A CONVERSAZIONE DEAR BAILIE,—We held an annual conversazione in the kitchen o’ oor Stra’bungo residence on Hogmanay. As it wis getting late, Betty says, "Bairns, ye had better awa’ tae yer beds. Jeems, ye usually address a few words o’ advice on the last day o’ the year; jist say awa’ an’ we’ll a’ be quiet. Whist, bairns, an’ pay attention; noo, Jeems!" "Bairns," says I, "this is the last time your auld father’ll see you "— "This year, ye mean," says Betty. "Ay, ay, of course—I wis jist comin’ tae that—this year, bairns. When ye wauken to-morrow the knell will have struck"— "Wha struck ye wi’ a mell, Mr Kaye?" says Mr Meiklejohn—he’s a mason, an’ a wee deaf, "The knell, Mr Meiklejohn, the knell—there’s naebody speaking aboot mells—the knell will have struck, an’ ye’ll a’ be ushered intae—intae"— "Oblivion," suggested Mr M’Cunn. "No, that’s no’ the word," says I; "intae—intae—huch, never mind—to-morrow we’ll turn ower a new leaf, an’ we’ll a’ be a year aulder—a source o’ rejoicin’ tae you young anes, but, alas, alas!"— "What are ye saying aboot lasses?" says Betty. "Tut, tut! it wis poetry; ye’ve put it a’ oot my heid noo. I wis going tae gie ye a few words o’ advice: Aye be contented an’ thankfu’ for your privileges, for they are mony. Born in the maist enlightened country in the world—the land o’ Wallace, an’ Bruce, an’ John Knox, an' Burns—ye hae naething tae be ashamed o’. While being thankfu’ for your privileges, never be envious, an’ be wishing for things ye hae nae need for. I’ll tell ye a story aboot that. A travelling menagerie once visited Kilbarchan; the collection, though sma’, had one vera big elephant. Trade wis bad, an’ the show wis seized by a sheriff-officer for debt. Tae raise money the proprietor raffled the elephant at sixpence a ticket, an’ a Kilbarchan weaver wis the fortunate winner; so he put a string roon its neck an’ led it awa’ behind him quite prood. When he got hame he couldna get a hoose tae pit it in; it couldna go intae the washing-hoose or the coal cellar, or ony ither place, so as he didna ken what tae dae wi’t, he jist took it doon the Kilma’colm road an’ wandered it. This wis an instance o’ a man getting what he had nae need for. Noo, bairns, there’ll be nae purridge the morn; so, Betty, gie them a bit shortbreid tae eat in below the claes, an’ let them rin awe. The bairns were in bed, an’ we were a’ sitting roond the fire wi’ oor noses nearly meeting, an’ the gas screwed doon tae mak us mair cosy like, an’ Mr Pinkerton was telling us a ghost story— "Weel, ye see the ghost says tae my grandfather"— Here a terribul smash o’ crystal made us a’ jump an’ look roon; a’ the glesses an’ decanters, an’ the plates wi’ the finnan haddies, were lying on the floor. Being the owner o’ the glesses I wis speechless; but the rest no’ being affectit in their pockets, could speak bravely. "Spiritualism," says Mr Meiklejohn. "I doot it’s dynamite," says Mr M’Cunn. "Or an earthquake," says Mr Pinkerton. "Jist some freak o’ nature," says I, as we gathered up the fragments; "it’s nonsense tae try tae accoont for everything in this worl’. I believe some o’ ye tramped on the en’ o’ the tablecloth an’ drew it doon. Gang on wi’ yer story, Mr Pinkerton." "Weel, as I wis saying, the ghost said tae my grandfather"— Crash went the glesses again, an’ a fearfu’, piercin’ cry wis heard; in fac’, the folk abin tell’t me the next day they thocht I had murdered some o’ my weans. We a’ jumped up and held on by the backs o’ oor chairs, when tae oor consternation, a ghost stood in the middle o’ the floor. It had on a white nightgoon, an’ nae troosers that I could see, an’ its face wis jist the colour o’ the electric licht. It walked slowly ower tae me, an’ gaed me a clap on the back an’ says, "Aha! my auld cockalorum." "Gracious guidness," says Mr M'Cunn, "I never heard the like o’ this." "It bates a’," says I, "ca’in me—an elder—an auld cockalorum." The ladies were fentin’ one by one, an’ Mr Pinkerton got the decanter an’ began to pour water on them. "Tak’ care that’s no the wrong ane ye hae got," says I. "Aha!" says the ghost, making a dash at the decanter. This made them a’ rin in below the table, or up on the dresser, while Mr Pinkerton got intae the press amang the pots an’ goblets, an’ brandishing a frying-pan he declared he wid brain the first body cam’ near him. Then jist, I suppose, by way o’ imitatin’ him, oor auld black cat jumped up on the shelf, an’ flew aboot, knockin’ doon ashets an’ sugar bowls at sich a rate that it roused my bluid, an’ I made a dash at the ghost, but I tripped up an’ fell headlong. For the meenit a’ the breath seemed oot o’ my body; I’m stoot, as ye ken, BAILIE, an’ a tummel’s nae better then it’s ca’ad at the best o’ times—far less on a Hogmanay nicht! "There’s anither ane fented," I heard Mr M’Cunn say, as I lay prostrate. I thocht tae mysel’, I’m no ane o’ yer fentin’ kin’; fechtin’s mair in my heid the noo than fentin’. As I cried, "I’ll get tae the bottom o’ a’ this," I seized a smoothing-iron aff the mantelpiece an’ made a rin at the ghost, when it gaed a lood craw like a peacock, an’ grippit me by the shoother an’ tore aff its nicht-shirt! Noo, wha wis this but a young sailor lad—a mate nae less—mate o’ the "Queen o’ the Seas," or the "Queen o’ the Shaws," or something like that. We a’ emerged frae oor hiding-places; an’ efter I had got my breath an’ a gless o’ toddy, I took him tae task gey strongly; but as he promised tae buy a new set o’ cheenie, an’ tak’ us a’ tae the pantomime the next nicht, I didna say ower much. Ye see, BAILIE, he whiles brings me a stick o’ thick tobacco, an’ Betty wis telling me she thocht he wis efter oor Jennet, so as son-in-laws are no sae easy got a haud o’ noo-a-days, I thocht it best tae let on it wisna a bad joke; only I warned him never tae ca’ me "an auld cockalorum" again.