Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
The Visit of Condolence
By John Galt (17791839)
From The Entail
THE REVEREND Mr. Kilfuddy was a little, short, erect, sharp-looking, brisk-tempered personage, with a red nose, a white powdered wig, and a large cocked hat. His lady was an ample, demure, and solemn matron, who, in all her gestures, showed the most perfect consciousness of enjoying the supreme dignity of a ministers wife in a country parish.
According to the Scottish etiquette of that period, she was dressed for the occasion in mourning; but the day being bleak and cold, she had assumed her winter mantle of green satin, lined with gray rabbit skin, and her hands, ceremoniously protruded through the loopholes formed for that purpose, reposed in full consequentiality within the embraces of each other, in a large black satin muff of her own making, adorned with a bunch of flowers in needlework, which she had embroidered some thirty years before as the last and most perfect specimen of all her accomplishments. But although they were not so like the blooming progeny of Flora as a Linwood might, perhaps, have worked, they possessed a very competent degree of resemblance to the flowers they were intended to represent, insomuch that there was really no great risk of mistaking the roses for lilies. And here we cannot refrain from ingeniously suspecting that the limner who designed those celebrated emblematic pictures of the months which adorned the drawing-room of the Craiglands, and on which the far-famed Miss Mizy Cunningham set so great a value, must have had the image of Mrs. Kilfuddy in his minds eye when he delineated the matronly representative of November.
The minister, after inquiring with a proper degree of sympathetic pathos into the state of the mourners health, piously observed that nothing is so uncertain as the things of time. This dispensation, said he, which has been vouchsafed, Mrs. Walkinshaw, to you and yours is an earnest of what we have all to look for in this world. But we should not be overly cast down by the like ot, but lippen to eternity; for the sorrows of perishable human nature are erles given to us of joys hereafter. I trust, therefore, and hope, that you will soon recover this sore shock, and in the cares of your young family find a pleasant pastime for the loss of your worthy father, who I am blithe to hear, has died in better circumstances than could be expected, considering the trouble he has had wi his lawing, leaving, as they say, the estate clear of debt and a heavy soom of lying siller.
My father, Mr. Kilfuddy, replied the lady, was, as you well know, a most worthy character, and Ill no say hasna left a nest-egg, the Lord be thankit; and we maun compose oursels to thole wi what He has been pleased, in His gracious ordinances, to send upon us for the advantage of our poor sinful souls. But the burial has cost the gudeman a power o money; for my father being the head o a family, we hae been obligated to put a the servants, baith here, at the Grippy, and at the Plealands in full deep mourning, and to hing the front o the laft in the kirk, as yell see next Sabbath, with very handsome black cloth, the whilk cost twenty pence the ell, first cost, out o the gudemans ain shop. But, considering wha my father was, we could do no less in a decency.
And I see, interfered the ministers wife, that ye hae gotten a bombazeen o the first quality. Nae doubt ye had it likewise frae Mr. Walkinshaws own shop, which is a great thing, Mrs. Walkinshaw, for you to get.
Na mem, replied the mourner, ye dinna know what a misfortune I hae met wi. I was, as ye ken, at the Plealands when my father took his departal to a better world, and sent for my mournings frae Glasgow, and frae the gudeman, as ye would naturally expeck, and I had Mally Trimmings in the house ready to mak them when the box would come; but it happened to be a day o deluge, so that my whole commodity, on Baldy Slowgauns cart, was drookit through and through, and baith the crape and bombazeen were rendered as soople as pudding-skins. It was, indeed, a sight past expression, and obligated me to send an express to Kilmarnock for the things I hae on, the outlay of whilk was a clean total loss, besides being at the dear rate. But Mr. Kilfuddy, everything in this howling wilderness is ordered for the best; and if the gudeman has been needcessitated to pay for twa sets o mournings, yet, when he gets what hell get frae my fathers gear, he ought to be very well content that its nae waur.
What ye say, Mrs. Walkinshaw, replied the minister, is very judicious; for it was spoken at the funeral that your father, Plealands, couldna hae left muckle less than three thousand pounds of lying money.
A braw soom, a braw soom! said the spiritual comforter;but what further of the customary spirituality of this occasion might have ensued is matter of speculative opinion; for at this juncture Watty, the heir to the deceased, came rumbling into the room, crying
The composity of the minister and his wife were greatly tried, as Mrs. Kilfuddy herself often afterwards said, by this outstrapolous intrusion; but quiet was soon restored by Mrs. Walkinshaw ordering in the bread and wine, of which Walter was allowed to partake. The visitors then looked significantly at each other; and Mrs. Kilfuddy, replacing her hands in her satin muff, which during the refectionary treat from the funeral relics, had been laid on her knees, rose and said
Noo, I hope, Mrs. Walkinshaw, when ye come to see the leddy, your mither, at the Plealands, that yell no neglect to gie us a ca at the manse, and yell be sure to bring the young laird wi you, for hes a fine spirity bairneverybody maun alloo that.
Thats a lang look, rejoined the minister a little slyly, for Walters defect of capacity was more obvious than his mother imagined. But she did not perceive the point of Mr. Kilfuddys sarcasm, her attention at the moment being drawn to the entrance of her husband, evidently troubled in thought, and still holding the papers in his hand as he took them away from Mr. Omits desk.