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Perth on the Tay
Chapter 4


"Then here's to ilka cannie Scot,
Wi' mony gude broths he boils his pot,
But rare hotch-potch beats a' th' lot,
It smells and smacks sae brawly.
For there's carrots intil't, and neeps intil't,
There's peas and beans and beets intil't,
And hearty halesome meats intil't,
That steek the kyte sae brawly."
—Old Ballad.

AT table Jamie adroitly turned the conversation mineralogicalwards, and a learned dissertation on Tertiary, Carboniferous and Eozoic formations, on Laurentian and Huronian systems, on crystalline rocks, on magnetite, hematite, apatite, mica schist, and conglomerates ensued. All of it was not clearly intelligible to the listeners, but much native shrewdness gave Jamie and Douglas a good idea of the general drift, and ere long they were able to give some valuable leads as to conditions in their section. Margaret and Jean listened without comment or question as became the women folk.

But Philip Maxwell's scientific enthusiasm waned, and polite attention to his host's choice in a topic of conversation was receiving a severe strain, ere he was able to direct a few words to the ladies of the household. As Jean was not disposed to recognize a previous acquaintance, neither did he allude to the contretemps of last night, though he looked sincere penitence for the misadventure.

Barley brose and kail, pigs' feet, potatoes grown on new land (each year a little clearing was done), no later crop is so rich, dry and "mealy," and bye and-bye bannocks and maple syrup, from pure Canadian sap, with its subtle suggestion of ferns and mosses and all things woodsy, and its sweetness—"sweeter than honey in the honeycomb"—this was the dinner. The table was laid with a profusion of "genuine willow pattern"—then an article of use as well as beauty—that to-day would make a corner in willow pattern, and consume with envy the collector who can only buy, beg, or borrow a single jug or platter.

Jean, too, was in blue, as became her best—no modern dye that fades in white or yellow streaks, but a blue that is blue while two threads of the fabric hold together. It was as simple in its structure as one of Worth's choicest creations, and as crisp and fresh as though it had not been washed as many times as Jean was years old.

She was no whit awed by this wise young man who could tell how many hundred years old the rocks were. In fact, after dinner, she showed quite a disposition to let by-gones be by-gone and to show their guest the hospitalities of the flower-garden and farmyard. At the former, a bunch of grass pinks with feathery "old man" for foliage was tendered him as a boutiniere. I forgot to say the dog was left behind, so when Bess's calf was proudly displayed there were no disastrous consequences; wee chicks, just trying their wings in chase after yet smaller winged creatures; waddling, quacking ducklings, diving and catching bluebottles in their spoonlike bills; and, lastly, some yellow halls called goslings, a late brood, and Jean's very own.

Clear and merry her laugh rang out at her guest's exclamations. As before remarked, I am trying to tell the truth here, therefore am sorry to have to record that sometimes—all unsuspected by the subject of her mirth—she even laughed at him. Not that there was anything about him to excite risibility in a sober-minded individual; but because Jean was not sober-minded, and could take nothing—not even a young man—seriously, she laughed. And as the young man never for an instant did himself the honor to claim so much attention for himself, in this instance, as in many others, ignorance was bliss.

"Ye'll be fine an' welcome tae cam in an' hae a sup wi's at ony time," said Jamie, at parting.

It might seem that Philip Maxwell's thanks were rather diffusive, as he had not the appearance of lacking either associates or creature comforts; nevertheless he was decidedly grateful for the opportunity offered to soon again discuss barley brose and Silurian rocks, maple syrup and pyrites, posy beds, blue eyes, and a laugh like a silver bell—e'en though an outward and visible sign of mirth was tabooed by social ethics.


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