VIII SANDY AND THE RHUBARB TART. WAS ever a woman so provokit wi’ a ramstam, dotrifeed gomeral o’ a man? Sandy Bowden ‘ill hae me i’ my grave yet afore my time, as shure’s I’m a livin’ woman. There’s no’ a closed e’e for me this nicht; an’ there’s Sandy awa’ till his bed wi’ his airms rowed up in bits o’ an auld yellow-cotton apron o’ Mistress Mikaver’s mither’s. Eh, since me; an’ me was so happy no’ mony ‘oors syne! We gaed awa’ to hae a cup o’ tea wi’ Mistress Mikaver — that’s the scone-baker’s widow, ye ken. Her auldest laddie’s been awa’ oot amon’ the Reed Indians, or some o’ thae ither lang-haired, naked fowk ‘at never wash themsel’s; an’ they say he’s made a heap o’ bawbees. He’s a snod bit stockie—a little beld, an’ bowd-leggit, an’ wants a thoom. But, I’ll swag, the young kimmers that were at the pairty didna see muckle wrang wi’ him. There was as keen competition for him amon’ the lassies as gin he’d been a gude-gaen public-hoose puttin’ up for unction. Me an’ Sandy landed amon’ the first o’ the fowk. A’thing was richt snod, I assure ye. Mistress Mikaver had the stair noo whitened, an’ every stap was kaumed an’ sandit, ye never saw the like. An’ there she was hersel’ wi’ her best black goon on, no’ a smad to be seen on’t, an’ her lace kep an’ beady apron. She was a dandy, an’ nae mistak’. Afore Sandy got up the stair he manished to mairter the feck o’ his Sabbath claes wi’ the whitenin’; an’ I was akinda feard Mistress Mikaver micht mistak’ him for the scone-baker’s ghost. But we got him made gey snod, an’ syne we gaed inby to the ben-hoose fireside, an’ had a crack wi’ young Aleck. That’s the son’s name. Sandy an’ him gob started aboot mustaings, an’ Indeens, an’ boomirangs, an’ scoots an’ ither scoondnils, till I cudna be deaved ony langer wi’ their forrin blethers; so ben to but-the-hoose I gaed to hae a twa-handit crack wi’ Aleck’s mither. When I opened the door, here’s as mony lassies as wudda startit a noo mill. They’d been a’ deckin’ themsel’s but-the-hoose afore they cam’ ben to see Meek, d’ye see? He made himsel’ rale frank, an’ speer’d for a’ their mithers, an’ a’thing; an’ then we got roond the ben-hoose table, an’ had a fine game at the totum for cracknets. Sandy juist got gey pranky, as uswal, afore he was lang startit. He’s aye the same when he gets amon’ young lassies, the auld ass ‘at he is. “T tak’s them a’ but ane,” he roared in the middle o’ the game; an’ he grippit up a nivfu’ o’ the cracknets, an’ into his moo wi’ them. His een gaed up intil his heid, an’ gin I hadna gien him a daud i’ the back, that garred the nets flee oot o’ his moo a’ ower the table, he’d been a chokit korp in a meenit or twa, juiet as shure’s the morn’s Setarday. But little did I think what was afore’s! Gin I’d kenned, I’d latten him chok, the mairterin’ footer ‘at he is. We a’ gaed awa’ doon the yaird aboot half-past seven, to see a noo henhouse ‘at Aleck had been tarrin’ that efternune. He maun be a handy carl, mind ye. “Tak’ care o’ your frocks, for that tar’s weet yet,” says Aleck to the lassies. “Ay, man, so it is,” says Sandy, takin’ a slaik o’t aff wi’ his fingers, an’ syne dichtin’t on the tail o’ his sirtoo, the nesty character, ‘at I shud say sic a wird! “Man, Aleck,” says Sandy, when we were a’ on the green juist takin’ a look roond aboot’s, “it looks juist like the streen that you sat up on that very tree there, an’ pappit Gairner Winton wi’ oslins that you’d stealt ooten his ain gairden. I mind I was here when he cam’ doon to tell your father aboot your ongaens. You was a wild tyke o’ a laddie, I can tell ye. Your father gae you an awfu’ paikin’; but fient a hair did you care. He wasna weel dune tannin’ you when you was roarin’ ‘Hairy Grozers‘— that was a by-name o’ the Gairner’s—in at Winton’s shop door. You was a roid loon.” Aleck took a nicht herty much at Sandy’s blethers, an’ the twa o’ them were juist thick an’ three-faud afore they were half-an-’oor thegither. Yet wudda thocht they’d kent ane anither sin’ ever they were doakit. Gin we cam’ back, Aleck’s mither had a fine supper a’ ready on the table. She had a can’le here an’ there, an’ pucklies o’ chuckinwirth an’ persly scattered roond the rob-rays. It was awfu’ nice. It would raley garred ye think ye was amon’ braw fowk. I was juist sittin’ admirin’t when Aleck says, “Ay, then, are ye a’ ready?” We had to hover a blink till Mistress Mikaver ran ben the hoose for a knife to Mey Mershell. “Mester Bowden ‘ill say the grace noo,” says Aleck; an’ Sandy was on his feet like the shot o’ a gun, hostin’ to clear his throat. I dreedit he wud mak’ a gutter o’t somewey or ither, an’ so I keepit my een open. Sandy shut his, an’ so did a’ the rest. He leaned forrit an’ spread oot the muckle clunkers o’ hands o’ him on the tap o’ the pest o’ a big roobarb tent. “O Lord,” was a’ the len’th he’d gotten, when in he gaed, up near to the elbas amon’ the het roobarb; an by a’ the skoilin’ an’ roarin’ ever I heard, there never was the like! A gey grace it was, I can tell ye! It’ll no’ be the morn nor next day ‘at I’ll forget it. He roared an’ yowled like I kenna what, an’ blackgairded reed-het roobarb terts, till I thocht he wudda opened the very earth. “O, haud your tongue, Sandy Bowden!“ I cried, my very heid like to rive wi’ his yalpin’. “Haud my tongue?“ says he. “How can I haud my tongue, an’ my airms stewin’ amon’ boilin’ jeelie?” Juist at this meenit Aleck aff wi’ Sandy’s coat syne he but the hoose wi’ him an’ garred him shove his airms ower the heid in his mither’s floor pock. It deidened the pain in a wink, an’ efter a whilie we got the airms rowed up. I cudna gae ben to bid the ither fowk guid-nicht, my bert was that sair; an’ Sandy was hingin’ his heid like a sick dog. Puir man, he has mibby mair than me to thole; but I wudda gien a five-pound note ‘at I hadna left my ain hoose this nicht. I’ll awa’ to my bed, for my hert’s perfeckly i’ my moo.