Wudna you winder hoo some
fowk grow aye the aulder the waur? You see Toon Cooncillors, for instance,
gettin' less use the langer they keep their job; an' ministers--haud your
tongue! If they're no' guid, they get mair an' mair driech the langer they
preach; even their auld sermons, when they turn the barrel an' start at the
boddom o' her, appear to get driecher than ever. It's juist the same wi'
Sandy--the aulder he grows he gets the waur, till I raley winder what'll
happen till him. He's richt sensible an' eident whiles; but when the fey
blude gets intil his heid, an' he gets into the middle o' ony rig, he's
juist as daft as the rochest haflin that ever fee'd.
When I heard the band on Setarday efternune, I threw the key i' the shop
door, an' ran doon to the fit o' the street to see the sojers passin'. Wha
presents himsel', merchin' in the front o' the band, but my billie, Sandy.
There he was wi' a hunder laddies roond him, smokin' his pipe like's he was
gettin' his denner ooten't, ane o' his airms up to the elba in his breeks'
pooch, stappin' oot to the musik like a fechtin' cock, an' his ither airm
sweengin' back an' forrit like the pendilum o' the toon's clock. To look at
him you wudda thocht he was trailin' the band an' a' the sojers ahent him,
he lookit that hard wrocht. He never saw me--not him! His e'en were starin'
fair afore him; he wudna kent his ain tattie cairt, I believe, he was that
muckle taen up wi' his merchin'.
He landit hame till his tea atween sax an' seven o'clock, stervin' o' cauld,
but as happy's a cricket. "Man, Bawbie," he says, as I laid a reed herrin'
on the brander for him, "there's naething affeks me like sojers merchin' to
musik. It juist garrs my backbeen dirl, an' I canna sit still. When they
were doin' the merch-past this efternune, I had to up an' rin, or I wudda
thrappilt some lad sittin' aside's. That's the wey it affeks me. I wudda
gien a pound note juist to gotten a richt straucht-forrit fecht amon' them
for half an 'oor."
"You're juist like a muckle bubbly laddie, Sandy," says I. "It's a winder
you wasna awa' up the toon wi' them to see if ony o' the sojers wud lat you
cairry hame their gun. I raley winder to see an auld tattie man like you
goin' on like some roid loon."
"That's a' you ken, Bawbie," says he. "I ken mair aboot thae things than
you, fully; an', though I am a tattie man, look at Abraham Linkin; he was
waur than a tattie man to begin wi'; an' the Jook o' Wellinton--michty, he
was born in Ireland; an' look what he cam' till! I tell you what it is,
Bawbie, if they'd haen me at the battle o' Waterloo, you wudda heard anither
story o't. I feel'd within mysel', that if I'd only haen the chance--see 'at
that reed herrin's no' burnin'--I michta been a dreel sergint or a
"A general haiverin' ass," I strak in. "See; there's your herrin'; poor oot
your tea noo, an' haud your lang tongue."
"Ow, weel-a-weel," says Sandy, gey dour-like--he's as bucksturdie as a mule
when he tak's't in's heid--"but we're no' deid yet, an' we'll mibby manish
to garr some fowk winder yet, when a's dune. What's been dune afore can be
dune again; the speerit o' Bannockburn's no' de'ed oot a'thegither."
But I left the cratur chatterin' awa' till himsel', an' ran but to sair some
fowk i' the shop. Did you ever hear o' sic a man? Dauvid Kenawee says
Sandy's a kind o' a sinnyquanon; an' it's my opeenyin he's no' very far
wrang, whatever that may mean.
As I was sayin', there's nae fules like auld fules. I put oot twa-three bits
o' things on the green on Setarday forenune, an' I forgot a' aboot them till
efter the shop was shut. It wud be nearhand twal o'clock when I ran doon for
them. It was a fine nicht, but dreidfu' cauld. Juist as I was gaitherin' up
the twa-three bit duds, I heard voices ower the dyke, an' I cudna but harken
to see wha wud be oot at that time o' nicht. Fancy what I thocht when I
heard Beek Steein's voice, that bides in Mistress Mollison's garret, sayin',
"Eh, ay, Jeemie; it's an awfu' thing luve. I hinna steekit 'an e'e for twa
nichts thinkin' aboot ye."
Preserve's a', thinks I to mysel', this is Ribekka an' Jeems Ethart, the
engine-driver. Jeems is a weeda man, an' Ribekka's like me, she's on the
wrang side o' forty; but, faigs, on Setarday nicht you wudda thocht they
were baith aboot five-an'-twenty.
"My bonnie dooie," I heard Jeems say. A gey dooie, I says to mysel'. There's
twal steen o' her, if there's a pund. It wud tak' a gey pair o' weengs to
cairry Ribekka, I tell ye.
"A'ye genna gie's a kiss, Ribekka?" Jeems says after a whilie; an' Ribekka
gae a bit geegle, an' then whispers laich in, "Help yoursel', Jeemie"--an'
there they were at it like twa young anes.
I didna ken whuther to flee up the yaird, roar oot "feyre," or clim' up on
the dyke an' gie them a wallop roond the linders wi' my bits o' cloots. So I
The fient a ane o' them ever thocht there was a livin' sowl within fifty
yairds o' them, an' they were crackin' an' kirrooin' awa' like a pair o'
"Isn't a peety they dinna ca' me Izik?" says Jeems.
"Hoo d'ye think that?" said Ribekka.
"Cause it wudda lookit so fine--Izik an' Ribekka, d'ye see?" an' they
nickered an' leuch like a' that.
"An' I wudda been Ribekka at the wall," said Beek.
"Exackly," said Jeems; "altho' this auld pump's hardly the kind o' wall they
had in thae days. I hope there's nae horn-gollochs aboot it."
"There's twal o'clock," said Ribekka; "we'll need to be goin'. Gude-nicht,
Jeems. See an' mind aboot me. Gude-nicht."
"Gude-nicht, my ain bonnie lassie," Jeems harken'd in till her. "Dinna be
feared o' me forgettin' ye. I never lift a shuffle o' coals but, I think I
see your face. Every puff o' the engine brings me in mind o' ye, Ribekka;
an' when I sit doon to tak' my denner, I lat fa' my flagon whiles, I'm that
taen up thinkin' aboot ye."
"Eh, Jeems, you're codin' me noo! But gude-night! Eh, mind ye, it's Sabbath
"Gude-nicht, my bonnie lassie. Oh, Ribekka, you're sweeter gin heather
honey. I wiss Sint Tammas Market was here, an' we'll be nae langer twa but
wan. My bonnie dooie! Gude-nicht, my ain scentit geranum," says Jeems.
I began to be akinda waumish, d'ye ken. The haivers o' the two spooney
craturs juist garred me feel like's I'd taen a fizzy drink or something. You
ken what I mean--the kind o' a' ower kittlie feelin' that's like to garr you
screech, ye dinna ken hoo.
"Gude-nicht, Jeems," says Beek again. "I'll never luve onybody but you."
"Are your shure?" began the auld ass again; an' me stanin' near frozen to
death wi' cauld, an' cudna get oot o' the bit.
"Never!" said Beek; "never!"
"Gude-nicht, than, dearie, an' see an' no' forget me. Will ye no'?"
"Ye needna be feared, Jeems. I luve you alone, an' nae ither body i' the
wide, wide world. Gude-nicht, my Jeemie."
"Gude-nicht, than, Ribekka, luvie. An' if you dinna forget----"
But this was ower muckle for me; so I juist roared oot, "Gude-nicht, ye
haiverin' eedeits," as heich as I cud yawl, an' up the yaird at what I cud
Sandy was beddit on the back o' ten o'clock, an' he was snorin' like a
dragoon when I gaed up the stair. But when I got anower he jamp up a' o' a
sudden, like's he'd gotten a fleg.
"Keep me, Bawbie, whaur i' the face o' the earth hae you been?" he says, wi'
his een stanin' in's heid, an' drawin' in his breath like's a shooer o'
cauld water had been skootit aboot him. "You've shurely been awa' at the
whalin'. Bless me, your feet's as cauld's an iceikle. Keep them awa' frae
Isn't that juist like thae men? Weemin can beat them in mony weys, I admit;
but, for doonricht selfishness, come your wa's!