Rough Scan
~XVII~
 
WE'VE had Duncan M'Neil to see us. He's leavin' the Army through lossin' his airm at the Front, and he's got the promise of a pension, but he'll have to fill up the form first.
It's no' easy fillin' up a form; I've aye kent that. No' that I've had muckle to do with it mysel'; but syne I used to get a money-order through the post, and I never could mind whether it was me that was the "payee" (as they ca' it) or the ither man. Poor felly! I lent him five pound twenty-nine year ago come Martinmas. He just needed it for a month, he said, or mebbe no' sae long, as a temp'ry accommodation like. But he's never made oot to get it a' paid back yet. He's very likely dead and buried by this time. But, if he is, he never let on.
It's no' me, though, that's got a form to fill up the now-it's Duncan, and he's terribly taken up about it, for anither sojer has been tellin' him a' the questions he'll need to answer, and he's feared he'll loss his pension if he canna pass the examination right.
I gave him a good tea to hearten him; and Miss Jean and Miss Celandine came ben to see him: he was gairdner's boy at the Old House when the young leddies was just bairns.
"What kind of questions do they ask, Duncan?" says Miss Jean; "they surely won't be so very difficult to answer?"
"No' difficult, mem!" says Duncan, wi' a kind-o' a snort- "no difficult! The very first yin is 'date of marriage'! Figure that! 'Date of marriage'! It's like their impidence !
"Ye dinna mean to tell me, Duncan M'Neil," says I, "that ye dinna mind when ye was mairried?"
"Och ay; I ken fine when I was mairret," he says; "it was the year efter the hen-house at the Manse was pented green" (Duncan was a penter to his trade); " but if ye think that'll serve them, wumman, ye're muckle mista'en. Rab Thamson tellt me that naething less than the exack day and the exack month 'ull satisfee them-set them up!"
"Was it winter or summer?" says Miss Celandine, tryin' to look awfu' intelligent.
"I dinna mind. I was pourin' wi' sweat," says Duncan, cast-down like.
"Then it was summer!" cries Miss Celandine, quite triumphant.
" It was naething o' the sort, mem" (it's little use contradickin' Duncan M'Neil); "it was a cold sweat. Ye'll mind that Leeby but to be mairret in the Peliscumpalian Church on the ither side of the Loch? Weel, no suner was I standin' afore the meenister, and Leeby by my side, than he up and says (efter a few introductory remarks), 'Willst thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife?' says he, loud out, an' a' the folk in the kirk listenin'. 'Weel, sir,' says I, 'ye see Leeby's that set on it'- and I was preparin' to gie him the real facks o' the case, when Leeby gave me the maist awfu' dunch wi' her elby, and, says she, in a fearsome whisper, 'Say "I will" to the gentleman.' So I said 'I will'; and, no'. five meenits efter, the meenister said, 'I pernounce thee to be Man and Wife.' I aye kent that I was a Man; and weel I wot that Leeby would never rest till she was a Wife; but he needna have made it the clash of the countryside, and I was pourin' wi' sweat, summer or no' summer."
"And what is the next question?" says Miss Jean; she's aye sympathisin'.
"Weel, mem, they start on the bairns next, and they need to know a' their names, and when every yin o' them was born."
I would have thocht ony man would have remembered when his first-born was put into his airms; but no' Duncan M'Neil.
"Jamie's the oldest," says I, to give him a lift, like. But the maist he would say was that anyway Jamie was born afore any of the rest: he's cautious. He minded his oldest lassie's name easy-it's Maggie - and he was sairtain she was older then Leeby (she's the third); but they needna try to get exack dates out o' Duncan, nor names either: he's yin o' thae folk that canna mind them.
However, efter he had thocht a whilie, he recolleckit perfeckly that the fourth o' them-there's sieven a'thegither-was either a lassie or a laddie; and the twins was the next two; and he couldna mind exackly when they were born, but it was either before or efter Leeby got her black silk, and about the same time that Jamie had the fit. And it was efter Tit (they ca' the twins Tit and Tat for bye-names) got the better of the wheezles that the Baby cam' forrit; and he's name is Duncan; and he was born no' that long ago. So, efter a', if they put in the parteeclars that Mr M'Neil mentioned, the form will no' be empy: it'll do him credit, so it will.