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founded on a scene which he witnessed in the establishment. Chambers says—“In company with his friends, John Richmond and James Smith, he dropped accidentally at a late hour into the humble hostelry of Mrs. Gibson. After witnessing much jollity among a company who by day appeared abroad as miserable beggars, the three young men came away, Burns professing to have been greatly amused with the scenes, but particularly with the gleesome behaviour of an old maimed soldier. In the course of a few days he recited a part of the poem to Richmond, who informed me that, to the best of his recollection, it contained, in its original complete form, songs by a sweep and a sailor which did not afterwards appear.'
Having strolled to the Cross, I turned up a lane which terminates at the public green—a triangular piece of ground on which the seven annual fairs of the district are held. It is memorable on account of the five martyrs “who suffered for Christ and their adherence to the Covenanted work of Reformation” buried in it, and also for being the spot where Burns had his second interview with Jean Armour. • There was a race at the end of April, says Robert Chambers, “and there it was customary for the young men, with little ceremony, to invite such girls as they liked off the street into a humble dancing hall, where a fiddler had taken up his station to give them music. The payment of a penny for a dance was held by the minstrel as guerdon sufficient. Burns and Jean happened to be in the same dance, but not as partners, when some confusion and a little merriment was excited by his dog tracking his footsteps through the room. fully remarked to his partner that he wished he could get any of the lasses to like him as well as his dog did.' A short while after, he passed through Mauchline washing green, where Jean, who had overheard the remark, was bleaching clothes. His dog running over the clothes, the young maiden desired him to call it off, and this led them into conversation. Archly referring to what had passed at the dance, she asked if he had yet got any of the lasses to like him as well as his dog did ? From that time their intirnacy commenced.” Of course, Jean was one of the “Mauchline belles,” and according to the poet's notion was “the flower o' them 'a'.” After he was married to her, he very sensibly and
justly said, that he could easily fancy a more agreeable companion in his journey through life, but had never seen the individual instance.
From the public green I strolled down an avenue and paused before
manse. It is a quaint, curiously formed building, and was the residence of the celebrated Daddy Auld. Daddy's wife was supposed to be a witch, and according to tradition kept queer company-indeed, it is handed down that a servant girl saw the devil warming his hoofs at a fire in one of the rooms. The old gentleman sat with his tail twisted over his knee, but the moment the maid screamed and let fall the shovelfull of fuel she carried, he vanished. Perhaps it was wrong, but I went up
the haunted room," and the spot where his devilship enjoyed a short respite from
Spairgin about the brunstane cootie
To scaud poor wretches,” but beheld nothing remarkable, and came away somewhat disappointed, for instead of it being clad with cobwebs and dust, like the haunted chambers we read about, it was scrupulously clean, and wore an air of quiet comfort.
From the old manse, a short walk brought me to Ballochmyle road, and ultimately to the upper end of the Cowgate. Here I again paused, and while thinking on the flight of " Common Sense” from the “ Holy Fair,” looked upon a snug thatched cottage with a porched doorway, which stands near some mean buildings a little way down the celebrated thoroughfare. It is pointed to as the house in which Burns composed his exquisite address to “a Haggis," and on this account possesses a peculiar interest in the eyes of those who seo a charm in everything associated with the poet's
It was at one time occupied by a Mr. Robert Morrison, a great crony of the poet when he resided at Mossgiel, and it is said that he was in the habit of spending the interval between the church services on the Sabbath-day at this gentleman's fireside. On one of these occasions, Mrs. Morrison invited the bard to partake of a haggis “whose hurdies like a distant hill ” almost concealed “the groaning trencher." Having done so to his evident delight and inward satisfaction, he wrote the “address," and well he might, for
a proper haggis is worthy of a “grace as lang's my arm” at
From Mauchline I pushed on to Ballochmyle, but what was seen and heard there and at Barskimming will be reserved for next chapter.
BALLOCHMYLE—THE BRAES—THE LASS O' BALLOCHMYLE—HER ACCOUNT
OF MEETING THE POET–BURNS' SEAT—THE POET'S LETTER TO
RAILWAY STATION-BACK TO KILMARNOCK.
BALLOCHMYLE, the seat of Colonel Claud Alexander, M.P.. for South Ayrshire, is situated on the Catrine Road, some mile and a half from Mauchline. Although the scenery through which the road winds cannot be termed enchanting, it is at least pleasing, and I enjoyed it and the fragrance of the hay and flowers which the breeze bore from the uplands and wafted across the fields as I strolled on my way. Groups of happy, brown-faced, bare-legged children, who seemingly were returning from school, were gathering posies of daisies and golden dandelions here and there along the wayside in the vicinity of the town, and it made my heart glad to watch them and listen to their innocent laughter as it waked the echoes and mingled with the music of the birds. When I reached the entrance to the estate I found the gate fast, and it was not until I gave a few authoritative
stick that a maiden issued from an antique flower-em bowered cot, which nestles beautifully beneath some old trees, to admit me With many thanks for her courtesy, I passed along the fine drive which winds through dense masses of wood and shrub: bery, and in due time arrived in front of the mansion. All was quiet, and save the birds that flitted and chirruped in the trees or sought food on the lawn, no sign of life was to be witnessed. Although surrounded by a scene of bewildering beauty, a sense of loneliness weighed me down, for as yet I was an unauthorised visitor. To remedy this I set off in quest of my friend the keeper, and in my explorations stum
bled into a secluded path in the shrubbery which leads down to the river Ayr. The solitude was peculiarly impressive. There was a cloudless sunshine, but nothing was heard save the murmuring of the current as it made its way among stones and pieces of rock impeding its progress. Steep banks and precipices, draped in most luxuriant natural wood, rose from the water edge in majestic loveliness, and cast long shadows on the ripples and smooth glassy spaces of the stream. Here the grass and herbage extended close to the brink, and trees bent over and laved the tips of their boughs in the current ; there a wall of rock rose from the bed, which looked as if it had been hewn by rough, careless workmen, who in their haste had left many a shelf protruding. On these, and in the intervening spaces, ferns and shrubs grew, and far up on the top of all, on the very brink of the chasm, trees clung to crag and tightly grasped pieces of rock with their knotty fingers. It is a never-to-be-forgotten scene, and I am not at all surprised
that the poetic fancy of Burns was roused by witnessing it. Following the path, I entered the thicket, and in its intricate windings over the braes was soon lost among
confused stems, bushes, branches, and clustering green leaves which had succeeded those which lay withered and dead on the verge of the rustic footway. Several times I was nearly tripped up by moss-grown tree roots, and more than once startled by rabbits which my unexpected appearance had surprised while basking in gleams of sunshine which fell on the green sward through openings in the trees.
Having threaded this narrow path for some considerable distance, I came to a broader but not less romantic one, for the leafy canopy of interlaced branches continued, and the wild grandeur of the scene, if possible, became more fascinating. Having followed it a short distance, I reached a rustic bower or grotto of ornamental twig work and moss. It was a familiar object, and I at once knew that I had reached the spot where Burns unexpectedly met “The Lass o' Ballochmyle," who, as the reader is probably aware,
was a Miss Wilhelmina Alexander, a sister of Mr Claud Alexander, a gentleman who had realized a fortune in India and purchased the estate from Sir John Whiteford, the friend of Burns, and the representative of a once powerful Ayrshire family. The bard sung the departure of the kind gentleman in a set of plaintive verses,