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CHANGEABLE CHARLIE—A TALE OF THE DOMINIE
BV THE AUTHOR CP "THE DOMINIE'S LEGACY."
Reallv when I come to think on the various fortunes of my pupils after they went from under my charge, I am as much diverted and moved to laughter at the ways and proceedings that were followed out by some, as I am sobered into sorrow at the sad and pathetic fate that befell several others. If 1 could say conscientiously, that the wisest man always turned out to be the happiest or the most fortunate, greatly should I be gratified. But truly, it hath never consisted with the little philosophy that I have gathered in going about the world, to deal much in general rules or specified conclusions; and X have often from my observations been rather tempted to say, with the proverb-making king, that folly was in some cases better than wisdom, and lightness of heart more to be envied than sobriety and sense.
It was in the early part of my life, when I was yet in the apprenticeship of my fortune, that I had the teaching of a pleasant boy, whose name was Charlie Cheap. Charlie's father was a weel-speeked witless body, who kept a shop in the largest village near; and having made money by mere want of sense, and selling of the jigs and jags of a country town, was called by the name of John Cheap the Chapman, after the classical story of that personage with which we used to be diverted when we were children: so the old man seeing indications of genius in his son, sent the lad to me to finish his education.
There was not a better-liked boy in the whole school than Charlie Cheap; for though he never would learn anything effectually, and was the head and ring-leader of every trick that was hatched, he had such a laughing happy disposition, and took his very punishment so good-humouredly, that it went to my heart to think of chastising him; and as for the fool's cap and the broom sceptre, they were no punishment to him, for he never seemed better pleased than when he had them on; and when mounted thus on the top of the black stool, he seemed so delighted, and pulled such faces at the rest of the boys, that no mortal flesh could stand to their gravity near him, and my seat of learning was in danger of becoming a perfect hobbleshew of diversion. How to master this, was past my power. But Charlie's versatility ended it by his own will, and before he was half learned in his preliminary humanities, his father and he had taken some scheme into their heads, and he was removed from me and sent to the college.
I know not how it was, but for several years I lost sight of Charlie, until I heard that his father was dead, and that he was now a grown man, and was likely to make a great fortune. This news was no surprise to me, for I now began to make the observation, that the greatest fools that I had the honour of preparing for the world, most generally became the wealthiest men.
It was one day when on a summer tramp, that entering a decentish town, and looking about at the shop windows, I began to bethink me of the necessity that had fallen upon me, by the tear and wear of the journey, of being at the expense of a new hat, so I entered a magazine of miscellaneous commodities, when who should astonish me in the person of the shopkeeper, but my old pupil Charlie Cheap. "Merciful me! Charlie," said I, " who would have expected to find you at this trade! I thought you had gone to the college to serve your time for a minister of the gospel."
"Indeed," said Charlie, "that was once the intent, but, in truth, my head got rather confused with the lair and the logic. I had not the least conjugality to the Greek conjugations, and when 1 came to the Hebrew that is read every word backwards, faith, I could neither read it backwards nor forwards, and fairly stuck, and grew a sticked minister. But I had long begun to see that the minister trade was but a poor business, and that a man might wait for the mustard till the meat was all eaten, and so I just tookup a chop like my father before me; and faith, Mr Dominie, I'm making a fortune."
"Well," said I, "I am really happy to hear it, and I hope, besides that, that you like your employment."
"I'm quite delighted with the chop-keeping, Mr Balgownie, a very different life from chapping verbs in a cauld college. Besides, I am a respected man in the town; nothing but Mr Cheap here and Mrs Cheap there, and ladies coming in at all hours of the day, and bowing and becking to me —and throwing the money to me across the counter;—1 would not wonder if they should make me a bailie
"Well, I am really delighted too," said I: "and from my knowledge of bailies, I would not wonder in the least—so good bye, Mr Cheap. I think this hat looks very well on me."
"Makes you ten years younger, Sir—good bye! wish you your health to wear it."
It might be a twelvemonth after that, I was plodding along a country road some ten miles from the fore-mentioned town, when looking over the hedge by my side, I saw a team of horses pulling a plough towards me; and my cogitations were disturbed by the yo-ing and yau-ing of the man who followed it. Something struck me that I knew the voice, and when the last of the men came up, I discovered under the plush waistcoat and farmer's bonnet, my old friend Charlie Cheap.
"Soul and conscience!" cried he, thrusting hisclayey hand through the hedge and grasping mine—" if this is not my old master the Dominie!" and truly he gave me the farmer's gripe, as if my hand had been made of cast metal.
"What are you doing here, Charlie?" said I. "Why are you not minding your shop instead of marching there in the furrows at the plough-tail?"
"Chop," said he, "what chop? Na, na, Dominie, I've gotten a better trade by the hand."
"It cannot be possible, Charlie, that ye've turned farmer?"
"Whether it be possible nr no, it is true," said Charlie; "but dinna be standing there whistling through the hedge, but come in by the slap at the corner, and ye shall taste my wife's treacle ale."
"Well really," said I, when I had got down into the farm-house, "this is the most marvellous change."
"No change to speak of," said he; "do ye think I was going to be tied up to haberdrabbery all my days? No, no, I knew I had a genius for farming, the chop-keeping grew flat and unprofitable, a chield from England set up next door to me, so a country customer took a fancy for a town life. I sold him my stock in trade, and he sold me the stock on his farm. He stepped in behind the counter, and I got behind the plough, so here I am, happier than ever; besides, harkie! I am making money fast."
"Are you really? But how do you know that?"
"Can I not count my ten fingers? Have I not figured it on black and white over and over again? There's great profits with management such as mine, that I can assure you, Sir."
"But how could you possibly learn farming? That, I believe, is not taught at college."
"Pooh! my friend; I can learn anything. Besides, my wife's mother was a farmer's daughter, and Lizzy herself understands farming already, as if she was reared to it. She makes all the butter, and the children drink all the milk, and we live so happy: birds singing in the morning—cows lowing at night—drinking treacle ale all day; and nothing to do but watch the corn growing. In short. farming is the natural state of man. Adam and Eve were a farmer and his wife, just like me and Lizzy Cheap!"
"But you'll change again shortly, I am afraid Mr Cheap."
"That's impossible, for I've got a nineteen years 'lease. I'll grow grey as a farmer. Well, good bye, Dominie. Be sure you give us a tall the next time ye pass, and get a drink of our treacle ale."
"Well, really this is the most extraordinary thing," said I to myself, as I walked up the lane from the farmhouse. "I shall be curious to ascertain of his going to stick to the farming till he's ruined.
I thought no more of Changeable Charlie for above a year, when, coming towards the same neighbourhood, I resolved to go a short distance out of my way to pay him a visit. My road lay across a clear country stream which winded along a pleasant green valley beneath me; and as I drew near the rustic bridge, my ear caught the lively sound of a waterfall, which murmured from a picturesque spot among opening woods, a little way above the bridge. A little millrace, with its narrow channel of deep level water, next attracted my notice; and presently after, the regular splash of a water-wheel, and the boom of a corn-mill became objects of my meditative observation. The mill looked so quaint and rustic by the stream, the banks were so green and the water so clear, that I was tempted to wander towards it, down from the bridge, just to make the whole a subject of closer observation.
A barefooted girl came forth from the house and stared in my lace, asa Scottish lassie may be supposed to do at a reasonable man. "Can you tell me," said I, willing to make up an excuse for my intrusion, "if this road will lead me to the farm of Longrigs, which is occupied by one Mr Cheap?" The lassie looked in my face with a thieveless smile, and, without answering a word, took a bare-legged race into the mill. Presently, a great lumbering miller came out, like a walking bag of flower from beside the hopper, and I immediately saw he was going to address me.
Never did 1 see such a snowy man. His miller's hat was inch thick with flour; he whitened the green earth as he walked, the knees of his breeches were loose, and the stockings that hung about his heels, would have made a hearty meal for a starving garrison.
"What can the impudent rascal be staring at?" I said, and I began to cast my eyes down on my person, to see if I could find any cause in my own appearance, that the miller and his lassie should thus treat me as a world's wonder.
"Ye were asking I think," he said, "after Charlie Cheap, of the Longrigs?"
"Yes," said I, "but his farm must be some miles from this. Perhaps as you are the miller of the neighbourhood, you can direct me the nearest road to it."
The hurley scoundrel first lifted up his eyewinkers, which were clotted with flour, shook out about a pound of it from his bushy whiskers, and then burst into a laugh in my very face as loud as the neighing of a miller's horse.
"Ho, ho, hough!" grinned he, coughing upon me a shower of flour. '' Js it possible, Dominie, that ye dinna ken me?" andopening a mouth at least as wide as his own hopper, I began to recognize the exaggerated features of Changeable Charlie.
"Well really," said I, gazing at his grin, and the hills of flour that arose from his cheeks,—" really this beats everything! and so Charlie, ye're now turned into a miller."
"Assure'sa gun!" said he. "Lord bless your soul, Dominie! do you think I could bear to spread dung and turn up dirt all my life? no! 1 have a soul above that. Besides, your miller is a man in power. He is an aristocrat over the farmers, and with the power has its privileges too, for he takes a multre out of every man's sack, and levies his revenues like a prime minister. No one gets so soon fat as those that live by the labour of others, as you may see; for the landed interest supports me by day, and my water wheel works for me all night, so if I don't get rich now, the deuce is in it."
"I suppose," said I, following him into the mill, "you are just making a fortune."
"Howcan I help it?" said he, "making money while I sleep, for I hear the musical click of the hopper in my dreams, and my bairns learn their lessons by the jog of it. I wish every man who has passed a purgatory at college, were just as happy as the miller and his wife. Is not that the case, Lizzy?" he added, addressing his better half, who now came forth hung round by childen—" as the song goes,"'
''Merry may the maid be that marries the miller,
His ample hands in ilk man's pock,
"But dear me, Mr Cheap," said I, " what was it that put you out of the farm, where I thought you were so happy, and making a fortune?"
"I was as happy as a man could be, and making money too, and nothing put me out of the farm, although I was quite glad of the change, but just a penny of fair debt, the which, you know, is a good man's case—and a little civil argument about the rent. But everything turned out for the best, for Willie Happer, the former miller, just ran awa the same week: I got a dead bargain of the mill, and so I came in to reign in his stead. Am I not a fortunate man?"
"Never was a man so lucky," said I; "but do you really mean to be a waiter on a mill-hopper all your days?"
"As long as wood turns round and water runs; but, Lizzy," he