Oh, love, love, lassie,
Love is like a dizziness:
It winna let a puir body
Gang aboot his business.”
“Now she’s cast aff her bonny shoon
Made o’ gilded leather,
And she’s put on her Hieland brogues
To skip amang the heather.
And she’s cast aff her bonny goon
Made o’ the silk and satin,
And she’s put on a tartan plaid
To row amang the braken.”
We are in the East Neuk o’ Fife; we are in Pettybaw; we are neither boarders nor lodgers; we are residents, inhabitants, householders, and we live (live, mind you) in a wee theekit hoosie in the old loaning. Words fail to tell you how absolutely Scotch we are and how blissfully happy. It is a happiness, I assure you, achieved through great tribulation. Salemina and I traveled many miles in railway trains, and many in various other sorts of wheeled vehicles, while the ideal ever beckoned us onward. I was determined to find a romantic lodging, Salemina a comfortable one, and this special combination of virtues is next to impossible, as every one knows. Linghurst was too much of a town; Bonnie Craig had no respectable inn; Whinnybrae was struggling to be a watering-place; Broomlea had no golf course within ten miles, and we intended to go back to our native land and win silver goblets in mixed foursomes; the “new toun o’ Fairloch” (which looked centuries old) was delightful, but we could not find apartments there; Pinkie Leith was nice, but they were tearing up the “fore street” and laying drain-pipes in it. Strathdee had been highly recommended, but it rained when we were in Strathdee, and nobody can deliberately settle in a place where it rains during the process of deliberation. No train left this moist and dripping hamlet for three hours, so we took a covered trap and drove onward in melancholy mood. Suddenly the clouds lifted and the rain ceased; the driver thought we should be having settled weather now, and put back the top of the carriage, saying meanwhile that it was a verra dry simmer this year, and that the crops sairly needed shoo’rs.
“Of course, if there is any district in Scotland where for any reason droughts are possible, that is where we wish to settle,” I whispered to Salemina; “though, so far as I can see, the Strathdee crops are up to their knees in mud. Here is another wee village. What is this place, driver?”
“Pettybaw, mam; a fine toun!”
“Will there be apartments to let there?”
“I couldna say, mam.”
“Susanna Crum’s father! How curious that he should live here!” I murmured; and at this moment the sun came out, and shone full, or at least almost full, on our future home.
“Pettybaw! _Petit bois_, I suppose,” said Salemina; “and there, to be sure, it is,–the ‘little wood’ yonder.”
We drove to the Pettybaw Inn and Posting Establishment, and, alighting, dismissed the driver. We had still three good hours of daylight, although it was five o’clock, and we refreshed ourselves with a delicious cup of tea before looking for lodgings. We consulted the greengrocer, the baker, and the flesher, about furnished apartments, and started on our quest, not regarding the little posting establishment as a possibility. Apartments we found to be very scarce, and in one or two places that were quite suitable the landlady refused to do any cooking. We wandered from house to house, the sun shining brighter and brighter, and Pettybaw looking lovelier and lovelier; and as we were refused shelter again and again, we grew more and more enamored, as is the manner of human kind. The blue sea sparkled, and Pettybaw Sands gleamed white a mile or two in the distance, the pretty stone church raised its carved spire from the green trees, the manse next door was hidden in vines, the sheep lay close to the gray stone walls and the young lambs nestled close beside them, while the song of the burn, tinkling merrily down the glade on the edge of which we stood, and the cawing of the rooks in the little wood, were the only sounds to be heard.
Salemina, under the influence of this sylvan solitude, nobly declared that she could and would do without a set bath-tub, and proposed building a cabin and living near to nature’s heart.
“I think, on the whole, we should be more comfortable living near to the inn-keeper’s heart,” I answered. “Let us go back there and pass the night, trying thus the bed and breakfast, with a view to seeing what they are like,–though they did say in Edinburgh that nobody thinks of living in these wayside hostelries.”
Back we went, accordingly, and after ordering dinner came out and strolled idly up the main street. A small sign in the draper’s window, heretofore overlooked, caught our eye. “House and Garden To Let. Inquire Within.” Inquiring within with all possible speed, we found the draper selling winseys, the draper’s assistant tidying the ribbon-box, the draper’s wife sewing in one corner, and the draper’s baby playing on the clean floor. We were impressed favorably, and entered into negotiations without delay.
“The house will be in the loaning; do you mind, ma’am?” asked the draper. (We have long since discovered that this use of the verb is a bequest from the Gaelic, in which there is no present tense. Man never is, but always to be blessed, in that language, which in this particular is not unlike old-fashioned Calvinism.)
We went out of the back door and down the green loaning, until we came to the wee stone cottage in which the draper himself lives most of the year, retiring for the warmer months to the back of his shop, and eking out a comfortable income by renting his hearthstone to the summer visitor.
The thatched roof on the wing that formed the kitchen attracted my artist’s eye, and we went in to examine the interior, which we found surprisingly attractive. There was a tiny sitting-room, with a fireplace and a microscopic piano; a dining-room adorned with portraits of relatives who looked nervous when they met my eye, for they knew that they would be turned face to the wall on the morrow; four bedrooms, a kitchen, and a back garden so filled with vegetables and flowers that we exclaimed with astonishment and admiration.
“But we cannot keep house in Scotland,” objected Salemina. “Think of the care! And what about the servants?”
“Why not eat at the inn?” I suggested. “Think of living in a real loaning, Salemina! Look at the stone floor in the kitchen, and the adorable stuffy box-bed in the wall! Look at the bust of Sir Walter in the hall, and the chromo of Melrose Abbey by moonlight! Look at the lintel over the front door, with a ship, moon, stars, and 1602 carved in the stone! What is food to all this?”
Salemina agreed that it was hardly worth considering; and in truth so many landladies had refused to receive her as a tenant that day, that her spirits were rather low, and she was uncommonly flexible.
“It is the lintel and the back garden that rents the hoose,” remarked the draper complacently in broad Scotch that I cannot reproduce. He is a house-agent as well as a draper, and went on to tell us that when he had a cottage he could rent in no other way he planted plenty of creepers in front of it. “The baker’s hoose is no sae bonnie,” he said, “and the linen and cutlery verra scanty, but there is a yellow laburnum growin’ by the door: the leddies see that, and forget to ask aboot the linen. It depends a good bit on the weather, too; it is easy to let a hoose when the sun shines upon it.”
“We hardly dare undertake regular housekeeping,” I said; “do your tenants ever take meals at the inn?”
“I couldna say, mam.” (Dear, dear, the Crums are a large family!)
“If we did that, we should still need a servant to keep the house tidy,” said Salemina, as we walked away. “Perhaps housemaids are to be had, though not nearer than Edinburgh, I fancy.”
This gave me an idea, and I slipped over to the post-office while Salemina was preparing for dinner, and dispatched a telegram to Mrs. M’Collop at Breadalbane Terrace, asking her if she could send a reliable general servant to us, capable of cooking simple breakfasts and caring for a house.
We had scarcely finished our Scotch broth, fried haddies, mutton-chops, and rhubarb tart when I received an answer from Mrs. M’Collop to the effect that her sister’s husband’s niece, Jane Grieve, could join us on the morrow if desired. The relationship was an interesting fact, though we scarcely thought the information worth the additional threepence we paid for it in the telegram; however, Mrs. M’Collop’s comfortable assurance, together with the quality of the rhubarb tart and mutton-chops, brought us to a decision. Before going to sleep we rented the draper’s house, named it Bide-a-Wee Cottage, engaged daily luncheons and dinners for three persons at the Pettybaw Inn and Posting Establishment, telegraphed to Edinburgh for Jane Grieve, to Callender for Francesca, and dispatched a letter to Paris for Mr. Beresford, telling him we had taken a “wee theekit hoosie” and that the “yett was ajee” whenever he chose to come.
“Possibly it would have been wiser not to send for them until we were settled,” I said reflectively. “Jane Grieve may not prove a suitable person.”
“The name somehow sounds too young and inexperienced,” observed Salemina, “and what association have I with the phrase ‘sister’s husband’s niece’?”
“You have heard me quote Lewis Carroll’s verse, perhaps:–
‘He thought he saw a buffalo
Upon the chimney-piece;
He looked again and found it was
His sister’s husband’s niece:
“Unless you leave the house,” he said,
“I’ll send for the police!”‘
The only thing that troubles me,” I went on, “is the question of Willie Beresford’s place of residence. He expects to be somewhere within easy walking or cycling distance,–four or five miles at most.”
“He won’t be desolate even if he doesn’t have a thatched roof, a pansy garden, and a blossoming shrub,” said Salemina sleepily, for our business arrangements and discussions had lasted well into the evening. “What he will want is a lodging where he can have frequent sight and speech of you. How I dread him! How I resent his sharing of you with us! I don’t know why I use the word ‘sharing,’ forsooth! There is nothing half so fair and just in his majesty’s greedy mind. Well, it’s the way of the world; only it is odd, with the universe of women to choose from, that he must needs take you. Strathdee seems the most desirable place for him, if he has a mackintosh and rubber boots. Inchcaldy is another town near here that we didn’t see at all,–that might do; the draper’s wife says that we can send fine linen to the laundry there.”
“Inchcaldy? Oh yes, I think we heard of it in Edinburgh–at least I have some association with the name: it has a fine golf course, I believe, and very likely we ought to have looked at it, though for my part I have no regrets. Nothing can equal Pettybaw; and I am so pleased to be a Scottish householder! Aren’t we just like Bessie Bell and Mary Gray?
‘They were twa bonnie lassies;
They biggit a bower on yon burnbrae,
An’ theekit it ower wi’ rashes.’
Think of our stone-floored kitchen, Salemina! Think of the real box-bed in the wall for little Jane Grieve! She will have red-gold hair, blue eyes, and a pink cotton gown. Think of our own cat! Think how Francesca will admire the 1602 lintel! Think of our back garden, with our own ‘neeps’ and vegetable marrows growing in it! Think how they will envy us at home when they learn that we have settled down into Scottish yeowomen!
‘It’s oh, for a patch of land!
It’s oh, for a patch of land!
Of all the blessings tongue can name,
There’s nane like a patch of land!’
Think of Willie coming to step on the floor and look at the bed and stroke the cat and covet the lintel and walk in the garden and weed the turnips and pluck the marrows that grow by our ain wee theekit hoosie!”
“Penelope, you appear slightly intoxicated! Do close the window and come to bed.”
“I am intoxicated with the caller air of Pettybaw,” I rejoined, leaning on the window-sill and looking at the stars, while I thought: “Edinburgh was beautiful; it is the most beautiful gray city in the world; it lacked one thing only to make it perfect, and Pettybaw will have that before many moons.
‘Oh, Willie’s rare an’ Willie’s fair
An’ Willie’s wondrous bonny;
An’ Willie’s hecht to marry me
Gin e’er he marries ony.
‘O gentle wind that bloweth south,
From where my love repaireth,
Convey a word from his dear mouth,
An’ tell me how he fareth.'”
“Gae tak’ awa’ the china plates,
Gae tak’ them far frae me;
And bring to me a wooden dish,
It’s that I’m best used wi’.
And tak’ awa’ thae siller spoons
The like I ne’er did see,
And bring to me the horn cutties,
They’re good eneugh for me.”
Earl Richard’s Wedding.
The next day was one of the most cheerful and one of the most fatiguing that I ever spent. Salemina and I moved every article of furniture in our wee theekit hoosie from the place where it originally stood to another and a better place: arguing, of course, over the precise spot it should occupy, which was generally upstairs if the thing were already down, or downstairs if it nike air max sale were already up. We hid all the more hideous ornaments of the draper’s wife, and folded away her most objectionable tidies and table-covers, replacing them with our own pretty draperies. There were only two pictures in the sitting-room, and as an artist I would not have parted with them for worlds. The first was The Life of a Fireman, which could only remind one of the explosion of a mammoth tomato, and the other was The Spirit of Poetry Calling Burns from the Plough. Burns wore white knee-breeches, military boots, a splendid waistcoat with lace ruffles, and carried a cocked hat. To have been so dressed he must have known the Spirit was intending to come. The plough-horse was a magnificent Arabian, whose tail swept the freshly furrowed earth, while the Spirit of Poetry was issuing from a practicabl nike air max e wigwam on the left, and was a lady of such ample dimensions that no poet would have dared say “no” when she called him.
The dining-room was blighted by framed photographs of the draper’s relations and the draper’s wife’s relations; all uniformly ugly. (It seems strange that married couples having the least beauty to bequeath to their offspring should persist in having the largest families.) These ladies and gentlemen were too numerous to remove, so we obscured them with trailing branches; reflecting that we only breakfasted in the room, and the morning meal is easily digested when one lives in the open air. We arranged flowers everywhere, and bought potted plants at a little nursery hard by. We apportioned the bedrooms, giving Francesca the hardest bed,–as she is the yo nike air max 95 ungest, and wasn’t here to choose,–me the next hardest, and Salemina the best; Francesca the largest looking-glass and wardrobe, me the best view, and Salemina the biggest bath. We bought housekeeping stores, distributing our patronage equally between the two grocers; we purchased aprons and dusters from the rival drapers, engaged bread and rolls from the baker, milk and cream from the plumber, who keeps three cows, interviewed the flesher about chops; in fact, no young couple facing love in a cottage ever had a busier or happier time than we; and at sundown, when Francesca arrived, we were in the pink of order, standing under our own lintel, ready to welcome her to Pettybaw. As to being strangers in a strange land, we cheap nike air max had a bowing acquaintance with everybody on the main street of the tiny village, and were on terms of considerable intimacy with half a dozen families, including dogs and babies.
Francesca was delighted with everything, from the station (Pettybaw Sands, two miles away) to Jane Grieve’s name, which she thought as perfect, in its way, as Susanna Crum’s. She had purchased a “tirling-pin,” that old-time precursor of knockers and bells, at an antique shop in Oban, and we fastened it on the front door at once, taking turns at risping it until our own nerves were shattered, and the draper’s wife ran down the loaning to see if cheap nike air max we were in need of anything. The twisted bar of iron stands out from the door and the ring is drawn up and down over a series of nicks, making a rasping noise. The lovers and ghaists in the old ballads always “tirled at the pin,” you remember; that is, touched it gently.
Francesca brought us letters from Edinburgh, and what was my joy, in opening Willie’s, to learn that he begged us to find a place in Fifeshire, nike air max 90 sale and as near St. Rules or Strathdee as convenient; for in that case he could accept an invitation he had just received to visit his friend Robin Anstruther, at Rowardennan Castle.
“It is not the visit at the castle I wish so much, you may be sure,” he wrote, “as the fact that Lady Ardmore will make everything pleasant for you. You will like my friend Robin Anstruther, who is Lady Ardmore’s youngest brother, and who is going to her to be nursed and coddled after a baddish accident in the hunting-field. He is very sweet-tempered, and will get on well with Francesca”–
“I don’t see the connection,” rudely interrupted that spirited young person.
“I suppose she has more room on her list in the country than she had in Edinburgh; but if my remembrance serves me, she always enrolls a goodly number of victims, whether she has any imm nike air max 90 ediate use for them or not.”
“Mr. Beresford’s manners have not been improved by his residence in Paris,” observed Francesca, with resentment in her tone and delight in her eye.
“Mr. Beresford’s manners are always perfect,” said Salemina loyally, “and I have no doubt that this visit to Lady Ardmore will be extremely pleasant for him, though very embarrassing to us. If we are thrown into forced intimacy with a castle” (Salemina spoke of it as if it had fangs and a lashing tail), “what shall we do in this draper’s hut?”
“Salemina!” I expostulated, “the bears will devour you as they did the ungrateful child in the fairy-tale. I wonder at your daring to use the word ‘hut’ in connection with our wee theekit hoosie!”
“They will never understand that we are doing all this for the novelty of it,” she objected. “The Scottish nobility http://cheapnikeairmaxtop10.blogspot.com/ and gentry probably never think of renting a house for a joke. Imagine Lord and Lady Ardmore, the young Ardmores, Robin Anstruther, and Willie Beresford calling upon us in this sitting-room! We ourselves would have to sit in the hall and talk in through the doorway.”
“All will be well,” Francesca assured her soothingly. “We shall be pardoned much because we are Americans, and will not be expected to know any better. Besides, the gifted Miss Hamilton is an artist, and that covers a multitude of sins against conventionality. When the castle people ‘tirl at the pin,’ I will appear as the maid, if you like, following your example at Mrs. Bobby’s cottage in Belvern, Pen.”
“And it isn’t as if there were many houses to choose from, Salemina, nor as if Bide-a-Wee Cottage were cheap,” I continued. “Think of the rent we pay and keep your head high. Remember that the draper’s wife says air max there is nothing half so comfortable in Inchcaldy, although that is twice as large a town.”
“_Inchcaldy!_” ejaculated Francesca, sitting down heavily upon the sofa and staring at me.
“Inchcaldy, my dear,–spelled _caldy_, but pronounced _cawdy_; the town where you are to take your nonsensical little fripperies to be laundered.”
“Where is Inchcaldy? How far away?”
“About five miles, I believe, but a lovely road.”
“Well,” she exclaimed bitterly, “of course Scotland is a small, insignificant country; but, tiny as it is, it presents some liberty of choice, and why you need have pitched upon Pettybaw, and brought me here, when it is only five miles from Inchcaldy, and a lovely road besides, is more than I can understand!”
“In what way has Inchcaldy been so unhappy as to offend you?” I asked.
“It has not offended me, save that it chances to be Ronald Macdonald’s parish,–that is nike air max all.”
“Ronald Macdonald’s parish!” we repeated automatically.
“Certainly,–you must have heard him mention Inchcaldy; and how queer he will think it that I have come to Pettybaw, under all the circumstances!”
“We do not know ‘all the circumstances,'” quoted Salemina somewhat haughtily; “and you must remember, my dear, that our opportunities for speech with Mr. Macdonald have been very rare when you were present. For my part, I was always in such a tremor of anxiety during his visits lest one or both of you should descend to blows that I remember no details of his conversation. Besides, we did not choose Pettybaw; we discovered it by chance as we were driving from Strathdee to St. Rules. How were we to know that it was near this fatal Inchcaldy? If you think it best, we will hold no communication with the place, and Mr. Macdonald need never know you are here.”
I thought Francesca looked rather startled at this proposition. At cheap nike air max trainers all events she said hastily, “Oh well, let it go; we could not avoid each other long, anyway, though it is very awkward, of course; you see, we did not part friends.”
“I thought I had never seen you on more cordial terms,” remarked Salemina.
“But you weren’t there,” answered Francesca unguardedly.
“At the station.”
“The station in Edinburgh from which I started for the Highlands.”
“You never said that he came to see you off.”
“The matter was too unimportant for notice; and the more I think of his being here, the less I mind it, after all; and so, dull care, begone! When I first meet him on the sands or in the loaning, I shall say, ‘Dear me, is it Mr. Macdonald! What brought you to our quiet hamlet?’ (I shall put the responsibility on him, you know.) ‘That is the worst of these small countries,–fowk are aye i’ the gait! When we part forever in America, we are able to stay parted, if we wish.’ Then he will say, ‘Quite so, quite so; but I suppose even you, Miss Monroe, wil nike air max 1 l allow that a minister may not move his church to please a lady.’ ‘Certainly not,’ I shall reply, ‘eespecially when it is Estaiblished!’ Then he will laugh, and we shall be better friends for a few moments; and then I shall tell him my latest story about the Scotchman who prayed, ‘Lord, I do not ask that Thou shouldst give me wealth; only show me where it is, and I will attend to the rest.'”
Salemina moaned at th cheap nike air max e delightful prospect opening before us, while I went to the piano and caroled impersonally:–
“Oh, wherefore did I cross the Forth,
And leave my love behind me?
Why did I venture to the north
With one that did not mind me?
I’m sure I’ve seen a better limb
And twenty better faces;
But still my mind it runs on him
When I am at the races!”
Francesca left the room at this, and closed the door behind her with such energy that the bust of Sir Walter rocked on the hall shelf. Running upstairs she locked herself in her bedroom, and came down again only to help us receive Jane Grieve, who arrived at eight o’clock.
In times of joy, Salemina, Francesca, and I occasionally have our trifling differences of opinion, but in hours of affliction we are as one flesh. An all-wise Providence sent us Jane Grieve for fear that we should be to nike air max classic o happy in Pettybaw. Plans made in heaven for the discipline of sinful human flesh are always successful, and this was no exception.
We had sent a “machine” from the inn to meet her, and when it drew up at the door we went forward to greet the rosy little Jane of our fancy. An aged person, wearing a rusty black bonnet and shawl, and carrying what appeared to be a tin cake-box and a baby’s bath-tub, descended rheumatically from the vehicle and announced herself as Miss Grieve. She was too old to call by her Christian name, too sensitive to call by her surname, so Miss Grieve she remained, as announced, to the end of the chapter, and our rosy little Jane died before she was actually born. The man took her curious luggage into the kitchen, and Salemina escorted her thither, while Francesca and I fell into each other’s arms and laughed hysterically.
“Nobody need tell me that she is Mrs. M’Collop’s sister’s husband’s niece,” she whispered, “though she may possibly be somebody’s grandaunt. Doesn’t she remind you of Mrs. Gummidge?”
Salemina returned in a quarter of an hour, and sank dejectedly on the sofa.
“Run over to the inn, Francesca,” she said, “and order bacon and eggs at eight-thirty to-morrow morning. Miss Grieve thinks we had better not breakfast at home until she becomes accustomed to the surroundings.”
“Shall we allow her to become accustomed to them?” I questioned.
“She came up from Glasgow to Edinburgh for the day, and went to see Mrs. M’Collop just as our telegram arrived. She was living with an ‘extremely nice family’ in Glasgow, and only broke her engagement in order to try Fifeshire air for the summer; so she will remain with us as long as she is benefited by the climate.”
“Can’t we pay her for a month and send her away?”
“How can we? She is Mrs. M’Collop’s sister’s husband’s niece, and we intend returning to Mrs. M’Collop. She has a nice ladylike appearance, but when she takes her bonnet off she looks seventy years old.”
“She ought always to keep it off, then,” returned Francesca, “for she looked eighty with it on. We shall have to soothe her last moments, of course, and pay her funeral expenses. Did you offer her a cup of tea and show her the box-bed?”
“Yes; she said she was muckle obleeged to me, but the coals were so poor and hard she couldna batter them up to start a fire the nicht, and she would try the box-bed to see if she could sleep in it. I am glad to remember that it was you who telegraphed for her, Penelope.”
“Let there be no recriminations,” I responded; “let us stand shoulder to shoulder in this calamity,–isn’t there a story called ‘Calamity Jane?’ We might live at the inn, and give her the cottage for a summer residence, but I utterly refuse to be parted from our cat and the 1602 lintel.”
After I have once described Miss Grieve I shall not suffer her to begloom these pages as she did our young lives. She is so exactly like her kind in America that she cannot be looked upon as a national type. Everywhere we go we see fresh, fair-haired, sonsie lassies; why should we have been visited with this affliction, we who have no courage in a foreign land to rid ourselves of it?
She appears at the door of the kitchen with some complaint, and stands there talking to herself in a depressing murmur until she arrives at the next grievance. Whenever we hear this, which is whenever we are in the sitting-room, we amuse ourselves by chanting lines of melancholy poetry which correspond to the sentiments she seems to be uttering. It is the only way the infliction can be endured, for the sitting-room is so small we cannot keep the door closed habitually. The effect of this plan is something like the following:–
_She_. “The range has sic a bad draft I canna mak’ the fire draw!”
_We_. “But I’m ower auld for the tears to start,
An’ sae the sighs maun blaw!”
_She_. “The clock i’ the hall doesna strike. I have to get oot
o’ my bed to see the time.”
_We_. “The broken hairt it kens
Nae second spring again!”
_She_. “There are not eneuch jugs i’ the hoose.”
_We_. “I’m downright dizzy wi’ the thought,–
In troth I’m like to greet!”
_She_. “The sink drain is na recht.”
_We_. “An’ it’s oh! to win awa’, awa’,
An’ it’s oh! to win awa’!”
_She_. “I canna thole a box-bed!”
_We_. “Ay, waukin’ O
Waukin’ O an’ weary.
Sleep I can get nane,
Ay waukin’ O!”
_She_. “It’s fair insultin’ to rent a hoose wi’ so few convenience.”
_We_. “An’ I’m ower auld to fish ony mair,
An’ I hinna the chance to droon.”
_She_. “The work is fair sickenin’ i’ this hoose,
an’ a’ for ane puir body to do by her lane.”
_We_. “How can ye chant, ye little birds,
An’ I sae weary, fu’ o’ care?”
_She_. “Ah, but that was a fine family I lived wi’ in Glasgy;
an’ it’s a wearifu’ day’s work I’ve had the day.”
_We_. “Oh, why was I spared to cry, wae’s me!”
_She_. “Why dinna they leave floo’rs i’ the garden, makin’
sic a mess i’ the hoose wi’ ’em? It’s not for the
knowin’ what they will be after next!”
_We_. “Oh, waly waly up the bank,
And waly waly doon the brae!”
Miss Grieve’s plaints never grow less, though we are sometimes at a loss for appropriate quotations to match them. The poetic interpolations are introduced merely to show the general spirit of her conversation. They take the place of her sighs, which are by their nature unprintable. Many times each day she is wont to sink into one low chair, and, extending her feet in another, close her eyes and murmur undistinguishable plaints which come to us in a kind of rhythmic way. She has such a shaking right hand we have been obliged to give up coffee and have tea, as the former beverage became too unsettled on its journey from the kitchen to the breakfast-table. She says she kens she is a guid cook, though salf-praise is sma’ racommendation (sma’ as it is she will get no other!); but we have little opportunity to test her skill, as she prepares only our breakfasts of eggs and porridge. Visions of home-made goodies had danced before our eyes, but as the hall clock doesna strike she is unable to rise at any exact hour, and as the range draft is bad, and the coals too hard to batter up wi’ a hatchet, we naturally have to content ourselves with the baker’s loaf.
And this is a truthful portrait of “Calamity Jane,” our one Pettybaw grievance.
“Gae farer up the burn to Habbie’s Howe,
Where a’ the sweets o’ spring an’ simmer grow:
Between twa birks, out o’er a little lin,
The water fa’s an’ mak’s a singan din;
A pool breast-deep, beneath as clear as glass,
Kisses, wi’ easy whirls, the bord’ring grass.”
The Gentle Shepherd.
That is what Peggy says to Jenny in Allan Ramsay’s poem, and if you substitute “Crummylowe” for “Habbie’s Howe” in the first line, you will have a lovely picture of the Farm-Steadin’.
You come to it by turning the corner from the inn, first passing the cottage where the lady wishes to rent two rooms for fifteen shillings a week, but will not give much attendance, as she is slightly asthmatic, and the house is always as clean as it is this minute, and the view from the window looking out on Pettybaw Bay canna be surpassed at ony money. Then comes the little house where Will’am Beattie’s sister Mary died in May, and there wasna a bonnier woman in Fife. Next is the cottage with the pansy garden, where the lady in the widow’s cap takes five o’clock tea in the bay window, and a snug little supper at eight. She has for the first scones and marmalade, and her tea is in a small black teapot under a red cozy with a white muslin cover drawn over it. At eight she has more tea, and generally a kippered herring, or a bit of cold mutton left from the noon dinner. We note the changes in her bill of fare as we pass hastily by and feel admitted quite into the family secrets. Beyond this bay window, which is so redolent of simple peace and comfort that we long to go in and sit down, is the cottage with the double white tulips, the cottage with the collie on the front steps, the doctor’s house with the yellow laburnum tree, and then the house where the Disagreeable Woman lives. She has a lovely baby, which, to begin with, is somewhat remarkable, as disagreeable women rarely have babies; or else, having had them, rapidly lose their disagreeableness,–so rapidly that one has not time to notice it. The Disagreeable Woman’s house is at the end of the row, and across the road is a wicket gate leading–Where did it lead?–that was the very point. Along the left, as you lean wistfully over the gate, there runs a stone wall topped by a green hedge; and on the right, first furrows of pale fawn, then below, furrows of deeper brown, and mulberry, and red ploughed earth stretching down to waving fields of green, and thence to the sea, gray, misty, opalescent, melting into the pearly white clouds, so that one cannot tell where sea ends and sky begins.
There is a path between the green hedge and the ploughed field, and it leads seductively to the farm-steadin’; or we felt that it might thus lead, if we dared unlatch the wicket gate. Seeing no sign “Private Way,” “Trespassers Not Allowed,” or other printed defiance to the stranger, we were considering the opening of the gate, when we observed two female figures coming toward us along the path, and paused until they should come through. It was the Disagreeable Woman (though we knew it not) and an elderly friend. We accosted the friend, feeling instinctively that she was framed of softer stuff, and asked her if the path were a private one. It was a question that had never met her ear before, and she was too dull or too discreet to deal with it on the instant. To our amazement, she did not even manage to falter, “I couldna say.”
“Is the path private?” I repeated.
“It is certainly the idea to keep it a little private,” said the Disagreeable Woman, coming into the conversation without being addressed. “Where do you wish to go?”
“Nowhere in particular. The walk looks so inviting we should like to see the end.”
“It goes only to the Farm, and you can reach that by the highroad; it is only a half-mile farther. Do you wish to call at the Farm?”
“No, oh no; the path is so very pretty that”–
“Yes, I see; well, I should call it rather private.” And with this she departed; leaving us to stand on the outskirts of paradise, while she went into her house and stared at us from the window as she played with the lovely undeserved baby. But that was not the end of the matter.
We found ourselves there next day, Francesca and I,–Salemina was too proud,–drawn by an insatiable longing to view the beloved and forbidden scene. We did not dare to glance at the Disagreeable Woman’s windows, lest our courage should ooze away, so we opened the gate and stole through into the rather private path.
It was a most lovely path; even if it had not been in a sense prohibited, it would still have been lovely, simply on its own merits. There were little gaps in the hedge and the wall, through which we peered into a daisy-starred pasture, where a white bossy and a herd of flaxen-haired cows fed on the sweet green grass. The mellow ploughed earth on the right hand stretched down to the shore-line, and a plough-boy walked up and down the long, straight furrows whistling “My Nannie’s awa’.” Pettybaw is so far removed from the music-halls that their cheap songs and strident echoes never reach its Sylvan shades, and the herd-laddies and plough-boys still sweeten their labors with the old classic melodies.
We walked on and on, determined to come every day; and we settled that if we were accosted by any one, or if our innocent business were demanded, Francesca should ask, “Does Mrs. Macstronachlacher live here, and has she any new-laid eggs?”
Soon the gates of the Farm appeared in sight. There was a cluster of buildings, with doves huddling and cooing on the red-tiled roofs,–dairy-houses, workmen’s cottages, comely rows of haystacks (towering yellow things with peaked tops); a little pond with ducks and geese chattering together as they paddled about, and for additional music the trickling of two tiny burns making “a singan din” as they wimpled through the bushes. A speckle-breasted thrush perched on a corner of the gray wall and poured his heart out. Overhead there was a chorus of rooks in the tall trees, but there was no sound of human voice save that of the plough-laddie whistling “My Nannie’s awa’.”
We turned our backs on this darling solitude, and retraced our steps lingeringly. As we neared the wicket gate again we stood upon a bit of jutting rock and peered over the wall, sniffing the hawthorn buds with ecstasy. The white bossy drew closer, treading softly on its daisy carpet; the wondering cows looked up at us as they peacefully chewed their cuds; a man in corduroy breeches came from a corner of the pasture, and with a sharp, narrow hoe rooted out a thistle or two that had found their way into this sweet feeding-ground. Suddenly we heard the swish of a dress behind us, and turned, conscience-stricken, though we had in nothing sinned.
“Does Mrs. Macstronachlacher live here?” stammered Francesca like a parrot.
It was an idiotic time and place for the question. We had certainly arranged that she should ask it, but something must be left to the judgment in such cases. Francesca was hanging over a stone wall regarding a herd of cows in a pasture, and there was no possible shelter for a Mrs. Macstronachlacher within a quarter of a mile. What made the remark more unfortunate was the fact that, though she had on a different dress and bonnet, the person interrogated was the Disagreeable Woman; but Francesca is particularly slow in discerning resemblances. She would have gone on mechanically asking for new-laid eggs, had I not caught her eye and held it sternly. The foe looked at us suspiciously for a moment (Francesca’s hats are not easily forgotten), and then vanished up the path, to tell the people at Crummylowe, I suppose, that their grounds were infested by marauding strangers whose curiosity was manifestly the outgrowth of a republican government.
As she disappeared in one direction, we walked slowly in the other; and just as we reached the corner of the pasture where two stone walls meet, and where a group of oaks gives grateful shade, we heard children’s voices.
“No, no!” cried somebody: “it must be still higher at this end, for the tower,–this is where the king will sit. Help me with this heavy one, Rafe. Dandie, mind your foot. Why don’t you be making the flag for the ship?–and do keep the Wrig away from us till we finish building!
“O lang, lang may the ladyes sit
Wi’ their face into their hand,
Before they see Sir Patrick Spens
Come sailing to the strand.”
Sir Patrick Spens.
We forced our toes into the crevices of the wall and peeped stealthily over the top. Two boys of eight or ten years, with two younger children, were busily engaged in building a castle. A great pile of stones had been hauled to the spot, evidently for the purpose of mending the wall, and these were serving as rich material for sport. The oldest of the company, a bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked boy in an Eton jacket and broad white collar, was obviously commander-in-chief; and the next in size, whom he called Rafe, was a laddie of eight, in kilts. These two looked as if they might be scions of the aristocracy, while Dandie and the Wrig were fat little yokels of another sort. The miniature castle must have been the work of several mornings, and was worthy of the respectful but silent admiration with which we gazed upon it; but as the last stone was placed in the tower, the master builder looked up and spied our interested eyes peering at him over the wall. We were properly abashed and ducked our heads discreetly at once, but were reassured by hearing him run rapidly toward us, calling, “Stop, if you please! Have you anything on just now,–are you busy?”
We answered that we were quite at leisure.
“Then would you mind coming in to help us to play ‘Sir Patrick Spens’? There aren’t enough of us to do it nicely.”
This confidence was touching, and luckily it was not in the least misplaced. Playing “Sir Patrick Spens” was exactly in our line, little as he suspected it.
“Come and help?” I said. “Simply delighted! Do come, Fanny dear. How can we get over the wall?”
“I’ll show you the good broken place!” cried Sir Apple-Cheek; and following his directions we scrambled through, while Rafe took off his Highland bonnet ceremoniously and handed us down to earth.
“Hurrah! now it will be something like fun! Do you know ‘Sir Patrick Spens’?”
“Every word of it. Don’t you want us to pass an examination before you allow us in the game?”
“No,” he answered gravely; “it’s a great help, of course, to know it, but it isn’t necessary. I keep the words in my pocket to prompt Dandie, and the Wrig can only say two lines, she’s so little.” (Here he produced some tattered leaves torn from a book of ballads.) “We’ve done it many a time, but this is a new Dunfermline Castle, and we are trying the play in a different way. Rafe is the king, and Dandie is the ‘eldern knight,’–you remember him?”
“Certainly; he sat at the king’s right knee.”
“Yes, yes, that’s the one! Then Rafe is Sir Patrick part of the time, and I the other part, because everybody likes to be him; but there’s nobody left for the ‘lords o’ Noroway’ or the sailors, and the Wrig is the only maiden to sit on the shore, and she always forgets to comb her hair and weep at the right time.”
The forgetful and placid Wrig (I afterwards learned that this is a Scots word for the youngest bird in the nest) was seated on the grass, with her fat hands full of pink thyme and white wild woodruff. The sun shone on her curly flaxen head. She wore a dark blue cotton frock with white dots, and a short-sleeved pinafore; and though she was utterly useless from a dramatic point of view, she was the sweetest little Scotch dumpling I ever looked upon. She had been tried and found wanting in most of the principal parts of the ballad, but when left out of the performance altogether she was wont to scream so lustily that all Crummylowe rushed to her assistance.
“Now let us practice a bit to see if we know what we are going to do,” said Sir Apple-Cheek. “Rafe, you can be Sir Patrick this time. The reason why we all like to be Sir Patrick,” he explained, turning to me, “is that the lords o’ Noroway say to him,–
‘Ye Scottishmen spend a’ our King’s gowd,
And a’ our Queenis fee;’
and then he answers,–
‘Ye lee! ye lee! ye leers loud,
Fu’ loudly do ye lee!’
and a lot of splendid things like that. Well, I’ll be the king,” and accordingly he began:–
“The King sits in Dunfermline tower,
Drinking the bluid-red wine.
‘O whaur will I get a skeely skipper
To sail this new ship o’ mine?'”
A dead silence ensued, whereupon the king said testily, “Now, Dandie, you never remember you’re the eldern knight; go on!”
Thus reminded, Dandie recited:–
“O up and spake an eldern knight
Sat at the King’s right knee,
‘Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor
That ever sailed the sea.'”
“Now I’ll write my letter,” said the king, who was endeavoring to make himself comfortable in his somewhat contracted tower.
“The King has written a braid letter
And sealed it with his hand;
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens,
Was walking on the strand.
Read the letter out loud, Rafe, and then you’ll remember what to do.”
“‘To Noroway! to Noroway!
To Noroway on the faem!
The King’s daughter of Noroway,
‘T is thou maun bring her hame,'”
“Now do the next part!”
“I can’t; I’m going to chuck up that next part. I wish you’d do Sir Pat until it comes to ‘Ye lee! ye lee!'”
“No, that won’t do, Rafe. We have to mix up everybody else, but it’s too bad to spoil Sir Patrick.”
“Well, I’ll give him to you, then, and be the king. I don’t mind so much now that we’ve got such a good tower; and why can’t I stop up there even after the ship sets sail, and look out over the sea with a telescope? That’s the way Elizabeth did the time she was king.”
“You can stay till you have to come down and be a dead Scots lord. I’m not going to lie there as I did last time, with nobody but the Wrig for a Scots lord, and her forgetting to be dead!”
Sir Apple-Cheek then essayed the hard part “chucked up” by Rafe. It was rather difficult, I confess, as the first four lines were in pantomime and required great versatility:–
“The first word that Sir Patrick read,
Fu’ loud, loud laughed he;
The neist word that Sir Patrick read,
The tear blinded his e’e.”
These conflicting emotions successfully simulated, Sir Patrick resumed:–
“‘O wha is he has dune this deed,
And tauld the King o’ me,–
To send us out, at this time o’ the year,
To sail upon the sea?'”
Then the king stood up in the unstable tower and shouted his own orders:–