Imagens das páginas

deep sonorous voice, “ How do you do?” laying the emphasis on the “how," and passing on. No one would have made any mistake as to Captain Barclay being a gentleman, although his dress was plain- a long green coat with velvet collar and big yellow buttons, a coloured handkerchief, long yellow cashmere vest, kneebreeches, very wide top-boots with long brown dirty tops, and plain black hat, generally pretty well worn. When at home he wore knee-breeches with patches on the knees, coarse stockings, and large shoes. Captain Barclay carried through with energy whatever he took in hand. The “Defiance” must go its twelve miles an hour, including stoppages. He took a great delight in driving the “ Defiance," wearing the red coat with the " Defiance” buttons; and on one occasion he drove the mail from London to Stonehaven out and out. His horses were the strongest and his fields the largest in the country. He said " he did not like a field in which the cattle could see one another every day." He put four horses in his waggons, and never sent less than 20 bolls (16 quarters) of grain to Aberdeen upon a waggon. It was a great sight to see four or five of Captain Barclay's waggons going down Marischal Street. The houses shook, the inhabitants were alarmed, and nervous people thought the houses would tumble down. Captain Barclay could not tolerate a boaster or puppy in any shape. A few years before his death, he happened to be in the coffee-room, Market Street, Aberdeen, one evening, along with some of his friends. A fast young man took out £20, and boasted he would run a mile in a certain time: he was not aware that Captain B. was present. The Captain covered the money, and the £40 was lodged with the stakeholder. “Now, my man,” said the Captain (turning the quid of tobacco once or twice in his mouth, and taking his hand down from his nose to his chin), in his prolonged solemn tone, "we will put you to time.” The race was run and lost. The Captain was walking one day in his park when he came on an intruder in the shape of an ass. He seized the donkey and threw it over the wall of the park. To his astonishment, the animal was returned. The Captain pitched him over again, and again he came back. This was repeated several times, till at last the Captain went outside the wall and found that it was a gypsy that was his match. He was so much pleased with the prowess of the man, that he took him to the mansionhouse of Ury, treated him to all he could eat and drink, and gave him permission to graze his donkey as often as he liked on the policies of Ury. One morning, when the Captain was driving the “ Defiance," there was a plain countrywoman sitting behind him. A gentleman wished to deprive the woman of her seat. The Captain remonstrated with him, and bade him let the poor woman alone. The stranger did not know that it was Captain Barclay, and went on from bad to worse, till he told the Captain if he would stop the coach and come down he would settle the matter with him. The Captain immediately stopped the coach, saying, “I suppose I must gratify you,” gave the reins to Davie Troup, and jumped down with his top-coat on. The stranger advised him to strip. “Oh no,” said the Captain, “that would be troublesome.” His opponent, a very strong man, rushed at him like a bull-dog. The Captain put on his guard, looked at his antagonist for a moment or two, turned the quid of tobacco once or twice in his mouth, and then gave him a blow that felled him to the ground like a log of wood. He got to his feet again, when the Captain doubled the dose. The stranger was satisfied, and said, “You must either be the devil or Captain Barclay of Ury.” “I am not the former,” said the Captain, “but I ain the latter.” A stranger would hardly at first sight have got an adequate impression of Captain Barclay's power, but his appearance grew upon you when you came close to him; you then saw his great strength. He was a very round-made man, shaped for great endurance, which was put to a severe test when, in 1809, he walked a thousand miles in a thousand hours. His man Cross, who attended him, described to me the difficulty of his task in keeping him awake. At first he had to apply the stick and the lash, and the Captain growled most hideously at him ; but latterly, when he saw he was to win, he improved in strength and spirits every hour till the end. After two days' rest he went on the Walcheren expedition. When past sixty he would walk twenty or thirty miles to dinner. I could relate many interesting reminiscences of Captain Barclay, but as most of them have been published already, I have only given a few wellauthenticated anecdotes, which, so far as I know, have never before appeared. He was found dead in his bed in 1854: and in him the tenant-farmers of Scotland and the poor of his own neighbourhood lost one of their best friends.

While speaking of Milner I referred to the great feats performed in those days with the sickle. I remember a Highland woman, “Black Bell,” who made sixteen to eighteen threaves (384 to 432 sheaves) daily in harvest of good-sized sheaves ; but George Bruce, Ardgows, in the parish of Tough, could shear thirty-six threaves in a day, and bind and stook it. However incredible this may appear, it is a fact. I have seen him shearing after he was an old man. He drove the “rig” of say eighteen feet from side to side, and never lifted his hand till he had a sheaf. He used a long sickle, and drew the corn to him. I cannot describe his method properly. He was a tall, thin, wiry man, with very long arms. My father used to tell how my grandfather sent two men and two women to give George Bruce a day's shearing, and how George came with a little girl (who did little or nothing but make bands for her master), and how my grandfather asked him “if that was the way he in

tended to pay his debt.” George replied that “he could put his four shearers on one rig '”—they were fully an average of the shearers in the country—“and he and the lassie would take the other.” They started accordingly, and Bruce kept ahead of them throughout the day.


THERE was a “Top Sawyer,” a topsman among our cattle-drovers, of great ability, but not very particular as to his transactions. He had an unprecedented volubility of language, and was a well-known man on the drove-road from the north to Falkirk and Edinburgh. His impudence to strangers was intolerable. He had been employed by another of his craft to sell a pony at Hallow Fair, as there was no further use for it that season. Our friend was a great boaster, and considered no one his match at striking a bargain. He volunteered to sell the pony. He sold it at a long price; but the notes he was paid with turned out to be forged. It had been a good cattle-market, and on the evening of the Fair, the topsmen and a number of dealers (the topsmen always sat at the same table as their masters) met at the White Hart Inn. After such a good market they were all in great spirits. They dined, and when a good glass had gone round, the owner of the pony demanded the price from the unfortunate seller, who never had far to go for his answer. “Why, sir,” he said, “your pony is sold ; the birds are flown that bought him ; I can only give you what I got.” “Oh, but,” said the owner, " that is nothing to me; you voluntarily undertook the selling of my pony, and I hold you responsible before these witnesses. Pay me my money.” Top Sawyer would not be done; and I was informed by one who was present, that he disguised his appearance with

« AnteriorContinuar »