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The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys online
XVII WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE
"The Lord forgie your opinion," said Stephen, driven almost to his wit's end--"I am an honest man."
"So am I, Stephen," said his honour; "and so are all the folks in the house, I hope. But if there be a knave amongst us, it must be he that tells the story he cannot prove." He paused, and then added, mair sternly, "If I understand your trick, sir, you want to take advantage of some malicious reports concerning things in this family, and particularly respecting my father's sudden death, thereby to cheat me out of the money, and perhaps take away my character, by insinuating that I have received the rent I am demanding.--Where do you suppose this money to be?--I insist upon knowing."
My gudesire saw everything look sae muckle against him, that he grew nearly desperate--however, he shifted from one foot to another, looked to every corner of the room and made no answer.
"Speak out, sirrah," said the Laird, assuming a look of his father's, a very particular ane, which he had when he was angry--it seemed as if the wrinkles of his frown made that self-same fearful shape of a horse's shoe in the middle of his brow;--"Speak out, sir! I _will_ know your thoughts;--do you suppose that I have this money?"
"Far be it frae me to say so," said Stephen.
"Do you charge any of my people with having taken it?"
"I wad be laith to charge them that may be innocent," said my gudesire; "and if there be anyone that is guilty, I have nae proof."
"Somewhere the money must be, if there is a word of truth in your story," said Sir John; "I ask where you think it is--and demand a correct answer?"
"In hell, if you _will_ have my thoughts of it," said my gudesire, driven to extremity,--"in hell! with your father, his jackanape, and his silver whistle."
Down the stairs he ran (for the parlour was nae place for him after such a word), and he heard the Laird swearing blood and wounds behind him, as fast as ever did Sir Robert, and roaring for the bailie and the baron-officer.
Away rode my gudesire to his chief creditor (him they caa'd Laurie Lapraik), to try if he could make ony thing out of him; but when he tauld his story, he got but the warst word in his wame--thief, beggar, and dyvour, were the saftest terms; and to the boot of these hard terms, Laurie brought up the auld story of his dipping his hand in the blood of God's saunts, just as if a tenant could have helped riding with the Laird, and that a laird like Sir Robert Redgauntlet. My gudesire was, by this time, far beyond the bounds of patience, and, while he and Laurie were at deil speed the liars, he was wanchancie aneugh to abuse Lapraik's doctrine as weel as the man, and said things that garr'd folk's flesh grue that heard them;--he wasna just himsell, and he had lived wi' a wild set in his day.
At last they parted, and my gudesire was to ride hame through the wood of Pitmurkie, that is a' fou of black firs, as they say.--I ken the wood, but the firs may be black or white for what I can tell.--At the entry of the wood there is a wild common, and on the edge of the common, a little lonely change-house, that was keepit then by an ostler-wife, they suld hae caa'd her Tibbie Faw, and there puir Steenie cried for a mutchkin of brandy, for he had had no refreshment the haill day. Tibbie was earnest wi' him to take a bite of meat, but he couldna think o't, nor would he take his foot out of the stirrup, and took off the brandy wholely at twa draughts, and named a toast at each:--the first was, the memory of Sir Robert Redgauntlet, and might he never lie quiet in his grave till he had righted his poor bond-tenant; and the second was, a health to Man's Enemy, if he would but get him back the pock of siller, or tell him what came o't, for he saw the haill world was like to regard him as a thief and a cheat, and he took that waur than even the ruin of his house and hauld.