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Mr. Croftangry Introduces Another Tale

Together both on the high lawns appeared.
Under the opening eyelids of the morn
They drove afield. ELEGY ON LYCIDAS.

I have sometimes wondered why all the favourite occupations and
pastimes of mankind go to the disturbance of that happy state of
tranquillity, that OTIUM, as Horace terms it, which he says is
the object of all men's prayers, whether preferred from sea or
land; and that the undisturbed repose, of which we are so
tenacious, when duty or necessity compels us to abandon it, is
precisely what we long to exchange for a state of excitation, as
soon as we may prolong it at our own pleasure. Briefly, you have
only to say to a man, "Remain at rest," and you instantly inspire
the love of labour. The sportsman toils like his gamekeeper, the
master of the pack takes as severe exercise as his whipper-in,
the statesman or politician drudges more than the professional
lawyer; and, to come to my own case, the volunteer author
subjects himself to the risk of painful criticism, and the
assured certainty of mental and manual labour, just as completely
as his needy brother, whose necessities compel him to assume the
pen.

These reflections have been suggested by an annunciation on the
part of Janet, "that the little Gillie-whitefoot was come from
the printing-office."

"Gillie-blackfoot you should call him, Janet," was my response,
"for he is neither more nor less than an imp of the devil, come
to torment me for COPY, for so the printers call a supply of
manuscript for the press."

"Now, Cot forgie your honour," said Janet; "for it is no like
your ainsell to give such names to a faitherless bairn."

"I have got nothing else to give him, Janet; he must wait a
little."

"Then I have got some breakfast to give the bit gillie," said
Janet; "and he can wait by the fireside in the kitchen, till your
honour's ready; and cood enough for the like of him, if he was to
wait your honour's pleasure all day."

"But, Janet," said I to my little active superintendent, on her
return to the parlour, after having made her hospitable
arrangements, "I begin to find this writing our Chronicles is
rather more tiresome than I expected, for here comes this little
fellow to ask for manuscript--that is, for something to print--
and I have got none to give him."

"Your honour can be at nae loss. I have seen you write fast and
fast enough; and for subjects, you have the whole Highlands to
write about, and I am sure you know a hundred tales better than
that about Hamish MacTavish, for it was but about a young cateran
and an auld carlin, when all's done; and if they had burned the
rudas quean for a witch, I am thinking, may be they would not
have tyned their coals--and her to gar her ne'er-do-weel son
shoot a gentleman Cameron! I am third cousin to the Camerons
mysel'--my blood warms to them. And if you want to write about
deserters, I am sure there were deserters enough on the top of
Arthur's Seat, when the MacRaas broke out, and on that woeful day
beside Leith Pier--ohonari!"--

Here Janet began to weep, and to wipe her eyes with her apron.
For my part, the idea I wanted was supplied, but I hesitated to
make use of it. Topics, like times, are apt to become common by
frequent use. It is only an ass like Justice Shallow, who would
pitch upon the over-scutched tunes, which the carmen whistled,
and try to pass them off as his FANCIES and his GOOD-NIGHTS.
Now, the Highlands, though formerly a rich mine for original
matter, are, as my friend Mrs. Bethune Baliol warned me, in some
degree worn out by the incessant labour of modern romancers and
novelists, who, finding in those remote regions primitive habits
and manners, have vainly imagined that the public can never tire
of them; and so kilted Highlanders are to be found as frequently,
and nearly of as genuine descent, on the shelves of a circulating
library, as at a Caledonian ball. Much might have been made at
an earlier time out of the history of a Highland regiment, and
the singular revolution of ideas which must have taken place in
the minds of those who composed it, when exchanging their native
hills for the battle-fields of the Continent, and their simple,
and sometimes indolent domestic habits for the regular exertions
demanded by modern discipline. But the market is forestalled.
There is Mrs. Grant of Laggan, has drawn the manners, customs,
and superstitions of the mountains in their natural
unsophisticated state; [Letters from the Mountains, 3 vols.--
Essays on the Superstitions of the Highlanders--The Highlanders,
and other Poems, etc.] and my friend, General Stewart of Garth,
[The gallant and amiable author of the History of the Highland
Regiments, in whose glorious services his own share had been
great, went out Governor of St Lucia in 1828, and died in that
island on the 18th of December 1829,--no man more regretted, or
perhaps by a wider circle of friends and acquaintance.] in
giving the real history of the Highland regiments, has rendered
any attempt to fill up the sketch with fancy-colouring extremely
rash and precarious. Yet I, too, have still a lingering fancy to
add a stone to the cairn; and without calling in imagination to
aid the impressions of juvenile recollection, I may just attempt
to embody one or two scenes illustrative of the Highland
character, and which belong peculiarly to the Chronicles of the
Canongate, to the grey-headed eld of whom they are as familiar as
to Chrystal Croftangry. Yet I will not go back to the days of
clanship and claymores. Have at you, gentle reader, with a tale
of Two Drovers. An oyster may be crossed in love, says the
gentle Tilburina--and a drover may be touched on a point of
honour, says the Chronicler of the Canongate.

Sir Walter Scott

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