Rough Scan
~IV~
 
IT was an awfu' miss to the poor weans no' to have father nor mother to guide them. Their grandmamaw, old Mrs Scott at the Bield, did her best; but it's weel kent that grannies aye spoils their bairns' bairns, and the three wee lassies were no' long in findin' it oot. When Miss Celandine was five she treated Mrs Scott as if she was a bairn of four, and backward at that! I mind once when the auld leddy had undertaken to keep Miss Celandine amused while I was reddin' up the nursery, she started to tell her a story about hersel', and says she, "You know, Celandine, I was once a little girl like you-" and the bairn just gi'ed her a bit look and said contemptiously, "Oh, granny, don't be silly!" The poor add leddy was dumbfoundered, and it put her story clean oot o' her head. But Miss Celandine aye said what she thought, and she was a perfeck provoke for askin' questions that naebody on this earth could answer; for instance, "Why are radishes red?" and "What was Adam and Eve's last name?" And would her granny last till she was quite grown up? And would she get takin' the cat to heaven with her? And who would button her knickers if I didn't go? Poor wee lassie! it seemed to weigh on her mind, and one night she ended her prayers with, "And teach us to button our knickers." Miss Celandine says that a minister would no doubt have said, "And so replenish us with heavenly wisdom and earthly skill that we may be enabled to attach securely to our frail and sinful frames the complicated garments wherewith we are in mercy permitted to veil our mortal bodies." It's mair like the thing; but Miss Celandine was a wee lassie then-no' four year old. And she says now, why am I no' puttin' in some of the clever things she said? I dinna mind them. And I'm no' to make out that she was an infant progidy, for she canna abide them. But she's certain that, considering what a lot she's said in her lifetime, she must have let drop many a pearl of wisdom. If she did, I never lifted them. She'll just need to colleck her ain pearls; folks are usually mair interested in theirsels than in ither people.
But there's one thing that I do mind, for many's the time I've thought upon it since, in connection with the weather-it's when we're confronted with the weather that we feel our helplessness, so it is ;- Miss Celandine had got a new toy donkey, and she was out a walk with me trailin' it ahint her by a string, for the first time. I'll never forget the way the wheels squeaked; it was fearsome; the folk on the Ferry Road were lookin' efter us wholesale and retail. Unfortnitly a wee shower came on, and Miss Celandine got uneasy-like. She lookit up at the clouds and down at the donkey once or twice, and then, when the rain got heavier, she stood stock-still, and stared straight up at the sky, and says she, "Now, now, God, that'll do; do you not see that you're spoiling my new donkey?"
The way that donkey squeaked minds me of a maist awfu' fright I got once, long syne. I was goin' into the nursery in the dark, and I set my foot on an animal of some sort that gave the fearfullest howl that ever I heard in my life. My heart louped into my mouth; and, when I screwed up the gas, here a rabbit lyin' on its back, that naebody had ever suspeckit of havin' a squeak! It looked surprised itsel', poor beastie! The bairns was delighted when I told them; but naething less than jumpin' on its stomach would make that rabbit squeak, its voice was that powerfu' for its size; I was feared I had murdered the kitten.
I never saw bairns as set on cats as ours were; it would very near take a whole page to go over their names-Leonora, and Tiptail, and Biler; Bumfit, and Maggie Lauder, and Jeremiah, and Santa Claws; Delilah, and Tibbs, and Bobs-but there was aye one ca'ed Tatty, and I couldna undertake to add up the kitlings she had. Miss Jean whiles ca's her "Mother of Thousands," but I wouldna say that was exack. I aye thought our bairns likit to go to Dunbar in the summer-time for the sake of gettin' a walk in Cats' Row. It's no' a genteel pairt, but what with the pussies sittin' on the doorsteps, and the bairns playin' about, and laddies fechtin' yin anither, and nets mendin', and the smell o' fish, there's mair life nor what there is where there's naethin' but rocks and sea. But it's gone down-there's an awfu' odds on it since the war; it's adulterated like a'thing else. It's still ca'ed "Cats' Row," but it's no' what it used to be. I bought a pictur post card of it no' lang syne, and lo! the two principal cats in the foreground turned out to be baith dogs! Just an intake.