Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

But Lord, Ma! his breath

Would stench one to death,
“ His fiery nose strikes one dumb, dumb, dumb."

• Your nose, you great calf,

Is too nice by half-
• What's sweeter on earth than a plum, plum, plum.'

Not a stump has he got.

He's a drunkard--a sot--
Why then, my dear girl, look so glum, glum, glum ?

• Teeth plenty, all new,

· That in wiser heads grew
• He can buy in a trice with his plum, plum, plum.

. And for his sweet lass

* An eye made of glass,
Cork leg, and all else, for a sum, sum, sum.

He'll instantly get,

• 'Tis folly to fret,
• The world can be bought with a plum, plum plum.'

He's sev-en ty-four!”

The sooner four score.
What's age in a man with a plum, plum, plum?

The sooner, dear Pop,

• In your lap 'twill drop -
No more, my dear Ma! I am mum, mum, mum."

6

[ocr errors]

THE THREE LEGACIES.

Having dealt much in fiction in my day, I wish now to deal in sruth; I shall relate, therefore, what actually happened, concealing nothing but the names of the parties. Three brothers lived in a country parish in the north ; they were frugal, industrious men, and respected in their stations; they were married too, and each of them had three children ; the eldest three daughters, the second the same, and the youngest three sons. Now it so chanced that one day a great storm arose; the eldest brother, a husbandman, was killed by lightning in the field, the second, a seaman, commanding a small brig, perished within sight of his own door, and the youngest, a shepherd, was found dead among his lambs, on the hill-side, his dog whining beside him, and no marks of violence on his body. They were all buried in one grave, and on the following Sunday the three fatherless families appeared in the church in deep mourning. It was the first time I had observed for I was only some seven years old then--that people put on sadcoloured clothes at the death of their relations, and I did little else but look at the three melancholy groups all the time of the

On our way home I heard some of the old people—more particularly John Halberson, say that they had long looked for

sermon.

of." "

“ They

something happening in these three families, that they did not at all marvel at the suddenness of their call, and that more would yet be heard of. I could not imagine what this meant, but I afterwards learnt that the ancestor of these men had been guilty of some sad deed, and that its expiation was visible in the fate of his descendants What the crime was I never fairly knew—but by piercing hints and allusions, and dark proverbs together, I concluded it to be murder, under trust, for the sake of money; be that as it may, the country whisper was, that the judgment of heaven would be seen on them, and that nought that they possessed would prosper. The latter part of the rustic prediction seemed unlikely to be fulfilled, for the families were well to do in the world—and moreover, in the second month of their mournings, word came that a fourth brother had died in the West Indies, leaving nine thousand pounds to be equally divided amongst his brothers—or, failing them, their families.

This seemed a signal to let all the tongues of the parish loose. “ I told ye ay, said one, that something would be seen and heard

Indeed, a three-year-old child might have lisped as much," said another, “ for when did any one see blood-guiltiness, as honest John Rowat observed, go without its punishment ?" say,” said a third, “that the Demerara brother died on the same day that his three brethren perished here-if that be so, the hand of the avenger is indeed visible." “ He died on the very day, for certain," 'exclaimed a fourth, “for I saw the same written in the letter which came with the will-more, by token, he was murdered by three slaves, two of whom have been hanged-the other escaped to the woods. “Now that is most marvellous,” said a fifth : “but touching the money that he left, it has got its work to do; I look upon it as a gift from the author of all evil, that will do much mischief to the three fatherless families. I am sorry for the elder brother's three daughters-save that they are too fond of fine clothes, and one of them sticks feathers in her noddle, no one can say aught against them." “ Now I,” said a sixth, “ am most concerned for the second brother's family-what ill have the three harmless handsome lasses done, that they should not enjoy this blessed windfall, which seems to have come make amends for their poor father's death-saving that at the fair they are too fond of eating preserved ginger, pickled pears, sugar plums, and corianders, with every lad that likes to lay out a shilling-who can utter a word against them? Oh, it's all very natural,” said a young woman who made one of the group,

* that being men, ye should see something to your liking in these two families. I have no leanings to the right nor to the left-but I would not give five minutes mirth with the three lads of the

brother' 's family, for an hour with their six cousins. Saving that they take a dram at a fair or a sermon, or in a cold morning to keep away the chill, or in a warm one to support them against the heat, I defy any one to say harm of them. “I'll tell ye, my friends,” said an old greyheaded man, who weighed all things before he gave an opinion, " ye have, in your sayings, indicated the rocks on which the three families will suffer shipwreck--dress, dainties, and drink. Aye, aye, I see it all. Poor young giddy creatures, they little know the sorrows that are before them: but here they come one after another--dress first, dainties next, and drink last of all."

younger

In the order in which the old man described them so did they appear; it was Sunday morning, and they were on their way to church. Their fathers had been but some twelve weeks buried, yet the influence of the legacies was visible on all. On the first ihree it appeared in the guise of additional ornaments to their mourning dresses; the crape was of a finer texture, the cambric of a more delicate thread; the smell of sundry expensive scents hovered around them, and they no longer walked in plain slippers; each rode upon a little black pony, taking care that their dresses should not hide their black stockings with rich cloaks of curious workmanship. The second three had used the first fruits of their legacy in the purchase of a neat little carriage, into which they had stowed, along with themselves, a handsome basket, with slices of savoury ham, spiced cake, and abundance of other dainties, such as make a long sermon short. They apologized for this by saying that their state of health forbade them to eat of the coarse food such as they had existed on before, and that, on the same account, they drank distilled water, coloured with cordials. The third party were a good space behind-their pace was slow and steady; but their faces were flushed, their eyes were unrefreshed with wholesome sleep, and there was some disorder in their dresses all of which betokened late sitting, and intercourse with the liquor-cup. In the church their behaviour was in character. Dress tossed her head about, spread out her beauty and her bravery, and seemed anxious to attract attention even from the preacher. Dainties held down her head-lifted her hand frequently to her mouth, and the smell of spiced bread and other delicacies was felt in several seats around. Drink sat and listened for a little found the text after a struggle-nodded his head on one side, then on the other, and finally dropping forward, fell fast asleep. Nor was he awakened by the rude salutation of a parish idiot, who said, “ Aye sleep, sleep---ye're right; ye'll get no sleep in your dwelling-place in the other world."

When the usual period which custom assigns for mourning had expired, the ground which casts off the dullness of winter to attire. itself in the flowers and loveliness of spring, exhibits not half the change which appeared in the three daughters of the elder brother, when encumbered with all the gauds of public fashion and their own folly, they flashed out upon the astonished parish. I am not sure that I can describe faithfully, and in a way by which a tirewoman might profit, the cut and pattern of their silks and satins and crapes ; nor their flounces and slashed capes and puckered sleeves; suffice it to say, that all other women around nearly

swooned for envy, and half the men of the parish nearly died of laughing. What dwelt chiefly on my young fancy was four long feathers, arising an arm's length from the head of one, and spreading out in blue, and green, and red, and white, to the four winds of heaven; some, however, averred, that a certain long, broad, rainbow-colored ribbon, fastened by a clasp of rubies to the side of the bonnet, and thence descending to the floor, upon which it flowed away a yard distant, bearing some resemblance to a cow tethered among clover, was more wonderful to the sigh; nor should I conceal that the third sister, whose pleasure it was to leave her neck and shoulders and bosom bare, was much looked at, but perhaps she attracted regard mainly from the circumstance that whatever scantiness of apparel might be above, she made more than amends for it by a sweeping superfluity below, for her train extended behind her as she walked as long as that of a peacock. When these apparitions made their appearance in the church, there was a general stretching of female necks, and an anxious turning of male eyes; even the clergyman was astounded—he leant back in the pulpit, spread his palms before his face, and was at least five minutes behind his usual time in commencing service. The three daughters of the seeond brother were but little moved by this un. looked-for display of their cousins; they were heard to whisper to each other, that to lay out a legacy in fine feathers, gum flowers, and rustling silks, was a poor way of enjoying it; their cousins had no sense of what was comfortable, and as they said this they thought on the spice cake, the rich pudding, the cooling custard, and, more particularly, on that abridgement of all that is delightful in culinary things, mince-pie—which were preparing for their return; and as they thought on these things the sermon seemed long, and they desired to be gone. There were others who permitted not the serenity of their minds to be moved by this vain display; of these were the sons of the younger brother, who had prepared themselves for enduring all with philosophical calmness, by frequent and protracted draughts of three kinds of liquid. The eldest drank brandy neat from France, out of respect for the ancient league which bound Scotland to that country; the second drank gin direct from Holland, out of extreme love to the sea which wafted the cordial over; and the youngest, a sincere lover of his country, refused to have his unconquered island brain invaded by aught foreign; so he defied France and scorned Holland, and stuck to Ferintosh. The hand of destiny, rather than of folly, was observed to be busy in all this, and not a few devout people lamented the approaching destruction of nine young creatures, and the scatterment of nine thousand sterling pounds.

Had these young people resided in this splendid city, they might have flown through their fortunes in less than no time, for here, thanks to the ingenuity of man, nine thousand pounds can make themselves wings in an hour, and fly away, as if by enchantment. But they lived in a country place, where the process of consump

2 T

VOL. U. NO. XII.

[ocr errors]

tion was slow, and where they had to exercise their own invention in order to conquer the obstinacy of thrice three thousand pounds, which hung on hand as if unwilling to depart. The daughters of the elder brother were compelled to wait on fashion, and fashion in the days of which I write, was content to change once a quarter, she desired, moreover, only four breadths of silk to the skirts of a gown, and never dreamed of sleeves such as the ladies of these latter days wear, which extend their shoulders at the expense of their heads. Nevertheless, with their limited powers of waste, they wrought wonders--much may be done even in a small way to get the better of a moderate income; they had feathers of all kinds; mantles of all hues; gowns of every quality and pattern—the long waisted—the short waisted—the full skirted—the narrow skirted the low bosomed the high bosomed—the flounced--the plaited the slashed; then followed a legion of caps and bonnets, and turbans, false curls, false gems, paid for as real ones, paste pearls ; stones set in buckles, bracelets, stomachers, pins, armlets, chains. There the eldest, in her newest attire, lay in a languishing posture on an ottoman, endeavouring to familiarize herself to a splendid Turkish dress, to suit which, she had stained her light eye-brows black, placed raven curls over her own sandy ringlets, and remained silent for several hours, lest the island tones of her voice should destroy the illusion wrought by her costume. The second, in the meantime, was busy walking to and fro in the sun, looking now and then at her shadow, which she imagined of itself was captivating; while the third, with“ patches, paint, and jewels on," was consulting an old sybil on the probable chance of her charms leading some man with a coronet captive. The response no doubt was favorable, for it was paid in gold. I have described a portion of a day; but in that is contained a year; save that winter brought the welcome change of furs and quilted dresses, their course was the same; it however may be noteworthy, that in winter they invariably wore thin-soled slippers and thin caps; and in summer, thick-soled boots and well-lined bonnets, but as this is the general practice of that reflecting animal woman, the observation cannot be regarded as new.

It must be owned that the daughters of the second brother were unable to keep pace with the expenditure of their elder cousins ; they were not learned enough to know that ladies before them had drank dissolved pearls, and that gentlemen, in no distant day, had made their dinner on the brains of two hundred peacocks, yet they succeeded wondrously considering all things; their taste, at first confined to the ordinary dainties of the land, revelled amid puddings and poultry, but time opened wider the doors of culinary knowledge; they read and they inquired, and they made experiments : to the latter, we owe an invaluable fish sauce for red trout, and an additional charm to the manifold attractions of the haggis. They excelled, to, in the manufacture of what is now numbered amongst northern dainties, by the name of short-bread; they improved to the whole of the savoury generation of patties; jellies

« PreviousContinue »