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Mrs M'crie, Charles Mathews's old Scotch lady, was simplicity itself, and her heart overflowed with the warmest affections of hui.inji nature. Mr Josiah Flowerdew, of Manchester, had occasion to visit Edinburgh, that free-stone village which Scotsmen call a metropolis, situated a mile or two from Leith, a sea-port town on the river Forth. He had a letter of introduction to the Rev. Dr and Mrs M'Crie, and was received by them with all the frank and courteous kindness of their disposition.
One Sunday, after having attended divine service in the Doctor's church, he returned with his hospitable friends to their residence. A nice, hot, tasty, but frugal dinner, was quickly placed upon the table.
"Good folk hunger after the word," observed the old lady, putting a haddock of fourteen inches long, with an ocean of oysters and butter, on Josiah's plate; and tak' a willy waught of that Malaga— it's gusty and priesome; our guidman he was dry in the pulpit, and ye hae as guide right to be dry out of it—hem! Excuse me, Doctor—Lord, sir, ye are filing your hands."
Mr Josiah was a devoted admirer of the fair sex, and could not, even when an aged and wrinkled face met his gaze, fail to remember, that once the same cheek was dyed with the hue of the rose, and the eyes cast a lustre which would have maddened an anchorite. He therefore, out of devotion to what was past, ate and drank as directed of what was present. After having in this fashion laboured witha vigour and industry which would have done credit to an Irish labourer deepening the Thames, or a student of Stinkomalee ettling at comprehending the last number of the Edinburgh Review, he was constrained, from absolute want of local capacity, to give over—" to cease labour, to dig and to delve," in a horrid brute, of the bird species, which must have been cousin-german to the penguins of the Falkland Islands.
"The 'tither leg, Mr Josiah Powderjew?" said the Doctor. "The 'tither leg, Doctor! May I perish if one joint of the whole carcase has moved the flutter of a gnat's wing," answered Josiah. "Ye are ower genty with the beast, Mr Flowerdew," observed the old lady. "Doctor, mark ye that, and abuse nae man's gude name. Rive it, sir—Rive it." "It is teugh—it is, of a verity," said the Doctor, as his eye-tooth snapped in a struggle with a tendon which would have held his Majesty's yacht in a hurricane. "And toothsome forbye," observed Mrs M'Crie; "but it's wrang to sport wi' a human creature's distresses. Na, na, Mr Josiah, ye needna look sae wae like. Possession, nae doubt, is nine points of the law; but the rightful owner of that yellow stump is lang syne gathered to his forbears. Of a troth, it would be an awfu' moment gin he cam to vindicate his ain."
Mr Flowerdew shuddered, and for reasons that can very well be understood, agreed most heartily with his hostess. "But as I'm in the land of the living !" continued 'Mrs M'Crie, " our taupy lass has a'thegether neglected the syllabub. There it stands, in the pride of its beauty, in the aumry. Surely I've been carried mysell. Doctor, whenever you gae by the hour and five minutes, I'm clean done for ony mair use that day—I can mind naething." "Neither can I, Mrs M'Crie," observed Mr Josiah, innocently. "It's a blessing for you, Mr Josiah," answered the old lady, "if I had minded a' I 've heard, I would by this time have been demented." "Right, my dear," replied the Doctor, "the female is the weaker vessel—a cracked pitcher, as a man may say, and in no way fit to be the repository of the wonders of airt and science." "And yet," retorted Mrs M'Crie, somewhat piqued at the observation, " there are some airts, of the u b i II, ye are as ignorant as a dead dog—saving the compairishon." "And in what, may I be permitted to ask?" answered the Doctor, with much solemnity. "In what? Ye see, Mr Lourhew," he added, "I in naewise eschew the inquiry." "Na, then, gudeman," exclaimed the old lady exultingly, " I hae you now on the hip—that is—God save us—excuse the expression, Mr Josiah; we are plain folk." "Madam," answered Mr Flowerdew, "make no apology. The recollections of youth are delightful. I have many warm remembrances of the kind. But pray, madam, don't let us lose the advantage of knowing in what matter of lore you transcend the Doctor. Pray be so condescending." "Nay, kind sir, " said the old lady, "it's a joke of my own; but, as it is connected with that very syllabub that our lass has set before you, I shall ask the Doctor again. Ye that ken the three wonnerful things in the warld, yea, the four wonderful things and strange, how mak ye the syllabub?" "I tak the lass."—"Whisht, Doctor; gin ye begin that gate," interrupted the old lady, " I maun be the expounder of the text mysell. So ye see, Mr Flowerdew"—
But before the secret is disclosed, we must inform our readers that there is a certain jug or pipkin of earthenware used in various culinary and detergent purposes in Scotland, called a "pig," and which, from the tenacious kind of earth (laam or loam) of which it is composed, goes by the distinctive name of a " lame pig;" a utensil of which, fifty years ago, to have been ignorant, would have been a confession of stultification as great as if you thought that the red sea was rubicund.
"So, sir," continued Mrs M'Crie," when I want to make a syllabub—its grand for a cold, or a kittling in the throat"—
"Yes, its jiae doubt of healing virtues," observed the Doctor,— "medicinal in all matters, thoracical, if I may use the expression; and, Mr Towerflew, it has the advantage of being divertive and jocund in the swallow. Sir, I hold in utter execration your sennas and globars; the latter are, of a certy, an abomination before the Lord. I ance had a dose thereof—gin 1 live to the age of Methusalem, the day will be to me like yestreen: they took a good forty minutes to chow, my inside was curmurring like doos in a docket. It was most special unsavoury, Mr Sourspew."
"So," continued the old ludy, after an impatient pause, " I send to the market and our Bell brings me a lame pig."
"But why a lame pig?"
"Why a lame pig, sir ?—what way no? Sir, naething but a lame pig will answer the purpose!""I cry your mercy, good lady."
"So our Bell brings me a lame pig. I aye tell our lass (she has been wi' us these thirteen years come Martinmas; she is the O* of her grandfather, as the doctor says, when he is facetious,) to pick me out a clean ane."
"Very right," said Mr Josiah. "But I'm afraid you would have but little choice in that respect."
"Ye are wrang,Mr Cowersew," said the Doctor, " they are aye weel washed outside and in."
"Oh, Doctor, no joking; this is a serious matter."
"Na; there's no joking," observed the old lady. "They are weel scraped wi' a heather ringe."
"A what, madam!"
"A nievefu' o' heather; wi' the whilk you get even to the most extreme corner of the concern."
"No doubt, madam, if you are permitted."——
"Permitted, Mr Josiah! and gin I buy a pig, may I no do what I chuse wi' it? or wi' ony ither face of clay for which I gave ready cuinzie? Ye have, sir, great character in England for cleanliness. and I am sure that Mrs Flowerdew never has a pig in her aught but she washes it inside and out, as clean as the driven snaw."
"Nay in that," said Mr Flowerdew, " I can assure you you are mistaken. Before the pigs reach us''
"Weel weel; ither folk do it, and that is the same thing. So, when Bell comes hame, I says, hand me down the can with the virgin honey, and I drap twa dessert spoonfuls into the pig's mouth"—
"Into its mouth, madam?"
* O signifies grandchild.
"Ay, to be sure, sir; where would you have it put?—a pig's mouth was nae gien to it for naething—Or jelly will do as weel. Na, I've tried your large bergamot preserved pear; but whiles the pig's neck is no that wide to admit of a pear of size, and it's fashious squeezing it in.'*
"No doubt, madam, and dangerous."
"Yes, gin the neck break; but when ye mell and meddle wi' pigs, ye maun mind ye deal wi' slippery gear.""Very true, madam."
"Weel, then, our lass carries the pig to the cow, and there she gently milks a pint and a half of warm milk in upon the henny or jelly, or pear, as it may be."
"Into the pig, madam 1"
"Ay, into the mouth o't. Surely that's nae kittle matter?"
"Now, madam, as I am an ordinary sinner, that is an operation that would puzzle all Lancashire. Into its mouth!"
"Weel, I'm astonished at you, sir: is there ony mystery or sorcery in Bell hauding a pig wi' the tae hand, and milking a cow with the tither?"
"I really, madam, in my innocence of heart, thought that the pig might have run—"
"Run o'er? Nae doubt; so wud it gin ye filled it o'er fu. So hame comes the pig"—
"Of itself, madam!"
"Sir! Lord, sir, you speak as if the pig could walk!"
"I beg you a thousand pardons, madam; I truly forgot the milk and jelly. It would be extraordinary if it could."
"Very, sir. So the lass brings me my lame pig."
"Ah, that's another reason. Well, may I be drawn to a thread if I could divine why you preferred a lame pig!"
"Ye needna gang to Rome to learn that; a lame pig is aye fendiest. So I begin to steer and steer the milk and jelly."
"Steer and steer, madam!"
"Ay—mix a' weel up thegether."
"And may I entreat to know with what you stir it?"
"Wi' a spoon, to be sure; ye wadna hae me to do it wi' my fingers?"
"God forbid, madam! I would use, if heaven ever employed me in the manner you mention, a spoon with a most respectably long handle."
"It's better of length, certainly, sir. Naething can escape you, then! Weel, the next thing we do is this, to gently put the pig afore the fire to simmer."
"Yes, sir, and there stand or it reeks again. But you must not let it get o'er het: it would burn the milk.""And the pig too, madam."
"Oh! that's naething. We dinna fash ourselves wi' the pig. What were they made for?" •'•<.•
"Why, truly, madam, I thought, until this day, that I knew something of their history; but I find I have been woefully ignorant."
"We canna reach perfection at ance, as our gudeman says (wha, by-the-bye, is and has been this half hour, as sound as a top.) And so, after the pig has simmered and simmered, ye in wi' the spoon again."
"Ay, sir; ye wadna hae it all in a mess at the bottom?"
"Far from it, madam; as far as possible."
"So ye maun gie anither stir or twa, until it sings."
"Sings, madam? And does the pig make no other noise during all this operation?"
"Scarce any other, gin it's a good pig; but all depends on that. I've seen a lame pig, that afore the heat had touched its sides a matter of five minutes, would have gane o/fin a crack.""I don't wonder at that in the least, madam."
"You would wonder, if your English pigs had half the value of the Scotch."
"Of a verity," continued Mrs M'Crie, " there was a pig played me ance a maist mischancy trick. Ye see, I expected a pairty of our presbytery to denner, and I had sent our Bell out for the maist capacious pig she could grip; and I had poured in the quantum sujf, as the mediciners say, of het milk on the gooseberries (I was making a posset,) and a' went weel; but when I thought it was done to a hair, out lap a het aizle; our Bell (the hizzy!) sprang to the tae side; the pig gaed the tither—a' was ruined."
"And the poor pig—what became of it?"
"Puir, indeed! It wasna worth the minding: its head was dung in, and it gat a sma' fracture on the side; but as it was bonny in its colour, and genty in its mak, Bell syned it out in clear water, then rubbed it up wi' a duster, and clapped it on the shelf in the kitchen, where it lies to this blessed day, in peace and quiet, as I may say. In my opinion, sir, the pig hadna been right made."
"Not right made, madam?"
"Not right made, sir. You look surprised. Think you ony body can make a pig?" "Far from it, madam."