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“ Dear Willie,
“ I have yours with the news of the inundation, which, it seems, has done no damage. I hope Mai will be taken care of. He should have a bed in the kitchen, and always be called in doors after it is dark, for all the kind are savage at night. Please cause Swanston to knock him up a box, and fill it with straw from time to time. I enclose a cheque for £50 to pay accounts, &c. Do not let the poor bodies want for a £5, or even a £10, more or less.
In the course of this month, through the kindness of Mr Croker, Scott received from the late Earl Bathurst, then Colonial Secretary of State, the offer of an appointment in the civil service of the EastIndia Company for his second son: and this seemed at the time too good a thing not to be gratefully accepted: though the apparently increasing prosperity of his fortunes induced him, a few years afterwards, to indulge his parental feelings by throwing it up. He thus alludes to this matter in a letter to his good old friend at Jedburgh:
* Burns -- Lines to a Mouse.
“ To Robert Shortreed, Esq., Sheriff-Substitute
of Roxburghshire, Jedburgh,
“ Edinburgh, 19th Jan. 1820. “ My Dear Sir,
“ I heartily congratulate you on getting the appointment for your son William in a manner so very pleasant to your feelings, and which is, like all Whytbank does, considerate, friendly, and generous.* I am not aware that I have any friends at Calcutta, but if you think letters to Sir John Malcolm and Lieut.-Colonel Russell would serve my young friend, he shall have my best commendations to them.
“ It is very odd that almost the same thing has happened to me; for about a week ago, I was surprised by a letter, saying, that an unknown friend (who since proves to be Lord Bathurst, whom I never saw or spoke with) would give my second son a writer's situation for India. Charles is two years too young for this appointment; but I do not think I am at liberty to decline an offer so advantageous, if it can be so arranged that, by exchange or otherwise, it can be kept open for him. Ever yours faithfully,
*“An India appointment, with the name blank, which the late Mr Pringle of Whytbank sent unsolicited, believing it might be found useful to a family where there were seven sons to provide for.” — Note, by Mr A. Shortrede.
About the middle of February—it having been ere that time arranged that I should marry his eldest daughter in the course of the spring, — I accompanied him and part of his family on one of those flying visits to Abbotsford, with which he often indulged himself on a Saturday during term. Upon such occasions, Scott appeared at the usual hour in Court, but wearing, instead of the official suit of black, bis country morning dress, green jacket and so forth, under the clerk's gown; a license of which many gentlemen of the long robe had been accustomed to avail themselves in the days of his youth -- it being then considered as the authentic badge that they were lairds as well as lawyers—but which, to use the dialect of the place, had fallen into desuetude before I knew the Parliament House. He was, I think, one of the two or three, or at most the half dozen, who still adhered to this privilege of their order; and it has now, in all likelihood, become quite obsolete, like the ancient custom, a part of the same system, for all Scotch barristers to appear without gowns or wigs, and in coloured clothes, when upon circuit. At noon, when the Court broke up, Peter Mathieson was sure to be in attendance in the Parliament Close, and five minutes after, the gown had been tossed off, and Scott, rubbing his hands for glee, was under weigh for Tweedside. On this occasion, he was, of course, in mourning; but I have thought it worth while to preserve the circumstance of his usual Saturday's costume. As we proceeded, he talked without reserve of the novel of the Monastery, of which he had the first volume with him: and mentioned, what he had probably forgotten when he wrote the Introduction of 1830, that a good deal of that volume had been composed before he concluded Ivanhoe. “ It was a relief,” he said, “ to interlay the scenery most familiar to me with the strange world for which I had to draw so much on imagination.”
Next morning there appeared at breakfast John Ballantyne, who had at this time a shooting or hunting-box a few miles off in the vale of the Leader, and with him Mr Constable, his guest; and, it being a fine clear day, as soon as Scott had read the Church service and one of Jeremy Taylor's sermons, we all sallied out, before noon, on a perambulation of his upland territories; Maida and the rest of the favourites accompanying our march. At starting we were joined by the constant henchman, Tom Purdie—and I may save myself the trouble of any attempt to describe his appearance, for his master has given us an inimitably true one in introducing a certain personage of his Redgauntlet:—“ He was, perhaps, sixty years old; yet his brow was not much furrowed, and his jet black hair was only grizzled, not whitened, by the advance of age. All his motions spoke strength unabated; and, though rather undersized, he had very broad shoulders, was square made, thin-flanked, and apparently combined in his frame muscular strength
and activity; the last somewhat impaired, perhaps, by years, but the first remaining in full vigour. A hard and harsh countenance; eyes far sunk under projecting eye-brows, which were grizzled like his hair: a wide mouth, furnished from ear to ear with a range of unimpaired teeth of uncommon whiteness, and a size and breadth which might have become the jaws of an ogre, completed this delightful portrait.” Equip this figure in Scott's cast-off green jacket, white hat, and drab trousers; and imagine that years of kind treatment, comfort, and the honest consequence of a confidential grieve, had softened away much of the hardness and harshness originally impressed on the visage by anxious penury and the sinister habits of a black - fisher ;— and the Tom Purdie of 1820 stands before us.
We were all delighted to see how completely Scott had recovered his bodily vigour, and none more so than Constable, who, as he puffed and panted after him up one ravine and down another, often stopped to wipe his forehead, and remarked that “ it was not every author who should lead him such a dance." But Purdie's face shone with rapture as he observed how severely the swag-bellied bookseller's activity was tasked. Scott' exclaiming exultingly, though perhaps for the tenth time, “ This will be a glorious spring for our trees, Tom!” _“ You may say that, Shirra,” quoth Tom,—and then lingering a moment for Constable-“ My certy,” he added, scratching