"SPEAKIN' aboot matrimony"
said Big Sandy Morison, "d'ye no think it a peety that a sociable body like
Dod shouldna get a sonsy wife ? Dod man, is there naebody in the Beild fit
enough for the honour o' becomin' Mrs. Dod Aitken ? "
"Oo ay, maybe there's ane or
twa, but I'm no in a hurry. I'll wale cannily, syne I'll mak' nae mistak'."
Big Sandy gave a wink to Wee
Sandy ar.d Jeems. Dod was getting into the talkative stage, and some fun
might be extracted from him.
"Ye see," said Dod wisely,
"matrimony's no like ony ither seetuation—ye canna quit if ye're no pleased,
though there's some that we've heard tell o' that speak o'd whiles."
He alluded to Big Sandy, who
sometimes, in the heat of a domestic broil, had threatened to leave his
spouse and fend for himself.
"If it's me ye're meanin',
Dod, speak out like a man," said Big Sandy, with dignity. " I hev said I wad
gang back to my ain IS
fireside when Leeby was extra
thrawn, but it's easier said than dune. But come, Dod, tell's wha in the
Beild ye wad think guid enough to speir ? "
Dod, however, declined to be
drawn, and then Big Sandy, who had a plot in his head, threw out a
" I ken a leddy that wadna
hae to be speirt twice," he said. " But I'll mention nae names."
" Will ye no ? " inquired
Dod. " Then ye can haud your tongue," said Dod calmly, and proceeded to chap
on the table again. Kirsty was rather longer coming this time, and there
were some mysterious sounds proceeding from Bawbie's corner which indicated
that she was at the mixing process. She was interrupted, however, by a
baker's man stopping his van at the door, to get a nip to keep him warm in
his wet clothes till he got home.
" I'll bet ye half a
sovereign, Dod," said Big Sandy, " that there's wan 'ooman in the Beild wad
pull yer nose till ye, if ye said marriage till her."
" I dinna ken her," said Dod,
anxiously regarding the door for the entrance of Kirsty. " An' I dinna
believe either there's a wummin born in the Beild or out o' it that wadna
jump at a man like a cock at a berry."
" Wad ye tried, Dod ?"
queried Big Sandy slily. " Supposin' I mentioned names, wad ye prove yer
word ? "
" I wadna be feart," said
Dod, and Kirsty entering then he took another dram.
" But she's a leddy o'
property this, a relation o' mine by marriage."
"Are ye meanin' Marget Broon,
Leeby's sister ? " queried Jeems mildly; and at that Dod Aitken broke into a
" Marget Broon ! oh, I could
'a' haen her for the speirin' lang syne. She's no that ill-faured, but they
say she has a deil o' a temper; though she has siller, hasn't she, Sandy ? "
" Ay, plenty. I'll lay that
half-sovereign an' a dram on tap o't that she'd chase ye out o' the door,
an' gie ye a dishcloot aboot yer legs. She biles her dishcloot though, so
she micht think mair o' it than cloot Dod's lugs wi' it. Will ye tak' it up
" Oo ay, I'll speir her the
morn ; but if she tak's me, I'll no mairy her mind—I'll rin awa' first."
" If Marget says ay to you,
Dod, we may a' rin awa', for the Judgment Day'll no be faur off! " said
Sandy. " But I dinna think ye should wait or the mornin'; ye see I hev the
hauf-soverin' in my pooch the day—I took my wab back to Cairndrum an' kept
hauf a sovereign to mysel'. Tak' my advice an' gang the nicht."
"A' richt," said Dod, rising
a trifle unsteadily to his feet. "An' if she tak's me mind, Sandy, ye'll
explain that it was only a joke. I'm 110 gaunna be tied to Marget Broon."
" Oh, I'll explain," said
Sandy readily; and the trio, entering into the joke, got up, ready to
accompany the wooer to his destination. He was a sorry-looking object in his
old moleskin trousers and ragged jacket, minus a collar, and an old tartan
scarf knotted round his scraggy neck. The three worthies promised themselves
some fun if he actually carried out his present purpose and offered himself
to Marget Broon, who owned her own croft and cottage, and was a person of
strong character, who thought no end of herself. It still rained heavily
when they got out of doors, and it was pitch dark, a stray gleam here and
there from an uncurtained cottage window occasionally relieving the gloom.
The Beild ran east and west in a straggling fashion, and had some by-ways,
which would lead to a solitary house, with maybe its byre and pigstye
attached, and would there stop; streets it had none, though its denizens
spoke of it as " the toon." The peat moss was the starting-point. If you
walked away from it, you went east; if towards, west.
The four worthies walked
east, Marget Broon's cottage being at the extreme end of the Beild, close by
the smiddy and across the road from Morison's dairy. They did not meet a
soul as they walked, and by the time they reached the east end were pretty
wet; but what did that matter with such a ploy on. They did not believe Dod
would ever do it—indeed, Big Sandy quite expected him to slink into his own
house, which they had to pass on their way; but Dod had no such intention.
He meant to win the half-sovereign, and to prove the truth of his assertion
that any woman could be had for the asking. Big Sandy began to get a little
nervous as they approached Marget's abode, but Dod was quite composed.
" Wull we come in, Dod ? "
inquired Wee Sandy, hugely enjoying the joke.
" Na, na; I'm for nae
wutnesses, but I winna lee. Ye can shelter in a beildy bit o' the dyke or
the byre till I come oot. I'll no bide."
They crossed the road, and
while the three, not yet believing Dod would really do it, hesitated at the
end of the little lane which led past the byre to the door, he walked boldly
up, and after giving a loud rat-tat, lifted the sneck and walked in.
" Michty me, he's in !" said
Big Sandy, giving his damp brow a wipe; " we'd better get oot the road. If
he does dae't, I'm no answerable for the consequences. Marget wad think
naethin' o' fellin' him wi' a besom shank. We'd better gwa hame."
" No me," said Wee Sandy; "
I'll see the end o't if she sud fells a'. Certes, Sandy, ye've potten the
vera deil intil Dod the nicht! There maun hae been mair vitrol than ordinar'
in Bawbie's bottle. Did ye see the cratur's e'en ? "
Sandy gave a grunt uncommonly
like a groan. Marget Broon was his own wife's sister, and if it ever leaked
out that he had set on Dod to such a night's work it was all up with him.
They stood still, sheltering
themselves as well as they could under the overhanging thatch of the byre,
and for a minute or two nothing could be heard but their breathing and the
steady drip of the rain on the thatch.
" She's vera tidy aboot the
doors," said Jeems Tamson admiringly; his soul loved order, and his own
place was often an eyesore to him.
" Wheesht! " said Big Sandy
excitedly, " I'm sure I heard Meg flightin'. I think I'll awa' hame."
" Deil a fut will ye, Sandy,"
said his kinsman firmly. " What are ye feart for, ye saft lump ? We maun see
the fun oot. I'll jist slip up to the windy an' see if I can see onything."
Wee Sandy was short of
stature and had a light foot. He crept up to the window as noiselessly as a
mouse and peered over the window-blind, which was of thick spotted muslin
drawn full on a string and reaching up to the middle half, where a white
cotton blind met it; fortunately for Sandy, Marget had not drawn it down,
and there was a space quite six inches wide between the two, through which
he obtained a splendid view of the interior. He had to stretch on tip-toes
to accomplish this, but it was worth the trouble. There was not a cleaner,
cosier spot in the Beild than Marget Broon's kitchen; it had a stone floor,
but was covered all over with rag carpet, and a little round table with a
red-and-white dambrod cloth on it. It likewise had one easy-chair covered in
Turkey red, and a footstool for the feet. There was a wag-at-the-wa' clock
close by the door, its sonsy face ablaze with painted red roses and blue
forget-me-nots, and a grand dresser with an array of "ashets" and "joogs"
such as raised envy in every female breast. You see, Marget had no bairns to
break things, and was so exceeding careful herself that she hoarded
everything that came into her possession. The dambrod cloth and the rag
carpet were only put out when all the day's traffic in the kitchen was over;
during the day the arms and the back of the Tur-key-red chair were carefully
happed with newspapers to keep the dust from spoiling it; but at that hour
the place wore its cosiest aspect, and presented an inviting contrast to the
cheerless aspect of things out of doors.
Wee Sandy stood absolutely
still staring straight before him, with his nose jammed against the
window-pane. His two comrades, peering anxiously from their shelter, could
not see the expression of his face, but it was evident that he was deeply
" He's stannin' like a stooky
image, Jeems," said Big Sandy at last. "What's he seein'?"
In about ten minutes Wee
Sandy suddenly turned round, stuffing his fists into his mouth to keep down
a laugh, and crept back to his chums.
" Weel," said Big Sandy
excitedly, " what can ye see—onything ? "
"Ay, a heap," said Wee Sandy,
spluttering with his mirth; " he's sittin' in the muckle chair, wi' his feet
on the stule, an' he's gotten his buits aff", an' the bottle's on the table.
I'll lay ye a fiver, Sandy, ye've lost your hauf-sovereign!" And he had.