Rough Scan
XI
 
VIA BON COMPAGNI, ROMA
April 190-
 
DEAR CHRISTINA, - They have been busy thorough-cleanin' here, and no' afore it was wanted: but what do you think for? because the priest was expeckit to bless every room in the house; did ever you hear tell of such a set-away! I am thankfu' to say that I was out when he came, no' being habitted with siccan popish plots. Miss Jean told me when I came in that he had strinkled my room with holy water. There was a kind of a damp smell, but I've not taken the cold-no' yet, anyway.
The house is not half cleaned: the fuff under the beds is a fair disgrace, and I canna keep my hands off it, although I'm no' expeckit to do more than attend on the young ladies; and the carpet in the drawing-room is just thick with thrums. Would you believe that dust-pans are made with long shanks in Italy, to save the servant-lassies bendin' their backs! I hope they'll no' be introduced into Scotland. You needna think that I'll bring one home to you and Merran-no' likely!
Miss Celandine says I am to be sure and tell you about the eight-legged chickens of Italy. That's just her joke. The chickens have no more legs here nor what they have in Scotland, England, and elsewhere; but, when the dish gets the length of Miss Celandine she says there is aye nothing but legs in it - and mebbe it's true enough, for it's the very same way when it comes to the kitchen.
This is what they call Holy Week, the same as the Episcopalians keeps in Edinburgh, but totally different: I am sure I hope our young ladies will never take up with any of the rideeclous capers we've seen this very day. It was in a great big Church they call San Giovanni Laterano, and a priest sat in a confessional-box, no' unlike the box the watchman sits in when the street is being mended, and touched the folks' heads with a thing like a fishing-rod; them kneeling a wee bit forrit. Miss Jean said he was giving them absolution; anyway he very near raised an old lady's bonnet off of her head, his stick becoming entangled in the trimming. It was a plain bonnet too; her last summer's one done up for every-days, I would jalouse, with gauze strings, and a flower at the left-hand side, all black.
We saw three bairns-wee tots, no' above six year old-two wee lassies and a laddie, playing themselves at the same thing. Down they plumped on their knees in a row, in front of a confessional-box; but they were ower far off, and the priest inside told them to come nearer. They warstled on their knees till he could get at them, and then he touched their heads one by one. Up they got quite pleased, and slipped away behind a great big pillar; we saw them keekin' round to see if anybody was notticing them, and away they went to another confessional to play the same game! Poor wee things, it was a fair divert to see them: but the next priest suspeckit what they were after, and he wagged his finger to them to come and speak, and told them no' to do that again; he was a cheery-lookin' gentleman-stout and ruddy-it will likely be an easy life. It must take a deal of faith to lippen to yon rod-thing, but every herring must hang by its own head.
The bonniest place I have seen yet in the antique city of Rome is the Protestant Cementery. They say there's no treat that Scotch folk enjoy better than a funeral; and I'll admit that they are fond of a daunder in a cementery. and what for no'?
Miss Celandine went with me last Sabbath-Day. It's a fine large place, and many a stranger is lying fremd and forsaken under the shade of the Cypress-trees; and fine large funeral-lookin' trees they are, very well suited to their poseetion. I notticed the name of John Smith, Sculpterer; Smith is a well-known name in Edinburgh. If folk had the sense to bide at hame, there would be no call for them to lie lonesome in a foreign cementery. Miss Celandine read out of the guide-book that the Poet Shelley said "It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place." It minded me of the man that went to see the new addeetion to Kilmun kirkyard, and when he saw the green brae, and the flowers, and the Holy Loch shinin' down below, and heard the robins singing, and the lapper of the tide on the shore, his heart melted within him, and he said, "I would like fine to be buried here, if I'm spared."
Another poet had on his grave, "Here lies one whose name was writ in water"; nae doubt it would be before ink was invented; I dinna mind his name.
We had a sit-down for a whilie on a wooden seat, and Miss Celandine took the opportunity to cast up to me that when she was a bairn she aye thought that Warriston cementery was Heaven, and that it was all my fault! It seems that, when her poor Grandpapaw died, I told her that he had gone to Heaven (as was only respeckful to the family), and then, appearingly, I took her a walk to the cementery, and showed her the big monument, and told her he was there: she says it gave her a perfect scunner at Heaven.
Cover comfortably doesna mean drowned: no wonder it's thin: I wish I was home in my own kitchen. - Yours,
 
MARGET POW
 
P.S. - A telegram has come from Sir Ian to inform the young ladies that the Baby has duly arrived in Cavendish Square, mother and child doing well. It was born the day before yesterday.
 
==Few are thy days and full of woe,
==Oh man of woman born.
 
It is a girl. Name "Jean," after our Miss Murray. Gentlemen are terrible wasterfu' with telegrams, but it seems that you get the words cheaper when you take them by the dizen. There was twenty-seven. - M. P.