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Shanty the Blacksmith; a Tale of Other Times   By: (1775-1851)

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It was during the last century, and before the spirit of revolution had effected any change in the manners of our forefathers, that the events took place, which are about to be recorded in this little volume.

At that period there existed in the wild border country, which lies between England and Scotland, an ancient castle, of which only one tower, a few chambers in the main building, certain offices enclosed in high buttressed walls, and sundry out houses hanging as it were on those walls, yet remained. This castle had once been encircled by a moat which had been suffered to dry itself up, though still the little stream which used to fill it when the dams were in repair, murmured and meandered at the bottom of the hollow, and fed the roots of many a water plant and many a tree whose nature delights in dank and swampy soils. The verdure, however, which encircled this ancient edifice, added greatly to the beauty, when seen over the extent of waste and wild in which it stood. There can be no doubt but that the ancient possessors of this castle, which, from the single remaining barrier, and the name of the family, was called Dymock's tower, had been no other than strong and dangerous free booters, living on the plunder of the neighbouring kingdom of Scotland. Every one knows that a vast extent of land, waste or at best but rudely cultivated, had once belonged to the Lords of Dymock; but within a few years this family had fallen from affluence, and were at length so much reduced, that the present possessor could hardly support himself in any thing like the state in which he deemed it necessary for his father's son to live. Mr. Dymock was nearly thirty years of age, at the time our history commences; he had been brought up by an indolent father, and an aunt in whom no great trusts had been vested, until he entered his teens, at which time he was sent to Edinburgh to attend the classes in the college; and there, being a quick and clever young man, though without any foundation of early discipline, or good teaching, and without much plain judgment or common sense, he distinguished himself as a sort of genius.

One of the most common defects in the minds of those who are not early subjected to regular discipline is, that they have no perseverance; they begin one thing, and another thing, but never carry anything on to any purpose, and this was exactly the case with Mr. Dymock. Whilst he was in Edinburgh he had thought that he would become an author; some injudicious persons told him that he might succeed in that way, and he began several poems, and two plays, and he wrote parts of several treatises on Mathematics, and Physics, and Natural History; the very titles of these works sound clever, but they were never finished. Dymock was nearly thirty when his father died; and when he came to reside in the tower, his mind turned altogether to a new object, and that was cultivating the ground, and the wild commons and wastes all around him: and if he had set to work in a rational way he might have done something, but before he began the work he must needs invent a plough, which was to do wonderful things, and, accordingly, he set to work, not only to invent this plough, but to make it himself, or rather to put it together himself, with the help of a carpenter and blacksmith in the neighbourhood. But before we introduce the old blacksmith, who is a very principal person in our story, we must describe the way in which Mr. Dymock lived in his tower.

His aunt, Mrs. Margaret Dymock, was his housekeeper, and so careful had she always been, for she had kept house for her brother, the late laird, that the neighbours said she had half starved herself, in order to keep up some little show of old hospitality. In truth, the poor lady was marvellously thin, and as sallow and gaunt as she was thin... Continue reading book >>

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