Rough Scan
~XVIII~
 
I'M gettin' raither uneasy about Miss Celandine and the corporal in the kilt. He's been comin' to the house, and they're ower chief now for my taste. There was one night, no' long syne, when he took ten meenits by the kitchen-clock to say good-bye. And when I went upstairs, causually-like, here was the corporal standin' starin' at a pictur on the wall; and Miss Celandine with her back to him gazin' at the lobby-clock for a' she was worth. "You may weel look at the clock, Miss Celandine," says I; "it's past ten, and if the gentleman doesna hurry he'll be clappit inta irons the meenit he gets back to the Barracks, so he will."
"But I've got an extension of leave to-night, Mrs Pow," says he, real pitiful-like. "I'm off to the Front to-morrow, you know."
"Weel," says , "you're jist like a' the rest- 'Give them a fish and they'll take a whale,' as the proverb says," and, with that, I bad him good-bye, and left the two their lane.
I didna see Miss Celandine again that night, but the next mornin' I thought I would give her a warnin', so I told her a story I heard about a corporal's wife. I dinna mind right what the beginnin' o't was, but I think she was likely applyin' for something that sojers' wives was entitled to. And the gentleman says to her, "Your husband is a corporal, isn't he?" "Corporal!" says she, wi' a perfeck bawl. "I dinna ken whether he's a corporal, or a wastrel, or a mongrel, but I ken fine he's a scoundrel!"
But Miss Celandine's no' easy turned, and she jist gave a bit laugh. Then I pinted out the perils of war, and read her out a bit that a Chaplain wrote, namely: "The life of the soldier is one of great hardship; not infrequently mingled with moments of real danger."
But she didna lift me, and "He that winna be counselled canna be helped." It's queer, though, that I never see the kilty corporal without bein' minded of somebody I've seen somewhere, and there's a name comes inta my mind like "tumty-tumty," so it does. Mrs M'Curd thinks he'll likely turn out to be a Prince in disguise; she's romantic whiles, is Eliza.
There's been a great furory about garden-plots lately owin' to the fearsome price of pitaties and ither vegetables. Miss Celandine's got one at Comely Bank, and she's real proud of it. She had me hauled away down to the foot of the Orchard Brae to see it. The cabbages was the most prominent featur of the display-the shanks of them are that long that they minded me of stunted palm-trees; and the tattles are wee, wee. But Miss Celandine is quite pleased, and we had a work to keep her from goin' "on the land," as they ca' it. She was mad when she fand out that the Agricultural Leddies had no skirts whatever - just top-boots and peenies - she was sairtain she would have set the costume fine. But the worms and the ear-wigs put her aff it; she canna bide them - parteeclarly the latters; she flees at the sight of them. It's wonderfu', mind you, to see what an effeck uniforms has upon the female mind. Mebbe now they've got them theirsels they'll no' think so much of them on the menfolk. There's all sorts - blue, and yella, and grey, and a bonny shade the same as the Fleein' Corpse, and buttons by the dizen, and wee jaikets and long jaikets. But there's one thing they've a' got the same, i.e. skirts like kilts! Many's the time I've thought' on Emily, the young leddy in The Fairchild Family that broke the whole ten commandments as a warnin' to ither bairns. She was mebbe the worst of the lot-the sort of rake of the faimly-and when she was goin' the pace (at the age of twelve or thirteen), here did she no' get a new frock "fully displaying the ancles." Ancles! Her grandchildren are likely fully displayin' their knees, and naebody either up or down! But Emily didna get off so easy. As far as I mind, she fell inta the pig-stye when she was caperin' on the wall, showin' off her ancles, and I'll warrant her skirt was let down two or three inches efter that.
But there's an awfu' odds on books for bairns now: they're no' near sae serious, and the picturs are bonnier. I just had three wee bookies when I was a lassie, and I've got them yet. They belanged to my mither afore me, so they're no' exactly modern. The one the young leddics liked the best when they were wee was ca'ed The Little Monitor, or Good Examples for Children: Calculated to Form Their Minds, and Lead Them to Virtue. I'm no' sae sure about formin' their minds, but many's the laugh they had at the stories. They were peculiarly sudden-like. The one ca'ed "Temperance" starts wi' the words: "Oh! what beautiful fruits and what nice wine on the sideboard! Yet these aimiable children ate nothing but dry bread. It was mamma's order, and she was imprudent in exposing her children to such temptation." "That's one for 'mamma,'" Miss Celandine aye says, when she's readin' to the little Lindesays: it's queer what fond they are of the "Miffis Pow books," as they ca' them. When it comes to "Aminta is a little glutton," they crowd round their auntie, cryin', "Let's see Aminta!" and then they roar and laugh at the pictur; and little wonder! Aminta's nose and mouth and chin are jet-black; I doubt she had been at the treacle, instead of confinin' hersel' to dry bread like the ither "aimiable children." And I dinna think Pussyfoot would think much of a story ca'ed "Temperance" bein' illustriated with a pictur of two quart bottles of wine - no' him!
There's a story ca'ed "Courage," and it starts just the same sudden way, as follies: "Francis and Amelia were on the water in a boat, which their parents, by mistake, had left in their way." "That's right-blame the parents!" cries Miss Celandine; and then she asks the bairns all round where ought the parents to have put the boat? And she ends with tellin' them "on the top shelf of the wardrobe in the back bedroom."
"Modesty" is a great favourite with the children - no' the virtue exackly; I doubt it's ower auldfashioned for the present day-but the story. It begins wi', "These are little Charles and Louisa, whom they are crowning." "They" is an auld gentleman in a black suit like skin-tights; nae doubt it would be the fashion then; but he's no' a nice-lookin' gentleman.
The two other wee books is The Book of Beasts for Young Persons, beginnin' wi' an elephant-no' a sootable pet for young persons at all; and Twenty-Eight Divine Songs for the Use of Children. The best known one is, "How doth the little busy bee," but, as Miss Celandine aye mixes it up with "Delight to bark and bite," Lady Lindesay says the bairns is no' to be learned it wrong.
The last time Miss Celandine gave me the "Miffis Pow books" to put back in my kist, she says to me, "Take good care of them, for I know my children will enjoy them immensely-especially the twins!" Did you ever?