« AnteriorContinuar »
us got there, the game was already roaring fast and furious. Every boy and girl, and almost every lad and lass, were wheeling round one stack and jerking round another, yelling, and tousling each other in a glorious confusion, paying forfeits, stealing kisses, and exerting themselves generally in such ways as to disperse most rapidly, and without evil effects, their seventeen cups of tea !
The Miller, standing for a minute or two, his eyes twinkling with unalloyed delight over all the scene, would instantly startle them by selecting some swiftest runner, clasping his arms tight about him, and intimating that he would hold him there a prisoner, till the girl that loved him best kissed him back into freedom! It was very wine and oil to the Cheery Miller's soul to watch the play of all the youthful emotions, during the next few minutes; the other Lads egging on some Girl that was supposed to be his Sweetheart, to pay the forfeit; the Girls blushing red, while resenting the soft impeachment; and the Prisoner, every moment more sheepish and abashed, beginning to be restive in the imprisoning arms.
“I'll no see Chairlie made a fule o', that wey!” half sobbed Nelly Darumple, and rushing up kissed him out of prison, amid the wild hurrahs of all the Youngkers.
“It's Solomon ower again,” protested the Miller, “Wi' his—'Give her the living Child; she is the mother thereof'!” And then he chuckled cheerily, by way of paraphrase, “Give her the prisoned Chairlie; she is the Sweetheart o'the same.”
The Young Folks had run themselves tired. A few were beginning to settle down somewhat sleepily, here and there, on heaps of straw about the Stack Yard, as the sun was westering to his bed. Already, indeed, the Wee Tots had been carried off in their Mothers' arms, unconsciously blessed, and had been safely bestowed amongst the blankets in their own Village Homes. The Lads and Lassies were now fidging fain for their expected Reels. And lo, the Miller, emerging with the fiddle under his arm, is jauntily wending towards the Barn, as eager for the music and the frolic as the lightest-hearted Youngker there.
The Barn had been swept and garnished. That is to say, the centre floor had been scrubbed, and diamonded with chalk on the red sandstone fags; planks of wood had been set on rests round and round against the walls ; and a few Kitchen Chairs for the Elder Folks doucely placed at either end. There, on a conspicuous seat, slightly raised, sat the Miller, prepared at any moment to skirl up the tune, and keep them reeling, till they could not fling another leg or raise another “ Hooch !” Half a dozen lamps, hung round the Barn, glimmered dubiously on the scene; but the light of love and health was shed abroad with a glorious profusion on all around.
First, there was “Mairch Roon,” developing under the Miller's music into a smart canter, and then into a somewhat vigorous promenade at full pace. This required no special skill. Everybody took part in it; the Leddy herself leading off with the Laird ; and even James of the Cottage, and Angell Jenn too, joining in this “neebourly and human delicht," as she winsomely styled it. Then came Reels and Strathspeys, - dear to the heart of all Scottish dancers; most healthsome, and decent - like, and lovely-natural ;—“Wi' nane o' thae whirlin', tirlin', close - claspin', lustfu' lookin' dances," as Moudie Jamie characterised them, “fitted to kindle deevil's fires in Young Fowk's veins; thae Heathenish wallops, less than half decent, an'mair than half deidly, tae a' delicate minded men an' women!”
When those who could had reeled their fill, and “ hoocht” and “loupit” till a' the rafters rang, there came, as a grand finish, the Hielan' Fling by Geordie and Bett, and Nellie and Chairlie. The Miller's arm flew like lightning, and the dancers whirled and flew to the fiddle,-health and mettle and breath pitted against music and catgut-run-mad; till “the very flure beneath them seemed to be fleein',” as Moudie Jamie afterwards described it, “an' the fiddle itsel dancin' wi' joy, an' the Miller aff his seat, his feet i' the air, an' his sowl whustlin' thro' the fiddle strings."
Between the dances, there was here and there a song, and two hours had immediately rushed past on the wings of innocent pleasure.
I, who durst not attempt to sing a single note, made a proper fool of myself by being induced to recite a “Poem on Castlebraes," which I had composed since my return to Tinlie Tower. It had no merit, except the rare one, in a poem, of perfect intelligibility,—for it dealt with places and people that were familiar to them all from Childhood. This was more to them than any flights of Imagination, and they cheered vociferously every reference to “our Knowes and Burnies.”
Wullie o' Clay - Biggin' sang, with tremendous effect
“Whan Jock and me was mairried,
Our Haddin' was but sma”.”
Bauldy o' The Smiddy thundered — “Scots wha hae," till the loyal sweat stood in bead drops on his brow; and the horses in the Stable at the further side of the Farm Stead nichered with patriotic applause. Geordie Cawmle rendered “Annie Lowrie," as he rightly pronounced the name, with tableaux vivants, improvised on the spot. At the close of every verse, as he sang“I'd lay me doon an' dee”—he tumbled despairingly on the Hay Mow, and “dee'd” amidst the boisterous laughter of all the Youngkers.
Sweet Nell Darumple sang “Robin Adair," as if an imprisoned Lintie were languishing to escape from her throat ; and the mischievous Lassocks declared that Chairlie was seen “skiffin' a tear frae his e'e on the sly," when Nell glinted at him as she trilled away.
Heather Bell paid me out for my stolen kiss, by rendering “ Auld Robin Gray cam' a-coortin' me,” with a waggish look in my direction, and with so much clever mischief in her tone, that all eyes turned on me, with laughter and glee; and, to my vast astonishment, and despite all self-repression, an unwonted colour flushed me before the Villagers.
But, perhaps, the best stroke of all was delivered by Bett o'the Shiels, in view of the fact that her Geordie had rigged himself out in a “spang-new" suit, with nether garments of a preposterously loud colour of ashy gray. She sang one of our most
popular Scottish songs, brimful of bantering humour, and poured into it an extraordinary amount of dramatic spirit. But when she came to the line about —“The verra gray breeks o' Tam Glen” — and flashed her eyes on Geordie's new rig-out, the rustic roar that filled the Barn did one's heart good to hear, and the memory of it was infectious with laughter for days to come.
By-and-bye, the Elder and more sedate Folks were pressed into the Service of Song.
First of all came Moudie Jamie, protesting that he “kennt better hoo to set a trap than to catch a tune," but rendering with magnificent effect“ Fareweel tae the Boddies that yaummer an' murn.”
Thereon, he insisted that the Miller should give us “Auld Watty's the waur o'the wear”; which was done with so many roguish tricks and jinks, that the dullest wit was tickled, and the saddest face gradually relaxed from ear to ear.
At this stage, being in fact put up to it by the Miller himself, I appealed to The Leddy to sing to us her favourite song—“ John Anderson, my Jo, John.” She pled hard to escape. She was tired ; her voice was out of tune ; she was too old ! But the Miller, inspiring and prompting me, kept whispering—“Haud at her, Laird. Dinna let her aff. Man, that Sang soothes me an' fires me, a' at yince. It mak's me greet, an' it mak's me lauch. It rows me asleep i' the airms o' Love. It'll hush me to rest i’ my Grave. It, an' no Solomon's, is the Sang o’ Sangs.”
After many pleas, and considerable delays, during