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Book of Scottish Story
The Barley Fever—and Rebuke

By D.M. Moir (“DELTA”).

“Sages their solemn een may steek,
And raise a philosophic reek,
And, physically, causes seek
In clime and season;
But tell me ‘Whisky’s’ name in Greek,
I’ll tell the reason. – ROBERT BURNS

On the morning after the business of the playhouse happened, I had to take my breakfast in my bed, — a thing very uncommon for me, being generally up by cock-craw, except on Sunday rnornings whiles, when ilka ane, according to the bidding of the Fourth Commandment, has a license to do as he likes,— having a desperate sore head, and a squeamishness at the stomach, occasioned, I jalouse, in a great measure from what Mr Glen and me had discussed at Widow Grassie’s, in the shape of warm toddy, over our cracks concerning what is called the agricultural and the manufacturing interests. So our wife, puir body, pat a thimbleful of brandy—Thornas Mixern’s real—-into my first cup of tea, which had a wonderful virtue in putting all things to rights ; so that I was up and had shapit a pair of leddy’s corsets (an article in which I sometimes dealt) before ten o’clock, though, the morning being gey cauld, I didna dispense with my Kilmarnock.

At eleven in the forenoon, or thereabouts,-maybe five minutes before orafter, but nae matter,—in comes my crony Maister Glen. rather dazed-like about the een, and wif a large piece of white sticking-plaister, about half-a-nail wide, across one of his cheeks, and over the brig o’ his nose ; giving him a wauff, outlandish, and rather blackguard sort of appearance, so that I was a thocht uneasy at what neebours might surmeese concerning our intimacy ; but the honest man accounted for the thing in a very feasible manner, from the falling down on that side of his head of one of the brass candlesticks, while he was lying on his braidside, before ane of the furms in the stramash.

His purpose of calling was to tell me that he couldna leave the town without looking in upon me to bid me fareweel; mair betoken, as he intended sending in his son Mungo wi’ the carrier for a trial, to see how the line of life pleased him, and how I thocht he wad answer —a thing which I was glad came from his side of the house, being likely to be in the upshot the best for both parties. Yet I thocht he wad find our way of doing so canny and comfortable, that it wasna very likely he could ever start objections; and I must confess, that I lookit forrit with nae sma’ degree of pride, seeing the probability of my sune having the son of a Lammermuir farmer sitting cross-leggit, cheek for jowl wi’ me, on the board, and bound to serve me at all lawful times, by night and day, by a regular indenture of five years. Maister Glen insisted on the laddie having a three months trial; and then, after a wee show of standing out, just to make him aware that I could be elsewhere fitted if I had a mind, I agreed that the request was reasonable, and that I had nae yearthly objections to conforming wi’t. So, after giein’ him his meridian, and a bit of shortbread, we shook hands, and parted in the understanding, that his son would arrive on the tap of limping Jamie the carrier’s cart, in the course, say, of a fortnight.

Through the hale course of the forepart of the day, I remained geyan queerish, as if something was working about my inwards, and a droll pain atween my een. The wife saw the case I was in, and advised me, for the sake of the fresh air, to take a step into the bit garden, and try a hand at the spade, the smell of the fresh earth being likely to operate as a cordial ; but na, it wadna do; and whan I came in at ane o’clock to my dinner, the steam of the fresh broth,instead of making me feel as usual as hungry as a hawk, was like to turn my stamach, while the sight of the sheep’s head, ane o’ the primest anes I had seen the hale season, made me as sick as a dog ; so I could dae naething but take a turn out again, and swig awa’ at the sma’ beer that never seemed able to slocken my drouth. At lang and last, I mindit having heard Andrew Redbeak, the excise-offisher, say, that naething ever pat him right after a debosh, except something they ca’ a bottle of soda-water; so my wife dispatched Benjie to the place where he kent it could be found, and he returned in a jiffie with a thing like a blacking-bottle below his daidly, as he was bidden. There being a wire ower the cork, for some purpose or ither, or maybe just to look neat, we had some fight to get it torn away, but at last we succeeded. I had turned about for a jug, and the wife was rummaging for a screw, while Benjie was fiddling away wi’ his fingers at the cork—sauf us ! a’ at ance it gaed a thud like thunder, driving the cork ower puir Benjie’s head, while it spouted up in his een like a fire-engine, and I had only just time to throw down the jug. and up with the bottle to my mouth. Luckily, for the sixpence it cost, there was a drap o’t left, which tasted by all the world just like brisk dish-washings; but, for a’ that, it had a wonderful power of setting me to rights ; and my noddle in a while began to clear up, like a Marchday after a heavy shower.

I mind very weel too, on the afternoon of the dividual day, that my door-neebour, Thomas Burlings, pappit in and, in our twa-handit crack ower the counter, after asking me in a dry, curious way, if I had come by nae skaith in the business of the play, he said, the thing had now spread far and wide, and was making a great noise in the world. I thocht the body a thocht sharp in his observes; so I pretended to take it quite lightly, proceeding in my shaping-out a pair of buckskin-breeches, which I was making for ane of the duke’s huntsmen; so, seeing he was aff the scent, he said in a mair jocose way—

"Weel, speaking about buckskins, I’ll tell ye a gude story about that.”

"Let us hear’t," said I; for I was in that sort of queerish way, that I didna care muckle about being very busy.

"Ye’se get it as I heard it," quo’ Thomas; "and its no less worth telling, that it bears a gude moral application in its tail, after the same fashion that a blister does gude by sucking away the vicious humours of the body, thereby making the very pain it gies precious? And here-—though maybe it was just my thocht—the body strokit his chin, and gied me a kind of half glee, as muckle as saying, "take that to ye, neebour.” But I deserved it all, and couldna take it ill aff his hand, being, like mysel, ane of the elders of our kirk, and an honest enough, preceese—speaking man.

"Ye see, ye ken," said Thomas, "that the Breadalbane Fencibles, a wheen Highland birkies, were put into camp on Fisherraw links, maybe for the benefit of their douking, on account of the fiddle —or maybe in case the French should land at the water-mouth —or maybe to gie the regiment the benefit of the sea air-—or maybe to make their bare houghs hardier, for it was the winter time, frost and snaw being as plenty as ye like, and no sae scarce as pantaloons among the core, or for some ither reason, gude, bad, or indifferent, which disna muckle matter. But, ye see, the lang and the short o’ the story is, that there they were encamped, man and mother’s son of them, going through their dreels by day, and sleeping by night—the privates in their tents, and the offishers in their markees ; living in the course of nature on their usual rations of beef and tammies, and sae on. So, ye understand me, there was nae such smart orderings of things in the army in thae days, the men not having the beef served out to them by a butcher, supplying each company or companies by a written contract, drawn up between him and the paymaster before sponsible witnesses ; but ilka ane bringing what pleased him, either tripe, trotters, steaks, cow’s-cheek, pluck, hough, spar-rib, jiggot, or so forth. ”

"Od !” said I, "Thomas, ye crack like a minister. Where did ye happen to pick up all that knowledge?"

"Where should I have got it? But from an auld half-pay sergeant-major, that lived in our spare room, and had been out in the American war, having seen a power of service, and been twice wounded,—ance in the aff cuit, and the ither time in the cuff of the neck.”

"I thocht as muckle," said I; "but say on, man; it’s unco entertaining.”

"Weel," continued he, "let me see where I was at when ye stoppit me; for maybe I’ll hae to begin at the beginning again. For gif ye yennterrupt me, or edge in a word, or put me out by asking questions, I lose the thread of my discourse, and canna proceed.”

"Ou, let me see,” said I, "ye was I about the contract concerning the beef.

"Preceesely," quo’ Thomas, stretching out his forefinger; "ye’ve said it to a hair. At that time, as I was observing, the butcher didna supply a company or companies, according to the terms of a contract, drawn up before sponsible witnesses, between him and the paymaster; but the soldiers got beef-money along with their pay ; with which said money, given them, ye observe, for said purpose, they were bound and obligated, in terms of the statute, to buy, purchase, and provide the said beef, twice a week or oftener, as it might happen ; an orderly offisher making inspection of the camp-kettles regularly every forenoon at ane o’clock or thereabouts.

"So, as ye’ll pay attention to observe, there was a private in Captain M‘Tavish’s company, the second to the left of the centre, of the name of Duncan MacAlpine, a wee, hardy, blackavised, in-knee’d creature, remarkable for naething that ever I heard tell of, except being reported to have shotten a gauger in Badenoch, or thereabouts; and for having a desperate red nose, the effects, ye observe, I daursay,—the effects of drinking malt speerits.

"Weel, week after week passed ower, and better passed ower, and Duncan played aff his tricks, like anither Herman Boaz, the slight-o’-hand juggler—him that’s suspecket to be in league and paction with the dei]. But ye’ll hear."

"’Od, it’s diverting, Thornas,” said I to him; "gang on, man.”

"Weel, ye see, as I was observing. Let me see, where was I at? Ou ay, having a paction wi’ the dei]. So, when all were watching beside the camp-kettles, some stirring them wi’ spurtles, or parritch-sticks, or forks, or whatever was necessary, the orderly offisher made a point and practice of regularly coming by, about the chap of ane past meridian, as I observed to ye before, to make inspection of what ilka ane had wared his pay on ; and what he had got simmering in the het water for his dinner.

"So, on the day concerning which I am about to speak, it fell out, as usual, that he happened to be making his rounds, halting a moment—or twa, maybe—before ilka pat ; the man that had the charge thereof, by the way of stirring like, clapping down his lang fork, and bringing up the piece of meat, or whatever he happened to be making kail of, to let the inspector see whether it was lamb, pork, beef, mutton, or veal. For, ye observe,” continued Thomas, gieing me, as I took it to mysel, anither queer side look, "the purpose of the offisher making the inspection, was to see that they laid out their pay-money conform to military regulation ; and no to filling their stamicks, and ruining baith soul and body, by throwing it away on whisky, as but ower mony, that aiblins should hae kent better, have dune but ower aften.”

"’Tis but too true, ” said I till him ; "but the best will fa’ intil a faut sometimes. We have a’ our failings, Thomas.”

"Just so," answered Thomas; “ but where was I at? Ou, about the whisky. Wee], speaking about the whisky : ye see, the offisher, Lovetenant Todrick, I b’lief they called him, had made anobserve about Duncan’s kettle ; so, when he cam to him, Duncan was sitting in the lown side of a dyke, with his red nose, and a pipe in his cheek, on a big stane, glowering frae him anither way ; and, as I was saying, when he cam to him he said, ‘ Weel, Duncan MacAlpine, what have ye in your kettle the day, man?’

“And Duncan, rinning down his lang fork, answered in his ain Highland brogue way—‘ Please your honour, just my auld fav’rite, tripe.’

“‘Deed, Duncan," said Lovetenant Todrick, or whatever they ca’d him, " it is an auld fav’rite, surely, for I have never seen ye have onything else for your denner, man.”

"Every man to his taste, please your honour,” answered Duncan MacAlpine; "let ilka ane please her nainsel,"-- hauling up a screed half a yard lang; "ilka man to his taste, please your honour, Loveteant Todrick.”

"’Od, man," said I to him; " ’od, man, ye’re a deacon at telling a story. Ye`re a queer hand. Weel, what cam next?”

"What think ye should come next ?” quo’ Thomas, drily.

"I’m sure I dinna ken,” answered I.”

"Weel," said he, "I’ll tell; but where was I at?”

"Ou, at the observe of Lovetenant Todrick, or what they ca’ed him, about the tripe; and the answer of Duncan MacAlpine on that head, that ‘iika man had his ain taste’ ”

"‘Vera true,’ said Lovetenant Todrick; ‘but lift it out a’thegither on that dish, till I get my specs on; for never since I was born, did I ever see before boiled tripe with buttons and button-holes intil’t.’ ”

At this I set up a loud laughing, which I couldna help, though it was like to split my sides; but Thomas Burlings bade me whisht till I heard him out.

"‘Buttons and button-holes !’ quo’ Duncan MacAlpine. ‘ Look again, wi’ yer specs; for ye’re surely wrang, Lovetenant Todrick.’ "

"‘Buttons and button-holes! and ’deed I am surely right, Duncan,’ answered Lovetenant Todrick, taking his specs deliberately aff the brig o’ his nose, and faulding them thegither, as he put them, first into his morocco case, and syne into his pocket. ‘ Howsomever, Duncan MacAlpine, I’ll pass ye ower for this time, gif ye take my warning, and for the future ware yer paymoney on wholesome butcher’s meat, like a Christian, and no be trying to delude your ain stamick, and your offisher’s een, by haddin’ up, on a fork, such aheathenish make-up for a dish, as the leg of a pair o' buckskin breeches ! "’

"Buckskin breechesI" said I ; “ and did he really and actually boil siccan trash to his dinner ?"

“Nae sae far south as that yet, friend," answered Thomas. "Duncan wasna sae bowed in the intellect as ye imagine, and had some spice of cleverality about his queer manoeuvres.—Eat siccan trash to his dinner ! Nae mair, Mansie, than ye intend to eat that iron guse ye’re rinning alang that piece I claith; but he wantit to make his offishers believe that his pay gaed the right way-—like the Pharisees of old that keepit praying, in ell-lang faces, about the corners of the streets, and gaed hame wi’ hearts full of wickedness ; and a’ manner of cheatrie.”

"And what way did his pay gang then?” askit I; "and hoo did he live ?”

"I telled ye before, frien,” answered Thomas, “ that he was a deboshed creature; and, like ower mony in the warld, likit weel what didna do him ony good. It is a wearyfu’ thing that whisky. I wish it could be banished to Botany Bay."

"It is that,” said I. "Muckle and nae little sin does it breed and produce in this world."

"I’m glad,” quo’ Thomas, stroking down his chin in a slee way. "I’m glad the guilty should see the folly o’ their ain ways: it’s the first step, ye ken, till amendment;—and indeed I tell’t Maister Wiggie, when he sent me here, that I could almost become gude for yer being mair wary o’ yer conduct for the future time to come. "

This was like a thunder-clap to me, and I didna ken, for a jiffy, what to feel, think, or do, mair than perceiving that it was a piece of devilish cruelty on their pairts, taking things on this strict. As for myself, I could freely take sacred oath on the Book, that I hadna had a dram in my head for four months before ; the knowledge of which made my corruption rise like lightning, as a man is aye brave when he is innocent; so, giein’ my pow a bit scart, I said briskly, "So ye’re after some session business in this veesit, are ye ?”

"Ye’ve just guessed it," answered Thomas Burlings, sleeking down his front hair with his fingers, in a sober way; " we had a meeting this forenoon; and it was resolved ye should stand a public rebuke in the meeting-house, on Sunday next.”

"Hang me, if I do !” answered I, thumping my nieve down with all my might on the counter, and throwing back my cowl behind me, into a corner.

"No, man !” added I, snapping with great pith my finger and thumb in Thomas’s een; "no for all the ministers and elders that ever were cleckit. They may do their best; and ye may tell them sae if ye like. I was born a free man; I live in a free country; I am the subject of a free king and constitution; and I’ll be shot before I submit to such rank diabolical papistry."'

"Hooly and fairly,” quo’ Thomas, staring a wee astonished like, and not a little surprised to see my birse up in this manner; for, when he thought upon shearing a lamb, he fund he had catched a tartar; so, calming down as fast as ye like, he said—" Hooly and fairly, Mansie” (or Maister Wauch, I believe he did me the honour to ca’ me), " they’ll maybe no be sae hard as they threaten. But ye ken, my friend, I’m speaking to ye as a brither; it was an unco-like business for an elder, not only to gang till a play, which is ane of the deevil’s rendezvouses, but to gang there in a state of liquor; making yoursel a warld’s wonder•—and you an elder of our kirk ! ---I put the question to yourself soberly?"

His threatening I could despise, and could have fought, cuffed, and kickit, wi’ a’ the ministers and elders of the General Assembly, to say naething of the Relief Synod, and the Burgher Union, before I wad demeaned myself to yield to what my inward speerit plainly telled me to be rank cruelty and injustice; but ah! his calm, britherly, flattering way I couldna thole wi’, and the tears came rapping into my een faster than it cared my manhood to let be seen ; so I said till him,.

"Weel, weel, Thomas, I ken I have dune wrang; and I am sorry for’t — they’ll never find me in siccan a scrape again.” ‘

Thomas Burlings then cam forrit in a friendly way, and shook hands wi’ me; telling that he wad go back and plead afore them in my behalf. He said this ower again, as we pairted, at my shop door; and, to do him justice, surely he hadna been waur than his word, for I have aye attended the kirk as usual, standing, whan it came to my rotation, at the plate, and naebody, gentle nor semple, ever spoke to me on the subject of the playhouse, or minted the matter of the rebuke from that day to this.

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