Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet : An Autobiography, by Charles Kingsley

Chapter 2.

The Tailor’s Workroom.

Have you done laughing! Then I will tell you how the thing came to pass.

My father had a brother, who had steadily risen in life, in proportion as my father fell. They had both begun life in a grocer’s shop. My father saved enough to marry, when of middle age, a woman of his own years, and set up a little shop, where there were far too many such already, in the hope — to him, as to the rest of the world, quite just and innocent — of drawing away as much as possible of his neighbours’ custom. He failed, died — as so many small tradesmen do — of bad debts and a broken heart, and left us beggars. His brother, more prudent, had, in the meantime, risen to be foreman; then he married, on the strength of his handsome person, his master’s blooming widow; and rose and rose, year by year, till, at the time of which I speak, he was owner of a first-rate grocery establishment in the City, and a pleasant villa near Herne Hill, and had a son, a year or two older than myself, at King’s College, preparing for Cambridge and the Church — that being now-a-days the approved method of converting a tradesman’s son into a gentleman — whereof let artisans, and gentlemen also, take note.

My aristocratic readers — if I ever get any, which I pray God I may — may be surprised at so great an inequality of fortune between two cousins; but the thing is common in our class. In the higher ranks, a difference in income implies none in education or manners, and the poor “gentleman” is a fit companion for dukes and princes — thanks to the old usages of Norman chivalry, which after all were a democratic protest against the sovereignty, if not of rank, at least of money. The knight, however penniless, was the prince’s equal, even his superior, from whose hands he must receive knighthood; and the “squire of low degree,” who honourably earned his spurs, rose also into that guild, whose qualifications, however barbaric, were still higher ones than any which the pocket gives. But in the commercial classes money most truly and fearfully “makes the man.” A difference in income, as you go lower, makes more and more difference in the supply of the common necessaries of life; and worse — in education and manners, in all which polishes the man, till you may see often, as in my case, one cousin a Cambridge undergraduate, and the other a tailor’s journeyman.

My uncle one day came down to visit us, resplendent in a black velvet waistcoat, thick gold chain, and acres of shirt-front; and I and Susan were turned to feed on our own curiosity and awe in the back-yard, while he and my mother were closeted together for an hour or so in the living-room. When he was gone, my mother called me in; and with eyes which would have been tearful had she allowed herself such a weakness before us, told me very solemnly and slowly, as if to impress upon me the awfulness of the matter, that I was to be sent to a tailor’s workrooms the next day.

And an awful step it was in her eyes, as she laid her hands on my head and murmured to herself, “Behold, I send you forth as a lamb in the midst of wolves. Be ye, therefore, wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” And then, rising hastily to conceal her own emotion, fled upstairs, where we could hear her throw herself on her knees by the bedside, and sob piteously.

That evening was spent dolefully enough, in a sermon of warnings against all manner of sins and temptations, the very names of which I had never heard, but to which, as she informed me, I was by my fallen nature altogether prone: and right enough was she in so saying, though as often happens, the temptations from which I was in real danger were just the ones of which she had no notion — fighting more or less extinct Satans, as Mr. Carlyle says, and quite unconscious of the real, modern, man-devouring Satan close at her elbow.

To me, in spite of all the terror which she tried to awaken in me, the change was not unwelcome; at all events, it promised me food for my eyes and my ears — some escape from the narrow cage in which, though I hardly dare confess it to myself, I was beginning to pine. Little I dreamt to what a darker cage I was to be translated! Not that I accuse my uncle of neglect or cruelty, though the thing was altogether of his commanding. He was as generous to us as society required him to be. We were entirely dependent on him, as my mother told me then for the first time, for support. And had he not a right to dispose of my person, having bought it by an allowance to my mother of five-and-twenty pounds a year? I did not forget that fact; the thought of my dependence on him rankled in me, till it almost bred hatred in me to a man who had certainly never done or meant anything to me but in kindness. For what could he make me but a tailor — or a shoemaker? A pale, consumptive, rickety, weakly boy, all forehead and no muscle — have not clothes and shoes been from time immemorial the appointed work of such? The fact that that weakly frame is generally compensated by a proportionally increased activity of brain, is too unimportant to enter into the calculations of the great King Laissez-faire. Well, my dear Society, it is you that suffer for the mistake, after all, more than we. If you do tether your cleverest artisans on tailors’ shopboards and cobblers’ benches, and they — as sedentary folk will — fall a thinking, and come to strange conclusions thereby, they really ought to be much more thankful to you than you are to them. If Thomas Cooper had passed his first five-and-twenty years at the plough tail instead of the shoemaker’s awl, many words would have been left unsaid which, once spoken, working men are not likely to forget.

With a beating heart I shambled along by my mother’s side next day to Mr. Smith’s shop, in a street off Piccadilly; and stood by her side, just within the door, waiting till some one would condescend to speak to us, and wondering when the time would come when I, like the gentleman who skipped up and down the shop, should shine glorious in patent-leather boots, and a blue satin tie sprigged with gold.

Two personages, both equally magnificent, stood talking with their backs to us; and my mother, in doubt, like myself, as to which of them was the tailor, at last summoned up courage to address the wrong one, by asking if he were Mr. Smith.

The person addressed answered by a most polite smile and bow, and assured her that he had not that honour; while the other he-he’ed, evidently a little flattered by the mistake, and then uttered in a tremendous voice these words:

“I have nothing for you, my good woman — go. Mr. Elliot! how did you come to allow these people to get into the establishment?”

“My name is Locke, sir, and I was to bring my son here this morning.”

“Oh — ah! — Mr. Elliot, see to these persons. As I was saying, my lard, the crimson velvet suit, about thirty-five guineas. By-the-by, that coat ours? I thought so — idea grand and light — masses well broken — very fine chiaroscuro about the whole — an aristocratic wrinkle just above the hips — which I flatter myself no one but myself and my friend Mr. Cooke really do understand. The vapid smoothness of the door dummy, my lard, should be confined to the regions of the Strand. Mr. Elliot, where are you? Just be so good as to show his lardship that lovely new thing in drab and blue foncé. Ah! your lardship can’t wait. — Now, my good woman, is this the young man?”

“Yes,” said my mother: “and — and — God deal so with you, sir, as you deal with the widow and the orphan.”

“Oh — ah — that will depend very much, I should say, on how the widow and the orphan deal with me. Mr. Elliot, take this person into the office and transact the little formalities with her, Jones, take the young man up-stairs to the work-room.”

I stumbled after Mr. Jones up a dark, narrow, iron staircase till we emerged through a trap-door into a garret at the top of the house. I recoiled with disgust at the scene before me; and here I was to work — perhaps through life! A low lean-to room, stifling me with the combined odours of human breath and perspiration, stale beer, the sweet sickly smell of gin, and the sour and hardly less disgusting one of new cloth. On the floor, thick with dust and dirt, scraps of stuff and ends of thread, sat some dozen haggard, untidy, shoeless men, with a mingled look of care and recklessness that made me shudder. The windows were tight closed to keep out the cold winter air; and the condensed breath ran in streams down the panes, chequering the dreary outlook of chimney-tops and smoke. The conductor handed me over to one of the men.

“Here, Crossthwaite, take this younker and make a tailor of him. Keep him next you, and prick him up with your needle if he shirks.”

He disappeared down the trap-door, and mechanically, as if in a dream, I sat down by the man and listened to his instructions, kindly enough bestowed. But I did not remain in peace two minutes. A burst of chatter rose as the foreman vanished, and a tall, bloated, sharp-nosed young man next me bawled in my ear —

“I say, young’un, fork out the tin and pay your footing at Conscrumption Hospital.”

“What do you mean?”

“Aint he just green? — Down with the stumpy — a tizzy for a pot of half-and-half.”

“I never drink beer.”

“Then never do,” whispered the man at my side; “as sure as hell’s hell, it’s your only chance.”

There was a fierce, deep earnestness in the tone which made me look up at the speaker, but the other instantly chimed in-

“Oh, yer don’t, don’t yer, my young Father Mathy? then yer’ll soon learn it here if yer want to keep yer victuals down.”

“And I have promised to take my wages home to my mother.”

“Oh criminy! hark to that, my coves! here’s a chap as is going to take the blunt home to his mammy.”

“T’aint much of it the old’un’ll see,” said another. “Ven yer pockets it at the Cock and Bottle, my kiddy, yer won’t find much of it left o’ Sunday mornings.”

“Don’t his mother know he’s out?” asked another, “and won’t she know it —

“Ven he’s sitting in his glory

Half-price at the Victory.

“Oh! no, ve never mentions her — her name is never heard. Certainly not, by no means. Why should it?”

“Well, if yer won’t stand a pot,” quoth the tall man, “I will, that’s all, and blow temperance. ‘A short life and a merry one,’ says the tailor —

“The ministers talk a great deal about port,

And they makes Cape wine very dear,

But blow their hi’s if ever they tries

To deprive a poor cove of his beer.

“Here, Sam, run to the Cock and Bottle for a pot of half-and-half to my score.”

A thin, pale lad jumped up and vanished, while my tormentor turned to me:

“I say, young’un, do you know why we’re nearer heaven here than our neighbours?”

“I shouldn’t have thought so,” answered I with a naïveté which raised a laugh, and dashed the tall man for a moment.

“Yer don’t? then I’ll tell yer. A cause we’re a top of the house in the first place, and next place yer’ll die here six months sooner nor if yer worked in the room below. Aint that logic and science, Orator?” appealing to Crossthwaite.

“Why?” asked I.

“A cause you get all the other floors’ stinks up here as well as your own. Concentrated essence of man’s flesh, is this here as you’re a breathing. Cellar workroom we calls Rheumatic Ward, because of the damp. Ground-floor’s Fever Ward — them as don’t get typhus gets dysentery, and them as don’t get dysentery gets typhus — your nose’d tell yer why if you opened the back windy. First floor’s Ashmy Ward — don’t you hear ‘um now through the cracks in the boards, a puffing away like a nest of young locomotives? And this here most august and upper-crust cockloft is the Conscrumptive Hospital. First you begins to cough, then you proceeds to expectorate — spittoons, as you see, perwided free gracious for nothing — fined a kivarten if you spits on the floor —

“Then your cheeks they grows red, and your nose it grows thin,

And your bones they stick out, till they comes through your skin:

“and then, when you’ve sufficiently covered the poor dear shivering bare backs of the hairystocracy —

“Die, die, die,

Away you fly,

Your soul is in the sky!

“as the hinspired Shakspeare wittily remarks.”

And the ribald lay down on his back, stretched himself out, and pretended to die in a fit of coughing, which last was, alas! no counterfeit, while poor I, shocked and bewildered, let my tears fall fast upon my knees.

“Fine him a pot!” roared one, “for talking about kicking the bucket. He’s a nice young man to keep a cove’s spirits up, and talk about ‘a short life and a merry one.’ Here comes the heavy. Hand it here to take the taste of that fellow’s talk out of my mouth.”

“Well, my young’un,” recommenced my tormentor, “and how do you like your company?”

“Leave the boy alone,” growled Crossthwaite; “don’t you see he’s crying?”

“Is that anything good to eat? Give me some on it if it is — it’ll save me washing my face.” And he took hold of my hair and pulled my head back.

“I’ll tell you what, Jemmy Downes,” said Crossthwaite, in a voice which made him draw back, “if you don’t drop that, I’ll give you such a taste of my tongue as shall turn you blue.”

“You’d better try it on then. Do — only just now — if you please.”

“Be quiet, you fool!” said another. “You’re a pretty fellow to chaff the orator. He’ll slang you up the chimney afore you can get your shoes on.”

“Fine him a kivarten for quarrelling,” cried another; and the bully subsided into a minute’s silence, after a sotto voce—“Blow temperance, and blow all Chartists, say I!” and then delivered himself of his feelings in a doggerel song:

  “Some folks leads coves a dance,

With their pledge of temperance,

And their plans for donkey sociation;

And their pockets full they crams

By their patriotic flams,

And then swears ’tis for the good of the nation.

  “But I don’t care two inions

For political opinions,

While I can stand my heavy and my quartern;

For to drown dull care within,

In baccy, beer, and gin,

Is the prime of a working-tailor’s fortin!

“There’s common sense for yer now; hand the pot here.”

I recollect nothing more of that day, except that I bent myself to my work with assiduity enough to earn praises from Crossthwaite. It was to be done, and I did it. The only virtue I ever possessed (if virtue it be) is the power of absorbing my whole heart and mind in the pursuit of the moment, however dull or trivial, if there be good reason why it should be pursued at all.

I owe, too, an apology to my readers for introducing all this ribaldry. God knows, it is as little to my taste as it can be to theirs, but the thing exists; and those who live, if not by, yet still besides such a state of things, ought to know what the men are like to whose labour, ay, lifeblood, they own their luxuries. They are “their brothers’ keepers,” let them deny it as they will. Thank God, many are finding that out; and the morals of the working tailors, as well as of other classes of artisans, are rapidly improving: a change which has been brought about partly by the wisdom and kindness of a few master tailors, who have built workshops fit for human beings, and have resolutely stood out against the iniquitous and destructive alterations in the system of employment. Among them I may, and will, whether they like it or not, make honourable mention of Mr. Willis, of St. James’s Street, and Mr. Stultz, of Bond Street.

But nine-tenths of the improvement has been owing, not to the masters, but to the men themselves; and who among them, my aristocratic readers, do you think, have been the great preachers and practisers of temperance, thrift, charity, self-respect, and education. Who? — shriek not in your Belgravian saloons — the Chartists; the communist Chartists: upon whom you and your venal press heap every kind of cowardly execration and ribald slander. You have found out many things since Peterloo; add that fact to the number.

It may seem strange that I did not tell my mother into what a pandemonium I had fallen, and got her to deliver me; but a delicacy, which was not all evil, kept me back; I shrank from seeming to dislike to earn my daily bread, and still more from seeming to object to what she had appointed for me. Her will had been always law; it seemed a deadly sin to dispute it. I took for granted, too, that she knew what the place was like, and that, therefore, it must be right for me. And when I came home at night, and got back to my beloved missionary stories, I gathered materials enough to occupy my thoughts during the next day’s work, and make me blind and deaf to all the evil around me. My mother, poor dear creature, would have denounced my day-dreams sternly enough, had she known of their existence; but were they not holy angels from heaven? guardians sent by that Father, whom I had been taught not to believe in, to shield my senses from pollution?

I was ashamed, too, to mention to my mother the wickedness which I saw and heard. With the delicacy of an innocent boy, I almost imputed the very witnessing of it as a sin to myself; and soon I began to be ashamed of more than the mere sitting by and hearing. I found myself gradually learning slang-insolence, laughing at coarse jokes, taking part in angry conversations; my moral tone was gradually becoming lower; but yet the habit of prayer remained, and every night at my bedside, when I prayed to “be converted and made a child of God,” I prayed that the same mercy might be extended to my fellow-workmen, “if they belonged to the number of the elect.” Those prayers may have been answered in a wider and deeper sense than I then thought of.

But, altogether, I felt myself in a most distracted, rudderless state. My mother’s advice I felt daily less and less inclined to ask. A gulf was opening between us; we were moving in two different worlds, and she saw it, and imputed it to me as a sin; and was the more cold to me by day, and prayed for me (as I knew afterwards) the more passionately while I slept. But help or teacher I had none. I knew not that I had a Father in heaven. How could He be my Father till I was converted? I was a child of the Devil, they told me; and now and then I felt inclined to take them at their word, and behave like one. No sympathizing face looked on me out of the wide heaven — off the wide earth, none. I was all boiling with new hopes, new temptations, new passions, new sorrows, and “I looked to the right hand and to the left, and no man cared for my soul.”

I had felt myself from the first strangely drawn towards Crossthwaite, carefully as he seemed to avoid me, except to give me business directions in the workroom. He alone had shown me any kindness; and he, too, alone was untainted with the sin around him. Silent, moody, and preoccupied, he was yet the king of the room. His opinion was always asked, and listened to. His eye always cowed the ribald and the blasphemer; his songs, when he rarely broke out into merriment, were always rapturously applauded. Men hated, and yet respected him. I shrank from him at first, when I heard him called a Chartist; for my dim notions of that class were, that they were a very wicked set of people, who wanted to kill all the soldiers and policemen and respectable people, and rob all the shops of their contents. But, Chartist or none, Crossthwaite fascinated me. I often found myself neglecting my work to study his face. I liked him, too, because he was as I was — small, pale, and weakly. He might have been five-and-twenty; but his looks, like those of too many a working man, were rather those of a man of forty. Wild grey eyes gleamed out from under huge knitted brows, and a perpendicular wall of brain, too large for his puny body. He was not only, I soon discovered, a water-drinker, but a strict “vegetarian” also; to which, perhaps, he owed a great deal of the almost preternatural clearness, volubility, and sensitiveness of his mind. But whether from his ascetic habits, or the unhealthiness of his trade, the marks of ill-health were upon him; and his sallow cheek, and ever-working lip, proclaimed too surely —

The fiery soul which, working out its way,

Fretted the pigmy body to decay;

And o’er informed the tenement of clay.

I longed to open my heart to him. Instinctively I felt that he was a kindred spirit. Often, turning round suddenly in the workroom, I caught him watching me with an expression which seemed to say, “Poor boy, and art thou too one of us? Hast thou too to fight with poverty and guidelessness, and the cravings of an unsatisfied intellect, as I have done!” But when I tried to speak to him earnestly, his manner was peremptory and repellent. It was well for me that so it was — well for me, I see now, that it was not from him my mind received the first lessons in self-development. For guides did come to me in good time, though not such, perhaps, as either my mother or my readers would have chosen for me.

My great desire now was to get knowledge. By getting that I fancied, as most self-educated men are apt to do, 1 should surely get wisdom. Books, I thought, would tell me all I needed. But where to get the books? And which? I had exhausted our small stock at home; I was sick and tired, without knowing why, of their narrow conventional view of everything. After all, I had been reading them all along, not for their doctrines but for their facts, and knew not where to find more, except in forbidden paths. I dare not ask my mother for books, for I dare not confess to her that religious ones were just what I did not want; and all history, poetry, science, I had been accustomed to hear spoken of as “carnal learning, human philosophy,” more or less diabolic and ruinous to the soul. So, as usually happens in this life —“By the law was the knowledge of sin”— and unnatural restrictions on the development of the human spirit only associated with guilt of conscience, what ought to have been an innocent and necessary blessing.

My poor mother, not singular in her mistake, had sent me forth, out of an unconscious paradise into the evil world, without allowing me even the sad strength which comes from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; she expected in me the innocence of the dove, as if that was possible on such an earth as this, without the wisdom of the serpent to support it. She forbade me strictly to stop and look into the windows of print shops, and I strictly obeyed her. But she forbade me, too, to read any book which I had not first shown her; and that restriction, reasonable enough in the abstract, practically meant, in the case of a poor boy like myself, reading no books at all. And then came my first act of disobedience, the parent of many more. Bitterly have I repented it, and bitterly been punished. Yet, strange contradiction! I dare not wish it undone. But such is the great law of life. Punished for our sins we surely are; and yet how often they become our blessings, teaching us that which nothing else can teach us! Nothing else? One says so. Rich parents, I suppose, say so, when they send their sons to public schools “to learn life.” We working men have too often no other teacher than our own errors. But surely, surely, the rich ought to have been able to discover some mode of education in which knowledge may be acquired without the price of conscience, Yet they have not; and we must not complain of them for not giving such a one to the working man when they have not yet even given it to their own children.

In a street through which I used to walk homeward was an old book shop, piled and fringed outside and in with books of every age, size, and colour. And here I at last summoned courage to stop, and timidly and stealthily taking out some volume whose title attracted me, snatch hastily a few pages and hasten on, half fearful of being called on to purchase, half ashamed of a desire which I fancied every one else considered as unlawful as my mother did. Sometimes I was lucky enough to find the same volume several days running, and to take up the subject where I had left it off; and thus I contrived to hurry through a great deal of “Childe Harold,” “Lara,” and the “Corsair”— a new world of wonders to me. They fed, those poems, both my health and my diseases; while they gave me, little of them as I could understand, a thousand new notions about scenery and man, a sense of poetic melody and luxuriance as yet utterly unknown. They chimed in with all my discontent, my melancholy, my thirst after any life of action and excitement, however frivolous, insane, or even worse. I forgot the Corsair’s sinful trade in his free and daring life; rather, I honestly eliminated the bad element — in which, God knows, I took no delight — and kept the good one. However that might be, the innocent — guilty pleasure grew on me day by day. Innocent, because human — guilty, because disobedient. But have I not paid the penalty?

One evening, however, I fell accidentally on a new book —“The Life and Poems of J. Bethune.” I opened the story of his life — became interested, absorbed — and there I stood, I know not how long, on the greasy pavement, heedless of the passers who thrust me right and left, reading by the flaring gas-light that sad history of labour, sorrow, and death. — How the Highland cotter, in spite of disease, penury, starvation itself, and the daily struggle to earn his bread by digging and ditching, educated himself — how he toiled unceasingly with his hands — how he wrote his poems in secret on dirty scraps of paper and old leaves of books — how thus he wore himself out, manful and godly, “bating not a jot of heart or hope,” till the weak flesh would bear no more; and the noble spirit, unrecognized by the lord of the soil, returned to God who gave it. I seemed to see in his history a sad presage of my own. If he, stronger, more self-restrained, more righteous far than ever I could be, had died thus unknown, unassisted, in the stern battle with social disadvantages, what must be my lot?

And tears of sympathy, rather than of selfish fear, fell fast upon the book.

A harsh voice from the inner darkness of the shop startled me.

“Hoot, laddie, ye’ll better no spoil my books wi’ greeting ower them.”

I replaced the book hastily, and was hurrying on, but the same voice called me back in a more kindly tone.

“Stop a wee, my laddie. I’m no angered wi’ ye. Come in, and we’ll just ha’ a bit crack thegither.”

I went in, for there was a geniality in the tone to which I was unaccustomed, and something whispered to me the hope of an adventure, as indeed it proved to be, if an event deserves that name which decided the course of my whole destiny.

“What war ye greeting about, then? What was the book?”

“‘Bethune’s Life and Poems,’ sir,” I said. “And certainly they did affect me very much.”

“Affect ye? Ah, Johnnie Bethune, puir fellow! Ye maunna take on about sic like laddies, or ye’ll greet your e’en out o’ your head. It’s mony a braw man beside Johnnie Bethune has gane Johnnie–Bethune’s gate.”

Though unaccustomed to the Scotch accent, I could make out enough of this speech to be in nowise consoled by it. But the old man turned the conversation by asking me abruptly my name, and trade, and family.

“Hum, hum, widow, eh? puir body! work at Smith’s shop, eh? Ye’ll ken John Crossthwaite, then? ay? hum, hum; an’ ye’re desirous o’ reading books? vara weel — let’s see your cawpabilities.”

And he pulled me into the dim light of the little back window, shoved back his spectacles, and peering at me from underneath them, began, to my great astonishment, to feel my head all over.

“Hum, hum, a vara gude forehead — vara gude indeed. Causative organs large, perceptive ditto. Imagination superabundant — mun be heeded. Benevolence, conscientiousness, ditto, ditto. Caution — no that large — might be developed,” with a quiet chuckle, “under a gude Scot’s education. Just turn your head into profile, laddie. Hum, hum. Back o’ the head a’thegither defective. Firmness sma’— love of approbation unco big. Beware o’ leeing, as ye live; ye’ll need it. Philoprogenitiveness gude. Ye’ll be fond o’ bairns, I’m guessing?”

“Of what?”

“Children, laddie — children.”

“Very,” answered I, in utter dismay at what seemed to me a magical process for getting at all my secret failings.

“Hum, hum! Amative and combative organs sma’— a general want o’ healthy animalism, as my freen’ Mr. Deville wad say. And ye want to read books?”

I confessed my desire, without, alas! confessing that my mother had forbidden it.

“Vara weel; then books I’ll lend ye, after I’ve had a crack wi’ Crossthwaite aboot ye, gin I find his opinion o’ ye satisfactory. Come to me the day after tomorrow. An’ mind, here are my rules:— a’ damage done to a book to be paid for, or na mair books lent; ye’ll mind to take no books without leave; specially ye’ll mind no to read in bed o’ nights — industrious folks ought to be sleeping’ betimes, an’ I’d no be a party to burning puir weans in their beds; and lastly, ye’ll observe not to read mair than five books at once.”

I assured him that I thought such a thing impossible; but he smiled in his saturnine way, and said —

“We’ll see this day fortnight. Now, then, I’ve observed ye for a month past over that aristocratic Byron’s poems. And I’m willing to teach the young idea how to shoot — but no to shoot itself; so ye’ll just leave alane that vinegary, soul-destroying trash, and I’ll lend ye, gin I hear a gude report of ye, ‘The Paradise Lost,’ o’ John Milton — a gran’ classic model; and for the doctrine o’t, it’s just aboot as gude as ye’ll hear elsewhere the noo. So gang your gate, and tell John Crossthwaite, privately, auld Sandy Mackaye wad like to see him the morn’s night.”

I went home in wonder and delight. Books! books! books! I should have my fill of them at last. And when I said my prayers at night, I thanked God for this unexpected boon; and then remembered that my mother had forbidden it. That thought checked the thanks, but not the pleasure. Oh, parents! are there not real sins enough in the world already, without your defiling it, over and above, by inventing new ones?

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56