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My Man Sandy
Chapter XIV. Love and War

Wudna you winder hoo some fowk grow aye the aulder the waur? You see Toon Cooncillors, for instance, gettin' less use the langer they keep their job; an' ministers--haud your tongue! If they're no' guid, they get mair an' mair driech the langer they preach; even their auld sermons, when they turn the barrel an' start at the boddom o' her, appear to get driecher than ever. It's juist the same wi' Sandy--the aulder he grows he gets the waur, till I raley winder what'll happen till him. He's richt sensible an' eident whiles; but when the fey blude gets intil his heid, an' he gets into the middle o' ony rig, he's juist as daft as the rochest haflin that ever fee'd.

When I heard the band on Setarday efternune, I threw the key i' the shop door, an' ran doon to the fit o' the street to see the sojers passin'. Wha presents himsel', merchin' in the front o' the band, but my billie, Sandy. There he was wi' a hunder laddies roond him, smokin' his pipe like's he was gettin' his denner ooten't, ane o' his airms up to the elba in his breeks' pooch, stappin' oot to the musik like a fechtin' cock, an' his ither airm sweengin' back an' forrit like the pendilum o' the toon's clock. To look at him you wudda thocht he was trailin' the band an' a' the sojers ahent him, he lookit that hard wrocht. He never saw me--not him! His e'en were starin' fair afore him; he wudna kent his ain tattie cairt, I believe, he was that muckle taen up wi' his merchin'.

He landit hame till his tea atween sax an' seven o'clock, stervin' o' cauld, but as happy's a cricket. "Man, Bawbie," he says, as I laid a reed herrin' on the brander for him, "there's naething affeks me like sojers merchin' to musik. It juist garrs my backbeen dirl, an' I canna sit still. When they were doin' the merch-past this efternune, I had to up an' rin, or I wudda thrappilt some lad sittin' aside's. That's the wey it affeks me. I wudda gien a pound note juist to gotten a richt straucht-forrit fecht amon' them for half an 'oor."

"You're juist like a muckle bubbly laddie, Sandy," says I. "It's a winder you wasna awa' up the toon wi' them to see if ony o' the sojers wud lat you cairry hame their gun. I raley winder to see an auld tattie man like you goin' on like some roid loon."

"That's a' you ken, Bawbie," says he. "I ken mair aboot thae things than you, fully; an', though I am a tattie man, look at Abraham Linkin; he was waur than a tattie man to begin wi'; an' the Jook o' Wellinton--michty, he was born in Ireland; an' look what he cam' till! I tell you what it is, Bawbie, if they'd haen me at the battle o' Waterloo, you wudda heard anither story o't. I feel'd within mysel', that if I'd only haen the chance--see 'at that reed herrin's no' burnin'--I michta been a dreel sergint or a general----"

"A general haiverin' ass," I strak in. "See; there's your herrin'; poor oot your tea noo, an' haud your lang tongue."

"Ow, weel-a-weel," says Sandy, gey dour-like--he's as bucksturdie as a mule when he tak's't in's heid--"but we're no' deid yet, an' we'll mibby manish to garr some fowk winder yet, when a's dune. What's been dune afore can be dune again; the speerit o' Bannockburn's no' de'ed oot a'thegither."

But I left the cratur chatterin' awa' till himsel', an' ran but to sair some fowk i' the shop. Did you ever hear o' sic a man? Dauvid Kenawee says Sandy's a kind o' a sinnyquanon; an' it's my opeenyin he's no' very far wrang, whatever that may mean.

As I was sayin', there's nae fules like auld fules. I put oot twa-three bits o' things on the green on Setarday forenune, an' I forgot a' aboot them till efter the shop was shut. It wud be nearhand twal o'clock when I ran doon for them. It was a fine nicht, but dreidfu' cauld. Juist as I was gaitherin' up the twa-three bit duds, I heard voices ower the dyke, an' I cudna but harken to see wha wud be oot at that time o' nicht. Fancy what I thocht when I heard Beek Steein's voice, that bides in Mistress Mollison's garret, sayin', "Eh, ay, Jeemie; it's an awfu' thing luve. I hinna steekit 'an e'e for twa nichts thinkin' aboot ye."

Preserve's a', thinks I to mysel', this is Ribekka an' Jeems Ethart, the engine-driver. Jeems is a weeda man, an' Ribekka's like me, she's on the wrang side o' forty; but, faigs, on Setarday nicht you wudda thocht they were baith aboot five-an'-twenty.

"My bonnie dooie," I heard Jeems say. A gey dooie, I says to mysel'. There's twal steen o' her, if there's a pund. It wud tak' a gey pair o' weengs to cairry Ribekka, I tell ye.

"A'ye genna gie's a kiss, Ribekka?" Jeems says after a whilie; an' Ribekka gae a bit geegle, an' then whispers laich in, "Help yoursel', Jeemie"--an' there they were at it like twa young anes.

I didna ken whuther to flee up the yaird, roar oot "feyre," or clim' up on the dyke an' gie them a wallop roond the linders wi' my bits o' cloots. So I stud still.

The fient a ane o' them ever thocht there was a livin' sowl within fifty yairds o' them, an' they were crackin' an' kirrooin' awa' like a pair o' doos.

"Isn't a peety they dinna ca' me Izik?" says Jeems.

"Hoo d'ye think that?" said Ribekka.

"Cause it wudda lookit so fine--Izik an' Ribekka, d'ye see?" an' they nickered an' leuch like a' that.

"An' I wudda been Ribekka at the wall," said Beek.

"Exackly," said Jeems; "altho' this auld pump's hardly the kind o' wall they had in thae days. I hope there's nae horn-gollochs aboot it."

"There's twal o'clock," said Ribekka; "we'll need to be goin'. Gude-nicht, Jeems. See an' mind aboot me. Gude-nicht."

"Gude-nicht, my ain bonnie lassie," Jeems harken'd in till her. "Dinna be feared o' me forgettin' ye. I never lift a shuffle o' coals but, I think I see your face. Every puff o' the engine brings me in mind o' ye, Ribekka; an' when I sit doon to tak' my denner, I lat fa' my flagon whiles, I'm that taen up thinkin' aboot ye."

"Eh, Jeems, you're codin' me noo! But gude-night! Eh, mind ye, it's Sabbath mornin'."

"Gude-nicht, my bonnie lassie. Oh, Ribekka, you're sweeter gin heather honey. I wiss Sint Tammas Market was here, an' we'll be nae langer twa but wan. My bonnie dooie! Gude-nicht, my ain scentit geranum," says Jeems.

I began to be akinda waumish, d'ye ken. The haivers o' the two spooney craturs juist garred me feel like's I'd taen a fizzy drink or something. You ken what I mean--the kind o' a' ower kittlie feelin' that's like to garr you screech, ye dinna ken hoo.

"Gude-nicht, Jeems," says Beek again. "I'll never luve onybody but you."

"Are your shure?" began the auld ass again; an' me stanin' near frozen to death wi' cauld, an' cudna get oot o' the bit.

"Never!" said Beek; "never!"

"Gude-nicht, than, dearie, an' see an' no' forget me. Will ye no'?"

"Ye needna be feared, Jeems. I luve you alone, an' nae ither body i' the wide, wide world. Gude-nicht, my Jeemie."

"Gude-nicht, than, Ribekka, luvie. An' if you dinna forget----"

But this was ower muckle for me; so I juist roared oot, "Gude-nicht, ye haiverin' eedeits," as heich as I cud yawl, an' up the yaird at what I cud flee.

Sandy was beddit on the back o' ten o'clock, an' he was snorin' like a dragoon when I gaed up the stair. But when I got anower he jamp up a' o' a sudden, like's he'd gotten a fleg.

"Keep me, Bawbie, whaur i' the face o' the earth hae you been?" he says, wi' his een stanin' in's heid, an' drawin' in his breath like's a shooer o' cauld water had been skootit aboot him. "You've shurely been awa' at the whalin'. Bless me, your feet's as cauld's an iceikle. Keep them awa' frae me."

Isn't that juist like thae men? Weemin can beat them in mony weys, I admit; but, for doonricht selfishness, come your wa's!

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