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Black Spider

North Berwick

I mauna forget tae tell ye aboot oor grand picnic the next day. John hadna been feelin' jist sae weel, an' his maister tel't him he could take a holiday, and what does he dae bit hire a motty car an' take us a' oot for a day in the country, an' it was a treat I'll never forget. We went roond by Roslin, Dalkeith, an' North Berwick, and' at North Berwick he stood us a rale fine denner in the hotel. I markit what we got on the back o' the auld envelope - tomato soup, boiled cod and oyster sauce, roast lamb and green peas, sweet omelette, cheese an' celery, an' a bottle o champagne. I didna care muckle for the celery; it tasted kinda like the smell o' a gas pipe, an' if onybody had tel't me I wad hae eaten an oyster! But it's astonishin'! Losh me, it was the grandest denner I ever had, far ower grand for the like o' me, but Leezie lauched when I tel't her I had been a leddy for yince in my life.

Efter the denner we went oot an' had a walk alang the sea shore. What a lot o' folk were gaun aboot, an' nearly every yin had a laddie rinnin' efter him wi' a bag ower his shoother fu' o' what I thocht was hammers for breakin' stanes, but they were far ower braw dressed for workin' folk. Some had red jackets on, an' maist o' them wore nickerbockers, an' faith there was a lot o' jolly, braw-lookin' chaps among them; but for the life o' me could I make oot what they were gaun tae be efter. Leezie an' John had walked away tae watch the bairns paddlin' in the sea an' left me standin' watchin' what was gaun tae happen. Yin wi' a red coat an' a hammer in his hand gied the work o' command.

"Where's my caddie!" says he.

Forrit comes yin o' the laddies wi' a bag.

"Put my tee there," says he, pointin' tae a particklar spot on the ground wi' the heid o' his hammer.

Bless ma stars, says I tae masel', that's a funny place for the man tae take his tea, an' nae table-cloth or onything, but afore I could think the wee laddie had slapped doon a wee round hut o' sand and stuck a little white ba' on the tap o't, an' the man looked at the ba' an' then he looked at me, an' a' at yince he shouted "fore" at the pitch o' his voice.

Four, says I tae masel', I doot his watch has gaen gyte; it's no' two yet, but he said something I couldna hear tae the laddie, an' he cam' rinnin' alang tae me an' tel't me I was in the line o' play, an' for ma ain safety I had better get oot o' the wey.

"Where will I go?" says I.

"Follow me," says he, an', keepin' an eye on the ba', I followed the laddie till he tel't me I wad be safe enough.

"What kind o' a tea pairty d'ye ca' this onywey," says I, "ma man?"

"Tea pairty," says he, lookin' me up an' doon, "I dinna understand ye mem."

"Did that gentleman that's swingin' his hammer no' tell ye tae pit tea doon on the grund yonder?"

The hairty lauch o' the wee cratur was like a blink o' sunshine. "That's no a hammer," says he, "it's a gowf club; it's gowf they're playin', an' the tee is what they pit the ba' on."

Jist wi' that the player let drive at the ba', an' it cam' past me like greased lichtnin' an landed aboot as far away as I could see, an' by the wey the player threw his heid in the air an' glanced roond aboot the folk that was lookin' on it wasna ill tae see he was extra pleased wi' his performance. Up steps anither laddie wi' his sand an' ba', an' nae suner had he got the wee ba' perched on the tee than forrit comes an auldish, stoot, bandy leggit, smert-lookin', fussy body, an' efter wiggle-wagglin' wi' his club in front o' the ba' lang eneuch tae gie folk time tae ha'e a richt look at him, he bent himsel' ower till he nearly stood on his heid an' brocht his club doon wi' a' his micht an' struck the grund wi' sic a crash that the sand flew up in a perfec' clud in a' directions. I lost sicht o' the body a'thegither for aboot a meenit. Them that was lookin' on got their e'en fu' o' sand, an' it was a race atween the ba' an' the heid o' his club which wad gang farrest, an' as the ba' cam' close tae where I was stan'in' I thocht there wad be nae herm in liftin't up an' tak'in't back tae him, seein' he had made sic a bad job o't. But, losh preserve us, if I had kenned what was in store for me for daein' him a kindness, as I thocht, a' the folk in North Berwick wadna hae got Betty tae pit a finger on yon ba', take ma word for't. Whuther it was what he ca'ed my crass ignorance, an' a hunner ither names that micht break the printin' machine, an' which I've nae desire tae repeat or remember, or the disgrace he brocht on himsel' that kindled his wrath it disna maitter a monkey nut, but this much I ken, there never was a wilder man ootside o' an asylum, an' if onybody had struck a match the very atmosphere wad hae gaen on fire. I aye used tae pride masel' on haein' the last word, but ma certy, he fair took the wund oot o' ma sails. When he saw me comin' tae um wi' the ba' in ma hand, an' heard them that had got the sand oot o' their e'en lauchin', his face turned mair purple than ever, an' when I tel't him tae keep his hair on efter he fired his first salute he banged off his bonnet an' threw it tae the grund an' fired off his whole stock o' brimstane at sic a rate I thocht he wad choke, an' the puir body hadna stump left tae show where the hair had been. Had I kent he was as bauld as the ba' he was playin' I wad hae said something else or naething ava. Hooever, he got haud o' anither club, an' fortunately, efter the ba' had been laid doon as near as they could tell where I lifted it, he managed tae drive it alang tae where the ither player was waitin' for him, an' I wasna sorry, for I believe if the body had made anither bad shot naething short o' a funeral wad hae satisfied him. The caddie laddie never said cheep, but he looked as if he was ready tae throw doon the clubs an' rin for his life; but the success that attended the birkie's second shot seemed tae clear the air, an' efter he was away I wasted nae time in seekin' oot Leezie an' John. They wanted tae ken what wey I had been sae lang. I tel't them I had been gettin' edicated intae the mysteries o' the fascinatin' game o' gowf.

"Dear me, mother," says Leezie, "I would have thocht you would have enjoyed a calm and peaceful rest by the beautiful sea in preference to tiring yourself walking about watching a game which can have no possible interest for one of your years."

"The experience 'll dae me nae herm," says I, "Leezie, an' I hae seen it played tae perfection in every departement." Little did she ken what I had come through, an' deil a fear o' me tellin' her. She wad jist say it served me right; I wad get nae sympathy frae her, no' that I want ony, for I'll take guid care they gowfer chaps 'll no' get me intae a deil amang the tylers racket again, or ma name's no' Betty.

John, puir man, was lyin' curled up amang the rocks like a wee dug, puffin' away at the stump end o' a seegar, spacially bocht for the occassion. Leezie said she wad treat him tae a genteel smoke, as it wadna look like the thing smokin' a common pipe in a motty car, so she bocht him five for a shillin', an' he smokit the hale shillin's worth afore we got hame. I didna say onything, as it was nae business o' mine, but ma certy, I wad hae lookit mair than twice at ma shillin' afore I pairted wi't tae be blawn intae the air in yon regairdless fashion. Ma ain canny man at hame jist buys twa unces o' the best thick black every Setterday nicht for sixpence, wi' a new pipe thrawn in, an' it lests him a' the week, an' naebody could enjoy a smoke mair then he does, an' the reek's jist as blue as yer genteel seegar. He says he kens when the baccy's guid by the blueness o' the reek, but for the life o' me can I understand where the pleesure o' smokin' comes in; no' tae speak o' the trouble an' sheer waste o' guid siller, but men hae heaps o' funny notions an' silly tricks that women folk can make neither heid nor tail o', an' they're that stubborn an' clever in their ain imagination it's jist a waste o' time tryin' tae improve them.

The chefoneer brocht roond his car at the time John had te't him, an' we were jist takin' oor saits when whae should pass by bit the bandy leggit gowfer, an' a queer an' fear'd lookin' glower he gied me when he saw Leezie packin' me in wi' the rugs, for altho' I say't masel', Leezie's as fine a lookin' wuman as ye could wish tae see. So I turned on a' the dignity I could command an' gied him a look strecht frae the shoother that clearly tel't him I was somebody efter a', an' jist wi' that the horn blew an' off we flew an' left him wonderin' whae on earth the auld body could be that he had insulted. I'll warrant he'll be mair carefu' in future afore he pits a match tae his powder magazine.