Rough Scan
~XIX~
 
IT's naitral when folk are gettin' on in life to look back and ponder on the wonderfu' changes that has come to pass in the last fifty years or thereabout. There's hardly a shop left in Princes Street, Edinburgh, but what has been altered and renuviated since first I set foot in the town! And I'm thankfu' to say that they've discontinued a'thegither the habit of drownin' witches in the Nor' Loch. But I mind an auld body at Carldoddie tellin' me, when I was a lassie, that when she was goin' to her first place in the town, here did she no' land at the West End at the very meenit when a crowd of folk was tryin' to drown a witch! It was an awfu' reception to get. It's a mercy that witches appears to be extinck now; and there's naethin' left of the Nor' Loch but a fountain that lets out a whiffie of water nows and thens, when there's grand folk bidin' in the town, and the man that attends to the water happens no' to be on strike. But mercy me! there's no' a workman of no sort, from waiters to grave-diggers, but what takes a bit strike to theirsels when they're that way inclined. Appearin'ly work's no' the blessin' it used to be considered. And what with some shops shuttin' airly on Tuesday; and ithers closin' at one 'clock on Wednesday; and the lave o' them puttin' up the shutters on Setterday efternoon, it's a fair torment to get your shoppin' by. I'm aye thankfu' now when Christmas is past-the shops are that throng. It's mair kept in Scotland nor what it used to be when I was young. We aye kept Singin'-e'en in Fife, and New Year's Day, but there was no' muckle nottice taken of Christmas. Then all of a suddent Christmas cairds came forrit, and Christmas presents. Ye'll see the shop-windies just crammed wi' shortbread cakes with grand devices on them made o' sugar. "Ye ken wha frae" is a favourite motty; but the folk that sends their freends that style takes good care to put a wee bit paper inside to tell that it was them that sent it. It's as weel to "mak' siccar," as the Black Douglas said.
But it wasna till I was at Brighton for Christmas time that I kent how it was kept in England. Lady Lindesay had a furnished house in Chesham Place, and me and the young leddies paid her a visit. We arrived a full fortnight afore Christmas Day, but the carol-singin' had begun, and it went on, mair or less, till Christmas Eve. One company of singers would come in at the top end o' the street bawlin', "'Ark the errol aingils sing," and anither set would come up from the seaside singin', "Wile shepherds watched their flocks by night," and when they met in the middle of the street, just about opposeed our house, there was the maist awfu' rippat! The way they argle-bargled and scandaleezed one another was fearsome. And thankfu' were we to pour oil on the troubled waters in the form of coppers.
Then there was folk that played on cornets, flutes, salteries, etcintera, and they played no' that bad; but the tune was gruesome. They aye came when I was in my bed, and tooted away that slow and waesome that it gave me a melancholy sinkin' in the inside of me, so it did. At the hinder end I askit Miss Jean if she kent what the tune was ca'ed, and she said it was "The Mistletoe Bough." It didna sound like it: I was fair sick of it afore Christmas came.
What a cairds I got that year! The bairns sent me one each, and Merran sent a grand one with a sprig of heather glued on inside, and the words;
 
==Oh! yer company to share
===At this jolly Christmas season;
==Oh! to grip yer haun aince mair,
===But we maun abide by reason!
 
She was aye a sensible lassie.
Mrs M'Curd didna forget me. She sent me a handsome caird depictin' five well-fed-lookin' owls, graduated sizes, sittin' in a row on a tree mair nor half asleep, and underneath, printed in gold, was the well-known words, "Should auld acquaintance be forgot." Her and me is auld freends, but I never saw an owl but once, on the road by the river near Springfield.