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and disappointed when she saw him not at table, was so much accustomed to his occasional absence, and knew so little how to teach him more regularity, that a testy observation was almost all the censure with which such omissions were visited.
On the present occasion, however, the wrath of good Dame Elspeth soared higher than usual. It was not merely on account of the special tup's-head and trotters, the haggis and the side of mutton, with which her table was set forth, but also because of the arrival of no less a person than Hob Miller, as he was universally termed, though the man's name was Happer.
The object of the Miller's visit to the tower of Glendearg was like the purpose of those embassies which potentates send to each other's courts, partly ostensible, partly politic. In outward shew, Hob came to visit his friends of the Halidome, and share the festivity common among country folks, after the barn-yard has been filled, and to renew old intimacies by new conviviality. But in very truth he also came to have an eye upon the contents of each stack, and to obtain such information respecting the extent of the crop reaped and gathered in by each feuar, as might prevent the possibility of abstracted multures.
All the world knows that the cultivators of each barony or regality, temporal or spiritual, in Scotland, are obliged to bring their corn to be grinded
at the mill of the territory, for which they pay a heavy charge, called intown multures. I could speak to the thirlage of invecta et illata too, but let that pass. I have said enough to intimate that I talk not without book. Those of Sucken, or enthralled ground, were liable in penalties, if, deviating from this thirlage (or thraldom), they carried their grain to another mill. Now such another mill, erected on the lands of a lay-baron, lay within a tempting and convenient distance of Glendearg; and the Miller was so obliging, and his charges so moderate, that it required Hob Miller's utmost vigilance to prevent evasions of his right of monopoly.
The most effectual means he could devise was this shew of good fellowship and neighbourly friendship,-under colour of which he made his annual cruise through the barony-numbered every cornstack, and computed its contents by the boll, so that he could give a shrewd hint afterwards whether or not the grist came to the right mill.
Dame Elspeth, like her compeers, was obliged to take these domiciliary visits in the sense of politeness; but in her case they had not occurred since her husband's death, probably because the tower of Glendearg was distant, and there was but a trifling quantity of arable or infield land attached to it. This year there had been, upon some speculation of old Martin's, several bolls sown in the
outfield, which, the season being fine, had ripened remarkably well. Perhaps this circumstance occasioned the honest Miller's including Glendearg, on this occasion, in his annual round.
Dame Glendinning received with pleasure a visit which she used formerly only to endure with patience; and she had changed her view of the matter chiefly, if not entirely, because Hob had brought with him his daughter Mysie, of whose features she could give so slight an account, but whose dress she had described so accurately to the Sub-Prior.
Hitherto this girl had been an object of very trifling consideration in the eyes of the good widow; but the Sub-Prior's particular and somewhat mysterious enquiries had set her brains to work on the subject of Mysie of the Mill; and she had here asked a broad question, and there she had thrown out an inuendo, and there again she had gradually led on to a conversation on the subject of poor Mysie. And from all enquiries and investigations she had collected, that Mysie was a dark-eyed laughterloving wench, with cherry-cheeks, and a skin as white as her father's finest bolted flour, out of which was made the Abbot's own wastel-bread. For her temper, she sung and laughed from morning to night; and for her fortune, a material article, besides that which the Miller might have amassed by means of his proverbial golden thumb,
Mysie was to inherit a good handsome lump of land, with a prospect of the mill and mill-acres descending to her husband on an easy lease, if a fair word were spoken in season to the Abbot, and to the Prior, and to the Sub-Prior, and to the Sacristan, and so forth.
By turning and again turning these advantages over in her own mind, Elspeth at length came to be of opinion, that the only way to save her son Halbert from a life of "spur, spear, and snafle," as they called that of the border-riders, from the dint of a cloth-yard shaft, or the loop of an inch-cord, was, that he should marry and settle, and that Mysie Happer should be his destined bride.
As if to her wish, Hob Miller arrived on his strong-built mare, bearing on a pillion behind him the lovely Mysie, with cheeks like a peony-rose, (if Dame Glendinning had ever seen one) spirits all afloat with rustic coquetry, and a profusion of hair as black as ebony. The beau-ideal which Dame Glendinning had been bodying forth in her imagination, became unexpectedly realized in the buxom form of Mysie Happer, whom, in the course of half an hour, she settled upon as the maiden who was to fix the restless and untutored Halbert. True, Mysie, as the dame soon saw, was like to love dancing round a may-pole as well as managing a domestic establishment, and Halbert was like to break more heads than he would grind sacks of
corn. But then a miller should always be of manly make, and has been described so since the days of Chaucer and James I.* Indeed to be able to outdo and bully the whole Sucken, (once more we use this barbarous phrase) in all athletic exercises, was one way to render easy the collection of dues which men would have disputed with a less formidable champion. Then, as to the deficiences of the miller's wife, the dame was of opinion that they might be supplied by the activity of the miller's mother. “I will keep house for the young folks myself, for the tower is grown very lonely," thought Dame Glendinning, " and to live near the kirk will be mair comfortable in my auld age-and then Edward may agree with his brother about
* The verse we have chosen for a motto, is from a poem imputed to James I. of Scotland. As for the Miller who figures among the Canterbury pilgrims, besides his sword and buckler, he boasted other attributes, all of which, but especially the last, shew that he relied more on the strength of the outside than that of the inside of his scull.
The miller was a stout carl for the nones,
He was short-shoulder'd, broad, a thick gnar.