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Book of Scottish Story
The Monkey


A second passage in the life of William M’Gee, Weaver in Hamilton
By Robert MacNish, L.L. D.

I dinna think that in a’ nature there’s a mair curiouser cratur than a monkey. I mak this observe frae being witness to an extraordinar’ event that took place in Hamilton, three or four days after my never-to-be-forgotten story of the ‘Battle of the Breeks.’ Some even gaed the length to say that it was to the full mair curiouser than that affair, in sae far as the principal performer in the ae case was a rational man, whereas in the ither he was only a bit ape. But folk may talk as they like about monkeys, and cry them down for being stupid and mischievous, I for ane will no gang that length. Whatever they may be on the score of mischief, there can be nae doubt, that, sae far as gumption is concerned, they are just uncommon; and for wit and fun they would beat ony man black and blue. In fact, I dinna think that monkeys are beasts ava. I hae a half notion that they are just wee hairy men, that canna or rather winna speak, in case they may be made to work like ither folk, instead of leading a life of idleness.

But to the point. I ance had a monkey, ane of the drollest looking deevils ye ever saw. He was gayan big for a monkey, and was hairy a’ ower, except his face and his bit hurdies, which had a degree of bareness about them, and were nearly as saft as a lady’s loof. Weel, what think ye that I did wi’ the beastie? 'Od, man, I dressed him up like a Heelandman, and put a kilt upon him, and a lang-tailed red coat, and a blue bannet, which for security’s sake I tied, woman-like, below his chin, wi’ twa bits of yellow ribbon. I not only did this, but I learnt him to walk upon his twa hinder legs, and to carry a stick in his right hand when he gaed out, the better to support him in his peregrinations. He was for a’ the world like a wee man in kilts—sae much sae, that when Glengarry, the great Heeland chieftain, wha happened to be at Hamilton on a visit to the Duke, saw him by chance, he swore by the powers that he was like ane o’ the Celtic Society, and that if I likit he would endeavour to get him admitted a member of that body. I thocht at the time that Glengarry was jokin’, but I hae since had gude reason for thinking that he was in real earnest, as Andrew Brand says that he and the Celts hae been like to cut ane anither’s throats, and that he micht mean this as an affront upon them. Hoosomever I maun do Glengarry the justice to say, that had he got my Nosey (that was his name) made a member, he wadna hae pruved the least witty or courageous o’ the society, and would hae dune nae disgrace to the chief ’s recommendation.

But I am fleeing awa like a shuttle frae the subject on hand. Weel, it turned out in this manner, as ye shall hear. Ae afternoon towards the gloamin’, I was obligated to tak a stap down to the cross wi’ a web under my arm, which I had finished for Mr Weft, the muslin manufacturer. By way of frolic—a gayan foolish ane I allow—I brocht Nosey alang wi’ me. He had on, as for ordinar, his Heeland dress, and walkit behind me, wi’ the bit stick in his hand and his tail sticking out frae below his kilt, as if he had been my flunkey. It was, after a’, a queer sicht, and, as may be supposed, I drew a hale crowd o’ bairns after me, bawling out, "Here’s Willie M‘Gee’s monkey," and giein’ him nits and gingerbread, and makin’ as muckle o` the cratur as could be; for Nosey was a great favourite in the town, and everybody likit him for his droll tricks, and the way he used to girn, and dance, and tumble ower his head, to amuse them.

On entering Mr Weft’s shop, I faund it empty; there wasna leiving soul within. I supposed he had gane out for a licht; and being gayan familiar wi’ him, I took a stap ben to the back shop, leaving Nosey in the fore ane. I sat for twa or three minutes, but naebody made his appearance. At last the front door, which I had ta’en care to shut after me, opened, and I look’t to see what it could be, thinking that, nae doubt, it was Mr Weft, or his apprentice. It was neither the ane nor the ither, but a strong middle-aged, red-faced Heelandman, wi' specks on, and wi’ a kilt and a bannet, by a’ the world like my monkey’s. Now, what think ye Nosey was about a’ this time? He was sittin’ behind the counter upon the lang three-leggit stool that stood forenent Mr Weft’s desk, and was turning ower the leaves of his ledger wi’ a look which, for auld-fashioned sagaciousness, was wonderfu’ to behold. I was sae tickled at the sight that I paid nae sort of attention to the Heelandman, but continued looking frae the backshop at Nosey, lauching a’ the time in my sleeve—for I jaloused that some queer scene would tak place between the twa. And I wasna far wrang, for the stranger, takin’ out a pound frae his spleuchan, handed it ower to the monkey, and speered at him, in his droll norland deealect, if he could change a note. When I heard this, I thought I would hae lauched outright; and naething but sheer curiosity to see how the thing would end made me keep my gravity. It was plain that Donald had ta’en Nosey for ane of his ain countrymen—and the thing after a’ wasna greatly to be wondered at, and that for three reasons.

Firstly, the shop was rather darkish.

Secondly, the Heelandman had on specks, as I hae just said; and it was likely on this account that he was rather short-sighted; and

Thirdly, Nosey, wi’ his kilt, and bannet, and red coat, was to a’ intents and purposes as like a human creature as a monkey could weel be.

Nae sooner, then, had he got the note than he opened it out, and lookit at it wi’ his wee, glowrin’, restless een, as if to see that it wasna a forgery. He then shook his head like a doctor when he’s no very sure`what’s wrang wi’ a person, but wants to mak it appear that he kens a’ about it—and continued in this style till the Heelandman's patience began to get exhausted.

"Can ye no shange the note, old shentlemau?" quo’ Donald. Nosey gied his head anither shake, and lookit uncommon wise.

"Is the note no goot, sir?" spake the Heelandman, a second time; but the cratur, instead of answering him, only gied anither of his wise shakes, as much as to say, "I’m no very sure about it." At this Donald lost his temper. "If the note doesna please ye, sir,” quo’ he, "I’ll thank ye to gie me it back again, and I’ll gang to some ither place." And he stretchit out his hand to tak haud o’t, when my frien’ wi’ the tail, lifting up his stick, lent him sic a whack ower the fingers as made him pu’ back in the twinkling of an ee.
"Cot tamn ye, ye auld scoundrel," said the man; " de ye mean to tak my money frae me?" And he lifted up a rung big eneugh to fell a stot, and let flee at the monkey; but Nosey was ower quick for him, and, jumping aside, he lichted on a shelf before ane could say Jock Robinson. Here he rowed up the note like a ba’ in his hand, and out it into his coat pouch like ony rational cratur. Not only this, but he mockit the Heelandman by a’ manner of means, shooting out his tongue at him, spitting at him, and girning at him wi’ his queer outlandish physiogiomy. Then he would tak haud o’ his ail in his twa hands, and wag it at Donald, and steeking his nieves, he would seem to threaten him with a leatherin’! A’thegither he was desperate impudent, and eneugh to try the patience of a saunt, no to speak o’ a het-bluided Heelandman. It was gude for sair ren to see how Donald behavit on this occasion. He raged like ane demented, misca’ing the monkey beyond measure, and swearing as mony Gaelic aiths as nicht hae saired an ordinar man for a twalmonth. During this time, I never steered a foot, but keepit keekin’ frae the back shop upon a’ that was ganging on. I was highly delighted; and jalousing that Nosey was ower supple to be easily catched, I had nae apprehension for the event, and remained snug in my berth to see the upshot.

In a short time, in comes Mr Weft, wi' a piece of lowing paper in his hand, that he had got from the next door to licht the shop; and nae sooner did Donald see him than he axed him for his note.

"What note, honest man?" said Mr Weft.

"Cot tamn," quo’ Donald; "the note the auld scoundrel, your grand-fater, stole frae me."

"My grandfaither!" answered the ither wi' amazement. "I am thinking, honest man, ye hae had a glass ower muckle. My grandfaither has been dead for saxteen years, and I ne’er heard tell till now that he was a fief."

"Weel, weel, then, quo’ the Heelanman, "I don’t care naething about it. If he’s no your grandfaither, he’ll be your faither, or your brither, or your cousin."

"My faither or my brither, or my cousin!" repeated Mr Weft. “I maun tell ye plainly, frien’, that I hae neither faither, nor brither, nor cousin of ony description, on this side of the grave. I dinna understand ye, honest man, but I reckon that ye hae sat ower lang at the whisky, and my advice to ye is to stap awa hame and sleep it aff.

At this speech the Heelandman lost a’ patience, and lookit sae awfully fairce, that ance or twice I was on the nick of coming forrit, and explaining how matters really stood; but curiosity keepit me chained to the back shop, and I just thoucht I would bide a wee, and see how the affair was like to end.

“Pray, wha are you, sir?" said Donald, putting his hands in his sides, and looking through his specks upon Mr Weft, like a deevil incarnit. "Wha are you, sir, that daur to speak to me in this manner?"

"Wha am I?" said the ither, drapping the remnant of the paper, which was burnin’ close to his fingers, "I am Saunders Weft, manufacturer in Hamilton—that’s what I am."

"And I am Tonald Campbell, piper’s sister’s son to his grace the great, grand Tuke of Argyll," thundered out the Heelandman, wi’ a voice that was fearsome to hear.

"And what about that?” quo’ Mr Weft, rather snappishly, as I thocht." If ye were the great, grand Duke of Argyll himsel, as ye ca’ him, I’ll no permit you to kick up a dust in my shop."

"Ye scounrel," said Donald, seizing Mr Weft by the throat, and shaking him till he tottered like an aspen leaf "div ye mean to speak ill of his grace the Tuke of Argyll?” And he gied him anither shake—then, laying haud of his nose, he swore that he would pu’t as lang as a cow’s tail, if he didna that instant restore him his lost property.

At this sicht I began to grue a’ ower, and now saw the needcessity of stapping ben, and saving my employer frae farther damage, bodily and itherwise. Nae sooner had I made my appearance than Donald let go his grip of Mr Weft's nose, and the latter, in a great passion, cried out—

“William M‘Gee, I tak ye to witness what I hae sufferit frae this bluidthirsty |Heelandman! It’s no to be endured in a Christian country; I’ll hae the law of him, that I will. ‘I’ll be whuppit but I’ll hae amends, although it costs me twenty pounds!"

"What’s the matter?" quo’ I, pretending ignorance of the hale concern. "What, in the name of Nebuchadnezzar, has sets ye thegither by the lugs?

Then Mr Weft began his tale, how he had been collared and weel nigh thrappled in his ain shop;—then the ither tauld how, in the first place, Mr Weft’s grandfaither, as he ca’d Nosey, had stolen his note, and how, in the second place, Mr Weft himself had insulted the great, grand Duke of Argyll. In a word, there was a desperate kick-up between them, the ane threeping that he would tak the law of the ither immediately. Na, in this respect Donald gaed the greatest length, for he swore that, rather than be defeated, he wad carry his cause to the House of Lords, although it cost him thretty pounds sterling. I now saw it was time to put in a word.

"Hout-tout, gentlemen," quo’ I, "what’s the use of a’ this clishmaclaver? Ye’ve baith gotten the wrang sow by the lug, or my name’s no William M‘Gee. I’ll wager ye a penny-piece, that my monkey Nosey is at the bottom of the business."

Nae sooner had I spoken the word, than the twa, looking round the shop, spied the beastie sitting upon the shelf, girning at them, and putting out his tongue, and wiggle-waggling his walking stick ower his left elbow, as if he had been playing upon the fiddle. Mr Weft at this apparition set up a loud laugh; his passion left him in a moment, when he saw the ridiculous mistake that the Heelandman had fa’en into, and I thocht he would hae bursted his sides wi’ evendown merriment. At first, Donald lookit desperate angry, and, judging frae the way he was twisting about his mouth and rowing his een, I opined that he intended some deadly skaith to the monkey. But his gude sense, of which Heelandmen are no a’thegither destitute, got the better of his anger, and he roared and lauched like the very mischief. Nor was this a,’ for nae sooner had he began to lauch, than the monkey did the same thing, and held its sides in preceesely the same manner, imitating his actions, in the maist amusin’ way imaginable. This only set Donald a-lauching mair than ever, and when he lifted up his nieve, and shook it at Nosey in a gude-humoured way, what think ye that the cratur did? ’Od, man, he took the note frae his pouch, whaur it lay rowed up like a ba’, and papping it at Donald, hit him as fairly upon the nose as if it had been shot out of a weel-aimed musket. There was nae resisting this. The haill three, or rather the haill four, for Nosey joined us, set up a loud lauch; and the Heelandman’s was the loudest of a’, showing that he was really a man of sense, and could tak a joke as weel as his neighbours.

When the lauchin’ had a wee subsided, Mr Campbell, in order to show that he had nae ill will to Mr Weft, axed his pardon for the rough way he had treated him, but the worthy manufacturer wadna hear o’t. "Houts, man," quo’ he, "dinna say a word about it. It’s a mistak a’thegither, and Solomon himsel, ye ken, whiles gaed wrang.” Whereupon the Heelandman bought a Kilmarnock nicht-cap, price elevenpence ha’penny, frae Mr Weft, and paid him wi’ part of the very note that brocht on the ferlie I hae just been relating. But his gude wull didna end here, for he insisted on takin’ us a’—Nosey amang the lave—to the nearest public, where he gied us a frien’ly glass, and we keepit talking about monkeys, and what not, in a manner at ance edifying and amusing to hear.


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