Rough Scan
~CHAPTER IX~
NEEDLESS to say, the changes in my hame life which I've juist tellt ye o', and the circumstances in which I was noo placed, had a very unsettlin' and depressin' effect on me. Durin' a' the hert-breakin' times I had come through I had made frequent and regular veesits to Barjarg, and Grizzy, into whose ready ear I had poured a' my troubles, had been throughout my solace and comfort and a perfect tower o' strength.
I took lodgin's wi' auld Peggy Rorrison, for "Rookie" had by this time emigrated to Glesca, and his wee room was vacant, and a clean, comfortable hame, I tell ye, it proved to be. Peggy monopolised me, as she had Rookie, and, kennin' me frae bairn-hood, and wi' the knowledge o' my auld acquaintanceship wi' her grandson, she couldna do ower much to make me happy and comfortable. And in return I did a' I could to help her. I split a' her sticks, cairrit her coals, delved her yaird, and planted her kail and cabbage plants, and when the lang forenichts set in I read to her a' the poems Burns ever wrote, while she sat darnin' my socks or mendin' my workaday claes.
I had plenty to read, for, unknown to me, John M'Andra had bocht the feck o' my faither's books, and ae Setterday nicht efter I had settled doon wi' Peggy he sent the apprentice boy alang wi' them in a barra.
It was, indeed, a pleesant surprise, and I appreciated his thochtfu'ness and kindness in mair weys than yin, for I wrocht to him wi' renewed vigour, wi' a' my hert and mind, and mony an oor I put in that he kenned nocht aboot, and which was a' to his profit and advantage.
Rookie's weygaun frae Thornhill had been a sair hert-brek to Peggy, for, as I've said, he was a' in a' to her, and it had the effect o' softenin' her in mair weys than yin. For ae thing, she swore less, and lookit on her neibors and their actions wi' mair charitableness, and this was reflected on her treatment and behaviour to me, for it was mair like what yin wad expect frae a mither than frae a landlady.
Like a' the rest o' Thornhill fouk, she kenned a' aboot Grizzy and me, and mony a word o' advice and encouragement I got frae her. Sometimes o' a forenicht, when the twae o' us were sittin' roon' the fireside, she wad work her wey roon' to the subject o' coortship and mairrage, and the auld-farrant proverbs and coothie sayin's she cam' away wi' were most divertin'.
"Ay," she wad say, "mairrage cam' my gate when I was a lass in my teens, and a bonnie trauchle the guidman and me had. But we set a stoot hert to a stey brae, and tho' the warld was big and frownin', we yokit to and keepit in mind that a wee moose can creep under a great corn stack. And we never wanted, and tho' we faun oot, as ithers hae dune, that bairns are certain care but nae sure joy, my experience, in the owergate o't a', bids me say that every Jock sood hae his Jenny. A mairrit life is the happiest state, whether it be in the spring o' life or the winter o' auld age. A woman body may fend for hersel', but an aul' unmairrit man is the saddest and maist feckless sicht that yin's e'e can licht upon. So, Rabble, my man, dinna let the grass grow aneath your feet, and dinna be feared to ask her, for a dug winna yowl if ye strike him wi' a bane. 'Wait for Candlemas, and miss the hairst.' No' that I want rid o' ye. Losh, no! faur frae that, but Grizzy's a bonnie bit lass, and she'll get many offers, and never forget that 'Glasses and lassies are bruckle ware.'"
And I wad sit lauchin' and blushin' and pretendin' I was thinkin' lichtly o't, but a' the time I kenned every word she said was true.
The rate o' a journeyman mason's wage at this time was fivepence an oor, or, roughly, aboot eichteen shillin's a week. It wasna very much as wages gang noo-a-days, but eatables and claes were cheaper, and as I had only mysel' to keep, I sune managed to lay by a pound or twae. Every penny was a prisoner, for I kenned that the suner I got a nest-egg the suner wad I hae a nest for Gnizzy, and this airted me to bestir mysel' and to leave nae stane unturned towards that end.
And so the weeks and months passed-months o' sair wark and serious coortin'-and then an event took place which brocht things, as yin micht say, to a held.
Ae nicht when Peggy and me were sittin' oor lanes, Nanny Wallace, the post-woman, opened the door and gied a letter to Peggy, and tell't her that as it was frae Hughie she wad juist wait and hear what news he had to tell o' Glesca. Nanny kenned a' body's business, and her curiosity was lookit upon as a kindly interest, so she was bade sit doon, and I read the letter alood. It was frae Rookie, and it gaed on to say that he had got a guid job aboot Bellahouston, and as he wasna at hame in lodgin's he had taen a hoose and he wantit his grannie to gang and keep it for him. Puir Peggy, she was baith pleased and flattered, but the thocht o' leavin' Thornhill was a serious yin. Nanny had little sentiment aboot her, and when she had heard a' and listened to Peggy's objections, she raise up to gang away, and says she, "Tak' my advice and gang, Peggy. At your time o' life it canna be for lang, and if ye sood happen to dee in Glesca, we'll see that ye're buried in Morton," and she crunched a peppermint drap between her firm set teeth, and left Peggy and me to discuss the situation.
Weel, efter a', Peggy gaed to Glesca to keep hoose for Rookie, and I shifted my quarters to the heid o' the Auld Street, to a weeda woman, Mrs. Wallace, wha bided next door to Jenny Frizzel. Jenny at this time was the toss o' the toon, for she had gien her kailyaird as a site for the Free Kirk at Virginha', and had written poems that were printed in a book; and weel pleased I was to get sae near what yin wad ca' in touch wi' a personage sae famous and muckle spoken o'. Man, mony a confab I had wi' her, and much pleesure and profit I derived; but I wasna lang in findin' oot that she was a woman o' moods, and very marked in her likes and dislikes.
Maister John Tamson, the draper, yin o' the nicest and maist inoffensive gentlemen yin wad wish to meet, was her pet aversion, and many a tussle they had. He had a field juist at the heid o' Jenny's gairden, and was often terribly annoyed at Jenny's hens stravaigin' ower his grun' and scartin' up his corn seed. Ae day efter he had shooed them back through the gairden hedge he tell't Jenny that she wad hae to keep them within boonds, or if he catched them in his field again he wad shoot them. Jenny juist lauched, and tell't him he was a fikey body and had ower little to do.
But, faith, the next day when he cam' up there the hens were back again, so he gaed away doon for his gun, and, my certie, he shot yin as he had said he wad. Weel, man, the report was deefenin', and Jenny cam' rinnin' oot fearin' the warst, and when she saw her favourite cluckie lyin' deid she nearly grat.
Then she put her neeves in her sides, and says she, "Johnnie Tamson, did ye dae that?"
"I did," said he, "but you were warned."
"Ay, ay, man. Weel, let me tell ye this, my wee hen will be chuc-chuckin' in heaven when you're bein' burned in brimstane, and when ye look up and see me in glory in Abram's buzzum you'll mind o' me tellin' ye."
It was a very hard thing to say o' sic an esteemed toonsman as Maister Tamson was, and a' the neibors were vexed for him, for he had lost a' the money he had saved in a lifetime in the ill-fated Emma Mine, and was mair in need o' sympathy than abuse.
Mrs. Wallace was an easy-osie kind o' a woman wi' nae great ambition for wark and very little idea o' cleanleeness in her hoosewark.
Ae mornin' I compleened o' some black smuts I saw in my parritch. She took the bowl to the winda, and efter lookin' casually at the contents she set them doon before me wi' a birr. "Ay, man," says she, "ye're a fikey kind o' a chiel. What ye see is guid clean soot, so diel be licket ye."
"But," says I, "tho' it may be guid and clean, I canna eat soot."
"Weel," says she, "if ye dinna eat it I'll no chairge ye for it," and she ripet the ribs wi' the potstick.
Dod, man, she was the best haun' at hingin' ower a door cheek that ever I saw, and I never kenned anybody who could staun' sae lang lookin' at nocht in particeelar. There's no' much to be seen on the Auld Street, and the traffic is no' extraordinar, as it's oot o' the thoroughfare, but it didna maitter to Mrs. Wallace, for a cat crossin' the road or a gaun man singin' on the street wad keep her entertained for lang eneuch.
Weel I got tired o' her idle weys and her careless habits, and as I had little pleesure in my off-workin' oors, and as I had saved as much as I thocht sufficient to set up hoose, Grizzy and me laid oor heids thegither, as it were, and arranged oor weddin' day.
I was a' the mair minded in this direction by a stroke o' luck which cam' my wey at this time.
It very often happens that by the misfortunes o' ithers fortune comes chappin' at yin's ain door. And so it happened wi' me, for William Harestanes, oor foreman, deid o' a lung trouble-the mason's dreid, as it's caa'd-and as Mrs. M'Andra kenned the crack o' the whup in as far as Grizzy and me were concerned, her coonsels prevailed wi' her guidman, and a prood man, I tell ye, was I when that position was offered to me. It cairried wi' it fower-and-twenty shillin's a week upstaunin', so that there was little chance o' a sicht o' the puirhoose comin' between Grizzy and me and oor happiness.
I aye look back wi' pride and pleesure to the first job I had chairge o'. And what, think ye, it was?-the pointin' o' oor auld grey Cross, that weel-kenned landmark in oor village street aroon' wha's steps I had played as a boy, and wha's fluted pillar and panelled base the exile frae hame has yearned for in his daylicht thochts and seen in his midnicht dreams.
Oh, man, hoo carefully and reverently I fingered its flyin' horse, and wi' what interest I saw to its weather-beaten joints and its crumblin' moulds. To me it was a labour o' love. It micht or it micht no' hae peyed M'Andra, but I did for it a' I could and wrocht on it a' I kenned, and, efter six-and-forty years o' winter blasts and simmer suns, it is nae sma' pleesure and satisfaction for me to see to-day, bleeched and white, my handiwark o' auld lang syne.
Weel, as I tell ye, Peggy Harrison's removal frae Thornhill, in the lang hinner-end, led to my weddin', and, suppose I say it wha shouldna, a most enjoyable and pleesurable event this turned oot to be.
Mrs. M'Andra-that was, of coorse, Grizzy's aunt-put ower the weddin'. For ae thing, Grizzy's grandfaither and grandmither couldna be fashed at their time o' life, and for anither, they hadna the accommodation that Mrs. M'Andra had for a biggish company, and richt weel and handsomely did she do it. The tea was a splendid affair. I never saw sae many different kinds o' eatables on ae table; but, faith, believe me, they had nae attraction for me, as I had Grizzy beside me, and I was sittin' in a prominent place, and I had a black coat on that gruppit me most terribly aneath the oxters.
Then we danced in the kitchen- "Paddy o' Rafferty," the "Flo'ers o' Edinburgh," "Petronella," and "The Deil among the Tailors"- and the fun and the frolic and the hoochin' and hurrayln' was something by-ordinar. Auld-farrant sangs o' mebbe ten dooble verses, and each wi' a chorus, were sung atween the dances, and sae slick and blythely did a' things gang, and sae happy and merry was yin and a', that the oors slippit by like linkie.
I had got a nice wee but and ben at the east end o' the Dry Gill prepared for Grizzy, and it was oor intention to slip away hame unbeknown to ony o' them; but Mrs. M'Andra had a lot o' freens and relations frae the Keir and Penpont wha thocht that nae weddin' ceremony was complete till the bride was bedded, and this, I'm sorry to say, Grizzy had to put up wi'.
Oh, the lauchin' and daffin' and banterin' nonsense that accompanied it. It was like a Keltonhill fair. When she was put to bed she had, accordin' to the custom, to fling her richt foot stockin' amang the company, and the yin it lichted an was, of coarse, to be, oot o' them a', the first yin to be mairret.
It fell on the neck o' an auld maiden aunt o' Grizzy's frae Scaurbank, and she nearly fainted.
Weel, efter a' the collieshangie, I got a' the fouk oot, and had juist got into my bed, when frae aneath the table oot crawled a lang spindle-legged dry stane-dyker, yin Geordie Ferguson, frae Penpont, and I could see at aince that he had a gless mair than was guid far him.
I was angry, but I keepit my temper, and I reasoned calmly wi' him and tell't him like a guid chap to gang away and rejoin the company. But he had some tricks he wanted to show Grizzy and me, and he was anxious I wad wager him a shillin' that he wadna put his heel in his neck. Juist to humour him and get rid a' him I did sae, so doon an the flaer he got, and, certie, efter a lot o' twistin' and sprauchlin', he managed his point, and a queer-lookin' sowl he was sittin' there doobled up and tied in a knot, as it were. Then be began to screich and yowl and tumble aboot, and, dod, man, it turned oot he couldna get his heel oot again, and in the cauld and wi' a very bad grace I had to get up oot o' my bed and gie him a haun'. I saw him oot o' the door wi' his breeks riven at the back, his toozled hair amang his een, and his dickie lyin' on his shooder-blade like a crumpled dishcloot.
We were kirkit the followin' Sabbath day, and it struck me that the congregation was by-ordinar big. Some o' the nobility were steyin' at the Castle at the time, and the Duke's pew was filled. Guidness only kens hoo they knew that Grizzy and me were to be kirkit, but the big fouk are mair aware o' the ongauns o' the commonality than yin wad suspect; and it was very nice o' them to coontenance the event.
Mony eyes were upon us that day, but we stood the ordeal weel, and when we skailed we walked hame thro' the Gill, me wi' an umbrella-a thing I had never cairret before-and Grizzy wi' her grandmither's Testament in her haun's, lookin' strecht afore us, but coothie eneuch, juist as if we had been mairret for ten years.