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Black Spider

The Ane O'Clock Gun

Next mornin' she took me alang Princes Street tae see the grand shops, an', ma certy, it wis a sicht worth seein'. I aye thocht we had some grand shops in oor town, bit they're no tae be compared tae Princes Street, an', ma word, they ken hoo tae chairge. I thocht I wid take some bit things hame tae John; he's aye sae mindfu' o' me when he's away ony bit - he aye brings me some toffee or conversation lozenges. It's no' the value o' the thing I look at, but it tells me that he thinks aboot me when he's away, an' that pleases me. I'm rale prood o' my man, an' he's a prood o' me. I wouldna change places wi' a Duchess. We've never had a cross word sin' we were merrit near fifty year syne, an' there's no' mony can speak the truith an' say the same.

Betty is haudin on ti the airn railins at the side o the causey in a Edinburgh street wi a worried leuk on her face. A leddy, in fack her dochter Leezie, is smilin at a young lassie that haes devault ti see what

As I was sayin', I was tryin' tae make up my mind what tae buy John, when a' at yince there was the maist unearthly explosion. It nearly gliffed me oot o' ma wits. I just drapped doon on the street as flat as a scone. Lizzie stood an' glowered at me half in amazement and half in disgust, bit deil a particle o' sympathy. The folk roared an' lauched as if it was something funny. When I got ma braith, says I, "In a' the world, Lizzie, whatever was that?"

She was stannin' as cool as a north wind: "Dear me, mother, it was only the Castle gun firing."

"Were they shootin' at me," says I, feelin' a' roond tae see if I was hurt.

"Not likely," says she; "it fires every day at this time to let people know it's one o'clock."

"Weel," says I, scramblin' on tae ma tremblin' legs, "the like o' that I never kenned. Do they need tae frichten the sowl oot o' an auld body like me tae let folk withoot watches ken it's wan o'clock. In oor pairt them that canna afford watches jist hae tae ask their neebor whan they want tae ken the time. Wait till John hears that yin; but I'll no' tell him the fricht knocked me doon, he thinks I'm sae brave, an' so I am at hame, but we've naething sae fearsome as that tae face."

Ye wad maybe like tae ken what I bocht John; but I'm gaun tae tell naebody. No that I'm ashamed o't or the price I paid for't, but somebody micht let him ken an' spoil the suprise. He aye likes tae gie me a suprise when he brings me onything, an' I'm jist gaun tae pey him back wi' his ain coin.

Princes Street's a maist wonderfu' street wi' a' yon tramway cars an motty cars withoot horses rinnin' in a' directions. When I got tae the fit o' the Mound the nicht I landed an' the cabby put my portmanta on tae the car. I was sittin' waitin' for them tae pit the horses in when the laddie that takes the pennies rang a bell, an' away the thing went as smert as ye like. It nearly took ma braith away, it was sae sudden, an' I could see naething pooin' or shovin' the car. When the laddie cam' for ma penny I says tae him, "Where's the horses, ma man?"

He stared at me. "What horses?" says he.

"Them that's pooin' the car," says I.

Everybody in the car looked at me an' bursted oot lauchin', an' the laddie bolted up the ootside stair o' the car like a scared rabbit, leavin' me face tae face wi' a lot of gigglin' brats, some hidin' their faces ahint their newspapers, an' ithers pretendin' tae wipe their faces wi' their hankies, bit fine I kenned they were lauchin' at me. Seein' that I was angry lookin' an auldish-lookin', A genteel body wi' a tall hat, an' cuffs on his feet, shifted alang close tae me, an' wi' a polite boo he said, "If you will excuse me, madam, I will endeavour to give you some information upon the subject of your enquiry to the car conductor. The mode of locomotion by which we are being conveyed is termed the cable system. A steel wire rope attached to power stations in different parts of the city runs along under the cars, and what is called a gripper attached to each car takes hold of this rope when necessary to pull the car along."

"Thenk ye, sire; I'm rale muckle obleeged tae ye for yer kindness. I'm jist in frae the country for twa or three days tae see ma dauchter, an' there's lots o' things in the toon that we ken naething aboot. It's lang an' mony a year sin' I was in Edinbury, an' the last time I was here I mind they were pood by horses. If they gigglin' hussies had been brocht up in the toon, I micht hae been lauchin' at them instead o' them lauchin' at me; but if it pleases them it doesnae hurt me. Maybe they'll get mair sense as they get aulder. As for the penny laddie, I gliffed him by thraitenin' tae report him tae his maister, bit, of coorse, I've nae intentions o' daein' onything o' the kind. I wis jist a wee angry at the time."

Weel, efter I got John's praisent bocht Leezie an' me made oor wey tae the fit o' the Mound tae get the car hame, an' tae my suprise it was the same laddie, an' faith he was in a queer pickle when he saw me alang wi' Leezie an' heard her ca' me mother; he fair drapped the pennies in excitement. Leezie couldna accoont for his ongaun, but when she telt me on the quiet that the young birkie was makin' sheep's een at her dauchter Jeannie, "Ha, ha," says I tae masel', "the king has come the cadger's wey, an' thaim that lauchs last lauchs best. Ma certy, but I'll keep him in het water for a while, take ma word for't. No that I'll dae onything tae prevent the laddie frae becomin' Leezie's son-in-law, but he'll answer ma question aboot the horses wi' mair respect an' civility afore I leave the toon, or ma name's no' Betty."

Efter we got hame it wasna lang or Leezie had the tea ready, an', bein' a cauld, miserable nicht, we jist sat by the fire an' crackit aboot a' the grand sichts we had seen, an' made oor arrangements for the next day. Then afore bedtime we had some music, Jeannie wi' the violin an' her young brother Wullie wi' the piano, but for the life o' me could I get them tae play ony o' the tunes I ken'd. They could only play what they called classical pieces. I wanted them tae play "John Anderson my Joe," "Duncan Grey," or "Doon the Burn Davie," but they kenned naething aboot what they ca'd common tunes. Weel, I had jist tae pit up wi' their classical rubbish an' say naething. That's yin o' the things the country bates the toon for, guid Scotch music.

There's an auld tramp body comes roond oor wey raigler, no unlike yon body I saw in the pantomime, beggin' his pardon, I dinna mind his name, but I ha'e't markit it on the back o' the auld envelope, I think it's Mark "Something." Weel, he's what they ca' an excentrik body, dressed in an auld kilt something like a half worn oot salmon flee, wi' a fiddle made oot o' an auld blecknin' box or something o' that kind, but he's a rale bonny player. Ye wad think he can gaur the fiddle speak; mony a guid greet he gies me, he plays that sweet. Puir cratur, we aye gi'e him a guid denner an' yin or twae hen eggs away wi' him. The very dugs wag their tails an' sit an' listen tae him like human bein's. Aye, the fiddle's a grand instrument when it's richt played.