be sure, dance wi’ a fiddler or a piper either. I’ll dance wi’ baith o’ them, an’ what for no?” replied Jeanie. "There’s neither sin nor shame in’t ; and I’ll dance wi’ him again, if he’ll only but ask me.”

"An’ faith he’ll do that wi a’ the pleasure in the warld, my bonny lassie,” quoth the intrepid fiddler, leaping down once more from his high place; for, there having been a cessation of both music and dancing while the conversation above recorded was going on, he had heard every word of it. "Wi’ a’ the pleasure in the warld,” he said, advancing towards Jeanie Harrison, and making one of his best bows of invitation; and again a shout of approbation from the company urged Jeanie to accept it, which she readily did, at once to gratify her friends and to provoke the Misses Murray.

Having accordingly taken her place on the floor, and other couples having been mustered for the set, Jeanie’s partner again called on Willie to strike up ; again the dancers started, and again the fiddler astonished and delighted the company with the grace and elegance of his performances. On this occasion, however, the unknown musician’s predilection for his fair partner exhibited a more unequivocal character; and he even ventured to inquire if he might call at her father’s, to amuse the family for an hour or so with his fiddle.

"Nae objection in the warld," replied Jeanie. "Come as aften as ye like; and the aftener the better, if ye only bring yer fiddle wi’ ye, for we’re a’ fond o’ music.”

"A bargain be’t," said the gallant fiddler; and, at the conclusion of the reel, he again resumed his place on the platform and his fiddle.

"Time and the hour," says Shakspeare, " will wear through the roughest day; ” and so they will, also, through the merriest night, as the joyous party of whom we are speaking now soon found.

Exhaustion and lassitude, though long defied, finally triumphed ; and even the very candles seemed wearied of giving light; and, under the influence of these mirth-destroying feelings, the party at length broke up, and all departed, excepting the two fiddlers.

These worthies now adjourned to a public-house, which was close by, and set very gravely about settling what was to them the serious business of the evening. Willie had received thirty-one shillings as payment in full for their united labours ; and, in consideration of the large and unexpected portion of them which had fallen to the stranger’s share, he generously determined, notwithstanding that he was the principal party, as having been the first engaged, to give him precisely the one-half of the money, or fifteen shillings and sixpence.

"Very fair,” said the stranger, on this being announced to him by his brother in trade—very fair; but what
would ye think of our drinking the odd sixpences?”

"Wi’ a’ my heart,” replied Willie, "wi’ a’ my heart. A very guid notion.”

And a jug of toddy, to the value of one shilling, was accordingly ordered and produced, over which the two got as thick as ben-leather.

"Ye’re a guid fiddler—I’ll say that o’ ye, " quoth Willie, after tossing down the first glass of the warm, exhilarating beverage. " I would never wish to hear a better. "

"I have had some practice," said the other modestly, and at the same time following his companion’s example with his glass.

"Nae doot, nae doot, sae’s seen on your playin," replied the latter. "How do you fend wi' yer fiddle? Do ye mak onything o’ a guid leevin o’t?”

"No that ill ava,” said the stranger. "I play for the auld leddy at the castle—Castle Gowan, ye ken; indeed, I’m sometimes ca’d the leddy’s fiddler, and she’s uncommon guid to me. I neither want bite nor sowp when I gang there."

"That’s sae far weel,” replied Willie. "She’s a guid judge o’ music that Leddy Gowan, as I hear them say; and I’m tauld her son, Sir John, plays a capital bow.”

"No amiss, I believe,” said the stranger; "but the leddy, as ye say, is an excellent judge o’ music, although whiles, I think, rather ower fond o’t, for she maks me play for hours thegither, when I wad far rather be wi' Tam Yule, her butler, a sonsy, guid natured chiel, that’s no sweer o’ the cap. But, speaking o’ that, I’ll tell ye what, frien," he continued, "if ye’ll come up to Castle Gowan ony day, I’ll be blithe to see you, for I’m there at least ance every day, and I"ll warrant ye—for ye see I can use every liberty there—in a guid het dinner, an’ ajug o’ hetter toddy to wash it ower wi’."

"A bargain be’t,” quoth Willie; "will the morn do?”

"Perfectly," said the stranger; "the sooner the better.”

This settled, Willie proceeded to a subject which had been for some time near his heart, but which he felt some delicacy in broaching. This feeling, however, having gradually given way before the influence of the toddy, and of his friend’s frank and jovial manner, he at length ventured, though cautiously, to step on the ice.

"That’s an uncommon guid instrument o' yours, frien," he said.

"Very good,” replied his companion, briefly.

"But ye’ll hae mair than that ane, nae doot? ” rejoined the other.

"I hae ither twa.”

"In that case,” said Willie, "maybe ye wad hae nae objection to pairt wi’ that ane, an’ the price offered ye wur a’ the mair temptin. I’ll gie ye the fifteen shillins I hae won the nicht, an' my fiddle, for’t.”

"Thank ye, frien, thank ye for your offer,” replied the stranger; "but I daurna accept o’t, though I war willin. The fiddle was gien to me by Leddy Gowan, and I daurna pairt wi’t. She wad miss’t, and then there would be the deevil to pay. ”

"Oh, an' that’s the case," said Willie, "I’ll sae nae mair aboot it; but it’s a first-rate fiddle—sae guid a ane, that it micht amaist play the lane o’t.”

It being now very late, or rather early, and the toddy jug emptied, the blind fiddler and his friend parted, on the understanding, however, that the former would visit the latter at the castle (whither he was now going, he said, to seek a night’s quarters) on the following day.

True to his appointment, Willie appeared next day at Gowan House, or Castle Gowan, as it was more generally called, and inquired for " the fiddler.”

His inquiry was met with great civility and politeness by the footman who opened the door. He was told "the fiddler” was there, and desired to walk in. Obeying the invitation, Willie, conducted by the footman, entered a spacious apartment, where he was soon afterwards entertained with a sumptuous dinner, in which his friend the fiddler joined him.

"My word, neighbour," said Willie, after having made a hearty meal of the good things that were set before him, and having drank in proportion, "but ye’re in noble quarters here. This is truly fiddlin to some purpose, an' treatin the art as it ought to be treated in the persons o’ its professors. But what," he added, "if Sir John should come in upon us? He wadna like maybe a’ thegither to see a stranger wi’ ye?"

"Deil a bodle I care for Sir John, Willie ! He’s but a wild harum-scarum throughither chap at the best, an’ no muckle to be heeded."

"Ay, he’s fond o’ a frolic, they tell me,” quoth Willie; "an' there’s a heap o’ gie queer anes laid to his charge, whether they be true or no; but his heart’s in the richt place, I’m thinkin, for a’ that. I’ve heard o’ mony guid turns he has dune."

"Ou, he’s no a bad chiel, on the whole, I daresay," replied Willie’s companion. "His bark’s waur than his bite—an’ that’s mair than can be said o’ a rat-trap, at ony ra’te.”

It was about this period, and then for the first time, that certain strange and vague suspicions suddenly entered Willie’s mind regarding his entertainer. He had remarked that the latter gave his orders with an air of authority which he thought scarcely becoming in one who occupied the humble situation of “the lady’s fiddler;” but, singular as this appeared to him, the alacrity and silence with which these orders were obeyed, was to poor Willie still more unaccountable. He said nothing, however; but much did he marvel at the singular good fortune of his brother-in-trade. He had never known a fiddler so quartered before; and, lost in admiration of his friend’s felicity, he was about again to express his ideas on the subject, when a servant in splendid livery entered the room, and bowing respectfully, said, " The carriage waits you, Sir John."

"I will be with you presently, Thomas,” replied who? inquires the reader.

Why, Willie’s companion ! What ! is he then Sir John Gowan—he, the Fiddler at the penny-wedding, Sir John Gowan of Castle Gowan, the most extensive proprietor and the wealthiest man in the county?

The same and no other, good reader, we assure thee.

A great lover of frolic, as he himself said, was Sir John; and this was one of the pranks in which he delighted. He was an enthusiastic fiddler; and, as has been already shown, performed with singular skill on that most difficult, but most delightful, of all musical instruments.

We will not attempt to describe poor Willie’s amazement and confusion when this singular fact became known to him ; for they are indescribable, and therefore better left to the reader’s imagination. On recovering a little from his surprise, however, he endeavoured to express his astonishment in such broken sentences as these—"Wha in earth wad hae ever dreamed o’t? Rosit an’ fiddle-strings! —this beats a’. Faith, a’n I’ve been fairly taen in—clean dune for. A knight o’ the shire to play at a penny-waddin wi’ blin Willie Hodge the Fiddler ! The like was ne’er heard tell o’."

As it is unnecessary, and would certainly be tedious, to protract the scene at this particular point in our story, we cut it short by saying, that Sir John presented Willie with the fiddle he had so much coveted, and which he had vainly endeavoured to purchase; that he then told down to him the half of the proceeds of the previous night’s labours which he had pocketed, added a handsome ‘douceur’ from his own purse, and finally dismissed him with a pressing and cordial invitation to visit the castle as often as it suited his inclination and convenience.

Having arrived at this landing-place in our tale, we pause to explain one or two things, which is necessary for the full elucidation of the sequel. With regard to Sir John Gowan himself, there is little to add to what has been already said of him ; for, brief though these notices of him are, they contain nearly all that the reader need care to know about him. He was addicted to such pranks as that just recorded ; but this, if it was a defect in his character, was the only one. For the rest, he was an excellent young man—kind, generous, and affable ; of the strictest honour, and the most upright principles. He was, moreover, an exceedingly handsome man, and highly accomplished. At this period, he was unmarried, and lived with his mother, Lady Gowan, to whom he was most affectionately attached. Sir John had, at one time, mingled a good deal with the fashionable society of the metropolis ; but soon became disgusted with the heartlessness of those who composed it, and with the frivolity of their pursuits; and in this frame of mind he came to the resolution of retiring to his estate, and of giving himself up entirely to the quiet enjoyments of a country life, and the pleasing duties which his position as a large landed proprietor entailed upon him.

Simple in all his tastes and habits, Sir John had been unable to discover, in any of the manufactured beauties to whom he had been, from time to time, introduced while he resided in London, one to whom he could think of intrusting his happiness. The wife he desired was one fresh from the hand of nature, not one remodelled by the square and rule of art ; and such a one he thought he had found during his adventure of the previous night.

Bringing this digression, which we may liken to an interlude, to a close, we again draw up the curtain, and open the second act of our little drama with an exhibition of the residence of Mr Harrison at Todshaws. ……….


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