Rough Scan








 
      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.