The Scottish Packman.
Clutha Leader, Rōrahi I, Putanga 30, 4 Huitanguru 1875, Page 2
The Scottish Packman.
♦ ; Far? north in Inverness, where the mountains gang rollipg in grekt masses up towards Inyergordon, I was cannily travelling ae!' day in ; August:, a gude few ylears syne, free alike frae worldly care or pressing want. In the fore pairt o v the day I had been uncommonly successful in my calling", and I now walkit onwards invigorated alike by the caller air of-the mountains and the thought that I was at least. ae wee step, farrer frae the puifhoose, gin I should he snared ' to be ah aiild, dune bodie, Far alow me I could see a fine house and grounds stretched oot as braw and kensrjeckle as ony gentleman's, wi' . lawns, and walks, and arbours, and sic like; hut though I could see the outlines of ladies and gentlemen sauntering aboot within its precincts as happy and consequential as ye like, I didna envy ane o'them. The fact is I wadna at that minute hae changed frae puir Johnny Geddes, the packman, to ane o' thae grand folks for a' the treasures of the universe ; from the simple fact that the grand place was neither mair nor less than a madhoose — a receptacle for thae puir creatures who hae tint the only thing in this world worth hneing. " What is a' their grandeur, and .fine airs, and hows and curtsies but a melancholy' farce V ' auoth Ito mysel', looking awa doon at tne moving figures wi 7 a heaviness on my heart and a tear in my e'e. " And gin ony o' them should escape, what desperate deeds micht they no commit to the danger o' themsel's and other folk 1 Ah, Johnny lad; ye maun say an extra prayer the nicht in thankfulness for reason and freedom !" With this reflection, I put up my hit piece and my bottle o' milk, which was thaTday td be my dinner, and put off the meal for a wee, till I should be be-? yond the mountain peak which loamed near me, arid which "would efTeotually shut oot the sad spectacle from mjr; sight. In this way, led on by the beauty and grandeur of the ever-j charming prospect, I travelled on for fully -an hour, till I cam' to an elevated platform, where the path ran along the edge of a rocky precipice, a hunder feet high, if it was an inch ; and there in the stillness and solitude, and with my bursting heart rising in thankfulness to my Maker, I loused'doon my pack and sat doon at the edge of the, cleff to my delayed meal. J!ar alow^mv dangling feet, where precipice left ''off and the steep mountain side began, I could see the corbies sailing along like dark specks against the ground, and from even that simple" circumstances I; drew a comforting thought. ' "The very corbies, neglected, hunted, and shot on every hand, are vouchsafed; their bit pick." thought I ; ?' and are not you, 0 Johnny Geddes, worth more than many cobies ?" ' ' While pensively shaking my heid owre my am worldliness . and want o' faith, wi' my piece in the tae hand and .the bottle 6' milk, in the; tither, a .grasp; like that of ten thoosand vicesf a! screwed into ane 'was suddenly fastened ( on my shouther, and looking up wi' a start that nearly sent me plunk owre; the precipice I saw . tb.at:;a/ strange, gentleman had approached me noiselessly frae ahint, and vas now gazing into my face wi' sic wild intensity as to, mak' me blink like a hoolet. _"Gu— gude day to ye, sir?" I stammered, opt in i my maist sweet and soothing tones, and trying to look not'; the least scaured. " The' craps are| lookin' giely the year." . ■ But nae "responsive smile lighted up the weird face lowering doon on mine ; and his reply was muttered mair to himsel' than as if addressed to me. "At last," he sighed, as if in deep thankfulness, "at last the revelation, has been fulfilled, and I am to be free — free from darkness, dreams, and prisons, and to soar aloft, the. admiration of the 1 whole world !" and, still keeping a. firm grip o' my shouther, he sat doon aside me on the edge of the high cliff. " I'm Johnny Geddes, the packman," I uneasily rem arkit. " If ye're in want o' ony o' my gudes I'll be gled to show ye them as sune as I've finished my bit ; chack. o' dinner." " Oh, I have waited for you so long— oh, so long," he grimly returned/staring : into my face, and then doon owre the , precipice in a wild, uncanny way that sickened me to the heart. " Weel, I, dinna see hoo that can be, , ibr .I've come along .:gejjiVL^ijfafa the; day," . I made answer, after thinking a wee. " Whaever tel*t ye I was r td be . along .'the: day: might have, kent I couldna' get along super." My new acquaintance made nae| answer, but ' for some, minutes seemed to occupy himsel' in keeking round in every airt to mak' sure that we were alane. " His face was V very shocking ane, ,wi' a great massive forehead, and tangled : hair bared' to ; the 1 breeze ; and in age he didna seem muckle a"bune thirty. He wasna muckle taller than ; mysel', but the strength o' his armwas ' something remarkable. ""What was that you said ;: abb6t the Revelations' ?" : I politely askit, wishing to he sociable wi' : the queer child, " It's no a book I fash mickie wiVseem' that, I hae never been able richtly to comprehend it." , ..... ; " You have . mistaken me," .he . said withr~a--wintiing smile, that -sent— a curious- stdun^throu^h^myi heart, "I sa^d I had had a~reyehatipn .concerning you ; hut before ; r , teir:y6ii i ang^t i flh t out : it.yoa- shall hea,r.s^^ 1 1
This a' soonded very queer, and rather sudden to me, but as I was in nae particular hurry, and was beginning to be interested in tlie queer sowjl, and to wonder* hoo he had come opt withoot his ban net on, I merely took a bit sdok at my milk bojitle and whang oot 6' the scone, and said — ■ " A' richt, go on wi' yer show." My new friend strokit back the tangled hair frae his broo, and a kind o' a' softening cam' owre his hard features as he began— "T was born among the hills, a farmer's son, and the earliest efforts of my "young limbs were' to chase the butterfly, crush through the shaggy heather, and fearlessly climb the steep where even men shuddered to stand;" "A' very commendable,"- 1 put in, wi' an approving nod, "except the chasm' o' the puir butterflee. Puir wee things, they're bonnie flutterin' through tho sunshine, and naebody was ever a bit the better o' crushin' them into stour." ' " From my::earliest: years, I can remember feeling something here," he Continued, pressing his hand on his Driest; "something surging and . swelling, which made me at one moment rush I over the mountains like a demon of the j storm, and the next weep like a girl ; over a crushed leaflet. People stared ! at me, and said I was a strange bairn; It began as it has ever since continued, i Nobody understood me. But once,; j when tearing over the mountain, borne on the wings of the blast, with snow on every side, and the night-mists deepening down to the valley below me, a voice suddenly shouted in my ear — ; 1 Allan M'lver, thou shalt be a great man !" " That was unco strange," quoth I, ! trying to shake of the eerie feeling that his impressive words had brought doon on me. " Maybe it Wad: be some shepperd, or some packman bodie like myself, addressing ye frae some higher or invisible peak o' the mountain."' " The voice was not human, it was the voice of nature calling to her adopted son," replied he,- with a flashing look that seemed to burn right : through me. ." But I was ignorant, young — a mere groper in the. darkness— the voice was unintelligible. People laughed* when I" spoke of the voice, but I knew; that the great power was welling <up' within me, and I wedded myself ..closer! and closer to uncontaminated nature. I tore across rocks and mountains, instorm and mist, and snow— had tp do' it to cool the wild fever surging in myj brain ; . but. at last'l realised the truth by pouring forth unbidden a few verses, on ' a withered flower ' as T stood withit in my hand on the mountain side— l was a poet." ."A poet ! man, gie's yer hand !" cried! I, rousing up at once and gripping him heartily by the hand^ and then, shaking it; as though I wad never, tire. ; "Mm no a poet mysel' — though my auld grandfather was a bit rhyming billie^— but I hae sic a sympathy wi' the hale race, that 1 could pit my arms round them a', and say,- come to the heart o' Johnny Geddes I. ' "Do not. shake my , hand— at least first hear me out," h6 answered, cbidly repressing my enthusiasm, shoving me back. " I was irpoet, but who cared to hear the fact announced? Poets are unprofitable things-^they cannot_gr.ub the earth like the mass, hut. must soar aloft, over sunbeam and mountain top. .1 was" to be made a learned man — sent to college, and turned out a medical man — to w ; ade about slums and alleys, and prescribe drugs~and nostrums for suffering men^l,' who :fainted at the sight of blood, pined whenever I left the mountains, and wept; to -my- heart's core when a wee lamb slipped doon 'the stony bracken and maimed its untrained: limbs ! I endured the;horrible sights and terrible trudgery for two years,, and then with fifty pounds in my pocket,-given me for another season at college, 1 ran off away to Glasgow, where more than one of my poems had already ap- 1 peared. The editors stared; when lj stalked into their midst. and annppnced that I and the unknown writer." Scotch; Thistle" were one; but their 'Welcome was none the less hearty, and for some; time I was feted about a nine day's! wonder. But I carried with me a long • poem —the hrain work of years — every line of it, coined in the anguish which: only a -poet's soul is called upon. to. enr dure, and when reproduced it they first; looked grave and then promised" to do | everything in their power, to forward) its publication. Fool that I was, I j might have read its ' death-knell 1 and ; my own in their hesitation. The poem j was returned to me again and again. ■ They wrote' themselves down idiots to all eternity; they' did not understand, it, and I lived centuries too early ! : • '-' ■ -"■Well, this sickening delay went on ; for, months and months. "Publisher"affer j publisher was tried, backed by every recommendation that my growing fame could- command." I sent 'the /work to j London, Edinburgh, Dublin even, but ; it was ever returned; jvith the same terriblereply-r^they did 'not 1 understand it; ; The blasted hope slowly wore| my life out — I sliurine<i Jmeh,' "every "living thing, and took t6 l brooding over* fresh : wor^s, -which! I Ishouldlleave .fdrC bien to admire hundreds of years after T should be gone. I had taken shelter in a high land of houses 1 com T manSihg 'a view fof the -rolHrig' Clyde^-' Where I could e>ery | hight : watch tbe suii dip" into- th&'i dis- ; tant ocean, and^'hope better; things ; from flf^.ri^W, and there! .one r night §tpod with my returned in 'iiiy ? ' ,V "!'-•.".,■:.' "'i") '}:., Id jtO*J •
;hand, and grasping, at the JMndow "■ frame of the wretched gaVret ftJllpport •as I watched the glorfo^f v the^etting isun deepen and intensify before me. I |had money in abundance lying near me 'untouched, ahd unheeded, yet so haggard and worn had my appearance become that, not long before, one of my editor friends, while accepting one of my trifles, had offered me money — money for the pulsings of my soul, my being Oh, God— money ; while I burned and pined for fame !" " Hout, tout," I here put in while ho ditched the big draps o' sweat frae his broo, " Dinna speak in that scoriifu* way o' ane^d' God's gifts.,: Moneys no a bad thing in its way, and helps mony a puir body farrer hor a gude : word?' " I stood there cursing the 'whole world, and gnashing my teeth at-tlie fate which gave me being," he sharply continued, taking nae; notice a' my remark, " and felt that if I had possessed the power Tcoulcl at ; [that iaohjtent have torn the earth in pieces, and sent the fragments "-flying - through the universe." r a I beg yer> pardon," I there interrupted, "but it behoves me, as an elder o' the kirk, to check ye for giein' utterance to ony o' the wicked thoughts," but afore I could get in another word he had begond again where he left p& "As I stood thus, with my heart 'as full of passion as if a thousand devils raged through it, a little "bird fluttered down from among the chimneys' with a weak cry, hovered a moment before my .open window, and then flew, dni and sheltered itself in my bosom. I* bent over the poor shivering thing, touched it with my finger, saw that, like /me; it hid been torn and cruelly iis^d ' by' ik fellows, and then Ibiir^t into, tears. ,,; • ' 7 " Puir wee thing," I put in/- gieiag my een a dicht in sympathy wi'?) his rcory ; "and did ye keep it and protect it ?" , ■ -..... " f " I did. i-had now found somethingto love— something with kindred feeU ings to my own," he replied, wi' 'his great big een now softened and glisten^ ing wi' tears. " I learned td understand its song, and every -morning * Woke- fahear it pipe .-: out, < Allan,- M'lver, t live for the .world!' I sent off my : work once more, emboldened by its song, calmly waited brimful of h6pe , ' t fpr Weary, weary days,; and theh'got^vbnl that it was' lying awaiting me n a^ r 'tfie : post office— again returned;!" >.;-. , -? ;, " Puir fellow, puir fellow ! ,It maun hae been an awin'Jblow to' ye?" I sympathisingly put in. -.: • • " Blow ?", It severed the last stay. . that held;me to life. I'walked back; to, my wretched' home, fueling that 5 Twite now done^witH this world/ ' I 'panged on the bridge, and would/have plunged down, into themuddy.watef^-qc' ended all, -but fpr,the pne.syr^pathisirig. Ai en d left me— my little' bird. '" 1[ Bloyrtr dragged' myself away, ascended^tfegarret, and called him by the°naniO*r had given- him, -Tweet; ■' >m$ no joyous warble or flutter into fmy ■amis:.*. there was-no answer j.^all-was sUen%afl the grave. ., I called, again, jff.yweet, Tweet,' but still my one- friend came ' ; not. . : I .looted ;ro'und' on hy^ML " glanced at its .'accustbmed.perchj anofafe last saw its forih stretched' 1 mot^fes's on the window-sill. I" tobk'it -ia>hfy hand jit was stiff, cold— rmy< friend twafc dead !'' . ■-■-,■ -.-,.!■ ,-;,„.;.--"Puir, wee, creature, the thought" o't mak's me like tb greet," said X'wi' another dicht at my een.' , "Ye wadbe in a bonnie way aboot 'it, ni ?" " ; : ' iUi "My very heart stood stills-then I' dashed the manuscripts in my hand Ho the. other end of the place,- and "moaned over my loss, unable to weep, I could have shrieked out my.wpes, torn the roof off, but what could" it all, avail novjr when I was done with the"' world T '"''l rushed out into the night ; a man stopped me on the street and asked me what was wrong. He seemed kindly and "*?]] yeaning, and when I screamed out that my- friend was dead he returiied with me to the garret.' "But when "he saw only a dead bird: her turned upon me, eyed me curiously, and inquired for my friends.' At last his ! Behavior became so insulting that- I ; se : ized ft chair and reared it aloft in my arms- to brain him on the spot ; but then with a dash he disappeared, arid left ie with my grief. But he returned— and there were others with him^-and, they surrounded me, and fought, and struggled, and pinioned me- in their arms; and dragged me through the streets to a prison, where a medical man felt my' pulse, and caused my head to be shaved, before ordering me to be shut up in a narrow dungeon." " A dungeon !" I echoed, in horror and amazement. " W hat had ye. dune deservin' o' a dungeon?" J ' J " Nothing-l'ab'soliitely: nothing," hi readily made answer! " I -had fdughii hard for my liberty, it as -true;. rand some of them were hurt in ; the struggle-; but they could not punish^ me for that No, my only fault was revealing" to them my: secret." •, ," Your .secret ! And what micht that be^gin _a body may speirj"_ I put in,-.in soma wonderment. ." ». "Simply that my friend, in dyings had. "gifted. me r "wiffi Eis^poVers-^-had left them to. meas;a -legacy. I could now—AjV—threughr-the— air, -far— above mouhtaihs'.ofiheny as Yreelyv asVannrdV' I stared at him-long and earnestly, and tb^n, by^ seeing thatthe wasna joking,! became conscious ffejfc the hair wasjslpwlyxismgion my BCafifc » nd |Q9^ing.t|ie banne£;off mVhead,' ' ■/'''^ ,