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Blackmore, seems no longer hyperbolical when applied to Bowed Davie.
• He was so ugly and so grim, His shadow durst not follow him.'
His eyes, however, which were black, are said to have been fine. Of the rest of his person no accurate sketch, we believe, has ever been taken. It was still more remarkable, however, than his visage, and after many minute inquiries, we have no hesitation in adopting, almost without variation, the words of his fictitious historian, who, in the following description, is allowed to have given a pretty exact and unexaggerated portrait. His body, thick and square, like that of a man of middle size, was mounted upon two large feet; but nature seemed to have forgotten the legs and the thighs, or they were so very short as to be hidden by the dress he wore. His arms were long and brawny, furnished with two muscular hands, and, when uncovered in the eagerness of his labour, were shagged with coarse black hair. It seemed as if nature had * originally intended the separate parts of his body to be the members of a giant, but had afterwards capriciously assigned them to the person of a dwarf, so ill did the length of his arms and the iron strength of his frame, correspond with the shortness of his stature.'
His height was about three feet and a half. His skull, which was of an oblong and rather unusual shape, was of such strength that he could strike it with ease through the pannel of a door or the end of a tar-barrel. His laugh is said to have been quite horrible; and his screech-owl voice, shrill, uncouth, and dissonant, corresponded well with his other peculiarities.
There was nothing very uncommon about his dress. He usually wore an old slouched hat when he went abroad; and when at home, a sort of cowl or nightcap, such as he is here represented with. He never wore shoes, being unable to adapt them to his mis-shapen fin-like feet, but always had both feet and legs quite concealed, and wrapt up with pieces of cloth. He always walked with a sort of pole or pike-staff considerably taller than himself.
His habits were in many respects singular, and indicated a mind sufficiently congenial to its uncouth tabernacle. A jealous misanthropical, and irritable temper, was his most prominent characteristic. The sense of his deformity haunted him like a phantom; and the insults and scorn to which this exposed him, had poisoned his heart with fierce and bitter feelings, which, from other traits in his character, do not appear to have been more largely infused into his original temperament than that of his fellow men. He detested children, on account of their propensity to insult and persecute him. To strangers he was generally reserved, crabbed; and surly, and though he by no means refused assistance or charity, he, on many occasions, neither expressed nor exhibited much gratitude. Even towards persons who had been his greatest benefactors, and who possessed the greatest share of his good will, he frequently displayed much caprice and jealousy. A lady, who knew him from her infancy, and who has furnished us in the most obliging manner with some particulars respecting him, says, that although Davie showed as much respect and attachment to her father's family:as it was in his nature to show to any, yet they were always obliged to be very cautious in their deportment towards him. One day having gone to visit him with another lady, he took them through his garden, and was showing them with much pride and good humour, all his rich and tastefully-assorted borders, when they happened to stop near a plot of cabbages which had been somewhat injured by the caterpillars. Davie observing one of the ladies smile, instantly assumed his savage scowling aspect, rushed among the cabbages, and dashed them to pieces with his kent, exclaiming, I hate the worms, for they mock me.' Another lady, likewise a friend and old acquaintance of his
, very unintentionally gave him mortal offence on a similar occasion. Throwing back his jealous glance, he fancied he saw her spit at him. * Am I a toad, woman! that ye spit at me—that ye spit at me! he exclaimed with fury, and without listening to any answer, he drove her out of his garden with imprecations and insult. When irritated by persons for whom he entertained little respect, his misanthropy displayed itself in words and sometimes actions of still greater rudeness. He would then utter the most shocking imprecations, swear he would cleave them to the harn-pans' -- if he had but his cran fingers on them,' &c.
A farmer in the neighbourhood went one night, out of a frolic, to frighten Divie, but paid pretty dearly for his joke. He had assumed the character of a robber, and pretended to be breaking into his hut. The dwarf after reconnoitering him from a small unglazed window, which he had near his chimney, wrenched a large stone out of the wall, dashed it down upon the assailant, and knocked him to the ground, where he lay for a while senseless and very severely hurt.
The lady to whose information we have just referred, mentions another anecdote which came within her own knowledge, and which may serve to illustrate the resolute and dogged perseverance of the dwarf. He had applied to Mr. Laidlaw of Hallyards for a branch of a tree which grew in the neighbourhood, to serve some purpose of his own. Mr. Laidlaw was always very ready to oblige Davie—but told him, that, on the present occasion, he could not grant his request, as it would injure the tree. Davie made no reply, but went away grumbling to himself. Next morning, some of Mr. Laidlaw's servants happened to be going from home so early as two o'clock, when, to their surprise and terror, they perceived through the gray twilight a strange figure struggling and dancing in the air below the said tree. Upon going up to the place they found it was Davie, who had contrived by some means to fasten a rope to the branch he wanted, and was swinging with all his weight upon it to break it down. They left him, and before he was again disturbed, he succeeded in bringing it to the ground, and carried it home with him.
He had a sort of strange pleasure in wandering out in the dark, and is said to have sometimes spent whole nights among the ruins of old buildings, and other places where spectres were believed to haunt; and he used to vaunt much of his courage and intrepidity in these adventures. With all this bravery he is known to have been extremely superstitious; and, to protect himself from witchcraft, he had planted a great deal of the rowan-tree, or mountain ash, around his dwelling. Upwards of forty of these trees were cut down in his garden after his death. It does not appear that he made any pretensions to warlockry, or that there was any strong suspicion of that nature respecting him among his neighbours, al. though a knowledge of his revengeful disposition impressed both young and old with a certain degree of fearful respect and awe of him. Davie spent much of his time in solitude, and when his garden did not require his care, would lie whole summer days by the side of a well, poring into the water. He also read a good deal when he could get books, and what is remarkable, was very
fond of some parts of Shenstone's Pastoral Ballads, which he could repeat by heart. The sort of reading, however, in which he took greatest delight, was the adventures of Wallace and Bruce, and other popular tracts about Scottish heroes, the Highland clans, &c.
He possessed a copy of Milton's Paradise Lost, some parts of which he read with much interest. He had also got hold of “Tooke's Pantheon,' and had his head confusedly stored with the stories of the Heathen Mythology. His information, such as it was, appeared to great advantage when he mingled with the peasantry at
the mill or smithy. He was very satirical in his conversation; and his harsh creaking voice was there frequently heard much higher than the sound of the clapper, or the fore-hammer. He visited Peebles, the county town, 'occasionally, but very seldom went to church. He was supposed to entertain some very peculiar notions on religious subjects, but those who were intimate with him say that he would now and then speak concerning a future state, with great earnestness and good sense; and on such occasions, when his feelings were excited, would sometimes burst into tears.
Davie would rather appear to have had some ambition of posthumous honours. Perhaps Tooke's Pantheon might have inspired him with a thirst of immortality, or perchance he had some presentiment of his approaching apotheosis, under the plastic hands of a mighty magician,-a still more extraordinary and mysterious personage than himself-one who has not only raised up the spirits of the departed, but by disrobing them of the more vulgar and prosaic rag's of their mortal state, and investing them with imposing and poetical qualities, has restored them to the world in a guise a thousand times more pleasing and picturesque, and yet scarcely less true to nature, than the reality itself. But, whether poor Davie possessed the second sight or not, it is certain that he long expressed a desire to be buried on a particular spot which he pointed out, and not in the church-yard among the common brush, as he expressed it. One of the motives assigned by him for this singular wish, was his aversion to have the clods clapped down upon him by such a fellow as Jock Somerville the bellman. This person he always detested, and would scarcely stay in his company, probably from a secret feeling of disgust, or disagreeable reminiscence, suggested by a certain resemblance which the grave-digger bore to himself in personal deformity,
He appears to have displayed no small portion of taste in the selection of his burial ground. It is described in a little tract now before us, as a beautiful mount called the Woodhill, which rises from a plain nearly in the center of the parish of Manor, skirted with a number of venerable old trees, and encircled by an amphitheatre of steep and lofty mountains, covered to the tops with heath, and having their sides broken and diversified by deep ravines, and rocky precipices. This picturesque little hill, rising abruptly in the middle of a delightful plain, with its deep green ferny summit crowned with a Druidical circle, and its declivities white with sheep; the silvery links of Manor Water winding at its base, through fertile haughs and fields of grain; the aged trees scattered here and there along the bottom of the precipitous hills, the wild abodes of the goat, the raven, the fox, and the falcon; and the dark summits of the farther mountains towering over all,- present a burst of upland scenery not unworthy of arresting the notice of the traveller, even although it had never possessed
the additional attraction of having been the residence of the illustrious Ferguson, as well as of the eccentric dwarf of Manor Water.'* The eccentric dwarf, as the same writer states, also requested that a clump of rowan-tree might be planted above his grave on Woodhill. A promise to this effect was given him. But he changed his mind on his death-bed, and was gathered to his fathers’ like a decent christian, in the church-yard of Manor.
ART. VII.-- Anecdote of Gustavus Vasa, King of Sweden. [The coincidence between the following example of feminine sympathy and presence of mind, and that in page 310 is so striking and curious, and redounds so highly to the credit of the female character, that we feel peculiar pleasure in extracting it for the gratification of our readers.] AFTER the death of Steno, the administrator, and the bosom
friend of Gustavus, and the consequent murder of the senate, and a price being set on his own head, the future deliverer of Sweden retired to the mountains of Dalecarlia, hoping he might hide himself in the woods with which that country is covered, and imagining that it would not be difficult to stimulate the inhabitants to revolt against the tyrant Christiern, as they had always shown themselves averse to the Danish yoke. At that time there was not one good town in the whole province, and hardly any thing but small villages situated on the borders of the forests, or on the banks of lakes and rivers. Some of these villages depended on the noblemen of the country, but most belonged to the crown, and were governed by the peasants themselves; the elders supplying the places of judges and captains. The national government du rst not send either troops or garrisons into this province; nor did the kings themselves ever enter it in a legal manner till they had given pledge to the mountaineers to retain their privileges. On these independent people, therefore, Gustavus placed a firm confidence.
Disguising himself as a peasant, he set forth on his way to Dalecarlia, accompanied by a boor who was to be his guide. He crossed over the whole country of Sudermania, then passed between Mericia and Westmonia, and after the fatigues of a long and dangerous journey, arrived safe among the mountains. He had no sooner entered the province, than he was abandoned by his guide, who absconded, robbing him of all the money he had provided for his subsistence. He wandered up and down amongst these dreadful deserts, destitute of friends and money, not daring to own that he was even a gentleman. At length the inhabitants, then hardly more civilized than savages, proposed to him to work for his livelihood. To conceal himself from discovery, and to support nature, he accordingly hired himself to labour in the mines at Fahlun, and for a long course of time did he toil in these cav
* " A short account of David Ritchie, with an elegy on his death: printed for the author, July 1816.' This is curious, as having been in print some little time before the Tales of my Landlord appeared. But it was never published, and the author, whom we have conversed with, does not imagine that any of the few copies which he privately distributed could possibly have found their way to the hands of either Mr. Peter Pattieson, or his learned and worthy patron, the Schools master of Ganderclèugh.