The schoolmaster willingly assented, and followed his friend, who flew down the hill at breakneck speed, in a rapid but more sober manner. The old couple looked up with some astonishment at a well-dressed city man tearing down the hill towards them like a schoolboy, but their astonishment turned to warmest gratitude, that found vent in many thankful expressions, as the lawyer shouldered the old lady’s big bundle, and, as, a minute later, the dominie relieved her partner of his. They naturally fell into pairs, the husband and Wilkinson leading, Coristine and the wife following after. In different ways the elderly pair told their twin burden-bearers the same story of their farm some distance below the western slope of the mountain, of their son at home and their two daughters out at service, and mentioned the fact that they had both been schoolteachers, but, as they said with apologetic humility, only on third-class county certificates. Old Mr. Hill insisted on getting his load back when the top of the mountain was reached, and the pedestrians resumed their knapsacks and staves, but the lawyer utterly refused to surrender his bundle to the old lady’s entreaties. The sometime schoolteachers were intelligent, very well read in Cowper, Pollock, and Sir Walter Scott, as well as in the Bible, and withal possessed of a fair sense of humour. The old lady and Coristine were a perpetual feast to one another. “Sure!” said he, “it’s bagmen the ignorant creatures have taken us for more than once, and it’s a genuine one I am now, Mrs. Hill,” at which the good woman laughed, and recited the Scotch ballad of the “Wee Wifukie coming frae the fair,” who fell asleep, when “by came a packman wi’ a little pack,” and relieved her of her purse and placks, and “clippit a’ her gowden locks sae bonnie and sae lang.” This she did in excellent taste, leaving out any objectionable expressions in the original. When she repeated the words of the Wifukie at the end of each verse, “This is nae me,” consequent on her discovery that curls and money were gone, the lawyer laughed heartily, causing the pair in front, who were discussing educational matters, to look round for the cause of the merriment. “I’m the man,” shouted Coristine to them, “the packman wi’ a little pack.” Then Mr. Hill knew what it was.
Conversation with the
Deipnosophist and Gastronomic Dilemma—Mr. Hill’s
Courtship—William Rufus rouses the Dominie’s Ire—Sleep—The Real
Rufus—Acts as Guide—Rawdon Discussed—The Sluggard Farmer—The
Teamsters—The Wasps—A Difference of Opinion.
It was very pleasant for all four, the walk down the mountain road; and the pedestrians enjoyed the scenery all the more with intelligent guides to point out places of interest. The old schoolteacher, having questioned Wilkinson as to his avocation, looked upon him as a superior being, and gratified the little corner of good-natured vanity that lies in most teachers’ hearts. Coristine told the wife that he trusted her daughters had good places, where they would receive the respect due to young women of such upbringing; and she replied:—