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o' our ain, if we had the cast o' a cart to bring it down —and milk and meal, and greens enow, for I'm gay gleg at meal-time, and sae is my mother, lang may it be sae— And, for the penny-fee and a' that, I'll just leave it to the laird and you. I ken ye'll no see a poor lad wranged, if ye can help it."
Morton shook his head. "For the meat and lodging, Cuddie, I think I can promise something, but the pennyfee will be a hard chapter, I doubt."
"I'll tak my chance o't, stir," replied the candidate fo service, "rather than gang down about Hamilton, or ony sic far country."
"Well; step into the kitchen, Cuddie, and I'll do what l can for you."
The negotiation was not without difficulties. Morton had first to bring over the housekeeper, who made a thousand objections, as usual, in order to have the pleasure of being besought and entreated; but, when she was gained over, it was comparatively easy to induce old Milnwood to accept of a servant, whose wages were to be in his own option. An outhouse was, therefore, assigned to Mause and her son for their habitation, and it was settled that they were for the time to be admitted to eat of the frugal fare provided for the family until their own establishment should be completed. As for Morton, he exhausted his own very slender stock of money in order to make Cuddie such a present, under the name of arles, as might show his sense of the value of the recommendation delivered to him.
"And now we're settled ance mair," said Cuddie to his mother, " and if we're no sae bien and comfortable as we were up yonder, yet life's life ony gate, and we're wi' decent kirk-ganging folk o' your ain persuasion mither; there will be nae quarrelling about that."
"Of my persuasion, hinnie !" said the too-enlightened Mause ; "waes me for thy blindness and theirs. O, Cuddie, they are but in the court of the Gentiles, and will ne'er win farther ben, I doubt; they are but little better than the prelatists themsells. They wait on the ministry of that blinded man, Peter Poundtext, ance a precious teacher of the Word, but now a backsliding pastor, that has, for the sake of stipend and family maintenance, forsaken the strict path and gane astray after the black Indulgence. O, my son, had ye but profited by the gospel doctrines ye hae heard in the Glen o' Bengonnar frae the dear Richard Rumbleberry, that sweet youth, who suffered martyrdom in the Grassmarket, afore Candlemas! Didna ye hear him say that Erastianism was as bad as prelacy, and that the Indulgence was as bad as Erastianism 9"
"Heard ever onybody the like o' this !" interrupted Cuddie ; " we'll be driven out o' house and ha' again afore we ken where to turn oursells. Weel, mither, I hae just ae word mair—An I hear ony mair o' your din— afore folk, that is, for I dinna mind your clavers mysell, they aye set me sleeping—but if I hear ony mair din afore folk, as I was saying, about Poundtexts and Rumbleberries, and doctrines and malignants, I'se e'en turn a single sodger mysell,or maybe a sergeant or a captain if ye plague me the mair, and let Rumbleberry and you gang to the deil thegither. I ne'er gat ony gude by his doctrine, as ye ca't, but a sour fit o' the batts wi' sitting amang the wat moss-hags for four hours at a yoking, and the leddy cured me wi' some hickery-pickery, mair by token, an she had kend how I came by the disorder, she wadna hae been in sic a hurry to mend it."
Although groaning in spirit over the obdurate and Impenitent state, as she thought it, of her son Cuddie, Manse durst neither urge him farther on the topic, nor altogether neglect the warning he had given her. She knew the disposition of her deceased helpmate, whom this surviving pledge of their union greatly resembled, and remembered, that although submitting implicitly in most things to her boast of superior acuteness, he used on certain occasions, when driven to extremity, to be seized with fits of obstinacy which neither remonstrance, flattery, nor threats, were capable of overpowering. Trembling, therefore, at the very possibility of Cuddie's fulfilling his threat,-sho put a guard over her tongue, and even when Poundtext was commended in her presence, as an able and fructifying preacher, she had the good sense to suppress the contradiction which thrilled upon her tongue, and to express her sentiments no otherwise than by deep groans, which the hearers charitably construed to flow from a vivid recollection of the more pathetic parts of his homilies. How long she could have repressed her feelings it is difficult to say. An unexpected accident relieved her from the necessity. The Laird of Milnwood kept up all old fashions which were connected with economy. It was, therefore, still the custom in his house, as it had been universal in Scotland about fifty years before, that the domestics, after having placed the dinner on the table, sat down at the lower end of the board, and partook of the share which was assigned to them, in company with their masters. On the day, therefore, after Cuddie's arrival, being the third from the opening of this narrative, old Robin, who was butler, valet-de-chambre, footman, gardener, and what not, in the house of Milnwood, placed on the table an immense charger of broth, thickened with oatmeal and colewort, in which ocean of liquid was indistinctly discovered, by close observers, two or three short ribs of lean mutton sailing to and fro. Two huge baskets, one of bread made of barley and pease, and one of oat-cakes, flanked this standing dish. A large boiled salmon would now-a-days have indicated more liberal housekeeping; but at that period salmon was caught in such plenty in the considerable rivers in Scotland, that instead of being accounted a delicacy, it was generally applied to feed the servants, who are said sometimes to have stipulated that they should not be required to eat a food so luscious and surfeiting in its quality above five times a-week. The large black jack, filled with very small beer of Milnwood's own brewing, was allowed to the company at discretion, as were the bannocks, cakes, and broth; but the mutton was reserved for the heads of the family, Mrs. Wilson included : and a measure of ale, somewhat deserving the name, was set apart in a silver tankard for their exclusive use. A huge kebbock, (a cheese, that is, made with ewe milk mixed with cow's milk) and a jar of salt butter, were in common to the company.
To enjoy this exquisite cheer, was placed at the head of the table the old laird himself, with his nephew on the one side, and the favourite housekeeper on the other. At a long interval, and beneath the salt of course, sat old Robin, a meagre, half-starved serving-man, rendered cross and cripple by rheumatism, and a dirty drab of a housemaid, whom use had rendered callous to the daily exer citations which her temper underwent at the hands of her master and Mrs. Wilson. A barn-man, a white-headed cow-herd boy, with Cuddie the new ploughman and his mother, completed the party. , The other labourers belonging to the property resided in their own houses, happy at least in this, that if their cheer was not more delicate than that which we have described, they could eat their fill, unwatched by the sharp, envious grey eyes of Milnwood, which seemed to measure the quantity that each of his dependants swallowed, as closely as if their glances attended each mouthful in its progress from the lips to the stomach. This close inspection was unfavourable to Cuddie, who sustained much prejudice in his new master's opinion, by the silent celerity with which he caused the victuals to disappear before him. And ever and anon Milnwood turned his eyes from the huge feeder to cast indignant glances upon his nephew, whose repugnance to rustic labour was the principal cause of his needing a ploughman, and who had been the direct means of his hiring this very cormorant.
"Pay thee wages, quotha V said Milnwood to himself,—" Thou wilt eat in a week the value of mair than thou canst work for in a month."
These disagreeable ruminations were interrupted by a loud knocking at the outer-gate. It was a universal custom in Scotland, that, when the family was at dinner, the outer-gate of the court-yard, if there was one, and if not, the door of the house itself, was always shut and locked, and only guests of importance, or persons upon urgent 21 Vol. i
business, sought or received admittance at that time.8 The family of Milnwood were therefore surprised, and, in the unsettled state of the times, something alarmed, at the earnest and repeated knocking with which the gate was now assailed. Mrs. Wilson ran in person to the door, and, having reconnoitered those who were so clamorous for admittance, through some secret aperture with which most Scottish door-ways were furnished for the express purpose, she returned wringing her hands in great dismay, exclaiming, " The red-coats ! the red-coats!"
"Robin—Ploughman—what ca' they ye 9—Barnsman —Nevoy Harry—open the door, open the door!" exclaimed old Milnwood, snatching up and slipping into his pocket the two or three silver spoons with which the upper end of the table was garnished, those beneath the salt being of goodly horn. "Speak them fair, sirs—Lord love ye, speak them fair—they winna bide thrawing— we're a' harried—we're a' harried!"
While the servants admitted the troopers, whose oaths and threats already indicated resentment at the delay they had been put to, Cuddie took the opportunity to whisper to his mother, " Now, ye daft auld carline, makyoursell deaf—ye hae made us a' deaf ere now—and let me speak for ye. I would like ill to get my neck raxed for an auld wife's clashes, though ye be our mither."
"O, hinny, ay; I'se be silent or thou sall come to ill," was the corresponding whisper of Mause; "but bethink ye, my dear, them that deny the Word, the Word will deny"
Her admonition was cut short by the entrance of the Life-Guard's-men, a party of four troopers commanded by Bothwell.
In they tramped, making a tremendous clatter upon the stone-floor with the iron-shod heels of their large jackboots, and the clash and clang of their long, heavy, baskethiked broad-swords. Milnwood and his housekeeper trembled from well-grounded apprehensions of the system of exaction and plunder carried on during these domiciliary visits. Henry Morton was discomposed with more