Rough Scan
~XIV~

MASTER PRENDERGAST arrived last week. He's not four years old yet, but he's dressed in breeks already-white flannen, short and tight, and a wee white pinny over them. The first I saw of him he was rum'lin' in his pocket, breathin' hard, and gettin' gey red in the face. Miss Celandine knelt down aside him and she says, "What is the matter, Barney?" "Can't get the damned things out of my pocket," says the bairn, in the sweetest voice you ever heard, like a pet lamb! There was a quietness in the room as if a bomm had exploded, and then Miss Celandine bursted out a-laughin', and she laughed and laughed, and the infant joined in, and he laughed too, although he little kent what she was laughin' at. Then he come over to me, and he says, very polite-like. "Please, will you take the damned things out of my pocket?" "I will that, my dearie," says I, "but you'll no' need to say words like yon." "What is 'words like yon' ?" says he, tryin' to keek into his pocket. I got him out a sma' tin box, and efter a whilie he come ben to me in the store-room, and I felt his wee sticky fingers creepin' into my hand, and says he, "See! you can have a lolly if you like!" That's what they ca' sweeties at the ends of the earth appearin'ly. He's a kindly cratur, and well-mainnered, but his language would make your blood curdle. Where he got it naebody kens; it would mebbe be from the sailors on the road home. And he's that meek-lookin' on the outside-as fair as a lily, with solemn eyes, and yellow hair. Miss Jean is tryin' to learn him to say "dear me" when he's annoyed instead of "damme," and he's quick at the uptak. One day when Miss Celandine was goin' to take him down to the shore, she cried on the dog to come too. "Come on, Sammy-dammy," says she. Would you believe that Master Paul picked her up in a meenit, and he roared and laughed and pointed at Miss Celandine, and we heard him cryin', "The funny one said 'damme'; the funny one said 'damme' !" all the way down to the shore. He aye calls Miss Celandine "The funny one," and Miss Jean "The lady with the nice face," and me, "The lady with the old hair." I dinna believe that he's ever seen grey hair in his life afore, poor wee man.
Of course Miss Celandine took her chance to change lawson's name. She said she could not allow a mere dog to be a stumbling-block in the way of a youthful Christian brother, and she's settled on "Granville Barker." It's no' a bad name, I will say that, Samson can bark with the best of them. He answers to it fine already; he never comes when he's called anyway.
But one thing leads to another, and here's Delilah bad to be altered too! She is to be "Dumbpet," if you please. It's a daft-like name that was invented by a Mr Browning, Miss Jean says; he was something in the poetry-line, I understan'. But I never can mind it right, and the pussy gets "Delilah" yet from me. Miss Celandine doesna aye remember hersel' - she called her "Delumpet" this very day. She's a terrible cat for catchin' birds, and mice, and even rabbits; and her that young! Samson Barker abide it; when he sees her at it and hears the poor wee mouse squeakin', he goes to his bed, so he does decent cratur. But Delilah takes it off her mamaw. Tatty was a reglar Rimnod of a hunter when she was young, and many a sparrow did she catch in the back-green at the Terrace, and bring in for me to see. She had a way of daundenin' along the front balconies the whole length of the Terrace, and I was aye feared she would bring in a canary-bird, belongin' one of the neighbours, some fine day. But little did I think she would catch a coakatoo! I was fair dumbfoundered when she appeared at my room door one efternoon haulin' a great muckle fowl a' the colours of the rainbow, efter her. She laid it down at my feet as proud as you like, and I lifted it up all in a trem'le, to see if there was any hope of resussitatin' the corpse. But life must have been extinck, for it was a stuffed bird wi' glass eyes and an awfu' sharp beak. It was weeks arore we elucidated, by means of the grocer's laddie, where it came from, and Miss Jean sent it back with an abjeck apology. I'm thankfu' to say Tatty has never done the likes of yon again. But she's no' near as respeckable a cat at the seaside as what she was in the town-comin' in late, and rollin' on her back in the road, she's fair uplifted wi' the change of air.
Master Prendergast's language has created a painful impression in the neighbourhood, I doubt. We met Mrs Sibbald Smith from The Palms (the new house on the other side of the pier), when I had him along to the village one day, and she said to me, says she, "I really cannot repeat what that child said to me on Sunday, Mrs Pow; it was shocking. I could not tell my own sister!" It was vexin' for her, poor lady; it was easy seen she was keen to tell somebody. The very bairn saw it, and he said, "I'll tell her what I said," and I had to hold my hand over his mouth and haul him away afore he got it out. And there's a rumour that the minister tells a story about Master Barney objeckin' to his sermons because they were "devilish long," and I doubt there'll mebbe be some foundation for it.
Miss Jean gave me a read of a wee book ca'ed Pet Marjorie, to let me see that Master Paul is no' the first bairn that's been celebrated for strong language. I was glad to see that she put in her Diary, "The most Devilish thing is 8 times 8 and 7 times 7," and she wrott a poem dictated to Mrs H. Crawford, as follows: -
 
Three turkeys fair their last have breathed,
And now this world for ever leaved;
Their father and their mother too,
They sigh and weep as well as you;
Indeed, the rats their bones have crunched,
Into eternity theire laanched.
A direful death indeed they had,
As wad put any parent mad;
But she was more than usual calm,
She did not give a single dam.
 
Appearin'ly folks was no' near so parteeclar in those days. But I hope we'll get Master Prendergast cured long afore he can write; the bairn's no' four year old yet!