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Chambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) online

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and fro at their base. The bar or estuary is infested with
breakers, which render the ingress and egress always hazardous ;
the tide rises about eight and a half feet at the mouth, and
ascends the stream about 160 miles. Vessels of 300 tons may
reach the Multnomah branch, about sixty miles below the great
falls, and sloops of small burden go up nearly to the rapids.
Beyond this point all is difficulty and danger, and the smallest
craft have to be taken from the stream, and carried over the
numerous rocky impediments.

The greatest of the falls is at about 180 miles above the
mouth of the river. The first is a perpendicular cascade of
twenty feet, after which there is a swift descent for a mile, be-
tween islands of hard black rock, to another pitch of eight
feet divided by two rocks. About two and a half miles below
this the river expands into a wide basin, seemingly dammed up
by a perpendicular edge of black rock. A current, however,
sets diagonally to the left of this rocky barrier, where there is a
chasm forty-five yards in width. Through this the whole body
of the waters roars along, swelling, and whirling, and boiling
for some distance in the wildest confusion. Through this tre-
mendous channel the first explorers of the river, Lewis and
Clark, passed adventurously in their boats ; the danger not being
from the rocks but from the great surges and whirlpools. At
the distance of a mile and a half from the foot of this narrow
channel is a rapid formed by two rocky islands ; and two miles
beyond is a second great fall over a ledge of rocks twenty feet



high, extending- nearly from shore to shore. The river is again
compressed into a cliannel from fifty to a hundred feet wide,
worn through a rough bed of hard black rock, along which it
toils and roars with great fury for the distance of three miles.
This is called the Long Narrows. Such are a few of the features
of the Columbia or Oregon, as mentioned by Irving and other
American writers ; the impression left on our minds, from all we
have read on the subject, being that it is a river in its present
condition of little commercial value ; and how many millions of
pounds sterling would be required to provide its navigation with
■artificial side-locks and channels, it w^ould be presumptuous for
us to say.

The only establishments of the whites are the Hudson Bay
Company's posts and settlements, and the missionary stations of
the American Board of Foreign Missions, the country generally
being still in possession of the native tribes. Fort Vancouver,
the company's principal depot, stands on the north side of the
river, 100 miles from its mouth, in the midst of fertile and
beautiful prairies. The fort is merely a stockade, inclosing* the
■company's buildings, surrounded by about fifty huts, occuj)ied
by the mechanics and labourers, with their Indian wives and
slaves, who number in all about 800 persons. The stations of
the American mission board are Astoria and Clatsop, both
situated near the mouth of the river — the former on the north
and the latter on the southern shore. Besides these there are
various posts scattered over the interior ; latterly the territory has
received a number of Anglo-American settlers from the states;
and from the enterprising character of that people, it seems not
unlikely that in a few years, in spite of every obstacle, it will be
extensively settled upon by them.

As is generally known, the United States prefer a claim to the
greater part, if not the whole of the Oregon territory, while Great
Britain disputes this title, and asserts a claim to at least joint
occupancy, a right of navigating the Columbia, and of forming
settlements and trading posts in the country. To the British,
with their feeble and cumbrous colonial policy, this far distant
territory can never be anything but an engine of trouble and
-expense ; or at best, the mere resort of hunters and fur-traders,
from whose feats the nation at large can derive little economical
advantage. Even did it present an average field for emigration
— which is rendered more than dubious by the character both of
the soil and climate — still, considering that it is between two and
three thousand miles distant from the farthest verge of Western
Canada, and of very tedious and dangerous access by sea, it can
by no means form an acquisition of peculiar value to a country
whose accessible possessions are already so extensive. Viewed
in whatever light, it is exceedingly desirable that the conflicting
claims of the British and United'States governments respecting
the Oregon were amicably and speedily adjusted.




'-^ N a beautiful morning in summer, Mrs Mason, a lady
who had led an active and useful life, but now was
desirous of retiring for the sake of her health to a
pleasant part of the country, arrived at the village of
' Glenburnie. Situated near the head of a glen, or romantic
ji^y valley, the village was small and picturesque, but, like too
many villages and hamlets in Scotland, it showed that
*V^' nothing was done to make it neat, cleanly, or attractive. It
consisted of about twenty or thirty thatched cottages, which, but
for their chimneys, and the smoke that issued from them, might
have passed for so many stables or hogsties, so little had they to
distinguish them as the dwellings of man. That one horse, at
least, was the inhabitant of every dwelling, there was no room to
doubt, as every door could not only boast its dunghill, but had a
small cart stuck up on end directly before it ; which cart, though
often broken, and always dirty, seemed ostentatiously displayed
as a proof of wealth.

In the middle of the village stood the kirk, a humble edifice,
which meekly raised its head but a few degrees above the neigh-
bouring houses, ornamented, however, by two old ash-trees,
which grew at its east end, and spread their protecting- arms over
its lowly roof. As the houses of the village stood separate from
each other, at the distance of many yards, our traveller had time
to contemplate the scene, and was particularly struck with the
number of children who, as the car advanced, poured forth to
look at Mrs Mason and her friends, Mr and Miss Mary Stewart,
No. 46. 1


who accompanied lier in their car. Mrs Mason having pre-
viously arrang-ed to stay for a short time in the village with the
only relation she had in the world, who was married to a farmer
named John Macclarty, she now asked for the house of that
worthy, and after a severe jolting from the badness of the road,
was set down opposite his door.

It must be confessed that the aspect of the dwelling where she
was to fix her residence was by no means inviting. The walls
were substantial — built of stone and lime — but they were
blackened by the mud which the cart-wheels had spattered from
the ruts in winter ; and on one side of the door they were covered
from view by the contents of a large dunghill. On the other,
and directly under the window, was a squashy pool, formed by
the dirty water thrown from the house, and in it about twenty
young ducks were at this time dabbling'.

At the threshold of the door, room had been left for a paving-
stone, but it had never been laid; and consequently the place
became hollow, to the great advantage of the younger ducklings,
which always found in it a plentiful supply of water, in which
they could swim without danger. Happily Mr Stewart was
provided with boots, so that he could take a firm step in it, while
lie lifted Mrs Mason, and set her down in safety within the
threshold. But there an unforeseen danger awaited her; for
there the great whey-pot had stood since morning, when the
cheese had been made, and was at the present moment filled with
chickens, busily picking at the bits of curd which had hardened
on the sides, and cnielly mocked their wishes. Over this Mr
Stewart and Mrs Mason unfortunately tumbled. The pot was
overturned, and the chickens, cackling with hideous din, flew
about in all directions, some over their heads, and others making
their way by the inner door into the house.

The accident was attended with no further bad consequences
than a little hurt upon the shins ; and all our party were now
assembled in the kitchen ; but though they found the doors of
the house open, they saw no appearance of any inhabitants. At
length Mrs Macclarty came in all out of breath, followed by
her daughters, two big girls of eleven and thirteen years of age.
She welcomed Mrs Mason and her friends with great kindness,
and made many apologies for being in no better order to receive
them ; but said that both her gudeman and herself thought that
her cousin would have stayed with Mr Stewart at Gowan-brae till
after the fair, as they were too far off at Glenburnie to think of
going to it, though it would, to be sure, be only natural for Mrs
Mason to like to see all the grand sights that were to be seen
there ; for, to be sure, she would gang mony places before she
saw the like. Mrs Mason smiled, and assured her she would
have more pleasure in looking at the fine view from her door
than in all the sights at the fair.

" Ay, it's a bonny piece of corn, to be sure," returned Mrs



Macclarty with great simplicity ; " but then, what with the
trees, and rocks, and wimpHng-s o' the burn, we have nae room
to make parks o' ony size."

" But were your trees, and rocks, and wimplings of the burn
all removed," said Mr Stewart, " then your prospect would be
worth the looking" at, Mrs Macclarty ; would it not ?"

Though Mr Stewart's irony was lost upon the good woman, it
produced a laugh among the young folks, which she, however,
did not resent, but immediately fell to busying herself in sweep-
ing the hearth, and adding turf to the fire, in order to make the
kettle boil for tea.

" I think," said Miss Mary, " you might make your daughters
save you that trouble," looking at the two girls, who stood all
this time leaning ag'ainst the wall.

" O poor things," said their mother, " they have not been used
to it ; they have eneugh of time for wark yet."

" Depend upon it," said Mrs Mason, " young people can never
begin too soon j your eldest daughter there will soon be as tall as

"Indeed she's of a stately growth," said Mrs Macclarty,
pleased with the observation ; " and Jenny there is little ahint
her ; but what are they but bairns yet for a' that ? In time, I
warrant, they'll do weel eneugh. Meg can milk a cow as weel
as I can do, when she likes."

" And does she not always like to do all she can ? " said Mrs

" O, we manna complain," returned the mother ; " she does
weel eneugh."

The gawky girl now began to rub the wall up and dovm with
her dirty fingers ; but happily the wall was of too dusky a hue
to be easily stained. And here let us remark the advantage
which our cottages in general possess over those of our southern
neighbours, theirs being so whitened up that no one can have
the comfort of laying a dirty hand upon them without leaving
the impression ; an inconvenience which reduces people to the
necessity of learning to stand upon their legs, without the
assistance of their hands ; whereas in our country, custom has
rendered the hands in standing at a door, or in going up or
down a stair, no less necessary than the feet, as may be plainly
seen in the finger-marks which meet one's eye in all directions.

While Mrs Macclarty was preparing tea for her guests, Mrs
Mason cast her exploring eye on the house and furniture. She
soon saw that the place they were in served in the triple capacity
of kitchen, parlour, and bedroom. Its furniture was suitably
abundant. It consisted, on one side, of a dresser, over which
w^ere shelves filled with plates and dishes, which she supposed to
be of pewter ; but they had been so bedimmed by the quantities
of flies that sat upon them, that she could not pronounce with
certainty as to the metal they were made of. On the shelf that


projected immediately next the dresser was a number of deif and
wooden bowls, of different dimensions, with horn spoons, &c.
These, though arrang^ed with apparent care, did not entirely
conceal from view the dirty nig-htcaps and other articles that
were stuffed in behind.

Opposite the fireplace were two beds, each enclosed in a sort of
wooden closet, so firmly built as to exclude the entrance of a
breath of air, except in front, where were small folding'-doors,
which were now open, and exhibited a quantity of yarn hung- up
in bunches — affording proof of the goodwife's industry. The
portable furniture, as chairs, tables, &c. were all, though clumsy,
of good materials ; so that Mrs Mason thought the place w^anted
nothing- but a little attention to neatness, and some more light,
to render it tolerably comfortable.

Miss Mary Stewart took upon herself the trouble of making
tea, and began the operation by rinsing all the cups and saucers
through warm water ; at which Mrs Macclarty was so far from
being ofi*ended, that the moment she perceived her intention she
stepped to a huge Dutch press, and having with some difficulty
opened the leaves, took from a store of nice linen, which it pre-
sented to their view, a fine damask napkin, of which she begged
her to make use.

" You have a noble stock of linen, cousin," said Mrs Mason.
" Few farmers' houses in England could produce the like ; but I
think this is rather too fine for common use."

" For common use ! " cried Mrs Macclarty ; " na, na, we're no
sic fools as put our napery to use ! I have a dizen table-claiths
in that press thirty years auld, that were never laid upon a
table. They are a' o' my mother's spinning. I have nine o' my
ain makin' forbye that never saw the sun but at the boukin
washin. Ye needna be telling us o' England ! "

" It is no doubt a good thing'," said Mrs Mason, " to have a
stock of goods of any kind, provided one has a prospect of turn-
ing them to account ; but I confess I think the labour unpro-
fitably employed which, during thirty years, is to produce no
advantage ; and that linen of an inferior quality would be pre-
ferable, as it would certainly be more useful. A towel of nice
clean huck-a-back would wipe a cup as well, and better, than a
damask napkin."

" Towels ! " cried Mrs Macclarty ; " na, na, we manna pretend
to towels ; we just wipe up the things wi' what comes in the

On saying this the good woman, to show how exactly she
practised what she spoke, pulled out from between the seed-tub
and her husband's dirty shoes (which stood beneath the bench
by the fireside) a long blackened rag, and with it rubbed one of
the pewter plates, with which she stepped into the closet for a
roll of butter. " There," says she, " I'm sure ye'll say that ye
never ate better butter in your life. There's no in a' Glenburnie


better kye than ours. I hope ye'U eat heartily, and Vm sure
ye're heartily welcome."

" Look, sister," cried little William, " see, there are the marks-
of a thumb and two fingers ! do scrape it off, it is so nasty !"

" Dear me," said Mrs Macclarty, " I didna mind that I had
been stirring- the fire, and my hands were a wee sooty ; but it
will soon scrape atf ; there's a dirty knife will take it aff in a

" Stop, stop," cried Miss Mary, " that knife will only make it
worse ; pray, let me manage it myself."

She did so manage it that the boys, who were very hungry,
contrived to eat it to their oat-cakes with great satisfaction ; but
though Mrs Mason made the attempt, the disgust with which
she began was so augmented by the sight of the numerous hairs
which, as the butter was spread, bristled up upon the surface,
that she found it impossible to proceed.

Here, thought she, is a home in which peace and plenty seem
to reign, and yet these blessings, which I thought invaluable,
will not be sufficient to afford me any comfort, from the mere
want of attention to the article of cleanliness. But may I not
remedy this ? She looked at Mrs Macclarty, and in the mild
features of a face which, notwithstanding all the disadvantages
of slovenly dress and four days' soil (for this was Thursday), was
still handsome, she thought she perceived a candour that might
be convinced, and a good nature that would not refuse to act
upon conviction. Of the countenances of the two girls she could
not judge so favourably. The elder appeared morose and sullen,
and the younger stupid and insensible. She was confirmed in
her opinion by observing that, though their mother had several
times desired them to go to the field for their father, neither of
them stirred a step.

" Do you not hear your mother speaking to you ?" said Mr
Stewart in a tone of authority. The eldest coloured, and hung
down her head ; the younger girl looked in his face with a stupid
stare, but neither of them made any answer.

" Ye^l gang, I ken, my dear," said Mrs Macclarty, addressing
herself to the younger ; " oh ay, I ken ye'll gang, like a good
bairn, Jean."

Jean looked at her sister ; and Mrs Macclarty, ashamed of
their disobedience, but still willing to palliate the faults which
her own indulgence had created, said, " that indeed they never
liked to leave her, poor things ! they were so bashful ; but that
in time they would do weel eneugh."

"They will never do well if they disobey their mother," said
Mr Stewart; "you ought to teach your children to obey you,
Mrs Macclarty, for their sakes as well as for your own. Take
my word for it, that if you don't, they, as well as you, will suffer
from the consequences. But come, boys, we shall go to the
field ourselves, and see how the farmer's work goes on."



Mrs Macclarty, g-lad of his proposal, went to tlie door to point
the way. Having- received her directions, Mr Stewart, pointing*
to the pool at the threshold, asked her how she could bear to
have such dirty doors. " Why does not your husband fetch a
stone from the quarry?" said he. "People who are far from
stones and from gravel may have some excuse, but you have
the materials within your reach, and by half a day's labour
could have your door made clean and comfortable. How, then,
can you have gone on so long" with it in this condition ? " " In-
deed I kenna, sir," said Mrs Macclarty j "the gudeman just
canna be fashed."

" And cannot you be fashed to go to the end of the house to
throw out your dirty water ? Don't you see how small a drain
would from that carry it down to the river, instead of remaining'
here to stagnate, and to suffocate you with intolerable stench ? "

" Oh, we're just used to it," said Mrs Macclarty, " and we
never mind it. We couldna be fashed to gang sae far wi' a' the

" But what," returned Mr Stewart, " will Mrs Mason think of
all this dirt ? She has been used to see things in a very different
sort of order ; and if you will be advised by her, she will put
you upon such a method of doing everything about your house
as will soon give it a very different apj)earance."

" Ay," said Mrs Macclarty, " I aye feared she would be owre
nice for us. She has been sae lang amang the English, that she
maun hae a hantel o' outlandish notions. But we are owre auld
to learn, and we just do weel eneugh."

Mr Stewart shook his head, and followed his sons, who had by
this time disengaged the gate from the post, to which it had
been attached by an old cord of many knots.

While Mr Stewart had been engaging* the farmer's wife in
conversation at the door, his daughter had been earnestly ex-
horting Mrs Mason to return to Gowan-brae, and to give up all
thoughts of remaining in a situation in which she could not
probably enjoy any degree of comfort; but her arguments made
no impression. Mrs Mason adhered inflexibly to her resolution
of making a trial of the place ; and on Mrs Macclarty's entrance,
begged to see the room she was to occupy.

" That you sail," said Mrs Macclarty ; " but, indeed, it's no
in sic order as I could wish, for it's cram fou o' woo : it was put
in there the day of the sheep-shearing, and we have never ta'en
the fash to put it by ; for, as I said before, we did not expect my
cuisin till after the fair." She then opened the door that was
placed in the middle, exactly between the two beds, the recesses
of which formed the entry of the dark jDassage, through which
they groped their way to the spens, or inner apartment, which
was nearly of the same size as the kitchen. Mrs Mason was
prepared for seeing the fleeces, which were piled up in the middle
of the floor, but was struck with dismay at the fusty smelly



whicli denoted the place to be without any circulation of air.
She immediately advanced to the window, with the intention of
opening' it for relief. But, alas ! it was not made to open ; and
she heard for her comfort that it was the same with all the other
windows in the house. The bed, which was opposite to it, was
shut up on, three sides, like those in the kitchen. At the foot
was a dark closet, in which Mrs Mason's trunks were already
placed. Between the window and the fireplace was a large
chest of di'awers, of mahogany ; and on the other side the
window an eight-day clock in a mahogany case. The backs o£
the chairs were of the same foreign wood, betokening no saving
of expense ; yet, upon the whole, all had a squalid and gloomy

Mrs Macclarty tossed down the bed to show the fineness of
the ticking and the abundance of the blankets, which she took care
to tell were all of her own spinning. She received the expected
tribute of applause for her good housewifery, though Mrs Mason
could not help observing to her what a risk she ran of having it
all lost for want of air. " See the proof of what I say," said she,
" in that quantity of moths ! they will soon leave you little to
boast of your blankets !"

" Moths !" repeated Mrs Macclarty, " there never was sic a
sight o' moths as in this room; we are just eaten up wi' them;
and I'm sure I kenna how they can win in, for no ae breath o'
wind ever blew here !"

"That is just the thing that induces them to breed in this
place," returned Mrs Mason. " Plenty of air would soon rid you
of the grievance. Since the window is unfortunately fast, I must
beg to have a fire kindled here as soon as your maid comes from
the hay-field."

" A fire !" repeated Mrs Macclarty ; " I thought you had fund
it owre warm."

" It is not to increase the heat that I ask for a fire," returned
Mrs Mason, " but to increase the circulation of air. If the
doors are left open, the air will come sweeping" in to feed the
fire, and the room will by that means be ventilated, which
it greatly stands in need of. I can at present breathe in it no

By the help of Miss Mary's arm Mrs Mason got out into the
open air, and gladly assented to her friend's proposal of taking a
view of the garden, which lay at the back of the house. On
going to the wicket by which it entered, they found it broken,
so that they were obliged to wait until the stake which propped
it was removed. Nor was this the only difficulty they had to
encounter; the path, which was very narrow, was damp, hy
sippings from the dirty pool ; and on each side of it the ground
immediately rose, and the docks and nettles which covered it con-
sequently grew so high, that they had no alternative but to walk
sideways or to separate.



"Ye'll see a bonny g-arden if ye gang on," said Mrs Mac-
clarty ; " my son's imco proud o't."

" I wonder your son can let these weeds grow here so rank,"
said Miss Mary; "I think if he is proud of the garden, he
should take some pains to make the entrance to it passable."

"Oh, it does weel eneugh for us," returned the contented
mother. " But saw ye ever sic fine suthernwood, or sic a bed of
thyme? We have twa rose-bushes down yonder too, but we
canna get at them for the nettles. My son gets to them by
speeling the wa' ; but he would do onything for flowers. His
father's often angry at the time he spends on them."

" Your husband, then, has not much taste for the garden, I
suppose?" said Mrs Mason; " and indeed so it appears, for here
is ground enough to supply a large family with fruit and vege-
tables all the year round; but I see scarcely anything but
cabbages and weeds."

" Na, na, we have some leeks too," said Mrs Macclarty ; " and
green kail in winter in plenty. We dinna pretend to kick-
shaws ; green kail's gude eneugh for us."

" But," said Miss Mary, " any one may pretend to what they
can produce by their own labour. Were your children to dress

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 20 of 59)