BURNS frequently went in the evenings to pay his addresses to Ellison Begbie, the heroine of “On Cessnock Banks.” As he did not usually return till a rather late hour, his father at length took alarm at the irregularity of his habits. The old man resolved to administer to his son the practical rebuke of sitting up to let him in, and also to give him a few words of gentle admonition. When Robert returned that night, the father was there to administer the intended correction; but the young bard defeated his plan. On being asked what had detained him so long, he began a whimsical narration of what he had met with and seen of natural and supernatural on his way home, concluding with the particulars afterwards wrought up in the well-known verses in his “Address to the Deil.”
The old man was, in spite of himself, so much interested and amused by this recital, as to forget the intended scolding, and the affair ended in his sitting up for an hour or two by the kitchen fire enjoying the conversation of his gifted son.