Where our hero Magnus Halcro does quite well …….
Who may describe the rapture with which our hero beheld , for the first time, the dazzling glories of the Kirkwall fair? An interminable vista of booths, laden with the riches of either India – at least so they appeared to him – cloths, silks, prints, pictures, watches, and jewellery; to say nothing of confectionery ‘stands’, embellished with ducal coronets and royal and imperial crowns.
The fervid imagination of Columbus never dreamt of half so much wealth at the capital of the Great Khan; and Magnus resolved to be rich. To this end he solicited and obtained employment, during the fourteen days of his sojourn, from one of the ‘merchants,’ as they are quaintly called, – a burly ‘brither’ from the west of Fife, who, next to money, loved nothing so well as integrity and rigid attention. The merchant found, in a day or two, the young islander so much after his own heart that he prevailed on him to remain with him.
This was one of the fortunate periods which our hero in after life would always revert to with peculiar satisfaction, inasmuch as under such a master’s experience the germs of industry and economy budded, blossomed, and expanded. Years tolled on – the young Orcadian became a complete adept in the mysteries of money-making; his credit was already ample, and his mercantile respectability unimpeachable.
His pack was exchanged for a shop;and instead of being exposed to all the inclemencies of an hyperborean winter, he began to taste the luxuries of town life, and even to share in the refinements of his more patrician neighbours, who willingly overlooked his mean origin on account of the more sterling qualities with which he was invested. Many of them too, had marriageable daughters; and many a winter evening was spent by certain aristocratic dowagers debating an all important question – namely, Money versus Pedigree.
It always carried in favour of the former, though with great reluctance. Fans were flirted in anger and sighs heaved in sorrow, for the good old time, when nothing but hereditary right conferred the rank of gentleman on any individual whatever. Mr Halcro’, however, knew the value of a painfully acquired fortune too well to dissipate it in supporting the freaks and whimsies of –
‘A pennyless lass wi’ a lang pedigree.’
So reducing one of the saws of his native parish to practice, viz.
‘It is better to be the head o’ the commonality than the tail o’ the gentry,’
he wedded a healthy, comely, sweet tempered maid, whose gratitude for the preference,, and good sense displayed in her domestic economy, more than compensated for the want of both rank and fortune.
Mind on David Vedder published this in 1832 in Orcadian Sketches
Read: Magnus Halcro: Episode I