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Book of Scottish Story
John Hetherington's Dream

In a certain small town in the south of Scotland, there lived, about three years ago, a very respectable tailor, of the name of John Hetherington—that is to say, John wore well with the world ; but, like too many of his craft, he was sorely addicted to cabbaging. Not a coat could he make, not a pair of trousers could he cut out, not a waistcoat could he stitch up, but he must have a patch of this, that, and t’other, were it for no other purpose but just to serve as a bit of a memorial. One very warm evening towards the end of August 1826, John had gone to bed rather earlier than usual, but not without having laid in a very good share of a very tasty Welsh rabbit; which said rabbit, being composed of about a pound of tough cheese, of course furnished the poor tailor, after he had fairly tumbled over into the land of Nod, with something of a very curious Welsh-rabbit vision. It suddenly struck him that this life, with all its cares and anxieties, was over with him; that the finishing stitch had been put to the great work of life, and the thread of his existence cut through. In the other world, to his misfortune, he found things not moving so comfortably as he would have wished ; and the old gentleman with the short horns and the long tail, rigged out in his best suit of black, was the first friend he forgathered with after passing the border.

"There’s a fine morning," said the wily old dog; "how do you find our self after long travel?"

"No that weel,” stammered out the half-dead son of a goose; "no that weel; and I dinna think, all things considered, it would benefit me much to be found in such company, no offence to your reverence,” as he saw his new friend’s choler rise; "no offence to your reverence, I trust; but if I may be so bold, I would thank you to tell me the reason of my being here; and, above all, who’s to be thankit for the honour of an introduction to your reverence?"

"That you will know shortly, friend; nay, John Hetherington, for you see I know you;” and taking a large parcel from below his left arm, he commenced to unroll it, and to the astonishment of poor John, unfolded a long sheet of patchwork, in which were found scraps of every hue, a web of many colours, all neatly stitched together; and in the middle, by way of a set off, a large bit of most excellent blue cloth, which had been cabbaged that very morning from a prime piece which he had got into his hands for the purpose of making a marriage coat for his neighbour the blacksmith.

"Was all this stuff got fairly and honestly, good man?” said the old gentleman, with a sneer quite worthy of Beelzebub. "I suppose you will be able to recognise some of these old bits. What think you now of that piece in the middle which your eyes are fixed on—cabbaged no farther back than this morning? Come along, my old boy, come along; you are a true son of your old father, I see, and I will furnish you with as warm winter quarters as you ever enjoyed when you was half-stewed with your old maiden aunt, at the top of fifteen pair of stairs in the High Street of Edinburgh, when serving your apprenticeship with Dick Mouleypouches."

A cold sweat broke over the poor tailor, and he felt as if he could have sunk snugly into the earth, if it had only had the goodness to open at that moment for his especial accommodation, when he saw the long bony arm stretched out, with its sharp eagle claws, to clutch him : he made a sharp bolt back, and giving vent to his feelings in a loud and long howl, which rung horribly in his ears long after opening his eyes, he found himself sprawling in the middle of his wooden floor, with all the bedclothes tumbled above him. It was the first breaking out of a fine morning : the sun was rising, and all nature looked fresh and fair; but poor John was at the point of death with sheer bodily fear and trembling, so that to get to bed again, and to sleep, would have been martyrdom; therefore he huddled on his clothes, and walked out "to snuff the caller air,” and muse over his wonderful dream. The more he thought of it, the more he saw the necessity of reforming his mode of life ; and, before finishing his stroll, he was an altered man, and had made up his mind never more to cabbage an inch of cloth ; and, by walking circumspect and just, he trusted that his past offences might be wiped out, and that the wonderful web of many colours should no more be brought up as evidence against him. To make him the more secure in the event of forgetfulness in the hour of temptation, his foreman was let into the great secret, and had orders at all times to rub up his remembrance when there was any thing good going, which he used to do by the laconic phrase of "Master, mind the sheet !”

A year passed over, and the terror of the dream being yet fresh in his memory, John’s transactions were strictly honest. He could cut out with somewhat more considerable ease, and had lost a good deal the knack of cutting out the sly piece at the corner. But, alas! for the stability of all human resolutions, our friend was sorely tempted, and how he stood we shall soon see. He had got to hand a beautiful piece of red cloth, for what purpose I know not, whether for the coat of a field officer, or the back of a fox hunter, but a prime piece of cloth that was ; he turned it over to this side, and back to that, viewed it in all lights and shades, rubbed it against the grain, and found it faultless. He had never seen such line piece of cloth before—scissors had never before cut such immaculate stuff. He fixed his eye wistfully on a tempting corner, looked up, and his foreman John was staring firmly in his face: he had read his thoughts.

"Master, mind the sheet!” solemnly ejaculated John.

"I’m just swithering, John; I’m just swithering: now when I mind, there wasna a piece of red cloth in all the sheet; and mair by token, there was a bit gap at one of the corners. Now, I’m just thinking, since it maun be that all these bit odds and ends are to be evidence against me when I come to the lang count, it would be better to snick a bit aff the corner here; and that you see, John, will fill all deficiencies, and mak the sheet, since it maun appear against me, evidence, John, without a flaw!”

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