Rough Scan
~XV~
 
THE principal event of the year took place in the Schoolroom on 2nd August, at 7 p.m., in a perfeck downpour of rain. A gentleman came all the way from Glasgow to deliver a lectur on fire-engines, and he brought a wee model engine with him to let the folk see what like they are, and how they ack. There's no demand for them here, though, and it's just as weel, for Greenock's the nearest place they keep them, and it would be a work to get them across the water under night.
We had fine seats near the front, among the gentry, and we got a good view of the platform, and all there was to be seen: First, a Table, with a Jug of Cold Water and a Tumbler on it; secondly, the model Fire-engine on the right-hand side of the Water; thirdly, a Chair for anybody that liked to sit on it; fourthly, a Pianny, and a Pianny-stool.
The first piece on the programme was a song called, "How beautiful is Night!" It took two ladies and two gentlemen in dress-clothes to sing it, and they were a' needed, for the rain pelted that way on the skylight that we could scarcely hear them; it was a heavy shower.
When they were done a young lady played a tune on the pianny. She was in a fearfu' hurry; her fingers flew up and down like lightning; what for could she no' take time? I said to Miss Jean that it must be difficult to play as quick as you, and she said I minded her of something she read in a French book about a gentleman that was listenin' to a lady playin' on the pianny, laud and fast. His neebour asked him if he liked it, and he said, "No' me." "You must remember that it is very difficult," says his friend. "I wish it had been impossible!" says he.
When the pinny-piece was past, on came a great tall felly and sang something about-
 
It's awfu' nice to ken
That you're bonny, wee hen.
 
He would be what they ca' a bird-fancier. Efter him there was a recitation. It was unexpected, and I got a sort of a fright, for the young lady that said the poetry didna come forret like the rest of the company; she just rose to her feet suddently and bawled out-
 
Billy's dead and gone to glory,
So is Billy's sister, Nell.
 
"Measles likely, and no' right nursed," I says to mysel'; but it wasna infection, it was mair like starvation, poor wee tots, and I doubt it was an ower-true tale; our hearts were wae within us when it was told, and I hope it would be a lesson to all the negleckfu' parents in the place.
The next item was a painfu' contrast, it was a song-and no' a genteel song at a'. Miss Celandine has been singin' the o'ercame even on ever since; it was a bonny lilt. The words were as follows-
 
Durnum doo-y doo-y day,
Durnum doo-y daddy, oh!
Durnum doo-y doo-y day,
=The fisherman hinged the puggy, oh!
 
It was a nesty, cruel-like thing to do, and it was no excuse that he thought it was a sma'-sized foreign gentleman that he was murderin'. I wonder folk would laugh at the like of yon, but the laddies at the back enjoyed it fine, and naething would serve them but an angcore-that's the way Miss Celandine learnt the words, and the tune too; a' the message-laddies in the place are whustlin' it, and Master Barney tries to do the same, the darlin'.
The next song was solemn and slow, and I kind-of dovered (the place was doss); but the feenish of it wake me up, it was that loud and triumphant-
 
Having kicked the woman, and left her dead.
 
Allow them! It was naething less than manslaughter. But afore ever I could ask Miss Jean the meanin' o't, here was the Glasgow gentleman sittin' on the chair aside the wee fire-engine, ready to start the lectur. It was a good long parleyvoo, and the gentleman had a soothin' voice. Wee Jamie Forbes fell sound asleep on his faither's knee, and never wake up till Mr Forbes needed his hanky, and roused the bairn wi' rumblin' in his pocket for it. "I'll gie ye a wee len' o' mine's, faither," says he, loud out, and a' the folk round about laughed hearty; he's a nice bairn, and there was his new hanky stickin' out of his packet sure enough-white, with red and blue picturs on it.
It was unfortnit that, while the lecturer was lecturin', the water in the wee fire-engine was dribblin' out little by little, and when the time came to show how it worked, here it was bone-dry, and a perfeck burn of water rinnin' ower the floor! The gentleman was fair provoked, and no wonder; it cast a kind of damp over the audience, and we never saw how fires was put out efter a'. But he told us how they were started. He said that buildings were usually ignited by coming into contack with fire; I've notticed that mysel'-it's nearly always the way. It was a maist instructive lectur.
Efter the lectur there was anither recitation-
 
Break, break, break,
On thy cold grey stones, O Sea!
 
but 'deed the water was break-breakin' that way on the shore, without any advice o' he's, that the gentleman could scarcely hear hissel' speak. The concluding piece was a song by one of the bairns at the school, namely-
 
Did you ever put a penny
=In the Missionary-boax,
Instead of spending it on sweets
=Like other little folks?
 
She sang it no' bad, poor wee lassie, and the laddies liked it fine. I heard them bawlin' to one another when they came out, "Did you ever put a penny in the Missionary-boax?" But I doubt there's no' very many o' them that'll take a lesson.
When the gentleman from Glasgow and the rest of the company had been thankit, and all was at an end, the folk rose up to go away home; and when they spied old Bertram at the door, they jaloused that his cab would be there too, and they fair surrounded him, implorin' him to take them home dry. But he wouldna listen to one of them- "Ah'm trysted wi' an auld leddy," says he (it was me that gave him the order to come back), and naebody else would he take, except the Precentor the length of the pierhead. "Stephen's awfu' wullunt," says he, "but he'll no' go out of his road for orra folk; 'an inch is as good as an ell to a blind horse.'" I've been suspeckin' for a whilie that Stephen was blind, by the way he took nottice of things with his nose, but I never heard Bertram let on afore that he was any way difeecient. If they could get him dyed black he would do fine for funerals, though. I dinna like the way folks are hurried to the tomb nowadays; it's no' respeckfu'. Last week when I had Master Barney out for a walk along the Inchmakenneth road, here I sees a funeral comin' full trot. There was a hairse and two coaches, and I bade the bairn take off his hat. Here didna he think it was just folk out takin' a ride for the sake of the air, and he kissed his hand, and waved it to the murners, and bowed and smiled, the same as if it had been the laird or any of the neebours! I doubt the faimly of the corp would be scandulised; but 'deed it served them right for goin' the pace the way they were doin'; a disgrace to the districk.