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Book of Scottish Story
Benjie's Christening


We'll hap and row, hap and row.
We'll hap and row the feetie o't;
It is a wee bit weary thing,
I dinnie bide the grectie o't.—Provost Crebch.

An honest man, close button'd to the chin.
Broad-cloth without, and a warm heart within.—Cowper.

This great globe and all that it inherits shall dissolve.
And, like the baseless fabric of a vision.
Leave not a rack behind !—Shakspeare.

Ay the christening of our only bairn, Benjie, two or three remarkable circumstances occurred, which it behoves me to relate. It was on a cold November afternoon ; and really when the bit room was all redd up, the fire bleezing away, and the candles lighted, every thing looked full tosh and comfortable.

It was a real pleasure, after looking out into the drift that was fleeing like mad from the east, to turn one's neb inwards, and think that we had a civilised home to comfort us in the dreary season. So, one after another, the bit party we had invited to the ceremony came papping in; and the crack began to get loud and hearty; for, to speak the truth, we were blessed with canny friends and a good neighbourhood. Notwithstanding, it was very curious that I had no mind of asking down James Batter, the weaver, honest man, though he was one of our own elders; and in papped James, just when the company had hafflins met, with his stocking-sleeves on his arms, his nightcap on his head, and his blue-stained apron hanging down before him, to light his pipe at our fire.

James, when he saw his mistake, was fain to retreat ; but we would not hear tell of it, till he came in, and took a dram out of the bottle, as we told him the not doing so would spoil the wean's beauty, which is an old freak (the smallpox, however, afterwards did that); so, with much persuasion, he took a chair for a gliff, and began with some of his drolls—for he is a clever, humour-some man, as ye ever met with. But he had not got faron with his jests, when to! a rap came to the door, and Mysie whipped away the bottle under her apron, saying, "Wheesht, wheesht, for the sake of gudeness—there's the minister!"

This room had only one door, and James mistook it, running his head, for lack of knowledge, into the open closet, just as the minister lifted the outer-door sneck. We were all now sitting on nettles, for we were frightened that James would be seized with a cough, for he was a wee asthmatic; or that some, knowing there was a thief in the pantry, might hurt good manners by breaking out into a giggle. However, all for a considerable time was quiet, and the ceremony was performed ; little Nancy, our niece, handing the bairn upon my arm to receive its name. So we thought, as the minister seldom made a long stay on similar occasions, that all would pass off well enough. But wait a wee.

There was but one of our company that had not cast up, to wit, Deacon Paunch, the flesher, a most worthy man, but tremendously big, and grown to the very heels; as was once seen on a wager, that his ankle was greater than my brans. It was really a pain to all feeling Christians, to see the worthy man waighling about, being, when weighed in his own scales, two-and-twenty stone ten ounces, Dutch weight. Honest man, he had had a sore fecht with the wind and sleet, and he came in with a shawl roppined round his neck, peeking like a broken-winded horse; so fain was he to find a rest for his weary carcass in our stuffed chintz pattern elbow-chair by the fire-check.

From the soughing of wind at the window, and the rattling in the lum, it was clear to all manner of comprehension, that the night was a dismal one; so the minister, seeing so many of his own douce folk about him, thought he might do worse than volunteer to sit still and try our toddy ; indeed, we would have pressed him before this to do so, but what was to come of James Batter, who was shut up in the closet, like the spies in the house of Rahab the harlot, in the city of Jericho?

James began to find it was a bad business ; and having been driving the shuttle about from before daylight, he was fain to crook his hough.and felt round about him quietly in the dark for a chair to sit down upon, since better might not be. But, wae's me! the cat was soon out of the pock.

Me and the minister were just argle-bargling some few words on the doctrine of the camel and the eye of the needle, when, in the midst of our discourse, as all was wheesht and attentive, an awful thud was heard in the closet, which gave the minister, who thought the house had fallen down, such a start, that his very wig louped for a full three-eights off his crown. I say we were needcessitated to let the cat out of the pock for two reasons: firstly, because we did not know what had happened; and, secondly, to quiet the minister's fears, decent man, for he was a wee nervous. So we made a hearty laugh of it, as well as we could, and opened the door to bid James Batter come out, as we confessed all. Easier said than done, howsoever. When we pulled open the door, and took forward one of the candles, there was James doubled up, sticking twofold, like a rotten in a sneck-trap, in an old chair, the bottom of which had gone down before him, and which, for some craze about it, had been put out of the way by Nanse, that no accident might happen. Save us I if the deacon had sate down upon it, pity on our brick-floor!

Well, after some ado, we got James, who was more frightened than hurt, hauled out of his hidy-hole; and after lifting off his cowl, and sleeking down his front hair, he took a seat beside us, apologeezing for not being in his Sunday's garb, the which the minister, who was a free and easy man, declared there was no occasion for, and begged him to make himself comfortable.

Well, passing over that business, Mr Wiggie and me entered intoour humours, for the drappikie was beginning to tell on my noddle, and made me somewhat venturesome—not to say that I was not a little proud to have the minister in my bit housie; so, says I to him in a cosh way, "Ye may believe me or no, Mr Wiggie. but mair than me think ye out of sight the best preacher in the parish; nane of them, Mr Wiggie, can hold the candle to ye. man.

"Wheesht. wheesht." said the body, in rather a cold way that I did not expect, knowing him to be as proud as a peacock—"I daresay I am just like my neighbours."

This was not quite so kind—so says I to him, "Maybe sae, for many a one thinks ye could not hold a candle to Mr Blowster the Cnmeronian, that whiles preaches at Lugton."

This was a stramp on his corny toe.

"Na, na," answered Mr Wiggie, rather nettled; "let us drop that subject I preach like my neighbours. Some of them may be worse, and others better; just as some of your own trade may make clothes worse, and some better, than yourself."

My corruption was raised. "I deny that," said I, in a brisk manner, which I was sorry for after—"I deny that, Mr Wiggie," says I to him; "I'll make a pair of breeches with the face of clay."

But this was only a passing breeze, during the which, howsoever, 1 happened to swallow my thimble, which accidentally slipped off my middle finger, causing both me and the company general alarm, as there were great fears that it might mortify in the stomach; but it did not; and neither word nor wittens of it have been seen or heard tell of from that to this day. So, in two or three minutes, we had some few good songs, and a round of Scotch proverbs, when the clock chapped eleven. We were all getting, J must confess, a thought noisy; Johnny Soutter having broken a dram-glass, and Willie Fcgs couped a bottle on the bit table-cloth: all noisy, I say, except Deacon Paunch, douce man, who had fallen into a pleasant slumber; so, when the minister rose to lake his hat, they all rose except the deacon, whom we shook by the arms for some time, but in vain, to waken him. His round, oily face, good creature, was just as if it had been cut out of a big turnip, it was so fat, fozey, and soft; but at last, after some ado, we succeeded, and he looked about him with a wild stare, opening his two red eyes, like Pandore oysters, asking what had happened ; and we got him hoized up on his legs, tying the blue shawl round his bull-neck again.

Our company had not got well out of the door, and I was priding myself in my heart about being landlord to such a goodly turn out, when Nanse took me by the arm, and said, "Come, and see such an unearthly sight." This startled me, and I hesitated; but at long and last I went in with her, a thought alarmed at what had happened, and—my gracious! there, on the easy-chair, was our bonny tortoise-shell cat, Tommy, with the red morocco collar about its neck, bruised as flat as a flounder, and as dead as a mawk!

The deacon had sat down upon it without thinking; and the poor animal, that our neighbours' bairns used to play with, and be so fond of, was crushed out of life without a cheep. The thing, doubtless, was not intended, but it gave Nanse and me a very sore heart.


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