The Henpecked Man
by John Mackay Wilson
Every one has heard the
phrase, "Go to Birgham!" which signifies much the same as bidding you go
to a worse place. The phrase is familiar not only on the borders, but
throughout all Scotland, and has been in use for more than five hundred
years, having taken its rise from Birgham being the place where the
Scottish nobility were when they dastardly betrayed their country into the
hands of the first Edward; and the people, despising the conduct and the
cowardice of the nobles, have rendered the saying, "Go to Birgham!" an
expression of contempt until this day. Many, however, may have heard the
saying, and even used it, who know not that Birgham is a small village,
beautifully situated on the north side of the Tweed, about midway between
Coldstream and Kelso; though, if I should say that the village itself is
beautiful, I should be speaking on the wrong side of the truth. Yet there
may be many who have both heard the saying and seen the place, who never
heard of little Patie Crichton, the bicker-maker. Patie was of diminutive
stature, and he followed the profession (if the members of the learned
professions be not offended at my using the term) of a cooper, or
bicker-maker, in Birgham for many years. His neighbours used to say of
him, "The puir body's henpecked."
Patie was in the habit of
attending the neighbouring fairs with the water-cogs, cream-bowies,
bickers, piggins, and other articles of his manufacture. It was Dunse
fair, and Patie said he "had done extraordinar' weel—the sale had been far
beyond what he expeckit." His success might be attributed to the
circumstance that, when out of the sight and hearing of his better half,
for every bicker he sold he gave his customers half-a-dozen jokes into the
bargain. Every one, therefore, liked to deal with little Patie. The fair
being over, he retired with a crony to a public-house in the Castle Wynd,
to crack of old stories over a glass, and inquire into each other's
welfare. It was seldom they met, and it was as seldom that Patie dared to
indulge in a single glass; but, on the day in question, he thought they
could manage another gill, and another was brought. Whether the sight of
it reminded him of his domestic miseries, and of what awaited him at home,
I cannot tell; but after drinking another glass, and pronouncing the
spirits excellent, he thus addressed his friend;—
"Ay, Robin" (his friend's
name was Robin Roughsad), "ye're a happy man—ye're maister in your ain
hoose, and ye've a wife that adores and obeys ye; but I'm nae better than
naebody at my ain fireside. I'll declare I'm waur: wife an' bairns laugh
at me— I'm treated like an outlan' body an' a fule. Though without me they
micht gang an' beg, there is nae mair respeck paid to me than if I were a
pair o' auld bauchels flung into a corner. Fifteen years syne I couldna
believed it o' Tibby, though onybody had sworn it to me. I firmly believe
that a gude wife is the greatest blessin' that can be conferred upon a man
on this earth. I can imagine it by the treasure that my faither had in my
mither; for, though the best may hae words atween them occasionally, and
I'm no saying that they hadna yet they were just like passin' showers, to
mak the kisses o' the sun upon the earth mair sweet after them. Her whole
study was to please him and to mak him comfortable. She was never happy
but when he was happy ; an' he was just the same wi' her. I've heard him
say that she was worth untold gold. But, O Robin! if I think that a guid
wife is the greatest blessin' a man can enjoy, weel do I ken that a
scoldin', domineerin' wife is his greatest curse. It's a terrible thing to
be snooled in your ain house—naebody can form an idea o't but they wha
"Ye remember when I first
got acquainted wi' Tibby, she was doing the bondage work at Riselaw. I
first saw her coming out o' Eccles kirk ae day, and I really thocht that I
had never seen a better-faured or a more gallant-looking lass. Her cheeks
were red and white like a half-ripe strawberry, or rather, I should say,
like a cherry; and she seemed as modest and meek as a lamb. It wasna very
lang until I drew up ; and though she didna gie me ony great encouragement
at first, yet, in a week or twa, after the ice was fairly broken, she
became remarkably ceevil, and gied me her oxter on a Sunday. We used to
saumer about the loanings, no saying meikle, but unco happy; and I was aye
restless whan I was out o' her sight. Ye may guess that the shoemaker was
nae loser by it during the six months that I ran four times a-week, wet or
dry, between Birgham and Riselaw. But the term-time was drawing nigh, and
I put the important question, and pressed her to name the day. She hung
her head, and she seemed no to ken weel what to say; for she was sae mim
and sae gentle then, that ye wad hae said 'butter wadna melt in her
mouth.' And when I pressed her mair urgently—
"'I'll just leave it to
yoursel, Peter,' says she.
"I thocht my heart wad
louped out at my mouth. I believe there never was a man sae beside himsel
wi' joy in this warld afore. I fairly danced again, and cut as many antics
as a merry andrew. 'O Tibby,' says I, 'I'm ower happy now!—Oh, haud my
head! This gift o' joy is like to be my dead.'
"'I hope no, Peter,' said
she; 'I wad rather hae ye to live than dee for me.'
"I thocht she was as
sensible as she was bonny, and better natured than baith.
"Weel, I got the house set
up, the wedding-day cam, and everything passed ower as agreeably as
onybody could desire. I thocht Tibby turning bonnier and bonnier. For the
first five or six days after the weddin', everything was 'hinny,' and 'my
love,' and 'Tibby dear,' or 'Peter, dear.' But matters didna stand lang at
this. It was on a Saturday nicht, I mind, just afore I was gaun to drap
work, that three or four acquaintances cam into the shop to wush me joy,
and they insisted I should pay off for the weddin'. Ye ken I never was
behint hand; and I agreed that I wad just fling on my coat and step up wi'
them to Orange Lane. So I gaed into the house and took down my market
coat, which was hangin' behint the bed ; and after that I gaed to the kist
to tak out a shilling or twa; for, up to that lime, Tibby had not usurped
the office of Chancellor o' the Exchequer.
I did it as cannily as I
could; but she had suspected something, and heard the jinkin' o' the
"'What are ye doing, Patie?'
says she; 'whar are ye gaun?'
"I had never heard her
voice hae sic a sound afore, save the first time I drew up to her, when it
was rather sharp than agreeable.
"'Ou, my dear,' says I,
'I'm just gaun up to Orange Lane a wee while.'
"''To Orange Lane!' says
she; 'what in the name of fortune's gaun to tak ye there?'
"'O hinny, says I, 'it's
just a neebor lad or twa that's drapped in to wush us joy, and, ye ken, we
canna but be neebor-like.'
"'Ay! the sorrow joy them!'
says she, 'and neebor too!—an' how meikle will that cost ye?'
"'Hoot, Tibby,' says I, for
I was quite astonished at her, 'ye dinna understand things, woman.'
"'No understand them!' says
she; 'I wish to gudeness that ye wad understand them though! If that's the
way ye intend to mak the siller flee, it's time there were somebody to tak
"I had put the siller in my
pocket, and was gaun to the door mair surprised than I can weel express,
when she cried to me—
"'Mind what ye spend, and
see that ye dinna stop.'
"'Ye need be under nae
apprehensions o' that, hinny,' said I, wishing to pacify her.
'"See that it be sae,'
cried she, as I shut the door.
"I joined my neebors in a
state of greater uneasiness o' mind than I had experienced for a length o'
time. I couldna help thinkin' but that Tibby had rather early begun to tak
the upper hand, and it was what I never expected from her. However, as I
was saying, we went up to Orange Lane, and we sat doun, and ae gill brocht
on anither. Tibby's health and mine were drunk ; we had several capital
sangs; and, I daresay, it was weel on for ten o'clock afore we rose to
gang awa. I was nae mair affected wi' drink than I am at this moment. But,
somehow or ither, I was uneasy at the idea o' facing Tibby. I thought it
would be a terrible thing to quarrel wi' her. I opened the door, and,
bolting it after me, slipped in, half on the edge o' my fit. She was
sitting wi' her hand at her haffit by the side o' the fire, but she never
let on that she either saw or heard me—she didna speak a single word. If
ever there was a woman— Nursing her wrath to keep it warm, it was her that
nicht. I drew in a chair, and, though I was half-feared to speak—
"' What's the matter, my
pet?' says I—'what's happened ye?'
"But she sat looking into
the fire, and never let on she heard me. 'E'en's ye like, Meg Dorts,'
thought I, as Allan Ramsay says; but I durstna say it, for I saw that
there was a storm brewing. At last, I ventured to say again—
"'What ails ye, Tibby,
dear?—are ye no weel?'
"'Weel!' cried she—'wha can
be weel? Is this the way ye mean to carry on? What a time o' nicht is this
to keep a body to, waiting and fretting on o' ye, their lane? Do you no
think shame o' yoursel?'
"'Hoot, woman,' says I,
'I'm surprised at ye; I'm sure ye hae naething to mak a wark about — it's
no late yet'
"'I dinna ken what ye ca'
late,' said she; 'it wadna be late amang yer cronies, nae doubt; but if
it's no late, it's early, for I warrant it's mornin'.'
"'Nonsense!' says I.
"'Dinna tell me it's
nonsense,' said she, 'for I'll be spoken to in nae sic way—I'll let you
ken that. But how meikle has it cost ye? Ye wad be treating them, nae
doubt—and how meikle hae ye spent, if it be a fair question?'
"'Toots, Tibby!' said I, 'whar's
the cause for a' this? What great deal could it cost me?'
"'But hair by hair maks the
carle's head bare,' added she—'mind ye that; and mind ye that ye've a
house to keep aboon your head noo. But, if ye canna do it, I maun do it
for ye—sae gie me the key o' that kist—gie me it instantly; and I'll tak
care how ye gang drinkin' wi' ony body and treatin' them till mornin'
"For the sake o' peace I
gied her the key; for she was speakin' sae loud that I thocht a' the
neebors wad hear— and she had nae suner got it, than awa she gaed to the
kist and counted every shilling. I had nae great abundance then mair than
I've now; and—.
"'Is that a' ye hae?' said
she; 'an' yet ye'll think o' gaun drinkin' and treatin' folk frae Saturday
nicht till Sabbath mornin'! If this is the life ye intend to lead, I wush
to gudeness I had ne'er had onything to say to ye.'
"'And if this is the life
ye intend to lead me,' thought I, ' I wush the same thing.'
"But that was but the
beginnin' o' my slavery. From that hour to this she has continued on from
bad to worse. No man livin' can form an idea o' what I've suffered but
mysel. In a mornin', or rather, I may say, in a forenoon, for it was aye
nine or ten o'clock afore she got up, she sat doun to her tea and white
scones and butter, while I had to be content wi' a scrimpit bicker o'
brose and sour milk for kitchen. Nor was this the warst o't; for, when I
cam in frae my wark for my breakfast, mornin' after mornin', the fire was
black out; and there had I, before I could get a bite to put in my mouth,
to bend doun upon my knees and blaw it, and blaw it, till I was half-blind
wi' ashes—for we hadna a pair o' bellowses; and there wad she lie grumblin'
a' the time, ca'in' me useless this, and useless that; and I just had to
put up wi' it. But after our first bairn was bom, she grew far worse, and
I becam mair and mair miserable every day. If I had been sleeping through
the nicht, and the bairn had begun a kickin', or whingin'—then she was at
the scoldin', and I was sure to be started out o' my sleep wi' a great
drive atween the shoulders, and her cryin'—
"'Get up, ye lazy body,
ye—get up, and see what's the maiter wi' this bairn.
"An' this was the trade
half-a-dizen o' times in a nicht.
"At last, there was ae day,
when a' that I had dune was simply saying a word about the denner no bein'
ready, and afore ever I kenned whar I was, a . cracky-stool that she 'had
bought for the bairn cam fleein' across the room, and gied me a dirl on
the elbow, that made me think my arm was broken. Ye may guess what a
stroke it was, when I tell ye I couldna lift my hand to my head for a week
to come. Noo, the like o' that, ye ken, was what mortal man couldna stand.
"'Tibby,' said I, and I
looked very desperate and determined, 'what do ye mean by this conduct? By
a' that's gracious, I'll no put up wi' it ony langer!'
"'Ye'll no put up wi' it,
ye cratur!' said she; 'if ye gie me ony mair o' yer provocation, I'll pu'
yer lugs for ye— wull ye put up wi' that?'
"It was terrible for a man
to hear his ain wife ca' him a cratur!—just as if I had been a monkey or a
"'O ye disdainfu' limmer,'
thought I; 'but if I could humble your proud spirit, I wad do it!' Weel,
there was a grand new ballant hawkin' about the country at the time—it was
ca'd 'Watty and Meg'—ye have nae doubt seen't. Meg was just such a
terrible termagant as my Tibby; and I remembered the perfect reformation
that was wrought upon her by Watty's bidding her fare-weel, and threatenin'
to list. So it just struck me that I wad tak a leaf out o' the ballant.
Therefore, keeping the same serious and determined look, for I was in no
humour to seem otherwise— 'Tibby,' says I, 'there shall be nae mair o'
this. But I will gang and list this very day, and ye'll see what will come
ower ye then—ye'll maybe repent o' yer conduct whan it's ower late.'
"'List! ye totum ye!' said
she; 'do ye say list?' and she said this in a tone and wi' a look o'
derision that gaed through my very soul. 'What squad will ye list
into?—what regiment will tak ye? Do ye intend to list for a lifer laddie?'
And as she said this, she held up her oxter, as if to tak me below*t.
"I thought I wad hae
drapped doun wi' indignation. I could hae strucken her, if I durst. Ye
observe, I am just five feet twa inches and an eighth, upon my stockin'-soles.
That is rather below the army standard—and I maun say it's a very foolish
standard; for a man o' my height stands a better chance to shoot anither
than a giant that wad fire ower his head. But she was aware that I was
below the mark, and my threat was of no avail; so I had just to slink awa
into the shop, rubbin' my elbow.
"But the cracky-stool was
but the beginning o' her drivin'; there wasna a week after that but she
let flee at me whatever cam in the way, whenever I by accident crossed her
cankered humour. It's a wonder that I'm in the land o' the living; for
I've had the skin peeled off my legs—my arms maistly broken—my head cut,
and ither parts o' my body a' black and blue, times out o' number. I
thought her an angel when I was courtin' her; but, O Robin! she has turned
out—I'll no say what— an adder!—a teeger!—a she fury!
"As for askin' onybody into
the house, it's a thing I durstna do for the life that's in my body. I
never did it but ance, and that was when an auld schulefellow, that had
been several years in America, ca'ed at the shop to see me. After we had
cracked a while—
"'But I maun see the wife,
Patie,' says he.
"Whether he had heard aboot
her behaviour or no, I canna tell; but, I assure ye, his request was
onything but agreeable to me. However, I took him into the house, and I
introduced him wi' fear and tremblin'.
"'Tibby, dear,' said I—and
I dinna think I had ca'ed her dear for ten years afore—'here's Mr W—, an
auld schulefellow o' mine, that's come a' the way frae America, an' ca'ed
in to see ye.'
"'Ye're aye meetin' wi'
auld schule-fellows, or some set or ither, to tak ye aff yer wark,'
muttered she, sulkily, but loud enough for him to hear.
" I was completely at a
loss what to do or say next; but, pretending; as though I hadna heard her,
I said, as familiarly and kindly as I could, though my heart was in a
terrible swither— 'Bring out the bottle, lass.'
"'Bottle!' quo' she, 'what
bottle? —what does the man mean?—has he pairted wi' the little sense that
he ever had?' But had ye seen her as she said this!—I've seen a cloud
black when driven wi' a hurricane, and I've seen it awfu' when roarin' in
the agony o' thunder; hut never did I see onything that I was mair in fear
o' than my wife's face at that moment. But, somehow or ither, I gathered
courage to say —' Hoots, woman, what's the use o' behavin' that way? I'm
sure ye ken weel aneugh it's the speerit bottle.'
"'The speerit bottle!'
cried she, wi' a scream; 'and when was there a speerit bottle within this
door? Dinna show yoursel off to your American freend for a greater man
than ye are, Patie. I think, if wi' a' that ye bring in I get meat and
bits o' duds for your bairns, I do very weel.'
"This piece o' impudence
completely knocked me stupid, for, wad ye believe it, Robin? though she
had lang driven a' my freends frae about the house, yet, did ony o' her
freends ca',—and that was maistly every Sunday, and every Coldstream
market-day,—there was the bottle out frae the cupboard, which she aye kept
under lock and key ; and a dram, and a bit short-bread nae less, was aye
and to this day handed round to every ane o' them. They hae discovered
that it's worth while to make Patie the bicker-maker's a half-way house.
But if I happen to be in when they ca', though she pours out a fu' glass
a-piecc for them, she takes aye gude care to stand in afore me when she
comes to me,' between them and me, so that they canna see what she is
doing, or how meikle she pours out; and, I assure ye, it is seldom a
thimblefu' that fa's to my share, though she hauds the bottle lang up in
her hand—mony a time, no a weetin'; and again and again have I shoved my
head past her side, and said, 'Your health, Mrs So-and-so'—or, 'Yours, Mr
Such-a-thing,' wi' no as meikle in my glass as wad droun a midge. Or, if I
was sae placed that she durstna but, for shame, fill a glass within
half-an-inch o' the tap or sae, she wad gae me a look, or a wink, or mak a
motion o' some kind, which weel did I ken the meanin' o' and which was the
same as saying— 'Drink it if ye daur!' O Robin, man! it's weel for ye that
kens no what it is to be a footba' at your ain fireside. I daresay, my
freend burned at the bane for me; for be got up, and—
"'I wish you good-day, Mr
Crichton,' said he; 'I have business in Kelso tonight yet, and can't
"I was perfectly
overpowered wi' shame; but it was a relief to me when he gaed awa—and I
slipped out after him, and into the shop again.
"But Tibby's isna the only
persecution that I hae to put up wi'; for we hae five bairns, and she's
brought them a' up to treat me as she does hersel. If I offer to correct
them, they cry out— 'I'll tell my mither!'—and frae the auldest to the
youngest o' them, when they speak aboot me, it is he did this, or he did
that—they for ever talk o' me as him!—him! I never get the name o' faither
frae ane o' them—and it's a' her doings. Now, I just ask ye simply if ony
faither would put up wi' the like o' that? But I maun put up wi't If I
were offering to lay hands upon them for't, I'm sure and persuaded she wad
rise a' Birgham about me—my life wadna be safe where she is—but, indeed, I
needna say that, for it never is.
"But there is ae thing that
grieves me beyond a' that I hae mentioned to ye. Ye ken my mither, puir
auld body, is a widow now. She is in the seventy-sixth year o' her age,
and very frail. She has naebody to look after her but me—naebody that has
a natural right to do it; for I never had ony brothen, as ye ken; and, as
for my twa sisters, I daresay they have just a sair aneugh fecht wi' their
ain families, and as they are at a distance, I dinna ken how they are
situated wi' their gudemen—though I maun say for them, they send her a
stane o' oatmeal, an ounce o' tobacco, or a pickle tea and sugar, now and
then, which is very likely as often as they hae it in their power; and
that is a great deal mair than I'm allowed to do for her— me that has a
right to protect and maintain her. A' that she has to support her is
fifteenpencc a-week aff the parish o' Mertoun. O Robin, man!—Robin,
man!—my heart rugs within me, when I talk to you about this. A' that I hae
endured is naething to it! To see my puir auld mither in a state o'
starvation, and no to be allowed to gie her a sax-pence! O Robin,
man!—Robin, man!— is it no awfu'? When she was first left destitute, and a
widow, I tried to break the matter to Tibby, and to reason wi' her.
"'O Tibby, woman!' said I,
'I'm very distressed. Here's my faither laid in the grave, and I dinna see
what's to come o' my mither, puir body—she is auld, and she is frail—she
has naebody to look after or provide for her but me.'
"'You!' cried Tibby—'you! I
wush ye wad mind what ye are talkin' about! Ye have as many dougs, I can
tell ye, as ye hae banes to pike! Let your mither do as ither widows hae
done afore her—let the parish look after her.'
"'O Tibby, woman!' said I;
'but if ye'll only consider—the parish money is very sma', and, puir body,
it will mak her heart sair to receive a penny o't; for she weel kens that
my faither would rather hae dee'd in a ditch than been behauden to either
a parish or an individual for a saxpence.'
"'An' meikle they hae made
by their pride,' said Tibby. ' I wush ye wud haud your tongue.'
"'Ay, but Tibby,' says I,
for I was nettled mair than I durst show it, ' but she has been a gude
mother to me, and ye ken yoursel that she's no been an ill gude-mother to
ye. She never stood in the way o' you an' me comin' thegither, though I
was payin' six shillings a-week into the house.'
"'And what am I obliged to
her for that?' interrupted my Jezebel.
"'I dinna ken, Tibby,' says
I; 'but it's a hard thing for a son to see a mother in want, when he can
assist her. Now, it isna meikle she takes—she never was used wi' dainties:
and if I may just tak her hame, little will serve her, and her meat will
ne'er be missed.'
'"Ye born idiot!' cried
Tibby. 'I aye thought ye a fule—but ye are warse than a fule! Bring your
mither here! An auld, cross-grained, faut-finding wife, that I ne'er could
hae patience to endure for ten minutes in my days! Bring her here, say ye!
No ! while I live in this house, I'll let ye ken that I'll be mistress.'
"Ay, and maister too,
thought I. I found it was o' nae use to argue wi' her. There was nae
possibility o' gettin' my mither into the house; and as to assisting her
wi' a shillin' or twa at a time by chance, or paying her house rent, or
sending her a load o* coals, it was perfectly out o' the question, and
beyond my power. Frae the nicht that I went to Orange Lane to this moment,
I hae never had a saxpence under my thumb that I could ca' my ain. Indeed,
I never hae money in my hands, unless it be on a day like this, when I hae
to gang to a fair, or the like o' that; and even then, before I start, her
leddyship sees every bowie, bicker, and piggin, that gangs into the
cart—she kens the price o' them as weel as I do; and if I shouldna bring
hame either money or goods according to her valuation, I actually believe
she wad murder me. There is nae cheatin' her. It is by mere chance that,
having had a gude market, I've outreached her the day by a shillin' or twa;
and ane o' them I'll spend wi' you, Robin, and the rest shall gang to my
mither. O man! ye may bless your stars that ye dinna ken what it is to hae
a termagant wife."
"I am sorry for ye, Patie,"
said Robin Roughead; "but really I think, in a great measure, ye hae
yoursel to blame for it a' !"
"Me!" said Patie—"what do
ye mean, Robin?"
"Why, Patie," said Robin,
"I ken it is said that every ane can rule a bad wife but he that has
her—and I believe it is true. I am quite convinced that naebody kens sae
weel where the shoe pinches as they that hae it on; though I am quite
satisfied that, had my case been yours, I wad hae brought her to her
senses long afore now, though I had Dauded her lugs wi' Rab Roryson's
bannet, or gien her a hoopin\ like your friend the cooper o' Coldingham."
"Save us, man!" said Patie,
who loved a joke, even though at secondhand, and at his own expense; *'but
ye see the cooper's case is not in point, though I am in the same line ;
for, as I hae observed, I am only five feet twa inches and an eighth in
height—my wife is not the weaker vessel—that I ken to my sorrow."
"Weel, Patie," said Robin,
"I wadna hae ye to lift your hand—I was but jokin' upon that score, it
wadna be manly;—but there is ae thing that ye can do, and I am sure it wad
hae an excellent effect."
"Dear sake! what is that?"
"For a' that has happened
ye," said Robin, "ye hae just yoursel to blame, for giein' up the key and
the siller to her management that nicht ye gaed to Orange Lane. That is
the short and the lang o' a' your troubles, Patie."
"Do you think sae?"
inquired the little bicker-maker.
"Yes, I think sae, Peter,
and I say it," said Robin; "and there is but ae remedy left."
"And what is that?" asked
"Just this," said
Robin—"stop the supplies."
"Stop the supplies?"
returned Patie— "what do you mean, Robin? I canna say that I fully
"I just mean this," added
the other; "be your ain banker—your ain cashier —be maister o' your ain
siller—let her find that it is to you she is indebted for every penny she
has the power to spend; and if ye dinna bring Tibby to reason and kindness
within a month, my name's no Robin Roughead."
"Do ye think that wad do
it?" said Patie.
"If that wadna, naething
wad," answered Robin; "but try it for a twelvemonth—begin this very nicht;
and if we baith live and be spared to this time next year, I'll meet ye
again, and I'll be the death o' a mutchkin, but that ye tell me Tibby's a
different woman—your bairns different—your hale house different — and your
auld mither comfortable."
"O man, if it might be sae,"
said Patie; "but this very nicht, the moment I get hame, I'll try it—and,
if I succeed, I'll try ye wi' a bottle o' wine, and I believe I never
drank ane in my life."
"Agreed," said Robin; "but
mind ye're no to do things by halves. Ye're no to be feared out o' your
resolution because Tibby may fire and storm, and let drive the things in
the house at ye— nor even though she should greet."
"I thoroughly understand
ye," said Patie; "my resolution's ta'en, and I'll stand by it."
"Gie's your hand on't,"
said Robin; and Patie gave him his hand.
Now, the two friends
parted, and it is unnecessary for me either to describe their parting, or
the reception which Patie, on his arriving at Birgham, met with from his
Twelve months went round,
Dunse fair came again, and after the fair was over, Patie Crichton once
more went in quest of his old friend, Robin Roughead. He found him
standing in the horse market, and—
"How's a' wi' ye, my freend?"
"Oh, hearty, hearty," cries
the other; "but how's a' wi' ye?—how is yer family?"
"Come and get the bottle o'
wine that I've to gie ye," said Patie, "and I'll tell ye a' about it."
"I'll do that," said Robin,
"for my business is dune."
So they went into the same
house in the Castle Wynd where they had been twelve months before, and
Patie called for a bottle of wine; but he found that the house had not the
wine license, and was therefore content with a gill of whisky made into
"O, man," said he to Robin,
"I wad pay ye half-a-dizen bottles o' wine wi' as great cheerfulness as I
raise this glass to my lips. It was a grand advice that o' yours—stop the
"I am glad to hear it,"
said Robin; "I was sure it was the only thing that would do."
"Ye shall hear a' about
it," said Patie. "After parting wi' ye, I trudged hame to Birgham, and
when I got to my house—before I had the sneck o' the door weel out o' my
"'What's stopped ye to this
time o' nicht, ye fitless, feckless cratur, ye?' cried Tibby—'whaur hae ye
been? Gie an account o' yoursel.'
"An account o' myself' says
I; and I gied the door a drive ahint me, as if I wad driven it aff the
hinges—"for what should I gie an account o' mysel? —or wha should I gie it
to? I suppose this house is my ain, and I can come in and gang out when I
"'Yours!' cried she; 'is
the body drunk?'
"'No,' says I, 'I'm no
drunk, but I wad hae you to be decent. Where is my supper?—it is time that
I had it.'
"'Ye micht hae come in in
time to get, it then,' said she; 'folk canna keep suppers waitin' on you.'
"'But I'll gang whar I can
get it,' said I; and I offered to leave the house.
"'I'll tak the life o' ye
first,' said she. 'Gie me the siller. Ye had five cogs, a dizen o'
bickers, twa dizen o' piggins, three bowies, four cream dishes, and twa
ladles, besides the wooden spoons that I packed up mysel. Gie me the
siller—and, you puir profligate, let me see what ye hae spent.'
"' Gie you the siller!'
says I; 'na, na, I've dune that lang aneugh—I hae stopped the supplies, my
"'Stop your breath!' cried she; ' gie me the siller, every farthin', or wo
It was needless for her to
say every farthin''; for, had I dune as I used to do, I kenned she wad
search through every pocket o' my claes the moment she thocht me
asleep—through every hole and corner o' them, to see if I had cheated her
out o' a single penny—ay, and tak them up, and shake them, and shake them,
after a' was dune. But I was determined to stand fast by your advice.
"'Do as ye like,' says I; '
I'll bring ye to your senses—I've stopped the supplies:
"She saw that I wasna
drunk, and my manner rather dumfoundered her a little. The bairns—wha, as
I have tauld you, she aye encouraged to mock me—began to giggle at me, and
to mak game o' me, as usual. I banged out o' the house, and into the shop,
and took down the belt o' the bit turning-lathe, and into the house I goes
again wi' it in my hand.
"'Wha maks a fule o' me
"And they a' laughed
thegither, and I up wi' the belt, and loundered them round the house and
round the house, till ane screamed and anither screamed, and even their
mither got clouts in trying to run betwixt them and me; and it was wha to
squeel loudest. Sae, after I had brocht them a' to ken what I was, I awa
yont to my mither's, and gaed her five shillin's, puir body; and after
stoppin' an hour wi' her, I gaed back to the house again. The bairns were
a' abed, and some o' them were still sobbin', and Tibby was sittin' by the
fire; but she didna venture to say a word—I had completely astonished her
—and as little said I.
"There wasna a word passed between us for
three days ; I was beginning to carry my head higher in the house; and on
the fourth day I observed that she had nae tea to her breakfast. A day or
twa after, the auldest lassie cam to me ae morning about ten o'clock, and
I want siller for tea and sugar.'
"'Gae back to them that sent ye,' says I, 'and
tell them to fare as I do, and they'll save the tea and sugar.'
"But it is of nae use dwellin' on the subject.
I did stop the supplies most effectually. I very soon brocht Tibby to ken
wha was her bread-winner. An' when I saw that my object was accomplished,
I showed mair kindness and affection to her than ever I had dune. The
bairns becam as obedient as lambs, and she soon cam to say— 'Peter, should
I do this thing?'—or, Peter, should I do that thing?' So, when I had
brocht her that far— 'Tibby,' says I, 'we hae a but and a ben, and it's
grievin' me to see my auld mither starvin', and left by hersel wi' naebody
to look after her. I think I'll bring her hame the morn—she'll aye be o'
use about the house—she'll can knit the bairns' stockin's, or darn them
when they are out o' the heels.'
"'Weel, Peter,' said Tibby, 'I'm sure it's as
little as a son can do, and I'm perfectly agreeable.'
"I banged up—I flung my arms round Tibby's
neck—'Oh! bless ye, my dear!' says I; 'bless ye for that!— there's the key
o' the kist and the siller —from this time henceforth do wi' it what ye
My mother cam hame to my house the next day. Tibby did everything to mak
her comfortable— a' the bairns ran at her biddin'—and, frae that day to
this, there isna a happier man on this wide world than Patie Crichton, the
bicker-maker o' Birgham."
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