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being lazy in his person, was somewhat luxurious in his appetite, would willingly now and then have tasted a mouthful of animal food, were it but to know how his sheep were fed off; but a proposal to eat a child could not have startled Mistress Barbara more; and, being of a compliant and easy disposition, Triptolemus reconciled himself to the necessity of a perpetual Lent, too happy when he could get a scrap of butter to his oaten cake, or (as they lived on the banks of the Eske) escape the daily necessity of eating salmon, whether in or out of season, six days out of the seven.
But although Mrs Barbara brought faithfully to the joint stock all savings which her awful powers of economy accomplished to scrape together, and although the dower of their mother was by degrees expended, or nearly so, in aiding them upon extreme occasions, the term at length approached when it seemed impossible that they could sustain the conflict any longer against the evil star of Triptolemus, as he called it himself, or the natural result of his absurd speculations, as it was termed by others.
Luckily at this sad crisis, a god jumped down to their relief out of a machine. In plain English, the noble lord, who owned their farm, arrived at his mansion-house in their neighbourhood, with his coach and six, and his running footmen, in the fall splendour of the severiteenth century.
This person of quality was the son of the nobleman who had brought the ancient Jasper into the country from Yorkshire, and he was, like his father, a fanciful and scheming man. He had schemed well for himself, however, amid the mutations of the time, having obtained for a certain period of years, the administration of the remote islands of Orkney and Zetland, for payment of a certain rent, with the right of making the most of whatever was the property or revenue of the crown in these districts, under the title of Lord Chamberlain. Now, his lordship had become possessed with a notion, in
a very true one, that much might be done to render this grant available, by improving the culture of the crown lands, both in Orkney and Zetland; and then, having some acquaintance with our friend Triptolemus, he thought (rather less happily) that he might prove a person capable of furthering his schemes. He sent for him to the great Hall-house, and was so much edified by the way in which our friend laid down the law upon every given subject, that he lost no time in securing the co-operation of so valuable an assistant.
itself a very
The terms were arranged much to the mind of Triptolemus, who had already been taught, by many years experience, a dark sort of notion, that without undervaluing or doubting for a moment his own skill, it would be quite as well that almost all the trouble and risk should be at the expence of his employer. Indeed the hopes of advantage which he held out to his patron, were so considerable, that the Lord Chamberlain dropped every idea of admitting his dependent into any share of the expected profits; for, rude as the arts of agriculture were in Scotland, they were far superior to those known and practised in the regions of Thule, and Triptolemus Yellowley conceited himself to be possessed of a degree of insight into these mysteries, far supe
rior to what was possessed or practised in the Mearns. The improvement, therefore, which was to be expected, would bear a double proportion, and the Lord Chamberlain was to reap all the profit, deducting a handsome salary for his steward, Yellowley, together with the accommodation of a house and domestic farm, for the support of his family. Joy seized the heart of Mistress Barbara, at hearing this happy termination of what threatened to be so very bad an affair as their lease of Cauldshouthers.
“ If we cannot,” she said, “provide for our own house, when all is coming in, and nothing going out, surely we must be worse than infidels.”
Triptolemus was a busy man for some time, huffing and puffing, and eating and drinking in every change-house, while he ordered and collected together proper implements of agriculture, to be used by the natives of these devoted islands, whose destinies were menaced with this formidable change. Strange tools these would be, if presented before a modern agricultural society.; but every thing is relative, nor could the heavy cart-load of timber, called the old Scotch plough, seem more strange to a Scottish farmer of this present day, than the corslets and casques of the soldiers of Cortes might seem to a regiment of our soldiers.
Yet the latter conquered Mexico, and undoubtedly the former would have been a splendid improvement on the state of agriculture in Thule.
We have never been able to learn why Triptolemus preferred fixing his residence in Zetland, to becoming an inhabitant of the Orkneys. Perhaps he thought the inhabitants of the latter Archipelago the more simple and docile of the two kindred tribes; or perhaps he preferred the situation of the house and farm, which he himself was to occupy, (which was indeed a tolerable one,) as preferable to that which he had it in his power to have had upon Pomona, so the main island of the Orkneys is entitled. At Harfra, or, as it was sometimes called, StourBrugh, from the remains of a Pictish fort, which was almost close to the mansion-house, the factor settled himself, in the plenitude of his authority, determined to honour the name he bore