THE WHEELBARROW TRADE, BAILIE, is vera bad, awfu’ bad, indeed. I whiles think the folk in Stra’bungo hae gien up using coals a’thegither. The ither nicht, while takin’ my smoke at the fire, an’ thinkin’ o’ what wis tae come ower us a’, Betty interrupted my meditations by readin’ oot o’ the paper aboot a woman haein’ started frae Falkirk tae hurl a perambulator tae London an’ back wi’ an infant o’ echt month auld in it. "Michty me," cries I, "that cowes a’! Upon my word, I’ve a guid min’ tae rig oot a barrow an’ start for London mysel’." This talkin’ aboot the wheelbarrow put me in mind that I had forgotten, clean forgotten, tae sen’ a hunnerwecht o’ coals tae a guid customer oot at Crossmyloof. So I put on my hat an’ ran doon tae the coal ree, where I wee’d oot a hunnerwecht an’ shovelled it intae one o’ you wee trucks, yon square things wi’ twa wee iron wheels an’ a lang iron haunle. My laddies were a’ awa’ for the nicht, but I hope I’m a conscientious man, an’ I hope I’m no above my business, so rather than let a customer hae nae fire for his breakfast the next morning, I buttoned my coat, an’, grippin’ the haunle, I set aff wi’ the barrow. Jist as I got oot tae the pavement, Mr Pinkerton comes alang after shutting up, an’ he said he wid go wi’ me for company. So aff we set, he stumping alang on the pavement next the syver, and me hauling awa’ on the road like desperation. for they’re unco nesty things tae draw you barrows, the wheels are sae vera wee. Betty had looked ower the window tae see what wis keeping me, an’ seein’ me haulin’ awa’ she somehoo cam’ tae the conclusion that I wis aff tae London for a wager, like the Dundee man, so she rins up tae Mister M'Faurlan in the boose abin an’ tells them, an’ beseeches Mr M'Faurlan tae gang efter me an’ bring me back. He didna think twice, but slippin’ on his coat doon the stair he cam’ as hard as he could, an’ tell’t twa-three that wis at the fit o’ the close that the Provost wis aff tae London hurlin’ a hunnerwecht o’ coals for a wager! Mr Pinkerton an’ me hadna got much faurer than Princes Square till we took a rest,—I have’na been accustomed tae hard work this wheen years back—an’ I wis lichtin’ my pipe, an’ Mr Pinkerton wis sheltering me wi’ his big coat tae keep the match frae being blawn oot, when aboot a dizzen folk made up tae us an’ gied a great "hurrah." "Haste ye," says I, "an’ shove the barrow oot o’ the road, for here’s the Salvation Army, an' they’ll be tumling ower it." Hooever, jist as they cam’ up Mr M’Faurlan cries oot, "Hoo mony days are ye goin’ tae dae it in, Provost?" an’ anither ane that had a concerteena began tae play "When ye gang awa’, Jamie." I thocht that maybe they had been drinking, so I never condescended tae answer, but I grippit the barrow an’ set aff again. If ye had heard the "hurrah" they gied. Then they flung their hats up intae the air an’ jumpit aboot, an’ a ‘Shaws caur coming up it had tae stop, an’ a’ the folk scrambled doon aff the tap an’ joined the crood, an’ the driver cried, "Weel done, Stra’bungo!" I thocht it wis curious, but as they had as much richt tae the road as we had it wis nae business o’ mine, so I hurled awa’. The crood seemed tae be a’ bound fur Crossmyloof like oorsels, an’ it aye got bigger an’ bigger. I noticed, besides, that they looked aye at me, an’ I wid hear whispers such as "Man, he’s plucky," "My, he’s a rale weel put-on man," an’ so on. Remarks like that, hooever, I, as Provost, am quite accustomed tae hear, so I never let on but hurled awa’, an’ Mr Pinkerton solemnly stumped alangside o’ me. At last I got tae a vera muddy bit o’ the road, an’ I turned roon an’ says tae Mr Pinkerton, "Jist gie me a bit shove for a minute or twa," on’ he being vera obleeging wis putting doon his hauns when one o’ the crood grips him an’ says, ‘ Oh no! nane o’ that! that’s no fair." I wis dumfoonered, but I put on my maist Provosterial air, an’ gathering mysel’ up toe my full hecht, which is five feet three, I says in a withering voice— "An’ what’s your business wi’ us, may I ask?" Dod, BAILIE, that shut him up, an’ he slunk awa’, while anither ane says, "Maybe him wi’ the gemm Leg is going tae." "Of course he’s going," says I, "he’s tae keep me company." "But he’s no tae touch your barrow, is he?" says one. "Weel, really," says I— Jist then a woman pushed ower wi’ a wean in her arms, an’ she set it doon on the tap o’ the coals an’ says, "Oh, jist hurl it for five yards, an’ it’ll be immortalised for a’ its life," "Weel, mem," says I, "if that’ll immortalise your bairn, in wi’t"; an’ aff I set again, an’ the woman walked by my side an’ held the wean stracht, an’ then an elderly female comes ower an’ says, "Oh, wid ye tak’ me?" "Certainly nut,’ says I, "ye’re quite able tae walk"; an’ I began tae wunner why there were sae mony daft folk aboot. It beat my comprehension, an’ at last sae great wis the crood that I had toe stop, expecting them tae move on. Hooever, they a’ stopped when I did, an’ some lichtit their pipes, an’ ithers put their hauns in their pockets an’ danced jigs. Then it struck me that maybe there wis something curious aboot Mr Pinkerton’s leg; that it wis screwed on the wrang way, or something. I looked, but naething wis wrang that I cood see. Then I looked doon at mysel’— naething; I felt a’ ower my heid—naething; I looked at the barrow—naething; so I got nettled, an’, gripping the haunle, aff I set an’ aff the crood set alang wi’ me. I stopped; the crood stopped. It was incomprehensible, so I set aff again at a run. The crood ran, an’ gied such .a "hurrah" that three o’ yon mules in a caur cockit their ears an’ set aff at a gallop alangside o’ me. "Heth, he’ll bate the caur," the crood roared. I never let on, I wis that angry, bit on I ran, the mules ran, the crood ran, Mr Pinkerton ran, takin’ twa haps wi’ his rale leg for ane wi’ his ither ane, an’ as he skliffed alang he hizzed up an’ doon like the mast o’ a wee boat in a storm. Oor entry intae Crossmyloof wis a triumphal ane. The folk a’ cam’ tae the windows, the crood got bigger an’ bigger, the man wi’ the concerteena played "See the conquering hero comes," an’ the rest beat time wi’ their sticks on the window shutters; dogs growled an’ ran up closes; an’ the weans were knocked ower like nine pins. On I ran in the middle o’ the road till I arrived at my customer, an’ then I up the close an’ emptied the coals doon at the door, an’ awa’ withoot my money, for I wis that angry I couldna trust mysel’ tae speak an’ ask for the seevenpence. When I get oot tae the street I turned hamewards, an’ the, erood seein’ this cried oot, "He’s bate a’ready," "Ah, he’s ower stoot." "Ye’ve lost your wager, Provost," says a civil auld man tae me. "What wager?" says I. "Weren’t ye going tae walk tae London?" says he. "Walk tae yer granny," cries I, "what put that intae your heid?" "That wis what they said," he answered. Then, BAILIE, it struck me that they thocht that I, in the pursuit o’ my honest business, was ane o’ thae clanjaffray wha a’ ower the country enoo are rinning awa’ tae London wi' wheelbarrows. Man, man, but I wis humiliated when I thocht on’t. Me, a Provost— But I stood up en the pavement an’ tell’t them that for once I wis’ ashamed o’ my fellow-toonsmen. Indeed, I spoke so feelingly, an’ yet sae sarcastically, that there wisna ane but felt ashamed. At last one cam ower tae me as a spokesman, an’ says he, "Provost, we are humiliated, an’ hope you’ll pardon us, an’ tae show that we’re sincere, we’ll hurl you an’ Bailie Pinkerton hame if you’ll alloo us." Then without waitin’ for an answer, they put me in the front o’ the barrow, wi’ my feet hinging ower, an’ seizing Mr Pinkerton they put him in the hin’ en’ wi’ his feet hinging ower, or rather one foot hinging ower, an’ the ither up in the air, an’ set aff amid a cheering that wid hae done your heart guid. BAILIE, it was aboot the roughest hurl ever I got—worse than a tramway caur when it’s aff the rails; an’, besides, it wis faur frae being a smooth state—there were a heap o’ hard wudden corners aboot it. But think e’ the honour; it wis like what they dae tae some great man when they tak’ the horses oot an’ draw his carriage. Tae mak’ a lang story short, I took as mony as it wid haud intae the coal ree, an’ there we smoked an’ tell’t stories, while Betty, efter keeking through the keyhole an’ seeing I wis safe hame again, went up the stair, an’ poured forth her heart in thankfulness as she fried a finnan haddie for oor supper.