Grant. – Who, in the name of wonder, can that be, who knocks so loudly at the outer door, in this place, at such an hour?
Serjeant. – Some belated drover, I’ll warrant. What an awful night the poor man has had to travel in!
Clifford. – If there be, as philosophers say, no happiness equal to that of being relieved from misery, I think that he who knocks, whoever he may be, is to be envied for the sudden transition he is about to make from all the horrors of night, rain, tempest, and bogs, and swollen burns, to the comforts of this room, such as they are, and especially to this glorious fire.
Author. – What a time they are losing in letting him in!
Serjeant. – I suspect they will have enough ado to get the door opened, without being knocked down by the blast.
Author. – They have let him in at last. Whoever he may be, we must make room for the poor fellow at our fireside.
Grant. – Certainly; I’ll go and bring him in here: nay, I see I need not, for here he comes.
Clifford. – What a figure the poor man is! He looks like a newly landed river-god, or like Behemoth himself, come forth from the mighty deeps.
Serjeant. – Whoever he may be, his own father could not know him, were he to see him at this moment, with his whole clothes so bedraggled, and that face of his so clatched up with moss-dirt, that not a feature of it can be seen.
Clifford. – He is like a moving peat- bog, I declare.
Author. – Bless me, how the poor wretch shivers!
Serjeant. – He shakes as if he had an ague fit.
Clifford. – ‘Tis absolutely like an earthquake shaking the globe. – Here, sir; pray swallow some of this warm punch – it will bring life into you.
Stranger (in a perfect palsy of cold). – Och! it’s most reveeving indeed, though the taste of it is just altogether poisoned with the moss that’s in my mouth.
Clifford (with astonishment). – Mr. Macpherson!
Author. – Is it possible?
Grant. – Where, in the name of all goodness, can you have dropped from, my worthy sir?
Clifford. – Though we know not where he has dropped from, we may see plainly enough, from the foul streams that drop from him, that he has dropped himself, head over heels, into some black peat-hag. Here – get towels, that we may rub the dirt out of his eyes.
Dominie. – Ech, sirs! give me another drop of yon comfortable stuff, and let me see a bit glisk of the fire. – Aye – hech me! I’m much the better of that.
Clifford. – Sit down here, sir. Sit down in this chair close to the fire; but first take off that streaming coat of thine. It reminds me of some of those vast balck Highland mosses, the very drainings of which give origin to some dozen of rivers. Now, take another pull at this hot stuff, and then tell us your adventures if you can.
Dominie. – Oh, dear me, that is good! Why, gentlemen, my story is short, though my way has been long and weary enough. the fack is, that when I got to my brother Ewan’s house, I found that he was away to the low country to make some bargain about the buying of a stock of iron, and that he was not to be home again for a fortnight. You may believe I was much disappointed at this intelligence, after the long tramp I had all the way from Caithness, to come and see him. But it would appear, that my letter to him must have somehow miscarried. Be that as it may, I had no sooner been satisfied that I had no chance of seeing Ewan for a time, than my heart began to yearn after those with whom I had so lately and so sorrowfully parted. So, thinks I to myself, I’ll just take my foot in my hand, and after the gentlemen. I’ll catch them at Inchrory. If the night had been good and clear, I should have been here good two hours ago. But on came the tempest; and the wind, and the rain, and the darkness together, so bamboozled and dumbfounded me, that, as I was fighting along with might and main, I fell souse over head and ears into a deep peatpot,
Instabilis, tellus, innabilis unda,
out of which it is the mercy of Providence that I was at length able to swatter, after dooking and diving in it like a wild duck for the better part of a quarter of an hour. till I was nearly drowned in clean mud.
Clifford. – Clean mud, Mr. Macpherson! The mud you have been in would seem to me to have been anything but clean.
Dominie. – True, Mr. Clifford; but I used a phrase of our vernacular, meaning that there was nothing else there but mud – a truth I can speak to by having gone faithfully throughout every corner of the big hole into which i fell without finding any. Clean, truly! – such a fearsome sight I am! I declare I am worse than Serjeant John Smith must have been when he fell into the moss-hole about the time of the battle of Culloden. Would you like to hear that story gentlemen?
Clifford. – Much, Mr. Macpherson, but not now, for several reasons. First, we must contrive to get you into dry clothes of some sort to prevent your dying of cold or fever; secondly, you must have something to eat before you are permitted to talk; and, thirdly, there is another Serjeant, one Serjeant Archie Stewart, who is at this moment on duty, and who was in the middle of a long story when your appearance interrupted him. We must have that out first; but, in my capacity of secretary, I shall take care to book you for producing your Serjeant John Smith when his time comes in the roster.
Dominie. – Eh, I’m sorry that I should have stopped the flow of my friend Serjeant Archy’s narration.
Cilfford. – How could it have been otherwise, my good man? Why, what flow could have possibly stood against such a flow as that which now streams from your wet garments, Mr. Macpherson? You have already made a lake in the room.
Dominie. – Kepp me, so I have!
Serjeant. – Here lassie! Bring cloths and swab up the floor.
Clifford. – You had better not sit longer in that condition, Mr. Macpherson; come away with me up to the garret, where we are to sleep, and then I shall go and see what I can prevail on Mrs. Shaw to do for you to rig you out.
There was a waggish twinkle in Clifford’s eye as he left the room with Mr. Macpherson. They were not long gone, and when they did return our young friend appeared leading in the Dominie clad in a shortgown and a blue flannel petticoat, both belonging to our hostess. The Scottish garment called the shortgown is a sort of loose jacket covering one half the person only, and when tied tight round the waist it is admirably calculated to show off the mould of a handsome woman to the best advantage. On the present occasion it was with some difficulty confined round the bulky Dominie by a red cotton handkerchief so as fully to display his shape; and as the petticoat reached but a little way below his knees, it exhibited the full proportions of his Herculean legs, enlarged as they were by a pair of the thickest grey worsted hose, and brogues of enormous size, accidentally left there by a Highland drover. Over his head was placed one of Mrs. Shaw’s tartan shawls, which Clifford had recommended to be tied under his chin as a precaution against toothache, to which he declared himself to be frequently a martyr. Such a woman as the Dominie appeared to make is never to be seen on the face of this earth, except in some exaggerated specimen of those marine, or rather amphibious animals, to be found on the sea-coasts of Britain, and which are called bathing women. We were all so much taken by surprise with his appearance that to control our laughter was a matter of utter impossibility.
Clifford. – Gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you the great Princess Rustifusti.
Dominie (striding in like a Grenadier). Truly, gentlemen, I am ashamed to appear among you in this unbecoming disguise. but my worthy and kind friend Mr. Clifford is so careful of me – mercy on me, what would my boys say if they beheld me?
Grant. – They would be astonished, no doubt, Mr. Macpherson. But come, sit down – here is something comfortable for you to eat. I am sure you must require food by this time.
Dominie. – I must honestly confess to you that I am downright ravenous.
Clifford. – Nay, now, do not disgrace the delicate feminine character which you are at present supporting, by eating like a masculine creature.
Dominie. – Masculine, feminine, or neuter, I am so famished, that I must eat liker, I fear, unto a male wolf, than a delicate leddy, such as fortune has this night forced me to represent.
Clifford. – Nay, then, if that be your way, I must cease to be your chaperon. So do you take charge of your own delicate self, and go on, is you must do so, to disgrace the lovely sex to which you now belong, by your immoderate eating and drinking, whilst I call upon Serjeant Archy Stewart to proceed with his narrative.