Stories by English Authors in Scotland
Part 2 out of 3
is a kittle (hazardous) road in the snaw-time, but ye 're safe noo.
"Gude luck tae ye up at Westerton, sir; nane but a richt-hearted man
wud hae riskit the Tochty in flood. Ye 're boond tae succeed aifter
sic a graund beginnin'," for it had spread already that a famous
surgeon had come to do his best for Annie, Tammas Mitchell's wife.
Two hours later MacLure came out from Annie's room and laid hold of
Tammas, a heap of speechless misery by the kitchen fire, and carried
him off to the barn, and spread some corn on the threshing-floor, and
thrust a flail into his hands.
"Noo we 've tae begin, an' we 'ill no be dune for an' 'oor, and ye 've
tae lay on without stoppin' till a' come for ye; an' a' 'll shut the
door tae haud in the noise, an' keep yir dog beside ye, for there
maunna be a cheep aboot the house for Annie's sake."
"A' 'll dae onythin' ye want me, but if--if----"
"A' 'll come for ye, Tammas, gin there be danger; but what are ye
feard for wi' the Queen's ain surgeon here?"
Fifty minutes did the flair rise and fall, save twice, when Tammas
crept to the door and listened, the dog lifting his head and whining.
It seemed twelve hours instead of one when the door swung back, and
MacLure filled the doorway, preceded by a great burst of light, for
the sun had arisen on the snow.
His face was as tidings of great joy, and Elspeth told me that there
was nothing like it to be seen that afternoon for glory, save the sun
itself in the heavens.
"A' never saw the marrow o' 't, Tammas, an' a' 'll never see the like
again; it's a' ower, man, withoot a hitch frae beginnin' tae end, and
she's fa'in' asleep as fine as ye like."
"Dis he think Annie--'ill live?"
"Of course he dis, and be aboot the hoose inside a month; that's the
gude o' bein' a clean-bluided, weel-livin'--
"Preserve ye, man, what's wrang wi' ye? It's a mercy a' keppit ye, or
we wud hev hed anither job for Sir George.
"Ye 're a'richt noo; sit doon on the strae. A' 'll come back in a
while, an' ye 'ill see Annie, juist for a meenut, but ye maunna say a
Marget took him in and let him kneel by Annie's bedside.
He said nothing then or afterward for speech came only once in his
lifetime to Tammas, but Annie whispered, "Ma ain dear man."
When the doctor placed the precious bag beside Sir George in our
solitary first next morning, he laid a check beside it and was about
"No, no!" said the great man. "Mrs. Macfadyen and I were on the gossip
last night, and I know the whole story about you and your friend.
"You have some right to call me a coward, but I 'll never let you
count me a mean, miserly rascal," and the check with Drumsheugh's
painful writing fell in fifty pieces on the floor.
As the train began to move, a voice from the first called so that all
the station heard:
"Give 's another shake of your hand, MacLure; I'm proud to have met
you; your are an honour to our profession. Mind the antiseptic
It was market-day, but only Jamie Soutar and Hillocks had ventured
"Did ye hear yon, Hillocks? Hoo dae ye feel? A' 'll no deny a' 'm
Half-way to the Junction Hillocks had recovered, and began to grasp
"Tell 'us what he said. A' wud like to hae it exact for Drumsheugh."
"Thae's the eedentical words, an' they're true; there's no a man in
Drumtochty disna ken that, except ane."
"An' wha's that Jamie?"
"It's Weelum MacLure himsel'. Man, a' 've often girned that he sud
fecht awa' for us a', and maybe dee before he kent that he had
githered mair luve than ony man in the Glen.
" 'A' 'm prood tae hae met ye,' says Sir George, an' him the greatest
doctor in the land. 'Yir an honour tae oor profession.'
"Hillocks, a' wudna hae missed it for twenty notes," said James
Soutar, cynic in ordinary to the parish of Drumtochty.
WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE
SIR WALTER SCOTT
"Honest folks like me! How do ye ken whether I am honest, or what I
am? I may be the deevil himsell for what ye ken, for he has power to
come disguised like an angel of light; and, besides, he is a prime
fiddler. He played a sonata to Corelli, ye ken."
There was something odd in this speech, and the tone in which it was
said. It seemed as if my companion was not always in his constant
mind, or that he was willing to try if he could frighten me. I laughed
at the extravagance of his language, however, and asked him in reply
if he was fool enough to believe that the foul fiend would play so
silly a masquerade.
"Ye ken little about it--little about it," said the old man, shaking
his head and beard, and knitting his brows. "I could tell ye something
What his wife mentioned of his being a tale-teller as well as a
musician now occurred to me; and as, you know, I like tales of
superstition, I begged to have a specimen of his talent as we went
"It is very true," said the blind man, "that when I am tired of
scraping thairm or singing ballants I whiles make a tale serve the
turn among the country bodies; and I have some fearsome anes, that
make the auld carlines shake on the settle, and the bits o' bairns
skirl on their minnies out frae their beds. But this that I am going
to tell you was a thing that befell in our ain house in my father's
time--that is, my father was then a hafflins callant; and I tell it to
you, that it may be a lesson to you that are but a young thoughtless
chap, wha ye draw up wi' on a lonely road; for muckle was the dool and
care that came o' 't to my gudesire."
He commenced his tale accordingly, in a distinct narrative tone of
voice, which he raised and depressed with considerable skill; at times
sinking almost into a whisper, and turning his clear but sightless
eyeballs upon my face, as if it had been possible for him to witness
the impression which his narrative made upon my features. I will not
spare a syllable of it, although it be of the longest; so I make a
Ye maun have heard of Sir Robert Redgauntlet of that ilk, who lived in
these parts before the dear years. The country will lang mind him; and
our fathers used to draw breath thick if ever they heard him named. He
was out wi' the Hielandmen in Montrose's time; and again he was in the
hills wi' Glencairn in the saxteen hundred and fifty-twa; and sae when
King Charles the Second came in, wha was in sic favour as the laird of
Redgauntlet? He was knighted at Lonon Court, wi' the king's ain sword;
and being a red-hot prelatist, he came down here, rampauging like a
lion, with commission of lieutenancy (and of lunacy, for what I ken),
to put down a' the Whigs and Covenanters in the country. Wild wark
they made of it; for the Whigs were as dour as the Cavaliers were
fierce, and it was which should first tire the other. Redgauntlet was
aye for the strong hand; and his name is kend as wide in the country
as Claverhouse's or Tam Dalyell's. Glen, nor dargle, nor mountain, nor
cave could hide the puir hill-folk when Redgauntlet was out with bugle
and bloodhound after them, as if they had been sae mony deer. And,
troth, when they fand them, they didna make muckle mair ceremony than
a Hielandman wi' a roebuck. It was just, "Will ye tak' the test?" If
not--"Make ready--present--fire!" and there lay the recusant.
Far and wide was Sir Robert hated and feared. Men thought he had a
direct compact with Satan; that he was proof against steel, and that
bullets happed aff his buff-coat like hailstanes from a hearth; that
he had a mear that would turn a hare on the side of Carrifra-gauns (a
precipitous side of a mountain in Moffatdale); and muckle to the same
purpose, of whilk mair anon. The best blessing they wared on him was,
"Deil scowp wi' Redgauntlet!" He wasna a bad master to his ain folk,
though, and was weel aneugh liked by his tenants; and as for the
lackeys and troopers that rade out wi' him to the persecutions, as the
Whigs caa'd those killing-times, they wad hae drunken themsells blind
to his health at ony time.
Now you are to ken that my gudesire lived on Redgauntlet's grund--they
ca' the place Primrose Knowe. We had lived on the grund, and under the
Redgauntlets, since the riding-days, and lang before. It was a pleasant
bit; and, I think the air is callerer and fresher there than onywhere
else in the country. It's a' deserted now; and I sat on the broken
door-cheek three days since, and was glad I couldna see the plight the
place was in--but that's a' wide o' the mark. There dwelt my gudesire,
Steenie Steenson; a rambling, rattling chiel' he had been in his young
days, and could play weel on the pipes; he was famous at "hoopers and
girders," a' Cumberland couldna touch him at "Jockie Lattin," and he
had the finest finger for the back-lilt between Berwick and Carlisle.
The like o' Steenie wasna the sort that they made Whigs o'. And so he
became a Tory, as they ca' it, which we now ca' Jacobites, just out of
a kind of needcessity, that he might belang to some side or other. He
had nae ill-will to the Whig bodies, and liked little to see the blude
rin, though, being obliged to follow Sir Robert in hunting and
hoisting, watching and warding, he saw muckle mischief, and maybe did
some that he couldna avoid.
Now Steenie was a kind of favourite with his master, and kend a' the
folk about the castle, and was often sent for to play the pipes when
they were at their merriment. Auld Dougal MacCallum, the butler, that
had followed Sir Robert through gude and ill, thick and thin, pool and
stream, was specially fond of the pipes, and aye gae my gudesire his
gude word wi' the laird; for Dougal could turn his master round his
Weel, round came the Revolution, and it had like to hae broken the
hearts baith of Dougal and his master. But the change was not
a'thegether sae great as they feared and other folk thought for. The
Whigs made an unco crawing what they wad do with their auld enemies,
and in special wi' Sir Robert Redgauntlet. But there were ower-mony
great folks dipped in the same doings to make a spick-and-span new
warld. So Parliament passed it a' ower easy; and Sir Robert, bating
that he was held to hunting foxes instead of Covenanters, remained
just the man he was. His revel was as loud, and his hall as weel
lighted, as ever it had been, though maybe he lacked the fines of the
nonconformists, that used to come to stock his larder and cellar; for
it is certain he began to be keener about the rents than his tenants
used to find him before, and they behooved to be prompt to the rent-
day, or else the laird wasna pleased. And he was sic an awsome body
that naebody cared to anger him; for the oaths he swore, and the rage
that he used to get into, and the looks that he put on made men
sometimes think him a devil incarnate.
Weel, my gudesire was nae manager--no that he was a very great
misguider--but he hadna the saving gift, and he got twa terms' rent in
arrear. He got the first brash at Whitsunday put ower wi' fair word
and piping; but when Martinmas came there was a summons from the grund
officer to come wi' the rent on a day preceese, or else Steenie
behooved to flit. Sair wark he had to get the siller; but he was weel
freended, and at last he got the haill scraped thegether--a thousand
merks. The maist of it was from a neighbour they caa'd Laurie Lapraik
--a sly tod. Laurie had wealth o' gear, could hunt wi' the hound and
rin wi' the hare, and be Whig or Tory, saunt or sinner, as the wind
stood. He was a professor in the Revolution warld, but he liked an
orra sough of the warld, and a tune on the pipes weel aneugh at a by-
time; and, bune a', he thought he had gude security for the siller he
len my gudesire ower the stocking at Primrose Knowe.
Away trots my gudesire to Redgauntlet Castle wi' a heavy purse and a
light heart, glad to be out of the laird's danger. Weel, the first
thing he learned at the castle was that Sir Robert had fretted himsell
into a fit of the gout because he did no appear before twelve o'clock.
It wasna a'thegether for sake of the money, Dougal thought, but
because he didna like to part wi' my gudesire aff the grund. Dougal
was glad to see Steenie, and brought him into the great oak parlour;
and there sat the laird his leesome lane, excepting that he had beside
him a great, ill-favoured jackanape that was a special pet of his. A
cankered beast it was, and mony an ill-natured trick it played; ill to
please it was, and easily angered--ran about the haill castle,
chattering and rowling, and pinching and biting folk, specially before
ill weather, or disturbance in the state. Sir Robert caa'd it Major
Weir, after the warlock that was burnt; and few folk liked either the
name or the conditions of the creature--they thought there was
something in it by ordinar--and my gudesire was not just easy in mind
when the door shut on him, and he saw himsell in the room wi' naebody
but the laird, Dougal MacCallum, and the major--a thing that hadna
chanced to him before.
Sir Robert sat, or, I should say, lay, in a great arm-chair, wi' his
grand velvet gown, and his feet on a cradle, for he had baith gout and
gravel, and his face looked as gash and ghastly as Satan's. Major Weir
sat opposite to him, in a red-laced coat, and the laird's wig on his
head; and aye as Sir Robert girned wi' pain, the jackanape girned too,
like a sheep's head between a pair of tangs--an ill-faur'd, fearsome
couple they were. The laird's buff-coat was hung on a pin behind him
and his broadsword and his pistols within reach; for he keepit up the
auld fashion of having the weapons ready, and a horse saddled day and
night, just as he used to do when he was able to loup on horseback,
and sway after ony of the hill-folk he could get speerings of. Some
said it was for fear of the Whigs taking vengeance, but I judge it was
just his auld custom--he wasna gine not fear onything. The rental-
book, wi' its black cover and brass clasps, was lying beside him; and
a book of sculduddery sangs was put betwixt the leaves, to keep it
open at the place where it bore evidence against the goodman of
Primrose Knowe, as behind the hand with his mails and duties. Sir
Robert gave my gudesire a look, as if he would have withered his heart
in his bosom. Ye maun ken he had a way of bending his brows that men
saw the visible mark of a horseshoe in his forehead, deep-dinted, as
if it had been stamped there.
"Are ye come light-handed, ye son of a toom whistle?" said Sir Robert.
"Zounds! If you are--"
My gudesire, with as gude a countenance as he could put on, made a
leg, and placed the bag of money on the table wi' a dash, like a man
that does something clever. The laird drew it to him hastily. "Is all
here, Steenie, man?"
"Your honour will find it right," said my gudesire.
"Here, Dougal," said the laird, "gie Steenie a tass of brandy, till I
count the siller and write the receipt."
But they werena weel out of the room when Sir Robert gied a yelloch
that garr'd the castle rock. Back ran Dougal; in flew the liverymen;
yell on yell gied the laird, ilk ane mair awfu' than the ither. My
gudesire knew not whether to stand or flee, but he ventured back into
the parlour, where a' was gaun hirdie-girdie--naebody to say "come in"
or "gae out." Terribly the laird roared for cauld water to his feet,
and wine to cool his throat; and 'Hell, hell, hell, and its flames',
was aye the word in his mouth. They brought him water, and when they
plunged his swoln feet into the tub, he cried out it was burning; and
folks say that it /did/ bubble and sparkle like a seething cauldron.
He flung the cup at Dougal's head and said he had given him blood
instead of Burgundy; and, sure aneugh, the lass washed clotted blood
aff the carpet the neist day. The jackanape they caa'd Major Weir, it
jibbered and cried as if it was mocking its master. My gudesire's head
was like to turn; he forgot baith siller and receipt, and downstairs
he banged; but, as he ran, the shrieks came fainter and fainter; there
was a deep-drawn shivering groan, and word gaed through the castle
that the laird was dead.
Weel, away came my gudesire wi' his finger in his mouth, and his best
hope was that Dougal had seen the money-bag and heard the laird speak
of writing the receipt. The young laird, now Sir John, came from
Edinburgh to see things put to rights. Sir John and his father never
'greed weel. Sir John had been bred an advocate, and afterward sat in
the last Scots Parliament and voted for the Union, having gotten, it
was thought, a rug of the compensations--if his father could have come
out of his grave he would have brained him for it on his awn
hearthstane. Some thought it was easier counting with the auld rough
knight than the fair-spoken young ane--but mair of that anon.
Dougal MacCallum, poor body, neither grat nor graned, but gaed about
the house looking like a corpse, but directing, as was his duty, a'
the order of the grand funeral. Now Dougal looked aye waur and waur
when night was coming, and was aye the last to gang to his bed, whilk
was in a little round just opposite the chamber of dais, whilk his
master occupied while he was living, and where he now lay in state, as
they can'd it, weeladay! The night before the funeral Dougal could
keep his awn counsel nae longer; he came doun wi' his proud spirit,
and fairly asked auld Hutcheon to sit in his room with him for an
hour. When they were in the round, Dougal took a tass of brandy to
himsell, and gave another to Hutcheon, and wished him all health and
lang life, and said that, for himsell, he wasna lang for this warld;
for that every night since Sir Robert's death his silver call had
sounded from the state chamber just as it used to do at nights in his
lifetime to call Dougal to help to turn him in his bed. Dougal said
that being alone with the dead on that floor of the tower (for naebody
cared to wake Sir Robert Redgauntlet like another corpse), he had
never daured to answer the call, but that now his conscience checked
him for neglecting his duty; for, "though death breaks service," said
MacCallum, "it shall never weak my service to Sir Robert; and I will
answer his next whistle, so be you will stand by me, Hutcheon."
Hutcheon had nae will to the wark, but he had stood by Dougal in
battle and broil, and he wad not fail him at this pinch; so doun the
carles sat ower a stoup of brandy, and Hutcheon, who was something of
a clerk, would have read a chapter of the Bible; but Dougal would hear
naething but a blaud of Davie Lindsay, whilk was the waur preparation.
When midnight came, and the house was quiet as the grave, sure enough
the silver whistle sounded as sharp and shrill as if Sir Robert was
blowing it; and up got the twa auld serving-men, and tottered into the
room where the dead man lay. Hutcheon saw aneugh at the first glance;
for there were torches in the room, which showed him the foul fiend,
in his ain shape, sitting on the laird's coffin! Ower he couped as if
he had been dead. He could not tell how lang he lay in a trance at the
door, but when he gathered himsell he cried on his neighbour, and
getting nae answer raised the house, when Dougal was found lying dead
within twa steps of the bed where his master's coffin was placed. As
for the whistle, it was gane anes and aye; but mony a time was it
heard at the top of the house on the bartizan, and amang the auld
chimneys and turrets where the howlets have their nests. Sir John
hushed the matter up, and the funeral passed over without mair bogie
But when a' was ower, and the laird was beginning to settle his
affairs, every tenant was called up for his arrears, and my gudesire
for the full sum that stood against him in the rental-book. Weel, away
he trots to the castle to tell his story, and there he is introduced
to Sir John, sitting in his father's chair, in deep mourning, with
weepers and hanging cravat, and a small walking-rapier by his side,
instead of the auld broadsword that had a hunderweight of steel about
it, what with blade, chape, and basket-hilt. I have heard their
communings so often tauld ower that I almost think I was there mysell,
though I couldna be born at the time. (In fact, Alan, my companion,
mimicked, with a good deal of humour, the flattering, conciliating
tone of the tenant's address and the hypocritical melancholy of the
laird's reply. His grandfather, he said, had while he spoke, his eye
fixed on the rental-book, as if it were a mastiff-dog that he was
afraid would spring up and bite him.)
"I wuss ye joy, sir, of the head seat and the white loaf and the brid
lairdship. Your father was a kind man to freends and followers; muckle
grace to you, Sir John, to fill his shoon--his boots, I suld say, for
he seldom wore shoon, unless it were muils when he had the gout."
"Ay, Steenie," quoth the laird, sighing deeply, and putting his napkin
to his een, "his was a sudden call, and he will be missed in the
country; no time to set his house in order--weel prepared Godward, no
doubt, which is the root of the matter; but left us behind a tangled
hesp to wind, Steenie. Hem! Hem! We maun go to business, Steenie; much
to do, and little time to do it in."
Here he opened the fatal volume. I have heard of a thing they call
Doomsday book--I am clear it has been a rental of back-ganging
"Stephen," said Sir John, still in the same soft, sleekit tone of
voice--"Stephen Stevenson, or Steenson, ye are down here for a year's
rent behind the hand--due at last term."
/Stephen./ Please your honour, Sir John, I paid it to your father.
/Sir John./ Ye took a receipt, then, doubtless, Stephen, and can
/Stephen./ Indeed, I hadna time, an it like your honour; for nae
sooner had I set doun the siller, and just as his honour, Sir Robert,
that's gaen, drew it ill him to count it and write out the receipt, he
was ta'en wi' the pains that removed him.
"That was unlucky," said Sir John, after a pause. "But ye maybe paid
it in the presence of somebody. I want but a /talis qualis/ evidence,
Stephen. I would go ower-strictly to work with no poor man."
/Stephen./ Troth, Sir John, there was naebody in the room but Dougal
MacCallum, the butler. But, as your honour kens, he has e'en followed
his auld master.
"Very unlucky again, Stephen," said Sir John, without altering his
voice a single note. "The man to whom ye paid the money is dead, and
the man who witnessed the payment is dead too; and the siller, which
should have been to the fore, is neither seen nor heard tell of in the
repositories. How am I to believe a' this?"
/Stephen./ I dinna ken, your honour; but there is a bit memorandum
note of the very coins, for, God help me! I had to borrow out of
twenty purses; and I am sure that ilka man there set down will take
his grit oath for what purpose I borrowed the money.
/Sir John./ I have little doubt ye /borrowed/ the money, Steenie. It
is the /payment/ that I want to have proof of.
/Stephen./ The siller maun be about the house, Sir John. And since
your honour never got it, and his honour that was canna have ta'en it
wi' him, maybe some of the family may hae seen it.
/Sir John./ We will examine the servants, Stephen; that is but
But lackey and lass, and page and groom, all denied stoutly that they
had ever seen such a bag of money as my gudesire described. What saw
waur, he had unluckily not mentioned to any living soul of them his
purpose of paying his rent. Ae quean had noticed something under his
arm, but she took it for the pipes.
Sir John Redgauntlet ordered the servants out of the room and then
said to my gudesire, "Now, Steenie, ye see ye have fair play; and, as
I have little doubt ye ken better where to find the siller than ony
other body, I beg in fair terms, and for your own sake, that you will
end this fasherie; for, Stephen, ye maun pay or flit."
"The Lord forgie your opinion," said Stephen, driven almost to his
wits' end--"I am an honest man."
"So am I, Stephen," said his honour; "and so are all the folks in the
house, I hope. But if there be a knave among us, it must be he that
tells the story he cannot prove." He paused, and then added, mair
sternly: "If I understand your trick, sir, you want to take advantage
of some malicious reports concerning things in this family, and
particularly respecting my father's sudden death, thereby to cheat me
out of the money, and perhaps take away my character by insinuating
that I have received the rent I am demanding. Where do you suppose the
money to be? I insist upon knowing."
My gudesire saw everything look so muckle against him that he grew
nearly desperate. However, he shifted from one foot to another, looked
to every corner of the room, and made no answer.
"Speak out, sirrah," said the laird, assuming a look of his father's,
a very particular ane, which he had when he was angry--it seemed as if
the wrinkles of his frown made that selfsame fearful shape of a
horse's shoe in the middle of his brow; "speak out, sir! I /will/ know
your thoughts; do you suppose that I have this money?"
"Far be it frae me to say so," said Stephen.
"Do you charge any of my people with having taken it?"
"I wad be laith to charge them that may be innocent," said my
gudesire; "and if there be any one that is guilty, I have nae proof."
"Somewhere the money must be, if there is a word of truth in your
story," said Sir John; "I ask where you think it is--and demand a
"In hell, if you /will/ have my thoughts of it," said my gudesire,
driven to extremity--"in hell! with your father, his jackanape, and
his silver whistle."
Down the stairs he ran (for the parlour was nae place for him after
such a word), and he heard the laird swearing blood and wounds behind
him, as fast as ever did Sir Robert, and roaring for the bailie and
Away rode my gudesire to his chief creditor (him they caa'd Laurie
Lapraik), to try if he could make onything out of him; but when he
tauld his story, he got the worst word in his wame--thief, beggar, and
dyvour were the saftest terms; and to the boot of these hard terms,
Laurie brought up the auld story of dipping his hand in the blood of
God's saunts, just as if a tenant could have helped riding with the
laird, and that a laird like Sir Robert Redgauntlet. My gudesire was,
by this time, far beyond the bounds of patience, and, while he and
Laurie were at deil speed the liars, he was wanchancie aneugh to abuse
Lapraik's doctrine as weel as the man, and said things that garr'd
folks' flesh grue that heard them--he wasna just himsell, and he had
lived wi' a wild set in his day.
At last they parted, and my gudesire was to ride hame through the wood
of Pitmurkie, that is a' fou of black firs, as they say. I ken the
wood, but the firs may be black or white for what I can tell. At the
entry of the wood there is a wild common, and on the edge of the
common a little lonely change-house, that was keepit then by an
hostler wife,--they suld hae caa'd her Tibbie Faw,--and there puir
Steenie cried for a mutchkin of brandy, for he had had no refreshment
the haill day. Tibbie was earnest wi' him to take a bite of meat, but
he couldna think o' 't, nor would he take his foot out of the stirrup,
and took off the brandy, wholely at twa draughts, and named a toast at
each. The first was, the memory of Sir Robert Redgauntlet, and may he
never lie quiet in his grave till he had righted his poor bond-tenant;
and the second was, a health to Man's Enemy, if he would but get him
back the pock of siller, or tell him what came o' 't, for he saw the
haill world was like to regard him as a thief and a cheat, and he took
that waur than even the ruin of his house and hauld.
On he rode, little caring where. It was a dark night turned, and the
trees made it yet darker, and he let the beast take its ain road
through the wood; when all of a sudden, from tired and wearied that it
was before, the nag began to spring and flee and stend, that my
gudesire could hardly keep the saddle. Upon the whilk, a horseman,
suddenly riding up beside him, said, "That's a mettle beast of yours,
freend; will you sell him?" So saying, he touched the horse's neck
with his riding-wand, and it fell into its auld heigh-ho of a
stumbling trot. "But his spunk's soon out of him, I think," continued
the stranger, "and that is like mony a man's courage, that thinks he
wad do great things."
My gudesire scarce listened to this, but spurred his horse, with
"Gude-e'en to you, freend."
But it's like the stranger was ane that doesna lightly yield his
point; for, ride as Steenie liked, he was aye beside him at the
selfsame pace. At last my gudesire, Steenie Steenson, grew half angry,
and, to say the truth, half feard.
"What is it that you want with me, freend?" he said. "If ye be a
robber, I have nae money; if ye be a leal man, wanting company, I have
nae heart to mirth or speaking; and if ye want to ken the road, I
scarce ken it mysell."
"If you will tell me your grief," said the stranger, "I am one that,
though I have been sair miscaa'd in the world, am the only hand for
helping my freends."
So my gudesire, to ease his ain heart, mair than from any hope of
help, told him the story from beginning to end.
"It's a hard pinch," said the stranger; "but I think I can help you."
"If you could lend me the money, sir, and take a lang day--I ken nae
other help on earth," said my gudesire.
"But there may be some under the earth," said the stranger. "Come,
I'll be frank wi' you; I could lend you the money on bond, but you
would maybe scruple my terms. Now I can tell you that your auld laird
is disturbed in his grave by your curses and the wailing of your
family, and if ye daur venture to go to see him, he will give you the
My gudesire's hair stood on end at this proposal, but he thought his
companion might be some humoursome chield that was trying to frighten
him, and might end with lending him the money. Besides, he was bauld
wi' brandy, and desperate wi' distress; and he said he had courage to
go to the gate of hell, and a step farther, for that receipt. The
Weel, they rode on through the thickest of the wood, when, all of a
sudden, the horse stopped at the door of a great house; and, but that
he knew the place was ten miles off, my father would have thought he
was at Redgauntlet Castle. They rode into the outer courtyard, through
the muckle faulding yetts, and aneath the auld portcullis; and the
whole front of the house was lighted, and there were pipes and
fiddles, and as much dancing and deray within as used to be at Sir
Robert's house at Pace and Yule, and such high seasons. They lap off,
and my gudesire, as seemed to him, fastened his horse to the very ring
he had tied him to that morning when he gaed to wait on the young Sir
"God!" said my gudesire, "if Sir Robert's death be but a dream!"
He knocked at the ha' door just as he was wont, and his auld
acquaintance, Dougal MacCallum--just after his wont, too--came to open
the door, and said, "Piper Steenie, are ye there lad? Sir Robert has
been crying for you."
My gudesire was like a man in a dream--he looked for the stranger, but
he was gane for the time. At last he just tried to say, "Ha! Dougal
Driveower, are you living? I thought ye had been dead."
"Never fash yoursell wi' me," said Dougal, "but look to yoursell; and
see ye tak' naething frae onybody here, neither meat, drink, or
siller, except the receipt that is your ain."
So saying, he led the way out through the halls and trances that were
weel kend to my gudesire, and into the auld oak parlour; and there was
as much singing of profane sangs, and birling of red wine, and
blasphemy and sculduddery, as had ever been in Redgauntlet Castle when
it was at the blythest.
But Lord take us in keeping! What a set of ghastly revellers there
were that sat around that table! My gudesire kend mony that had long
before gane to their place, for often had he piped to the most part in
the hall of Redgauntlet. There was the fierce Middleton, and the
dissolute Rothes, and the crafty Lauderdale; and Dalyell, with his
bald head and a beard to his girdle; and Earlshall, with Cameron's
blude on his hand; and wild Bonshaw, that tied blessed Mr. Cargill's
limbs till the blude sprung; and Dumbarton Douglas, the twice turned
traitor baith to country and king. There was the Bludy Advocate
MacKenyie, who, for his worldly wit and wisdom, had been to the rest
as a god. And there was Claverhouse, as beautiful as when he lived,
with his long, dark, curled locks streaming down over his laced buff-
coat, and with his left hand always on his right spule-blade, to hide
the wound that the silver bullet had made. He sat apart from them all,
and looked at them with a melancholy, haughty countenance; while the
rest hallooed and sang and laughed, that the room rang. But their
smiles were fearfully contorted from time to time; and their laughter
passed into such wild sounds as made my gudesire's very nails grow
blue, and chilled the marrow in his banes.
They that waited at the table were just the wicked serving-men and
troopers that had done their work and cruel bidding on earth. There
was the Lang Lad of the Nethertown, that helped to take Argyle; and
the bishop's summoner, that they called the Deil's Rattlebag; and the
wicked guardsmen in their laced coats; and the savage Highland
Amorites, that shed blood like water; and mony a proud serving-man,
haughty of heart and bloody of hand, cringing to the rich, and making
them wickeder than they would be; grinding the poor to powder when the
rich had broken them to fragments. And mony, mony mair were coming and
ganging, a' as busy in their vocation as if they had been alive.
Sir Robert Redgauntlet, in the midst of a' this fearful riot, cried,
wi' a voice like thunder, on Steenie Piper to come to the board-head
where he was sitting, his legs stretched out before him, and swathed
up with flannel, with his holster pistols aside him, while the great
broadsword rested against his chair, just as my gudesire had seen him
the last time upon earth; the very cushion for the jackanape was close
to him, but the creature itsell was not there--it wasna its hour, it's
likely; for he heard them say, as he came forward, "Is not the major
come yet?" And another answered, "The jackanape will be here betimes
the morn." And when my gudesire came forward, Sir Robert or his
ghaist, or the deevil in his likeness, said, "Weel, piper, hae ye
settled wi' my son for the year's rent?"
With much ado my father gat breath to say that Sir John would not
settle without his honour's receipt.
"Ye shall hae that for a tune of the pipes, Steenie," said the
appearance of Sir Robert--"play us up 'Weel Hoddled, Luckie.' "
Now this was a tune my gudesire learned frae a warlock, that heard it
when they were worshipping Satan at their meetings; and my gudesire
had sometimes played it at the ranting suppers in Redgauntlet Castle,
but never very willingly; and now he grew cauld at the very name of
it, and said, for excuse, he hadna his pipes wi' him.
"MacCallum, ye limb of Beelzebub," said the fearfu' Sir Robert, "bring
Steenie the pipes that I am keeping for him!"
MacCallum brought a pair of pipes might have served the piper of
Donald of the Isles. But he gave my gudesire a nudge as he offered
them; and looking secretly and closely, Steenie saw that the chanter
was of steel, and heated to a white heat; so he had fair warning not
to trust his fingers with it. So he excused himsell again, and said he
was faint and frightened, and had not wind aneugh to fill the bag.
"Then ye maun eat and drink, Steenie," said the figure; "for we do
little else here; and it's ill speaking between a fou man and a
fasting." Now these were the very words that the bloody Earl of
Douglas said to keep the king's messenger in hand while he cut the
head off MacLellan of Bombie, at the Threave Castle; and put Steenie
mair and mair on his guard. So he spoke up like a man, and said he
came neither to eat nor drink, nor make minstrelsy; but simply for his
ain--to ken what was come o' the money he had paid, and to get a
discharge for it; and he was so stout-hearted by this time that he
charged Sir Robert for conscience's sake (he had no power to say the
holy name), and as he hoped for peace and rest, to spread no snares
for him, but just to give him his ain.
The appearance gnashed its teeth and laughed, but it took from a large
pocket-book the receipt, and handed it to Steenie. "There is your
receipt, ye pitiful cur; and for the money, my dog-whelp of a son may
go look for it in the Cat's Cradle."
My gudesire uttered mony thanks, and was about to retire, when Sir
Robert roared aloud, "Stop, though, thou sack-doudling son of a --! I
am not done with thee. HERE we do nothing for nothing; and you must
return on this very day twelvemonth to pay your master the homage that
you owe me for my protection."
My father's tongue was loosed of a suddenty, and he said aloud, "I
refer myself to God's pleasure, and not to yours."
He had no sooner uttered the word than all was dark around him; and he
sank on the earth with such a sudden shock that he lost both breath
How lang Steenie lay there he could not tell; but when he came to
himsell he was lying in the auld kirkyard of Redgauntlet parochine,
just at the door of the family aisle, and the scutcheon of the auld
knight, Sir Robert, hanging over his head. There was a deep morning
fog on grass and gravestane around him, and his horse was feeding
quietly beside the minister's twa cows. Steenie would have thought the
whole was a dream, but he had the receipt in his hand fairly written
and signed by the auld laird; only the last letters of his name were a
little disorderly, written like one seized with sudden pain.
Sorely troubled in his mind, he left that dreary place, rode through
the mist to Redgauntlet Castle, and with much ado he got speech of the
"Well, you dyvour bankrupt," was the first word, "have you brought me
"No," answered my gudesire, "I have not; but I have brought your
honour Sir Robert's receipt for it."
"How, sirrah? Sir Robert's receipt! You told me he had not given you
"Will your honour please to see if that bit line is right?"
Sir John looked at every line, and at every letter, with much
attention; and at last at the date, which my gudesire had not observed
--"From my appointed place," he read, "this twenty-fifth of November."
"What! That is yesterday! Villain, thou must have gone to hell for
"I got it from your honour's father; whether he be in heaven or hell,
I know not," said Steenie.
"I will debate you for a warlock to the Privy Council!" said Sir John.
"I will send you to your master, the devil, with the help of a tar-
barrel and a torch!"
"I intend to debate mysell to the Presbytery," said Steenie, "and tell
them all I have seen last night, whilk are things fitter for them to
judge of than a borrel man like me."
Sir John paused, composed himsell, and desired to hear the full
history; and my gudesire told it him from point to point, as I have
told it you--neither more nor less.
Sir John was silent again for a long time, and at last he said, very
composedly: "Steenie, this story of yours concerns the honour of many
a noble family besides mine; and if it be a leasing-making, to keep
yourself out of my danger, the least you can expect is to have a red-
hot iron driven through your tongue, and that will be as bad as
scaulding your fingers wi' a red-hot chanter. But yet it may be true,
Steenie; and if the money cast up, I shall not know what to think of
it. But where shall we find the Cat's Cradle? There are cats enough
about the old house, but I think they kitten without the ceremony of
bed or cradle."
"We were best ask Hutcheon," said my gudesire; "he kens a' the odd
corners about as weel as--another serving-man that is now gane, and
that I wad not like to name."
Aweel, Hutcheon, when he was asked, told them that a ruinous turret
lang disused, next to the clock-house, only accessible by a ladder,
for the opening was on the outside, above the battlements, was called
of old the Cat's Cradle.
"There will I go immediately," said Sir John; and he took--with what
purpose Heaven kens--one of his father's pistols from the hall table,
where they had lain since the night he died, and hastened to the
It was a dangerous place to climb, for the ladder was auld and frail,
and wanted ane or twa rounds. However, up got Sir John, and entered at
the turret door, where his body stopped the only little light that was
in the bit turret. Something flees at him wi' a vengeance, maist dang
him back ower--bang! gaed the knight's pistol, and Hutcheon, that held
the ladder, and my gudesire, that stood beside him, hears a loud
skelloch. A minute after, Sir John flings the body of the jackanape
down to them, and cries that the siller is fund, and that they should
come up and help him. And there was the bag of siller sure aneaugh,
and mony orra thing besides, that had been missing for mony a day. And
Sir John, when he had riped the turret weel, led my gudesire into the
dining-parlour, and took him by the hand, and spoke kindly to him, and
said he was sorry he should have doubted his word, and that he would
hereafter be a good master to him, to make amends.
"And now, Steenie," said Sir John, "although this vision of yours
tends, on the whole, to my father's credit as an honest man, that he
should, even after his death, desire to see justice done to a poor man
like you, yet you are sensible that ill-dispositioned men might make
bad constructions upon it concerning his soul's health. So, I think,
we had better lay the haill dirdum on that ill-deedie creature, Major
Weir, and say naething about your dream in the wood of Pitmurkie. You
had taen ower-muckle brandy to be very certain about onything; and,
Steenie, this receipt"--his hand shook while he held it out--"it's but
a queer kind of document, and we will do best, I think, to put it
quietly in the fire."
"Od, but for as queer as it is, it's a' the voucher I have for my
rent," said my gudesire, who was afraid, it may be, of losing the
benefit of Sir Robert's discharge.
"I will bear the contents to your credit in the rental-book, and give
you a discharge under my own hand," said Sir John, "and that on the
spot. And, Steenie, if you can hold your tongue about this matter, you
shall sit, from this time downward, at an easier rent."
"Mony thanks to your honour," said Steenie, who saw easily in what
corner the wind was; "doubtless I will be conformable to all your
honour's commands; only I would willingly speak wi' some powerful
minister on the subject, for I do not like the sort of soumons of
appointment whilk your honour's father--"
"Do not call the phantom my father!" said Sir John, interrupting him.
"Well then, the thing that was so like him," said my gudesire; "he
spoke of my coming back to see him this time twelvemonth, and it's a
weight on my conscience."
"Aweel then," said Sir John, "if you be so much distressed in mind,
you may speak to our minister of the parish; he is a douce man,
regards the honour of our family, and the mair that he may look for
some patronage from me."
Wi' that, my father readily agreed that the receipt should be burnt;
and the laird threw it into the chimney with his ain hand. Burn it
would not for them, though; but away it flew up the lum, wi' a lang
train of sparks at its tail, and a hissing noise like a squib.
My gudesire gaed down to the manse, and the minister, when he had
heard the story, said it was his real opinion that, though my gudesire
had gane very far in tampering with dangerous matters, yet as he had
refused the devil's arles (for such was the offer of meat and drink),
and had refused to do homage by piping at his bidding, he hoped that,
if he held a circumspect walk hereafter, Satan could take little
advantage by what was come and gane. And, indeed, my gudesire, of his
ain accord, lang forswore baith the pipes and the brandy--it was not
even till the year was out, and the fatal day past, that he would so
much as take the fiddle or drink usquebaugh or tippenny.
Sir John made up his story about the jackanape as he liked himsell;
and some believe till this day there was no more in the matter than
the filching nature of the brute. Indeed, ye 'll no hinder some to
thread that it was nane o' the auld Enemy that Dougal and Hutcheon saw
in the laird's room, but only that wanchancie creature the major,
capering on the coffin; and that, as to the blawing on the laird's
whistle that was heard after he was dead, the filthy brute could do
that as weel as the laird himsell, if no better. But Heaven kens the
truth, whilk first came out by the minister's wife, after Sir John and
her ain gudeman were baith in the moulds. And then my gudesire, wha
was failed in his limbs, but not in his judgment or memory,--at least
nothing to speak of,--was obliged to tell the real narrative to his
freends, for the credit of his good name. He might else have been
charged for a warlock.
The shades of evening were growing thicker around us as my conductor
finished his long narrative with this moral: "You see, birkie, it is
nae chancy thing to tak' a stranger traveller for a guide when you are
in an uncouth land."
"I should not have made that inference," said I. "Your grandfather's
adventure was fortunate for himself, whom it saves from ruin and
distress; and fortunate for his landlord."
"Ay, but they had baith to sup the sauce o' 't sooner or later," said
Wandering Willie; "what was fristed wasna forgiven. Sir John died
before he was much over threescore; and it was just like a moment's
illness. And for my gudesire, though he departed in fulness of life,
yet there was my father, a yauld man of forty-five, fell down betwixt
the stilts of his plough, and rase never again, and left nae bairn but
me, a puir, sightless, fatherless, motherless creature, could neither
work nor want. Things gaed weel aneugh at first; for Sir Regwald
Redgauntlet, the only son of Sir John, and the oye of auld Sir Robert,
and, wae's me! the last of the honourable house, took the farm aff our
hands, and brought me into his household to have care of me. My head
never settled since I lost him; and if I say another word about it,
deil a bar will I have the heart to play the night. Look out, my
gentle chap," he resumed, in a different tone; "ye should see the
lights at Brokenburn Glen by this time."
THE GLENMUTCHKIN RAILWAY
[The following tale appeared in "Blackwood's Magazine" for October,
1845. It was intended by the writer as a sketch of some of the more
striking features of the railway mania (then in full progress
throughout Great Britain), as exhibited in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Although bearing the appearance of a burlesque, it was in truth an
accurate delineation (as will be acknowledged by many a gentleman who
had the misfortune to be "out in the Forty-five"); and subsequent
disclosures have shown that it was in no way exaggerated.
Although the "Glenmutchkin line" was purely imaginary, and was not
intended by the writer to apply to any particular scheme then before
the public, it was identified in Scotland with more than one reckless
and impracticable project; and even the characters introduced were
supposed to be typical of personages who had attained some notoriety
in the throng of speculation. Any such resemblances must be considered
as fortuitous; for the writer cannot charge himself with the
discourtesy of individual satire or allusion.]
I was confoundedly hard up. My patrimony, never of the largest, had
been for the last year on the decrease,--a herald would have
emblazoned it, "ARGENT, a money-bag improper, in detriment,"--and
though the attenuating process was not excessively rapid, it was,
nevertheless, proceeding at a steady ratio. As for the ordinary means
and appliances by which men contrive to recruit their exhausted
exchequers, I knew none of them. Work I abhorred with a detestation
worthy of a scion of nobility; and, I believe, you could just as soon
have persuaded the lineal representative of the Howards or Percys to
exhibit himself in the character of a mountebank, as have got me to
trust my person on the pinnacle of a three-legged stool. The rule of
three is all very well for base mechanical souls; but I flatter myself
I have an intellect too large to be limited to a ledger. "Augustus,"
said my poor mother to me, while stroking my hyacinthine tresses, one
fine morning, in the very dawn and budding-time of my existence--
"Augustus, my dear boy, whatever you do, never forget that you are a
gentleman." The maternal maxim sank deeply into my heart, and I never
for a moment have forgotten it.
Notwithstanding this aristocratic resolution, the great practical
question, "How am I to live?" began to thrust itself unpleasantly
before me. I am one of that unfortunate class who have neither uncles
nor aunts. For me, no yellow liverless individual, with characteristic
bamboo and pigtail,--emblems of half a million,--returned to his
native shores from Ceylon or remote Penang. For me, no venerable
spinster hoarded in the Trongate, permitting herself few luxuries
during a long protracted life, save a lass and a lanthorn, a parrot,
and the invariable baudrons of antiquity. No such luck was mine. Had
all Glasgow perished by some vast epidemic, I should not have found
myself one farthing the richer. There would have been no golden balsam
for me in the accumulated woes of Tradestown, Shettleston, and
Camlachie. The time has been when--according to Washington Irving and
other veracious historians--a young man had no sooner got into
difficulties than a guardian angel appeared to him in a dream, with
the information that at such and such a bridge, or under such and such
a tree, he might find, at a slight expenditure of labour, a gallipot
secured with bladder, and filled with glittering tomans; or, in the
extremity of despair, the youth had only to append himself to a cord,
and straightway the other end thereof, forsaking its staple in the
roof, would disclose amid the fractured ceiling the glories of a
profitable pose. These blessed days have long since gone by--at any
rate, no such luck was mine. My guardian angel was either wofully
ignorant of metallurgy, or the stores had been surreptitiously
ransacked; and as to the other expedient, I frankly confess I should
have liked some better security for its result than the precedent of
the "Heir of Lynn."
It is a great consolation, amid all the evils of life, to know that,
however bad your circumstances may be, there is always somebody else
in nearly the same predicament. My chosen friend and ally, Bob
M'Corkindale, was equally hard up with myself, and, if possible, more
averse to exertion. Bob was essentially a speculative man--that is, in
a philosophical sense. He had once got hold of a stray volume of Adam
Smith, and muddled his brains for a whole week over the intricacies of
the "Wealth of Nations." The result was a crude farrago of notions
regarding the true nature of money, the soundness of currency, and
relative value of capital, with which he nightly favoured an admiring
audience at "The Crow"; for Bob was by no means--in the literal
acceptation of the word--a dry philosopher. On the contrary, he
perfectly appreciated the merits of each distinct distillery, and was
understood to be the compiler of a statistical work entitled "A Tour
through the Alcoholic Districts of Scotland." It had very early
occurred to me, who knew as much of political economy as of the
bagpipes, that a gentleman so well versed in the art of accumulating
national wealth must have some remote ideas of applying his principles
profitably on a smaller scale. Accordingly I gave M'Corkindale an
unlimited invitation to my lodgings; and, like a good hearty fellow as
he was, he availed himself every evening of the license; for I had
laid in a fourteen-gallon cask of Oban whisky, and the quality of the
malt was undeniable.
These were the first glorious days of general speculation. Railroads
were emerging from the hands of the greater into the fingers of the
lesser capitalists. Two successful harvests had given a fearful
stimulus to the national energy; and it appeared perfectly certain
that all the populous towns would be united, and the rich agricultural
districts intersected, by the magical bands of iron. The columns of
the newspapers teemed every week with the parturition of novel
schemes; and the shares were no sooner announced than they were
rapidly subscribed for. But what is the use of my saying anything more
about the history of last year? Every one of us remembers it perfectly
well. It was a capital year on the whole, and put money into many a
pocket. About that time, Bob and I commenced operations. Our available
capital, or negotiable bullion, in the language of my friend, amounted
to about three hundred pounds, which we set aside as a joint fund for
speculation. Bob, in a series of learned discourses, had convinced me
that it was not only folly, but a positive sin, to leave this sum
lying in the bank at a pitiful rate of interest, and otherwise
unemployed, while every one else in the kingdom was having a pluck at
the public pigeon. Somehow or other, we were unlucky in our first
attempts. Speculators are like wasps; for when they have once got hold
of a ripening and peach-like project, they keep it rigidly for their
own swarm, and repel the approach of interlopers. Notwithstanding all
our efforts, and very ingenious ones they were, we never, in a single
instance, succeeded in procuring an allocation of original shares; and
though we did now and then make a bit by purchase, we more frequently
bought at a premium, and parted with our scrip at a discount. At the
end of six months we were not twenty pounds richer than before.
"This will never do," said Bob, as he sat one evening in my rooms
compounding his second tumbler. "I thought we were living in an
enlightened age; but I find I was mistaken. That brutal spirit of
monopoly is still abroad and uncurbed. The principles of free trade
are utterly forgotten, or misunderstood. Else how comes it that David
Spreul received but yesterday an allocation of two hundred shares in
the Westermidden Junction, while your application and mine, for a
thousand each were overlooked? Is this a state of things to be
tolerated? Why should he, with his fifty thousand pounds, receive a
slapping premium, while our three hundred of available capital remains
unrepresented? The fact is monstrous, and demands the immediate and
serious interference of the legislature."
"It is a burning shame," said I, fully alive to the manifold
advantages of a premium.
"I'll tell you what, Dunshunner," rejoined M'Corkindale, "it's no use
going on in this way. We haven't shown half pluck enough. These
fellows consider us as snobs because we don't take the bull by the
horns. Now's the time for a bold stroke. The public are quite ready to
subscribe for anything--and we'll start a railway for ourselves."
"Start a railway with three hundred pounds of capital!"
"Pshaw, man! you don't know what you're talking about--we've a great
deal more capital than that. Have not I told you, seventy times over,
that everything a man has--his coat, his hat, the tumblers he drinks
from, nay, his very corporeal existence--is absolute marketable
capital? What do you call that fourteen-gallon cask, I should like to
"A compound of hoops and staves, containing about a quart and a half
of spirits--you have effectually accounted for the rest."
"Then it has gone to the fund of profit and loss, that's all. Never
let me hear you sport those old theories again. Capital is
indestructible, as I am ready to prove to you any day, in half an
hour. But let us sit down seriously to business. We are rich enough to
pay for the advertisements, and that is all we need care for in the
meantime. The public is sure to step in, and bear us out handsomely
with the rest."
"But where in the face of the habitable globe shall the railway be?
England is out of the question, and I hardly know a spot in the
Lowlands that is not occupied already."
"What do you say to a Spanish scheme--the Alcantara Union? Hang me if
I know whether Alcantara is in Spain or Portugal; but nobody else
does, and the one is quite as good as the other. Or what would you
think of the Palermo Railway, with a branch to the sulphur-mines?--
that would be popular in the north--or the Pyrenees Direct? They would
all go to a premium."
"I must confess I should prefer a line at home."
"Well then, why not try the Highlands? There must be lots of traffic
there in the shape of sheep, grouse, and Cockney tourists, not to
mention salmon and other etceteras. Couldn't we tip them a railway
somewhere in the west?"
"There's Glenmutchkin, for instance--"
"Capital, my dear fellow! Glorious! By Jove, first-rate!" shouted Bob,
in an ecstasy of delight. "There's a distillery there, you know, and a
fishing-village at the foot--at least, there used to be six years ago,
when I was living with the exciseman. There may be some bother about
the population, though. The last laird shipped every mother's son of
the aboriginal Celts to America; but, after all, that's not of much
consequence. I see the whole thing! Unrivalled scenery--stupendous
waterfalls--herds of black cattle--spot where Prince Charles Edward
met Macgrugar of Glengrugar and his clan! We could not possibly have
lighted on a more promising place. Hand us over that sheet of paper,
like a good fellow, and a pen. There is no time to be lost, and the
sooner we get out the prospectus the better."
"But, Heaven bless you, Bob, there's a great deal to be thought of
first. Who are we to get for a provisional committee?"
"That's very true," said Bob, musingly. "We /must/ treat them to some
respectable names, that is, good-sounding ones. I'm afraid there is
little chance of our producing a peer to begin with?"
"None whatever--unless we could invent one, and that's hardly safe;
'Burke's Peerage' has gone through too many editions. Couldn't we try
"That would be rather dangerous in the teeth of the standing orders.
But what do you say to a baronet? There's Sir Polloxfen Tremens. He
got himself served the other day to a Nova Scotia baronetcy, with just
as much title as you or I have; and he has sported the riband, and
dined out on the strength of it ever since. He'll join us at once, for
he has not a sixpence to lose."
"Down with him, then," and we headed the provisional list with the
pseudo Orange tawny.
"Now," said Bob, "it's quite indispensable, as this is a Highland
line, that we should put forward a chief or two. That has always a
great effect upon the English, whose feudal notions are rather of the
mistiest, and principally derived from Waverley."
"Why not write yourself down as the laird of M'Corkindale?" said I. "I
dare say you would not be negatived by a counter-claim."
"That would hardly do," replied Bob, "as I intend to be secretary.
After all, what's the use of thinking about it? Here goes for an
extempore chief;" and the villain wrote down the name of Tavish
M'Tavish of Invertavish.
"I say, though," said I, "we must have a real Highlander on the list.
If we go on this way, it will become a justiciary matter."
"You're devilish scrupulous, Gus," said Bob, who, if left to himself,
would have stuck in the names of the heathen gods and goddesses, or
borrowed his directors from the Ossianic chronicles, rather than have
delayed the prospectus. "Where the mischief are we to find the men? I
can think of no others likely to go the whole hog; can you?"
"I don't know a single Celt in Glasgow except old M'Closkie, the
drunken porter at the corner of Jamaica Street."
"He's the very man! I suppose, after the manner of his tribe, he will
do anything for a pint of whisky. But what shall we call him? Jamaica
Street, I fear, will hardly do for a designation."
"Call him THE M'CLOSKIE. It will be sonorous in the ears of the
"Bravo!" and another chief was added to the roll of the clans.
"Now," said Bob, "we must put you down. Recollect, all the management,
that is, the allocation, will be intrusted to you. Augustus--you
haven't a middle name, I think?--well then, suppose we interpolate
'Reginald'; it has a smack of the crusades. Augustus Reginald
Dunshunner, Esq. of--where, in the name of Munchausen!"
"I'm sure I don't know. I never had any land beyond the contents of a
flower-pot. Stay--I rather think I have a superiority somewhere about
"Just the thing!" cried Bob. "It's heritable property, and therefore
titular. What's the denomination?"
"Beautiful! Dunshunner of St. Mirrens, I give you joy! Had you
discovered that a little sooner--and I wonder you did not think of it
--we might both of us have had lots of allocations. These are not the
times to conceal hereditary distinctions. But now comes the serious
work. We must have one or two men of known wealth upon the list. The
chaff is nothing without a decoy-bird. Now, can't you help me with a
"In that case," said I, "the game is up, and the whole scheme
exploded. I would as soon undertake to evoke the ghost of Croesus."
"Dunshunner," said Bob, very seriously, "to be a man of information,
you are possessed of marvellous few resources. I am quite ashamed of
you. Now listen to me. I have thought deeply upon this subject, and am
quite convinced that, with some little trouble, we may secure the
cooperation of a most wealthy and influential body--one, too, that is
generally supposed to have stood aloof from all speculation of the
kind, and whose name would be a tower of strength in the moneyed
quarters. I allude," continued Bob, reaching across for the kettle,
"to the great dissenting interest."
"The what?" cried I, aghast.
"The great dissenting interest. You can't have failed to observe the
row they have lately been making about Sunday travelling and
education. Old Sam Sawley, the coffin-maker, is their principal
spokesman here; and wherever he goes the rest will follow, like a
flock of sheep bounding after a patriarchal ram. I propose, therefore,
to wait upon him to-morrow, and request his cooperation in a scheme
which is not only to prove profitable, but to make head against the
lax principles of the present age. Leave me alone to tickle him. I
consider his name, and those of one or two others belonging to the
same meeting-house,--fellows with bank-stock and all sorts of tin,--as
perfectly secure. These dissenters smell a premium from an almost
incredible distance. We can fill up the rest of the committee with
ciphers, and the whole thing is done."
"But the engineer--we must announce such an officer as a matter of
"I never thought of that," said Bob. "Couldn't we hire a fellow from
one of the steamboats?"
"I fear that might get us into trouble. You know there are such things
as gradients and sections to be prepared. But there's Watty Solder,
the gas-fitter, who failed the other day. He's a sort of civil
engineer by trade, and will jump at the proposal like a trout at the
tail of a May-fly."
"Agreed. Now then, let's fix the number of shares. This is our first
experiment, and I think we ought to be moderate. No sound political
economist is avaricious. Let us say twelve thousand, at twenty pounds
"So be it."
"Well then, that's arranged. I'll see Sawley and the rest to-morrow,
settle with Solder, and then write out the prospectus. You look in
upon me in the evening, and we'll revise it together. Now, by your
leave, let's have a Welsh rabbit and another tumbler to drink success
and prosperity to the Glenmutchkin Railway."
I confess that, when I rose on the morrow, with a slight headache and
a tongue indifferently parched, I recalled to memory, not without
perturbation of conscience and some internal qualms, the conversation
of the previous evening. I felt relieved, however, after two spoonfuls
of carbonate of soda, and a glance at the newspaper, wherein I
perceived the announcement of no less than four other schemes equally
preposterous with our own. But, after all, what right had I to assume
that the Glenmutchkin project would prove an ultimate failure? I had
not a scrap of statistical information that might entitle me to form
such an opinion. At any rate, Parliament, by substituting the Board of
Trade as an initiating body of inquiry, had created a responsible
tribunal, and freed us from the chance of obloquy. I saw before me a
vision of six months' steady gambling, at manifest advantage, in the
shares, before a report could possibly be pronounced, or our
proceedings be in any way overhauled. Of course, I attended that
evening punctually at my friend M'Corkindale's. Bob was in high
feather; for Sawley no sooner heard of the principles upon which the
railway was to be conducted, and his own nomination as a director,
than he gave in his adhesion, and promised his unflinching support to
the uttermost. The prospectus ran as follows:
"DIRECT GLENMUTCHKIN RAILWAY.
IN 12,000 SHARES OF L20 EACH. DEPOSIT L1 PER SHARE.
SIR POLLOXFEN TREMENS, Bart. Of Toddymains.
TAVISH M'TAVISH of Invertavish.
AUGUST REGINALD DUNSHUNNER, Esq. of St. Mirrens.
SAMUEL SAWLEY, Esq., Merchant.
PHELIM O'FINLAN, Esq. of Castle-Rock, Ireland.
THE CAPTAIN of M'ALCOHOL.
FACTOR for GLENTUMBLERS.
JOHN JOB JOBSON, Esq., Manufacturer.
EVAN M'CLAW of Glenscart and Inveryewky.
JOSEPH HECKLES, Esq.
HABAKKUK GRABBIE, Portioner in Ramoth-Drumclog.
/Engineer/, WALTER SOLDER, Esq.
/Interim Secretary/, ROBERT M'CORKINDALE, Esq.
"The necessity of a direct line of Railway communication through the
fertile and populous district known as the VALLEY OF GLENMUTCHKIN has
been long felt and universally acknowledged. Independently of the
surpassing grandeur of its mountain scenery, which shall immediately
be referred to, and other considerations of even greater importance,
GLENMUTCHKIN is known to the capitalist as the most important
BREEDING-STATION in the Highlands of Scotland, and indeed as the
great emporium from which the southern markets are supplied. It has
been calculated by a most eminent authority that every acre in the
strath is capable of rearing twenty head of cattle; and as it has been
ascertained, after a careful admeasurement, that there are not less
than TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND improvable acres immediately contiguous to
the proposed line of Railway, it may confidently be assumed that the
number of Cattle to be conveyed along the line will amount to FOUR
MILLIONS annually, which, at the lowest estimate, would yield a
revenue larger, in proportion to the capital subscribed, than that of
any Railway as yet completed within the United Kingdom. From this
estimate the traffic in Sheep and Goats, with which the mountains are
literally covered, has been carefully excluded, it having been found
quite impossible (from its extent) to compute the actual revenue to be
drawn from that most important branch. It may, however, be roughly
assumed as from seventeen to nineteen per cent. upon the whole, after
deduction of the working expenses.
"The population of Glenmutchkin is extremely dense. Its situation on
the west coast has afforded it the means of direct communication with
America, of which for many years the inhabitants have actively availed
themselves. Indeed, the amount of exportation of live stock from this
part of the Highlands to the Western continent has more than once
attracted the attention of Parliament. The Manufactures are large and
comprehensive, and include the most famous distilleries in the world.
The Minerals are most abundant, and among these may be reckoned
quartz, porphyry, felspar, malachite, manganese, and basalt.
"At the foot of the valley, and close to the sea, lies the important
village known as the CLACHAN of INVERSTARVE. It is supposed by various
eminent antiquaries to have been the capital of the Picts, and, among
the busy inroads of commercial prosperity, it still retains some
interesting traces of its former grandeur. There is a large fishing
station here, to which vessels from every nation resort, and the
demand for foreign produce is daily and steadily increasing.
"As a sporting country Glenmutchkin is unrivalled; but it is by the
tourists that its beauties will most greedily be sought. These consist
of every combination which plastic nature can afford: cliffs of
unusual magnitude and grandeur; waterfalls only second to the sublime
cascades of Norway; woods of which the bark is a remarkably valuable
commodity. It need scarcely be added, to rouse the enthusiasm
inseparable from this glorious glen, that here, in 1745, Prince
Charles Edward Stuart, then in the zenith of his hopes, was joined by
the brave Sir Grugar M'Grugar at the head of his devoted clan.
"The Railway will be twelve miles long, and can be completed within
six months after the Act of Parliament is obtained. The gradients are
easy, and the curves obtuse. There are no viaducts of any importance,
and only four tunnels along the whole length of the line. The shortest
of these does not exceed a mile and a half.
"In conclusion, the projectors of this Railway beg to state that they
have determined, as a principle, to set their face AGAINST ALL SUNDAY
TRAVELLING WHATSOEVER, and to oppose EVERY BILL which may hereafter be
brought into Parliament, unless it shall contain a clause to that
effect. It is also their intention to take up the cause of the poor
and neglected STOKER, for whose accommodation, and social, moral,
religious, and intellectual improvement, a large stock of evangelical
tracts will speedily be required. Tenders of these, in quantities of
not less than 12,000, may be sent in to the Interim Secretary. Shares
must be applied for within ten days from the present date.
"By order of the Provisional Committee,
"ROBERT M'CORKINDALE, /Secretary/."
"There!" said Bob, slapping down the prospectus on the table with as
much triumph as if it had been the original of Magna Charta, "what do
you think of that? If it doesn't do the business effectually, I shall
submit to be called a Dutchman. That last touch about the stoker will
bring us in the subscriptions of the old ladies by the score."
"Very masterly indeed," said I. "But who the deuce is Mhic-Mhac-vich-
" A bona-fide chief, I assure you, though a little reduced. I picked
him up upon the Broomielaw. His grandfather had an island somewhere to
the west of the Hebrides; but it is not laid down in the maps."
"And the Captain of M'Alcohol?"
"A crack distiller."
"And the Factor for Glentumblers?"
"His principal customer. But, bless you, my dear St. Mirrens! Don't
bother yourself any more about the committee. They are as respectable
a set--on paper at least--as you would wish to see of a summer's
morning, and the beauty of it is that they will give us no manner of
trouble. Now about the allocation. You and I must restrict ourselves
to a couple of thousand shares apiece. That's only a third of the
whole, but it won't do to be greedy."
"But, Bob, consider! Where on earth are we to find the money to pay up
"Can you, the principal director of the Glenmutchkin Railway, ask me,
the secretary, such a question? Don't you know that any of the banks
will give us tick to the amount 'of half the deposits.' All that is
settled already, and you can get your two thousand pounds whenever you
please merely for the signing of a bill. Sawley must get a thousand
according to stipulation; Jobson, Heckles, and Grabbie, at least five
hundred apiece; and another five hundred, I should think, will exhaust
the remaining means of the committee. So that, out of our whole stock,
there remain just five thousand shares to be allocated to the
speculative and evangelical public. My eyes! Won't there be a scramble
Next day our prospectus appeared in the newspapers. It was read,
canvassed, and generally approved of. During the afternoon I took an
opportunity of looking into the Tontine, and, while under shelter of
the Glasgow "Herald," my ears were solaced with such ejaculations as
"I say, Jimsy, hae ye seen this grand new prospectus for a railway tae
"Ay. It looks no that ill. The Hieland lairds are pitting their best
foremost. Will ye apply for shares?"
"I think I'll tak' twa hundred. Wha's Sir Polloxfen Tremens?"
"He'll be yin o' the Ayrshire folk. He used to rin horses at the
("The devil he did!" thought I.)
"D' ye ken ony o' the directors, Jimsy?"
"I ken Sawley fine. Ye may depend on 't, it's a gude thing if he's in
't, for he's a howkin' body.
"Then it's sure to gae up. What prem. d' ye think it will bring?"
"Twa pund a share, and maybe mair."
" 'Od, I'll apply for three hundred!"
"Heaven bless you, my dear countrymen!" thought I, as I sallied forth
to refresh myself with a basin of soup, "do but maintain this liberal
and patriotic feeling--this thirst for national improvement, internal
communication, and premiums--a short while longer, and I know whose
fortune will be made."
On the following morning my breakfast-table was covered with shoals of
letters, from fellows whom I scarcely ever had spoken to,--or who, to
use a franker phraseology, had scarcely ever condescended to speak to
me,--entreating my influence as a director to obtain them shares in
the new undertaking. I never bore malice in my life, so I chalked them
down, without favouritism, for a certain proportion. While engaged in
this charitable work, the door flew open, and M'Corkindale, looking
utterly haggard with excitement, rushed in.
"You may buy an estate whenever you please, Dunshunner," cried he;
"the world's gone perfectly mad! I have been to Blazes, the broker,
and he tells me that the whole amount of the stock has been subscribed
for four times over already, and he has not yet got in the returns
from Edinburgh and Liverpool!"
"Are they good names, though, Bob--sure cards--none of your M'Closkies
"The first names in the city, I assure you, and most of them holders
for investment. I wouldn't take ten millions for their capital."
"Then the sooner we close the list the better."
"I think so too. I suspect a rival company will be out before long.
Blazes says the shares are selling already conditionally on allotment,
at seven and sixpence premium."
"The deuce they are! I say, Bob, since we have the cards in our hands,
would it not be wise to favour them with a few hundreds at that rate?
A bird in the hand, you know, is worth two in the bush, eh?"
"I know no such maxim in political economy," replied the secretary.
"Are you mad, Dunshunner? How are the shares to go up, if it gets wind
that the directors are selling already? Our business just now is to
/bull/ the line, not to /bear/ it; and if you will trust me, I shall
show them such an operation on the ascending scale as the Stock
Exchange has not witnessed for this long and many a day. Then
to-morrow I shall advertise in the papers that the committee, having
received applications for ten times the amount of stock, have been
compelled, unwillingly, to close the lists. That will be a slap in the
face to the dilatory gentlemen, and send up the shares like wildfire."
Bob was right. No sooner did the advertisement appear than a
simultaneous groan was uttered by some hundreds of disappointed
speculators, who, with unwonted and unnecessary caution, had been
anxious to see their way a little before committing themselves to our
splendid enterprise. In consequence, they rushed into the market, with
intense anxiety to make what terms they could at the earliest stage,
and the seven and sixpence of premium was doubled in the course of a
The allocation passed over very peaceably. Sawley, Heckles, Jobson,
Grabbie, and the Captain of M'Alcohol, besides myself, attended, and
took part in the business. We were also threatened with the presence
of the M'Closkie and Vich-Induibh; but M'Corkindale, entertaining some
reasonable doubts as to the effect which their corporeal appearance
might have upon the representatives of the dissenting interest, had
taken the precaution to get them snugly housed in a tavern, where an
unbounded supply of gratuitous Ferintosh deprived us of the benefit of
their experience. We, however, allotted them twenty shares apiece. Sir
Polloxfen Tremens sent a handsome, though rather illegible, letter of
apology, dated from an island in Loch Lomond, where he was said to be
detained on particular business.
Mr. Sawley, who officiated as our chairman, was kind enough, before
parting, to pass a very flattering eulogium upon the excellence and
candour of all the preliminary arrangements. It would now, he said, go
forth to the public that the line was not, like some others he could
mention, a mere bubble, emanating from the stank of private interest,
but a solid, lasting superstructure, based upon the principles of
sound return for capital, and serious evangelical truth (hear, hear!).
The time was fast approaching when the gravestone with the words "HIC
OBIT" chiselled upon it would be placed at the head of all the other
lines which rejected the grand opportunity of conveying education to
the stoker. The stoker, in his (Mr. Sawley's) opinion, had a right to
ask the all-important question, "Am I not a man and a brother?"
(Cheers.) Much had been said and written lately about a work called
"Tracts for the Times." With the opinions contained in that
publication he was not conversant, as it was conducted by persons of
another community from that to which he (Mr. Sawley) had the privilege
to belong. But he hoped very soon, under the auspices of the
Glenmutchkin Railway Company, to see a new periodical established,
under the title of "Tracts for the Trains." He never for a moment
would relax his efforts to knock a nail into the coffin which, he
might say, was already made and measured and cloth-covered for the
reception of all establishments; and with these sentiments, and the
conviction that the shares must rise, could it be doubted that he
would remain a fast friend to the interests of this company for ever?
After having delivered this address, Mr. Sawley affectionately
squeezed the hands of his brother directors, and departed, leaving
several of us much overcome. As, however, M'Corkindale had told me
that every one of Sawley's shares had been disposed of in the market
the day before, I felt less compunction at having refused to allow
that excellent man an extra thousand beyond the amount he had applied
for, notwithstanding his broadest hints and even private entreaties.
"Confound the greedy hypocrite!" said Bob; "does he think we shall let
him burke the line for nothing? No--no! let him go to the brokers and
buy his shares back, if he thinks they are likely to rise. I'll be
bound he has made a cool five hundred out of them already."
On the day which succeeded the allocation, the following entry
appeared in the Glasgow sharelists: "Direct Glenmutchkin Railway 15s.
15s. 6d. 15s. 6d. 16s. 15s. 6d. 16s. 16s. 6d. 16s. 6d. 16s.
17s. 18s. 18s. 19s. 6d. 21s. 21s. 22s. 6d. 24s. 25s. 6d. 27s.
29s. 29s. 6d. 30s. 31s."
"They might go higher, and they ought to go higher," said Bob,
musingly; "but there's not much more stock to come and go upon, and
these two share-sharks, Jobson and Grabbie, I know, will be in the
market to-morrow. We must not let them have the whip-hand of us. I
think upon the whole, Dunshunner, though it's letting them go dog-
cheap, that we ought to sell half our shares at the present premium,
while there is a certainty of getting it."
"Why not sell the whole? I'm sure I have no objections to part with
every stiver of the scrip on such terms."
"Perhaps," said Bob, "upon general principles you may be right; but
then remember that we have a vested interest in the line."
"Vested interest be hanged!"
"That's very well; at the same time it is no use to kill your salmon
in a hurry. The bulls have done their work pretty well for us, and we
ought to keep something on hand for the bears; they are snuffing at it
already. I could almost swear that some of those fellows who have sold
to-day are working for a time-bargain."
We accordingly got rid of a couple of thousand shares, the proceeds of
which not only enabled us to discharge the deposit loan, but left us a
material surplus. Under these circumstances a two-handed banquet was
proposed and unanimously carried, the commencement of which I
distinctly remember, but am rather dubious as to the end. So many
stories have lately been circulated to the prejudice of railway
directors that I think it my duty to state that this entertainment was
scrupulously defrayed by ourselves and /not/ carried to account,
either of the preliminary survey, or the expenses of the provisional
Nothing effects so great a metamorphosis in the bearing of the outer
man as a sudden change of fortune. The anemone of the garden differs
scarcely more from its unpretending prototype of the woods than Robert
M'Corkindale, Esq., Secretary and Projector of the Glenmutchkin
Railway, differed from Bob M'Corkindale, the seedy frequenter of "The
Crow." In the days of yore, men eyed the surtout--napless at the
velvet collar, and preternaturally white at the seams--which Bob
vouchsafed to wear with looks of dim suspicion, as if some faint
reminiscence, similar to that which is said to recall the memory of a
former state of existence, suggested to them a notion that the garment
had once been their own. Indeed, his whole appearance was then
wonderfully second-hand. Now he had cast his slough. A most undeniable
taglioni, with trimmings just bordering upon frogs, gave dignity to
his demeanour and twofold amplitude to his chest. The horn eye-glass
was exchanged for one of purest gold, the dingy high-lows for well-
waxed Wellingtons, the Paisley fogle for the fabric of the China loom.
Moreover, he walked with a swagger, and affected in common
conversation a peculiar dialect which he opined to be the purest
English, but which no one--except a bagman--could be reasonably
expected to understand. His pockets were invariably crammed with
sharelists; and he quoted, if he did not comprehend, the money article
from the "Times." This sort of assumption, though very ludicrous in
itself, goes down wonderfully. Bob gradually became a sort of
authority, and his opinions got quoted on 'Change. He was no ass,
notwithstanding his peculiarities, and made good use of his
For myself, I bore my new dignities with an air of modest meekness. A
certain degree of starchness is indispensable for a railway director,
if he means to go forward in his high calling and prosper; he must
abandon all juvenile eccentricities, and aim at the appearance of a
decided enemy to free trade in the article of Wild Oats. Accordingly,
as the first step toward respectability, I eschewed coloured
waistcoats and gave out that I was a marrying man. No man under forty,
unless he is a positive idiot, will stand forth as a theoretical
bachelor. It is all nonsense to say that there is anything unpleasant
in being courted. Attention, whether from male or female, tickles the
vanity; and although I have a reasonable, and, I hope, not unwholesome
regard for the gratification of my other appetites, I confess that
this same vanity is by far the most poignant of the whole. I therefore
surrendered myself freely to the soft allurements thrown in my way by
such matronly denizens of Glasgow as were possessed of stock in the
shape of marriageable daughters; and walked the more readily into
their toils because every party, though nominally for the purposes of
tea, wound up with a hot supper, and something hotter still by way of
assisting the digestion.
I don't know whether it was my determined conduct at the allocation,
my territorial title, or a most exaggerated idea of my circumstances,
that worked upon the mind of Mr. Sawley. Possibly it was a combination
of the three; but, sure enough few days had elapsed before I received
a formal card of invitation to a tea and serous conversation. Now
serious conversation is a sort of thing that I never shone in,
possibly because my early studies were framed in a different
direction; but as I really was unwilling to offend the respectable
coffin-maker, and as I found that the Captain of M'Alcohol--a decided
trump in his way--had also received a summons, I notified my
M'Alcohol and I went together. The captain, an enormous brawny Celt,
with superhuman whiskers and a shock of the fieriest hair, had figged
himself out, /more majorum/, in the full Highland costume. I never saw
Rob Roy on the stage look half so dignified or ferocious. He glittered
from head to foot with dirk, pistol, and skean-dhu; and at least a
hundredweight of cairngorms cast a prismatic glory around his person.
I felt quite abashed beside him.
We were ushered into Mr. Sawley's drawing-room. Round the walls, and
at considerable distances from each other, were seated about a dozen
characters, male and female, all of them dressed in sable, and wearing
countenances of woe. Sawley advanced, and wrung me by the hand with so
piteous an expression of visage that I could not help thinking some
awful catastrophe had just befallen his family.
"You are welcome, Mr. Dunshunner--welcome to my humble tabernacle. Let
me present you to Mrs. Sawley"--and a lady, who seemed to have bathed
in the Yellow Sea, rose from her seat, and favoured me with a profound
"My daughter--Miss Selina Sawley."
I felt in my brain the scorching glance of the two darkest eyes it
ever was my fortune to behold, as the beauteous Selina looked up from
the perusal of her handkerchief hem. It was a pity that the other
features were not corresponding; for the nose was flat, and the mouth
of such dimensions that a harlequin might have jumped down it with
impunity; but the eyes /were/ splendid.
In obedience to a sign from the hostess, I sank into a chair beside
Selina; and, not knowing exactly what to say, hazarded some
observation about the weather.
"Yes, it is indeed a suggestive season. How deeply, Mr. Dunshunner, we
ought to feel the pensive progress of autumn toward a soft and
premature decay! I always think, about this time of the year, that
nature is falling into a consumption!"
"To be sure, ma'am," said I, rather taken aback by this style of
colloquy, "the trees are looking devilishly hectic."
"Ah, you have remarked that too! Strange! It was but yesterday that I
was wandering through Kelvin Grove, and as the phantom breeze brought
down the withered foliage from the spray, I thought how probable it
was that they might ere long rustle over young and glowing hearts
deposited prematurely in the tomb!"
This, which struck me as a very passable imitation of Dickens's
pathetic writings, was a poser. In default of language, I looked Miss
Sawley straight in the face, and attempted a substitute for a sigh. I
was rewarded with a tender glance.
"Ah," said she, "I see you are a congenial spirit! How delightful, and
yet how rare, it is to meet with any one who thinks in unison with
yourself! Do you ever walk in the Necropolis, Mr. Dunshunner? It is my
favourite haunt of a morning. There we can wean ourselves, as it were,
from life, and beneath the melancholy yew and cypress, anticipate the
setting star. How often there have I seen the procession--the funeral
of some very, /very/ little child--"
"Selina, my love," said Mrs. Sawley, "have the kindness to ring for
I, as in duty bound, started up to save the fair enthusiast the
trouble, and was not sorry to observe my seat immediately occupied by
a very cadaverous gentleman, who was evidently jealous of the progress
I was rapidly making. Sawley, with an air of great mystery, informed
me that this was a Mr. Dalgleish of Raxmathrapple, the representative
of an ancient Scottish family who claimed an important heritable
office. The name, I thought, was familiar to me, but there was
something in the appearance of Mr. Dalgleish which, notwithstanding
the smiles of Miss Selina, rendered a rivalship in that quarter
utterly out of the question.
I hate injustice, so let me do the honour in description to the Sawley
banquet. The tea-urn most literally corresponded to its name. The
table was decked out with divers platters, containing seed-cakes cut
into rhomboids, almond biscuits, and ratafia-drops. Also on the
sideboard there were two salvers, each of which contained a
congregation of glasses, filled with port and sherry. The former
fluid, as I afterward ascertained, was of the kind advertised as
"curious," and proffered for sale at the reasonable rate of sixteen
shillings per dozen. The banquet, on the whole, was rather peculiar
than enticing; and, for the life of me, I could not divest myself of
the idea that the self-same viands had figured, not long before, as
funeral refreshments at a dirgie. No such suspicion seemed to cross
the mind of M'Alcohol, who hitherto had remained uneasily surveying
his nails in a corner, but at the first symptom of food started
forward, and was in the act of making a clean sweep of the china, when
Sawley proposed the singular preliminary of a hymn.
The hymn was accordingly sung. I am thankful to say it was such a one
as I never heard before, or expect to hear again; and unless it was
composed by the Reverend Saunders Peden in an hour of paroxysm on the
moors, I cannot conjecture the author. After this original symphony,
tea was discussed, and after tea, to my amazement, more hot brandy-
and-water than I ever remember to have seen circulated at the most
convivial party. Of course this effected a radical change in the
spirits and conversation of the circle. It was again my lot to be
placed by the side of the fascinating Selina, whose sentimentality
gradually thawed away beneath the influence of sundry sips, which she
accepted with a delicate reluctance. This time Dalgleish of
Raxmathrapple had not the remotest chance. M'Alcohol got furious, sang
Gaelic songs, and even delivered a sermon in genuine Erse, without
incurring a rebuke; while, for my own part, I must needs confess that
I waxed unnecessarily amorous, and the last thing I recollect was the
pressure of Mr. Sawley's hand at the door, as he denominated me his
dear boy, and hoped I would soon come back and visit Mrs. Sawley and
Selina. The recollection of these passages next morning was the surest
antidote to my return.
Three weeks had elapsed, and still the Glenmutchkin Railway shares
were at a premium, though rather lower than when we sold. Our
engineer, Watty Solder, returned from his first survey of the line,
along with an assistant who really appeared to have some remote
glimmerings of the science and practice of mensuration. It seemed,
from a verbal report, that the line was actually practicable; and the
survey would have been completed in a very short time, "if," according
to the account of Solder, "there had been ae hoos in the glen. But
ever sin' the distillery stoppit--and that was twa year last
Martinmas--there wasna a hole whaur a Christian could lay his head,
muckle less get white sugar to his toddy, forby the change-house at
the clachan; and the auld lucky that keepit it was sair forfochten wi'
the palsy, and maist in the dead-thraws. There was naebody else living
within twal' miles o' the line, barring a taxman, a lamiter, and a
We had some difficulty in preventing Mr. Solder from making this
report open and patent to the public, which premature disclosure might
have interfered materially with the preparation of our traffic tables,
not to mention the marketable value of the shares. We therefore kept
him steadily at work out of Glasgow, upon a very liberal allowance, to
which, apparently, he did not object.
"Dunshunner," said M'Corkindale to me one day, "I suspect that there
is something going on about our railway more than we are aware of.
Have you observed that the shares are preternaturally high just now?"
"So much the better. Let's sell."
"I did so this morning, both yours and mine, at two pounds ten
"The deuce you did! Then we're out of the whole concern."
"Not quite. If my suspicions are correct, there's a good deal more
money yet to be got from the speculation. Somebody had been bulling
the stock without orders; and, as they can have no information which
we are not perfectly up to, depend upon it, it is done for a purpose.
I suspect Sawley and his friends. They have never been quite happy
since the allocation; and I caught him yesterday pumping our broker in
the back shop. We'll see in a day or two. If they are beginning a
bearing operation, I know how to catch them."
And, in effect, the bearing operation commenced. Next day, heavy sales
were effected for delivery in three weeks; and the stock, as if water-
logged, began to sink. The same thing continued for the following two
days, until the premium became nearly nominal. In the meantime, Bob
and I, in conjunction with two leading capitalists whom we let into
the secret, bought up steadily every share that was offered; and at
the end of a fortnight we found that we had purchased rather more than
double the amount of the whole original stock. Sawley and his
disciples, who, as M'Corkindale suspected, were at the bottom of the
whole transaction, having beared to their hearts' content, now came
into the market to purchase, in order to redeem their engagements.
I have no means of knowing in what frame of mind Mr. Sawley spent the
Sunday, or whether he had recourse for mental consolation to Peden;
but on Monday morning he presented himself at my door in full funeral
costume, with about a quarter of a mile of crape swathed round his
hat, black gloves, and a countenance infinitely more doleful than if
he had been attending the interment of his beloved wife.
"Walk in, Mr. Sawley," said I, cheerfully. "What a long time it is
since I have had the pleasure of seeing you--too long indeed for
brother directors! How are Mrs. Sawley and Miss Selina? Won't you take
a cup of coffee?"
"Grass, sir, grass!" said Mr. Sawley, with a sigh like the groan of a
furnace-bellows. "We are all flowers of the oven--weak, erring
creatures, every one of us. Ah, Mr. Dunshunner, you have been a great
stranger at Lykewake Terrace!"
"Take a muffin, Mr. Sawley. Anything new in the railway world?"
"Ah, my dear sir,--my good Mr. Augustus Reginald,--I wanted to have
some serious conversation with you on that very point. I am afraid
there is something far wrong indeed in the present state of our
"Why, to be sure it is high; but that, you know, is a token of the
public confidence in the line. After all, the rise is nothing compared
to that of several English railways; and individually, I suppose,
neither of us has any reason to complain."
"I don't like it," said Sawley, watching me over the margin of his
coffee-cup; "I don't like it. It savours too much of gambling for a
man of my habits. Selina, who is a sensible girl, has serious qualms
on the subject."
"Then why not get out of it? I have no objection to run the risk, and
if you like to transact with me, I will pay you ready money for every
share you have at the present market price."
Sawley writhed uneasily in his chair.
"Will you sell me five hundred, Mr. Sawley? Say the word and it is a
"A time-bargain?" quavered the coffin-maker.
"No. Money down, and scrip handed over."
"I--I can't. The fact is, my dear young friend, I have sold all my
"Then permit me to ask, Mr. Sawley, what possible objection you can
have to the present aspect of affairs? You do not surely suppose that
we are going to issue new shares and bring down the market, simply
because you have realised at a handsome premium?"
"A handsome premium! O Lord!" moaned Sawley.
"Why, what did you get for them?"
"Four, three, and two and a half."
"A very considerable profit indeed," said I; "and you ought to be
abundantly thankful. We shall talk this matter over at another time,
Mr. Sawley, but just now I must beg you to excuse me. I have a
particular engagement this morning with my broker--rather a heavy
transaction to settle--and so--"
"It's no use beating about the bush any longer," said Mr. Sawley, in
an excited tone, at the same time dashing down his crape-covered
castor on the floor. "Did you ever see a ruined man with a large
family? Look at me, Mr. Dunshunner--I'm one, and you've done it!"
"Mr. Sawley! Are you in your senses?"
"That depends on circumstances. Haven't you been buying stock lately?"
"I am glad to say I have--two thousand Glenmutchkins, I think, and
this is the day of delivery."
"Well, then, can't you see how the matter stands? It was I who sold
"Mother of Moses, sir! Don't you see I'm ruined?"
"By no means--but you must not swear. I pay over the money for your
scrip, and you pocket a premium. It seems to me a very simple
"But I tell you I haven't got the scrip!" cried Sawley, gnashing his
teeth, while the cold beads of perspiration gathered largely on his
"That is very unfortunate! Have you lost it?"
"No! the devil tempted me, and I oversold!"
There was a very long pause, during which I assumed an aspect of
serious and dignified rebuke.
"Is it possible?" said I, in a low tone, after the manner of Kean's
offended fathers. "What! you, Mr. Sawley--the stoker's friend--the
enemy of gambling--the father of Selina--condescend to so equivocal a
transaction? You amaze me! But I never was the man to press heavily on
a friend"--here Sawley brightened up. "Your secret is safe with me,
and it shall be your own fault if it reaches the ears of the Session.
Pay me over the difference at the present market price, and I release
you of your obligation."
"Then I'm in the Gazette, that's all," said Sawley, doggedly, "and a
wife and nine beautiful babes upon the parish! I had hoped other
things from you, Mr. Dunshunner--I thought you and Selina--"
"Nonsense, man! Nobody goes into the Gazette just now--it will be time
enough when the general crash comes. Out with your cheque-book, and
write me an order for four and twenty thousand. Confound fractions! In
these days one can afford to be liberal."
"I haven't got it," said Sawley. "You have no idea how bad our trade
has been of late, for nobody seems to think of dying. I have not sold
a gross of coffins this fortnight. But I'll tell you what--I'll give
you five thousand down in cash, and ten thousand in shares; further I
"Now, Mr. Sawley," said I, "I may be blamed by worldly-minded persons
for what I am going to do; but I am a man of principle, and feel
deeply for the situation of your amiable wife and family. I bear no
malice, though it is quite clear that you intended to make me the
sufferer. Pay me fifteen thousand over the counter, and we cry quits
"Won't you take the Camlachie Cemetery shares? They are sure to go
"Twelve hundred Cowcaddens Water, with an issue of new stock next
"Not if they disseminated the Gauges!"
"A thousand Ramshorn Gas--four per cent. guaranteed until the act?"
"Not if they promised twenty, and melted down the sun in their
"Blawweary Iron? Best spec. going."
"No, I tell you once for all! If you don't like my offer,--and it is
an uncommonly liberal one,--say so, and I'll expose you this afternoon
"Well then, there's a cheque. But may the--"
"Stop, sir! Any such profane expressions, and I shall insist upon the
original bargain. So then, now we're quits. I wish you a very good-
morning, Mr. Sawley, and better luck next time. Pray remember me to
your amiable family."
The door had hardly closed upon the discomfited coffin-maker, and I
was still in the preliminary steps of an extempore /pas seul/,
intended as the outward demonstration of exceeding inward joy, when
Bob M'Corkindale entered. I told him the result of the morning's
"You have let him off too easily," said the political economist. "Had
I been his creditor, I certainly should have sacked the shares into
the bargain. There is nothing like rigid dealing between man and man."
"I am contented with moderate profits," said I; "besides, the image of
Selina overcame me. How goes it with Jobson and Grabbie?"
"Jobson had paid, and Grabbie compounded. Heckles--may he die an evil
death!--has repudiated, become a lame duck, and waddled; but no doubt
his estate will pay a dividend."
"So then, we are clear of the whole Glenmutchkin business, and at a
"A fair interest for the outlay of capital--nothing more. But I'm not
quite done with the concern yet."
"How so? not another bearing operation?"
"No; that cock would hardly fight. But you forget that I am secretary
to the company, and have a small account against them for services
already rendered. I must do what I can to carry the bill through
Parliament; and, as you have now sold your whole shares, I advise you
to resign from the direction, go down straight to Glenmutchkin, and
qualify yourself for a witness. We shall give you five guineas a day,
and pay all your expenses."
"Not a bad notion. But what has become of M'Closkie, and the other
fellow with the jaw-breaking name?"
"Vich-Induibh? I have looked after their interests as in duty bound,
sold their shares at a large premium, and despatched them to their
native hills on annuities."
"And Sir Polloxfen?"
"Died yesterday of spontaneous combustion."
As the company seemed breaking up, I thought I could not do better
than take M'Corkindale's hint, and accordingly betook myself to
Glenmutchkin, along with the Captain of M'Alcohol, and we quartered
ourselves upon the Factor for Glentumblers. We found Watty Solder very
shaky, and his assistant also lapsing into habits of painful
inebriety. We saw little of them except of an evening, for we shot and
fished the whole day, and made ourselves remarkably comfortable. By
singular good luck, the plans and sections were lodged in time, and
the Board of Trade very handsomely reported in our favour, with a
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