Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Wilson's Border Tales
Lottery Hall

Chapter 1

I had slept on the preceding night at Brampton; and, without entering so far into particulars as to say whether I took the road towards Carlisle, Newcastle, Annan, or to the south, suffice it to say that, towards evening, and just as I was again beginning to think of a resting-place, I overtook a man sauntering along the road with his hands behind his back. A single glance informed me that he was not one who earned his bread by the sweat of his brow; but the same glance also told me that he had not bread enough to spare. His back was covered with a well-worn black coat, the fashion of which belonged to a period at least twelve years preceding the time of which I write. The other parts of his outward man harmonized with his coat so far as apparent age and colour went. His head was covered with a low-crowned, broad-brimmed hat; and on his nose he wore a pair of silver-mounted spectacles. To my mind he presented the picture of a poor scholar, or of gentility in ruins. The lappels of his coat were tinged a little, but only a little, with snuff—which Flee-up, or Beggar’s Brown, as some call it, is very apt to do. In his hands, also, which, as I have said, were behind his back, he held his snuff-box. It is probable that he imagined he had returned it to his pocket after taking a pinch; but he appeared from his very saunter to be a meditative man, and, an idea having shot across his brain while in the act of snuff-taking, the box was unconsciously retained in his hand and placed behind his back. Whether the hands are in the way of contemplation or not I cannot tell, for I never think, save when my hand hold a pen; yet I have observed that to carry the hands behind the back is a favorite position with walking thinkers. I accordingly set down the gentleman with the broad-brimmed hat and silver-mounted spectacles to be a walking thinker; and it is more than probable that I should not have broken in upon his musings (for I am not in the habit of speaking to strangers), had it not been that I observed the snuff-box in his hands, and that mine required replenishing at the time. It is amazing and humiliating to think how uncomfortable, fretful, and miserable the want of a pinch of snuff can make a man!—how dust longs for dust! I had been desiring a pinch for an hour, and here it was presented before me like an unexpected spring in the wilderness. Snuffers are like freemasons—there is a sort of brotherhood among them. The real snuffer will not give a pinch to the mere dipper into other people’s boxes, but he will never refuse one to the initiated. Now, I took the measure of the man’s mind at a single glance. I discovered something of the pedant in his very stride—it was thoughtful, measured, mathematical—to say nothing of the spectacles—or of his beard, which was of a dark colour, and which had not been visited by the razor for at least two days. I therefore accosted him in the hackneyed bit pompous language attributed to Johnson—

"Sir," said I, "permit me to emerge the summits of my digits in your pulveriferous utensil, in order to excite a grateful titilation in my olifactory nerves!"

"Cheerfully, sir," returned he, handing me the box, for which, by the way, he first groped in his waistcoat pocket; "I know what pleasure it is—‘nauribus aliquid haurire.’"

I soon discovered that my companion, to whom a pinch of snuff had thus introduced me, was an agreeable and well-informed man. About a mile before us lay a village in which I intended to take up my quarters for the night, and near the village was a house of considerable dimensions, the appearance of which it would puzzle me to describe. The architect had evidently set all order at defiance--it was a mixture of the castle and the cottage—a heap of stones confusedly put together. Around it was a quantity of trees, poplars and Scoth firs, and they appeared to have been planted as promiscuously as the house was built. Its appearance excited my curiosity, and I inquired of my companion what it was called, or to whom it belonged.

"Why, sir," said he, "people generally call it LOTTERY HALL, but the original proprietor intended that it should have been named LUCK’S LODGE. There is rather an interesting story connected with it, if you had time to hear it."

"If the story be as amusing as the appearance of the house," added I, "if you have time to tell it, I shall hear it."

I discovered that my friend with the silver-mounted spectacles kept what he termed an "Establishment for Young Gentlemen" in the neighbourhood, that being the modernised appellation for a boarding-school; though, judging from his appearance, I did not suppose his establishment to be overfilled; and having informed him that I intended to remain for the night at the village inn, I requested him to accompany me, where, after I had made obeisance to a supper, which was a duty that a walk of forty miles strongly prompted me to perform, I should, "enjoying mine ease" like the good old bishop, gladly hear his tale of Lottery Hall.

Therefore, having reached the inn, and partaken of supper and a glass together, after priming each nostril with a separate pinch from the box aforesaid, he thus began:—

Thirty years ago, there dwelt within the village a man named Andrew Donaldson. He was merely a day-labourer upon the estate of the Squire to whom the village belongs; but he was a singular man in many respects, and one whose character very few were able to comprehend. You will be surprised when I inform you that the desire to become a Man of Fashion, haunted this poor day-labourer like his shadow in the sun. It was the disease of his mind. Now, sir, before proceeding with my story, I shall make a few observations on this plaything and ruler of the world called Fashion. I would describe Fashion to be a deformed little monster with a chameleon skin, bestriding the shoulders of public opinion. Though weak in itself, it has gradually usurped a degree of power that is well nigh irresistible; and this tyranny prevails, in various forms, but with equal cruelty, over the whole habitable earth. Like a rushing stream, it bears along all ranks and conditions of men, all avocations and professions, and often principles. Fashion is withal a notable courtier, bowing to the strong and flattering the powerful. Fashion is a mere whim, a conceit, a foible, a toy, a folly, and withal an idol whose worshippers are universal. Whenever introduced, it generally assumes the familiar name of Habit; and many of your great and philosophical men, and certain ill-natured old women, who appear at parties in their wedding gowns, and despise the very name of Fashion, are each the slaves of sundry habits which once bore the appellation. Should Fashion miss the skirts of a man’s coat, it is certain of seizing him by the beard. It is humiliating to the dignity of immortal beings, possessed of capabilities the extent of which is yet unknown, to confess that many of them, professing to be Christians, Jews, Mahomedans, or Pagans, are merely the followers in the stream of Fashion; and are Christians and Jews simply because such a religion was after the fashion of their fathers or country. During the present century, it has been the cause of much infidelity and freethinking, or rather, as is more frequently the case with its votaries, of no thinking. This arose from wisdom and learning being the fashion; and a vast number of brainless people--who could neither be out of the service of their idol, nor yet endure the plodding labour and severe study necessary for the acquiring of wisdom and learning, and many of them not even possessing the requisite abilities—in order to be thought at once wise men and philosophers, they pronounced religion to be a cheat, futurity a bugbear, and themselves organic clods. Fashion indeed, is as capricious as it is tyrannical; with one man it plays the infidel, and with another it runs the gauntlet of bible and missionary meetings or benevolent societies. It is like the Emperor of Austria—a compound of intolerable evil and much good. It attempts to penetrate the mysteries of metaphysics, and it mocks the calculations of the most sagacious Chancellor of the Exchequer. At the nod of Fashion, ladies change their gloves, and the children of the glove-makers of Worcester go without dinners. At its call, they took the shining buckles from their shoes, and they walked in the laced boot, the sandaled slipper, or the tied shoe. Individually it seemed a small matter whether shoes were fastened with a buckle or with ribbon; but the small-ware manufacturers found a new harvest, while the buckle-makers of Birmingham and their families in thousands, were driven through the country to beg, to steal, to coin, to perish. This was the work of Fashion, and its effects are similar to the present hour. If the cloak drive the shawl from the promenade, Paisley and Bolton may go in sackcloth. Here I may observe that the cry of distress is frequently raised against bad government, assuming it to be the cause; when fickle Fashion has alone produced the injury. In such a matter, government was unable to prevent, and is unable to relieve—Fashion defying all its enactments, and the ladies being the sole governors in the case. For, although the world rules man and his business, and Fashion is the ruler of the world, yet the ladies, though the most devoted of its servants, are at the same time the rulers of Fashion. This last assertion may seem a contradiction, but it is not the less true. With simplicity and the graces, Fashion has seldom exhibited any inclination to cultivate an acquaintance; now, the ladies being, in their very nature, form, and feature, the living representatives of these virtues, I am the more surprised that they should be the special patrons of Fashion, seeing that its efforts are more directed to conceal a defect by making it more deformed, than to lend a charm to elegance or an adornment to beauty. The lady of fortune follows the tide of Fashion till she and her husband are within sight of the shores of poverty. The portionless or the poorly portioned maiden presses on in its wake, till she finds herself immured in the everlasting garret of an old maid. The well-dressed woman every man admires—the fashionable woman every man fears. Then comes the animal of the male kind, whose coat is cut, whose hair is curled, and his very cravat tied according to the fashion. Away with such shreds and patches of effeminacy! But the fashion for which Andrew Donaldson, the day-labourer, sighed, aimed at higher things than this. It grieved him that he was not a better dressed man and a greater man than the squire on whose estate he earned his daily bread. He was a hard and severe man in his own house—at his frown his wife was submissive and his children trembled. His family consisted of his wife; three sons, Paul, Peter, and Jacob; and two daughters, Sarah and Rebecca. Though all scriptural names, they had all been so called after his own relations. His earnings did not exceed eight or nine shillings a-week; but even out of this sum he did not permit the one half to go to the support of his family—and that half was doled out most reluctantly, penny by penny. For twenty years, he had never entrusted his wife with the management or the keeping of a single sixpence. With her, of a verity, money was but a sight, and that generally in the smallest coins of the realm. She seldom had an opportunity of contemplating the gracious countenance of his Majesty; and when she had, it was invariably upon copper. If she needed but a penny to complete the cooking of a dinner, the children had to run for it to the fields, the quarry, or the hedge-side, where their father might be at work; and then it was given with a lecture against their mother’s extravagance! Extravagance indeed! to support seven mouths for a week out of five shillings! I have spoken of dinners, and I should tell you that bread was seen in the house but once a-day, and that only of the coarsest kind. Potatoes were the staple commodity, and necessity taught Mrs. Donaldson to cook them in twenty different ways; and, although butcher meat was never seen beneath Andrew’s roof, with the exception of pork of their own feeding, in a very small portion, once a week, yet the kindness of the cook in the Squire’s family, who occasionally presented her with a jar of kitchen-fee, enabled her to dish up her potatoes in modes as various and palatable to the hungry as they were creditable to her own ingenuity and frugality. Andrew was a man of no expensive habits himself; he had never been known to spend a penny upon liquor of any kind, but once, and that was at the christening of his youngest child, who was baptised in the house; when, it being a cold and stormy night, and the minister having far to ride, and withal being labouring under a cold, he said he would thank Andrew for a glass of spirits. The frugal father thought the last born of his flock had made an expensive entry into existence; but handing two-pence to his son Paul, he desired him to bring a glass of spirits to his reverence. The spirits were brought in a milk-pot; but a milk-pot was an unsightly and unseemly vessel out of which to ask a minster to drink. The only piece of crystal in the house was a footless wine-glass, out of which a grey linnet drank, and there was no alternative but to take it from the cage, clean it, pour the spirits into it, and hand it, bottomless as it was, to the clergyman—and, this was done accordingly. For twenty years, this was all that Andrew Donaldson was known to have spent on ale, wine, or spirits; and as, from the period that his children had been able to work, he had not contributed a single sixpence of his earnings towards the maintenance of his house, it was generally believed that he could not be worth less than two or three hundred pounds. Where he kept his money, however, or who was his banker, no one could tell. Some believed that he was saving in order to emigrate to Canada and purchase land; but this was only a surmise. For weeks and months he was frequently wont to manifest the deepest anxiety. His impatience was piteous to behold; but why he was anxious and impatient no one could tell. These fits of anxiety were as frequently succeeded by others of the deepest despondency; and during both, his wife and children feared to look in his face, to speak or move in his presence. As his despondency was wont to wear away, his penuriousness in the same degree increased; and at such periods a penny for the most necessary purpose was obstinately refused.

Such were the life and habits of Andrew Donaldson, until his son Paul, who was the eldest of his family, had attained the age of three and twenty, and his daughter Rebecca, the youngest, was seventeen, when, on a Saturday evening, he returned from the market-town, so changed, so elated (though evidently not with strong drink) so kind, so happy, and withal so proud, that his wife and his sons and daughters marvelled, and looked at each other with wonder. He walked backward and forward across the floor with his arms crossed upon his breast, his head thrown back, and he stalked with the majestic stride of a stage-king in a tragedy. He took the fragment of a mirror, which, being fastened in pieces of parchment, hung against the wall, and endeavoured, as he best might, and as its size and its half triangular, half circular form would admit, to survey himself from head to foot. His family gazed on him and at each other with increased astonishment.

"The man’s possessed!" whispered Mrs. Donaldson, in terror.

He thrust his hand into his pocket, he drew out a quantity of silver.

"Go, Miss Rebecca," said he, "and order John Bell of the King’s Head to send Mister Donaldson a bottle of brandy and a bottle of his best wine instantly."

His wife gave a sort of scream, his children started to their feet.

"Go!" said he, stamping his foot, and placing the money in her hand—"go! I order you."

They knew his temper, that he was not to be thwarted, and Rebecca obeyed. He continued to walk across the floor with the same stride of importance; he addressed his sons as Master Donaldson, Master Peter, and Master Jacob, and Sarah, who was the best of the family, as Miss Donaldson. He walked up to his wife, and, with a degree of kindness, such as his family had never witnessed before, he clapped her on the shoulder, and said—

"Catherine, you know the proverb, that ‘they who look for a silk gown always get a sleeve o’t’—I have long looked for one to you, and now

‘I’ll mak ye lady o’ them a’!’"

And, in his own unmusical way, he sang a line or two from the "Lass 0’ Gowrie."

Poor Mrs. Donaldson trembled from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot. Her looks plainly told that she feared her husband had "gone beside himself." He resumed his march across the floor, stately as an admiral on the quarter-deck, when Rebecca entered with the brandy and the wine.

"What!" said he, again stamping his foot, "did I not order you to order Jobn Bell to send the bottles?"

Rebecca shook—but he took them from her hand, and ordered her to bring the glasses! I have already noticed the paucity of glass vessels at Rebecca’s baptism. They were not more numerous now; and even the footless glass, out of which the linnet drank, had long ago, with the linnet, had gone the way of all flesh and of all glass; and Rebecca placed a white tea cup, scored and seamed with age (there were but four in the house) upon the table.

"What! a cup! a cup!" exclaimed he, stamping his foot more vehemently than before—"did I not order you to bring glasses! Me!—me!—Mister Donaldson drink wine out of a teacup!" And he dashed the cup behind the fire.

"O Paul! Paul!" cried Mrs. Donaldson, addressing her first-born, "is yer faither crazed!—will ye no haud him!—shall we send for the doctor, a strait jacket, or the minister?"

Paul was puzzled: his father did not exactly seem mad; but his conduct, his extravagance, was so unlike anything he had ever seen in him before, that he was troubled on his account, and he rose to reason with him.

"Keep your seat, Master Donaldson," said his father, with the dignity of a duke—"Keep your seat, sir; your father is not mad, but before a week go round, the best hat in the village shall be lifted to him."

Paul knew not what to think; but he had been taught to fear and to obey his father, and he obeyed him now. Andrew again handed money to his daughter, and ordered her to go and purchase six tumblers and six wine glasses. Mrs. Donaldson wrung her hands; she no longer doubted that her husband was "beside himself." The crystal, however, was brought, the wine and the brandy were sent round, and the day-labourer made merry with his children.

On the Monday following, he went not out into the fields to his work as usual; but arraying himself in his Sunday attire, he took leave of his family, saying he would be absent for a week. This was as unaccountable as his sending for the wine, the brandy, and the crystal, for no man attended his employment more faithfully than Andrew Donaldson. For twenty years he had never been absent from his work a single day, Sundays and Fast-days alone excepted. His children communed together, and his wife shed tears; she was certain that something had gone wrong about his head; yet, strange as his actions were, his conversation was rational; and though still imperious, he manifested more affection for them all than he had ever done before. They did not dare to question him as to the change that had come over him, or whither he was going; for at all times his mildest answer to all inquiries was, that "fools and bairns should never see things half done." He departed, therefore, without telling why or whither, simply intimating that he would return within seven days, leaving his family in distress and bewilderment.

Sunday came, but no tidings were heard regarding him. With much heaviness of heart and anxiety of spirit, his sons and daughters proceeded to the church; and while they, with others, yet stood in groups around the church-yard, a stranger gentleman entered. His step was slow and soldier-like. He carried a silken umbrella to screen himself from the sun, for they were then but little used as a protection from rain; few had at that time discovered that they could be so applied. His head was covered with a hat of the most fashionable shape. His hair was thickly powdered, and gathered up behind in a queue. His coat, his vest, his breeches, were of silken velvet, and the colour thereof was the kingly purple—moreover, the knees of the last-mentioned article were fastened with silver buckles, which shone as stars as the sun fell upon them. His stockings also were of silk, white as the driven snow; and, partly covering these, he wore a pair of boots of the kind called Hessian. In his left hand, as I have said, he carried an umbrella, and in his right he bore a silver-mounted cane. The people gazed with wonder as the stranger paced slowly along the footpath; and, as he approached the door, the sexton lifted his hat, bowed, and wailing before him, conducted him to the Squire’s pew. The gentleman sat down; he placed his umbrella between his knees, his cane by his side, and from his pocket he drew out a silver snuff-box, and a Bible in two volumes, bound in crimson-coloured morocco. As the congregation began to assemble, some looked at the stranger in the Squire’s seat with wonder. All thought his face was familiar to them. On the countenances of some there was a smile; and from divers parts of the church, there issued sounds like the tittering of suppressed laughter. Amongst those who gazed on him were the sons and daughters of Andrew Donaldson. Their cheeks alternately became red, pale, hot, and cold. Their eyes were in a dream, and poor Sarah’s head fell, as though she had fainted away, upon the shoulder of her brother Paul. Peter looked at Jacob, and Rebecca hung her head. But the Squire and his family entered. They reached the pew—he bowed to the stranger—gazed—started—frowned — ushered his family rudely past him, and beckoned for the gentleman to leave the pew. In the purple-robed stranger he recognised his own field-labourer, Andrew Donaldson! Andrew, however, kept his seat, and looked haughty and unmoved. But the service began—the preacher looked often to the pew of the Squire, and at length he too seemed to make the discovery, for he paused for a full half minute in the middle of his sermon, gazed at the purple coat, and all the congregation gazed with him, and breaking from his subject, he commenced a lecture against the wickedness of pride and vanity.

The service being concluded, the sons and daughters of Andrew Donaldson proceeded home with as many eyes fixed upon them as upon their father’s purple coat. They were confounded and unhappy beyond the power of words to picture their feelings. They communicated to their mother all that they had seen. She, good soul, was more distressed than even they were, and she sat down and wept for "her poor Andrew." He came not; and Paul, Peter, and Jacob were about to go in quest of him—and they now thought in earnest for a strait-waistcoat——when John Bell’s waiter of the King’s Head entered, and, presenting Mr. Donaldson’s compliments, requested them to come and dine with him. Wife, sons, and daughters were petrified!

"Puir man!" said Mrs. Donaldson, and tears forbade her to say more.

"Oh! my faither! my puir faither!" cried Sarah.

"He does not seem to be poor," answered the waiter.

"What in the world can hae put him sae?" said Jacob.

"We maun try to soothe and humour him," added Paul.

The whole family, therefore, though ashamed to be seen in the village, went to the King’s Head together. They were ushered into a room, in the midst of which stood Andrew, with divers trunks or boxes around him. His wife screamed as she beheld his transformation; and, clasping her hands together, she cried—"O Andrew!"

"Catherine," said he, "ye must understand that ye are a lady now, and ye must not call me Andrew, but Mister Donaldson."

"A leddy?’ exclaimed she, in a tone of mingled fear and astonishment—"O dear! what does the man mean! Bairns! bairns! can nane o’ ye bring yer faither to reason!"

"It is you that requires to be brought to reason, Mrs. Donaldson," said he; "but now since I see that ye are all upon the rack, I’ll put ye at your wits’ end. I am sensible that baith you and our neighbours have always considered me in the light of a miser. But neither you nor them knew my motive for saving. It has ever been my desire to become the richest, the greatest, and the most respectable man in the parish. But, though you may think that I have pinched the stomach and wasted nothing on the back, this I knew I never could become out of the savings of nine shillings a week. Yet, night and day, I hoped, prayed, and believed, that it would be accomplished—and it is accomplished!—yes, I repeat, it is accomplished."

"Oh, help us!—help us!—what’s to be dune wi’ him?" cried Mrs. Donaldson.

"Will ye speak sae that we can understand ye, faither?" said Paul.

"Well, then," replied Andrew, "for twenty years have I purchased shares in the lotteries, and twenty times did I get nothing but blanks—but I have got it at last!—I have got it at last!"

"What have you got, Andrew?" inquired Mrs. Donaldson, eagerly, whose eyes were beginning to be opened.

"What have ye got, faither?" exclaimed Rebecca, breathlessly, who possessed no small portion of her father’s pride; "how meikle is’t?—will we can keep a coach?"

"Ay, and a coachman, too!" answered he, with an air of triumphant pride; "I have got the half of a thirty thousand!"

"The like o’ that!" said Mrs. Donaldson, raising, her hands.

"A coach!" repeated Rebecca, surveying her face in a mirror.

Sarah looked surprised, but said nothing.

"Fifteen thousand pounds!" said Peter.

"Fifteen thousand!" responded Jacob.

Paul was thoughtful.

"Now," added Andrew, opening the boxes around him, "go each of you cast off the sackcloth which now covers you, and in these you will find garments such as it becomes the family of Andrew Donaldson, Esquire, to wear."

They obeyed his commands; and, casting aside their home-made cloth and cotton gowns, they appeared before him in the raiments which he had provided for them. The gowns were of silk, the coats of the finest Saxony, the waistcoats Marseilles. Mrs. Donaldson’s dress sat upon her awkwardly—the waist was out of its place, she seemed at a loss what to do with her arms, and altogether she appeared to feel as though the gown were too fine to sit upon. Sarah was neat, though not neater than she was in the dress of printed cotton which she had cast off; but Rebecca was transformed into the fine lady in a moment, and she tossed her head with the air of a duchess. The sleeves of Paul’s coat were too short, Peter’s vest would admit of but one button, and Jacob’s trousers were deficient in length. Nevertheless, great was the outward change upon the family of Andrew Donaldson, and they gazed upon each other in wonder, as they would. have stared at an exhibition of strange animals.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus