Was ever a woman so provokit
wi' a ramstam, dotrifeed gomeral o' a man? Sandy Bowden 'ill hae me i' my
grave yet afore my time, as share's I'm a livin' woman. There's no' a closed
e'e for me this nicht; an' there's Sandy awa' till his bed wi' his airms
rowed up in bits o' an auld yellow-cotton apron o' Mistress Mikaver's
mither's. Eh, sirce me; an' me was so happy no' mony 'oors syne!
We gaed awa' to hae a cup o' tea wi' Mistress Mikaver--that's the
scone-baker's widow, ye ken. Her auldest laddie's been awa' oot amon' the
Reed Indians, or some o' thae ither lang-haired, naked fowk 'at never wash
themsel's; an' they say he's made a heap o' bawbees. He's a snod bit stockie--a
little beld, an' bowd-leggit, an' wants a thoom. But, I'll swag, the young
kimmers that were at the pairty didna see muckle wrang wi' him. There was as
keen competition for him amon' the lassies as gin he'd been a gude-gaen
public-hoose puttin' up for unction.
Me an' Sandy landed amon' the first o' the fowk. A'thing was richt snod, I
assure ye. Mistress Mikaver had the stair noo whitened, an' every stap was
kaumed an' sandit, ye never saw the like. An' there she was hersel' wi' her
best black goon on, no' a smad to be seen on't, an' her lace kep an' beady
apron. She was a dandy, an' nae mistak'.
Afore Sandy got up the stair he manished to mairter the feck o' his Sabbath
claes wi' the whitenin'; an' I was akinda feard Mistress Mikaver micht
mistak' him for the scone-baker's ghost. But we got him made gey snod, an'
syne we gaed inby to the ben-hoose fireside, an' had a crack wi' young
Aleck. That's the son's name. Sandy an' him got started aboot mustaings, an'
Indeens, an' boomirangs, an' scoots an' ither scoondrils, till I cudna be
deaved ony langer wi' their forrin blethers; so ben to but-the-hoose I gaed
to hae a twa-handit crack wi' Aleck's mither.
When I opened the door, here's as mony lassies as wudda startit a noo mill.
They'd been a' deckin' themsel's but-the-hoose afore they cam' ben to see
Aleck, d'ye see? He made himsel' rale frank, an' speer'd for a' their
mithers, an' a'thing; an' then we got roond the ben-hoose table, an' had a
fine game at the totum for cracknets.
Sandy juist got gey pranky, as uswal, afore he was lang startit. He's aye
the same when he gets amon' young lassies, the auld ass 'at he is.
"T tak's them a' but ane," he roared in the middle o' the game; an' he
grippit up a nivfu' o' the crack-nets, an' into his moo wi' them. His een
gaed up intil his heid, an' gin I hadna gien him a daud i' the back, that
garred the nets flee oot o' his moo a' ower tha table, he'd been a chokit
korp in a meenit or twa, juist as shure's the morn's Setarday.
But little did I think what was afore's! Gin I'd kenned, I'd latten him chok,
the mairterin' footer 'at he is.
We a' gaed awa' doon the yaird aboot half-past seven, to see a noo henhouse
'at Aleck had been tarrin' that efternune. He maun be a handy earl, mind ye.
"Tak' care o' your frocks, for that tar's weet yet," says Aleck to the
"Ay, man, so it is," says Sandy, takin' a slaik o't aff wi' his fingers, an'
syne dichtin't on the tail o' his sirtoo, the nesty character, 'at I shud
say sic a wird!
"Man, Aleck," says Sandy, when we were a' on the green juist takin' a look
roond aboot's, "it looks juist like the streen that you sat up 'on that very
tree there, an' pappit Gairner Winton wi' oslins that you'd stealt ooten his
ain gairden. I mind I was here when he cam' doon to tell your father aboot
your ongaens. You was a wild tyke o' a laddie, I can tell ye. Your father
gae you an awfu' paikin'; but fient a hair did you care. He wasna weel dune
tannin' you when you was roarin' 'Hairy Grozers'--that was a by-name o' the
Gairner's--in at Winton's shop door. You was a roid loon."
Aleck took a richt herty lauch at Sandy's blethers, an' the twa o' them were
juist thick an' three-faud afore they were half-an-'oor thegither. Yet wudda
thocht they'd kent ane anither sin' ever they were doakit.
Gin we cam' back, Aleck's mither had a fine supper a' ready on the table.
She had a can'le here an' there, an' pucklies o' chuckinwirth an' persly
scattered roond the rob-roys. It was awfu' nice. It would raley garred ye
think ye was amon' braw fowk. I was juist sittin' admirin't when Aleck says,
"Ay, then, are ye a' ready?"
We had to hover a blink till Mistress Mikaver ran ben the hoose for a knife
to Mey Mershell.
"Mester Bowden 'ill say the grace noo," says Aleck; an' Sandy was on his
feet like the shot o' a gun, hostin' to clear his throat. I dreedit he wud
mak' a gutter o't somewey or ither, an' so I keepit my een open. Sandy shut
his, an' so did a' the rest. He leaned forrit an' spread oot the muckle
clunkers o' hands o' him on the tap o' the peat o' a big roobarb tert. "O
Lord," was a' the len'th he'd gotten, when in he gaed, up near to the elbas
amon' the het roobarb; an' by a' the skoilin' an' roarin' ever I heard,
there never was the like! A gey grace it was, I can tell ye! It'll no' be
the morn nor next day 'at I'll forget it. He roared an' yowled like I kenna
what, an' black-gairded reed-het roobarb terts, till I thocht he wudda
opened the very earth.
"O, haud your tongue, Sandy Bowden!" I cried, my very heid like to rive wi'
"Haud my tongue?" says he. "Hoo can I haud my tongue, an' my airms stewin'
amon' boilin' jeelie?"
Juist at this meenit Aleck aff wi' Sandy's coat syne he but the hoose wi'
him an' garred him shove his airms ower the heid in his mither's floor pock.
It deidened the pain in a wink, an' efter a whilie we got the airms rowed
up. I cudna gae ben to bid the ither fowk guid-nicht, my hert was that sair;
an' Sandy was hingin' his heid like a sick dog. Puir man, he has mibby mair
than me to thole; but I wudda gien a five-pound note 'at I hadna left my ain
hoose this nicht. I'll awa' to my bed, for my hert's perfeckly i' my moo.