that are not freely given. For as poor as I appear, I have friends of my own that will be blithe to help me.
Hoot-toot! said Uncle Ebenezer, dinnae fly up in the snuff at me. Well agree fine yet. And, Davie, my man, if youre done with that bit parritch, I could just take a sup of it myself. Ay, he continued, as soon as he had ousted me from the stool and spoon, theyre fine, halesome foodtheyre grand food, parritch. He murmured a little grace to himself and fell to. Your father was very fond of his meat, I mind; he was a hearty, if not a great eater; but as for me, I could never do mair than pyke at food. He took a pull at the small beer, which probably reminded him of hospitable duties, for his next speech ran thus: If yere dry yell find water behind the door.
To this I returned no answer, standing stiffly on my two feet, and looking down upon my uncle with a mighty angry heart. He, on his part, continued to eat like a man under some pressure of time, and to throw out little darting glances now at my shoes and now at my home-spun stockings. Once only, when he had ventured to look a little higher, our eyes met; and no thief taken with a hand in a mans pocket could have shown more lively signals of distress. This set me in a muse, whether his timidity arose from too long a disuse of any human company; and whether perhaps, upon a little trial, it might pass off, and my uncle change into an altogether different man. From this I was awakened by his sharp voice.
Your fathers been long dead? he asked.
Three weeks, sir, said I.
He was a secret man, Alexandera secret, silent man, he continued. He never said muckle when he was young. Hell never have spoken muckle of me?
I never knew, sir, till you told it me yourself, that he had any brother.
Dear me, dear me! said Ebenezer. Nor yet of Shaws, I dare say?
Not so much as the name, sir, said I.
To think o that! said he. A strange nature of a man! For all that, he seemed singularly satisfied, but whether with himself, or me, or with this conduct of my fathers, was more than I could read. Certainly, however, he seemed to be outgrowing that distaste, or ill-will, that he had conceived at first against my person; for presently he jumped up, came across the room behind me, and hit me a smack upon the shoulder. Well agree fine yet! he cried. Im just as glad I let you in. And now come awa to your bed.
To my surprise, he lit no lamp or candle, but set forth into the dark passage, groped his way, breathing deeply, up a flight of steps, and paused before a door, which he unlocked. I was close upon his heels, having stumbled after him as best I might; and then he bade me go in, for that was my chamber. I did as he bid, but paused after a few steps, and begged a light to go to bed with.
Hoot-toot! said Uncle Ebenezer, theres a fine moon.
Neither moon nor star, sir, and pit-mirk,2said I. I cannae see the bed.
Hoot-toot, hoot-toot! said he. Lights in a house is a thing I dinnae agree with. Im unco feared of fires. Good-night to ye, Davie, my man. And before I had time to add a further protest, he pulled the door to, and I heard him lock me in from the outside.
I did not know whether to laugh or cry. The room was as cold as a well, and the bed, when I had found my way to it, as damp as a peat-hag; but by good fortune I had caught up my bundle and my plaid, and rolling myself in the latter, I lay down upon the floor under lee of the big bedstead, and fell speedily asleep.
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