One evening there was such a gathering at the pig-sty that Hendry and I could not get a board to lay our backs against. Circumstances had pushed Pete Elshioner into the place of honour that belonged by right of mental powers to Tammas Haggart, and Tammas was sitting rather sullenly on the bucket, boring a hole in the pig with his sarcastic eye. Pete was passing round a card, and in time it reached me. "With Mr. and Mrs. David Alexander's compliments," was printed on it, and Pete leered triumphantly at us as it went the round.
"Weel, what think ye?" he asked, with a pretence at modesty.
"Ou," said T'nowhead, looking at the others like one who asked a question, "ou, I think; ay, ay."
The others seemed to agree with him, all but Tammas, who did not care to tie himself down to an opinion.
"Ou ay," T'nowhead continued, more confidently, "it is so, deceededly."
"Ye'll no ken," said Pete, chuckling, "what it means?"
"Na," the farmer admitted, "na, I canna say I exac'ly ken that."
"I ken, though," said Tammas, in his keen way.
"Weel, then, what is't?" demanded Pete, who had never properly come under Tammas's spell.
"I ken," said Tammas.
"Oot wi't then."
"I dinna say it's lyin' on my tongue," Tammas replied, in a tone of reproof, "but if ye'll juist speak awa aboot some other thing for a meenute or twa, I'll tell ye syne."
Hendry said that this was only reasonable, but we could think of no subject at the moment, so we only stared at Tammas, and waited.
"I fathomed it," he said at last, "as sune as my een lichted on't. It's one o' the bit cards 'at grand fowk slip 'aneath doors when they mak calls, an' their friends is no in. Ay, that's what it is."
"I dinna say ye're wrang," Pete answered, a little annoyed. "Ay, weel, lads, of course David Alexander's oor Dite as we called 'im, Dite Elshioner, an' that's his wy o' signifyin' to us 'at he's married."
"I assure ye," said Hendry, "Dite's doin' the thing in style."
"Ay, we said that when the card arrived," Pete admitted.
"I kent," said Tammas, "'at that was the wy grand fowk did when they got married. I've kent it a lang time. It's no nae surprise to me."
"He's been lang in marryin'," Hookey Crewe said.
"He was thirty at Martinmas," said Pete.
"Thirty, was he?" said Hookey. "Man, I'd buried twa wives by the time I was that age, an' was castin' aboot for a third."
"I mind o' them," Hendry interposed.
"Ay," Hookey said, "the first twa was angels." There he paused. "An' so's the third," he added, "in many respects."
"But wha's the woman Dite's ta'en?" T'nowhead or some one of the more silent members of the company asked of Pete.
"Ou, we dinna ken wha she is," answered Pete; "but she'll be some Glasca lassie, for he's there noo. Look, lads, look at this. He sent this at the same time; it's her picture." Pete produced the silhouette of a young lady, and handed it round.
"What do ye think?" he asked.
"I assure ye!" said Hookey.
"Sal," said Hendry, even more charmed, "Dite's done weel."
"Lat's see her in a better licht," said Tammas.
He stood up and examined the photograph narrowly, while Pete fidgeted with his legs.
"Fairish," said Tammas at last. "Ou, ay; no what I would selec' mysel, but a dainty bit stocky! Ou, a tasty crittury! ay, an' she's weel in order. Lads, she's a fine stoot kimmer."
"I conseeder her a beauty," said Pete, aggressively.
"She's a' that," said Hendry.
"A' I can say," said Hookey, "is 'at she taks me most michty."
"She's no a beauty," Tammas maintained; "na, she doesna juist come up to that; but I dinna deny but what she's weel faured."
"What taut do ye find wi' her, Tammas?" asked Hendry.
"Conseedered critically," said Tammas, holding the photograph at arm's length, "I would say 'at she - let's see noo; ay, I would say 'at she's defeecient in genteelity."
"Havers," said Pete.
"Na," said Tammas, "no when conseedered critically. Ye see she's drawn lauchin'; an' the genteel thing's no to lauch, but juist to put on a bit smirk. Ay, that's the genteel thing."
"A smile, they ca' it," interposed T'nowhead.
"I said a smile," continued Tammas. "Then there's her waist. I say naething agin her waist, speakin' in the ord'nar meanin'; but, conseedered critically, there's a want o' suppleness, as ye micht say, aboot it. Ay, it doesna compare wi' the waist o' - - " (Here Tammas mentioned a young lady who had recently married into a local county family.)
"That was a pretty tiddy," said Hookey, "Ou, losh, ay! it made me a kind o' queery to look at her."
"Ye're ower kyowowy (particular), Tammas," said Pete.
"I may be, Pete," Tammas admitted; "but I maun say I'm fond o' a bonny-looken wuman, an' no aisy to please; na, I'm nat'rally ane o' the critical kind."
"It's extror'nar," said T'nowhead, "what a poo'er beauty has. I mind when I was a callant readin' aboot Mary Queen o' Scots till I was fair mad, lads; yes, I was fair mad at her bein' deid. Ou, I could hardly sleep at nichts for thinking o' her."
"Mary was spunky as weel as a beauty," said Hookey, "an' that's the kind I like. Lads, what a persuasive tid she was!"
"She got roond the men," said Hendry, "ay, she turned them roond her finger. That's the warst o' thae beauties."
"I dinna gainsay," said T'nowhead, "but what there was a little o' the deevil in Mary, the crittur."
Here T'nowhead chuckled, and then looked scared.
"What Mary needed," said Tammas, "was a strong man to manage her."
"Ay, man, but it's ill to manage thae beauties. They gie ye a glint o' their een, an' syne whaur are ye?"
"Ah, they can be managed," said Tammas, complacently. "There's naebody nat'rally safter wi' a pretty stocky o' a bit wumany than mysel; but for a' that, if I had been Mary's man I would hae stood nane o' her tantrums. 'Na, Mary, my lass,' I would hae said, 'this winna do; na, na, ye're a bonny body, but ye maun mind 'at man's the superior; ay, man's the lord o' creation, an' so ye maun juist sing sma'.' That's hoo I would hae managed Mary, the speerity crittur 'at she was."
"Ye would hae haen yer wark cut oot for ye, Tammas."
"Ilka mornin'," pursued Tammas, "I would hae said to her, 'Mary,' I would hae said, 'wha's to wear thae breeks the day, you or me?' Ay, syne I would hae ordered her to kindle the fire, or if I had been the king, of coorse I would hae telt her instead to ring the bell an' hae the cloth laid for the breakfast. Ay, that's the wy to mak the like o' Mary respec ye."
Pete and I left them talking. He had written a letter to David Alexander, and wanted me to "back" it.