Author(s): Bell, Mr John Joy
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J. J. BELL
' Wee MacGreegor,' 'The J. J. Bell Reciter,' &c.
LONDON : 38 Soho Square, W.1
W. & R. CHAMBERS, LIMITED
EDINBURGH : 339 High Street
Printed in Great Britain.
W & R. CHAMBERS, LTD., LONDON and EDINBURGH,
G. E. LEWIS
1. HERSELF . . . . . . . 9
2. ROMANCE . . . . . . . 15
3. SMILES . . . . . . . 22
4. PRESENCE OF MIND . . . . . 28
5. THE PICTURES . . . . . .. 34
6. A PROPOSAL . . . . . . 40
7. BOOKS . . . . . . . 46
8. POLITICS . . . . . . . 52
9. PEACEMAKING . . . . . . 58
10. COOKERY . . . . . . . 65
11. LUCK . . . . . . 71
12. PLUS-FOURS . . . . . . 77
13. MR BOGGIE . . . . . . 83
14. MICE . . . . . . . 90
15. THE HEAT-WAVE . . . . . 96
16. FED UP . . . . . . . 102
17. THE TONIC . . . . . . 108
18. SLANG . . . . . . . 114
19. WANGLING IT . . . . . . 121
20. GOING ON HOLIDAY . . . . . 126
21. ON HOLIDAY . . . . . . 132
22. NICE BOYS . . . . . . 139
23. STILL ON HOLIDAY . . . . . 146
24. A LOVE-LETTER . . . . . 152
25. A BIRTHDAY . . . . . . 158
26. THE DRAMATIC SOCIETY . . . . 165
27. A COMMITTEE MEETING . . . . 172
28. AS PLAYWRIGHT . . . 179
29. THE PLAY . . . . . 185
30. SCANDAL . . . . . . . 191
31. OPPOSITION . . . . . . 196
32. VANITY . . . . . . . 202
33. THE PERFECT PRESENT . . . . 209
34. DISCUSSION ON ROMANCE . . . . 215
35. SANTA . . . . . . . 221
36. DRESS REHEARSAL . . . . . 230
37. STAMPS . . . . . . . 237
38. THE RING . . . . . . 243
WHEN I had finally decided to write my
biography I thought it best to inform my boss—the postmaster, stationer, and tobacconist
of Tullypawkie, N.B. It didna seem
honest to keep him in the dark, especially as
he would be frequently mentioned in the work.
His name is Mr Blue, his nature being much
the same, but he has always treated me fair.
His reply to my announcement was as follows :
'Well, Betty, folk usually waits till they're up
in years afore they commence a job o' that
sort. Still, the less you ken about life, the
easier you'll write about it. Personally, I have
no objections so long as you dinna let it interfere
with your duties here, and dinna compile
your notions on Government stationery.'
'I hope I can afford,' I said, 'to biograph
myself on nicer paper than the post-office
'It wouldna be difficult,' he admitted. 'But,
in any case, the biography will maybe keep
you out of more frivolous mischief; and, if you
stick to the truth, you'll never get writer's
Reader, you will be suspecting already that
Mr Blue is a cynic. He freely admits it. He
declares that no man that spends his days
betwixt a rotten Government and a putrid
Public can help becoming anything else, sooner
or later ; and he has been at it twenty years.
I have been at it only eighteen months, and
there is moments when I fear I indulge in
cynicle smiles. But I canna yet describe
myself as a complete cynic. Maybe it will
But, leaving Mr Blue and his ways for
another chapter, I will now attempt to describe
My name is Elizabeth Cairnie, and I am
usually called Betty. My parents are the best
ever—both noble characters—my father being
the sole joiner in Tullypawkie. He might
have won fame in Dundee or London, but
preferred a rural country life. My only complaint
against my parents is that they didna
have me christened Gladys Muriel. It wouldna
have made any difference to my appearance, of
course; but I would have felt more beautiful,
which is near the same thing as being it.
I am the youngest of seven—the perfect
number, as my parents used to say when we
was all asleep, and Tullypawkie was free of
measles, mumps, etc.—and the only one left
at home. My brothers and sisters are earning
honest livings in the city and abroad. I
am not saying an honest living canna be
earned in Tullypawkie, but there is very little
in it besides the honesty.
When I left the school my intention was to
be a movie star; but mother threw up her
hands, and father put down his foot; so, with
a few shrugs of my shapely shoulders—I am
putting that in with a cynicle smile—I resigned
myself to the P.O. Still, even now, in my
dreams I hear the bursts of laughter and the
rending sobs of a crowded audience watching
me on the screen; but alas! the next thing
I hear is mother's voice: 'Betty, you lazy
thing, get up, or you'll be losing your job at
Such is life!
My age at the present moment is seventeen
and a half, my height medium, my breadth
the same. Being inclined to plumpness, I have
made a vow to avoid sweets on week-days,
Wednesday (the half-holiday) and Saturday
excepted. Though I have no ambition for
the figure of a telegraph pole, I shudder to
think of resembling a barrel at forty, like some
of the one-time belles of Tullypawkie. Fat
is a most invidious thing for growing on one!
Day by day there seems to be nothing doing;
but oh, what a difference at the end of a year!
Fortunately, my ankles shows no tendency to
obsequity—especially as very short skirts is so
My hair is dark, neither curly nor leeky.
I had it bobbed when I started at the P.O.
Oh, my parents was wild! But the deed was
done, and I canna admit that the result is
unbecoming—makes me look grown up, yet
youthful. Providence has blessed me with a
nice clear complexion, but not much colour.
It still blushes too easily, but time cures
everything. My eyes, which have been said
to resemble dark-brown velveteen, seem to
have a certain charm for members of the
masculine gender, though that may be due to
an optical delusion. My mouth, too, appears
to have some attraction, but I have never used
it for anything but eating and drinking. No
chased salute has ever reached these lips, not
but what such a thing has been attempted
and landed elsewhere.
As for my nose, I really never took much
notice of it till Robbie Proudfoot, at the Hogmanay
dance, declared it was pretty—and he is
a strict abstainer. 'Oh, Betty,' he said, you've got perfectly beautiful features, especially your
nose. It's that neat, neither turned up nor
down, and it's such a perfect fit to the rest o'
your face. It really looks as if you had been
born with it attached, whereas the majority of
human noses looks as if they had been stuck
I told him not to be a silly goat, but it was
no use. It's gospel truth,' said he; 'and
oh, Betty, I fondly hope you'll never deface
it with nasty powder.'
'Not unless it turns glossy,' I said to satisfy
It could never do that,' he cried ; but if it
ever did, Betty, I would sooner see you apply
Alas, how true it is that the best of men
seems to have something savage in their
Well, maybe that's enough about my
personal appearance. I confess to colouring
slightly on reading over what I have wrote.
But my mother always used to tell us girls to
make the most of what Providence had given
us. She used to drive Maggie, my eldest
sister, wild with saying that; for Maggie was
always striving to make the least of what
Providence had given her, which was about
three stones too much. Poor Maggie, when
I think of her I could refuse the biggest box
of chocs. in this weary world. However, her
last letter was more hopeful. She said the
unhealthy life in Glasgow was slowly but
surely reducing her, and she scarcely grudged
the penny a day to the weighing-machine at
the railway-station, though she wished it
nearer at hand. Of course, this news put
father and mother into a state of terrible
anxiety; and now father is sending her a
dozen new-laids every Monday, and mother
a pound of fresh butter twice a week—and
poor Maggie simply canna resist fresh butter.
Well, as some genius has said, we canna
have it both ways.
THE older I grow — I'll be eighteen in
September — the clearer I see that romance isna confined to any particular profession
or trade; and that there may be noble
characters engaged in weeding turnips as well
as in rescuing beauteous maidens from burning
houses on the screen. No doubt the romance
in performing for the movies is of richer
quality than what you obtain in serving in a
wee country post-office; and I admit the P.O.
sort is apt to be what you might call secondhand.
Still, it's there if you like to look for
it — I dinna mean on the p.p.c.'s ; and in these
times we should be thankful for small mercies.
I discussed it the other day with Mr Blue,
the postmaster, and my boss. The afternoon
mail was late, and we had both got fed up
with pretending to be awful busy. Mr Blue,
as I have said in the first chapter of this
biography, is a cynic, and I expect to become
the same in the course of my postal career;
but in the meantime him and me differs a
good deal in our ideas on romance.
'But, Mr Blue, when you think on all the
love-letters you must have handled and, maybe,
delivered to the blushing addressees, do you
not feel a little romantic?'
'When I think on the millions o' tax-papers,
funeral notices, account rendereds, etectera,
etectera, that has passed through my hands,'
he replied, canna but conclude that the
P.O. is a curse to mankind. I daresay it suits
womankind well enough.'
I felt annoyed, but let it pass, and held up
a wee cardboard box with silver edges which
had come with the morning mail and was
waiting to be called for. 'Surely, Mr Blue,'
I said, 'you won't deny there's romance in
He took it and looked at it with a smile that
would have withered an everlasting. 'H'm!
Wedding cake! Well, Betty, I've received
and dispatched plenty like this in my time.'
He put it to his nose. 'Reminds me of my
youth,' he said.
'That's better !' said I.
'Brings back my schooldays, Betty!'
'Was you romantic even then?' I inquired,
feeling quite hopeful.
'I had a notion for poetry in those days,'
he said, and this packet calls to mind The
Lays of Ancient Rome.' He sniffed at it
I suddenly wondered if he was taking leave
of his onion.
'The confectioner that conglomerated this
cake,' he said, 'had more sense of humour
than smell. There's a bad egg in it.'
'Oh, horrors!' I observed.
'I would like fine to have been present—
as a non-combatant—at that wedding,' he remarked,
'merely to see the guests trying to
swallow this cake and be polite at the same
time. Ay, Betty, you're right. There's a
deal of romance in this cake—enough to give
a cat dreams of matrimony.'
Before I could think of a reply the motor
arrived with the mail. Alas! when I come
to consider it I canna resist a cynical 1 smile
at the thought of the guests trying to look
pleasant. Mr Blue blames the P.O. for his
cynicality; but I sometimes wonder. Was it
some blighted affair in his youth, or has it
been in his system since infancy?
Judging from my own experience, I canna
call him a mysiologist, or woman-hater; but
it's perfectly clear that he has no notion
for the conjugial state. At least, it's perfectly
clear to everybody, except the senior spinsters
of Tullypawkie, which do their bests to ensnare
him with their voluptuous charms. Their
1 I appologise for misspelling this word previously.
prospects of success is far from crimson, but
their motto seems to be 'where there's life
there's hope.' Ah me! they might as well
recite poetry to a rhinoceros and perform
deeds of kindness on a deceased tortoise.
This is the sort of thing that sometimes
happens in the shop, early in the afternoon,
when there's nothing doing.
Enter Miss M'Gibbon, the dressmaker, which
has a nice wee cottage of her own and a nice
wee business. She has likewise the temper of
a monkey with the earache, but she compresses
it in Mr Blue's presence. She is very massive,
owing to her sedimentary occupation. When
she enters I get busy so that Mr Blue has
to attend to her. 'Lovely afternoon, Mr
Blue,' she says, with the smile of a bumbee
at the close of a successful day.
'I dare say I've seen a worse,' says Mr
Blue, advancing on leaden feet. (You'll have
guessed by this time that I read the best
'Coming along the road,' she says, 'I could
have swore I felt spring in the air, Mr Blue.'
'Ay; we're due another cold snap,' says
he, striving to be polite. Is it a postage-stamp
you're wanting, Miss M'Gibbon?'
'You've guessed it! But oh, it's fine to feel
the spring in the air! Renews your youtheh,
Mr Blue?' (No answer.) 'The snow-drops and crocuses is now appearing in my
little garden, Mr Blue—as much as to say, "There's life in the old dog yet!"' (No answer.) 'And very shortly the birds'll be commencing for to warble again and get
ready for their matrimonial pursuits, happy as
the days is long, bidding us humans to go
and do likewise.' (A wheezy cough from Mr
Blue.) 'Ah, Mr Blue, the birds is an example
to folk not to let slip their opportunities for
'Did you say a three-ha'penny stamp?' says
Mr Blue, at the limit.
'Na, na! A tippenny stamp, if you please.
I've just received payment of an important
account, so I hope you can change a five-pound
note, Mr Blue.'
'I think I can manage it,' he replies, and
I hear him saying 'dammit' into the cash-box.
For, you see, if he didna manage the change
she would ask me to run round the village till
I got it, and his second condition would be
worse than his first.
'I'm exceedingly gratified, Mr Blue,' she
says, counting the change five or six times.
If every man in Tullypawkie was as obliging
as you, the world would be a better place,
Well I must be getting along. When you're
passing, Mr Blue, drop in and view my
snow-drops and crocuses. Good-bye for
the present.' And with another bumbee-like
smile she does her exit.
'Dash her crowdrops and snocuses!' says
Mr Blue, forgetting my presence. Then he
carries the five-pound note to the door to
make sure it's genuine.
The other spinsters is not so poetical as
Miss M'Gibbon, but they mean the same
thing. I have room for but one example—
Miss Dobie, which had money left her by an
aunt which she looked after, which she is
reputed to have killed with kindness, including
apple dumplings and jam roley-poleys. She
is more modest than Miss M'Gibbon and buys
her stamp at the start, putting down the exact
money. Then she begins to speak of all the
sickness in Tullypawkie, and tells Mr Blue
he is not looking so robust as this time last
year. She earnestly hopes he is taking care
of his health, though she fears a busy man
like the postmaster can have little leisure to
attend to his mortal coil, especially when he
is a bachelor. (N.B..—Mr Blue's day's work,
if it was continuous, would be finished in about
Then, with a look of smelting coyness, she
presents him with a parcel of soda-scones, and
goes on to chat about all the delicious things
she can bake. To tell the truth, I have felt
my teeth watering at her remarks on pastry,
but Mr Blue stands there like an image of
misery, blowing his nose to cover his embarrassment—or
the bad words—and holding the
parcel as if it contained deadly serpents.
Such is romance in the P.O. at Tullypawkie.
Second-hand, maybe, and pretty one-sided;
but I am thankful for small mercies, and Mr
Blue, I am sure, would be thankful for none
THE population being only four hundred and one, Tullypawkie canna support a
picture-house. But you must not think that
Tullypawkie is much behind the times. It
gets the Daily Mail every morning and the
'flu every spring. Silk stockings and face
powder is frequently observed. Some girls
do up their lips—much need—one is reputed
to monkey with her eyebrows. As for the
boys, many indulges in gum for the hair, and some uses cigarette-holders.
The sale of cigarettes at the post-office
would amaze you. You should see me, on
Saturday afternoons, handing over packet after
packet to our young Dougies! It would mean
a splendid profit to Mr Blue if he didna smoke
so many himself.
The other Saturday, when the rush was
over, he said to me, 'Betty, I dinna see the
necessity for you smiling so copiously at those
young buffoons. I never see you smile at an
old wife buying a stamp.'
'The young buffoons,' I replied, 'could get
their cigarettes at the grocer's next door; the
old wife would have to tramp five miles to
find another P.O. Smiles never yet sold a
stamp, Mr Blue.'
'True,' he said; 'but you're young enough
yet to be putting a commercial value on your
smiles—if that's what you're really doing.'
'What other sort of value did you think I
would put on them?' I asked with superb
'Ask your conscience,' he said, lighting
'Do you imagine that I smile to attract
attention to myself?' I demanded ironically.
(I wish I could demand ironically without
He looked at the patch on the ceiling, where
the rain came through last summer, and his
smile was cynical.
So was mine as I said, 'Say the word, and,
when next Saturday comes, I'll put out my
tongue at your customers.'
'There's no need to go to extremes,' he
replied. 'I would merely suggest that you
modify the alluring business before the shop
gets a bad name.'
'Is this an insult, Mr Blue ?'
'It's a compliment. But, at the same time, I happen to ken that one or two of the young
buffoons canna afford to spend so much on
'I wish I had gone on the movies!' I exclaimed
'Ay, you would have got work for your nice
teeth there,' said he; 'and that's another
I tossed my head.
'Probably,' he said, 'you are unaware how
it looks to a hard-biled cynic like myself; but
it's a mistake even to seem to make yourself
cheap—especially when I'm about to raise
Well, of course, little remained to be said
just then, except thanks for the increase; but
on the Monday I remarked, 'Mr Blue, I
wouldna wonder if you was right about the
smiles. Watch me next Saturday!'
He looked sort of alarmed. 'It's only
moderation I'm asking for, Betty,' he said.
'No need to meet the young chaps as if you
had become toothless in the night. A certain
amount of toothfulness is advisable when
'Leave it to me, Mr Blue,' I replied. And
during the week, in my spare time, I practised
a calm, cold smile. According to the mirror
it was quite attractive, though not encouraging.
Anyway, there was nothing 'cheap' about it.
Well, Saturday afternoon dawned, and our
young Dougies began to appear. The first
lot was three, all engaged to girls in Tullypawkie,
and I suddenly realised that they
wouldna have noticed if I had had a carbuncle
on my nose and a gumboil on each side. Love
is blind! The calm, cold smile was entirely
Then Johnny Davison came in, threw a
shilling on the counter. Fine day, Betty—
two packets of the usual.' With a calm, cold
smile I gave him the wrong sort. 'Are you
losing your memory?' he said, pushing them
back, and named his favourite. With another
calm, cold smile I gave him them and his
change. 'Thanks,' he said.'What's wrong
with your face? Stiff jaw, eh? Mind the
east wind. So long!'
I canna say it was a promising start—
fortunately Mr Blue was actively engaged in
selling a post-card—but I persevered. Peter
McQueen entered and got what he asked for,
plus a calm, cold smile. He gaped and went
out. Next came Willie Fairlie and Jamie
Donald. It wasna easy with them, for they're
often at our house; still, they had to get the
same as the others.
They both went into fits. 'Come off it, Betty !' cried Willie. And Jamie said, 'Dinna
let it slip till I fetch the photographer!' I had
to laugh to cover my confusion. and I was
aware that Mr Blue was smiling at the patch
on the ceiling.
Then Tommy Fletcher, which I've known
all my days, came in, and, after trying to make
himself agreeable, told me I was a snotty
thing,' and went off in the huff. And Robert
M'Farlane grabbed back his money and left,
saying he was dashed if he would be treated
That was a nasty one for me; but, happily,
Mr Blue was engaged in trying to explain to
Mrs Tweedie, which is hard of hearing, that
he couldna pay a postal order because it was
crossed, and that he personally—he couldna
speak for the P.M.G.—had no desire to diddle
I was really quite thankful when I saw,
bashfully approaching, Roddy White, the last
of the regular customers for cigarettes. At
the same time it was embarrassing for me,
because Roddy, I regret to say, had conceived
a deep regard for me which I couldna reciprocate.
For one thing, he is too juvenile. I
could never indulge in a grand passion for a
man that shaved himself but once a week—
not that I would indulge the same for a man
merely because he shaved himself three times
Still, it was a chance for a real test of the
smile. 'Oh, Betty,' he groaned, laying down his sixpence, 'it's lovely to see you alone!'
I gave him his packet, etcetera. He stared,
groaned again, and went out. This is better!'
I was thinking, when lo and behold! he was
back, laying down a second sixpence. 'Another
packet!' I exclaimed. 'Ay—but oh, Betty, I wish—' With a third groan he went out.
'This looks like bringing custom instead of
turning it away,' I was saying to myself when
he returned once more. 'Another packet,
please,' he whispered, 'and oh, Betty, for
goodness sake, dinna look at me as if I was
a plate of cold meat on the third day.' I was
so filled with complunction for him that I tried
to give him an ordinary kind smile. But it
wouldna work, and he retired as if I had
'Poor infatuated fathead!' I sighed, unaware
that Mr Blue was standing beside me.
'That's his name, and he canna afford to
smoke,' said Mr Blue. 'What for are you looking
at me like that, Betty?' he asked, recoiling.
I suppose it was the calm, cold smile. It
took me near a week to get quit of it.
4. PRESENCE OF MIND.
IN my last year at the school us big girls was given an essay to write on Presence
of Mind, and we was told to include an account
of the finest specimen of presence of mind we
had ever observed. Now, when you are asked
for a thing like that, isn't it wonderful how
you get stuck! I could have given heaps of
splendid examples of non-presence of mind,
especially about my Aunt Bethia, but the only
proper anecdote I could think of was one about
my Uncle William—and I do not like to seem
boastful about the cleverness of my relations.
However, there was nothing for it but to write
down the anecdote as follows:
My Uncle William and some other men had
been repairing the roof of a pretty high house,
and they had all come down safely, except one
poor old man which had slipped on the slates
and was hanging by his fingers from the very
edge. The others was all staring up in horror,
expecting every minute to see him drop, when
suddenly my Uncle William showed his marvellous
presence of mind! Assisted by the
others he managed to get the big rain-water
barrel shifted right under the unfortunate suspender
who, in due season, fell into it. He
fitted the barrel so well that he was near
drowned before they could extract him. But
his life was saved, and his first words, not
counting the bad ones, was: 'Why did ye
not shift the ladder so that I could get my
feet on it?' My Uncle William was so
annoyed at the ingratitude that he went
Things like essays never happen at the right
time. If the essay had happened now I could
have given a still finer example, and without
seeming to boast about a relation.
Yesterday afternoon, trade being dead, as
usual, I was assisting Mr Blue in filling up
some silly returns for headquarters. Mr Blue,
as usual, was smoking cigarettes and making
unkind remarks about his postal superiors,
while I was near asleep, thanks to one of
mother's celebrated dumplings for dinner, when
—what do you think ? A cow walked right
into the P.O.! If it had been the P.M.G.
himself, Mr Blue and I could not have been
more nonplussed. The cow came in quite
calmly and stood swinging its tail reflectively.
I looked at Mr Blue. His cigarette fell
from his lips. He was as pale as porridge.
His gaze kept furtivating between the cow
and the new consignment of china souvenirs
of Tullypawkie, all nicely arranged on a shelf
about level with the creature's horns.
I was on the eve of subsidising below the
counter, for, though a country girl, I dislike
cows at close quarters, when Mr Blue
hoarsely whispered, 'Dinna swoon, Betty.
The danger is not immediate. The beast has
still to realise that there isna room for her
to turn round in.'
'When she realises it,' I answered in a low
voice, 'do you think she'll back out?'
Mr Blue scratched his nose, saying, 'I canna
recollect that I've ever seen a cow walking
backwards. Can you?'
'I wish I could,' I fervently replied. 'Was you thinking to coax her to back out?'
'I'm not so foolhardy,' he said. 'She
would probably rise on her hind legs, and
that would mean farewell to the souvenirs.
Then she might get excited and wreck the
Then what's to be done?' I inquired in
hushed tones. 'Sit tight, keep a stiff upper
lip, and wait till she dies of starvation—eh?'
'This is not the time for being funny,' he
said huskily. 'Let me think of some presence
He picked up his cigarette and put the hot
end in his mouth. Apart from a hiss he made
no remark that could have offended the cow's
The cow looked at us, but we both avoided
its glance. It exclaimed 'Moo!' and we both
'Dinna alarm it,' said Mr Blue.
'I'll try not to,' said I.
The cow, with her tail, removed a dozen
p.p.c.'s from the counter.
'Oh, help!' I cried.
'Whisht!' said he ; 'I've got an idea.'
'It's you for the brain,' I returned.
'What's the wave?'
He put his mouth to my ear, so that the
cow wouldna hear, and murmured, 'Betty,
slip along into the back room, get out by
the window, and fetch me a turnip.'
'Can I fetch a loaf of bread for myself?'
I inquired; but he ignored it.
'Haste ye! She appears to be getting
restless, but I'll try to soothe her till ye
Thinking of the precious souvenirs, I hasted
to obey his bequest. As I slipped through the
window I heard him calling the beast 'poor
Well, I was soon back with the turnip.
With a sigh of relief Mr Blue clutched it.
Then he crept round the end of the counter
and very cannily offered the vegetable to the
cow. The cow, smelling it, came forward,
and Mr Blue tempted her into the back room,
where there was plenty of space for her to
turn in. And then he tempted her out. I'll
never forget the sight of him tempting her
past the souvenirs, with the perspiration pouring
down his face. Out on the road he
gallantly presented her with the turnip, which
I think she deserved.
What presence of mind! How different
from my Aunt Bethia. I happened to be in
her house one afternoon, when she was devouring
dates, her being warmly attached to the
oriental delicacy. She had just inserted a
couple in her mouth when there was a knock
at the door, and, as she was expecting the
coalman, she didna trouble to remove them.
But it was the minister, and, though it
happened years ago, I vividly remember her
bringing him into the parlour and trying to
say it was a lovely day for the season of the
year. She was too flustered to think of
making an excuse for retiring on some
domestic errand, and she sat down opposite
him and insisted on doing her bit of the converse.
I have since tried to chat with two
dates in my mouth, and they dinna help the
flow. Try it — especially with a inister— more especially with a minister that expects
you to laugh hearty at his jokes.
My aunt's first laugh was such a peculiar
fiasco—she tried to perform it with her mouth
shut—that the minister stared at her. Then,
instead of telling the truth, she made a long
story about a gumboil in the bud, which prevented
her eating and opening her mouth
copiously. I suppose the dates was gradually
growing less, but now she was terrified of
swallowing the stones, especially after the
falsehood, and the minister didna depart a
second too soon.
'But what else could I have done, lassie?'
she cried when I demonstrated with her.
'You could have given him some dates,' I
replied, and put him in the same boat.'
'Oh dear, how stupid I am!' she cried.
Then she smiled and shoved the box into
my hands. 'Quick, lassie! Run after him!'
5. THE PICTURES.
BETWEEN Tullypawkie and the nearest
picture-house there is five long and weary miles—at least they are long and
weary if you get the wrong company coming
home. Personally, I canna complain; my
society being in considerable demand by the
young Dougies of our neighbourhood—not
that I would boast of my miscellaneous attractions.
At the same time, the number of young
Dougies is limited, and, in most cases, their
brains is ditto; and I foresee the day when
I'll be fed up with the lot. But let us not
forebode. Let us follow the example of the
bumbee, and make hay while the sun shines.
Until the other day my esteemed boss, the
postmaster, had no use for the pictures. He
hadna seen any for twelve years, at which date
I was, of course, a mere bud.
'Apart from their derogatory depreciation of
the human optic,' he remarked, 'my objection
to the pictures is that they arena true to real
'My objection to real life,' I respectfully
replied, 'is that it isna true to the pictures.'
He stared at me. 'Say that again,' he said ;
and say it slow.'
I repeated it, and added, 'Just fancy if this
P.O. was like one I once saw on the movies,
Mr Blue! Oh, what fun!'
'Fun! A P.O.!'
'No regulations, no red tape, no work!
When the mail arrived the postmaster emptied
the bag on the street and left the folk to fight
for their letters—'
'And when a mail was despatched?'
'Such a thing never happened. Letters put
in the box fell down a shute into the furnace
that kept the P.O. warm. Registered letters
helped the postmaster to earn an honest
'Splendid! What about parcels?'
'The parcel post was abolished.'
'Great! And telegrams?'
'Telegrams was strictly optional. If he was
in the humour the postmaster could send them
off in his spare time, leaving out any words
that annoyed him. If a member of the public
got fractious the postmaster stunned him with
a big hammer, with G.R. on it, provided for the
purpose, thus obtaining peace to peruse the
sporting news. When the piles of public got
inconvenient the postmaster poured ink on
them, and they revived and went home.'
'It sounds,' said Mr Blue, like a dream o'
'The postmaster,' I continued, 'had a feminine
assistant—something like me, except that she
was dressed for a dance and her skirts was
'After all, the dream is not quite perfect,'
said Mr Blue. 'Had the assistant any duties?'
'She skipped about and supplied the public
with smiles and stamps. The stamps was a
foot square and gummed like fly-papers. It
was most enjoyable when there was a seething
crowd at the counter, fondly thinking they was
just in time to catch the mail. The postmaster
kept egging them on by yelling and pointing
to the clock, which worked like a whirligig.
Oh, he did enjoy himself, that postmaster!'
'And well he might!' said Mr Blue. 'But
that's enough, Betty. Dinna further embitter
me against real life! I had no idea that the
movies had reached such a lofty moral standard.'
'You should start to patronise them again,'
I advised him.
He shook his head then, but on the morning
of the next half-holiday he said, Betty, I've
a notion for the pictures this afternoon, but
I'm shy about going alone. If you dinna think
me too ancient, and your parents dinna think
me too juvenile—I'm forty-two—will you
come with me? I'll guarantee you all the
sweetmeats you can contain.'
Now I had sort of three-quarters promised
to let Roddie White escort me; but Roddie
gets into such a state of gloom because I dinna
take his arm, that I decided to leave him on
the plate. So I thanked Mr Blue, assuring
him that his age was quite suitable, and that
I wasna as capacious as many girls of my size;
at which he concealed his gratification very
To my surprise he had arranged for a farmer
friend to drive us in his car. Had I known in
time I would have donned my new shoes.
But I once walked the ten miles in novelties,
and never again! I slipped them off in the
picture-house and had the greatest difficulty in
Well, we started off in grand style, Mr Blue
belying his name very much, and Tullypawkie
was one great smile—the senior spinsters
excepted. On the road we passed Roddie
White, and, if looks could have done damage,
our four tyres would have went. Boys is the
In the town Mr Blue supplied me with
enough chocs. to satisfy an elephant—at one
sitting, I mean. We entered the picture-house
just in time for the drama, which the programme
said was a passionate love story
thrilling with throbs, or throbbing with thrills
—I canna remember which. Anyway, I was
terribly afraid Mr Blue would despise it, him
being such a cynic; but I was soon relieved
on that score. After lighting his second cigarette
he became so absorbed that he let it burn
a hole in his Sabbath hat, which was on his
knees. And when I called his attention to it
he whispered hoarsely, 'Never mind, never
mind! I doubt the heroine's going to fall
into the trap!' At the exciting parts he
seemed to have difficulty in adhering to his
seat, and at the end he hove a sigh, saying,
'That was great, Betty! I havena had tears
in my eyes since that day in June 1908, when
I got the golf-ball on my nose.'
'I'm glad you derived such enjoyable
emotions from the drama,' I replied, unable
to keep from speaking a little formally. 'Will
you partake of a sweetmeat?' I said, offering
the box; but he gallantly declined. I trust
you will derive some amusement from the
comedy,' I observed rather anxiously when
he was mopping up the moisture on his brow
after Episode 13 of 'The Blood-hound Trail.'
But the comedy was all right—especially when
the heroic comic fell into a barrel of treacle,
and then got a cask of flour poured over him.
'Betty,' whispered Mr Blue, 'just imagine
if that chap was one of our dashed superior
P.O. officials! Real life would be worth living
When it was all over we went and had tea.
As I couldna capacitate all the dainties he
ordered, he insisted on me taking home a
dozen or so to envelop at my leisure.
'This is too much, Mr Blue!' I said politely.
'Tell me that in the morning, Betty,' he
replied, with a kind smile. I didna tell him
in the morning, but maybe my complexion
did. . . .
The farmer drove us home, and Mr Blue's
last words was, 'You was right, Betty. Real
life isna a patch on the pictures, and I'm sorry
to come back to it.'
6. A PROPOSAL.
IREGRET to record that I have had a
proposal. I would far sooner not record it, but this biography has got to be as complete
as I can make it, and one must take
the rotten with the ripe. Besides, there has
been talk in Tullypawkie about a certain girl
running after a certain boy, and I should not
wonder if the talk was started by a certain
disappointed suitior of mine. If this should
meet his eye he will maybe regret his vile
No girl with any sense would chase a boy,
even in the present scarcity. If she catches
him, it will only be for the moment, and she
will have to keep on chasing him all her life.
Once chased always chased. And if she
doesna catch him she will have only herself
to kick in after years, for Tullypawkie always
remembers things like that.
It happened on the last half-holiday but
two. I was walking to the town to buy
print for a summer frock, and I was alone,
because I wanted to think out how I would
make it. I had started late in order to avoid
company. Alas, I had forgot Roddie White,
which has been annoying me with his juvenile
attentions ever since I bobbed my hair.
I hadna got far on the road when I heard
the pursuing footprints of my too-adhesive
admirer. Though I knew there was no escape
I walked as hard as I could and saved about
half a mile from his society. By the time he
got up on me I was quite determined to
put a stopper on the nonsense. Good
gracious!' I exclaimed in well stimulated
surprise. When did you sprout?'
'Did you not ken it was me?' he said.
'Did you not hear me crying on you?'
'I was preoccupied with private affairs, but
thought I heard a sheep,' I replied. 'I am
still greatly preoccupied, and, as you seem to
be in a hurry, I'll excuse you passing on.'
'But I was following you,' he said.'I've
got something to tell you, Betty.'
'Could you not keep it for Christmas?'
'I canna keep it another day—another
hour! Oh, Betty,' he cried, now that all
nature is budding and bursting into bloom—'
'You got that out of last week's Fireside
Companion,' I said, and he was dumb for a
minute or two.
Then he began again, 'Well, after all, it
doesna matter what nature does—does it,
'Not in the least,' I returned, 'so long as
it doesna rain before I get home to-night, and
me in my white stockings.'
'If you was with me, Betty, I wouldna
care if it snowed,' he passionately declared.
'If I was you,' said I, 'I wouldna count
on a share of my umbrella.'
There was another silence while he seemed
to take in my remark. 'Betty,' he said
suddenly, why are you so coy?'
'Coy!' I ejaculated. 'I'll coy ye!'
'I didna mean to offend you, Betty. I
only meant that—that you never let a chap
get a hold of you.'
'I should think not!'
'I dinna mean with my hands—though I
wouldna mind that, Betty,' he said, with the
look of an expiring giraffe.
I tossed my head so scornfully that I had
to put my hat straight.
He groaned, and I tried to change the
subject by asking him if he had observed
the monkey with the organ-grinder in Tullypawkie
the previous day. His answer was as
follows: 'What's a monkey to me when I've
got you beside me? What's the music of
an organ-grinder when I can hear your
'I give it up,' I replied. 'Did you hear
that one of Mrs Forgie's hens had laid an
'What's an egg to me when I can look
at your face, Betty?'
'Your riddles is too difficult,' I said. 'I'm
sorry I didna let you carry on with your
recitation about the buds, etcetera. Did you
get the whole page by heart?'
'The budding and bursting was merely to
give me a start.' He let out a terrible groan.
'Oh, Betty, I didna weep a slink last night!'
It was quite evident he was set on declaring
his passion, and I couldna think how
to prevent him. 'I'll have to step livelier
than this,' I said, 'if I'm to get my shopping
done.' And I went off at full speed—and
near fell on my nose over a loose stone.
'Betty,' he wailed, 'I wish you would be
engaged to me.'
I canna deny that my face was somewhat
rubicund as I replied, 'Roddie White, have
you taken leave of your onion?'
'I'm in sober earnest,' he said. 'I've been
thinking about it for months. Will you,
I shook my head, and had again to adjust
'Aw, Betty, dinna be cruel!' cried my
'I'm cruel to be kind,' I returned. 'I can manage to stick you as a friend, but as an
'But you might get to like me, once we
'It can never be,' I said firmly. 'Even if your face was totally changed you would
be far too young.'
'I'm shaving twice a week now,' he said.
'A beard to your knees would make no difference. And there's another thing.'
'You'll excuse the question,' I said coldly,
but in these times nobody can afford to
be exclusively romantic. What is your prospects?'
I had hoped that would settle him; but
not at all!
'I'm expecting a rise in my wages next
year,' he said, and then I'll likely commence
to save. You're young enough yourself, Betty,
to think of getting married for ten years or so.'
'Such an elongated engagement would be
out of the question,' I remarked with considerable
hauteur. 'Besides, I understand you
are doomed to be the sole supporter of your
'Would you let her starve?'
'I could hardly gang that length,' he said,
scratching his head.
'I see you have got some slight nobility
of character,' I kindly observed.
'Still, she'll be eighty-three in June,' he
said suddenly. 'Ye needna let that stand
in the way, Betty.'
'I am deeply shocked at your unfilialosity,'
I told him. 'I hope your granny lives to be
a hundred and five, and I trust you'll never
mention the subject again. Farewell!'
'Is that your last word?' he cried.
I inclined my head.
'Then, if I gang and drown myself, my
blood'll be on your head!'
'See and choose nice fresh water,' I said.
'You're too young for beer.' And with that
I left him. Mind you, I was sorry for him;
but it was Destiny.
BY this time you will probably have guessed from my composition that I am a carnivorous
reader. I suppose all writers reads
a lot, no human brains being entirely self-supporting.
Even biographists like myself
canna expect to be original all the time. But
I hope I'll never behave like some writers,
which pinches lumps out of other writers' books
to fill up pages in their own, and is quite barefaced
about it. I am not going to mention
names; but we have many books of that sort
in the wee library of Tullypawkie school-house,
which is open two nights a week.
The library was given to Tullypawkie, long
years ago, by an old gentleman which had
found the air good for his something-or-other,
and I daresay the books was fashionable in his
time—bless him for a kind old thing! He
gave a bit of money, too, and there is about
five pounds every year for new books, which
has to be chose by the minister, the schoolmaster,
and a county councillor. I suppose
they mean well, but their choices is rotten.
We never get any of the up-to-date novels
you read about in the papers. I wouldna
wonder if the book-case in the Ark contained
the same sort of stuff for the Noahs to peruse
after a busy day with the beasts.
Some of us girls once made a deputation
to the schoolmaster about it. Jessie Harvie,
being noted for her impudence, was elected
'Come on, Mr Logie!' she said. 'We're fed up with instruction and elevation. Get
us something to keep us awake on the long
winter evenings. We're buried alive in
Tullypawkie. We need a shake-up, and the
novels in the library wouldna excite an old
maid at one in the morning!'
'What do you want to read about, Jessie?'
said Mr Logic. 'Murder?'
'Murder's slow! Get us some of these
novels about dinners, dances, drink, drugs,
I noticed him biting off a smile in the bud.
'Can't be done, Jessie,' he said solemnly.
'We could not have such books on the
'They wouldna be much on the shelves, Mr
Logic,' said Jessie. 'You would see a free
fight for them every Tuesday and Friday.'
'I hope Tullypawkie is not so abandoned
as all that,' he said. 'Just think of what
'Does the minister read all the novels?'
'As a matter of fact,' said Mr Logie, 'it
is my duty to select the fiction this year.'
'Well, could you not label the queer ones 'Household Hints,' and 'Fireside Fun,' and
so forth ? Come on, Mr Logie!' But it was
no good, and the deputation withdrew itself
I spoke to Mr Blue about it. Him being a
cynic, I was not surprised to get sympathy.
'Ay, Tullypawkie is hopelessly narrow-minded,' he remarked. In my opinion, the
only interesting people in the world is the
bad ones. Without them the weekly paper
would contain nothing worth reading but the
'I suppose, Mr Blue,' I said, pretending to
count the postal orders, 'you peruse a good
deal of up-to-date works of fiction?'
'Nearly every night in the year,' he replied,
'I consume a complete novel.'
'More or less.—You might see how we're
off for registered envelopes.'
When I mentioned this conversation to
Jessie, she wondered if Mr Blue wouldna
lend us some of his novels. I didna like to
ask him straight, but every time he was extra
cynical I referred to literature, observing that
he must have a great store to keep him in
reading at the rate he performed it. He
admitted that he had plenty, but didna make
the hoped-for offer. At last, egged on by
Jessie, I dropped a hint. Alas, it fell with a
dull thud on stony ground.
'You're young enough yet, Betty,' he said,
'for such sinister narratives. It's all very
well for an auld cynic like me, but I canna
encourage a young girl like you to remove
the gilt from the gingerbread of life.'
'Are your novels so atrocious, Mr Blue?'
He shook his head and shut his face like
an elder at the plate on being asked to change
a threepenny bit on a wet Sabbath.
Jessie was highly chagrined. 'I would give all my hopes of future presentation chocs.
for a squint at his book-case,' she declared.
'He must have some fine disrespectable
But little did I think then how soon I would
be penetrating the secrets of his boudoir. It
happened thus, as follows: Though Mr Blue's
house was above the shop, with a wee, narrow
stair leading to it, I had never once set foot
in it. Often I had expected to be sent up
for something he had forgot, but he had
always went himself.
However, in the merry month of May, the
poor man got the 'flu. It wasna a very
serious case, and the doctor allowed him to
sit in his wee parlour, but not to come downstairs.
Of course Mr Blue should have wired
to headquarters for a man to take his place,
but, with his hatred for headquarters, he would
as soon have asked for help from the hobgoblin
department. I said I thought I could
carry on, with the help of Peter, the postman.
That seemed to relieve his mind, though, if
his brains had been clearer, he might have felt
different. For it meant that I was upstairs
for instructions several times a day.
I hope it wasna dishonourable, but I really
couldna help it. Even the sight of the poor
soul crouching over the fire in his ulster and
blankets, with his feet in carpet slippers all
the colours of a bad dream, couldna check my
fatal curiosity. And, whilst he groaned his
instructions, I studied his book-case, and long
before he was better I had as good a notion
of his reading as I wanted.
I am not going to say very much about it.
It was a great shock to me. I am sure there
wasna a book younger than thirty years, and
the bulk resembled my Uncle Samuel's collection
which he got, some time last century,
from a man that couldna pay his coals' account.
There was books of sermons, books of poetry,
and books that looked like prizes, such as
'Familiar Insects,' 'A Visit to Vesuvius,'
'Faithful Annie; or, 'The Toper's Tragedy.'
I daresay there was a hundred novels, nearly
all in paper covers, and mostly in rags. It
was difficult to make out the titles, but among
them was 'Lord Fitzsomebody's Heir,' 'The
Love of Lucre,' 'Should She Have Married
Him?' and 'Susan Brown's Or—' Whether
it was Susan's Oranges, Orgies, or Ornaments
I couldna be certain. Maybe it was her
'Ordeal,' which is the sort of thing you would
expect a Susan Brown to go in for.
Since then the word 'book' has never been
mentioned between Mr Blue and me. Unfortunately,
Jessie knew about me being upstairs,
and pestered me for information. As
I couldna think to betray the man, I simply
rolled my eyes and held up my hands in
silence. And now Mr Blue has a terrible
reputation in Tullypawkie
JUDGING from the biographies in the school-house library, it would seem that
no biography could be complete without something
about politics. I had intended to have
a chapter in this biography, called 'Famous
Politicians I have Met,' but I fear the idea
must be abandoned owing to my not having
met any famous politicians.
In Tullypawkie, except at election time,
politicians, like crime, is not much in vogue.
We have a few specimens which keeps it up
all the year round, but nobody bothers about
them unless on Saturday nights, when they
return from the town filled with renewed
patriotic enthusiasm. It is sometimes necessary
for the constable to arise from his rosy
lair to persuade them to retire to theirs, which
they usually do about three hours later. The
constable being a total abstainer, they object
to him getting the last word.
Mr Blue has never been seen or heard in
the political area. I once asked him which
denomination be belonged to, and he said he
was waiting for the Anarchists to form a
party. His cynicality is whiles very bitter; still, I canna imagine him going about with
bombs in his ulster pockets and a safety
gilletto in his sock—if Anarchists wear
At the last election he refused to vote, his
reason being that, since one candidate was as
rotten as another, he couldna take the responsibility
of giving the country an extra push
in the direction of ruin. When canvassers
came into the P.O. he would let them talk
for a while, and then he would thump the
counter and cry, 'What did Mr Gladstone
say in 1872?'—which always seemed to confuse
them, till one solemn chap got a brain-wave
and replied, 'Will the postmaster kindly
give us the exact date in 1872?' But before
him and his friends had got their smiles ready,
Mr Blue snapped out, 'Seventeenth November,
9.40 P.M.' It is said that the solemn chap
spent his next summer holidays in free
libraries, seeking for Mr Gladstone's remarks
at that particular hour.
I suppose I'll have a vote one of those
days, and I intend to use it. What's the
good of having a thing if you dinna use it?
My Aunt Bella, after my uncle, which was a
noted experimenter with patent medicines, had
passed away, settled down to finish all the
bottles he had left. It took her fully a year,
but she didna leave a drop. Unfortunately, it
had become a habit, and, as my cousin Tom
says, it looks as if her nephews and nieces
would inherit nothing but empties. Still,
voting can hardly become a habit, though Mr
Blue declares this country is likely to have an
election every six months for the next century
At the last election Jessie Harvie and I
went to a meeting in the school-house. We
didna expect much fun, but we fancied we
might get some dress hints from the ladies
that came in the motor cars along with the
candidate and his masculine friends. Nothing
doing! What a cut!' remarked Jessie, referring
to a drab costume; 'and I never
could stick sports stockings, especially when
the ankles is merely so-so. Silk for me
every time!" 'Same here,' said I; 'and did
ever ye behold such an antique hat, Jessie?'
'It's the lid Mrs Noah wore when she went
on board in the rain and wasna particular.
Look, Betty!—not a smart pair of high heels
in the bunch! I'm sorry for that man, and
he's got such a nice kiss-me-quick moustache.'
From which ye may suspect that Jessie and
me wasna deeply impressed. Possibly the
dowdiness was intentional, seeing that the
man was to speak about Economy; but it
did his cause no good, for in the end he
came out at the bottom of the poll.
However, we did get some fun before the
show was over. Mr Boggie, the farmer, took
the chair, and in a few well-chosen, stammering
words apologised for being there. He
began to tell the folk why they should vote
for Mr Tuke (loud cheers), and then remembered
that Mr Tuke was one of the other
candidates. He explained his forgetfulness
by saying that he had been sitting up all
night with a sick cow. (Cries of 'moo!' from
some of our young Dougies, and loud laughter,
in which the candidate joined.) But Mr
Boggie got angry and said he hoped every
member of the audience had been as respectably
employed during the night. (One 'hear,
hear!' from Mr Boggie's ploughman, and a
voice: 'Hoo's the coo noo, Mr Boggie?')
When the disturbance had subsidised, Mr
Boggie said the cow wasna much better. (A
voice: 'What did ye give her?') Mr Boggie
told what medicine he had given the cow, and
then half-a-dozen farmers got up and started
to give him advice; and a fine argument
followed, during which the candidate tried to
look interested and at his watch at the same
time—for I'm sure the poor man didna ken a
cow from a sideboard, while his lady friends
looked completely fed up.
At last Mr M'Caskie, the tailor, a wee,
nervous man, egged on by his companions,
got up and, holding out a trembling hand,
said, 'Mr Chairman, and ladies and gentlemen,
I beg for to move that the cow be now
heard.' (Laughter and cheers lasting for a
long- time.) His friends having informed him
of his little slip, Mr M'Caskie stood up again
and, with the perspiration streaming down
his face, said, I beg your pardon! I meant
for to move that the candidate be now
This brought down the house. Mr M'Caskie,
on his second little slip being pointed out, got
up and stottered away, and wasna seen again
till the third day, when he was observed by
a neighbour, at 5 A.M., devouring a turnip in
his back garden.
As for the platform folk, I thought they
would have stottered away likewise, but apparently
politicians is not retiring of nature.
When we was all too sore to laugh any more,
Mr Boggie, which looked as if the cow would
have to sit up with him that night, called upon
the candidate to address the meeting. After
a joke or two at the expense of Mr Tuke
and the other absent candidate the affair got
pretty slow, and, our toffees being finished,
Jessie and me adjourned ourselves.
When I related the experience to Mr Blue
he smiled coldly and said I was lucky to have
got some amusement.
'Will there be stupid things, like the tailor's,
said in the House of Commons?' I inquired.
'More so. Only the papers dinna report
TO my mind there is no delightfuller entertainment
to witness than a quarrel
between two persons both possessing rich
vocabularies. We have two ladies in Tullypawkie
which can carry on for an hour without
repeating themselves; and on getting
exhausted they make it up, and all is perfect
peace for a fortnight or so. That is as it
should be. A thunder-plump, and then the
sun shining again!
But the sort of quarrel that goes on for
years, with hardly ever any dialogues, is no
use to me. And such was the quarrel betwixt
my esteemed boss, Mr Blue, and Moses
Macbeth, the local baker. It started so long
before my time in the P.O. that I have had
to depend on older folk for an account of its
beginning; and the trouble about the accounts
of older folk, as a rule, is that they are apt to
contain an awful lot of 'extras.' However, by
adding up all the accounts, dividing them by
five, and reducing the result to ordinary
common-sense, I got what seemed likely to
be the truth, as follows:
One afternoon Moses Macbeth came into
the P.O. and bought a dozen stamps, had a
pleasant chat with Mr Blue, and went back
to his shop. Next day, when he took the
stamps from his pocket, he found they was all
stuck together. Now Moses has a face like
an apple, a beard like his namesake (striking
the rock), and the belief that everybody in
the world is there to diddle him. He rushed
along to the P.O. and accused Mr Blue of
selling him damp stamps. Mr Blue replied
that he would listen to no bad language concerning
the king's portrait, and added that
Moses was a damp fool not to think of damp
clothes in such damp weather. Which, of
course, didna settle anything.
Next morning Mr Blue rushed into the
bakery, threw a breakfast-roll on the counter,
and accused Moses of using black beetles to
save flour. And, sure enough, there was a
sombre object in the midst of the roll.
'Black-beetle!' cried Moses, as if he had
never heard of such a thing. 'It's time ye
got specs. That's an extra large size sultana!'
and before Mr Blue could say a word he tore
the piece out of the roll and devoured it.
'I suppose they 're an acquired taste,' said
Mr Blue, with his cynical smile, and walked
out of the shop. Which, again, didna settle
Years rolled on and these two never exchanged
a single kind word. I believe that,
for a week or two, Moses got his stamps five
miles away, and Mr Blue lived without bread;
but in the end they had to come back to
patronising each other's shops, though Moses
refused to deliver rolls in the morning unless
Mr Blue delivered stamps every Saturday
afternoon, which, of course, was impossible.
When I first started in the P.O. it used to
amuse me to see Moses put on his specs. and
examine every stamp for dampness—he made
a great fuss of the examination when other
people was present—and also to see Mr Blue
like to burst with annoyance. And for a while
it was fun for Jessie Harvie, which assists
Moses, to watch Mr Blue cut open his rolls
and cautiously inspect their insides, as if he
expected something horrible to spring at him,
while Moses stood by, his beard shuddering
But Jessie and me soon got fed up with the
two silly goats trying to affront each other.
'I wouldna mind if they started to claw and
kick each other,' said Jessie one evening; but
this is too slow for words.'
'It wouldna amuse a worm,' I replied. 'Still,
I fear there is little hope of them assaulting
each other, though I wish it would happen, for
I believe it would end in them shaking hands.
Personally, I object to the misbehaviour of
Moses in the P.O. every Saturday afternoon.
Strangers has asked me if our stamps was of
'Ah, but think of my feelings every morning,'
said Jessie. There's no doubt that it's
keeping down custom, too. The other morning
two early cyclists, after watching the postmaster's
performance, went out without buying
a thing. Moses was in an awful temper for
the rest of the day, and I didna get reading
a page of my novel. Something's got to be
'Something to bring it to a head,' said I.
'If it came to a scrap, I doubt your Moses
would have a poor chance. That beard of his
would be too handy for his opponent.'
'I'm not so sure of that,' said Jessie.
'Moses weighs about three times as much as
your Mr Blue. A good kick from Moses would
'Mr Blue is light on his feet, and his teeth
is his own,' I retorted.
'Ay, but his long nose is his stumbling-block.
If once Moses got a sure grip of that nose,
your boss would be throwing up the sponge.'
'You're talking nonsense, Jessie Harvie!'
I cried. 'Once Mr Blue got a clutch on your
employer's beaver, he could slap him to his
'That would be a cowardly thing!'
'To take advantage of Mr Blue's nose would
be quite dastardly!'
And, before we knew, Jessie and me had
quarrelled. But we made it up next day and,
after a long discussion, decided against promoting
a fight, as the newspapers say.
'Let us appeal to their finest feeling,' I proposed,
and Jessie said, Righto!'
Well, we thought and thought, and at last
Jessie got an idea. To tell the truth, I couldna
think of any plan connected with postage-stamps,
and so I was perhaps readier to accept
Jessie's notion than I would otherwise have
It was quite simple. From an old schoolbook
she cut a wee bit of poetry entitled
'Friendship,' and perfumed it with the powder
she used when not on duty. Moses wouldna
stick powder in the shop.
'I expect this will touch Mr Blue deeply,'
said Jessie. 'I can see his eyes filling and his
hand stretched out, trembling, to Moses, who
will likewise be visibly affected.'
I had my doubts, but I said I was sure her
beautiful vision would come true, for I was
curious to see what would happen.
Next morning I made a point of being at
the baker's shop a little before eight—Mr Blue's
accustomed hour for buying his rolls. Jessie
was all smiles, but a bit nervous; and Moses,
which had been up extra early, preparing
fancies for a picnic party, was pretty glum.
Then in came Mr Blue, nodded to me, and,
without a word, laid his three ha'pennies on
the counter. Jessie put his rolls in a bag and
handed it to him. As usual he took out the
rolls, brought out his knife, and commenced to
open them, while Jessie and me held our
breaths. As luck would have it, the third roll
was the lucky one.
When he opened it he sniffed and made a
face, then saw the poetry. There was a
terrible silence till, with a super-cynical smile,
he remarked, Owing to scarcity o' black-beetles
we are now using waste paper!'
'What!' exclaimed Moses, turning from the
shelves, with a loaf in his hand.
'Flavoured with hair-ile!' added Mr Blue,
and, losing his head, he shied the roll at Moses.
'You put the dirty paper in yourself!' Moses
yelled, and heaved the loaf, which missed
Mr Blue and struck the glass case containing
the imitation bridescake which had been there
from time immemorial. What a smash!
Moses picked up another loaf, and Mr Blue
grabbed the handiest thing; viz. three cream
cookies from a tray for the picnic, and both
Alas! my pen canna describe what followed.
I regret to say that Jessie and me joined in the
fray out of loyalty to our employers, and the
whole of Tullypawkie turned out to behold
the battle, which ended owing only to lack of
At present Mr Blue is getting his bread
from the town, Moses his stamps from the
same, and two lawyers is being kept busy.
Jessie escaped the sack by her presence of
mind in securing the guilty roll and its contents,
and I—well, no more peacemaking for
LAST winter there was an evening class for
cookery in the school-house, and though it is now midsummer, the population of Tullypawkie
is still four hundred and one. I wasna
extra keen on the course, though, being the
youngest of five sisters, I was pretty ignorant
of the subject. But mother said, 'It's always
the unlikely thing that happens, Betty, and
some day you might get married; so you'd
best learn all you can.'
And father forked out the fee, with the
remark, 'Ay, learn all you can, Betty; but
dinna practice on me.' My parents is more
celebrated for paying their way than for paying
So Jessie Harvie and me got note-books
and started to attend. The first few lessons
was rather dull. As Jessie observed, a little
music and a few of the softer headed sex would
have brightened things up. However, when the
teacher got on to the fancy productions we all
began to sit up. When I use the word 'fancy'
I dinna mean to suggest that we was taught
how to make roast turkey, bridescakes, and so
forth. Some simple Sweets and Entrées' was what the teacher, as far as I mind, called
them on her programme ; and I must say she
worked miracles with things like tapioca and
semolina under the influence of a spoonful of
jam, a pinch of spice, etc. The two engaged
girls in the class used to sit with their eyes
half out of their heads, and the one that expects
to be married in October 1929 used to keep
whispering to her less fortunate companion,
'So tasty, and yet so filling!' They was
very earnest, and had to get fresh note-books
half-way through the course. They made little
drawings of everything, and coloured them at
home, and showed them to everybody; and
everybody, including myself, praised them
highly, except Jessie, which, on being shown a
picture of 'Pudding à la Dominoes' (or something
like that), exclaimed, 'Gosh! I thought
it was Ben Nevis with the measles!' I doubt
Jessie will not be invited to the wedding in
But it was the Entrées that appealed to
Jessie and me. 'What's the exact meaning of
the word Entrée?' Jessie asked me, the first evening. 'It means "Come inside,"' I informed
her. 'Then,' said she, 'it's the first sensible French word I've struck in cookery.'
The teacher commenced her remarks on
Entrées with something like these words—'In
nearly every household it frequently happens
that after a meal something is left over—
'Never in ours!' muttered Jessie, which has
a lot of young brothers.
'—and the housewife who studies economy
is sometimes puzzled how to dispose of those
so-called scraps, precious though she knows
them to be.'
'What price a pig—or a lodger?' said Jessie
in my ear, and I had to tell her to hold her
'I have here,' said the teacher, pointing to
two plates, some fragments of cold meat and
a little cold-boiled cod.'
'No bold coiled bod for this little girl!'
whispered Jessie. 'I wonder whose back door
she got them at.'
'Jessie, if you canna behave yourself,' I
said, 'I must exit. I didna come here to have
'Silence, please!' said the teacher, and
proceeded to work her magic on the scraps.
It was really wonderful, as even Jessie
admitted, when we all got a taste at the end
of the lesson, though she was sure the teacher
had had something up her sleeve, which wasna
in the recipe. 'I believe,' said Jessie, on the
road home, 'she would make a tempting
delicacy out of yesterday's white sauce and
a bit of orange peel off the pavement.'
Another night we had a lesson on curry.
Jessie and me was greatly taken up with the
dishes, especially the curried eggs, which was
certainly beyond a hen's wildest dreams, though,
to judge from what Jessie wrote in her notebook,
you would have thought she despised
them. But Jessie had a way of her own of
putting down recipes. I will quote this one
from her note-book:
A CHOICE SUPPER DISH.
Take any old eggs and boil till quite dead. Remove
them to golf-course and putt gently till nude. Carry
home and wash in clean water, if available. Prepare curry
according to label on bottle, the quantity to be used
depending on probable age of the eggs. An experienced
cook will always use plenty, and it saves coal. Cook till
eggs is permanently nigger-brown, and serve as tidily as
possible. Place a large jug of cold water at the patient's
Jessie wanted me to quote another recipe of
her own invention entitled 'Compote of Fish à la Cod d'Ile'—but it would be hardly the thing
for a high-class biography like this. The girl
who expects to be wed in October 1929 declared,
after reading it, that she had never seen anything
so disgusting in the Sunday paper.
I fear Jessie and me was temporally cracked
over the curried eggs. We made them at
Jessie's house, when her parents was away,
and tried them on her young brothers, which
was subsequently found lying on the dewy
grass, with their tongues out.
Then we made them at our house twice.
The first time my parents was away at a
funeral, which was providential, for, when the
dish was ready, I let it fall on the parlour sofa
and carpet, and we simply couldna get the eggs
entirely free from whiskers. Jessie put one
in the fire, but that seemed to bring out the
perfume, and, the cat refusing the rest—it
didna return home till the third day—we buried
them deep in the garden, for we was sure the
sight of them would put the hens off laying.
The next time it was really mother's fault,
and I suppose she wasna thinking when she
said, one evening, 'When are you lassies going
to show what you learnt at the cookery?' So
Jessie and me got eight eggs and curried them
hopefully for the supper. Mother managed
one and, with the tears running down her
cheeks, said it was unprecedented. But father
wouldna even taste—declared that the eggs
looked too unnatural. Jessie and me had to
eat two each—there is not space to describe
our feelings—and still there was three left, and
father said they would be the very thing for
'It's early yet,' said Jessie hoarsely, when
we was fuffing for air in the garden. 'What
do you say to take them to the postmaster?
They might cure his summer cold.'
So we did that, and Mr Blue thanked us
warmly then, but never again referred to the
gift. A young man returning about midnight
from the town observed Mr Blue leaning out
of his window gasping for air.
Still, I did learn something from the cookery
lessons—what to leave alone.
'MR BLUE, did ever you dream you was
All afternoon he had been brooding over a
shortage of threepence in the stamps, and I felt
it was time he was distracted.
He blinked at me, and in a far-away voice
replied, 'In my youth I tried cod-liver ile,
monkey nuts, and dumb-bells—in vain!'
'Did you imagine they would make you
wealthy?' I ejaculated.
'Wealthy! Oh, I thought ye said "healthy."'
He sat up and favoured me with a weary
smile. 'You can take it from me, Betty, that
no man in ordinary P.O. employment ever
dreams of wealth—if he's honest.'
'I wasna thinking of the P.O. It's hopeless,
of course,' I remarked, with a smile near
as cynical as his. But did you never dream
of being left a million pounds or so?'
'The only thing a relative ever left me was
an I.O.U. for five pounds, which is not the sort
of experience to encourage golden visions.'
'Well, did you never try a sweepstake or
a lottery?' I inquired.
'I once put a shilling on a horse which came
in twenty-third. Na, na, Betty; I wasna born
under a lucky star.'
'You're too young to be saying that, Mr
Blue. You never can tell what's coming to
you,' I said, and brought out the wee green
book of tickets. 'This is a grand prize
drawing in aid of the new cottage hospital,'
I explained. 'Tickets sixpence each. The
prizes is numerous and varied. A gallon of
whisky, a box of kippers, a six-months' season-ticket
for the cinema, a suit of fashionable
clothes, a pair of smart plus-fours, a knitted
silk jumper, a barrel of apples, jewellery,
'Stop, stop!' he cried, 'I'm surprised at
'What for? A good cause—in the name
o' charity!' I exclaimed.
'In the name o' cupidity, ye mean! I canna think what the country's coming to!
Nowadays it seems impossible to get folk to
cough up a sixpence for the best of objects,
unless you give them a chance of gaining
a thousand pounds or so! It's perfectly
atrocious! I can see the time coming when
the elder at the kirk plate will have to be
provided with a lucky-bag! Let me see the
There is times when silence is best, and I
handed him the book without a word.
'Humph!' said he, examining the list of
prizes. (I have wrote it 'humph' because
'humph' frequently occurs in oldish books;
but I canna say that I ever heard any human
being remark 'humph,' or 'phew,' which also
frequently occurs.) 'Humph' said he; it's
a queer assortment of carnal temptations. I
observe certain items of female apparel, calculated,
no doubt, to tempt the weaker sex
'I beg your pardon!' I exclaimed with
dignity. 'Up to date I've sold far more
tickets to men than to girls.'
'I dare say!' he said, with a sardonic laugh.
'By the weaker sex I didna mean the softer
sex.' And he handed me back the book,
which I received with becoming coldness and
in rigid silence, and left him to his pursuit of
the missing threepence.
Well, I thought that was the end of it, but
about a week later, when we was waiting for
the afternoon mail, he took out a shilling and
said, 'It's against my principles, Betty, but if
you've got any of those tickets left, I'll take
'Have you been considering it all this time,
Mr Blue?' I respectfully inquired.
'Not at all. It came up my back this instant,'
he replied, blushing slightly. For a
public man he's not very good at falsehoods.
However, I let it pass, and he wrote his
name carelessly on the counterfoils, tore out
the tickets as if they annoyed him, and shoved
them into his waistcoat pocket. But, later
on, I spied him putting them in the safe as
if they was twenty-pound notes.
I expect he's coveting the plus-fours,'
Jessie Harvie remarked when I told her about
his purchase. Oh, I hope I get the knitted
Of course I declared that Mr Blue had
taken the tickets merely to please me, and
that he had really no cupidious interest in
the drawing. I'm a great believer in loyalty.
Another week passed, and Mr Blue, in the
middle of checking the postal orders, observed
very carelessly, 'By the way, Betty, I happened
to notice that the prize drawing doesna take
place for ten week yet.'
'That's right,' I returned, endeavouring in
vain to get his eye to meet mine.
'It seems ample time,' he said. 'I dare say
there's folk that'll feel it hang heavy.'
'I wouldna wonder,' I agreed. 'But the
longer the time, the greater the number of
'True,' he said, and stopped to light a
cigarette. 'I should imagine that the chance
is about a million to one against winning a
'At any rate, against winning the prize
desired,' I remarked.
'I assure you, Betty,' he said, 'I dinna desire any of the prizes. I would be quite
affronted if I drew one.'
'You could easy refuse it, or sell it for the
benefit of the good cause.'
'True,' he said again, and told me to hurry
up and see if there was any late letters in the
About a month later he asked me how the
tickets was selling, and when I answered
'slow,' he said he would take another couple.
But for his age I might have flattered myself,
for when it came to the week before the
drawing he had sixteen tickets in his safe.
By this time the whole adult population of
Tullypawkie was going about with a greedy
look in its eye, and Mr Blue was the bleariest
looking total abstainer I have ever beheld.
He would come down in the morning looking
altogether decomposed. When I sympathised,
he said the insomnia was due to this dashed
Summer Time. And on the day before the
drawing he was such a nervous wreck that
he swallowed a sixpenny stamp and paid for
it without saying a single bad word.
I was pretty excited myself, for, like Jessie,
I had a big craving for the silk jumper, which
was valued at three pounds. It would have
suited my colouring better than hers. However,
neither of us was lucky.
I have not space to give all the results of
the drawing, so far as Tullypawkie was concerned.
I will only mention that the plusfours
went to my spinster Aunt Bethia, which
near swooned at the news; that a gallon of
whisky fell to Mr Blue; and that the silk
jumper went to Mr Boggie, the farmer, an
old bachelor that thinks of nothing but cows.
I went to bed that night feeling rather low,
and was wakened up about midnight by noises
more suitable for the New Year. On peeping
out I observed Mr Boggie singing and
dancing in the moonlight, and Mr Blue evidently
trying to persuade him to go home.
In the morning my mother brought me a
parcel she had found in the porch. It was
addressed in queer writing to Miss Betty
Cairnie—me! It contained the silk jumper.
Well, what do you think?
IT is curious how some folk loses their heads
when anything out of the usual happens to them. In the previous chapter of this biography,
which was about the grand prize
drawing in aid of the cottage hospital, I
mentioned that my Aunt Bethia won a pair
of smart plus-fours, causing hearty laughter in
Tullypawkie. Now, although plus-fours was
not exactly a suitable prize for a spinster, there
was no reason for my aunt accepting them as
if they was a curse.
A few days after the event I went to see
her, and found her in a very low state, drinking
weak tea and groaning at the fireside.
I'm the laughing-stock of Tullypawkie,' she
declared. 'Oh, lassie, whatever made me buy
that ticket from you?'
'You expected it would bring you a set of
aluminium stew-pans,' I replied, 'and I canna
see why you shouldna get the stew-pans yet,
and something else into the bargain. If I was
you I wouldna let these plus-fours go for a
penny less than—'
'Oh, dinna name them!' she cried. 'The
very name affronts me.'
'I canna but admire your delicacy,' I said,
though it doesna seem necessary at the
moment. We are quite alone, Aunt Bethia.'
'I feel,' she said, squinting at the parcel on
the dresser, 'I feel as if there was a man in
the house! Oh dear, oh dear!'
'It's all right. The paper's tough. He
canna get out,' I assured her. 'Come, pull
yourself together and let's see what's to be
done with the plus—'
'Well, we'll call them the P.F's. Now, as
I was about to say, I wouldna let them go
for a penny less than thirty shillings—'
'What else? Surely you're not thinking
of putting them in the glass case in the
parlour, along with your stuffed birds,' I
said jocularly. There's plenty of the young
Dougies of Tullypawkie would buy them. But,
mind, Aunt Bethia, dinna have anything to
do with them that offers payment by instalments.
Life is short and uncertain.'
'But I couldna sell them!' she cried.
'You mean you couldna part with them?
Well, of course, if it comforts you to feel
there's a man in the house, that settles
it! And maybe the feeling is worth thirty
'No, no, Betty, I dinna mean that! But if
I was for selling them I—I would require to
—to show them to the public.'
'Naturally! You canna expect that our
young Dougies would buy pigs in pokes,
much less purchase P.F's. in parcels.'
She drank a bucket of tea and filled up the
pot from the kettle. 'Nothing,' she said
slowly and solemnly, will ever induce me
to open that parcel.'
I told her she was the holy limit, and asked
what on earth she intended to do with the parcel.
She pointed to a spade standing against
the wall at the side of the fireplace, and said,
The last two nights was too wet and stormy,
but to-night looks like being fine, and. . .' I
suppose she observed my look of horror, for
she hasted to say, 'You can think I'm mad,
if you like—'
'You couldna be dottier if you had swallowed
a box of dominoes,' I said.
'Well, it doesna matter,' said she. I'm going to bury these P.F's. and be quit of them
for ever!' And she drank another bucket—
Dutch courage, no doubt.
'Do you expect me to attend the funeral?'
I inquired ironically.
'I would be glad of your help at the
'Not a dig!' I cried. 'Do you think I would help to put the noose round your
'Listen to me, Aunt Bethia,' I said. 'Suppose
you was removing from this cottage, and
suppose the new tenant took a fancy to dig
up the garden, and came on the gristly secret
—what do you fancy would happen?'
'You would have the police down on you,
wanting to ken what you had done with the
'The body!' she screeched. 'What body?'
In a hoarse whisper I replied, 'The body
of your murdered paramour!'
It took about five minutes to sink in, but
it got there right enough. Oh dear, oh
dear!' she began.
'You may well say so,' said I. 'What a scandal, apart from the unpleasantness of the
'But they couldna touch me. I would explain—
'Aunt Bethia, do you really imagine that
any judge, especially if he was a golfer—and
most judges plays in their spare time—would
believe that you had buried a new pair of
P.F.'s. merely out of modesty? Such an
excuse would simply seal your doom with the
That finished her. I'll burn them!' she exclaimed.
'And the smell will bring along all your
neighbours. They'll declare you to be off
your onion, and your declining years will be
spent in Dottyville.'
She then offered me five shillings to put
the parcel in the river.
'Not for a thousand pounds,' I replied ; and
I'm astonished at you!'
She apologised and burst into tears, which,
of course, touched me deeply. 'Cheer up,
auntie. I'll find a way out. Stick to the
parcel till you hear from me,' I said, and,
bidding her keep a stiff upper lip, took my
Well, I got hold of Jessie Harvie, and
between us we prepared a heap of duplicate
numbered tickets, which we started to hawk
round. They went better than I expected.
The young Dougies was quite ready to risk
a bob or two. They didna care if the plus-fours
was pea-green and made for an elephant.
We began selling on a Saturday, and by the
following Friday had got in fifty-three shillings!
Sales was to cease next day at 4 P.M.
and the drawing to take place at 5 P.M.
When I told Aunt Bethia about the
money she embraced me and called me a
On the Saturday morning I got a letter
from my sister in Glasgow, asking me to spend
the week-end with her. That was too good
a thing to miss, so I left the raffle business in
the hands of Jessie, who promised to see it
through and hand the cash to my aunt.
First thing on my return on Monday
morning I ran into my aunt's cottage and
got another embrace. 'Sixty-three shillings!'
she said, shaking the silver in a paper bag.
'Splendid!' said I, and then noticed the
parcel still on the dresser. 'Has the winner
not called for it?'
'Oh, Betty,' she cried, the colour of turkey-red,
'I canna think what made me do it, but
at the last minute I got wee Tommy Duncan
to buy me a ticket, and—and . . .'
I was feeling angry, feeling as I had swindled
the young Dougies, but I managed to keep
my temper, and asked her what she intended
doing with the plus-fours.
'I had an inspiring dream last night,' she
replied. I think I'll get MacAlpine's Stores
to exchange them for a nice jersey—unless,
dearie, ye would care to get up another
13. MR BOGGIE.
ABOUT 4 P.M., Mr Boggie, the farmer,
came into the P.O. and asked for Mr
Blue. 'Mr Blue will be back in a jiffy,' I told him. 'Kindly take a seat.'
Of course I knew he would never risk
the office chair, which waggles if a child sits
on it, and he measures 6 x 3 x 3 feet. Still, we
may not get the chance of being polite in
the next world.
He laid a long envelope on the counter,
saying, 'Ye might register that in the meantime;'
and, while I did so, he kept shifting
from one foot to the other and pulling at his
long beard. If his face was turned upside
down, Mr Boggie would have a magnificent
head of hair.
On getting the receipt he said, 'The post-office
should think shame of itself, giving a
scrap of paper like this for a valuable packet.'
'There's a reason for making the receipts
like that, Mr Boggie.'
'What's the reason?'
'They're easy lost.'
I was telling him that his letter would not
go till the morning, when Mr Blue came in.
Mr Boggie pointed to the letter in my hand,
saying, 'See and take good care of that packet,
Mr Blue. Ye'll never guess what it contains!'
'An order to your wine merchant,' said
Mr Blue sardonically.
Mr Boggie didna smile. 'It's my will,' he said; 'my last will and testament, signed and
witnessed. I'm sending it to my lawyer.'
'Well, well,' remarked Mr Blue. But
surely you're not thinking of leaving us just
yet, Mr Boggie?'
'I'm not,' said Mr Boggie, and turned a
rich plum colour. As a matter of fact, I've
decided to take a wife. I may as well tell
you now, for she'll be spreading it abroad
afore the day's over.'
Of course we shook hands with Mr Boggie;
and Mr Blue said, 'This is great news! Is
the lady known in Tullypawkie?'
'It's Mrs Bane, my housekeeper,' Mr Boggie
replied, looking ashamed of himself.
Mr Blue and I looked as astonished as
we could, considering that for years Tullypawkie
had been expecting her to hook him.
'I confess I'm astonished myself,' said Mr
Boggie, with a heavy sigh. 'I'm fifty-four,
and I've been a bachelor all my life, so I
canna yet realise it.'
'Matrimony has doubtless advantages—for
a farmer,' said Mr Blue. And, in your case, you're not buyin' a pig in a poke, as it were.
For one thing, you ken what to expect in
the way of cookery.'
'Mphm,' said Mr Boggie slowly, 'I ken
what to expect—and I dinna expect a great
deal. To tell you the gospel truth, she's not
very great at porridge, and she's hopeless
at puddings. Her scones is not bad, but she's
very inconsistent in biling eggs; ye never can
tell whether their insides will be like nuts or
grapes. There's maybe three or four dishes
she does perfect, but they happen to disagree
with me. Still—'
'As a husband,' said Mr Blue, with a wink
at me, 'you'll be in a better position to find
'I hope so—I sincerely hope so,' said Mr
Boggie, and groaned. Once more he pointed
to the registered letter. 'I doubt my auld
sister, if she survives me, will be annoyed;
but Mrs Bane seemed to think it was my
duty to leave everything to her—and also to
sign the teetotal.'
'Have you signed it?' cried Mr Blue. 'If not, I'll be delighted to witness your sig—'
'I'll maybe trouble you—after I've had a
dram. In the meantime I'll be getting home.
Take care of the packet' said Mr Boggie
once more, and, with the smile of a draper
with the toothache, went slowly away.
'He doesna seem entirely happy,' I remarked.
I've seen greater rapture,' said Mr Blue,
taking the packet and putting it in the safe.
'By the way, Betty, you're aware, of course
that once a packet is posted it canna, on any
account, be unposted.'
'I'm aware. Do you think he'll maybe
change his mind?'
'I wouldna wonder. And I'm reminding
you of the regulation because I've now got
to gang to the town, and I'm not likely to
be back before closing time.'
'I'll attend to everything, Mr Blue,' I
assured him, 'Mr Boggie included, though I
canna imagine him changing so soon. Give
love's young dream a chance!'
However, Mr Blue's notion turned out to
be the right one. I was just about to shut
up the shop when Mr Boggie appeared, puffing
and perspiring. On learning that the
postmaster was away he blanched, as they say in the novels. 'I'll have to confide in you, lassie,' he said. 'Here's the receipt, and I'll thank you for the packet.'
'I'm sorry,' I said, and told him the
'But this is exceptional and urgent,' he
'The P.O.,' said I, 'breaks lots of things,
but never its rules.'
He took out his pocket-book. 'Betty,' he whispered, 'a ten-pound note for that packet!'
'Whisht, Mr Boggie! Would you try to
bribe me?' I confess that I spoke more in
sorrow than in anger. Ten pounds takes some
earning in the P.O.
He looked ashamed, and put away his
pocket-book. 'Listen, lassie!' he said. 'As
you heard me tell Mr Blue, Mrs Bane says
it's my duty to leave everything to her and
also to sign the teetotal. Now that's a good
deal to ask a man before he's been engaged
for a round of the clock—eh?'
'It's a bit business-like,' I admitted.
'But that's not all. She now tells me it's
my duty to remove my beard!'
'Oh, that's not very delicate, Mr Boggie.'
'It's dashed impiddent! What would I
look like wanting my beard?'
I could think of nothing but a dismantled
easy-chair in my father's workshop, but I
didna mention it.
'And if such is my duties afore marriage,'
he went on, 'what will they be after?'
'Chiefly boring holes in the earth, I should
think,' I replied. 'Mr Boggle, put your foot down before it's too late.'
'Give me the packet and I'll break it off
this very night. I darena tell her I'm fed
up, but I can tear up my last will and
testament afore her eyes. Then she'll flee
into a passion and leave my house.'
'But I've told you it's impossible, Mr
Boggie,' I said. 'I sympathise with you, for
I dinna like Mrs Bane. Could you not tell
her flat that you're going to make another
'The most I'm allowed to say at a time
is two words.' And the unfortunate swain
groaned aloud. 'If you wasna such a nice
lassie,' he said, 'I think I would tie you up
and burgle the post-office. . . . Ah well, I
suppose I'll just have to marry her.' And he
started to leave the shop.
'Wait!' I cried. 'I've got a brain-wave!' I rushed into the back room, got a long
envelope, and made up a packet like the one
in the safe, wasted 4½d. worth of stamps, and
scored it across with the blue pencil. 'Now,
Mr Boggie,' I commanded, 'say nothing;
but write your lawyer's name and address
He did it in writing worthy of a weary
hen, and looked at me with his mouth.
'Take it,' I said, 'and go home, and tear
it up before her eyes—and be sure to put
the bits in the fire.' I had to push him out
of the shop.
I hardly slept a wink that night, wondering
what had happened at the farm. What if
Mrs Bane had got hold of any of the bits?
On the whole I had little hope for Mr Boggie.
In the morning, on my way to the P.O., I
was stopped by wee Tommy Duncan, who
shoved a letter into my hand and ran away.
There was no address on the envelope, and
nothing in it but a ten-pound note.
FOR several mornings Mr Blue had come
down to the shop looking as if he had spent the night in studying the Turkish
language on a stormy sea, and at last I
couldna help remarking on his rotten appearance.
'Mr Blue,' I said respectfully, 'you are
not in the pink these fine mornings. You really
ought to see the doctor and get a tonic.'
'It's a sleeping-draught I need,' he said, and
yawned so suddenly that he nearly swallowed
His words filled me with alarm. 'Insomnia!'
I cried. 'For any sake attend to it before you
take leave of your onion!'
'It's not quite so urgent as that, Betty,' he
said, with a weary smile. 'But it's bad enough
to be kept awake till the sun rises.'
'What keeps you awake, Mr Blue?'
'The continual gnawing—dash it!'
'Then it's the dentist you need.'
'Na, na! It's not pain.'
'Mercy! I exclaimed; 'can it be your conscience, Mr Blue?'
'No such luck,' he replied. 'I've had too slow a life to keep my conscience in training.
The gnawing is produced, as you might have
guessed, by mice.'
'Ay, mouse in the plural—very much the
'Oh, horrors!' I ejaculated.
'A very good name for them,' said he,
yawning till he staggered.
'But—' I began, and stopped. I had been going to suggest a cat when I remembered a
tragic occurrence which had occurred before
my time in the P.O.
In those days Mr Blue kept a cat, and one
Saturday evening the cat, for reasons best
known to itself, went into the safe just before
closing time, and got shut in for the week-end.
When discovered on the Monday morning the
unfortunate creature was no more. Mr Blue,
who is humane though a cynic, was greatly
upset, and would never have another cat. For
many weeks, it is said, the fish-merchant called
his wares at the post-office in vain.
'What about traps?' I said, when he had
'I've put traps all over the place. I got my
toe in one of them this morning—the sole catch
so far,' he replied. 'The fact is, the mice gets
fed up at the grocer's next door, and comes to
my premises merely to disport theirselves and
annoy me. Last night I tried lying with my
head under the bolster, but in this warm
'Surely something can be done,' I said, feeling
vexed for him.
'I'll try corks in my ears to-night,' said he,
'if you'll help me to draw them in the morning.'
'Are you trying to be funny, Mr Blue,' I
inquired, 'or are you merely delirious?'
'A bit of both, maybe,' he replied. But seriously, Betty, the mice is a great affliction.'
'Are you sure you have got the traps properly
'My toe canna speak, but ye'll observe I'm
'And what do you use for bait?'
'Cheese, of course.'
I shook my head. 'Cheese doesna seem a severe temptation to mice residing in a grocer's
shop,' I remarked.
'True,' he admitted. 'What would you advise, Betty?'
'The difficulty is,' said I, 'that grocery mice
will not be easy to please. Still, if you have
no objections, I'll consult Jessie Harvie.'
'Is Jessie a mouse fancier?'
'Not exactly; but I remember her telling
me of an awful time her folk had with mice
some years ago. A mouse in the soup was no
novelty, and a couple in the bed of a morning
—deceased, of course—was nothing to make a
'Whisht, lassie!' he said, shuddering. 'Dinna
make me nervous! And are the Harvies not
troubled with mice now?'
'I've heard Mrs Harvie boast about having
no mice in her house.'
'Then I'll be grateful for Jessie's advice, if
she'll give it,' said Mr Blue. 'I—I suppose,'
he went on, stammering a little, 'you and her
wouldna care to favour me with your company
at supper—7.15—the meal consisting mainly
of meringues, chocolate biscuits, and strawberries
and cream. Afterwards we could discuss
the mice problem. Would you run along
and ask her now?'
I'm ashamed to say I hesitated. 'Maybe
you're afraid of mice,' he said kindly.
'Oh, not at all,' I replied hastily; and thanked
him heartily, saying I was sure Jessie would be
And so she was. 'Mice is nothing to me,'
she said; 'and the menu appeals to my finest
feelings. Of course we'll favour Mr Blue.
I'll be there punc.'
'You understand, Jessie,' I said, 'he wants
to ken exactly how your folk got quit of the
'He'll be welcome to all I can tell him,' she
returned. 'I was a kid at the time, but I've
got a good memory.'
'Wouldn't it be as well to ask your mother
'Well, how did you get quit of them?'
'Wait and you'll hear,' said Jessie.
Perhaps I ought to have suspected something,
but I had to hurry back to the P.O.,
and there was no chance of seeing her again
till she turned up at closing time. And just
fancy!—the mean thing had put on her white
frock and white silk stockings, and was simply
hanging with powder. I'm sure Mr Blue,
though he's past forty, was quite embarrassed.
However, he took us upstairs, and there was
a lovely spread in the parlour. I would have
enjoyed it more if I had not kept thinking of
a mouse under the table, and if Jessie had
not been dressed up and even more forward
than usual. When Mr Blue asked her if she
was not afraid of mice, she smiled like a girl
in a movie comedy and replied, 'Oh no, Mr
Blue! Mice never attacks girls with nice
ankles. They just sit round and admire.'
I was never more surprised than when Mr
Blue, without a smile, turned to me and said,
'Then you dinna need to worry, Betty.'
I felt better after that, though I had a foreboding
that something bad was going to
happen. And so it did.
When the feast was over and we had talked
—especially Jessie—about lots of things, Mr
Blue said, 'Well, Miss Jessie, I'll be grateful
to hear how your folk got quit of the mice.'
'Oh, it was quite simple, Mr Blue,' said
Jessie, with a silly giggle.
'So much the better,' he said. 'And how
did you manage it?'
'We removed to another house,' said Jessie.
If a million mice had appeared then, I dinna
think I would have minded. And it seemed
years till Mr Blue burst out laughing.
15. THE HEAT-WAVE.
THE oldest inhabitants was declaring that
there hadna been a decent summer since their boyhoods; the middle-aged was inquiring
for one another's severe colds; and the young
had long been in the habit of saying 'Rotten
weather!' instead of 'Good morning!'—when
the heat-wave arrived.
A few hours later the oldest inhabitants was
sitting in their gardens, quarrelling about their
ages; the middle-aged was slapping their
children; the young Dougies was looking
semi-boiled; and us girls was wishing it was
the half-holiday so that we could get on our
And next day everyone, except, maybe, the
oldest inhabitants, was complaining about the
awful heat. In the afternoon Mr Blue came
downstairs from his dinner, stottered into the
back room, and, before I could yell, sank down
on the chair on which I had laid a fly-paper
preparatory to hanging it up.
'Oh, never heed,' he said, when I explained
my consternation; 'I canna be bothered rising
at present. Fancy pea-soup and roley-poley
in this weather!'
'Is that what Mrs Forgie gave you?' I said
with profound sympathy.
'Ay. Woman's wit, I suppose! But I've
Mrs Forgie is the person that comes in
to cook for him, and he sacks her once a
'Are you feeling unwell, Mr Blue?' I
'I havena the energy of a pat of butter,' he replied. 'This heat must be unprecedented,
Betty. I wish I had a thermometer.'
'Would a lemon squash not help you more?
I could soon make you one,' I said, being
'Thank you, Betty; but I'm curious to ken
'We've got a thermometer at home,' I
told him; 'but it isna entirely reliable, being
without the quicksilver. And the grocer
has one, but it's attached to a big weatherglass—'
'Which has stood at "Very Dry" for the
last ten years. It's wonderful how we cling
to the things which is useless!' said Mr Blue.
'And how the things which is useful clings
But he had forgotten the fly-paper, and was
asking me what I meant, when Mr Boggie,
the farmer, stopped his car at the door to see
if the postmaster would like a run to the
'The very thing!' said Mr Blue, jumping
up. I'll buy a thermometer. You'll manage
all right, Betty?'
'I'll endeavour to keep back the crowd till
you return, Mr Blue.'
He was off before I remembered the flypaper.
Mr Blue never mentioned it again;
but I understand that, in the town, he was
taken for an advertising agent, and didna
realise it till some kids asked him for samples.
. . . . .
Mr Blue hung the thermometer on a nail
in the shop, and, during the next few days,
inspected it every five minutes or so. I think
he was disappointed that it didna seem to feel
the heat as much as he did.
'I had thought this heat would break the
record, Betty,' he said on the fourth day, 'but
I suppose we've got to accept the verdict of
'Hear, hear!' I said. 'And cheer up, Mr Blue! It'll maybe burst the record yet.'
'I hope so,' he said; considering that I
paid two-and-nine for the instrument.'
Of course Tullypawkie took an interest in
the thermometer, and Mr Blue sat up late
reading a book so as to be able to answer
questions. And our young Dougies made
wee bets on how high the quicksilver would
go each day.
. . . . .
It was Saturday afternoon, and the young
Dougies was purchasing their week-end
cigarettes. Quite a crowd was in the shop,
and I was busy serving- them when Roddy
Martin called out, 'Quick, Mr Blue! Come
and see your thermometer. Either it's gone
mad, or else—'
'Let me get at it!' cried Mr Blue, pushing
his way among the boys. 'Holy Moses!
this beats all records. Ninety-seven in the
'Hurray!' cried everybody.
'Lads,' said Mr Blue, wiping his brow,
'this must be reported. Can I count on you
all as witnesses?!
'Righto!' cried everybody.
With trembling fingers Mr Blue wrote the
following letter to the Daily Observer:
SIR,—On Saturday, at 3.5 P.M. in Tullypawkie P.O., the
thermometer registered 97° in the shade.
J. BLUE, Postmaster.
He then set out to walk the five miles to
the town. On his return the quicksilver had
fell a lot, but he explained that he had caught
the heat-wave at its highest height.
The letter appeared on the Monday. On
the Tuesday there was several letters saying
the thing was preposterious. One of them
advised Mr Blue, when reading his thermometer,
to keep his nose off the mercury.
Mr Blue coldly replied, giving a list of
On the Thursday afternoon, which was cold
and wet, two gentlemen arrived in a car and
asked for Mr Blue. One of them was a
Beaver and the other an Egg. They was
horrified to learn that Mr Blue was away for
'Is it the thermometer?' I inquired, for
they looked that sort. 'There it is!'
They fairly jumped at it. After a lot of
whispering they asked for a bowl of hot
water and a jug of cold. Then they brought
out thermometers of their own and put them
in the water along with Mr Blue's, and waited,
almost dancing with excitement.
At last the Beaver cried, 'Extraordinary!'
and the Egg exclaimed, 'Quite accurate!'
They left, looking very solemn, watched by
the whole of Tullypawkie.
When Mr Blue came home and heard my
news he was highly gratified. Tullypawkie,'
he said, is now famous for ever in the annuals
o' Science—and I done it!'
'Splendid!' I said, with a wee lump in my
throat. For how could I tell the man that
that monkey, Roddy Martin, had held the
hot end of his cigarette close to the quicksilver?
16. FED UP.
THERE is times when the best of us gets fed up; when the most optimistical feels
that hope is defunk, and life, apart from meals,
not worth living. I am not referring particularly
to the heat-wave, about which I wrote in
the previous chapter of this biography, but I
mention it because the troubles started just as
it was drawing to a close. On the morning
of its second last day I was extra busy, for
Mr Blue had kindly said I could take the day
off to meet some friends in the town. I was
greatly hampered by the attentions of a bum-bee,
which kept playing about the counter
where I was writing. I couldna kill a bumbee
in cold blood, and in desperation I took Mr
Blue's old straw hat, which was lying handy,
and put it over the beast. For a while it
buzzed, then was quiet, and I forgot all about
it. The next thing I knew was Mr Blue
saying, 'I'll run down to the station and
see if there's any word o' that parcel of
cigarettes. That'11 save a few minutes of
'Best thanks, Mr Blue,' I said, writing
Then he put on his hat . . . I canna mind
what I said, and I canna repeat what he said.
For a while he was not far from being non
corpus mentis. I did what I could to give
first aid, but he soon had a knob on his
head the size of a tangerine, and I could
see that he wouldna be fit for anything that
day. In fact, he had to go upstairs and lie
down, leaving me to my remorse and disappointment.
I pity the next bumbee that
However, he was all right the following
morning, and merely expressed the hope that
I wasna seriously thinking of leaving the P.O.
for the honey business. It happened to be the
half holiday, and some of our young Dougies
had got up a picnic for some of us girls, at a
favourite spot beside a river and an old ruined
castle. We started off at 3 P.M., and my spirits
began to revive, for I had on all my new
pretties, and suspected I was not looking
It was really a jolly party, though semi-boiled,
that reached the romantic spot. And
then the two boys who was carrying the
hamper slipped off the stepping-stones into
the river, and one of them fell on the hamper,
sinking it to the bottom. What pen could
describe the state of the sandwiches, cream-cookies,
jam-sponges, meringues, etc.? The
heat was so awful that we laid them out to
dry, but in a minute they were covered with
flies and earwigs, etc., etc.
The two wretched swains was sent back
for fresh provisions, but they had no sooner
returned than a thunderstorm started. It
would have made an angel burst into tears to
behold us poor girls in our white frocks and
things, all like drowned white mice. And oh,
the mud going home ! Jessie Harvie was the
only one who enjoyed it. She pretended to
be frightened at the lightning, and got engaged
to Tommy Knox—her third engagement since
she put up her hair.
She came in the evening to tell me about it,
and it was the last straw—at least, I thought
it was. 'Jessie,' I said sternly, have you
forgotten that we are going on our holidays,
together, on Saturday week?'
'Of course I have not, Betty.'
'Have you forgotten that you promised me
not to get engaged to anyone before we
started.' I had had a horror of Jessie being
love-sick when we should be enjoying life by
'Don't you worry,' she said. 'It was a
side-slip this afternoon. There's nothing to
prevent me getting engaged at the seaside if
I fancy the chap.'
'You should think shame of yourself,' I said.
'Did you let Tommy kiss you to-day?'
'Only once, or thereabouts.'
'I believe you'll live to regret it,' I said,
little thinking my words was prophetical.
On the Friday week Mr Blue came in, saying,
'Tullypawkie's fairly getting it in the
neck! Measles in the autumn, whooping-cough
in the winter, 'flu in the spring, and
'Mumps!' I ejaculated.
'That 's the way to pronounce it!' he said.
'I met the doctor just now, and he's got
several cases, including that young scamp,
At these sinister words my heart fell into my
shoes. 'Mr Blue,' I said, could you spare me
for five minutes?'
'Make it four, Betty!' Mr Blue always
brightens up when an epidemic's about.
I rushed over to the bakery where Jessie
has her job. She wasna there! 'She went
home, unwell, yesterday,' said the baker.
I flew to the cottage where she lives with
her folk. Before I reached the door the
window above was opened, and there was
Jessie with a pink fascinator round her head.
Her face is naturally round, but now . . . oh
'Oh, Jessie,' I cried, have you got it?'
'Them, you mean!' she said bitterly in a
hoarse voice. 'Oh, Betty, I canna gang with
'I canna gang by myself—I wouldna gang,' I
said, for I was sorry for her. The sight would
have grieved a goat.
'Oh, Betty,' she wailed, 'it's a judgment
on me. Never again will I get engaged!'
'Come, come, Jessie,' I said, 'there's no
need to be dramatic.'
'I've sent him a p.p.c.,' she said, 'breaking
it off, and saying I wished I could return his
chased salutes with measles on them.'
'You're a cruel thing!' I exclaimed. 'Do you expect a man to present you with chased
salutes which has been fumigated?'
'Go away!' she cried. 'It hurts me to speak!'
'It hurts me to listen!'
She banged down the window and I walked
'What 's the matter, Betty?' asked Mr
Blue, when I got back to the P.O.
'What's the diet?'
'Holiday's off. Jessie's got the mumps.'
'That's hard cheese!' he said. 'But the
mumps isna permanent. Ye'll get them
Of course he meant the holidays; but . . .
And the aggravating thing is that the
mumps may be obtained without any previous
17. THE TONIC.
FOR some time Mr Blue had seemed more disinclined than usual for his work, and
his face had assumed a peely-wally aspect. 'I
confess I'm feeling low, Betty,' he said in
reply to my respectful inquiry. 'But I dare
say I'll feel better when the summer is by.'
'That's a long time to wait,' I said. 'Would
you not get the doctor to give you a tonic?'
'Na, na! It's not as bad as that,' he said
'Delays is dangerous,' I remarked. One of the saddest things in life is the tonic that
is got too late. If I was a celebrated artist I
would paint a picture showing the druggist's
boy arriving with the tonic just as the funeral
procession is starting.'
'You've got a great imagination!' he said,
with a laugh which didna ring true, and I
observed him glancing in the mirror which
advertises the 'Captain Cigarettes.' And next
day he confessed that, meeting the doctor on
the road, he had ordered a tonic at 2s. 8d. net.
'I grudge the cash, Betty,' he said, 'for I've
no faith in medicines. In fact, I asked the
doctor if it wouldna be as beneficial for me to
finish up a partly consumed bottle that I got
in the year '97, and has been standing in the
scullery ever since.'
'And what did the doctor say?'
'He refused to guarantee the results of
drinking such an ancient vintage—or words to
'It has probably turned into something else
by this time,' I said, 'and might make you
come out in pea-green spots, or worse. Never
monkey with drugs, Mr Blue.'
'Your advice seems sound,' he replied; and
just then our interesting converse was interrupted
by a rotten customer.
A few days later I inquired how he was
getting on with the tonic.
'So-so,' was his answer. 'The difficulty is to remember to take it after every meal.'
'That'll never do, Mr Blue!' said I. 'It's
no good unless you take it regularly. Where
do you keep the bottle?'
'In front of the clock on the mantel-piece.
It's a curious fact that, whereas I used to
look at the clock often, nowadays I seldom
want to ken the time.'
I shook my head. 'Mr Blue, are you sure you're not just shirking the tonic?'
'Certainly not, Betty! It's pure forgetfulness.
I frequently remember it between 3 and
4 A.M.; but that's not much use, is it?'
'Not much—unless you could arrange to
have your breakfast at three.'
'But the breakfast would probably make me
forget. However,' he said, lighting his twenty-third
cigarette for the day, 'I intend to make
a strong effort to be regular in future.'
I couldna feel very optimistic, but I let the
matter rest for another week. Then I asked
him if he had finished the tonic.
'Not quite, Betty ; not quite.'
'I forgot to inquire if it had a nice taste,'
'Nice! It's atrocious!'
'Well, how much is left in the bottle, Mr
He did his best to put me off, but at last
I got him to confess that the bottle was still
'fully three-quarters full.'
'Are you not ashamed of yourself?' I
'To a certain extent I am, he replied;
'though I suppose ninety per cent. of the
tonics in this country are at the same level in
their bottles as mine. Did ever you hear of
a human being completely finishing a tonic?'
'I'm going to hear of one very shortly,' I returned. 'Kindly fetch the bottle down to
the shop the next time you descend. I'll take
charge of it and see that you get your doses
It took a lot of nagging before he would
bring down the bottle, but at last it was in my
possession, and I hid it in the back room. I
gave him a stiff one for a start, and he made
such faces that I couldna doubt the stuff was
good for him.
'Persevere, Mr Blue,' I said, 'and you'll be
a gladiator yet!'
He said the cure was worse than the disease,
and implored me to let him off the next dose,
but I was adamantine. It was Saturday evening,
and I heard him thanking Providence for
'You'll get double doses on Monday,' I
With such regularity the tonic soon got low
in the bottle, but, to nay great disappointment,
Mr Blue didna appear to be much more robust.
'I suppose you'll be having another bottle
to complete the cure,' I said carelessly.
'Not for a pension!' he replied, and I could
see he meant it.
Well, it seemed worth the money—especially
as he had just raised my wages—so in the
evening I slipped along to the doctor's and
got another bottle, the doctor observing that
Mr Blue was a sensible man to give the tonic
a proper chance.
About a week later, Mr Blue asked if the
bottle wasna near empty, and I told him that
it was getting on that way.
'It's like the widow's cruse,' he said, and
groaned. 'I'll have something to say to the
doctor the next time I meet him,' he added
That put the wind up for me, so I went to
the doctor and confessed what I had done.
To my surprise he was pleased, and promised
secrecy; and to my horror he gave me another
bottle, free, and told me to carry on the good
work. He said I could increase the dose,
which was some help.
'This tonic's getting terrible strong,' said
Mr Blue next morning after his breakfast.
'It's getting down to the dregs,' I said to
'Praise Heaven for that!' said he; and
went out to buy a pound of peppermints.
On the eighth day he cried, 'Is it never
going to be finished?'
'Only two days more, Mr Blue. Surely
you're feeling better now?'
'I'll be feeling better in two days.'
And in two days he really did look better.
I was feeling quite gratified, when, all at once.
he asked for the empty bottle. 'I couldna
have dreamed,' he said, 'that that bottle could
have contained so many doses. Get me the
spoon and a jug of water.'
I felt like swooning. 'Mr Blue,' I said, 'for the love of Mike, dinna measure it!'
He looked at me, wagged his head, and
chucked the bottle into the coal-box. 'Betty,'
he said in a kind voice, 'you're the limit!'
ABOUT a fortnight ago, in the schoolhouse,
a lady friend of the minister's— strictly platonic, of course, him being already
a benedictine, and her very plain—gave a
lecture to us young folk on 'Our Beautiful
English Language.' There was a good attendance,
the weather being rotten.
The lecture consisted of original remarks of
the lady's own, and selections from the works
of great writers, some of which was pretty
slow, though she recited them with the
greatest gusto, and we applauded with the
same, always thinking each piece would be
the last, till the dust got so thick that
the minister, after drinking all the lady's
water, asked us to give the beetles a
chance, or words to that effect—which is the
longest sentence I have ever wrote in this
The lecture concluded with a wee sermon
about Slang. The lady said she was shocked
and grieved to hear the conversation of young
people — especially girls — nowadays. They
did not seem to be able to speak a sentence
in good English. She asked us if we did not think it was silly, when we had so many
right words to choose from, to keep on using
such words as 'awful,' 'rotten,' and even
'putrid,' nearly every time we opened our
mouths. And was it not idiotic to say we
was 'fed up,' when we had not had a meal?
Afterwards, on the road home, Jessie Harvie
suddenly said, 'The old thing wasna so dotty
after all. It is rotten how we use slang.
What do you say, Betty, to start a reform
stunt in Tullypawkie?'
I must say I was astonished at this coming
from Jessie, till I remembered she was pursuing
a young man which was spending the
summer in Tullypawkie, after getting his M.A.
degree at the university.
'It'll be awful difficult to keep it up,' I
said; 'but I'm on, if you are.'
'Righto!' said Jessie. 'Well, how are we going to kick off? Of course, you and me
must watch our steps when we're gassing to
each other, and we must take a vow to use
only the selectest language to our bosses and
the blighters that come into our shops.'
'I expect some of them'll think we're off
our chumps,' I said. 'Still, it'll be fun—
'No, no!' cried Jessie. 'We've got to keep solemn mugs. If we let our faces slip,
it 's all up a gum-tree. Now let's have a little practice.'
We was both speechless for ages.
'Get a move on!' said Jessie at last.
'I was waiting for you,' I replied. 'What'll I say?'
'Say something about the weather.'
I cleared my throat and said, 'The weather
has been rot—extremely disagreeable of late.'
'It has indeed been most unpleasing recently,'
she returned in a hollow, eggy voice
that didna belong to her. 'The mud on this
road is very plentiful.'
'Too copious for words.'
And then we got stuck.
'My mind's a blank,' I said.
'Same here,' said Jessie. 'But I dare say it'll be easier with the customers.' She thought for a minute. 'Betty, what would you say to a chap that was pestering you to
walk out with him?'
'It depends on the chap.'
'But suppose you wasn't having any? I've
been in the habit of telling them to run away
and eat grass; but, now that we've reformed,
it seems hardly the cheese.'
After considerable consideration I replied,
'You could tell him to disperse himself
rapidly to yonder field and imitate the cows.'
'That's splendid,' she said; 'but I doubt
he might drop dead on the spot. Besides, it's
a lot for me to remember.'
'Well, you could simply say "Go!"—along
with a spurning gesture.'
'How do you do a spurning gesture?'
'Stand firm on your left foot and on the
toe of your right—'
'What? Stand on your own toe!'
'Dinna be a chump!' I said, and showed
her. 'That gives you a feeling of dignity.'
'So it does,' she declared, trying. 'Makes
you feel as if you was surrounded by butlers
and feetmen waiting for orders.'
'That's right, Jessie,' I said. 'Then just as you say "Go!" you wave your arm—so!—as if you was throwing away a handful of
rubbish, such as potato peelings. And then—
to put the lid on—you stamp your foot.'
'The right, of course! You couldna stand
on your toe and stamp with the other.'
'Neither I could,' she admitted. 'But that's a top-hole stunt, Betty, and I'll certainly try it.'
. . . . .
Next morning, having sat up reading a
dictionary, I was a bit late in arriving at the
P.O. However, Mr Blue nodded in his usual
way, and I remarked, 'Looks like being a
delightfully warm day, Mr Blue. The unaccustomed
sunshine is quite enjoyable.'
'I gather that you was at the lecture last
night,' he said, with a satirical smile. 'But,
as you suggest, the day does look like being
a corker for heat. How would you translate
the word "corker" into "beautiful English" — eh, Betty?'
'You might say "Exceptionally fine," Mr
'H'm! That strikes me as feeble without
being beautiful. What about "peach"?'
' "Peach" is slang.'
'Is it? I once heard a young man refer to
yourself as "a peach." '
'Who was it?' I cried without thinking.
'Ha, ha!' said Mr Blue, 'that would be
telling! But ye dinna object to slang when
it's a compliment!'
I tossed my head, which, I have been informed,
is rather becoming to me, and said
stiffly, 'I would object greatly to be called
a peach by anybody.'
'Maybe you would prefer to be called an
I was rather relieved when Mr Boggie, the
farmer, came in to see the postmaster. As
they went into the back room Mr Boggie
turned and said he hoped I had enjoyed the
lecture, though some folk had expected it
would be funnier.
'It was a delightful lecture, Mr Boggie,' I
replied, 'and extremely stimulating to the
'Gosh!' said Mr Boggie, looking at me.
Then I heard him ask Mr Blue if Betty had
been getting singing lessons, because she had
got a sort of queer warble in her voice.
I suppose I was a bit nervous, but I was
determined to carry on, and when old Mrs
M'Phun came in for a luggage label I inquired
whether she wanted the attachable or
the adhesive variety.
'I'll adhesive ye!' she exclaimed. 'Give me a stick-on! That's the worst of the
school-board.' And she left in a temper.
However, I persevered till dinner-time — some customers seemed annoyed, and others
went into fits—and at dinner-time I met Jessie.
I could see at once that all was not well.
Jessie had put on white stockings that
morning—in honour of the sunshine, I suppose
—and they was all splashed with mud.
'Listen!' she said. 'To begin with, that dashed old beaver, the boss, told me to take
the egg from my mouth before I spoke to
folk; and to end with, Willie Brown whistled
me out of the shop, to ask me to walk out
with him on Sunday. I thought this was a
fine chance for the spurning gesture, but I
was too excited to notice things, and stamped
my foot in a puddle—
'Did he go?' I eagerly inquired.
'He did—after asking me when I had got
the bats in my belfry. That's all! So long!
I'm fed up with "beautiful English"!'
I admit that I, too, was completely satisfied.
19. WANGLING IT.
HAVING got rid of the mumps and the young man she had accepted during a
thunderstorm, Jessie Harvie declared herself
ready for our holiday. 'We'll be off on
Saturday,' she said.
'Righto!' I replied, but with some dubiosity.
'This is Thursday, and you got back to
work the day before yesterday, after four
'Well, what about it?'
'I'm wondering if you've spoke to your
'Going to do it now,' she said, as we
stopped outside the bakery. 'Come in and
'You're twenty minutes late this morning,'
'I'll leave early to make up for it.'
Jessie is the limit for cheek, and she had
certainly found it pay in the past; but now
I had my forebodings.
Mr Macbeth was behind the counter, pulling
at his long gray beard and looking pretty
cross. 'You're late again,' he said with a
Jessie gave him a richly pathetic look.
I'm afraid I'm still a convalescent,' she said.
'I felt that languid this morning.'
'Well, you can get busy now, and let me
gang for my breakfast.'
'Oh, certainly, Mr Macbeth. You can
depend on me to work till I drop. But I'm
hoping to feel much more energetic after my
holiday, now so rapidly approaching.'
'My holiday which commences on Saturday.'
'Great Jonah!' he cried. 'You've been off duty for weeks, and now you—'
'Come, come, Mr Macbeth, you surely
dinna suppose I took the mumps for fun!'
'I wouldna wonder if you did. And this
is the busiest month of the year. Holidays!
Jessie burst into pre-war tears. I must say
she is very good at it, but I'm afraid Mr
Macbeth had seen the stunt before. Anyway,
he wasna visibly affected. 'If you gang on
Saturday, you take the sack with you,' he
said, and went to his breakfast.
'The atrocious old beaver!' said Jessie in
a rage. 'I would have flung his sack in his
teeth—but I canna afford it. What's to be
done?' She picked up a hot macaroon and
began to eat it.
'Nothing! It's just what I expected,' I
said bitterly. 'Well, I must get along to
'Hold on, Betty! Suppose you was to
appeal to his better feelings—if he's got any.
Drop in when I'm away at my dinner, and
see what you can do.'
Well, I didna promise then, but as the
day rolled on I decided to try. To have our
holiday postponed a second time would be
too fiascoish. So, at a quarter to two, I
stepped into the baker's shop feeling far from
hopeful. Mr Macbeth was behind the counter,
meditating on a wasp stuck in a jam tart.
'Mr Macbeth,' I said, 'I dinna want to seem
interfering, but I've come about this holiday
of Jessie's and mine.'
'You needna have troubled,' he replied.
'I've no quarrel with you, Betty, but it's
high time Jessie had a lesson.'
'Don't you think she's had it now? She
was crying when I left this morning.'
'Alligator's tears! I'm not so easy cajoled.
She sticks to her job, or she gets the sack.'
I heaved a heavy sigh. 'I'm afraid we'll
have to pay for the rooms this time,' I said,
whether we use them or not.'
'I sympathise with you, but she had no
business to make plans without consulting me.
Her impudence is the limit. In my young
days even girls had to put duty before
I produced a sad, sweet smile. 'Oh, Mr Macbeth,' I said softly, you needna speak
of your young days as if they had been in
the year One!'
He tried not to look pleased, saying, 'I'm
auld enough to seem auld-fashioned in my
notions. I pay Jessie a good wage, and the
pastry she devours is worse than any bonus
'She'll pay for the pastry yet, Mr Macbeth.
Already she's losing her figure. She'll pay
'I'm not acquaint with that disease,' he
said, 'but I trust it's painful. If she canna
put my interests before her own, she can
'Still,' I said, after a breather, you wouldna
deny that she's an attraction to the shop.'
'She can sell the fancy stuff—especially to
cycle parties, not to mention our local young
He thumped the counter. 'Are you suggesting
that my success in the pastry line
depends on that young hussy's flirtations?'
'Mr Macbeth,' I said solemnly, 'your pastry
is universally celebrated for its own merits.
Still, there's bakers in the town that would
jump at Jessie for their counters.'
'You see, it's this way, Mr Macbeth.
There's a physicological reason,' I went on.
'The average young man, when he sees Jessie
in her white bib and apron, wishes he could
eat her, which, being impossible, he eats the
next nicest thing.'
'You're talking nonsense!'
'It's human nature, Mr Macbeth. Only a
few short years ago,' I said, with a sort of
admiring look, 'you would have wanted to
eat her yourself—impudence and all.'
'That's enough!' he said.
I felt that it was, one way or another, so
I sighed resignedly, looked at him reproachfully,
and retired. Glancing back, I observed
him stretching out his moustaches rather complacently.
I was on tender-hooks all day till Jessie
burst into the P.O., yelling, 'It's all right.
How did you wangle it, Betty?'
'I appealed to his imagination.' I couldna
think of another word for it.
20. GOING ON HOLIDAY.
YOU'RE quite right, Betty,' said Mr Blue, lighting his twenty-fourth cigarette,
business being over for the day; 'a holiday
should mean a complete change of scenery
and occupation, including faces and feeding.
That's why I take my holiday in November
and spend it in Glasgow.'
'It sounds awful,' I remarked.
'It is awful!' he replied. 'But it makes me contented with Tullypawkie for the other
fifty weeks of the year.'
'What on earth do you do in Glasgow in
November?' I inquired.
'The first week I wander about in the
mud and rain—or it might be the fog; the
second, I sit in my lodgings and watch the
fire smoking, whilst I endeavour to get
quit of a cold in the head, plus dyspeepsia,
prior to returning to my duty here.'
'You really are the limit, Mr Blue,' I said
respectfully. 'I canna think what my biography
would be without you.'
'I hope I'm not such a curio as all that,'
he said, 'though I'll allow that the bulk
of folk of my age waits till they get home
before admitting themselves the worse of their
'I wonder at you taking a holiday at all,'
'Ah, but you see, if I didna take it they
would wonder at headquarters. Ay, I can
see them reporting the phenomenon to the
P.M.G., and I can hear the P.M.G. saying,
"Bless us! Here's a postmaster that works
for the pleasure of the thing! We'll add to
his enjoyment by reducing his salary!" Na,
na, Betty! In the P.O. service ye must never
do anything original. They canna comprehend
it. . . . However,' he went on, 'this is
very unappropriate conversation, considering
that you're for off in the morning, and must
he wanting to get home now to attend to your
packing, complexion, etcetera. So I wish you
a fine holiday—and here's your salary.'
'Thank you, Mr Blue,' I returned. 'I hope
you'll not be overwrought in my absence.'
'You'll probably find me performing a
nervous breakdown on your return—but we
I fancied he was a bit nervous already,
and it was unusual for him to see me off the
premises. At the door he said, 'So long,
Betty. See and get your meals regular. And
I'm instructed by the P.M.G. to hand you
this for sundry holiday expenses.' He shoved
an envelope into my hand, pushed me out,
shut the door, and bolted it.
In the envelope was two pound notes. It
is necessary to put some dots here.
The morning train started at 7-30; but it
would have been less of a rush if Jessie hadna
insisted on tearing back home for her lipstick,
and then running into the bakery to
say good-bye to her boss. Old Moses happened
to be away from the counter, so, to
let him ken she had called, she helped herself
to six cream-cookies, and wrote on an empty
bag: 'Best thanks and fondest regards from
Several young Dougies was at the station
to see us off, and we did not spurn their
offerings of chocs., marzipan bonbons, and
bananas. It was the first time my parents
had let me go away on my own, so I was
rather excited, but not so crazy as Jessie,
though she is two years older. In our honour
the station-master had kindly put three fog-signals
on the rail, and when the train started
and they went off, Jessie pretended she was
shot, and with a screech fell down on the
seat—also on the bag of cream-cookies.
'Alas, my poor breakfast!' she remarked on
examining the result, and threw the bag out
of the window. It burst on a cow standing
by the fence. 'Mrs Moo getting some of her
own back,' she said, and went into fits.
'Jessie,' I said, when I had stopped laughing
myself, 'dinna tell me you was going to
breakfast on cream-cookies!'
'I had no time for breakfast this morning,'
she replied; and now I suppose I'll have to
fill up on bananas and marzipan.' And she
got busy on both.
'For any sake,' I cried, remember we've
got an hour on the steamboat after the train.
Have you never heard of Nemesis?'
'I think I once heard of the blighter at
school—a king of Egypt, I believe.'
There was an old gentleman in the opposite
corner, and after a wee while he leaned
forward and said, 'You were thinking of
'Not at all,' said Jessie, bolting about an
ounce of marzipan. 'His name's Jamie, if
you want to ken. Try one of his bonbons.'
The old gentleman wagged his head and
said to me, 'I think you and I would prefer
Rameses to Nemesis, missie.'
Wanting to be polite I replied, 'Oh, certainly.'
'None for me, thank you,' said Jessie,
engulping another lump. 'I prefer somebody
The old gentleman went into fits; so did
we all. In fact the rest of that part of the
journey was what the poet might call a fitful
fever. At the end of it the old gentleman
wished us a safe voyage, and also wished
he might meet such merry girls every time
'Thanks for the comp.,' Jessie replied.
'And if all the aged ones was like you it
would be a better world.'
In the train from Glasgow to the coast
she became more subdued, and when the
sea hove in sight she said, 'Oh, I hope it's
not going to be lumpy.'
To my horror I could see 'white horses,'
but I replied as calmly as I could, 'The
voyage takes but an hour, Jessie.'
'A lot can happen on the sea in an hour,'
she replied. 'I think I'll leave the rest of
the bonbons for the dickybirds.' There was
but two small ones left out of the pound.
Well, we got on board the steamboat, which
was already heaving slightly. 'Would you
like to go down?' I said.
'Do I look like climbing the funnel?' she
retorted, and groaned.
So I took her down to the saloon, and we
got seats in a corner. She brought out her
puff and lipstick, but seemed to forget about
'Would you not like to lie right down?' I
inquired, both angry and sorry.
'No; I'll remain bent as long as I can,'
she said. 'It's more dignified.'
The steamboat left the pier and began to
'Dinna desert me, Betty,' she sighed.
'Never!' I replied. I wouldna have moved
then for five pounds.
She closed her eyes, and I heard her
whisper, 'This must be Rameses!'
21. ON HOLIDAY.
OUR first evening at Rothesay was wet.
Our landlady called it showery weather,
but it came out that the shower had been
going on for about three months.
'Never mind,' said Jessie, who was very
optimistic after her sea-sickness, 'it's bound
to clear up soon.'
Our landlady was a sort of relation of
Jessie's mother, and Jessie's mother had
wrote to her asking her to keep an eye on
us girls. Fortunately the good soul, as Jessie
remarked, had a top-hole squint.
'Now,' said Jessie, when we was going to
bed, we'll rise at six and have a plunge in
the sea and a smart walk before breakfast.'
And then she started to tell me about her
previous conquests at Rothesay—this was her
third visit—and we didna sleep till near three.
The last words I heard was: 'I hope none
of the poor wretches are here this summer.
It would be highly painful for me.'
I dreamt of handsome young men hanging
themselves on lamp-posts and jumping
off the pier with anchors round their necks,
and woke to hear a clock striking. 'Jessie,' I cried, 'it's nine o'clock, and the sun's shining.'
'Nonsense!' she mumbled; 'that's the moon, and you're hearing double.'
However, just then our landlady banged on
the door—for the fourth or fifth time, as she
'I suppose it's the sea air,' said Jessie,
and I dare say it's better to take the plunge
gradually. Do you smell the ozone, Betty?'
'I smell kippers, anyway,' I replied, and
I want to get at them.' With these words I
sprang slowly from my cosy lair.
'Oh dear! I feel that languid this morning!'
said Jessie, yawning and stretching
herself. I feel like a picture I once seen
in a Christmas number—"The Awakening of
'It's pronounced "Pysicky,"' I told her,
with the accent on the "sick."'
'Oh well, I dinna feel like her after all.
But I wonder what Cupid has in store for
'Never mind Cupid,' I said. 'Get a move on, you big, fat, lazy thing!'
'I'm thankful I'm fat,' she said, shutting
her eyes and smiling dreamily.
'You surely dinna expect me to believe
that, Jessie,' I said, looking out at the blue
water and trying not to sneeze with the fresh
'It's the truth, Betty,' she returned. 'It's fashionable to be skinny, but it's fashionable
only because the great majority canna be fat.
All those fashion plates and mannikins is made
skinny-like merely to flatter and delude the
miserable creatures that are the same. We
all ken in our heart of hearts that the men
prefer us fat. You should be thankful that
you're inclined that way yourself.'
'That's enough boudoir conversation,' I said.
'If you dinna jump, I'll throw this sponge at
'Betty,' she said, 'did you ever imagine,
just before getting up on a cold frosty morning,
that your maid had brought you your
chocolate, your billet-douxes, your invitations
to balls, dinners, garden-parties, your boxes
of flowers, etcetera—and you had nothing to
do but wait till your hot bath was seasoned
with costly perfumery?
'Never!' Maybe it wasna exactly true, but I couldna encourage her luxurious nonsense.
I advanced with the sponge.
. . . . .
Owing to the way she lingered over her
toilet it was eleven o'clock before we was
ready for the promenade. Almost the first
person we saw on the esplanade was Tommy
Knox, from Tullypawkie, the boy she had
got engaged to in a thunderstorm and then
jilted, because she thought she had got the
mumps from him. He was leaning against
the rail, gazing at the water.
When I pointed him out Jessie gave a
start, and said, 'This is too terrible! I hope
he hasna come here to persecute me.'
'Not at all,' I assured her. 'He left Tullypawkie
three days before us. It's merely a
'I wish I could believe that,' she said with
a groan. 'He looks awful sad. I earnestly
trust he's not contemplating suicide.'
'I think he's contemplating yon red-faced
girl, with the mustard jumper, in the blue
boat,' I said, thinking to check her conceit.
She shook her head. 'Such a living skeleton would never attract him,' she said.
'I suppose we'd better walk the other way,'
'He's bound to see us sooner or later,'
said Jessie, without stopping.
Just then two young Dougies, smoking
cigarettes as if they was paid for doing it, went past. They stared, then smiled and touched their hats. In a hoarse whisper
Jessie said to me, 'I was semi-engaged to
the tall one last summer.'
'Semi would be plenty, I should think,' I
said. 'Who was the other girl?'
'It was another boy,' she said without a blush. 'But doesna poor Tommy look as if he had lost everything? How terrible it would be if he was to commit felo se do, or
whatever they call it, while we was at Rothesay!
I suppose I would have to identify the
remains. And how awful it would be if he
had that last fatal p.p.c. of mine next his
'Was that the one you wrote when you had
'It was. Whiles I wish I had softened the
blow, but I was ratty at the time.'
'What exactly did you say?'
'After telling him that no true gentleman,
with the mumps on him, would dream of embracing
a lady, even if she had sort of swooned
against him in a thunderstorm, I told him that
all was over between us, and wished him the
measles and many of them. Was I too harsh,
'Well, it would surely settle him,' I said.
As my mother says, it's really more satisfactory
to break a dish than just to crack it.'
'Hush!' she cried. 'Let us gang past him
in perfect silence.' And she commenced to
walk on her heels and talk loudly about the
beauties of Rothesay.
But he didna seem to hear. He was busy
waving and making signs to the red-faced
girl, and she was coyly bringing her boat
nearer to him.
'His mind seems to have completely went
with grief,' said Jessie, after a look back.
'He's actually going for a sail with that
Face! I hope Heaven'll forgive me for
blasting his young life.'
'It seems too much to expect,' I said, feeling
rather fed up; 'but if I was you, Jessie, I
wouldna start to dwell on your sins at the
very beginning of your holiday. Come on
and have a slider.'
'Righto,' she replied. I'll try to conceal my remorse for your sake, Betty. But I'm
afraid a slider will do little to help.'
'We'll have a couple, then.' I was really
afraid she had still a leaning to the Tullypawkie
However, after the third slider, she cheered
up and got busy with her puff and lipstick.
'I expect he was only temporally mad,
Betty,' she was saying, when in he walked
with the red-faced girl.
They was that taken up with each other
that they never noticed us. They sat down
with their backs to us. And then we heard
him call her 'Duckie.'
'I think it would be a good idea, Jessie,'
'To go and have that plunge.'
22. NICE BOYS.
THERE is times when I dinna ken whether
to be amused or annoyed at Jessie.
Personally, I have no objections to boys—if
they are the nice sort, which seems, so far,
to be scarce in Rothesay—but I never yet
observed a specimen that I would dream of
chasing; whereas Jessie would pursue a dead
sheep in plus-fours.
In the silent watches of the other night,
when not a sound was heard but the numerous
cats, I remonstrated with her. 'Jessie,' I said,
'have you no discriminations? Are you not
afraid you'll grow into a vamp?'
'Dinna be so prehistoric,' she replied. 'When
you're as old as me'—she is twenty and I
am near eighteen—'you'll realise the awful
competition us girls has to face. And when
you see your youth slipping away, like an
overlooked slider in a heat-wave—' She
hove a heavy sigh.
'It's the first time I've heard you poetical,'
I remarked, and I sincerely hope it'll be the
last. As for the competition, I'm sure it's
not near so awful as some of the prizes we
see floating around.'
'A man's a man for a' that,' said Jessie.
'That's not what Burns meant when he
'Times have changed since his day. Some
of your ideas, Betty, would have been up to
date in the Ark; others would have been
'It's not my ideas we're talking about,' I
retorted; it's your behaviour. We've been
here for a week now, and you've done nothing
but chase young men.'
'What a thing to say! How could I have
chased them when I've always been in front
'Some of us looks best from behind, and
kens it,' I coldly replied. 'It's man-chasing
all the same.'
'Upon my word!' she exclaimed in well-stimulated
indignation. 'To hear you, a body
would think we had come to Rothesay to
admire the scenery.'
'Well, it's worth admiring.'
'Tell me that when you're forty! What
hypocrisy!' She sat up and started to devour
chocs. 'Scenery!' she went on; I tell you
honestly, Betty, Mount Vesuvius doing its
best wouldna interest me if there was a
young man at the foot of it! I get plenty
of scenery in Tullypawkie eleven and a half
months of the year—same old scenery and the
same old faces! Have a choc. and try to
I declined the choc., being completely fed
up in that respect, and said, I would prefer
Vesuvius to a lot of the faces here, which
so frequently resembles hot-cross buns and
'We canna have everything,' she interrupted;
'and we shouldna judge by appearance—
especially in the case of men. You may
live to learn that a face like a plate of soup
conceals a true heart and a noble mind. What
are you laughing at?'
'Go on, Jessie,' I said; 'you're splendid!'
She began to laugh herself. 'I'm not
extra fond of soup, I admit,' she said, 'but
when a body's hungry—'
'That's what I'm complaining about!' I
told her. 'You'll take just anything, Jessie!
You should try to control your appetite. For
instance, those two chaps that spoke to us
at the "Pierrots" to-night—'
'Oh, I must have met them last year.'
'You must have met a thousand last year;
but we'll let that pass,' I said. 'Well, those
two was the limit, and I tell you straight,
Jessie, I'd rather stay in the house than be
seen with them again.'
'Do you mean that, Betty?'
'Certainly I do! Yon two was soup all
'Very well,' she sighed, 'they'll get the
frozen face to-morrow. As a matter of fact.
I didna notice till they tried to be funny
that they had only half a set between
'That was the least of their defects,' I said.
'I dinna object to ugliness, if there's niceness
along with it.'
'But how can you tell whether there 's niceness?'
'Oh, go to sleep!' I cried, and drew the
clothes over my ear, for I had said my say,
and could only hope that it would bear some
rare, refreshing fruit, as one of our poets has
The cats' cantata was now very adagio and
fortissimo — I can play a little on the piano—
but now and then, between the demi-semi-quavers and the molto arpeggios, I heard
Jessie give a groan. I hoped it was remorse,
but it might have been the chocs.
. . . . .
It poured all next day—even the scenery
was invisible—but cleared up in the evening.
We had not gone far along the esplanade
when Jessie kept her promise and gave the
two poor wretches—I couldna help being
sorry for them then—the F.F., which left
them paralysed. A duchess couldna have
done it better. It would have pierced a
A little later, while we was listening to the
band, which was playing a dreamy foxtrot,
Jessie gave me a nudge that near sent me
into the lap of an aged beaver. Following the
squint of her eyes, I observed two young
Dougies, with beautiful Fair Isle jerseys and
beautiful hair-ile heads, and their faces was
far from ill-favoured.
'Would you say there was niceness yonder?'
said Jessie in a hoarse whisper.
'I can feel it from here,' I replied. 'It's a pity you didna meet them last year.'
'It 's never too late to mend, except when
it's a "ladder,"' said Jessie. 'Come on!'
Not wishing to create a scene, I went with
her. Looking the picture of modesty, she
walked past the two young Dougies, giving
them, at the last moment, one of her celebrated
round-the-corner glances—I must say Jessie
has lovely lashes—but I couldna be sure then
if they caught it. However, we walked on
up the esplanade, and after a while she
squeezed my arm and said they was following
Well, we walked on and on, and the folk
about us got fewer and fewer, and it began
to get dark.
'I doubt they're bashful,' said Jessie, and
gave a fetching look over her shoulder. 'I like them all the better for it, but the night's
no longer young, and we promised, worse
luck, to be in at ten.'
With these words she took her purse from
her bag and emptied it of everything except
two pennies and a card with her name and
'Jessie,' I cried, what's that for?'
'Wait and see,' she replied, and dropped
the purse. A hanky's the usual thing, but
I feel that I might need mine in this chilly
I was stupefied with horror, and for the
next three minutes expected to hear hurrying
footsteps behind. But never a footstep! And then Jessie took a look back. 'Gosh!' she exclaimed. 'They've disappeared!' So had the purse—for Jessie knew exactly where
she had dropped it.
It began to rain. 'Where's your "niceness"
now?' she cried bitterly.
We got home soaked, our white shoes
ruined, and passed a miserable, speechless
night. Even the cats was dumb. In the
morning a policeman called with the purse,
which had been handed into the office the
previous night. The cash was intact. Jessie
threw the pennies out of the window, and
then went down to look for them.
Still, I believe they were nice boys.
23. STILL ON HOLIDAY.
I COULDNA help feeling sorry for Jessie after the purse fiasco, and I am sure all
my feminine readers will sympathise with her.
O, ladies, just imagine yourselves dropping
your purse for a young man to pick up and
return to you, thus producing a semi-introduction,
and the young man taking it to the
police-office, and an aged policeman delivering
it to you next morning, just before
breakfast! What a sardonic irony! What
a cruel jest of Fate!
As recorded in the previous chapter of this
biography, Jessie threw the contents of the
purse—two pennies—out of the window, and
then went down to look for them. After a
long search in the long grass she returned
with one penny and two wet feet. I advised
her to change her shoes and stockings, but
she bitterly exclaimed, 'Never!' and sank upon
a chair at the table. I asked a few questions,
but, receiving no answer, decided not to intrude
on her grief.
After a melancholy hut hearty repast she
said suddenly, 'Betty, I'm done with men!'
I was that astonished, I could only gaze at
'I'm finished with them for ever!'
'But,' I said at last, 'we've still a week of
holidays. How are you going to pass the
'I'll look at the scenery and send p.p.c.'s to
my old aunts.'
'I dare say the scenery can stand it, but
your aunts'll probably die of surprise,' I said.
'It was certainly very provoking about the
purse, but while there's life there's fish,
and as good ones in the sea as ever came
'If you're trying to be funny—' she began
'Not at all. I'm trying to cheer you up.
Come out and have a slider.'
'I'm done with sliders.'
'Well, a plunge. The sea looks a bit cosier to-day.'
'I'm finished with the sea. I dinna intend
to leave this house till it's time to catch the
boat for home.'
'Would you not bide in your bed when
you're at it?' I asked, sarcastic-like. 'In all
my career I have never heard such nonsense.'
'If you're going to be cruel,' she said, 'I'll
burst in tears. How can I show my face in
public after being scurned and sporned—I
mean, scorned and scurned?'
'I ken what you mean,' I said kindly.
'But all that's a delusion, Jessie. How were
those two nice boys to guess that you dropped
the purse intentional-like?'
'I might have hoped that,' she sighed, 'if
I hadna given them the glad eye.'
'But it was getting dark at the time. They
might have missed the G.E.'
She shook her head. 'Two pennies only in the purse must have looked awful bad. I
wish I had risked a ten-shilling note. Two
pennies beside the card with my name and
address—no, no, Betty; nothing could make
the loss look genuine. And now those two
boys'll be laughing their heads off. I'm
'You're a silly goose,' I told her. 'Come away out and forget about it. See how the
sun's shining—the finest morning yet!'
'Ay, even Nature's laughing at me,' she
wailed. 'Away out yourself, Betty. Enjoy
yourself whilst you're young.'
'I must post my letter to mother, or she'll
think I've croaked; but I'll be back in five
minutes,' I said, fancying she might be better
left to her own company for a while. I had
never before seen Jessie like this.
'Dinna hurry back for me. I'll just sit here and read the Free Church Monthly for
last November,' she said. 'But you might
get me a dozen p.p.c.'s—the cheapest possible
—and half a pound of chocs.—soft centres—
the rich sort.'
'Righto!' I replied. 'Do you want comics or views for your aunts?'
'Oh, views—in wet weather, if possible.
Comics would be quite inappropriate under
I went into the town, wondering what I
could do to stir her up. I sort of half hoped
I might meet the two young Dougies with
the Fair Isle jerseys. I felt I could tell from
their faces if they thought Jessie guilty. At
the same time, I felt I would blush furiously
if they looked at me; and suddenly observing
two figures resembling them, I rushed into
the door of a shop, thinking it was an ice-cream saloon, and ordered a raspberry slider,
only to find it was a barber's—and, after all,
the two figures turned out to be false alarms.
I was that shook up that I posted mother's
letter without a stamp. I also forgot about the
p.p.c.'s, but that turned out to be providential.
When I returned to the house the landlady
was at the door with her dog, and she told
me that Jessie was in the back garden. So
I went round, expecting to find her devouring
the Free Church Monthly in the shade of
the ash-pit. I could hardly believe my ears
when I heard her talking and laughing. And
when I got round the corner I could hardly
believe my eyes. There she was, all smiles,
hobnobbing with the two young Dougies with
the Fair Isle jerseys. I never seen such a
In my stupefication I dropped the chocs.,
and the landlady's dog was off with them
like a shot.
'Never mind, Betty,' cried Jessie. 'Dinna grudge the poor beast its well-earned breakfast.'
Then she introduced the two young Dougies
as if she had kent them all her life. I confess
I blushed, but so did they, especially the
younger one. Then she explained that the
young Dougies, fearing the police might have
been tempted, had called to inquire if the
purse had been safely received, and, casting
down her eyelashes, she declared that she
valued the purse itself more than anything
on earth, having got it from a dear defunk
friend. (She really got it in a raffle, the
After a little more conversation the two
young Dougies—they was just shy enough
to be nice—explained that they had a wee
motor-boat, and wanted us to go for a trip.
Jessie, looking as coy as a canary being
admired by a cat, asked me what I thought.
It would have served her right if I had said,
. . . . .
These dots represents a week. I canna deny it has been a happy one—splendid
weather, etc. Alas, it is all over. The boys
left to-night, and we are going back to Tullypawkie
in the morning. We have all promised
to meet again next summer, if then alive,
which does not seem likely. I have sort of
promised to write to Willie. Jessie considers
herself semi-engaged to Robert. It is now 1 A.M. and she is in a very low state. She
has not touched her packing yet. She is
lying on the bed with her cheek against a
box of chocs. she got from Robert. The box
is empty. Such is life!
24. A LOVE-LETTER.
THOUGH I was sorry the holiday was over, I canna say that my grief was unbearable,
and the journey home might have been
quite enjoyable, but for Jessie's dismal company.
She spent most of the time in wishing she was
dead, and counting the remains of her cash—
7½d. The future, she declared, was like the
skin of a banana, which she held up; she
didna ken how she was going to face it for
eleven and a half months. I told her she
would soon get used to facing it, if she hung
it up in her bedroom above her looking-glass;
but that only annoyed her, and she said I was
too young to understand the tragedy of a
However, as I have already observed, Jessie
is a most mercurious creature. When the train
arrived at Tullypawkie, there was several of
the local young Dougies waiting to welcome
us and carry our luggage; and, having hastily
powdered her nose, Jessie burst into loud
smiles and commenced making eyes. She said
it had been the most glorious holiday ever, and
hinted that she had left numerous damaged
hearts in Rothesay. Oh no! she wasna sorry
to be home. Dear old Tullypawkie! Old
friends was best after all! And so forth. I
really think Jessie would shine in high society.
My parents appeared glad to see me, this
having been my first holiday away from them.
I assured them that they didna look a day
older, and gave them an account of my doings,
dwelling mostly on the scenery and weather.
Parents is apt to forget they was once young
themselves. My father declares that in his
day a slider was a curiosity, and that boys,
supposing they had the money, would never
dream of taking girls into tea-rooms. What
After tea I strolled into the village, just to
see if the P.O. was still there. Somehow I
felt that great changes might have taken place
in my absence, but everything was just the
same. It seemed terrible quiet. Not even a
poor blind man playing a penny whistle. So
you've got back, Betty,' said the neighbours,
and that was all.
Slipping into the P.O., I discovered Mr
Blue yawning copiously and opening his second
twenty of cigarettes for the day. 'Gosh!' he
cried, starting dramatically, 'is it really you,
'Do I look like a ghost?' I asked him.
'Not at all,' said he, shaking my hand. I should say you've put on a couple of stones.'
'Oh, horrors!' I exclaimed.
'Never mind,' he returned kindly, 'Tullypawkie
canna have too much of you.'
I inquired if he had been missing me in the
'I've been missing you that badly,' he said,
that I very near invested in a cat for
'Am I intended to take that as a compliment?'
I asked with pretended hauteur.
'Certainly,' he replied. 'I did think of a monkey, but—' He smiled, though not the
least sardonically. 'I'm really glad to see you
back, Betty. By-the-bye,' he said suddenly,
'there's a letter for you—came this morning.'
'A letter!' I ejaculated.
He pointed to the pigeon-holes. It was addressed care of the P.O., otherwise it would
have been delivered in the usual way.' With
these words he turned and walked into the
Feeling the colour of magenta, for I realised
that it could only be from Willie, the young
Dougie which had paid me attentions at
Rothesay, I took out and opened the letter
with trembling fingers. There was six large
pages, wrote in pencil on both sides, and some
poetry. I could see at once that it was a
love-letter, for it began: 'My darling Betty,—
It is three years since we parted, and it seems
like three hours.' That was enough to show
that he had wrote in great emotion, and I
forgave him for his awful writing and bad
spelling, including 'O, for the touch of a
I was just beginning to get the hang of it
all when Jessie rushed in. She had found a
letter at home from Robert, Willie's friend,
and wanted to tell me all about it, though, of
course, it was strictly sacred. I went to the
back room and told Mr Blue I would be on
duty in the morning.
'Righto, Betty,' he replied. 'See and keep that nice colour.'
I confess that I exited in some confusion.
'I promised Bobby Niven to take a walk,
but, of course, that's off now,' said Jessie.
'Where can we get peace to read our letters?
Mine's a mile long, and, judging from the
first page, awful passionate.'
'Be quiet! I'm not going to read you my
'Of course not. We'll just exchange titbits.'
'I couldna do that.'
'I suppose you're shy,' she said, 'it being
your first. Anyway, let's find a private place.
It wasna so easy. Everywhere we turned
young Dougies was standing smoking cigarettes.
Two of them started to pursue us.
We dashed into a wood and rushed through it
till we came to a burn.
'Skip across, and we'll dodge round the old
castle,' said Jessie.
There was a good deal of water in the burn,
but the stepping-stones was mostly dry on the
top. I went first, so it wasna my fault when
Jessie slipped and grabbed at me, and we both
went into two feet of water.
When we got out our light frocks was like
pulp, and so was the letters. We was both
a bit out of temper, but there was no use in
'I believe my folks'll all be out now. Come
home with me,' said Jessie, 'and we'll get the
letters dried—and ourselves too. I can lend
We took a roundabout way to avoid being
seen, and found the house empty. In no time
Jessie had the kitchen fire roaring, our wet
things hung in front of it, and the letters
spread carefully in the fender.
'That thin paper'll soon dry,' she said.
'Come up to my window, and we can watch,
in case any of my folks come home.'
So we went up, and Jessie got awful sentimental,
telling about her past romances. There
seemed to be something fatal about her, she
declared, for it had never really been her intention
to blight the lives of the numerous young
men. I canna say I believed it all; still, it
was interesting—and the next we knew was
a frightful smell of burning. Down we rushed,
but, alas! too late.
A coal had fell — the letters was gone — we hadna got the addresses either — and our things
was singeing. What a tragedy! I expected
Jessie to break down. I confess I felt that
But Jessie looked at the clock, and said,
I suppose I'll have to apologise to Bobby
Niven for keeping him waiting. What are
you for doing, Betty?'
'I think,' I said as gaily as I could, 'I'll
gang home and darn my father's socks.'
25. A BIRTHDAY.
IHAD scarcely settled down after my holiday,
and had just completed Vol. I. of this biography, when I got the surprise of my life.
For some days I had noticed that Mr Blue
wasna like himself. He was less short with
customers, less sarcastic with folk in general;
he went about like a hen in felt slippers, and
started violently for no oblivious reason; he
would often have two cigarettes burning at
once; twice he swallowed a stamp, fortunately
a halfpenny one on both occasions; and he
seemed to avoid meeting my eye. All sorts
of horrible suspicions floated about my mind,
the worst being that, in my absence, the
unfortunate quadragenarian had succumbered
to one of our Tullypawkie spinsters, and was
now shuddering on the brink of a breach of
But how easy it is to misjudge folk! When
Mr Blue approached me on the Monday afternoon,
looking like a dying geranium, I felt I was about to hear a painful revelation.
'Betty,' he said, taking out his hanky and
wiping away some perspiration and half a
cigarette, 'I suppose you're aware that tomorrow
'This being Monday, Mr Blue,' I replied,
'And the half-holiday, Betty.' His voice was sort of hoarse.
I inclined my head, wondering what was
'And—and your birthday, Betty—your
'So it is—but how did you ken?'
He waved his hand and smiled feebly.
After a few moments he said, 'Betty, are ye
If I wasna a robust girl I would have
'For to-morrow, I mean,' he said hurriedly.
'For your birthday celebrations.'
At that I couldna help smiling. 'I'm afraid, Mr Blue, we dinna celebrate birthdays
in our family. I dare say my sisters'll remember
me, as they expect me to remember
He appeared to pull himself together, saying,
'This birthday has got to be celebrated, and
I'm relieved to hear you've got no engagement.
As a matter of fact, I've ordered a
charabanc for two o'clock to-morrow, and
invited a number of young folk to join us.
I propose that we gang to the town, visit the
picture-house, and then have tea. After that—'
'Mr Blue !' I exclaimed.
'Dinna be angry,' he said. 'Read this, if you please!' and he handed me a letter, and
stood there, wiping his face.
I wiped part of mine, feeling quite overcome,
and opened the letter, taking out a card,
on which was very neatly wrote the following
THE YOUNG MEN OF TULLYPAWKIE requests the Pleasure of Miss BETTY CAIRNIE'S Company at
a DANCE in the School, at 8 P.M. on Tuesday,
to Celebrate her Eighteenth Birthday.
'Mr Blue,' I cried, 'this is too much!'
'Not at all,' said he. 'Your eighteenth birthday
happens but once. Your twenty-eighth
may happen oftener, but we needna anticipate.
In the meantime, let us hope it'll be a fine
day—and—not a word, Betty!—here comes
Peter with the mail.'
. . . . .
My father looked cross, and privately
slipped me the price of a pair of stockings;
my mother said she had never heard tell of
such nonsense, and was up till 2 A.M. doing
up my frock.
Jessie, of course, had been invited, but
I think she was a wee bit jealous. You
would almost need to accept him now,' she
'I will—if he asks me,' I answered.
'A difference of thirty years or so is neither
here nor there nowadays.'
'A mere trifle.'
She gave it up and tried another way.
'It'll take you all your time to get ready your
'Well, Mr Blue is pretty sure to propose
your health at the dance, and, of course, you
would need to reply.'
She had me this time. 'Oh, horrors!' I exclaimed;
and I suppose I looked so terrified
that she was sorry she had been nasty.
I'll help you,' she said. 'I once got highly commended for an essay on "Insects I
Have Met." Come round to our house tonight,
and we'll get busy.'
I went round, and took a pound of mixed
toffees with me, because Jessie canna think
hard with her mouth empty. We wrote pages
and pages before her mother interfered at
midnight; but, when I read them over at
home, they didna seem likely to be a great
help. Jessie's mind was always going back to
the insects. How true it is that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing! I tried to compose a few original remarks, but composed
myself to sleep instead.
. . . . .
It would take several chapters to describe
that gorgeous day. Everything was a treat,
including the weather. Everybody was that
nice to me that whiles I wondered if I hadna
come into a million pounds without being
aware of it. But, of course, I kept Mr Blue
and his kindness was at the bottom of it all.
The only fly with any ointment on it was the
thought of the speech, but I didna let it get
the better of me.
The dance was splendid. At least five young Dougies informed me that I looked
'a peach,' and, seeing it was their funeral, I
couldna very well tell them not to be silly
goats. In fact, under the whole circumstances,
I felt it would be ill-mannered to discourage
anybody, which, I regret to say, has led
to several awkward entanglements. But, as
Jessie declared, it was no time for the
frozen face. She certainly misbehaved herself
At 1 A.M. Mr Blue got up beside the piano
and read a telegram which, he pretended, had
come from the P.M.G. The P.M.G. sent his
loving congratulations to Miss Betty Cairnie,
and hoped he might live to see the P.O.
worthy of her services. (Laughter and cheers.)
Mr Blue then proposed my health, explaining
first, that, owing to an unforeseen scarcity of
lemonade, the gentlemen had kindly agreed
to drink it in cream-cookies and meringues.
Several young Dougies drank it so heartily
that they had to retire, foaming at the mouth.
But I guessed the fun was invented to keep
me from being too highly embarrassed.
Still, I felt pretty queer when I got up
beside the piano, and the applause made me
worse. I think I said something like this:
'Mr Blue, and kind friends, thanks awfully
much. It has been the best ever. It will
never be forgot—not even when I am eighty,
and no longer young. Everything will remind
me of it—postage-stamps, charabancs, movies,
foxtrots, cream-cookies, Jessie Harvie, earwigs,
bumbees, etcetera. I hope Mr Blue and
his old chum, the P.M.G., and everybody here
will live for many, many happy generations in
the most enjoyable prosperity. Girls, three
cheers for Mr Blue and the young men of
You should have heard the screech that rose
to heaven! When it had subsidised, Mr Blue,
now very nervous, replied for himself and the
boys; and then we sang 'Auld Lang Syne.'
I discovered that I had promised to let nine
young Dougies escort me home. We walked
slow, and they got one minute each. Each's
conversation was rather scrappy, the other eight
being busy listening. Maybe it was just as
well. I loved them all that night.
26. THE DRAMATIC SOCIETY.
THE Tullypawkie Young People's Mutual
Improvement Association was in a bad
way. At the annual business meeting, on 1st September, only seven souls was present,
and their united ages amounted to three hundred
and twelve. The secretary, Mr Moodie, the
sheep-dip agent, reported that he had received
but two literary contributions for the new
session's syllabus, both of which was rotten;
and Miss Munn, the treasurer, declared she
was 3s. 4½d. out of pocket. The chairman, the
Rev. Mr M'Rorie, said it was a deplorable state
of affairs, considering that the T.Y.P.M.I.A.
had been in existence for seventy years, and
he earnestly trusted a new wave of enthusiasm
would sweep through Tullypawkie. Miss
Munn was heard to remark that she earnestly
trusted the new wave would wash back her
3s. 4½d., and then the meeting adjourned into
the wet night.
When I discussed it with Mr Blue, in the
P.O., he said, 'The only wave at all likely to
sweep through Tullypawkie in this weather is
an overflow from the river. I'm afraid the
Mutual is doomed. Its very name is fatal in
these modern times. Young people nowadays
dinna believe they can be improved—mutually
or otherwise. I would suggest sending round
the hat for the 3s. 4½d., then wind up the
concern and bury it.'
'Some of the aged members might object
to that,' I said.
'Then their only hope is to change the
name of the association.'
'To what, Mr Blue?'
'Well, what about "The Tullypawkie Dancing
and Dramatic Society"?—But dinna tell
anybody I mentioned it.'
'It sounds great,' I told him. 'Of course, we can manage to dance without a society, but
it's certainly high time Tullypawkie had a
dramatic society. Only I'm afraid the aged
'Let the aged ones keep on mutually improving
themselves and getting into debt, and
let the young folks start a dramatic society of
their own,' he said.
'Would you join, Mr Blue?'
'Certainly not! I'm not a young folk. But
I'll take tickets for the performances.'
I tried to persuade him to be treasurer, but
the honour didna seem to attract him.
The same evening I spoke to some friends,
and all was enthusiastic. Jessie Harvie wanted
us to decide on the spot to perform a play she
had seen in the town called Only a Chorus
Girl. She was sure she could do the heroine
splendidly. Another girl, who had also seen
it, said such a play was far too up-to-date for
Tullypawkie, and, besides, Jessie was far too
fat for the part, which required a nymph-like
creature that didna thump with her feet.
Jessie, highly offended, said she would tender
her resignation, but I advised her to wait till
there was something to resign from.
We formed a committee, and I was appointed
secretary. No one seemed keen to
be treasurer, and, as there was nothing so far
to treasure, we left the matter in abeisance.
The first thing to be done was, we agreed, to
have a public meeting to raise public interest
and funds. We was shy about asking for the
big room in the school-house, and Bob Dixon
offered the use of his father's storehouse,
hoping us girls would not mind the mice,
which was numerous and rather forward. Us
girls looked dubious till Tommy Smith promised
to have at least six cats present at the
meeting, and then we passed him and Bob a
vote of cordial thanks.
I was really astounded at the crowd that
turned up. The storehouse was packed, and
it would have been suffocating but for the
draughts, which near blew out the candles.
Still, the perfumes of cheese, glue, and paraffin,
etc., was well to the fore. Near every boy
had brought a cat or two—there was twenty-two
all told--and fights was frequent, while
the fuffing was incessant.
After all, Mr Blue had kindly consented to
be our president, and had generously coughed
up a donation of ten shillings for a start.
Seven persons offered to accept the duties
of treasurer. It was necessary to expel
five of the cats before Mr Blue could get a
hearing. He then explained the object of
the meeting, and pointed out what a great
benefit it would be to Tullypawkie to have
a dramatic society of its own. Mr M'Caskie,
the unsuccessful tailor, kept saying he couldna
see any benefit, till he was expelled by three
young Dougies. Unfortunately he was carrying
a parcel containing a finnan haddie for his
supper, and all the pussies flew out after him,
and soon the girls began to whisper to Mr
Blue, asking him to cut it as short as he
'I have now to announce,' said Mr Blue,
'that members may now be enrolled forthwith.
The annual subscription for performing
members is 2s. 6d. per annum; for nonperforming,
or laying, members, 5s. per ditto.
Subscriptions is now due.'
There was a most gratifying rush to enrol.
Of the total of thirty-three, however, all was
performing members except one, and she
changed her mind—unfortunately, before she
had parted with her cash. We had now
thirteen applicants for the treasurership, so
Mr Blue took it himself. But the astonishing
thing was the number of aged ones that joined.
'I'm sort o' worried about it,' said Mr Blue,
next morning in the P.O.
'Do you think they'll want nothing but
plays with antique parts?' I asked him.
'On the contrary,' he replied. 'The difficulty
will be to get plays with sufficient
juvenile parts. But that's not the worry.
Most of these aged ones is, or was, leading
lights in the old Mutual, and I dinna like the
responsibility of finally bursting the ancient
'It was as good as burst already, Mr Blue,'
I assured him. 'Wait till you see the attendance
next Friday. Miss Munn is reading an
essay on Wordsworth's poems.'
'In that case,' he said, looking relieved, 'we
can surely call it suicide. And now, Betty,
have you any ideas about plays?'
'Some of the members thinks we should
kick off with Shakespeare,' I said. 'Bobby Dixon says he would guarantee to give Tullypawkie
fits with his Macbeth, and Jessie is
awful keen on doing Fair Rosalind. Personally,
I'm afraid Bobby would give the wrong
sort of fits, and I doubt Jessie is just a wee
'She is!' said Mr Blue firmly. 'But Shakespeare is out of the question. If they
canna make it pay in London, even with
refreshment bars handy and beauteous females
selling sweeties all the time, how could we
hope for a profit in Tullypawkie?'
'That's true,' I said 'Well, other members is for East Lynne. Miss M'Bean suggested it
because she inherited a pair of blue specs and
a respirator from her deceased uncle, and she
says she's got a wee nephew with a lovely
hacking cough that would simply bring the
'No, no, Betty,' he replied ; we canna undertake
a play merely because one member possesses
some useful stage properties, as they call
them; and, anyway, Miss M'Bean, apart from
resembling nothing but an onion, is hen-toed,
and hasna the vocal chords of a chicken. I
was afraid we would have trouble with the
aged ones. In the meantime I'll write for a
selection of plays.'
I am sorry to find that my account of the
Dramatic Society's progress will require another
chapter of this biography. But, before closing,
I must record that at the Mutual Improvement
meeting only two souls appeared to hear Miss
Munn's paper, and both resigned before she
could read it. Miss Munn is now the sole
member, but she declares she will never resign
without getting back her 3s. 4½d.
27. A COMMITTEE MEETING.
MR BLUE had an acquaintance in Glasgow
closely connected with the stage—bill-sticking, I think—which told Mr Blue where to
get a loan of plays for the committee to read.
So Mr Blue obtained about a dozen, and at
the end of a fortnight a meeting was held
to decide which of the plays the Tullypawkie
Dramatic Society should perform at Christmas.
Mr Blue was in the chair, and didna look
extra comfy. Though he never reproached me,
I whiles fancied he wished he hadna let me
persuade him to be president of the society.
Being secretary, I sat at the table beside him
and, when necessary, told him what to do.
It was usually necessary.
'Declare the meeting open,' I whispered.
'What? In this pandemonium!'
'Use your hammer, and call for order.'
He had a wee mallet, and he hit the table
such a crack that the head flew off. (Cheers.)
'Put those dogs outside!' he cried. Shut
the door, and pay attention!'
The five dogs being expelled, and the door
shut, he said, 'Is all the committee present?'
After each of us had carefully counted the
others, someone replied, 'Miss Duff is unavoidably
non-present with a super-gumboil.'
'Heaven be praised!' said Mr Blue under
his breath. 'I propose a vote of cordial thanks
—I mean sympathy—to Miss Duff.' (Hear,
hear!) 'Put that in the minutes, Betty.'
'Righto!' I returned, drawing a swelled face
with a long nose to remind me. 'The first
business is to choose a play by vote.'
He repeated my words and continued, 'I
presume you have all read all the plays, and
considered them carefully. I have read them
myself, and, leaving out a couple which I
couldna make head or tail of, I would classify
them as follows: Plays we couldna do spectacular
justice to, such as the one that winds up
with an earthquake; plays containing divorces,
illicit carry-ons, etcetera, which Tullypawkie
prefers to read about privately in the Sunday
A voice: 'Could we not leave out the bits
about the divorce?'
Another voice: 'Shurrup, you idiot! Would
you offer the public a skin wanting the banana?'
'Order!' said Mr Blue. 'Finally, there's what I would call two possible plays—highly
respectable, yet not unromantic, requiring
nothing special in scenery and female finery'
(a groan from Jessie Harvie), 'and very little
in the way of noble or gallant efforts from
'You needna insult us, Mr Blue,' cried
Tommy Dixon, which had wanted to be
'No offence intended,' Mr Blue replied. 'In
any case, the plays is out of the question.'
'Why ?' screeched Miss M'Phun, one of
the aged members, which used to warble feebly
but perseveringly at all the Mutual Improvement
'Because,' said Mr Blue, 'the authors of the
plays has to get from three to five guineas for
every performance, and that would simply sink
the Tullypawkie Dramatic Society before it
had got its sea-legs, as it were.'
A hairpin from Miss M'Phun's bun was
distinctly heard to drop.
The local agent for M'Cracken's far-famed
sheep-dip rose to his feet. 'Mr Blue,' he
said, 'this is a scandalous state of affairs. By
what right does the authors demand such
'I suppose they think they deserve something
for having wrote the plays,' Mr Blue
returned. 'Anyway, we darena perform the
plays without paying the cash.'
'It's rank profiteering!' said the sheep-dip
agent. 'But I believe, if we was offering to
perform one of the plays, we could beat the
author down to, say, a pound. Authors is
notoriously greedy for fame.'
Tommy Dixon got up. 'Mr President,' he said, we're getting off the scent. The first
business of this meeting was to choose a play
'You're right, Tommy. I will now read
over the list of plays eleven in number—and
the meeting will vote by holding up its hands
—one hand for each person, mind! Betty—
I mean the Honorary Secretary—will record
The recording was very easily done. Including
Mr Blue and myself there was eleven
souls present, and each soul voted for a different
'This,' said Mr Blue, is what the French
calls a fiasco, or cal de suc.—What do we do
now, Betty?' he asked in a hoarse whisper.
'Dear knows,' I replied. 'Perhaps somebody
would vote for a different play.'
He put it to the meeting, but nobody would,
and neither would he nor me.
'Then,' said Mr Blue, 'I hereby declare
this meeting null and void.' (Cheers and
'You should have gone in for Macbeth,'
cried Tommy Dixon. 'No author to pay.'
'Hold your tongue, Tommy! The meeting
has been declared null and void.'
'But you canna do that,' yelled the sheep-dip
agent. I demand a poll!'
Mr Blue looked at me, and I whispered,
'Tell him he canna get it.'
'You canna get a poll—and I'm astonished
at you asking for such a thing,' said Mr Blue.
'Has any of you ladies any observations to
Jessie Harvie got up, giggling. 'I thought all the plays was rotten,' she said. I think we should perform a pantomime. I wouldna
mind being the principal boy, if Betty was the
I felt myself blushing for her, and her that
stout; but some of the young Dougies shouted
for a pantomime, till Miss M'Phun got up,
waving her umbrella.
She said she was perfectly affronted at the
suggestion from Miss Harvie, and trusted
the higher-minded members of the committee
would instantly tabloo it. Sooner than appear
in a pantomime she would resign from the
society, forfeiting her 2S. 6d.
Then that impudent thing Jessie cried,
'Come, come, Miss M'Phun! Never say die!
You would bring down the house as an ugly
At that there was a lovely row. Somebody
said Jessie should withdraw the unseasonable
remark; Tommy Dixon shouted that this would
never have happened if we had chose Macbeth;
the sheep-dip agent kept on demanding a
poll; the five dogs was scraping and barking
at the door; and Mr Blue thumped the table and
yelled for order till he poured with perpiration.
I regret to say that the rest of the meeting,
including myself, was in fits.
At last there was a sort of silence, and Mr
Blue had started again to declare the meeting
null and void, when Andrew Latto asked to
be allowed to say a few words. Andrew is
rather a quiet chap as a rule, and Mr Blue
said, 'Certainly, Andrew; proceed.'
Andrew said he thought that, anyway, a play
of three or four acts was too much for a first
attempt. It would be safer to start our career
in the dramatic world with three short, simple
plays. He knew where two could be got—
they had been successful in many places—and
they would cost us only ten shillings each.
(Cheers.) As for the third, he thought it
ought to be home-made by local talent, which
would add great interest to the entertainment;
and he begged to propose that Miss Betty
Cairnie should write it. (Loud cheers, except
from Miss M'Phun and me.)
Imagine my feelings! I was that embarrassed
I didna ken what I had said in reply till the
meeting was over, and Jessie came imploring
me to write her the part of a beauteous Spanish
dancing-girl crossed in love, which, after performing
the caoutchouc before her false lover
and his wealthy fiancée, stabbed herself with
a giletto, and expired in gorgeous agony.
28. AS PLAYWRIGHT.
IDARE SAY it would be quite easy to
write a one-act play if you could use any number of scenes, and if you was allowed, for
instance, to hang out a board, saying, 'ten
years has now rolled past,' 'this character is
not so rotten as he seems,' etc., and if you
wasna continually pestered by the folk that
hoped they was going to get parts. As Mr
Blue observed, my first attempt would have
been splendid if I could have shown the
murder in the lonely wood, the abduction on
the steam yacht, the fearful fight on the seashore
in the thunderstorm, and the escape of
the heroine and hero from the gorilla in the
aeroplane, instead of merely making the characters
talk about them in a bed-sitting-room.
And if I could have been allowed five hours
for the performance, the play, Mr Blue declared,
would have been a perfect corker. As
it turned out, I had to go back to Jessie's idea
of the Spanish dancer.
As for the aspirants for dramatic notorosity,
as he called them, Mr Blue said I should
simply pay no attention to their pesterings.
'That's all very well, Mr Blue,' I replied,
but as I have no immediate prospects of
leaving Tullypawkie for a superior world, I
canna afford to offend half the families in the
place. Besides, it might injure the trade of
'True,' he admitted. 'The gross turnover in halfpenny stamps has appreciatively increased
since you entered the service.'
'Are you including the two stamps you
swallowed recently?' I respectfully inquired.
'Certainly,' he replied; 'you, Betty, being
the primeval cause thereof.'
There is times when I wonder whether Mr
Blue is as serious as he looks.
'Still,' he went on, 'in my opinion, it's not
the thing for the authoress of the play to
accept sauce from the would-be performers.
Just you be dignified, Betty, and tell the young
folks they can take what they get, or leave it.'
'The aged ones is as bad as the young,' I told him. 'It's a pity they ever got on the committee. Miss M'Phun, for instance, is continually squabbling with Jessie Harvie
about being the heroine. At first she was
down on anything with dancing in it, but now
she says she understands that a Spanish dancer
depends more on grace than agility, and wants
the part herself. Fancy a Spanish dancinggirl
wearing specs! Besides, her ankles is unutterably hopeless.'
'I'll take your word for that, Betty,' he
returned hurriedly. 'Have you settled on
Jessie for the part?'
'She's my greatest friend, so what else can
I do? But though Jessie's ankles is faultless,
I canna help feeling that the rest of her is too
much inclined to what the French calls—I
canna mind the word—
'Contretemps, maybe,' suggested Mr Blue
'Something to that effect. The French is
so much more delicate in expressing plain
truths,' I said. 'Well, anyway, that's what I
feel about Jessie.'
'And, of course, you wouldna like to hurt
her feelings,' he said. 'Still, you must remember
that your dramatic reputation is at
stake, Betty. What's the private opinion in
'Oh, if it was coming to a vote, Jessie would
have a majority. The young men is in her
favour. Besides, Mr Blue, we've near three
months before us, and Jessie, being already
semi-conscious of her weight on her feet, hopes
to get quit of a stone or two by Christmas.'
'It's a misfortune that her day's work
happens to be in a bakery,' he remarked.
'It is, indeed. Still, she has made a vow
never to touch pastry before twelve, noon; so
we must hope for the best.'
'Then,' said Mr Blue, 'seeing you have
settled on Jessie, the sooner we get it confirmed
by the committee, the better. Call a
meeting for Friday night.'
Well, the meeting confirmed it. Miss M'Phun, though sulky, got the part of the
high-born wealthy Peruvian lady—I made her
Peruvian to suit Miss M'Phun's sallow colour
and save make-up—for whom the false lover
deserts the faithful dancing-girl, thus leading to
the tragedy. There was trouble when Andrew
Latto, who was to produce the play, said he
must have Miss M'Phun's word that she
wouldna wear her specs—especially in the love
'Very well,' bitterly said Miss M'Phun, who
without them can see nothing distinct at close
quarters, 'dinna blame me if Mr Dixon (the
false lover) gets his nose bit instead of a chaste
'I'll take care of that, Miss M'Phun,' cried
Tommy Dixon; 'I'm not asking for hydrophobia.'
Which, as it seemed to me, boded
ill for the love scenes being purely and tenderly
However there was a worse trouble to come.
The aged ones, led by Miss Duff, unhappily
recovered from her super-gumboil, objected to
the dancer killing herself with a dagger, which
—like a true Spanish girl—Jessie was to
snatch from her garter. Miss Duff thought
poison would be just as good, besides being
more respectable, and the bottle could easy be
snatched from a hand-bag. (A voice: I'll
lend Jessie my suit-case.') Jessie, in a rage,
said it was evident that Miss Duff kent more
about bottles than Spanish dancers, and flatly
refused to carry a bag and take poison, which
could never be half as thrilling as the dagger.
Mr Blue asked the meeting to vote, and as the
votes was equally divided—six each way—it
looked as if Jessie wouldna be able to kill
herself at all. Suggestions of a pistol and a
hatchet got no support, and at last Mr Blue
whispered to me to try to arrange something,
called for order, and said, 'The authoress will
now address the meeting, and if the meeting
has the courtesy of a bullock, it will agree to
what she proposes.'
I told the meeting I was quite willing to
make it poison, and before Jessie and her
supporters could screech at me, I pointed out
that I would make it a slow poison, which
would give Jessie a far better opportunity than
the dagger for a display of her defunking
agony. The notion seemed to appeal to
Jessie, and she agreed, but on condition that
the curtain wasna let down till she was quite
finished. She said she would take the poison
from a wee green bottle, once containing wart
solvent, which she would suddenly pluck from
her madly heaving bosom.
This being all the business, the meeting
broke up and passed out into the mud.
'So all you've got to do now, Betty,' said
Mr Blue, is to get your play wrote down.'
'That's all,' I sighed. I was in the pink of
29. THE PLAY.
THE LAST DANCE.
(A Tragedy in One Act.)
SCENE.—A Market place in Sunny Spain. Men and
women in fancy costumes is strolling about with
baskets of oranges and onions. Whiles they exchange
remarks on the rottenness of trade, and
take drams from their bottles of sherry wine.
Whiles, being of a mercurious temperature, they
burst into song-, singing 'Fa, la, la,' and dance
the fandagio. Suddenly the sound of music is
heard, and JESSA, the dancer, enters, followed
by her musician, BILLIO, playing a stirring
march on the ocarino.
Fruit Vendors. [Corking their bottles.] Ha, ha!
Here comes our Jessa to cheer us by dancing the
Jessa. [Tries to smile. She is feeling low because
she doubts her lover, SENIOR ROMOLIO.] Strike up,
Billio! See and mind the sharps and flats this
Billio. [In poor health owing to his hopeless passion
for JESSA.] Ah, Jessa, what's a sharp or flat
when the heart is broke ? But here goes!
[HE blows a soul-piercing blast, and JESSA
commences to whirl about in the voluptuous
mazes of the Polony, whilst the Fruit Vendors
beat time with their sandals and refresh
themselves with sherry wine.]
Jessa. Faster, fathead! Put more beefo and
less wheezo into it!
Billio. I canna help the wheezo. I doubt I've
catched the influenzo.
Jessa. You must save up for a melodion. Get
[BILLIO, after some hacking coughs, gets busy,
and so does JESSA. After ten minutes she
sinks gracefully on the ground in a squatting
position. BILLIO retires behind a pile of
empty orange-boxes and wheezes.]
Orange Vendor. Not up to her usual.
Onion Vendor. Not what she was in 1901.
[Several of the VENDORS selects gratuities of
damaged oranges and defective onions, and
throws them to JESSA. Then, after a final
refreshment, they exit, singing solemnly, 'Fa,
la, la!' BILLIO, blowing his nose with a
patchwork hanky, comes forward and collects
the fruits for JESSA.]
Jessa. [Spurning them.] Away! I'm fed up
with fruit. I'm fed up with everything.
Billio. Oh, dinna say that, Jessa! Ham and
eggs is, unfortunately, out of the question, but even
a defective onion is better than nothing
Jessa. Away, away !
Billio. But you must eat to live.
Jessa. I dinna want to live. Only the defunk
is happy in this world. [Bursts into tears.]
Billio. [Visibly affected.] Can it be that you
have had no breakfastio?
Jessa. These lips has not tasted food since
luncho yesterday. [Averting her gaze.] The Senior
Romolio was to have fetched fish and chips last
Billio. The foul blighter!
Jessa. Hush! I still try to hope he may have
been detained by some accidento.
Billie. Fatal for choice! But no such luck.
Jessa. Billio! What meanest thee? Hast seen
Billio. [Averting his gaze.] I—I hast not.
Jessa. The truth, the truth!
Billio. [Averting his gaze still more.] At 9 P.M.
I seen him under the window of the wealthy
Seniorina Bella von Jelosio, with his gramophono
on an obsolete pram.
Jessa. Serenading her?
Billio. Ay! 'Last Night on the Backo Porcho
Jessa. [With a scream.] All is over! I am
underdone! Nothing left but this! [Fetches out
from her jumper a wee green bottle.]
Billio. What's that ? Sherry wine?
Jessa. Poison! Extra slow!
Billio. Gosh! Give me it, and I'll see that he
Jessa. Alas! I love him still.
Billio. Well, you're the limit! Are you for
taking it yourself? [SHE nods.] Would you not
take me instead?
Jessa. [Visibly affected.] Ah, my poor faithful
friend, I prefer the poison. [SHE waits till the
audience has got over its emotion, then shakes the
bottle, uncorks it, and raises it to her lips.]
Billio. Hold on! Somebody's coming! [Footprints
is heard, and, corking the bottle, she puts it
in her jumper.] My goodness! If it isna that
Jessa. [Hoarsely.] Retire, Billio!
[SHE rises, whilst BILLIO, with tears gushing
down his face, retires behind the orange-boxes,
not forgetting the fruit.]
Romolio. [Enters, smoking a cigario.] Ha!
Jessa. [Haughtily.] Is that all you have to say
to me? Where was you last night?
Romolio. At—at the dentisto, my darling. I
meant to send you a p.p.c., but [comes forward
to embrace her]
Romolio. Tut, tut! Is my little dancing-girl cross with her boy-boy? I'm sorry the fish and
chips was overlooked, but the gas I got at the
Jessa. Dry up! I know all!
Jessa. [Listening] See you later. [Scoots behind
[SENIORINA BELLA VON JELOSIO enters. She
is dressed in the height of fashion, and
covered with jewellery.]
Bella. [Falling on his neck.] Romolio, say you
are mine alone.
Romolio. Certainly! [Patting her on the jewellery.]
And you, darling, are all mine.
Bella. [Drawing back.] Swear that the gossip
is false; that you are not completely betrothed
to a common dancing-girl.
A loud wheeze from behind the orange-boxes.
Bella. Hark! What was that?
Romolio. 'Twas but the wind, beloved. Come,
let us canoodle.
Bella. I am quite agreeable.
[In the midst of their canoodling BILLIO
appears, playing the ocarino, followed by
JESSA performing the Polony. Poor JESSA
thinks she can maybe fascinate ROMOLIO
once more, and SHE carries on till BILLIO
simply canna play for wheezing.]
Bella. [Suddenly suspicious.] Is—is she the
Romolio. Dancing-girl! Ha, ha! She canna
dance for nuts! Come on, Bella, let's get a move
on. Here, missie! [HE throws JESSA 2d.] So-long!
[JESSA stops dancing. BILLIO picks up the 2d.
and looks like flinging them at ROMOLIO,
but retires behind orange-boxes, where his
wheezes get fainter and fainter.]
Jessa. Stay, Senior! The performance isna quite
finished. Behold! [Fetches out green bottle, shakes
and uncorks it.] May my ghost haunt you!
[Drinks. After a few refined gargles SHE sinks
down and commences to soliloquise.] Ah, me! Oh,
my! Etc., etc.
[The guilty pair looks on in holy horror, which
is increased when JESSA, in one of her
numerous convulsions, brings down the pile
of orange-boxes, and BILLIO is seen to have
wheezed his last.
N.B.—The CURTAIN must not be let down
till JESSA gives the wink.]
You might think that a place like Tullypawkie
wouldna ken the meaning of the word Scandal. One day last summer, in the
P.O., an English tourist rolled up his eyes and
remarked, 'Tullypawkie! The very name
suggests honest hearts and innocent minds!'— and having got nine 1½d. stamps for nine-pence, he went off in his car and was never
seen again. Mr Blue wasna himself for weeks
after. He had taken the man for a poet.
But it's wonderful what can be done by a
population of four hundred and one, and Tullypawkie
manages to have a scandal every other
week. As a rule, thanks to my literary interests,
I pay small attention to the local gossip; but I
could hardly remain unmoved when it became
common talk that Mr Boggie, the farmer, and
my spinster aunt Bethia had been observed
canoodling in the Lady's Wood—so called
because in the good old days a gentleman
suspended his wife on a certain tree there.
The tree is still flourishing, and a short cut to
the railway station runs past it.
Now, if you saw Mr Boggie you would say
at once that he was no gay flirt, him being a
semi-aged beaver of great corpulosity; and as
for my Aunt Bethia—the sudden sight of a
gent's sock has been known to perturbate her
severely. (See Chapter 11 of this biography
for account of my aunt winning a pair of
plus-fours in a ballot.)
When two weeks had rolled away without
any news of an engagement, Tullypawkie was
annoyed—the farmer's marriage would have
meant a big feast—and so was my parents,
which had been paying the rent of my aunt's
cottage for years. And when my mother
stopped talking about a new carpet for her
parlour and a new dress for herself I was
In the P.O. I remarked with well-assumed
nonchalance, 'I suppose, Mr Blue, you have
heard the scandal about your friend, Mr
'Not being stone-deaf,' he replied, 'I have!
But I can assure you, Betty, there's nothing
'Are you saying that because you're a man?'
I respectfully inquired.
'I'm saying it because I'm not a woman.
The simple facts is these: In the dusk Mr
Boggie and your aunt was proceeding through
the wood in opposite directions. Your aunt—
unintentionally, I trust—tripped on a tree root,
and but for Mr Boggie would have bit the
mud. That's all. I repeat, Betty, there's
nothing in it.'
'Not even a parlour carpet?' I said before
I knew. Then, of course, I had to explain.
Mr Blue lit a fresh cigarette, blew out the
match, and scratched his head with it. 'I
canna but admire your regard for your
mother,' he said at last: but, merely because
she wants a parlour carpet, would you desire
lifelong misery for two decent objects like Mr
Boggie and your aunt?'
'They're both getting up in years; they
canna live that long,' I replied. 'And it needna
be pure misery. Mr Boggie is frequently
sober; my aunt is a splendid cook, and never
'The attributes of the perfect woman!' he
exclaimed. 'But I may tell you in confidence,
Betty, that Mr Boggie is coy, and that he's
not at all certain your aunt didna try to trip
over the tree root.'
'She would never be so coquettish,' I assured
him. 'Mr Blue, I wish you would rub it into
Mr Boggie that he has compromised himself
with the best cook in the world, and I'll do
what I can with my aunt.'
He laughed, but in the end I got him to
promise to speak to Mr Boggie that very night,
while I performed on Aunt Bethia.
It happened that Mr Brown, the grocer, was
having a sale of damaged dates, so I took
Aunt Bethia a box, her being a devotee of the
oriental delicacy. Requesting her to shut her
eyes and open her mouth, I inserted three rare
tough ones, thus rendering her as good as
'Aunt Bethia,' I said, 'I wonder if you are
aware that Tullypawkie is coupling your name
with that of Cupid.'
'Oopit?' she said, staring.
'Cupid, the wee god of love,' I explained.
'It is rumoured that you was lately observed
enjoying his whispers—or was it his whiskers?'
Next moment I had to thump her on the
back. 'Dinna try to swallow them,' I said.
'Apart from its being a waste of the mercies,
it might prove fatal; and it's more becoming
to blush than get black in the face.'
'Mum-mum-mum!' she remarked.
'That's the word, though Tullypawkie doesna
act up to it. I regret to say your little affair in
the wood gets more topical every day.'
Jum-jum!' she observed.
'True,' I returned soothingly, 'but it wouldna
satisfy the romantic mind of the public. Personally,
I'm ready to believe that the amorous
woodland stunt was not entirely premeditated
on your part.'
'Yum-yum! she cried, waving her arms.
'Well, if that's how you feel about it,' I said,
'there's hope for Cupid.'
'Bo-bo-bo!' she ejaculated, dancing on her
'That's right! You'll soon be able to say
his entire name,' I said pleasantly. 'I suspect
he's been mashed on you for generations, and
if you refuse him now, I fear he'll do something
desperate. In fact, it's rumoured that
he was seen practising to put his head in the
machine for mincing turnips—
'Wa-a-a!' she yelled.
'So dinna spurn him, Aunt Bethia,' I went
on. 'There's no reason why you and Mr
Boggie shouldna live, for ten years or so, in
comparative happiness. Neither of you has
yet reached the state of seline decay.'
At this point she appeared to swallow a couple
of dates inclusive. 'Betty,' she mumbled, 'I
wish you would hold your tongue. Him and
me got engaged this afternoon.'
I SUPPOSE it wasna to be expected that
our dramatic society would meet with the
universal approval of Tullypawkie. As Mr
Blue observed, one of the three great drawbacks
to being alive is envy, the other two
being indigestion and the rotten weather.
Apart from the old-fashioned folk who would
as soon have plunged into a cold bath as enter
a theatre, the opposition soon began to raise
what Mr Blue called its hydrant head.
To begin with, there was Miss Munn, the
treasurer and sole remaining member of the
Mutual Improvement Association, which was
owing her 3s. 4½d. She blamed the Dramatic
for bursting the Mutual, though it had simply
died of natural decay. There was Miss Troley
of the big house, a wealthy lady resembling a
horse no longer young, and she was offended
because we hadna asked her to be our
patroness. And, of course, there was a lot of
our own members which was profoundly peeved
at not getting parts in the plays. No use
telling them our wee stage would accommodate
them only if they was lying dead, three deep;
they demanded their subscriptions back, and
Mr Blue had to tell them firmly that there was
A week later it came out that Miss Munn
had got a hold of the peeved ones, and they
had formed the Tullypawkie Co-operative
Vocal and Instrumental Association, with
which was incorporated the Tullypawkie Young
People's Mutual Improvement Association.
'Smart work for Miss Munn,' Mr Blue
remarked. 'She'll now be getting back her
Before deciding on the amount of the membership
subscription they called on Miss Troley
and asked her to be sole patroness. Miss
Troley said she would be delighted, and promised
five pounds, which made a membership
subscription entirely unnecessary; and the
popularity of the association became something
immense. Then they nailed Mr Logie, the
schoolmaster, to be their conductor, etc., and
altogether it looked as if our dramatic society
would have no show at all.
However, it leaked out that Miss Troley
had made a condition for her five pounds, viz.,
that the association would perform nothing
but classic songs and music, which, Mr
Blue said, was like cutting off the roots of
a tree before planting it, especially as the
schoolmaster kent as much about classic music
as a hen.
Still, I must say this for Miss Troley; though she had bats in her belfry, she wasna mean. To show what she meant by classic music, she got some friends to give a concert in her big drawing-room, and invited the whole association, and any others interested.
Mr Blue said I ought to attend for the sake
of my biography, and Jessie Harvie tried to
persuade me to gang for the fun of the thing;
but it didna seem to be playing the game,
especially as there was to be refreshments
'Well,' said Jessie, 'my conscience never
troubles me till the day after, so I intend to be
present. If you'll put it in your biography,
Betty, I'll write a report of the jamboree.'
So this is Jessie's report, with a few improvements
made in the language by me.
'We was inducted by the butler to a gorgeous
room containing rows of chairs and a pianoforte
which three could have slept in, Miss
Troley welcomed us, and made a speech
against foxtrots, etc., saying that really musical
folk considered them poor tripe, or words to
that effect. She said that if we could stick
classic music long enough we would get to
like it fine. She then sat down at the piano
and gave it three solemn bashes, and a lady,
with round specs and the longest nose I ever
seen off an elephant, commenced to screech in
some foreign tongue. Miss Troley's other
friends sat with their heads to one side, looking
as if their lunches had disagreed with
them. As for us ones in the audience, we
wouldna have dared to catch each other's eyes.
Of course we applauded voraciously when it
was over, and I expect the marks made by
Adam Robb, the gamekeeper, on the paroquet
floor will remain there for ever.
'Next there was a fiddle stunt by a bald
beaver, which wouldna have been so bad if he
hadna kept such silly time. Him and Miss
Troley would play away like mad, and then,
just when a body was feeling like dancing,
they would slow down as if their works had
got out of order. Then two ladies and two
gents got up and performed a vocal part song
called 'Snow,' and if I hadna kept thinking of
mud four inches thick I would have gone into
hysterics. Still, it was nothing to the flute
solo of a wee man with a nose like a cherry,
and eyes like beads. I'm not saying he wasna
handy at his job; the notes came out as if
they had been oiled; hut he ought to have
done it behind a curtain. The gamekeeper,
which was just behind me, kept quaking like
an aspen jelly and whispering, 'Oh dear, oh
dear! He'll be the death of me! 'Personally,
I bit a hole in my best hanky.
'Well, it went on for a couple of hours, and
never a catchy tune in the whole jingbang.
Then we went into another room, and the
refreshments was that good and plentiful I couldna help wishing I could have thought
more of the classic music. Afterwards the
schoolmaster proposed a vote of thanks to
Miss Troley, and we gave her three hearty
cheers and passed out.'
Such was Jessie's report.
Next day I met Miss Munn, and pleasantly
remarked, 'I suppose you'll be getting up a
splendid classic concert for Christmas, Miss
Munn.' She walked on without answering.
And, a few days later, Mr Blue came into
the P.O. with the news that the opposition had completely burst. 'The T.C.V.I.A. is no more,' he said. 'The schoolmaster has resigned. He declared he couldna hope to produce one classic screech from the material
at his disposal, and the material, being insulted, resigned likewise. At least, that was their excuse. I fancy Miss Troley's concert fed them up with the classic idea.'
'And what about Miss Munn?' I inquired.
'I canna help being sorry for Miss Munn,' he replied. 'She really deserved to get her 3s. 4½d. I understand she's in a very low state mentally as well as financially.'
'Serves her right!'
'So it does. Still, we can afford to be
generous. In fact, Betty, I propose that the
Dramatic Society elects her an honorary
member and gives her the treasurership.'
'Is this one of your sardonic jests, Mr
Blue?' I exclaimed.
'Not at all. It strikes me as good business
for the Dramatic Society. Think it over.'
After a while I saw his point. He was
Tullypawkie declared it was a highly noble
deed. There was a new rush to join the
Dramatic Society, with which was now incorporated
the T.C.V.I.A. and the T.Y.I.M.I.A.,
and a shower of donations from well-wishers.
Miss Munn is happy with her 3s. 4½d., and
every seat for our performances at Christmas
is already sold.
I'm beginning to wonder if Mr Blue isna
wasted on the P.O.
WHEN I informed Mr Blue that my Aunt
Bethia and Mr Boggie had decided to
get married on the 22nd, he merely remarked,
I suppose they're too old to know better.'
'You'll be getting an invitation, Mr Blue, so
I hope you won't shed a gloom on the performance
by making such cynical observations as
'It's only the young that is wise nowadays
—the young men, I mean,' he said, lighting
his twenty-seventh cigarette for the day. 'You
canna be ignorant of the fact, Betty, that
whereas in the last twelve months Tullypawkie
has witnessed the nuptials of three couples
whose united ages canna be less than 350,
there hasna been what you might call a juvenile
wedding for three years.'
'That's due to bad trade, Mr Blue,' I said.
'You might as well blame it on the rotten
weather,' he replied. 'Na na! It's due to
the wisdom of the young men. They ken
what they canna afford. They dinna mind
being chased, but they're not going to be
'Really, Mr Blue!' I exclaimed, with a toss
of my head. I suppose bobbed hair does toss
more gracefully than the put-up sort.
'Present company excepted,' he said. 'You're
young enough to join the chase, as it were.
But, chasing apart, the girls has only themselves
to blame for the young men's wisdom.'
'What's wrong with the girls, Mr Blue?'
'Sh!' he whispered, for someone was
coming into the post-office.
It was Rosie M'Culloch, got up to kill at
a thousand yards. Rosie fancies herself as the
double of Bébé Daniels, the movie star; and
if a banana resembles a butterfly, then Rosie
is certainly the living image of Bébé. She
usually looks as if she was thinking of her
high heels, and she's a bit to the ripe side
generally. Her and Jessie Harvie is always
rivals in dress at the dances, but Jessie, though
stout, is fresh enough to look nice in rags.
I let Mr Blue attend to her, just to pay
him back for his unseemly remarks. She
wanted a stamp for a letter, which she took
care to let me see was addressed to somebody
'esquire.' I dare say it contained the instalment
due on the costume she was wearing.
Whilst she slowly licked the stamp she made
eyes at Mr Blue. He got pink, and so did
the stamp. Then, after a few choice remarks
on the atrocious weather, she pit-patted out.
Mr Blue's cigarette had fell into the drawer
and burned a hole in a ninepenny stamp. To
distract him from his mourning I repeated my
question, What's wrong with the girls?'
'Did you not get an answer to that a minute
ago?' he demanded. 'That hussy with half-an-ounce of powder on her face—'
'Oh, not quite so much as that, Mr Blue!'
'And paint on her lips, and beads on her
bare neck, and—'
'Her neck is Rosie's strong point—her hors
d'œuvre, as the French calls it—'
'And patent shoes which must be pure
agony, and pink silk stockings—'
'White, Mr Blue. Her ankles is given to
'And well they might!' he cried. Yon sight was enough to make a young man a heap
wiser than Solomon. In the name of Adam
and Eve, Betty, what young man with the
brains of a puddock would face it financially?
The ordinary expenses of matrimony is terrifying
enough, but with these extras—na, na!
The annual cost of the powder alone—'
'Come, come, Mr Blue, dinna exaggerate,'
I said. 'A little powder goes a long way, and
there's nothing depresses a girl like a shiny
nose. Personally, if mine was shiny, I wouldna
spare the puff. And you may be sure that any
nice young man would sooner see powder than
his own reflection on his fiancée's nose.'
'Well, well, we'll let the powder pass. After
all, it's only a drop in the bucket of the modern
female's vanity. But it's the vanity in general
that keeps down the number of weddings in
Tullypawkie. In the decent old days, before
girls dressed as if life was a pantomime—'
We was again interrupted by a customer;
us P.O. officials gets little peace; and when
the customer had passed out with his halfpenny
stamp, Mr Blue seemed to have forgot about
the girls, for he commenced to talk about the
Dramatic Society and the ill-temper shown at
the rehearsals. But I wasna inclined to let the
'Mr Blue,' I said, 'it may be true that there
has been no youthful weddings for some time,
but I could tell you of several which is brewing.'
'I didna say that all the young men of
Tullypawkie was sane,' was his reply.
'And as for vanity,' I went on, as if he
hadna spoke; 'would you like to see girls dress
as if life was a funeral?'
'Personally, I'm not interested,' he said a
bit shortly; 'and it's time you was balancing
Well, I hope I ken when to be dumb; but
in the evening I discussed it with Jessie
Harvie. She was highly amused. 'Forty-three is an awkward age for a man,' she said.
'He realises that he's got no more sense than
he had at twenty, so he tries to talk like a
prophet of the Auld Testament. You can
take it from me, Betty, that your Mr Blue
would be sick of life if us girls went back to
the fashions of his young- days.'
'Are you saying he's not sincere?' I cried
'He thinks he is, but we can easy prove he
isna,' she replied. 'Keep your hair on, and
Next morning I found Mr Blue still depressed
about the burned ninepenny stamp,
which was too much damaged to sell to the
public; and he could hardly report to headquarters
that he had done it with a cigarette.
'A dead loss, Betty,' he groaned.
'Never say die, Mr Blue! Keep it till
next summer, on the chance of an intoxicated
I then laid before him the letter Jessie and
me had composed the previous night, and retired
to the back room. The letter was as follows :
MISSES BETTY CAIRNIE and JESSIE HARVIE
requests the pleasure of MR BLUE'S company
on Tuesday afternoon (half-holiday) to view the
pictures in town and a cup of tea.
After a minute had rolled away I heard him
say, 'Betty, what fun is this?'
From behind the door I answered, 'Mr
Blue, you have several times been very entertaining
to Jessie and me, and if you dinna
accept, we'll be badly hurt.'
Suffice it to say that I had never seen him
look so pleased.
. . . . .
Tullypawkie now supported a charabanc for
the half-holiday, and about fifteen minutes
before it was due to start, Jessie and me
arrived at the P.O. and knocked at the door.
Though, for a wonder, it was a lovely day, we
was both wearing long raincoats and prehistoric
'We're a bit early, Mr Blue,' said Jessie
when he opened the door.
'Come in and sit down,' said Mr Blue, all
smiles and blushes. 'It's really too kind of
'Not at all,' said Jessie, me being incapable
of speech. 'I dinna think we'll require our
raincoats after all, Betty.'
She slipped hers off, and I did the same.
Then there was a dead silence. Mr Blue's
face fell; you could almost have heard it.
Jessie and me had on ancient blouses—hers
dark green, mine dark brown—up to our chins,
long dark skirts down to our heels, giving just
an uncoquettish glimpse of black wool stockings
and old blue sand-shoes. You never saw
Mr Blue went over to the window, and,
looking out, said hoarsely, 'Looks like rain.
I'm afraid you'll want your raincoats.'
'What a pity!' said Jessie. 'Betty, I think
we should let down our skirts an inch or so
to keep our feet dry.—Mr Blue, can we use
your back room for a minute?'
'Certainly,' he replied, and it was like a
voice from a tomb.
In the back room we put our hankies in our
mouths—and in three minutes our sad rags
was in a bundle, and there we was in our
pretty frocks, like ordinary human girls.
You should have seen Mr Blue's face when
we appeared. Our own faces wasna exactly
'We was afraid our good things might get
spoiled,' said Jessie, and then we all went into
'I confess,' said Mr Blue, 'that I prefer
your—your working clothes.'
It was a jolly afternoon.
33. THE PERFECT PRESENT.
I COULD guess that Mr Blue was bothered
by more than the official form he was trying to fill up, and I wasna exactly surprised
when he threw down his pen, saying, 'Betty,
I'm in a quandary.'
'Cough it up,' was my respectful response.
'But I could almost prophecy it's something
to do with the wedding.'
'Your prognostication is correct.' The more
Mr Blue is worried, the bigger his words.
'What a conglomeration of tribulations would
have been saved if your aunt and Mr Boggie
had gone and got married surreptitiously.'
'So it would,' I agreed; but it would have
done me out of a new frock, Mr Blue.'
My sister Kate and me was to be Aunt
Bethia's bridesmaids, and Mr Blue had promised,
in what he called a fit of temporal
insanity, to be Mr Boggie's best man.
'I dinna grudge you your new frock, Betty,'
he replied; 'I suppose it's natural for ladies
to delight in weddings, but I canna believe
that any sober man enjoys the performance,
especially if he happens to be a performer.'
'What's bothering you?' I asked him.
'Your wardrobe, or the speech you've got
'Neither. The funeral outfit I got in 1904
shows but a fraction of the ravages of the
moths; and in a wee book I've discovered a
speech that'll do fine, if I can only remember
to leave out the words "young couple" and "long life." But the days is flying past, and
I simply canna find a suitable wedding present.
I tell you, I've been losing sleep over it.'
'Yes; you have indeed been wearing a
bleary aspect of late,' I remarked with sincere
sympathy. 'Still, it shouldna be so terribly
difficult. The great matter is to think of something
that will be useful to both—and, of course,
not too costly.'
'I've thought of a hundred things that might
be useful to him, and another hundred that
might be useful to her ; but I'm blessed if I
can think of one that would be entirely suitable
for both, and, as you say, not too costly.'
Being ignorant of the sum he was prepared
to burst, I didna like to offer suggestions in
case they would be beyond his financial reach.
'For instance,' he went on, 'I understand
that a sofa would be an acceptable, as well as
a suitable gift for them both; but I could as
soon put up a steam yacht. I did think of a
nice roomy easy-chair, but—
'The very thing, Mr Blue!'
He shook his head. 'Na, na—not at their
time of life.'
'But they could use it turn about.'
'They would probably quarrel as to whose
turn it was, and I didna want my present to
be a rotten apple of discord.' He sighed and
continued: 'Then I thought of a gramophone ;
but he would be sure to want peace when she
wanted music, and vice versa. I also thought
of an encyclopedia; but the objections is too
'I canna say they hit me in the eye, Mr
Blue,' I remarked. 'What are the objections?'
'Have you never heard what the wise man
said about ignorance being bliss?'
'Now you're joking!'
'Far from it. I recollect the sad case of a
middle-aged couple that got a fine encyclopedia,
second-hand, but up to date to 1850, for their
silver-wedding present. All would have been
well if they had left it on the shelf; but before
long each began to discover how stupid the
other was, and it became a sort of disease with
them to spend the long winter evenings in
jeering at each other's lack of education, confounding
each other with questions, losing their
tempers, and, to put it metaphysically, biting off
each other's noses. Within a twelve-month
they was driving home their remarks with the
parlour-fire shovel and poker; and now they're
separated, with five volumes apiece. So much
for an encyclopedia as a wedding present!'
'If everybody thought it out like you, Mr
Blue,' I said, compressing a smile, 'there would
be fewer wedding presents going.'
'And fewer unhappy marriages.'
'But so far as my Aunt Bethia is concerned,'
I went on, 'I'm sure she would never use
the volumes, except, maybe, for pressing Mr
'Ay,' he said quickly; 'and she would probably
have the volumes so occupied in that way
just when Mr Boggie urgently desired to look
up something—such as the inventor of porridge,
or the moral effect of a glass of whisky on a
sitting hen. And then there would be another
comparatively happy home gone to pot!'
'It does seem hopeless,' I said, wondering
what he would say next.
'It is hopeless,' he replied. 'Whiles I feel that I'll gang completely off my chump, searching
for the perfect present.'
'Have you never tried to get ideas from
catalogues?' I asked after a pause.
'Catalogues! I've got a bunch upstairs, and I dinna doubt I'll be able to recite pages
when they take me to the asylum. I've got,
for example, a catalogue of musical instruments;
and, music being the food of love, ye might
think I would get help there. But, Betty—
barring a pianoforte, which is, of course, out
of the question—is there any musical instrument
that two persons can perform on jointly
and simultaneously? Can two persons perform
on a fiddle, a flute, a piccaninny, or a hobo?'
'What about a big drum?'
'That, as Mr Algebra might say, is absurd,'
he said shortly. 'Then there's a catalogue of
games; but I canna imagine our friends playing
anything more athletic than Tiddleywinks, and
I happen to ken that Mr Boggie canna control
his language when he misses. Oh, you may be
quite sure that I've studied the catalogues.
I hate being beat, but I see but one way
out of the quandary, and it's a back-door
'Dinna tell me,' I cried, that you're going
to backslide from being best man!'
'I havena the moral courage for that,' he
replied. 'My idea is merely to give two small
presents—one masculine, one feminine.'
'But will that really be any easier for you?'
'Well, I would certainly be most grateful
to you for any hints about the one for your
aunt,' he said; 'but my mind is firmly made
up respecting the one for Mr Boggie. It's
something that'll be highly useful to him as
a farmer, as well as—'
'Not a cow!'
'Oh, I couldna financially face a cow, Betty
—certainly not one in full working order. My
modest idea is to present Mr Boggie with a
nice ten-gallon drum of the finest weed-killer.
What think you of that?'
He seemed astonished that there was no
'Do you not think it's a very suitable
present?' he asked, taking out a cigarette.
'Well,' I answered, 'it all depends on how
you look at it. There's folk in Tullypawkie
that might fancy you was putting temptation
in Mr Boggie's way; and my Aunt Bethia is
a nervous body.'
He stared, then threw up his hands. That's the finish! I give it up!' he wailed, and stottered into the back room.
I followed him, and though he waved me
away, I said, 'Mr Blue, what's wrong with a
wireless set, with ear-'phones for two?'
You should have seen it dawn!
'Betty,' he cried, what would the P.O. do
without you?' And, with a happy smile, he
tossed the fresh cigarette into the fire and put
the match in his mouth.
34. DISCUSSION ON ROMANCE.
IT was the afternoon of the day following the night of my Aunt Bethia's wedding to Mr
Boggie, the farmer, and business in the P.O.
was far from brisk; in fact, there was very
little doing. The sole official transaction
between the hours of two and four consisted
in informing a wee boy that we couldna oblige
him with change for a penny. The weather was
wet, but that didna account for the deceased
appearance of Tullypawkie generally. That
appearance was due to the gorgeous supper
given by Mr Boggie in his barn the previous
night to celebrate his nuptial day, which had
happened on his sixtieth birthday. Better late
than early, as Mr Blue remarked in his speech
at the supper. The supper had been attended
by all the grown-ups who could use their legs
and a knife and fork, and those grown-ups,
having got through the morning's work somehow,
was now, more or less, in the arms of
Mr Blue was an exception. He was busily
engaged in sitting at the counter, apparently
thinking hard, for his eyes was half-shut, and
whiles he groaned. Two hours had passed
without him opening his mouth, even for a
cigarette; and at last, wishing to stir him up,
I asked the first question that came into my
head, 'Mr Blue, do you believe in romance?'
'No,' he said; 'and I shouldna have taken
that steak pie last night.'
'Dinna brood on it,' I respectfully advised
'I'm not. It's brooding on me.'
It wasna a very polite or courteous remark,
but I let it pass.
'Mr Blue, why dinna you believe in
'Because there's no such thing.'
'Come, come; you needna speak as if you
had been born in the year One! You must
have had some acquaintance with romance
when you was slightly younger than you are
'Well, you can imagine romance!'
I was getting quite interested in the subject,
and I said, 'Suppose you heard screams
outside the P.O., and, on going to the door,
you saw a fair young flapper about to be
devoured by a fiery dragon—wouldna that be
'It would be a delusion.'
'Well, perhaps a fiery dragon in Tullypawkie
is a bit too much. But suppose it
was a giant that challenged you to fight for
the F.Y.F.—what would you call that?'
'But, seriously, Mr Blue, would you not
try to save her?'
'What would I do with a fair young
'She might be dark,' I said, just to see
what would happen—me being dark.
Nothing happened. He didna even glance
at me. 'I thought you was a brave man,
though a postmaster,' I observed at last.
'Not me,' he replied, not the least offended.
I began to feel slightly alarmed for him.
'Mr Blue,' I said suddenly, 'how many helpings
of pie did you have last night?'
'Seven, maybe eight.'
'What! Is that a fact, or a poetical licence?'
'It's what I feel.'
'Then it's poetical.'
'It's possible that I've come to that,' he groaned. 'My head would fit the most dis-sipated poet that ever lived. On a total abstainer like me such a head is an irony.
Judging from my head I ought to have been
the merriest of the merry last night. Was I?'
'Far from it,' I replied. 'Would a good
smart walk not help your head?' I inquired.
I dare say I could manage to hold back the
rush for an hour.'
He shook his head as if it was fragile, and
groaned again. With a smile that made me
think of a cooking plum, he said, 'Fancy
talking to me of romance!'
'I still believe you're romantic internally,
Mr Blue,' I said, hoping to divert his mind
from his unfortunate nut; and I wouldna
wonder if you could be brave at a pinch.
Listen! Suppose an enormous lion, without
warning, bounced into the P.O. What would
'I would say, "Welcome!"'
'But what about me?'
'You're old enough to speak for yourself.'
'Well, I never!' I exclaimed. 'Do you
imagine the lion would eat you first?'
'Assuming that it was partial to pie, it
would. That would give you time to escape,
'Then, after all,' I cried, clasping my hands
and rolling up my eyes, 'I would owe my
life to you!'
'No; merely to the pie.'
'I'm afraid you 're hopeless, Mr Blue,' I
'That's me,' he said, taking out a cigarette
and putting it back in the packet.
I was beginning to think I might as well
clear the box for the afternoon dispatch when
a motor-car came rushing into the village and
stopped with a jerk at the door. A man in
a lovely coat and gloves burst into the shop.
He was young and very good looking.
'Quick, please—a telegraph form!' he said.
I gave him one and a pencil. As he wrote
I noticed his hand was shaking.
'You'll send it at once?' he said when he
'This instant,' I replied, taking the money
—a half-crown and two pennies.
'It's most urgent,' he said, and bolted. In
no time the car was racing away.
It was urgent, right enough !
'Holy Moses!' I ejaculated, and handed
the form to Mr Blue.
Of course, I canna divulge the names and
address; but this was the message:
Dearest, he is adamant. Trust me, and let
us take the only way left us. Make ready
and meet me Perth Station, London train,
Mr Blue, as he read it, seemed to waken
up. Then he jumped over to the telegraph
board, saying, 'Not a word till I get this on
When he had tapped it off he came back
to the counter. He took out a cigarette.
'By jingo, Betty,' he said, 'that's the most
romantic thing that has ever happened in my
postal career! An elopement! I feel like
preserving that young chap's half-crown as a
souvenir. Where is it?'
I gave it him from the drawer. It chanced
to be the only half-crown among the silver.
'This half-crown,' he said, and suddenly
glowered at it, then rang it on the counter.
Alas, it was a bad one!
IT was 6 P.M. on the Eve of Christmas. At last we had got the evening delivery sent
out, and nothing remained on the sorting-table but a parcel that had lost its label,
a string that had lost its parcel, and a
comic p.p.c. addressed to a party which had
ascended the pole some years ago, and was
now confined somewhere for his Majesty's
Mr Blue declares that the Christmas postal
rush is caused mostly by bad consciences, and
professes to hate the whole thing; he forbade
me to wish him a merry one when it came,
But I'm beginning to think he isna quite the
cynic he was when I first became his assistant.
So when he sat down and lit a cigarette—
the first since five o'clock—I casually remarked,
'I suppose you'll be hanging it up to-night,
'Certainly,' he replied; I'm not in the habit of leaving it on the floor.'
'I'm referring to your stocking, or sock,'
'Oh, I thought you meant my hat, and had
forgot that I, though I'm supping at Mr
Boggie's tonight, am a total abstainer,' he
replied. 'What for would I hang up my
stocking, or sock?'
'For Santa Claus.'
'Is it animal, vegetable, or mineral?'
'Dinna be silly!' I respectfully remarked.
You ken fine that Santa Claus puts things in
stockings, or socks!'
'Dear me! So that's where the mysterious
holes comes from! Many a morning I've
'Mr Blue, dinna pretend ye dinna ken that,
on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus comes down
the chimney and puts presents in stockings,
'All right, Betty! I'll take your word for
it,' he said, as if he was speaking to a child.
'And where should the sock be hung up?'
'On one of the knobs at the foot of the bed,
'Quite so! On one of the knobs at the foot
'Mr Blue, dinna tell me you never hung up
your stocking when you was a wee boy!'
'It's so long ago, and my memory's failing,'
he said, with a heavy sigh. 'Still, if it'll
amuse you, Betty, I'll hang up a sock tonight—a
new one—and if there's any holes
in the morning, I'll expect you to darn
them. How's that?'
I'm afraid my smile was not quite natural.
I hadna meant to egg him on so far; for who
on earth would dream of putting anything in
the poor soul's sock? And it would be such
a melancholy sight for him on Christmas morning.
What a subject for a great artist— 'The
Bachelor Awakes, or, The Empty Sock'!
Fortunately, just then a customer came in,
and, whilst Mr Blue was attending, I got a brain-wave. I slipped into the back room
and undid the catch on the window.
When the customer had passed out, Mr Blue
said, 'I understand you have a dance on
to-night, Betty, so you can run away home
now and take time to apply your cosmetics,
etcetera. Art, they say, should never be
I thanked him warmly, and at the door I
said carelessly 'I suppose you was joking about
hanging up your sock, Mr Blue?'
'What I have said, I have said,' was his
'But you'll never remember about it after
the big supper at the Boggies'.'
'I'll suspend it before I gang there,' he
retorted. Which was just what I wanted.
Wishing him a happy evening at the festive
board, ærated waters and all, I rushed over to
the bakery and found Jessie Harvie hurrying
up to get away early.
'Jessie,' I said, I suppose you're hanging
it up to-night?'
'Never again!' she answered. 'Last year I got nothing except from my brothers, and
the young blighters filled it with tempting
parcels of cinders and corks, and a dainty
packet which I was sure was gloves, till I
found it was banana skins. No more Santa
for me, thank you kindly!'
'Still, Jessie,' I said, that should make you
all the more sympathetic for them that gets
nothing at all.'
'Yes, I don't think,' she returned. 'But you may as well cough up your narrative.'
After swearing her to secrecy, I told her
my plan, and, after telling me I was cracked,
she said, 'Righto, Betty! I'll assist you; and,
what's more, I'll pinch a dozen of old Moses's
richest pastries for Santa to insert.'
Could friendship extend farther?
. . . . .
Shortly after 10 P.M. Jessie and I slipped
away from the dance. Fortunately, it was
frosty and moonlight, and we hadna far to
walk; still more fortunately, the wall of Mr
Blue's back garden was comparatively low;
but it wasna easy to get over without spoiling
our pretty frocks. I was terribly nervous, but
Jessie giggled all the time. Fancy breaking
into the house of a single gentleman!' she
said. 'Imagine if he hasna gone to the
Boggie's after all! What a compromise, as
the French might say.'
'Oh, be quiet!' I whispered. 'It's perfectly all right when I've got you to chaperon me.'
'Chaperon yourself!'' she cried; 'and me
subscribing a bag of the richest pastries!'
'Well, dinna tell the whole of Tullypawkie
about it,' I retorted. 'If you've no regard for
our reputations, think of his.'
'I'm not fashing. It's your funeral,' was
The window opened easily enough, and I
was thankful to get inside. Jessie overbalanced
and fell in with a wild screech. 'Dinna fash,'
she said; I'm totally uninjured. The pastries
broke my fall.'
I thought it more likely that her fall had
broke the pastries, but I didna want to start
All was still as we crept through the P.O.
and up the narrow stair, where the dark was
'I hope there's not a ghost,' said Jessie,
clutching my arm.
'Better a ghost than a mouse,' I returned,
with a shudder. 'It does seem a bit unconventional,'
I admitted, 'to be sneaking through
a man's house like this. If it wasna for a good
'The mice is the only objects I'm thinking
of. I'm sure the perfume of the pastries will
attract them. If the worst comes to the worst,
Betty, would you mind if I sacrificed the
pastries to the brutes, same as foreigners in
sledges throws their babies to the wolves?'
'Not a bit,' I courteously replied. These
pastries can no longer be very attractive to a
'I like your cheek!' she exclaimed. 'They're
merely slightly bashed. I didna land on them
with my complete weight.'
'It might have been better if you had, for
then they would have entirely disappeared.'
After we had made it up we looked into
the kitchen. The fire was near out, so I put
'He'll never believe that Santa did that!'
said Jessie. He'll wonder!'
'Men never wonder when things is quite
comfortable for them,' I replied, thinking of
We looked into the parlour, and then went
along the passage. I trust that you will believe
that I recoiled from the bedroom door, which
was half-open; but Jessie called out, 'Ahoy,
Mr Blue, if you're there! It's only two ladies.'
And she walked boldly in.
'For a bachelor,' she said, gazing around
in the moonlight, 'he keeps his place quite
nice. I've heard tell of bachelors that couldna
have coaxed a pig to share their boudoirs.'
'Is the sock there?' I whispered, entering
'You're getting hoarse with emotion,' she
said. 'Ay, the sock's here, and, the bed being
wooden, the extravagant monkey has nailed
I felt deeply touched at this token of faith
in Santa Claus.
'It's a rare big sock,' she remarked, but
it'll never take in the pastries.'
'Hang the bag on the nail,' I told her, and
proceeded to insert the gifts of Santa. There
was really nothing to boast about—only a packet of cigarettes, a box of matches, a silver
safety-pin once got from an unwelcome suitior,
a wee pot of mother's red-currant jelly, a
tangerine, a fig, and a halfpenny for luck.'
'A body would think you was sweet on the
man,' said Jessie, and I could have cuffed her.
'The gifts is entirely platonic,' I said.
'The fig's platonic enough, but I'm not so
sure of the other things,' she said, and started
To put an end to the painful scene I suddenly
exclaimed, 'Oh, there's a mouse!' and she
took to her heels, with a great display of white
Unfortunately, there really was a mouse in
the passage, and we near fell down the stair
in our hurry to escape from its clutches. In
the P.O. we embraced and congratulated each
other on the successful dénouement, and was
good friends once more. Then we raced back
to the dance, where we found our partners
being devoured with anxiety.
. . . . .
When I entered the P.O. next morning—
Christmas isna a postal holiday in Tullypawkie
—I got a scare. Mr Blue was the colour of
a ninepenny stamp. Before I could cry out, he
said, 'Betty, I've got to apologise to your
friend, Mr Santa Claus. On returning home
at midnight from a banquet consisting of steak
pudding, jam roley-poley, and welsh rabbit, I
found not only a sock full of welcome gifts,
and a cosy fire, but also a parcel of what I
might call plutocratic pastries—'
'Dinna tell me you ate them after a heavy
supper!' I exclaimed.
'Every crumb, Betty!' he declared, with a
proud but ghastly smile. ' I couldna think to hurt the feelings of Mr S. Claus.'
'But the pastries was from Jessie,' I said
before I knew.
He staggered back. 'Great goodness, if I had only kent that!' he wailed.
'I appreciate the compliment,' I said, 'but
I'm sorry it has cost you so dear.'
'Never mind, Betty. I dare say I'll get over it in a week or so—in a month, at the
outside. And, in any case, the misery may
be said to be localised—it isna mental, ye
understand?' And he put out his hand.
'Then, Mr Blue,' I said, grasping it, 'I can
at least venture to wish you a semi-merry
36. DRESS REHEARSAL.
SOME of my readers may have been kindly
wondering about our Dramatic Society, and the grand public performance which was
to be given in December. Well, I may say
that the performance was a great success
financially, and that the performers will probably
do better next year. There is times,
as Mr Blue says, when it is best to be
honest, and I am not going to pretend now
that the performers was anything but hopeless,
especially in my own little play which, as you
may remember, was called The Last Dance:
A Tragedy. Fortunately, our programmes
was typewritten, and at the eleventh hour I
changed it to The Final Kick: A Comico-Tragedy. As Mr Blue observed, Shakespeare
would very likely have done the same in
Modesty had kept me away from the rehearsals,
but on the afternoon before the great
day Andrew Latto, who was producing my
play, came into the P.O. and said, 'Betty,
I'm in despair. Will you come to the dress
rehearsal to-night? I dinna want you to get
a shock to-morrow, and I want you to believe
that I've done my best.'
'I'm sure you have, Andrew,' I said kindly,
yet cannily, for I was beginning to suspect
that his feelings for me was more than merely
social. After I saw what he had gone through for my play I was sure of it. 'Very well, I'll come,' I told him; 'but I'll be speechless.'
'I expect it'll make you that,' he said.
He was right! The performers had got
their lines by heart, but their acting was awful!
The play was not a bit like what I thought
it would be. To begin with, the orange and
onion vendors in the market-place was like
nothing on earth.
'Stop!' Andrew would cry. 'Start again! Once more, try to remember that you are
Spaniards of a mercurious temperature, as the
author explains it. One minute, you should
be smiling and singing "Fa, la, la!" —the next,
you should be gloomily discussing the badness
of the fruit trade. And, for the love of Mike,
dinna grin at the audience when you raise to
your lips your bottles of sherry wine. I've
told you fifty times that drinking sherry wine
is as familiar a pastime to Spaniards as supping
porridge is to Tullypawkyites. Now, do
it all again, without grins!'
They did it again—several times; but the
only one that didna grin was William Watt,
and he had dropped his bottle on his toes.
Then Maggie Murray, an onion vendor,
started to complain — 'Could we not have
wee-er bottles? I near broke a tooth that
'Certainly not!' Andrew replied. 'These is the only proper species of bottles. Dinna forget to let the audience see the labels, which
gives a touch of local colour.' (The labels,
I may say, bore the inscription, 'Fine Old
I was sadly disillusionised, too, with Jessie
Harvie as the heroine, Jessa. Though I
believe she had kept her promise of two
months previously, to abstain from pastry
before twelve noon, she looked such a dumpling
in her Spanish dancer's dress that her
neat ankles didna seem worth while. Her
unfortunate admirer and musician, Billio, who
was intended to be dying of wheezo-influenzo,
plus love, couldna get his wheezes to carry
past the third row of reserved seats (1s. 6d.,
including tax), and had to cough instead,
which wasna near so artistic. Moreover, he
had been unable to learn the ocarino, and his
penny whistle was most un-Spanish-like. Still,
he was so keen to do his bit that his false
cough had become a real one, with a whoop
in it you could have heard a mile away.
Tommy Dixon, the villain, would have been
not so bad if he hadna been really mashed on
Jessie, which he was supposed to jilt, and irritated
by Miss M'Phun, the wealthy seniorina,
which he was supposed to adore for her gold.
In vain Andrew had told him not to make
faces when Miss M'Phun threw herself on his
chest, but to roll up his eyes in voluptuous
rapture; and now Andrew had to insist on
him turning his back to the audience in the
passionate love scenes. Then Miss M'Phun,
who is a bit aged, gave poor Andrew more
'Miss M'Phun,' said Andrew, kindly endeavour
to swallow your smiles when you are
being embraced. Dinna look too happy. You
are supposed to suspect him of mashing the
dancing-girl in secret. And I would be highly
obliged if you wouldna wear your specs,
especially when you trip lightly on to the
stage and fall on his neck.'
'I canna see without them,' Miss M'Phun
replied; and I've no ambition to trip and fall
on my own neck, thank you!'
However, after a lot of persuading, she took
them off, and came on to the stage as if she
was a hundred and five. (I should explain that
we was saving our lamps for the following
night, and the light was pretty poor—only a
few candles.) And as she approached Tommy,
the wicked monkey turned round, and, with a
loud screech of 'Oh, my love!' she threw
herself on his back. I'm afraid I laughed
with the others, but it was too cruel, and I
havena forgiven Tommy yet. In the end,
Miss M'Phun refused to act without her specs.
And I've a good mind,' she cried, 'to get the
use of Miss M'Bean's blue ones, and likewise
the respirator she got from her deceased
But worse was to come. When Jessie came
on to dance the gay Polony for the last time,
previous to taking the poison, she carried a
big fat cushion.
'Come now,' said poor Andrew, 'you ought
to have learned to collapse painlessly by this
time. Throw away that cushion!'
Jessie laid it down beside her. 'Learning to collapse painlessly isna the soft job you
seem to think,' she said; 'I dinna mind breaking
a leg or two when the public's paying to
see me, but I'm not going to risk it now.
Betty,' she cried, 'what would happen to your
tragedy to-morrow if I couldna dance, let alone
I had to admit she was talking sense, but
pointed out that she might have practised in
the last two months.
'So I did,' she replied, and went through
my bed first shot. My parents said that that
was enough damage, and wouldna let me spoil
'Well, well,' sighed Andrew; 'it's your funeral, Jessie. Now let's get busy. Strike
The ill-starred musician commenced to
apologise. He explained that he couldna get
a demi-semi-quaver out of his whistle, which
would be useless until it had been boiled. It
appeared that he had been eating voice-jujubes
for his cough, and a portion of one had got
into the instrument. 'I'll try to whistle the
tune with my face,' he said, 'though it should
make me cough for a fortnight.'
'Then whistle—and may you cough for a
century!' said Andrew, at the limit.
'How can I dance the gay Polony to a
funereal birge? ' said Jessie a minute later.
'Cork it, and let me commit my suicide in
peace! Oh, where's my wee green bottle?
Dash! I must have left it on the mantelpiece.
But never mind; we'll imagine it!
Here goes!' She pretended to drink, then
staggered about, pointing her finger at Tommy.
'May my ghost haunt ye!' she yelled, and,
after a few gargling sounds, sat carefully down
on the cushion, rolled carefully off it, and
started her defunking agony, which, I must
say, was topping—and, of course, the hole
in one of her stockings didna matter at a
'Curtain!' cried Andrew, wiping his brow,
and down it came half-way—and stuck.
'If this happens to-morrow night, there'll
be trouble for somebody,' said Jessie. 'What
a way to treat a prima donna! Besides, I
wasna near finished.'
Well, it did happen next night, and Jessie
had to lie there till Billio, forgetting he had
just expired behind the orange-boxes, came
forward and carried her off, kicking with rage.
The audience just screamed.
Oh, I was thankful I had named it a comico-tragedy on the programme. And now I am
getting used to being called Tullypawkie's
humorous young writer.
'THAT young man seems to have a very
copious correspondence,' Mr Blue remarked
to me as soon as Andrew Latto had
left the P.O.
'He bought but the one stamp,' I returned,
starting to dust the cigarette shelf.
'It's his third to-day,' said Mr Blue; 'and
you've dusted that shelf already.'
I tossed my head and threw the duster
under the counter.
'This is Friday,' said Mr Blue, lighting a
cigarette, 'and he must have purchased a score
of stamps since Monday.'
I picked up the duster, folded it, and put
it in its drawer.
'I trust,' said Mr Blue, 'that he's not
seeking to get rich quick by betting on
'He's not such a fool,' I said, taking out
the duster and starting to polish the brass
'I'm relieved to learn that it's not likely
to be the turf,' said Mr Blue. 'Still, that only
deepens the mystery. And if I was you,
Betty, I wouldna make myself feverish over
'I like a job that warms me up this cold
weather,' I said, rubbing harder than ever.
'In that case, fire away,' he replied. 'As for
that young man, it's possible, of course, that
he's got himself entangled in some love affair.
What do you think?'
'You surely dinna imagine that he would
write to her three or four times a day,' I said,
trying not to pant.
'It would seem excessive,' said Mr Blue.
'Maybe he encloses a stamp for reply, eh?'
'Very likely!' I said sardonically, beginning
'But what puzzles me,' said Mr Blue, 'is
the way he keeps on purchasing one stamp
at a time, and him at work fully ten minutes'
walk from the P.O. Eighty minutes spent
in pedestrian exercise, and forty in selecting
four stamps—grand total, two hours per diem
—twelve hours per week—six hundred and
twenty-four hours, or fifty-two working days
per annum—well, really, a body would fancy
that he was fond of the girl—wouldna you,
I was about to knock over the scales—I
didna care if they was smashed to bits—when
Mr Boggie, the farmer, came in, and to my
relief he wanted a chat with Mr Blue, and
they both went into the back room. While
I couldna but admire Mr Blue's delicacy, I
was feeling highly embarrassed, and while
Andrew's attentions during the last few
weeks hadna been entirely unwelcome, I felt
that it was time they stopped—so far as the
P.O. was concerned.
So that evening, after explaining to my
parents that I was going to borrow a book
from Jessie Harvie, I went out, and, by a
strange coincidence, met Andrew. I say 'a
strange coincidence' because the same thing
had happened five nights running.
'It's a fine evening for a walk, Betty,' said
Andrew, and except that there was a thick,
damp fog, bitter cold, it was quite a perfect night.
But, seeing that my father had remarked,
'Dinna forget to bring home the book this
time,' I felt it would be dishonourable not
to do so. However, as Andrew pointed out,
we could go to Jessie's by a long cut.
Andrew isna a very talkative person, and,
maybe owing to the damp fog, I wasna as
vivacious as usual, and we had gone about
a mile before conversation began to flow.
'Betty,' said he.
'What?' said I.
'Do you think it's as dark as it was last night?'
'Just about the same, I think.'
'I believe you're right,' he said. 'Do you
think it's as cold?'
'A fraction colder, maybe.'
'I wouldna wonder if it was.' He coughed
several times. Betty!'
'I intended to call at the post-office at six,
but I simply had to finish a job.'
This gave me the chance I was wanting.
'Talking of the P.O.,' I lightly remarked; 'how
many stamps have you got now, Andrew?'
'Enough to do me for several years,' he
replied. 'Why was you asking?'
'Then you'll not be buying any more?'
'Of course I will! I couldna very well
come into the post-office just to see you—
'But I must see you, Betty, and it's well
worth the 1½d.'
'Thanks!' I said, with well-feigned sangfroid.
'But I dinna happen to be an inferior
'Oh, Betty!' he cried, 'dinna be offended.'
'I'm not,' I said; 'but I refuse to serve
you with any more stamps. I canna encourage
you to waste your substance even on non-riotous pursuits.'
'But it's good for the post-office. You
canna refuse to sell me a stamp.'
'I can let Mr Blue serve you.'
'Betty!' he exclaimed. 'What have I done? Am I not to get seeing you for a whole clay
at a time?'
'I would call it a week,' I said. 'I certainly
canna go on borrowing books in this
'You could borrow a book one night and
return it the next—eh?
Silence is best when you've nothing to
say. I was silent.
'This is rotten!' he said at last.
I remained silent.
'Betty, say it's rotten,' he cried.
'That's fishing for a compliment,' I replied.
'Personally,' I went on, not wishing to hurt
him, 'I have no special objection to you coming
into the P.O., but I must tell you that Mr
Blue is wondering.'
'Wondering if we're en—'
'Wondering why you dinna buy your stamps
'Oh, is that all?' He seemed disappointed.
A year, as it were, rolled by before he spoke
again. 'Betty, why will you not be engaged?'
'I've told you before—we're far too young.'
'That's nonsense,' he said. 'I feel like a
hundred, and you talk whiles as if you was a
'I canna help being wise for my years,' I
replied. Another long period elapsed, during
which he frequently sighed. If you've finished
with my hand,' I said at last, 'I would like
to make use of it.'
'What do you want it for?'
'To scratch my nose.'
'Let me scratch it for you,' he said tenderly.
I'm afraid I laughed. Even in the dark I
could see he was hurt — and I never was one
to enjoy hurting folk.
It is necessary to put a few dots here.
. . . . .
It was a bit late when we got home.
'Mercy!' I ejaculated at the gate, 'I've
forgot to call at Jessie's!'
At that moment my father came out. He
gave Andrew a sort of nod, and looked at me.
'Well, my lass,' he said, 'have you brought
the book this time?'
'No, father'—to this day I canna think how
I said it—'I've brought Andrew instead.'
He gave a sort of laugh. 'How does Andrew like being borrowed?' he inquired.
I was speechless, but Andrew, after several
coughs, said, 'Excuse me, Mr Cairnie, but I
believe she's got me for keeps.'
38. THE RING.
I SUPPOSE there is girls in the world that
I can prance around the morning after, crying,
Look at me! I'm engaged!' But in all my
life I had never felt so bashful as I did that
Saturday morning on my way to the P.O.
Andrew was off in the dark, on his bike, to the
town, to buy a ring as soon as the shop was
open. 'We'll not say a word to a soul, Betty,'
he had said, 'till you've got it on your finger;
and then we'll let them guess.' I could see
he was thinking of my delicate feelings, and
though I merely warned him against gross
extravagance, I felt really grateful. I hope
he'll be as thoughtful when I'm ninety; if so,
he'll be a unique husband.
I was particularly anxious that Mr Blue, after
all his kindness to me, should be the first to
see the ring. However, it was fated that he
wasna to be the first to learn the news. I was
a bit late that morning, and as I was hurrying
past the bakery, Jessie Harvie ran out.
'Hullo, Betty,' she cried, 'you look as if
something had happened!'
'I slept in, and I'm frightfully late,' I
replied. 'I expect I'll get the sack.'
'That's nothing to look happy about,' she
said, staring at me. 'What have you been
doing to your complexion? You've got an
awful high colour!'
'It's the sharp wind, I suppose,' I said.
'I'll see you later, Jessie.'
She grabbed my arm. 'There isna a breath
of wind this morning—and now you're scarlet!'
she said. 'Come on, cough it up, Betty.'
There was no help for it, her being my
oldest friend, and I told her. She wasna as
surprised as I expected, but she seemed
pleased, and squeezed my hand several times.
'This is great news, Betty,' she said. 'Though
far from handsome, Andrew's all right, and
I congratulate you warmly on your first
'Do you intend it to be permanent?' she
'What else? A girl doesna get engaged
for the fun of the thing.'
'I do! Gosh! I've been betrothed seven
times—the perfect number—though I'm not
fed up yet!'
I laughed. 'You've never been properly engaged, Jessie—only semi, as you call it.'
'Semi's good enough for me. It's like eating your cake and still having it. But I'm
using the word "temporally" now; it's more
dignified than "semi." '
'I doubt you're a cynic,' I said.
'Not me! I'm what they call an optimist.
"The best is yet to come" is my motto.'
'I hope you'll ken him when he arrives,'
'I will, even supposing his number is 119.'
Next moment she hove a sigh. 'I hope
he'll ken me,' she said, and put her arm round
my neck. 'Happy days, wee Betty — and
break it gently to Mr Blue.' Then she ran
into the shop.
Fortunately, it being close on the New
Year, there was a heavy mail that morning,
and immediately after it was sorted and sent
out, Mr Blue had to gang to the station to see
about some business. I was wondering how
I would ever manage to tell him, when
Andrew burst in, breathing heavily, grabbed
my hand across the counter, and put on my
finger the loveliest wee ring of pearls and
diamonds. I was that overcome I could say
nothing but 'Oh, you extravagant monkey!'
Still, he didna seem offended.
'I had to waken up the jeweller and get
him to open the shop in his pyjamas and
ulster,' he told me. 'I just couldna wait.'
'I doubt he would charge you extra for
that,' I said, though it wasna exactly what I
was wanting to say.
'I'm not caring,' said Andrew, 'so long as
you like it. Do you, Betty?'
. . . . .
These dots represents the time wasted over
a rotten customer.
. . . . .
And these ones is for a little conversation
Andrew and me had before he had to scoot
away to his work.
Then Mr Blue came in. I felt quite different now that I was wearing the ring. All
I had to do was to wait till he observed it.
But he seemed to be blind that morning.
After a while I began to give him opportunities
of observing it, such as touching up my hair,
scratching my nose, etc., but he took no notice.
Even when I passed him a packet of cigarettes
that he had asked for he didna see it. And
then the sun came out, and I thought the
sparkles would have dazzled him when I
started pointing out some figures on an official
form right under his nose; but never a single
interjection came from him.
'Mr Blue,' I said at last, 'are you feeling
quite fit this morning?'
'Never felt better, Betty. Thanks for kind
inquiry,' he replied.
After a while, with my hand to my brow,
and standing in a sunbeam, I said, 'I seem to
have got a bit of a headache, Mr Blue.'
'I'm vexed to hear that,' he said kindly.
'If you would like to gang home, I can
'Oh, I dare say it'll pass off,' I said, letting
fall my hand and gazing at the ring.
'I could let you have a Queen Anne
powder,' he said, still more kindly, 'if you can
stick the atrocious taste.'
With thanks I told him I preferred the
headache. I was beginning to feel pretty
desperate. Time was passing, and in a wee
while the P.O. would be getting busy, and
some customer would be sure to spot my ring
and make a noise about it.
Feeling the colour of a penny stamp, I
suddenly said, 'Mr Blue, I've got something
to show you. Look!'
'Well, well,' he said quite calmly, 'is that
what you've been squandering your salary on?'
'Mr Blue! I got it from Andrew Latto.'
'Oh, I see! That's why Andrew has been
buying a 1½d. stamp three or four times a day
for weeks! The instalment system, of course!'
I felt like screeching, but I managed to say
with considerable dignity, 'Mr Blue, Andrew
and me are engaged.'
At that he looked quite different. Thank you, Betty,' he said. 'Of course I saw your pretty ring all the time, but I wanted you to
tell me. Well, I congratulate you both.'
I didna seem to have anything to say.
'It's a bad job for the P.O.,' he went on.
'I had hoped to live to see you Postmistress-General.'
Deeply touched by this tribute, I assured
him that I wouldna be leaving the service for
'I'm thankful for small mercies,' he said,
opening the safe and taking out a wee package.
He put it in my hand, saying, 'Now, Betty,
there's to be no speech-making. It's merely
a small instrument for assisting a young lady
to keep her appointments with her young man.
Not a word, if you please.'
I opened the paper, and then a case, and
lo and behold! there was the dearest wee
'Mr Blue!' was all I could say just then.
'As a matter of fact,' he said, 'I had a bet
with myself that you and Andrew would settle
it before the year was out, and, as you see,
I've — won!'
Edinburgh: Printed by W. & R. Chambers, Limited.
Cite this Document
Betty. 2022. In The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved November 2022, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=131.
"Betty." The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2022. Web. November 2022. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=131.
The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing, s.v., "Betty," accessed November 2022, http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=131.
If your style guide prefers a single bibliography entry for this resource, we recommend:
The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. 2022. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/.
|Year of publication||1927|
Author information: Bell, Mr John Joy
|Year of birth||1871|
|Place of birth||Hillhead, Glasgow, Scotland|
|Occupation||Journalist, editor, author|
|Father's occupation||Tobacco manufacturer|
|Locations where resident||Glasgow|