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Alec Forbes of Howglen   By: (1824-1905)

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[Note from the transcriber: I have compiled a glossary with definitions of most of the Scottish words found in this work and placed it at the end of this electronic text. This glossary does not belong to the original work, but is designed to help with the conversations and references in Broad Scots found in this work. A further explanation of this list can be found towards the end of this document, preceding the glossary.]





c. 1900


The farm yard was full of the light of a summer noontide. Nothing can be so desolately dreary as full strong sunlight can be. Not a living creature was to be seen in all the square inclosure, though cow houses and stables formed the greater part of it, and one end was occupied by a dwelling house. Away through the gate at the other end, far off in fenced fields, might be seen the dark forms of cattle; and on a road, at no great distance, a cart crawled along, drawn by one sleepy horse. An occasional weary low came from some imprisoned cow or animal of the cow kind; but not even a cat crossed the yard. The door of the barn was open, showing a polished floor, as empty, bright, and clean as that of a ball room. And through the opposite door shone the last year's ricks of corn, golden in the sun.

Now, although a farm yard is not, either in Scotland or elsewhere, the liveliest of places in ordinary, and still less about noon in summer, yet there was a peculiar cause rendering this one, at this moment, exceptionally deserted and dreary. But there were, notwithstanding, a great many more people about the place than was usual, only they were all gathered together in the ben end, or best room of the house a room of tolerable size, with a clean boarded floor, a mahogany table, black with age, and chairs of like material, whose wooden seats, and high, straight backs, were more suggestive of state than repose. Every one of these chairs was occupied by a silent man, whose gaze was either fixed on the floor, or lost in the voids of space. Each wore a black coat, and most of them were in black throughout. Their hard, thick, brown hands hands evidently unused to idleness grasped their knees, or, folded in each other, rested upon them. Some bottles and glasses, with a plate of biscuits, on a table in a corner, seemed to indicate that the meeting was not entirely for business purposes; and yet there were no signs of any sort of enjoyment. Nor was there a woman to be seen in the company.

Suddenly, at the open door, appeared a man whose shirt sleeves showed very white against his other clothing which, like that of the rest, was of decent black. He addressed the assembly thus:

"Gin ony o' ye want to see the corp, noo's yer time."

To this offer no one responded; and, with a slight air of discomfiture, for he was a busy man, and liked bustle, the carpenter turned on his heel, and re ascended the narrow stairs to the upper room, where the corpse lay, waiting for its final dismission and courted oblivion.

"I reckon they've a' seen him afore," he remarked, as he rejoined his companion. "Puir fallow! He's unco (uncouthly) worn. There'll no be muckle o' him to rise again."

"George, man, dinna jeest i' the face o' a corp," returned the other. "Ye kenna whan yer ain turn may come."

"It's no disrespeck to the deid, Thamas. That ye ken weel eneuch. I was only pityin' the worn face o' him, leukin up there atween the buirds, as gin he had gotten what he wanted sae lang, and was thankin' heaven for that same. I jist dinna like to pit the lid ower him."

"Hoot! hoot! Lat the Lord luik efter his ain. The lid o' the coffin disna hide frae his een."

The last speaker was a stout, broad shouldered man, a stonemason by trade, powerful, and somewhat asthmatic. He was regarded in the neighbourhood as a very religious man, but was more respected than liked, because his forte was rebuke... Continue reading book >>

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