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The sun-stained showers
had put a sheen on everything. On the summer grass; on the craggy hills;
on the gulls’ wings; on the sibilant water and on the rocks of the
shore. Even the clouds looked as if they had been polished up with a
Between the showers I had
been engaged on the urgent task of cleaning my weed-smothered potato
patch, using a hoe until my aching shoulders entreated rest when I would
crouch down and pull out the weeds by hand until my knees reminded me it
was time to stand up and use the hoe again. I loathed weeding potatoes.
As each spring came round and I, helped by neighbouring crofters, set
the seed on nests of manure along the new-dug furrows I vowed that this
year I would really cherish my potatoes; that I would attend to the
weeding as soon as the green rosettes appeared above the soil and would
continue regularly doing a little every fine day so that, come summer, I
should have a trim forest of healthy green shaws rising from the ridged
black earth with a definable space, weed free and wide enough for a
booted foot to tread, between each row. Thus, I promised myself, I would
ensure that when the time came for harvesting I should, like my
neighbours, fill pail after pail, sack after sack, with potatoes of a
size that could reasonably be termed ‘ware’, that is, fist-sized or
larger. So far, however, even the most encouraging critics would never
have described my potato crop as anything but ‘seed’, which means of a
size equivalent to a bantam’s egg, or worse, as ‘chats’, which were
hardly bigger than marbles or, as Morag, my ex-landlady, described them,
as ‘bein’ no bigger than a hen would swallow in one gulp’. Too small for
cooking in their jackets, they had to be peeled raw and anyone who has
had to endure winter after winter of coping with such puny runts will
know there is no more dispiriting an occupation. I usually ended up by
boiling a panful every day, mashing them with a bottle and mixing them
with oatmeal and then feeding them to my cow and hens while, swallowing
my pride, I would buy a sack of potatoes from someone who had worked
much more dedicatedly than I and who therefore had some to spare. Alas
this year again despite all my resolutions and the tactful comments of
well-meaning Bruachites I had failed to get to grips with the task of
weeding in time and now in midsummer except for two short rows which I
had cleaned the previous morning my potato patch resembled a jungle more
than an orderly forest and with the plants scarcely a hand’s height the
leaves had already begun to pale as a result of their contest with lusty
persicary, binding buttercups and tenacious dockens. I knew they must be
rescued now or never, so, ignoring my body’s unwillingness and the
clouds of midges which assailed me every time the breeze died and a
shower threatened to obscure the sun, I continued resolutely, hoping
that I could clean enough rows to yield sufficient ware potatoes for my
own use. Another hour’s work, I told myself, and then I could finish for
the day. As I made the resolution I sighed forgetfully which resulted in
my having to spit out a queue of midges which had been hovering around
my mouth waiting the opportunity to explore my larynx. Kneeling down I
resumed pulling at the strangle of corn spurrey which, though relatively
easy to uproot, leaves a sticky deposit on the hands which proves even
more attractive to predatory insects than clean flesh. I wished often
that potatoes were not so essential a part of my food supplies, but to
face a Bruach winter without a good store of potatoes in the barn would
have been foolhardy. The crofters would have considered it suicidal.
It had been some time now
since the last shower; some time since I had had an excuse to nip back
for a ‘fly cuppie’ in the coolth and comfort of the cottage. Through my
thin blouse the sun was toasting my back; the exposed parts of my body
itched with midge bites; my open-toed sandals —open-toed due not to
design but to wear — were full of earth and sharp grit. I was sticky,
dirty, itchy and achy and I longed for a respite. Straightening up I
rested on the hoe. The breeze had died away completely with the last
shower, leaving shreds of mist in the corries of the hills. The sea was
like a stretch of blue cambric variegated with darker patches which,
suddenly erupting into arrow-shaped shockwaves of spray, told of shoals
of mackerel pursuing their food around the bay.
‘So you’re busy!’ It was
Morag’s voice and I turned to greet her as she tacked across the croft
towards me. Accompanying Morag was Flora, a remote kinswoman of hers who
occasionally visited Bruach on holiday from the East Coast fishing port
where she lived, flora was famous in Bruach as being one of a band of
‘kipper lassies’, the girls who travelled from port to port throughout
the herring season and in all weathers sat out on the piers deftly
gutting and cleaning mountains of herring newly unloaded from the
fishing boats; bandying ribald pleasantries with the crews and,
reputedly, screaming imprecations with complete impartiality at sluggard
fish porters, scouting gulls or indeed anyone who threatened to impede
their work. Flora took great pride in being a ‘kipper lassie’ and always
carried around with her a photograph cut from a newspaper which showed
her along with half a dozen other lassies smilingly busy at their
gutting and seemingly oblivious of the hail and sleet that flew around
them. There was an inked ring round Flora on the photograph because the
girls were so bundled up in clothes that identification might otherwise
have been impossible. She was middle-aged, ‘all beam and bust’ as Erchy
described her, and her eyes and hair were appropriately kipper-coloured.
Her voice was as strident as a ship’s siren; her laughter piercing and
when irritated her vocabulary would, according to an admiring Hector,
‘take the feathers off a hoody-crow’. She was a good-natured, good
humoured soul and whilst she was in Bruach the summer ceilidhs were
enlivened by lurid accounts of her adventures, quarrels, flirtations and
spending sprees, accounts which I no doubt would have found more
entertaining had I been able to decode more than one word in six of her
broad East Coast speech and that one word usually ‘yon’. In her absence
the Bruachites referred to her as to all ‘kipper lassies’ as
‘Skin-a-herrin’ Lizzie’, though they would never have been either
discourteous or rash enough to have used the nickname in her hearing.
Only once did I hear it used in her presence and that was by Davy, a
Glasgow-bred child without a vestige of Gaelic courtesy or reticence who
with his mother was visiting a relative in the village. One Friday
evening when there had been the usual batch of customers, adults and
children, waiting at the weekly grocery van for their turn to be served
Davy was there insolently superintending his doting mother’s purchases
to ensure she bought for him an ample supply of sweeties and biscuits.
When Flora appeared he had left his mother abruptly, sidled round to the
front of the van and begun chanting:
In the unthinkable event
of a Bruach child behaving in such a fashion the nearest adult male
would have grabbed him, boxed his ears and been thanked by the
embarrassed parents for administering punishment so promptly. But Davy
was a foreigner and though we were all made to feel exceedingly
uncomfortable by the boy’s rudeness only old Murdoch admonished him with
a snapped ‘Whist, boy!’ and the gesture of an upraised hand. Davy
ignored the old man and continued his taunting. Flora darted a glance at
the mother as if giving her a chance to take action before she herself
did, but the mother had retreated into an air of intense preoccupation
with the small print on a packet of cream crackers and would not look
up. We saw Flora’s bosom swell; we saw her eyes glint and we prepared to
flinch at the linguistic dexterity we expected to hear. But our ears
were assailed by no fish-pier malediction. Instead Flora merely raised
her voice to its most penetrating pitch and screamed: ‘Aye, lad, I can
skin a herrin’ as quick and clean as your own mother skins the lodgers
that stay in your house!’
The delighted smiles on
the faces of the Bruachites were swiftly erased as Davy’s mother turned
first on Flora and then on the rest of us a look of concentrated venom
that changed even as we watched to confusion as she realised that,
isolated as Bruach was, it was not too isolated for us to be unaware of
the poor reputation of the boarding house she kept in the city and that
lodgers who had once endured her hard beds, scanty food and high prices
never stayed long. Calling her son with an asperity that startled him
into obedience she hurried him away.
‘He’s a wee monster, that
one,’ Anna Vic had said severely.
‘An’ his father before
him,’ observed someone else.
Old Murdoch took his pipe
out of his mouth. ‘As the old cock crows, so the young one learns,’ he
had declared fatalistically.
‘I’m thinkin’ it’s wastin’
your time you are, mo ghaoil, cleanin’ your potatoes when there’s
showers about. You’re no’ givin’ the weeds a chance to die.’ Morag was
standing by my potato patch assessing its chances of survival with much
the same expression on her face as if she were standing by a deathbed.
‘You should get at them when the ground’s good and dry.’
The thought that much of
my day’s labour might have been in vain was a little deflating but I
rallied when I remembered I had carried away most of the uprooted weeds
to the dung heap behind the byre where they could revive or perish
without harming my potatoes. Nevertheless it was with relief that I
abandoned the hoe.
‘Me an’ Flora,’ continued
Morag, ‘was thinkin’ we’d go down to the shore an’ see maybe will we get
a wee billy dulse. The tide’s right for it now.’
We looked down at the
sea-deserted, weed-covered rocks, assimilating the prospects of dulse
‘Oh, yes. It’s pretty low
tides this week,’ I agreed, confident now of my knowledge of the sea and
Flora gave me a
kipper-coloured glance. ‘D’ye like yon?’ she asked with a vigorous nod
towards the sea.
‘Dulse, do you mean?’ I
was constantly being nonplussed by Flora’s haphazard ‘yons’.
‘No,’ I confessed. ‘I’ve
never managed to acquire a taste for it.’ To me dulse tasted like strips
of rubber steeped in water that had been used for washing fishy plates.
‘Octh, yon’s good, yon,’
she commented ecstatically.
‘Erchy brought us a skart
just the other day and Flora has a fancy for a wee bitty dulse boiled
along with it,’ explained Morag.
‘He gave me a skart,
too,’ I told her. ‘He must have been feeling generous.’
‘Generous?’ echoed Morag.
‘Did you not notice he’s lost his teeths an’ canna eat them himself?’
‘Oh, of course,’ I
admitted, remembering Erchy’s gummy embarrassment when he had come to
bestow his gift and his subsequent hasty departure in spite of the tea I
‘It will be six months
he’ll need to wait fill the dentist comes again unless he goes up to
Inverness himself to get a new set,’ Morag announced. ‘An’ six months is
a long time to be without your teeths once you’re used to havin’ them,’
‘He told me he’d lost
them overboard when they were fishing,’ I said.
‘Indeed it was the truth
he was tellin’ you,’ agreed Morag with the flicker of a smile.
‘Well, I wouldn’t wish
Erchy discomfort but they say it’s an ill wind,’ I said lightly. ‘And it
seems a long time since I last tasted skart.’
‘An’ had he yours skinned
for you?’ asked Morag.
‘Oh, yes,’ I replied. ‘I
doubt if I could have done that for myself.’ A skart or shag is prepared
for cooking not by plucking but by skinning it like a rabbit and then
the thick red meat can be cut from its breast like steak. There was
normally so much meat on one that, casseroled, a bird would provide me
with four good meals and there would still be stock for soup. ‘It was
last Tuesday he gave me mine and I’m just about at the end of it now,’ I
‘Aye, I believe it was
Tuesday we got ours,’ agreed Morag. ‘I mind him sayin’ he got three that
‘And you haven’t cooked
it yet?’ I asked. It was now the following Monday and as Bruach boasted
no such conveniences as refrigerators I doubted whether in such sultry
weather a shot bird could be kept so long.
‘But we’ve had it
buried,’ she retorted in a voice edged with compassion for my ignorance.
‘Put in a poc an’ buried in the ground a skart will keep for weeks.
Surely you knew that, mo ghaoil?’
‘Oh, I knew about burying
them but never more than for two or three days. I wouldn’t have expected
it to keep as long as this,’ I replied.
‘It keeps,’ asserted
Morag. ‘An’ likely it will be tender enough when we come to eat it. Did
you no find yours a bitty tough on the teeths, eatin’ It so soon?’
I was about to deny that
I had found it tough when Flora gave me a searching look. ‘Ah, but yon’s
gey teeth, yon,’ she asserted positively. ‘Yon would crack bones like a
dog, yon.’ She was looking at me as if she expected me to confirm her
I smiled. ‘I haven’t been
hungry enough to try,’ I told her. ‘Yet,’ I added.
‘We’d best away for our
dulse, then,’ Morag said.
‘Oh, stay for a cup of
tea,’ I urged, starting to gather up my treasury of weeds. ‘I’m so dry I
could drink a potful.’
‘I’m as dry as a crow
myself,’ confessed Morag. She treated the shore to a Canute-like glance.
‘The tide will keep a whiley yet, I’m thinkin’.’
‘The kettles’s been at
the side of the fire all afternoon so it won’t take long to boil,’ I
‘Ach, then I’ll away to
the house an’ fuse the tea while you finish your clearin’. Flora will
give you a hand.’
Flora gave me a hand,
accompanying her labours with such loquacious unintelligibility that I
had to judge from her expression or intonation where to smile or to nod
or exclaim. It appeared to suffice. As we turned to go back to the
cottage she paused and with both arms full of weeds contrived to jerk an
elbow towards the still unweeded part of my potato plot.
‘Yon’s filthy, yon,’ she
commented with powerful disgust. I nodded rueful agreement. It deserved
no more generous a criticism.
It was good to see Morag
pouring out the tea as we entered the kitchen and while I rinsed the
dirt off my hands with a dipper of cold water and emptied the earth and
grit out of my shoes, Morag, who was as much at home in my kitchen as
her own, unwrapped the tea-towel from the girdle scones I had baked that
morning, spread them with butter and jam and placed one on top of each
steaming cup. In Bruach where all water had to be carried one never used
more crockery than was absolutely essential. A cup required no saucer; a
scone could be balanced on a cup until it was taken in the fingers. It
might mean slops on the table or crumbs on the floor but rough wood is
soon mopped clean and hens are good gleaners.
We sat down, Morag on a
hard-backed chair near the open door so that she should not miss
anything that was happening; flora on a coir boat’s fender which I had
found on the shore and now used as a pouffe, and I in my usual armchair.
‘Tell me, did you have
yon mannie to see you?’ asked Morag, slewing round in her chair.
‘Was it a man?’ I
countered with a chuckle. ‘I wasn’t sure what it was.’ I turned to
flora. ‘This figure,’ I explained, ‘just came to me out of the blue and
asked, "Do you love the Lord?"’
Flora brayed with
laughter. ‘Yon’s mad, yon,’ she declared.
‘It was sluicing with
rain,’ I went on, ‘and the figure was in oilskins and sou’wester and it
had a high-pitched voice...’
‘An’ long hair,’
interrupted Morag. ‘Though the Dear only knows why a man would want to
grow his hair long unless he had a disease or somethin’.’
‘It was a "he", then? Are
‘Indeed, I couldn’t be
sure what he was myself unless I turned him upside down,’ replied Morag.
‘But no, mo ghaoil, that wasn’t the one I was meanin’. There was another
‘Was there? No, I didn’t
‘They were sayin’ he was
one of these Yanks.’
‘A Yank? Oh, no, I
haven’t had any Americans calling on me,’ I told her. ‘Just the
‘Oh, is that what he
was?’ enquired Morag. ‘I wondered what religion he had to make him grow
his hair as long as that.’ She threw a crumb of scone to a straying hen.
‘Well, if you didn’t have
the Yank callin’ you missed somethin’, I’m tellin’ you.’ She wiped away
a smile with the back of her hand. ‘He was wearin’ a kilt that near
reached his ankles an’ short white stockings an’ a straw hat an’ them
dark glasses so you couldn’t see if he had eyes or spider’s webs behind
appreciation, and the laughter lines ploughed deep on Morag’s wrinkled
‘What did he want?’ I
‘Am’t I tellin’ you?’
reproved Morag. ‘He comes to my house an’ when I go to the door he asks
will I take him into the cow byre an’ show him my antics.’
‘Your what!’ I
‘My antics,’ she
reiterated and seeing my expression added: ‘He offered to pay me, true
as I’m here.’ She reached over to the table and put down her cup. ‘I
told him, says I, "A few years ago if you’d come then to me I could have
shown you plenty of antics but ach, not now. Those days have passed."’
‘What sort of antiques
was he after?’ I enquired soberly.
‘Why, crusie lamps an’
steelyards an’ quern stones an’ goffering Irons — even the worm we had
for the whisky he was wantin’.’
‘I know what happened to
the worm,’ I said. (Morag had once told me that after receiving warning
of an impending visit by the Customs man all the village’s
whisky-distilling apparatus had been dumped into the deepest well.) ‘But
did you find anything else for him?’
‘I did not, then.’ She
rose and helped herself to another cup of tea. ‘The quern stones I had
right enough till Hector broke them up to use for his lobster creels,
the wretch, an’ the cruise lamp disappeared when he was short of
somethin’ to oil the engine of his boat.’
‘But the goffering iron,’
I reminded her. ‘Your mother’s goffering iron was still in the byre when
I was with you. I remember your bringing it out to show me.’
Morag gave a snort of
disgust. ‘Indeed, mo ghaoil, but since Hector an’ Behag’s come to live
with me what can I keep my hands on save my own breeks an’ it’s tight I
have to hold on to them sometimes for fear Hector will snatch them for
cleanin’ his engine,’ she complained bitterly. ‘No, but didn’t Behag
take the gofferin’ iron first for liftin’ the crabs’ claws out of the
fire when she’d toast them — as if she couldn’t do that with her fingers
— an’ then the next I see is Hector’s got hold of it an’ usin’ it for
stirrin’ the tar to put on his boat. The Dear knows where the iron is
now,’ she went on. ‘I doubt it’s at the bottom of the sea along with the
boat he tarred.’
‘What a pity,’ I
murmured. ‘I remember your telling me how you used to love watching your
mother sitting by the fire and crimping the lace on her bonnet with the
Morag stared reflectively
through the doorway, a gentle smile hovering around her lips. ‘Indeed, I
remember it like yesterday,’ she said with a wistful sigh.
Down on the shore Morag
and Flora wrested brown dulse from the wet, limpet-stippled rocks until
their bag was full when they came up to the tide’s edge and joined me in
the collection of driftwood. No mailer how adequate one’s store of
driftwood might be it was impossible to resist taking home bundle after
bundle rather than leave it for the tide to take away again. Morag
looked up at the sky, assessing the degree of light.
we don’t start back they’ll be
thinkin’ the "Each Uisge" has got us,’ said Morag. ‘An’ there’ll be no
milk for the tea if I don’t away to the cow. Hector’s awful heavy on the
milk,’ she explained.
We made our way towards
the heather-fringed burn where a relatively easy path led up towards the
crofts. By now it was time for the evening milking and we could hear,
though we could not yet see, the milkers calling for their cattle over
the echoing moors. From closer at hand came the bawling of frustrated
calves which, recognising the calling and the clanging of milk pails as
a portent of supper, would be cavorting within the limited circle of
Beside the burn Erchy was
working at his dinghy, gouging handfuls of thick yellow grease from a
tin he had found washed up on the shore and ramming it between the
gaping planks. Like all Bruachites he had a sublime faith in grease and
tar for keeping out the sea.
‘Are you gettin’ good
fishin’?’ enquired Morag, surveying with unusual interest the
floorboards of the dinghy which were speckled with fish scales.
‘Aye. There’s plenty of
fish about now,’ he admitted. ‘The sea’s hissin’ with mackerel.’ With
his elbow he gestured towards the outlying islands. ‘There’s a bit of
herrin’ too. Tearlaich an’ me, we brought home a nice few herrin’ last
night.’ He and Morag exchanged wary glances.
Flora, still carrying her
bundle of wood, leaned over the boat. ‘Yon’s no herrin’ scales, yon,’
she stated flatly. ‘No, not mackerel either.’
‘Indeed they are so,’
argued Erchy but with dwindling defiance as he realised he was
confronted by an expert. He glanced again at Morag but she had turned
away, elaborately disinterested.
‘Yon’s salmon, yon!’
‘Be quiet!’ returned
Erchy with a challenging gleam in his eye but seeing Flora’s
conspiratorial smile he went on:
‘What if they are salmon,
anyway? It’s pleased enough you’d be if you found one waitin’ for you in
the mornin’, I doubt.’
‘I would too,’ agreed
Flora with unusual lucidity. ‘There’s nay harm in yon.’
‘The Lord puts the salmon
in the rivers like he puts the berries on the trees,’ said Morag
piously. ‘They’re there for all of us, no’ just the laird.’
‘Aye so,’ concurred Flora
and she might just as well have said ‘Amen’.
I did not need to express
an opinion, having lived long enough in Bruach to accept that poaching
was not just a means of obtaining trout or salmon for a tasty meal but a
daring and exciting pastime. To outwit the watchers or evade the police
was a game as compulsive as betting or gambling might be to a townsman,
with the added attraction that it yielded a repertoire of adventure and
escape stories for the participants to narrate at winter ceilidhs.
Nearly every able-bodied male in the village, whatever his occupation,
poached or had poached at some time or another. Even the salmon watchers
were reputed to engage in a little poaching when they were not on duty.
Sure of his audience’s
wholehearted support Erchy became expansive. ‘Indeed I mind the old
laird askin’ me to poach his salmon for him more than once,’ he told us.
‘Go on!’ taunted Flora.
‘Damty sure he did. I was
doin’ watchin’ for him then an’ he was expectin’ this house party to
come an’ wanted salmon for their dinner. He was up at the loch all day
an’ didn’t get a bite so he comes to me an’ he says fill I put my net in
the river that night an’ make sure there’d be one or two nice fish for
‘An’ you made sure,’ put
in Morag with a reminiscent smile.
‘Aye, we got near a dozen
so we picked out all the ones that had the marks of the net on them an’
sent them up to the laird’s house. The rest we kept for ourselves.’
‘That wasn’t right at
all,’ Morag chided him.
‘Ach, the cook got a hold
of them an’ had them prepared before the guests could put an eye to them
but the next time the laird asks me to poach a few for him he says, "An’
mind you, Erchy, make sure there’s no net marks on them this time. I
cannot rely on this cook to make such a good job of them."’
‘Is it true?’ demanded
‘As true as I’m here,’
Flora shook her head.
‘Yon’s a mon, yon.’
‘These are no’ very
fresh,’ Morag declared, leaning over the boat and scraping at the scales
adhering to the wood. ‘Would these be the minister’s scales?’
Flora and I exchanged
amused glances. ‘The minister’s scales?’ we said simultaneously.
‘What I was meanin’ was
were they the scales left from the night he had the minister out poachin’.’
She laughed. ‘The night Erchy spent in the gaol.’
‘Never surely!’ breathed
‘Aye, we did,’ Erchy
confirmed. ‘Him as well.’
‘Aye.’ Erchy nodded
smugly. ‘An’ it served him damty well right too.’
‘What happened?’ I asked.
‘Well, you mind that
Sassenach minister was over stayin’ for a holiday last week?’
‘Well him, it was. He
mentioned more than once he’d like a nice salmon to take back with him
so in the end I said I’d take him. We went to the river an’ we’d got a
couple of good salmon in the net when suddenly there’s a shout an’ a
couple of pollis come out of the dark an’ grab the net, salmon an’ all.
They couldn’t see who we was an’ I got away out of it quick but this
daft minister shouts, "No, Erchy, it’s no use. We’re caught red-handed."
God! I was that mad I could have hit him. If he’d had any sense he would
have followed me an’ they’d never have been able to prove it was our
net. We could always have said we’d just noticed it there an’ were havin’
‘You’d have lost your
net,’ I pointed out.
‘We could have got a new
bit of net for the price of the fine,’ returned Erchy.
‘So they put you in
gaol,’ I sympathised.
‘Aye, well, that fellow
wouldn’t be satisfied. "We must plead guilty, Erchy," he says to me. "No
damty fear," says I. "They’ve no proof, I tell you." "But, Erchy," says
he, "if there’s a case about it my name will be in the papers an’ what
will my congregation think if they see their minister’s been caught
‘The man was right,’
interrupted Morag. ‘He has to think of his congregation.’
‘Right for himself maybe
but ministers should think about others as well,’ returned Erchy. ‘If he
was goin’ to plead guilty then I had to as well.’
‘What difference does it
make pleading guilty?’ I enquired innocently.
‘If you plead
guilty you just spend the night in the cell an’ in the mornin’ you pay
your fine an’ get out an’ nobody much the wiser,’ he explained.
‘So that’s what they did.
An’ the minister didn’t get his salmon to take back with him,’ Morag
‘No, but he had the cheek
of the devil, that fellow,’ Erchy disclosed. ‘When the copper came to
the cell the next mornin’ he was mighty pleased with himself at havin’
got the pair of us an’ the two salmon as evidence. Oh, he was smilin’
an’ tellin’ us It was a nice day, an’ then he says, "What would you like
for your breakfast, gentlemen?" as if it was a hotel we was stayin’ at.
‘"I fancy some bacon an’
eggs," says I, thinkin’ I’d be cheeky an’ put them to as much trouble as
‘"An’ what about you,
minister?" he says. An’ that minister looks at him as cool as I don’t
know what an’ he says, "Oh, don’t go to any trouble for me, boys, just
give me the same as you had yourselves — a plate of poached salmon".’
Flora and I dissolved
‘We’d best be on our
way,’ said Morag. ‘Oidhche mhath!’ she called.
responded Erchy. I had taken a couple of steps in the wake of Morag and
Flora when I realised that Erchy’s farewell had been spoken with his
normal clarity and I realised suddenly that he was equipped with a full
set of teeth.
‘Erchy!’ I exclaimed,
instantly recognising them as his own because of the broken eye tooth.
‘You’ve got your teeth back again!’
‘Aye, I have so,’ he
‘You were lucky to find
them, weren’t you? Didn’t you tell me you dropped them in the sea?’
‘I said I dropped them
overboard,’ corrected Erchy, and seeing my puzzled look elucidated: ‘I
dropped them overboard in the river the other night when I was poachin’
an’ I was certain I’d never see them again, but, aye, I was lucky.
somebody did find them. They got them in their net.’
‘How extraordinary!’ I
said. ‘Who got them?’
‘I’m not sayin’ who,’
responded Erchy with an air of mystery, ‘but this mornin’ who should be
at the door but the pollis an’ when I asked him what he wanted he pulled
out this handkerchief an’ there was my teeths wrapped in it. "I hear you
lost your teeths, Erchy," says he. "Well, I did so," says I. "I’m
wonderin’ if these are yours?" asks the pollis. Well, I knew fine
anybody would know they’re my teeths so I says, "Aye, they’re mine,
‘But who would take them
to the police?’ I asked. ‘Surely it would be tantamount to admitting
they’d been poaching?’
‘Who would take them to
the pollis?’ returned Erchy derisively. ‘When I’m damty sure everyone in
the village knew they was mine?’
‘You mean...’ I began and
then paused as the full import of his words dawned slowly upon me. ‘You
mean the policeman himself was doing a spot of poaching and he caught
them in his net?’
Erchy fixed me with an
uncompromising stare. ‘Now what damty fool would be askin’ the pollis a
question like that?’ he demanded.
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