Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 55

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The Leith races gave occasion to another entertainment of a very singular nature — There is at Edinburgh a society or corporation of errand-boys, called cawdies, who ply in the streets at night with paper lanthorns, and are very serviceable in carrying messages — These fellows, though shabby in their appearance, and rudely familiar in their address, are wonderfully acute, and so noted for fidelity, that there is no instance of [a] cawdy's having betrayed his trust — Such is their intelligence, that they know, not only every individual of the place, but also every stranger, by that time he has been four and twenty hours in Edinburgh; and no transaction, even the most private, can escape their notice. They are particularly famous for their dexterity in executing one of the functions of Mercury; though, for my own part, I never employed them in this department of business — Had I occasion for any service of this nature, my own man, Archy M'Alpine, is as well qualified as e'er a cawdie in Edinburgh; and I am much mistaken, if he has not been heretofore of their fraternity. Be that as it may, they resolved to give a dinner and a ball at Leith, to which they formally invited all the young noblemen and gentlemen that were at the races; and this invitation was reinforced by an assurance that all the celebrated ladies of pleasure would grace the entertainment with their company. — I received a card on this occasion, and went thither with half a dozen of my acquaintance. — In a large hall the cloth was laid on a long range of tables joined together, and here the company seated themselves, to the number of about fourscore, lords, and lairds, and other gentlemen, courtezans and cawdies mingled together, as the slaves and their masters were in the time of the Saturnalia in ancient Rome. — The toast master, who sat at the upper end, was one Cawdie Fraser, a veteran pimp, distinguished for his humour and sagacity, well known and much respected in his profession by all the guests, male and female, that were here assembled. — He had bespoke the dinner and the wine: he had taken care that all his brethren should appear in decent apparel and clean linen; and he himself wore a periwig with three tails in honour of the festival. — I assure you the banquet was both elegant and plentiful, and seasoned with a thousand sallies, that promoted a general spirit of mirth and good humour. — After the desert, Mr Fraser proposed the following toasts, which I don't pretend to explain. 'The best in Christendom.' — 'Gibbs' contract.' — 'The beggar's benison,' — 'King and kirk.' — 'Great Britain and Ireland.' Then, filling a bumper, and turning to me, 'Mester Malford (said he), may a' unkindness cease betwixt John Bull and his sister Moggy.' — The next person he singled out, was a nobleman who had been long abroad. — 'Ma lord (cried Fraser), here is a bumper to a' those noblemen who have virtue enough to spend their rents in their ain countray.' — He afterwards addressed himself to a member of parliament in these words: — 'Meester — I'm sure ye'll ha' nae objection to my drinking, disgrace and dule to ilka Scot, that sells his conscience and his vote.' — He discharged a third sarcasm at a person very gaily dressed, who had risen from small beginnings, and made a considerable fortune at play. — Filling his glass, and calling him by name, 'Lang life (said he), to the wylie loon that gangs a-field with a toom poke at his lunzie, and comes hame with a sackful of siller.' — All these toasts being received with loud bursts of applause, Mr Fraser called for pint glasses, and filled his own to the brim: then standing up, and all his brethren following his example, 'Ma lords and gentlemen (cried he), here is a cup of thanks for the great and undeserved honour you have done your poor errand-boys this day.' — So saying, he and they drank off their glasses in a trice, and quitting their seats, took their station each behind one of the other guests; exclaiming, 'Noo we're your honours cawdies again.'

The nobleman who had bore the first brunt of Mr Fraser's satire, objected to his abdication. He said, as the company was assembled by invitation from the cawdies, he expected they were to be entertained at their expense. 'By no means, my lord (cried Fraser), I wad na he guilty of sic presumption for the wide warld — I never affronted a gentleman since I was born; and sure at this age I wonnot offer an indignity to sic an honourable convention.' 'Well (said his Lordship) as you have expended some wit, you have a right to save your money. You have given me good counsel, and I take it in good part. As you have voluntarily quitted your seat, I will take your place with the leave of the good company, and think myself happy to be hailed, Father of the Feast.' He was forthwith elected into the chair, and complimented in a bumper in his new character.

The claret continued to circulate without interruption, till the glasses seemed to dance upon the table, and this, perhaps, was a hint to the ladies to call for music — At eight in the evening the ball began in another apartment: at midnight we went to supper; but it was broad day before I found the way to my lodgings; and, no doubt, his Lordship had a swinging bill to discharge.