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Title: The Vital Spark
Author: Neil Munro (1864-1930) (Pen Name of Hugh Foulis)
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Language:  English
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Title: The Vital park
Author: Neil Munro (Pen Name of Hugh Foulis - 1864-1930)


A short, thick-set man, with a red beard, a hard round felt hat,
ridiculously out of harmony with a blue pilot jacket and trousers and a
seaman's jersey, his hands immersed deeply in those pockets our fathers
(and the heroes of Rabelais) used to wear behind a front flap, he would
have attracted my notice even if he had not, unaware of my presence so
close behind him, been humming to himself the chorus of a song that used
to be very popular on gabbarts, but is now gone out of date, like "The
Captain with the Whiskers took a Sly Glance at Me." You may have heard it
thirty years ago, before the steam puffer came in to sweep the sailing
smack from all the seas that lie between Bowling and Stornoway. It runs--

"Young Munro he took a notion
For to sail across the sea,
And he left his true love weeping,
All alone on Greenock Quay,"

and by that sign, and by his red beard, and by a curious gesture he had,
as if he were now and then going to scratch his ear and only determined
not to do it when his hand was up, I knew he was one of the Macfarlanes.
There were ten Macfarlanes, all men, except one, and  he was a valet, but
the family did their best to conceal the fact, and said he was away on
the yachts, and making that much money he had not time to write a scrape

"I think I ought to know you," I said to the vocalist with the hard hat.
"You are a Macfarlane: either the Beekan, or Kail, or the Nipper, or Keep
Dark, or Para Handy--"

"As sure as daith," said he, "I'm chust Para Handy, and I ken your name
fine, but I cannot chust mind your face." He had turned round on the pawl
he sat on, without taking his hands from his pockets, and looked up at me
where I stood beside him, watching a river steamer being warped into the

"My goodness!" he said about ten minutes later, when he had wormed my
whole history out of me; "and you'll be writing things for the papers?
Cot bless me! and do you tell me you can be makin' a living off that? I'm
not asking you, mind, hoo mich you'll be makin', don't tell me; not a
cheep! not a cheep! But I'll wudger it's more than Maolean the munister.
But och! I'm not saying: it iss not my business. The munister has two
hundred in the year and a coo's gress; he iss aye the big man up yonder,
but it iss me would like to show him he wass not so big a man as
yourself. Eh? But not a cheep! not a cheep! A Macfarlane would never put
his nose into another man's oar."

"And where have you been this long while?" I asked, having let it sink
into his mind that there was no chance to-day of his learning my exact
income, expenditure, and how much I had in the bank.

"Me!" said he; "I am going up and down like yon fellow in the
Scruptures--what wass his name? Sampson--seeking what I may devour. I am
out of a chob. Chust that: out of a chob. You'll not be hearin' of
anybody in your line that iss in want of a skipper?"

Skippers, I said, were in rare demand in my line of business. We hadn't
used a skipper for years.

"Chust that! chust that! I only mentioned it in case. You are making
things for newspapers, my Cot! what will they not do now for the penny?
Well, that is it; I am out of a chob; chust putting bye the time. I'm not
vexed for myself, so mich as for poor Dougie. Dougie wass mate, and I
wass skipper. I don't know if you kent the Fital Spark?"

The Vital Spark, I confessed, was well known to me as the most uncertain
puffer that ever kept the Old New-Year in Upper Lochfyne.

"That wass her!" said Macfarlane, almost weeping. "There was never the
bate of her, and I have sailed in her four years over twenty with my hert
in my mooth for fear of her boiler. If you never saw the Fital Spark, she
is aal hold, with the boiler behind, four men and a derrick, and a
watter-butt and a pan loaf in the fo'c'sle. Oh man! she wass the beauty!
She was chust sublime! She should be carryin' nothing but gentry for
passengers, or nice genteel luggage for the shooting-lodges, but there
they would be spoilin' her and rubbin' all the pent off her with their
coals, and sand, and whunstone, and oak bark, and timber, and trash like

"I understood she had one weakness at least, that her boiler was apt to

"It's a--lie," cried Macfarlane, quite furious;  "her boiler never primed
more than wance a month, and that wass not with fair play. If Dougie wass
here he would tell you.

"I wass ass prood of that boat ass the Duke of Argyll, ay, or Lord
Breadalbane. If you would see me waalkin' aboot on her dake when we wass
lyin' at the quay! There wasna the like of it in the West Hielan's. I
wass chust sublime! She had a gold bead aboot her; it's no lie I am
tellin' you, and I would be pentin' her oot of my own pocket every time
we went to Arran for gravel. She drawed four feet forrit and nine aft,
and she could go like the duvvle."

"I have heard it put at five knots," I said maliciously.

Macfarlane bounded from his seat. "Five knots!" he cried. "Show me the
man that says five knots, and I will make him swallow the hatchet. Six
knots, ass sure ass my name iss Macfarlane; many a time between the Skate
and Otter. If Dougie wass here he would tell you. But I am not braggin'
aboot her sailin'; it wass her looks. Man, she was smert, smert! Every
time she wass new pented I would be puttin' on my Sunday clothes. There
wass a time yonder they would be callin' me Two-flag Peter in Loch Fyne.
It wass wance the Queen had a jubilee, and we had but the wan flag, but a
Macfarlane never wass bate, and I put up the wan flag and a regatta
shirt, and I'm telling you she looked chust sublime!"

"I forget who it was once told me she was very wet," I cooed blandly;
"that with a head wind the Vital Spark nearly went out altogether. Of
course, people will say nasty things about these hookers. They say she
was very ill to trim, too."

Macfarlane jumped up again, grinding his teeth, and his face purple. He
could hardly speak with indignation.  "Trum!" he shouted.  "Did you say
'trum'? You could trum her with the wan hand behind your back and you
lookin' the other way. To the duvvle with your trum! And they would be
sayin' she wass wet! If Dougie wass here he would tell you. She would not
take in wan cup of watter unless it wass for synin' oot the dishes. She
wass that dry she would not wet a postage stamp unless we slung it over
the side in a pail. She wass sublime, chust sublime!

"I am telling you there iss not many men following the sea that could
sail the Fital Spark the way I could. There iss not a rock, no, nor a
chuckie stone inside the Cumbrie Heid that I do not have a name for. I
would ken them fine in the dark by the smell, and that iss not easy, I'm
telling you. And I am not wan of your dryland sailors. I wass wance at
Londonderry with her. We went at night, and did Dougie no' go away and
forget oil, so that we had no lamps, and chust had to sail in the dark
with our ears wide open. If Dougie wass here he would tell you. Now and
then Dougie would be striking a match for fear of a collusion."

"Where did he show it?" I asked innocently. "Forward or aft?"

"Aft," said the mariner suspiciously. "What for would it be aft? Do you
mean to say there could be a collusion aft? I am telling you she could do
her six knots before she cracked her shaft. It wass in the bow, of
course; Dougie had the matches. She wass chust sublime. A gold bead oot
of my own pocket, four men and a derrick, and a watter-butt and a pan
loaf in the fo'c'sle. My bonnie wee Fital Spark!"

He began to show symptoms of tears, and I hate to see an ancient
mariner's tears, so I hurriedly asked him how he had lost the command.

"I will tell you that," said he. "It was Dougie's fault. We had yonder a
cargo of coals for Tarbert, and we got doon the length of Greenock, going
fine, fine. It wass the day after the New Year, and I wass in fine trum,
and Dougie said, 'Wull we stand in here for orders?' and so we went into
Greenock for some marmalade, and did we no' stay three days? Dougie and
me wass going about Greenock looking for signboards with Hielan' names on
them, and every signboard we could see with Campbell, or Macintyre, on
it, or Morrison, Dougie would go in and ask if the man came from
Kilmartin or anyway roond aboot there, and if the man said no, Dougie
would say, 'It's a great peety, for I have cousins of the same name, but
maybe you'll have time to come oot for a dram?' Dougie was chust sublime!

"Every day we would be getting sixpenny telegrams from the man the coals
was for at Tarbert, but och! we did not think he wass in such an aawful
hurry, and then he came himself to Greenock with the Grenadier, and the
only wans that wass not in the polls-office wass myself and the derrick.
He bailed the laads out of the polls-office, and 'Now,' he said,' you
will chust sail her up as fast as you can, like smert laads, for my
customers iss waiting for their coals, and I will go over and see my
good-sister at Helensburgh, and go back to Tarbert the day efter

"Hoo can we be going and us with no money?' said Dougie--man, he wass
sublime! So the man gave me a paper pound of money, and went away to
Helensburgh, and Dougie wass ooilin' up a hawser forrit ready to start
from the quay. When he wass away, Dougie said we would maybe chust be as
weel to wait another tide, and I said I didna know, but what did he
think, and he said, 'Ach, of course!' and we went aal back into Greenock.
'Let me see that pound!' said Dougie, and did I not give it to him? and
then he rang the bell of the public-hoose we were in, and asked for four
tacks and a wee hammer. When he got the four tacks and the wee hammer he
nailed the pound note on the door, and said to the man, 'Chust come in
with a dram every time we ring the bell till that's done!' If Dougie wass
here he would tell you. Two days efter that the owner of the Fital Spark
came doon from Gleska and five men with him, and they went away with her
to Tarbert."

"And so you lost the old command," I said, preparing to go off. "Well, I
hope something will turn up soon."

"There wass some talk aboot a dram," said the mariner. "I thought you
said something aboot a dram, but och! there's no occasion!"

A week later, I am glad to say, the Captain and his old crew were
reinstated on the Vital Spark.


"CANARIES!" said Para Handy contemptuously, "I have a canary yonder at
home that would give you a sore heid to hear him singing. He's chust
sublime. Have I no', Dougie?"

It was the first time the mate had ever heard of the Captain as a
bird-fancier, but he was a loyal friend, and at Para Handy's wink he said
promptly, "You have that, Peter. Wan of the finest ever stepped. Many a
sore heid I had wi't."

"What kind of a canary is it?" asked the Brodick man jealously. "Is it a

Para Handy put up his hand as usual to scratch his ear, and checked the
act half-way. "No, nor a Sandwich; it's chust a plain yellow wan," he
said coolly. "I'll wudger ye a pound it could sing the best you have
blin'. It whustles even-on, night and day, till I have to put it under a
bowl o' watter if I'm wantin' my night's sleep."

The competitive passions of the Brodick man were roused. He considered
that among his dozen prize canaries he had at least one that could beat
anything likely to be in the possession of the Captain of the Vital
Spark, which was lying at Brodick when this conversation took place. He
produced it--an emaciated, sickle-shaped, small-headed, bead-eyed,
business-looking bird, which he called the Wee Free. He was prepared to
put up the pound for a singing contest anywhere in Arran, date hereafter
to be arranged.

"That's all right," said Para Handy, "I'll take you on. We'll be doon
this way for a cargo of grevel in a week, and if the money's wi' the man
in the shippin'-box at the quay, my canary'll lift it."

"But what aboot your pound?" asked the Brodick man. "You must wudger a
pound too."

"Is that the way o't?" said the Captain. "I wass never up to the
gemblin', but I'll risk the pound," and so the contest was arranged.

"But you havena a canary at aal, have you?" said Dougie, later in the
day, as the Vital Spark was puffing on her deliberate way to Glasgow.

"Me?" said Para Handy, "I would as soon think of keepin' a hoolet. But
och, there's plenty in Gleska if you have the money. From the needle to
the anchor. Forbye, I ken a gentleman that breeds canaries; he's a
riveter, and if I wass gettin' him in good trum he would maybe give me a
lend o' wan. If no', we'll take a dander up to the Bird Market, and pick
up a smert wan that'll put the hems on Sandy Kerr's Wee Free. No man wi'
any releegion aboot him would caal his canary a Wee Free."

The Captain and the mate of the Vital Spark left their noble ship at the
wharf that evening--it was a Saturday--and went in quest of the gentleman
who bred canaries. He was discovered in the midst of an altercation with
his wife which involved the total destruction of all the dishes on the
kitchen-dresser, and, with a shrewdness and consideration that were never
absent in the Captain, he apologised for the untimely intrusion and
prepared to go away. "I see you're busy," he said, looking in on a floor
covered with the debris of the delft which this ardent lover of bird life
was smashing in order to impress his wife with the fact that he was
really annoyed about something--"I see you're busy. Fine, man, fine! A
wife need never weary in this hoose--it's that cheery. Dougie and me wass
chust wantin' a wee lend of a canary for a day or two, but och, it doesna
matter, seein' ye're so throng; we'll chust try the shops."

It was indicative of the fine kindly humanity of the riveter who loved
canaries that this one unhesitatingly  stopped his labours, having
disposed of the last plate, and said, "I couldna dae't, chaps; I wadna
trust a canary oot o' the hoose; there's nae sayin' the ill-usage it
micht get. It would break my he'rt to ha'e onything gang wrang wi' ony o'
my birds."

"Chust that, Wull, chust that!" said Para Handy agreeably. "Your feelings
does you credit. I would be awful vexed if you broke your he'rt; it'll
soon be the only hale thing left in the noose. If I wass you, and had
such a spite at the delf, I would use dunnymite," and Dougie and he

"That's the sort of thing that keeps me from gettin' merrit," the
Captain, with a sigh, confided to his mate, when they got down the stair.
"Look at the money it costs for dishes every Setturday night."

"Them riveters iss awfu' chaps for sport," said Dougie irrelevantly.

"There's nothing for't now but the Bird Market," said the Captain,
leading the way east along Argyle Street. They had no clear idea where
that institution was, but at the corner of Jamaica Street consulted
several Celtic compatriots, who put them on the right track. Having
reached the Bird Market, the Captain explained his wants to a party who
had "Guaranteed A1 Songsters" to sell at two shillings. This person was
particularly enthusiastic about one bird which in the meantime was as
silent as "the harp that once through Tara's halls." He gave them his
solemn assurance it was a genuine prize roller canary; that when it
started whistling, as it generally did at breakfast time, it sang till
the gas was lit, with not even a pause for refreshment. For that reason
it was an economical canary to keep; it practically cost nothing for seed
for this canary. If it was a songster suitable for use on a ship that was
wanted, he went on, with a rapid assumption that his customers were of a
maritime profession, this bird was peculiarly adapted for the post. It
was a genuine imported bird, and had already made a sea voyage. To sell a
bird of such exquisite parts for two shillings was sheer commercial
suicide; he admitted it, but he was anxious that it should have a good

"I wish I could hear it whustlin'," said the Captain, peering through the
spars at the very dejected bird, which was a moulting hen.

"It never sings efter the gas is lighted," said the vendor regretfully,
"that's the only thing that's wrang wi't. If that bird wad sing at nicht
when the gas was lit, it wad solve the problem o' perpetual motion."

Para Handy, considerably impressed by this high warrandice, bought the
canary, which was removed from the cage and placed in a brown paper
sugar-bag, ventilated by holes which the bird-seller made in it with the
stub of a lead pencil.

"Will you no' need a cage?" asked Dougie.

"Not at aal, not at aal!" the Captain protested; "wance we get him doon
to Brodick we'll get plenty o' cages," and away they went with their
purchase, Para Handy elate at the imminent prospect of his prize canary
winning an easy pound. Dougie carefully carried the bag containing the

Some days after, the Vital Spark arrived at Brodick, but the Captain, who
had not yet staked his pound with the man in the shipping-box as agreed
on,  curiously enough showed no disposition to bring off the challenge
meeting between the birds. It was by accident he met the Brodick man one
day on the quay.

"Talking about birds," said Para Handy, with some diffidence, "Dougie and
me had a canary yonder--"

"That's aal off," said the Brodick man hurriedly, getting very red in the
face, showing so much embarrassment, indeed, that the Captain of the
Vital Spark smelt a rat.

"What way off?" he asked. "It sticks in my mind that there wass a kind of
a wudger, and that there's a pound note in the shupping-box for the best

"Did you bring your canary?" asked the Brodick man anxiously.

"It's doon there in the vessel singin' like to take the rivets oot o'
her," said Para Handy. "It's chust sublime to listen to."

"Weel, the fact iss, I'm not goin' to challenge," said the Brodick man.
"I have a wife yonder, and she's sore against bettin' and wudgerin' and
gemblin', and she'll no let me take my champion bird Wee Free over the

"Chust that!" said Para Handy. "That's a peety. Weel, weel, the pund'll
come in handy. I'll chust go away down to the shupping-box and lift it.
Seeing I won, I'll stand you a drink."

The Brodick man maintained with warmth that as Para Handy had not yet
lodged his stake of a pound the match was off; an excited discussion
followed, and the upshot was a compromise. The Brodick man, having failed
to produce his bird, was to forfeit ten shillings, and treat the crew of
the Vital Spark.  They were being treated, and the ten shillings were in
Para Handy's possession, when the Brodick sportsman rose to make some
disconcerting remark.

"You think you are very smert, Macfarlane," he said, addressing the
Captain. "You are thinkin' you did a good stroke to get the ten
shullin's, but if you wass smerter it iss not the ten shullin's you would
have at aal, but the pound. I had you fine, Macfarlane. My wife never
said a word aboot the wudger, but my bird is in the pook, and couldna
sing a note this week. That's the way I backed oot."

Para Handy displayed neither resentment nor surprise. He took a deep
draught of beer out of a quart pot, and then smiled with mingled
tolerance and pity on the Brodick man.

"Ay, ay!" he said, "and you think you have done a smert thing. You have
mich caause to be ashamed of yourself. You are nothing better than a
common swundler. But och, it doesna matter; the fact iss, oor bird's

"Deid!" cried the Brodick man. "What do you mean by deid?"

"Chust that it's no' livin'," said Para Handy coolly. "Dougie and me
bought wan in the Bird Market, and Dougie was carryin' it doon to the
vessel in a sugar-poke when he met some fellows he kent in Chamaica
Street, and went for a dram, or maybe two. Efter a while he didna mind
what he had in the poke, and he put it in his troosers pockets, thinkin'
it wass something extra for the Sunday's dinner. When he brought the poor
wee bird oot of his pocket in the mornin', it wass chust a' remains."


THE crew of the Vital Spark were all willing workers, except The Tar, who
was usually as tired when he rose in the morning as when he went to bed.
He said himself it was his health, and that he had never got his strength
right back since he had the whooping-cough twice when he was a boy. The
Captain was generally sympathetic, and was inclined to believe The Tar
was destined to have a short life unless he got married and had a wife to
look after him. "A wife's the very thing for you," he would urge; "it's
no' canny, a man as delicate as you to be having nobody to depend on."

"I couldna afford a wife," The Tar always maintained. "They're all too
grand for the like of me."

"Och ay! but you might look aboot you and find a wee, no' aawfu' bonny
wan," said Para Handy.

"If she was blin', or the like of that, you would have a better chance of
gettin' her," chimed in Dougie, who always scoffed at The Tar's
periodical illnesses, and cruelly ascribed his lack of energy to sheer

The unfortunate Tar's weaknesses always seemed to come on him when there
was most to do. It generally took the form of sleepiness, so that
sometimes when he was supposed to be preparing the dinner he would be
found sound asleep on the head of a bucket, with a half-peeled potato in
his hand. He once crept out of the fo'c'sle rubbing his eyes after a
twelve-hours' sleep, saying, "Tell me this and tell me no more, am I
going to my bed or comin' from it?"

But there was something unusual and alarming about the illness which
overtook The Tar on their way up Loch Fyne to lift a cargo of timber.
First he had shivers all down his back; then he got so stiff that he
could not bend to lift a bucket, but had to kick it along the deck in
front of him, which made Dougie admiringly say, "Man! you are an aawful
handy man with your feet, Colin." His appetite, he declared, totally
disappeared immediately after an unusually hearty breakfast composed of
six herrings and two eggs; and finally he expressed his belief that there
was nothing for it but his bed.

"I'll maybe no trouble you long, boys," he moaned lugubriously. "My
heid's birling roond that fast that I canna even mind my own name two

"You should write it on a wee bit paper," said Dougie unfeelingly, "and
keep it inside your bonnet, so that you could look it up at any time you
were needin'."

Para Handy had kinder feelings, and told The Tar to go and lie down for
an hour or two and take a wee drop of something.

"Maybe a drop of brandy would help me," said The Tar, promptly preparing
to avail himself of the Captain's advice.

"No, not brandy; a drop of good Brutish spurits will suit you better,
Colin," said the Captain, and went below to dispense the prescription

The gusto with which The Tar swallowed the prescribed dram of British
spirits and took a chew of tobacco after it to enhance the effect, made
Para Handy somewhat suspicious, and he said so to Dougie when he got on
deck, leaving The Tar already in a gentle slumber.

"The rascal's chust scheming," said Dougie emphatically. "There iss
nothing in the world wrong with him but the laziness. If you'll notice,
he aalways gets no weel when we're going to lift timber, because it iss
harder on him at the winch."

The Captain was indignant, and was for going down there and then with a
rope's-end to rouse the patient, but Dougie confided to him a method of
punishing the malingerer and at the same time getting some innocent
amusement for themselves.

Dinner-time came round. The Tar instinctively wakened and lay wondering
what they would take down to him to eat. The Vital Spark was puff-puffing
her deliberate way up the loch, and there was an unusual stillness on
deck. It seemed to The Tar that the Captain and Dougie were moving about
on tiptoe and speaking in whispers. The uncomfortable feeling this
created in his mind was increased when his two shipmates came down with
slippers on instead of their ordinary sea-boots, creeping down the
companion with great caution, carrying a bowl of gruel.

"What's that for?" asked The Tar sharply. "Are you going to paste up any

"Wheest, Colin," said Para Handy, in a sick-room whisper. "You must not
excite yourself, but take this gruel. It'll do you no herm. Poor fellow,
you're looking aawful bad." They hung over his bunk with an attitude of
chastened grief, and Dougie made to help him to the gruel with a spoon as
if he were unable to feed himself.

"Have you no beef?" asked The Tar, looking at the gruel with disgust.
"I'll need to keep up my strength with something more than gruel."

"You daurna for your life take anything but gruel," said the Captain
sorrowfully. "It would be the daith of you at wance to take beef, though
there's plenty in the pot. Chust take this, like a good laad, and don't
speak. My Chove! you are looking far through."

"You're nose is as sherp as a preen," said Dougie in an awed whisper, and
with a piece of engine-room waste wiped the brow of The Tar, who was
beginning to perspire with alarm.

"I don't think I'm so bad ass aal that," said the patient. "It wass chust
a turn; a day in my bed'll put me aal right--or maybe two."

They shook their heads sorrowfully, and the Captain turned away as if to
hide a tear. Dougie blew his nose with much ostentation and stifled a

"What's the metter wi' you?" asked The Tar, looking at them in amazement
and fear.

"Nothing, nothing, Colin," said the Captain. "Don't say a word. Iss there
anything we could get for you?"

"My heid's bad yet," the patient replied. "Perhaps a drop of spurits--"

"There's no' another drop in the ship," said the Captain.

The patient moaned. "And I don't suppose there's any beer either?" he
said hopelessly.

He was told there was no beer, and instructed to cry if he was requiring
any one to come to his assistance, after which the two nurses crept
quietly on deck again, leaving him in a very uneasy frame of mind.

They got into the quay late in the afternoon, and the Captain and mate
came down again quietly, with their caps in their hands, to discover The
Tar surreptitiously smoking in his bunk to dull the pangs of hunger that
now beset him, for they had given him nothing since the gruel.

"It's not for you, it's not for you at aal, smokin'!" cried Para Handy in
horror, taking the pipe out of his hand. "With the trouble you have,
smoking drives it in to the hert and kills you at wance."

"What trouble do you think it iss?" asked the patient seriously.

"Dougie says it's--it's--what did you say it wass, Dougie?"

"It's convolvulus in the inside," said Dougie solemnly; "I had two
aunties that died of it in their unfancy."

"I'm going to get up at wance!" said The Tar, making to rise, but they
thrust him back in his blankets, saying the convolvulus would burst at
the first effort of the kind he made.

He began to weep. "Fancy a trouble like that coming on me, and me quite
young!" he said, pitying himself seriously. "There wass never wan in oor
femily had it."

"It's sleep brings it on," said Dougie, with the air of a specialist who
would ordinarily charge a fee often guineas--"sleep and sitting doon.
There iss nothing to keep off convolvulus but exercise and rising early
in the morning. Poor fellow! But you'll maybe get better; when there's
hope there's life. The Captain and me wass wondering if there wass
anything we could buy ashore for you--some grapes, maybe, or a shullin'
bottle of sherry wine."

"Mercy on me! am I ass far through ass that?" said The Tar.

"Or maybe you would like Macphail, the enchineer, to come doon and read
the Scruptures a while to you," said Para Handy.

"Macphail!" cried the poor Tar; "I wudna let a man like that read a
song-book to me."

They clapped him affectionately on the shoulders;

Dougie made as if to shake his hand, and checked himself; then the
Captain and mate went softly on deck again, and the patient was left with
his fears. He felt utterly incapable of getting up.

Para Handy and his mate went up the town and had a dram with the local
joiner, who was also undertaker. With this functionary in their company
they were moving towards the quay when Dougie saw in a grocer's shop-door
a pictorial card bearing the well-known monkey portrait advertising a
certain soap that won't wash clothes. He went chuckling into the shop,
made some small purchase, and came out the possessor of the picture. Half
an hour later, when it was dark, and The Tar was lying in an agony of
hunger which he took to be the pains of internal convolvulus. Para Handy,
Dougie, and the joiner came quietly down to the fo'c'sle, where he lay.
They had no'lamp, but they struck matches and looked at him in his bunk
with countenances full of pity.

"A nose as sherp as a preen," said Dougie; "it must be the galloping kind
of convolvulus."

"Here's Macintyre the joiner would like to see you, Colin," said Para
Handy, and in the light of a match the patient saw the joiner cast a
rapid professional eye over his proportions.

"What's the joiner wantin' here?" said The Tar, with a frightful

"Nothing, Colin, nothing--six by two--I wass chust passing--six by
two--chust passing, and the Captain asked me in to see you. It's--six by
two, six by two--it's no' very healthy weather we're havin'. Chust that!"

The fo'c'sle was in darkness and The Tar felt already as if he was dead
and buried. "Am I lookin' very bad?" he ventured to ask Dougie.

"Bad's no' the name for it," said Dougie. "Chust look at yourself in the
enchineer's looking-gless." He produced from under his arm the engineer's
little mirror, on the face of which he had gummed the portrait of the
monkey cut out from the soap advertisement, which fitted neatly into the
frame. The Captain struck a match, and in its brief and insufficient
light The Tar looked at himself, as he thought, reflected in the glass.

"Man, I'm no' that awful changed either; if I had a shave and my face
washed. I don't believe it's convolvulus at aal," said he, quite
hopefully, and jumped from his bunk.

For the rest of the week he put in the work of two men.


THE last passenger steamer to sail that day from Ardrishaig was a trip
from Rothesay. It was Glasgow Fair Saturday, and Ardrishaig Quay was
black with people. There was a marvellously stimulating odour of dulse,
herring, and shell-fish, for everybody carried away in a handkerchief a
few samples of these marine products that are now the only seaside
souvenirs not made in Germany. The Vital Spark, in ballast, Clydeward
bound, lay inside the passenger steamer, ready to start when the latter
had got under weigh, and Para Handy and his mate meanwhile sat on the
fo'c'sle-head of "the smertest boat in the tred" watching the frantic
efforts of lady excursionists to get their husbands on the steamer before
it was too late, and the deliberate efforts of the said husbands to slink
away up the village again just for one more drink. Wildly the steamer
hooted from her siren, fiercely clanged her bell, vociferously the
Captain roared upon his bridge, people aboard yelled eagerly to friends
ashore to hurry up, and the people ashore as eagerly demanded to know
what all the hurry was about, and where the bleezes was Wull. Women
loudly defied the purser to let the ship go away without their John, for
he had paid his money for his ticket, and though he was only a working
man his money was as good as anybody else's; and John, on the quay, with
his hat thrust back on his head, his thumbs in the armholes of his
waistcoat and a red handkerchief full of dulse at his feet, gave a
display of step-dancing that was responsible for a great deal of the
congestion of traffic at the shore end of the gangway.

Among the crowd who had got on board was a woman with eleven children.
She was standing on the paddle-box counting them to make sure--five
attached to the basket that had contained their food for the day, other
four clinging to her gown, and one in her arms. "Yin, twa, three, fower,
and tower's eight, and twa's ten, and then there's Wee Teeny wi' her
faither doon the caibin." She was quite serene. If she could have seen
that the father--at that moment in the fore-saloon singing

"In the guid auld summer time,
In the guid auld summer time,
She'll be your tootsy-wootsy
In the guid auld summer time."

had no Wee Teeny with him, she would have been distracted. As it was,
however, the steamer was miles on her way when a frantic woman with ten
crying children all in a row behind her, and a husband miraculously
sobered, made a vain appeal to the Captain to go back to Ardrishaig for
her lost child.

The child was discovered on the quay by the local police ten minutes
after the excursion steamer had started, and just when Para Handy was
about to cast off the pawls. She was somewhere about three years old, and
the only fact that could be extracted from her was that her name was
Teeny. There had probably not been a more contented and self-possessed
person on Ardrishaig Quay that day: she sucked her thumb with an air of
positive relish, smiled on the slightest provocation, and showed the
utmost willingness to go anywhere with anybody.

"The poor wee cratur!" said Para Handy sympathetically. "She minds me
fearfully of my brother Cherlie's twuns. I wudna wonder but she'a twuns
too; that would be the way the mistake would be made in leavin' her; it's
such a terrible thing drink. I'm no' goin' to ask you, Dougie, to do
anything you wudna like, but what would you be sayin' to us takin' the
wean wi' us and puttin' her ashore at Rothesay? Mind you, chust if you
like yoursel'."

"It's your own vessel, you're the skipper of her, and I'm sure and I have
no objections, at aal at aal," said Dougie quite heartily, and it was
speedily arranged with the police that a telegram should be sent to wait
the Captain of the excursion steamer at Rothesay, telling him the lost
child was following in the steam-lighter Vital Spark.

Macphail the engineer, and The Tar, kept the child in amusement with
pocket-knives, oil-cans, cotton-waste, and other maritime toys, while the
Captain and Dougie went hurriedly up the village for stores for the
unexpected passenger.

"You'll not need that mich," was Dougie's opinion; "she'll fall asleep as
soon as it's dark, and no' wake till we put her ashore at Rothesay."

"Ah, but you canna be sure o' them at that age," said the Captain. "My
brother Cherlie wass merrit on a low-country woman, and the twuns used to
sit up at night and greet in the two languages, Gaalic and Gleska, till
he had to put plugs in them."

"God bless me! plugs?" said Dougie astonished.

"Ay, chust plugs," said the Captain emphatically. "You'll see them often.
They're made of kahouchy, with a bone ring on them for screwing them on
and off. It's the only thing for stopping them greetin'."

The adventures of Wee Teeny from this stage may be better told as Para
Handy told it to me some time afterwards.

"To let you ken," he said, "I wass feared the wean would sterve. Nothing
in the ship but sea biscuits and salt beef. I went into wan shop and got
a quart of milk on draught, half a pound of boiled ham the same as they
have at funerals, and a tin tinny For a Good  Girl. Dougie wasna slack
either; he went into another shop and got thruppence worth of sweeties
and a jumpin'-jack. It wass as nice a thing ass ever you saw to see the
wee cratur sittin' on the hatches eatin' away and drinkin' wi' the wan
hand, and laughing like anything at the jumpin'-jeck wi' the other. I
never saw the ship cheerier; it wass chust sublime. If Dougie wass here
himsel' he would tell you. Everything wass going first-rate, and I wass
doon below washing my face and puttin' on my other jecket and my
watch-chain oot o' respect for the passenger, when Dougie came doon in a
hurry wi' a long face on him, and says--

"'She's wantin' ta-ta.'

"'Mercy on us, she canna be more ta-ta than she iss unless we throw her
over the side,' I says to Dougie. But I went up on dake and told her she
would be ta-ta in no time becaase the ship was loggin' six knots and the
wind wi' us.

"'Ta-ta,' says she, tuggin' my whuskers the same as if I wass merrit on
her--ah, man! she wass a nice wee thing. And that good-natured! The best
I could do wass to make The Tar show her the tattoo marks on his legs,
and Dougie play the trump (Jew's harp), and when she wass tired o' that I
carried her up and doon the dake singin' 'Auld Lang Syne' till she was
doverin' over.

"'She's goin' to sleep noo,' I says to Dougie, and we put her in my bunk
wi' her clothes on. She wanted her clothes off, but I said, 'Och! never
mind puttin' them off. Teeny; it's only a habit.' Dougie said, if he
minded right, they always put up a kind of prayer at that age. 'Give her
a start,' I says to Dougie, and  he said the 23rd Psalm in Gaalic, but
she didn't understand wan word of it, and went to sleep wi' a poke o'
sweeties in her hand.

"We were off Ardlamont, and Macphail wass keepin' the boat bangin' at it
to get to Rothesay before the mother went oot of her wuts, when I heard a
noise doon below where Teeny wass. I ran doon and found her sittin' up
chokin' wi' a sweetie that wass a size too lerge for her. She wass black
in the face.

"'Hut her on the back, Peter!' said Dougie.

"'Hut her yoursel'; I wudna hurt her for the world,' I says, and Dougie
said he wudna do it either, but he ran up for The Tar, that hasna mich
feelin's, and The Tar saved her life. I'm tellin' you it wass a start! We
couldna trust her below, herself, efter that, so we took her on dake
again. In ten meenutes she fell down among Macphail's engines, and nearly
spoiled them. She wasna hurt a bit, but Macphail's feelin's wass, for she
wass wantin' the engines to her bed wi' her. She thought they were a kind
of a toy. We aye keep that up on him yet.

"'My Chove! this wean's no' canny,' said Dougie, and we took her up on
dake again, and put up the sail to get as mich speed oot of the vessel as
we could for Rothesay. Dougie played the trump even-on to her, and The
Tar walked on his hands till she was sore laughing at him. Efter a bit we
took oor eyes off her for maybe two meenutes, and when we turned roond
again Teeny wass fallin' doon into the fo'c'sle.

"'This iss the worst cargo ever we had,' I says, takin' her up again no'
a bit the worse. 'If we don't watch her like a hawk aal the time shs'll
do something desperate before we reach Rothesay. Sha'll jump over the
side or crawl doon the funnel, and we'll be black affronted.'

"'I wudna say but you're right,' said Dougie. We put her sittin' on the
hatch wi' the jumpin'-jeck, and the tin tinny For a Good Girl, and my
watch and chain, Dougie's trump, the photygraph of The Tar's lass, and
Macphail's new carpet sluppers to play wi', and the three of us sat roond
her watchin' she didna swallow the watch and chain.

"When I handed her over to her mother and father on Rothesay Quay, I says
to them, 'I'm gled I'm no' a mother; I would a hunder times sooner be a

"But it's a nice thing a wean, too; for a week efter that we missed her
awful," concluded the Captain pensively.


THAT the Captain of the Vital Spark should so persistently remain a
bachelor surprised many people. He was just the sort of man, in many
respects, who would fall an easy prey to the first woman on the look-out
for a good home. He had rather a gallant way with the sex, generally said
"mem" to them all, regardless of class; liked their society when he had
his Sunday clothes on, and never contradicted them. If he had pursued any
other calling than that of mariner I think he would have been captured
long ago; his escape doubtless lay in the fact that sailing about from
place to place, only briefly touching at West-Coast quays, and then being
usually grimed with coal-dust, he had never properly roused their
interest and natural sporting instincts. They never knew what a grand
opportunity they were losing.

"I'm astonished you never got married. Captain," I said to him recently.

"Ach, I couldn't be bothered," he replied, like a man who had given the
matter his consideration before now. "I'm that busy wi' the ship I havena
time. There's an aawful lot of bother aboot a wife. Forbye, my hert's in
the Vital Spark--there's no' a smerter boat in the tred. Wait you till I
get her pented!"

"But a ship's not a wife. Captain," I protested.

"No," said he, "but it's a responsibulity. You can get a wife any time
that'll stick to you the same as if she wass riveted as long's you draw
your pay, but it takes a man with aal his senses aboot him to get a ship
and keep her. And chust think on the expense! Oh, I'm not sayin', mind
you, that I'll not try wan some day, but there's no hurry, no, not a

"But perhaps you'll put it off too long," I said, "and when you're in the
humour to have them they won't have you."

He laughed at the very idea. "Man!" he said, "it's easy seen you have not
studied them. I ken them like the Kyles of Bute. The captain of a steamer
iss the most popular man in the wide world--popularer than the munisters
themselves, and the munisters iss that popular the weemen put bird-lime
in front of the Manses to catch them, the same ass if they were
green-linties. It's worse with sea-captains--they're that dashing, and
they're not aalways hinging aboot the hoose wi' their sluppers on."

"There's another thing," he added, after a little pause, "I couldna put
up with a woman comin' aboot the vessel every pay-day. No, no, I'm for
none o' that. Dougie's wife's plenty."

"But surely she does not invade you weekly?" I said, surprised.

"If the Fital Spark's anywhere inside Ardlamont on a Setturday," said
Para Handy, "she's doon wi' the first steamer from Gleska, and her
door-key in her hand, the same ass if it wass a pistol to put to his
heid. If Dougie was here himsel' he would tell you. She's a low-country
woman, wi' no' a word o' Gaalic, so that she canna understand Dougie at
his best. When it comes to bein' angry in English, she can easy bate him.
Oh, a cluvver woman: she made Dougie a Rechabite, and he's aalways wan
when he's at home, and at keepin' him trum and tidy in his clothes she's
chust sublime. But she's no' canny aboot a ship. The first week efter she
merried him we were lyin' at Innellan, and doon she came on the Setturday
wi' her door-key at full cock. When Dougie saw her comin' doon the quay
he got white, and turned to me, sayin', 'Peter, here's the Mustress; I
wish I hadna touched that dram, she'll can tell it on me, and I'm no'
feared for her, but it would hurt her feelings.'

"'Man!' I said, 'you're an aawful tumid man for a sailor; but haste you
doon the fo'c'sle and you'll get a poke of peppermint sweeties in my
other pocket I had for the church to-morrow. Chust you go like the
duvvle, and I'll keep her in conversation till you get your breath

"Dougie bolted doon below, and wass up in a shot. 'I got the sweeties,
Peter,' he said, 'but, oh! she's as cunning as a jyler, and she'll
chalouse something if she smells the peppermints. What would you say to
the whole of us takin' wan or two sweeties so that we would be aal the
same, and she wouldna suspect me?' 'Very weel,' I said, 'anything to
obleege a mate,' and when the good leddy reached the side of the vessel
the enchineer and The Tar and me and Dougie wass standin' in a row eating
peppermints till you would think it wass the front sate of the Tobermory
Free Church.

"'It's a fine day and an awfu' smell o' losengers,' was the first words
she said when she put her two feet on the deck. And she looked very keen
at her man.

"'It is that, mem,' I said. 'It's the cargo.'

"'What cargo?' said she, looking at Dougie harder than ever. 'I'll cargo

"'I mean the cargo of the boat, mem,' I said quite smert. 'It's a
cheneral cargo, and there's six ton of peppermint sweeties for the
Tarbert fishermen.'

"'What in the wide world dae the Tarbert fishermen dae wi' sae mony
sweeties?' said she.

"'Och, it's chust to keep them from frightening away the herrin' when
they're oot at the fishin',' I said. Man! I'm tellin' you I had aal my
wuts aboot me that day! It wass lucky for us the hatches wass doon, so
that she couldna see the cargo we had in the hold. There wasna wan
sweetie in it.

"I couldna but be nice to the woman, for she wasna my wife, so I turned a
bucket upside doon and gave her a sate, and let on that Dougie was chust
ass mich a man of consequence on the Fital Spark as myself. It does not
do to let a wife see wi' her own eyes that her man iss under you in your
chob, for when she'll get   him at home she'll egg him on to work harder
and get your place, and where are you then, eh! where are you then, I'm
asking? She wass a cluvver woman, but she had no sense. 'Weel,' said
she,' I don't think muckle o' yer boat. I thocht it was a great big boat,
wi' a cabin in it. Instead o' that, it's jist a wee coal yin.'

"Man! do you know that vexed me; I say she wasna the kind of woman Dougie
should have merited at aal, at aal. Dougie's a chentleman like mysel'; he
would never hurt your feelings unless he wass tryin'.

"'There's nothing wrong with the Fital Spark, mem,' I said to her. 'She's
the most namely ship in the tred; they'll be writing things aboot her in
the papers, and men often come to take photographs of her.'

"She chust sniffed her nose at that, the way merrit women have, and said,
'Jist fancy that!'

"'Yes; chust fancy it!' I said to her. 'Six knots in a gale of wind if
Macphail the enchineer is in good trum, and maybe seven if it's
Setturday, and him in a hurry to get home. She has the finest lines of
any steamboat of her size coming oot of Clyde; if her lum wass pented
yellow and she had a bottom strake or two of green, you would take her
for a yat. Perhaps you would be thinkin' we should have a German band on
board of her, with the heid fuddler goin' aboot gaitherin' pennies in a
shell, and the others keekin' over the ends of their flutes and
cornucopias for fear he'll pocket some. What? H'm! Chust that!'

"Efter a bit she said she would like to see what sort of place her man
and the rest of us slept in, so there was nothing for it but to take her
doon to the fo'c'sle,  though it wass mich against my will. When she saw
the fo'c'sle she wass nestier than ever. She said, 'Surely this iss not a
place for Christian men'; and I said, 'No, mem, but we're chust sailors.'
"'There's nae richt furniture in't,' she said. "'Not at present, mem,' I
said. 'Perhaps you were expectin' a piano,' but, och! she wass chust wan
of them Gleska women, she didna know life. She went away up the toon
there and then, and came back wi' a bit of waxcloth, a tin of black soap,
a grocer's calendar, and a wee lookin'-gless, hung her bonnet and the
door-key on a cleat, and started scrubbin' oot the fo'c'sle. Man, it wass
chust peetiful! There wass a damp smell in the fo'c'sle I could feel for
months efter, and I had a cold in my heid for a fortnight. When she had
the floor of the fo'c'sle scrubbed, she laid the bit of waxcloth, got two
nails from The Tar, and looked for a place to hang up the calendar and
the wee lookin'-gless, though there wass not mich room for ornaments of
the kind. 'That's a little mair tidy-like,' she said when she was
feenished, and she came up lookin' for something else to wash. The Tar
saw the danger and went ashore in a hurry.

"'Are ye merrit?' she asked me before she left the vessel wi' Dougie's
pay. "'No, mem,' I said,' I'm not merrit yet.' "'I could easy see that,'
she said, sniffin' her nose again, the same ass if I wass not a captain
at aal, but chust before the mast. 'I could easy see that. It's time you
were hurryin' up. I ken the very wife wad suit you; she's a kizzen o' my
ain, a weedow wumman no' a bit the worse o' the wear.'

"'Chust that!' said I, 'but I'm engaged.'

"'Wha to?' she asked quite sherp, no' very sure o' me.

"'To wan of the Maids of Bute, mem,' I told her, meanin' yon two pented
stones you see from the steamer in the Kyles of Bute; and her bein' a
Gleska woman, and not traivelled mich, she thocht I wass in earnest.

"'I don't ken the faimily,' she said, 'but it's my opeenion you wad be
better wi' a sensible weedow.'

"'Not at aal, mem,' I said, 'a sailor couldna have a better wife nor wan
of the Maids of Bute; he'll maybe no' get mich tocher with her, but
she'll no' come huntin' the quays for him or his wages on the


THE Vital Spark was lying at Greenock with a cargo of scrap-iron, on the
top of which was stowed loosely an extraordinary variety of domestic
furniture, from bird cages to cottage pianos. Para Handy had just had the
hatches off when I came to the quay-side, and he was contemplating the
contents of his hold with no very pleasant aspect.

"Rather a mixed cargo!" I ventured to say.

"Muxed's no' the word for't," he said bitterly. "It puts me in mind of an
explosion. It's a flittin' from Dunoon. There would be no flittin's in
the Fital Spark if she wass my boat. But I'm only the captain, och aye!
I'm only the captain, thirty-five shullin's a-week and liberty to put on
a pea-jecket. To be puttin' scrap-iron and flittin's in a fine smert boat
like this iss carryin' coals aboot in a coach and twice. It would make
any man use Abyssinian language."

"Abyssinian language?" I repeated, wondering.

"Chust that, Abyssinian language--swearing, and the like of that, you ken
fine, yoursel', withoot me tellin' you. Fancy puttin' a flittin' in the
Fital Spark! You would think she wass a coal-laary, and her with two new
coats of pent out of my own pocket since the New Year."

"Have you been fishing?" I asked, desirous to change the subject, which
was, plainly, a sore one with the Captain. And I indicated a small
fishing-net which was lying in the bows.

"Chust the least wee bit touch," he said, with a very profound wink. "I
have a bit of a net there no' the size of a pocket-naipkin, that I use
noo and then at the river-mooths. I chust put it doon--me and Dougie--and
whiles a salmon or a sea-troot meets wi' an accident and gets into't.
Chust a small bit of a net, no' worth speakin' aboot, no' mich bigger nor
a pocket-naipkin. They'll be calling it a splash-net, you ken yoursel'
withoot me tellin' you." And he winked knowingly again.

"Ah, Captain!" I said, "that's bad! Poaching with a splash-net! I didn't
think you would have done it."

"It's no' me; it's Dougie," he retorted promptly. "A fair duvvle for high
jeenks, you canna keep him from it. I told him many a time that it wasna
right, becaause we might be found oot and get the jyle for't, but he says
they do it on aal the smertest yats. Yes, that iss what he said to
me--'They do it on aal the first-cless yats; you'll be bragging the Fital
Spark iss chust ass good ass any yat, and what for would you grudge a

"Still it's theft, Captain," I insisted.  "And it's very, very bad for
the rivers."

"Chust that!" he said complacently.  "You'll likely be wan of them
fellows that goes to the hotels for the fushing in the rivers. There's
more sport aboot a splash-net; if Dougie wass here he would tell you."

"I don't see where the sport comes in," I remarked, and he laughed

"Sport!" he exclaimed. "The best going. There wass wan time yonder we
were up Loch Fyne on a Fast Day, and no' a shop open in the place to buy
onything for the next mornin's breakfast. Dougie says to me, 'What do you
think yoursel' aboot takin' the punt and the small bit of net no' worth
mentionin', and going doon to the river mooth when it's dark and seeing
if we'll no' get a fush?'

"'It's a peety to be poaching on the Fast Day,' I said to him.

"'But it's no' the Fast Day in oor parish,' he said. 'We'll chust give it
a trial, and if there's no fush at the start we'll come away back again.'
Oh! a consuderate fellow, Dougie; he saw my poseetion at wance, and that
I wasna awfu' keen to be fushin' wi' a splash-net on the Fast Day. The
end and the short of it wass that when it wass dark we took the net and
the punt and rowed doon to the river and began to splash. We had got a
fine haul at wance of six great big salmon, and every salmon Dougie would
be takin' oot of the net he would be feeling it all over in a droll way,
till I said to him, 'What are you feel-feelin' for,  Dougie, the same ass
if they had pockets on them? I'm sure they're all right.'

"'Oh, yes,' he says, 'right enough, but I wass frightened they might be
the laird's salmon, and I wass lookin' for the luggage label on them.
There's none. It's all right; they're chust wild salmon that nobody

"Weel, we had got chust ass many salmon ass we had any need for when
somebody birled a whustle, and the river watchers put off in a small boat
from a point outside of us to catch us. There wass no gettin' oot of the
river mooth, so we left the boat and the net and the fush and ran ashore,
and by-and-by we got up to the quay and on board the Fital Spark, and
paaused and consudered things.

"'They'll ken it's oor boat,' said Dougie, and his clothes wass up to the
eyes in salmon scales.

"'There's no doo't aboot that,' I says. 'If it wassna the Fast Day I
wouldna be so vexed; it'll be an awful disgrace to be found oot workin' a
splash-net on the Fast Day. And it's a peety aboot the boat, it wass a
good boat, I wish we could get her back.'

"'Ay, it's a peety we lost her,' said Dougie; 'I wonder in the wide world
who could have stole her when we were doon the fo'c'sle at oor supper?'
Oh, a smert fellow, Dougie! when he said that I saw at wance what he

"'I'll go up this meenute and report it to the polls office,' I said
quite firm, and Dougie said he would go with me too, but that we would
need to change oor clothes, for they were covered with fush-scales. We
changed oor clothes and went up to the sercheant of polls, and reported
that somebody had stolen oor boat.

"He wass sittin' readin' his Bible, it bein' the Fast Day, wi' specs on,
and he keeked up at us, and said, 'You are very spruce, boys, with your
good clothes on at this time of the night.'

"'We aalways put on oor good clothes on the Fital Spark on a Fast Day,' I
says to him; 'it's as little as we can do, though we don't belong to the

"Next day there wass a great commotion in the place aboot some
blackguards doon at the river mooth poachin' with a splash-net. The
Factor wass busy, and the heid gamekeeper wass busy, and the polis wass
busy. We could see them from the dake of the Fital Spark goin' aboot
buzzin' like bum-bees.

"'Stop you!' said Dougie to me aal of a sudden. 'They'll be doon here in
a chiffy, and findin' us with them scales on oor clothes--we'll have to
put on the Sunday wans again.'

"'But they'll smell something if they see us in oor Sunday clothes,' I
said. 'It's no' the Fast Day the day.'

"'Maybe no' here,' said Dougie, 'but what's to hinder it bein' the Fast
Day in oor own parish?'

"We put on oor Sunday clothes again, and looked the Almanac to see if
there wass any word in it of a Fast Day any place that day, but there
wass nothing in the Almanac but tides, and the Battle of Waterloo, and
the weather for next winter. That's the worst of Almanacs; there's
nothing in them you want. We were fair bate for a Fast Day any place,
when The Tar came up and asked me if he could get to the funeral of a
cousin of his in the place at two o'clock.

"'A funeral!'said Dougie. 'The very thing. The Captain and me'll go to
the funeral too. That's the way we have on oor Sunday clothes.' Oh, a
smert, smert fellow, Dougie!

"We had chust made up oor mind it wass the funeral we were dressed for,
and no' a Fast Day any place, when the polisman and the heid gamekeeper
came doon very suspeecious, and said they had oor boat.  'And what's
more,' said the gamekeeper, 'there's a splash-net and five stone of
salmon in it. It hass been used, your boat, for poaching.'

"'Iss that a fact? 'I says. 'I hope you'll find the blackguards,' and the
gamekeeper gave a grunt, and said somebody would suffer for it, and went
away busier than ever. But the polis sercheant stopped behind. 'You're
still in your Sunday clothes, boys,' said he; 'what iss the occasion

"'We're going to the funeral,' I said.

"'Chust that! I did not know you were untimate with the diseased,' said
the sercheant.

"'Neither we were,' I said, 'but we are going oot of respect for Colin.'
And we went to the funeral, and nobody suspected nothin', but we never
got back the boat, for the gamekeeper wass chust needin' wan for a
brother o' his own. Och, ay! there's wonderful sport in a splash-net."


THE TAR'S duties included cooking for the ship's company. He was not
exactly a chef who would bring credit to a first-class club or
restaurant, but for some time after he joined the Vital Spark there was
no occasion to complain of him. Quite often he would wash the
breakfast-cups to have them clean for tea in the evening, and it was only
when in a great hurry he dried plates with the ship's towel. But as time
passed, and he found his shipmates not very particular about what they
ate, he grew a little careless. For instance, Para Handy was one day very
much annoyed to see The Tar carry forward the potatoes for dinner in his

"That's a droll way to carry potatoes, Colin," he said mildly.

"Och! they'll do no herm; it's only an old kep anyway," said The Tar.
"Catch me usin' my other kep for potatoes!"

"It wass not exactly your kep I wass put aboot for," said the Captain.
"It wass chust running in my mind that maybe some sort of a dish would be
nater and genteeler. I'm no' compleenin', mind you, I'm chust mentioning

"Holy smoke!" said The Tar. "You're getting to be aawful polite wi' your
plates for potatoes, and them no peeled!"

But the want of variety in The Tar's cooking grew worse and worse each
voyage, and finally created a feeling of great annoyance to the crew. It
was always essence of coffee, and herring--fresh, salt, kippered, or
red--for breakfast, sausages or stewed steak and potatoes for dinner, and
a special treat in the shape of ham and eggs for Sundays. One unlucky day
for the others of the crew, however, he discovered the convenience of
tinned corned beef, and would feed them on that for dinner three or four
days a week. Of course they commented on this prevalence of tinned food,
which the engineer with some humour always called "malleable mule," but
The Tar had any number of reasons ready for its presence on the midday

"Sorry, boys," he would say affably, "but this is the duvvle of a place;
no' a bit of butcher meat to be got in't till Wednesday, when it comes
wi' the boat from Gleska." Or "The fire went oot on me, chaps, chust when
I wass making a fine thing. Wait you till Setturday, and we'll have
something rare!"

"Ay, ay; live, old horse, and you'll get corn," the Captain would say
under these circumstances, as he artistically carved the wedge of
American meat. "It's a mercy to get anything; back in your plate,

It became at last unbearable, and while The Tar was ashore one day in
Tarbert, buying bottled coffee and tinned meat in bulk, a conference
between the captain, the engineer, and the mate took place.

"I'm no' going to put up wi't any longer," said the engineer
emphatically. "It's all very well for them that has no thinking to do wi'
their heids to eat tinned mule even on, but an engineer that's thinking
aboot his engines all the time, and sweatin' doon in a temperature o'
120, needs to keep his strength up."

"What sort o' heid-work are you talking aboot?" said the Captain. "Iss it
readin' your penny novelles? Hoo's Lady Fitzgerald's man gettin' on?"
This last allusion was to Macphail's passion for penny fiction, and
particularly to a novelette story over which the engineer had once been
foolish enough some years before to show great emotion.

"I move," said Dougie, breaking in on what promised to be an unprofitable
altercation,--"I move that The Tar be concurred."

"Concurred!" said the engineer, with a contemptuous snort. "I suppose you
mean censured?"

"It's the same thing, only spelled different," said the mate.

"What's censured?" asked the Captain.

"It's giving a fellow a duvvie of a clourin'," answered Dougie promptly.

"No, no, I wouldna care to do that to The Tar. Maybe he's doin' the best
he can, poor chap. The Tar never saw mich high life before he came on my
boat, and we'll have to make an allowance for that."

"Herrin' for breakfast seven days a week! it's a fair scandal," said the
engineer. "If you were maister in your own boat, Macfarlane, you would
have a very different kind of man makin' your meat for you."

"There's not mich that iss wholesomer than a good herrin'," said Para
Handy. "It's a fush that's chust sublime. But I'll not deny it would be
good to have a change noo and then, if it wass only a finnen haddie."

"I have a cookery book o' the wife's yonder at home I'll bring wi' me the
next time we're in Gleska, and it'll maybe give him a tip or two," said
the engineer, and this was, in the meantime, considered the most
expedient thing to do.

Next trip, on the way to Brodick on a Saturday with a cargo of bricks.
The Tar was delicately approached by the Captain, who had the cookery
book in his hand. "That wass a nice tender bit of tinned beef we had the
day, Colin," he said graciously. "Capital, aaltogether! I could live
myself on tinned beef from wan end of the year to the other, but Dougie
and the enchineer there's compleenin' that you're givin' it to them too
often. You would think they were lords! But perhaps I shouldna blame
them, for the doctor told the enchineer he should take something tasty
every day, and Dougie's aye frightened for tinned meat since ever he
heard that the enchineer wance killed a man in the Australian bush. What
do you say yoursel' to tryin' something fancy in the cookery line?"

"There's some people hard to please," said The Tar; "I'm sure I'm doin'
the best I can to satisfy you aal. Look at them red herrin's I made this

"They were chust sublime!" said the Captain, clapping him on the back.
"But chust try a change to keep their mooths shut. It'll only need to be
for a little, for they'll soon tire o' fancy things. I have a kind of a
cookery book here you might get some tips in. It's no' mine, mind you,
it's Macphail's."

The Tar took the cookery book and turned over some pages with
contemptuous and horny fingers. "A lot o' nonsense!" he said. "Listen to

"'Take the remains of any cold chicken, mix with the potatoes, put in a
pie-dish, and brown with a salamander.' Where are you to get the cold
chucken? and where are you to take it? Fancy callin' it a remains; it
would be enough to keep you from eatin' chucken. And what's a salamander?
There's no' wan on this vessel, at any rate."

"It's chust another name for cinnamon, but you could leave it oot," said
the Captain.

"Holy smoke! listen to this," proceeded The Tar: "'How to make clear
stock. Take six or seven pounds of knuckle of beef or veal, half a pound
of ham or bacon, a quarter of a pound of butter, two onions, one carrot,
one turnip, half a head of salary,  and two gallons of water.' You
couldna sup that in a week."

"Smaal quantities, smaal quantities, Colin," explained the Captain. "I'm
sorry to put you to bother, but there's no other way of pleasin' them
other fellows."

"There's no' a thing in this book I would eat except a fowl that's
described here," said The Tar, after a further glance through the volume.

"The very thing!" cried the Captain, delighted. "Try a fowl for Sunday,"
and The Tar said he would do his best.

"I soon showed him who wass skipper on this boat," said the Captain going
aft to Dougie and the engineer. "It's to be fowls on Sunday."

There was an old-fashioned cutter yacht at anchor in Brodick Bay with a
leg of mutton and two plucked fowls hanging openly under the overhang of
her stern, which is sometimes even yet the only pantry a yacht of that
type has, though the result is not very decorative.

"Look at that!" said the engineer to The Tar as the Vital Spark puffed
past the yacht.  "There's sensible meat for sailors; no malleable mule.
I'll bate you them fellows has a cook wi' aal his wuts aboot him."

"It's aal right, Macphail," said The Tar; "chust you wait till to-morrow
and I'll give you fancy cookin'."

And sure enough on Sunday he had two boiled fowls for dinner. It was such
an excellent dinner that even the engineer was delighted.

"I'll bate you that you made them hens ready oot o' the wife's cookery
book," he said. "There's no' a better cookery book on the South-side of
Gleska; the genuine Aunt Kate's. People come far and near for the lend
o'that when they're havin' anything extra."

"Where did you buy the hens?" inquired the Captain, nibbling contentedly
at the last bone left after the repast.

"I didna buy them at aal," said The Tar. "I couldna be expected to buy
chuckens on the money you alloo me. Forbye, it doesna say anything aboot
buying in Macphail's cookery book. It says, 'Take two chickens and boil
slowly.' So I chust had to take them."

"What do you mean by that?" asked Para Handy, with great apprehension.

"I chust went oot in a wee boat late last night and took them from the
stern o' yon wee yacht," said The Tar coolly; and a great silence fell
upon the crew of the Vital Spark.

"To-morrow," said the Captain emphatically at last--"to-morrow you'll
have tinned meat; do you know that, Colin? And you'll never have chucken
on the boat again, not if Macphail was breakin' his he'rt for it."


A MAN and his wife came down Crarae Quay from the village. The man
carried a spotted yellow tin box in one hand and a bottle of milk in the
other. He looked annoyed at something. His wife had one child in her
arms, and another walked weeping behind her, occasionally stopping the
weeping to suck a stalk of The Original Crarae Rock. There was a chilly
air of separation about the little procession that made it plain there
had been an awful row. At the quay the Vital Spark lay with her hold half
covered by the hatches, after discharging a cargo. Her gallant commander,
with Dougie, stood beside the winch and watched the family coming down
the quay.

"Take my word for it, Dougie," said Para Handy, "that man's no' in very
good trum; you can see by the way he's banging the box against his legs
and speaking to himsel'. It's no' a hymn he's going over, I'll bate you.
And hersel's no' mich better, or she wouldna be lettin' the poor fellow
carry the box."

The man came forward to the edge of the quay, looked at the newly painted
red funnel of the Vital Spark, and seemed, from his countenance, to have
been seized by some bright idea.

"Hey! you with the skipped kep," he cried down eagerly to Dougie, "when
does this steamer start?"

Para Handy looked at his mate with a pride there was no concealing. "My
Chove! Dougie," he said in a low tone to him. "My Chove! he thinks we're
opposeetion to the Lord of the Isles or the King Edward. I'm aye tellin'
you this boat iss built on smert lines; if you and me had brass buttons
we could make money carryin' passengers."

"Are ye deaf?" cried the man on the quay impatiently, putting down the
tin box, and rubbing the sweat from his brow. "When does this boat

"This iss not a boat that starts at aal," said the Captain. "It's a--it's
a kind of a yat."

"Dalmighty!" exclaimed the man, greatly crestfallen, "that settles it. I
thocht we could get back to Gleska wi' ye. We canna get ludgin's in this
place,  and whit the bleezes are we to dae when we canna get ludgin's?"

"That's a peety," said the Captain. "It's no' a very nice thing to happen
on a Setturday, and there's no way you can get oot of Crarae till Monday
unless you have wan of them motor cars."

"We havena oors wi' us," said the wife, taking up a position beside her
husband and the tin box. "I'm vexed the only thing o' the kind I ha'e's a
cuddy, and if it wasna for him we would ha'e stayed at Rothesay, whaur
you can aye get ludgin's o' some kind. Do ye no' think ye could gie us
twa nicht's ludgin's on your boat? I'm shair there's plenty o' room."

"Bless my sowl, where's the plenty o' room?" asked the Captain. "This
boat cairries three men and an enchineer, and we're crooded enough in the

"Where's that?" she asked, taking all the negotiations out of the hands
of her husband, who sat down on the spotted tin box and began to cut

"Yonder it is," said Para Handy, indicating the place with a lazy,
inelegant, but eloquent gesture of his leg.

"Weel, there's plenty o' room," persisted the woman,--"ye can surely see
for yersel' there's plenty o' room; you and your men could sleep at
the--at the--the stroup o' the boat there, and ye could mak' us ony kind
o' a shake-down doon the stair there "--and she pointed at the hold.

"My coodness! the stroup o' the boat!" exclaimed Para Handy; "you would
think it wass a teapot you were taalkin' aboot. And that's no' a
doon-stairs at aal, it's the howld. We're no' in the habit of takin' in
ludgers in the coastin' tred; I never had wan in the Fital Spark in aal
my life except the time I cairried Wee Teeny. We havena right
accommodation for ludgers; we have no napery, nor enough knives and

"Onything wad dae for a shove-bye," said the woman. "I'm shair ye wouldna
see a dacent man and his wife and twa wee hameless lambs sleepin' in the
quarry as lang as ye could gie them a corner to sit doon in on that nice
clean boat o' yours."

She was a shrewd woman; her compliment to the Vital Spark found the soft
side of its captain's nature, and, to the disgust of Macphail the
engineer and the annoyance of The Tar--though with the hearty consent of
the mate--Jack Flood and his family, with the tin box and the bottle of
milk, were ten minutes later installed in the fo'c'sle of the Vital Spark
as paying guests. The terms arranged were two shillings a night. "You
couldna get ludgin's in a good hotel for mich less," said the Captain,
and Mrs Flood agreed that that was reasonable.

The crew slept somewhat uncomfortably in the hold, and in the middle
watches of the night the Captain wakened at the sound of an infant
crying. He sat up, nudged Dougie awake, and moralised.

"Chust listen to that, Dougie," he said, "the wee cratur's greetin' ass
naitural ass anything, the same ass if it wass a rale ludgin's or on
board wan of them ships that carries passengers to America. It's me that
likes to hear it; it's ass homely a thing ass ever happened on this
vessel. I wouldna say but maybe it'll be good luck. I'm tellin' you what,
Dougie, we'll no' cherge them a d--n ha'penny; what do you think, mate?"

"Whatever you say yoursel'," said Dougie.

The wail of the infant continued; they heard Jack Flood get up at the
request of his wife and sing. He sang "Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep
"--at least he sang two lines of it over and over again, taking liberties
with the air that would have much annoyed the original composer if he
could have heard him.

"It's chust sublime!" said Para Handy, stretched on a rolled-up sail.
"You're a lucky man, Dougie, that iss married and has a hoose of your
own. Oor two ludgers iss maybe pretty cross when it comes to the
quarrelling, but they have no spite at the weans. You would not think
that man Flood had the sense to rise up in the muddle of the night and
sing' Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep' at his child. It chust shows you
us workin'-men have good he'rts."

"Jeck may have a cood enough he'rt," said Dougie, "but, man! he has a
poor, poor ear for music! I wish he would stop it and no' be frightenin'
the wean. I'm sure it never did him any herm."

By-and-by the crying and the music ceased, and the only sound to be heard
was the snore of The Tar and the lapping of the tide against the run of
the vessel.

Sunday was calm and bright, but there was no sign of the lodgers coming
on deck till late in the forenoon, much to the surprise of the Captain.
At last he heard a loud peremptory whistle from the fo'c'sle, and went
forward to see what was wanted. Flood threw up four pairs of boots at
him. "Gie them a bit polish," he said airily. "Ye needna be awfu'
parteecular," he added, "but they're a' glaur, and we like to be dacent
on Sunday."

The Captain, in a daze, lifted the boots and told The Tar to oil them,
saying emphatically at the same time to Dougie, "Efter aal, we'll no' let
them off with the two shillin's. They're too dirty parteecular."

There was another whistle ten minutes later, and Dougie went to see what
was wanted.

"I say, my lad," remarked Mr Flood calmly, "look slippy with the
breakfast; we canna sterve here ony langer."

"Are you no' comin' up for't?" asked Dougie in amazement. "It's a fine
dry day."

"Dry my auntie!" said Mr Flood. "The wife aye gets her breakfast in her
bed on Sundays whether it's wet or dry. Ye'll get the kippered herrin'
and the loaf she brung last nicht beside the lum."

The Tar cooked the lodgers' breakfast under protest, saying he was not
paid wages for being a saloon steward, and he passed it down to the

"Two shilling's a night!" said the Captain. "If I had known what it wass
to keep ludgers, it wouldna be two shillin's a night I would be cherging

He was even more emphatic on this point when a third whistle came from
the fo'c'sle, and The Tar, on going to see what was wanted now, was
informed by Mrs Flood that the cooking was not what she was accustomed
to. "I never saw a steamer like this in my life," she said, "first cless,
as ye micht say, and no' a table to tak' yer meat aff, and only shelfs to
sleep on, and sea-sick nearly the hale nicht to the bargain! Send us doon
a pail o' water to clean oor faces."

Para Handy could stand no more. He washed himself carefully, put on his
Sunday clothes and his watch chain, which always gave him great
confidence and courage, and went to the fo'c'sle-head. He addressed the
lodgers from above.

"Leezy," he said ingratiatingly (for so he had heard Mr Flood designate
his wife), "Leezy, you're missing aal the fun doon there; you should come
up and see the folk goin' to the church; you never saw such style among
the women in aal your days."

"I'll be up in a meenute," she replied quickly; "Jeck, hurry up and hook

On the whole, the lodgers and the crew of the Vital Spark spent a fairly
pleasant Sunday. When the Flood family was not ashore walking in the
neighbourhood, it was lying about the deck eating dulse and picking
whelks culled from the shore by Jack. The mother kindly supplied the
infant with as much dulse and shell-fish as it wanted, and it had for
these a most insatiable appetite.

"You shouldna eat any wulks or things of that sort when there's no 'r's'
in the month," Para Handy advised her. "They're no' very wholesome then."

"Fiddlesticks!" said Mrs Flood. "I've ett wulks every Fair since I was a
wee lassie, and look at me noo! Besides, there's an 'r' in Fair, that
puts it a' richt."

That night the infant wailed from the moment they went to bed till it was
time to rise in the morning; Jack Flood sang "Rocked in the Cradle of the
Deep" till he was hoarse, and the crew in the hold got up next morning
very sorry for themselves.

"You'll be takin' the early steamer?" said Para Handy at the first

"Och! we're gettin' on fine," said Jack cheerfully; "Leezy and me thinks
we'll just put in the week wi' ye," and the wife indicated her hearty

"You canna stay here," said the Captain firmly.

"Weel, we're no' goin' to leave, onywye," said Mr Flood, lighting his
clay pipe. "We took the ludgin's, and though they're no' as nice as we
would like, we're wullin' to put up with them, and ye canna put us oot
withoot a week's warnin'."

"My Chove! do you say that?" said Para Handy in amazement. "You're the
first and last ludger I'll have on this vessel!"

"A week's notice; it's the law o' the land," said the admirable Mr Flood,
"isn't that so, Leezy?"

"Everybody that has sense kens that that's richt," said Mrs Flood. And
the Flood family retired en masse to the fo'c'sle.

Ten minutes later the Vital Spark was getting up steam, and soon there
were signs of her immediate departure from the quay.

"Whaur are ye gaun?" cried Jack, coming hurriedly on deck.

"Outward bound," said Para Handy with indifference. "That's a sailor's
life for you, here the day and away yesterday."

"To Gleska?" said Mr Flood hopefully.

"Gleska!" said Para Handy. "We'll no' see it for ten months; we're bound
for the Rio Grande."

"Whaur's that in a' the warld?" asked Mrs Flood, who had joined her
husband on deck.

"Oh! chust in foreign perts," said Para Handy. "Away past the Bay of
Biscay, and the first place on your left-hand side after you pass New
Zealand. It's where the beasts for the Zoo comes from."

In four minutes the Flood family were off the ship,  and struggling up
the quay with the spotted tin trunk, and the Vital Spark was starting for

"I'm a stupid man," said Para Handy in a few minutes after leaving the
quay. "Here we're away and forgot aal aboot the money for the ludgin's."


IT was a dirty evening, coming on to dusk, and the Vital Spark went
walloping drunkenly down Loch Fyne with a cargo of oak bark, badly
trimmed. She staggered to every shock of the sea; the waves came combing
over her quarter, and Dougie the mate began to wish they had never sailed
that day from Kilcatrine. They had struggled round the point of
Pennymore, the prospect looking every moment blacker, and he turned a
dozen projects over in his mind for inducing Para Handy to anchor
somewhere till the morning. At last he remembered Para's partiality for
anything in the way of long-shore gaiety, and the lights of the village
of Furnace gave him an idea.

"Ach! man, Peter," said he, "did we no' go away and forget this wass the
night of the baal at Furnace? What do you say to going in and joining the

"You're feared, Dougie," said the Captain; "you're scaared to daith for
your life, in case you'll have to die and leave your money. You're
thinkin' you'll be drooned, and that's the way you want to put her into
Furnace. Man! but you're tumid, tumid! Chust look at me--no' the least
put aboot. That's becaause I'm a Macfarlane, and a Macfarlane never was
bate yet, never in this world! I'm no' goin' to stop the night for any
baal--we must be in Clyde on Friday; besides, we havena the clothes wi'
us for a baal. Forbye, who'll buy the tickets? Eh? Tell me that! Who'll
buy the tickets?"

"Ach! you don't need tickets for a Furnace baal," said Dougie, flicking
the spray from his ear, and looking longingly at the village they were
nearing. "You don't need tickets for a Furnace baal as long as you ken
the man at the door and taalk the Gaalic at him. And your clothes'll do
fine if you oil your boots and put on a kind of a collar. What's the
hurry for Clyde? It'll no' run dry. In weather like this, too! It's chust
a temptin' of Providence. I had a dream yonder last night that wasna
canny. Chust a temptin' of Providence."

"I wudna say but it is," agreed the Captain weakly, putting the vessel a
little to starboard; "it's many a day since I was at a spree in Furnace.
Are you sure the baal's the night?"

"Of course I am," said Dougie emphatically; "it only started yesterday."

"Weel, if you're that keen on't, we'll maybe be chust as weel to put her
in till the mornin'," said Para Handy, steering hard for Furnace Bay; and
in a little he knocked down to the engines with the usual, "Stop her,
Macphail, when you're ready."

All the crew of the Vital Spark went to the ball, but they did not dance
much, though it was the boast of Para Handy that he was "a fine strong
dancer." The last to come down to the vessel in the morning when the ball
stopped, because the paraffin-oil was done, was the Captain, walking on
his heels, with his pea-jacket tightly buttoned on his chest, and his
round, go-ashore pot hat, as he used to say himself, "on three hairs." It
was a sign that he felt intensely satisfied with everything.

"I'm feeling chust sublime," he said to Dougie, smacking his lips and
thumping himself on the chest as he took his place at the wheel, and the
Vital Spark resumed her voyage down the loch. "I am chust like the eagle
that knew the youth in the Scruptures. It's a fine, fine thing a spree,
though I wass not in the trum for dancing. I met sixteen cousins yonder,
and them all in the committee. They were the proud men last night to be
having a captain for a cousin, and them only quarry-men. It's the
educaation, Dougie; educaation gives you the nerve, and if you have the
nerve you can go round the world."

"You werena very far roond the world, whatever o't," unkindly interjected
the engineer, who stuck up his head at the moment.

The Captain made a push at him angrily with his foot. "Go down,
Macphail," he said, "and do not be making a display of your ignorance on
this ship. Stop you till I get you at Bowling! Not round the world! Man,
I wass twice at Ullapool, and took the Fital Spark to Ireland wance,
without a light on her. There iss not a port I am not acquent with from
the Tail of the Bank to Cairndow, where they keep the two New Years. And
Campbeltown, ay, or Barra, or Tobermory. I'm telling you when I am in
them places it's Captain Peter Macfarlane iss the mich-respected man. If
you were a rale enchineer and not chust a fireman, I would be asking you
to my ludgings to let you see the things I brought from my voyages."

The engineer drew in his head and resumed the perusal of a penny

"He thinks I'm frightened for him," said the Captain, winking darkly to
his mate. "It iss because I am too cuvil to him: if he angers me, I'll
show him. It is chust spoiling the boat having a man like that in cherge
of her enchines, and her such a fine smert boat, with me, and a man like
me, in command of her."

"And there's mysel', too, the mate," said Dougie; "I'm no' bad mysel'."

Below Minard rocks the weather grew worse again: the same old seas
smashed over the Vital Spark. "She's pitching aboot chust like a
washin'-boyne," said Dougie apprehensively. "That's the worst of them
oak-bark cargoes."

"Like a washin'-boyne!" cried Para Handy indignantly; "she's chust doing
sublime. I wass in boats in my time where you would need to be bailing
the watter out of your top-boots every here and there. The smertest boat
in the tred; stop you till I have a pound of my own, and I will paint her
till you'll take her for a yat if it wasna for the him. You and your
washin'-boyne! A washin'-boyne wudna do you any herm, my laad, and that's
telling you."

They were passing Lochgair; the steamer Cygnet overtook and passed them
as if they had been standing, somebody shouting to them from her deck.

Para Handy refrained from looking. It always annoyed him to be passed
this way by other craft; and in summer time, when the turbine King Edward
or the Lord of the Isles went past him like a streak of lightning, he
always retired below to hide his feelings. He did not look at the Cygnet.
"Ay, ay," he said to Dougie, "if I was telling Mr Macbrayne the umpudence
of them fellows, he would put a stop to it in a meenute, but I will not
lose them their chobs; poor sowls! maybe they have wifes and femilies.
That'll be Chonny Mactavish takin' his fun of me; you would think he wass
a wean. Chust like them brats of boys that come to the riverside when
we'll be going up the Clyde at Yoker and cry,' Columbia, ahoy!' at
us--the duvvle's own!"

As the Cygnet disappeared in the distance, with a figure waving at her
stern, a huge sea struck the Vital Spark and swept her from stem to stem,
almost washing the mate, who was hanging on to a stay, overboard.

"Tar! Tar!" cried the Captain. "Go and get a ha'ad o' that bucket or
it'll be over the side."

There was no response. The Tar was not visible, and a wild dread took
possession of Para Handy.

"Let us pause and consider," said he to himself; "was The Tar on board
when we left Furnace?"

They searched the vessel high and low for the missing member of the crew,
who was sometimes given to fall asleep in the fo'c'sle at the time he was
most needed. But there was no sign of him. "I ken fine he wass on board
when we started," said the Captain, distracted, "for I heard him
sputtin'. Look again, Dougie, like a good laad." Dougie looked again, for
he, too, was sure The Tar had returned from the ball with him. "I saw him
with my own eyes," he said, "two of him, the same as if he was a twins;
that iss the curse of drink in a place like Furance." But the search was
in vain, even though the engineer said he had seen The Tar an hour ago.

"Weel, there's a good man gone!" said Para Handy. "Och! poor Tar! It was
yon last smasher of a sea. He's over the side. Poor laad! Poor laad! Cot
bless me, dyin' without a word of Gaalic in his mooth! It's a chudgment
on us for the way we were carryin' on, chust a chudgment; not another
drop of drink will I drink, except maybe beer. Or at a New Year time. I'm
blaming you, Dougie, for making us stop at Furnace for a baal I wudna
give a snuff for. You are chust a disgrace to the vessel, with your
smokin' and your drinkin', and your ignorance. It iss time you were
livin' a better life for the sake of your wife and femily. If it wass not
for you makin'me go into Furnace last night. The Tar would be to the fore
yet, and I would not need to be sending a telegram to his folk from
Ardrishaig. If I wass not steering the boat, I would break my he'rt
greetin' for the poor laad that never did anybody any herm. Get oot the
flag from below my bunk, give it a syne in the pail, and put it at
half-mast, and we'll go into Ardrishaig and send a telegram--it'll be a
sixpence. It'll be a telegram with a sore he'rt, I'll assure you. I do
not know what I will say in it, Dougie. It will not do to break it too
much to them; maybe we will send the two telegrams--that'll be a
shilling. We'll say in the first wan--'Your son, Colin, left the boat
to-day ': and in the next wan we will say--' He iss not coming back, he
iss drooned.' Och! och! poor Tar, amn't I sorry for him? I was chust
going to put up his wages a shillin' on Setturday."

The Vital Spark went in close to Ardrishaig pier just as the Cygnet was
leaving after taking in a cargo of herring-boxes. Para Handy and Dougie
went ashore in the punt, the Captain with his hands washed and his
watch-chain on as a tribute of respect for the deceased. Before they
could send off the telegram it was necessary that they should brace
themselves for the melancholy occasion. "No drinking, chust wan gless of
beer," said Para Handy, and they entered a discreet contiguous
public-house for this purpose.

The Tar himself was standing at the counter having a refreshment, with
one eye wrapped up in a handkerchief.

"Dalmighty!" cried the Captain, staggered at the sight, and turning pale.
"What are you doing here with your eye in a sling?"

"What's your business?" retorted The Tar coolly. "I'm no' in your employ

"What way that?" asked Para Handy sharply.

"Did you no' give me this black eye and the sack last night at the baal,
and tell me I wass never to set foot on the Vital Spark again? It was gey
mean o' you to go away withoot lettin' me get my dunnage oot, and that's
the way I came here with the Cygnet to meet you. Did you no' hear me
roarin' on you when we passed?"

"Weel done! weel done!" said Para Handy soothingly, with a wink at his
mate. "But ach! I wass only in fun, Colin; it wass a jeenk; it wass chust
a baur aalthegither. Come away back to the boat like a smert laad. I have
a shilling here I wass going to spend anyway. Colin, what'll you take? We
thought you were over the side and drooned, and you are here, quite dry
as usual."


I VERY often hear my friend the Captain speak of Hurricane Jack in terms
of admiration and devotion, which would suggest that Jack is a sort of
demigod. The Captain always refers to Hurricane Jack as the most
experienced seaman of modern times, as the most fearless soul that ever
wore oilskins, the handsomest man in Britain, so free with his money he
would fling it at the birds, so generally accomplished that it would be a
treat to be left a month on a desert island alone with him.

"Why is he called Hurricane Jack?" I asked the Captain once.

"What the duvvle else would you caal him?" asked Para Handy. "Nobody ever
caals him anything else than Hurricane Jeck."

"Quite so, but why?" I persisted.

Para Handy scratched the back of his neck, made the usual gesture as if
he were going to scratch his ear, and then checked himself in the usual
way to survey his hand as if it were a beautiful example of Greek
sculpture. His hand, I may say, is almost as large as a Belfast ham.

"What way wass he called Hurricane Jeck?" said he. "Well, I'll soon tell
you that. He wass not always known by that name; that wass a name he got
for the time he stole the sheep."

"Stole the sheep!" I said, a little bewildered, for I failed to see how
an incident of that kind would give rise to such a name.

"Yes; what you might call stole," said Para Handy hastily; "but, och! it
wass only wan smaal wee sheep he lifted on a man that never went to the
church, and chust let him take it! Hurricane Jeck would not steal a
fly--no, nor two flies, from a Chrustian; he's the perfect chentleman in

"Tell me all about it," I said.

"I'll soon do that," said he, putting out his hand to admire it again,
and in doing so upsetting his glass. "Tut, tut!" he said. "Look what I
have done-knocked doon my gless; it wass a good thing there wass nothing
in it.

"Hurricane Jeck," said the Captain, when I had taken the hint and put
something in it, "iss a man that can sail anything and go anywhere, and
aalways be the perfect chentleman. A millionaire's yat or a
washing-boyne--it's aal the same to Jeck; he would sail the wan chust as
smert as the other, and land on the quay as spruce ass if he wass newly
come from a baal. Oh, man! the cut of his jeckets! And never anything
else but 'lastic-sided boots, even in the coorsest weather! If you would
see him, you would see a man that's chust sublime, and that careful about
his 'lastic-sided boots he would never stand at the wheel unless there
wass a bass below his feet. He'll aye be oil-oiling at his hair, and
buying hard hats for going ashore with: I never saw a man wi' a finer
heid for the hat, and in some of the vessels he wass in he would have the
full of a bunker of hats. Hurricane Jeck wass brought up in the China
clupper tred, only he wassna called Hurricane Jeck then, for he hadna
stole the sheep till efter that. He wass captain of the Dora Young, wan
of them cluppers; he's a hand on a gaabert the now, but aalways the
perfect chentleman."

"It seems a sad downcome for a man to be a gabbart hand after having
commanded a China clipper," I ventured to remark. "What was the reason of
his change?"

"Bad luck," said Para Handy. "Chust bad luck. The fellow never got
fair-play. He would aye be somewhere takin' a gless of something wi'
somebody, for he's a fine big cheery chap. I mind splendid when he wass
captain on the clupper, he had a fine hoose of three rooms and a big
decanter, wi' hot and cold watter, oot at Pollokshaws. When you went oot
to the hoose to see Hurricane Jeck in them days, time slupped bye. But he
wassna known as Hurricane Jeck then, for it wass before he stole the

"You were just going to tell me something about that," I said.

"Jeck iss wan man in a hundred, and ass good ass two if there wass
anything in the way of trouble, for, man! he's strong, strong! He has a
back on him like a shipping-box, and when he will come down Tarbert quay
on a Friday night after a good fishing, and the trawlers are arguing,
it's two yerds to the step with him and a bash in the side of his hat for
fair defiance. But he never hit a man twice, for he's aye the perfect
chentleman iss Hurricane Jeck. Of course, you must understand, he wass
not known as Hurricane Jeck till the time I'm going to tell you of, when
he stole the sheep.

"I have not trevelled far mysel' yet, except UIlapool and the time I wass
at Ireland; but Hurricane Jeck in his time has been at every place on the
map, and some that's no'. Chust wan of Brutain's hardy sons--that's what
he iss. As weel kent in Calcutta as if he wass in the Coocaddens, and he
could taalk a dozen of their foreign kinds of languages if he cared to
take the bother. When he would be leaving a port, there wassna a leddy in
the place but what would be doon on the quay wi' her Sunday clothes on
and a bunch o' floo'ers for his cabin. And when he would be sayin'
good-bye to them from the brudge, he would chust take off his hat and
give it a shoogle, and put it on again; his manners wass complete. The
first thing he would do when he reached any place wass to go ashore and
get his boots brushed, and then sing 'Rule Britannia' roond aboot the
docks. It wass a sure way to get freend or foe aboot you, he said, and he
wass aye as ready for the wan as for the other. Brutain's hardy son!

"He made the fastest passages in his time that waas ever made in the tea
trade, and still and on he would meet you like a common working-man.
There wass no pride or nonsense of that sort aboot Hurricane Jeck; but,
mind you, though I'm callin' him Hurricane Jeck, he wasna Hurricane Jeck
till the time he stole the sheep."

"I don't like to press you. Captain, but I'm anxious to hear about that
sheep," I said patiently.

"I'm comin' to't," said Para Handy. "Jeck had the duvvle's own bad luck;
he couldna take a gless by-ordinar' but the ship went wrong on him, and
he lost wan job efter the other, but he wass never anything else but the
perfect chentleman. When he had not a penny in his pocket, he would
borrow a shilling from you, and buy you a stick pipe for yourself chust
for good nature--"

"A stick pipe?" I repeated interrogatively.

"Chust a stick pipe--or a wudden pipe, or whatever you like to call it.
He had three medals and a clock that wouldna go for saving life at sea,
but that wass before he wass Hurricane Jeck, mind you; for at that time
he hadna stole the sheep."

"I'm dying to hear about that sheep," I said.

"I'll soon tell you about the sheep," said Para Handy. "It wass a thing
that happened when him and me wass sailing on the Elizabeth Ann, a boat
that belonged to Girvan, and a smert wan too, if she wass in any kind of
trum at aal. We would be going here and there aboot the West Coast with
wan thing and another, and not costing the owners mien for coals if coals
wass our cargo. It wass wan Sunday we were passing Caticol in Arran, and
in a place yonder where there wass not a hoose in sight we saw a herd of
sheep eating gress near the shore. As luck would have it, there wass not
a bit of butcher-meat on board the Elizabeth Ann for the Sunday dinner,
and Jeck cocked his eye at the sheep and says to me, 'Yonder's some sheep
lost, poor things; what do you say to taking the punt and going ashore to
see if there's anybody's address on them?'

"'Whatever you say yoursel',' I said to Jeck, and we stopped the vessel
and went ashore, the two of us, and looked the sheep high and low, but
there wass no address on them. 'They're lost, sure enough,' said Jeck,
pulling some heather and putting it in his pocket--he wassna Hurricane
Jeck then--' they're lost, sure enough, Peter. Here's a nice wee wan
nobody would ever miss, that chust the very thing for a coal vessel,' and
before you could say 'knife' he had it killed and carried to the punt.
Oh, he iss a smert, smert fellow with his hands; he could do anything.

"We rowed ass caalm ass we could oot to the vessel, and we had chust got
the deid sheep on board when we heard a roarin' and whustling.

"'Taalk about Arran being releegious!" said Jeck. 'Who's that whustling
on the Lord's day?'

"The man that wass whustling wass away up on the hill, and we could see
him coming running doon the hill the same ass if he would break every leg
he had on him.

"'I'll bate you he'll say it's his sheep,' said Jeck. 'Weel, we'll chust
anchor the vessel here till we hear what he hass to say, for if we go
away and never mind the cratur he'll find oot somewhere else it's the
Elizabeth Ann.'

"When the fermer and two shepherds came oot to the Elizabeth Ann in a
boat, she wass lying at anchor, and we were all on deck, every man wi' a
piece o' heather in his jecket.

"'I saw you stealing my sheep,' said the fermer, coming on deck, furious.
'I'll have every man of you jiled for this.'

"'Iss the man oot of his wuts?' said Jeck. 'Drink--chust drink! Nothing
else but drink! If you were a sober Christian man, you would be in the
church at this 'oor in Arran, and not oot on the hill recovering from
last night's carry-on in Loch Ranza, and imagining you are seeing things
that's not there at aal, at aal.'

"'I saw you with my own eyes steal the sheep and take it on board,' said
the fermer, nearly choking with rage.

"'What you saw was my freend and me gathering a puckle heather for oor
jeckets,' said Jeck, 'and if ye don't believe me you can search the ship
from stem to stern.'

"'I'll soon do that,' said the fermer, and him and his shepherds went
over every bit of the Elizabeth Ann. They never missed a corner you could
hide a moose in, but there wass no sheep nor sign of sheep anywhere.

"'Look at that, Macalpine,' said Jeck. 'I have a good mind to have you up
for inflammation of character. But what could you expect from a man that
would be whustling on the hill like a peesweep on a Sabbath when he
should be in the church. It iss a good thing for you, Macalpine, it iss a
Sabbath, and I can keep my temper.'

"'I could swear I saw you lift the sheep,' said the fermer, quite vexed.

"'Saw your auntie! Drink; nothing but the cursed drink!" said Jeck, and
the fermer and his shepherds went away with their tails behind their

"We lay at anchor till it was getting dark, and then we lilted the anchor
and took off the sheep that wass tied to it when we put it oot. 'It's a
good thing salt mutton,' said Hurricane Jeck as we sailed away from
Catiool, and efter that the name he always got wass Hurricane Jeck."

"But why 'Hurricane Jeck'?" I asked, more bewildered than ever.

"Holy smoke! am I no' tellin' ye?" said Para Handy. "It wass because he
stole the sheep."

But I don't understand it yet.


THE owner of the Vital Spark one day sent for her Captain, who oiled his
hair, washed himself with hot water and a scrubbing-brush, got The Tar to
put three coats of blacking on his boots, attired himself in his good
clothes, and went up to the office in a state of some anxiety. "It's
either a rise in pay," he said to himself, "or he's heard aboot the night
we had in Campbeltown. That's the worst of high jeenks; they're aye
stottin' back and hittin' you on the nose; if it's no' a sore heid,
you've lost a pound-note, and if it's nothing you lost, it's somebody
clypin' on you." But when he got to the office and was shown into the
owner's room, he was agreeably enough surprised to find that though there
was at first no talk about a rise of pay, there was, on the other hand,
no complaint.

"What I wanted to see you about, Peter," said the owner, "is my oldest
boy Alick. He's tired of school and wants to go to sea."

"Does he, does he? Poor fellow!" said Para Handy. "Och, he's but young
yet, he'll maybe get better. Hoo's the mustress keepin'?"

"She's very well, thank you, Peter," said the owner. "But I'm anxious
about that boy of mine. I feel sure that he'll run away some day on a
ship; he's just the very sort to do it and I want you to help me. I'm
going to send him one trip with you, and I want you to see that he's put
off the notion of being a sailor--you understand? I don't care what you
do to him so long as you don't break a leg on him, or let him fall over
the side. Give him it stiff."

"Chust that!" said the Captain. "Iss he a boy that reads novelles?"

"Fair daft for them!" said the owner. "That's the cause of the whole

"Then I think I can cure him in wan trip, and it'll no' hurt him either."

"I'll send him down to the Vital Spark on Wednesday, just before you
start," said the owner. "And, by the way, if you manage to sicken him of
the idea, I wouldn't say but there might be a small increase in your

"Och, there's no occasion for that," said Para Handy.

On the Wednesday a boy about twelve years of age, with an Eton suit and a
Saturday-to-Monday hand-bag, came down to the wharf in a cab alone,
opened the door of the cab hurriedly, and almost fell into the arms of
Para Handy, who was on shore to meet him.

"Are you the apprentice for the Fital Spark?" asked the Captain affably.
"Your name'll be Alick?"

"Yes," said the boy. "Are you the Captain?"

"That's me," said the Captain, "die me a haad o' your portmanta," and
taking it out of Alick's hand, he led the way to the side of the wharf,
where the Vital Spark was lying, with a cargo of coals that left her very
little free-board, and all her crew on deck awaiting developments. "I'm
sorry," he said, "we havena any gangway, but I'll hand you doon to
Dougie, and you'll be aal right if your gallowses'll no' give way."

"What! is THAT the boat I'm to go on?" cried the boy, astounded.

"Yes," said the Captain, with a little natural irritation. "And what's
wrong with her? The smertest boat in the tred. Stop you till you see her
goin' roond Ardlamont!"

"But she's only a coal boat; she's very wee," said Alick. "I never
thought my father would apprentice me on a boat like that."

"But it's aye a beginnin'," explained the Captain, with remarkable
patience.  "You must aye start sailorin' some way, and there's many a man
on the brudge of Atlantic liners the day that began on boats no bigger
than the Fital Spark. If you don't believe me, Dougie'll tell you
himsel'. Here, Dougie, catch a haad o' oor new apprentice, and watch you
don't dirty his clean collar wi' your hands." So saying, he slung Alick
down to the mate, and ten minutes later the Vital Spark, with her new
apprentice on board, was coughing her asthmatic way down the river
outward bound for Tarbert. The boy watched the receding wharf with mixed

"What do you say to something to eat?" asked the Captain, as soon as his
command was under way. "I'll tell The Tar to boil you an egg, and you'll
have a cup of tea. You're a fine high-spurited boy, and a growin' boy
needs aal the meat he can get. Watch that rope; see and no' dirty your
collar; it would never do to see an apprentice wi' a dirty collar."

Alick took the tea and the boiled egg, and thought regretfully that life
at sea, so far, was proving very different from what he had expected.
"Where are we bound for?" he asked.

"Oh! a good long trup," said the Captain. "As far as Tarbert and back
again. You'll be an A.B. by the time you come back."

"And will I get wearing brass buttons?" inquired Alick.

"Brass buttons!" exclaimed Para Handy. "Man, they're oot o'date at sea
aalthegither; it's nothing but hooks and eyes, and far less trouble to
keep them clean."

"Can I start learning to climb the mast now?" asked Alick, who was
naturally impatient to acquire the elements of his new profession.

"Climb the mast!" cried Para Handy, horrified. "There wass never an
apprentice did that on my vessel, and never will; it would dirty aal your
hands! I see a shoo'er o' rain oomin'; there's nothing worse for the
young sailor than gettin' damp; away doon below like a good boy, and rest
you, and I'll give you a roar when the rain's past."

Alick went below bewildered. In all the books he had read there had been
nothing to prepare him for such coddling on a first trip to sea; so far,
there was less romance about the business than he could have found at
home in Athole Gardens. It rained all afternoon, and he was not permitted
on deck; jelly "pieces" were sent down to him at intervals. The Tar was
continually boiling him eggs; he vaguely felt some dreadful indignity in
eating them, but his appetite compelled him, and the climax of the most
hum-drum day he had ever spent came at night when the Captain insisted on
his taking gruel to keep off the cold, and on his fastening his stocking
round his neck.

Alick was wakened next morning by The Tar standing at the side of his
bunk with tea on a tray.  "Apprentices aye get their breakfast in their
bed," said The Tar, who had been carefully coached by the Captain what he
was to do. "Sit up and take this, and then have a nice sleep to yoursel',
for it's like to be rainin' aal day, and you canna get on deck."

"Surely I can't melt," said the boy, exasperated. "I'll not learn much
seamanship lying here."

"You would maybe get your daith o' cold," said The Tar, "and a nice-like
job we would have nursin' you." He turned to go on deck when an idea that
Para Handy had not given him came into his head, and with great solemnity
he said to the boy, "Perhaps you would like to see a newspaper; we could
put ashore and buy wan for you to keep you from wearyin'."

"I wouldn't object to 'Comic Cuts,'" said Alick, finding the whole
illusion of life on the deep slipping from him.

But "Comic Cuts" did not come down. Instead, there came the Captain with
a frightful and familiar thing--the strapful of school-books to escape
from which Alick had first proposed a sailor's life. Para Handy had sent
to Athole Gardens for them the previous day.

"Shipmate ahoy!" he cried, cheerily stumping down to the fo'c'sle.
"You'll be frightened you left your books behind, but I sent The Tar for
them, and here they are," and, unbuckling the strap, he poured the
unwelcome volumes on the apprentice's lap.

"Who ever heard of an apprentice sailor taking his school-books to sea
with him?" said Alick, greatly disgusted.

"Who ever heard o'anything else?" retorted the Captain. "Do you think a
sailor doesna need any educaation? Every apprentice has to keep going at
his Latin and Greek, and Bills of Parcels, and the height of Ben Nevis,
and Grammar, and aal the rest of it. That's what they call navigation,
and if you havena the navigation, where are you? Chust that, where are

"Do you meant to tell me that when you were an apprentice you learned
Latin and Greek, and all the rest of that rot?" asked Alick, amazed.

"Of course I did," said the Captain unblushingly. "Every day till my heid
wass sore!"

"Nature Knowledge, too?" asked Alick.

"Nature Knowledge!" cried Para Handy. "At Nature Knowledge I wass chust
sublime! I could do it with my eyes shut. Chust you take your books,
Alick, like a sailor, and wire into your navigation, and it'll be the
brudge for you aal the sooner."

There were several days of this unromantic life for the boy, who had
confidently expected to find the career of a sea apprentice something
very different. He had to wash and dress himself every morning as
scrupulously as ever he did at home for Kelvinside Academy; Para Handy
said that was a thing that was always expected from apprentices, and he
even went further and sent Alick back to the water-bucket on the ground
that his neck and ears required a little more attention. A certain number
of hours each day, at least, were ostensibly devoted to the study of
"Navigation," which, the boy was disgusted to find, was only another name
for the lessons he had had at the Academy. He was not allowed on deck
when it was wet without an umbrella, which the Captain had unearthed from
somewhere; it was in vain he rebelled against breakfast in bed, gruel,
and jelly "pieces."

"If this is being a sailor, I would sooner be in a Sunday School," said
Alick finally.

"Och! you're doin' splendid," said Para Handy. "A fine high-spurited
laad! We'll make a sailor of you by the time we're back at Bowling if you
keep your health. It's pretty cold the night; away doon to your bunk like
a smert laad, and The Tar'll take doon a hot-watter bottle for your feet
in a meenute or two."

When the Vital Spark got back to the Clyde, she was not three minutes at
the wharf when her apprentice deserted her.

Para Handy went up to the owner's office in the afternoon with the boy's
school-books and the Saturday-to-Monday bag.

"I don't know how you managed it," said Alick's father, quite pleased;
"but he's back yonder this morning saying a sailor's life's a fraud, and
that he wouldn't be a sailor for any money. And by the fatness of him, I
should say you fed him pretty well."

"Chust that!" said Para Handy. "The Tar would be aye boilin' an egg for
him noo and then. Advice to a boy iss not much use; the only thing for it
iss kindness, chust kindness. If I wass wantin' to keep that boy at the
sailin', I would have taken the rope's-end to him, and he would be a
sailor chust to spite me. There wass some taalk aboot a small rise in the
pay, but och--"

"That's all right, Peter; I've told the cashier," said the owner, and the
Captain of the Vital Spark went down the stair beaming.


"THE worst cargo ever I sailed wi'," said Macphail the engineer, "was a
wheen o' thae Mahommedan pilgrims: it wasna Eau de Colong they had on
their hankies."

"Mahommedans!" said Para Handy, with his usual Suspicions of the
engineer's foreign experience--"Mahommedans!  Where were they bound for?
Was't Kirkintilloch?"

"Kirkintilloch's no' in Mahommeda," said Macphail nastily. "I'm talkin'
aboot rale sailin', no' wyding in dubs, the way some folk does a' their

"Chust that! chust that!" retorted the Captain, sniffing. "I thought it
wass maybe on the Port-Dundas Canal ye had them."

"There was ten or eleeven o' them died every nicht," proceeded Macphail,
contemptuous of these interruptions. "We just gied them the heave over
the side, and then full speed aheid to make up for the seven meenutes."

"Like enough you would ripe their pockets first," chimed in Dougie. "The
worst cargo ever I sailed with wass leemonade bottles; you could hear
them clinking aal night, and not wan drop of stumulents on board! It wass
duvilish vexing."

"The worst cargo ever I set eyes on," ventured The Tar timidly, in
presence of these hardened mariners, "wass sawdust for stuffing dolls."

"Sawdust would suit you fine, Colin," said the Captain. "I'll warrant you
got plenty of sleep that trup.

"You're there and you're taalking about cargoes," proceeded Para Handy,
"but there's not wan of you had the experience I had, and that wass with
a cargo of shows for Tarbert Fair. They were to go with a
luggage-steamer, but the luggage-steamer met with a kind of an accident,
and wass late of getting to the Broomielaw: she twisted wan of her
port-holes or something like that, and we got the chob. It's me that
wassna wantin' it, for it wass no credit to a smert boat like the Fital
Spark, but you ken yoursel' what owners iss; they would carry coal tar
made up in delf crates if they get the freight for it."

"I wouldna say but what you're right," remarked Dougie agreeably.

"A stevedore would go wrong in the mind if he saw the hold of the vessel
efter them showmen got their stuff on board. You would think it wass a
pawnshop struck wi' a sheet o' lightning. There wass everything ever you
saw at a show except the coconuts and the comic polisman. We started at
three o'clock in the mornin', and a lot of the show people made a bargain
to come wi' us to look efter their stuff. There wass the Fattest Woman in
the World, No-Boned Billy or the Boy Serpent, the Mesmerising Man,
another man very namely among the Crowned Heads for walkin' on stilts,
and the heid man o' the shows, a chap they called Mr Archer. At the last
meenute they put on a wee piebald pony that could pick oot any card you
asked from a pack. If you don't believe me, Macphail, there's Dougie; you
can ask him yoursel'."

"You're quite right, Peter," said Dougie emphatically. "I'll never forget
it. What are you goin' to tell them aboot the Fair?" he added

"It's a terrible life them show folk has!" resumed the Captain, without
heeding the question. "Only English people would put up with it; poor
craturs, I wass sorry for them! Fancy them goin' aboot from place to
place aal the year roond, wi' no homes! I would a hundred times sooner be
a sailor the way I am. But they were nice enough to us, and we got on
fine, and before you could say 'knife' Dougie wass flirtin' wi' the
Fattest Woman in the World."

"Don't believe him, boys," said the mate, greatly embarrassed.  "I never
even kent her Chrustian name."

"When we got the shows discherged at Tarbert, Mr Archer came and
presented us aal with a free pass for everything except the stilts.
'You'll no' need to put on your dress clothes,' says he. He wass a cheery
wee chap, though he wass chust an Englishman. Dougie and me went ashore
and had a royal night of it. I don't know if ever you wass at a Tarbert
Fair, Macphail--you were aye that busy learnin' the names of the foreign
places you say you traivelled to, that you wouldn't have the time; but
I'll warrant you it's worth while seein'. There's things to be seen there
you couldna see the like of in London. Dougie made for the tent of the
mesmeriser and the Fattest Woman in the World whenever we got there: he
thought she would maybe be dancin' or something of that sort, but aal she
did was to sit on a chair and look fat. There wass a crood roond her
nippin' her to make sure she wasna padded, and when we got in she cried,
'Here's my intended man, Mr Dugald; stand aside and let him to the front
to see his bonny wee rosebud. Dugald, darling, you see I'm true to you
and wearin' your ring yet,' and she showed the crood a brass ring you
could tie boats to."

"She wass a caaution!" said Dougie. "But what's the use of rakin' up them
old stories?"

"Then we went to the place where No-Boned Billy or the Boy Serpent wass
tying himself in knots and jumpin' through girrs. It was truly sublime!
It bates me to know hoo they do it, but I suppose it's chust educaation."

"It's nothing else," said the mate. "Educaation'll do anything for you if
you take it when you're young, and have the money as weel."

"Every noo and then we would be takin' a gless of yon red lemonade they
sell at aal the Fairs, till Dougie got dizzy and had to go to a
public-house for beer."

"Don't say a word aboot yon," interrupted the mate anxiously.

"It's aal right, Dougie, we're among oorsel's. Weel, as I wass sayin',
when he got the beer, Dougie, right or wrong, wass for goin' to see the
fortune-teller. She wass an Italian-lookin' body that did the spaein',
and for a sixpence she gave Dougie the finest fortune ever you heard of.
He wass to be left a lot of money when he wass fifty-two, and mairry the
dochter of a landed chentleman. But he wass to watch a man wi' curly hair
that would cross his path, and he wass to mind and never go a voyage
abroad in the month o' September. Dougie came out of the Italian
spaewife's in fine trum wi' himsel', and nothing would do him but another
vusit to the Fattest Woman in the World."

"Noo, chust you be canny what you're at next!"  again broke in the mate.
"You said you would never tell anybody."

"Who's tellin' anybody?" asked Para Handy impatiently. "I'm only
mentionin' it to Macphail and Colin here. The mesmeriser wass readin'
bumps when we got into the tent, and Dougie wass that full o' the fine
fortune the Italian promised him that he must be up to have his bumps
read. The mesmeriser felt aal the bumps on Dougie's heid, no' forgettin'
the wan he got on the old New Year at Cairndow, and he said it wass wan
of the sublimest heids he ever passed under his hands. 'You are a
sailor,' he said to Dougie, 'but accordin' to your bumps you should have
been a munister. You had a fine, fine heid for waggin'. There's great
strength of will behind the ears, and the back of the foreheid's packed
wi' animosity.'

"When the readin' of the bumps wass done, and Dougie wass nearly greetin'
because his mother didna send him to the College in time, the mesmeriser
said he would put him in a trance, and then he would see fine fun."

"Stop it, Peter," protested the mate. "If you tell them, I'll never speak
to you again."

Para Handy paid no attention, but went on with his narrative. "He got
Dougie to stare him in the eye the time he wass working his hands like
anything, and Dougie was in a trance in five meenutes. Then the man made
him think he wass a railway train, and Dougie went on his hands and knees
up and doon the pletform whustlin' for tunnels. Efter that he made him
think he wass a singer--and a plank of wud--and a soger--and a hen. I
wass black affronted to see the mate of the Fital Spark a hen. But the
best of the baur was when he took the Fattest Woman in the World up on
the pletform and married her to Dougie in front of the whole of Tarbert."

"You gave me your word you would never mention it," interrupted the mate,
perspiring with annoyance.

"Then the mesmeriser made Dougie promise he would come back at twelve
o'clock the next day and take his new wife on the honeymoon. When Dougie
wass wakened oot of the trance, he didn't mind ony-thing aboot it."

"Neither I did," said the mate.

"Next day, at ten meenutes to twelve, when we were makin' ready to start
for the Clyde, my mate here took a kind of a tirrivee, and wass for the
shows again. I saw the dregs of the mesmerism wass on the poor laad, so I
took him and gave him a gill of whisky with sulphur in it, and whipped
him on board the boat and off to the Clyde before the trance came on at
its worst. It never came back."

"Iss that true?" asked The Tar.

"If Dougie wass here--Of course it iss true," said the Captain.

"All I can mind aboot it is the whisky and sulphur," said Dougie. "That's
true enough."


THE TAR had only got his first week's wages after they were raised a
shilling, when the sense of boundless wealth took possession of him, and
went to his head like glory. He wondered how on earth he could spend a
pound a week. Nineteen shillings were only some loose coins in your
pocket, that always fell through as if they were red-hot: a pound-note
was different, the pleasure of not changing it till maybe to-morrow was
like a wage in itself. He kept the pound-note untouched for three days,
and then dreamed one night that he lost it through a hole in his pocket.
There were really holes in his pockets, a fact that had never troubled
him before; so the idea of getting a wife to mend them flashed on him. He
was alarmed at the notion at first--it was so much out of his daily
routine of getting up and putting on the fire, and cooking for the crew,
and working the winch, and eating and sleeping--so he put it out of his
head; but it always came back when he thought of the responsibility of a
pound a week, so at last he went up to Para Handy and said to him
sheepishly, "I wass thinking to mysel' yonder that maybe it wouldna be a
bad plan for me to be takin' a kind of a wife."

"Capital!  First-rate! Good for you, Colin!" said the Captain. "A wife's
chust the very thing you're needing. Your guernsays iss no credit to the
Fital Spark--indeed they'll be giving the boat a bad name; and I aalways
like to see everything in nice trum aboot her. I would maybe try wan
mysel', but I'm that busy on the boat with wan thing and another, me
being Captain of her, I havena mich time for keeping a hoose. Butoch!
there's no hurry for me; lam chust nine and two-twenties of years old,
no' countin' the year I wass workin' in the sawmull. What wass the gyurl
you were thinkin' on?"

"Och, I didna get that length," said The Tar, getting very red in the
face at having the business rushed like that.

"Weel, you would need to look slippy," said Para Handy. "There's fellows
on shore with white collars on aal the time going aboot picking up the
smert wans."

"I wass chust thinkin' maybe you would hear of somebody aboot Loch Fyne
that would be suitable: you ken the place better nor me."

"I ken every bit of it," said Para Handy, throwing out his chest. "I wass
born aal along this loch-side, and brocht up wi' an auntie. What kind of
a wan would you be wantin'?"

"Och, I would chust leave that to yoursel'," said The Tar. "Maybe if she
had a puckle money it wouldna be any herm."

"Money!" cried the Captain. "You canna be expectin' money wi' the first.
But we'll consuder, Colin. We'll paause and consuder."

Two days later the Vital Spark was going up to Inveraray for a cargo of
timber. Para Handy steering, and singing softly to himself--

"As I gaed up yon Hieland hill, I met a bonny lassie;
She looked at me and I at her, And oh, but she was saucy.
With my rolling eye, Fal tee diddle dye,
Rolling eye dum deny, With my rolling eye."

The Tar stood by him peeling potatoes, and the charming domestic
sentiment of the song could not fail to suggest the subject of his recent
thoughts. "Did you have time to consuder yon?" he asked the Captain,
looking up at him with comical coyness.

"Am I no' consudering it as hard as I'm able?" said Para Handy. "Chust
you swept aal them peelin's over the side and no' be spoiling the boat,
my good laad."

"I wass mindin', mysel', of a femily of gyurls called Macphail up in
Easdale, or maybe it wass Luing," said The Tar.

"Macphails!" cried Para Handy. "I never hear the name of Macphail but I
need to scratch mysel'. I wouldna alloo any man on the Fital Spark to
mairry a Macphail, even if she wass the Prunce of Wales. Look at that man
of oors that caals himsel' an enchineer; he's a Macphail, that's the way
he canna help it."

"Och, I wass chust in fun," The Tar hastened to say soothingly. "I don't
think I would care for any of them Macphail gyurls whatever. Maybe you'll
mind of something suitable before long."

Para Handy slapped himself on the knee. "My Chove!" said he, "I have the
very article that would fit you."

"What's--what's her name?" asked The Tar alarmed at the way destiny
seemed to be rushing him into matrimony.

"Man, I don't know," said the Captain, "but she's the laandry-maid up
here in the Shurriff's--chust a regular beauty. I'll take you up and show
her you to-morrow."

"Will we no' be awfu' busy to-morrow?" said The Tar hastily. "Maybe it
would be better to wait till we come back again. There's no' an awfu'

"No hurry!" cried the Captain. "It's the poor heid for business you have,
Colin; a gyurl the same as I'm thinkin' on for you will be snapped up
whenever she gets her Mertinmas wages."

"I'm afraid she'll be too cluver for me, her being a laandry-maid," said
The Tar. "They're aawfu' high-steppers, laandry-maids, and aawfu' stiff."

"That's wi' working among starch," explained Para Handy. "It'll aal come
oot in the washin'. Not another word, Colin; leave it to me. And maybe
Dougie, och ay, Dougie and me'll see you right."

So keenly did the Captain and Dougie enter into the matrimonial projects
of The Tar that they did not even wait till the morrow, but set out to
interview the young lady that evening. "I'll no' put on my pea-jecket or
my watch-chain in case she might take a fancy to mysel'," the Captain
said to his mate. "A man in a good poseetion like me canna be too
caautious." The Tar, at the critical moment, showed the utmost reluctance
to join the expedition. He hummed and hawed, protested he "didna like,"
and would prefer that they settled the business without him; but this was
not according to Para Handy's ideas of business, and ultimately the three
set out together with an arrangement that The Tar was to wait out in the
Sheriff's garden while his ambassadors laid his suit in a preliminary
form before a lady he had never set eyes on and who had never seen him.

There was a shower of rain, and the Captain and his mate had scarcely
been ushered into the kitchen on a plea of "important business" by the
Captain, than The Tar took shelter in a large wooden larder at the back
of the house.

Para Handy and Dougie took a seat in the kitchen at the invitation of its
single occupant, a stout cook with a humorous eye.

"It was the laandry-maid we were wantin' to see, mem," said the Captain,
ducking his head forward several times and grinning widely to inspire
confidence and create a genial atmosphere without any loss of time. "We
were chust passing the door, and we thought we would give her a roar in
the by-going."

"You mean Kate?" asked the cook.

"Ay! chust that, chust that--Kate," said the Captain, beaming warmly till
his whiskers curled. "Hoo's the Shurriff keeping himsel'?" he added as an
afterthought. "Iss he in good trum them days?" And he winked expansively
at the cook.

"Kate's not in," said the domestic. "She'll be back in a while if you

The Captain's face fell for a moment. "Och perhaps you'll do fine
yoursel'," said he cordially, at last. "We have a fellow yonder on my
boat that's come into some money, and what iss he determined on but to
get married? He's aawfu' backward, for he never saw much Life except the
Tarbert Fair, and he asked us to come up here and put in a word for him."

"Is that the way you do your courtin' on the coal-gabbarts?" said the
cook, greatly amused.

"Coal-gaabert!" cried Para Handy, indignant. "There iss no coal-gaabert
in the business; I am the Captain of the Fital Spark, the smertest
steamboat in the coastin' tred--"

"And I'm no' slack mysel'; I'm the mate," said Dougie, wishing he had
brought his trump.

"He must be a soft creature not to speak for himself," said the cook.

"Never mind that," said the Captain; "are you game to take him?"

The cook laughed. "What about yoursel'?" she asked chaffingly, and the
Captain blenched.

"Me!" he cried. "I peety the wumman that would mairry me. If I wass not
here, Dougie would tell you--would you no', Dougie?--I'm a fair duvvle
for high jeenks. Forbye, I'm sometimes frightened for my health."

"And what is he like, this awfu' blate chap?" asked the cook.

"As smert a laad as ever stepped," protested Para Handy. "Us sailors iss
sometimes pretty wild; it's wi' followin' the sea and fightin'
hurricanes, here the day and away yesterday; but Colin iss ass dacent a
laad ass ever came oot of Knapdale if he wass chust letting himself go.
Dougie himsel' will tell you."

"There's nothing wrong wi' the fellow," said Dougie. "A fine riser in the

"And for cookin', there's no' his equal," added the Captain.

"It seems to me it's my mistress you should have asked for," said the
cook; "she's advertising for a scullery-maid." But this sarcasm passed
over the heads of the eager ambassadors.

"Stop you!" said the Captain, "and I'll take him in himsel'; he's oot in
the garden waiting on us." And he and the mate went outside.

"Colin!" cried Para Handy, "come away and be engaged, like a smert laad."
But there was no answer, and it was after considerable searching they
discovered the ardent suitor sound asleep in the larder.

"It's no' the laandry-maid; but it's a far bigger wan," explained the
Captain. "She's chust sublime. Aal you have to do now is to come in and
taalk nice to her."

The Tar protested he couldn't talk to her unless he had some conversation
lozenges. Besides, it was the laundry-maid he had arranged for, not the

"She'll do fine for a start; a fine gyurl," the Captain assured him, and
with some difficulty they induced The Tar to go with them to the
back-door, only to find it emphatically shut in their faces.

"Let us paause and consuder, what day iss this?" asked the Captain, when
the emphasis of the rebuff had got time to sink into his understanding.

"Friday," said Dougie.

"Tuts! wass I not sure of it? It's no' a lucky day for this kind of
business. Never mind, Colin, we'll come to-morrow when the laandry-maid's
in, and you'll bring a poke of conversation lozenges. You mustna be so
stupid, man; you were awfu' tumid!"

"I wasna a bit tumid, but I wasna in trum," said The Tar, who was walking
down to the quay with a curious and unusual straddle.

"And what for would you not come at wance when I cried you in?" asked the

"Because," said The Tar pathetically, "I had a kind of an accident yonder
in the larder: I sat doon on a basket of country eggs."


IF you haven't been at your favourite coast resort except at the time of
summer holidays, you don't know much about it. At other seasons of the
year it looks different, smells different, and sounds different--that is,
when there's any sound at all in it. In those dozing, dreamy days before
you come down with your yellow tin trunk or your kit-bag, there's only
one sound in the morning in the coast resort--the sizzling of frying
herring. If it is an extra lively day, you may also hear the baker's
van-driver telling a dead secret to the deaf bellman at the other end of
the village, and the cry of sea-gulls. Peace broods on that place then
like a benediction, and (by the odour) some one is having a sheep's head
singed at the smithy.

I was standing one day on Brodick quay with Para Handy when the place
looked so vacant, and was so quiet we unconsciously talked in whispers
for fear of wakening somebody. The Vital Spark shared the peace of that
benign hour: she nodded idly at the quay, her engineer half asleep with a
penny novelette in his hands; The Tar, sound asleep and snoring,
unashamed, with his back against the winch; Dougie, the mate, smoking in
silent solemnity, and occasionally scratching his nose, otherwise you
would have taken him for an ingenious automatic smoking-machine, set
agoing by putting a penny in the slot. If anybody had dropped a
postage-stamp in Brodick that day, it would have sounded like a dynamite
explosion. It was the breakfast hour.

Suddenly a thing happened that seemed to rend the very heavens: it was
the unexpected outburst of a tinker piper, who came into sight round the
corner of a house, with his instrument in the preliminary stages of the

"My Chove!" said Para Handy, "isn't that fine? Splendid aalthegither!"

"What's your favourite instrument?" I asked.

"When Dougie's in trum it's the trump," said he in a low voice, lest the
mate (who was certainly very vain of his skill on the trump--that is to
say, the Jew's harp) should hear him; "but, man! for gaiety, the pipes.
They're truly sublime! A trump's fine for small occasions, but for style
you need the pipes. And good pipers iss difficult nooadays to get;
there's not many in it. You'll maybe can get a kind of a plain piper
going aboot the streets of Gleska noo and then, but they're like the
herrin', and the turnips, and rhubarb, and things like that--you don't
get them fresh in Gleska; if you want them at their best, you have to go
up to the right Hielands and pull them on the tree. You ken what I mean

And the Captain of the Vital Spark widely opened his mouth and inhaled
the sound of the bagpipe with an air of great refreshment.

"That's 'The Barren Rocks of Aden' he iss on now," he informed me by and
by. "I can tell by the sound of it. Oh, music! music! it's me that's fond
of it. It makes me feel that droll I could bound over the mountains, if
you understand. Do you know that I wance had a piper of my own?"

"A piper of your own!"

"Ay, chust that, a piper of my own, the same ass if I wass the Marquis of
Bute. You'll be thinkin' I couldna afford it," Para Handy went on,
smiling slyly, "but a MacFarlane never wass bate. Aal the fine gentry
hass their piper that plays to them in the momin' to put them up, and
goes playin' roond the table at dinner-time when there's any English
vusitors there, and let them chust take it! It serves them right; they
should stay in their own country. My piper wass a Macdonald."

"You mean one of the tinker pipers?" I said mischievously, for I knew a
tribe of tinker pipers of that name.

Para Handy was a little annoyed. "Well," he said, "I wouldna deny but he
wass a kind of a tinker, but he wass in the Militia when he wass workin',
and looked quite smert when he wass sober."

"How long did you keep the piper?" I asked, really curious about this
unexpected incident in the Captain's career.

"Nearly a whole day," he answered. "Whiles I kept him and whiles he wass
going ashore for a dram.

"To let you understand, it wass the time of the fine fushin's in Loch
Fyne, and I had a cousin yonder that wass gettin' married at Kilfinan.
The weddin' wass to be on a Friday, and I wass passin' up the loch with a
cargo of salt, when my cousin hailed me from the shore, and came oot in a
small boat to speak to me.

"'Peter,' he said to me, quite bashful,  'they're sayin' I'm goin' to get
mairried on Friday, and I'm lookin' for you to be at the thing.'

"'You can depend on me bein' there, Dougald,' I assured him. 'It would be
a poor thing if the Macfarlanes would not stick by wan another at a time
of trial.'

"'Chust that!' said my cousin; 'there's to be sixteen hens on the table
and plenty of refreshment. What's botherin' me iss that there's not a
piper in Kilfinan. I wass thinkin' that maybe between this and Friday you
would meet wan on your trevels, and take him back with you on your shup.'

"'Mercy on us! You would think it wass a parrot from foreign perts I wass
to get for you,' I said. 'But I'll do my best.' and off we went. I
watched the hillsides aal the way up the loch to see if I could see a
piper; but it wass the time of the year when there's lots of work at the
hay, and the pipers wass keepin' oot of sight, till I came to Caimdow.
Dougie and me wass ashore at Caimdow in the mornin', when we saw this
Macdonald I'm telling you aboot standin' in front of the Inns with pipes
under his oxter. He wass not playin' them at the time. I said to him,
'There's a weddin' yonder at Kilfinan to-morrow, that they're wantin' a
piper for. What would you take to come away doon on my vessel and play
for them?'

"'Ten shillin's and my drink,' he said, as quick as anything.

"'Say five and it's a bargain,' I said; and he engaged himself on the
spot. He wass a great big fellow with a tartan trooser and a cocketty
bonnet, and oh, my goodness! but his hair wass rud! I couldna but offer
him a dram before we left Caimdow, for we were startin' there and then,
but he wouldna set foot in the Inns, and we went on board the Fital Spark
withoot anything at all, and started doon the loch. I thought it wass a
droll kind of a piper I had that would lose a chance.

"When we would be a mile or two on the passage, I said to him,
'Macdonald, tune up your pipes and give us the Macfarlanes' Merch.'

"He said he didna know the Macfarlanes had a Merch, but would do the best
he could by the ear,  and he began to screw the bits of his pipes
together. It took him aboot an hour, and by that time we were off

"'Stop you the boat,' he said, 'I'll need to get ashore a meenute to get
something to soften the bag of this pipes; it's ass hard ass a bit of

"'You can get oil from the enchineer,' I said to him.

"'Oil!' said he; 'do you think it's a clock I'm mendin'? No, no; there's
nothing will put a pipe bag in trum but some treacle poured in by the

"Well, we went ashore and up to the Inns, and he asked if they could give
him treacle for his bagpipes. They said they had none. 'Weel,' said he,
'next to that the best thing for it iss whusky--give me a gill of the
best, and the Captain here will pay for it; I'm his piper.' He got the
gill, and what did he do but pour a small sensation of it into the inside
of his pipes and drink the rest? 'It comes to the same thing in the
long-run,' said he, and we got aboard again, and away we started.

"'There's another tune I am very fond of,' I said to him, watchin' him
workin' away puttin' his drones in order. 'It's "The 93rd's Farewell to

"'I ken it fine,' he said, 'but I don't ken the tune. Stop you, and I'll
give you a trate if I could get this cursed pipe in order. What aboot the

"The dinner wass nearly ready, so he put the pipes past till he wass done
eatin', and then he had a smoke, and by the time that wass done we were
off Lochgair. 'That puts me in mind,' said he; 'I wonder if I could get a
chanter reed from Maclachlan the innkeeper? He plays the pipes himself.
The chanter reed I have iss bad, and I would like to do the best I could
at your cousin's weddin'.'

"We stopped, and Dougie went ashore in the smaal boat with him, and when
they came back in half-an-hour the piper said it wass a peety, but the
innkeeper wasna a piper efter aal, and didna have a reed, but maybe we
would get wan in Ardrishaig.

"'We're no' goin' to Ardrishaig, we're goin' to Kilfinan,' I told him,
and he said he couldna help it, but we must make for Ardrishaig, right or
wrong, for he couldna play the pipes right withoot a new reed. 'When you
hear me playing,' he said, 'you will be glad you took the trouble. There
iss not my equal in the three parishes,' and, man, but his hair wass rud,

"We wouldna be half-an-oor oot from Lochgair when he asked if the tea
would soon be ready. He wass that busy puttin' his pipes in order, he
said, he was quite fatigued. Pipers iss like canaries, you have to keep
them going weel with meat and drink if you want music from them. We gave
him his tea, and by the time it wass finished we were off Ardrishaig, and
he made me put her in there to see if he could get a reed for his
chanter. Him and Dougie went ashore in the smaal boat. Dougie came back
in an oor wi' his hair awfu' tousy and nobody wi' him.

"'Where's my piper?' I said to him.

"'Man, it's terrible!' said Dougie; 'the man's no a piper at aal, and
he's away on the road to Kilmertin. When he wass standin' at Caimdow Inns
yonder, he was chust holdin' the pipes for a man that wass inside for his
mornin', and you and me'll maybe get into trouble for helpin' him to
steal a pair o' pipes.'

"That wass the time I kept a piper of my own," said Para Handy, in
conclusion. "And Dougie had to play the trump to the dancin' at my
cousin's weddin'."


PARA HANDY'S great delight was to attend farm sales. "A sale's a sublime
thing," he said, "for if you don't like a thing you don't need to buy it.
It's at the sales a good many of the other vessels in the tred get their
sailors." This passion for sales was so strong in him that if there was
one anywhere within twelve miles of any port the Vital Spark was lying
at, he would lose a tide or risk demurrage rather than miss it. By
working most part of a night he got a cargo of coals discharged at
Lochgoilhead one day in time to permit of his attending a displenishing
sale ten miles away. He and the mate, Dougie, started in a brake that was
conveying people to the sale; they were scarcely half-way there when the
Captain sniffed.

"Hold on a meenute and listen, Dougie," said he. "Do you no' smell

Dougie sniffed too, and his face was lit up by a beautiful smile as of
one who recognises a friend. "It's not lemon kali at any rate," he said
knowingly, and chuckled in his beard.

"Boys!" said the Captain, turning round to address the other passengers
in the brake, who were mainly cattle dealers and farmers--"Boys! this
iss going to be a majestic sale; we're five miles from the place and I
can smell the whisky already."

At that moment the driver of the brake bent to look under his seat, and
looked up again with great vexation written on his countenance. "Isn't it
not chust duvvelish?" he said. "Have I not gone away and put my left foot
through a bottle of good spurits I wass bringing up wi' me in case
anybody would take ill through the night."

"Through the night!" exclaimed one of the farmers, who was plainly not
long at the business. "What night are you taalking aboot?"

"This night," replied the driver promptly.

"But surely we'll be back at Lochgoilhead before night?" said the farmer,
and all the others in the coach looked at him with mingled pity and

"It's a term sale we're going to, and not a rent collection," said the
driver. "And there's thirty-six gallons of ale ordered for it, no' to
speak of refreshments. If we're home in time for breakfast from this sale
it's me that'll be the bonny surprised man, I'm telling you."

At these farm sales old custom demands that food and drink should be
supplied "ad lib." by the outgoing tenant. It costs money, but it is a
courtesy that paya in the long-run, for if the bidding hangs fire a brisk
circulation of the refreshments stimulates competition among the buyers,
and adds twenty per cent to the price of stots. It would be an injustice
to Para Handy and Dougie to say they attended sales from any
consideration of this sort; they went because of the high jeenks. At the
close of the day sometimes they found that they had purchased a variety
of things not likely to be of much use on board a steam-lighter, as on
the occasion when Dougie bought the rotary churn.

"Keep away from the hoosehold furniture aaltogither!" said the Captain,
this day. "We have too mich money in oor pockets between us, and it'll be
safer no' to be in sight of the unctioneer till the beasts iss on, for
we'll no' be tempted to buy beasts."

"I would buy an elephant for the fun of the thing, let alone a coo or
two," said Dougie.

"That's put me in mind," said the Captain, "there's a cousin of my own
yonder in Kilfinan wantin' a milk coo for the last twelvemonth; if I saw
a bargain maybe I would take it. But we'll do nothing rash, Dougie,
nothing rash; maybe we're chust sailors, but we're no' daft

By this time they were standing on the outside of a crowd of prospective
purchasers interested in a collection of farm utensils and household
sundries, the disposal of which preceded the rouping of the beasts. The
forenoon was chilly; the chill appeared to affect the mood of the crowd,
who looked coldly on the chain harrows, tumip-cutters, and other articles
offered to them at prices which the auctioneer said it broke his heart to
mention, and it was to instil a little warmth into the proceedings that a
handy man with red whiskers went round with refreshments on a tray.

"Streetch your hand and take a gless," he said to the Captain. "It'll do
you no herm."

"Man, I'm not mich oaring for it," drawled the Captain. "I had wan
yesterday. What do you think, Dougie? Would it do any herm chust to take
wan gless to show we're freendly to the sale of impliments and things?"

"Whatever you say yoursel'," replied Dougie diffidently, but at the same
time grasping the glass nearest him with no uncertain hand.

"Weel, here's good prices!" said the Captain, fixing to another glass,
and after that the sun seemed to come out with a genial glow.

The lamentable fact must be recorded that before the beasts came up to
the hammer the mate of the Vital Spark had become possessor of a pair of
curling-stones--one of them badly chipped--a Dutch hoe, and a

"What in the world are you going to do with that trash?" asked the
Captain, returning from a visit to the outhouse where the ale was, to
find his mate with the purchases at his feet.

"Och! it's aal right," said Dougie, cocking his eye at him. "I wassna
giving a docken for the things mysel', but I saw the unctioneer aye
look-looking at me, and I didna like no' to take nothing. It's chust, as
you might say, for the good of the hoose. Stop you and you'll see some

"But it's a rideeculous thing buying curling-stones at this time of the
year, and you no' a curler. What?"

Dougie scratched his neck and looked at his purchases. "They didn't cost
mich," he said; "and they're aye handy to have aboot you."

When the cattle came under the hammer it was discovered that prices were
going to be very low. All the likely buyers seemed to be concentrated
round the beer-barrel in the barn, with the result that stots, queys,
cows, and calves were going at prices that brought the tears to the
auctioneer's eyes. He hung so long on the sale of one particular cow for
which he could only squeeze out offers up to five pounds that Para Handy
took pity on him, and could not resist giving a nod that put ten
shillings on to its price and secured the animal.

"Name, please?" said the auctioneer, cheering up wonderfully.

"Captain Macfarlane," said Para Handy, and, very much distressed at his
own impetuosity, took his mate aside. "There you are, I bought your coo
for you," he said to Dougie.

"For me!" exclaimed his mate. "What in the world would I be doing with a

"You said yoursel' you would take a coo or two for the fun o' the thing,"
said Para Handy.

"When I'm buying coos I'm buying them by my own word o' mooth; you can
chust keep it for your cousin in Kilfinan. If I wass buyin' a coo it
wouldna be wan you could hang your hat on in fifty places. No, no, Peter,
I'm Hielan', but I'm no' so Hielan' ass aal that."

"My goodness!" said Para Handy, "this iss the scrape! I will have to be
taking her to Lochgoilhead, and hoisting her on the vessel, and milking
her, and keeping her goodness knows what time till I'll have a cargo the
length of Kilfinan. Forbye, my cousin and me's no' speakin' since
Whitsunday last."

"Go up to the unctioneer and tell him you didna buy it at aal, that you
were only noddin' because you had a tight collar," suggested the mate,
and the Captain acted on the suggestion; but the auctioneer was not to be
taken in by any such story, and Para Handy and his mate were accordingly
seen on the road to Lochgoil late that night with a cow, the possession
of which took all the pleasure out of their day's outing. Dougie's
curling-stones, hoe, and baking-board were to follow in a cart.

It was a long time after this before the Vital Spark had any occasion to
go to Lochgoilhead. Macphail the engineer had only to mention the name of
the place and allude casually to the price of beef or winter feeding, and
the Captain would show the most extraordinary ill-temper. The fact was he
had left his purchase at a farmer's at Lochgoil to keep for him till
called for, and he never liked to think upon the day of reckoning. But
the Vital Spark had to go to Lochgoilhead sooner or later, and the first
time she did so the Captain went somewhat mournfully up to the farm where
his cow was being kept for him.

"It's a fine day; hoo's the mustress?" he said to the farmer, who showed
some irritation at never having heard from the owner of the cow for

"Fine, but what aboot your coo, Peter?"

"My Chove! iss she living yet?" said the Captain. "I'll be due you a
penny or two."

"Five pounds, to be exact; and it'll be five pounds ten at the end of
next month."

"Chust the money I paid for her," said Para Handy. "Chust you keep her
for me till the end of next month, and then pay yoursel' with her when my
account iss up to the five pound ten," a bargain which was agreed on; and
so ended Para Handy's most expensive high jeenk.


THE wheel of the Vital Spark was so close to the engines that the Captain
could have given his orders in a whisper, but he was so proud of the boat
that he liked to sail her with all the honours, so he always used the
knocker. He would catch the brass knob and give one, two, or three knocks
as the circumstances demanded, and then put his mouth to the
speaking-tube and cry coaxingly down to the engineer, "Stop her, Dan,
when you're ready." That would be when she was a few lengths off the
quay. Dan, the engineer, never let on he heard the bell; he was very fond
of reading penny novelettes, and it was only when he was spoken to
soothingly down the tube that he would put aside 'Lady Winifred's
Legacy,' give a sigh, and stop his engine. Then he would stand
upright--which brought his head over the level of the deck, and beside
the Captain's top-boots--wiping his brow with a piece of waste the way
real engineers do on the steamers that go to America. His great aim in
taking a quay was to suggest to anybody hanging about it that it was
frightfully hot in the engine-room--just like the Red Sea--while the fact
was that most of the time there was a draught in the engine-room of the
Vital Spark that would keep a cold store going without ice.

When he stuck up his head he always said to the Captain, "You're aye
wantin' something or other; fancy goin' awa' and spoilin' me in the
middle o' a fine baur."

"I'm sorry, Dan," Para Handy would say to him in an agony of remorse, for
he was afraid of the engineer because that functionary had once been on a
ship that made a voyage to Australia, and used to say he had killed a man
in the Bush. When he was not sober it was two men, and he would weep.
"I'm sorry, Dan, but I did not know you would be busy." Then he would
knock formally to reverse the engine, and cry down the tube, "Back her,
Dan, when you're ready; there's no hurry," though the engineer was, as I
have said, so close that he could have put his hand on his head.

Dan drew in his head, did a bit of juggling with the machinery, and
resumed his novelette at the place where Lady Winifred lost her jewels at
the ball. There was something breezy in the way he pulled in his head and
moved in the engine-room that disturbed the Captain. "Dan's no' in good
trum the day," he would say, in a hoarse whisper to the mate Dougie under
these circumstances. "You daurna say wan word to him but he flies in a

"It's them cursed novelles," was always Dougie's explanation; "they would
put any man wrong in the heid, let alone an enchineer. If it wass me wass
skipper of this boat, I wadna be so soft with him, I'll assure you."

"Ach, you couldna be hard on the chap and him a Macphail," said the
Captain. "There wass never any holdin' o' them in. He's an aawful fellow
for high jeenks; he killed a man in the Bush."

One afternoon the Vital Spark came into Tarbert with a cargo of coals
that could not be discharged till the morning, for Sandy Sinclair's horse
and cart were engaged at a country funeral. The Captain hinted at
repainting a strake or two of the vessel, but his crew said they couldn't
be bothered, forbye Dougie had three shillings; so they washed their
faces after tea and went up the town. Peace brooded on the Vital Spark,
though by some overlook Macphail had left her with almost a full head of
steam.  Sergeant Macleod, of the constabulary, came down when she lay
deserted. "By Cheorge!" said he to himself, "them fellows iss coing to
get into trouble this night, I'm tellin' you," for he knew the Vital
Spark of old. He drew his tippit more firmly about him, breathed hard,
and went up the town to survey the front of all the public-houses. Peace
brooded on the Vital Spark--a benign and beautiful calm.

It was ten o'clock at night when her crew returned. They came down the
quay in a condition which the most rigid moralist could only have
described as jovial, and went to their bunks in the fo'c'sle. A drizzling
rain was falling. That day the Captain had mounted a new cord on the
steam whistle, so that he could blow it by a jerk from his position at
the wheel. It was drawn back taut, and the free end of it was fastened to
a stanchion. As the night passed and the rain continued falling, the cord
contracted till at last it acted on the whistle, which opened with a loud
and oroupy hoot that rang through the harbour and over the town.
Otherwise peace still brooded on the Vital Spark. It took fifteen minutes
to waken the Captain, and he started up in wild alarm. His crew were
snoring in the light of a small globe lamp, and the engineer had a
'Family Herald Supplement' on his chest.

"That's either some duvvlement of somebody's or a warnin'," said Para
Handy, half irritated, half in superstitious alarm. "Dougie, are you

"What would I be here for if I wass not sleepin'?" said Dougie.

"Go up like a smert laad and see who's meddlin' my whustle."

"I canna," said Dougie; "I havena but the wan o' my boots on. Send up The

The Tar was so plainly asleep from his snoring that it seemed no use to
tackle him. The Captain looked at him. "Man!" he said, "he hass a nose
that minds me o' a winter day, it's so short and dirty. He would be no
use any way. It's the enchineer's chob, but I daurna waken him, he's such
a man for high jeenks." And still the whistle waked the echoes of

"If I wass skipper of this boat I would show him," said Dougie, turning
in his bunk, but showing no sign of any willingness to turn out. "Give
him a roar, Peter, or throw the heel of yon pan loaf at him."

"I would do it in a meenute if he wasna a Macphail," said the Captain,
distracted. "He wance killed a man in the Bush. But he's the enchineer;
the whustle's in his department. Maybe if I spoke nice to him he would
see aboot it. Dan!" he cried softly across the fo'c'sle to the man with
the 'Family Herald Supplement' on his chest--"Dan, show a leg, like a
good laad, and go up and stop that cursed whustle."

"Are you speakin' to me?" said the engineer, who was awake all the time.

"I was chust makin' a remark," explained the Captain hurriedly. "It's not
of any great importance, but there's a whustle there, and it's wakin' the
whole toon of Tarbert. If you werena awfu' throng sleepin',  you might
take a bit turn on dake and see what is't. Chust when you're ready, Dan,
chust when you're ready."

Dan ostentatiously turned on his side and loudly went to sleep again. And
the whistle roared louder than ever.

The Captain began to lose his temper. "Stop you till I get back to
Bowling," he said, "and I'll give every man of you the whole jeeng-bang,
and get rale men for the Fital Spark. Not a wan of you iss worth a
spittle in the hour of dancher and trial. Look at Macphail there tryin'
to snore like an enchineer with a certeeficate, and him only a fireman! I
am not a bit frightened for him; I do not believe he ever killed a man in
the Bush at aal--he hass not the game for it; I'll bate you he never wass
near Australia--and what wass his mother but wan of the Macleans of
Kenmore? Chust that; wan of the Macleans of Kenmore! Him and his pride!
If I had my Sunday clothes on I would give him my opeenion. And there you
are, Dougie! I thocht you were a man and not a mice. You are lying there
in your ignorance, and never wass the length of Ullapool. Look at me--on
the vessels three over twenty years, and twice wrecked in the North at
places that's not on the maps."

The two worthies thus addressed paid no attention and snored with
suspicious steadiness, and the Captain turned his attention to The Tar.

"Colin!" he said more quietly, "show a leg, like a cluvver fellow, and go
up and put on the fire for the breakfast." But The Tar made no response,
and in the depth of the fo'c'sle Para Handy's angry voice rose up again,
as he got out of his bunk and prepared to pull on some clothes and go up
on deck himself.

"Tar by by-name and Tar by nature!" said he. "You will stick to your bed
that hard they could not take you off without half-a-pound of saalt
butter. My goodness! have I not a bonny crew? You are chust a wheen of
crofters. When the owners of vessels wass wantin' men like you, they go
to the Kilmichael cattle-market and drag you down with a rope to the
seaside. You will not do the wan word I tell you. I'll wudger I'll not
hammer down to you again, Dan, or use the speakin'-tube, the same ass if
you were a rale enchineer; I'll chust touch you with the toe of my boot
when I want you to back her, mind that! There iss not a finer nor a
faster vessel than the Fital Spark in the tred; she iss chust sublime,
and you go and make a fool of her with your drinking and your laziness
and your ignorance."

He got up on deck in a passion, to find a great many Tarbert people
running down the quay to see what was wrong, and Sergeant Macleod at the
head of them.

"Come! come! Peter, what iss this whustlin' for on a wet night like this
at two o'clock in the mornin'?" asked the sergeant, with a foot on the
bulwark. "What are you blow-blow-blowin' at your whustle like that for?"

"Chust for fun," said the Captain. "I'm a terrible fellow for high
jeenks. I have three fine stots from the Kilmichael market down below
here, and they canna sleep unless they hear a whustle."

"The man's in the horrors!" said the sergeant in a whisper to some
townsmen beside him on the quay. "I must take him to the lock-up and make
a case of him, and it's no' a very nice chob, for he's ass strong ass a
horse. Wass I not sure there would be trouble when I saw the Fital Spark
the day? It must be the lock-up for him, and maybe Lochgilphead, but it
iss a case for deleeberation and caaution--great caaution.

"Captain Macfarlane," he said in a bland voice to the Captain, who stood
defiant on the deck, making no attempt to stop the whistling. "Mr
Campbell the banker wass wantin' to see you for a meenute up the toon.
Chust a meenute! He asked me to come doon and tell you."

"What will the banker be wantin' wi' me?" said the Captain, cooling down
and suspecting nothing. "It's a droll time o' night to be sendin' for

"So it is, Captain Macfarlane," admitted the constable mildly. "I do not
know exactly what he wants, but it iss in a great hurry. He said he would
not keep you wan meenute. I think it will be to taalk about your cousin
Cherlie's money."

"I'll go wi' you whenever I get on my bonnet," said the Captain,
preparing to go below.

"Never mind your bonnet; it iss chust a step or two, and you'll be back
in five meenutes," said the sergeant; and, thus cajoled, the Captain of
the Vital Spark, having cut the cord and stopped the whistle, went
lamb-like to the police office.

Peace fell again upon the Vital Spark.


THOUGH Para Handy went, like a lamb, with Sergeant Macleod, he had not to
suffer the ignominy of the police office, for the sergeant found out on
the way that the Captain belonged to the Wee Free, and that made a great
deal of difference. Instead of putting the mariner into a cell, he took
him into his own house, made a summary investigation into the cause of
the whistling of the Vital Spark, found the whole thing was an accident,
dismissed the accused without a stain on his character, gave him a dram,
and promised to take him down a pair of white hares for a present before
the vessel left Tarbert.

"I am glad to see you belong to the right Church, Peter," he said. "Did I
not think you were chust wan of them unfuduls that carries the rud-edged
hime-books and sits at the prayer, and here you are chust a dacent
Christian like mysel'. My goodness! It shows you a man cannot be too
caautious. Last year there wass but a small remnant of us Christians to
the fore here--myself and Macdougall the merchant, and myself and the
Campbells up in Clonary Farm, and myself and the steamboat aagent, and
myself and my cousins at Dunmore; but it'll be changed days when we get a
ha'ad o' the church. They'll be sayin' there's no hell; we'll show them,
I'll assure you! We are few, but firm--firm; there's no bowin' of the
knee with us, and many a pair of white hares I'll be gettin' from the
Campbells up in Clonary. I have chust got to say the word that wan of the
rale old Frees iss in a vessel at the quay, and there will be a pair of
white hares doon for you to-morrow."

"I'm a staunch Free," said Para Handy, upsetting his glass, which by this
time had hardly a drop left in it. "Tut! tut!" he exclaimed
apologetically, "it's a good thing I never broke the gless. Stop! Stop!
stop in a meenute; I'm sure I'm no needin'any more. But it's a cold wet
nicht, whatever. I'm a staunch Free. I never had a hime-book on board my
boat; if Dougie wass here he would tell you."

"You'll no' get very often to the church, wi' you goin' about from place
to place followin' the sea?" said the sergeant.

"That's the worst of it," said Para Handy, heaving a tremendous sigh.
"There's no mich fun on a coal vessel; if it wasna the Fital Spark wass
the smertest in the tred, and me the skipper of her, I would mairry a
fine strong wife and start a business. There wass wan time yonder, when I
wass younger, I wass very keen to be a polisman."

"The last chob!" cried the sergeant. "The very last chob on earth! You
would be better to be trapping rabbits. It iss not an occupation for any
man that has a kind he'rt, and I have a he'rt mysel' that's no slack in
that direction, I'm tellin' you. Many a time I'll have to take a poor
laad in and cherge him, and he'll be fined, and it's mysel' that's the
first to get the money for his fine."

"Do you tell me you pay the fine oot of your own pocket?" asked Para
Handy, astonished.

"Not a bit of it; I have aal my faculties about me. I go roond and raise
a subscruption," explained the sergeant. "I chust go roond and say the
poor laad didna mean any herm, and his mother wass a weedow, and it iss
aal right, och aye! it iss aal right at wance wi' the folk in Tarbert.
Kind, kind he'rts in Tarbert--if there's any lushing. But the polis iss
no chob for a man like me. Still and on it's a good pay, and the uniform,
and a fine pair of boots, and an honour, so I'm no' complaining. Not a

Para Handy put up his hand with his customary gesture to scratch his ear,
but as usual thought better of it, and sheered off. "Do you ken oor
Dougie?" he asked.

"Iss it your mate?" replied the constable. "They're telling me aboot him,
but I never had him in my hands."

"It's easy seen you're no' long in Tarbert," said the Captain. "He wass
wan time namely here for makin' trouble; but that wass before he wass a
kind of a Rechabite. Did you hear aboot him up in Castlebay in Barra?"

"No," said the sergeant.

"Dougie will be aye bouncin' he wass wan time on the yats, and wearing a
red night-kep aal the time, and whitening on his boots, the same ass if
he wass a doorstep, but, man! he's tumid, tumid! If there's a touch of a
gale he starts at his prayers, and says he'll throw his trump over the
side. He can play the trump sublime--reels and things you never heard the
like of; and if he wass here, and him in trum, it's himself would show
you. But when the weather's scoury, and the Fital Spark not at the quay,
he'll make up his mind to live a better life, and the first thing that
he's going to stop's the trump. 'Hold you on, Dougie,' I'll be sayin' to
him; 'don't do anything desperate till we see if the weather'll no lift
on the other side of Minard.' It's a long way from Oban out to Barra;
many a man that hass gold braid on his kep in the Clyde never went so
far, but it's nothing at aal to the Fital Spark. But Dougie does not like
that trup at aal, at aal. Give him Bowling to Blairmore in the month of
Aagust, and there's no' a finer sailor ever put on oilskins."

"Och, the poor fellow!" said the sergeant, with true sympathy.

"Stop you!" proceeded Para Handy. "When we would be crossing the Munch,
Dougie would be going to sacrifice his trump, and start releegion every
noo and then; but when we had the vessel tied to the quay at Castlebay,
the merchants had to shut their shops and make a holiday."

"My Chove! do you tell me?" cried the sergeant.

"If Dougie was here himsel' he would tell you," said the Captain. "It
needed but the wan or two drams, and Dougie would start walkin' on his
heels to put an end to Castlebay. There iss not many shops in the place
aaltogither, and the shopkeepers are aal MacNeils, and cousins to wan
another; so when Dougie was waalkin' on his heels and in trum for high
jeenks, they had a taalk together, and agreed it would be better chust to
put on the shutters."

"Isn't he the desperate character!" said the constable. "Could they no'
have got the polis?"

"There's no a polisman in the island of Barra," said Para Handy. "If
there wass any need for polismen they would have to send to Lochmaddy,
and it would be two or three days before they could put Dougie on his
trial. Forbye, they kent Dougie fine; they hadna any ill-wull to the
laad, and maybe it wass a time there wasna very mich business doin'
anyway. When Dougie would find the shops shut he would be as vexed as
anything, and make for the school. He would go into the school and give
the children a lecture on music and the curse of drink, with
illustrations on the trump. At last they used to shut the school, too,
and give the weans a holiday, whenever the Fital Spark was seen off
Castle Kismul. He wass awfu' popular, Dougie, wi' the weans in

"A man like that should not be at lerge," said the constable

"Och! he wass only in fun; there wass no more herm in Dougie than a fly.
Chust fond of high jeenks and recreation; many a place in the Highlands
would be gled to get the lend of him to keep them cheery in the
winter-time. There's no herm in Dougie, not at aal, chust a love of sport
and recreation. If he wass here himsel' he would tell you."

"It iss a good thing for him he does not come to Tarbert for his
recreation," said the constable sternly; "we're no' so Hielan' in Tarbert
ass to shut the shops when a man iss makin' himsel' a nuisance. By
Cheorge! if he starts any of his high jeenks in Tarbert he'll suffer the

"There iss no fear of Tarbert nowadays," said the Captain, "for Dougie
iss a changed man. He mairried a kind of a wife yonder at Greenock, and
she made him a Good Templar, or a Rechabite, or something of the sort
where you get ten shillin's a week if your leg's broken fallin' doon the
stair, and nobody saw you. Dougie's noo a staunch teetotaller except
aboot the time of the old New Year, or when he'll maybe be takin' a dram
for medicine. It iss a good thing for his wife, but it leaves an awfu'
want in Barra and them other places where they kent him in his best


IT was months after The Tar's consultation with Para Handy about a wife:
The Tar seemed to have given up the idea of indulgence in any such
extravagance, and Para Handy had ceased to recommend various "smert,
muddle-aged ones wi' a puckle money" to the consideration of the young
man, when the latter one day sheepishly approached him, spat awkwardly
through the clefts of his teeth at a patch in the funnel of the Vital
Spark, and remarked, "I wass thinkin' to mysel' yonder. Captain, that if
there wass nothing parteecular doing next Setturday, I would maybe get

"Holy smoke!" said the Captain; "you canna expect me to get a wife
suitable for you in that time. It's no reasonable. Man, you're gettin'
droll--chust droll!"

"Och, I needn't be puttin' you to any trouble," said The Tar, rubbing the
back of his neck with a hand as rough as a rasp. "I wass lookin' aboot
mysel', and there's wan yonder in Campbeltown'll have me. In fact, it's
settled. I thocht that when we were in Campbeltown next Setturday, we
could do the chob and be dune wi't. We were roared last Sunday--"

"Roared!" said the Captain. "Iss it cried, you mean?"

"Yes, chust cried," said The Tar, "but the gyurl's kind of dull in the
hearing, and it would likely need to be a roar. You'll maybe ken
her--she's wan of the MacCallums."

"A fine gyurl," said the Captain, who had not the faintest idea of her
identity, and had never set eyes on her, but could always be depended on
for politeness. "A fine gyurl! Truly sublime! I'm not askin' if there's
any money; eh?--not a word! It's none of my business, but, tuts! what's
the money anyway, when there's love?"

"Shut up aboot that!" said the scandalised Tar, getting very red. "If
you're goin' to speak aboot love, be dacent and speak aboot it in the
Gaalic. But we're no' taalkin' aboot love; we're taalkin' aboot my
mar-rage. Is it aal right for Setturday?"

"You're a cunning man to keep it dark till this," said the Captain, "but
I'll put nothing in the way, seein' it's your first caper of the kind.
We'll have high jeenks at Campbeltown."

The marriage took place in the bride's mother's house, up a stair that
was greatly impeded by festoons of fishing-nets, old oars, and net-bows
on the walls, and the presence of six stalwart Tarbert trawlers, cousins
of The Tar's, who were asked to the wedding, but were so large and had so
many guernseys on, they would of themselves have filled the room in which
the ceremony took place; so they had agreed, while the minister was there
at all events, to take turn about of going in to countenance the
proceedings. What space there was within was monopolised by the relatives
of the bride, by Para Handy and Dougie, The Tar in a new slop-shop serge
suit, apparently cut out by means of a hatchet, the bride--a good deal
prettier than a Goth like The Tar deserved--and the minister. The
wedding-supper was laid out in a neighbour's house on the same

A solemn hush marked the early part of the proceedings, married only by
the sound of something frying in the other house and the shouts of
children crying for bowl-money in the street. The minister was a
teetotaller, an unfortunate circumstance which the Captain had discovered
very early, and he was very pleased with the decorum of the company. The
MacCallums were not church-goers in any satisfactory sense, but they and
their company seemed to understand what was due to a Saturday night
marriage and the presence of "the cloth." The clergyman had hardly
finished the ceremony when the Captain began manoeuvring for his removal.
He had possessed himself of a bottle of ginger cordial and a plate of

"You must drink the young couple's health, Mr Grant," he said. "We ken
it's you that's the busy man on the Setturday night, and indeed it's a
night for the whole of us goin' home early. I have a ship yonder, the
Fital Spark, that I left in cherge of an enchineer by the name of
Macphail, no' to be trusted with such a responsibulity."

The minister drank the cheerful potion, nibbled the corner of a piece of
cake, and squeezed his way downstairs between the Tarbert trawlers.

"We're chust goin' away oorscl's in ten meenutes," said the Captain after

"Noo that's aal right," said Para Handy, who in virtue of his office had
constituted himself master of ceremonies. "He's a nice man, Mr Grant, but
he's not strong, and it would be a peety to be keeping him late out of
his bed on a Setturday night. I like, mysel', yon old-fashioned munisters
that had nothing wrong wi' them, and took a Chrustian dram. Pass oot that
bottle of chinger cordial to the laads from Tarbert and you'll see fine

He was the life and soul of the evening after that. It was he who pulled
the corks, who cut the cold ham, who kissed the bride first, who sang the
first song, and danced with the new mother-in-law. "You're an aawful man,
Captain Macfarlane," she said in fits of laughter at his fun.

"Not me!" said he, lumberingly dragging her round in a polka to the
strains of Dougie's trump. "I'm a quate fellow, but when I'm in trum I
like a high jeenk noo and then. Excuse my feet. It's no' every day we're
merryin' The Tar. A fine, smert, handy fellow, Mrs MacCallum; you didn't
make a bad bargain of it with your son-in-law. Excuse my feet. A sailor
every inch of him, once you get him wakened. A pound a-week of wages an'
no incum-brance. My feet again, excuse them!"

"It's little enough for two," said Mrs MacCallum; "but a man's aye a
man," and she looked the Captain in the eye with disconcerting

"My Chove! she's a weedow wuman," thought the Captain; "I'll have to ca'
canny, or I'll be in for an engagement."

"I aye liked sailors," said Mrs MacCallum; "John--that's the depairted,
I'm his relic--was wan."

"A poor life, though," said the Captain, "especially on the steamers,
like us. But your man, maybe, was sailin' foreign, an' made money? It's
always a consuderation for a weedow."

"Not a penny," said the indiscreet Mrs MacCallum, as Para Handy wheeled
her into a chair.

At eleven o'clock The Tar was missing. He had last been seen pulling off
his new boots, which were too small for him, on the stair-head; and it
was only after considerable searching the Captain and one of the Tarbert
cousins found him sound asleep on the top of a chest in the neighbour's

"Colin," said the Captain, shaking him awake, "sit up and try and take
something. See at the rest of us, as jovial as anything, and no' a man
hit yet. Sit up and be smert for the credit of the Fital Spark."

"Are you angry wi' me. Captain?" asked The Tar.

"Not a bit of it, Colin! But you have the corkscrew in your pocket. I'm
no' caring myself, but the Tarbert gentlemen will take it amiss. Forbye,
there's your wife; you'll maybe have mind of her--wan Lucy MacCallum?
She's in yonder, fine and cheery, wi' two of your Tarbert cousins holding
her hand."

"Stop you! I'll hand them!" cried the exasperated bridegroom, and bounded
into the presence of the marriage-party in the house opposite, with a
demonstration that finally led to the breaking-up of the party.

Next day took place The Tar's curious kirking. The MacCallums, as has
been said, were not very regular churchgoers; in fact, they had
overlooked the ordinances since the departed John died, and forgot that
the church bell rang for the Sabbath-school an hour before it rang for
the ordinary forenoon service.

Campbeltown itself witnessed the bewildering spectacle of The Tar and his
bride, followed by the mother and Para Handy, marching deliberately up
the street and into the church among the children. Five minutes later
they emerged, looking very red and ashamed of themselves.

"If I knew there wass so mich bother to mind things, I would never have
got merried at all," said the bridegroom.


IT was a night of harmony on the good ship Vital Spark. She was fast in
the mud at Colintraive quay, and, in the den other. Para Handy was giving
his song, "The Dancing Master"--

"Set to Jeanie Mertin, tee-teedalum, tee-tadulam,
Up the back and doon the muddle, tec-tadalum, tee-tadulam.
Ye're wrong, Jeck, I'm certain; tee-tadalum, tee-tadulam,"

while the mate played an accompaniment on the trump--that is to say, the
Jew's harp, a favourite instrument on steam-lighters where the melodeon
has not intruded. The Captain knew only two verses, but he sang them over
several times. "You're getting better and better at it every time," The
Tar assured him, for The Tar had got the promise of a rise that day of a
shilling a week on his pay. "If I had chust on my other boots," said the
Captain, delighted at this appreciation. "This ones iss too light for
singin' with--" and he stamped harder than ever as he went on with the
song, for it was his idea that the singing of a song was a very
ineffective and uninteresting performance unless you beat time with your
foot on the floor.

The reason for the harmony on the vessel was that Dougie the mate had had
a stroke of luck that evening. He had picked up at the quay-side a large
and very coarse fish called a stenlock, or coal-fish, and had succeeded,
by sheer effrontery, in passing it off as a cod worth two shillings on a
guileless Glasgow woman who had come for the week to one of the
Colintraive cottages.

"I'm only vexed I didna say it wass a salmon," said Dougie, when he came
back to the vessel with his ill-got florin. "I could have got twice ass
much for't."

"She would ken fine it wasna a salmon when it wasna in a tin," said the

"There's many a salmon that iss not in a canister," said the mate.

"Och ay, but she's from Gleska; they're awfu' Hielan' in Gleska aboot
fush and things like that," said the Captain. "But it's maybe a peety you
didn't say it wass a salmon, for two shullin's iss not mich among four of

"Among four of us!" repeated Dougie emphatically. "It's little enough
among wan, let alone four; I'm going to keep her to mysel'."

"If that iss your opeenion, Dougie, you are maakin' a great mistake, and
it'll maybe be better for you to shift your mind," the Captain said
meaningly. "It iss the jyle you could be getting for swundling a poor
cratur from Gleska that thinks a stenlock iss a cod. Forbye, it iss a
tremendous risk, for you might be found oot, and it would be a disgrace
to the Fital Spark!"

Dougie was impressed by the possibility of trouble with the law as a
result of his fish transaction, which, to do him justice, he had gone
about more as a practical joke than anything else. "I'm vexed I did it,
Peter," he said, turning the two shillings over in his hand. "I have a
good mind to go up and tell the woman it wass chust a baur."

"Not at aal! not at aal!" cried Para Handy. "It wass a fine cod right
enough; we'll chust send The Tar up to the Inns with the two shullin's
and the jar, and we'll drink the Gleska woman's health that does not ken
wan fish from another. It will be a lesson to her to be careful; chust
that, to be careful."

So The Tar had gone to the Inn for the ale, and thus it was that harmony
prevailed in the fo'c'sle of the Vital Spark.

"Iss that a song of your own doing?" asked Dougie, when the Captain was

"No," said Para Handy, "it iss a low-country song I heard wance in the
Broomielaw. Yon iss the place for seeing life. I'm telling you it iss
Gleska for gaiety if you have the money. There iss more life in wan day
in the Broomielaw of Gleska than there iss in a fortnight on Loch Fyne."

"I daarsay there iss," said Dougie; "no' coontin' the herring."

"Och! life, life!" said the Captain, with a pensive air of ancient
memory; "Gleska's the place for it. And the fellows iss there that iss
not frightened, I'm telling you."

"I learned my tred there," mentioned the engineer, who had no
accomplishments, and had not contributed anything to the evening's
entertainment, and felt that it was time he was shining somehow.

"Iss that a fact, Macphail? I thocht it wass in a coalree in the
country," said Para Handy. "I wass chust sayin', when Macphail put in his
oar, that yon's the place for life. If I had my way of it, the Fital
Spark would be going up every day to the Chamaica Brudge the same as the
Columba, and I would be stepping ashore quite spruce with my Sunday
clothes on,  and no' lying here in a place like Colintraive, where
there's no' even a polisman, with people that swundle a Gleska woman oot
of only two shullin's. It wass not hardly worth your while, Dougie." The
ale was now finished.

The mate contributed a reel and strathspey on the trump to the evening's
programme, during which The Tar fell fast asleep, from which he wakened
to suggest that he should give them a guess.

"Weel done, Colin!" said the Captain, who had never before seen such
enterprise on the part of The Tar. "Tell us the guess if you can mind

"It begins something like this," said The Tar nervously: "'Whether would
you raither--' That's the start of it."

"Fine, Colin, fine!" said the Captain encouragingly. "Take your breath
and start again."

"'Whether would you raither,'" proceeded The Tar--"'whether would you
raither or walk there?'"

"Say't again, slow," said Dougie, and The Tar repeated his extraordinary

"If I had a piece of keelivine (lead pencil) and a lump of paper I could
soon answer that guess," said the engineer, and the Captain laughed.

"Man Colin," he said, "you're missing half of the guess oot. There's no
sense at aal in 'Whether would you raither or walk there?'"

"That's the way I heard it, anyway," said The Tar, sorry he had
volunteered. "'Whether would you raither or walk there?' I mind fine it
wass that."

"Weel, we give it up anyway; what's the answer?" said the Captain.

"Man, I don't mind whether there wass an answer or no'," confessed The
Tar, scratching his head; and the Captain irritably hit him with a cap on
the ear, after which the entertainment terminated, and the crew of the
Vital Spark went to bed.

Next forenoon a very irate-looking Glasgow woman was to be observed
coming down the quay, and Dougie promptly retired into the hold of the
Vital Spark, leaving the lady's reception to the Captain.

"Where's that man away to?" she asked Para Handy. "I want to speak to

"He's engaged, mem," said the Captain.

"I don't care if he's merried," said the Glasgow woman; "I'm no' wantin'
him. I jist wanted to say yon was a bonny-like cod he sell't me
yesterday. I biled it three oors this momin', and it was like leather
when a' was done."

"That's droll," said the Captain. "It wass a fine fush, I'll assure you;
if Dougie was here himsel' he would tell you. Maybe you didna boil it
right. Cods iss curious that way. What did you use?"

"Watter!" snapped the Glasgow woman; "did you think I would use sand?"

"Chust that! chust that! Walter? Weel, you couldna use anything better
for boilin' with than chust watter. What kind of coals did you use?"

"Jist plain black yins," said the woman. "I bocht them frae Cameron along
the road there," referring to a coal agent who was a trade rival to the
local charterer of the Vital Spark.

"Cameron!" cried Para Handy. "Wass I not sure there wass something or
other wrong? Cameron's coals wouldna boil a wulk, let alone a fine cod.
If Dougie wass here he would tell you that himsel'."


THE size of Dougie the mate's family might be considered a matter which
was of importance to himself alone, but it was astonishing how much
interest his shipmates took in it. When there was nothing else funny to
talk about on the Vital Spark, they would turn their attention to the
father of ten, and cunningly extract information from him about the
frightful cost of boys' boots and the small measure of milk to be got for
sixpence at Dwight's dairy in Plantation.

They would listen sympathetically, and later on roast him unmercifully
with comments upon the domestic facts he had innocently revealed to them.

It might happen that the vessel would be lying at a West Highland quay,
and the Captain sitting on deck reading a week-old newspaper, when he
would wink at Macphail and The Tar, and say, "Cot bless me! boys, here's
the price of boots goin' up; peety the poor faithers of big femilies."
Or, "I see there's to be a new school started in Partick, Dougie; did you
flit again?"

"You think you're smert, Peter," the mate would retort lugubriously.
"Fun's fun, but I'll no' stand fun aboot my femily."

"Och! no offence, Dougald, no offence," Para Handy would say soothingly.
"Hoo's the mustress keepin'?" and then ask a fill of tobacco to show his
feelings were quite friendly.

In an ill-advised moment the parental pride and joy of the mate brought
on board one day a cabinet photograph of himself and his wife and the ten
children.  "What do you think of that?" he said to Para Handy, who took
the extreme tip of one corner of the card between the finger and thumb of
a hand black with coal-grime, glanced at the group, and said--

"Whatna Sunday School trup's this?"

"It's no' a trup at aal," said Dougie with annoyance.

"Beg pardon, beg pardon," said the Captain, "I see noo I wass wrong; it's
Quarrier's Homes. Who's the chap wi' the whuskers in the muddle, that's

"Where's your eyes?" said Dougie. "It's no' a Homes at aal; that's me,
and I'm no' greetin'. What would I greet for?"

"Faith, I believe you're right," said the Captain. "It's yoursel' plain
enough, when I shut wan eye to look at it; but the collar and a clean
face make a terrible dufference. Well, well, allooin' that it's you, and
you're no greetin', it's rideeculous for you to be goin' to a

"It's no' a dancin'-school, it's the femily," said the mate, losing his
temper. "Fun's fun, but if you think I'll stand--"

"Keep caalm, keep caalm!" interrupted the Captain hurriedly, realising
that he had carried the joke far enough. "I might have kent fine it wass
the femily they're aal ass like you both ass anything, and that'll be
Susan the eldest."

"That!" said Dougie, quite mollified--"that's the mustress hersel'."

"Well, I'm jeegered," said the Captain, with well-acted amazement. "She's
younger-looking than ever; that's a woman that's chust sublime."

The mate was so pleased he made him a present of the photograph.

But it always had been, and always would be, a distressing task to Dougie
to have to intimate to the crew (as he had to do once a year) that there
was a new addition to the family, for it was on these occasions that the
chaff of his shipmates was most ingenious and galling. Only once, by a
trick, had he got the better of them and evaded his annual roastings. On
that occasion he came to the Vital Spark with a black muffler on, and a
sad countenance.

"I've lost my best freend," said he, rubbing his eyes to make them red.

"Holy smoke!" said Para Handy, "is Macmillan the pawnbroker deid?"

"It's no' him," said Dougie, manfully restraining a sob, and he went on
to tell them that it was his favourite uncle, Jamie. He put so much
pathos into his description of Uncle Jamie's last hours, that when he
wound up by mentioning, in an off-hand way, that his worries were
complicated by the arrival of another daughter that morning, the crew
had, naturally, not the heart to say anything about it.

Some weeks afterwards they discovered by accident that he never had an
Uncle Jamie.

"Man! he's cunning!" said Para Handy, when this black evidence of
Dougie's astuteness came out. "Stop you till the next time, and we'll
make him pay for it."

The suitable occasion for making the mate smart doubly for his deceit
came in due course. Macphail the engineer lived in the next tenement to
Dougie's family in Plantation, and he came down to the quay one morning
before the mate, with the important intelligence for the Captain that the
portrait group was now incomplete.

"Poor Dugald!" said the Captain sympathetically. "Iss it a child or a

"I don't ken," said the engineer. "I just got a rumour frae the night
polisman, and he said the wife was fine."

"Stop you and you'll see some fun with Dougie," said the Captain. "I'm
mich mistaken if he'll swundle us this twict."

Para Handy had gone ashore for something, and was back before his mate
appeared on board the Vital Spark, which was just starting for
Campbeltown with a cargo of bricks. The mate took the wheel, smoked
ceaselessly at a short cutty pipe, and said nothing; and nobody said
anything to him.

"He's plannin' some other way oot of the scrape," whispered the Captain
once to the engineer; "but he'll not get off so easy this time. Hold you

It was dinner-time, and the captain, mate, and engineer were round the
pot on deck aft, with The Tar at the wheel, within comfortable hearing
distance, when Para Handy slyly broached the topic.

"Man, Dougie," he said, "what wass I doin' yonder last night but dreamin'
in the Gaalic aboot you? I wass dreamin' you took a charter of the Vital
Spark doon to Ardkinglas with a picnic, and there wass not, a park in the
place would hold the company."

Dougie simply grunted.

"It wass a droll dream," continued the Captain, diving for another
potato. "I wass chust wonderin' hoo you found them aal at home. Hoo's the
mustress keepin'?"

The mate got very red. "I wass chust goin' to tell you aboot her," he
said with considerable embarrassment.

"A curious dream it wass," said Para Handy, postponing his pleasure, like
the shrewd man he is, that he might enjoy it all the more when it came.
"I saw you ass plain ass anything, and the Fital Spark crooded high and
low with the picnic, and you in the muddle playing your trump. The
mustress wass there, too, quite spruce, and--But you were goin' to say
something aboot the mustress, Dougie. I hope she's in her usual?"

"That's chust it," said Dougie, more and more embarrassed as he saw his
news had to be given now, if ever. "You would be thinkin' to yourself I
wass late this mornin', but the fact iss we were in an aawful babble in
oor hoose--"

"Bless me! I hope the him didn't take fire nor nothing like that?" said
Para Handy anxiously; and The Tar, at the wheel behind, was almost in a
fit with suppressed laughter.

"Not at aal! worse nor that!" said Dougie in melancholy tones.
"There's--there's--dash it! there's more boots than ever needed yonder!"

"Man, you're gettin' quite droll," said Para Handy. "Do you no' mind you
told me aboot that wan chust three or four months ago?"

"You're a liar!" said Dougie, exasperated; "it's a twelvemonth since I
told you aboot the last."

"Not at aal! not at aal! your mind's failin'," protested the Captain.
"Five months ago at the most; you told me aboot it at the time. Surely
there's some mistake?"

"No mistake at aal aboot it," said the mate, shaking his head so sadly
that the Captain's heart was melted.

"Never mind, Dougald," he said, taking a little parcel out of his pocket.
"I'm only in fun. I heard aboot it this mornin' from Macphail, and here's
a wee bit peeny and a pair o' sluppers that I bought for't."

"To the muschief! It's no' an 'it,'" said Dougie; "it's--it's--it's a

"Holy smoke!" exclaimed Para Handy. "Iss that no chust desperate?" And
the mate was so much moved that he left half his dinner and went forward
towards the bow.

Para Handy went forward to him in a little and said, "Cheer up, Dougie;
hoo wass I to ken it wass a twuns? If I had kent, it wouldna be the wan
peeny and the wan sluppers; but I have two or three shillin's here, and
I'll buy something else in Campbeltown."

"I can only--I can only say thankye the noo, Peter; it wass very good of
you," said the mate, deeply touched, and attempting to shake the
Captain's hand.

"Away! away!" said Para Handy, getting very red himself; "none of your
chat! I'll buy peenies and sluppers if I like."


ON the night after New Year's Day the Captain did a high-spirited thing
he had done on the corresponding day for the previous six years; he had
his hair cut and his beard trimmed by Dougie the mate, made a specially
careful toilet--taking all the tar out of his hands by copious
applications of salt butter--wound up his watch (which was never honoured
in this way more than once or twice a twelvemonth), and went up the quay
to propose to Mrs Crawford. It was one of the rare occasions upon which
he wore a topcoat, and envied Macphail his Cairngorm scarfpin. There was
little otherwise to suggest the ardent wooer, for ardent wooers do not
look as solemn as Para Handy looked. The truth, is, he was becoming
afraid that his persistency might wear down a heart of granite, and that
this time the lady might accept him.

The crew of the Vital Spark, whom he thought quite ignorant of his tender
passion for the baker's widow, took a secret but intense interest in this
annual enterprise. He was supposed to be going to take tea with a cousin
(as if captains took the tar off their hands to visit their own
cousins!), and in order to make the deception more complete and allay any
suspicions on the part, especially, of Macphail, who, as a great student
of penny novelettes, was up to all the intrigues of love, the Captain
casually mentioned that if it wasn't that it would vex his cousin he
would sooner stay on the vessel and play Catch the Ten with them.

"I hate them tea-pairties," he said; "chust a way of wasting the New
Year. But stay you here, boys, and I'll come back ass soon ass ever I

"Bring back some buns, or cookies, or buscuits wi' you," cried Dougie, as
the Captain stepped on to the quay.

"What do you mean?" said Para Handy sharply, afraid he was discovered.

"Nothing, Peter, nothing at aal," the mate assured him, nudging The Tar
in the dark. "Only it's likely you'll have more of them that you can eat
at your cousin's tea-pairty."

Reassured thus that his secret was still safe. Para Handy went slowly up
the quay. As he went he stopped a moment to exchange a genial word with
everybody he met, as if time was of no importance, and he was only ashore
for a daunder. This was because, dressed as he was, if he walked quickly
and was not particularly civil to everybody, the whole of Campbeltown
(which is a very observant place) would suspect he was up to something
and watch him.

The widow's shop was at a conveniently quiet corner. He tacked back and
forward off it in the darkness several times till a customer, who was
being served, as he could see through the glass door, had come out, and a
number of boys playing at "guesses" at the window had passed on, and then
he cleared his throat, unbuttoned his topcoat and jacket to show his
watch-chain, and slid as gently as he could in at the glass door.

"Dear me, fancy seeing you. Captain Macfarlane!" said the widow Crawford,
coming from the room at the back of the shop. "Is it really yourself?"

"A good New Year to you," said the Captain, hurried and confused. "I wass
chust goin' up the toon, and I thought I would give you a roar in the
by-going. Are you keeping tip-top, Mery?"

His heart beat wildly; he looked at her sideways with a timid eye, for,
hang it! she was more irresistible than ever. She was little, plump,
smiling, rosy-cheeked, neat in dress, and just the exact age to make the
Captain think he was young again.

"Will you not come ben and warm yourself? It's a nasty, damp night," said
Mrs Crawford, pushing the back door, so that he got the most tempting
vision of an interior with firelight dancing in it, a genial lamp, and a
tea-table set.

"I'll chust sit doon and draw my breath for a meenute or two. You'll be
busy?" said the Captain, rolling into the back room with an elephantine
attempt (which she skilfully evaded) at playfully putting his arm round
the widow's waist as he did so.

"You're as daft as ever, I see, Captain," said the lady. "I was just
making myself a cup of tea; will you take one?"

"Och, it's puttin' you to bother," said the Captain.

"Not a bit of it," said the widow, and she whipped out a cup, which was
suspiciously handy in a cupboard, and told the Captain to take off his
coat and he would get the good of it when he went out.

People talk about young girls as entrancing. To men of experience like
the Captain girls are insipid. The prime of life in the other sex is
something under fifty; and the widow, briskly making tea, smiling on him,
shaking her head at him, pushing him on the shoulder when he was
impudent, chaffing him, surrounding him with an intoxicating atmosphere
of homeliness, comfort, and cuddleability, seemed to Para Handy there and
then the most angelic creature on earth. The rain could be heard falling
heavily outside, no customers were coming in, and the back room of the
baker's shop was, under the circumstances, as fine an earthly makeshift
for Paradise as man could ask for.

Para Handy dived his hand into his coat pocket.

"That minds me," said he; "I have a kind of a bottle of scent here a
friend o' mine, by the name of Hurricane Jeck, took home for me from
America last week. It's the rale Florida Water; no' the like o't to be
got here, and if you put the least sensation on your hanky you'll feel
the smell of it a mile away. It's chust sublime."

"Oh! it's so kind of you!" said the widow, beaming on him with the
merriest, brownest, deepest, meltingest of eyes, and letting her plump
little fingers linger a moment on his as she took the perfume bottle. The
Captain felt as if golden harps were singing in the air, and fairies were
tickling him down the back with peacocks' feathers.

"Mery," he said in a little, "this iss splendid tea. Capital,

"Tuts! Captain," said she, "is it only my tea you come to pay compliments
to once a year? Good tea's common enough if you're willing to pay for it.
What do you think of myself?"

The Captain neatly edged his chair round the corner of the table to get
it close beside hers, and she just as neatly edged her chair round the
other comer, leaving their relative positions exactly as they had been.

"No, no, Captain," said she, twinkling; "hands off the widow. I'm a done
old woman, and it's very good of you to come and have tea with me; but I
always thought sailors, with a sweetheart, as they say, in every port,
could say nice things to cheer up a lonely female heart. What we women
need. Captain--the real necessity of our lives--is some one to love us.
Even if he's at the other end of the world, and unlikely ever to be any
nearer, it makes the work of the day cheery. But what am I haverin'
about?" she added,  with a delicious, cosy, melting, musical sigh that
bewitchingly heaved her blouse. "Nobody cares for me, I'm too old."

"Too old!" exclaimed the Captain, amused at the very idea. "You're not a
day over fifty. You're chust sublime."

"Forty-nine past, to be particular," said the widow, "and feel like
twenty. Oh! Captain, Captain! you men!"

"Mery," entreated Para Handy, putting his head to one side, "caal me
Peter, and gie me a haad o' your hand." This time he edged his chair
round quicker than she did hers, and captured her fingers. Now that he
had them he didn't know very well what to do with them, but he decided
after a little that a cute thing to do was to pull them one by one and
try to make them crack. He did so, and got slapped on the ear for his

"What do you mean by that?" said she.

"Och, it was chust a baur, Mery," said Para Handy. "Man, you're strong,
strong! You would make a sublime wife for any sober, decent,
good-looking, capable man. You would make a fine wife for a sailor, and
I'm naming no names, mind ye; but"--here he winked in a manner that
seemed to obliterate one complete side of his face--"they caal him
Peter. Eh? What?"

"Nobody would have me," said the widow, quite cheerfully, enjoying
herself immensely. "I'm old--well, kind of old, and plain, and I have no

"Money!" said Para Handy contemptuously; "the man I'm thinking of does
not give wan docken for money. And you're no more old than I am mysel',
and as for bein' plain, chust look at the lovely polka you have on and
the rudness of your face. If Dougie was here he would tell--no, no, don't
mention a cheep to Dougie--not a cheep; he would maybe jalouse

"This is the sixth time of asking. Captain," said the widow. "You must
have your mind dreadful firm made up. But it's only at the New Year I see
you; I'm afraid you're like all sailors--when you're away you forget all
about me. Stretch your hand and have another London bun."

"London buns iss no cure for my case," said the Captain, taking one,
however. "I hope you'll Say yes this time."

"I'll--I'll think about it," said the widow, still smiling; "and if
you're passing this way next New Year and call in, I'll let you know."

The crew of the Vital Spark waited on deck for the return of the skipper.
Long before he came in sight they heard him clamping down the quay
singing cheerfully to himself--

"Rolling home to bonnie Scotland,
Rolling home, dear land, to thee;
Rolling home to bonnie Scotland,
Rolling home across the sea."

"Iss your cousin's tea-pairty over already?" said Dougie innocently.
"Wass there many at it?"

"Seven or eight," said Para Handy promptly. "I chust came away. And I'm
feeling chust sublime. Wan of Brutain's hardy sons."

He went down below, and hung up his topcoat and his watch and took off
his collar, which uncomfortably rasped his neck. "Mery's the right sort,"
said he to himself; "she's no' going ram-stam into the business. She's
caautious like mysel'. Maybe next New Year she'll make her mind up."

And the widow, putting up her shutters that night, hummed cheerfully to
herself, and looked quite happy. "I wish I HAD called him Peter," she
thought; "next year I'll not be so blate."


ON the first day of February the Captain of the Vital Spark made an
amazing resolution. Life in the leisure hours of himself and his crew had
been rather strenuous during the whole of January, for Dougie had broken
the Rechabites. When Dougie was not a Rechabite, he always carried about
with him an infectious atmosphere of gaiety and a half-crown, and the
whole ship's company took its tone from him. This is a great moral
lesson. It shows how powerful for good or evil is the influence and
example of One Strong Man. If Dougie had been more at home that month,
instead of trading up the West Coast, his wife would have easily
dispelled his spirit of gaiety by making him nurse the twins, and she
would have taken him herself to be reinstalled in the Rechabites, for she
was "a fine, smert, managin' woman," as he admitted himself; but when
sailors are so often and so far away from the benign influences of home,
with nobody to search their pockets, it is little wonder they should
sometimes be foolish. So the Captain rose on the first day of the month
with a frightful headache, and emphatically refused to adopt the
customary method of curing it. "No," he said to his astonished mates,
"I'm no' goin' up to the Ferry Hoose nor anywhere else; I'm teetotal."

"Teetotal!" exclaimed Dougie, much shocked. "You shouldna make a joke
aboot things like that, and you no' feelin' very weel; come on up and
take your mornin'."

"Not a drop!" said Para Handy firmly.

"Tut, tut, Peter; chust wan beer," persisted the mate patiently.

"Not even if it wass jampaigne," said the Captain, drying his head, which
he had been treating to a cold douche. "My mind's made up. Drink's a
curse, and I'm done wi't, for I canna stand it."

"There's nobody askin' you to stand it," explained the mate. "I have a
half-croon o' my own here."

"It's no odds," said the Captain. "I'm on the teetotal tack. Not another
drop will I taste--"

"Stop, stop!" interrupted Dougie, more shocked than ever. "Don't do
anything rash. You might be struck doon deid, and then you would be sorry
for what you said. Do you mean to tell us that you're goin' to be
teetotal aalthegether?"

"No," said the Captain, "I'm no' that desperate. I wouldna care chust to
go aal that length, but I'm goin' to be teetotal for the month o'

"Man, I think you're daft, Peter," said the mate. "February, of aal
months! In February the New Year's no' right bye, and the Gleska Fair's
chust comin' on; could you no' put it off for a more sensible time?"

"No," said the Captain firmly, "February's the month for me; there's two
or three days less in't than any other month in the year."

So the crew filed ashore almost speechless with astonishment--annoyed and
depressed to some extent by this inflexible virtue on the part of Para

"He's gettin' quite droll in his old age," was Dougie's explanation.

"Fancy him goin' away and spoilin' the fun like that!" said The Tar

"I aye said he hadna the game in him," was the comment of Macphail the

Para Handy watched them going up to the Ferry House, and wished it was
the month of March.

The first day of his abstinence would have passed without much more
inclination on his part to repent his new resolution were it not for the
fact that half a score of circumstances conspired to make it a day of
unusual trial. He met friends that day he had not met for months, all
with plenty of time on their hands; Hurricane Jack, the irresistible,
came alongside in another vessel, and was immediately for celebrating
this coincidence by having half a day off, a proposal the Captain evaded
for a while only by pretending to be seriously ill and under medical
treatment; the coal merchant, whose cargo they had just discharged,
presented the crew with a bottle of whisky; there was a ball at the
George Hotel; there was a travelling piper on the streets, with most
inspiring melodies; the headache was away by noon--only a giant
will-power could resist so many circumstances conducive to gaiety. But
Para Handy never swerved in his resolution. He compromised with the
friends who had plenty of time and the inclination for merriment by
taking fills of tobacco from them; confiscated the bottle of whisky as
Captain, and locked it past with the assurance to his crew that it would
be very much the more matured if kept till March; and the second time
Hurricane Jack came along the quay to see if the Captain of the Vital
Spark was not better yet, he accompanied him to the Ferry House, and
startled him by saying he would have "Wan small half of lime-juice on

"What's that, Peter?" said Hurricane Jack. "Did I hear you say something
aboot lime-juice, or does my ears deceive me?"

"It's chust for a bate, Jeck--no offence," explained the Captain
hurriedly. "I have a bate on wi' a chap that I'll no' drink anything
stronger this month; but och! next month, if we're spared, wait you and
you'll see some fine fun."

Hurricane Jack looked at him with great disapproval. "Macfarlane," he
said solemnly, "you're goin' far, far wrong, and mind you I'm watchin'
you. A gembler iss an abomination, and gemblin' at the expense of your
inside iss worse than gemblin' on horses. Us workin' men have nothing but
oor strength to go on, and if we do not keep up oor strength noo and
then, where are we? You will chust have a smaal gill, and the man that
made the bate wi' you'll never be any the wiser."

"No, Jeck, thank you aal the same," said the Captain, "but I'll chust
take the lime-juice. Where'll you be on the first o' Merch?"

Hurricane Jack grudgingly ordered the lime-juice, and asked the landlady
to give the Captain a sweetie with it to put away the taste, then looked
on with an aspect of mingled incredulity and disgust as Para Handy
hurriedly gulped the unaccustomed beverage and chased it down with a
drink of water.

"It's a fine thing a drap watter," said Para Handy, gasping.

"No' a worse thing you could drink," said Hurricane Jack. "It rots your
boots; what'll it no' do on your inside? Walter's fine for sailin'
on--there's nothing better--but it's no' drink for sailors."

On the second day of the great reform Para Handy spent his leisure hours
fishing for saithe from the side of the vessel, and was, to all
appearance, firmer than ever. He was threatened for a while by a good
deal of interference from his crew, who resented the confiscation of the
presentation bottle, but he turned the tables on them by coming out in
the role of temperance lecturer. When they approached him, he sniffed
suspiciously, and stared at their faces in a way that was simply
galling--to Dougie particularly, who was naturally of a rubicund
countenance. Then he sighed deeply, shook his head solemnly, and put on a
fresh bait.

"Are you no' better yet?" Dougie asked. "You're looking ass dull ass if
the shup wass tied up to a heidstone in the Necropolis o' Gleska. None o'
your didoes, Peter; give us oot the spurits we got the present o'. It's

Para Handy stared at his fishing-line, and said gently, as if he were
speaking to himself, "Poor sowls! poor sowls! Nothing in their heids but
drink. It wass a happy day for me the day I gave it up, or I might be
like the rest o' them. There's poor Dougald lettin' it get a terrible
grup o' him; and The Tar chust driftin', driftin' to the poor's-hoose,
and Macphail iss sure to be in the horrors before Setturday, for he hasna
the heid for drink, him no' bein' right Hielan'."

"Don't be rash; don't do anything you would be vexed for, but come on
away up the toon and have a pant," said Dougie coaxingly. "Man, you have
only to make up your mind and shake it off, and you'll be ass cheery ass
ever you were."

"He's chust takin' a rise oot o' us; are you no', Captain?" said The Tar,
anxious to leave his commander an honourable way of retreat from his
preposterous position.

Para Handy went on fishing as if they were not present.

"Merried men, too, with wifes and femilies," he said musingly. "If they
chust knew what it wass, like me, to be risin' in the mornin' wi' a clear
heid, and a good conscience, they would never touch it again. I never
knew what happiness wass till I joined the teetotal, and it'll be money
in my pocket forbye."

"You'll go on, and you'll go on with them expuriments too far till you'll
be a vegetarian next," said Dougie, turning away. "Chust a vegetarian,
tryin' to live on turnips and gress, the same ass a coo. If I was a
Macfarlane I wouldna care to be a coo."

Then they left him with an aspect more of sorrow than of anger, and he
went on fishing.

The third day of the month was Saturday; there was nothing to do on the
Vital Spark, which was waiting on a cargo of timber, so all the crew
except the Captain spent the time ashore. Him they left severely alone,
and the joys of fishing saithe and reading a week-old newspaper palled.

"The worst of bein' good iss that it leaves you duvelish lonely," said
the Captain to himself.

An hour later, he discovered that he had a touch of toothache, and,
strongly inclined for a temporary suspension of the new rules for
February, he went to the locker for the presentation bottle.

It was gone!


A FORTNIGHT of strict teetotalism on the part of the Captain was too much
of a joke for his crew. "It's just bounce," said the mate; "he's
showin'off. I'm a Rechabite for six years, every time I'm in Gleska; but
I never let it put between me and a gless of good Brutish spurits wi' a
shipmate in any port. Loch Fyne or foreign."

"It's most annoyin'," said The Tar. "He asked me yesterday if my health
wassna breakin' doon wi' drink, the same ass it would break doon wi' aal
I take."

"Chust what I told you; nothing but bounce!" said Dougie gloomily. "Stop
you! Next time he's in trum, I'll no' be so handy at pullin' corks for
him. If I wass losin' my temper wi' him, I would give him a bit o' my

The engineer, wiping his brow with a wad of oily waste, put down the
penny novelette he was reading and gave a contemptuous snort. "I wonder
to hear the two o' ye talkin'," said he. "Ye're baith feared for him. I
could soon fix him."

"Could you, Macphail?" said Dougie. "You're aawful game: what would you

"I would send him a valentine that would vex him," replied the engineer
promptly; "a fizzer o' a valentine that would mak' his hair curl for

The mate impulsively smacked his thigh. "My Chove! Macphail," said he,
"it's the very ticket! What do you say to a valentine for the Captain,

"Whatever you think yersel'," said The Tar.

That night Dougie and The Tar went ashore at Tarbert for a valentine.
There was one shop-window up the town with a gorgeous display of penny
"mocks," designed and composed to give the recipient in every instance a
dull, sickening thud on the bump of his self-esteem. The two mariners saw
no valentine, however, that quite met the Captain's case.

"There'll be plenty o' other wans inside on the coonter," said Dougie
diplomatically. "Away you in, Colin, and pick wan suitable, and I'll
stand here and watch."

"Watch what?" inquired The Tar suspiciously. "It would be more like the
thing if you went in and bought it yoursel'; I'll maybe no' get wan
that'll please you."

"Aal you need to ask for iss a mock valentine, lerge size, and pretty
broad, for a skipper wi' big feet. I would go in mysel' in a meenute if
it wassna that--if it wassna that it would look droll, and me a
muddle-aged man wi' whuskers."

The Tar went into the shop reluctantly, and was horrified to find a
rather pretty girl behind the counter. He couldn't for his life suggest
mock valentines to her,  and he could not with decency back out without

"Have you any--have you any nice unvelopes?" he inquired bashfully, as
she stood waiting his order.

"What size?" she asked.

"Lerge size, and pretty broad, for a skipper wi' big feet," said The Tar
in his confusion. Then he corrected himself, adding, "Any size, muss,
suitable for holdin' letters."

"There's a great run on that kind of envelope this winter," the lady
remarked, being a humorist. "How many?"

"A ha'pennyworth," said The Tar. "I'll chust take them wi' me."

When The Tar came out of the shop the mate was invisible, and it was only
after some search he found him in a neighbouring public-house.

"I chust came in here to put by the time," said Dougie; "but seein'
you're here, what am I for?"

The Tar, realising that there must be an unpleasant revelation
immediately, produced the essential threepence and paid for beer.

"I hope you got yon?" said the mate anxiously.

"Ass sure ass daith, Dougie, I didna like to ask for it," explained the
young man pathetically. "There's a gasalier and two paraffin lamps
bleezin' in the shop, and it would gie me a rud face to ask for a mock
valentine in such an illumination. Iss there no other wee dark shop in
the toon we could get what we want in?"

The mate surveyed him with a disgusted countenance. "Man, you're a
coward, Colin," he said. "The best in the land goes in and buys mock
valentines, and it's no disgrace to nobody so long ass he has the money
in his hand. If I had another gless o' beer I would go in mysel'."

"You'll get that!" said The Tar gladly, and produced another threepence,
after which they returned to the shop-window, where Dougie's courage
apparently failed him, in spite of the extra glass of beer. "It's no'
that I give a docken for anybody," he explained, "but you see I'm that
weel kent in Tarbert. What sort o' body keeps the shop?"

"Ooh, it's chust an old done man wi' a sore hand and wan eye no'
neebours," replied The Tar strategically. "Ye needna be frightened for
him; he'll no' say a cheep. To bleezes wi'him!"

Dougie was greatly relieved at this intelligence. "Toots!" he said. "Iss
that aal? Watch me!" and he went banging in at the door in three strides.

The lady of the shop was in a room behind. To call her attention Dougie
cried, "Shop!" and kicked the front of the counter, with his eyes already
on a pile of valentines ready for a rush of business in that elegant form
of billet-doux. When the pretty girl came skipping out of the back room,
he was even more astounded and alarmed than The Tar had been.

"A fine night," he remarked affably: "iss your faither at the back?"

"I think you must have made a mistake in the shop," said the lady. "Who
do you want?"

"Him with the sore hand and the wan eye no' right neebours," said the
mate, not for a moment suspecting that The Tar had misled him. "It's
parteecular business; I'll no' keep him wan meenute."

"There's nobody here but myself," the girl informed him, and then he saw
he had been deceived by his shipmate.

"Stop you till I get that Tar!" he exclaimed with natural exasperation,
and was on the point of leaving when the pile of valentines met his eye
again, and he decided to brazen it out.

"Maybe you'll do yoursel'," said he, with an insinuating leer at the
shopkeeper. "There iss a shipmate o' mine standin' oot there took a kind
o' notion o' a mock valentine and doesna like to ask for't. He wass in a
meenute or two ago--you would know him by the warts on his hand--but he
hadna the nerve to ask for it."

"There you are, all kinds," said the lady, indicating the pile on the
counter, with a smile of comprehension. "A penny each."

Dougie wet his thumb and clumsily turned over the valentines, seeking for
one appropriate to a sea captain silly enough to be teetotal. "It's chust
for a baur, mind you," he explained to the lady. "No herm at aal, at aal;
chust a bit of a high jeenk. Porbye, it's no' for me: it's for the other
fellow, and his name's Colin Turner, but he's blate, blate." He raised
his voice so that The Tar, standing outside the window, could hear him
quite plainly; with the result that The Tar was so ashamed, he pulled
down his cap on his face and hurriedly walked off to the quay.

"There's an awful lot o' them valentines for governesses and tyiers and
polismen," said Dougie; "the merchant service doesna get mich of a
chance. Have you nothing smert and nippy that'll fit a sea captain, and
him teetotal?"

The shopkeeper hurriedly went over her stock, and discovered that
teetotalism was the one eccentricity valentines never dealt with; on the
contrary, they were all for people with red noses and bibulous

"There's none for teetotal captains," said she; "but here's one for a
captain that's not teetotal," and she shoved a valentine with a most
unpleasant-looking seaman, in a state of intoxication, walking arm-inarm
with a respectable-looking young woman.

"Man, that's the very tup!" said Dougie, delighted. "It's ass clever a
thing ass ever I seen. I wonder the way they can put them valentines
thegather. Read what it says below, I havena my specs."

The shopkeeper read the verse on the valentine:

"The girl that would marry a man like you
Would have all the rest of her life to rue;
A sailor soaked in salt water and rum
Could never provide a happy home."

"Capital!" exclaimed the mate, highly delighted. "Ass smert ass anything
in the works of Burns. That wan'll do splendid."

"I thought it was for a teetotal captain you wanted one," said the lady,
as she folded up the valentine.

"He's only teetotal to spite us," said Dougie. "And that valentine fits
him fine, for he's coortin' a baker's weedow, and he thinks we don't
know. Mind you, it's no' me that's goin' to send the valentine, it's
Colin Turner; but there's no herm, chust a bit of a baur. You ken

Then an embarrassing idea occurred to him--Who was to address the

"Do you keep mournin' unvelopes?" he asked.

"Black-edged envelopes--yes," said the shopkeeper.

"Wan," said Dougie; and when he got it he put the valentine inside and
ventured to propose to the lady that, seeing she had pen and ink handy,
she might address the envelope for him, otherwise the recipient would
recognise Colin Turner's hand-of-write.

The lady obliged, and addressed the document to


Dougie thanked her effusively on behalf of The Tar, paid for his
purchases and a penny stamp, and went out. As he found his shipmate gone,
he sealed the envelope and posted it.

When the letter-carrier came down Tarbert quay next morning, all the crew
of the Vital Spark were on deck--the Captain in blissful unconsciousness
of what was in store for him, the others anxious not to lose the
expression of his countenance when he should open his valentine.

It was a busy day on the Vital Spark; all hands had to help to get in a
cargo of wood.

"A mournin' letter for you, Captain," said the letter-carrier, handing
down the missive.

Para Handy looked startled, and walked aft to open it. He took one short
but sufficient glimpse at the valentine, with a suspicious glance at the
crew, who were apparently engrossed in admiration of the scenery round
Tarbert. Then he went down the fo'c'sle, to come up a quarter of an hour
later with his good clothes on, his hat, and a black tie.

"What the duvvle game iss he up to noo?" said Dougie, greatly astonished.

"I hope it didna turn his brain," said The Tar. "A fright sometimes does
it. Wass it a very wild valentine, Dougie?"

Para Handy moved aft with a sad, resigned aspect, the mourning envelope
in his hand. "I'm sorry I'll have to go away till the efternoon, boys,"
he said softly. "See and get in that wud nice and smert before I come

"What's wrong?" asked Dougie, mystified.

The Captain ostentatiously blew his nose, and explained that they might
have noticed he had just got a mourning letter.

"Was't a mournin' wan? I never noticed," said Dougie.

"Neither did I," added The Tar hurriedly.

"Yes," said the Captain sadly, showing them the envelope; "my poor cousin
Cherlie over in Dunmore iss no more; he just slipped away yesterday, and
I'm goin' to take the day off and make arrangements."

"Well, I'm jiggered!" exclaimed Dougie, as they watched Para Handy
walking off on what they realised was to be a nice holiday at their
expense, for they would now have his share of the day's work to do as
well as their own.

"Did ye ever see such a nate liar?" said The Tar, lost in admiration at
the cunning of the Captain.

And then they fell upon the engineer, and abused him for suggesting the


PARA HANDY never had been at a Glasgow ball till he went to the Knapdale
Natives', and he went there simply to please Hurricane Jack. That gallant
and dashing mariner came to him one day at Bowling, treated him to three
substantial refreshments in an incredibly short space of time, and then
delivered a brilliant lecture on the duty of being patriotic to one's
native place, "backing up the boys," and buying a ticket for the assembly
in question.

"But I'm not a native of Knapdale," said the Captain. "Forbye, I'm kind
of oot o' the dancin'; except La Va and Petronella I don't mind wan

"That's aal right, Peter," said Hurricane Jack encouragingly; "there's
nobody'll make you dance at a Knapdale ball if you're no' in trum for
dancin'. I can get you on the committee, and aal you'll have to do will
be to stand at the door of the committee room and keep the crood back
from the beer-bottles. I'm no' there mysel' for amusement: do you ken
Jean Mactaggart?"

"Not me," said Para Handy. "What Mactaggarts iss she off, Jeck?"

"Carradale," said Hurricane Jack modestly. "A perfect beauty! We're

The Captain shook hands mournfully with his friend and cheerlessly
congratulated him. "It's a responsibulity, Jeck," he said, "there's no
doot it's a responsibulity, but you ken yoursel' best."

"She's a nice enough gyurl so far ass I know," said Hurricane Jack. "Her
brother's in the Western Ocean tred. What I'm wantin' you on the
committee for iss to keep me back from the committee room, so that I'll
not take a drop too much and affront the lassie. If you see me desperate
keen on takin' more than would be dacent, take a dozen strong smert
fellows in wi' you at my expense and barricade the door. I'll maybe taalk
aboot tearin' the hoose doon, but och, that'll only be my nonsense."

The Captain accepted the office, not without reluctance, and went to the
ball, but Hurricane Jack failed to put in any appearance all night, and
Para Handy considered himself the victim of a very stupid practical joke
on the part of his friend.

Early next forenoon Hurricane Jack presented himself on board the Vital
Spark and made an explanation. "I'm black affronted, Peter," he said,
"but I couldna help it. I had a bit of an accident. You see it wass this
way, Peter. Miss Mactaggart wass comin' special up from Carradale and
stayin' with her uncle, old Macpherson. She wass to put her clothes on
there, and I wass to caal for her in wan of them cabs at seven o'clock. I
wass ready at five, all spruce from clew to earing, and my heid wass that
sore wi' wearin' a hat for baals that I got hold of a couple of men I
knew in the China tred and went for chust wan small wee gless. What
happened efter that for an oor or two's a mystery, but I think I wass
drugged. When I got my senses I wass in a cab, and the driver roarin'
doon the hatch to me askin' the address.

"'What street iss it you're for?" said he.

"'What streets have you?' I asked.

"'Aal you told me wass Macfarlane's shup,' he said; 'do you think we're
anyway near it?'

"When he said that I put my heid oot by the gless and took an

"'Iss this Carrick Street or Monday mornin'?' says I to him, and then he
put me oot of his cab. The poor sowl had no fear in him; he must have
been Irish. It wass not much of a cab; here's the door handles, a piece
of the wud, and the man's brass number; I chust took them with me for
identification, and went home to my bed. When I wakened this mornin' and
thought of Jean sittin' up aal night waitin' on me, I wass clean

"It's a kind of a peety, too, the way it happened," said Para Handy
sympathetically. "It would put herself a bit aboot sittin' aal night wi'
her sluppers on."

"And a full set o' new sails," said Hurricane Jack pathetically. "She was
sparin' no expense. This'll be a lesson to me. It'll do me good; I wish
it hadna happened. What I called for wass to see if you'll be kind
enough, seein' you were on the committee, to go up to 191 Barr Street,
where she's stayin' wi' Macpherson, and put the thing ass nicely for me
ass you can."

Para Handy was naturally shy of the proposal. "I never saw the lassie,"
said he. "Would it no' look droll for me to go instead of yoursel'?"

"It would look droll if you didna," said Hurricane Jack emphatically.
"What are you on the committee for, and in cherge of aal the beer, unless
you're to explain things? I'll show you the close, and you'll go up and
ask for two meenutes' private conversation with Miss Mactaggart, and
you'll tell her that I'm far from weel. Say I wass on my way up last
night in fine time and the cab collided with a tramway car. Break it
nice, and no' frighten the poor gyurl oot of her senses. Say I was oot of
my conscience for seven 'oors, but that I'm gettin' the turn, and I'm no'
a bit disfigured."

Para Handy was still irresolute. "She'll maybe want to nurse you, the way
they do in Macphail's novelles," said he, "and what'll I tell her then?"

This was a staggerer for Hurricane Jack. He recognised the danger of
arousing the womanly sympathies of Miss Mactaggart. But he was equal to
all difficulties of this kind. "Tell her," said he, "there's nobody to
get speakin' to me for forty-eight 'oors, but that I'll likely be oot on

The Captain agreed to undertake this delicate mission, but only on
condition that Dougie the mate should accompany him to back him up in
case his own resourcefulness as a liar should fail him at the critical

"Very well," said Hurricane Jack, "take Dougie wi' you, but watch her
uncle; I'm told he's cunning, cunning, though I never met him--a man
Macpherson, by the name of Erchie. Whatever you tell her, if he's there
at the time, tell it to her in the Gaalic."

Para Handy and his mate that evening left Hurricane Jack at a discreet
public bar called the "Hot Blast," and went up to the house of Erchie
Macpherson. It was himself who came to answer their knock at his door,
for he was alone in the house.

"We're no' for ony strings o' onions, or parrots, or onything o' that
sort," he said, keeping one foot against the door and peering at them in
the dim light of the rat-tail burner on the stair-landing. "And if it's
the stair windows ye want to clean, they were done yesterday."

"You should buy specs," said the Captain promptly--"they're no' that
dear. Iss Miss Mactaggart in?"

Erchie opened the door widely, and gave his visitors admission to the

"She's no' in the noo," said he. "Which o' ye happens to be the sailor
chap that was to tak' her to the ball last nicht?"

"It wasna any o' us," said Para Handy. "It wass another gentleman

"I micat hae kent that," said Erchie. "Whit lockup is he in? If it's his
bail ye're here for, ye needna bother. I aye tell't my guid-sister's
dochter she wasna ill to please when she took up wi' a sailor. I had a
son that was yince a sailor himself, but thank the Lord he's better, and
he's in the Corporation noo. Were ye wantin' to see Jean?"

"Chust for a meenute," said Para Handy, quietly taking a seat on the
jawbox. "Will she be long?"

"Five feet three," said Erchie, "and broad in proportion. She hasna come
doon sae much as ye wad think at her disappointment."

"That's nice," said Para Handy. "A thing o' the kind would tell terribly
on some weemen. You're no' in the shuppin' tred yoursel', I suppose? I
ken a lot o' Macphersons in the coast line. But I'm no' askin', mind ye;
it's chust for conversation. There wass a femily of Macphersons came from
the same place ass mysel' on Lochfyneside; fine smert fellows they were,
but I daresay no relation. Most respectable. Perhaps you ken the Gaalic?"

"Not me!" said Endue frankly--"jist plain Gleska. If I'm Hielan' I canna
help it; my faither took the boat to the Broomielaw as soon as he got his

The conversation would have languished here if Dougie had not come to the
rescue. "What's your tred?" he asked bluntly.

"Whiles I beadle and whiles I wait," replied Eichie, who was not the man
to be ashamed of his calling. "At ither times I jist mind my ain affairs;
ye should gie 't a trial--it'll no hurt ye."

The seamen laughed at this sally: it was always a virtue of both of them
that they could appreciate a joke at their own expense.

"No offence, no offence, Mr Macpherson," said Para Handy. "I wish your
niece would look slippy. You'll be sorry to hear aboot what happened to
poor Jeck."

Erchie turned quite serious. "What's the maitter wi' him?" he said.

"The cab broke doon last night," said the Captain solemnly, "and he got a
duvvle of a smash."

"Puir sowl!" said Erchie, honestly distressed. "This'll be a sair blow
for Jeanie."

"He lost his conscience for 'oors, but there's no dis-feegurement, and
he'll be speechless till Monday momin'. It's a great peety. Such a
splendid voice ass he had, too; it wass truly sublime. He's lyin' yonder
wi' his heid in a sling and not wan word in him. He tell't me I was to
say to--"

Here Dougie, seeing an inconsistency in the report, slyly nudged his
captain, who stopped short and made a very good effort at a sigh of deep

"I thocht ye said he oouldna speak," said Erchie suspiciously.

"My mistake, my mistake," said the Captain. "What I meant wass that he
could only speak in the Gaalic; the man's fair off his usual. Dougie'll
tell you himsel'."

Dougie shook his head lugubriously. "Ay," said he, "he's yonder wi'
fifteen doctors roond him waitin' for the turn."

"What time did it happen?" inquired Erchie. "Was it efter he was here?"

"He wass on his way here," said Para Handy. "It was exactly half-past
seven, for his watch stopped in the smash."

At this Erchie sat back in his chair and gave a disconcerting laugh.
"Man," he said, "ye're no' bad at a baur, but ye've baith put yer feet
in't this time. Will ye tak' a refreshment? There's a drop speerits in
the noose and a bottle or two o' porter."

"I'm teetotal mysel' at present," said Para Handy, "but I have a nesty
cold. I'll chust take the spurits while you're pullin' the porter. We'll
drink a quick recovery to Jeck."

"Wi' a' my he'rt," said Erchie agreeably. "I hope he'll be oot again
afore Monday. Do ye no' ken he came here last nicht wi' the cab a' richt,
but was that dazed Jeanie wadna gang wi' him. But she got to the ball a'
the same, for she went wi' Mackay the polisman."

"My Chove!" said the Captain, quite dumb-foundered. "He doesna mind,
himself, a thing aboot it."

"I daresay no'," said Erchie, "that's the warst o' trevellin' in cabs; he
should hae come in a motor-caur."

When the Captain and Dougie came down Macpherson's stair, they considered
the situation in the close.

"I think mysel'," said the Captain, "it wouldna be salubrious for neither
o' the two of us to go to the 'Hot Blast' and break the news to Jeck the

"Whatever ye think yoursel'," said Dougie, and they headed straight for


IT is possible that Para Handy might still have been a bachelor if Calum
Cameron had not been jilted. Three days before Calum was to have been
married, the girl exercised a girl's privilege and changed her mind. She
explained her sad inconstancy by saying she had never cared for him, and
only said "yes" to get him off her face. It was an awkward business,
because it left the baker's widow, Mrs Crawford, with a large
bride's-cake on her hands. It is true the bride's-cake had been paid for,
but in the painful circumstances neither of the parties to the broken
contract would have anything to do with it, and it continued to lie in
the baker's window, a pathetic evidence of woman's perfidy. All
Campbeltown talked about it; people came five and six miles in from the
country to look at it. When they saw what a handsome example of the
confectioner's art it was, they shook their heads and said the lassie
could have no heart, let alone good taste.

Mrs Crawford, being a smart business woman, put a bill in the window with
the legend--


But there were no offers, and she was on the point of disposing of it on
the Art Union principle, when, by one of those providential accidents
that are very hard on the sufferer but lead by a myriad consequent
circumstances to the most beneficent ends, a man in Carrick Street,
Glasgow, broke his leg. The man never heard of Para Handy in all his
life, nor of the Vital Spark; he had never been in Campbeltown, and if he
had not kept a pet tortoise he would never have figured in this book, and
Para Handy might not have been married, even though Calum Cameron's girl
had been a jilt.

The Carrick Street man's tortoise had wandered out into the close in the
evening; the owner, rushing out hurriedly at three minutes to ten to do
some shopping, tripped over it, and was not prevented by the agony of his
injured limb from seizing the offending animal and throwing it into the
street, where it fell at the feet of Para Handy, who was passing at the

"A tortoise!" said the Captain, picking it up. "The first time ever I
kent they flew. I'll take it to Macphail--he's keen on birds anyway," and
down he took it to the engineer of the Vital Spark.

But Macphail refused to interest himself in a pet which commended itself
neither by beauty of plumage nor sweetness of song, and for several days
the unhappy tortoise took a deck passage on the Vital Spark, its
constitution apparently little impaired by the fact that at times The Tar
used it as a coal-hammer.

"I'll no' see the poor tortoise abused this way," said Para Handy, when
they got to Campbeltown one day; "I'll take it up and give it to a friend
o' mine," and, putting it into his pocket in the evening, he went up to
the baker's shop.

The widow was at the moment fixing a card on the bride's-cake intimating
that tickets for the raffle of it would cost sixpence each, and that the
drawing would take place on the following Saturday. Her plump form was
revealed in the small shop-window; the flush of exertion charmingly
irradiated her countenance as she bent among her penny buns and bottles
of fancy biscuits; Para Handy, gazing at her from the outside, thought he
had never seen her look more attractive. She blushed more deeply when she
saw him looking in at her, and retired from the window with some
embarrassment as he entered the shop.

"Fine night, Mery," said the Captain. "You're pushin' business desperate,
surely, when you're raffling bride's-cakes."

"Will you not buy a ticket?" said the lady, smiling. "You might be the
lucky man to get the prize."

"And what in the world would I do wi' a bride's-cake?" asked the Captain,
his manly sailor's heart in a gentle palpitation. "Where would I get a
bride to--to--to fit it?"

"I'm sure and I don't know," said the widow hurriedly, and she went on to
explain the circumstances that had left it on her hands. The Captain
listened attentively, eyed the elegant proportions of the cake in the
window, and was seized by a desperate resolve.

"I never saw a finer bride's-cake," he said; "it's chust sublime! Do you
think it would keep till the Gleska Fair?"

"It would keep a year for that part o't," said the widow. "What are you
askin' that for?"

"If it'll keep to the Fair, and the Fair suits yoursel'," said Para Handy
boldly, "we'll have it between us. What do you say to that, Mery?" and he
leaned amorously over the counter.

"Mercy on me! this is no' the New Year time," exclaimed the widow; "I
thought you never had any mind of me except at the New Year. Is this a
proposal, Captain?"

"Don't caal me. Captain, caal me Peter, and gie me a haad o' your hand,"
entreated Para Handy languishingly.

"Well, then--Peter," murmured the widow, and the Captain went back to the
Vital Spark that night an engaged man: the bride's-cake was withdrawn
from the window, and the tortoise took up its quarters in the back shop.

Of all the ordeals Para Handy had to pass through before his marriage,
there was none that troubled him more than his introduction to her
relatives, and the worst of them was Uncle Alick, who was very old, very
deaf, and very averse to his niece marrying again. The Captain and his
"fiance" visited him as in duty bound, and found him in a decidedly
unfavourable temper.

"This is Peter," said the widow by way of introduction; and the Captain
stood awkwardly by her side, with his pea-jacket tightly buttoned to give
him an appearance of slim, sprightly, and dashing youthfulness.

"What Peter?" asked the uncle, not taking his pipe out of his mouth, and
looking with a cold, indifferent eye upon his prospective relative.

"You know fine," said the lady, flushing. "It's my lad."

"What did you say?" inquired Uncle Alick, with a hand behind his ear.

"My lad," she cried. "Peter Macfarlane--him that's Captain on the Vital

"Catched him in a park," said Uncle Alick. "I'll wudger you didna need to
run fast to catch him. Whatna park was it?"

"The Fital Spark," roared the Captain, coming to Mary's assistance. "I'm
captain on her."

"Are you, are you?" said Uncle Alick querulously. "Weel, you needna roar
at me like that; I'm no' that deaf. You'll be wan o' the Macfarlanes from
Achnatra; they were aal kind of droll in the mind, but hermless."

The Captain explained that he was a member of a different family
altogether, but Uncle Alick displayed no interest in the explanation.
"It's none of my business," said he.

"Mery thinks it is," rejoined the Captain. "That's the reason we're

"Beer!" said Uncle Alick. "No, no, I have no beer for you. I never keep
drink of any sort in the hoose."

"I never said beer," exclaimed Para Handy.

"I'll be telling a lie then," said Uncle Alick. "The same ass if I didn't
hear you with my own ears. You'll be the man that Mery's goin' to merry.
I canna understand her; I'm sure she had plenty of trouble wi' Donald
Crawford before he went and died on her. But it's none o' my business:
I'm only an old done man, no' long for this world, and I'm not goin' to
interfere wi' her if she wass to merry a bleck. She never consulted me,
though I'm the only uncle she has. You shouldna put yoursel's to bother
tellin' me anything aboot it; I'm sure I would have heard aboot it from
some o' the neebours. The neebours iss very good to me. They're sayin'
it's a droll-like thing Mery merryin' again, and her wi' a nice wee shop
o' her own. What I says to them iss,' It's her own business: perhaps she
sees something takin' in the man that nobody else does. Maybe,' I says to
them,' he'll give up his vessel and help her in the shop.'"

"Och, you're chust an old haiver!" remarked the Captain sotto voce, and
of course the deaf man heard him.

"A haiver!" said he. "A nice-like thing to say aboot the only uncle Mery
has, and him over eighty-six. But you're no' young yoursel'. Maybe it
wass time for you to be givin' up the boats."

"I'm no' thinkin' o' givin' them up, Uncle," said Para Handy cheerfully.
"The Vital Spark's the smertest boat in the tred. A bonny-like hand I
would be in a shop. No, no, herself here--Mery, can keep the shop or
leave it, chust ass it pleases hersel', it's aal wan to me; I'm quite
joco. I hope you'll turn up at the weddin' on the fufteenth, for aal

"What's your wull?" inquired Uncle Alick.

"I hope you'll turn up at the weddin' and give us support," bellowed the

"Give you sport," said the old man indignantly. "You'll surely get plenty
of sport withoot takin' it off a poor old man like me."

"Och! to the muschief!" exclaimed the Captain somewhat impatiently.
"Here's a half pound o' tobacco me and Mery brought you, and surely
that'll put you in better trum."

"What wey did you no' say that at first?" said Uncle Alick. "Hoo wass I
to know you werena wantin' the lend o' money for the weddin'? Stop you
and I'll see if there's any spurits handy."

I was not at the wedding, but the Captain told me all about it some days
afterwards. "It would be worth a bit in the papers," he said with
considerable elation. "I'll wudger there wasna another weddin' like it in
Kintyre for ohenerations.  The herrin' trawlers iss not back at their
work yet, and herrin's up ten shullin's a box in Gleska. Dougie and The
Tar and their wifes wass there, quite nate and tidy, and every noo and
then Macphail would be comin' doon to the boat and blowin' her whustle.
Och, he's not a bad chap Macphail, either, but chust stupid with readin'
them novelles.

"I never saw Mery lookin' more majestic; she wass chust sublime! Some of
them said I wassna lookin' slack mysel', and I daarsay no', for I wass in
splendid trum. When the knot was tied, and we sat doon to a bite, I found
it wass a different bride's-cake aalthegither from the wan that julted

"'What's the meanin' of that? 'I whuspered to the mustress. 'That's no'
the bride's-cake you had in the window.'

"'No,' says she,' but it's a far better one, isn't it?'

"'It's a better-lookin' wan,' I says, 'but the other wan might have done
the business.'

"'Maybe it would,' she said, 'but I have all my wuts aboot me, and I
wasna goin' to have the neighbours say that both the bride and
bride's-cake were second-hand.' Oh! I'm tellin'you she's a smert wan the

"Well, I wish you and your good lady long life and happiness, Captain," I

"Thanky, thanky," said he. "I'll tell the mustress. Could you no put a
bit in the papers sayin', 'The rale and only belle o' Captain
Macfariane's weddin' wass the young lady first in the grand merch,
dressed in broon silk.'"

"Who was the young lady dressed in brown?" I asked.

"What need you ask for?" he replied. "Who would it be but the mustress?"


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