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neater and cleaner than formerly, and in very few respects,
if any, positively offensive. Perhaps none of them have, —
nor ever will have, the exquisite trimness, the long habitual
and hereditary rustic elegance, of the best villages of

vol.. I. 12

134 Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

England. There, even the idle and worthless have an in-
stinctive love of what is decent, and orderly, and pretty in
their habitations. The very drunkard must have a well-
sandcd floor, a clean-swept hearth, clear-polished furni-
ture, and uncobvvebbed walls to the room in which he
quaffs, guzzles, and smokes himself into stupidity. His
wife may be a scold, but seldom a slattern, — his children
ill taught, but well apparelled. Much of this is observable
even among the worst of the class ; and, no doubt, such
things must also have their effect in tempering and restrain-
ing excesses. Whereas, on the other hand, the house of a
well-behaved, well-doing English villager is a perfect
model of comfort and propriety. In Scotland, the houses
of the dissolute are always dens of dirt, and disorder, and
distraction. All ordinary goings-on are inextricably con-
fused, — meals eaten in different nooks, and at no regular
hour, — nothing in its right place or time, — the whole
abode as if on the eve of a flitting ; while, with few excep-
tions, even in the dwellings of the best families in the vil-
lage, one may detect occasional forgetfulness of trifling
matters, that, if remembered, would be found greatly con-
ducive to comfort, — occasional insensibilities to what
would be graceful to their condition, and might be secured
at little expense and less trouble, — occasional blindness to
minute deformities that mar the aspect of the household,
and which an awakened eye would sweep away as abso-
lute nuisances. Perhaps the very depth of their affections,
— the solemnity of their religious thoughts, — and the re-
flective spirit in which they carry on the warfare of life,
hide from them the perception of what, after all, is of such
very inferior moment, and even create a sort of austerity
of character which makes them disregard, too much, tri-
fles that appear to have no influence or connexion with the
essence of weal or wo. But if there be any truth in this,
it affords an explanation rather than a justification.

Our business at present, however, is rather with single
cottages than with villages, which of course will be the
subject of a future leading article. We Scotch people
have, for some years past, been doing all we could to
make ourselves ridiculous, by claiming for our capital the
name of Modern Athens, and talking all manner of non-


sense about a city which stands nobly on its own proper
foundation, while we have kept our mouths shut about the
beauty of our hills and vales, and the rational happiness
that every where overflows our native land. Our character
is to be found in the country ; and, therefore, gentle reader,
behold along with us a small Scottish glen. It is not above
a mile, or a mile and a half long, — its breadth somewhere
about a fourth of its length ; a fair oblong, sheltered and
secluded by a line of varied eminences, on some of which
lies the power of cultivation, and over others the vivid ver-
dure peculiar to a pastoral region ; while, telling of dis-
turbed times past for ever, stand yonder the ruins of an
old fortalice, or keep, picturesque in its deserted decay.
The plough has stopped at the edge of the profitable and
beautiful coppice-woods, or encircled the tall elm-grove.
The rocky pasturage, with its clovery and daisied turf, is
alive with sheep and cattle, — its briary knolls with birds,
— its broom and whins with bees, — and its wimpling burn
with trouts and minnows glancing through the shallows,
or leaping among the cloud of insects that glitter over its
pools. Here and there a cottage, — not above half a dozen
in all, — one low down in the holm, another on a clifl' be-
side the waterfall, — that is the mill, — another breaking the
horizon in its more ambitious station, — and another far up
at the hill-foot, where there is not a single tree, only shrubs
and brackens. On a bleak day, there is but little beauty
in such a glen ; but when the sun is cloudless, and all the
light serene, it is a place where poet or painter may see
visions, and dream dreams, of the very age of gold. At
such seasons, there is a homefelt feeling of humble reality,
blending with the emotions of imagination. In such places,
the low-born, high-souled poets of old breathed forth their
songs, and hymns, and elegies, — the undying lyrical poetry
of the heart of Scotland.

Take the remotest cottage first in order. Hill-foot,
and hear who arc its inmates — the schoolmaster and his
spouse. The schoolhouse stands on a little unappropriated
piece of ground — at least it seems to be so — quite at the
head of the glen — for there the hills sink down, on each
side, and afford an easy access to the seat of learning from
two neighbouring vales, both in the same parish. Perhaps

13G avilson's miscellaneous writings.

thirty scholars are there taught — and with their small fees,
and his small salary, Allan Easton is contented. Allan
was originally intended lor the church, but some peccadil-
loes obstructed his progress with the presbytery, and he
never was a preacher. That disappointment of all his
hopes was for many years grievously felt, and somewhat
soured his mind with the world. It is often impossible to
recover one single false step in the slippery road of life —
and Allan Easton, year after year, saw himself falling far-
ther and farther into the rear of almost all his contempo-
raries. One became a minister, and got a manse, with a
stipend of thirty chalders ; another grew into an East India
nabob ; one married the laird's widow, and kept a pack of
hounds — another expanded into a colonel — one cleared a
plum by a cotton-mill — another became the Croesus of a
bank — while Allan, who had beat them all hollow at all
the classes, wore second-hand clothes, and lived on the
same fare with the poorest hind in the parish. He had
married, rather too late, the partner of his frailties — and
after many trials, and, as he thought, not a (tiw persecu-
tions, he got settled at last, when his head, not very old,
was getting gray, and his face somewhat wrinkled. His
wife, during his worst poverty, had gone again into ser-
vice, the lot, indeed, to which she had been born; and
Allan had struggled and starved upon private teaching.
His appointment to the parish-school had, therefore, been
to them both a blessed elevation. The office was respect-
able — and loftier ambition had long been dead. Now they
are old people — considerably upwards of sixty — and twenty
years' professional life have converted Allan Easton, once
the wild and eccentric genius, into a staid, solemn, formal,
and pedantic pedagogue. All his scholars love him, for
even in the discharge of such very humble duties, talents
make themselves felt and respected ; and the kindness of
an affectionate and once sorely wounded, but now healed
heart, is never lost upon the susceptible imaginations of the
young. Allan has somettmes sent out no contemptible
scholars, as scholars go in Scotland, to the universities ;
and his heart has warmed within him when he has read
their names, in the newspaper from the manse, in the list
of successful competitors for prizes. During vacation-


time, Allan and his spouse leave their cottage locked up,
and disappear, none know exactly whither, on visits to an
old friend or two, who have not altogether forgotten them
in their poverty. During the rest of the year, his only
out-of-doors amusement is an afternoon's angling, an art
in which it is universally allowed he excels all mortal men,
both in river and loch ; and often, during the long winter
nights, when the shepherd is walking by his dwelling, to
visit his "ain lassie," down the burn, he hears Allan's
fiddle playing, in the solitary silence, some one of those
Scottish melodies, that we know not whether it be cheerful
or plaintive, but soothing to every heart that has been at
all acquainted with grief. Rumour says too, but rumour
has not a scrupulous conscience, that the schoolmaster,
when he meets with pleasant company, either at home or a
friend's house, is not averse to a hospitable cup, and that
then the memories of other days crowd upon his brain, and
loosen his tongue into eloquence. Old Susan keeps a
sharp warning eye upon her husband on all such occa-
sions ; but Allan braves its glances, and is forgiven.

We see only the uncertain glimmer of their dwelling
through the low-lying mist : and therefore we cannot de-
scribe it, as if it were clearly before our eyes. But should
you ever chance to angle your way up to Hill-foot, ad-
mire Allan Easton's flower-garden, and the jargonel pear-
tree on the southern gable. The climate is somewhat
high, but-it is not cold; and except when the spring-frosts
come late and sharp, there do all blossoms and fruits
abound, on every shrub and tree native to Scotland. You
will hardly know how to distinguish — or rather, to speak
in clerkly phrase, to analyse the sound prevalent over the
fields and air, for it is made up of that of the burn, of bees,
of old Susan's wheel, and the hum of the busy school !
But now it is the play-hour, and Allan Easton comes into
his kitchen for his frugal dinner. Brush up your Latin,
and out with a few of the largest trouts in your pannier.
Susan fries them in fresh butter and oat-meal — the gray-
haired pedagogue asks a blessing — and a merrier man,
within the limits of becoming mirth, you never passed an
hour's talk withal. So much for Allan Easton and Susan
his spouse.


133 Wilson's miscellaneous mkitings.

You look as if vou wished to ask, who inhabits the cot-
tage — on the left hand yonder — that stares upon us with
four front windows, and pricks up its ears like a new started
hare. Why, sir, that was once a shooting-box. It was
built about twenty years ago, by a sporting gentleman, of
two excellent double-barrelled guns, and three staunch
pointers. He attempted to live there, several times, from
the 12th of August till the end of September, and went
pluffing disconsolately among the hills, from sunrise to
sunset. He has been long married and dead ; and the
box, they say, is now haunted. It has been attempted to
be let furnished, and there is now a board to that elTect
hung out like an escutcheon. Picturesque people say, it
ruins the whole beauty of the glen ; but we must not think
so, for it is not in the power of the ugliest house that ever
was built to do that, although, to effect such a purpose, it
is unquestionably a skilful contrivance. The window-
shutters have been closed for many years, and the chim-
neys look as if they had breathed their last. It stands in
a perpetual eddy, and the ground shelves so all around it,
that there is barely room for a barrel to catch the rain-
drippings from the slate-eaves. If it be indeed haunted,
pity the poor ghost. You may have it on a lease of seven
years, for merely paying the taxes. Every year it costs
several i)Ounds in advertisements. What a jointure-house
it would be for a relict! By name, Windy-knowk.

Let us descend, then, from that most inclement front,
into the lown boundaries of the Holm. The farm-stead-
ing covers a goodly portion of the peninsula shaped by the
burn, that here looks almost like a river. With its out-
houses it forms three sides of a square, and the fourth is
composed of a set of jolly stacks, that will keep the thrash-
ing-machine at work during all the winter. The interior
of the square rejoices in a glorious diuighill, (O breathe
not the name,) that will cover every field with luxuriant
harvests — fifteen bolls of wheat to the acre. There the
cattle — oxen yet " lean, and lank, and brown as is the rib-
bed sea-sand," will, in a few months, eat themselves up,
on straw and turnip, into obesity. There turkeys walk
demure — there geese waddle, and there the feathery -legged
king of IJantam struts among his seraglio, keeping pertly


aloof from double-combed Chanticleer, that squire of dames,
crowing to his partlets. There a cloud of pigeons often
descends among the corny chaff, and then whirrs off to the
uplands. No chained mastift' looking grimly from the
kennel's mouth, but a set of cheerful and sagacious colleys
are seen sitting on their hurdles, or " worrying ither in di-
version." A shaggy colt or two, and a brood mare, with
a spice of blood, and a foal at her heels, know their shed,
and evidently are favourites with the family. Out comes
the master, a rosy-cheeked carl, upwards of six feet high,
broad-shouldered, with a blue bonnet and velveteen breeches,
a man not to be jostled on the crown o' the causeway, and
a match for any horse-couper from Bewcastle, or gipsy
from Yetholm. But let us into the kitchen. There's the
wife — a bit tidy body — and pretty withal — more authori-
tative in her quiet demeanour, than the most tyrannical
mere housekeeper that ever thumped a servant lass with
the beetle. These three are her daughters. First, Girzie,
the eldest — seemingly older than her mother, for she is
somewhat hard-favoured, and strong red hair dangling
over a squint eye, is apt to give an expression of advanced
years, even to a youthful virgin. Vaccination was not
known in Girzie's babyhood, but she is, nevertheless, a
clean-skinned creature, and her full bosom is white as
snow. She is what is delicately called a strapper, rosy-
armed as the morning, and not a little of an Aurora about
the feet and ancles. She makes her way, in all house-
hold affairs, through every impediment, and will obviously
prove, whenever the experiment is made, a most excellent
wife. Mysie, the second daughter, is more composed,
more genteel, and sits sewing, with her a favourite occu-
pation, for she has very neat hands; and is, in fact, the
milliner and mantua-maker for all the house. She could
no more lift that enormous pan of boiling water off the
fire, than she could fly, which in the grasp of Girzie, is
safely landed on the hearth. Mysie has somewhat of a
pensive look, as if in love — and we liave heard that she
is betrothed to young Mr. Rentoul, the divinity student,
who lately made a speech before the Anti-patronage So-
ciety, and therefore may reasonably expect very soon to get
a kirk. But look — there comes dancing in from the ewe

140 Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

bughts, tlic bright-eyed Bessy, the flovvei' of the flock, the
most beautiful girl in Almondale, and fit to be bosom-burd
of the gentle shepherd himself! O that we were a poet,
to sing the innocence of her budding breast! But — hea-
ven preserve us — what is the angelic creature about ?
Making runiblc-de-thumps ! Now she bruises the pota-
toes and cabbages as with pestle and mortar ! Ever and
anon licking the butter oil' her lingers, and then dasliing in
the salt ! Methinks her laugh is out of all bounds loud —
and unless my eyes deceived me, that stout lout whispered
in her delicate ear some coarse jest, that made the eloquent
blood mount up into her not undelightcd countenance.
Heavens and earth ! — perhaps an assignation in the barn, or
byre, or bush aboon Traquair. But the long dresser is set
out with dinner — the gudeman's bonnet is reverently laid
aside — and if any stomach assembled there be now empty,
it is not likely, judging from appearances, that it will be
in that state again before next Sabbath — and it is now but
the middle of the week. Was it not my Lord Byron who
liked not to see women eat? Poo — poo — nonsense. We
like to see them not only cat — but devour. Not a set of
teeth round that kitchen-dresser, that is not white as the
driven snow. Breath too (bating onions) sweet as dawn's
dew — the whole female frame full of health, freshness,
spirit, and animation ! Away all delicate wooers, thrice
high-fantastical ! The diet is wholesome — and the sleep
will be sound — therefore eat away, Bessy — nor fear to
laugh, although your pretty mouth be full — for we arc no
])oet, to madden into misanthropy at your mastication; and,
in spite of the lieartiest meal ever virgin ate, to us these
lips are roses still, " thy eyes are lode-stars, and thy breath
sweet air." Would for thy sake we had been born a
shepherd-groom! No — no — no! For some ihw joyous
years mayest thou wear thy silken snood unharmed, and
silence with thy songs the linnet among the broom, at the
sweet hour of prime. And then mayest thou plight thy
troth — in all the warmth of innocence — to some ardent,
yet thoughtful youth, who will carry his bride exultingly
to his own low-roofed home — toil for her and the children
at her knees, through summer's heat and winter's cold —
and sit with her, in the kirk, when long years have gone


by, a comely matron, attended by daughters acknowledged
to be fair — but neither so fair, nor so good, nor so pious,
as their mother.

What a contrast to the jocund Holm — is the Rowan-
Tree Hut — so still, and seemingly so desolate! It is
close upon the public road, and yet so low, that you might
pass it without observing its turf-roof. There live old
Aggy Robinson, the carrier, and her consumptive daugh-
ter. Old Aggy has borne that epithet for twenty years,
and her daughter is not under sixty. That poor creature
is bed-ridden and helpless, and has to be fed almost like a
child. Old Aggy has for many years had the same white
pony — well named Sampson — that she drives three times
a-week, all the year round, to and from the nearest
market-town, carrying all sorts of articles to nearly
twenty different families, living miles apart. Every other
day in the week — for there is but one Sabbath either to
herself or Sampson — she drives coals, or peat, or wood,
or lime, or stones for the roads. She is clothed in a
man's coat, an old rusty beaver, and a red petticoat.
Aggy never was a beauty, and now she is almost fright-
ful, with a formidable beard, and a rough voice — and vio-
lent gestures, encouraging the overladen enemy of the
Philistines. But the poor creature, as soon as she enters
her hut, is silent, patient, and affectionate, at her daugh-
ter's bed-side. They sleep on the same chaff-mattress,
and she hears, during the dead of night, her daughter's
slightest moan. Her voice is not rough at all, when the
poor old creature says her solitary prayers; nor, we may
be well assured, is one single whisper unheard in heaven.

Your eyes are wandering away to the eastern side of
the vale, and they have fixed themselves on the cottage of
the Seven Oaks. The grove is a noble one ; and, indeed,
these are the only timber-trees in the valley. There is a
tradition belonging to the grove, but we shall tell it some
other time ; now, we have to do with thai mean-looking
cottage, all unworthy of such magnificent shelter. It is
slated, and has a cold cheerless look, — almost a look of
indigence. The walls are sordid in the streaked white-
wash, — a wisp of straw supplies the place of a broken
pane, — the door seems as if it were inhospitable, — and

142 Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

every object about it is in untended disorder. The green
pool in front, with its floating straws and feathers, and
miry edge, is at once unheahhy and needless; the hedge-
rows are full of gaps, and open at the roots ; the few gar-
ments spread upon them seem to have stiffened in the
weather, forgotten by the person who placed them there;
and half-starved young cattle are straying about in what
was once a garden. Wretched sight it is; for that dwell-
ing, although never beautiful, was once the tidiest and best
kept in all the cflstrict. But what has misery to do with
the comfort of its habitation ]

The owner of that house was once a man well to do in
the world ; but he minded this world's goods more than
was fitting to do, and made mammon his god. Abilities
he possessed far beyond that of the common run of men,
and he applied them all, with all the energy of a strong
mind, to the accumulation of wealth. Every rule of his
life had that for its ultimate end ; and he despised a bar-
gain unless he outwitted his neighbour. Without any act
of downright knavery, he was not an honest man — hard
to the poor — and a tyrannical master. He sought to
wring from the very soil more than it could produce; his
servants, among whom were his wife and daughter, he
kept at work, like slaves, from twilight to twilight; and
was a forcstaller and a regrater — a character which, when
political economy was unknown, was of all the most
odious in the judgment of simple husbandmen. His spirits
rose with the price of meal, and every handful dealt out
to the beggar was paid like a tax. What could the Bible
teach to such a man 1 What good could he derive from
the calm air of the house of worship? He sent his only
son to the city, with injunctions instilled into him to make
the most of all transactions, at every hazard but that of
his money ; and the consequence was, in a Cew years,
shame, ruin, and expatriation. His only daughter, im-
prisoned, dispirited, enthralled, fell a prey to a sensual
seducer; and being driven from her father's house, aban-
doned herself, in hopeless misery, to a life of prostitution.
His wife, heart-broken by cruelty and aflliction, was never
afterwards altogether in her right mind, and now sits
weeping by the hearth, or wanders off to distant places,


lone houses and villages, almost in the condition of an
idiot — wild-eyed, loose-haired, and dressed like a very
beggar. Speculation after speculation failed — he had to
curse four successive plentiful harvests — and his mailing
was now destitute. The unhappy man grew sour, stern,
fierce, in his calamity ; and when his brain was inflamed
with liquor, a dangerous madman. He is now a sort of
cattle-dealer — buys and sells miserable horses — and at
fairs associates with knaves and reprobates, knowing that
no honest man will deal with him except in pity or
derision. He has more than once attempted to commit
suicide — but palsy has stricken him — and in a few weeks
he will totter into the grave.

There is a cottage in that hollow, and you see the
smoke — even the chimney-top, but you could not see the
cottage itself, unless you were within fifty yards of it, so
surrounded is it with knolls and small green eminences,
in a den of its own, a shoot or scion from the main stem
of the valley. It is called the Broom, and there is some-
thing singular, and not uninteresting, in the history of its
owner. He married very early in life, indeed when quite
a boy, which is not, by the way, very unusual among the
peasantry of Scotland, prudent and calculating as is their
general character. Gabriel Adamson, before he was thirty
years of age, had a family of seven children, and a pretty
family they were as might be seen in all the parish.
Gabriel's life was in theirs, and his mind never wandered
far from his fireside. His wife was of a consumptive
family, and that insidious and fatal disease never showed
in her a single symptom during ten years of marriage;
but one cold evening awoke it at her very heart, and in
less than two months it hurried her into the grave. Poor
creature, such a spectre ! when her husband used to carry
her, for the sake of a little temporary pelief, from chair to
couch, and from her couch back again to her bed, twenty
times in a day, he never could help weeping, with all his
consideration, to feel her frame as light as a bundle of
leaves. The medical man said, that in all his practice he
never had known soul and body keep together in such
utter attenuation. But her soul was as clear as ever —
and pain, racking pain, was in her fleshless bones. Even

14-4 avilson's miscellaneous writings.

ho, her loving husband, was relieved from wo when she
expired, for no sadness, no sorrow, could be equal to the
misery of groans from one so patient and so resigned.
Perhaps consumption is infectious ; so, at least, it seemed
here; for first one child began to droop, and then another
— the elder ones first — and within the two following years,
there were almost as many funerals from this one house
as from all the others in the parish. Yes — they all died
— of the whole family not one was spared. Two, indeed,
were thought to have pined away in a sort of fearful fore-

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