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In the little picturesque village of Duddingstone, which lies sweetly at the foot of Edinburgh's great lion, Arthur-Seat, and which is celebrated for its strawberries and sheep-head broth, flourished,within our own remembrance, a poor and honest mender of boots and shoes, by name Robin Rentoul.
Robin had been a cobbler all his days,—to very little purpose. He had made nothing of the business, although he had given it a fair trial of fifty or sixty years. He was born, and cobbled—got married, and cobbled—got children, and cobbled—got old, and cobbled, without advancing a step beyond his last. It " found him poor at first and left him so!" To make the ends meet, was the utmost he could do. He therefore bore no great liking to a profession which had done so little for him, and for which he had done so much) but in truth, his want of liking may be considered as much a cause as an effect of his want of success. His mind, in short, did notgo with his work; and it was the interest, as well as duty and pleasure, of his good wife, Janet, to hold him to it (particularly when he had given his word of honour to a customer) by all the arts common to her sex,— sometimes by scolding, sometimes by taunting, but oftener—for Janet was a kind-hearted creature—by treating him to a thimbleful of aquavitae, which he loved dearly, with its proper accompaniments of bread and cheese.
Although, however, Robin did not keep by the shoes with any good heart, he could not be called either a lazy or inefficient man. In every thing but cobbling, he took a deep and active interest. In particular, he was a great connoisseur of the weather. Nobody could prophesy snow like Robin, or foretell a black frost. The latter was Robin's delight; for withitcame the pcopleof Edinburgh, to hold their saturnalia onDuddingstone Loch, and cobbling, on these great occasions, was entirely out of the question. His rickety table, big-bellied bottle, and tree-legged glass, were then in requisition, for the benefit of curlers and skaters in general, and of himself in particular. But little benefit accrued from these to Robin, although he could always count on one good customer—in himself. On the breaking up of the ice, he regularly found himself poorer than before, and, what was worse, with a smaller disposition than ever to work.
It must have been on some occasion of this kind, that strong necessity suggested to Robin a step for the bettering of his fortunes, which was patronized by the legislature of the day, and which he had heard was resorted to by many with success. Robin resolved to try the lottery. With thirty shillings, which he kept in an old stocking for the landlord, he went to Edinburgh, and purchased a sixteenth. This proceeding he determined to keep a profound secret from every one; but whiskey cannot tolerate secrets; the first haifmutchkin with barber Hugh succeeding in ejecting it; and as the barber had every opportunity, as well as disposition, to spread it, the thing was known to all the village in the lathering of a chin.
Among others, it reached the ears of Mr Blank, a young gentleman who happened to reside at Duddingstone, and who took an interest in the fortunes of Robin. Mr B. (unknown to the villagers) was connected with the press of Edinburgh, particularly with a certain newspaper, one copy of which had an extensive circulation in Duddingstone. First of all, the newspaper reached Mr Blank on the Saturday of its publication; on the Monday, it fell into (he hands of Robin, who, like the rest of his trade, had most leisure on that day to peruse it; on the Tuesday, the baker had it; on the Wednesday, the tailor; on the Thursday, the blacksmith; on the Friday, the gardener; and on the Saturday, the barber, in whose shop it lay till the succeeding Saturday brought another, when it was torn down for suds, leaving not a wreck behind, except occasionally a King's speech, a Cure for the Rupture, a list of magistrates and Town Council, or any other interesting passage that took the barber's fancy, which was carefully clipped out, and pasted on the wooden walls of his apartment, to the general satisfaction, instruction, and entertainment of his customers. This newspaper, like Wordsworth's Old Cumberland Beggar, was the means of keeping alive a sympathy and community of feeling among the parties; and in particular, tended to establish a friendly intercourse between Robin Rentoul and Mr Blank. Robin could count upon his glass every Monday, when he went for "the papers,"—and, except the glass, he liked nothing better than to have what he called "a bother" with Mr B. himself. Mr B. soon got from Robin's own mouth all the particulars of the lottery-ticket purchase, even to the very number,—which was 1757, a number chosen by Robin, who had an eye to fatalism, as being the date of the year in which he was born.
A love of mischief or sport suggested to the young gentleman the wicked thought of making the newspaper a means of hoaxing Robin regarding the lottery ticket. We shall not undertake to defend Mr Blank's conduct, even on the score of his being, as he was, a very young man. The experiment he made was cruel, although we believe it was done without malignity, and with everyresolution that Robin should not be a loser by it.—About the time when news ot the lottery-drawing was expected, the following paragraph appeared in the newspaper with which Mr Blank was connected.
"By private accounts from London, we understand that 984 and 1757 are the numbers drawn in the present lottery for the two £20, 000 prizes. We know not if any of these lucky numbers have been disposed of in this quarter."
Poor Robin came for his newspaper at the usual time, and in his usual manner. He got his customary glass, but missed his customary " bother" with Mr Blank, who chose for the present to be out of the way. Home he trudged, carrying the newspaper, the harbinger of his fortune, in the crown of his hat—placed himself on his stool—drew out his spectacles—and began to read, as usual, from the beginning of the first page. It was some time before he reached the paragraph big with his fate. When he saw it, he gave a gasp—took off his spectacles, and began to rub them, as if doubtful that they had deceived him—placed them again deliberately on his nose—read the passage over again, slowly and surely—then quietly laying his hand on a shoe which he had been mending, and which contained a last, made it in a momeut spin through the window, carrying casement with it, and passing barely the head of a fishwife who was toiling along with her creel. His wife, Janet, was not at home, so, rushing out of doors, he made way to his old howff, at the sign of the Sheep's Head. The landlady held up her hands at his wild look.
"Send for barber Hughie," he cried, "and Neil the tailor: and I say, Luckie, bring in—let me see— a Gallon o" your best; and some cheese—a Hail Cheese—nane o' your halfs and quarters."
"Guide us, Robin! What bee's this in your bonnet? The man's gyte!"
"Look there, woman, at the papers. I've gotten a prize. A twenty thousand pounder. What's the sixteenth o' that, think ye?"
"A prize and nae blank! Eh, wow, Robin, gie's a shake o' your hand. I aye said ye wad come to something. Isy, you slut, rin for the barber,—and Neil—if he's sober—and bring the gudeman too. The mae the merrier."
Robin was soon surrounded by all his cronies of the village; for the news of his good fortune spread with the rapidity of scandal. Innumerable were the shakings of hands, and the pledges of good will and assistance. The Sheep's Head soon became too hot for the company; the village itself was in an uproar; and as halloo followed halloo, Mr Blank inwardly "shrunk at the sound himself had made." Meanwhile, to have the truth of the statement confirmed, a superannuated lawyer had been despatched on an old blood horse to the ottery Office at Edinburgh; and his return, with the intelligence that all was a hoax, spread dismay over the faces of the carousers, and made Robin's heart sink with grief and shame.
A speedy change took place in the conduct of those fair-weather friends who had flocked around the poor cobbler. From being the admired of all beholders, he became an object of scorn and laughter, till unable to stand their mocks and jibes, he rushed from their presence, and sought shelter under his own bed-clothes. The only one who stood true was Neil the tailor. He followed Robin to his own house—took him by the hand, and said, "Robin, my man, I promised you a suit o' clothes, o' the best. I ken ye wad hae befriended me had ye got the cash—and —lottery or no lottery—by Jove! I'll keep my word."
Mr Blank took care to discharge the debt incurred at the Sheep's Head, and endeavoured, by proffers of money and otherwise, to comfort Robin, and atone in some measure for the injury which he had secretly done him. But Robin turned himself in his bed, and would not be comforted. Three days he lay in this plight, when authentic information arrived of the drawing of the lottery. Robin's number was, after all, in reality a lucky one—not, indeed, twenty thousand, but five thousand pounds. The sixteenth of even this was a little fortune to him, and he received it with a sober satisfaction, very different from the boisterous glee which he had formerly displayed. "I'll seek naneo' them this time," he said to his wife, Janet—"except Neil the tailor: he, puir body, was the only truehearted creature amang them a'. I've learn't a lesson by what has taken place. / ken wha to trust."
THE SEA CAVE.
Hardly we breathe, although the air be free.
One night, when returning from the house of a friend, with whom I had sat late at supper, to my own lodging, in the city of Glasgow, where at that time my lot was cast, I was passing along the darkest part, commonly called the How, of the Gallowgate, and in the midst of the deep silence I heard a heavy footstep approaching me. We passed close to each other, when instantly the man stopped short, named my name, and took hold of my hand. Somewhat startled, but nothing alarmed, I said, "Who are you, friend, and where are you going at this hour of the night?" He
answered, "I am James , and am going to the Broomielaw
to catch the first steam-boat in the morning, to take me down to the Abeona, which sails to-morrow for the Cape." This brought at once to my recollection one of our parishioners, whom, along with the elder of his district, I had visited some few days before, to converse and pray with him and his wife before their departure as settlers for Algoa Bay, in South Africa. "Well, James," said I, "and is this the last of you that I am to see in this world?" "I fear it, sir," said James; "for my wife is already at the Broomielaw, and 1 have just settled all our little matters, and parted with my friends, and we sail to-morrow. But, oh, sir, I am glad to see you, and count it good luck that you should be the last man in the parish to shake me by the hand and bid God bless me." "Well, James," I said, "grant it may be so; fear His name, be kind to your wife, be honest and true, and fear no evil." And so, after lingering a while as loth to part, and having no interruption at that quiet and dark hour, we took our several ways, little knowing what should fall out before we met again.
Towards the end of the same week I had occasion to visit a friend and brother-minister, at the mouth of the Clyde. While the steamboat waited, to set out and take in passengers at Greenock, whom should I see standing upon the quay, witha little child in each hand, but my friend James: the instant I recognized him, I stepped out, and right glad were we to meet again. "I did not expect to have seen you again, James, when we parted that dark night in the How of the Gallowgate." "The ship has been detained," said he, "waiting for passengers, who were to meet us here from different parts of the country; but we sail the next tide." "And whose children are these?" for 1 knew that he had no family of his own. "They are," said he, "amongst the youngest of a very large family
* From "Recollections and Observations of a Scottish Clergyman," in Eraser's Mugozine.