Rough Scan
~XVI~
 
AT the back-end of August I got a post-card from Mrs M'Curd askin' me to spend "a long day" with her at Blairbonny, where she aye goes for a fortnight in the summer time. Miss Celandine said she didn't need to say a "long" day, for the shortest day in the year would feel long if you were spendin' it with other folk on purpose. It's mebbe bein' hand-idle for hours thegither, but I've felt that way mysel'.
Blairbonny is no' a handy place to get at; you've to take the boat to Greenock, and the train the rest of the way; it's an awfu' length of a journey for one day. The steamer calls at Kilmorag at a quarter to nine, but whiles it's afore the appinted time, and whiles it's late, so I set out early. It was showery-like, and no' very warm, so I put on my twilted petticoat, and carried my waterproof cloak over my arm, and my best umberelly in my hand. I had my kep in a riddicle, and a bag with my hanky, and my spectacles, and my purse, and a box of Helensburgh Toffee for Mrs M'Curd, and a wee poke of strong peppermints for fear of the indisgestin'; folks is very apt to eat mair nor they're habbited with when they're spendin' the day-it's mebbe just for something to do.
Kirsty went with me to the pier to see me safe off, and Samson came daunderin' efter her. We were in fine time-five-and-twenty meen its to wait-so we got a sit-down at the end of the pier, and Samson enjoyed hissel' barkin' at the sea-gulls. The steamer hove in sight a wee thing late; they hurled the gangway forret in a terrible hurry, and afore ever the folk got off, here's Samson on! There's no' a machine of any sort but what he'll get into it, right or wrong. Kirsty cried, "Barker," and I cried, "Samson," and the man that was holdin' the hen's-ladder steady cried, "Come on, wumman, if you're comin'!" Away I went stoiterin' across the gangway, and I very near stuck half-roads through the handle of my umberelly catchin' a haud of the railin'. Samson was waitin' on me with his tongue hangin' out, but, afore ever he could say a word, a young naval gentleman in brass buttons hauled him off his feet, and flung him on to the pier that sudden that he landed wi' all his four legs pintin' in different directions and his tail in the air. Poor felly ! the last I saw of him he was lookin' efter the steamer quite disjaskit, and Kirsty was wavin' her hand to the crew. Some of them would be her cousins; her mother has six brothers all married on different women, and every one of them has large faimlies of one sort or another, so Kirsty's cousins are just a bye-word on the coast.
I never can mind what "abaft the funnel" means, and I'm aye feared of sittin' down in the first-class department of the steamer by mistake, so I asked one of the gentlemen that manned the boat where to go, and he gave me a seat in a sheltered locality near the funnel. The voyage was what they ca' "uneventful," and we landed at Greenock on the back of ten o'clock. The train was waitin' on us, and I arrived at the end oC my journey afore eleven o'clock. It's fearfu' the rate folk traivels at now.
Mrs M'Curd was meetin' me. She had on the bonnet she saw us off in, lookin' as good as new. We had a bit piece-cookies, and scones, and ginger wine-and then we went over the house. It's a tidy wee place-three rooms and a kitchen-and clean, I will say that. Efter that we took a turn in the gairden, and saw the cabbages, leeks, parsley, curly-greens, etc., growin' fine. The folk the cottage belongs to keep cocks and hens, and there they were, keekin', and croakin', and grumblin' for food, but we never let on we saw them; fowls is seldom satisfied. When we had seen the house and the gairden we took a turn through the village, and Mrs M'Curd pinted out the principal edifices, i.e. the kirk, and the manse, and the pollis-offiee. There was a shower comin' on, so we went back to the house. I thought it would be denner-time, but, losh ! it was only twenty meenits past twelve ! So I sat in the room till Mrs M'Curd got the denner forret. The time passed quickly; Mrs M'Curd said I was sleepin' when she brought ben the tray, and mebbe my een were shut, but I heard her fine. We had a handsome two-course deuner-a beefsteak pie covered at the baker's, and taties out of the gairden, and a shape and goose-berry jam; I enjoyed it fine. When it was by, an open cab came to the door to take us for an hour's drive about the distriek. It was real mindfu' of Mrs M'Curd, and it must have been a heavy expense, but she's no' the kind of a woman to do things half. It was cloudy-lookin' when we set out, and half-roads it came on a heavy pelt, but the driver got down and shut up the machine, and closed the windies, so we had a grand hurl without gettin' damp. The horse was slow-no' near as wullunt as Stephen - and when we were goin' up a brae Mrs M'Curd put out her head and she cries to the coachman, "Can your horse no' go any faster nor that?" At first he didna heed her; then he stopped the machine and came down to hear what she was wantin'. "Faster!" says he. "My certy, wumman! Div ye no' ken this is the first time he's been in onything but a hairse?"
Mind you that was queer, for the poor beastie was no' a pure black-just a kind of a second-murnin' shade, but he had a fine steady walk, so he had. We were back at the house five meenits afore the hour was up, but the man said it was because Mrs M'Curd made him drive like Jehu at the end; so she gave him 2d. to hissel', and all was peace and goodwill. It was very near a quarter to four by the time we got our things off, and our keps on, so we took our teas as soon as the water was boilin'. Mrs M'Curd said we could take a daunder efter, if it cleared up, but it was damp-lookin', so we bode where we were by the kitchen fireside, and looked at the awlbum, and the poetry-books that was lyin' on the room-table, and the time passed wonderful. Out came the sun, exackly when it was time to go to the station. Mrs M'Curd wouldna let me away without a biscuit and half a glass of ginger wine to keep out the damp, and I was very near lossin' the train at the hinder-end. It arrived at Blairbonny at seven exack, and I had just time to say "thenk-ye" for my fine ploy, afore it was off again. The steamer was fuffin' away at Greenock, and soon the anchor was heaved, and the sails furled, and away we went. It was a fine warm night efter the rain, and I sat up on the deck to admire the sunset. Afore we had gone far there was a slight accident, but no' nothing of importance. A young woman that was leanin' on the railins enjoyin' the prospeck, got out a twopenny mutton-pie to eat on the voyage, but the very first bite she took of it, did it no' a' fall to pieces in her hand, and afore you could say Jack Robison, here a dog flew forward and devoured it up, and licked the gravy that clean that, in less than a meenit, there was nothing left to tell the tale but the wee bit outside paste in her fingers! What a provoke! I was real vexed for her. She sat down aside me, and told me what fine these pies were, and where you could get them, and the dog came and sat in front of her, and never lifted his eyes off of her the whole voyage. I gave her a peppermint, and it lifted her up a bittie, so I put some more in a wee bit paper for her, and she thanked me kindly and landed at Cove.
Kirsty was waitin' on me with her eyes glued to the man at the wheel; she never saw me come off the boat; she said it was the crowd-me, and anither auld man! The walk along the shore was peacefu' and pleasant, with the gloamin'-star shinin' in the West, and the loch lapperin' among the seaweed; but I was glad when I saw the lights of the Auld Hoose twinklin' among the trees. It's funny what wearied folks are efter a day's pleasure!