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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


2 32 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. ‘‘ But what, if dancing on the green, and skipping like a maukin, If they should see my clouted shoon, of me they will be taukin’. ’ “ Dance aye high, and late at e’en, Janet, Janet ; Syne 8’ you faults will no be seen, my jo, Janet.” ‘‘ Kind sir, for yonr courtesie, when ye gm to the cross, then, For the love ye bear to me, buy me a pacing horse, then.” ‘‘ Pace upon your spinnin’ wheel, Janet, Janet ; Pace upon yonr spinnii’ wheel, my jo, Janet.” Unlike modern professional gentlemen, it was no part of Tam’s economy to charm his friends out of their money ; it will not, therefore, be surprising that his talents proved, in some measure, destructive of his industry. He frequently felt the “pinging ” gnawings of an empty pocket j yet “poor but hearty ” continued to be his motto-and “ A cog 0’ gude swats an’ an anid Scottish sang,” together with the approbation of his friends, were sufficient to set poverty and care at defiance. Tam worked for many a day as a journeyman might, even after he became precentor. He at length set up in a small way for himself, and might have succeeded well ; but his customers were neglected, and his trade gradually dwindled down by a species of consumption not uncommon in such cases. Coffins were a staple commodity of Tarn’s manufacture, although he could not properly be considered an undertaker; and, in this line, notwithstanding his tippling propensities, and when almost every other species of employment had left him, he continued to receive a degree of patronage. Even on this grave subject the precentor’s drollery could not be restrained. When any of his cronies (and many a one of them he screwed down in their last narrow house) were complaining, he used to rally them with a very professional observation--“ Hech, man, but ye smell sair 0’ fir.” Tarn was employed on one occasion to make a coffin for a youth who had died at Easter Duddingston, and in the evening he and his apprentice went to take the article home. The coffin was inclosed in a bag, that it might be the more easily carried. On arriving at the village of Duddingston, it being a cold moonlight night in November, Tarn felt an irresistible desire to fortify himself with a glass.’ He and his apprentice accordingly entered the first publichouse, and having drunk a ‘(gill of the best,” the landlady was called in, and Tarn began to explore his unfathomable pockets for the odd sixpence upon which he had speculated, but not a bodle was there, Tam looked astonished, apologised for the awkward aircumstance, and promised to “ look in ” as he came past. But ‘( Na !”-the prudent hostess ‘‘ didna get her drink for naething, and couldna let it gang that gait.” Tam promised, flattered, and threatened ; but all would not do. (‘ Weel, weel,” said he, “ since ye’re sae doubtfu’ 0’ my honesty, as I’m gaun to play at a bit dance out by at Easter Duddingston the nicht, I’ll e’en leave the case 0’ my bass fiddle till I come back.” This seemed to satisfy the landlady j and Tam, with the aid of his apprentice, soon unbagged
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 233 the cohn ! Inspired with that feeling of awe, if not of terror, which that emblem of mortality, under such circumstances, was calculated to produce, the landlady exclaimed, with unfeigned perturbation, '' Awa', ye gallows-looking blackguard ; gin that be the case 0' yir bass fiddle, neither you nor it shall stay in my house." Her request, as may be well imagined, was very readily complied with. Tam was questioned one day by a lady, at whose house he was employed in making some repairs, as to the reason why people of his profession were so extravagant in their charges for coffins. Tam looked very mysterious, and agreed to inform her of the secret for the matter of a good glass of " Athol brose "; which moderate stipulation being immediately implemented, he told her, " It's juist because they are ne'er brought back to be mended." As we have already hinted, the precentor's wit consisted more in the method than the matter ; and hence the reason, although he never failed to " set the table in a roar," that there are few of his sayings which do not lose materially by being written down. There are still one or two anecdotes not altogether unworthy of notice. Tam was one night engaged in a tavern with a party of select friends, among whom was the late Mr. Home Drummond, a gentleman then young, and who, it is said, could relish a night's diversion well, provided he did not " buy his joys o'er dear." During the evening Tam delighted the company with his very best songs, and, in return, was plied at every interval with an excess of liquor. Mr. Drummond, in particular, perhaps with the view of making him tipsy, pressed the songster without mercy, frequently adding, that if he did not drink off his glass he should have Keltie's mends-(i.e., fill the glass and make him drink it over again). When the debauch was finished, and the parties came to the street, one of those present, who was by no means sober, feeling an increase of thirst from the excess of his libations, put his head to the mouth of the well in the High Street, and commenced drinking most vigorously. " Out wi't," cried the songster, chuckling over his imagined victory,-" out wi't ; or, by my sang, ye shall hae Keltie's mends." Tam and a drouthy crony accidentally met in the Potterrow (Scottice, Patterraw) one forenoon, after a night of heavy drinking. They both stood much in need of a drop to brace their nerves, but not a stiver was betwixt them. In vain they looked round for some kindly invitation-in vain some dernier howff was suggested. "he precentor's licht was now on the wane; yet he " couldna think of parting dry-mouth'd." " Come," said Tarn, a fancy having struck him ; "let's see what chance will provide." They accordingly dived into the house of an old acquaintance whom they had not Been for some time. A grll was called, and the landlady desired to sit down and " tak' the poison aff the glass ;'I which she readily did, to oblige " sae add a friend as the precentor." The whisky went round, and a conversation ensued upon the common topics of the day,-the American war, the dearth of provisions, etc. ; and Tarn took care not to overlook the modern alterations going on in the city. '' What wi' levelling streets, and bigging brigs, they'll no leave ae stane 0' the auld toon aboon anither," said the landlady.--" It's a confounded shame," rejoined Tarn,-" and 2 H
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