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My Man Sandy
Chapter V. Mistress Mikiver's Tea Party


I'll swag, mind ye, but the men's no' far wrang when they say that weemin have most dreedfu' lang tongues. Dod, mind ye, but it's ower troo; it's ower troo!

Mistress Mikaver wud hae me alang to a cup o' tea lest Teysday efternune; so I gae my hands an' face a bit dicht, an' threw on my Sabbath goon, an' awa' I gaed. I fell in wi' Mistress Kenawee on the road, an', gin we landit, there was a gaitherin' o' wives like what you wudda seen ony mornin' at the Mossy Wall afore the noo water supply was brocht in aboot the toon.

Mysie Meldrum was there wi' a braw noo print frock on. Hand your tongue! Five bawbees the yaird! I saw the very marrows o't in Hantin the draper's remmindar winda. But, faigs, Mysie was prood o't, an' nae mistak. It was made i' the first o' fashion, a' drawn i' the briest, an' shuders as big's smokit hams, wi' Mysie's bit facie lookin' oot atween them, like's she was sittin' in an auld-fashioned easychair. But, of coorse, I never bather my heid aboot what wey fowk's dressed.

Mistress Mollison was juist as assorted as uswal. She'd as muckle on as wudda dressed twa or three folk, an' she was ill-cled at that.

"What'll hae come o' her seal jeckit?" says Mistress Kenawee to me, wi' a nudge, when we gaed ben the hoose to get oor things aff; but I said naething, for, the fac' o' the maitter is, I thocht Mistress Kenawee a fell sicht hersel'. There was a great target o' black braid hingin' frae the tail o' her goon, an' the back seam o' her body was riven in twa-three places. An' if the truth be tell'd, I wasna very braw mysel'. Thinks I to mysel', as I've heard the Gairner's wife say, them that hae riven breeks had better keep their seats.

Gairner Winton's wife was there, lookin' as happy an' impident as uswal; an' Ribekka Steein cam' in juist as me an' Mistress Kenawee were gettin' set doon amon' the rest. Mistress Mikaver was quite my leddy, an' was rinnin' frae the teen to the tither o's juist terriple anxious to mak's a' at hame, an' makin's a' meesirable. I windered that the cratur didna gae heidlang ower some o' the stules she had sittin' aboot; but she got through wi' a' her fairlies an' the tea maskit withoot ony mishap, an' we got a' set roond the table for oor tea.

Mistress Mikaver had oot her mither's cheenie, an' a braw tablecloth, o' her mither's ain spinnin' she tell'd's. She has an awfu' hoosefu' o' stech, Mistress Mikaver; press efter press, an' kist efter kist fu'. I ashure you, the lass that gets young Alek 'ill no want for providin'.

She had a'thing in fine order; it was a perfeck treat to sit doon; an' I noticed a braw noo pentin' o' the scone-baker hung abune the chumla. He maun hae left a fell feck o' bawbees, for I ashure ye his weeda has a fu' hoose, an' aye plenty to do wi'.

Weel-a-weel, we had oor tea, as I was tellin' ye, an' a fine cup it was. Eh, it's a nice thing a cup o' fresh tea. There's naething I like better; it's that refreshin', especially if you've somebody to crack till when you're at it. An', I'll swag, we didna weary for want o' crackin' that efternune. The Gairner's wife an' Mysie Meldrum are twa awfu' tagues for tongue; an' some o' the rest o's werena far to the hent, I'm dootin'.

"Noo, juist see an' mak' yersels a' at hame," said Mistress Mikaver, in her uswal fizzy kind o' wey.

"An', as the auld sayin' is, gin ye dinna like what's set doon, juist tak' what ye brocht wi' ye," says Mistress Winton, an' set's a' to the lauchin'. You never heard sic a cratur for thae auld-farrant sayin's; an' Mysie's no' far ahent. Dod, they pappit ane anither wi' proverbs juist like skule laddies wi' snawba's.

"There's Moses Certricht's wife awa' by there," says Mistress Kenawee, pointin' oot at the winda. "She's a clorty, weirdless-lookin' cratur. I'm dootin' Moses hasna muckle o' a hame wi' her, the gloidin' tawpie 'at she is."

"Eh, haud your tongue!" said Mistress Mollison. "The puir man's juist fair hudden doon wi' her, the lazy, weirdless trail. But it's the bairns I'm sorra for. Ye'll see them i' the mornin' gaen awa' berfit to the skule, an' a seerip piece i' their hand, wi' fient o' hand or face o' them washen, an' their claes as greasy as a cadger's pooch. It's a winder to me 'at Moses disna tak' to drink."

"He has himsel' to blame," brook in the Gairner's wife. "She cam' o' an ill breed. He kent what she was afore he married her. Ye canna mak' a silk purse oot o' a soo's lug. Eh, na! Gin ye want a guid sheaf, gang aye to a guid stook."

"You're richt there, Mistress Winton," said Mysie. "Tak' a cat o' your ain kind an' it'll no' scart ye, my mither used to say; an' I'm shure I've seen that come true of'en, of'en."

"They tell me," said Mistress Kenawee, "that Moses gie's her seven-an'-twinty shillin's every week to keep her hoose wi'. What she does wi't it beats me to mak' oot. Mony a mither wud be gled o' the half o't i' the noo, an' wud feed an' deed half a dizzen bairns on't."

"But Moses is a fooshinless, hingin'-aboot kind o' a whaup," says I. "The blame's mibby no' a' on ae side o' the hoose. There's lots o' your braw billies ye wudna need to follow ower their ain doorstap. When there's din an' dirt i' the hoose, the wife aye gets the dirdum. Moses has ower muckle to say aboot the wife. She may be ill, but he's no' the pairty to saw't like neep seed ower a' the countryside."

"You're richt there, Bawbie," said Mistress Winton. "I've tell'd Moses that till's face afore the day. They're scarce o' noos that tells their father was hanged."

"He's an ill man that blackgairds his wife, altho' she were the deevil's sister," says Mysie; an' even Ribekka gae her moo a dicht, an' whispered to hersel', "Eh, aye, that's a troo sayin'."

"I'll no' say a wird again' men," said Mistress Mikaver, "for Wellum was a guid man to me"; an' she took a lang breth throo her nose, an' lookit up at the picture abune the chumla. "I think I've seen Moses the waur o' a dram; but he looks a quiet eneuch stock," gays she.

"He's some like my man," I strak in. "He's gey an' of'en oot aboot when he shud be at hame. There's no' muckle hertnin' for a woman when she's left to trauchle day oot day in wi' seven litlans, an' a thrawn-gabbit footer o' a man juist comin' in at diet times, rennyin' aboot first ae thing an' syne anither, threapin' that his porritch is no' half boiled, simmerin' an' winterin' aboot haen to wait a meenit or twa for his denner or his tea. Moses Certricht's a soor, nyattery bit body, an' he tarragats the wife most unmercifu' aboot ilky little bit kyowowy. She may be nae better than she's ca'd. She has nae throwpet wi' her wark, an' she's terriple weirdless wi' her hoose; but she get's michty little frae Moses to mend her--that's my opinion."

"Muckle aboot ane, Bawbie, as the deil said to the cobbler," says Mysie. "I wudna say but you're mibby richt eneuch."

"Dawtit dochters mak' daidlin' wives," said the Gairner's wife. "She was spoilt at hame, afore Moses saw her. Her mither thocht there was nae lassies like hers, an' I'm shure she saired them hand an' fit. But you'll of'en see't, that wirkin' mithers mak' feckless dochters. At the same time, as my mither used of'en to say, an ill shearer never got a guid heuk, an', I daursay, Moses an' his wife, as uswally occurs, baith blame ane anither."

We feenisht oor tea, an' got set doon at the winda wi' oor stockin's an' oor seams, juist to hae a richt corrieneuchin, as Mistress Winton ca'd it. Mysie an' me were baith at ribbit socks, so we tried a stent wi' ane anither. But Mysie's tongue gaed fully fester than her wires, an' I'd raither the better o' her. She forgot a' aboot her intaks, an' had her stockin' leg a guid bit ower lang when she cam' to the tnot on her wirsit.

"A thochtless body's aye thrang," said the Gairner's wife, as Mysie began to tak' doon what she'd wrocht.

"Toot ay," said Mysie. "Gin a budy be gaen doon the brae, ilky ane 'ill gie ye a gundy."

The twa keepit at it wi' their proverbs till I got akinda nervish, d'ye ken. They were that terriple wyze, that, as fac's ocht, mind you, they near drave some o' the rest o's daft.

"Did you hear tell that Ribekka here was genna get Jeems Ethart?" said Mistress Mollison to the Gairner's wife, juist to get her on to Beek's tap.

Ribekka blushed like a lassie o' fifteen, an' bringin' her tongue alang her upper lip, she shook her heid an' says, "Juist a lot o' blethers. Jeems wudna hae a puir thing like me."

"Ye dinna tell me!" said Mistress Winton, never lattin' wink she heard Ribekka. "That's the wey o't is't? Imphm! What d'ye think o' that, na? Weel dune, Ribekka. He's a fine coodie man, Jeems; an' he'll tak' care o' Ribekka, the young taed. Wha wudda thocht it?"

Ribekka had her moo half fu' o' the lace on her saitin apron, an' was enjoyin' the raggin' fine, altho' she was terriple putten aboot, wi' her wey o't.

"Better sit still than rise up an' fa'," said Mysie. "Gin I were Ribekka I'd bide my leen. I wud like to see the man that wud tak' me oot o' my present state."

"He wudna need to be very parteeklar," says I, juist to gie Mysie a backca'; for she was sailin' gey near the wind, I thocht. "When I was young," I says, says I----

"Auld wives were aye gude maidens," the Gairner's wife strak in; an' I saw I was cornered, an' said nae mair.

"An' a weeda man too!" said Mysie wi' a grumph. "Better keep the deil atower the door than drive him oot o' the hoose."

"'Saut,' quo the souter, when he ate the soo, an' worried on the tail," was the Gairner's wife's comment; an' Mysie didna like it, I can tell ye.

"You wasna in that wey o' thinkin' when Dossie Millar, the skulemester, used to come an' coort you, when you was up-by at the Provost's," said Ribekka to Mysie. "If it hadna been for the lid o' the water-barrel gien wey yon nicht, you michta been skelpin' Dossie's bairns the day--an' your ain too."

We a' took a hearty lauch at Ribekka's ootburst.

"Eh, that was a pliskie," said Mistress Kenawee. "Dossie got a gey drookin' that nicht. They said it was ane o' the coachmen that was efter Mysie that sawed the lid half throo; an' when Dossie climbed up to hae his crack wi' Mysie at the winda, in he gaed up to the lugs. The story was that Mysie fair lost her chance wi' him, wi' burstin' oot lauchin' when he climbed oot o' the barrel soakin'-dreepin' throo an' throo. He never got ower't, for it got oot aboot, an' the very bairns at the skule began to ca' him the Drookit Dominie. He got a job at the Druckendub skule, an' never lookit Mysie's airt again."

"You're grand crackers," said Mysie. "Ye ken a hankie mair than ever happened; but, the man that cheats me ance, shame fa' him; gin he cheat me twice, shame fa' me. That's my wey o' lookin' at things."

This kind o' raggin' at ane anither gaed on for the feck o' the forenicht, an' we were juist i' the thick o' a' tirr-wirr aboot the best cure for the kink-host, when the doonstairs door gaed clash to the wa', an' in anither meenit in banged Sandy in his sark sleeves, an' his hair fleein' like a bundle o' ravelled threed.

"Michty tak' care o' me, Sandy," says I, I says; "what's happened?"

"Aye the mair the merrier, but the fewer they fess the better," says Mistress Winton.

"Wha's been meddlin' wi' you, Sandy?"

But fient a wird cud Sandy get oot. He was stanin' pechin' like a podlie oot o' the watter, an' starin' roond him like a huntit dog.

"Fiddlers' dogs and fleshers' flees come to feasts unbidden," said Mysie; but Sandy gae her a glower that garred her steek her moo gey quick.

"What i' the earth's wrang, Sandy," I says, gien him a shak'.

"Wh-wh-whaur's the g-grund ceenimin, Bawbie?" says Sandy. "There's a tinkler wife needin' a bawbee's-wirth, an' I've socht the shop heich an' laich for't."

"Keep me, Sandy," says I, "is that what's brocht you here? You'll get it in a mustard tin in the pepper drawer. But wha's i' the shop?"

"Oo, juist the tinkler wife," says Sandy.

"Weel, did you ever?" said Mistress Kenawee, haudin' up her hands.

"No!" said Sandy, turnin' to her gey ill-natured like. "Did you?"

"That's a type o' what ye ca' your men," says Mysie. "Weel, weel; they're scarce o' cloots that mend their hose wi' dockens."

"Bliss my hert, Sandy, she'll be awa' wi' the till atore ye get back," I said. "Rin awa' yont as fest as your feet'll cairry ye."

"The fient a fear o' that," Sandy strak in. "I gae the pileeceman tippence to stand at the door till I cam' back. I'm no' juist so daft's a' that, yet."

"An' the tinkler wife wants a bawbee's wirth o' grund ceenimin?" said the Gairner's wife. "That fair cows the cadger."

"I'll rin than," said Sandy. "I'll fa' in wi't a' richt noo; ye needna hurry, Bawbie," he added, as he made his wey oot; an' syne wi' the door in's hand, he says, "The pileeceman's in a hurry too, ye see. He has to hurl hame Gairner Winton. He's lyin' alang in Famie Tabert's public-hoose terriple foo"; an' awa' he floo, takin' the door to ahent him wi' a blatter like thunder.

If you had seen Mistress Winton's face! It was a picture. She shogit her heid frae side to side, wi' her moo shut, as if she wud never open't again; but efter a whilie she spat oot twa-three wirds, juist like's they'd been burnin' the tongue o' her. "A dog's tongue's nae scandal," she yattered oot.

"Better the end o' a feast than the beginnin' o' a pley," said Mysie. "We mauna lat onybody get cankered. Come awa' and sit doon, Mistress Winton. Bawbie's man juist wantit a dab at ye. Dinna mistak' yersel'; the Gairner's as sober's a judge, I'se warrant."

But the crackin' wudna tak' the road somewey efter this. There was a fell feck o' hostin', an' ow-ayin', an' so on; so I cam' my wa's hame afore aucht o'clock, for I was juist sittin' on heckle-pins thinkin' ilka meenit Sandy wud be comin' thrash in on's, roarin' he'd set the parafin cask afeyre. I was gled when I got hame an' fand a'thing in winderfu' order; although Sandy was gien Nathan coosies i' the shop jumpin' ower the coonter wi' ane o' his hands in his pooch. It's juist his wey, the cratur. He canna help it.

"Was the tinkler wife here when you cam' back?" I said to Sandy.

"Oo, ay," says he. "I gae her her ceenimin."

"There wudna be muckle profit oot o' that transaction, efter deduckin' the pileeceman's tippence," I says, says I. "Hoo did ye no' juist say that the grund ceenimin was a' dune?"

"'Cause that wudda been a lee," said Sandy.

"Weel, ye cud sen ye didna ken whaur it was," says I.

"That wudda lookit ridic'lous, an' me the mester o' the shop," said Sandy.

"Weel, but d'ye no' see that it was ridic'lous to gie a pileeceman tippence to watch a tinkler wife that wantit only a bawbee's-wirth o' grund ceenimin," I says gey sharp till him.

"Better g'ie the pileeceman tippence than tak' the cratur afore the shirra for stealin', an' mibby hae the toon peyin' a lot o' bawbees for keepin' her in the gyle, forby railroad tickets for her and twa peelars up to Dundee. That wudda been fully mair gin tippence," said Sandy.

Argeyin' wi' Sandy's juist like chasin' a whitterit in a drystane dyke. When ye think you have him at ae hole, he juist pops throo anither. Tach! When he's in thae argey-bargeyin' strums o' his, I canna be bathered wi' him!


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