William Chambers.

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

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" To be sure I would," said the farmer.

" And do you imagine," said Mrs Mason, " that the human
soul requires less care in culturing* it than is necessary to your
field ? Is it merely by teaching* them to say their questions, or
even teaching them to read, that the briers and thorns of pride
and self-will will be rooted up from your children's minds ? "

" We maun trust a' to the grace of God," said the farmer.

" God forbid that we should put trust in aught beside,"
returned Mrs Mason ; " but if we hope for a miraculous inter-
position of divine grace in favour of ourselves or of our children,
without taking the means that God has appointed, our hope does
not spring from faith, but from presumption. It is just as if you
were neither to plough nor sow your fields, and yet expect that
Providence would bless you with an abundant crop."

" But what means ought we to use that we do not use?" said
the farmer. " We send our bairns to the schule, and we tak
them to the kirk, and we do our best to set them a good example.
I kenna what we could do mair."

" You are a good man," said Mrs Mason with complacency ;
"and happy will it be for your children if they follow your
example. But let us drop all allusion to them in particular,
and speak only of training up youth to virtue as a general
principle. By what you say, you think it sufficient to sow the
seed ; I contend for the necessity of preparing the soil to receive
it; and say that, without such preparation, it will never take
root nor vegetate."

" I canna contradict you," returned the farmer ; " but I wish
you to explain it better. If you mean that we oug'ht to gie our
bairns lessons at hame, I can tell you we hae nae time for it, nor
are we book-learned eneugh to make fine speeches to them, as
the like of you might do ; and if we were, I fear it wad do little

" Believe me," replied Mrs Mason, " set lessons and fine
harangues make no part of my plan of preparation, which
consists of nothing" else than a watchful attention to the first
appearances of what is in its nature evil, and, whether it comes
in the shape of self-will, passion, or perverseness, nipping it in
the very bud ; while, on the other hand, I would tenderly cherish
every kindly affection, and enforce attention to the feelings of
others : by which means I would render children kind-hearted,
tractable, and obedient. This is what I call the preparation of
the soil : now, let us see the consequences. Supposing that, of
two children, one has from infancy been accustomed to constant
and cheerful obedience, while the other has never been taught to
respect any will but his own ; which of those two, on being
instructed in the divine precept, 'honour thy father and thy
mother/ will be most likely to enter into the spirit of the com-



mandment? And what doth the gospel teach? Doth it not
urg-e us to subdue all selfish and vindictive passions, in order that
we may cherish the most perfect love to God and man ? Now, if
we have permitted our children to indulge these passions, how do
we prepare them for practising the gospel precepts? Their duty
to God and man requires that they should make the best use of
every power of mind and body : the activity natural to youth is
a power included in this rule ; and if we permit them to waste it
in effecting mischief, and in destroying or disturbing the happi-
ness of others, can we say that we are not counteracting the
-express will of our divine Master ? How can we flatter ourselves
that, with such habits, the divine precepts will make much im-
pression on their minds?"

Before Mrs Mason had finished her speech, her voice was
drowned in the noise of a violent quarrel that had taken place
between the farmer's two elder sons. Perceiving that the dispute
would not be easily settled, she retired to her room, but was
overtaken in the passage by Mrs Macclarty, who said in a
whisper, "I hope ye'll say naething o' Jenny's playing the truant
frae the schule. Her father mauna ken o't, he wad be sae
angry.'' " Alas ! " said Mrs Mason, " you know not how much
you are yom' child's enemy ; but I shall be silent."

Mrs Mason enjoyed the reward of her exertions, and of
Grizzel's labour, in a night of sweet and uninterrupted repose.
She was awakened at early dawn by the farmer calling his sons
to get up to prepare for the labours of the day ; and looking up,
beheld the clouds already decked in the colours of the morning,
inviting her to the most glorious sight on which the eye of man
can look. The invitation was not given in vain. She rose and
dressed herself, and taking her staff and crutch, sallied from
her room, earnestly wishing to escape observation.

From the length of time that the outer door had been shut, the
closeness of the house had become very unpleasant to her lungs.
Welcome, therefore, was the reviving breeze of morning ; wel-
come the freshness of the coming day, which now burst upon
her senses. It was not, indeed, until she had removed some paces
from the house that she fully felt its influence ; for while near
the door, the smell of the squashy pool, and its neighbour the
dunghill, was so powerful, as to subdue the fragrance of earth's
fruits and flowers.

Having taken the road towards the river, she, on its first
turning, found herself in full view of the waterfall, and was
arrested by admiration at the many beauties of the scene.
Seating herself upon a projecting rock, she contemplated the
effulgent glory of the heavens as they brightened into splendour
at the approach of the lord of day; and when her eyes were
dazzled by the scene, turned to view the living waters pouring
their crystal flood over the craggy precipice, shaded by the
spreading boughs of birch and alder.



' While indulging- in tlie grateful feelings of her heart, by-
sending up her tribute of praise to the Almighty Giver of all
good, her ears were suddenly assailed by the harsh sound of
discord ; and on moving a few steps, she discovered that a violent
dispute had taken place between the farmer and his eldest son.
In the hope of making peace, she advanced towards them ; but
before she turned the corner she paused, doubting whether it
were not better to take no notice of having heard the fray.
The voices ceased, and proceeding, she saw the farmer hastily
unsaddling a horse, and the son at the same moment issuing
from the door, but pulled back by his mother, who held the skirt
of his coat, saying, " I tell ye, Sandy, ye mauna gang to anger
your father."

" But I sail gang," cried Sandy in a sullen tone ; " I winna
be hindered, I sail gang*, I tell ye, whether my father likes or

" Ye may gang, ye doure loon," says the father ; " but if ye
do, ye sail repent it as lang- as ye live."

"*Hoot na," returned the mother, "ye'll forgie him; and
ye had as weel let him gang, for ye see he winna be hin-

^' "VNTiere is the young man for going to ? " asked Mrs Mason.

*^ Where sud he be for gain' to but to the fair ? " returned the
mother ; " it's only natural. But our gudeman's unco particular,
and never lets the lads get ony daffin."

" Daffin ! " cried the farmer ; " is druckenness daffin ? Didna
he gang last year, and come hame as drunk as a beast ! And ye
wad hae him tak the brown mare too, without ever speering my
leave ! saddled and bridled too, forsooth, like ony gentleman in
the land ! But ye sail baith repent it : I tell ye ye'se baith
repent it."

Mrs Mason endeavoured to dissuade the young man fcoTa
going to the fail', but in vain ; and he was left to pursue his own
wilful course.

^' Mistress ! " hallooed the voice of Grizzel from the house, " I
wish ye wad come and speak to Meg. She winna be hindered
putting her fingers in the kirn, and licking the cream."

" If I were at you," cried Mrs Macclarty, " I'd gar you "

She was as good as her word; and in order to show Mrs
Mason the g'ood effect of her advice, she ran that moment into
the kitchen, and gave her daughter a hearty slap upon the back.
The girl went a few steps farther off, and deliberately applied
her tongue to the back of her hand, where part of the cream was
still visible.

" Go ! ye idle whippy ! " said her mother, " and let me see how
weel ye'll ca' the kirn."

" I winna kirn the day," retui*ned Meg ; " I'm gami to milk
the kye. Jean may kirn ; she has naething else to do."
- " I'm aye set to kirn," says Jean whimpering. " I never saw



sic wark. I tell ye I winna kirn mair than Meg". Grizzy can
milk the cows hersel'. She doesna want her help."

" But, girls/'' said Mrs Mason, " when I was a little girl like
either of you, I never thought of choosing my work ; I con-
sidered it my business to follow my mother's directions. Young
people ought to obey, and not to dictate."

" Hear ye that ?" said Mrs Macclarty. " But Jean will gang
to the kirn, I ken, like a good bairn ; and she sail get a dad o'
butter to her bread."

" But I winna hae't frae the hairing knife," said Jean, " for
the last I got stack i' my throat."

" Bless me !" cried Mrs Mason in amazement, " how does youi*
butter come to be so full of hairs ? where do they come from ? "

" Oh, they are a' frae the cows," returned Mrs Macclarty.
" There has been lang a hole in the milk sythe, and I have never
been at the fash to get it mended ; but as I tak aye care to sythe
the milk through my fingers, I wonder how sae mony hairs
win in."

" Ye needna wonder at that," observed Grizzel, " for the house
canna be soopit but the dirt flees into the kirn."

" But do you not clean the churn before you put in the
cream ?" asked Mrs Mason, more and more astonished.

" Na, na," returned Mrs Macclarty, " that wadna be canny,
ye ken. Naebody hereabouts would clean their kirn for ony
consideration. I never heard o' sic a thing i' my life."

Mrs Mason found it difficult to conceal the disgust which this
discovery excited ; but resolving to be cautious of giving offence
by the disclosure of her sentiments, she sat down in silence, to
watch the further operations of the morning. AVhile Jean was
slowly turning the churn with unwilling hand, her mother was
busily employed in making the cheese. Part of the milk des-
tined to that purpose was already put upon the tire in the same
iron pot in which the chickens had been feasting, and on which
the hardened curd at which they had been picking was still
visible towards the rim. The remainder of the milk was turned
into a large tub, and to it that upon the tire was added as soon
as it was of a proper heat. So far all was done wejl and
cleverly. Mrs Macclarty then took down a bottle of runnet, or
yearning, as she called it ; and having poured in what she
thought a sufficient quantity, tucked up the sleeve of her gown,
and dashing in her arm, stirred the infusion with equal care
and speed.

" I believe, cousin," said Mrs Mason hesitatingly, " I believe
— ^you forgot to wash your hands."

" Hoot !" returned the goodwife, " my hands do weel eneugh.
I canna be fashed to clean them at ilka turn."

" But you go about your work with such activity," rejoined
Mrs Mason, " that I should think it would give you little
trouble, if you were once accustomed to it : and by all that I


kave observed, and I have had many opportunities of observation,
I believe that, in the manag'ement of a dairy, cleanliness is the
first, the last, the one art needful.''

" Cleanly !" repeated Mrs Macclarty ; '• nae ane ever said
that I wasna cleanly. There's no a mair cleanly person i' the
parish. Cleanly indeed ! ane wad think ye was speaking* to a
bairn !"

Mrs Mason oiFered a few words in explanation, and then
retired to her own apartment, to which she saw it would be
necessary to confine herself, in order to enjoy any tolerable
degree of comfort. She therefore began to consider how it
mig'ht be rendered more airy and commodious ; and after
dinner, observing* that the farmer's mind still brooded on his
son's behaviour, she g'ladly introduced the subject of her pro-
jected alterations, hoping' thus to divert his thoug'hts into another
channel. The first thing* she proposed was to have hing*es for
the frame of the window, that it mig*ht open and shut at plea-
sure. To this the farmer said he should have no objection, only
that " he keimed it wad soon be broken to pieces blawing* wi'
the wund."

" Oh, but you mistake me," said Mrs Mason. " I intend that
it should be fastened, when open, with an iron hook, as they con-
stantly fasten the cottag*e windows in Eng*land."

" And wha do ye think wad put in the cleek V returned he.
" Is there ane, think ye, about this house that wad be at sic a

" y^j, what trouble is there in it ?" said Mrs Mason. " It is
only teaching- your children to pay a little attention to such
thing's, and they will soon come to find no trouble in them.
They cannot too soon learn to be neat and reg'ular in their ways."

" Ilka place has just its ain g'ait," said the g*oodwife, " and ye
needna think that Ave'll ever learn yours. And indeed, to be
plain wi' you, cuisin, I think you have owre mony fykes. There,
didna ye keep Grizzy for mair than twa hours yesterday morning:
soopin' and dustin' your room in every corner, and cleaning* out
the twa bits o' buird, that are for naething* but to set your feet
on after a'?"

" But did you know how dirty they were ? " said Mrs Mason.

"Hoot! the chickens just gfot their meat on them for twa or
three weeks, puir wee beasties ! The buirds were a wee thoug*ht
darted wi' parritch, but it was weel dried on, and ye wadna been
a bit the waur."

" But are the boards the worse for being* scoured?" asked Mrs
Mason ; " or would they have been the worse if they had been
scoured when you took them from the chickens, or while they
were feeding on them ? "

" Oh, to be sure it wad hae been an easy matter to hae scour't
them then, if we had thought of being at the fash," returned
Mrs Macclarty.



"In my opinion," rejoined Mrs Mason, "tHs/mr of leingr
fashed is the great bar to all improvement, I have seen this-
morning that you are not afraid of work, for you have exerted
yourself with a degree of activity that no one could excel ; yet
you dread the small additional trouble that would make your
house cheerful, clean, and comfortable. You dread the trouble of
attention more than the labour of your hands ; and thus, if I
mistake not, you often bring upon yourself trouble which timely
attention would have spared. Would it not be well to have your
children taught such habits of attention and regularity as would
make you more easy, and them more useful, both to themselves
and you 1 "

" As for my baims," returned Mrs Macclarty, " if they
pleasure me, they do weel eneugh."

" There's a great spice o' good sense in what Mrs Mason has
said though," said the farmer ; " but it's no easy for folk like us
to be put out o' their ain gait."

In truth, Mrs Macclarty was one of those seemingly good-
natured people who are never to be put out of their own way,
for she was obstinate to a degree ; and so perfectly self-satisfied,
that she could not bear to think it possible that she might in
anything do better than she did. Thus, though she would not
argue in favour of sloth or dirt in general, she nevertheless con-
tinued to be slothful and dirty, because she vindicated herself in
every particular instance of either ; and though she did not wish
that her children should be idle, obstreperous, disobedient, and
self-willed, she effectually formed them to those habits, and then
took credit to herself for being one of the best of mothers !

Mrs Mason had discernment enough to see how much pride
there was in that pretended contentment which constantly re-
pelled every idea of improvement. She saw that though Mrs
Macclarty took no pains to teach her children what was truly
useful, she encouraged, with respect to them, an undefined senti-
ment of ambition, which persuaded her that her children were
born to rise to something great, and that they would in time
overtop their neighbours. Mrs Mason saw the unhappy effects
which this would infallibly produce upon minds brought up in
ignorance. She therefore resolved to do all in her power to
obviate the consequences ; and from the opinion she had formed
of the farmer's sense and principles, had no doubt of his co-
operating with her in the work of reformation.

While musing on this subject as she sat by her window in the
twilight, she saw the two younger lads run hastily past, and
soon heard from their mother such an exclamation of sorrow, as
convinced her they had been the messengers of bad news. She
therefore speedily proceeded lutt, and there she found the poor
woman wringing her hands, and lamenting herself bitterly.
The farmer entered at the same moment, and on seeing
him she redoubled her lamentations, still calling out, "Oh.



Sandy ! Sandy ! oli ttat I should hae lived to see this day ! Oh-
Sandy !_ Sandy!"

The intellig-ence was shortly made known that Sandy had
enlisted as a soldier at the fair ; which produced a general feeling"
of distress in the household, and a forgetfulness of ordinary
duties. Evening was now far advanced. The cows, which the^
boys should have brought home to have milked, were still lowing
in the West Croft ; and when Mrs Macclarty desired Robert to
go for them, she obtained no other answer than that " Grizzy
might gang as weel as him." Grizzy was busy in washing up-
the dishes wanted for supper, and which had remained unwashed
from breakfast-time till now : they had been left to the care of
Meg, who had neglected them, and by this neglect made the
task more difficult to Grizzy, who was therefore in very bad
humour, and began loudly to complain of Meg and Rob, who in
their turns raised their voices in defence and mutual accusation.
The din of the squabble became insufferable. Mrs Mason retired
from it with horror, and shut herself up in her room, where she
meditated with deep regret on the folly of those who, having
been placed by Almighty God in situations most favourable to
the enjoyment of peace and the exercise of virtue, are insensible
to the blessings, and, by permitting their passions to reign without
control, destroy at once both peace and virtue.

The distress felt by honest John Macclarty for the loss of his
son induced him to attempt his recovery, and he accordingly set
out for the town in which he had enlisted. This was an unfor-^
tunate journey. The farmer was knocked down and robbed, and
was brought home in a state of great pain and danger. A fever
ensued, which, not being checked in time by proper medical
attendance, gained head, and could not afterwards be subdued.^
He died amid his mourning though ill-instructed family, but
not before his wife and second son were taken ill.

After the solemnities of the faneral, Mrs Mason was called to
witness the reading of the farmer's will. He had performed the
duty of an honest man in making it while he was in perfect
health ; wisely thinking that, if he deferred it till the hour of
sickness, he might then neither have the ability nor inclination
to give his mind to worldly cares.

To his wife he bequeathed a free cottage in the village, and an
annuity which he considered equal to her wants. To each of
his younger children he left the sum of forty pounds, and to his
eldest son the farm, burdened with the above provision for th&
rest of the family. In case the elder son should choose to go
abroad, or enter into business, the farm was to go to the second,
and the elder to have only a younger child's portion. By a
clause in the will, the widow was to retain possession of the farm
till the Candlemas after her husband's death ; so much more-
consideration had this humble cottager for the feelings of a wife^
than is often shown in the settlements of the rich and great !



The minister, who read the will, addressed himself, in finishing-
it, to the friends and neighbours who were present, and proposed
that they should alternately lend their assistance in manag-ing"
the business of the harvest for the widow and her family. The
proposal was readily agreed to by the men ; while Mrs Mason,
on her part, cheerfully undertook the superintendence of the
household work and dairy, until her cousin should be so far
recovered as to be able to resume her task.

As soon as all the strang-ers were dismissed, Mrs Mason in-
formed her cousin of the arrang-ements that had been made, with
which she appeared j)erfectly satisfied. Depressed by grief and
sickness, she still considered her recovery as hopeless, and sub-
mitted to her fate with that species of quiescence which is often
a substitute for the true spirit of resignation.

Every moment of Mrs Mason's time was now fully occupied ;
and the business of the family had never been so well conducted
as since its mistress had been incapacitated from attending to
it. By the effects of forethought, order, and regularity, the
labour was so much diminished to the servant, that she willingly
resigned herself to Mrs Mason's directions, and entered into all
her plans. The girls, though at first refractory, and often
inclined to rebel, were gradually brought to order ; and finding
that they had no one to make excuses for their disobedience,
quietly performed their allotted tasks. They began to taste
the pleasure of praise, and, encouraged by approbation, en-
deavoured to deserve it; so that, thoug-h their tempers had
"been too far spoiled to be brought at once into subjection, Mrs
Mason hoped that, by steadiness, she should succeed in reform-
ing them.

Mrs Macclarty, who was not so changed by sickness, or s»
absorbed in grief, as to be indifferent to the world and its con-
cerns, fretted at the length of her confinement, which was
rendered doubly grievous to her from the hints she occasionally
received of the new methods of management introduced by Mrs
Mason, which she could on no account believe equal to her own.
Her friend and benefactress became the object of her jealousy
and aversion. The neighbours, with whom she had cultivated
the greatest intimacy, encouraged this dislike ; and on all their
visits of condolence, expressed in feeling terms their sense of
the sad change that had taken place in the appearance of the
house, which, they said, was " now sae unco, they wad scarcely
ken it for the same place."

" Ay ! " exclaimed the wife of auld John Smith, who happened
to visit the widow the first evening she was able to sit up to tea
— " ay, alake ! it's weel seen that whar there's new lairds there's
new laws. But how can your woman and your bairns put up
wi' a' this fashery ? "

" I kenna, truly," replied the widow ; " but Mrs Mason has
just sic a way wi' them, she gars them do onything she likes.



Ye may think it's an eery thing to me to see my poor bairns
submitting- that way to pleasure a stranger in a' her nonsense."

" An eery thing" indeed ! " said Mrs Smith : " gif ye had but
seen how she gard your dochter Meg clean out the kirn ! outside
and inside ! ye wad hae been wae for the poor lassie. ' I trow/
said I, ' Meg, it wad hae been lang* before your mither had set
you to sic a turn.' ' Ay,' says she, ' we hae new gaits now ;' and
she lookit up and leugh."

" New gaits, I trow ! " cried Sandy Johnston's mother, who
had just taken her place at the tea-table ; " I ne'er kenned gude
come o' new gaits a' my days. There was Tibby Bell, at the
head o' the Glen, she fell to cleaning' her kim ae day, and the
very first kirning after her butter was burstet, and gude for-
naething. I'm sure it gangs to my heart to see your wark sae
managed. It was but the day before yesterday that I cam upon
Madam as she was haddin' the strainer, as she called it, to
Grizzy, desiring her a' the time she poured the milk to beware
of letting in ane o' the cow's hairs that were on her goon.
' Hoot !' says I, ' cow's hairs are canny ; they'll never choke ye.'
' The fewer of them that are in the butter the better,' says she.

* Twa or three hairs are better than the blink o' an ill ee,' says I.

* The best charm against witchcraft is cleanliness,' says she. ' I
doubt it muckle,' says I ; ' auld ways are aye the best ! ' "

" Weel done ! " cried Mrs Smith ; " I trow ye gae her a screed
o' your mind ! But here comes Grizzy frae the market ; let us
hear what she says to it."

GHzzel advanced to her mistress, and with alacrity poured
into her lap the money she had got for her cheese and butter ;
proudly at the same time observing that it was more by some

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 22 of 59)