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I SET OFF UPON MY JOURNEY TO THE HOUSE OF SHAWS
I will begin the story of my adventures with a certain morning early in the month of June, the year of grace 1751, when I took the key for the last time out of the door of my father's house. The sun began to shine upon the summit of the hills as I went down the road; and by the time I had come as far as the manse, the blackbirds were whistling in the garden lilacs, and the mist that hung around the valley in the time of the dawn was beginning to arise and die away.
Mr. Campbell, the minister of
Essendean, was waiting
for me by the garden gate, good man! He asked me if I had breakfasted;
hearing that I lacked for nothing, he took my hand in both of his and
kindly under his arm.
"Well, Davie, lad," said he, "I will go with you as far as the ford, to set you on the way." And we began to walk forward in silence.
"Are ye sorry to leave Essendean?"
"Why, sir," said I, "if I knew
was going, or what was likely to become of me, I would tell you
Essendean is a good place indeed, and I have been
very happy there; but
then I have never been anywhere else.
father and mother, since they are both dead, I shall be no nearer to in
Essendean than in the Kingdom of Hungary, and, to speak truth, if I
had a chance to better myself where I was going I would go with a good
"Ay?" said Mr. Campbell.
"Very well, Davie.
it behoves me to tell your fortune; or so far as I may.
When your mother was gone, and your father (the
worthy, Christian man)
began to sicken for his end, he gave me in charge a certain letter,
said was your inheritance. 'So
soon,' says he, 'as I am gone, and the house is redd up and the gear
of' (all which, Davie, hath been done), 'give my boy this letter into
and start him off to the house of Shaws, not far from Cramond.
That is the place I came from,' he said, 'and it's
where it befits that
my boy should return. He
steady lad,' your father said, 'and a canny goer; and I doubt not he
safe, and be well lived where he goes.'"
"The house of Shaws!" I cried. "What had my poor father to do with the house of Shaws?"
"Nay," said Mr. Campbell, "who can
tell that for a surety? But the name of that family, Davie, boy, is the
bear — Balfours of Shaws: an ancient, honest, reputable house,
these latter days decayed. Your
father, too, was a man of learning as befitted his position; no man
plausibly conducted school; nor had he the manner or the speech of a
dominie; but (as ye will yourself remember) I took aye a pleasure to
have him to
the manse to meet the gentry; and those of my own house, Campbell of
Campbell of Dunswire, Campbell of Minch, and others, all well-kenned
had pleasure in his society. Lastly,
to put all the elements of this affair before you,
here is the testamentary letter itself, superscrived by the own hand of
He gave me the letter, which was
addressed in these
words: "To the hands of Ebenezer Balfour, Esquire, of Shaws, in his
of Shaws, these will be delivered by my son, David Balfour."
My heart was beating hard at this great prospect now
before a lad of seventeen years of age, the son of a poor country
dominie in the
Forest of Ettrick.
"Mr. Campbell," I stammered, "and
you were in my shoes, would you go?"
"Of a surety," said the minister, "that would I, and without pause. A pretty lad like you should get to Cramond (which is near in by Edinburgh) in two days of walk. If the worst came to the worst, and your high relations (as I cannot but suppose them to be somewhat of your blood) should put you to the door, ye can but walk the two days back again and risp at the manse door. But I would rather hope that ye shall be well received, as your poor father forecast for you, and for anything that I ken come to be a great man in time. And here, Davie, laddie," he resumed, "it lies near upon my conscience to improve this parting, and set you on the right guard against the dangers of the world."
Here he cast about for a
comfortable seat, lighted on
a big boulder under a birch by the trackside, sate down upon it with a
long, serious upper lip, and the sun now shining in upon us between two
put his pocket-handkerchief over his cocked hat to shelter him.
There, then, with uplifted forefinger, he first put
me on my guard
against a considerable number of heresies, to which I had no
urged upon me to be instant in my prayers and reading of the Bible.
That done, he drew a picture of the great house that
I was bound to, and
how I should conduct myself with its inhabitants.
"Be soople, Davie, in things immaterial," said he. "Bear ye this in mind, that, though gentle born, ye have had a country rearing. Dinnae shame us, Davie, dinnae shame us! In yon great, muckle house, with all these domestics, upper and under, show yourself as nice, as circumspect, as quick at the conception, and as slow of speech as any. As for the laird — remember he's the laird; I say no more: honour to whom honour. It's a pleasure to obey a laird; or should be, to the young."
"Well, sir," said I, "it may be; and I'll promise you I'll try to make it so."
"Why, very well said," replied Mr.
Campbell, heartily. "And
to come to the material, or (to make a quibble) to the immaterial.
I have here a little packet which contains four
He tugged it, as he spoke, and with some great
difficulty, from the skirt
pocket of his coat. "Of
four things, the first is your legal due: the little pickle money for
father's books and plenishing, which I have bought (as I have explained
first) in the design of re-selling at a profit to the incoming dominie. The other three are
gifties that Mrs. Campbell and myself
would be blithe of your acceptance.
first, which is round, will likely please ye best at the first off-go;
Davie, laddie, it's but a drop of water in the sea; it'll help you but
and vanish like the morning. The
second, which is flat and square and written upon, will stand by you
life, like a good staff for the road, and a good pillow to your head in
sickness. And as
for the last,
which is cubical, that'll see you, it's my prayerful wish, into a
With that he got upon his feet,
took off his hat, and
prayed a little while aloud, and in affecting terms, for a young man
into the world; then suddenly took me in his arms and embraced me very
then held me at arm's length, looking at me with his face all working
sorrow; and then whipped about, and crying good-bye to me, set off
the way that we had come at a sort of jogging run.
It might have been laughable to another; but I was
in no mind to laugh.
I watched him as long as he was in sight; and he
never stopped hurrying,
nor once looked back. Then
in upon my mind that this was all his sorrow at my departure; and my
smote me hard and fast, because I, for my part, was overjoyed to get
away out of
that quiet country-side, and go to a great, busy house, among rich and
gentlefolk of my own name and blood.
"Davie, Davie," I thought, "was ever seen such black ingratitude? Can you forget old favours and old friends at the mere whistle of a name? Fie, fie; think shame."
And I sat down on the boulder the
good man had just
left, and opened the parcel to see the nature of my gifts.
That which he had called cubical, I had never had
much doubt of; sure
enough it was a little Bible, to carry in a plaid-neuk.
That which he had called round, I found to be a
shilling piece; and the
third, which was to help me so wonderfully both in health and sickness
days of my life, was a little piece of coarse yellow paper, written
upon thus in
"TO MAKE LILLY OF THE VALLEY
flowers of lilly of the valley and distil them in sack, and drink a
two as there is occasion. It
restores speech to those that have the dumb palsey.
It is good against the Gout; it comforts the heart
strengthens the memory; and the flowers, put into a Glasse, close
stopt, and set
into ane hill of ants for a month, then take it out, and you will find
which comes from the flowers, which keep in a vial; it is good, ill or
whether man or woman."
And then, in the minister's own hand, was added:
"Likewise for sprains, rub it in;
and for the
cholic, a great spooneful in the hour."
To be sure, I laughed over this; but it was rather tremulous laughter; and I was glad to get my bundle on my staff's end and set out over the ford and up the hill upon the farther side; till, just as I came on the green drove-road running wide through the heather, I took my last look of Kirk Essendean, the trees about the manse, and the big rowans in the kirkyard where my father and my mother lay.
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