Page images
PDF
EPUB

Lisardo. The gratitude I owe you, for my life
By you preserved, eternally is yours.

Roberto. Thus by the Princess's generosity
Fair Lisida appearing satisfied,
Prince Carlo liberal and placable,
Lisardo free from rancorous resentment,
My Lord Lorenzo safe and recompensed,
Whilst all remain in happiness unmixed,
The Comedy of COURTESY NOT LOVE
Concludes, and, in the name of all, I ask
Indulgence at your feet invincible.

FARTHER PORTIONS OF THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MANSIE WAUCH, TAILOR.

-Of moving accidents by flood and field,
And hair-breadth 'scapes i' the eminent deadly breach.

Othello.

PORTION FIRST.

I HAVE no distinct recollection of the thing myself, yet there is every reason to believe that I was born on the 15th of October, 1765, in that little house, standing by itself, not many yards from the eastmost side of the Flesh-Market-Gate, Dalkeith. My eyes opened on the light about two o'clock in a dark and rainy morning. Long was it spoken about that something great and mysterious would happen on that dreary night; as the cat, after washing her face, gaed mewing about, with her tail sweeing behind her like a ramrod; and a corbie, from the Duke's woods, tumbled down Jamie Elder's lum, when he had set the little still a-going, gieing them a terrible fright, as they first took it for the deevil, and then for an exciseman, and fell with a great cloud of soot, and a loud skraigh, into the empty kail-pot.

The first thing that I have any clear memory of, was my being carried out on my auntie's shoulder, with a leather cap tied under my chin, to see the Fair Race. Oh! but it was a grand sight.-I have read since then the story of Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp, but this beat it all to sticks. There was a long row of tables, covered with carpets of bonny patterns, heaped from one end to the other with shoes of every kind and size; some with soles, and some glittering with sparribles and cuddy-heels; and little red worsted boots for bairns, with blue and white edgings, hinging like strings of flowers up the posts at each end. And then what a collection of luggies! the whole meal in the market-sacks

on a Thursday did not seem able to fill them. And horn-spoons, green and black freckled, with shanks clear as amber,—and timber caups,—and eevory egg-cups of every pattern. Have a care of us! all the eggs in Smeaton dairy might have found resting-places for their doups, in a row. As for the gingerbread, I shall not attempt a description. Sixpenny and shilling cakes, in paper, tied with skinie, and roundabouts, and snaps, brown and white quality, and parliaments, on stands covered with calendered linen, clean from the fauld. To pass it was just impossible; it set my teeth a-watering, and I skirled like mad, until I had a gilded lady thrust into my little nieve; the which, after admiring for a minute, I applied my teeth to, and of the head I made no bones; so that in less than no time, she had vanished, petticoats and all, no trace of her being to the fore, save and except long treacly daubs, extending east and west from ear to ear, and north and south, from cape neb of the nose to the extremity of beardyland.

But what, of all things, attracted my attention on that memorable day, was the show of cows, sheep, and horses, mooing, baaing, and neighering, and the race-that was best. Od, what a sight!-we were jammed in the crowd of auld wives, with their toys and shining ribbons; and carter lads, with their blue bonnets; and young wenches, carrying hame their fairings in napkins, as muckle as wad haud their teeth going for a month: there scarcely could be muckle for love, when there was so much for the

stomach; and men, with wooden legs, and brass virls at the end of them, playing on the fiddle, and a bear that roared, and danced on its hind legs, with a muzzled mouth,-and Punch and Polly, and poppy-shows, and mair than I can tell, when up came the horses to the starting-post. I shall never forget the bonny dresses of the riders. Ane had a napkin tied round his head, with the flaps fleeing behint him; and his coat-tails were curled up into a big hump behind; it was so tight buttoned, ye wadna thought he could have breathed. His corduroy trowsers (sic like as I have often since made to growing callants) were tied round his ankles with a string; and he had a rusty spur on one shoe, which I saw a man tak aff to lend him. Save us! how he pulled the beast's head by the bridle, and flappit up and down on the saddle when he tried a canter!-The second ane had on a black velvet hunting-cap, and his coat stripped. I wonder he was na feared of cauld; his shirt being like a riddle, and his nether nankeens but thin for such weather, but he was a brave lad; and

The long and the short is, that I was sent to school, where I learned to read and spell, making great progress in the Single's and Mother's Carritch. Na, what is mair, few could fickle me in the Bible, being mostly able to spell it all ower, save the second of Ezra and the seventh of Nehemiah, which the dominie himself could never read through twice in the same way.

sorry were the folks for him, when he fell aff in taking ower sharp a turn, by which auld Pullen the bell-ringer, wha was hadding the post, was made to coup the creels, and got a bluidy nose. And but the last was a wearyful ane! He was all life, and as gleg as an eel. Up and down he went, and up and down gaed the beast on its hind legs and its fore-legs, funking like mad; yet though he was na aboon thirteen, or fourteen at maist, he did not cry out for help mair than five or six times; but grippit at the mane with ae hand, and at the back of the saddle with the other, till daft Robie, the hostler at the stables, claught hold of the beast by the head, and off they set. The young birkie had neither hat nor shoon, but he did

PORTION SECOND.

My father, to whom I was born, like Isaac to Abraham, in his old age, was an elder in the Relief Kirk, respected by all for his canny and douce behaviour, and a weaver to his trade. The cot and the kail-yard was his ain, and had been auld grandfather's, wha was out in the forty-five; but still he had to ply the shuttle from Monday to Saturday, to keep all right and tight. The thrums were a perquisite of my ain, which I niffered with the gundie-wife for Gibraltar rock, cut throat, gib, or bulls-eyes.

Having come into the world before my time, and being of a pale-face and delicate make, Nature never could have intended me for the naval or

spare the stick; round and round they flew like daft. Ye wad have thought their een wad have loupen out; and loudly all the crowd were hurraing, when young hatless cam up foremost, standing in the stirrups, the lang stick between his teeth, and his white hair fleeing behint him in the wind like streamers on a frosty night.

military line, or for any robustious trade or profession whatsomever. No, no, I never likit fighting in my life; peace was aye in my thoughts. When there was any riot in the streets, I fled, and scougged myself at the chumley lug as quickly as I dowed; and, rather than double a nieve to a schoolfellow, I pocketted many shabby epithets, got my paiks, and took the coucher's blow from laddies that could hardly reach up to my waistband.

Just before I was putten to my 'prenticeship, having made free choice of the tailoring trade, I had a terrible stound of calf-love, forget it. I was growing up, lang and Never shall I lank as a willow-wand; brawns to my legs there were nane, as my trowsers of other years too visibly effected to show. The lang yellow hair hung down, like a flax-wig, the length of my lanthern jaws, which looked, notwithstanding my yapness and stiff appetite, as if eating and they had broken up acquantinceship. My blue jacket seemed in the sleeves to have picked a quarrel with the wrists, and had retreated to a tait below the el

bows. The haunch-buttons, on the contrary, appeared to have taken a strong liking to the shoulders, a little below which they showed their tarnished brightness. At the middle of the back the tails terminated; leaving the well-worn rear of my corduroys, like a full moon, seen through a dark haze. Oh! but I must have been a bonny lad.

My first flame was the minister's lassie, Jess-a buxom and forward quean, twa or three years older than myself. I used to sit looking at her in the kirk, and felt a droll confusion when our een met. It dirled through my heart like a dart, and I looked down at my psalm-book sheepish and blushing. Fain would I have spoken to her, but it would na do; my courage aye failed me at the pinch, though she whiles gied me a smile when she passed me. She used to go to the well every night with her twa stoups, to draw water after the manner of the Israelites, at gloaming, so I thought of watching to gie her the twa apples, which I had carried in my pouch for more than a week, for that purpose. How she laughed when I stappit them into her hand, and brushed bye without speaking! I stood at the bottom of the close listening, and heard her laughing till she was like to split. My heart flap-flappit in my breast like a pair of fanners. It was a moment of heavenly hope; but I saw Jamie Coom the blacksmith, who I aye jealoused was my rival, coming down to the well. I saw her gie him ane of the apples, and hearing him say, "Where is the tailor?" with a loud gaffaw, I took to my heels, and never stoppit till I found myself on the little stool by the fireside, and the hamely sound of my mother's wheel bum-bumming in my lug, like a gentle lullaby.

Every noise I heard flustered me,

PORTION THIRD.

"

But, losh me, I have come on ower far already, before mentioning a wonderful thing that happened to me when I was only seven year auld. Few things in my eventful life have made a deeper impression on me, than what I am going to relate.

but I calmed in time, though I gaed to my bed without my supper. When I was driving out the gaislings to the grass on the next morn, whae was it my ill fate to meet but the blacksmith. "Ou, Mansie," said Jamie Coom,

66

are ye gaen to take me for your best man? I hear ye are to be cried in the kirk on Sunday?"

"Me!" answered I, shaking and staring.

"Yes!" said he, "Jess. the minister's maid told me last night, that you had been gi'ing up your name at the manse. Ay, it's ower true-for she showed me the apples ye gied her in a present. This is a bonny story, Mansie, my man, and you only at your prenticeship yet."

Terror and despair had struck me dumb. I stood as still and as stiff as a web of buckram. My tongue was tied, and I couldna contradict him. Jamie faulded his arms, and gaed away whistling, turning every now and then his sooty face over his shoulder, and mostly sticking his tune, as he couldna keep his mouth screwed for laughing. What would I not have given to have laughed too!

There was no time to be lost, this was the Saturday. The next rising sun would shine on the Sabbath. Ay, what a case I was in! I could maistly hae drowned myself, had I no been frighted. What could I do? my love had vanished like lightning; but oh, I was in a terrible gliff! Instead of gundie, I sold my thrums to Mrs Walnut for a penny, with which I bought at the counter a sheet of paper and a pen, so that in the afternoon I wrote out a letter to the minister, telling him what I had been given to hear, and begging him, for the sake of mercy, not to believe Jess's word, as I wasna able to keep a wife, and as she was a leeing gipsy.

It was the custom, in those times, for the different schools to have cockfighting on Fastern's E'en, and the victor, as he was called, treated the other scholars to a football. Many a

[blocks in formation]

(I was a wee chap with a daidley, a ruffled shirt, and leather cap, edged with rabbit fur,) that I might see all the fun. This ane fell, and that ane fell, and a third was knocked ower, and a fourth got a bluidy nose, and so on; and there was such a noise and din, as would have deaved the work men of Babel, when, lo! ard behold, the ball played bounce mostly to my feet, and the whole mob after it. I thought I should have been dung to pieces, so I pressed myself back with all my might, and through went my elbow into Cursecowl's kitchen. It didna stick lang there. Before ye could say Jack Robison, out flew the flesher in his killing-claiths; his face was as red as fire, and he had his pouch full of bluidy knives buckled to his side. I skreighed out in his face when I looked at him, but he didna stop a mo. ment for that. Wi' a girn that was like to rive his mouth, he twisted his nieve in the back of my hair, and aff wi' me hinging by the cuff of the neck, like a kitling. My een were like to loup out of my head, but I had nae breath to cry. I heard him thraw the key, for I couldna look down, the skin of my face was pulled so tight; and in he flang me like a pair of auld boots into his booth, where I landed on my knees upon a raw bluidy calf's skin. I thought I wad hae gaen out of my wits, when I heard the door lockit upon me, and lookit round me in sic an unyearthly place. It had only ane unsparred window; and there was a garden behind; but how was I to get out? I danced round and round about, stamping my heels on the floor, and rubbing my begritten face with my coat-sleeve. To make matters waur, it was wearing to the darkening. The floor was all covered with lappard bluid, and sheep and calf skins. The calves and the sheep themselves, with their cuttit throats, and glazed een,

and ghastly girning faces, were hanging about on pins, heels uppermost. Losh me! I thought on Bluebeard and his wives in the bluidy chamber!

And all the time it was growing darker and darker, and more dreary; and a' was quiet as death itself; it looked, by all the world, like a grave, and me buried alive within it; till the rottans came out of their holes to lick the bluid, and whisked about like wee evil speerits. I thought on my father, and my mother, and how I should never see them mair; for I was sure that Cursecowl would come in the dark, and tie my hands and feet thegither, and lay me across the killingstool. I grew mair and mair frightened, and it grew mair and mair dark. I thought a' the sheep heads were looking at ane anither, and then girn-girning at me. At last I grew desperate; and my hair was as stiff as wire, though it was as wet as muck. I began to bite through the wooden spars wi' my teeth, and ruggit at them wi my nails, till they were like to come aff but no, it wadna do. Till, at length, when I had greeted myself mostly blind, and cried till I was as hoarse as a corbie, I saw auld Janet Hogg taking in her bit claiths frae the bushes, and I reeled and screamed till she heard me.-It was like being transported into heaven; for, in less than no time, my mither, with her apron at her een, was at the door; and Cursecowl, with a candle in the front of his hat, had scarcely thrawn the key, when out I flew, and she lifted up her fit, (I dare say it was the first and last time in her life, for she was a douce woman,) and gaed him sic a kick and a push, that he played bleach ower, head foremost; and, as we ran down the close, we heard him cursing_and swearing, in the dark, like a deevil incarnate.

PORTION FOURTH.

[The reader may observe, that Mansie does not stitch on regularly, and that he is a little partial to vandikes; but we cannot twist him, and allow him to resume the threads of his discourse, at his good will and pleasure.]

It would be curious if I passed over a remarkable incident, which at this time fell out.-Being but new beginners in the world, the wife and I put our heads constantly together to contrive for our forward advancement, as it is the bounden duty of all to do. So

our housie being rather large, (twa rooms and a kitchen, not speaking of a coal-cellar, and a hen-house,) and having as yet only the expectation of a family, we thought we couldna do better than get John Varnish the painter, to do off a small ticket, with "A Fur

[ocr errors]

nished Room to Let" on it, which we nailed out at the window; having collected into it the choicest of our furniture, that it might fit a genteeler lodger and produce a better rent-And a lodger soon we got.

Dog on it! I think I see him yet. He was a black-a-vised Englishman, with curled whiskers and a powdered pow, stout round the waist-band, and fond of good eating, let alane drinking, as we faund to our cost. Well, he was our first lodger. We sought a good price, that we might, on bargaining, have the merit of coming down a tait; but no, no-gae away wi'e; it was dog-cheap to him. The half-guinea a week was judged perfectly moderate; but if all his debts were- -yet I mauny cut before the cloth.

Hang expenses! was the order of the day. Ham and eggs for breakfast, let alane our currant-gelly. Roasted mutton cauld, and strong ale, at twelve, by way of chack, to keep away wind from the stomach. Smoking roast-beef, with scraped horse-raddishes, at four preceesely; and toasted cheese, punch, and porter, for supper. It would have been less, had all the things been within ourselves; naething had we but the cauler new-laid eggs; then, there was Deacon Heukbane's butcher's account; and John Cony's speerit account; and William Burling's bap account; and deevil kens how mony mair accounts, that came all in upon us afterwards. But the crowning of all came in at the end. It was nae farce at the time, and keepit our heads down at the water for mony a day. I was just driving the hot goose alang the seams of a Sunday jacket I was finishing for Thomas Clod the ploughman, when the Englisher came in at the shop door, whistling " Robin Adair," and "Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled," and whiles, maybe, churming to himsell like a young blackbird

but I havena patience to gang through wi't. The long and the short of the matter, however, was, that, after rummaging amang my twa-three webs of broad-cloth on the shelf, he pitched on a Manchester blue, five quarters wide, marked CXD.XF, which is to say, three-and-twenty shillings the yard. I telled him it was impossible to make a pair of pantaloons to him in twa hours; but he insisted upon having them, alive or dead, as he had to gang down the same af

(6 Just

ternoon to dine with my lord duke, nae less. I convinced him, that if I was to sit up a' night, he could get them by five next morning, if that would do, as I would also keep my laddie, Tammy Bodkin, out of his bed; but na-I thought he wad have loupen out of his seven senses. look," he said, turning up the inside seam of the leg-"just see-can any gentleman make a visit in such things as these?-they are as full of holes as a coal-sieve. I wonder the devil why my baggage has not come forward. Can I get a horse and boy to ride express to Edinburgh for a ready-made article?"

A thought struck me; for I had heard of wonderful advancement in the world, for those wha had been sae lucky as help the great at a pinch. "If ye'll no take it amiss, sir," said I, making my obedience, "a notion has just struck me."

"Well, what is it?" said he, brisk

ly.

"Well, sir, I have a pair of kneebreeches, of most famous velveteen, double tweel, which have been only ance on my legs, and that nae farther gane than last Sabbath. I'm pretty sure they would fit ye in the meantime; and I would just take a pleasure in ca'ing the needle all night, to get your own ready."

"A clever thought," said the Englisher. "Do you think they would fit me?-Devilish clever thought indeed."

"To a hair," I answered; and cried to Nanse to bring the velveteens.

I dinna think he was ten minutes, when lo! and behold, out at the door he went, and away past the shop-window, like a lamp-lighter. The buttons on the velveteens were glittering like gold at the knees. Alas! it was like the flash of the setting sun. I. never beheld them more. He was to have been back in twa or three hours, but the laddie, with the box on his shoulder, was going through the street crying" Hot penny-pies" for supper, and neither word nor wittens of him. I began to be a thought uneasy, and fidgetted on the board like a hen on a het girdle. No man should do anything when he is vexed, but I couldna help gieing Tammy Bodkin, who was sewing away at the lining of the new pantaloons, a terrible whisk in the lug, for singing to himsell. I say I was

« PreviousContinue »