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ferings of Tantalus were nothing to the sufferings of the deputation from the Synod of Cleishmaclaver; but all things must come to an end. "Time is up, gentlemen," said the coachman, opening the door, and wiping his mouth with the air of a man who has enjoyed his breakfast. The appearance of the coachman and the sound of his familiar voice broke the spell; but there was no time to be lost; the horses were shaking their heads and pawing the ground, in their impatience to start; so they had to take their seats, and to turn breakfast and dinner into one. "Was
that the Bishop of D- ?" said one of the famished brethren. "That the Bishop of D-!" said the coachman, contemptuously. "Why, that was Lord P- the maddest wag in all the kingdom." The brethren said nothing, but chewed the cud of sweet but bitter fancy, till they reached the next halting place, where they got something more substantial to chew. Somehow the story oozed out, and the trick played on the members from the Synod of Cleishmaclaver called forth many a hearty laugh at the Lord High Commissioner's levées, and seriously affected the gravity of the Moderator himself.'
When the laughter had subsided, the proposer of Lord Psaid: 'Well, you admit that he is a vir gravis-twenty stones, you know, is a fair allowance for one man. And as regards piety, you have just shown that he is more entitled to the character of a vir pius than all the members of the Synod of Cleishmaclaver.'
'But what about his learning?' said the Didymus of the party. 'You know our rector must be a vir doctus.'
'Well, as to that, I might simply say that he is a Lord of Session, and that he could not have attained that distinction without being thoroughly master of his profession, which of course implies the possession of a certain amount of learning. But I go farther than this. I know that he was a frequent contributor to Magazine. Did he not expose in it the literary peccadilloes of your own professor, Flibbertigibbet? Now it
is notorious that, from its commencement, has ranked among its contributors the most learned and talented men of the day; that fact alone ought to suffice. But, moreover, he was the contemporary and the bosom friend of Scott.'
'To be sure,' said one of the party, 'he was present at the dinner at Edinburgh where the Great Unknown threw aside the mask which only partially concealed his face from his intimate friends, and disclosed himself to the world as the author of the whole series of the Waverley Novels. On that occasion Lord P- then only a simple member of the bar, became the mouthpiece of the party, and expressed the pleasure which all felt on learning with certainty what they had often suspected before. Even at that period he must have been a man of considerable gravity, if we may judge by the following anecdote. He was in the habit of taking his stand in the hall of Parliament House before the court opened, surrounded by a circle of brother barristers, whom he kept riveted to the spot by his wit and humour. However grave others might look, there was always laughter and jollity in that circle. One day Scott was seen approaching with his slow, limping gait and lofty forehead. "There comes Peveril of the Peak," said P, in a tone loud enough to be overheard by Scott, who, shaking his stick good-humouredly at him, rejoined, Ay, and there stands Peter of the Paunch." Pugilists, you know, are not allowed to hit below the belt, and this might be called a foul blow; but P- bore it without flinching, and joined in the laugh as heartily as the rest.'
'Yes,' said another of the party, an Edinburgh student, it is one of his peculiarities, that while he often sorely tries the tempers of others, he never loses his own. He is as wise and witty as Falstaff, and has the same enlightened views about honour as the fat knight. The only duello he will engage in is the war of wit and pleasantry; the only shots he will exchange are the shafts of good-humoured satire. Some years ago an English regiment of dragoons
was stationed at Edinburgh: it was one of the regiments which had fought under Sir John Cope at Prestonpans, and, frightened by the Highlanders' broad claymores and fierce looks, fled to Berwick with incredible swiftness. P had been invited with other guests to dine at mess; the bottle had circulated freely; the fun was getting fast and furious, P- as usual, taking the lead, the others following, like a well-trained pack of hounds. It is said that his wicked wit sometimes carries him a little too far; but I can say, from my own experience, that in his intercourse with young men, he ever acts on the principle," Maxima reverentia debetur pueris." It was otherwise, howeve on this occasion. P- was called upon to give a song
Nae to interrupt you,' said a Buchan student, in his own homely Doric, 'did ony o' ye ever hear him sing a Gaelic song? I ance did, and oh, sirs, I was like to burst. It happened ae vacation I had been as far north as Inverness, and put up at a hotel there. Ye see, the coort was sittin', and, what wi' lawyers and English travellers, the place was geyen throng. Aweel, there was a kind o'ordinary, whaur we a' met at dinner time. Amo' the lave was P————, several lawyers, and a Highland sheep-farmer, who knew Gaelic better than English. After dinner the conversation happened to turn upon accents, and an English traveller remarked that he was sure there was only one gentleman at table who spoke Gaelic, meaning, of course, the Highlander. On this P-gravely remarked that Gaelic was the language of his childhoodthe language he had learned from a mother's lips in his romantic infancy-the language which he preferred to the hissing sounds emitted by the Sassenach. In proof of this, he proceeded to sing a Gaelic song, as he called it. If it was not Gaelic, it was a very remarkable imitation of that very guttural, unmusical language. It took us all by surprisenone more so than the Highlander, who stared at P- in utter bewilderment. "I canna say that I just understood ilka word," said Donald,
with truthful candour; "but the shentleman will be frae Argyleshire -they speak different Gaelic there." Of course P's Gaelic was improvised on the spur of the moment: he did not know a word of the language, having been born and bred in Edinburgh.'
The song which he sang at the mess of the Dragoons was not in Gaelic, but in good broad Scotch. It was "Heh, Johnnie Cope, are you wauken yet?"-a song which, as you know, celebrates in bitter raillery the defeat of the Royalist forces at Prestonpans. Of course it is far from complimentary to their courage; and if the officers had known that it referred in any way to their own regiment which was present on that occasion, they would not have applauded it so warmly as they did. Fortunately, however, they did not know, or his lordship's singing might have led to unpleasant consequences on the spot. Encouraged by his success, he proceeded to propose the health of the whole regiment, officers and men, remarking that it had always been distinguished for the rapidity of its evolutions, and particularly so on the occasion of the battle of Prestonpans. The members of the mess were not deeply read in the history of the regiment, and were consequently ignorant of the part it had acted on the occasion alluded to; so the compliment was accepted in good faith, and the colonel returned thanks. The party broke up, and no suspicion was entertained of the mischievous joke till the following day, when the colonel learned in some way that their facetious guest had been casting ridicule upon the gallant dragoons. This happened in the days when duelling was still in fashion, and the colonel felt that the insult offered to himself and the whole regiment must be wiped out with blood; so he lost no time in sending a challenge to Lord P—, who at once accepted it. He wrote, however, that, as the challenged party, he had a right to appoint the place, and to choose the weapons: in virtue of that right, his own house at Drummond-place must be the scene of the approaching duel, and good
knives and forks the instruments of war. All the members of the mess were invited to take part in the combat; his lordship, single-handed, was prepared to meet and vanquish them all. It was impossible to resist an invitation couched in such terms: the officers had the good sense to perceive that they could only entail on themselves further ridicule by taking the matter au sérieux; so at the appointed hour they assembled in Drummond-place, and, it is to be presumed, used their weapons with good effect. It is only fair to add, that Lord P- made them the amplest apologies, and that he often afterwards enjoyed their hospitality. In truth, such was the genial nature of the man, that it was impossible for those who had suffered most to take offence.'
Did you ever hear him plead?' said another of the party. Since his elevation to the bench he has laboured under a sort of restraint, so as to be only the shadow of his former self. The judicial robes fit round his ample person far less becomingly than the plain gown of a barrister. No lawyer was ever so successful in addressing a jury. He never troubled them with subtle points of law; that, in fact, was not his forte. It was impossible for any jury to look him in the face and retain their gravity. There was always a buzz of expectant delight when he stood up to speak; even the grave judges on the bench felt the infection of his presence. It was said of Liston that his appearance on the stage was sufficient to convulse the house with laughter: the
effect produced by that extraordinary face, puckered up with a sort of mock gravity, was equally sudden and effective. He had only to look at the jury, and they were already on the tiptoe of expectation to catch the good things they knew to be coming; and they were never disappointed. Little of what he said is now remembered, less still is destined to live. It was not so much what he said, as the way in which he said it, that produced such an effect upon his hearers. Separated from the living voice, and the inimitable manner in which they were given, his best sayings seem poor and pointless; but this holds true more or less of all wit, ancient and modern. The parliamentary joke overnight, which convulsed the House with laughter, seems to us so stale and weak as we read it the following morning, that we feel constrained to say with Talleyrand, "Ma foi, messieurs, vous n'êtes pas difficiles." We feel that we have often made as good jokes ourselves, and yet the Times has not thought it worth while to record them, or our appreciating friends to remember them; so I fear Lord P- has not said much that the world will not willingly let die. I remember one address, however, which he gave to a jury, that is not likely ever to fade from my memory. A quarrel had arisen between two rival butchers in a small country town. They discussed one another's characters with considerable freedom, and one had so far transgressed the bounds of legitimate criticism as to affirm that his neighbour sold carrion. Nothing but heavy damages could satisfy his wounded honour, so he commenced a civil action against the calumniator. The latter was fortunate enough to secure the services of Pas his counsel. When the trial came on, evidence was led which placed it beyond a doubt that the slanderous words had been uttered, and matters assumed rather an ominous appearance for the defendant; but when Pappeared upon the scene, it was Jupiter to the rescue. The sight of that sphinx-like face had the same reviving effect on the drooping spirits of his client as the appearance
of a beloved general on the flagging courage of his soldiery. The judges on the bench no longer listened with that languid indifference so becoming in the judicial character-they fixed their eyes with a half smile on the counsel for the defendant. As for the jury, they were ready to explode before P- opened his mouth. " My lords," said P. (he did not, like most Edinburgh lawyers, call "my lords" "my luds," in proof of his pure English accent-he was above any such puerile weakness)-" My lords, and gentlemen of the jury, my client, the defendant, has been charged with defamation of character, inasmuch as he affirmed that the plaintiff sold carrion. Now this is no doubt a most serious charge-a charge affecting the plaintiff's character as a man, and grievously wounding his feelings as a butcher." The air with which the last words were spoken was irresistible; judges and jury were convulsed with laughter; P alone retained his gravity, and seemed unconscious of the effect his words had produced. The feelings of a butcher formed the key-note of all that followed; he expatiated on that fertile subject for more than an hour; he seemed at times to lean in favour of the defendant; he affirmed that a butcher might say, in the noble words of the Latin poem, "Homo sum," and claim
a share in all the finest features of our nature-nay, that he might even shed tears before converting a calf into veal; for was not a butcher a man and a brother? Some of the more obese gentlemen in the jurybox, finding themselves labouring under the symptoms of approaching apoplexy, informed the bench through their foreman that they had already made up their minds, and awarded a farthing damages to the unfortunate plaintiff.'
'I have often observed,' said the Edinburgh student, how difficult he found it to restrain his jocular tendencies after his elevation to the bench. I have frequently observed a roguish twinkle sparkle in his eye as he was summing up a case, but he had always the virtue to restrain it. Only on one occasion do I remember his having given way to that play
fulness of fancy by which his pleadings as a barrister were distinguished. It was in allusion to the national love of whisky among Highlanders; he assumed that the jury were ignorant of this characteristic of their northern neighbours, and explained it to them with much unction and humour. But though grave as a judge, he avenged himself for this enforced gravity by giving free vent to his sportive tendencies in private life. An Edinburgh tradesman, a dealer in stoneware, had made a considerable fortune, and invested it in the purchase of part of the estate of a country gentleman, who was obliged to part with the old acres his fathers had left to him. To understand the point of P's joke, I must premise, as some of you know, that we retain a good many French words in our language, which date as far back as the days of Mary Stuart, but which, in the course of years, have been moulded into conformity with our own northern tongue, so much so that their original owners would fail to recognize them.'
'Yes, I know,' said another student; the lower orders make foreign words pass through such a series of transmigrations that they retain nothing of their foreign origin, and seem identical with the language universally spoken in this country. Who, for example, would know that Jock the Leg, the usual name for a pocket-knife, is a corruption of Jacques de Liege, the tradesman who supplied Scotland with cutlery in the days of the Guises? But other names have met with a worse treatment than that of Jacques de Liege. Some years ago, an old gentleman returned to his paternal estate after a residence of many years in Italy. He had lived so much abroad that he had unconsciously adopted the manners and habits of those with whom he had mixed, and found pleasure in trying to make the grounds around his mansion-house as like as possible to the classical garden which surrounded his Italian villa. He partially restored an old church dedicated to the Virgin, which stood in the midst of his grounds, and be
stowed on it the name of L'Église de Marie; a sort of summer-house, built on the same principles of art, was known as Bella Retira. He thought the sight of these exquisite buildings would have a humanizing effect on his boorish tenantry, and was at much pains to impress upon them the correct pronunciation of these words. But the lowest of the Scottish peasantry are not without a certain coarse humour, which often consists in travestying and turning into contempt all that they dislike or consider ridiculous. The laird with his new-fangled notions was the constant subject of their ridicule, and how much they profited by his instructions may be learned from the following incident:-One day he met a gaping rustic close to L'Église de Marie. " Well, my man," said the laird, with a complacent air, "what is the name of that building?" "Legsmyleary," said the rustic, confidently. "And that, sir," continued the laird, almost breathless with rage at this horrible travestissement of the name of his chapel. "That building," pointing to the summer-house, "what do you call that?" "Oh," said the rustic, with a self-approving grin, "that is Bullrowtery." It is said that the laird turned away more in sorrow than in anger, arranged his affairs, left his native land for ever, and spent the remainder of his life among the inhabitants of the sunny south, who have more taste for æsthetics than our northern boors. But, I beg your pardon, you were about to tell us something that occurred between P and an Edinburgh stone-ware merchant who had purchased part of an estate.'
'Well, I suppose you all know the Scotch word for a plate: it is ashet, evidently a corruption of the French assiette, just as aumry is of armoire, bink of bunc, deas of dais, backet of bacquet, caudron of chaudron, crook of croc. In short, every word we have in Scotch for culinary utensils or articles of domestic use is clearly of French origin; as, for example-'
'It will soon be finished. The stone-ware merchant erected a handsome house on his property, but was at a loss to know what name he
'Come, H-,' said the host, goodhumouredly; 'have done with your etymology, and go on with your story.'
should give to it. This, as you know, is a matter of some consequence, as proprietors in the north are usually known by the name of their properties; so, as P-— had been one of his customers, and had treated him with much familiarity, as is his wont with all, he thought he could not do better than consult him. Accordingly, he stepped up to him one day, as he stood in the hall of the Parliament House, surrounded by the usual circle of laughing admirers, and with a pompous air informed him of his difficulty. "Why," said P--, with perfect gravity, "I should call it Ashet Hall; that would be a striking and appropriate title." Whether this suggestion was acted on or otherwise I cannot tell, but I suspect not; the joke was too professional to escape the notice of the party at whose expense it was made, and tradesmen who become lairds like to forget their former calling.'
'Now, gentlemen,' said the host, it is time to go; it is actually past twelve o'clock: See that you all go straight home.'
'One other illustration of his lordship's wit,' said the Edinburgh student, and then we are off. Some years ago the Scottish capital was visited by a Polish refugee, who bore the patriotic name of Kosciuski. He took kindly to all our Scottish customs, but showed a special predilection for our whisky, which he could absorb in almost incredible quantities. This facility rather recommended him to the favour of P-, who took him by the hand, and introduced him to the best circles of Edinburgh society. One night he had taken him to a fashionable assembly; the Pole was steady enough in his gait, though redolent of whisky, and P- gravely remarked to the lady of the house"Madam, allow me to introduce to you my friend Count Caskowhisky." The joke was lost upon the Pole, but thoroughly appreciated by the lady of the house, as I hope it is by you. Now, good-night, we must be off."