Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Gateway of Scotland
Chapter XII. Round about Haddington

THE broad, straight road from East Linton to Haddington pursues an undulating course along the high ground above the Tyne valley. Though one runs out here of the Dunbar red land into soils of more ordinary quality, there is nothing but the colour to suggest the fact ; for the high standard of East Lothian agriculture practically obliterates to the eye all such natural inequalities, and the difference would be found, speaking broadly, in a four as opposed to a three pound rent. There are pleasant outlooks across the broad, shallow valley of the Tyne, and beyond it, over rich fields and woods, to the Lammermoors. But I may admit at once that this is not a route I would take the responsibility of recommending to the average pilgrim in search of the picturesque. It looks very emphatically its part, which is that of a great main highway, forging straight ahead with one object only in view, and affording for that end every facility of rapid travel, whether for the coach of old or the motor and cycle of to-day. To me, however, it still seems eloquent of another period, that long interlude between the two, when the chariot wheels of agriculture, from the one-horse cart—for waggons and teams are unknown in Scotland—with the sample sacks of grain, to the smart dogcart, or more staid waggonette of the farmer hound for Haddington market, rolled along it in the heyday of its pride. But enough of this. There is nothing on this road to give pause to us here at any rate. A little off it, however, to the right, the red-tiled roofs of Athelstaneford crown a long low ridge, conspicuous from the inner country as from the distant seashore, a ridge which to the westward rises gradually into the bold upstanding block of the Garleton Hills that are such a conspicuous feature in the heart of East Lothian.

Athelstaneford is as devoid of aesthetie attraction as any average Lowland village. But for an otherwise insignificant place it has a good deal of personal association besides its sounding name. This last was not derived, however, from the famous Saxon king, but from some more or less contemporary namesake of humbler rank and shadowy memory. But the original church was built by the mother of William the Lion, and many centuries later John Home, the author of the tragedy of Douglas, was its minister. This play made a great sensation in its day, and a good deal of controversy has since raged concerning the exalted position which was assigned to it. Be that as it may, however, it is a Scottish classic. In another sense, too, it is worth an allusion here, as the spectacle of a Scottish minister writing a play and enhancing the crime by going to see it acted, was in the eighteenth century accounted a fearful and grievous one. So the Presbytery of Edinburgh wrote to the Presbytery of Haddington, notifying them that one of their number had attended a profane play in Edinburgh called Douglas, of which he was the reputed author. Before the local body could reply, the unrepentant cleric was actually off to London to see it staged there. It is needless to relate that his manse was vacated at an early date. His Reverence doesn't seem, however, to have troubled the manse very much at any time, but to have taken his ease, mainly in the neighbouring country houses, where he was a very welcome guest, being exceedingly fond of gay company. [Home had Jacobite sympathies in early life, and wrote the history of the "'forty-five." He was prominent in Edinburgh literary circles, and later on in London under the patronage of Lord Bute.] The play was made the occasion of tremendous fulminations on the part of the Edinburgh divines, and other Presbyterians, against the drama in general. Every minister caught in the nefarious act of watching a play was to be punished by temporary suspension, and an Act of Exhortation was read from all the pulpits, which included the statement that the Christian Church in all ages had condemned dramatic representations, the authority for which, I take it, was hatched in Edinburgh. All this was in 176. A predecessor of Home at Athelstaneford, of gloomy temperament, Dr. Blair, wrote a poem called The Grove, which, as a kind of antidote, saved the reputation of the parish, and secured the admiration of the critical among the cloth. Such, at least, was the point of view taken by a little chronicle of the parish that I once read, and which struck me as rather whirnsical. [Dr. Carlyle, in his inimitable autobiography, speaks of avoiding Athelstaneford manse while paying clerical visits in East Lothian, on account of the dismal personality of this same Blair.] But that is not all. For, as if to round off the parochial roll of honour, we have on it a marshal of France and a Scottish painter of distinction. Now one of the Hepburns was chief landowner in Athelstaneford when General Leslie encamped in the neighbourhood, just before the battle of Philiphaugh, and the old gentleman paid a visit of respect or curiosity to that commander, taking with him his five sons. One of these found such favour' in Leslie's eves that he offered him a commission on the spot, the beginning of a military career which led afterwards to the command of the Scottish Brigade under Gustavus of Sweden, and ultimately to the French service and its highest honours, as indicated above. Archibald Skirving was a native and resident of the parish, and is buried in the churchyard with his ancestors. He was a portrait painter of some renown, who might, it is said, have amassed a fortune. He was paid a hundred guineas each for his pictures, but seems to have cherished the spirit, rather than the gains of his art, to have taken immense pains with his work, and been content with sufficient reward to keel) him in comfort, amid the quiet pleasures of country life, and mount him on a good horse. He left, however, considerable property at the close of a long life, and the family name has since been an honoured one in the van of Lothian agriculture.

A far more circuitous, but much more picturesque, and, to most people, no doubt more interesting route from Dunbar to Haddington, would be that one which bends round near the foot of the Lammermoors, and passes by Belton, Biel, Stenton, and Whittinghame, and could be extended to take in Garvald and Gifford. Whatever might be thought of the main road between the two chief towns of the county by pilgrims with nothing of the Arthur Young, the Pennant, or the Cobbett in their composition, there can be little doubt but that the other would commend itself to any one. For leaving the main road west of Dunbar, it follows the ridgy country above the Biel burn, through all the places watered by that lively stream, till it issues from the Lammermoors. Belton, the first in order, is the ancient seat of one branch of the Hays, who have abounded always in East Lothian. A scion of the Belton house, [William Hay of Spott, near by, A.D.C. to Lord Dalhousie in the Peninsula, eventually Commissioner of London Police.] who fought as subaltern and captain in the Peninsula and Waterloo with much dash and credit, has left the best picture of those stirring events from the personal point of view that I have ever read. Biel is a vast mansion entrenched within noble woods, and enlarged about a hundred years ago from the original house; while the river leaps in a series of cascades beneath the lawns, which slope down to it in a succession of terraces.

It belonged of old to the Lords of Belhaven, who lie buried just beyond in Stenton churchyard, a picturesque roof of stone covering their mausoleum, and though the change of name in ownership has been frequent, the blood is, I think, maintained. The Lord Belhaven who figured so conspicuously when the last Scottish Parliament debated the Treaty of Union, and, in fiery oratory at any rate, led the party which denounced it, has slept here amid the silence of this peaceful country churchyard just two hundred years. His melodramatic language on that critical occasion, and his fantastic gestures, even to falling upon his knees in the House, were long remembered. Beside the Belhaven tomb there rises the tower of the old church with a saddleback roof, an architectural feature I do not remember to have seen elsewhere in this country, though so few old church towers remain intact, that this may not count for much. The present parish church is about a century old, and of red sandstone, with an imposing tower and a fine east window by Kemp. Not far away is an old holy well of very fine water, walled over and associated with a legend that the tenure of the Biel estate depends upon the preservation of its covering. In the woody lap of the Lammermoors, which rise in the immediate background, is the beautiful loch of Pressmennan, about a mile long, and contrived by a former laird of Biel. The little village of Stenton, lying at the gates of its church, and the pleasant grounds of its substantial red sandstone manse, rises as regards cheerfulness of mien above the average of its neighbours. The typical cottage of the country, as mentioned on a former page, is a low one-storeyed building of thick red sandstone walls covered with a red tile roof. This is very well. They are in themselves, as may be fancied, not unpicturesque, and when embellished with flowers and well kept up, are distinctly attractive. But the old Scottish habit, such as even I myself can remember perfectly, and one by no means extinct, of entire indifference to externals, made the very worst of the situation, and neutralised what is really an admirable foundation for the cheerful and the picturesque. More generally, too, these cottages stand flush with the road, and are rarely withdrawn within hedges and gardens, as is so often the case with the peasant dwellings of rural England. This spells monotony in a village street of uniform buildings, and in the absence of what may be called external house pride, something approaching to squalor. As to this, however, there appears to have been a prodigious change for the better, and a very general tendency to soften the rather severe fronts of the lowland cottage with flowers or creepers. The constant shifting of the workpeople nowadays must mitigate to some extent against these brightening influences, though such changes are by no means always capricious on their part. A growing-up family, for instance, may require a wider sphere for combined labour than the present situation offers. But that mere love of change without financial or other betterment, which seems to captivate the half-educated, whether the field labourer or the domestic servant, all over the country, is surely a stumbling-block in their path! It would be well to bear in mind, too, that eighty years ago nearly every parish minister in this wealthy county reported with strong protests a one-roomed cottage to be still the rule, accounting it a scandal to the landlords of that day.

A great outcry has recently arisen over the last Scottish census and the small increase therein displayed. Why this congested little island, with its perilously artificial and dependent existence, should bewail a slight check in that increase of population which is its main difficulty, I do not pretend to understand. If, too, in the course of a decade, by operations that would considerably dislocate the rural economy of the whole country, the increase of a single year were put back upon the land, it might or might not prove successful, but it would be a mere fleabite. It is tolerably certain that the food products of East Lothian, at any rate, would decline in bulk and value if comparatively impecunious small men of very mixed capacity were in part substituted for the skill and capital that makes the country an object-lesson for any one who has eyes to see. Land tinkering in a country like Britain, the mass of whose people of all classes must be entirely without any practical experience of the soil, is an irresistible temptation to vote-catching by politicians of both sides. Outsiders do not think they know more about ships or engines or medicine than sailors, engineers, and doctors, but they are at all times ready to instruct the farmer, and, worse still, to deal themselves with his raw material, the land, so pregnant as it is with undreamed-of revelations to the unsophisticated. The worst of it all is, that land and its treatment does look so simple. There is a horribly grim humour about old mother earth, in the way she entices both the wise and the foolish, unacquainted with her secrets, to her embraces, and then by slow degrees, too slow for salvation by retreat, reveals to them the depth of their innocence, and the costliness of her methods of enlightenment. When the punishment falls on the individual, it does not much matter: it is his own lookout. But when his schemes involve other and wider interests, it may be much more serious; and the cruel part of land is that it takes years to reveal itself, and, in the meantime, the mischief is done. What can be said of the intelligence in these matters of a country where large audiences can be told in good faith, and swallow the fallacy without hesitation, that the conversion of fine old

fattening pastures into indifferent arable land would be conducive to the economic welfare of the nation? Such an attitude is past praying for, but it may prove extremely dangerous. The East Lothian labourer earns, all told, from 22s. to 24s. a week. His wife or daughter frequently earns 12s. more. This, in the country, is comfort, yet his sons persist in going to Canada. Of course they do. They would in most cases be fools if they didn't. Hundreds of the young men of other types who go there every year really are fools to do so, but not the young Scotch labourer. There are no hardships out there nowadays for such as he, even if that much mattered to him, and his future is a practical certainty. No scheme of independence on Scottish soil, granted that it be practical, could possibly offer him an equivalent. Such a dream is only possible to men who do not understand or who ignore the actualities of colonial Iife and the record of the Scottish emigrant. Moreover, what are colonies for?

Eighty years ago nearly every parish in the Lowlands officially reported a decrease, or its equivalent, owing to emigration to Canada, but the intelligence was then communicated almost without a note of regret. Wages, then paid mainly in kind, only amounted to about 9s. a week. Parish ministers should certainly be kindly and well-informed, and upon the whole impartial judges of the material well-being of their flocks. With practical unanimity every minister in East Lothian and Berwickshire speaks of the comfort in which the labouring people live on what seems to us now a miserable pittance. I mention this without comment, save for the reminder that those were the days of oatmeal porridge, and the keep of a cow. Labour, too, was more abundant. They went to Canada then, and, as previously mentioned, I have myself seen what they made of it.

There can be no question, however, that through a long period of increasing prosperity to landlord and farmer, the British labourer was kept out of his fair share of it. Yet in spite of the present high wages, the young men still go to Canada, and with even a better chance. For in the old days they had to hew their farms out of the bush. Now they put their ploughs straight into prairie land, an incalculable advantage.
It is assuredly regrettable that the cream of the youth should leave the parishes. You and I, dear reader, may or may not have such an attachment to our native soil that we would forego a good deal to remain on it. But our point of view is from circumstances very different from that of the Lothian hind or his son, and we are apt to forget this. We should all like to keep this admirable people in the country for material, and, unconsciously perhaps, for sentimental reasons of our own. We easily persuade ourselves that it would be much nicer for the young labourer himself if we could keep him here, and weave schemes which even on paper offer no equivalent to that other prospect open to him. He himself doesn't care a button about sentimental considerations. The British youth of no class is much afflicted with nostalgia, much less a sturdy prosaic Lothian hind. It is idle for the townsman with idealist views of Arcady prescribing for an ailment that has no appreciable existence—among the strong at any rate. Such, at least, is my experience, and I have seen two .generations of emigrants of all sorts proceed to North America, and seen their doings there.

Whittinghame (pronounced Whittinjam, with a soft as is usual in the Saxon country on both sides of the Border) follows almost immediately upon Stenton, and wide-spreading woodlands of nearly a century's growth enclose a delightful glen, where, immediately beneath the house, the Biel burn, as it is called, courses down between narrow meads. The name of Whittinghame is familiar hearing to the present generation of Britons. It was purchased by the ex-Premier's grandfather, second son of John Balfour of Balbirnie, in 1817, who built the present mansion and planted the woods. The charms which it owes to a happy combination of nature and art and a commanding position are increased by the near presence of the wild hills of Lammermoor, rising almost immediately in the rear in significant contrast. Set amid sylvan scenes of great luxuriance watered by living streams, resting on the fringe of East Lothian fatness and the romantic wilds of Lammermoor, Whittinghame would seem to want nothing of all that makes for an ideal country seat. And if the house itself lacks antiquity, an old tower in fairly good preservation still stands in the garden, and represents the ancient owners of the property, who were for the most part conspicuous people. If the oaks of Whittinghame have been listening to secrets of State for the last quarter of a century or more, the ruins of the ancient tower heard enough of them and to spare in the days when Scottish State secrets were of a less beneficent kind, and mainly concerned with battle, murder, and sudden death.

To pass over the earlier owners in the days of Queen Mary, the barony of Whittinghame, with its castle, was the property of no less a person than the Earl of Morton. After his expatriation in England, for his share in the assassination of Rizzio, the other and more memorable crime, the murder of Darnley, is said to have been concerted at Whittinghame in the presence of its owner, together with Bothwell, Archibald Douglas, and Maitland of Lethington, at the close of 1566. After Morton's death for his share in the extinction of, it must be admitted, that utterly impossible king consort, James VI. restored the forfeited estates to that branch of the Douglases whose heiress eventually carried it to a Hay—a family which, like the Hepburns, may be said to have had immemorial association with this whole northern fringe of the Lammermoors, From their descendants the present owners came into it by purchase.

In many of my former wanderings in Wales and England I have been tempted, and with, I think, no cause for regret, into many odds and ends of family history. In these two Scottish counties, I have felt more diffidence on the subject, partly, I trust, from such share of modesty as becomes a southerner, and a reluctance to encroach on what is obviously a Scotsman's preserve. It is not to the point that the native chronicler in any popular sense has been singularly indifferent to this rural portion of the heart of Scotland—for the heart of Scotland did not beat, for luminous reasons, where anatomy or geography would place that organ. But no doubt these arrears will be made up in the fulness of time, and it is no disparagement of their importance to hazard an opinion that they will be more interesting to the Scottish than to the general reader. Not merely because the latter's` personal acquaintance with the sister kingdom is - generally confined to its comparatively unpeopled, and comparatively unhistoric portions, but on account of the intricacies which arise when a mere handful of families, or clans (to borrow a term), in their various ramifications dominate the situation. The subtle distinctions and significance of the various branches of the same name, as severally indicated by their respective possessions, are more or less understood by Scotsmen, but bewildering to the average southerner, who, furthermore, is almost sure to know nothing at all of Scottish history, the only clue to it.

It is both easy and profitable to make a slight detour from Whittinghame, to skirt the Lammermoors at close quarters and follow twisting, narrow, and lonely roads, through a foothill country where the pastoral life of the hills merges in snug woody valleys that baffle with their broken surface all the efforts of even a

Lothian plough to wipe out the charm of nature's irregularities. In doing so we should pass hard by the solitary tower of Stonypath, a second place of ancient defence on the old Whittinghame barony, but in either case are soon confronted with the hillfoot village of Garvald, the woodlands of Nunraw, and its winding glen, mounting towards the Lammermoors. We stood in fancy upon their brink just above here, it will I trust be remembered, in a previous chapter, and discussed its claims to be the scene of Scott's immortal tragedy. In this long, red-roofed village beside the tumbling burn and beneath the leafy hill, time has of a truth stood still. The natives, though in less idiomatic terms, declare it has done worse than stand still. The only sign of changed times were a few picture post-cards of local scenery in the window of the village post-office, which gave me something of a shock. For everything else, to the smallest detail, was that of a day when such a thing would have been utterly inconceivable, and the post-cards looked almost uncanny. I hunted about for some antediluvian, with whom to crack concerning those same old days. But the village wise men, and others who had probably no claim to that distinction, all shook their heads. Forty years went behind the naturalisation of most, and the memories of the rest, for the latter-day shifting about of the Lothian peasantry seems to have been remarkable. The estate had been sold—not a very common occurrence, strange to relate, in this country—and the laird moved away long ago. I strolled up to the farmhouse on the hill above, of intimate memory through a gorgeous springtime and summer, when the days were long in every sense, though the passing of each was grudged. The thousand acres of broad fields pertaining to it waved up in billowy green folds—for the pastoral interest is strong up here—to the silent steeps of the Lammermoors. An afternoon sun amid a showery August lit up at this moment of revisitation the fresh green pastures, and the white fleeces of the Cheviot sheep sprinkled over them, warmed up the red roofs of the village in the glen below, glowed upon the mantling woodlands above, and fired the purple slppes and crests of the overhanging moors. The old occupant, like the owner of all this sequestered Arcady, and like everybody else, so far as I could gather, had disappeared., Perhaps some veteran shepherd still trod the hills who took part in the sheep-shearing at yonder upland steading, when even blackface wool was at a fancy figure, and a new bonnet, if I remember rightly, was the traditional reward of the swiftest shearer. But the bonnet and the plaid have both disappeared, like oatmeal and milk and many other serviceable things, and pease-bannocks, which were probably not so serviceable. The remote successors of these same sheep were feeding on the same fields, the Cheviots below, and the blackfaces specking here and there the heights beyond. The peewits, as of old, filled the silent air with their complaining cries, the Garvald water made music between its red banks in the bare glen, amid the sweeping fields, and only the woodlands of Nunraw stifled the lustier music of its tributary burn, where, as I have already admitted, it pleased me infinitely, and comforts me still, to imagine that Edgar and Lucy plighted their troth.

Now we know the end of our friends, and are generally in a position to know the end of our dogs, and can mourn them at least without remorse. But what about that other friend, servant, and companion —the horse, whether trapper, hunter, or hack. Its security for such a reasonably respected old age as mere equity demands for its faithful service is pitiably uncertain. It seems in this respect to stand forlorn, alone among living creatures—for mere death and the butcher's knife is, of course, nothing to an animal. And no other, certainly none that has ministered in any way to our wants • or our pleasures, is handed over to struggle against waining powers, and possibly on half rations, and under galling stripes to its grave. Inevitable, alas! no doubt; but the man or woman must be of flint indeed, who has not suffered some pangs on this account, though his mere conscience may not be involved. These . harrowing reflections, which have had cause to slumber for many a long year, were now reawakened by tender memories of a beautiful little grey mare which, having laid me, her master for a too brief period, under vast obligations in these moors and plains, vanished out of sight under the auctioneer's hammer in Edinburgh, a commonplace tale enough ! The door of the stable in the unchanged and temporarily deserted farmyard lay drowsily open, and its occupants were on duty or at pasture. I walked in and stood in the empty stall—the one nearest the wall—which-she always occupied, for the excellent reasons that she let fly with her little high-bred heels at everybody who came within reach, except her closest intimates—and sometimes at them too.

Getting up to her head for saddling or other purposes never ceased to be a rather critical operation even with her friends, while the inn ostlers at Haddington and Dunbar almost came to refuse her hospitality. This, no doubt, according to a common law of adjustment, was why she was such a superb light-weight saddle horse. Once out of the stable she was as good as gold, and wouldn't have touched a hair of your head. She was a great deal more than this, for she gave of her best, whatever you asked her for, every minute of every hour you were on her back, and her best was perfection in both ease and speed. A devil in the stable to all seeming, though only the hysterical victim probably of some fool of a groom, she was a lamb outside, with perfect manners, a perfect mouth, and a willingness that never flagged. A touch of whip or spur would have been an insult, word was enough and away she went, from her free, sprightly walk, with as little thought of bolting, or in any way playing the fool, as she had of relaxing her best efforts for a moment till a touch stopped her. She was a fascinating witch, this little grey mare of the Lammermoors, with a dual personality, if ever horse had one. To behave like an angel on wings all day, and in every detail of deportment entirely captivate your affections, and then to try and kill you at night, or morning either for that matter, when you took her a feed of oats, was uncanny, even with all allowance for the inscrutable vagaries of the horse tribe.

I looked up to the red streak which represents the perpendicular rough road that, bound for the Verse, here climbs the steep face of the Lammermoors, and recalled the manner in which she used to come down it; for I don't think a false step was in her composition on highway, byway, or moorland road, or at any pace. I may be forgiven, I trust, for this little ebullition of sentiment in the dark corner of a farm stable, where stolid Clydesdales, healthy, unemotional brutes, the happiest of their kind, I think, if the truth were known, would soon be champing their liberal portions with the unfailing appetite that comes of sufficient, but neither spasmodic, nor over-wrought toil. They too, poor devils, have often enough their sad old age, which seems at odds somehow with the philanthropic spirit of a generation which would be horrified to thus treat its dog. In the next generation there will probably be no horses, except for hunting and polo, and they will be shot when they are done with, which is all right, and the problem will be solved.

On returning to the village, I was put on the trail of an old gentleman who, though laid on the shelf, was undoubtedly in a position to discuss the ancient history with which I had perplexed all the recognised fountains of authority who were still at large. So with a depressed mental sense of belonging somehow to a prehistoric age that had no corresponding physical sensations, I sought him out in his inner chamber, and I think I may safely say that the crack we had was equal to two doctor's visits. But its purport is of less than no consequence here, though it is needless perhaps to remark that the glorious past, with in this case some justification, was a prominent note.

Though Garvald is one of the most sequestered villages in East Lothian, it is actually but some six miles from Haddington, and that too when you have once climbed through the narrow lanes out of its valley by an admirable road. But the wanderer might well leave this, as the base of a triangle proceeding through scenes of almost purely agricultural interest, and take a wider cast round the other two sides. For at the apex lies the village of Gifford and Yester, the ancient scat of the Marquis of Tweeddale, the head of the hay clan, altogether a spot of much more note than this secluded and decadent village of Garvald. The way thither, too, is little travelled, and lies pleasantly along the base of the Lammermoors. Gifford is undeniably picturesque, merely as a village—and it is a considerable one—due in part no doubt to the beneficent propinquity of a great house. But then a village street, of which one side consists of a wide mountain stream overhung by woods, has only to avoid the garish, and observe a decent appearance of age and solidity to sustain the required part. There is a spaciousness, too, about. Gifford generally, a hospitable and prosperous-looking inn, and one or two of those public buildings that suggest a cared-for or a self-respecting place. It stands at the very portals of the demesne of Yester, with its woods and finely timbered park lands and tortuous deans, through which the Lammermoor streams urge their riotous currents by miles of leafy and enchanting ways.

All this is, of course, classic soil—assuredly so in Scottish history, but that is too long a tale. It is classic in a more popular sense by virtue of the magic pen of Scott. I will say nothing more of the Bride of Lammermoor, though it is obviously—to any one who knows the country and will take the trouble to read the particular chapter of that book previously cited—the other alternative to Nunraw as the chief seat of the tragedy. To the general public it would probably most commend itself on another account altogether. Now Scott, as we before agreed, had almost certainly no intention of precision in the novel. In Marmion, however, from first to last there is no such ambiguity. For I trust the reader will not need reminding how the pride of that gorgeously arrogant soul was for once humbled in his lone midnight encounter with the supposititious elfin warrior which Gifford cherished in its woods from immemorial times. Marmion and his suite, it will be remembered, unwelcome for national reasons at Yester House, were reduced to the lowly hospitality of the village inn. It will be further remembered how the recital of the weird local legend by the landlord stirred the sleepless fevered brain of the moody, half conscience-smitten, half-superstitious egotist. How he sallied forth alone and fully armed on his feverish quest to meet the mystic foe, whose last opponent had been Alexander III. of Scotland centuries before, and in what different fashion he returned at a mad gallop to his bewildered and faithful squire, to whose hand in silence

"The rein he threw,
And spoke no word as he withdrew,
And yet the moonlight did betray
The falcon crest was soiled with clay,
And plainly might Fitz Eustace see
The stains upon the charger's knee."

All this and how the gloomy friar of their company, the disguised de Wilton, had stealthily accoutred himself for battle, and followed his deadly foe out of Gifford and personated the local goblin, has thrilled the youth of most of us. It is not quite easy to conjure it up afresh in the village hostelry to-day, with its cheerful appeal to the outside world, which now, I fancy, patronises Gifford not a little in the summer months.

At a more ingenuous period, when the stanzas of Marmion still rang clear in one's ears, it was for every reason much easier. It was enterprising to cross half the county and spend a February night, I am quite sure very much to the landlord's surprise, for the sole purpose of visiting the goblin tower and paying a humble tribute to the genius loci, or rather to its great interpreter. It was an uncomfortable or rather an unequipped little house in those dim days. The landlord seemed a dour individual, and assuredly incapable of entertaining us, as his remote predecessor had entertained his glittering company, in either prose or verse. I think he was upset at so unexpected a demand as bed and board, and held us but daft lads, running after vain and foolish things, and rather a nuisance than otherwise. At any rate, we found our way to the tower through the labyrinth of these leafless glens, an achievement I ignominiously failed in at this last visitation, following up the wrong glen on a wet day beyond hope of recovery under such conditions.

Yester House, the seat of the Marquis of Tweeddale, is of late Jacobean or early Queen Anne date and style, and contains not only a great many fine paintings, but owing to the prominent services to the State of so many past members of this distinguished house, is full of historic treasures and memorials of great men, and great events in Europe and Asia. The record of the house of Hay, even this important branch of it in brief outline, is not for us here. It is enough that Yester was one of the baronies of the great Anglo-Norman house of Gifford, and that in 1418 one of its daughters carried Yester to the ancestor of the present family, a member of whom some two hundred years ago thus becomingly expressed his sense of the situation: "Aulam Alii jactent, felix domus Yestria nube, nanc quae sors aliis dat Venus alma tibi." As Lords hay of Yester for the earlier part of this period, an earldom and a marquisate followed in the seventeenth century. Yester, a corruption of the old Cambrian "yStrad," otherwise Strath, is the name of the parish, the village retaining that of the old Anglo-Norman owners. In pre-Reformation times it was known as St. Bathans, or Bothans, though apparently unconnected with Abbey St. Bathans across the hills, whose seclusion we recently invaded. The ancient church dedicated to that saint stands in the grounds of Yester House, and is of red sandstone, and for the most part about three hundred years old. It is now the family mausoleum, the present parish church being at Gifford.

Lammer Law rears its seventeen hundred feet, crowned with its purple cap to great effect, above the woody ridges of Yester. And all about the base of the Lammermoors just here are charming combes and glades, some wild in heather, birch, and bracken, or, as at Hopes, a shooting lodge, thrust deep into the glen of that pellucid stream, filled with woods of sycamore and beech now in the full dignity and beauty of a century's growth. A rough, rarely travelled hill-road crosses the Lammermoors from Yester to Longformacus, while a bridle-track mounting almost to the summit of Lammer Law provides a delightful ten-mile walk over the moors to the head of Lauderdale, of which anon.

Most Lowland villages have produced some worthy who has made a name in his day, either at home or abroad, more particularly perhaps the latter. For the Scot was, of course, conspicuous as a soldier of fortune long before he became an East or West Indian nabob, and still longer before he was associated with any particular success as a North American colonist. As he was far inferior to the Englishman in agricultural methods, knowledge, and enterprise, till near the end of the eighteenth century, this is not surprising, though the cause, I am sure, will surprise many. But in scholarship and theology, as well as in arms, Scotsmen, as every one knows, were very much to the fore. To say that Dr. Witherspoon was a son of the manse at Gifford will almost certainly convey nothing whatever to the reader's mind. But that able scholar and divine, when already of some repute in the Scottish Church, left Edinburgh to become the first head of what is now Princeton University in New Jersey, an institution which aspires to rivalry with Harvard and Yale. He was invited thither, no doubt, by the Scotch-Irish, otherwise the Ulster-Presbyterian element, which was very strong in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, thanks to the utterly fatuous policy of both the Dublin and British Parliaments of that day, towards their surest source of support in Ireland. Unlike the Highland emigrants of the same century, the Scotch-Irish, which is not surprising, took the popular side to a man against the Crown in the American Revolution. Witherspoon was such an able and influential partisan in the same cause, that he was selected to represent New Jersey in the famous American Congress of 1776, and was one of the signers of the "Declaration of Independence." He was the chief moving power, too, in the American Presbyterian connection, most of its leading ministers having been his pupils, while no less than thirty members of subsequent Congresses had also sat at his feet. his descendants maintained the family tradition for scholarship and theology, and possibly a former personal acquaintance with some of them may have unconsciously provoked inc to doing honour here to a Gifford worthy that has probably none whatever in his native village.

Fired peradventure by the success of his contemporary and playfellow, the son of the schoolmaster in the same village, who was minister of Montrose and a man of learning, accepted the call to the Presidency of another embryo college in the United States, The love of high-sounding titles had already seized the American democracy, as Dr. Nisbet discovered to his cost. For as the "President" of an undeveloped backwcods academy, he soon realised that he had dropped back to a position no better than that of his own father, from which modest status he had so successfully raised himself. his sense of humour does not seem to have evaporated with his disappointments, for he wrote home to his friends that America was certainly a land of promise—in fact that it was all promise, and no fulfilment. In such contrast were the fortunes and consequent points of view of two schoolfellows from the same Scotch village! The five miles of road from Gifford to Haddington leaves behind it all the picturesque irregularities of the wandering byways of the Lammermoor fringe, and descends with broad immaculate surface and gentle gradients through stately timber and ornate prolific fields to the once greatest corn market in Scotland. Lennoxlove, one of the most ancient and interesting houses in this country of great seats, lies by the way—better known to fame as the Lethington of that remarkable race of Maitlands, whose cool political heads, general originality, and turn for literature . stood out conspicuously in the turbulent Scotland of the sixteenth century. We shall come across them again in Lauderdale, whence they took their titles, and were and still are large landowners.

The two members of the family most associated in popular memory with Lethington are Queen Mary's brilliant secretary, chancellor, and friend, and his father, old Sir Richard, also politically prominent in his day, but more remembered in this last one perhaps for his poems, which have both merit and piquancy. We may perhaps be allowed also to pay tribute to a Scotsman of mark, who could see practically the whole of the turbulent sixteenth century through, and die quietly in his bed at ninety ! The family were here from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century, and are still, as related, in Lauderdale, where they have been seated as long. Prolific above the common in notabilities though they have been, Queen Mary's Maitland, more particularly known as "Lethington," would for every reason leap first to the mind as Lennoxlove came into view, though his younger brother became Lord High Chancellor of Scotland and Lord Maitland of Thirlestaine. Five "Maitlands at least were poets. The highest rank and the greatest power acquired by any of the family, however, was by that unworthy member of it, the notorious Duke of Lauderdale. He was born at Lethington, and when in due course its owner, he enclosed a square mile with a wall twelve feet high, in a fit of pique, it is said, because the Duke of York had sarcastically hinted that there wasn't a park in Scotland. The property changed hands, however, about this time, being purchased by Lord Blantyre, whose descendants still own it, and this mention of the transfer seems incumbent, as it accounts for the change also of the ancient name, a proceeding which does not say much for the taste or historic sense of the purchaser. It seems that most of the money which facilitated the transaction was a legacy or present from his Lordship's relative, that Duchess of Lennox and Richmond so greatly admired by Charles II. Gratitude inspired an innovation, which must surely at the time have provoked the gibes--how well one can fancy them—of the countryside. Time, however, has long obliterated all sense of novelty, and given on the contrary a pleasant, mellifluous, and even historic flavour to the name of Lennoxlove.

Haddington lies to great advantage in the rich-tinted valley through which the Tyne murmurs for so many long miles with gentle voice. The long, undulating slant down to it from the Lammermoors leaves in the retrospect an interval country of woods and universal opulence, that form a pleasing foreground to the rolling line of moors still near enough to make their presence felt. Immediately north of the town, too, the Garleton hills, a sharp ridge of down rather than of moorland, here reach their highest point, about 500 feet, of their brief but conspicuous career. Looking down from any part of them, or from the road which toils seaward laboriously over their shoulder, the prospect rewards the effort; the gleam of the Tyne showing here and there as it urges its Ieafy course from one seat of ancient fame to another, with the great abbey church, the "Lamp of Lothian," raising its massive red tower and half-ruinous walls by the river's bank at the fringe of the little town.

From here Haddington suggests its picturesque, romantic, and historic side. Down in the wide-cobbled High Street, between its austere and rather prosaic buildings you might well think of its famous son, John Knox, but to me on revisiting it historical interests of .every kind were for the moment in abeyance. It had apparently altered nothing in the quarters that mattered. It looked, and I daresay is, as prosperous nowadays as any ordinary county town. Market towns are of no account in themselves, save as a gathering-place for their county or district, by which they stand or fall. And in spite of motors and bicycles, and some new villas on the outskirts, and a thoroughly sound and secure appearance, I seemed to see a town from which the glory had departed. A town no longer of more or less account or reputation than a hundred other such scattered over the face of Scotland and England, with an excellent market, no doubt, and assuredly a "good neighbourhood," if its occupants remain at home! But all that is nothing for a town that was once the first grain market in Scotland, in days when grain filled a much larger place actually and proportionately in the national economy than to-day. Such a distinction does not build up a town, which is only of commercial consequence as reflecting the condition of its tributary country, and there is no reason why Haddington should reflect in its face, any more than the fields of East Lothian, the enormous changes it has seen since those days ; changes in men, and manners, and fortunes, and the outlook on life, the shifting of centres of influence, and the general disturbance of the whole balance of things. Veterans in the 'seventies could look around them at Haddington market, and tell with truth of great changes they had seen. They could revert, for instance, to the period before the Reform Bill, when Scotland, far more than England, was in the hands of the landowning classes, and its electorate of still more microscopic dimensions. They could talk of the coming of train and steamship and telegraphy, but none of these things had so far done anything save enhance the pride and prosperity of rural life. Rent-rolls were at their highest; farmers were comfortable and confident, with a vast amount of capital in the soil, and quite prepared to meet all the normal risks hitherto associated with agriculture. Labourers, with the value of about thirteen shillings a week, were just beginning to discover that they had not, perhaps, had their fair share of the increment—but that is a detail always within the scope of the trade. The atmosphere, however, which these sombre, unaltered streets emitted when I had last walked them was utterly different from that which with their unaltered

exterior they breathe to-day. It was then still the old regime, which meant everything, no matter what the changes and improvements it had witnessed. A young man of to-day dropped into the Haddington of the 'seventies would on the surface see nothing much to surprise him—nothing to speak of, even in dress. But his equivalent of the 'seventies precipitated with like magic and despatch into the middle of the 'thirties would have felt, on first looking round, far more out of it. Yet he was really living in the same epoch, only a more developed period of it, whereas the modern is separated from both by a revolution. It would be quite impossible that he could see country life in its economic bearings, as they and all the generations before, according to periods, saw it. tie has been brought up to think of farming land as the most precarious of all regular investments, to see it the most habitually compassionated of all the great interests, yet with apparent paradox the most heavily burdened whenever the nation is short of money, and, furthermore, to be made the subject of schemes innumerable, in all of which the necessary factor to success, the British working-class, is almost an untried and inexperienced factor. He has been fed a good deal on literature and journalism, which, outside the technical publications, sedulously spreads an impression that the British farmer is a sort of failure, an impression that will be strengthened by the casual opinions of most people he comes in contact with—lawyers, stockbrokers, manufacturers, bootmakers and mechanics, retired officers and gentlemen of leisure, i1I.P.'s and other of the great host of amateurs to whom the secrets of the soil have never been divulged. He is quite accustomed to hearing the agriculture of foreign countries held up as an example, and to think of Great Britain agriculturally as in a bad way.

But the rights or wrongs of all these things were not pertinent to the sensations awakened within me, as I trod the streets of old Haddington once again. They spoke of a time when such questions, or, to be more direct, the causes that provoke them, would have been simply incredible; of those secure and halcyon days, when the one thing upon earth that was immutable, socially and commercially, and beyond the reach of the sordid fluctuations of trade and commerce and of anything but a national catastrophe like the French Revolution, was British land. And if a county town in Britain was calculated, not of course for itself, but for its associations, to recall the "then" and the "now" of the situation, it was Haddington. I may be misunderstood in this, for in mere rents and readiness to pay them, formidable as they would seem to a southern ear, the county has come back nearer to the old standard than almost any other. But this is in a sense reconstruction. The old tenantry, as I remarked before, have mostly gone. Above all, and far more significant, the atmosphere in which they lived and moved has absolutely vanished. They were formerly an almost uniform type, professional farmers by inheritance, who had grown to prosperity with the increased fertility of the acres they and their fathers had handled with such skill and enterprise. Very few of the old stock, as I have said, are left. The present occupants, admirably as they appear to maintain in most respects the traditions of tillage, are a new and a mixed lot, as in Berwickshire—men of more varied class and origin, from practical working men, who have acquired the credit or money to enter on good farms, to the sons of outside capitalists, who have taken up farming as a profession.

The old George Hotel looks solemnly down the High Street, unchanged, so far as I can recall it, in any detail. Those prolonged feasts at the farmers' ordinaries, as elsewhere, are practically no more. Many a speech was made on those occasions by great landowners bearing on the relations of landlord and tenant that found their echoes in the London press, when East Lothian was, in a manner, the apex of all that was perfect in a system that was then held as the earth's perfection for all time. Foreign competition, the direful phrase which sums up the whole situation, was not even dreamed of. Farmers now, as everywhere else in Britain, get away home, as a rule, when their business is transacted, or may even be seen on occasions in tea-shops, lunching off a scone and butter—not from motives of thrift in this country of large operation but because they have fallen under twentieth century influences. This would have been a parlous spectacle indeed, in days I wot of. I couldn't resist a passing glance into a large upper chamber in one of the two or three well-known houses of entertainment in these old-time market days, silent enough on this occasion but for the tick of a clock which had obviously struck the passing hours of many generations and seemed sympathetic. The empty chamber seemed again thick with tobacco smoke, from a score or two of pipes, and noisy with a babel of broad hearty voices, and the chink of many glasses, and the carrying to and fro of trays, laden with gills of whisky, in regulation cut-glass circular measures that seem to have disappeared with the rest of all these sad rollicking ways.

There was nothing reprehensible about these mid-day symposiums, at any rate from the then current point of view, and the whisky in those days was, of course, above reproach. They were merely in the ordinary way of business and social intercourse, while in and out of the corn exchange or cattle market. But the old clock in the corner ticked out unmistakably that it had seen these times ; and perhaps it held reactionary views upon the subject, and, for aught I know, regretted the disappearance, not merely of the normal consumer, but even of the twelve-tumbler man, whom it had so often warned to go home. A monograph recently written on the life and wide operations of a well-known Border farmer by his son concludes a quite illuminating little work with the ingenuous tribute that its subject "may fairly have been regarded as a temperate man, considering the number of twelve-tumbler men among whom he frequently moved." Scotland as a country, read by statistics, which we all know may be made to prove anything, is still, I believe, the despair of the temperance reformer. I don't know anything about the North and `West or the regions, roughly speaking, which draw their supplies from Glasgow. But the rural South-East is now the pink of propriety. The guileless, matter-of-course conviviality of former days—to say nothing of the twelve-tumbler man—has practically gone. Even if it hadn't, the present generation would assuredly not get the good stuff their fathers drank ; while, as for the ordinary hotels, you are as likely to be served with poison as in similar places south of the Tweed.

Afternoon tea is a subtle but efficacious ally of the temperance advocate. One need not be a Methuselah to remember its introduction into polite circles in the South, and it need hardly be said it long ago took its place as a function in the higher class farmhouses in Scotland. The sinful who are not wholly converted, now appear to quench their well-regulated thirst in a whisky and soda, like any ordinary southerner, which is very prosaic. As to the agricultural labourer, he was a temperate man in my day compared to his south-country equivalent, and going from one to the other the contrast was great. He was paid a good deal in kind for one thing, and had very little cash. Whisky, compared to ale, which was scarcely then used or obtainable, was dear; while the village pot-house with its sociable evenings in the southern sense, and its oratorical orgies, had and has practically no existence for the Scottish hind. To turn again to their employers, and the changes that have taken place. In one large and important country parish, well known to me in former days, where the wiping out of old stocks has been tolerably complete, I was told when recently there, that most of the sitting tenants were dissenters, whereas a former generation had been mainly supporters of the parish church, a fact that has no bearing at all on the condition of the Establishment, which throughout Scotland is, I believe, stronger than formerly, but merely indicates the change of men. The same authority, who ought to know, supplemented this statement by a further one that they were mostly total abstainers—a following which, I do not think, has any particular denominational significance in Scotland. For if the West retains its fondness for the bottle with greater tenacity than the East, it is there, at any rate, that secession always found its greatest strength.

The Canadian churches, like those of the United States, cannot understand even the temperate use of alcohol, an attitude mainly due to the fact that outside a small class of more cosmopolitan habit, the native of those countries is incapable of consuming it, either in the Christian manner or with the moderation of a civilised man in Europe. He uses it, with slight regard to quality, as a mere means of getting drunk and staving drunk for a prolonged period, after which he gets upon his feet, washes and shaves himself, and returns to respectability and cold water till the fit seizes him again. I happened to be staying in Canada some winters ago when a team of Scottish curlers were touring the Dominion. One or two ministers—on their sporting merits, not as shepherds—were among the visitors, and some of the more serious papers expressed a pious horror that the reverend exponents of the roaring game not merely countenanced, but actually shared in the harmless convivialities, which it would be almost an outrage on tradition for a company of Scottish curlers to omit. The more frivolous journals, in the meantime, made great sport of their censorious contemporaries. When the parting hour came, and the final "send off" from, I think, Montreal, was celebrated, the defiant and unrepentant nature of the ' Scotch divines was illustrated for them by a sympathetic local band, who played them off to the immortal strains of "We're nae that fou, we're nae that fou." Upon the whole, the censors had the worst of the encounter, which, at least, caused some merriment at a great many breakfast tables—it certainly did at ours ! Times have changed, of a truth, in Scotland, as everywhere else, since the days when law lords had their trays and bottles on the bench, and, if history speaks truly, administered justice, and possibly even-handed justice, in a state of chronic elevation. "Good God! my lord," said one of these illuminati to the other after listening to a truculent performance on the part of a prisoner whose excuse was inebriety, "if the fellow could make such a blackguard of himself when he was drunk, what would he not do when he was sober."

But the East Lothian folk were temperance men compared to the big-stock farmers of Aberdeenshire in those days, the Polled Angus breeders, who had already established a reputation in two continents for their black cattle. I don't know what they did in summer, but in winter they drank whisky like milk, or water at any rate, at all times, and were not often apparently much the worse for it. Nor quite obviously did they die young, as they ought to have done, if medical science has even a basis of truth. On the contrary, they appeared to flourish on it like green bay trees. Perhaps the expert in these matters makes a mental reservation as regards Scotsmen, or they may be outside his experience. These analytical indictments of the pernicious thing do not seem to emanate from Edinburgh or Glasgow, renowned as those two cities are for light and learning. It would not be safe, I take it. The unaccountable is, or was too much in evidence.

I remember a few years ago, in a country town in the Canadian North-West, meeting an individual who had been quite a popular character in East Lothian, till well on in middle age. I remembered him vaguely, as the embodiment of tolerably consistent, but quite respectable conviviality, and in a prospering condition. Like most Scotsmen, his feelings were very warm towards his old environment, but, unlike most, he had not succeeded—too old, no doubt, for transportation—and he deeply felt his exile, which was due to the punishing years of the 'eighties. He daily frequented my hotel, and having met nobody, apparently for years, who could exchange at least familiar names, and listen with some knowledgeable sympathy to his reminiscences, he fell, so to speak, into my arms, with almost pathetic fervour. The people in the hotel said he was too honest a man to get on in that country, which was more complimentary to him than to their own neighbourhood, though they didn't look at it that way. However, he was still decently convivial, under conditions infinitely less innocuous than the same degree would have implied in the Scotland of his day. But though at least seventy, he was apparently as strong as a horse. This is almost immoral; but as it is not likely to be perused by the young, anxious to emulate the feats of the ancients, it doesn't matter. Even the Aberdeenshire grazier is, I daresay, now converted to the teapot.

One more East Lothian notability, or, at least, familiar figure of the 'seventies, who sought the North-West, and parted, or rather flinched, from the reality of its elementary terrors, comes back to me, with a flavour of humour in this case rather than of pathos. Estimable and popular, he was agriculturally something of a black sheep. The beautiful uniformity of appearanee with which the weedless parallelograms of grain and roots, of beans and seeds, succeeded each other over the summer landscape of East Lothian, faded perceptibly over the square half-mile, more or less, occupied by the future pioneer. Unfortunately, too, it adjoined a farm of high renown in those days, whose veteran - bailiff, incomparable among his kind, used to look over the boundary fence, shaking his head, and muttering more in sorrow than in anger, for he was prodigiously original, " Puir Maistcr D., puir Maister D.," as I have heard him apostrophise his master's neighbour many a time. And many a time I have also heard him in his emphatic archaic Doric, with unforgettable variations all his own, use much stronger language. "A maist heinous mon who makes me purely seek" (sick), was his favourite denunciation of this otherwise exemplary person, whose farming would have, perhaps, been thought admirable in Suffolk, but was not of a kind to pay a rent of seventy shillings, and leave a profit.

The "maist heinous mon," however, then in middle life, decided to go to Manitoba, probably the first of his type who had braved the then unknown and but little suspected terrors of the pre-railroad North-Vest. Possibly a farmer from East Lothian, with its cheerful social atmosphere, its golf, its curling, and its whist and other games, above all, its expansive scientific methods, was as likely to founder in that then scantily peopled solitude of the earliest 'eighties as any one; certainly, to be more unhappy, even though a Scotsman, than a younger son or a light-hearted subaltern with soul unvexed by the subtleties of high-class British farming. The "maist heinous mon," however, launched his bark for that then far country, loaded with his household and his household gods, with sanguine expectations, taking dim shape, no doubt, as an illimitable East Lothian. There was a tremendous farewell dinner at a popular hostelry, a fact I remember, because some one sent me the local paper, as I had seen the promised land, a comparatively uncommon experience in those days. There were toasts galore, and two or three columns of speech-makings calculated to make a reader familiar at once with the promised land and with East Lothian cynical or sad. The new country, if I remember rightly, was to surpass its own reputed virgin abundance, under the inspiring touch of East Lothian science—and the glasses clinked. Alas for the seeming paradoxes of agriculture. The "maist heinous mon," bag and baggage, was back again among these sorrowing friends within the year, not because he was a failure, or, so far as I know, faint-hearted, but because he was a person of discernment, though more tolerant than his East Lothian neighbours of the stray thistle or the insidious couch grass. For on being confronted with the stern realities of the North-West, he saw a country for the East Lothian hind, perhaps—but not yet for the East Lothian farmer good or bad. It was better to make the brief sport of a day among his neighbours at home, and live happily, if modestly among them ever after, than make a middle-aged fight with hardships and difficulties, that promised but doubtful and inadequate compensation to his type. Many a good man and good woman not middle-aged lived joylessly and died prematurely under the earlier struggle with North-Western Canada. And what is the use of a boom in land when your health is broken, or five years after you are dead? And this is exactly what would have happened to the "maist heinous rnon," who went up in my estimation, when I heard of his volte face. From a dim figure associated with thistles—unthinkable spectre in East Lothian !—and boisterous on the curling rink, he stood out as a man of courage and of sense. He was a man of parts outside agriculture, and either with or without their aid lived, I believe, serenely, and died in peace upon good Scottish soil.

Long before that great life-adventure, however, of the "maist heinous mon," his whilom critic over the fence had preceded him across the Atlantic, and astonished the natives in and around a prosperous Ontario country town with his trenchant denunciations of their slipshod agriculture, in a Doric almost too fragrant for the understanding of a semi-Scottish population. These Canadians, sons themselves, many of them, of Scottish hinds, immigrants of the 'thirties, would not have stood it from anybody else, and I am not sure if they would have stood it even from this grand old man had they comprehended it all. He was rather a privileged person, however, for his sons had gone out in youth and acquired in trade money and position; and to their neighbourhood, with a fifty-acre farm to play with, he retired to spend the evening of a life hitherto devoted with unswerving ardour and fidelity to a single master and a famous Lothian farm. It was my privilege to know him well, and yet more, to see him afterwards in his new sphere, and occasionally to hear him holding forth in his forceful and inimitable style to wondering Canadian farmers on the street, and telling them his candid opinion of their agricultural deficiencies in terms which, as I have said, they haply could seldom grasp. If he had been young, with his way to make, no doubt he would have held his tongue, Iike most young Scotsmen, to their great advantage, till experience made it safe to loosen it. But his way was made, and he was near the end of it, so he let fly. His ancient and "maist heinous " neighbour, as I have shown, proved wise in his generation in a negative way. But this really great East Lothian agriculturist was transplanted too late to avoid the pitfaIIs with which a strange country invariably confounds the over-wise. In such time as there was left him, he proceeded to show his new neighbours how to farm, as it so happened, at the very entrance to the town. By the time he had rolled all the rocks off his fifty acres of rather poor land, combed it and groomed it, and reduced its primitive irregularities to a condition amenable to East Lothian treatment, and when the first crops suggested no similarity to a Lothian harvest field, the old gentleman began to quieten down and to learn something, and to his surprise no doubt. He no longer harangued the farmers from his gate as they drove to market, on the error of their ways, and if he hadn't been a little deaf he would have heard enough and to spare of passing criticism on "the pile of money sunk in them poor fields." They were covered with villas the last time I saw them, and the grass had been growing for thirty years on the grave of this once notable East Lothian worthy, comparatively humble in station though he was. Born on a famous farm in a hind's cottage, he rose to be something more than bailiff on it for half his life. His standard of duty and conduct as regards himself and others may have been irksome, but I am inclined to think it communicated itself somehow to the three score or so of men and women under him. Awe was certainly an element in his authority. He had a voice that would carry nearly all over the six hundred acres, and a whistle hanging to his waistcoat that would carry even further than his voice, and there was not a tree or a bush on the whole place to break the force of either. When he appeared at the gate of a thirty-acre field, the subdued cackle of the bondagers ceased abruptly with a "Whisht, yon's Hugh," and twenty poke bonnets bent over their Dutch hoes, as they pushed them with renewed zeal along the wheat drills. The ploughman halting for a moment on the headrigg, started and swung his pair of horses round and gee-hawed away for his life, when he heard that voice two fields away. Its forms of admonition took almost terrifically allegorical form at times. "Mon, d'ye no ken ye're a thief," he would shout to some hind caught loitering unawares. The slow-moving mind had no time for asking an explanation before it came—"Y're takin' yer maister's siIler an' stealin' his time." But this was not truculency; and no one took it as such. He believed it thoroughly, and applied it to himself with absolute rigidity. His moral code was austere. More than one married couple on the farm, it was credibly said, had found themselves man and wife owing to his prompt action, whether they liked it or not, and with surprising celerity. And with all this he was the kindliest of men. His grey eyes twinkled with fun beneath their bushy brows as he launched his jokes with no particular respect of persons, but with never the faintest flavour of coarseness. He had travelled a little, apart from the agricultural shows, which were, of course, a joy and delight, though seldom indulged in. Men who had known and appreciated him, or, I might say, had sat under him, and had come to farm farms or own estates, used to ask him to visit them on those rare occasions when he permitted himself a holiday. His reminiscences of these jaunts were of undying interest to himself, and an infinite treat to his hearers. Still greater treat it must have been to tramp over Lincolnshire fields or Irish pastures with him in the flesh, and hear his comments, for he had a general contempt, with reservations, for all agricultural ways south of the Tweed. On Sunday mornings he repaired with his wife and family to the U.P. church, four miles away, taking dinner along and eating it between services on the seashore. After that he brought the minister back with him, and spiritual exercises filled their evening. Theology, however, was abandoned on Monday morning, and the results of a strenuous Sabbath showed themselves in the best and most practical shape throughout the week. His very intelligence, and his little travels, and a certain intercourse with persons of another world, had tended to confuse his phraseology when he wished to be impressive. It would be ill taste to quote the sentence with which this really superb man invariably concluded his long grace before meat, but no living soul was ever known to grasp its meaning. Upon the whole, he was an individual whose daily example tended to one's self-abasement.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus