Uncle Tom


"Folks that keep a shope maun hae a winderfu' lot o' patience, do you no' think?" remarked Mr Goudie to Mrs Blane, who sat beside him at the table.

"Patience, did ye say, Mr Goudie? - patience! The trials o' Job wid be naething to whit puir hard-wrocht shopkeepers has tae staund nooadays. I could tell ye something aboot that, Mr Goudie."

"Jist go on then, Mrs Blane. I'm shair the compny wid like tae hear something aboot your experiences in a worl' where everybody expects tae get everything for naething an' something thrown in for a luckspenny."

"Weel," says Mrs Blane, "the War hadna long been on the road when wan o' oor customers, a Mrs Porter-her that ran awa tae America because she forgot tae pey the rent-she cam intae oor shope, and she says: 'I wid like some bit toy for Toammy. Whit wid ye recommend? The moarn's Toammy's birthday, an' I never like to forget Toammy's birthday. Something aboot a penny for a laddie o' seven I wis thinkin'. Whit are the jumpin' jakes at?' 'Oh,' I says, 'there's a big rise in jumpin' jakes; they are up to threepence-happny, an' them in the kilts is fowerpence. Kilts is very poplar since the War begood; I hiv twa nephews in the Glesca' Heelanders masel'.

"'But the monkeys wi' the whustles on their tails is a fine diversion for growin' laddies. Even the man when he comes hame frae his wark is quite diverted wi' a pentit monkey that rins up an' doon a stick. Whiles he wid play for oors wi' wan o' thae, and it keeps him aff the tobacky, an' that's a consideration when Lloyd George pits three bawbees on the unce. The plain kind is tuppence, an' they wi' the pentit bunnets is a happny dearer. Ye'll no be able tae buy them agane at that price, for the pentit monkeys is a' German.'

"'I widna winder,' says Mrs Porter. 'They're kinna impident like. Whit are yer tin trains?' 'Oh, the tin trains rins frae a penny tae threepence. Ye can wind them up an' they can rin withoot steam, an' that's a consideration when coals is at thirty shillin' for a cairt.'

"'But Toammy's no' an engineer, an' I doot he wid get sair fankelt among the wheels if there happent to be a brek-doon,' interjected Mrs Porter. 'Let me tak a look at yer concerteenas.'

"'Deed, an' I'm jist oot o' concerteenas the day, but I've some mooth-harmonions an' jew's-harps. A wee boy can pit a jew's-harp or a mooth-harmonion in his troosers-poaket, but a concerteena's mair cumbersome, an' that's a consideration when ye havena places tae pit things yince ye've gotten them. The jew's-harps is tuppence, an' the mooth-harmonions rins frae tuppence-happny up; they're very poplar at the Front.'

"'But I'm thinkin',' says Mrs Porter, 'that Toammy wid be better tae practise at the back tae begin wi', an' efter a' he micht sneck his tongue wi' a jew's-harp. There's a heap o' entertainment can be foashin oot o' a mooth-harmonion whan it hauds thegither, but there's aye a chance o' yer sookin' the air in ower hard, an' some o' the machinery stickin' aboot the pap o' yer hauss.'

"'A tin whustle micht be safer,' says I. 'There's been mony a fortune made oot o' a tin whustle, an' that's a consideration since thae German bauns hae ta'en the road.'

"'A' oor neebors can dae their ain whustlin' withoot a German baun,' interrupted Mrs Porter; 'but whit's yer eggs by the hauf-dizzen?' 'Deed, an' eggs is eggs the noo,' says I, 'an' I've stoppit sellin' them by the hauf-dizzen. The hens are no layin' the same since the War begood, an' we're gettin' threepence the piece for eggs. There's an unco demand for shells the noo, an' the hens seems tae ken aboot it an' are haudin' them back.'

"'I wid jist as sune sterve as pey threepence the piece fur eggs,' says Mrs Porter, 'but I wid thenk ye for the change o' wan o' thae new-fangelt pound-notes. I hae nae notion o' them.' 'An' verra welcome,' I says, coontin' oot the silver.

"'Is it no' a' there?' I says, as Mrs Porter continued to stare at the money.

"'I suppose it's richt enough," mumbled that leddy, ' but I wis jist thinkin' that, for a bit turn in the wye o' business, I micht hae gotten a pickle sweeties intae the bargain for Toammy's birthday,' and then she gaed oot, drawin' the door ahint her wi' a bang that knockit a tuppny crystal tumbler aff the tope shelf.

"But noo she's awa' guessin' aboot things oot in America, so they say. The Toun's Baund played her aff tae the station, everybody wis that gled tae see her back."

"My!"says Mr Goudie, "whit a gran' memry ye hiv."

"No' sae bad for some things," says Mrs Blane. "There's some things ye canna forget in a hurry, nor even at yer leesure."

"I've never enjoyed onything sae much as your steak-an'-veal pie, an' whit a fine crust on it," says Mistress Smeddum. "It's been fired jist tae perfection. Whit a fine oaven ye maun hae in the kitchen. For ma pert I cook a' my vitals in ma cammysole. It keeps them fine an' juicy."

"Dae ye raley?" says Mistress Beekie. "I jist gang by the auld fashions an' stick tae ma three-leggit poat. It can haud twa sheeps' heids an' the troaters as weel withoot lookin' fu'. An' that's a consideration whan ye hae an extra veesitor.

"Mrs Smeddum, is Mister Blane no' attendin' till ye? He's that blate that he forgets everybody but himsel' whan he's oot at a pairty, but jist mak' a long airm an' help yersel'."