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Dandy Jim The Packman
by [?]

It was the back end of the year. The crops were all in, and but little was left of the harvest moon that had seen the Kirn safely won on the farms up “Ousenam” Water. A disjaskit creature she looked as the wind drove a scud of dark cloud across her pale face, or when she peered over the black bank below her, only to be hidden once more by an angry drift of rain. It was no night for lonely wayfarers. Oxnam and Teviot were both in spate, and their moan could be heard when the wind rested for a little and allowed the fir trees to be still. Only for very short intervals, however, did the tireless wind cease, and always, after a short respite, the trees were attacked again, and made to beck and bow their dark heads like the nodding plumes of a hearse. The road from Crailing was in places dour with mud, heavy-rutted by harvest carts, with ever and anon a great puddle that stretched across from ditch to ditch. But dismal or not dismal, the night had apparently no evil effect on the spirits of the one man who was trudging his homeward way from Crailing to Eckford.

Dandy Jim, the packman, was a young fellow who wanted more than evil weather and a dreich, black night to depress him. A fine, upstanding lad he was, with a glib English tongue that readily sold his wares, and which, along with a handsome, merry face, helped him with ease into the good graces of those whom he familiarly knew as “the lasses.” Dandy Jim had had many a flirtation, but now he felt that his roving days were nearly past. He was seriously thinking of matrimony.

“She’s a bonny lass,” thought he contemplatively, dwelling on the charms of the young cook at the farmhouse he had left just past midnight, “bonny and thrifty, and as fond o’ a laugh as I am mysel. That bit shop as ye come out o’ Hexham, with red roses growing up the front o’t, and fine-scented laylock bushes at the back, that would do us fine….”

And so, safely wrapped up in happy plans and in thoughts of his apple-cheeked lady-love, Jim manfully splashed through puddles and tramped through mud, conscience free, and fearful of nothing in earth or out of it. The graveyard at Eckford possessed no horrors for him. “Bogles,” quoth he, “what’s a bogle? I threw muckle Sandy, the wrestler, at Lammas Fair, an’ pity the bogle that meddles wi’ me.”

But, nevertheless, Jim, glancing towards the old church with its surrounding tombstones as he went by, saw something he did not expect, and quickly checked the defiant whistle that is, somehow, an infallible aid to the courage of even the bravest. There was a light over there among the graves, a flickering light that the wind lightly tossed, and that, somehow, did not suggest likeable things, even to Dandy Jim. Stock-still he stood for a couple of minutes watching the yellow glimmer among the tombstones, and then, with grim suspicion in his mind, he walked up to the churchyard gate. Nowadays we have only an occasional “watch-tower” in an old kirkyard, or a rusted iron cage over a grass-grown grave to remind us of times when human hyaenas prowled abroad after nightfall, and carried off their white, cold prey to be chaffered for by surgeons for the dissecting-rooms. But Dandy Jim’s day was the day of Burke and Hare, of Dr. Knox, and of many another murderous and scientific ghoul, and a lantern’s gleam in a churchyard in the small hours usually meant but one thing. As he expected, a gig stood at the churchyard gate; a bony, strong-shouldered, chestnut mare tethered to the gate-post, munching, mouth in nose-bag. In the gig was a sack, standing upright–a remarkably tall sack, five foot ten high at least, stiffly balanced against the seat.