Rough Scan
~III~
 
IT was efter I had been twenty year at the Bield that I went to be nurse to Mrs Murray's baby. And here I will introjuce the first letter of general interest ever I got. It was in the form of a post card, i.e. "Mrs Murray will expect Marget Pow on Tuesday by the train which leaves Cupar at half-past two." Many's the time I've read it since! That half-past two train hurled me into a New Sphere of usefulness (meanin' Edinbury), which I have never quitted syne.
But ye needna think I got all the road by the train ; no' very likely! There was no Forth Bridge long ago, and we had to cross the Frith in the Burntisland boat. It was the first time ever I had been on a steamer, and I mind I was terrified to move for fear it would coup. Many's the watter I've sailed syne, includin' the English Channel, the Frith of Clyde, the Adriattic Ocean, and the Canal at Venice, and never once been shipwrecked. I've been mercifully dealt with, I must say that. But I've aye had a pongshong for dry land (as the French say), and water's overdone baith down the West Coast and over thonder in Venice. And when you've cats carryin'-we aye take Tatty with us to Kilmorag, and whiles there's kitlings too-and Samson gettin' amongst your feet, and the gangway that steep when the tide's low, and the felly wi' brass buttons cryin', "Come along, now; come along!" and flusterin' the folk; many's the time I wish the land went a' the way. And would you believe that they're chairgin' for cats now! Plain cats! The very last time we went down the watter, efter the luggage had been weighed and paid for (3s. 6d. extry, if you please!), here did Tatty no' let out the most fearfu' yell, and her had sat in her basket a' the road to the station like a pet lamb! "A cat!" says the weighin'-chap, fair struck dumb- "one shillin'." Naethin' but profiteerin', the auld sneck-drawer!
Miss Celandine says that I'm no' to put off time tellin' about cats when I've not even mentioned her birth yet. It's a funny thing, but when I'm tryin' to recolleck the great events of my past life, it's aye the wee things I mind the best. But nae doubt birth is important enough too, and I'll mention here that the three young leddies was all born at the usual age, and that Miss Celandine dared me to tell the year she was born. It was an awful wet day - I mind that - for we were washin' blankets, and it was a job to get them dried. And it was cranberry jam we were makin' the very day the poor Colonel went away to the Boor War, leavin' me to look efter his future widdy, and his bit bairnies. I'll never forget the way he lookit at me when he shook my hand in the hall. He didna say "Goodbye," but just, "Take care of them all, Marget," in a queer, hoarse voice. My heart was wae for him; and that cranberry jam didna geill, and it made wi' pure cane sugar and a'.
Well, when the Colonel's birthday came round, soon efter, Mrs Murray sent a present, and so did the bairns, and we decided to have the same dinner the Colonel always chose for his birthday, namely, mince, white turnips, with butter sauce, and a black-currant roley-poley puddin'. It was no' a dinner for company, but the bairns' Auntie Maisie was invited, and it was early, for them both to be there (it was afore Miss Celandine was born). Mrs Murray bad me draw a bottle of shampane wine to drink the master's health as usual. She was the first hersel', and she lifted her glass and wished her husband "A Happy Birthday and a safe return." Then Miss Maisie came next, and says she, "Many happy returns of the day to my darling Donald!" (She was terrible set on her brither.) When it was Miss Isabelette's turn-they ca'ed her Isabelette for short, her poor mamaw's name bein' Isabel - it was discovered that she had drunk up all her wine, so I put water in her glass, and a wee drop of shampane on the top o't. "Long life to daddy," she cried, in an awfu' hurry to drink the wine afore the fizz went off it. Miss Jean askit her maw to make her water fizz, and then she sat lookin' at it, dreamy-like, but not a word did she say. "Come along, Jean," says her Auntie Maisie, "don't be all day about it!"
Then the bairn lifted her head, and look it straight at the pictur of the Colonel above the mantelpiece, and she says, "A short life and a happy one!"
There was a queer silence fell on the room, like as if somebody was listenin', but it's a true say that "Hallowe'en balms see far," and certain it is that Colonel Murray was killed in battle that very day.
No' long efter Mrs Murray died of a broken heart, when Miss Celandine was born; and many a time I've said to mysel', thinkin' on that birthday pairty, "It's a sooth dream that's seen wakin'."