Read CHAPTER VI-PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGION of The Ayrshire Legatees, free online book, by John Galt, on ReadCentral.com.

On Sunday morning, before going to church, Mr. Micklewham called at the manse, and said that he wished particularly to speak to Mr. Snodgrass. Upon being admitted, he found the young helper engaged at breakfast, with a book lying on his table, very like a volume of a new novel called Ivanhoe, in its appearance, but of course it must have been sermons done up in that manner to attract fashionable readers. As soon, however, as Mr. Snodgrass saw his visitor, he hastily removed the book, and put it into the table-drawer.

The precentor having taken a seat at the opposite side of the fire, began somewhat diffidently to mention, that he had received a letter from the Doctor, that made him at a loss whether or not he ought to read it to the elders, as usual, after worship, and therefore was desirous of consulting Mr. Snodgrass on the subject, for it recorded, among other things, that the Doctor had been at the playhouse, and Mr. Micklewham was quite sure that Mr. Craig would be neither to bind nor to hold when he heard that, although the transgression was certainly mollified by the nature of the performance. As the clergyman, however, could offer no opinion until he saw the letter, the precentor took it out of his pocket, and Mr. Snodgrass found the contents as follows:-

LETTER XVI

The Rev. Z. Pringle, D.D., to Mr. Micklewham, Schoolmaster and
Session-Clerk
, Garnock
LONDON.

DEAR SIR-You will recollect that, about twenty years ago, there was a great sound throughout all the West that a playhouse in Glasgow had been converted into a tabernacle of religion. I remember it was glad tidings to our ears in the parish of Garnock; and that Mr. Craig, who had just been ta’en on for an elder that fall, was for having a thanksgiving-day on the account thereof, holding it to be a signal manifestation of a new birth in the of-old-godly town of Glasgow, which had become slack in the way of well-doing, and the church therein lukewarm, like that of Laodicea. It was then said, as I well remember, that when the Tabernacle was opened, there had not been seen, since the Kaimslang wark, such a congregation as was there assembled, which was a great proof that it’s the matter handled, and not the place, that maketh pure; so that when you and the elders hear that I have been at the theatre of Drury Lane, in London, you must not think that I was there to see a carnal stage play, whether tragical or comical, or that I would so far demean myself and my cloth, as to be a witness to the chambering and wantonness of ne’er-du-weel play-actors. No, Mr. Micklewham, what I went to see was an Oratorio, a most edifying exercise of psalmody and prayer, under the management of a pious gentleman, of the name of Sir George Smart, who is, as I am informed, at the greatest pains to instruct the exhibitioners, they being, for the most part, before they get into his hands, poor uncultivated creatures, from Italy, France, and Germany, and other atheistical and popish countries.

They first sung a hymn together very decently, and really with as much civilised harmony as could be expected from novices; indeed so well, that I thought them almost as melodious as your own singing class of the trades lads from Kilwinning. Then there was one Mr. Braham, a Jewish proselyte, that was set forth to show us a specimen of his proficiency. In the praying part, what he said was no objectionable as to the matter; but he drawled in his manner to such a pitch, that I thought he would have broken out into an even-down song, as I sometimes think of yourself when you spin out the last word in reading out the line in a warm summer afternoon. In the hymn by himself, he did better; he was, however, sometimes like to lose the tune, but the people gave him great encouragement when he got back again. Upon the whole, I had no notion that there was any such Christianity in practice among the Londoners, and I am happy to tell you, that the house was very well filled, and the congregation wonderful attentive. No doubt that excellent man, Mr. W –­, has a hand in these public strainings after grace, but he was not there that night; for I have seen him; and surely at the sight I could not but say to myself, that it’s beyond the compass of the understanding of man to see what great things Providence worketh with small means, for Mr. W –­ is a small creature. When I beheld his diminutive stature, and thought of what he had achieved for the poor negroes and others in the house of bondage, I said to myself, that here the hand of Wisdom is visible, for the load of perishable mortality is laid lightly on his spirit, by which it is enabled to clap its wings and crow so crously on the dunghill top of this world; yea even in the House of Parliament.

I was taken last Thursday morning to breakfast with him his house at Kensington, by an East India man, who is likewise surely a great saint. It was a heart-healing meeting of many of the godly, which he holds weekly in the season; and we had such a warsle of the spirit among us that the like cannot be told. I was called upon to pray, and a worthy gentleman said, when I was done, that he never had met with more apostolic simplicity-indeed, I could see with the tail of my eye, while I was praying, that the chief saint himself was listening with a curious pleasant satisfaction.

As for our doings here anent the legacy, things are going forward in the regular manner; but the expense is terrible, and I have been obliged to take up money on account; but, as it was freely given by the agents, I am in hopes all will end well; for, considering that we are but strangers to them, they would not have assisted us in this matter had they not been sure of the means of payment in their own hands.

The people of London are surprising kind to us; we need not, if we thought proper ourselves, eat a dinner in our own lodgings; but it would ill become me, at my time of life, and with the character for sobriety that I have maintained, to show an example in my latter days of riotous living; therefore, Mrs. Pringle, and her daughter, and me, have made a point of going nowhere three times in the week; but as for Andrew Pringle, my son, he has forgathered with some acquaintance, and I fancy we will be obliged to let him take the length of his tether for a while. But not altogether without a curb neither, for the agent’s son, young Mr. Argent, had almost persuaded him to become a member of Parliament, which he said he could get him made, for more than a thousand pounds less than the common price-the state of the new king’s health having lowered the commodity of seats. But this I would by no means hear of; he is not yet come to years of discretion enough to sit in council; and, moreover, he has not been tried; and no man, till he has out of doors shown something of what he is, should be entitled to power and honour within. Mrs. Pringle, however, thought he might do as well as young Dunure; but Andrew Pringle, my son, has not the solidity of head that Mr. K –­dy has, and is over free and outspoken, and cannot take such pains to make his little go a great way, like that well-behaved young gentleman. But you will be grieved to hear that Mr. K –­dy is in opposition to the government; and truly I am at a loss to understand how a man of Whig principles can be an adversary to the House of Hanover. But I never meddled much in politick affairs, except at this time, when I prohibited Andrew Pringle, my son, from offering to be a member of Parliament, notwithstanding the great bargain that he would have had of the place.

And since we are on public concerns, I should tell you, that I was minded to send you a newspaper at the second-hand, every day when we were done with it. But when we came to inquire, we found that we could get the newspaper for a shilling a week every morning but Sunday, to our breakfast, which was so much cheaper than buying a whole paper, that Mrs. Pringle thought it would be a great extravagance; and, indeed, when I came to think of the loss of time a newspaper every day would occasion to my people, I considered it would be very wrong of me to send you any at all. For I do think that honest folks in a far-off country parish should not make or meddle with the things that pertain to government,-the more especially, as it is well known, that there is as much falsehood as truth in newspapers, and they have not the means of testing their statements. Not, however, that I am an advocate for passive obedience; God forbid. On the contrary, if ever the time should come, in my day, of a saint-slaying tyrant attempting to bind the burden of prelatic abominations on our backs, such a blast of the gospel trumpet would be heard in Garnock, as it does not become me to say, but I leave it to you and others, who have experienced my capacity as a soldier of the word so long, to think what it would then be. Meanwhile, I remain, my dear sir, your friend and pastor,

Z. PRINGLE.

When Mr. Snodgrass had perused this epistle, he paused some time, seemingly in doubt, and then he said to Mr. Micklewham, that, considering the view which the Doctor had taken of the matter, and that he had not gone to the playhouse for the motives which usually take bad people to such places, he thought there could be no possible harm in reading the letter to the elders, and that Mr. Craig, so far from being displeased, would doubtless be exceedingly rejoiced to learn that the playhouses of London were occasionally so well employed as on the night when the Doctor was there.

Mr. Micklewham then inquired if Mr. Snodgrass had heard from Mr. Andrew, and was answered in the affirmative; but the letter was not read. Why it was withheld our readers must guess for themselves; but we have been fortunate enough to obtain the following copy.

LETTER XVII

Andrew Pringle, Esq., to the Rev. Mr. Charles Snodgrass
LONDON.

MY DEAR FRIEND-As the season advances, London gradually unfolds, like Nature, all the variety of her powers and pleasures. By the Argents we have been introduced effectually into society, and have now only to choose our acquaintance among those whom we like best. I should employ another word than choose, for I am convinced that there is no choice in the matter. In his friendships and affections, man is subject to some inscrutable moral law, similar in its effects to what the chemists call affinity. While under the blind influence of this sympathy, we, forsooth, suppose ourselves free agents! But a truce with philosophy.

The amount of the legacy is now ascertained. The stock, however, in which a great part of the money is vested being shut, the transfer to my father cannot be made for some time; and till this is done, my mother cannot be persuaded that we have yet got anything to trust to-an unfortunate notion which renders her very unhappy. The old gentleman himself takes no interest now in the business. He has got his mind at ease by the payment of all the legacies; and having fallen in with some of the members of that political junto, the Saints, who are worldly enough to link, as often as they can, into their association, the powerful by wealth or talent, his whole time is occupied in assisting to promote their humbug; and he has absolutely taken it into his head, that the attention he receives from them for his subscriptions is on account of his eloquence as a preacher, and that hitherto he has been altogether in an error with respect to his own abilities. The effect of this is abundantly amusing; but the source of it is very evident. Like most people who pass a sequestered life, he had formed an exaggerated opinion of public characters; and on seeing them in reality so little superior to the generality of mankind, he imagines that he was all the time nearer to their level than he had ventured to suppose; and the discovery has placed him on the happiest terms with himself. It is impossible that I can respect his manifold excellent qualities and goodness of heart more than I do; but there is an innocency in this simplicity, which, while it often compels me to smile, makes me feel towards him a degree of tenderness, somewhat too familiar for that filial reverence that is due from a son.

Perhaps, however, you will think me scarcely less under the influence of a similar delusion when I tell you, that I have been somehow or other drawn also into an association, not indeed so public or potent as that of the Saints, but equally persevering in the objects for which it has been formed. The drift of the Saints, as far as I can comprehend the matter, is to procure the advancement to political power of men distinguished for the purity of their lives, and the integrity of their conduct; and in that way, I presume, they expect to effect the accomplishment of that blessed epoch, the Millennium, when the Saints are to rule the whole earth. I do not mean to say that this is their decided and determined object; I only infer, that it is the necessary tendency of their proceedings; and I say it with all possible respect and sincerity, that, as a public party, the Saints are not only perhaps the most powerful, but the party which, at present, best deserves power.

The association, however, with which I have happened to become connected, is of a very different description. Their object is, to pass through life with as much pleasure as they can obtain, without doing anything unbecoming the rank of gentlemen, and the character of men of honour. We do not assemble such numerous meetings as the Saints, the Whigs, or the Radicals, nor are our speeches delivered with so much vehemence. We even, I think, tacitly exclude oratory. In a word, our meetings seldom exceed the perfect number of the muses; and our object on these occasions is not so much to deliberate on plans of prospective benefits to mankind, as to enjoy the present time for ourselves, under the temperate inspiration of a well-cooked dinner, flavoured with elegant wine, and just so much of mind as suits the fleeting topics of the day. T –­, whom I formerly mentioned, introduced me to this delightful society. The members consist of about fifty gentlemen, who dine occasionally at each other’s houses; the company being chiefly selected from the brotherhood, if that term can be applied to a circle of acquaintance, who, without any formal institution of rules, have gradually acquired a consistency that approximates to organisation. But the universe of this vast city contains a plurality of systems; and the one into which I have been attracted may be described as that of the idle intellects. In general society, the members of our party are looked up to as men of taste and refinement, and are received with a degree of deference that bears some resemblance to the respect paid to the hereditary endowment of rank. They consist either of young men who have acquired distinction at college, or gentlemen of fortune who have a relish for intellectual pleasures, free from the acerbities of politics, or the dull formalities which so many of the pious think essential to their religious pretensions. The wealthy furnish the entertainments, which are always in a superior style, and the ingredient of birth is not requisite in the qualifications of a member, although some jealousy is entertained of professional men, and not a little of merchants. T –­, to whom I am also indebted for this view of that circle of which he is the brightest ornament, gives a felicitous explanation of the reason. He says, professional men, who are worth anything at all, are always ambitious, and endeavour to make their acquaintance subservient to their own advancement; while merchants are liable to such casualties, that their friends are constantly exposed to the risk of being obliged to sink them below their wonted equality, by granting them favours in times of difficulty, or, what is worse, by refusing to grant them.

I am much indebted to you for the introduction to your friend G –. He is one of us; or rather, he moves in an eccentric sphere of his own, which crosses, I believe, almost all the orbits of all the classed and classifiable systems of London. I found him exactly what you described; and we were on the frankest footing of old friends in the course of the first quarter of an hour. He did me the honour to fancy that I belonged, as a matter of course, to some one of the literary fraternities of Edinburgh, and that I would be curious to see the associations of the learned here. What he said respecting them was highly characteristic of the man. “They are,” said he, “the dullest things possible. On my return from abroad, I visited them all, expecting to find something of that easy disengaged mind which constitutes the charm of those of France and Italy. But in London, among those who have a character to keep up, there is such a vigilant circumspection, that I should as soon expect to find nature in the ballets of the Opera-house, as genius at the established haunts of authors, artists, and men of science. Bankes gives, I suppose officially, a public breakfast weekly, and opens his house for conversations on the Sundays. I found at his breakfasts, tea and coffee, with hot rolls, and men of celebrity afraid to speak. At the conversations, there was something even worse. A few plausible talking fellows created a buzz in the room, and the merits of some paltry nick-nack of mechanism or science was discussed. The party consisted undoubtedly of the most eminent men of their respective lines in the world; but they were each and all so apprehensive of having their ideas purloined, that they took the most guarded care never to speak of anything that they deemed of the slightest consequence, or to hazard an opinion that might be called in question. The man who either wishes to augment his knowledge, or to pass his time agreeably, will never expose himself to a repetition of the fastidious exhibitions of engineers and artists who have their talents at market. But such things are among the curiosities of London; and if you have any inclination to undergo the initiating mortification of being treated as a young man who may be likely to interfere with their professional interests, I can easily get you introduced.”

I do not know whether to ascribe these strictures of your friend to humour or misanthropy; but they were said without bitterness; indeed so much as matters of course, that, at the moment, I could not but feel persuaded they were just. I spoke of them to T –­, who says, that undoubtedly G –­’s account of the exhibitions is true in substance, but that it is his own sharp-sightedness which causes him to see them so offensively; for that ninety-nine out of the hundred in the world would deem an evening spent at the conversations of Sir Joseph Bankes a very high intellectual treat.

G –­ has invited me to dinner, and I expect some amusement; for T –­, who is acquainted with him, says, that it is his fault to employ his mind too much on all occasions; and that, in all probability, there will be something, either in the fare or the company, that I shall remember as long as I live. However, you shall hear all about it in my next.-Yours,

ANDREW PRINGLE.

On the same Sunday on which Mr. Micklewham consulted Mr. Snodgrass as to the propriety of reading the Doctor’s letter to the elders, the following epistle reached the post-office of Irvine, and was delivered by Saunders Dickie himself, at the door of Mrs. Glibbans to her servan lassie, who, as her mistress had gone to the Relief Church, told him, that he would have to come for the postage the morn’s morning. “Oh,” said Saunders, “there’s naething to pay but my ain trouble, for it’s frankit; but aiblins the mistress will gie me a bit drappie, and so I’ll come betimes i’ the morning.”

LETTER XVIII

Mrs. Pringle to Mrs. Glibbans
LONDON.

MY DEAR MRS. GLIBBANS-The breking up of the old Parlament has been the cause why I did not right you before, it having taken it out of my poor to get a frank for my letter till yesterday; and I do ashure you, that I was most extraordinar uneasy at the great delay, wishing much to let you know the decayt state of the Gospel in thir perts, which is the pleasure of your life to study by day, and meditate on in the watches of the night.

There is no want of going to church, and, if that was a sign of grease and peese in the kingdom of Christ, the toun of London might hold a high head in the tabernacles of the faithful and true witnesses. But saving Dr. Nichol of Swallo-Street, and Dr. Manuel of London-Wall, there is nothing sound in the way of preaching here; and when I tell you that Mr. John Gant, your friend, and some other flea-lugged fallows, have set up a Heelon congregation, and got a young man to preach Erse to the English, ye maun think in what a state sinful souls are left in London. But what I have been the most consarned about is the state of the dead. I am no meaning those who are dead in trespasses and sins, but the true dead. Ye will hardly think, that they are buried in a popish-like manner, with prayers, and white gowns, and ministers, and spadefuls of yerd cast upon them, and laid in vauts, like kists of orangers in a grocery seller-and I am told that, after a time, they are taken out when the vaut is shurfeeted, and their bones brunt, if they are no made into lamp-black by a secret wark-which is a clean proof to me that a right doctrine cannot be established in this land-there being so little respec shone to the dead.

The worst point, howsomever, of all is, what is done with the prayers-and I have heard you say, that although there was nothing more to objec to the wonderful Doctor Chammers of Glasgou, that his reading of his sermons was testimony against him in the great controversy of sound doctrine; but what will you say to reading of prayers, and no only reading of prayers, but printed prayers, as if the contreet heart of the sinner had no more to say to the Lord in the hour of fasting and humiliation, than what a bishop can indite, and a book-seller make profit o’. “Verily,” as I may say, in a word of scripter, I doobt if the glad tidings of salvation have yet been preeched in this land of London; but the ministers have good stipends, and where the ground is well manured, it may in time bring forth fruit meet for repentance.

There is another thing that behoves me to mention, and that is, that an elder is not to be seen in the churches of London, which is a sore signal that the piple are left to themselves; and in what state the morality can be, you may guess with an eye of pity. But on the Sabbath nights, there is such a going and coming, that it’s more like a cried fair than the Lord’s night-all sorts of poor people, instead of meditating on their bygane toil and misery of the week, making the Sunday their own day, as if they had not a greater Master to serve on that day, than the earthly man whom they served in the week-days. It is, howsomever, past the poor of nature to tell you of the sinfulness of London; and you may we think what is to be the end of all things, when I ashure you, that there is a newspaper sold every Sabbath morning, and read by those that never look at their Bibles. Our landlady asked us if we would take one; but I thought the Doctor would have fired the house, and you know it is not a small thing that kindles his passion. In short, London is not a place to come to hear the tidings of salvation preeched,-no that I mean to deny that there is not herine more than five righteous persons in it, and I trust the cornal’s hagent is one; for if he is not, we are undone, having been obligated to take on already more than a hundred pounds of debt, to the account of our living, and the legacy yet in the dead thraws. But as I mean this for a spiritual letter, I will say no more about the root of all evil, as it is called in the words of truth and holiness; so referring you to what I have told Miss Mally Glencairn about the legacy and other things nearest my heart, I remain, my dear Mrs. Glibbans, your fellou Christian and sinner,

JANET PRINGLE.

Mrs. Glibbans received this letter between the preachings, and it was observed by all her acquaintance during the afternoon service, that she was a laden woman. Instead of standing up at the prayers, as her wont was, she kept her seat, sitting with downcast eyes, and ever and anon her left hand, which was laid over her book on the reading-board of the pew, was raised and allowed to drop with a particular moral emphasis, bespeaking the mournful cogitations of her spirit. On leaving the church, somebody whispered to the minister, that surely Mrs. Glibbans had heard some sore news; upon which that meek, mild, and modest good soul hastened towards her, and inquired, with more than his usual kindness, How she was? Her answer was brief and mysterious; and she shook her head in such a manner that showed him all was not right. “Have you heard lately of your friends the Pringles?” said he, in his sedate manner-“when do they think of leaving London?’

“I wish they may ever get out o’t,” was the agitated reply of the afflicted lady.

“I am very sorry to hear you say so,” responded the minister. “I thought all was in a fair way to an issue of the settlement. I’m very sorry to hear this.”

“Oh, sir,” said the mourner, “don’t think that I am grieved for them and their legacy-filthy lucre-no, sir; but I have had a letter that has made my hair stand on end. Be none surprised if you hear of the earth opening, and London swallowed up, and a voice crying in the wilderness, ‘Woe, woe.’”

The gentle priest was much surprised by this information; it was evident that Mrs. Glibbans had received a terrible account of the wickedness of London; and that the weight upon her pious spirit was owing to that cause. He, therefore, accompanied her home, and administered all the consolation he was able to give; assuring her, that it was in the power of Omnipotence to convert the stony heart into one of flesh and tenderness, and to raise the British metropolis out of the miry clay, and place it on a hill, as a city that could not be hid; which Mrs. Glibbans was so thankful to hear, that, as soon as he had left her, she took her tea in a satisfactory frame of mind, and went the same night to Miss Mally Glencairn to hear what Mrs. Pringle had said to her. No visit ever happened more opportunely; for just as Mrs. Glibbans knocked at the door, Miss Isabella Tod made her appearance. She had also received a letter from Rachel, in which it will be seen that reference was made likewise to Mrs. Pringle’s epistle to Miss Mally.

LETTER XIX

Miss Rachel Pringle to Miss Isabella Tod
LONDON.

MY DEAR BELL-How delusive are the flatteries of fortune! The wealth that has been showered upon us, beyond all our hopes, has brought no pleasure to my heart, and I pour my unavailing sighs for your absence, when I would communicate the cause of my unhappiness. Captain Sabre has been most assiduous in his attentions, and I must confess to your sympathising bosom, that I do begin to find that he has an interest in mine. But my mother will not listen to his proposals, nor allow me to give him any encouragement, till the fatal legacy is settled. What can be her motive for this, I am unable to divine; for the captain’s fortune is far beyond what I could ever have expected without the legacy, and equal to all I could hope for with it. If, therefore, there is any doubt of the legacy being paid, she should allow me to accept him; and if there is none, what can I do better? In the meantime, we are going about seeing the sights; but the general mourning is a great drawback on the splendour of gaiety. It ends, however, next Sunday; and then the ladies, like the spring flowers, will be all in full blossom. I was with the Argents at the opera on Saturday last, and it far surpassed my ideas of grandeur. But the singing was not good-I never could make out the end or the beginning of a song, and it was drowned with the violins; the scenery, however, was lovely; but I must not say a word about the dancers, only that the females behaved in a manner so shocking, that I could scarcely believe it was possible for the delicacy of our sex to do. They are, however, all foreigners, who are, you know, naturally of a licentious character, especially the French women.

We have taken an elegant house in Baker Street, where we go on Monday next, and our own new carriage is to be home in the course of the week. All this, which has been done by the advice of Mrs. Argent, gives my mother great uneasiness, in case anything should yet happen to the legacy. My brother, however, who knows the law better than her, only laughs at her fears, and my father has found such a wonderful deal to do in religion here, that he is quite delighted, and is busy from morning to night in writing letters, and giving charitable donations. I am soon to be no less busy, but in another manner. Mrs. Argent has advised us to get in accomplished masters for me, so that, as soon as we are removed into our own local habitation, I am to begin with drawing and music, and the foreign languages. I am not, however, to learn much of the piano; Mrs. A. thinks it would take up more time than I can now afford; but I am to be cultivated in my singing, and she is to try if the master that taught Miss Stephens has an hour to spare-and to use her influence to persuade him to give it to me, although he only receives pupils for perfectioning, except they belong to families of distinction.

My brother had a hankering to be made a member of Parliament, and got Mr. Charles Argent to speak to my father about it, but neither he nor my mother would hear of such a thing, which I was very sorry for, as it would have been so convenient to me for getting franks; and I wonder my mother did not think of that, as she grudges nothing so much as the price of postage. But nothing do I grudge so little, especially when it is a letter from you. Why do you not write me oftener, and tell me what is saying about us, particularly by that spiteful toad, Becky Glibbans, who never could hear of any good happening to her acquaintance, without being as angry as if it was obtained at her own expense?

I do not like Miss Argent so well on acquaintance as I did at first; not that she is not a very fine lassie, but she gives herself such airs at the harp and piano-because she can play every sort of music at the first sight, and sing, by looking at the notes, any song, although she never heard it, which may be very well in a play-actor, or a governess, that has to win her bread by music; but I think the education of a modest young lady might have been better conducted.

Through the civility of the Argents, we have been introduced to a great number of families, and been much invited; but all the parties are so ceremonious, that I am never at my ease, which my brother says is owing to my rustic education, which I cannot understand; for, although the people are finer dressed, and the dinners and rooms grander than what I have seen, either at Irvine or Kilmarnock, the company are no wiser; and I have not met with a single literary character among them. And what are ladies and gentlemen without mind, but a well-dressed mob! It is to mind alone that I am at all disposed to pay the homage of diffidence.

The acquaintance of the Argents are all of the first circle, and we have got an invitation to a route from the Countess of J –­y, in consequence of meeting her with them. She is a charming woman, and I anticipate great pleasure. Miss Argent says, however, she is ignorant and presuming; but how is it possible that she can be so, as she was an earl’s daughter, and bred up for distinction? Miss Argent may be presuming, but a countess is necessarily above that, at least it would only become a duchess or marchioness to say so. This, however, is not the only occasion in which I have seen the detractive disposition of that young lady, who, with all her simplicity of manners and great accomplishments, is, you will perceive, just like ourselves, rustic as she doubtless thinks our breeding has been.

I have observed that nobody in London inquires about who another is; and that in company everyone is treated on an equality, unless when there is some remarkable personal peculiarity, so that one really knows nothing of those whom one meets. But my paper is full, and I must not take another sheet, as my mother has a letter to send in the same frank to Miss Mally Glencairn. Believe me, ever affectionately yours,

RACHEL PRINGLE.

The three ladies knew not very well what to make of this letter. They thought there was a change in Rachel’s ideas, and that it was not for the better; and Miss Isabella expressed, with a sentiment of sincere sorrow, that the acquisition of fortune seemed to have brought out some unamiable traits in her character, which, perhaps, had she not been exposed to the companions and temptations of the great world, would have slumbered, unfelt by herself, and unknown to her friends.

Mrs. Glibbans declared, that it was a waking of original sin, which the iniquity of London was bringing forth, as the heat of summer causes the rosin and sap to issue from the bark of the tree. In the meantime, Miss Mally had opened her letter, of which we subjoin a copy.

LETTER XX

Mrs. Pringle to Miss Mally Glencairn
LONDON.

DEAR MISS MALLY-I greatly stand in need of your advise and counsel at this time. The Doctor’s affair comes on at a fearful slow rate, and the money goes like snow off a dyke. It is not to be told what has been paid for legacy-duty, and no legacy yet in hand; and we have been obligated to lift a whole hundred pounds out of the residue, and what that is to be the Lord only knows. But Miss Jenny Macbride, she has got her thousand pound, all in one bank bill, sent to her; Thomas Bowie, the doctor in Ayr, he has got his five hundred pounds; and auld Nanse Sorrel, that was nurse to the cornal, she has got the first year of her twenty pounds a year; but we have gotten nothing, and I jealouse, that if things go on at this rate, there will be nothing to get; and what will become of us then, after all the trubble and outlay that we have been pot too by this coming to London?

Howsomever, this is the black side of the story; for Mr. Charles Argent, in a jocose way, proposed to get Andrew made a Parliament member for three thousand pounds, which he said was cheap; and surely he would not have thought of such a thing, had he not known that Andrew would have the money to pay for’t; and, over and above this, Mrs. Argent has been recommending Captain Sabre to me for Rachel, and she says he is a stated gentleman, with two thousand pounds rental, and her nephew; and surely she would not think Rachel a match for him, unless she had an inkling from her gudeman of what Rachel’s to get. But I have told her that we would think of nothing of the sort till the counts war settled, which she may tell to her gudeman, and if he approves the match, it will make him hasten on the settlement, for really I am growing tired of this London, whar I am just like a fish out of the water. The Englishers are sae obstinate in their own way, that I can get them to do nothing like Christians; and, what is most provoking of all, their ways are very good when you know them; but they have no instink to teach a body how to learn them. Just this very morning, I told the lass to get a jiggot of mutton for the morn’s dinner, and she said there was not such a thing to be had in London, and threeppit it till I couldna stand her; and, had it not been that Mr. Argent’s French servan’ man happened to come with a cart, inviting us to a ball, and who understood what a jiggot was, I might have reasoned till the day of doom without redress. As for the Doctor, I declare he’s like an enchantit person, for he has falling in with a party of the elect here, as he says, and they have a kilfud yoking every Thursday at the house of Mr. W –­, where the Doctor has been, and was asked to pray, and did it with great effec, which has made him so up in the buckle, that he does nothing but go to Bible soceeyetis, and mishonary meetings, and cherity sarmons, which cost a poor of money.

But what consarns me more than all is, that the temptations of this vanity fair have turnt the head of Andrew, and he has bought two horses, with an English man-servan’, which you know is an eating moth. But how he payt for them, and whar he is to keep them, is past the compass of my understanding. In short, if the legacy does not cast up soon, I see nothing left for us but to leave the world as a legacy to you all, for my heart will be broken-and I often wish that the cornel hadna made us his residees, but only given us a clean scorn, like Miss Jenny Macbride, although it had been no more; for, my dear Miss Mally, it does not doo for a woman of my time of life to be taken out of her element, and, instead of looking after her family with a thrifty eye, to be sitting dressed all day seeing the money fleeing like sclate stanes. But what I have to tell is worse than all this; we have been persuaded to take a furnisht house, where we go on Monday; and we are to pay for it, for three months, no less than a hundred and fifty pounds, which is more than the half of the Doctor’s whole stipend is, when the meal is twenty-pence the peck; and we are to have three servan’ lassies, besides Andrew’s man, and the coachman that we have hired altogether for ourselves, having been persuaded to trist a new carriage of our own by the Argents, which I trust the Argents will find money to pay for; and masters are to come in to teach Rachel the fasionable accomplishments, Mrs. Argent thinking she was rather old now to be sent to a boarding-school. But what I am to get to do for so many vorashous servants, is dreadful to think, there being no such thing as a wheel within the four walls of London; and, if there was, the Englishers no nothing about spinning. In short, Miss Mally, I am driven dimentit, and I wish I could get the Doctor to come home with me to our manse, and leave all to Andrew and Rachel, with kurators; but, as I said, he’s as mickle bye himself as onybody, and says that his candle has been hidden under a bushel at Garnock more than thirty years, which looks as if the poor man was fey; howsomever, he’s happy in his delooshon, for if he was afflictit with that forethought and wisdom that I have, I know not what would be the upshot of all this calamity. But we maun hope for the best; and, happen what will, I am, dear Miss Mally, your sincere friend,

JANET PRINGLE.

Miss Mally sighed as she concluded, and said, “Riches do not always bring happiness, and poor Mrs. Pringle would have been far better looking after her cows and her butter, and keeping her lassies at their wark, than with all this galravitching and grandeur.” “Ah!” added Mrs. Glibbans, “she’s now a testifyer to the truth-she’s now a testifyer; happy it will be for her if she’s enabled to make a sanctified use of the dispensation.”