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Black Spider

The Gressmercat

On oor road hame we took a walk doon tae the Gress Merket tae see the locality where Burke and Hare were said tae hae butchered the folk lang syne. No that I ha'e ony love for the place or the recollection o' the scoondrels, but I jist had the notion tae see where the villans carried on the horrible business that gied us a' the creeps when we got tae ken aboot their ongaun, but we were nae suner intae the Gress Merket than the folk began tae shout an' rin in a' directions.

"What's wrang wi' the folk, think ye, Leezie," says I, but she jist gied a yell an' joined in the rinnin' match, leavin' me tae fin' oot for masel' the cause o' the hullibuloo, an' what was't efter a' but a bit auld coo that had gotten intae a pickle. I could see by the size o' her uther an' the wey she was rinnin' that she was lookin' for somebody tae milk her, an' that she didna mean tae meddle onybody. The toon bodies ken naething aboot coos, says I tae masel', an' steppin' intae the middle o' the street I says in a voice she coodna misunderstan', "Cosh lady; cosh, cosh, cosh my woman," an' the puir beast jist stoppit at ma very feet. She was that gled tae meet somebody that kenned her language, an' gi'ein' her a bit clap on the shoother, she turned roond an' licket ma hand an' was as freendly as ye like.

"Weel dune the auld wifie," shouts a man wi' a sort o' shepherd tartan heid at yin o' the wundies, an' the crood that had stoppit rinnin' an' were lookin' on fairly clappit their hands tae show their approval o' the performance.

"Could ye get me a pitcher?" says I tae a bit shilpet wee laddie that ventured nearer than the rest, but he jist glowered.

"A pitcher, ma man; could ye get me the len' o' a pitcher, an' I'll gie ye a fine drink o' sweet milk. D'ye no' ken what a pitcher is," says I, getting angry. "Weel, a pail then, can ye get me a pail."

"I can maybe get a can," says he.

"Whatever ye say yersel', ma man, but waste nae time aboot it," an' he wasna lang in bringin' the can, which was jist a pitcher efter a', an the look o astonishment on some o' their faces when they saw me start the milkin' was guid value for the trouble. A lot o' them thocht, if ever they thocht ava', that milk, nae doot, like heaps o' ither things, was made by machinery; onyway, by their faces, I'm shair maist o' them had never seen a coo milket afore. When I got feenished, the bit feered lookin' country laddie that was intended tae be in chairge o' her cam' forrit an' thankit me for ma kindness, an' the auld beastie gied a bit moo tae saicond the motion, an' away they went, leavin' me stan'in' in the crood wi' the pitcherfu' o' milk! What was tae be dune wi't? I thocht the best plan wad be tae divide it amang the sterved lookin' beirns, an' gettin' a tum'ler I filled it up an' invited the wee craturs tae try it. But wad they? No' yin o' them wad risk it; but, bein' kind o' dry massel', it jist struck me tae show them a guid example, an' nae suner had I emptied the tum'ler than they were nearly fa'in ower yin anither tae get at it. Bairns in that respeck are kind o' like sheep, dour tae force, but when yin takes the lead the ithers are no lang in followin', an' it wasna lang or I got the pitcher emptied. Some o' them was nearly intae the pitcher a'thegether.

The man wi' the shepherd tartan heid lookit as if he was wishin' he was a bairn, but I doot it wasna sweet milk or soor dook that polished his snuff-box! Jist as I was lookin' at him a flee lichted on his nose, but in less than a hauf a jiffy it was sittin' on the pavement coolin' its feet. Nae maitter where ye gang, the "indigestion" seems tae be flourishin'.

Some o' the wee birkies had cheated me an' gotten mair than their tumblerfu'; they were as fou' as partans, an' could hardly walk, yin espaicially, a wee hen-taed sterved-lookin' cratur, nae sayin' when, if ever, he tasted milk afore. Onywey it took the wee lamb a' his time tae warsel tae the other side o' the street, an' wi' twae o' the buttons bursted off his waistcoat at that. I'm thinkin' they wadna be the waur o' Betty an' the coo amang them every mornin'.

Where tae get haud o' Leezie was a puzzler, but I jist walkit on in the direction I saw her rinnin', till I cam' tae her stan'in' lookin' intae a shop wundae. Wi' the tail o' her e'e' she saw me first, an' says she, "Oh, you've come at last, have you; I thought you were lost!"

"An' did ye expec' tae see me ticketed for sale in the wundae?" says I. "That's a bonny place tae be lookin' for yer puir auld mother if she was lost," but she said she couldna' see for the crood what was gaun on, an' hearin' the folk aye lauchin' she kent naebody was hurt, an' she wasna sae anxious. Little did she ken they were lauchin' at me milkin' the coo an' gi'ein' the wee birkies a free breakfast, or, ma certy, I wad hae heard aboot it. I'll be at hame milkin' ma ain auld coo an' no carin' a snap o' the fingers whae sees me.

I never minded till we got hame that efter a' we hadna seen the very place we were lookin' for. Leezie wasna sweet on the job tae begin wi', an' seein' I had forgotten she didna remind me, but I'm no' the least vexed noo. Somebody said aye let byganes be byganes, an' it's maybe no' a bad plan wi' villans o' that kind.