indeed, my grandfather wass once in jail,” said
old Mrs. McTavish, of the county of Glengarry, in Ontario,
Canada; “but that wass for debt, and he wass a
ferry honest man whateffer, and he would not broke his
promise—no, not for all the money in Canada.
If you will listen to me, I will tell chust exactly
the true story about that debt, to show you what an
honest man my grandfather wass.
“One time Tougal Stewart,
him that wass the poy’s grandfather that keeps
the same store in Cornwall to this day, sold a plough
to my grandfather, and my grandfather said he would
pay half the plough in October, and the other half whateffer
time he felt able to pay the money. Yes, indeed,
that was the very promise my grandfather gave. [Page
“So he was at Tougal Stewart’s
store on the first of October early in the morning pefore
the shutters wass taken off, and he paid half chust
exactly to keep his word. Then the crop wass ferry
pad next year, and the year after that one of his horses
wass killed py lightning, and the next year his brother,
that wass not rich and had a big family, died, and do
you think wass my grandfather to let the family be disgraced
without a good funeral? No, indeed. So my
grandfather paid for the funeral, and there was at it
plenty of meat and drink for eferypody, and wass the
right Heilan’ custom those days; and after the
funeral my grandfather did not feel chust exactly able
to pay the other half for the plough that year either.
“So, then, Tougal Stewart
met my grandfather in Cornwall next day after the funeral,
and asked him if he had some money to spare.
“‘Wass you in need
of help, Mr. Stewart?’ says my grandfather, kindly.
‘For if it’s in any [Page 30]
want you are, Tougal,’ says my grandfather, ‘I
will sell the coat off my back, if there is no other
way to lend you a loan;’ for that was always the
way of my grandfather with all his friends, and a bigger-hearted
man there never wass in all Glengarry, or in Stormont,
or in Dundas, moreofer.
says Tougal—‘in want, Mr. McTavish!’
says he, very high. ‘Would you wish to insult
a gentleman, and him of the name of Stewart, that’s
the name of princes of the world?’ he said, so
“Seeing Tougal had his
temper up, my grandfather spoke softly, being a quiet,
peaceable man, and in wonder what he had said to offend
says my grandfather, ‘it wass not in my mind to
anger you whatefer. Only I thought, from your
asking me if I had some money, that you might be looking
for a wee bit of a loan, as many a gentleman has to
do at times, and no shame to him at all,’ said
my grandfather. [Page 31]
says Tougal, sneering. ‘A loan, is it? Where’s
your memory, Mr. McTavish? Are you not owing me
half the price of the plough you’ve had these
“‘And wass you asking
me for money for the other half of the plough?’
says my grandfather, very astonished.
“‘Have you no shame
or honor in you?’ says my grandfather, firing
up. ‘How could I feel able to pay that now,
and me chust yesterday been giving my poor brother a
funeral fit for the McTavishes’ own grand-nephew,
that wass as good chentleman’s plood as any Stewart
in Glengarry. You saw the expense I wass at, for
there you wass, and I thank you for the politeness of
coming, Mr. Stewart,’ says my grandfather, ending
mild, for the anger would never stay in him more than
a minute, so kind was the nature he had.
“‘If you can spend
money on a funeral like that, you can pay me for my
plough,’ says [Page 32] Stewart;
for with buying and selling he wass become a poor creature,
and the heart of a Heilan’man wass half gone out
of him, for all he wass so proud of his name of monarchs
“My grandfather had a
mind to strike him down on the spot, so he often said;
but he thought of the time when he hit Hamish Cochrane
in anger, and he minded penances the priest put on him
for breaking the silly man’s jaw with that blow,
so he smothered the heat that wass in him, and turned
away in scorn. With that Tougal Stewart went to
court, and sued my grandfather, puir mean creature.
“You might think that
Judge Jones—him that wass judge in Cornwall before
Judge Jarvis that’s dead—would do justice.
But no, he made it the law that my grandfather must
pay at once, though Tougal Stewart could not deny what
the bargain wass.
says my grandfather, “I said I’d pay when
I felt able. And do I feel [Page 33]
able now? No, I do not,’ says he.
‘It’s a disgrace to Tougal Stewart to ask
me, and himself telling you what the bargain was,’
said my grandfather. But Judge Jones said that
he must pay, for all that he did not feel able.
“‘I will nefer pay
one copper till I feel able,’ says my grandfather;
‘but I’ll keep my Heilan’ promise
to my dying day, as I always done,’ says he.
“And with that the old
judge laughed, and said he would have to give judgment.
And so he did; and after that Tougal Stewart got out
an execution. But not the worth of a handful of
oatmeal could the bailiff lay hands on, because my grandfather
had chust exactly taken the precaution to give a bill
of sale on his gear to his neighbor, Alexander Frazer,
that could be trusted to do what was right after the
law play was over.
“The whole settlement
had great contempt for Tougal Stewart’s conduct;
but he was a headstrong body, and once he begun to do
[Page 34] wrong against my grandfather,
he held on, for all that his trade fell away; and finally
he had my grandfather arrested for debt, though you’ll
understand, sir, that he was owing Stewart nothing that
he ought to pay when he didn’t feel able.
“In those times prisoners
for debt was taken to jail in Cornwall, and if they
had friends to give bail that they would not go beyond
the posts that was around the sixteen acres nearest
the jail walls, the prisoners could go where they liked
on that ground. This was called ‘the privilege
of the limits.’ The limits, you’ll
understand, wass marked by cedar posts painted white
about the size of hitching-posts.
“The whole settlement
was ready to go bail for my grandfather if he wanted
it, and for the health of him he needed to be in the
open air, and so he gave Tuncan Macdonnell of the Greenfields,
and Æneas Macdonald of the Sandfields, for his
bail, and he promised, on his Heilan’ word of
honor, not to go beyond the [Page 35]
posts. With that he went where he pleased, only
taking care that he never put even the toe of his foot
beyond a post, for all that some prisoners of the limits
would chump ofer them and back again, or maybe swing
round them, holding by their hands.
“Efery day the neighbors
would go into Cornwall to give my grandfather the good
word, and they would offer to pay Tougal Stewart for
the other half of the plough, only that vexed my grandfather,
for he was too proud to borrow, and, of course, every
day he felt less and less able to pay on account of
him having to hire a man to be doing the spring ploughing
and seeding and making the kale-yard.
“All this time, you’ll
mind, Tougal Stewart had to pay five shillings a week
for my grandfather’s keep, the law being so that
if the debtor swore he had not five pound’s worth
of property to his name, then the creditor had to pay
the five shillings, and, of course, my grandfather had
nothing to his name after he gave the bill of sale [Page
36] to Alexander Frazer. A great diversion
it was to my grandfather to be reckoning up that if
he lived as long as his father, that was hale and strong
at ninety-six, Tougal would need to pay five or six
hundred pounds for him, and there was only two pound
five shillings to be paid on the plough.
“So it was like that all
summer, my grandfather keeping heartsome, with the neighbors
coming in so steady to bring him the news of the settlement.
There he would sit, just inside one of the posts, for
to pass his jokes, and tell what he wished the family
to be doing next. This way it might have kept
going on for forty years, only it came about that my
grandfather’s youngest child—him that was
my father—fell sick, and seemed like to die.
“Well, when my grandfather
heart that bad news, he wass in a terrible way, to be
sure, for he would be longing to hold the child in his
arms, so that his heart was sore and like to break.
Eat he could not, sleep he could not: [Page
37] all night he would be groaning, and all
day he would be walking around by the posts, wishing
that he had not passed his Heilan’ word of honor
not to go beyond a post; for he thought how he could
have broken out like a chentleman, and gone to see his
sick child, if he had stayed inside the jail wall.
So it went on three days and three nights pefore the
wise thought came into my grandfather’s head to
show him how he need not go beyond the posts to see
his little sick poy. With that he went straight
to one of the white cedar posts, and pulled it up out
of the hole, and started for home, taking great care
to carry it in his hands pefore him, so he would not
be beyond it one bit.
“My grandfather wass not
half a mile out of Cornwall, which was only a little
place in those days, when two of the turnkeys came after
“‘Stop, Mr. McTavish,’
says the turnkeys.
“‘What for would
I stop?’ says my grandfather.
“‘You have broke
your bail,’ says they. [Page 38]
“‘It’s a lie
for you,’ says my grandfather, for his temper
flared up for anybody to say he would broke his bail.
‘Am I beyond the post?’ says my grandfather.
“With that they run in
on him, only that he knocked the two of them over with
the post, and went on rejoicing, like an honest man
should, at keeping his word and overcoming them that
would slander his good name. The only thing pesides
thoughts of the child that troubled him was questioning
whether he had been strictly right in turning round
for to use the post to defend himself in such a way
that it was nearer the jail than what he wass.
But when he remembered how the jailer never complained
of prisoners of the limits chumping ofer the posts,
if so they chumped back again in a moment, the trouble
went out of his mind.
“Pretty soon after that
he met Tuncan Macdonnell of Greenfields, coming into
Cornwall with the wagon.
“‘And how is this,
Glengathcie?’ says Tuncan. [Page 39]
‘For you were never the man to broke your bail.’
understand, sir, is the name of my grandfather’s
“‘Never fear, Greenfields,’
says my grandfather, ‘for I’m not beyond
“So Greenfields looked
at the post, and he looked at my grandfather, and he
scratched his head a wee, and he seen it was so; and
then he fell into a great admiration entirely.
“‘Get in with me,
Glengatchie—it’s proud I’ll be to
carry you home;’ and he turned his team around.
My grandfather did so, taking great care to keep the
post in front of him all the time; and that way he reached
home. Out comes my grandmother running to embrace
him; but she had to throw her arms around the post and
my grandfather’s neck at the same time, he was
that strict to be within his promise. Pefore going
ben the house, he went to the back end of the kale-yard
which was farthest from the jail, and there he stuck
the post; and [Page 40] then he went
back to see his sick child, while all the neighbors
that came round was glad to see what a wise thought
the saints had put into his mind to save his bail and
“So there he stayed a
week till my father got well. Of course the constables
came after my grandfather, but the settlement would
not let the creatures come within a mile of Glengatchie.
You might think, sir, that my grandfather would have
stayed with his wife and weans, seeing the post was
all the time in the kale-yard, and him careful not to
go beyond it; but he was putting the settlement to a
great deal of trouble day and night to keep the constables
off, and he was fearful that they might take the post
away, if ever they got to Glengatchie, and give him
the name of false, that no McTavish ever had.
So Tuncan Greenfields and Æneas Sandfield drove
my grandfather back to the jail, him with the poast
behind him in the wagon, so as he would be between it
and the jail. Of course Tougal Stewart tried his
best to have the bail [Page 41] declared
forfeited; but old Judge Jones only laughed, and said
my grandfather was a Heilan’ gentleman, with a
very nice sense of honor, and that was chust exactly
“How did my grandfather
get free in the end? Oh, then, that was because
of Tougal Stewart being careless—him that thought
he knew so much of the law. The law was, you will
mind, that Tougal had to pay five shillings a week for
keeping my grandfather in the limits. The money
wass to be paid efery Monday, and it was to be paid
in lawful money of Canada, too. Well, would you
belief that Tougal paid in four shillings in silver
one Monday, and one shilling in coppers, for he took
up the collection in church the day pefore, and it wass
not till Tougal had gone away that the jailer saw that
one of the coppers was a Brock copper,—a medal,
you will understand, made at General Brock’s death,
and not lawful money of Canada at all. With that
the jailer came out to my grandfather. [Page
says he, taking off his hat, ‘you are a free man,
and I’m glad of it.’ Then he told
him what Tougal had done.
“‘I hope you will
not have any hard feelings toward me, Mr. McTavish,’
said the jailer; and a decent man he wass, for all that
there wass not a drop of Heilan’ blood in him.
‘I hope you will not think hard of me for not
being hospitable to you, sir,’ says he; ‘but
it’s against the rules and regulations for the
jailer to be offering the best he can command to the
prisoners. Now that you are free, Mr. McTavish,’
says the jailer, ‘I would be a proud man if Mr.
McTavish of Glengatchie would do me the honor of taking
supper with me this night. I will be asking your
leave to invite some of the gentlemen of the place,
if you will say the word, Mr. McTavish,’ says
“Well, my grandfather
could never bear malice, the kind man he was, and he
seen how bad the jailer felt, so he consented, and a
great company came in, to be sure, to celebrate the
occasion. [Page 43]
“Did my grandfather pay
the balance on the plough? What for should you
suspicion, sir, that my grandfather would refuse his
honest debt? Of course he paid for the plough,
for the crop was good that fall.
“‘I would be paying
you the other half of the plough now, Mr. Stewart,’
says my grandfather, coming in when the store was full.
“‘Hoich, but YOU
are the honest McTavish!’ says Tougal, sneering.
“But my grandfather made
no answer to the creature, for he thought it would be
unkind to mention how Tougal had paid out six pounds
four shillings and eleven pence to keep him in on account
of a debt of two pound five that never was due till
it was paid.” [Page 44]