Man and Wife HTML version
THE knock at the door was repeated--a louder knock than before.
"Are you deaf?" shouted Arnold.
The door opened, little by little, an inch at a time. Mr. Bishopriggs appeared
mysteriously, with the cloth for dinner over his arm, and with his second in c ommand
behind him, bearing "the furnishing of the table" (as it was called at Craig Fernie) on a
"What the deuce were you waiting for?" asked Arnold. "I told you to come in."
"And I tauld you," answered Mr. Bishopriggs, "that I wadna come in without knocking
first. Eh, man!" he went on, dismissing his second in command, and laying the cloth with
his own venerable hands, "d'ye think I've lived in this hottle in blinded eegnorance of hoo
young married couples pass the time when they're left to themselves? Twa knocks at the
door--and an unco trouble in opening it, after that--is joost the least ye can do for them!
Whar' do ye think, noo, I'll set the places for you and your leddy there?"
Anne walked away to the window, in undisguised disgust. Arnold found Mr. Bishopriggs
to be quite irresistible. He answered, humoring the joke,
"One at the top and one at the bottom of the table, I suppose ?"
"One at tap and one at bottom?" repeated Mr. Bishopriggs, in high disdain. "De'il a bit of
it! Baith yer chairs as close together as chairs can be. Hech! hech!--haven't I caught 'em,
after goodness knows hoo many preleeminary knocks at the door, dining on their
husbands' knees, and steemulating a man's appetite by feeding him at the fork's end like a
child? Eh!" sighed the sage of Craig Fernie, "it's a short life wi' that nuptial business, and
a merry one! A mouth for yer billin' and cooin'; and a' the rest o' yer days for wondering
ye were ever such a fule, and wishing it was a' to be done ower again.--Ye'll be for a
bottle o' sherry wine, nae doot? and a drap toddy afterwards, to do yer digestin' on?"
Arnold nodded--and then, in obedience to a signal from Anne, joined her at the window.
Mr. Bishopriggs looked after them attentively--observed that they were talking in
whispers--and approved of that proceeding, as representing another of the established
customs of young married couples at inns, in the presence of third persons appointed to
wait on them.
"Ay! ay!" he said, looking over his shoulder at Arnold, "gae to your deerie! gae to your
deerie! and leave a' the solid business o' life to Me. Ye've Screepture warrant for it. A
man maun leave fether and mother (I'm yer fether), and cleave to his wife. My certie!
'cleave' is a strong word--there's nae sort o' doot aboot it, when it comes to 'cleaving!' "
He wagged his head thoughtfully, and walked to the side-table in a corner, to cut the
As he took up the knife, his one wary eye detected a morsel of crumpled paper, lying lost
between the table and the wall. It was the letter from Geoffrey, which Anne had flung
from her, in the first indignation of reading it--and which neither she nor Arnold had
thought of since.