Rough Scan
~CHAPTER XI~
As I've already said, Grizzy and me made up oor minds to keep oor coonsds to oorsel's regairdin' my legacy. Weel, we did sae, but, dod, man, at times it was tryin' wark. It comes so natural to be croose when yin has a hunner pounds in the bank and when yin kens yin has safely laid bye as much as a hunner weeks' wark is worth. But we keepit a quate sough, and wi' the exception o' the Maister and Dr. Russell, the banker, naebody had ony idea o' oor wealth.
Noo, I've told you, as I promised, hoo I got my ain bank accoont, and when I bring my story up to my stertin' "on my ain," you and me will hae to pairt for a wee. If I gaed any faurer I wad hae to bring in names which are not yet on any heidstane, and ye ken as weel as I do that hooever reverently ye speak o' the deid, ye mann be equally truthfu' and circumspec' in talkin' o' the livin'.
Some day when I can gie rope to my tongue I'll caa' the crack again wi' ye, but meanwhile I'll content mysel' wi' acquaintin' ye wi' anither o' the steppin'-stanes o' my life, and that is the yin that led up to the signboard wi' my name on it, which to this day staun's ower my yaird gate.
Dod, man, the langer I live in Thornhill and the better I am acquaint wi' the valley o' the Nith, the mair am I impressed wi' the beauties aroon' me, and gratefu' and thankfu' I am that my line o' life has been cast in sic pleesant places.
I've aye had an e'e for a bonnie sicht and an ear for a pleesant soon', and livin', as I have, a' my life in sic an earthly paradise, you may be very sure these twae organs have been mony and mony a time gratified.
My wark has taen me oot in the early mornin', when the eyelid o' nicht had been lifted frae the eye-ball o' earth and left it brichtened wi' pulsin' life, and skinklin' wi' tear-draps o' dew, when the quateness, as o' a Sabbath mornin', was lyin' on the fields and woods, broken only by the trill o' the laverock and the mornin' sang o' the mavis, and when the revivin' rays o' an early sun cast softenin' shadows east and west and raised a' nature to life and joy aince mair.
And I was young and healthy and strong, and I rejoiced in my strength, and I whussled and sang as I gaed to my wark, and I rarely felt tired, for workin' was a pleesure and my hame-life a heaven.
Efter the dreich severe winter I've spoken o', spring set in early and cheerily, and wark o' a' kinds in the country was plentifu'. I resumed my labours at the Quarry, but later I was taen on by a newcomer frae Sanquhar, yin caa'd Gilbert Mathieson, wha held oot to me the promise o' guid, steady, weel-peyed employment.
To be candid, I wasna much enamoured wi' the man and his weys, but his money was as guid as what was gaun, and the wark he had on haun' was within easy reach o' the toon.
It's an auld sayin' that "new maisters hae new servers," and sae it turned oot in my case, for I cam' in contact at this time wi' ain or twae ither masons I had had but slicht kennen o' before. It was here I first worked wi' Sandy Rae as a mate. Him and me bein' baith Thornhill men had been lang acquaint, and tho' I kenned him to be peculiar and his word no very dependable, it was only efter closer acquaintance that I found oot hoo by-ordinar queer and forby a man he was.
Sandy was a very wee man in stature, but as big as Bellybucht in his ain estimation. He walked alang the street wi' an air o' importance, his stemmed bonnet cocket to the side and his elbos oot and his airms swaggerin', as if the street belanged to him. He never missed a chance o' bringin' his five feet three into prominence and assertin' his richts o' manhood. He kenned a' aboot the Government o' the country, what should be law and what should no'. The art o' warfare he had at his finger ends, and if the Russians had only taen his advice, Inkerman wad hae been their victory and Sebastopol wad never hae fallen.
It was a great treat to hear him holdin' forth. When he was at a loss for a word he juist made yin to suit himsel'. Ocht he didna ken aboot a subject he imagined or invented, and sometimes, efter he had got the length o' his tether o' facts and knowledge, and had sterted wi' his imagination wark, it was beautifu' and edifyin' to hear him caa' his gird, usin' queer-soondin' lang-nebbet words, lyin' like a mill-shillin', and never aince swallowin' his spittle or geein' his beever.
He was yin o' the bonniest and cleanest liars that ever it was my preevilege to ken. I must say, tho', that he never lied to do onybody ony hairm. That was in his favour. A' that he did was to employ his gift in glorifyin' himsel' and in giein' illustrations o' his sharpness and prowess in word and action.
We had a lot o' wark aboot tbe Tibbers at the time, and ae day when we were sittin' eatin' oor pieces we got on the subject o' the Duke's fouk and the servants they had, and the horses and cairrages they keepit.
"Ay," said Sandy, "wi' a' his wealth he's a kindly-herted, easy-approached man is the Duke. Ae day, last time they were at the Castle, I was comin' up the Plummery Brae when I juist met him face to face, and says he to me, 'Well, Sandy-' Sandy, mind ye; of coorse he kent me brawly, for I was brocht up at tbe Farthingbank. 'Well, Sandy,' says be, 'I hope you're well, and I'm glad to be back at Drumlanrig and to see your face once more.'"
"Ay, Sandy," said auld John Crawford, our labourer, "did the Duke say that?"
"He did," said Sandy, wi' emphasis.
"And what said ye?" asked John.
Sandy didna expect the question, and he looked hard at John for a meenit. Then he swallowed his spittle, but very slowly, and said he, "What did I say? H'm-I juist took off my bonnet and said I, 'Your Grace, if you're pleased to see me, I am prood and-and-" spifligated" to see you. When you're here there's only ae Duke, but when you're no' here there are three or fower, and every yin o' them deevilish ill to ser'.'"
Sandy was in guid trim that day, for he had juist dune a very 'cute thing, which he considered so creditable to his cleverness and ingenuity that he couldna keep it to himsel', and he had tell't me, but, as he said, it was to be on tbe strict "Q.T."
Gilbert Mathieson, oor employer, was a very exact and perfect man, and he was under the impression that unless his eye was aye on a job it wadna be richt cairrit through. Weel, be had set Sandy to mak' a mullion for a winda, and he gied him the length as three feet three incbes, but to mak' sure there wad be no mistake be had a lath made to the exact measurement, and Sandy got that as a guide.
Weel, by gum, didna Sandy mak' the mullion ower short by an inch three feet twae inches, instead o' three three-and he got into a terrible state, for weel be kenned that the mistake was as much as his job was worth. He scarted his heid for a while, and had thocht o' liftin' his tools, when an idea struck him. Takin' oot his knife, he cut an inch off the lath, and when Mathieson measured that mullion later and challenged the length, Sandy produced it with alacrity and tell't him to measure it and compare them for himsel'. Mathieson, wi' a cocksure air, clappit his fit-rule to it, and was utterly dumb-foundered. He tried it again, but could mak' no better o't. "Ay, ay," said be, "boys o' boys, that's a revelation. Even I may err," and he sent Sandy away to look oot anither suitable stane.
Oor labourer, John Crawford, had the size o' Sandy to a T. They had wrocht thegither at the Castle for years, and lang before they cam' to Mathieson. On the afternoon o' the day that Sandy had tell't us aboot the Duke, John brocht up a hod o' lime to me, and says he, wi' a wink and a nod to Sandy, wha was hewin' below, "Peety, great peety, ye canna believe a word he says. He's an awfu' liar, and he's gettin' waur in his auld age. I never kenned him tell the truth but yince. We were workin' in the entrance hall o' the Castle, him and me juist. I was up on a pair o' steps, and he was lookin' oot o' the winda, and says he to me, 'John, here's a cairrage comin' up the approach.' I got doon off the steps and gaed to the winda, and, dod, man, there was a cairrage comin' up the approach."
Ae day I mind he was sent up to do some wark at the Gardens, and he had got a geranium in a pot. I say "got," for I dinna ken whether he lifted it or whether it was gien him, but when he joined us that nicht at the Tibbers road-end I remarked on his flo'er, and said I, "Ye sould hae got it in a glazed pot, man. They're a' the go the noo at the Gardens."
Sandy lookit at me as much as to say, "What are ye haverin' aboot?" Then said he, "That may be. Flo'ers and flo'er pots hae been my hobby a' my days, so I ken what I am 'expiratin'' on- twiggy vou, as the Welshman says-and I tell ye strecht I wadna hae a glazed pot in my yaird,"
"Hannah, the heid gairdner, believes in them," I said.
"Ay, weel, I'm vexed for puir Hannah," said Sandy. "If he kenned his subject as I do-and ye wad think he sould ken it better, wadn't ye?-he wadna hae a glazed pot in his place. And I'll tell ye why, and it's this: Glazed pots have a tendancy to exclude certain atmospheric gasses which germenate within the internal apertures o' the roots, and which are absolutely necessary and essential for the growth and development o' the plant."
"Ye sould write a book, Sandy," chimed in John Crawford.
But Sandy juist glowered at John and spat oot a chew o' tobacco in a determined kind o' a wey, as much as to say that's yin for Hannah, and Sandy Rae has spoken.
It was only ootside the hoose, hooever, that Sandy could assert himsel' and play at what yin wad caa' the cock o' the walk, for whenever he steppit inside his ain door he got the second fiddle to play, and even at that he hadna to play what's caa'd fortissimo. Mary Carson was his wife's name, and she was a Carronbrig woman wi' an eye like a ferret and a mooth like a torn pooch. She was a boy was Mary, and willin' and fit at ony meenit to turn puir wee Rae inside oot. She spoke aboot Sandie to the neibors as "Oor yin," and the strange thing aboot it was that tho' she must hae been aware a' fouk kenned she could and did twist him roon' the kitchen by the gravet, she aye upheld him as her shield and protector. And when asked to do ocht she hersel' didna want to do she got oot o't by sayin', "Eh, I daurna do that noo. It wad be as much as my life is worth, for if oor yin cam' to ken he wad pou doon the hoose, and my hair oot into the bargain."
Pou doon the hoose! H'm. Puir wee sowl, he couldna pou a leek oot o' his gairden but by her leave.
I was never very keen on the public-hoose, but sometimes when a wheen o' us foregaithered at the Cross I've seen me joinin' them in a gless o' yill. Weel, ae Setterday nicht we were a' in the "George," and Sandy was in great form, tellin' us aboot a grand poem he had seen in the Mail, the title o' which was "There's something in that, boys; there's something in that." He was a great reciter and speechifier was Sandy, and when he had a gless in, there was nae haudin' o' him back, so he got up on a bink and gied us the piece. It was a largish thing, I mind, and the title o't cam' in at the end o' every verse. Weel, he got on brawly. He minded every word, and he raised his voice at certain places juist like a minister, waved his haun's, and dookit his heid up and doon, and juist when he was at the end o' the line- "There's something in that, boys; there's something in that" - the door was suddenly opened and his wife's face, wi' the deevil in her e'e, shot by the edge o't.
"Sandy, come here oot o' there," she said, and Sandy stoppit wi' the last word hingin' on his lips, and at aince obeyed the summons.
There was quateness in the room, and when Sandy steekit the door Danny Palmer raise to his feet, and mimickin' Sandy's voice and pointin' to the door, he said, "There's something in that, boys ; there's something in that." Dod, man, I did lauch heartily at that, and it aye comes to my mind even yet whenever Sandy's name's mentioned.
Anither character I cam' in contact wi' at this time and got to ken intimately was Robert M'Scabblin.
I've seen a guid mony masons at wark in my day, but never in a' my life did I meet wi' yin who could place a stane sae bonnily as Robert. He had a by-ordinar heid for plannin' oot wark and gaun into fikey moulds and finicky angles, and sure I am that if, as a young man, he had gaen to some big toon where there are mair chances o' gettin' on, he wad hae risen to eminence.
But, dod, man, he was a queer contrairy body, and he cam' honestly by it, as he was o' a contrairy kind; and it was then, and is yet, a sayin' in the countryside if ye tak' up an unreasonable opposite side on ocht, "Ay, ye're M'Scabblin weys."
He was a constant study and puzzle to a', binna his ain wife, and lang association wi' him had gien her the key to his character and the knowledge hoo best to work him. He used to live in Penpont, and I've heard it said that when there was a Thornhill fair on, and when the weans were as keen on bein' there as their mither was to let them, she wad tak' the opportunity o' sayin' the nicht afore, "The morn's the Thornhill fair, and the weans want to gang; but I juist tell't them they wadna get a fit."
"Ay, ye tell't them that, did ye? Weel, they'll juist get a fit, and keep in mind I said sae."
"Weel, weel," his wife wad say, in a resigned tone o' voice, "you're maister in this hoose, and if ye say they're to gang that's a' that's to be said aboot it but I'll see that they get nae bawbee wi' them to spend."
"But they will get a bawbee. They'll get mair; they'll get a penny fairin, and I'll gie it to them oot o' my ain haun'."
So the bairns got to the fair wi' a penny fairin. The mither got her ain wey, the faither his, and a' were weel pleased roon'.
Dooglas, the barber, got into high words wi' Robert on ae occasion, and amang ither things tell't him that if he was drooned in the Nith at Nithbrig they wad seek for his body up at Nithbank.
"Ay, man," said Robert, "and why wad ye do that?"
"Because," said Dooglas, "you're sae cursed thrawn and contrairy that your body wad gang up the water insteid o' doon."
Man, Robert didna like it, and he never had ony brew o' Dooglas efter that.
Contrariness was, hooever, Robert's only faut. He was an honest, upright man, weel-informed and weel-intentioned, and the very best o' workin' mates. As for his skill as a mason, I canna speak ower highly. His monument is the twa flights o' freestane steps leadin' up to the front door o' the Castle, and that job is like the man-clean cut, strecht, and honest.
Ye'll mebbe wonder at me takin' up sae much time ower descriptions and critical analyses o' fouk I hae met. Weel, I've aye contended that personal contact wi' oor fellow-men is yin o' the very best o' educations, and I ken o' nae study which yields sae much genuine pleesure or which gangs farther to gie the virtue o' Charity a freer haun'. The mair ye ken o' human nature the less inclined ye will be to misjudge, and the wider and less parochial will be your ootlook on life.
I've met a lot o' different characters in my day - a few o' them in the higher spheres, but the maist o' them in the humbler walks o' life. And I've aye seen something in the warst o' them to admire. It mebbe was a gey wee "something," but it was the spark which showed the fire was there for the fannin'. And anither thing I hae learned, and that is that a man may cairry the hod or wield the mell and still be yin o' God's ain gentlemen.