Rough Scan
~XXII~
 
THERE'S been a bit in the Scotsman ca'cd "The Old Made Young" and Miss Celandine's been advisin' me to renew my youth like the he-goats and rams that the Paris doctor has been tryin' his tricks on. He says "he has made them frisk like kids and lambs." But friskin' is no' the only differ between youth and age! I've seen auld folk frisky enough on Singin'-e'en or at a weddin', but they calmed down the day efter, so they did. It would ill set me to be fleein' about the house, waggin' my tail, like, so I'll just conteenue to be "Auld Marget Pow" to the end of my days, thenk-ye: I wouldna like to be beholden to a monkey for the prolongation of my earthly career! But there's a minister has found out a better way nor that to keep young, and I'm in a poseetion to give you all parteeclars concernin' the method, for I was at the tea-pairty when he announced his discovery. It was in a church hall-a fine big place-and the occasion was the birthday of the minister. But there was nine ither leddies belongin' the church that all had been born in the same month (it happened to be Feb'uary), and so they settled that they would give a birthday-tea to all the mothers in the congregation. And I was invited to it accidental-like-a sort of a complimentary invitation- through me knowin' a party that knew a leddy that had a friend that worshipped in the kirk. And a fine tea it was, I can tell ye! Birthday-cake, and scones, and cookies fair squirkin' wi' jam, and every one of us got a bunch of snowdrops to stick in our buttonholes, and they lookit fine. Then there was music and singin', and, efter that, the minister got up and made a speech. It was in the middle of it that he eluded to his discovery about how to keep folk young. He bad us obsairve what fresh-like the Nine Leddies that was born in the same month as hissel' lookit (and one of them was a grandmither, no less !), and then he informed us that his assistant had added up their ages (he would get them from the censor), and they came to five hundred! But, when you divided them by nine, they were all under sixty - just fifty-five, and odds! It's a cheery way of lookin' at the subjeck; and Miss Jean pinted out on the road home that, if me and the young leddies were added up and divided by three, we would just be forty; and, even if we threw in Mrs M'Curd (she's older nor me), we wouldna be more nor forty-seeven! But, though we're taught in the Scripturs to bear one another's burdens, I doubt the burden of years is no' sae easy shifted: it'll be the kind that every man must bear hissel', mebbe.
But I mustna omit to mention that the minister said anither good way of keepin' young was to take an interest in young folk; and he told us that his bairns had been at a tea-pairty at the house of one of the Nine; and, when they played at hide-and-seek, where do ye think she hid? In the kitchen-boiler! There's suppleness for ye!
Finally we sang "O God of Bethel!" to the usual tune. There was a wee lassie about eight year auld, with a bonny innocent bit face, standin' in front of the minister; and she fixed her eyes on his face, and never took them off it while she sang the paraphrase a' through without a book. I never saw a mair adorin' look on a bairn's face. And, someway, the sight of her minded me of anither wean, just about the same age, that we saw in a great big church in a foreign city. (I'll no' let on where it was for fear of the censor; but, anyway, we're no' goin' there again.) It was at a Children's Service, and I'll warrant there was a thousand bairns at it; I never saw as many in my life. And the little lassie that the Scotch bairn put me in mind of wasna kneelin' with the rest in the body of the kirk: she was standin' her lane in an open space inside the big door, with her wee thin hands claspit on her breast, and her e'en shut, and her face turned towards the altar. She was poor-like - they were all that - but she was a perfeck pictur of worship, and it was easy to believe that "of such is the Kingdom of Heaven." It's a mercy in these times of fechtin' and general ill-will to recolleck that there's innocent weans all over the world, and that they're much the same nae matter what country or kirk they belong to.
It was in that same church that we saw two wee tots-laddies - come in hand in hand. They lookit about them, and then they accidentally turned their backs on the altar (it was an awfu' distance away) and jennyflected simultaneously to the statue of an auld King that was likely no better than he should have been!
We've been keepin' Armistice Day, and I was out for onions, etc., when the gun fired from the Castle to announce that the two-meenits' silence had begun. I heard on the deefest side o' my heid, I can tell ye, for I was just at the corner of Castle Street. And then there fell such a silence and a stillness as never had been heard afore in the very middle of a workin'-day: it was real solemn. The folk in the street a' stood still, and the very caurs stoppit. I saw a lassie that was just gettin' into one when the gun fired, and there she stood with one foot up and one foot down the whole time. Someway the snow on the pound made the scene mair impressive; and while we were a' holdin' our breath, like, a pibroch sounded far, far away, the only thing that broke silence. I couldna help wonderin' if the great army of dead warriors we were thinkin' on heard the voice of silent stillness, and what it said to them?