Page:Traditional Tales of the English and Scottish Peasantry - 1887.djvu/137

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seven mile wide divided ye, ye would be less free of your threats. So lie still there, and put thy bonnet on thy bald scalp, from which whisky has scalded the hair. Ay, that will do. Now sit down, my wandering man of the mist, let me have a look at thee; but first hold this cup of "stupefy" to thy head. Faith, my birkie, if I thought ye kenn'd the might of whisky by mathematical measuring, or any other dangerous government mode of ascertaining spirituous strength, I'd make ye swallow yere gauging sticks. So sit down; else, by the spirit of malt and the heart of corn, I will make thee obedient.'

"I sat down on an empty cask, and holding in my hand a cup full of the hot and untaken-down liquor, which my entertainers were busied in preparing, I could not but give a few hurried glances round this wretched lodge in the wilderness. The cabin itself seemed more the creation of distempered or intoxicated intellects than the work of consideration and sobriety. At the entrance of a kind of cavern in the rock a rude enclosure of stone was raised, the whole covered over with boughs and turf, with an opening in the side capable of admitting one person at a time. The floor was bedded with rushes and bracken, but trodden into mire, and moistened with a liquor of a flavour so detestable that I felt half suffocated; while the steam of a boiling caldron, mingling with the bitter smoke of green fir-wood, eddied round and round, and then gushed out into the morning air through the aperture by which I entered. In the cavern itself I observed a fire glimmering, and something of the shape, of a human being stretched motionless before it. This personage was clad in a garb of rough sheepskin, the wool shorn, or rather singed close, and an old fur-cap slouched over his ears, while his feet, wholly bare, and nearly soot-black, were heated among the warm ashes which he raked from the caldron fire. He lay on his belly, supporting his head with his hands; and about all his person nothing was white but the white of his eye. Beside him stood what seemed an old tobacco-box; he dipped it frequently into a pail of liquor, and each time he carried it to his head a strong smell of whisky was diffused over the place.

"On the right hand of this menial drudge lay the person of John Mackleg: an old Sanquhar rug interposed between him and the foul litter below; a small cask, the spigot of