William Chambers.

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

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and weed this garden, there might be a pretty walk ; there you
might have a plot of green peas, there another of beans ; and
under your window you might have a nice border of flowers ta
regale you with their sweet smell. They might do this, too, at
very little trouble."

" Ay, but they canna be fashed," said Mrs Macclarty ; " and
it does just weel eneugh."

Mr Stewart now appeared, and with him the farmer, who
saluted Mrs Mason with a hearty welcome, and pressed all the
party to go in and taste his whisky, to prevent, as he said, the
tea from doing them any harm. As the car was now ready, Mr
Stewart begged to be excused from accepting the invitation ;
and after laying a kind injunction on Mrs Mason to consider no
place so much her home as Gowan-brae, he set off with his
family on their return homewards.

Mrs Mason, unwilling to give trouble, and anxious not to
disgust her new acquaintances by the appearance of fastidious-
ness, gave no further directions concerning her apartment than
were barely necessary towards putting it in a habitable state.
This being done, she entered cheerfully into conversation with
the farmer, whom she found possessed of much plain g-ood sense,
and a greater stock of information than she could have supposed
within his reach. She was struck with the force and ration-
ality of his observations on various subjects, and almost sorry
when their chat was interrupted by a call to supper, which was
now upon the table. It consisted, besides the mmi]j dishes of
sowens and milk, of a large trencherful of new potatoes, the
first of the season, and intended as a treat for the stranger.



The farmer and his three sons sat down on one side, the g-ood-
wife and her two daughters on the other, leaving" the arm-chair
at the head for Mrs Mason, and a stool at the foot for Grizzj,
who sat with her back to the table, only turning- round occa-
sionally to help herself.

When all were seated, the farmer, taking off a large blue
bonnet, which, on account of his bald crown, he seldom parted
with through the day, and looking round to see that all were
attentive, invited them to join in the act of devotion which pre-
ceded every meal, by saying, " Let us ask a blessing."

Mrs Mason, who had been so long accustomed to consider
the standing posture as expressive of greater reverence, imme-
diately stood up, but she was the only one that moved ; all the
rest of the party keeping their seats, while the farmer, with
great solemnity, pronounced a short but emphatic prayer. This
being- finished, Mrs Mason was desired to help herself; and
such was the impression made by the i3ious thankfulness which
breathed in the devotional exercise in which she had just
engaged, that viands less acceptable to her palate would at that
moment have been eaten with relish. The sowens were excel-
lent ; the milk was sweet ; and the fresh-raised potatoes, burst-
ing from the coats in which they had been boiled, might have
feasted a queen. It is indeed ten thousand to one that any
queen ever tasted of the first of vegetables in this its highest
state of perfection. Mrs Mason was liberal of her praise ; and
both the farmer and his wife were highly gratified by her ex-
pressions of satisfaction.

The meal concluded, as it had begun, with praj'-er ; and Mrs
Mason retired to her room under a full conviction that, in the
society of people who so sincerely served and worshipped God,
all the materials of happiness would be within her reach.

Her bed appeared so inviting- from the delicate whiteness of
the linen, that she hastened to enjoy in it the sweets of repose ;
but no sooner had her head reached the pillow than she became
sick, and was so overcome by a feeling of suffocation, that she
was obliged to sit up for air. Upon examination, she found
that the smell which annoyed her proceeded from new feathers
put into the pillow before they had been properly dried, and
when they were consequently full of the animal oil, which,
when it becomes rancid, sends forth an intolerable effluvia.
Having removed the annoyance, and made of her clothes a
bundle to support her head, she again composed herself to sleep ;
but, alas ! in vain ; for the enemy by whom she was now
attacked she found to be sworn against sleep. The assault was
made by such numbers in all quarters, and carried on with such
dexterity by the merciless and agile foe, that, after a few in-
effectual attempts at offensive and defensive warfare, she at
length resigned herself to absolute despair. The disgusting idea
of want of cleanliness which their presence excited, was Yet

8 9 "


more insuffera'ble than the piercing" of their little fan^s. But'
on recollecting how long* the room had been filled with the-
fleeces, she gladly flattered herself that they were only acci-
dental guests, and that she might soon be able to efi'ect their

As day advanced, the enemy retired; and poor Mrs Mason,
fatigued and wearied, at length sunk to rest. Happily, she
was undisturbed by the light ; for though her window, which
was exactly opposite to the bed, was not shaded by a curtain,
the veil of dust which it had contracted in the eighteen years
it had stood unwiped, was too thick to permit the rays of the
sun to penetrate.

As the clock struck eight she hastened out of bed, vexed
at having lost so much of the day in sleep; and on perceiv-
ing, when about half-dressed, that she had in her room neither
water nor hand-basin to wash in, she threw on her dimity
bed-gown, and went out to the kitchen to procure a supply of
these necessary articles. She there found Meg and Jean ; the
former standing at the table, from which the porridge dishes
seemed to have been just removed ; the latter killing flies at
the window. Mrs Mason addressed herself to Meg, and, after
a courteous good-morrow, asked her where she should find a
hand-basin 1 "I dinna ken," said Msg, drawing her finger
through the milk that had been spilled upon the table. " Wliere
is your mother ?" asked Mrs Mason. "I dinna ken," returned
Meg, continuing to dabble her hands thi'ough the remaining
fragments of the feast.

" If you are going to clean that table," said Mrs Mason^
" you will give yourself more work than you need by daubing
it all over with the porridge. Bring your cloth, and I shall show
you how I learned to clean our tables when I was a little girl
like you."

Meg continued to make lines with her forefinger.

" Come," said Mrs Mason, " shall I teach you ? "

" Na," said Meg, " I shall dight nane o't. I'm ga'an to the
schule." " But that need not hinder you to wipe up the table
before you go," said Mrs Mason. " You might have cleaned it
up as bright as a looking-glass in the time that you have spent
in spattering it and dirtying your fingers. Would it not be
pleasanter for you to make it clean than to leave it dirty ? "

"I'll no be at the fash," returned Meg, making off to the
door as she spoke. Before she got out she was met by her
mother, who, on seeing her, exclaimed, "Are ye no awa yet,
bairns ! I never saw the like. Sic a fight to get you to the
schule! Nae wonner ye learn little when you're at it. Gae
awa, like good bairns ; for there's nae schulin' the morn, ye
ken ; it's the fair day."

Meg set off after some further parley ; but Jean continued to
catch the flies at the window, taking no notice of her mother's



exhortations, though again repeated in pretty nearly the same

" Dear me ! " said the mother, " what's the matter wi' the
bairn ! what for winna ye gang- when Meg's gane ? Kin, and
ye'll be after her or she wins to the end o' the loan."

" I'm no ga'an the day," says Jean, turning away her face.
" And what for are ye no ga'an, my dear ? " says her mother.
" Cause I hinna gotten my questions," rej)lied Jean.

^' Oh, but ye may gang for a' that," said her mother ; " the
maister will no be angry. Gang, like a gude bairn."

" Na," said Jean ; " but he will be angry, for I didna get them
the last time either."

"And what for didna ye get them, my dear?" said Mrs
Macclarty in a soothing tone. " Cause 'twas unco kittle, and
I couldna be fashed," replied the hopeful girl, catching, as she
spoke, another handful of flies. Her mother, finding that in-
treaties were of no avail, endeavoured to speak in a more peremp-
tory accent, and even laid her commands upon her daughter to
depart immediately : but she had too often permitted her com-
mands to be disputed, to be surprised at their being now treated
with disrespect. Jean repeated her determined purpose of not
going to school that day ; and the firmer she became in opposi-
tion, the authoritative tone of the mother gradually weakened ;
till at length, by saying that " if she didna gang to the schule
she sudna stand there," she acknowledged herself to be defeated,
and the point to be given up.

Mrs Mason, who had stood an unobserved spectator of this
scene, was truly shocked at such a contempt of parental autho-
rity as she believed must inevitably produce consequences of
the most deplorable nature. She came forward, and stopping
the little girl as she was slinking out at the door, asked her
"if she really meant to disobey her mother by staying from
school ? " Jean made no answer ; but the indulgent mother,
unwilling that any one should open her eyes to that to which
she resolved to be blind, instantly made her spoilt child's
apology, by observing that "the poor thing hadna gotten
her questions, and didna like to gang, for fear o' the maister's

" But ought she not to have got her questions, as her master
enjoined, instead of idling here all the morning-?" said Mrs
Mason. " O ay," returned Mrs Macclarty, " she sud hae gotten
her questions, nae doubt ; but it was unco fashions, and ye see
she hasna a turn that gait, poor woman ! but in time she'll do
weel eneugh."

" Those who wait till evening for sunrise," said Mrs Mason,
" will find that they have lost the day. If you permit your
daughter, while a child, to disobey her parent and her teacher,
she will never learn to obey her God. But perhaps I interfere
too far. If I do, you must forgive me ; for, with the strong


impression which I have upon my mind of the consequences
of a rig-ht education, I am tempted to forget that my advice
may sometimes be unacceptable."

" Hoot," said Mrs Macclarty, who did not perfectly compre-
hend the speech, "maidens' bairns are aye weel bred, ye ken,
cuisin ; but I fear ye hinna sleepit weel, that ye have been sae
lang- o' rising. It's a lang time since the kettle has been boiling
for your breakfast."

" I shall be ready for it very soon," said Mrs Mason ; " but
I came in search of a basin and water, which Grizzy has forgot
to put in my room ; and until I wash, I can j^roceed no further
in dressing myself."

" Dear me," replied Mrs Macclarty, " I'm sure you're weel
eneugh. Your hands hae nae need of washing, I trow. Ye
ne'er do a turn to file them."

" You can't surely be in earnest," replied Mrs Mason. " Do
you think I could sit down to breakfast with unwashed hands ?
I never heard of such a thing, and never saw it done in my

" I see nae gude o' sic nicety," returned her friend ; " but it
is easy to gie ye water eneugh, though I'm sure I dinna ken
what to put it in, unless ye tak aiie o' the parridge plates : or
maybe the calf's lug'gie may do better, for it'll gie you eneugh
o' room."

" Your own basin will do better than either," said Mrs Mason :
" give me the loan of it for this morning, and I shall return it
immediately, as you must doubtless often want it throug-h the
day." " Na, na," returned Mrs Macclarty ; " I dinna fash wi'
sae mony fykes. There's aye water standing in something or
other for ane to ca' their hands throug'h when they're blacket.
The gudeman indeed is a wee conceity like yoursel', an' he coft
a brown basin for his shaving in on Saturdays, but it's in use
a' the week haddin' milk, or I'm sure ye'd be welcome to it. I
shall see an' get it ready for you the morn."

Poor Mrs Mason, on whose nerves the image presented by
this description of the alternate uses of the utensil in question
produced a sensible effect, could scarcely command voice to
thank her cousin for her civil offer. Being, however, under the
necessity of choosing for the present, she without hesitation
preferred the calf's bicker to the porridge plate : and indeed
considered the calf as being so much the cleanlier animal than
his mistress, that she would in every way have preferred him
for an associate.

Mrs Mason was not ill pleased to find that she was to break-
fast by herself; the rest of the family having long ago finished
their morning repast, were now engaged in the several occu-
pations of the day.

The kail-pot was already on the fire to make broth for dinner,
and Mrs Macclarty busied in preparing the vegetables which



were to he boiled in it, when her guest, on hearing her desire
Grizzel to make haste and sit down to her wheel, thought it
time to remind her that her bed was still to make, and her
room to be put in order, and that Grizzy's assistance would be
necessary for both.

It was not easy to persuade the good woman that it would
not be time enough in the dusk of the evening; but as Mrs
Mason declared it essential to her comfort, Grizzy Avas ordered
to attend her, and to do whatever she desired. By her direc-
tions the stout girl fell to work, and hoisted out' the bed and
bed-clothes, which she carried to the barn-yard, the only place
about the house where there was a sjDot of green grass. The
check curtains followed, and in their removal effected the sudden
ruin of many a goodly cobweb which had never before met
with the smallest molestation. When the lower vallance was
removed, it displayed a scene still more extraordinary ; a hoard
of the remains of all the old shoes that had ever been worn by
any member of the family, staves of broken tubs, ends of decayed
rope, and a long et cetera of useless articles, so covered with
blue mould and dust, that it seemed surprising the very spiders
did not quit the colony in disgust.

Mrs Mason sickened at the sight. Perceiving what an un-
pleasant task she should be oblig'ed to impose on her assistant,
she deemed herself in justice bound to recompense her for the
trouble : and holding up a half-crown piece, told her that if
she performed all she required of her on the present occasion
it should be her own. No sooner was Grizzy made certain of
the reward, which had till now been promised in indefinite
terms, than she began in such good earnest, that JMrs Mason
was glad to get out of the room. After three large bucketfuls
of dirt and trumpery had been carried out, she came to Mrs
Mason for fresh instructions ; then proceeded to wash the bed-
posts with soap and water ; after which the chairs, the tables,
the clock-case, the very walls of the room, as well as everything
it contained, all underwent a complete cleaning'.

The window, in which were nine tolerably large panes of
glass, was no sooner rendered transparent, than Grizzy cried
out in ecstacy, '■ that she cou'dna have thoug'ht it would have
made sic a change. Dear me ! how heartsome it looks now to
what it used ! " said the girl, her spirits rising' in proportion to
the exertion of her activity.

" And in how short a time has it been cleaned ! " said Mrs
Mason. " Yet, had it been regularly cleaned once a-week, as
it ought to have been, it would have cost far less trouble. By
the labour of a minute or two we may keep it constantly bright ;
and surely few days pass in which so much time may not be
spared. Let us now go to the kitchen window, and make it
likewise clean." Grizzy with alacrity obeyed. But before the
window could be approached, it was found necessary to remove



the heap of dusty articles piled up in the window-sill, which
served the purpose of family library and repository of what is
known by the term odds and ends.

Mrs Macclarty, who had sat down to spin, did not at first
seem willing" to take any notice of what was g-oing- forward;
but on perceiving" her maid beginning to meddle with the things
in the window, she could no longer remain a neutral spectator
of the scene. Stopping her wheel, she, in a voice indicating the
reverse of satisfaction, asked what she was about ? Mrs Mason
took it upon her to reply. " We are going to make your
window bright and clean for you, cousin," said she. " If you
step into my room, and take a look of mine, you will see what
a difference there is in it ; and this, if these broken panes were
mended, would look every bit as well." " It does weel eneugh,"
returned Mrs Macclarty ; " it wants nae cleanin' ; it does just
weel eneugh. What's the gude o' takin' up the lass's time wi'
nonsense ? she'll break the window too, and the bairns hae broken
eneugh o' it already."

" But if these panes were mended, and the window cleaned
without and within," said Mrs Mason, " you cannot think how
much more cheerful the kitchen would appear."

" And how lang wad it bide clean if it were ?" said Mrs Mac-
clarty ; " it would be as ill as ever or a month, and wha cou'd be
at the fash o' aye cleanin' at it ?"

" Even once a-month would keep it tolerable, but once a-week
would keep it very nice ; your little girls might rub it bright of
a morning, without the least trouble in the world. They might
learn, too, to whiten the window-sill, and to keep it free from
rubbish, by laying the books, and all these articles, in their pro-
per places, instead of letting them remain here covered with dust.
You cannot imagine what good it would do your young people
did they learn betimes to attend to such matters ; for believe me,
cousin, habits of neatness, and of activity, and of attention, have
a greater effect upon the temper and disposition than most people
are aware of."

" If my bairns do as weel as I hae done, they'll do weel
eneugh," said Mrs Macclarty, turning her wheel with great
speed. Mr Macclarty's voice was just at that moment heard
calling on Grizzy to drive the fowls out of the corn-field, which
necessarily put a stop to all further proceedings against the
window. Mrs Mason therefore returned to her own apartment ;
and, greatly pleased with the appearance which it now assumed,
cheerfully sat down to her accustomed labours of the needle, of
which she was such complete mistress, that it gave no interrup-
tion to the train of her reflections. On taking a view of her
present situation, and comparing it with the past, she carefully
suppressed every feeling that could lead to discontent. She saw
that the more nearly people approached each other in their
babits and. opmions; the less would the sacrifice be felt; but



while she entertained a hope of being- able to do more good in
her present situation than she could in any other, she resolved
to remain where she was. " Surely," said she to herself, " I must
be of some use to the children of these g-ood people. They are
ill broug-ht up, but they do not seem deficient in understanding* ;
and if I can once convince them of the advantage they will derive
from listening to my advice, I may make a lasting impression on
their minds."'

While engaged by these reflections as she busily pursued her
work, she was startled by a sudden noise, followed by an imme-
diate diminution of light; and on looking up, perceived her
window bespattered all over with mud. A tittering- laugh
betrayed the aggi*essors, and directed her attention to the side
where they stood, and from which she knew they could not
retreat without being seen. She therefore continued quietly on
the watch, and in a Httle time saw Jean and her younger brother
issue from the spot, and hastily run down the bank that led to
the river.

Mrs Mason had been for above twenty years employed in
studying the tempers and dispositions of childi-en; but as she
had never before seen an instance of what appeared to be unpro-
voked malignity in the youthful mind, she was gi'eatly shocked
at the discovery, and thought it incumbent on her to inform
their mother of the incident, and to give her opinion of it in the
plainest terms.

Mrs Macclarty, perceiving that Mrs Mason had something
extraordinary to communicate, stopped her wheel to listen ; and
when the window was mentioned, asked, with great anxiety,
whether it was broken ? " No," said Mrs Mason ; " the mud
they threw at it was too soft to break the glass ; it is not to the
injury done the window that I wish to call yom' attention, but
to the dispositions of your children ; for what must the disposi-
tions be that lead them to take pleasure in such an act ?"

" Hoot," said Mrs Macclarty, '• is that it a' 1 — ane wou'd hae
thoug'ht the window had been a' to shivers by the way you spoke.
If it's but a wee darted, there's na sae muckle ill done. I tauld
ye it was nonsense to be at sae muckle fash about it, for that it
wou'dna get leave to bide lang' clean."

" But if your children were better taught," said Mrs Mason,
" it might get leave to bide clean long enough. If the same
activity which they have displayed in dirtying it had been
directed into proper channels, your cottage might have been
kept in order by their little hands, and your garden and all
about your doors made neat and beautiful. Children are
naturally active ; but unless their activity be early bent to useful
purposes, it will only lead them into mischief. Were your
children "

"Hoot," said Mrs Macclarty peevishly, "my bairns are just
tike other folks'. A' laddies are fou o' mischief. " I'm sui'e there's



no a yard i' the town where they can get a flower or apple
keepit for them. I wonder what ye would hae said if ye had
seen the minister's yetts the day after they were painted
slaked and blacket a' owre wi' dirt by the laddies frae the

*' I would have said/'* returned Mrs Mason, " what I said
before, that all that bent to mischief in the children arises from
the neg-lect of the jDarents in not directing- their activity into
proper channels. Do you not think that each of these boys
would, if properly trained, find as much amusement in works
that would tend to ornament the village, or in cultivating a few
shrubs and flowers to adorn the walls of their own cottages, as
they now appear to find in mischief and destruction ? Do you
not think that that girl of yours might have been so broug'ht up
as to have had more pleasure in cleaning a window of her father's
house than in bedaubing it v/ith mud ? Allowing the pleasure
of being mischievously active, and the pleasure of being usefully
active, to be at present equal, do you think that the consequences
will not be different? 'Train up a child in the way he should
go,' says Solomon, and depend upon it that in the way you train
him he will go, whether you desire it or not. If you permit a
child to derive all his pleasure from doing ill to others, he will
not, when he is grown up, be inclined to do much good. He
will even from his youth be conscious of deserving the ill-will of
his neighbours, and must of course have no g'ood-will to them.
His temper will thus be soured. If he succeed in life, he will be
proud and overbearing; if he do not, he will become sulky, and
morose, and obdurate."

" Weel," said the farmer, who had been listening to the latter
part of the conversation, " it's a' true that ye say ; but how is it
to be helpit 1 Do you think corrupt nature can be subdued in
ony other way than by the grace of God?"

" If I read my Bible right," returned Mrs Mason, " the grace
of God is a gift which, like all the other gifts of divine love,
must be sought by the appointed means. It is "the dutj - of a
parent to put his children upon the way of thus seeking it, and,
as far as it is in his power, to remove the obstacles that would
prevent it."

" The minister himsel' could speak nae better," returned the
farmer. " But when folks gie their bairns the best education in
their power, what mair can "they do?"

" In answer to your question," replied Mrs Mason, " I will
put one to you. Suppose you had a field which produced only
briers and thorns, what method would you take to bring it into
heart?" ^

" I would nae doubt root out the briers and thorns as weel as
I could," returned the farmer.

"And after you had opened the soil by ploughing, and
enriched it by the proper manure, you would sow good seed in it,



and expect, by the blessing" of Heaven, to reap in harvest the
reward of your labours?" said Mrs Mason.

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 21 of 59)