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Book of Scottish Story
The Alehouse Party

A chapter from an unpublished novel,
By the Authors of "The Odd Volume."

The night drave on wi' sangs and clatter,
And aye the ale was growing better.—Burns.

On the evening of that day which saw Mrs Wallace enter Park a bride, Robin Kinniburgh and a number of his cronies met at the village alehouse to celebrate the happy event. Every chair, stool, and bench being occupied, Robin and his chum, Tammy Tacket, took possession of the top of the meal girnel; and as they were elevated somewhat above the company, they appeared like two rival provosts, looking down on their surrounding bailies.

"It's a gude thing," said Tammy, "that the wives and weans are keepit out the night; folk get enough o' them at hame."

"I wonder," said Jamie Wilson, "what's become o' Andrew Gilmour."

"Hae ye no heard," said Robin, "that his wife died yesterday?"

"Is she dead?" exclaimed Tammy Tacket. "Faith," continued he, giving Robin a jog with his elbow, "I think a man might hae waur furniture in his house than a dead wife.

"That's a truth," replied Jamie Wilson, "as mony an honest man kens to his cost.—But send round the pint stoup, and let us hae a health to the laird and the leddy, and mony happy years to them and theirs."

When the applause attending this toast had subsided, Robin was universally called on for a song.

"I hae the hoast," answered Robin; "that's aye what the leddies say when they are asked to sing."

"Deil a hoast is about you," cried Wattie Shuttle; "come awa wi' a sang without mair ado."

"Weel," replied Robin, "what maun be, maun be; so I'll gie ye a sang that was made by a laddie that lived east-awa; he was aye daundering, poor chiel, amang the broomie knowes, and mony's the time I hae seen him lying at the side o' the wimpling burn, writing on ony bit paper he could get haud o'. After he was dead, this bit sang was found in his pocket, and his puir mother gied it to me, as a kind o' keepsake; and now I'll let you hear it,—I sing it to the tune o' 'I hae laid a herein' in saut.'"


It's I'm a sweet lassie, without e'er a faut;
Sae ilka ane tells me,—sae it maun be true:
To his kail my auld faither has plenty o' saut,
And that brings the lads in gowpens to woo.
There's Saunders M'Latchie, wha bides at the Mill,
He wants a wee wifie, to bake and to brew;
But Saunders, for me, at the Mill may stay still.
For his first wife was pushioned, if what they say's true.

The next is Tarn Watt, who is grieve to the Laird,—
Last Sabbath, at puir me a sheep's e'e he threw;
But Tarn's like the picters I've seen o' Blue Beard,
And sic folk's no that chancie, if what they say's true.
Then there's Grierson the cobbler, he'll fleech an' he'll beg,
That I'd be his awl in awl, darlin' and doo;
But Grierson the cobbler's a happity leg.
And nae man that hobbles need come here to woo.

And there's Murdoch the gauger, wha rides a blind horse,
And nae man can mak a mair beautifu' boo;
But 1 shall ne'er tak him, for better, for worse,
For, sax days a week, gauger Murdoch it fou.
I wonder when Willie Waught's faither 'll dee;
(I wonder hoo that brings the bludc to my brow:)
I wonder if Willie will then be for me;—
I wonder if then he'll be coming to woo?

"It's your turn now to sing, Tammy," said Robin, "although I dinna ken that ye are very gude at it."

"Me sing!" cried Tammy, "I canna even sing a psalm, far less a sang; but if ye like, I'll tell you a story."

"Come awa then, a story is next best; but haud a' your tongues there, you chiels," cried Robin, giving the wink to his cronies; " we a' ken Tammy is unco gude at telling a story, mair especially if it be about himsel."

"Aweel," said Tammy, clearing his throat, "I'll tell you what happened to me when I was ance in Embro'. I fancy ye a' ken the Calton hill?"

"Whatna daftlike question is that, when ye ken very weel we hae a' been in Embro' as weel as yoursel?"

"Weel then," began Tammy, "I was coming ower the hill—"

"What hill? " asked Jamie Wilson. "Corstorphine hill?"

"Corstorphine fiddlestick!" exclaimed Tammy. "Did ye no hear me say the Calton hill at the first, which, ye ken, is thought there the principal hill?"

"What's that ye're saying about Principal Hill?" asked Robin. "I kent him weel ance in a day."

"Now, Tammy," cried Willie Walk-inshaw, "can ye no gang on wi' your story, without a' this balwavering and nonsense about coming ower ane o' our Professors; my faith, it's no an easy matter to come ower some o' them."

"Very weel," said Tammy, a little angrily, "I'll say nae mair about it, but just drap the hill."

"Whaur, whaur?" cried several voices at once.

"I'm thinkin'," said Robin, drily, "some o' the Embro' folk would be muckle obliged to ye if ye would drap it in the Nor' Loch."

"Ye're a set o' gomerals!" exclaimed Tammy, in great wrath. "I meant naething o' the sort; but only that I would gie ower speaking about it."

"So we're no to hae the story after a'?" said Matthew Henderson.

"Yes," said Tammy; "I'm quite agreeable to tell't, if ye will only sit still and baud your tongues. Aweel, I was coming ower the hill ae night."

"'Odsake, Tammy," cried Robin, "will ye ne'er get ower that hill? Ye hae tell't us that ten times already; gang on, man, wi' the story."

"Then, to mak a lang story short, as I was coming ower the hill ae night about ten o'clock I fell in—"

"Fell in!" cried Matthew Henderson, "Whaur? Was't a hole, or a well?"

"I fell in," replied Tammy, "wi' a man."

"Fell in wi' a man!" said Willie Walkinshaw. "Weel. as there were twa o' ye, ye could help ane anither out."

"Na, na," roared Tammy, "I dinna mean that at a'; I just cam up wi' him."

"I doubt, Tammy," cried Robin, giving a sly wink to his cronies, "if ye gaed up the Calton hill wi' a man at ten o'clock at night, I'm thinking ye'll hae been boozing some gate or ither wi' him afore that."

"Me boozing?" cried Tammy. "I ne'er saw the man's face afore or since; unless it was in the police office the next day."

"Now, Tammy Tacket," said Robin, gravely, "just tak a' frien's advice, and gie ower sic splores; they're no creditable to a decent married man like you; and dinna be bleezing and bragging about being in the police office ; for it stands to reason ye wouldna be there for ony gude."

"Deil tak me," cried Tammy, jumping up on the meal girnel, and brandishing the pint stoup, "if I dinna (ling this at the head of the first man who says a word afore I be done wi' my story:—And, as I said before, I fell in—"

Poor Tammy was not at all prepared for his words being so soon verified, for, in his eagerness to enforce attention, he stamped violently with his hobnailed shoe on the girnel, which giving way with a loud crash, Tammy suddenly disappeared from the view of the astonished party. Robin, who had barely time to save himself from the falling ruins, was still laughing with all his might, when Mrs Scoreup burst in upon them, saying, "What the sorrow is a' this stramash about?"—but seeing a pale and ghastly figure rearing itself from the very heart of her meal girnel, she ejaculated, "Gude preserve us!" and, retreating a few steps, seized the broth ladle, and prepared to stand on the defensive.

At this moment Grizzy Tacket made her appearance at the open door, saying, "Is blethering Tam here?"

"Help me out, Robin, man," cried Tammy.

"Help ye out!" said Grizzy; "What the sorrow took you in there ye drucken ne'er-do-weel?"

"Dinna abuse your gudeman, wife," said Jamie Wilson.

"Gudeman!" retorted Grizzy; "troth, there's few o' ye deserve the name; and as for that idle loon, I ken he'll no work a stroke the morn though wife and weans should want baith milk and meal."

'"Odsake, wife," cried Robin, "if; ye shake Tammy weel, he'll keep ye a' in parritch for a week."

"She'll shake him," cried the angry Mrs Scoreup; "cocks are free o' horses' corn: I'll shake him," making, as she spoke, towards the unfortunate half-choked Tammy.

"Will ye, faith?" screamed Grizzy, putting her arms akimbo. "Will ye offer to lay a hand on my gudeman, and me standing here? Come out this minute, ye Jonadub, and come hame to your ain house."

"No ae fit shall he steer frae this," cried Mrs Scoreup, slapping-to the door, "'till I see wha is to pay me for the spoiling o' my gude new girnel, forby the meal that's wasted."

"New girnel!" exclaimed Grizzy, with a provoking sneer, "it's about as auld as yoursel, and as little worth.*'

"Ye ill-tongued randy!" cried Mrs Scoreup, giving the ladle a most portentous flourish.

"Whisht, whisht, gudewife," said Robin; "say nae mair about it, we'll mak it up amang us; and now, Grizzy, tak Tammy awa hame."

"It's no right in you, Robin," said Grizzy, "to be filling Tammy fou, and keeping decent folks out o' their beds till this time o' night."

"It's a' Tammy's faut," replied Robin; "for ye ken as well as me, that when ance he begins to tell a story, there's nae such thing as stopping him; he has been blethering about the Calton hill at nae allowance.

The last words seemed to strike on Tammy's ear; who hiccuped out, "As I cam ower the Calton hill—"

"Will naebody stap a peat in tha: man's hause?" exclaimed Matthew Henderson. "For ony sake, honest woman, tak him awa, or we'll be keepit on the Calton hill the whole night."

"Tak haud o' me, Tammy," said Robin; "I'll gang hame wi' ye."

"I can gang mysel," said Tammy, giving Robin a shove, and staggering towards the door.

"Gang yoursel!" cried Grizzy, as she followed her helpmate; "ye dinna look very like it:" and thus the party broke up—

And each went aff their separate way,
Resolved to meet anither dav.

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