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Perth on the Tay
Chapter 5


"The nicht was still, and o'er the hill
The moon shone on the castle wa',
The mavis sang, while dewdrops hang
Around her on the castle wa'."
—Bums.

PHEMIE waited decorously for Jean to go over and tell her who he was and how he happened; which Jean did ere the stranger's broad back was out of sight down the road. She told everything, from the time she left the milking-yard, after Bess, the night before.

"Ye suld hae seen him, Phemie! he gied a real scairt look when he said happen he could drive a coo; ye'd think Bess was a bear."

"'Deed," answered Phemie, at once assuming championship of the stranger at their gates, "it's like he kens naething aboot th' ways o' coos. Ane can see he's frae th' toun."

"Oh, he's frae th' town fast eneuch, but he kens muckle aboot the braes wi' it a'. The very stanes are at his tongue's end wi' their lang-like names. I'll no mind juist a' aboot 't, but Da 'n' Douglas are fair wild wi' 's gab aboot th' mines."

"Ye'll no be feart o' 'im yersel, Jean," said Phemie, just a little hurt over this first adventure unshared. "Ye clacked at 'm like ye was auld friens."

"The 's naething t' be feart ower," answered Jean in a most matter-of-fact tone, "he's ony a mon, t' be sure, an' if he kens gowd an' siller stanes i' th' earth, I ken butter an' eggs, milkin' the kye an' feedin' th' chuckies, necklin' th' flax an' spinnin' th' yarn. Aebody canna ken a' things, an' aething 's as gude's anither t' know."

Such rank heterodoxy as this took Phemie's breath; there having been no previous occasion, these dangerous sentiments had not before been called forth in her presence.

"Ye'll no ken what ye're saying, Jean. What's t 'become of us a'! if wummin's tae ken as much 's the men bodies, whiles" (with fine scorn) "yon'll be doctor 'n lawyer bodies, an' syne even th' Governor himsel'." This last proposition was a trifle mixed, though it graphically expressed Phemie's sentiments.

"An' for why no?" contended Jean; "wull there no be 's mony wummin bodies t' be doctored 'n lawyered 'n governored 's men bodies? Ye'd no mind bein' th' Governor yersel." Phemie held position in greater reverence than did Jean, who was Jeffersonian in democratic principles, so far as her light went.

"Ye'll weel ken, Jean, thae's na wummin but 'd be weel pleased t' be the Governor's lady an' sit up beside 'm on th' throne, an' cairry th' keys o' th' graun kists; but to be himsel, sic a thocht wad ne'er become ane o 's."

"Ye'd be fine an' wullin' t' be th' Governor's lady, wad ye Phemie, na maitter wha th' Governor was or what like man he wad be? " queried Jean.

"I'll no said that, Jean," replied Phemie anxiously, "I'll be na kennin' what I'll dae, an' I'll needna, for I'll needna say ay or na to ane but th' Governor himsel, an belike he'll ne'er spier at me whether I'll wull or no."

"Weel," said Jean, "we'll na ane o'sken what's t' be dune, or what's t' be said; it's no aething a lassie can wark for like pickin' berries 'r scoorin' th' flure: we'll ken the pail 'll be fu' when we tak' so mony berries frae th' bushes, and the flure'll come white when we hae dune rubbin' eneuch, but th' makin' o' a lassie's future she'll canna hae na haun in. It's sair to think o't."

The three days of Rob's absence, so long to look forward to, sped away quickly enough, and they had nearly as much to tell him on his return as he had to relate of things strange seen and heard at the County town.

He had visited the jail in company with the other jurors, reported general condition good and recommended a few needful alterations, had passed on some cases from the southern townships; then this dreadful tragedy from right at home—Jamie and Sandy listened with bated breath for this.

"We brocht in a true bill," said Rob, " an' the trial will coom aff at first term o' Queen's Bench. It's a fearfu' thing t' sit in judgment on a man's life."

"It is that," said Jamie, "but we'll a' hae t' do oor duty as ceetizens. Ither twal' men'll hae harder wark. Ye'll ony said th' prisoner s'uld be tried, whilk na mon could doot; noo, wull yon find it's doonricht murder, or ony an innocent-like plan fer puttin' people awa?"

"Did ye see th' bit picthur 't yon fechted ower?" asked Elspeth, to change the subject.

"I did mind 't. It's hingin' ower th' bench where th' judge sits. It's no that much tae fecht ower, ony but it's th' sign o' authority, 'n' th' Gren-ville fowk didna want't tae gang o't o' th' county." "We'll hae summat tae tell ye oorsel's, lad," said Sandy; "aiblins gude news: ane o' th' prospectors 's bin here."

" Ay, an' he drove home Jean's coo, Bess," said Phemie, wishing to add testimony to his qualifications.

"An' for why shud he drive Bess home?" asked Rob sharply.

"His dog harried her, an' he louped till th' cross roads so Jean wouldna hae to gang hersel','' calmly responded Phemie.

Rob gave Jean a quick, startled glance, as in fact did each of the rest. This was something new, and Phemie was quite disturbed at its effect.

"Tell's a' aboot it, Jean, lassie," said Jamie.

"Aweel, th' callant 'n' 's dog were in th' bushes 'n' the dog frighted poor Bess till she was fair mad, 'n' Mr. Maxwell bade me bide still 'n' he'd gang 'n' fetch 'er, an' that's a' there's to tell o't; ony I'll weel ken he never druv a coo afore."

"Ye'll ne'er said nowt aboot 't th' nicht," said Rob sternly.

"I'll ne'er thocht on't—'twas naethin' t' mind. I'll canna fash mysel' wi' ilka time a craw flees ower m' heid," said Jean unconcernedly.

"Weel, he'll happen be o' mair account t's than a hale flock o' craws," said Sandy, and then each of the men told Rob of the mineral possibilities.

But the white, set look did not leave Rob's face. The older ones thought that the fitting into place and performing one of the duties falling to men as citizens "had wrought on the lad," and they separated early to "gie 'm a chance t' sleep ower 't."

Before the dim shades of twilight had given place to the young moon, the whip-poor-will's solo found no answering chorus of human voices. But the minds of some of his neighbors of the genus homo revelled in dreams of suddenly acquired wealth —one did not close his eyes, and the first streak of daylight found him, as the last streak of twilight had left him, with the whole world for him turned topsy-turvey. One only—Jean—slept as soon as her head touched her pillow, without a thought either backward or forward.


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