twa draughts, and named a toast at each. The first
was, the memory of Sir Robert Redgauntlet, and
may he never lie quiet in his grave till he had
righted his poor bond-tenant ; and the second was,
a health to Man's Enemy, if he would but get
him back the pock of siller, or tell him what came
o' 't, for he saw the haill world was like to regard
106 WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE.
him as a thief and a cheat, and he took that waur
than even the ruin of his house and hauld.
On he rode, little caring where. It was a dark
night turned, and the trees made it yet darker, and
he let the beast take its ain road through the wood ;
when all of a sudden, from tired and wearied that
it was before, the nag began to spring and flee and
stend, that my gudesire could hardly keep the sad-
dle. Upon the whilk, a horseman, suddenly riding
up beside him, said, " That 's a mettle beast of
yours, freend ; will you sell him ? " So saying, he
touched the horse's neck with his riding-wand, and
it fell into its auld heigh-ho of a stumbling trot.
" But his spunk 's soon out of him, I think," con-
tinued the stranger, " and that is like mony a man's
courage, that thinks he wad do great things."
My gudesire scarce listened to this, but spurred
his horse, with " Gude-e'en to you, freend."
But it 's like the stranger was ane that doesna
lightly yield his point ; for, ride as Steenie liked, he
was aye beside him at the selfsame pace. At last
my gudesire, Steenie Steenson, grew half angry,
and, to say the truth, half feard.
" What is it that you want with me, freend? " he
said. " If ye be a robber, I have nae money ; if
ye be a leal man, wanting company, I have nae
heart to mirth or speaking ; and if ye want to ken
the road, I scarce ken it mysell."
" If you will tell me your grief," said the
stranger, "I am one that, though I have been
WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE. 107
sair miscaa'd in the world, am the only hand for
helping my freends."
So my gudesire, to ease his ain heart, mair than
from any hope of help, told him the story from
beginning to end.
" It 's a hard pinch," said the stranger ; " but I
think I can help you."
" If you could lend the money, sir, and take
a lang day I ken nae other help on earth," said
" But there may be some under the earth," said
the stranger. " Come, I '11 be frank wi' you ; I
could lend you the money on bond, but you would
maybe scruple my terms. Now I can tell you
that your auld laird is disturbed in his grave by
your curses and the wailing of your family, and if
ye daur venture to go to see him, he will give you
My gudesire's hair stood on end at this pro-
posal, but he thought his companion might be
some humoursome chield that was trying to
frighten him, and might end with lending him the
money. Besides, he was bauld wi' brandy, and
desperate wi' distress ; and he said he had courage
to go to the gate of hell, and a step farther, for that
receipt. The stranger laughed.
Weel, they rode on through the thickest of the
wood, when, all of a sudden, the horse stopped at
the door of a great house ; and, but that he knew
the place was ten miles off, my father would have
108 WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE.
thought he was at Redgauntlet Castle. They rode
into the outer courtyard, through the muckle
faulding yetts, and aneath the auld portcullis ; and
the whole front of the house was lighted, and there
were pipes and fiddles, and as much dancing and
deray within as used to be at Sir Robert's house at
Pace and Yule, and such high seasons. They lap
off, and my gudesire, as seemed to him, fastened
his horse to the very ring he had tied him to that
morning when he gaed to wait on the young Sir
"God!" said my gudesire, "if Sir Robert's
death be but a dream!"
He knocked at the ha' door just as he was wont,
and his auld acquaintance, Dougal MacCallum
just after his wont, too came to open the door,
and said, " Piper Steenie, are ye there, lad? Sir
Robert has been crying for you."
My gudesire was like a man in a dream he
looked for the stranger, but he was gane for the
time. At last he just tried to say, "Ha! Dougal
Driveower, are you living? I thought ye had been
"Never fash yoursell wi' me," said Dougal,
" but look to yoursell ; and see ye tak' naething
ffae onybody here, neither meat, drink, or siller,
except the receipt that is your ain."
So saying, he led the way out through halls and
trances that were weel kend to my gudesire, and
into the auld oak parlour ; and there was as much
singing of profane sangs, and billing of red wine,
WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE. 109
and blasphemy and sculduddery, as had ever been
in Redgauntlet Castle when it was at the blythest.
But Lord take us in keeping! what a set of
ghastly revellers there were that sat around that
table ! My gudesire kend mony that had long be-
fore gane to their place, for often had he piped to
the most part in the hall of Redgauntlet. There
was the fierce Middleton, and the dissolute Rothes,
and the crafty Lauderdale ; and Dalyeli, with his
bald head and a beard to his girdle ; and Earlshall,
with Cameron's blude on his hand ; and wild Bon-
shaw, that tied blessed Mr. Cargill's limbs till the
blude sprung ; and Dumbarton Douglas, the twice-
turned traitor baith to country and king. There
was the Bludy Advocate MacKenyie, who, for his
worldly wit and wisdom, had been to the rest as a
god. And there was Claverhouse, as beautiful as
when he lived, with his long, dark, curled locks
streaming down over his laced buff-coat, and with
his left hand always on his right spule-blade, to
hide the wound that the silver bullet had made. 1
He sat apart from them all, and looked at them
with a melancholy, haughty countenance; while
the rest hallooed and sang and laughed, that the
room rang. But their smiles were fearfully con-
1 The personages here mentioned are most of them char-
acters of historical fame ; but those less known and remem-
bered may be found in the tract entitled " The Judgment
and Justice of God Exemplified ; or, A Brief Historical Ac-
count of some of the Wicked Lives and Miserable Deaths
of some of the most remarkable Apostates and bloody Per-
secutors, from the Reformation till after the Revolution."
110 WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE.
torted from time to time ; and their laughter passed
into such wild sounds as made my gudesire's very
nails grow blue, and chilled the marrow in his
They that waited at the table were just the
wicked serving-men and troopers that had done
their work and cruel bidding on earth. There was
the Lang Lad of the Nethertown, that helped to
take Argyle ; and the bishop's summoner, that they
called the Deil's Rattlebag ; and the wicked guards-
men in their laced coats ; and the savage Highland
Amorites, that shed blood like water ; and mony a
proud serving-man, haughty of heart and bloody
of hand, cringing to the rich, and making them
wickeder than they would be ; grinding the poor to
powder when the rich had broken them to frag-
ments. And mony, mony mair were coming and
ganging, a' as busy in their vocation as if they had
Sir Robert Redgauntlet, in the midst of a' this
fearful riot, cried, wi' a voice like thunder, on
Steenie Piper to come to the board-head where he
was sitting, his legs stretched out before him, and
swathed up with flannel, with his holster pistols
aside him, while the great broadsword rested
against his chair, just as my gudesire had seen
him the last time upon earth ; the very cushion for
the jackanape was close to him, but the creature
itsell was not there it wasna its hour, it 's likely ;
for he heard them say, as he came forward, " Is
not the major come yet? " And another answered,
WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE. Ill
" The jackanape will be here betimes the morn."
And when my gudesire came forward, Sir Robert,
or his ghaist, or the deevil in his likeness, said,
"Weel, piper, hae ye settled wi' my son for the
year's rent? "
With much ado my father gat breath to say that
Sir John would not settle without his honour's
"Ye shall hae that for a tune of the pipes,
Steenie," said the appearance of Sir Robert
"play us up 'Weel Hoddled, Luckie.'"
Now this was a tune my gudesire learned frae
a warlock, that heard it when they were worship-
ping Satan at their meetings; and my gudesire
had sometimes played it at the ranting suppers in
Redgauntlet Castle, but never very willingly ; and
now he grew cauld at the very name of it, and said,
for excuse, he hadna his pipes wi' him.
" MacCallum, ye limb of Beelzebub," said the
fearf u' Sir Robert, " bring Steenie the pipes that I
am keeping for him!"
MacCallum brought a pair of pipes might have
served the piper of Donald of the Isles. But he
gave my gudesire a nudge as he offered them ; and
looking secretly and closely, Steenie saw that the
chanter was of steel, and heated to a white heat ;
so he had fair warning not to trust his fingers with
it. So he excused himsell again, and said he was
faint and frightened, and had not wind aneugh to
fill the bag.
" Then ye maun eat and drink, Steenie," said
112 WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE.
the figure ; " for we do little else here ; and it 's ill
speaking between a fou man and a fasting." Now
these were the very words that the bloody Earl of
Douglas said to keep the king's messenger in hand
while he cut the head off MacLellan of Bombie,
at the Threave Castle ; l and that put Steenie mair
and mair on his guard. So he spoke up like a man,
and said he came neither to eat nor drink, nor
make minstrelsy; but simply for his ain to ken
what was come o' the money he had paid, and to
get a discharge for it ; and he was so stout-hearted
by this time that he charged Sir Robert for con-
science's sake (he had no power to say the holy
name), and as he hoped for peace and rest, to
spread no snares for him, but just to give him his
The appearance gnashed its teeth and laughed,
but it took from a large pocket-book the receipt,
and handed it to Steenie. " There is your receipt,
ye pitiful cur ; and for the money, my dog- whelp
of a son may go look for it in the Cat's Cradle."
My gudesire uttered mony thanks, and was
about to retire, when Sir Robert roared aloud,
" Stop, though, thou sack-doudling son of a ! I
am not done with thee. HERE we do nothing for
nothing; and you must return on this very day
twelvemonth to pay your master the homage that
you owe me for my protection."
My father's tongue was loosed of a suddenly, and
1 The reader is referred for particulars to Pitscottie's
" History of Scotland."
WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE. 113
he said aloud, " I refer myself to God's pleasure,
and not to yours."
He had no sooner uttered the word than all
was dark around him ; and he sank on the earth
with such a sudden shock that he lost both breath
How lang Steenie lay there he could not tell ;
but when he came to himsell he was lying in the
auld kirkyard of Redgauntlet parochine, just at the
door of the family aisle, and the scutcheon of the
auld knight, Sir Robert, hanging over his head.
There was a deep morning fog on grass and grave-
stane around him, and his horse was feeding
quietly beside the minister's twa cows. Steenie
would have thought the whole was a dream, but
he had the receipt in his hand fairly written and
signed by the auld laird ; only the last letters of
his name were a little disorderly, written like one
seized with sudden pain.
Sorely troubled in his mind, he left that dreary
place, rode through the mist to Redgauntlet Castle,
and with much ado he got speech of the laird.
" Well, you dy vour bankrupt," was the first word,
"have you brought me my rent? "
" No," answered my gudesire, " I have not ; but
I have brought your honour Sir Robert's receipt
" How, sirrah? Sir Robert's receipt! You told
me he had not given you one."
" Will your honour please to see if that bit line
is right ? "
114 WANDERING WILLIE'S TALfc,.
Sir John looked at every line, and at every letter,
with much attention ; and at last at the date, which
my gudesire had not observed "From my ap-
pointed place," he read, " this twenty-fifth of No-
" What ! That is yesterday ! Villain, thou must
have gone to hell for this ! "
" I got it from your honour's father ; whether he
be in heaven or hell, I know not," said Steenie.
" I will debate you for a warlock to the Privy
Council ! " said Sir John. " I will send you to your
master, the devil, with the help of a tar-barrel and
" I intend to debate mysell to the Presbytery,"
said Steenie, "and tell them all I have seen last
night, whilk are things fitter for them to judge of
than a borrel man like me."
Sir John paused, composed himsell, and desired
to hear the full history; and my gudesire told it
him from point to point, as I have told it you
neither more nor less.
Sir John was silent again for a long time, and at
last he said, very composedly : " Steenie, this story
of yours concerns the honour of many a noble
family besides mine ; and if it be a leasing-making,
to keep yourself out of my danger, the least you
can expect is to have a red-hot iron driven through
your tongue, and that will be as bad as scaulding
your fingers wi' a red-hot chanter. But yet it may
be true, Steenie ; and if the money cast up, I shall
not know what to think of it. But where shall we
WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE. 115
find the Cat's Cradle? There are cats enough
about the old house, but I think they kitten with-
out the ceremony of bed or cradle."
"We were best ask Hutcheon," said my gudesire ;
" he kens a' the odd corners about as weel as an-
other serving-man that is now gane, and that I wad
not like to name."
Aweel, Hutcheon, when he was asked, told
them that a ruinous turret lang disused, next to
the clock-house, only accessible by a ladder, for
the opening was on the outside, above the battle-
ments, was called of old the Cat's Cradle.
" There will I go immediately," said Sir John ;
and he took with what purpose Heaven kens
one of his father's pistols from the hall table, where
they had lain since the night he died, and hastened
to the battlements.
It was a dangerous place to climb, for the lad-
der was auld and frail, and wanted ane or twa
rounds. However, up got Sir John, and entered
at the turret door, where his body stopped the only
little light that was in the bit turret. Something
flees at him wi' a vengeance, maist dang him back
ower bang! gaed the knight's pistol, and Hutch-
eon, that held the ladder, and my gudesire, that
stood beside him, hears a loud skelloch. A min-
ute after, Sir John flings the body of the jackanape
down to them, and cries that the siller is fund, and
that they should come up and help him. And
there was the bag of siller sure aneugh, and mony
orra thing besides, that had been missing for mony
Il6 WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE.
a day. And Sir John, when he had riped the turret
weel, led my gudesire into the dining-parlour, and
took him by the hand, and spoke kindly to him,
and said he was sorry he should have doubted his
word, and that he would hereafter be a good master
to him, to make amends.
" And now, Steenie," said Sir John, " although
this vision of yours tends, on the whole, to my
father's credit as an honest man, that he should,
even after his death, desire to see justice done to
a poor man like you, yet you are sensible that ill-
dispositioned men might make bad constructions
upon it concerning his soul's health. So, I think,
we had better lay the haill dirdum on that ill-deedie
creature, Major Weir, and say naething about your
dream in the wood of Pitmurkie. You had taen
ower-muckle brandy to be very certain about ony-
thing ; and, Steenie, this receipt " his hand shook
while he held it out "it 's but a queer kind of
document, and we will do best, I think, to put it
quietly in the fire."
" Od, but for as queer as it is, it 's a* the
voucher I have for my rent," said my gudesire,
who was afraid, it may be, of losing the benefit of
Sir Robert's discharge.
" I will bear the contents to your credit in the
rental-book, and give you a discharge under my
own hand," said Sir John, " and that on the spot.
And, Steenie, if you can hold your tongue about
this matter, you shall sit, from this time downward,
at an easier rent."
WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE. 117
"Mony thanks to your honour," said Steenie,
who saw easily in what corner the wind was;
" doubtless I will be conformable to all your hon-
our's commands ; only I would willingly speak wi'
some powerful minister on the subject, for I do not
like the sort of soumons of appointment whilk your
honour's father "
" Do not call the phantom my father! " said Sir
John, interrupting him.
"Well then, the thing that was so like him,"
said my gudesire ; " he spoke of my coming back
to see him this time twelvemonth, and it 's a weight
on my conscience."
"Aweel then," said Sir John, "if you be so
much distressed in mind, you may speak to our
minister of the parish ; he is a douce man, regards
the honour of our family, and the mair that he may
look for some patronage from me."
Wi' that, my father readily agreed that the re-
ceipt should be burnt ; and the laird threw it into
the chimney with his ain hand. Burn it would not
for them, though ; but away it flew up the lum, wi'
a lang train of sparks at its tail, and a hissing noise
like a squib.
My gudesire gaed down to the manse, and the
minister, when he had heard the story, said it was
his real opinion that, though my gudesire had gane
very far in tampering with dangerous matters, yet
as he had refused the devil's arles (for such was the
offer of meat and drink), and had refused to do
homage by piping at his bidding, he hoped that, if
u8 WANDERIN WILLIE'S TALE.
he held a circumspect walk hereafter, Satan could
take little advantage by what was come and gane.
And, indeed, my gudesire, of his ain accord, lang
forswore baith the pipes and the brandy it was
not even till the year was out, and the fatal day
past, that he would so much as take the fiddle or
drink usquebaugh or tippenny.
Sir John made up his story about the jackanape
as he liked himsell ; and some believe till this day
there was no more in the matter than the niching
nature of the brute. Indeed, ye '11 no hinder some
to thread that it was nane o' the auld Enemy that
Dougal and Hutcheon saw in the laird's room, but
only that wanchancie creature the major, capering
on the coffin ; and that, as to the blawing on the
laird's whistle that was heard after he was dead,
the filthy brute could do that as weel as the laird
himsell, if no better. But Heaven kens the truth,
whilk first came out by the minister's wife, after Sir
John and her ain gudeman were baith in the moulds.
And then my gudesire, wha was failed in his limbs,
but not in his judgment or memory, at least
nothing to speak of, was obliged to tell the real
narrative to his freends, for the credit of his good
name. He might else have been charged for a
1 I have heard in my youth some such wild tale as that
placed in the mouth of the blind fiddler, of which, I think, the
hero was Sir Robert Grierson, of Lagg, the famous perse-
cutor. But the belief was general throughout Scotland that
the excessive lamentation over the loss of friends disturbed
the repose of the dead, and broke even the rest of the
WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE. 119
The shades of evening were growing thicker
around us as my conductor finished his long nar-
rative with this moral : " You see, birkie, it is nae
chancy thing to tak' a stranger traveller for a guide
when you are in an uncouth land."
" I should not have made that inference," said
I. " Your grandfather's adventure was fortunate
for himself, whom it saved from ruin and distress ;
and fortunate for his landlord."
" Ay, but they had baith to sup the sauce o* 't
sooner or later," said Wandering Willie; "what
was fristed wasna forgiven. Sir John died before
he was much over threescore ; and it was just like
of a moment's illness. And for my gudesire,
though he departed in fulness of life, yet there was
my father, a yauld man of forty-five, fell down be-
twixt the stilts of his plough, and rase never again,
and left nae bairn but me, a puir, sightless, father-
less, motherless creature, could neither work nor
want. Things gaed weel aneugh at first ; for Sir
Regwald Redgauntlet, the only son of Sir John and
the oye of auld Sir Robert, and, wae 's me! the last
of the honourable house, took the farm aff our
hands, and brought me into his household to have
care of me. My head never settled since I lost
him ; and if I say another word about it, deil a bar
will I have the heart to play the night. Look out,
my gentle chap," he resumed, in a different tone ;
" ye should see the lights at Brokenburn Glen by
THE GLENMUTCHKIN RAILWAY
THE GLENMUTCHKIN RAILWAY
BY PROFESSOR AYTOUN
[The following tale appeared in " Blackwood's Maga-
zine " for October, 1845. It was intended by the writer as
a sketch of some of the more striking features of the rail-
way mania (then in full progress throughout Great Britain),
as exhibited in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Although bear-
ing the appearance of a burlesque, it was in truth an accu-
rate delineation (as will be acknowledged by many a gentle-
man who had the misfortune to be " out in the Forty-five ") ;
and subsequent disclosures have shown that it was in no
Although the "Glenmutchkin line " was purely imaginary,
and not intended by the writer to apply to any particular
scheme then before the public, it was identified in Scotland
with more than one reckless and impracticable project ; and
even the characters introduced were supposed to be typical
of personages who had attained some notoriety in the throng
of speculation. Any such resemblances must be considered
as fortuitous ; for the writer cannot charge himself with the
discourtesy of individual satire or allusion.]
I WAS confoundedly hard up. My patrimony,
never of the largest, had been for the last year
on the decrease, a herald would have emblazoned
it, ''ARGENT, a money-bag improper, in detri-
ment," and though the attenuating process was
not excessively rapid, it was, nevertheless, proceed-
124 THE GLENMUTCHKIN RAILWAY.
ing at a steady ratio. As for the ordinary means
and appliances by which men contrive to recruit
their exhausted exchequers, I knew none of them.
Work I abhorred with a detestation worthy of a
scion of nobility ; and, I believe, you could just as
soon have persuaded the lineal representative of the
Howards or Percys to exhibit himself in the char-
acter of a mountebank, as have got me to trust
my person on the pinnacle of a three-legged stool.
The rule of three is all very well for base mechani-
cal souls ; but I flatter myself I have an intellect
too large to be limited to a ledger. " Augustus,"
said my poor mother to me, while stroking my
hyacinthine tresses, one fine morning, in the very
dawn and budding-time of my existence " Augus-
tus, my dear boy, whatever you do, never forget
that you are a gentleman." The maternal maxim
sank deeply into my heart, and I never for a mo-
ment have forgotten it.
Notwithstanding this aristocratic resolution, the
great practical question, " How am I to live?"
began to thrust itself unpleasantly before me. I am
one of that unfortunate class who have "neither
uncles nor aunts. For me, no yellow liverless indi-
vidual, with characteristic bamboo and pigtail,
emblems of half a million, returned to his native
shores from Ceylon or remote Penang. For me,
no venerable spinster hoarded in the Trongate,
permitting herself few luxuries during a long-pro-
tracted life, save a lass and a lanthorn, a parrot,
and the invariable baudrons of antiquity. No such
THE GLENMUTCHKIN RAILWAY. 125
luck was mine. Had all Glasgow perished by some
vast epidemic, I should not have found myself one
farthing the richer. There would have been no
golden balsam for me in the accumulated woes
of Tradestown, Shettleston, and Camlachie. The
time has been when according to Washington
Irving and other veracious historians a young
man had no sooner got into difficulties than a
guardian angel appeared to him in a dream, with
the information that at such and such a bridge, or
under such and such a tree, he might find, at a
slight expenditure of labour, a gallipot secured
with bladder, and filled with glittering tomans;
or, in the extremity of despair, the youth had only