Amongst others, I was an ardent admirer. I may almost say that this row of busy workshops was my first school of practical education. I observed the mechanical manipulation of the men, their dexterous use of the hammer, the chisel, and the file; and I imbibed many lessons which afterwards proved of use to me. Then I had tools at home in my father's workshop. I tried to follow their methods; I became greatly interested in the use of tools and their appliances; I could make things for myself. In short, I became so skilled that the people about the house called me "a little Jack-of-all-trades."

    While sitting on the grassy slopes of the Calton Hill I would often hear the chimes sounding from the grand old tower of St.Giles. The cathedral lay on the other side of the valley which divides the Old Town from the New. The sounds came over the murmur of the traffic in the streets below.

    The chime-bells were played every day from twelve till one -- the old-fashioned dinner-hour of the citizens. The practice had been in existence for more than a hundred and fifty years. The pleasing effect of the merry airs, which came wafted tome by the warm summer breezes, made me long to see them as well as hear them.

    Mural crown of St Giles', Edinburgh

    My father was always anxious to give pleasure to his children. Accordingly, he took me one day, as a special treat, to the top of the grand old tower, to see the chimes played. As we passed up the tower, a strong vaulted room was pointed out to me, where the witches used to be imprisoned. I was told that the poor old women were often taken down from this dark vault to be burnt alive! Such terrible tales enveloped the tower with a horrible fascination to my young mind. What a fearful contrast to the merry sound of the chimes issuing from its roof on a bright summer day.

    On my way up to the top flat, where the chimes were played, I had to pass through the vault in which the great pendulum was slowly swinging in its ghostly-like tick-tack, tick-tack; while the great ancient clock was keeping time with its sudden and startling movement. The whole scene was almost as uncanny as the witches' cell underneath. There was also a wild rumbling thumping sound overhead. I soon discovered the cause of this, when I entered the flat where the musician was at work. He was seen in violent action, beating or hammering on the keys of a gigantic pianoforte-like apparatus. The instruments he used were two great leather-faced mallets, one of which he held in each hand. Each key was connected by iron rods with the chime-bells above. The frantic and mad-like movements of the musician, as he energetically rushed from one key to another, often widely apart gave me the idea that the man was daft -- especially as the noise of the mallets was such that I heard no music emitted from the chimes so far overhead. It was only when I had climbed up the stair of the tower to where the bells were rung that I understood the performance, and comprehended the beating of the chimes which gave me so much pleasure when I heard them at a distance.

    Another source of enjoyment in my early days was to accompany my mother to the market. As I have said before, my mother, though generous in her hospitality, was necessarily thrifty and economical in the management of her household. There were no less than fourteen persons in the house to be fed, and this required a good deal of marketing. At the time I refer to, (about 1816 , it was the practice of every lady who took pride in managing economically the home department of her husband's affairs, to go to market in person. The principal markets in Edinburgh were then situated in the valley between the Old and New Towns, in what used to be called the Nor Loch.

    Dealers in fish and vegetables had their stalls there: the market for butcher meat was near at hand: each being in their several locations. It was a very lively and bustling sight to see the marketing going on. When a lady was observed approaching, likely to be a customer, she was at once surrounded by the "caddies." They were a set of sturdy hard-working women, each with a creel on her back. Their competition for the employer sometimes took a rather energetic form. The rival candidates pointed to her with violent exclamations; "She's my ledie! she's my ledie!" ejaculated one and all. To dispel the disorder, a selection of one of the caddies would be made, and then all was quiet again until another customer appeared.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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