Foreword by Larry Ruickbie:
The following is my transcription of the entire Chapter VIII from “The Wayside Cottager” by James Ruickbie, printed in Hawick by R. Armstrong, for the Author, in 1807.
Those not familiar with James’ work should note that although he is known for his poems much more of his work was his reminiscences and short stories intermingled with his thoughts covering many subjects, this chapter being an example of such. Unlike many of his poems the dialect is not present.
I have modified the original typeset by undoing the f character replacement of s characters. Spelling and punctuation is exactly as printed.
It is a saying of one of the sages that “Custom is a second nature.” I believe that there is more truth in this than is generally taken notice of : I have heard of a certain person who accustomed himself to take poison by little and little, until he took it for his whole food, and his body became venomous; the practice of using tobacco and snuff, and even spirituous liquors confirms this point; and I have heard of a bag-piper, who was so addicted to playing, that he would have arisen in his sleep, and played his accustomed tunes with as much dexterity as if he had been quite awake. The bag-piper would have got his quarters kept for all of this (as music has a tendency to provoke sleep, than to awake the sleeper) had not an unlucky dancing master taken up his lodging in the fame apartment; and when the piper began his sleeping tunes, the dancing master was as ready with his somnical dances, which made such a confounded noise as awakened all the family, who ran naturally to where the noise led them. –To attempt to describe their consternation at feeing a piper playing, and a tripping dancing-master performing both in their shirts would rather mar than mend the comical ideas which will present themselves to the reader’s mind. – Figure to yourself, gentle reader, the whole scene of action.
The consequence, however, was, that the piper was obliged to seek a new lodging, the dancing-master was permitted to stay, for they thought that when the music was removed, that he would then have no temptation to dance, -but they were deceived, for he had such a merry bout the night before, and some of his favourite hornpipes coming into his mind, he practiced with much more noise the next night, so that they were obliged to put him away likewise. –The unlucky adventure had such bad effects on the family, that some of the female part of it durst not enter the room of action alone, for a twelvemonth! –I myself have of late been so accustomed to sleeping transactions, that I have been often sorry when I awoke, for I found my wit more ready, my memory more retentive, and my body more agile than when awake. –Whether I performed my sleeping exploits with my body, or only mentally, will not be easily determined, as my wife sleeps so found, that the united noise of the bag-piper and dancing-master would do nothing at awakening her. But however this may be, my memory like Noah’s ark, keeps clean and unclean, and if I am engaged in a jumping match, I can spring fifteen with more ease than two when awake; and I can, when occasion serves, join the volatile tribes and fly! –I happened last night before I went to bed, to be in company with two English tailors, and a Scotch miller; after some very agreeable conversation we went to rest. When I fell asleep, my three companions again presented themselves, and after the tailors had entertained us with some chit chat on the fashions, they were like to fall foul on one another about the mode of cutting breeches. The miller, however, not favouring such discourse, promised, if they would lay aside their difference to tell us a story which he had lately heard. –My attention was so roused at these words, that I urged the miller to perform his promise. –He, on the other hand, alleged, that is was impossible to proceed, so long as these two brothers of the cloth contested so strenuously. –I told him to leave that to me, I arose, threw my coat, and swore that I would squeeze them both into a thimble, if they would not fit quiet: this had some effect, for the poor creatures fat down cross-legged at the side at the fide of the table, while the miller began thus: -“The day was near a close, the setting fun gleam’d faintly on the tops of the eastern mountains, not a breeze to shake the tremulous leaf of the timid aspen, the lowing herds had retreated to their well-known folds, and the bleating flocks had betaken themselves to rest among the rural ferns, each dam with her lamb at her back; when the beautiful Anna, fair as the morning, fresh as the vernal flower, and innocent as the turtle dove went towards the jessamine cove, to meet her much loved Sandy. –Sandy was the pride of the valley, and had long kept a neighbouring flock. Anna was a wealthy shepherd’s daughter whose ancestors had possessed their humble cot, time immemorial; her aged parents lived only for her; if a lamb had appeared among the shepherd’s small flock, with a distinguishing black spot in it, -it was mark’d for Anna; if the bees were successful in their industrious labours, the virgin hive was always kept for Anna. –Good reason had the indulgent parents for their kindness. –Anna was the support of their old age. –In Anna was centered every wish of their declining years. –With a slow step, and modest aspect, Anna approached the well-known bower; it was the happy place of their endearing meetings; it was the witness of their mutual loves. –Entering, and expecting to fall into the arms of her lover –Sandy was not there! Sandy was always punctual in their appointments, and often waited an half hour on Anna; never till this night was Sandy’s well-tried love called in question. –A long hour had elapsed; -no sound of Sandy’s tread was heard. –Why tarries my love? have the bright eyes of any of the village nymphs attracted the tender heart of Sandy? how is it that he has forgot his Anna, and for the first time been unfaithful to his word? during these reflections Anna was resting on the green turf bespangled with flowers. –The howling of a dog disturbed her soliloquy, his complaint was mournful, and if he could have spoke seemed to have said, Alas! I have lost my master. –Anna, whose mind was a little disturbed, approached the place where she heard the sound, and found the well-known dog, which belonged to Sandy, in a dejected posture, mourning for his lost master. She called him by his name; he came and licked her fair hand, but seemed much disturbed. Anna, with trembling and unequal steps, hied her home to her cottage, the sagacious dog following her. Tell me, said she, thou faithful servant, where is thy master? but, alas! the question is needless, thou canst answer me. She sat down disconsolate by the fire-side –her parents were locked in the arms of sleep; she heard a foot at the door; her heart was moved. –It was Sandy’s master. –Sandy was an orphan; his parents died when he was a child; a wealthy farmer in the neighbourhood took him and brought him up. Sandy behaved himself well, gained the love and esteem of his master, who was now in the decline of life, and having no children, he entertained a secret resolution to make Sandy his heir. Sandy had long kept his sheep, and had the sole management of his domestic concerns.
A merchant had come late to look at some of his flock, which he intended for sale; Sandy was a-missing, and his master knowing that he had a partiality for Anna, naturally came to her father’s cottage in quest of him. I thought, said he, that Sandy would be here: I beg pardon for disturbing you at so late an hour, but Sandy is a-wanting, and I took the liberty to see if he was here. You are extremely welcome, replied the fair Anna, (not a little disturbed) but I have not seen him this day; his dog is here, and seems to have lost his master. Scarce had he finished these words when a neighbouring boy entered with looks of concern, and seeing Sandy’s master, said, with faultering voice, Make haste, and run to the relief of Sandy while there is hope! What is the matter, said the good old man, with emotion? –While Sandy was walking in the evening, he was attacked by a press-gang, the disgrace of a free nation –noble was the resistance which he made –his valour laid three of the desperadoes at his feet, but being overpowered by numbers, was obliged to yield, and was hurried on board the tender.
These words struck Anna as a thunderbolt –she was now no longer able to conceal her tears. The venerable farmer perceived her confusion. –Dry up your tears, tender-hearted virgin, said he, Sandy shall not be long a captive; I will go to the captain of the vessel, and purchase his freedom. Anna thanked him with her looks, and offered to bear him company. Away they went for the shore, when the dull shades of night yielded to the rosy morning, the sky was bespangled with red streaks, the pleasant prelude of the rising sun; the stars were growing dim; and the light of day seemed to triumph over the shades of night. When they approached the shore, they perceived something moving upon the surface of the waters. –they stood still to see what it was. –As it was then the flow of the tide, in a few minutes the waves drove the body of a man on the sand. Alas! exclaimed Anna, perhaps some poor widowed creature is left to mourn the husband of her youth, or some fond mother to deplore the loss of a beloved son, -or, perhaps, a faithful lover to weep for the untimely death of him who was dear to her bosom! –They approached the body; -the well known ribbon betrayed the secret. –It was Sandy! –he wore the ribbon on his breast, -he got it from Anna, and now was lying lifeless on the beach. –Extremity trys affection: -O my son! and O my lover! was alternately repeated by the two afflicted sufferers. –Anna smote her breast, and tore her hair, and after some frantic expressions, dropped down in a swoon on the body of her Sandy. The afflicted farmer stood motionless, and for a few minutes was petrified with grief, at last recollecting himself a little, he removed Anna from the body, laid her down in an easy posture, and laid the body in an attitude proper for discharging the water with which it was filled, and examining the body more minutely, he found it warm; a ray of hope shot across the breast of the compassionate farmer, he watched with unremitted vigilance, and at last perceived the vermillion hue to tinge the pale lips of Sandy.
Transported by the discovery, He lives, he lives, flew from his tongue, before he was sensible what he said. The cheering words brought Anna out of her swoon. –A pardon to the condemned criminal in the fatal moment before execution, could not give more joy than the signs of returning life in Sandy gave to his Anna. She started up, took him gently in her arms, laid his head on her fair bosom, chaffed his temples with her fair hand; and used a thousand little kind offices, which can only be supposed by lovers. When Sandy returned to a state of sensibility, and opened his eyes, he found himself in the arms of Anna. Ye powers! exclaimed Sandy, in a feeble tone, is this Elysium? –To be there is to be blest! The cautious farmer by this time had appointed a carriage to come and convey Sandy home, and did not think proper to stay any longer than till Sandy was in a state to depart. –Tell me, said the affectionate farmer, how was you cast into the sea? In my state of confinement under hatches, I made a shift to grope my way to the deck; and as the greatest part of the crew was asleep, and my master and my Anna running in my mind, I knocked down the centinel and jumped over board, and swam till I got within, as I thought, a small distance of the shore; but being fatigued, and losing my strength, I gave myself up to the mercy of the waves, and if heaven had not sent you to preserve my life, I must inevitably have perished.
His master, after a gentle rebuke for his rashness, took him home, acknowledged him as his heir. –Anna had the happiness to be joined in marriage to her Sandy, with the mutual consent of all concerned.” -Although I was all attention while the story was repeating, I perceived that the two tailors were otherwise employed, they were chalking out the figure of the debateable breeches on the table; and though they durst not open their mouths, they talked hieroglyphically. –I awakened, and committed the story to writing, with this reflection: “What clog of a body do we drag about with us!” –I am convinced that we would learn more in one hour out of it, than in twenty years with it. –But the time will come when we shall get free.