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Perth on the Tay
Chapter 6


"I watched the symptoms of the great,
The gentle pride, the lordly state,
The arrogant assuming;
The fient a pride nae pride had he,
Nor sauce, nor state that I could see,
Mair than an honest pleughman."
—Burns.

IN less than a week Philip Maxwell returned to the ninth line of Elmsley. This time a logging-bee was in full swing at Jamie's. Lassies were flitting in and out of the house; savory odors of cooking reminded him that the dinner hour was nigh, and from the cordiality of the invitation of the week previous, he felt that to the gudeman he would be welcome, but it was not alone Jamie's welcome he was craving.

Jean carrying a great bowlful of strawberries to a table set in the shade, saw him come in at the " wee gate."

"An' a vera gude mornin'," she said brightly; "Da 'n' Douglas 'll be weel pleased t' see ye."

This was enough. Philip Maxwell immediately felt there had never been quite such a delightful combination of meteorological conditions as this day possessed.

"Da 'n' Douglas " were not far away, for, though scarcely eleven o'clock, the men were performing their ablutions at a bench in the back yard where some tin wash-basins had been set. As each man finished cleaning up face and hands, with a plentiful sousing of not very closely cropped hair, these were emptied anywhere, filled from a brook which threaded its way through both yards, and set for the next man.

Fresh and happy the men came forth from their wash-up. Young men who had been cradled on cedar boughs with the heavens for a curtain ; old men who, from a loom or a shoemaker's bench, had come out, armed only with an axe and energy that, looked at from our fifty years of civilized comforts, seems superhuman.

Laughing and chaffing each other, without an appearance of ceremony, they seat themselves at table. Grace was said, for they were God-fearing men, those hardy first settlers. The table was primitive, set out under the trees; round blocks, sawn from a goodly sized pine tree, formed supports; boards, sawed by hand, resting on these, the table: it was not as firm as was desirable, but a general good feeling made everything all right. Lower blocks supported boards for seats. A table-cloth, home-raised, home-spun, home-woven, and home-bleached, covered the table, and dishes borrowed from more than one gudewife eked out Margaret's own store. On the table was the barley brose we have heard of, a "real Scotch haggis," a sheep's head with dumplings, and many cakes of many kinds; shaved maple sugar, rich and creamy, sweetened the strawberries; the tea alone was of foreign manufacture.

Philip Maxwell was bidden to a seat and duly introduced; each man heartily shook hands with him; ere five minutes the freedom of the Scotch line was tendered him, also that of a goodly portion of the ninth. He gracefully, and presumably gratefully, accepted this, though inwardly chafing at sitting at table and being waited upon by Jean, who, assisted by three or four lassies, was assiduously "passing things."

None of the mothers or daughters had dinner with their men, they had their reward later in a fresh cup of tea, and a dish of gossip, dear to their hearts, uttered without malice, innocuous. Gossip of apron patterns; of bird's-eye and kersey weaves; of cross-banded and doubled and twisted yarns; of Cochin Chinas and Dorkings; of the virtues of boneset and elecampane, of knitted lace, and petticoat frills.

But to return to the first table. Reminiscences were being exchanged.

"D' ye min' th' bee tree we'll found, Jamie Taylor," asked Peter McPherson.

"Ay, I'll ne'er seen it's like—fu' t' th' top! Losh, mon! 'twas a gift cam frae Heeven itsel'! Leeby 'n th' bairns was fair scunnered wi' suppon, suppon, and na kitchen to 't; 'twas a fair misery t' min' th' puir bit bodies try till stay their hoonger."

"Ay, them was ae times o' hoonger, but ne'er of cauld," said William Rutherford; "fegs, I'll of'n 'n th' winter noo shiver for the muckle blazing fire o' logs in th' auld shanty."

"I'll min' when my Phemie burned a bear's snoot b' stirrin' oop th' auld log fire: th' doors 'n windows was barred, 'n he thocht t' pay a veesit down the chimbley," said Jamie McLaren.

"I'll min' o't mysel'," said Hugh McKay. " I'd wrought wi' ye th' day i' th' back road, 'n we 's juist winnin' thro' th' bush, when th' bear cam tearin' past, bellowin' like mad an' no mindin' 's a stiver. Phemie's alius quick like at th' thocht, 'n a bear 'd hae hard wark t' even himsel t 'r."

"She was that 'n she ae had ways o' turnin' 'n doin' things," said Alex. McFarlane, "'t 'd put maist wummin bodies oot o' their wits t' think o'."

"Ye'll no min' th' Dorothys, Jamie McLaren," queried Jamie McDonald, "'n how she redded oop y'r bunk 'n mad' wee cupboards 'n traipsins, 'til she cud turn 'n put her haun on aething."

"I'll min' she's a maister haun 't contrivin'," answered Jamie McLaren, "'n there was sair need for something t' mak th' auld ship hamelike, rockin' aboot on yon sea for fower lang months 'n a mon naethin' t' dae wi's hauns, an' naethin' t' dae wi's legs but trample oop an' doon, an' oop an' doon th' deck; an' naethin' t' look at but saut water. Losh! 'gin we had yon captain an' th' owners here th' noo, we'd gie them sic a taste o' saut water 't 'd pit thae frae iver again cheatin' th' King b' keepin' a ship's load of settlers a lang summer on sea legs."

"'Deed so," said John Thompson, "we'd like bind thae oop in th' bush yonner wi' naethin' t' see but trees, 'n feed thae on th' mouldy sea biscuits th' soldiers cuddent eat at Quebec 'n th Commissary Department, in a' charity 'n luve, shipped aff t' th' settlers on th' Rideau."

"Oh, ay, we's earnt oor fairms 'n th' richt t' oorsel's 'n children for a' generations t' hae wards in th' governin' o' this country," said Jamie McLaren, "'n happen in th' years t' coom they'll hae need o's ower there, we'll no forget they're th' same kin, but we'll tak care o' oor ain commissary department."

At the other end of the table, Philip was being cunningly drawn out on the subject of ores; he had with him a prospector's outfit, hammer, and bag of specimens; these he promised to show them after dinner. In the meantime he told what they were: chips of gneiss rock, with rich traces of magnetic iron, also some fine crystalline magnetite ; the first had been found at Glen Tay, the latter farther west and south, near Westport. Mica undoubtedly, clear and probably in large plates. Almost in a whisper, someone asked, "Is there gold."

"Um! well, yes," answered Philip, hesitatingly, "our men have found gold, but farther west. There are detached quartz rocks here that might be gold-bearing, but these are only surface indications, and even did an occasional one contain pockets, there might be nothing more found by mining in the vicinity. I can only say that conditions are favorable, but gold is disposed to be shy and will not always avail itself of favoring conditions."

After dinner he retired (not to the drawing-room, but to the scene of the log-rolling) with the other men, taking with him the bag of specimens, and leaving the ladies in possession of the dining-room, the plan of more conventional dinner parties being modified to suit the occasion. A dance was on the carpet for the evening; they all insisted that he stay and "tak a few steps wi' us."

At the very first opportunity, Philip asked Jean if she would dance the first set with him."

"Ye seem like's ye could dance 't weel eneuch," said Jean, merrily; "I'll hae na objection tae dance 't wi' ye."

Just as the music was beginning, he sought her side and stood a few minutes, waiting for the dance to be called. As he started to lead her to the set forming, Rob came hurriedly up.

Without recognizing Philip's presence, he simply stated, in a tone that was meant to be decisive: "Ye'll dance this set wi' me, Jean."

There was a fire-flash in Philip's eye, and he compressed his lips a bit, but waited for Jean to speak.

"Ye'll no speired at me wad I dance 't w' ye, Rob, an' I'll dance 't wi' th' lad wha did," said Jean, composedly, at which they took their places on the floor.

Rob had not asked Jean for this or any other dance ; this first dance had always been his; none of the other lads interfered (Rob, like Sandy, was not one to be interfered with for the fun of it), and he had not reckoned on this new element. He did not seek another partner, but went straight home, without a good-night to anybody; this excited no comment—he had taken nearly the brunt of the work that day, and, as the three stood apart, no one else had heard the short, crisp dialogue above reported.

"Was I premature in my request for this dance?'' anxiously asked Philip, in a pause between figures, and in his anxiety so far forgetting himself to add, "Is Mr. McGregor entitled to it?"

"He's no entitled to 't, else I'd ha' danced 't wi' him," said Jean, in rebuke for the ill-considered question.

"I sincerely beg your pardon, Miss McAlpin. I shouldn't have spoken so, but I—I—"

"It's no' a great maitter," broke in Jean, somewhat irritated over the whole affair. "Rob micht ha' coom afore, but lads wha think lassies are a fortune-telling women an' can ken a' things a lad's thinkin' o' 'll whiles be disappointed."

She was somewhat disturbed, though she didn't see why Rob shouldn't be glad to have her led out by this most desirable partner, who danced so easily, so truly, "it was a fair pleasure to step wi' 'm."

Phemie echoed this sentiment to Jean next day, but was so quiet when in his presence Philip thought he had incurred the disapproval of the whole McGregor clan.

After another dance with Jean, he departed for Perth, having some letters to get off by an early stage.


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