A CHRISTMAS BOX THE festive season hae’in come roon again, BAILIE, we had a party last Wednesday—jist a few freens in the paurlour. I had tell’t Betty tae spare nae expense—an’ she didna. We had finnan haddies an’ sardines, an’ shortbread an’ orangers, an’ I don’t know what a’. In fac’, as I looked roon the table, I said tae Betty that we seemed tae hae everything that consideration for our guests could suggest, or that money could buy. I’ve never seen a Duke’s table spread oot for a big party, but if a Duke’s table is ony grander than oors wis, I’m cheated. Of course it wid be bigger, but I hardly think it could be better. The company assembled, an the leddies put aff their bonnets and hung them up in the best bedroom, an’ smoothed their hair, an’ sailed intae the dinin’-room wi’ their silks an' satins rustling in the grandest manner possible. The gentlemen had a’ on their "go-a-shore" suits, an’ twa or three had rings—sich is the progress o’ civilisation. After what the minister ca’d a sumptuous repast—I must say I thocht he might hae used a better word than "repast"—the leddies went intae the paurlour, an’ we got roon the fire. Then I brocht oot the jar, producin’, at the same time, a paper pock wi’ a dizzen o’ fine ceegaurs. It cost me one an’ sixpence-that wis twelve smokes at three bawbees a-piece As we lichtet up, I saw that Mr M’Faurlan hadna been accustomed tae ceegaurs, but I had mair respect for my guest’s feelings than let on I noticed it. After he got the lichtit paper ready he looked first at the one end an’ then at the ither, an’ then he took a look roon tae see hoo the rest were getting on. Then taking courage, he lichtit one end, an’ keepin’ it between his first an’ second finger he lay back in his chair, an’ dreamily watched the clouds o’ smoke that the rest o’ us were puffin’ oot. A’ this time we were tellin’ stories an’ speaking about hoo Stra'bungo wis rising in importance, hoo business wis improving, an’ sae on—bit a’ in a minute a ring cam’ tae the front door, an’ then the servant lassie ran in wi’ a guidsized box that she laid doon on the table. This brocht a’ the leddies ben, an’ after them in troopit the bairns, that had been playing at the ba’ in the kitchen, tae see what it wis. "Epples," says I, putting on my glosses. "Orangers, I think," says Mr M’Cunn. "Or a turkey," cries Mrs M’Faurlan. "It’s awfu’ boss," says Mr Pinkerton, giein’ the box a rap wi’ his knuckles, "so they hivna gi’en ye guid measure whatever it is. What does it say on the direction?" "With great care—this side up—live stock," reads Betty. "Eh, live stock, what can it be? " says I, giein’ it a shake, an’ then we heard a kin’ a’ scratchin’. "Mice," laughs Mrs Jamieson, "it's somebody playing a trick on ye." "Puddocks, I think," says Mr M’Cunn—he aye contradicts everybody. "Or a hedgehog," cries anither. "Nae use arguing," says I. "Wullie, bring the box ben tae the kitchen, an’ get the hammer." So Wullie ran for the hammer, and we carried the box intae the kitchen, an’ put it on the table, an’ we keeked through the wee roon holes tae see if we could mak’ oot what it wis. Hooever, we could see naething ava. Wullie havin’ brocht the hammer, I set tae work, an’ got oot a' the nails except the last, an’ when the visitors saw I wis that length, they cleared a guid space for me. The ladies jumped up on the chairs, Mr M’Cunn gripped the poker, an’ Mr Pinkerton, being a lameter, crept intae the corner at the bunker. Drawin’ in my breath, and summon in’ a my courage, I took out the last nail, and, shuttin’ my eyes, lifted the lid. Then there wis a great chattering, an’ something jumpit on tae the shelf, an’ Betty cries cot, "Michty me, a black wean." When I looked up I saw a monkey sittin’ inside oor biggest ashit, trying tae stracht oot its tail, an’ speakin’ awa’ tae itsel’. Tae say we were dumbfoonered is tae say what wis less than the truth. We held a consultation, while I looked intae the box an’ saw a letter, which I opened. It was frae my freens o’ the Bailie Club, oot in the Fiji Islands—of which Club I am Patron, as ye ken—saying that they had nae Christmas Cards oot there, hut they had sent hame, by a vessel tae Liverpool, a fine specimen o’—an’ then they gi’ed some Latin name—an’ the captain had instructions tae put it in a box on his arrival, an’ send it on by train tae me. They hoped, they added, that it would arrive safely, an’ be appreciated. At the same time they wished me a happy New Year, &c., &c. A lively present, atweel," says I, "but what am I tae dae wi’t?" "Grip it," says Mr M’Cunn, "that’s the first thing." "I suppose it is," says I. So I spread a piece an’ jeelie, an’ crept awa’ up on the dresser an’ handed it up tae oor freen, wha reached oot his wee cauld black haun an’ took it cautiously. I wis thankfu’ tae see be wisna ill-set. That wis one consolation in a hoose wi’ sae mony bairns as oors. "What an auld-fashioned cratur," says Betty. "See him licking the jeelie first, jist like the weans." "I hope he’ll no break the cheenie, though," I cries, as he finished the piece, an’ lifting up a cream jug, tried tae put it on his heid like a he]met. "He’ll beak it, as sure’s a gun," says Mr M’Cunn. "Oh, Jeems, stop him," cries Betty, "my best cheenie." "I’ll try’t," says I, as I jumped on tae the dresser, but oor freen wis roon at the back o’ the shelf, an’ then grippin a clothes rope he swung himsel’ on tae it an’ sat swingin’ awa’ an’ lookin’ doon at us for a’ the worl’ like yon tumbling bodies ye see in Hengler’s Circus, "My puir wee man," says I tae him soothingly, as I got ower a chair, an’ stood up on’t tae grip him. "Catch him by the tail, Mr Kaye, an’ haud on," says one. "No, no; smooth him doon," cries another. "Noo, look here," says I, "this job is no o’ my am seekin’, an if ony o’ ye think ye can dae better jist come up an' try't-you an' your tails an’ your smoothing doon—I’ll jist grip him where I can. Come awa, Jakeie, I’ll no hurt ye." "An’ what will ye dae wi’ him when ye get him?" says one. "Feth I don’t know. Although it wis great kindness in my freens sending me sich a curiosity, still I maist wished they had kept it. "Maybe they thocht ye gaed wi’ an organ," says Betty. "Huch, hoo could they think that? They ken I'm a coal merchant. I write them often. I hope they'll no tak’ it intae their heid tae sen’ a black woman hame tae me next." "If they did," says Betty, "I wid"- What Betty wid hae done wis never kent, for oor Fiji freen swinging on the rope made a dive at her an’ secured her cap. I suppose it was the imitation plooms on’t that had tempted him. "Jeems, I will nut be insulted in my ain hoose. Grip the black scoundrel at once," sobs Betty. Easier said than done, hooever, BAILIE, for he seemed a reg’lar young Sandy. First he ate a’ the plums, an’ then he tied the cap roon his heid, an' as it seemingly didna fit him tae his satisfaction, he took it aff, an’ wiping a tureen wi't be rouwed it up intae a ba’ an’ flung it doon in auld Mr M'Cunn's face. Betty grat, an' Mr M'Cunn got awfu angry an’ muttered awa’ tae himsel’. Seein’ a’ this, I swithered whether I wid go doon tae the coal ree tae hae a quiet smoke, an’ let them settle it as they liked, or if I wid mak’ anither effort tae restore order. Before. hooever, I had made up my mind, my Christmas present ran along the rope, an’ up on tae the tap o’ the nock. I suppose they’ve nae nocks oot in Fiji—at least I don’t think he had ever seen one before, for he seemed tae be awfu’ pleased wi’ its tickin’. He lay ower an’ listened, an’ then reaching doon he grippit the hauns an’ whirled them roon an roon, as if he wis trying tae mak’ the wee ane catch the big ane. F1esh an’ blood couldna staun this, so I got up again an’ tried tae catch him, but he up on tae the shelf, an’ jooked roon the dishes, an’ then lifting the pepper box, he took aff the lid an' scattered the pepper a’ aboot us. This put us hors de combat, as they say, for we could dae naething for sneezing. When oor freen saw this he jumpit aboot an’ lauched an' chattered, noo an' again tummling ower the wullcats an’ trying tae staun on his heid. As sune as I got a wee tree o' the pepper, I buttoned my coat, an' no caring whether the rest followed me or no, I made anither grab at him. but oh he wis soople. Providence, hooever, is kind. When hinging on tae the rope wi’ one haun, an’ shaking the ither in my face, he missed his foot an’ fell intae the coal bakie, an’ I wi’ great presence o' mind threw the tablecloth ower him, an’ rouwing him up in’t, I carried him ower an’ safely deposited him in the cage that we used tae keep a parrot in. This, as ye may see, endit the adventure. The beast, being safely secured, we a’ got roun’ the paurlour fire, an’ a fine nicht we had o’ stories an’ cracks. What I maun say, hooever, BAILIE, is this, that there stems no tae be a New Year goes ower my heid that I don’t get intae hot water aboot something. Hooever, I firmly object tae onybody making a Wombell’s Menagerie o’ my respectable an’ orderly hoose.