The night o' the harvestin' I slippit out while the folk were a' blyth and busy, and met Colin at the Birkburn. I'll no sune pit past the remembrance o' that nicht. The bonnie moon at the vera tap o' her silver beauty, glinted through the birken-boughs, page 35 chequering the grass aneath wi' shifting patches o' licht an' shade, as the gentle breeze saftly swayed the tree tops to and fro; and whiles makin' the burn glimmer silver-bricht atween. Colin said he maun be awa next mornin', and as ye'll suppose, we were unco sad an' dreary at the thocht. I kent weel that my faither wouldna approve of a puir tenant farmer's son asking at him for his dochter; an' I e'en grat an' sobbed in my trouble. But Colin, did the best possible thing to comfort me; for he took me intil his honest faithfu' airms, an' vowed he would either find or make a road out o' the difficulty. Syne he tauld me he had considered o' a way in which it could be accomplished; and he speered wad I meet him at the byre next Monday in the gloamin', an' then he would make me acquent wi' his proposals. I gladly promised to keep tryst as he wished. Just then, while I was speakin', I thocht I heard a rustlin' sound as of some-body moving amang the birks, an' there was a sharp erack, as o' branches serunchin' under foot. There wasna onything to be seen however; an' Colin said I was just a wee seairt. “Dinna be feart, my pet lammie,” he whispered. “Aye be leal, an' I'll mak' a gude hame for ye yet.” An' wi’ a lang strang embrace we pairted—he awa to the bothie, an' I to the house.
An’ now I maun tell ye a bit ploy o' Colin's. I wanted him to set down what happened till him at the trysting for a story is aye best at first hand, afore it gets glaured wi' oure muckle handlin'. Colin had a way o' tellin’ o't that aye gart me laugh, though it was nae laughin' matter at the time. But he was awfu' fearsome o' venturin'. Sae I said, would he ca' page 36 in young Colin wha had aye had the best o' schulin’ and was considered a very promising laddie, aye at the tap o' his class an' haudin’ the highest o' characters frae his masters. Well, he ‘greed to this, an' a nicht was fixed when the important work should be done. Young Colin was very proud o' the compliment, I'se warrant ye, and he set himsel' doun till the performance o' the task wi' a wise-like air that sat weel on his young shouthers. “Noo,” quo auld Colin, “ye'll be sure to pit down what I say in the best o' gude English, for this is just ane o' yer mither's whigma-leeries, and I wadna care to spoil her bit buik.”
Sae auld Colin began to tell his story, and young Colin began to clerk it, an' this is what came o't:—
Colin's Account O' The Trysting
“Atween the gloamin' an’ the mirk I gaed till the byre to keep tryst wi' my luve, Jenny. I min' it was a gran' nicht. The moon wasna shawin', but the stars glimmered aboon wi' just licht eneuch, an' no owre muckle. My heart was just at the loupin'. Aiblins the bit lassie wadna care to leave faither an' sister, an' a', to gang awa wi' me till thae far lands ayont the sea that Maister Renwick sae aften spak' o'.”
“Noo, my mon,” said auld Colin to young Colin, “shaw me what ye hae pitten doun afore I gae ony further.”
“Surely, faither,” quo the braw lad, wi' a toss o' his bonnie broun heid, that spake volumes o' confidence. An wi' the word, he started to read it out.
Young Colin's Version
“Between twilight and dusk I repaired to the cattle-yard to keep my appointment with my beloved Janet. The evening, I remember, was exceedingly fine. The moon had not yet risen above the horizon, but the minor luminaries of Heaven beamed with sufficient radiance to give light to my path, without unnecessary effulgence. My heart was throbbing violently. Perhaps the little girl might object to leave her parent and her sister, and all that she cared for, to depart with me to those distant countries beyond the ocean, which Mr Renwick so frequently made the subject of his conversation.”
When he had finished he pit doun the paper, and lookit round for the applause owing till his performance. Eh! but he was sair disappointed. “Whatna trasherie's that?” quo his faither. “What for dae ye mak' me say that I repaired to a cattle yard when I telt ye I gaed till the byre? An' what's a that clishmaclaver aboot the moon? I dinna ken if she was aboon the horizon, as ye ca't, or ayont. I telt ye she wasna shawin'. An' the minor luminaries o' heaven tae'. Wha's thae? I hope ye haena gotten infected wi ony o' thae heresies that the deil's folk are sae busy preachin' e'en noo. There's nae minor luminaries in Heaven, lad; they're a ane. An' dinna ye ken better than, to ca' a bit lassie a little girl? Eh, Colin, Colin! gin that's the best o' the English ye learn at schule, the maister disna ken muckle o' things in ordinar'.'
I comforted the puir laddie as weel as I could, seein' his faither's disappointment was as keen his ain. But page 38 'deed he was weel able to take his ain pairt. “For” said he—very prettily I thocht—“you wished me to write it in English, father. I would have done it better in my mother tongue, which,” quo he, wi' a sly look to mysel, “I hope I'll never forget.”
Weel the upshot o't was, that I had to take the post o' Colin's secretary, an' oor young student o' the beauties o' the English language had to be pacified wi' the promise o' a new fishin' rod an' tackle for the next trout season.
Colin's Story Continued
Weel, I got till the byre an' lookit aboot, but Jenny was no there, sae I sat doon on ane o' the auld stanes and waited. A' at ance I heard the swiff o' a woman's claes, an' started to my feet just in time to meet her in the door. She had a maud owre her heid an' shouthers, and in the mirk I couldna see her face. “Is it you, Colin?” she whispered, in a frichtened kind of way I thocht. “Aye, Jenny,” I answered, an' without anither word I took her intil my airms an' gied her a gude cuddlin', an' a maist hearty kiss, which she tried to jink at first; but on second thochts she received it very kindly, and rendered it back wi' interest. Then we sat oorsel's doun on the big stanes under the arch, an' she inquired at me what way was I expectin' to win at the laird's consent to our wooin.’ Weel, I explained to the best o' my ability the advantages offered by the Otago Association that was aboot starting a gran' new settlement in New Zealand. I'm sure I didna ken whar' aboot New Zealand was, nor aught regardin' it, but it was aye accounted a fine country, whar gude land page 39 could be had cheap, an' on easy terms. An' also there was a fine show o' lairds an' gentles, bankers, merehants, an' sic like at the heid o' affairs. To mak' a’ sure I had gane to Glasco' an’ gotten a' particulars o' the Association frae' Maister Blackie, and Dunlop o' Craigton, the chairman o' the Glasco' Committee, wha happened to be there at the time.—“But Janet,” quo I. “its gey cauld the nicht. Can ye no spare a corner o' your plaidie?”
She pu'd it round and happed me intil ‘t, and I pit my airm aboot her jimp waist, an' to gie mair point till my remarks, I pree'd her mou at orra times—a method o' explainin’ which I found to answer weel. Sae she led me on to reveal a' my plans—the paukie witch. I tauld her I had by me a matter o' thirty pounds in siller, forbye twa three beasties o' my ain, an' maybe my faither wad find a few pounds mair on sic an occasion. An' then I tell't her o' a big ship was to sail frae Greenock neist November, and how the cost o' our passage wad be nae mair than the thirty pounds, sae that a' the lave wad be till the gude. “And what will we dae,” she speered, “in yon place ye speak o', if we're no drouned or wrecked on the way?”
I showed her that by the terms o' the Association we wad get a piece o' land o' oor ain, an' mak ‘a hame for oursel's. I was muckle pleased wi' the deep interest she seemed to take in a I said: an' the fond manner in which her lips sought my ain, fair delighted me. Only there was just ae thing I couldna quite understand. Jenny's mou had aye been ‘sweet as sugar-candy.’ [That's just ding't in by Colin to page 40 pleasure mysel.—Janet.] But that nicht there was a flavour aboot them as though she had ta'en sybows* for kail.
At lang an' last I pit the question that had been danglin' at my tongue's end a' the time. “Will ye no gang wi' me, Jenny?” quo I.
The moon was just blinkin owre the glen, sae that ane could take a fair sieht o' things. She wrastled awa' frae me, an' easting aff her plaid—“Colin Davidson,” she cried; “dae ye richtly ken wha ye're talkin' tae?”
I never was sae richt down dumbfoundered in a' my life. The lassie I had been haudin' in my airms was no Jenny—but just her sister, Maggie! Ye might hae knockit me doun wi' the whuff o' a feather.
“Noo, Colin,” she began, “I ken a' your designin's, an' ye'll never get oor Janet for a wife. Never in the warld, Colin. Are ye no ‘shamed to think o' evenin’ yersel till a dochter o' Craigielinn? A fine thing wad it no be if laird's bairn's buckled wi' puir folk like yersel, and gaed awa frae hame till ane o' thae deevil's places ye and Maister Renwick are sae taken wi', where folk stan' on their heids. I'll awa noo to my faither and tell him a' ye hae been sayin'; an' it's a miraele if ye dinna find oot your mistake the morn's mornin'. How dare ye, Sir, to make sic a dishonourable endeayour?”
By the time she had done flytin', I had gripped at the stalk o' carle-hemp in mysel. I took her by the shouthers, and lookin' her straight in the e'en, I said till her—“Ye daurna!”page 41
“Daurna what?” quo she.
“Ye daurna speak till the laird o' this nicht's work; for if ye did sae, I wad e'en awa to Gowanbraes and tell the lave o't. How wad Robin tak' it, that ye had been lyin' in my airms, an' ye ken what a', for mair than an hour, out by Craigielinn's byre?”
This pit a new face on the matter. “Ye wadna be sae unmanly,” cried she. “Ye wadna daur dae sic a fause-bearted thing till a lassie.”
“Will I no?” quo I. “But ye can dae a wrang thing till anither lassie, an' that ither your ain sister. Listen till me Maggie; richt or wrang's no the question noo. It's pit far past that. Jenny and I lo'e ane anither with affection sae true an' strang that the powers o' Hell will no prevail against it. An' as ye hae been sae sma'-minded as to pry intil oor secrets, the maist douce-like way for ye is to gie us your assistance. I'll no deny that Colin Davidson o' the Shaws is no a gran' match for Craigielinn's dochter sae far as warldly gear is concerned. An' in regard o' merit there's no a prince in the land who wadna be honoured wi' Jenny's love. But there isna a lassie in a' braid Scotland owre gude for an honest man.”
“An’ dae ye ca' yersel an honest man to steal the affections o' a puir innocent weau wha disna richtly ken what she's doin o'?” cried Maggie—“Weel knowing too, that it's contra' to the will o' her faither?”
“It's nae gude ava ha'ein ony argey-bargey aboot it,” qou I. “The thing is owre for gude or ill; sae I ask ye to tak' a sensible view o' the matter Mistress Maggie, an' no speak o't till the laird; for that wad page 42 only hae the effect o' makin’ Jenny miserable, an' the end wad be just the same, I promise ye. An' mind what I'm sayin', ye canna possibly tell onything, without tellin' how ye got the information; an', if the haill business atween us twa is found out, there'll be mair clishmaclavers than ye wad care to thole.”
Ye see, Maggie like some ither pawky folk, had got caught in her ain trap, an had fa'en intil the pit she had digged for anither. When she started outon her errand she didna richtly reckon on a' the circumstances belangin' till a love-talk, or maybe she wadna hae filed her breath wi' sybows. Aiblins Robin was no a very warm wooer, an' the puir lassie had nae ither experience o' sic matters. But ance in for it she wasna sae half-hearted as to draw back for abit kiss or twa.
The end o't was that I won her owre to our side. She was very firm no to wink at our meetin' sae lang's the laird objected, but she gied me her promise to try an' talk him owre, and I kent I could depend on her.—“But eh! Colin Davidson” quo' she, “gin ye could but hae a crack wi' him yersel', wha kens but ye might persuade him wi' your ain fleechin tongue? But he's very camstairy, is the laird.”
When we pairted Maggie carried a message frae me to Janet.—“Ane mair,” quo I, “just to handsel the bargain.“—Sybows or nane, I wanted to make friends wi' her. But she fended me aff.—“Na, na,” quo she, “Ye ‘ve had owre mony a' ready. But Colin, I think I s'e forgie ye the pliskies ye played under the plaidie.” An' awa she flitted.page 43
It is just a fact that Jenny an' Maggie were sae muckle alike, that when the hair o' either was covered owre, it was maist impossible to ken ane frae the ither in the gloamin,'—And how could I be expectit to dae sae in the mirk. I maun tell ye there was a neer-do-weel doun in the clachan that thocht himsel as grand a poet as Robbie Burns, and was aye dingin' his sangs intil our lugs. He made ane aboot Craigielinn's twa dochters, that I gat frae him at the time, and hae aye keepit by me:—
Twa lovely rosebuds on ac stem.
Twa flowers ac bush adornin',
Twa dewdrops sparklin' as ac gem
On beather bells in mornin'.
And ilk' sac like the ither ane,
That baith than ither's sweeter;
And either o' the twa is ta'en
For fairest when ye mieet her.
To wale atween the twa I'm laith,
Sae even Nature planned ‘em;
If kirk allowed, I'd wed wi' hait.
And pree them ilk' at random.
I wadna care to count how mony mutchkins o' whisky I paid for thae verses to stap the graceless loon frae roarin them oot at the public-house. But I gied him to understan' that I wadna hae Jenny an her sister made sport o' in sic a fashin. It's muckle till his credit that he only did sae ance, when I was by, an' on that occasion I gied him sic a dad i the chafts as maist effectually put a stop till his singin for a haill week.”
End of Colin's Story.
* Young onions.