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Wilson's Border Tales
I Canna be Fashed

Chapter 1


"Here’s a bonny day, sir," said old Willie Grant, "and the Whitadder’s in excellent trim—will ye get your gad and your creel, and we’ll awa see what sort o’ sport there is. If I’m no mista’en the tronts will rise as fast as ye throw the line today."

"Oh, I canna be fashed," said the individual to whom he spoke.

"What’s that I hear ye say?" added Willie, seriously—‘Ye canna be fashed!’ can ye no! Do ye think ye could be fashed to read the ‘Cottagers o’ Glenburnie?’ Ye would there see the meaning and the effects o’ ‘I canna be fashed,’ illustrated. But if ye can be fashed to hear, I’ll gie ye an example in my ain case; and I asure ye, that those four words ‘1—canna— be—fashed ‘—(he spoke them very slowly, laying emphasis on each)—I say, sir, those four words hae cost me a thousand pounds twice told. I got them for naething; but, certes, they proved a dear bargain in the lang run. They hae made me acquainted wi’ a sair skin, a sair heart, and an empty pocket. I hae nae remembrance wha learned me the words, nor am I altogether certain but that they are words that just spring out o’ the laziness and indolence o’ our dispositions like weeds out o’ a neglected soil. But weel do I remember the first time when I was made to hae a feeling remembrance o’ having used them. My faither was a bit sma’ laird in East Lothian—no very far frae Dunglass—and the property consisted o’ between thirty and forty acres, so that he managed to bring up a family o’ five o’ us very comfortably, and rather respectably—and the more especially as my mother was a very thrifty woman. I was the third o’ the family; and, as I was gaun to say to ye, there was ae day that we were o’ gilravishing about the floor, and wheeling ane anither in a little wheelbarrow that my faither had got a cartwright in Dunbar to mak for us—(for he was a man that liked to see his bairns happy)—when, says he to me—

"Willie, tie yer whings, and dinna let yershoon be shaughlin aff yer feet in that gaet, or ye maun gang barefoot. Folk shouldna hae shoon that dinna ken hoo to wear them."

"I canna be fashed, faither," said I, and continued running after the wheelbarrow; but, before ever I wist, and before I thought that I had done ill, he gied me a cuff i’ the haffits, that made me birl half donner’t by the cheek o’ the lum.

"Ay, man!" says he, "what’s that I hear ye say—‘ye canna be fashed!’ Let me hear the words come out o’ your lips again if ye daur, and I’ll knock the life out o’ ye."

That was the first time that I particularly remember o’ having made use o’ the phrase, and I am only sorry that the clout which my faither gied me, didna drive it out o’ my head frae that day henceforth, and for ever; though, truly, it had nae such effect, as ye shall hear, and as I experienced to my sorrow. I sat down whinging till my faither gaed out o’ the house, and, as soon as his back was turned, I dried my een, and began to drive about the barrow again wi’ my brothers and sisters; but I hadna run aboon ten minutes, till my mother, wha was tired wi’ the noise we were making cried—

"Willie, laddie, gie me off your stockings instantly—preserve us! the callant has holes in their heels ye might put yer nieve through!—there’s what ye’ve dune wi’ your runing about without yer whings tied."

"Hoot, mother," cried I, "I canna be fashed—darn them again’ nicht."

"I’ll ‘canna be fashed’ ye—ye lazy monkey, ye. Did your faither no gie ye enough for that no ten minutes syne, and ye’ll tell me ony siccan a story!"

She grippit me by the neck, and, for my faither’s ae clout, she gied me ten, at every cuff saying—"I’ll canna be fashes ye!" And, at last, she threw off my shoon, and pulled the stockings off my legs, and pushed me away frae her wi’ a great drive, crying—"Now, only let me hear ye making use o’ thae words again, and ye’ll maybe see what I can be fashed to do."

"O, dear me!" thought I, "what ill have I done?" And I sat down and I grat, and I roared most heartily, and I kicked my bare feet upon the floor.

"Kick away there, my man," said my mother—for she was a woman that never got into what ye could call a passion in her family, as I have seen some mothers do—"kick away there," says she; "and if ye drive a hole in the heels o’ the stockings you’ve on now, ye’ll darn them yoursel’."

But this, sir, was only the first thrashing that I got for "I canna be fashed"—it wasna the last, by a score o’ times. My faither was a man that never liked to lay out a shilling where it could be saved; and he always grudged to employ other people to do anything when he thought it could be done within his own house—that is, by the members o’ his own family—therefore, about the back end o’ spring, or the fore end o’ summer, he would have said to us—

"Now, bairns, had awa to your beds, and before schooltime the morn, gang and howe the potatoes, or weed the corn." I never durst say onything then, but slipped away to bed very unwillingly—just feeling as if I felt it a trouble to put off my claes. But before sunrise in the morning, when my brothers would have wakened me, I used to rub my een, and gaunt, and say—

"What!—what!—hoots!—I canna be fashed!"

And my faither, frae the hen-a-house, would have cried out wi’ a voice that made the very nails on my fingers shake—

"What’s that he’s saying ?—I’ll be fashed him!"

Then up I would have got shrugging my shouthers, and wriggling them frae side to side, and cried peevishly to one—"Where’s my stockings?"—and to another, "Where’s my jacket?"

Then my faither would have cried out again—"I’ll seek it for ye!" Then I soon found it, and got out o’ the house wi’ the rest o’ them.

It was precisely the same thing when my brothers used to shake me in the morning, and say— "Get up, Willie—ye haena your task yet."

I had invariably the same answer for them on such occasions also. I appeared as if naething could drive it out o’ me. I have heard auld wives say, if ye were taking infants to ony part o’ the globe ye like, and keeping them where they never would hear a human voice, nor speech o’ one kind nor another, that they would speak Hebrew! Now, I verily believe, that, if ye had done the same by me—if ye had taken me, when a week auld, into the deserts o’ Arawbia, wi’ naething but dummies round about me, and not a living soul nor a living thing endowed wi’ the power o’ speech allowed to see me nor come near me—I say, that I verily believe the first words I would have spoken, would have been—"I canna be fashed!" in guid braid Scotch. The words literally seemed born wi’ me. And, as I was telling ye about getting up to learn my tasks in a morning, many, many is the time, in the cauldest day o’ winter, that my favourite phrase has caused the tawse to warm my hands, when the fingers o’ a’ the rest o’ the scholars were dinnlin’ wi’ cauld, and they were holding them at their mouths, and blowing their hot breath on them to take out the frost. My faither should have paid no coal-money for me. And more than this, the four insignificant and carelessly-uttered words which I allude to, while I was at school, always kept me near the bottom o’ the class, or, if I rose one or two towards the top, it was purely on account others having been away from the school for a day, or half a day, and having to take the foot o’ the class on account their absence as a matter o’ course. Often and often I could have trapped their heels, and taken my place aboon them--and the teacher kenned it as weel, and many a weary time has he said to me—"Oh, ye stupid stirk! why do ye stand there?—why didna ye trap him?"

And once in particular, I remember, I answered him—"I couldna be fashed, sir!"

"Fashed!" he cried, in a perfect fury, and he raised the tawse to his teeth—fashed, sirrah!" he cried again—"then I’ll learn ye to be fashed, sir!"

But o’ a’ the belabourings I ever got frae either faither or mother, for the same cause, they were naething to the school maister’s. It’s a miracle to me that there was a tail left of his tawse; for he loundered me round the school and round the school; and, aye as he loundered, he girned his teeth together, and he cried—"Heard ever onybody the like o’ that! Canna be fashed, truly!—I’ll fash ye, my man!—I’ll learn ye to gie me an answer o’ that kind again!"

But a’ the thrashings that faither, and mother, and maister could thrash at me, on every occasion, the confounded words were aye uppermost—they were perpetually at my tongue end. I was just an easy, indolent being—one that seemed disposed to steal through the world wi’ my hands in my pocket as smoothly as possible. When I grew to be a lad, I daresay those that kenned me best were surprised that I could be fashed to gang a courting, like other youngsters. But even then, when others would brush themselves up, and put on their half-best coat, and the like o’ that, in order that they might look as smart as possible, I have thought to myself, I wonder if I should shave and wash my face, and gie mysel’ a redd-up before I gang to see her the night; but perpetually I used to say to mysel’—"Ou, I daresay I canna be fashed— I’ll do very weel as I am." And there wasna less than three or four young lasses that I had a particular liking for—an each o’ them, I daresay, would made an excellent wife, and I could a’ been very happy wi’ ony o’ them—but they all broke off acquaintance wi’ me, "just," as they said to their friends, ‘because I was o’ such a slovenly disposition, that I couldna ever be fashed to mak mysel’ purposelike when I gaed to see a body.’

The like o’ this was very galling to me; but it hadna the effect o’ making a better o’ me. I couldna be fashed to be ony better, let come what might. "Losh-a-day," thought I "I wonder what folk would hae me to be at, or how they can gie themsels sae meikle trouble, and be sae particular!"

But, beyond all others, there was one young woman that I had an affection for in a very extraordinary degree. She was as dear to me as the apple o’ my ee; and I am sure she could hae done onything wi’ me--save to break me o’ my habit o’ saying—I "canna be fashed." That was beyond her power. It was my fixed intention to marry her; and, indeed, not only was the wedding-day set, but her wedding-gown and my coat were made, and the ring was bought, and she had spoken to her bride’s maid; and, besides buying a’ sort o’ things hersel’, she had got her mother to have her providing packed up, and everything was in readiness just to be lifted to our new house—that is, the house we were to occupy. Now, when all this had taken place, there was one bonny starlight night that we were walking together, just as happy as twa wood-pigeons, and talking owre the settlement o’ everything, that she said to me—

"What did the joiner say last night, Willie?—will he be sure no to disappoint us wi’ the furniture?—for I would like everything right at the very first."

"Eh! weel-minded, my dear," says I; "I really forgot to gang and see him, for I was sae tired when I got hame last night, that—I couldna be fashed."

"That was silly o’ ye man," said she; "it was very thoughtless. But I hope ye didna forget to gie in the marriage lines to the minister?" (The session-clerk was ill at the time.)

"Save us a’, hinny!" said I, "weel, I’m sure that dings everything! But as sure as death! as I told ye, I was sae tired, that I never minded a word about it till bed-time when I had my waistcoat unbuttoned and my shoon off, and I couldna be fashed to put them on again, and at ony rate it was owre late."

"Very weel, Willie," said she, and apparently a good deal hurt, "I wouldna thought it o’ ye—but no matter."

"No, love," said I, "it’s no great matter, sure enough, for this is only Saturday night, and I’ll just call in at the manse in the by-going, as I gang hame, and tell the minister a’ about it. The thing can be done in a minute."

"Indeed no," said she, "though I should never be cried, ye are to go no such a way. This is Saturday night—the morn is the Sabbath, and the minister will be at his studies, and ye are not to disturb him on my account."

"Very well, love," said I, "we’ll just have to put off a week, then."

"Maybe sae," said she. But I thought there was something unco dry in her manner o’ saying "maybe sae." However as I couldna be fashed to call upon the minister that night, I

took nae mair notice o’ the subject.

I could hardly get a word out o’ her after this, for above an hour that I remained in her company. However, she rather came to a little (for she was a kind-hearted lassie), when we were about to part; and we promised faithfully to meet one another at the usual trysting-place, on the Wednesday night following, at eight o’clock, within a minute; and I was to have everything arranged wi’ the minister and the joiner in the meantime.

On the Sunday morning, the minister passed me between the manse and the kirk, and says he, quite familiarly—for he was a man that had nae stiffness about him—

"Willie, I thought you was to have been cried to-day."

"I beg your pardon, sir," said, I; "but it was all my neglect; for I couldna be fashed until last night, and then I thought ye would be at your studies, and it was owre late to trouble ye."

"You were very considerate," said he, wi’ a smile; "but I’ll save you the trouble next week."

"I’ll be obliged to ye, sir," said I, taking off my hat.

In going home, I overtook the joiner—no, I’m wrong, the joiner overtook me—and, after he had observed that it was a fine day, and I had said it was, and he had asked me what I had thought o’ the sermon, and so on, I said to him—"Now, I expect that ye’ll no disappoint me wi’ the furniture."

"Ye needa be feared o’ that, Mr. Grant," said he, "ye ken ye proposed that it was to be a ready-money transaction. It’s no every day that we meet wi’ job’s o’ that kind, and ye may tak my word on’t, I’ll no disappoint ye--both for your sake and mine."

"Weel," thought I, "that’s twa things off my head—Isabella will surely be pleased now (for they ca’d her Isabella). I’ve been fortunate in meetin’ wi’ them baith—in killin’ twa birds wi’ ae stane."

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