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ostentatious and pedantical in a superlative degree; he had often mortified me and my companion, by exposing our ignorance of what we doubtless ought to have known; I had also reason to believe that he had reported some of my early conduct to the minister which I could have wished concealed. It has already appeared, that there was little placability in the composition of which my mind was formed; I there fore determined to mortify him in turn, and, like Glenalvon, said,
The noblest vengeance is the most complete.
Mr Gray always preached from memory, and his place was one Sunday supplied by Joseph Dickson, who took the easier method of reading his discourse, for which the good folks of Balwhinny would have despised the best sermon that ever the Apostle Paul preached or delivered; of course Joseph was spoken of with general contempt by the congregation. Mr Gray was to be absent, assisting in a neighbouring parish, and his place supplied by Joseph Dickson, whose motions I had watched during the week. After breakfast on Sunday morning, I observed that he glanced over the written copy of his sermon,-deposited it in the parish Bible, for the officer to carry to church, and then retired to make his toilette. I found an opportunity of removing the sermon for a few minutes, during which I transposed the pages, not only by putting them out of their natural order, but by placing them heads and tails alternately; and as he had not numbered the pages, never was "confusion worse confounded;" I then dexterously stitched the whole up, leaving the first sheet in statu quo, placed it in the same part of the Bible, and made my exit without observation. The consequences to the poor probationer may easily be anticipated. He began his sermon in fine style, and for two pages made a grand exhibition of his oratory; but on turning his eye to the top of the third page, he found it topsy turvy; turning the paper, and attempting to read, it landed him in the conclusion, instead of the exordium; in a word, after turning for a considerable time,
he was enabled to proceed for another couple of pages, when he be came involved in difficulties, which he soon found insurmountable, and was under the necessity of relinquishing the hopeless attempt, while many of the congregation were scarcely able to suppress their smiles; some holding down their heads in pity, and others laughing outright, at his awkward appearance. The poor fellow looked like one bewitched. A little reflection shewed him it was a hopeless task to proceed; he therefore read out a psalm for singing, sat down to recover his composure, and reading some chapter of the Bible, dismissed the congregation, with a promise of acquitting himself better in the afternoon. He employed the interval in restoring the chaotic mass to its pristine order, and read it to the audience with most unblushing confidence. But the tale circulated; a ludicrous and doggrel ballad appeared, in which poor Joseph made a most ridiculous figure, and his respectability was almost annihilated in that quarter of the country. Hector and I were both accused of the trick; but as we denied, and there was no method of establishing the charge, it was placed to the credit of the invisible agent, which had alarmed Matty by ringing the bells.
I now considered myself of that age which gave me a right to inquire at my father concerning my future destination; I therefore wrote a respectful letter to this effect, and received a reply, ordering me to chuse between law and physic. I requested an Ensign's commission in the army; but was told, if I wished to wear a sword, I must begin my course of heroism by carrying a musket. It will perhaps be matter of surprise that I should have preferred the mystification of physic to the quibbling chicanery of law; but of two evils I chose what appeared the least, and was put apprentice to Adam Buzzard, surgeon, apothecary, accoucheur, and citizen of Aberdeen; by public courtesy, generally termed Dr Buzzard, although he had never graduated.
I was for some time kept thumping at the mortar from morning to night, from which I ascended to the lighter task of compounding, or ra◄
ther confounding medicines, by colouring, disguising, and metamorphosing, in a thousand ways, not taught, nor mentioned in the London Dispensary. My master was the reverse of Dr Sangrado; for, instead of being wedded to a system, his chief delight was in making experiments, for which he quoted the authority of the Apostle, "Try all things, and hold to that which is best.' His success in this method of practice was sometimes such as to suprise himself, and astonish the public. A patient who had been pronounced incurable by the Faculty in general, was to him a valuable acquisition; and he would conduct the case upon the principle of " no cure no pay. This he did for the sake of a fair field for making experiments. The more desperate the case, it was the more to his liking. Whether it was surgical or physical, he went boldly to work, and was occasionally successful in arresting the march of the universal conqueror, although it must be acknowledged he has often accelerated his progress. But then he had still the consolation, that he had shortened the anguish of his patient, by giving the coup de grace to the miserable sufferer. When he effected a cure, his fame was blazed abroad through town and country; when he failed, he had the sanc tion of the Faculty that the case was hopeless. Under such a teacher, fettered by no rules, but such as could be forsaken on an emergency, I became a daring adventurer in the field of physic; and in vending medicines over the counter, gave advice gratis, stipulating that I should be informed of the result. In the course of these experiments I made some not unimportant discoveries, which I prudently reserved for my own
I had occasionally seen Ellen Gray, and still with renewed pleasure; for the playful artless girl, with whom I had rambled in the wilds about Balwhinny, was now a woman, graceful in stature, with more than an ordinary share of female beauty. In the third year of my apprenticeship, I was permitted occasionally to visit Dr Buzzard's patients; and as he was the medical attendant in the family where Ellen was boarded,
this circumstance afforded me frequent opportunities of calling, which I generally contrived to do, when there was a probability of seeing her, who was every day gaining on my esteem. My time of service expired, and I entered at College, where Hector Jarvis was before me, endeavouring to qualify himself for the healing art. Our intimacy was renewed, and we became almost constant associates, in every relaxation from our studies. His laxity of principle soon called into action propensities which had for some time been dormant in my heart; for although I had now begun to feel the necessity of reflecting on the part I was to perform on the stage of life, yet I still found, that,
As the twig is bent, the tree's inclin'd; and with such a coadjutor as Hector, I was by no means inclined to stop halfway in the pursuit of pleasure. The only check on my indulgences was the state of my finances; but Hector had full pockets, and a liberal hand; and I, although proud, allowed myself to come under pecuniary obligations to him. There was indeed a secret monitor, which would sometimes whisper hints about the virgin purity and loveliness of Ellen Gray, whose good opinion I was still anxious to acquire; but I consoled myself that she would never hear of my gross indulgences, as I was a proficient in the art of concealment, in which Hector was a still greater adept. Having seen Ellen occasionally at Balwhinny, he still kept up acquaintance with her; but observed to me, that he did so only from respect to her father, for she was too much of a prude to claim his attention.
I had been a year at College, when Ellen, in consequence of violent exercise, was seized with erysipelas to such a degree, that she was in a high fever. Dr Buzzard was called, and, according to his usual practice, began to make some experiments, in his treatment of her disorder; in consequence of which, instead of the inflammation abating, she became dangerously ill. Her brother informed me of her situation; I flew to visit her, and was shocked with her swelled face and distorted fea
tures; upon inquiry respecting her medical treatment, I found that Buzzard was not only keeping her in a state of unnecessary suffering, but placing her future health, perhaps her life, in imminent danger. Prevailing upon her to put herself under my care, she soon became convalescent, and her health was rapidly restored. Buzzard, on his first visit, saw that his prescriptions were not followed, found who was her attendant, and became my irreconcilable enemy; but I had acquired the gratitude and esteem of Ellen Gray, which, in my mind, was sufficient to counterbalance the hatred of all who had ever written a prescription, from the days of Hippocrates to Dr Buzzard inclusive.
This circumstance had produced a greater intimacy with Ellen, and had, in a considerable degree, banished the reserve she had hitherto preserved in my company. Were I inclined to philosophize, I could expatiate at great length on my feelings when in the presence of this amiable creature, compared with those in which I had often indulged; both were ardent; but the one was a celestial fire, which elevated the mind, and purified the heart, while the other was a gross and impure earthly flame, which seared and
Harden'd all within,
And petrified the feeling.
But, alas! these nobler sentiments were evanescent, and inconsistent with the esprit du corps to which I belonged; for we sometimes descended to puerilities, worthy only of school-boys, and at others plunged into excesses disgraceful to human
At the close of the second session, we met, to the number of nearly a score, to sup in a tavern, and celebrate the orgies of Bacchus. In the course of the evening, we began to talk of those whom we should leave with regret; but more particularly of those who had incurred our displeasure, among whom almost every clergyman in town was obnoxious to one or other of the company. This will not surprise those who have reflected on the laxity of morals which influenced our general conduct. A proposition was made to signalize our
departure by some exploit worthy of the corps; but after much discussion, it was found impracticable that evening; and we arranged a plan for carrying it into effect next night, which was to be the last of our stay in town. During the following day, we provided what was deemed necessary for our plan. At that period, the town was but scantily supplied with watchmen, and most of those employed were personally known to one or other of us, having had an occasional douceur from us, when we wished them to be deaf, or blind; we had therefore little apprehension of trouble from them. There were a few on whom we could place less reliance; but for those we also provided a quietus, by procuring some fine and uncommonly strong brandy, which we impreg nated with a soporific so powerful, that a wine-glass-full of the mixture would have laid a man asleep on his trial for high treason. This potent liquor was distributed among those who resided in quarters where we could not confide in the guardians of the night. We soon after met at an appointed rendezvous, under cover of a cloudy, midnight sky. As we approached a public room in Castle-Street, the joyous notes of a number of fiddles, and the tread of light-heeled dancers, reminded us that there was an assembly of the beaux and belles of fashion; and on coming opposite the hall, we found all the sedan chairs in town assembled on the pavement; but the night being rather uncomfortable, the chairmen had adjourned to a tippling house down a lane. Our first exploit, therefore, was to carry away all the poles, which we effected in a twinkling, and they were deposited in a garden at a considerable distance.
We next pro
ceeded to all the open stable-yards, and took off the fore-wheels of every carriage to which we could get access, trundling them away, and still leaving a pair not fellows. Our next object was the removal and transposition of sign-boards, by which many ludicrous changes were produced. I have already mentioned our dislike to the clergy; to evince this, we transferred a rosy-faced Bacchus, bestriding his cask, with a
garland of ivy leaves, from the door of a tavern-keeper, to that of a jolly, red-nosed parson, whose devotion to the bottle was generally known; another, whose pulpit resounded with the fulminations of the law, rather -than the glad tidings of the gospel, had his mansion decorated with the sign, "Artificial fire-works manufactured here;" a third, who preferred copying to composing sermons, was designated "Dealer in old books." Over the door of the Methodist Chapel, "White-washing on reasonable terms." Finding the watchmen, who had been regaled with a dram, all fast asleep, we carried away their lanterns, extinguished the lights, and hung them round the cross in CastleStreet, except one, which we hung over the door of a Professor, generally dubbed by the wags in his class "the dark-lanthern.' A brazier's sign-board was placed over the door of a lawyer, who was famous for the liberties he took in speaking and writing professionally. Over the gate of a celebrated physician was placed, "Undertaker for funerals of every description;" and on my late' master's door was placed a painting (prepared for the occasion) of Dr Buzzard, pursued by a troop of skeletons, and underneath,
"These are ghosts that were slain." -A magistrate, famous for political tergiversation, was designated" Dealer in old clothes;" and the door of a haberdasher's shop, "Shaving soft and easy." A Turk, smoking a tobacco pipe, stood centinel over the door of a fashionable milliner; and an enormous pair of horns were placed over the door of a gentleman of whom common report said they were an appropriate emblem. On the city prison was fixed a board, with "No admittance here ;" and on the door of three spinsters of quality, "Lodgings to let-entry immediate ly;" and below, in capitals cut from a recruiting-sergeant's bill, “Grand opportunities and good encouragement, for genteel young men." Such are specimens of the childish tricks, or profane wit, in which we amused ourselves; and we next morning enjoyed the mingled wonder and laughter of the good citizens. Complaints were doubtless made to the
civic rulers, but we left the town immediately after breakfast.
On my way home, I called at the manse of Balwhinny, and was most kindly received; for, exclusive of Mr Gray's benevolent disposition, Ellen, I found, had mentioned what I had done for her in such terms, that I was hailed as the preserver of her life, and most warmly pressed to pass the summer at the manse, where Charles and his sister were expected in a week or two. This was an inducement more potent than the good folks were aware of, and I promised to return for a short time, after seeing my parents, to whom I was impelled more by a sense of duty than inclination. The welcome I received to my paternal home was neither so frank nor so cordial as that which I had met at the manse; and I found that Buzzard had been making reports to my disadvantage, in which he had so artfully blended truth and falsehood, that it would have been no easy task to have separated them, had I thought it worth my trouble; but observing that they had obtained full credence with my parents, I felt too indignant, and resolved to leave a spot which was no home to me. With the form of Ellen Gray floating in my delighted imagination, it was impossible that I could find pleasure in the company of my old associates down stairs; and I am afraid the dairy-maid did not find me the dear delightful devil" she had predicted: I did feel some inclination to renew my wonted familiarity, for which she endeavoured to give me every encouragement; but Ellen Gray's image still appeared to my fancy, and I loathed myself for the levity of my own heart.
On my return to Balwhinny, I found the brother and sister both there; and it would have been impossible to say whether my reception was kindest from the parents or their children. Time glided away with imperceptible flight,-hours seemed minutes,-weeks were only days,— and I was astonished when I saw the fields glowing in the golden hue of harvest, while I imagined that summer had just begun to put forth her sweets. At no period of my life had three months passed so pleasantly, and so innocently; and, were it now
in my power, I would willingly barter all the time that I have trod this earth in exchange for them, and reckon myself a gainer to an infinite amount. If I ever felt unsophisticated happiness, or ever indulged purity of mind, it was in that short period; gazing by day, and dreaming by night, of the lovely features and spotless mind of Ellen: and yet I lived to but let me not anticipate. Suffice it at present to say, that my winged moments of bliss, and lingering hours of bitter anguish, both proceed from the recollection of that delightful period.
I returned to College, and joined my bosom friend, Hector Jarvis, who, next to Ellen Gray, held a place in my heart. It may seem a paradox how two beings so very dissimilar could both share in my esteem, or rather, how I should be such a different character at Balwhinny and in Aberdeen; but I relate facts, without attempting to explain, or account for the anomalies in the mind of man. At the manse, I considered Ellen as witnessing my every action, hearing every word that I uttered; yea, I imagined her endowed with the power of reading the purposes of my heart, and shuddered when a thought passed over my mind which might not have been freely expressed before her; and had I continued there, such, I flatter myself, might have been my conduct and feelings through life. At College, the change was too remarkable to escape the observation of Hector; and, by the force of wit and good-humoured raillery, he effected that which no arguments would have accomplished, and my nascent principles became every day weaker. It is true, I could not all at once forget Ellen, and the recollection at first shot pangs through my heart; but I became so habituated to these remonstrances of conscience, till by and by they fell like blunted arrows, making at most a very faint impression. The old man awoke within me, and I became the nightly companion of Hector, and the ready participator of his licentious plea sures. About this time an incident occurred, which I cannot forbear relating, as an instance of how the heart may become indurated by what first awoke the finest and keenest feelings :
Nancy Shepherd was a young and beautiful girl, the daughter of a merchant in town. Hector and I often visited at her father's, and I had reason for believing that Nancy had made an impression on the heart of my friend. A ball was given by the young sparks in town, at which Hector and I attended; Nancy Shepherd was Hector's companion for the evening; he displayed much fondness for her, and she was, seemingly, pleased with his attentions. Both danced with peculiar grace, which, combined with their mutual feelings, induced the young lady to continue that exercise till she overheated herself, caught cold in going home, died in a few weeks after, and Hector and I saw her once lovely form covered with its kindred dust. Soon after, I called on my friend, his door was fastened, but on announcing my name, I was admitted. Although not unaccustomed to sights nearly similar, I started, on seeing a human head on the table before him. "Come away, "cried he; "what alarms you?
look at that face, and try to recognise it," at the same time lifting a lock of the long auburn hair, which hung on the lifeless skull, and twining it carelessly round his fingers. A sudden thought struck me, but my heart rejected it as impossible, and I stood in silence. "Come, sit down," said he, "and take your last look of what was once Nancy Shepherd. See how livid those lips which I have fondly pressed;" and he touched them with the dissecting-knife in his hand; "how sweetly did they smile on me, as I squeezed her hand in the dance!-she was a lovely girlbut that is past!" My heart was almost sick, and at last I said, "But how is that here? where is her body?" "Divided among the students; Jack Sangster had a leg, and Bill Rob an arm; the carcase was divided by lot, and my good luck gave me the head." There was something so shocking and appalling in this such an absence of feeling in the nonchalance with which he spoke, that I not only despised, but I believed my heart loathed and abhorred him; yet such were his powers of persuasion, or, at least, such was the influence he had acquired over my mind, that, before we parted, he made