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MEN AND WOMEN:
A MORAL TALE; BY THE WANDERER.
(Continued from Vol. 2. No. 3. p. 144.)
THE "HE next morning, when Edward departed from St.
Andrews, his host at the inn, where he had rested, accompanied him for a while, in order to point out to him the road, which leads to Dundee; as they were walking onward, the land-lord said to Edward, I beg pardon, young gentleman; but the whole town is in full talk about you; and young Squire M-C, who is very clever and all that, and studies the law prodigiously, and wears hair-powder, shook his head, and told me, that you did not pass the greatest part of last night on the rock, looking at the sea, for nothing; that he rather suspected that you was Bonaparte, himself, who was come to spy out the nakedness of the land ; and, moreover, the young lawyer told me to look sharp, and see that I lost nothing out of my house, for the French were, always, great thieves.
Edward assured the land-lord, that he was not Bonaparte, but only an innocent youth, who was travelling over Scotland to see and to enjoy the beauties of the scenery, which every where adorned the country; and, he then, whispered into the ear of his host, as a great secret, that Bonaparte had other matters to engage his attention, which prevented him from coming himself to reconnoitre the town of St. Andrews. At this honest Boniface was vastly pleased, and said that he would communicate this information to young Squire M-C, who would tell it to his mother, who would soon spread it all over the town.
Edward, now, took leave of the land-lord, and travelled onward, delighted with the surrounding scenery for a few
miles, as his eye dwelt, with complacency, on some thriving plantations of trees, a few respectable, and elegant mansions, occasional tracts of cultivated ground, and, beyond all, lofty sullen, and majestic mountains, which bounded his view. But as he advanced, the sun-beams grew more fierce, and the country made rapid strides towards infæcundity. After a while, the heat became insupportable from the rays of the meridian sun, and the reflection of its beams from the barren and inhospitable sand. No vestige of a human habitation was to be seen; not one tree to aid him with its refreshing shade ; far as the eye could range, all was dreary, waste, and comfortless ; save that, here and there, the minutest spot of cultivation, and, now and then, a solitary, withered shrub, served to augment the horror of sterile deformity.
Edward began to yield to the accumulated pressure of heat, of fatigue, and, above all, of a thirst, which incapacitated him from any struggle, corporeal or intellectual, and made his heart die within him : he felt it die ; so that sinking, exhausted, spiritless, he had scarcely enough remaining vitality to stagger up to the first cottage of a hamlet, which burst unexpectedly upon his view, as he gained the summit of a hill. He was, scarcely, able to articulate, and, almost unintelligibly stammered out a request for a draught of cold wa
A woman, apparently sixty, in whose face the tannee, or tanning principle, strove with dirt, for the mastery; or, in other words, who combined the brown, and sun-burnt complexion of the gipsy with the darksome and dirty hue of the collier, said—If you are an American, come in, and I will give you some whey.
Edward bowed his head, and entered the hut; and the old woman gave him some semi-liquid, meagre drink, which she called whey, out of a wooden vessel by no means too clean. The room itself was very sufficiently dirty; a young, stout, coarsely-featured girl sate in the chimney corner, and a three quarters grown lad lay at his length on one side of the apartment; they were both covered with dirt; they stared with their mouths open, but said nothing : A few fragments of aged furniture, a part of an old spinning wheel, half a table, and a broken stool, and two tattered petticoats, were
strewed and scattered over the room in all the unloveliness of confusion.
Edward, quite spent with fatigue, and watching, leaned back against the wall, while his hospitable dame poured forth a tremendous torrent of questions about America and himself.-Old woman-Is America a fine country?-Edward Yes.-Old woman-Have you got a wife yet? you would make a brave husband. But, perhaps, you have no women in your country ; tho' that cannot be neither, unless American children are born in a different way from what they are in Scotland.—Edward- I am not married yet; and the women in America are all of a pea-green colour.–Oh, bonny lad ! cried the old woman, chuckling as she spoke, and her eyes twinkling with pleasure—you are a very fair laddy yourself, only a little pale, now, with pain and weariness; do not think of marrying a pea-green woman; you should have a discreet, decent, fair lady for your wife ; what do you think of me? I shall make you a better wife than all the pea-green women in America put together can; besides, I have been married twice already, and I know how to manage a husband better than those, who have never had one.
This was a home stroke with a vengeance, and astounded Edward the more, as he happened to have had a little personal experience of the pertinacious vehemence, with which elderly, rampant widows pursue their point. All that he wanted now was to defer these very extraordinary nuptials to some future period, and, in the mean time, to get away out of the old woman's clutches; he, therefore, managed to smile with some degree of complacency, and thanked her very abundantly for her kindness and affection, and promised to call for her, on his return, after some farther travel into the country, and take her with him to America, where he would prove unto her a faithful and a loving husband.
The old woman was so delighted with Edward's answer, and her joy was so rapturous, that Edward trembled with anxiety and fear, lest she should give him a matrimonial embrace upon
the spot, wherefore he reclined his head on one side, as if too faint and weak to support himself in an erect posture. His antiquated enamorata no sooner saw this, than
she rummaged among some old pieces of rag, and found part of an oat cake, which she first wiped against her linsey-wolsey apron, and then thrust a bit into Edward's hand; but he endeavoured to evade the necessity of taking into his mouth food, which he knew to consist mostly of dirt, for the oats bore but a small proportion to the quantity of filth in this delectable bannoc; she actually compelled him, however, to force a piece down his throat, a measure to which he consented with very great reluctance. Edward, then, declared, that he was not hungry, and offered to return the rest, but she looked fierce and angry, and asked him what was the matter with the bannoc, that he would not eat it?
Thus was Edward compelled sorely against his will to swallow the remainder, though his gorge rose at every mouthful, and he never felt more sensibly disgusted in his life. After a while, he rose from his seat, and offered her a handfull of halfpence for her entertainment; but she refused them with indignation ; saying,—no, no, we will have no bawbies, you are unco welcome; I would do twice as much for the love I bear you; and do not forget to come back, and take me with you to America, like an honest simple laddy as you
Edward, then, attempted to leave the house, and the old woman, holding up her face, endeavoured to manufacture her lips into the true, proper kissing pout, with an evident intention to seal the matrimonial contract between her and Edward with a chaste salute. But it was with the utmost difficulty that Edward had endured the bannoc; a kiss from such a dulcinea was more than he could stand. He, therefore, affected not to notice the position of her lips, but squeezed her by the hand, and departed, amidst a profusion of the warmest expressions of amorous attachment on her part.
To Dundee ferry Edward came, without further peril; got into the pinnace, and sailed on the river Tay, enjoying the beauty of the surrounding scenery ; far, as the eye could reach, the shores of this majestic stream were fringed with wood, or verdant meads, or peopled towns, all alive, and resounding with the busy hum of men.
Immediately on his landing at Dundee quay, he went to an inn near the market-place: he had, scarcely, been seated half
an hour in his room, when the land-lord entered, and said, that two gentlemen below wanted to speak with him. Edward desired, that they might be shewn up stairs. Soon thereafter two persons made their entrance; one a Mr. Sterling, in habit and in manner a gentleman; his companion did not appear in so favourable a point of view. . Mr. Sterling said, I beg your pardon, Sir, for thus intruding upon you ; but we are under the necessity of troubling you and of wounding our own feelings, because no less than four informations have been laid before us as magistrates, that a stranger of a very suspicious and dangerous appearance, had entered this inn. We have, therefore, taken the liberty of waiting upon you, Sir, merely to give you an opportunity of declaring who you are, and thereby of preventing all occasion of future molestation during your stay at Dundee.
Edward desired them to be seated, and expressed a full sense of his gratitude for the very handsome manner, in which Mr. Sterling had conducted himself, and, said—I am from England, and am travelling over part of your country, merely, to behold the face of nature.—Sterling—I have not the least doubt as to the truth of what you say, Sir; but, as magistrates, we must require some proof of your assertion.-Edward—What proof do you want?-Sterling-Any credentials whatever, any letter of recommendation, any scrap of
paper with your name on it, any testimonials from your relations, or friends.-Edward I have nothing of all this; I left my baggage and servants at Edinburgh ; and travel thus alone, with only a little, leathern, portable girdle, containing some linen, and a pocket volume of Dante ; because I merely wish to see the face of the country, and not to visit any of the families, at present.
Mr. Sterling sate silent; but his brother Justice M-immediately bawled out—what! have you no bit of paper, to shew that you are what you ought to be; how should I know, that you are not a spy? I have nothing but your bare word for it, and there are so many lies told in the world, I do not see why I am forced to believe you ; besides, it is very unlikely, that such a boy as you, why you do not look sixteen yet, should run about a strange country, all alone, to look at