“Pedlar, I suppose you mean?”

“E’en as your honour likes to ca’ him; but it a creditable calling and a gainfu’, and has been lang in use wi’ our folk. Pate’s a far-awa cousin o’ mine, and we were blythe to meet wi’ ane anither.”

“And you went and had a jug of ale together, I suppose, Andrew?—For Heaven’s sake, cut short your story.”

“Bide a wee—bide a wee; you southrons are aye in sic a hurry, and this is something concerns yoursell, an ye wad tak patience to hear’t—Yill?—deil a drap o’ yill did Pate offer me; but Mattie gae us baith a drap skimmed milk, and ane o’ her thick ait jannocks, that was as wat and raw as a divot.—Oh, for the bonnie girdle cakes o’ the North!—and sae we sat doun and took out our clavers.”

“I wish you would take them out just now. Pray, tell me the news, if you have got any worth telling, for I can’t stop here all night.”

“Than, if ye maun hae’t, the folk in Lunnun are a’ clean wud about this bit job in the north here.”

“Clean wood! what’s that?”

“Ou, just real daft—neither to haud nor to bind—a’ hirdy-girdy—clean through ither—the deil’s over Jock Wabster.”

“But what does all this mean? or what business have I with the devil or Jack Webster?”

“Umph!” said Andrew, looking extremely knowing, “it’s just because—just that the dirdum’s a’ about yon man’s pokmanty.”

“Whose portmanteau? or what do you mean?”

“Ou, just the man Morris’s, that he said he lost yonder; but if it’s no your honour’s affair, as little is it mine; and I maunna lose this gracious evening.”

And, as if suddenly seized with a violent fit of industry, Andrew began to labour most diligently.

My attention, as the crafty knave had foreseen, was now arrested, and unwilling, at the same time, to acknowledge any particular interest in that affair, by asking direct questions, I stood waiting till the spirit of voluntary communication should again prompt him to resume his story. Andrew dug on manfully, and spoke at intervals, but nothing to the purpose of Mr. Macready’s news; and I stood and listened, cursing him in my heart, and desirous, at the same time, to see how long his humour of contradiction would prevail over his desire of speaking upon the subject, which was obviously uppermost in his mind.

“Am trenching up the sparry-grass, and am gaun to saw sum Misegun beans; they winna want them to their swine’s flesh, I’se warrant—muckle gude may it do them. And sicklike dung as the grieve has gien me; it should be wheatstrae, or aiten at the warst o’t, and it’s pease-dirt, as fizzenless as chuckie-stanes. But the huntsman guides a’ as he likes about the stable-yard, and he’s selled the best o’ the litter, I’se warrant. But, howsoever, we maunna lose a turn o’ this Saturday at e’en, for the wather’s sair broken, and if there’s a fair day in seven, Sunday’s sure to come and lick it up—Howsomever, I’m no denying that it may settle, if it be Heaven’s will, till Monday morning, and what’s the use o’ my breaking my back at this rate—I think, I’ll e’en awa’ hame, for yon’s the curfew, as they ca’ their jowing-in bell.”

Accordingly, applying both his hands to his spade, he pitched it upright in the trench which he had been digging, and, looking at me with the air of superiority of one who knows himself possessed of important information, which he may communicate or refuse at his pleasure, pulled down the sleeves of his shirt, and walked slowly towards his coat, which lay carefully folded up upon a neighbouring garden-seat.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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