Rough Scan
I HAVE been to Edinbro' and veesited Allermuir on twae different occasions since that eventfu' mornin' sae lang, lang ago. The first time I took Grizzy, but the second time I gaed my lane, and it is only thae wha have gane thro' an experience similar to my ain that can thoroughly understaun' what my feelin's were when I was staunin' at that dyke-side where my faither, sae lang bye-gane, had stood wi' his airm roon my waist, and his eyes restin' on the dear scenes o' his boyhood days.
On the occasion o' my first veesit I canna say that I saw the countryside changed to any great extent, but the next time I gaed oot I was surprised to note hoo the city was stretchin' oot on a' sides, particeelarly in the Morningside locality. I looket in vain for the fields my faither had pointed oot to me as the haunts o' his bird-nestin' days, but they were a' laid oot in streets, and, frae where I stood, I could see, peepin' up here and there amang the trees, sensible lookin' hooses, built o' hamely red sand - or free-stane, and the clack o' the hewer's mell, the whirr and rattle o' the crane chain, and the pegget oot plots, was evidence to me that mair o' the bonnie green swaird was doomed, and that the builders' hey-day was still at its noon.
I wandered doon the road in the direction o' the toon, and noticed that a new road had been cut to the left, near the gates o' Morton Hall, but I keepit the auld brae, for I wanted aince mair to see the Braid Burn brig and to hear again the tinklin' sang its burnie sings by nicht and day to the noddin' willow on its bank. I found that the finger o' time bad touched it but gently. The auld dairy, wi' its wee whitewashed hoose and its laigh raws o' coo sheds, had disappeared. A street o' hooses crooned the brae-heid, and a kirk withoot a steeple was built wi' its gable to the burn. But the auld grey brig was still as a' yore. I saw the very stane in the parapet that Elsie's haun' had rested on, when she stood wi' her back to my faitber and me, and the very spot where the twae o' them stood wi' sae much on their herts and sae little on their tongues.
Very few fouk were aboot, and o' that I was glad, as I wanted to be my lane, and to let my thochts wander at will adoon the years to that eventfu' mornin' in my young life. I canna say hoo lang I stood, for I was lost in sweet reverie and retrospect, but I was suddenly recalled to the present by hearin' my name spoken at my side, and in the auld hame accent which there is nae mistakin'. I turned roon', and there before me was a son o' the Gill, wha, tho he has bided in Edinbro' for mony a year, has never ceased to ca' Thornbill his hame, and wha's faither, but lately ta'en frae us, was the last oot o' a' my schulemates that was left to me in Thornhill.
Dod, man, he was terribly surprised and pleased to see me, and he asked what in the name o' guidness I was daein' there, sae far away frae the Cundy heid. And I told him the wee bit story juist on the spot it happened-told him what I have told you, for I had the assurance I was speakin' and unburdenin' my hert to yin wha wad understaun'. And when I had feenished he didna say ocht, but he bent ower the parapet o' the brig, and looked lang at the wimplin' burn. Then he took me by the airm, and we gaed up the brae thegither, and roon' the turn that Elsie took when my faither's e'e last lichted on her. I was glad he didna speak, for the auld associations were strong within me, and it was my desire to look back on that scene for the last time on earth, wi' nae soon' in my ear but the rustle o' the leaf, the sang o' the bird, and the tinkle o' the burn. And he understood, for he walked on a wee bittie aheid and left me my lane.
When I rejoined him he speired aboot Thornhill and a' the auld fouk he still kenned there. His hoose was juist at haun', and as I was tired efter my lang walk, I gladly accepted his kind invitation to gang in and rest a wee. We sat lang caa'in' the crack, for we had got on to Thornhill, and, of coorse, had an interestin' and biggish subject on haun'. And not only that, but, dod, man, I had a lot to see. Hingin' on the waa' were my auld freen Duke Smith's curlin'-stane handles, which often, often I had seen gaun twirlin' and sailin' doon a Rashbrig rink, and near them was Jeems Graham's flail, which had threshed sae much o' John Hastie's corn in the Dry Gill barn. I had a snuff oot o' Tammas M'Caig's snuffbox, and the sicht o' the tortise-shell lid took me away back to the Bailie's joiner shop wi' its cobwebbed waa's and its narra circlin' stair. I held in my haun' wi' reverence the wee silver kaim the Maister had used and cairrit sae lang, and when I gaed to put it on the mantelpiece, the weel-kenned faces o' Dooglas, the barber, and Peter Broon lookit at me frae oot their silver frames. And the possessor o' these auld relics stood beside me, pleased beyond measure at my interest, and I gruppit his haun' and thanked him for what I felt, but what I couldna put in words.
When I left his door that nicht a harvest moon was shinin' on the Braid Burn glen. And I cam' away wi' a kind o' a pleased, contented feelin' that I was leavin' my auld schule chum's son to be the guardian and keeper, as it were, o' that sweet spot, the memories o' which, to me, will aye be sacred and dear.
My story is feenished, oor crack is dune, and I maun noo say guid-nicht to a'. Ye've been wi' me in thocht and spirit frae the spring o' life to the winter o' auld age, and efter hearin' my story, a' that I ask o' ye is this: If ever ye think o' me and place me in your mind's e'e, let it be side by side wi' Grizzy, wi' the mellow gloamin' licht fa'in' saftly on twae silvered heids which hae aye thocht and planned a' things for the best, and on wrinkled hands which hae never tired o' a lang life's wark in the service o' yin anither.