Go call a coach, and let a coach be called,
And let the man who calleth be the caller;
And in his calling let him nothing call,
But Coach! Coach! Coach! O for a coach, ye gods!
It was early on a fine summer's day, near the end of the eighteenth
century, when a young man, of genteel appearance, journeying towards the
north-east of Scotland, provided himself with a ticket in one of those
public carriages which travel between Edinburgh and the Queensferry, at
which place, as the name implies, and as is well known to all my northern
readers, there is a passage-boat for crossing the Firth of Forth. The
coach was calculated to carry six regular passengers, besides such
interlopers as the coachman could pick up by the way, and intrude upon
those who were legally in possession. The tickets, which conferred right
to a seat in this vehicle, of little ease, were dispensed by a
sharp-looking old dame, with a pair of spectacles on a very thin nose,
who inhabited a "laigh shop," _anglice,_ a cellar, opening to the High
Street by a straight and steep stair, at the bottom of which she sold
tape, thread, needles, skeins of worsted, coarse linen cloth, and such
feminine gear, to those who had the courage and skill to descend to the
profundity of her dwelling, without falling headlong themselves, or
throwing down any of the numerous articles which, piled on each side of
the descent, indicated the profession of the trader below.
The written hand-bill, which, pasted on a projecting board, announced
that the Queensferry Diligence, or Hawes Fly, departed precisely at
twelve o'clock on Tuesday, the fifteenth July 17--, in order to secure
for travellers the opportunity of passing the Firth with the flood-tide,
lied on the present occasion like a bulletin; for although that hour was
pealed from Saint Giles's steeple, and repeated by the Tron, no coach
appeared upon the appointed stand. It is true, only two tickets had been
taken out, and possibly the lady of the subterranean mansion might have
an understanding with her Automedon, that, in such cases, a little space
was to be allowed for the chance of filling up the vacant places--or the
said Automedon might have been attending a funeral, and be delayed by the
necessity of stripping his vehicle of its lugubrious trappings--or he
might have staid to take a half-mutchkin extraordinary with his crony the
hostler--or--in short, he did not make his appearance.
The young gentleman, who began to grow somewhat impatient, was now joined
by a companion in this petty misery of human life--the person who had
taken out the other place. He who is bent upon a journey is usually
easily to be distinguished from his fellow-citizens. The boots, the
great-coat, the umbrella, the little bundle in his hand, the hat pulled
over his resolved brows, the determined importance of his pace, his brief
answers to the salutations of lounging acquaintances, are all marks by
which the experienced traveller in mail-coach or diligence can
distinguish, at a distance, the companion of his future journey, as he
pushes onward to the place of rendezvous. It is then that, with worldly
wisdom, the first comer hastens to secure the best berth in the coach for
himself, and to make the most convenient arrangement for his baggage
before the arrival of his competitors. Our youth, who was gifted with
little prudence, of any sort, and who was, moreover, by the absence of
the coach, deprived of the power of availing himself of his priority of
choice, amused himself, instead, by speculating upon the occupation and
character of the personage who was now come to the coach office.
He was a good-looking man of the age of sixty, perhaps older,--but his
hale complexion and firm step announced that years had not impaired his
strength or health. His countenance was of the true Scottish cast,
strongly marked, and rather harsh in features, with a shrewd and
penetrating eye, and a countenance in which habitual gravity was
enlivened by a cast of ironical humour. His dress was uniform, and of a
colour becoming his age and gravity; a wig, well dressed and powdered,
surmounted by a slouched hat, had something of a professional air. He
might be a clergyman, yet his appearance was more that of a man of the
world than usually belongs to the kirk of Scotland, and his first
ejaculation put the matter beyond question.
He arrived with a hurried pace, and, casting an alarmed glance towards
the dial-plate of the church, then looking at the place where the coach
should have been, exclaimed, "Deil's in it--I am too late after all!"
The young man relieved his anxiety, by telling him the coach had not yet
appeared. The old gentleman, apparently conscious of his own want of
punctuality, did not at first feel courageous enough to censure that of
the coachman. He took a parcel, containing apparently a large folio, from
a little boy who followed him, and, patting him on the head, bid him go
back and tell Mr. B----, that if he had known he was to have had so much
time, he would have put another word or two to their bargain,--then told
the boy to mind his business, and he would be as thriving a lad as ever
dusted a duodecimo. The boy lingered, perhaps in hopes of a penny to buy
marbles; but none was forthcoming. Our senior leaned his little bundle
upon one of the posts at the head of the staircase, and, facing the
traveller who had first arrived, waited in silence for about five minutes
the arrival of the expected diligence.
At length, after one or two impatient glances at the progress of the
minute-hand of the clock, having compared it with his own watch, a huge
and antique gold repeater, and having twitched about his features to give
due emphasis to one or two peevish pshaws, he hailed the old lady of the
"Good woman,--what the d--l is her name?--Mrs. Macleuchar!"
Mrs. Macleuchar, aware that she had a defensive part to sustain in the
encounter which was to follow, was in no hurry to hasten the discussion
by returning a ready answer.
"Mrs. Macleuchar,--Good woman" (with an elevated voice)--then apart, "Old
doited hag, she's as deaf as a post--I say, Mrs. Macleuchar!"
"I am just serving a customer.--Indeed, hinny, it will no be a bodle
cheaper than I tell ye."
"Woman," reiterated the traveller, "do you think we can stand here all
day till you have cheated that poor servant wench out of her half-year's
fee and bountith?"
"Cheated!" retorted Mrs. Macleuchar, eager to take up the quarrel upon a
defensible ground; "I scorn your words, sir: you are an uncivil person,
and I desire you will not stand there, to slander me at my ain
"The woman," said the senior, looking with an arch glance at his destined
travelling companion, "does not understand the words of action.--Woman,"
again turning to the vault, "I arraign not thy character, but I desire to
know what is become of thy coach?"
"What's your wull?" answered Mrs. Macleuchar, relapsing into deafness.
"We have taken places, ma'am," said the younger stranger, "in your
diligence for Queensferry"----"Which should have been half-way on the
road before now," continued the elder and more impatient traveller,
rising in wrath as he spoke: "and now in all likelihood we shall miss the
tide, and I have business of importance on the other side--and your
"The coach?--Gude guide us, gentlemen, is it no on the stand yet?"
answered the old lady, her shrill tone of expostulation sinking into a
kind of apologetic whine. "Is it the coach ye hae been waiting for?"
"What else could have kept us broiling in the sun by the side of the
gutter here, you--you faithless woman, eh?"
Mrs. Macleuchar now ascended her trap stair (for such it might be called,
though constructed of stone), until her nose came upon a level with the
pavement; then, after wiping her spectacles to look for that which she
well knew was not to be found, she exclaimed, with well-feigned
astonishment, "Gude guide us--saw ever onybody the like o' that?"
"Yes, you abominable woman," vociferated the traveller, "many have seen
the like of it, and all will see the like of it that have anything to do
with your trolloping sex;" then pacing with great indignation before the
door of the shop, still as he passed and repassed, like a vessel who
gives her broadside as she comes abreast of a hostile fortress, he shot
down complaints, threats, and reproaches, on the embarrassed Mrs.
Macleuchar. He would take a post-chaise--he would call a hackney coach
--he would take four horses--he must--he would be on the north side,
to-day--and all the expense of his journey, besides damages, direct and
consequential, arising from delay, should be accumulated on the devoted
head of Mrs. Macleuchar.
There, was something so comic in his pettish resentment, that the younger
traveller, who was in no such pressing hurry to depart, could not help
being amused with it, especially as it was obvious, that every now and
then the old gentleman, though very angry, could not help laughing at his
own vehemence. But when Mrs. Macleuchar began also to join in the
laughter, he quickly put a stop to her ill-timed merriment.
"Woman," said he, "is that advertisement thine?" showing a bit of
crumpled printed paper: "Does it not set forth, that, God willing, as you
hypocritically express it, the Hawes Fly, or Queensferry Diligence, would
set forth to-day at twelve o'clock; and is it not, thou falsest of
creatures, now a quarter past twelve, and no such fly or diligence to be
seen?--Dost thou know the consequence of seducing the lieges by false
reports?--dost thou know it might be brought under the statute of
leasing-making? Answer--and for once in thy long, useless, and evil life,
let it be in the words of truth and sincerity,--hast thou such a coach?
--is it _in rerum natura?_--or is this base annunciation a mere swindle on
the incautious to beguile them of their time, their patience, and three
shillings of sterling money of this realm?--Hast thou, I say, such a
coach? ay or no?"
"O dear, yes, sir; the neighbours ken the diligence weel, green picked
oat wi' red--three yellow wheels and a black ane."
"Woman, thy special description will not serve--it may be only a lie with
"O, man, man!" said the overwhelmed Mrs. Macleuchar, totally exhausted at
having been so long the butt of his rhetoric, "take back your three
shillings, and make me quit o' ye."
"Not so fast, not so fast, woman--Will three shillings transport me to
Queensferry, agreeably to thy treacherous program?--or will it requite
the damage I may sustain by leaving my business undone, or repay the
expenses which I must disburse if I am obliged to tarry a day at the
South Ferry for lack of tide?--Will it hire, I say, a pinnace, for which
alone the regular price is five shillings?"
Here his argument was cut short by a lumbering noise, which proved to be
the advance of the expected vehicle, pressing forward with all the
dispatch to which the broken-winded jades that drew it could possibly be
urged. With ineffable pleasure, Mrs. Macleuchar saw her tormentor
deposited in the leathern convenience; but still, as it was driving off,
his head thrust out of the window reminded her, in words drowned amid the
rumbling of the wheels, that, if the diligence did not attain the Ferry
in time to save the flood-tide, she, Mrs. Macleuchar, should be held
responsible for all the consequences that might ensue.
The coach had continued in motion for a mile or two before the stranger
had completely repossessed himself of his equanimity, as was manifested
by the doleful ejaculations, which he made from time to time, on the too
great probability, or even certainty, of their missing the flood-tide. By
degrees, however, his wrath subsided; he wiped his brows, relaxed his
frown, and, undoing the parcel in his hand, produced his folio, on which
he gazed from time to time with the knowing look of an amateur, admiring
its height and condition, and ascertaining, by a minute and individual
inspection of each leaf, that the, volume was uninjured and entire from
title-page to colophon. His fellow-traveller took the liberty of
inquiring the subject of his studies. He lifted up his eyes with
something of a sarcastic glance, as if he supposed the young querist
would not relish, or perhaps understand, his answer, and pronounced the
book to be Sandy Gordon's _Itinerarium Septentrionale,_* a book
illustrative of the Roman remains in Scotland.
* Note B. Sandy Gordon's _Itinerarium._
The querist, unappalled by this learned title, proceeded to put several
questions, which indicated that he had made good use of a good education,
and, although not possessed of minute information on the subject of
antiquities, had yet acquaintance enough with the classics to render him
an interested and intelligent auditor when they were enlarged upon. The
elder traveller, observing with pleasure the capacity of his temporary
companion to understand and answer him, plunged, nothing loath, into a
sea of discussion concerning urns, vases, votive, altars, Roman camps,
and the rules of castrametation.
The pleasure of this discourse had such a dulcifying tendency, that,
although two causes of delay occurred, each of much more serious duration
than that which had drawn down his wrath upon the unlucky Mrs.
Macleuchar, our =Antiquary= only bestowed on the delay the honour of a
few episodical poohs and pshaws, which rather seemed to regard the
interruption of his disquisition than the retardation of his journey.
The first of these stops was occasioned by the breaking of a spring,
which half an hour's labour hardly repaired. To the second, the Antiquary
was himself accessory, if not the principal cause of it; for, observing
that one of the horses had cast a fore-foot shoe, he apprized the
coachman of this important deficiency. "It's Jamie Martingale that
furnishes the naigs on contract, and uphauds them," answered John, "and I
am not entitled to make any stop, or to suffer prejudice by the like of
"And when you go to--I mean to the place you deserve to go to, you
scoundrel,--who do you think will uphold _you_ on contract? If you don't
stop directly and carry the poor brute, to the next smithy, I'll have you
punished, if there's a justice of peace in Mid-Lothian;" and, opening the
coach-door, out he jumped, while the coachman obeyed his orders,
muttering, that "if the gentlemen lost the tide now, they could not say
but it was their ain fault, since he was willing to get on."
I like so little to analyze the complication of the causes which
influence actions, that I will not venture to ascertain whether our
Antiquary's humanity to the poor horse was not in some degree aided by
his desire of showing his companion a Pict's camp, or Round-about, a
subject which he had been elaborately discussing, and of which a
specimen, "very curious and perfect indeed," happened to exist about a
hundred yards distant from the spot where this interruption took place.
But were I compelled to decompose the motives of my worthy friend (for
such was the gentleman in the sober suit, with powdered wig and slouched
hat), I should say, that, although he certainly would not in any case
have suffered the coachman to proceed while the horse was unfit for
service, and likely to suffer by being urged forward, yet the man of
whipcord escaped some severe abuse and reproach by the agreeable mode
which the traveller found out to pass the interval of delay.
So much time was consumed by these interruptions of their journey, that
when they descended the hill above the Hawes (for so the inn on the
southern side of the Queensferry is denominated), the experienced eye of
the Antiquary at once discerned, from the extent of wet sand, and the
number of black stones and rocks, covered with sea-weed, which were
visible along the skirts of the shore, that the hour of tide was past.
The young traveller expected a burst of indignation; but whether, as
Croaker says in "The Good-natured Man," our hero had exhausted himself in
fretting away his misfortunes beforehand, so that he did not feel them
when they actually arrived, or whether he found the company in which he
was placed too congenial to lead him to repine at anything which delayed
his journey, it is certain that he submitted to his lot with much
"The d--l's in the diligence and the old hag, it belongs to!--Diligence,
quoth I? Thou shouldst have called it the Sloth--Fly, quoth she? why, it
moves like a fly through a glue-pot, as the Irishman says. But, however,
time and tide tarry for no man, and so, my young friend, we'll have a
snack here at the Hawes, which is a very decent sort of a place, and I'll
be very happy to finish the account I was giving you of the difference
between the mode of entrenching _castra stativa_ and _castra costiva,_
things confounded by too many of our historians. Lack-a-day, if they had
ta'en the pains to satisfy their own eyes, instead of following each
other's blind guidance!--Well! we shall be pretty comfortable at the
Hawes; and besides, after all, we must have dined somewhere, and it will
be pleasanter sailing with the tide of ebb and the evening breeze."
In this Christian temper of making the best of all occurrences, our
travellers alighted at the Hawes.