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The Courtship Of Tammock Thackanraip, Ayrshireman
by [?]

The peats were brought, the fires were set,

While roared November’s gale;

With unbound mirth the neighbours met

To speed the canty tale
.

A bask, dry November night at Drumquhat made us glad to gather in to the goodwife’s fire. I had been round the farm looking after the sheep. Billy Beattie, a careless loon, was bringing in the kye. He was whacking them over the rumps with a hazel. I came on him suddenly and changed the direction of the hazel, which pleased my wife when I told her.

“The rackless young vaigabond,” said she–“I’ll rump him!”

“Bide ye, wife; I attended to that mysel’.”

The minister had been over at Drumquhat in the afternoon, and the wife had to tell me what he had said to her, and especially what she had said to him. For my guidwife, when she has a fit of repentance and good intentions, becomes exceedingly anxious–not about her own shortcomings, but about mine. Then she confesses all my sins to the minister. Now, I have telled her a score of times that this is no’ bonnie, and me an elder of twenty years’ standing. But the minister kens her weakness. We must all bear with the women-folk, even ministers, he says, for he is a married man, an’ kens.

“Guidman,” she says, as soon as I got my nose by the door-cheek, “it was an awsome peety that ye werena inby this afternoon. The minister was graund on smokin’.”

“Ay,” said I; “had his brither in Liverpool sent him some guid stuff that had never paid her Majesty’s duty, as he did last year?”

“Hoots, haivers; I’ll never believe that!” said she, scouring about the kitchen and rubbing the dust out of odd corners that were clean aneuch for the Duke of Buccleuch to take his “fower-oors” off. But that is the way of the wife. They are queer cattle, wives–even the best of them. Some day I shall write a book about them. It will be a book worth buying. But the wife says that when I do, she will write a second volume about men, that will make every married man in the parish sit up. And as for me, I had better take a millstone about my neck and loup into the depths of the mill-dam. That is what she says, and she is a woman of her word. My book on wives is therefore “unavoidably delayed,” as Maxwell whiles says of his St. Mungo’s letter, and capital reading it is.

“Hoots, haivers!” said the wife again. She cannot bide not being answered. Even if she has a grooin‘ in her back, and remarks ” Ateeshoo-oo! ” ye are bound for the sake of peace to put the question, “What ails ye, guidwife?”

“I’ll never believe that the minister smokes. He never has the gliff o’ it aboot him when he comes here.”

“That’s the cunnin’ o’ the body,” said I. “He kens wha he’s comin’ to see, an’ he juist cuittles ye till ye gang aboot the hoose like Pussy Bawdrons that has been strokit afore the fire, wi’ your tail wavin’ owre your back.”

“Think shame o’ yoursel’, Saunders M’Quhirr–you an elder and a man on in years, to speak that gate.”

“Gae wa’ wi’ ye, Mary M’Quhirr,” I said. “Do ye think me sae auld? There was but forty-aught hours and twenty meenits atween oor first scraichs in this warld. That’s no’ aneuch to set ye up to sic an extent, that ye can afford to gang aboot the hoose castin’ up my age to me. There’s mony an aulder man lookin’ for his second wife.”

And with that, before my wife had time to think on a rouser of a reply (I saw it in her eye, but it had not time to come away), Thomas Thackanraip hirpled in. Thomas came from Ayrshire near forty years since, and has been called Tammock the Ayrshireman ever since. He was now a hearty-like man with a cottage of his own, and a cheery way with him that made him a welcome guest at all the neighbouring farmhouses, as he was at ours. The humours of Tammock were often the latest thing in the countryside. He was not in the least averse to a joke against himself, and that, I think, was the reason of a good deal of his popularity. He went generally with his hand in the small of his back, as if he were keeping the machinery in position while he walked. But he had a curious young-like way with him for so old a man, and was for ever pook-pook ing at the lasses wherever he went.