Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/327

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man was a man of a strong niiiul, which had not been suffered t.o lie barren. lie bore his parl well in a talk on books. 1 had chanced to mention the serfs who worked in the coal minus and salt-pans in Scotland ; he at once struck into the conversation. " Sir Walter Scott," he said, " makes one of his characters say, ' he would not take him back like a collier on a salter.' This made me look the matter up for I did not understand what he meant." lie praised the old Scotch common schools. " We Scotchmen," he proudly said, "have had education lor three; hundred years. A Scotch working-man would starve to death to give his son a good education." The; present race of schoolmasters who are " paid by results," he contrasted unfavourably with those whom he had known in his boyhood. " The old Dominies would willingly teach all that they knew, and grudged no time to a boy who was eager for knowledge ; but now they are like other people, and when they have done their day's work they will do no more." In the village club to which he belonged, they had in the last two or three winters engaged for a few weeks a young Glasgow student to teach them elocution, " for how could they enjoy Shakespeare if they did not know how to read him properly ? " He praised the Colquhouns. ' They would never send any of their tenants to prison for poaching. They might fine them, but the money they would give away in charity." He spoke of the old clan feeling, and of the protection given by the laird. 1 1 is grandfather, who was a farmer, a Mac- pherson by name, had married a Macqueen. 1 On a rapid fall in the price of Highland cattle he fell into money difficulties, and was harshly threatened with a forced sale by one of his creditors. The Laird of the Macqueens said significantly to this man : " You may do whatever you like against Macpherson, but remember that his wife is a Macquecn." The hint was enough, and the pro- ceedings were at once dropped. Our boatman had read Johnson's Journey lo l/ie Western islands, but said that Scotchmen feel too sore about him to like reading him. I opened the book, for I had it with me, and read the concluding words in which he says : " Novelty and ignorance must always be reciprocal, and I cannot but be conscious that my thoughts on national manners are the thoughts of one who has seen but little." My boatman was much struck with his modesty, and seemed to think that he had formed too severe a judgment.

1 I have int'.-nti'jnully altered the names.

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