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of the public events which signalized the long period
ANNALS OF THE PARISH.
The great charm of the work, however, is in the traits of character which it discloses, and the commendable brevity with which the whole chronicle is digested. We know scarcely any instance in which a modern writer has shown such forbearance and consideration for his readers. With very considerable powers of humour, the ludicrous incidents are never dwelt upon with any tediousness, nor pushed to the length of burlesque or caricature and the more seducing touches of pathos with which the work abounds, are intermingled and cut short, with the same sparing and judi
cious hand; -- so that the temperate and natural character of the pastor is thus, by a rare merit and felicity, made to preponderate over the tragic and comic genius of the author. That character is, as we have already hinted, as happily conceived as it is admirably executed -contented, humble, and perfectly innocent and sincere-very orthodox, and zealously Presbyterian, without learning or habits of speculation-soft-hearted and full of indulgence and ready sympathy, without any enthusiasm or capacity of devoted attachment-given to old-fashioned prejudices, with an instinctive sagacity in practical affairs-and unconsciously acute in detecting the characters of others, and singularly awake to the beauties of nature, without a notion either of observation or of poetry-very patient and primitive in short, indolent and gossiping, and scarcely ever stirring either in mind or in person, beyond the limits of his parish. The style of the book is curiously adapted to the character of the supposed author-very genuine homely Scotch in the idiom and many of the expressions -but tinctured with scriptural phrases, and some relics of college learning-and all digested in the grave and methodical order of an old-fashioned sermon.
ANNALS OF THE PARISH
After so much praise, we are rather afraid to make any extracts for the truth is, that there is not a great deal of matter in the book, and a good deal of vulgarity -and that it is only good-natured people, with something of the annalist's own simplicity, that will be as much pleased with it as we have been. For the sake of such persons, however, we will venture on a few specimens. Here is the description of Mrs. Malcolm.
"Secondly. I have now to speak of the coming of Mrs. Malcolm. She was the widow of a Clyde shipmaster, that was lost at sea with his vessel. She was a genty body, calm and methodical. From morning to night she sat at her wheel, spinning the finest lint, which suited well with her pale hands. She never changed her widow's weeds, and she was aye as if she had just been ta'en out of a bandbox. The tear was aften in her e'e when the bairns were at the school; but when they came home, her spirit was lighted up with gladness, although, poor woman, she had many a time very little to give them. They were, however, wonderful well-bred things, and took with thank
011 ANNALS OF THE PARISH― MRS. MALCOLM
fulness whatever she set before them, for they knew that their father, the breadwinner, was away, and that she had to work sore for their bit and drap. I dare say, the only vexation that ever she had from any of them, on their own account, was when Charlie, the eldest laddie, had won fourpence at pitch and toss at the school, which he brought home with a proud heart to his mother. I happened to be daunrin' bye at the time, and just looked in at the door to say gude night. And there was she sitting with the silent tear on her cheek, and Charlie greeting as if he had done a great fault, and the other four looking on with sorrowful faces. Never, I am sure, did Charlie Malcolm gamble after that night.
"I often wondered what brought Mrs. Malcolm to our clachan, instead of going to a populous town, where she might have taken up a huxtry-shop, as she was but of a silly constitution, the which would have been better for her than spinning from morning to far in the night, as if she was in verity drawing the thread of But it was, no doubt, from an honest pride to hide her poverty; for when her daughter Effie was ill with the measles the poor lassie was very ill - nobody thought she could come through, and when she did get the turn, she was for many a day a heavy handful;- our session being rich, and nobody on it but cripple Tammy Daidles, that was at that time known through all the country side for begging on a horse, I thought it my duty to call upon Mrs. Malcolm in a sympathising way, and offer her some assistance - but she refused it. 6 'No, sir,' said she. 'I canna take help from the poor's box, althought it's very true that I am in great need; for it might hereafter be cast up to my bairns, whom it may please God to restore to better circumstances when I am no to see't; but I would fain borrow five pounds, and if, sir, you will write to Mr. Maitland, that is now the Lord Provost of Glasgow, and tell him that Marion Shaw would be obliged to him for the lend of that soom, I think he will not fail to send it.'
"I wrote the letter that night to Provost Maitland, and, by the retour of the post, I got an answer, with twenty pounds for Mrs. Malcolm, saying, 'that it was with sorrow he heard so small a trifle could be serviceable.' When I took the letter and the money, which was in a bank-bill, she said, 'This is just like himsel'.' She then told me, that Mr. Maitland had been a gentleman's son of the east country, but driven out of his father's house, when a laddie, by his stepmother; and that he had served as a servant lad with her father, who was the Laird of Yillcogie, but ran through his estate, and left her, his only daughter, in little better than beggary with her auntie, the mother of Captain Malcolm, her husband that was. Provost Maitland in his servitude had ta'en a notion of her; and when he recovered his patrimony, and had become a great Glasgow merchant, on hearing how she was left by her father, he offered to marry her, but she had promised herself to her cousin the Captain, whose widow she was. He then married a rich lady, and in time grew, as he was, Lord Provost of the City: but his letter with the twenty pounds to me shewed that he had not forgotten his first love. It was a short, but a well-written letter, in a fair hand of write, containing much of the
AND HER SON CHARLES.
true gentleman; and Mrs. Malcolm said, 'Who knows but out of the regard he once had for their mother, he may do something for my five helpless orphans."—Annals of the Parish, pp. 16-21.
Charles afterwards goes to sea, and comes home unexpectedly.
"One evening, towards the gloaming, as I was taking my walk of meditation, I saw a brisk sailor laddie coming towards me. He had a pretty green parrot, sitting on a bundle, tied in a Barcelona silk handkerchief, which he carried with a stick over his shoulder, and in this bundle was a wonderful big nut, such as no one in our parish had ever seen. It was called a cocker-nut. This blithe callant was Charlie Malcolm, who had come all the way that day his leaful lane, on his own legs from Greenock, where the Tobacco trader was then 'livering her cargo. I told him how his mother, and his brothers, and his sisters were all in good health, and went to convoy him home; and as we were going along, he told me many curious things; and he gave me six beautiful yellow limes, that he had brought in his pouch all the way across the seas, for me to make a bowl of punch with! and I thought more of them than if they had been golden guineas — it was so mindful of the laddie.
"When we got to the door of his mother's house, she was sitting at the fire-side, with her three other bairns at their bread and milk, Kate being then with Lady Skimmilk, at the Breadland, sewing. It was between the day and dark, when the shuttle stands still till the lamp is lighted. But such a shout of joy and thankfulness as rose from that hearth, when Charlie went in! The very parrot, ye would have thought, was a participator, for the beast gied a skraik that made my whole head dirl; and the neighbours came flying and flocking to see what was the matter, for it was the first parrot ever seen within the bounds of the parish, and some thought it was but a foreign hawk, with a yellow head and green feathers."— Ibid. pp. 44, 45.
The good youth gets into the navy, and distinguishes himself in various actions. This is the catastrophe.
"But, oh! the wicked wastry of life in war! In less than a month after, the news came of a victory over the French fleet, and by the same post I got a letter from Mr. Howard, that was the midshipman who came to see us with Charles, telling me that poor Charles had been mortally wounded in the action, and had afterwards died of his wounds. He was a hero in the engagement,' said Mr. Howard,
and he died as a good and a brave man should.'-These tidings gave me one of the sorest hearts I ever suffered; and it was long before I could gather fortitude to disclose the tidings to poor Charles's mother. But the callants of the school had heard of the victory, and were going shouting about, and had set the steeple bell a-ringing, by which Mrs. Malcolm heard the news; and knowing that Charles's ship was with the fleet, she came over to the Manse in great anxiety, to hear
DEEP AND NATURAL PATHOS.
the particulars, somebody telling her that there had been a foreign letter to me by the post-man.
"When I saw her I could not speak, but looked at her in pity! and the tear fleeing up into my eyes, she guessed what had happened. After giving a deep and sore sigh, she inquired, 'How did he behave? I hope well, for he was aye a gallant laddie!'-and then she wept very bitterly. However, growing calmer, I read to her the letter, and when I had done, she begged me to give it her to keep, saying, 'It's all that I have now left of my pretty boy; but it's mair precious to me than the wealth of the Indies;' and she begged me to return thanks to the Lord, for all the comforts and manifold mercies with which her lot had been blessed, since the hour she put her trust in Him alone, and that was when she was left a pennyless widow, with her five fatherless bairns. It was just an edification of the spirit, to see the Christian resignation of this worthy woman. Mrs. Balwhidder was confounded, and said, there was more sorrow in seeing the deep grief of her fortitude, than tongue could tell.
"Having taken a glass of wine with her, I walked out to conduct her to her own house, but in the way we met with a severe trial. All the weans were out parading with napkins and kail-blades on sticks, rejoicing and triumphing in the glad tidings of victory. But when they saw me and Mrs. Malcolm coming slowly along, they guessed what had happened, and threw away their banners of joy; and, standing all up in a row, with silence and sadness, along the kirkyard wall as we passed, showed an instinct of compassion that penetrated to my very soul. The poor mother burst into fresh affliction, and some of the bairns into an audible weeping; and, taking one another by the hand, they followed us to her door, like mourners at a funeral. Never was such a sight seen in any town before. The neighbours came to look at it, as we walked along; and the men turned aside to hide their faces, while the mothers pressed their babies fondlier to their bosoms, and watered their innocent faces with their tears.
"I prepared a suitable sermon, taking as the words of my text, Howl, ye ships of Tarshish, for your strength is laid waste.' But when I saw around me so many of my people, clad in complimentary mourning for the gallant Charles Malcolm, and that even poor daft Jenny Gaffaw, and her daughter, had on an old black ribbon; and when I thought of him, the spirited laddie, coming home from Jamaica, with his parrot on his shoulder, and his limes for me, my heart filled full, and I was obliged to sit down in the pulpit and drop a tear.”. Annals of the Parish, pp. 214–218.
We like these tender passages the best-but the reader should have a specimen of the humorous vein also. The following we think excellent.
"In the course of the summer, just as the roof was closing in of the school-house, my lord came to the castle with a great company, and was not there a day till he sent for me to come over on the next Sunday, to dine with him; but I sent him word that I could not do