Uncle Tom


"It seems that one o' the teachers in the 'cadmy had fan faut wi' anither wee boy for sittin' wi' his haunds in his poakits an' his feet speldert oot. 'Tak' yer haunds oot yer poakits, an' pit yer feet in!' shouted the teacher, in a vice like a serjent-major's in the King's Dragoons.

"It seems that they're great haunds at that schule for expeeriments and explosions and things, and so Georgie at the jimmynastics thocht he wid try to put his feet intae his troosers-poakits an' he's had tae tak' his bed ower the head o't; a buddy's legs is scarcely souple enough for cantraps like that."

"They've great sets and nae end o' noansense in the schules nooadays," says Mrs Smeddum. "Ma next-door neebor's wee boy goes there, an' they've startit to mak' his class staun on their heeds tae mak' them broad-mindit.

"Their teacher says that it gies them a wider ootlook, but for ma pairt I havena muckle faith in staunin' on yer head when ye've gotten a guid pair o' feet for that purpose. But they'll no' weer the soles aff their shin sae ready, an' that's a consideration noo that leather's sae dear," says Mrs Blane.

"There's something in that," interjected Mr Beekie, who was a close observer of men and things.

"Could I have anither cup with a small tate mair sugar, Mrs Goudie?" asked Mrs Tawpie. "I'm an awful sweet-tooth. The tea is so refreshin' and I was that dry. Perhaps it wis that biled saut-herring we had at breakfast-tim this morning that has brocht out sich a drooth."

"Mercy on us!" whispered Mrs Beekie to Mrs Smeddum, "whit a winderfu' fine aixent Mrs Tawpie's gotten at times. She's shairly been takin' correspondence clesses frae a boardin'-schule."

"A wee scent mair sugar, did ye say, Mrs Tawpie, an' whit hae I been thinkin' aboot? It's up tae fowerpence-happny noo, but I wouldna grudge it if it was the dooble. An' is yer tea tae a' yer minds? Jist speak oot if it's no'," continued Mrs Goudie, wi' her maist kindly smile.

"And don't fash yersel'. Mrs Beekie, that ye've cowpit yer cup ower the tablecloath. It's better tae upset yer cup than upset yersel.

"A wee drap mair hote watter did ye say, Mr Smeddum? Weel, it's no' ill tae keep men-folk in hote watter, although it's kinna wersh if there's no' somethin' else mixed wi' it.

"Mr Tawpie, ye're unco quate. Pass up yer cup, an' try a London bun or a wee bit shortbreed, or if ye're no that length don't be blate tae put oot yer haund an' help yersel' tae a cookie, wi' some damson jam on't. Or, if ye like it, try some plain loaf an' fresh butter wi' a pickle carvie on it. It's no every place ye can buy carvie, even at ony price.

"Toots, toots, Mr Blane! Ye're no' feenished already, ye've jist had five cups. Whit's like the maitter wi' ye? Can I no' press ye tae a pickle rid-curran' jeely, or a crumb o' black bun?"

"Ach, but I had ma tea before I cam; but since ye're sae pressin', Mrs Goudie, I'll jist tak' anither hauf-cup an' a wee crumb o' the shortbreed. I havena relished steak-an'-veal pie sae muckle since I was at Nancy Canty's waddin', an' that wisna yesterday."

And so the night wore on with jokes and banter.

"If I canna get ony o' ye tae tak ony mair o' onything," says Mrs Goudie, "we micht hae a bit sang frae somebody. Mrs Tawpie, they tell me ye hae a verra fine vice, and can sing like a laverock. Ye'll obleege the compny wi' a bit lilt, I daursay. Mr Smeddum's foatchin his flit an' can gie ye the key."

"I hope you'll excuse me, Mrs Goudie," says Mrs Tawpie. "I have a very nesty cold, and forby I have forgotten tae bring ma music."