Chapter 16

 On the third day, renewing their journey, the conversation between the Captain and his servant turned on the character, and history of the present revenue officer, the late Teague O’Regan. The Captain gave Duncan a relation of what had happened; in the case of the attempt to draw him off to the Philosophical Society, to induce him to preach, and even to take a seat in the legislature of the United States; that had it not been for a certain Traddle, a weaver, whom they had been fortunate enough to substitute for him, the people would most undoubtedly have elected Teague, and sent him to Congress.

Guid deliver us! said Duncan; do they make parliament men o’ weavers i’ this kintra? In Scotland, it maun be a duke, or a laird, that can hae a seat there.

This is a republic, Duncan, said the Captain; and the rights of man are understood, and exercised by the people.

And if he could be i’the Congress, why did ye let him be a gauger? said Duncan.

This is all the prejudice of education, Duncan, said the Captain. An appointment in the revenue, under the executive of the United States, ought not to have disgrace attached to it in the popular opinion; for it is a necessary, and ought to be held a sacred duty.

I dinna ken how it is, said Duncan; but I see they hae every thing tail foremost in this kintra, to what they hae in Scotland: a gauger a gentleman; and weavers in the legislature.!

Just at this instant, was heard by the way side, the jingling of a loom, in a small cabin with a window towards the road. It struck Duncan to expostulate with this weaver, and to know why it was that he also did not attain a seat in some public body. Advancing to the orifice, as it might be called, he applied his mouth and bespoke him, as he sat upon his loom, thus: Traddle, said he, giving him the same name that the Captain had given the other; why is it that ye sit here, treading these twa stecks, and playing wi’ your elbows, as ye throw the thread, when there is one o’ your occupation, not far off, that is now a member of the house o’ lords, or commons, in America; and is gane to the Congress o’ the United States? canna ye get yoursel elected; or is it because ye dinna offer, that ye are left behind in this manner? Ye shud be striving man, while guid posts are gaeing, and no be sitting there wi’ your backside on a beam. Dinna your neibors gie ye a vote. Ye shud get a chapin o’ whiskey, man, and drink till them, and gar them vote, or, ye should gae out and talk politics, and mak speeches.

Such was the address of Duncan, meaning nothing more than to amuse himself, with the idea of a manufacturer obtaining a seat in the legislature, and making laws instead of warping webs. But in the mean time, the wife of the mechanic, who had overheard the conversation, and was incensed at an attempt to take her husband from his business, seizing a pot-stick and running out, and turning the corner of the house, laid a blow upon the posteriors of the orator; accompanying her force with reproachful words to this effect:

Will you never let the man alone, said she, to mind his business, but be putting these notions in his head? He has been once constable, and twice member of assembly; and what has he got by it, but to leave his customers at home, complaining of their work not done? It is but little good that has been got of him these three years, but going to elections, and meetings, and talking politics; and after all, what does he know of these matters? Just about as much as my brown cow. A set of lounging louts, coming here and taking up his time with idle nonsense of what laws should be made, and urging him to be elected; and William Rabb’s wife waiting for her coverlet this three months, and Andrew Nangle for his shirt cloth. It is enough to put a woman in a passion that has the temper of a saint, to have her man’s head turned so from his own affairs, by idle vagabonds that come the way, in this manner.

At this, she made another effort, and springing forward was about to impress a second blow; when Duncan retreating, and lifting up his stick in his turn, accosted her in these words: Gin you were a man, as ye are a muckle witch, I should be for taking ye wi’ this rung across your hurdies. Is it any affront to have it evened to your man Traddle, to gae to the senate, and to get a post i’the government, and no be knotting threads here, wi’ his shuttle, like a tradesman o’ Paisly? Ye vile carlin, ye maun be a witch, or a warse body, to take a stick in your hand, like a driver o’ stots, and come pelmel, upon a man ahint his back, when he is na speaking till ye. Foul fa’ me, but if it were na a shame to battle wi’ ane o’ your sex, I wad break your back with a lunder, before ye knew what ye were about. To keep this honest man here, shut up like a prisoner under ground, in a dungeon, drawing a reed till him, instead o’ throwing out his arms like a Latin scholar, or a collegian, making his oration to his hearers! Are ye chained there, (turning his speech to Traddle,) that ye stay sae contentedly yoursel, man, and dinna break out, and escape frae the fangs o’ this witch?

This witch! said she, (apprehending danger from a second address to the weaver) this witch! I shall witch you to some purpose, you vagabond. With this she made a hasty step, and was nearly on the back of the Caledonian, with her pot-stick, having made a stroke at him, which he evaded, by taking to his heels, and retreating speedily. The Captain in the mean time had rode on, and left them to compleat their dialogue.