visitor seemed appalled by the look and words of Edinburgh oysters and a small keg of of the dwarf, and as the door of the little Highland whisky, not to speak of bis own murky cottage had been shut and bolted, he delightful songs and stories, he wonderfully evidently seemed far from being comfortable. overcame all difficulty; yet still there was a With a blanched cheek and trembling frame, disposition to quiz bim. When it was known he murmured a disclaimer of gifts above this that he was ordered to take out the men to world—when David, rousing up a hitherto parade one morning, there was an assemblage unseen huge black cat, the creature sprang of the young ones at the head of a close opupon the window-bole, where it intercepted posite, to enjoy the sight of his awkwardthe only light that entered the hut. He ness; but, behold, the ex-writer managed bas poo'er !” added the dwarf, pointing the men as well as if he had been twenty through the gloom to what might have years in the army. Observing the lurking. seemed his familiar. This was such a scene party across the way, he called out: “Ah, as does not often occur in civilized life, and you dogs, I see what you 're after; but ye it impressed the future novelist greatly didn't know that I was an old hand in the Out of the occurrence, twenty years after, Edinburgh Volunteers !” He was in reality sprung

his tale of the Black Dwarf. a completely schooled officer, but had conAnother of Dr. Ferguson's neighbors was cealed the fact in order to countermine them. a laird of antique stamp, who had six bloom- He passed through the Peninsular War ing daughters, to one of whom young Adam under Wellington, and told many pleasant had dared to lift the eyes of affection. It stories of his campaigns, most of which have was agreed by Scott to accompany his friend vanished from our memory. One, referring on a call at the manor house, and as far as to the only occasion of his ever coming in possible make play, so as to help him to an contact with the great com mmander, was very opportunity of saying a few private words to apt to turn up. He was posted with a small the young lady. After some chat in the party beside a river, to watch its subsidence parlor, the party took a walk in the garden, from a flood, as it was expected that the where Ferguson contrived to move on in enemy only waited till it was fordable before front with his inamorato, while the old spec- crossing to make an attack. The commander tacled laird, with his stick over his shoulder, came riding up with one or two of bis staff, brought up the rear, attended by the story and began to inquire about the state of the telling Scott. The lover, at the end of a river, but at the same time kept constantly walk, heard his friend's voice: “It was in looking about, as if more than half engaged the year fourteen hundred and eighty-three,” with some other kind of reconnoissance. &c.; and was just thinking he might safely Ferguson said he thought the river was now advance a very interesting proposition to his passable. fair companion, when suddenly the Jaird's “Have you been accustomed to judge of voice broke in : “Now that's what I can not rivers ?allow. There must be nothing of the kind. “ Yes." I can give no permission-so you need not " What river have you known?” attempt it.” He turned in alarm, to see the - The Tweed, my lord.” laird starting forward in an excited manner, “ The Tweed, the Tweed ?" said Wellingwhile Scott came limping after, with a vain ton abstractedly, and still looking about. attempt to recall his attention to the fifteenth “Yes, my lord, the Tweed, wbich divides century. Oh, it is all over with me,” Scotland from England,” answered Ferg'thought he; and from that moment aban- son, betrayed into a piece of ludicrous exdoned his hopes. What was his mortification planation by the absorbed manner of his afterwards, to learn that the laird had never commander. At that moment, his eye once thought of interdicting his passion, but caught Sir Thomas Picton bursting out into was merely anxious to debar him from at- a fit of laughter, in which Lord Wellington tacking a particular kind of red gooseberry, could not refrain from joining; and we which he had set aside for his own eating, rather think this laugh took a complete and which he thought bis young visitor was round of the army, and that several weeks approaching rather too near!

elapsed before Ferguson heard the end of it. Ferguson joined his first regiment at Air, In 1811, Ferguson wrote to his old friend and found the officers, especially the young Scott from Lisbon. "I need not tell you ones, somewhat prejudiced against him, on how greatly I was delighted with the sucaccount of having already entered life in a cess of the Lady of the Lake. I dare say civil profession. By the virtues of a barrel you are by this time well tired of such greet

ings; so I shall only say that last spring, I was so fortunate as to get a reading of it when in the lines of Torres Vedras, and thought I had no inconsiderable right to enter and judge of its beauties, having made one of the party on your first visit to the Trosachs. While the book was in my possession, I had nightly invitations to evening parties, to read and illustrate passages of it; and I must say that (though not conscious of much merit in the way of recitation) my attempts to do justice to the grand opening of the stag-hunt were always followed with bursts of applause, for this canto was the favorite among the rough sons of the Fighting Third Division. At this time, supplies of various kinds, especially any thing in the way of delicacies, were very scanty; and in gratitude, I am bound to declare that to the good offices of the Lady' I owed many a nice slice of ham and rummer of hot punch, which, I assure you, were among the most welcome favors that one officer could bestow upon another, during the long rainy months, of last January and February.'


Captain Ferguson, when in command of a small outlying party at Burgos, in 1812, was taken prisoner, and conducted into France. He underwent some hardships on this occasion, but bore a light heart through them all, and even contrived to pay a visit to Paris. He was in an open fiacre in the street, when the word was given to make room for the Emperor, who was about to pass. His charioteer drew up at the sidepavement, and Ferguson prepared to get a view of the great man. He had better, however, have kept out of the way. The eye of Napoleon was caught by something foreign and peculiar in his aspect, and as he slowly passed, he took a keen and suspicious look of the stranger. "Il vous a fixé," quoth the driver, as much as to say: You are done for." In brief space, the English prisoner was in the presence of Fouché, chief of the police, who subjected him to a most searching examination. It was only through Napoleon's veneration for the names of his father and granduncle-Joseph Black, the chemist-that his frolic ended without unpleasant consequences.


After the conclusion of the war, Scott felt very anxious to promote the interests of his old friend, and through his exertions mainly, he was appointed keeper of the regalia of Scotland, with a salary, to which George IV. afterwards added knighthood. The affections of Scott are strikingly shown in Ferguson's history. He was anxious to

induce the retired officer to come with his sisters and reside in the neighborhood of Abbotsford; and the only difficulty was as to a house. At the distance of a couple of miles, there was a neat small estate, with a mansion upon it, which the laird was disposed to part with; but he asked what was thought a high price-namely, £10,000. According to our recollection of Ferguson's narration, the two friends walked over one Saturday to Toftfield-for so the place was called-and entered into discussion with the laird. After a brief conversation, seeing the proprietor stand firm, Scott agreed to take the estate at the money-a singularly offhand way of transacting such a piece of business. Ferguson felt real concern, and as they came away said:

'Walter, I'm afraid you've been rather rash here."

"No, no," replied Scott, "don't say a word about it-it will just answer you and the ladies exactly; and what although it be a long price, why I've only to spin a few more of those old stories to make all right."

So Toftfield, under the new name of Huntly Burn, became the retreat of the old soldier, who from that time was almost daily in the company of his friend, and the confidant of all his literary doings. After a few years, Ferguson married a widow lady, whose niece in time became the wife of Scott's son; a step by which the bonds of the two friends. were drawn, if possible, tighter. Sir Adam's cheerful good-nature, his uncommon powers, almost rivalling Scott's own, of telling a story, and his really admirable gift of song, especially in the department of the old merry minstrelsy of Scotland (Johnie Cope, for instance, and Hame cam our Goodman at e'en), endeared him to the family circle at Abbotsford, and insured his becoming a lasting image in the memory of every visitor. Thomas Moore has left a strong testimony of his enjoyment of Sir Adam's society, his stories, and his Jacobite ditties. Wilkie, in painting the Abbotsford family in one group, put in Ferguson's tall lank figure and droll countenance as a necessary appendage, and it chances to be by far the best part of the picture. It is not to be supposed that any other man of the same amount of talent for humor would have been equally agreeable to Scott, even granting him to have also been a school-companion. The humor of Ferguson was of the same Scottish type with Scott's own; and all his ideas and stories had that smack of Scottish association which Sir Walter so intensely relished.

[ocr errors]


Here lay the charm. It was a charm quite | ing a long tirade, in an enthusiastic manner, peculiar, and which none but a Scotsman, on the virtues of an article then in the course and one of somewhat old fashion, can en- of being puffed in newspaper advertisements tirely appreciate. To the Great Magician | -namely, patent mustard. Ferguson, in of the Border, it was one half of the very the meantime, had a private conversation salt of life.

with the principal, in which he took occasion On trying to recall some of the many to remark, that he had lately begun to fear stories which Sir Adam used to tell, we feel there was something wrong with Carlyle's how impossible it is to communicate in writ- mind : he was getting so addicted to speak ing any beyond the most inconsiderable por- loudly in praise of trivial things—for examtion of the effect which he gave them, so ple, he was unable for the present to conmuch were they indebted to voice, look, and verse about anything but patent mustard ! shades of diction far too nice to bear trans- Robertson expressed bis concern for the case, cription. Yet, in the hope of the reader's but hoped it was only a passing whim. The making large allowances, we shall make an dinner-party accordingly assembled at Dr. atteinpt to arrest a few of them.

Ferguson's, and Robertson was about to Many years before the conclusion of the

commence as usual with one of his longlast century, Dr. Ferguson travelled one day winded formal palavers, when all at once Dr. from London to Richmond in a stage-coach, Carlyle broke in : "This was,” he said, “an which at first contained no other passengers age most notable for its inventions and disthan a hale-looking old clergyman, of vo- coveries. Human ingenuity was exerted on luminous figure, and with a red face and the noblest and the meanest things, and gurgling unctuous voice. As they went often with the most admirable effects on the along, they received an addition to the com- meanest. There was, for instance, an artipany, in the form of a small prim old lady, cle of a humble kind which had lately been with a very sharp perking voice, and who wonderfully improved by a particular mode appeared to be a friend of the old clergy of preparation, and he, for his part, was in

clined to say, that patent mustard was the "I hope, doctor, I see you well,” quoth thing above all others which gave a distinthe small prim lady with the sharp perking guishing glory to this age. In the first voice.

place” It is needless, however, to pur"I can't complain," responded the heavy sue his discourse further. Suffice it, that fat voice, self-complacently.

Dr. Robertson sat paralyzed, and could not Have you met many turkeys and chines afterwards during ihe whole night muster this Christmas, doctor ?" inquired the perks power of spirits to utter more than an occavoice.

sional sentence. “A good many—a good many," were the Mr. John Home, author of the tragedy of few but expressive words of the other, like Douglas, was an intimate friend of Dr. Ferso many blobs in boiling tallow.

guson, and of him, accordingly, Sir Adam It was from this little bit of character had many reminiscences. When the poet that Scott conceived the idea of Dr. Redgill lived in North Hanover street, Edinburgh, in St. Ronan's Well.

he one day entertained at lunch the Lady Dr. Adam Ferguson, while devotedly at- Randolph of her day, the celebrated Mrs. tached to Dr. Robertson, and a great ad- Siddons. She was asked what she would mirer of his works, found reason to com- have to drink, and happened to mention "a plain of the manner in which he conducted little porter.” “John,” said Mr. Home to himself in private society, particularly at his serving-man, "you'll get Mrs. Siddons a dinner-parties. It was the worthy princi- little porter.” Then the conversation went pal's custom, as soon as the cloth had been on as usual, John having meanwhile disapremoved, to settle himself in his chair, and peared from the room. throwiny out a subject, commence lecturing “My dear, where is John? I want a slice upon it, to the destruction of conversation, of bread. I really think this young man and the no small weariness of the company. will not suit us, my dear-he's so very By way of giving him a check, Dr. Fergu- stupid.” son took his friend, Dr. Carlyle of Inveresk, After some fretting about John, the deinto counsel ; and it was speedily arranged | linquent suddenly came in, followed by a between them, that, immediately after din stout, short Highlander from the street, with ner, Dr. Carlyle should anticipate the ordi- a baldrick of ropes over his shoulder, and a nary lecture of Dr. Robertson, by commenc- leaden badge on his breast.


[ocr errors]

"John, where have you been? You've been much wanted-why did you leave the room? I'm very angry with you!"

"Oh, sir," quoth John, "I've been out to get the little porter for the lady, and here's the very least one I could find on the stand."

The mistake, the aspect of the little porter undoing his ropes, as for a job, at the door, and the puzzlement of the ancient host and his wife, were too much for Mrs. Siddons, who went off into perfect shouts of laughter, and scarcely recovered tranquillity for half an hour.

Early in this century, an enthusiastic Englishman made a pilgrimage to Edinburgh, for little other reason than to see the author of the tragedy of Douglas. He made his way to Mr. Home's house, but learned at the door, to his great dismay, that the object of his idolatry had gone on a jaunt to the Highlands. "But ye may see Mrs. Home, may be," said the serving-man, in pity for his evident distress. He caught at the idea, sent in his card, and was admitted to the presence of a very plain, old invalid lady, who sat wrapped up in flannel, and was very deaf. The visitor conversed with her as well as her deficient hearing permitted, and felt a good deal disenchanted. They came upon the subject of the recent Peace of Amiens.

"It will do a great deal of good, ma'am, to the country."

"I daursay it will.”

"Oh yes, ma'am; we shall now have most foreign things cheaper, because commerce will not be interrupted."

"Div ye think it'll mak' ony difference in the price o' nitmugs?" said the poet's wife, referring to the only article which now affected her comfort greatly.

The pilgrim could bear no more, but rushed from the house, and is supposed to have that night departed by mail for the south, quite cured of his extravagant feelings regarding the creator of Young Norval.

We had the pleasure, a few years ago, of accompanying Sir Adam on an excursion in Peeblesshire, being the last visit he ever paid to that district, where he had spent many youthful years. It was most delightful to hear his racy recollections of the men and things there sixty years back; and in particular, to survey with him the old manorhouse at Hallyards, and listen to what he had to tell of almost every room in it, and , every marked spot in its neighborhood, in connection with some distinguished name,

It is to be

or some interesting occurrence. remarked, that Dr. Ferguson's first residence in Peeblesshire was at Neid path Castle, which was then just about to fall into its present half-ruinous state. On settling there, he told his family that it was his desire that any of the respectable people of the neighborhood who called should be received with the utmost civility, so that they might remain on pleasant terms with all around them. Ere many days had elapsed, a neatly dressed gentleman-like little man was shown into Dr. Ferguson's own room, and entered easily into miscellaneous conversation. The bell for their early family dinner ringing at the time, the courteous professor invited his visitor to join the family in the dining-room, which he readily consented to do. The family, remembering their father's injunction, of course received the unknown with all possible distinction, and a very lively conversation ensued. Dr. Ferguson, however, expressed his concern to see that his guest was eating very little-indeed, only making an appearance of eating-and he confessed his regret that they had so little variety of fare to offer him.

"Oh, doctor," said the stranger, “never mind me: the fact is, on killing-days I scarcely ever have any appetite."

Not small was the surprise, but much greater the amusement of the family, on discovering that he of the stingy appetite was Robert Smith, the Peebles butcher, and that the object of the visit was merely to bespeak Dr. Ferguson's custom!

Hallyards, to which they afterwards went, was a much more out-of-the-way place, where they had scarcely any conversable neighbor but the minister. One day, young Adam came unexpectedly from Edinburgh, and found only a couple of his sisters at home. On pushing a reconnoissance (one of our friend's favorite phrases) into the larder, he discovered that the available materials of dinner were of a very meagre characteronly a pickle trouts and a wheen craws. Things looked decidedly melancholy, when, to the agreeable surprise of all, a leg of mutton was handed in by a butcher's boy from the town. It looked like a special gift of Providence; but the human means, they had no doubt, was an order of their father, now out on one of his long rambles. Under the care of Miss Bell, i. e., Isabella, who acted as housekeeper, the mutton was right soon revolving before the kitchen-fire. In the midst of their pleasing anticipations, in came Archy Tod, the minister's man.

"Has there been ony thing heard here o' affair stood a good deal of laughing that a leg o' mutton ?"

evening after dinner.


"Oh, ay," said Miss Bell; one came here a little ago, and it's now preparing for dinner. Was the minister expecting such a thing?"

"Ay, he was expectin't, and there's to be folk wi' him to-day to eat it."

The lady at once saw how matters stood, and gave up the prize with the best grace she could. Archy was soon seen striding down the water-side to the manse, with the spit bearing the meat over his shoulder!

One of the young ladies, who used to amuse herself with verse-making, next day produced a song to the old tune of the Mucking of Geordie's Byre; of which Sir Adam could remember one verse

'Twas never my father's intention,
Nor yet Miss Bell's desire,
That ever the minister's mutton
Should be put to the Ha'yards fire!

Sir Adam had fewer anecdotes of Scott than one would have expected; nor were they in general of a remarkable kind. One occurrence, which put himself into a ludicrous light, happened when Sir Humphrey Davy came on a visit to Abbotsford. Ferguson having heard that Scott was out in the fields with a visitor, and having concluded, from some circumstances, that the stranger was his old naval acquaintance Lord John Hay, went out in search of them, and coming up in view on one side of the Rhymer's Glen, while they were at the distance of a quarter of a mile on the other, immediately began to pipe out a tissue of nautical phrases, with appropriate gesticulations, by way of a comical hail to his friend. Scott stared at him, in apprehension of his having suddenly gone mad; and as for the philosopher, who had never seen the merry knight before, he had no doubt on the point whatever. The

Scott was never wanting in something pleasant to say, even on the most trivial occasions. Calling one day at Huntly Burn, soon after the settlement of his friend in that house, and observing a fine honeysuckle in full blossom over the door, he congratulated Miss Ferguson on its appearance. She remarked that it was the kind called trumpet honeysuckle, from the form of the flower. Weel," said Scott, "ye'll never come out o' your ain door without a flourish o' trumpets."

[ocr errors]

On a gusty autumn day, Scott and Ferguson went out a-coursing over the high grounds above Galashiels, and were like to be blown off their ponies. Coming to a lonely farmhouse, in a very exposed situation, they tapped at the door, but could get no admission. Hearing at length a female voice within, Sir Adam called out:


'What's come o' a' the men ?"


'Ou, they 're a' awa' owre to Windy doors [a real place so named]."

"I think they micht ha'e been content wi' their ain doors to-day," said Scott in his quiet droll way, as he turned his pony's head."

Scott's friend survived him upwards of twenty-two years, and remained in tolerable health and vigor within a few weeks of his death. Till struck with his mortal illness, he could enter into any cheerful scene, and even into the amusements of young people, with all his original sprightliness and his endless powers of pleasing. One can not well doubt that this sunniness of disposition had something to do with his attaining the age of eighty-four in such good condition of body. Now he has gone, all who knew him must feel that he leaves a great blank; for where can now be found any one to talk of Hume, Smith, and Robertson from personal association, or to express so well the characteristic humor of old Scotland in song and in story?

« VorigeDoorgaan »