XVI SANDY’S CHRISTMAS PRESENT. OH, wheesht! When Sandy’s on for doin’ something special, he nearhand aye mak’s a gutter o’t some wey or ither. On Setarday nicht he was gaen aboot hostin’, an’ spittin’, an’ sayin’ ilky noo an’ than, “Ay, Bawbie; it’s a fine nicht the nicht.” He sweepit oot ahent the washin’ soda barrel twa-three times; then he rowed up the tnock that ticht that she’s never steered a meenit sin’ syne. He took the hammer an’ ca’d a’ the coals fair into koom, an’ then he redd up at the back shop till I cudna lay my hands on a single thing ‘at I wantit. I saw fine there was something i’ the wind; but, do my best, I cudna jaloose what it was. He put on the shop shutters, an’ syne screwed aff the gas at the meeter afore I got the bawbees oot o’ the till, an’ stack in, ye never saw the like, he was that anxious to gie me a hand that he hendered me near half an ‘oor. This gaed on a’ Sabbath! He was three times at the kirk, an’ he roostit an’ sang till the bit lassies I’ the very koir lookit aboot akinda feard like. But Sandy never jowed his jundie. He put in anither button o’ his coat, an’ stack in till the Auld Hunder like the Jock o’ Wellinton at the battle o’ Waterloo. The koir sang an anthem i’ the efternune, an’ Sandy sang anither at the same time, the rest o’ the fowk harkenin’ to the competition. Sandy gaed squawlin’ an’ squawkin’ up an’ doon amon’ the quivers, an’ through the middle o’ what he ca’d the cruchits, juist like a young pairtrick amon’ a pozel o’ hag. Mistress Glendie, that sits at the tap o’ oor seat, is a bit o’ a singer, an’ she put back her lugs an’ skooled like a fountin’ mule at Sandy, oot at the corner o’ her specks; but Sandy never lut dab. His een, when he hadna his nose buried in his book, were awa’ i’ the roof o’ the kirk, an’ Mistress Glendie never got a squawk in ava, eksep when Sandy was swallowin’ his spittal. Gaen to the kirk at nicht was something to mind aboot. There wasna a lamp to be seen—an’ sic roads! The very laddies frae the Sabbath Schule were gaen on the paidmint, whaur there were maist gutters, an’ skowf kickin’ them at ane anither. The middle o’ the road cudna haud the can’le to the paidmints for glaur lest Sabbath. Sandy an’ me gaed kloiterin’ alang the Port, Sandy yatterin’ ilky noo-an’-than— ”Keep on the plennies, ‘oman.” He was keepin’ his e’e on his feet that steady, that, afore I kent whaur I was, he had baith o’s wammlin’ aboot amon’ the gutters doon the Dens. He’d taen the wrang side o’ the dyke at the fit o’ the High Road, an’ awa’ doon the brae instead o’ up! We saw the muckle lamp up abune the brig juist like a lichthoose twenty mile awa’. Sandy was widin’ aboot amon’ the mud, an’ his lorn shune liftin’ wi’ a noisy gluck, juist like a pump aff the fang. “I think this is shurely the Sloch o’ Dispond we ye gotten intil, Bawbie,” says he. “It looks liker the Wardmill Dam,” says I, I says; “but if I get oot o’t livin’, I’ll lat the pileece hear o’t. A gey Lichtin’ Commitee we have, to hae fowk wammlin’ aboot i’ the mirk like this on their wey to the kirk! There’s ower muckle keepin’ fowk i’ the dark a’ roond,” says I, I says; “an’ there maun be an end till’t. It’s a perfeck scandal.” Juist at this meenit Sandy got grips o’ the railin’ o’ the stair, an’ him an’ me got ane anither trailed up some wey or ither. Gin I got on the paidmint, I was slippin’ here an’ there like some lassie on the skeetchin’ pond, till doon I skaikit, skloit on the braid o’ my back, an’ left my life-size engravin’ i’ the middle o’ the road. Eh, it was a gude thing I didna hae on my best frock! I shiftit at tea-time, for thae gutters mak’ sic a dreedfu’ mairter o’ a body. “It’s a black, burnin’ shame,” says Sandy, as he gaithered me up; “an’ I howp some o’ thae Lichtin’ Commitee chappies ‘ill get a dook amon’ the gutters the nicht for this pliskie o’ theirs. It’s a fine nicht for’t. Fowk peyin’ nae end o’ rates, an’ a’ the streets as dark as a cell — a sell it is, an’ nae mistak’. Feech! I tell ye what it is an’ what it’s no’, Bawbie—” “Wheesht, Sandy,” says I. “Keep me, if ye go on rantin’ like that, the fowk ‘ill think ye’ve startit the street preachin’. Haud your lang tongue. I’m no’ michty muckle the waur.” Sandy took oct his tnife an’ gae me a bit skrape; an’ we landit at the kirk an’ got a rale gude sermon aboot the birkie ‘at belanged to Simaria an’ fell on his road hame, an’ so on. I wasna muckle the waur o’t efter a’—o’ the fa’, I mean, of coorse, no’ the sermon — an’, when we got hame, I got aff my goon; an’ the’ Sandy gae the Lichtin’ Commitee an’ the gutter-raikers a gey haf-’oor’s throo the mill, I didna think muckle mair aboot it. But, as I was sayin’, this was a’ leadin’ up to something. Sandy cudna sit still at nicht, an’ he sang an’ smokit till, atween bein’ deaved an’ scumfished, I was nearhand seek. Efter readin’ oor chapter, I gaed awa’ to my bed. I lookit up twa-three times an’ saw Sandy sittin’ afore the fire, twirlin’ his thooms, an’ gien a bit whistle noo an’ than. Efter a while he put oot the gas, an’ syne began to tak’ aff his claes, an’ wide aboot amon’ the furniture as uswal. He got intil his bed efter a quarter o’ an oor’s miscellaneous scramblin’, an’ was sune snorin’ like a dragoon. When I got atower i’ the mornin’, what is there sittin’ on my ,chair but a great muckle shortie in a braw box, wi’ a Christmas caird on the tap o’t. When I opened the box here’s ane o’ my stockin’s lyin’ on the tap o’ a great big cake, juist like this: - I lookit anower at Sandy, an’ here’s him lyin’ wi a look on his face like’s he was wantin’ on the Parochial Buird. “Eh, Sandy! What a man you are!” I says, says I; for, mind you, I was a richt prood woman on Munanday mornin’. “It was Sandy Claws, ‘oman,” says he, lauchin’. “He cudna get the box into your stockin’, so he juist put your stockin’ into the box. But it’s juist sax an’ half a dizzen, I suppose.” I hude up the cake to the licht, an’ read oot the braw white sugar letters— ”‘To B. Bowden from a Fiend.’ But wha’s the fiend, Sandy?” says I, I says. “Fiend!” roared Sandy, jumpin’ ooten his bed. “Lat’s see’t.” He glowered at the cake like’s he was tryin’ to mismerise somebody, an’ then he says, “See a haud o’ my troosers there, Bawbie. I’ll go doon an’ pet that baker through his mixin’ machine. I’ll lat him see what kind o’ a fiend I am. I’ll fiend him.” “Hover a blink, Sandy,” says I. “Here’s ane o’ the letters stickin’ to my stokin’.” Shure eneuch, here was a great big “R” stickin’ to the ribs o’ my stockin’; so I juist took a lickie glue an’ stak her on the cake, an’ made it read a’ richt. Sandy was rale pleased when he saw me so big aboot my cake; an’ he’s been trailin’ in aboot a’ the neepers to see “the wife’s cake,” as he ca’s’t. An’ he stands wi’ his thooms i’ the oxter holes o’ his weyscot, an’ lauchs, an’ says, “Tyuch; naething ava; no wirth speakin’ aboot,” when I tell them hoo big I am aboot it. She’s genna be broken on Munanday—Nooeer’s-day. If you’re passin’ oor wey, look in an’ get a crummie. I’ll be richt gled to see you, I’m shure. A happy noo ‘ear to you, when it comes—an’ mony may ye see! Ah-hy! Gude-day wi’ ye i’ the noo than Imphm! Gude-day. See an’ gie’s a cry in on Munanday, noo-na. Ta-ta!