Rough Scan
I WAS sixteen or ever I got my first place in a gentleman's faimly, namely, Mrs Scott at the Bield. She was a widdy woman at the time, and ended a long and useful career as grandmother to our young leddies, her only daughter bein' mairret on Captain Murray. Weel do I mind the day of the marriage, for it was the first time ever I tasted wedding-cake and shampane wine. I liked them fine.
When first I went to the Bield my wages was twelve pound, and find your own tea and sugar. There was nae word of minimium wages then; minimium wages was the reglar thing, and what for they make such an argle-bargle about them now, dear knows! But I'm no' denyin' it's a fine thing when you're given a rise, and I was gettin' twenty-two pound and all found when I left the Bield; and many's the lad cast his eyes on me seein' I was an illegible partee, as they ca' it. But I never lippened to ony of them - jist an off-put of time. A sairvant's life in a country-house fifty year ago was no' the same thing at a' as it is the now. There was no' near as much time for crochet, and visitors, and rinnin' aboot on bycicles, and pairties, and carryin' on. There was aye plenty work to do, and what between washin'-days, and bakin'-days, and turnin'-out days, and gatherin' the berries, and makin' the jam, and days out (there was a minimium of them), and Sabbath days-the usual number-there was nae time to weary, and the years jist flew.
It was no' till I was very near leavin' to go to Mrs Murray, when her first bairn was born, that I heard of the trodegy that had cast a gloom over the life of Mrs Macrorie, the housekeeper, since ever she was a lassie. She was a cheery-lookin' wee body, fat, wi' rosy cheeks, and little did I think she was the skeleton in the cupboard, so to say. But it was many a year since the startlin' event to which I elude took place. Mrs Macrorie told me a' about it bersel'; she said it would be a lesson to me no' to throw stones-a thing I've maist particularly avoided syne.
The way o't was this. When Maggie Mushet- that's Mrs Macrorie-was a lassie goin' on twelve, she was engaged to help the kitchen-maid at the Bield at six pound in the year. At that time Mrs Scott's mother - auld Leddy Bethune - bode in the house, and she keepit a pet pig. No' a very nice pet for a titled leddy. I dinna like they snotterin' wee dogs leddies carries about wi' them nowadays, but pigs are no' very handy either. Anyway, Mrs Scott's cook couldna abide Sir Topaz-that was the pig's name the auld leddy gave him, on account of him havin' "a seemly nose," she said. I never could abide pigs' noses mysel', and Mrs Macrorie said Sir Topaz was jist like ony ither pig; but the auld leddy had a fancy for him some way. Well, one wet day, the pig came huntin' into the kitchen, makin' dirty marks all over the clean floor, and the cook shooed him out. A wee while efter, Maggie-the wee kitchen-maid - went out into the backyaird to get some firewood. Here she meets the pig makin' for the kitchen-door again. She chased him away with a stick, but, when she lookit round, here he's efter her again. So she took up a stone offa the ground, and flung it at him. Imagine the poor lassie's horror when the pig fell down as deid as a door-nail! The stone must have struck a vital part. Mrs Macrorie said she thought It was the first time that ever she had hit the thing she was aimin' at. I've notticed that mysel' when I've been playin' at the ba' with the bairns; it's awfu' apt to go the ither way. But, anyway, the pig was deid, and the poor lassie felt like a perfeck murderer. She had heard of folk bein' hung for stealin' sheep, and she jaloused that killin' pigs was worse, and her very blood ran cold.
But the cook cried to her, and in she went to help with the denner, with a hert like lead, and a face like a clout. The gloamin' was comin' on, but every now and then she keeked out, hopin' the pig was only in a dwalm. Once, when she got a chance, she poured a wee drop water on his face, but life was extinck, and he never rose to his feet again. Poor Mrs Macrorie! who would have suspeekit that her smooth exterior (she aye wore black saitan when she rose to be housekeeper) concealed such a gruesome memory. She told me that it was a queer thing that, the meenit Sir Topaz was deid, she loved him, and all that fearfu' night she grat like to break her hert.
She expeckit to be taken up the next day, and was aye watchin' for the pollis to come and haul her awa' to the jail; and when she saw the detectives measuring the marks of her feet in the graivel, she felt the rope round her neck, so she did. But detectives are gleg, mind you, and they fitted the marks exack to the feet of a gangrel they had notticed near Cupar no' lang syne; and they pinted out the way he had gotten in an' oot, and Leddy Bethune was real pleased, and gave them one shillin' each; but they never caught the man, and little wonder!
Mrs Macrorie never could mind whether Sir Topaz was buried, or eaten, or what, but many a night she lay awake tryin' to make up her mind to tell on hersel'. Then old Leddy Bethune died, and it was ower late. For a whilie efter that, she forgot, but when the time came for her to jine the Church she was hopin' the minister would ask her, "Did you ever kill anything?" and her mind was made up to say, "Yes, Sir, one pig." But Mr Macmillan never would think that ony of his Bible-class had onything parteeclar on their consciences, so he just let alone.
But murder will out, and when Mrs Scott sent for Mrs Macrorie, long years after, and complimented her on the way she had served the faimly, and said they could never do wantin' her, and would she accept the place of housekeeper, she burstit into tears, and assured her mistress that she had been nourishing a sairpent in her bosom. Mrs Scott lookit; and Mrs Macrorie says, "Do you mind on Leddy Bethune's pet pig, mum?"
"Yes, I do," says Mrs Scott. "A nasty, interfering, guzzling beast."
"Well, it was me that killed him, mum," says Mrs Macrorie, dichtin' her een, and she tellt me that the meenit she spoke she felt as if a pound of lead had risen off her bosom. Mrs Scott seemed kind-of stunned at first, and just glowered at the housekeeper as if she had never seen her afore, while she listened to her story; and then she took to the laughin', and she laughed and laughed till the tears ran down her cheeks, and she keekit out behind her hanky, and says she in a trembly voice, "You look so unlike it!" And finally she blew her nose and remarked causually-like, "Well, he would have been killed anyhow," and dismissed the subjeck.
And if I hadna been throwin' stones into the burn, to see if the ice would break, I would never have heard the story; no' me.