Reid, George

An Inspector o the Peer an his assistants whyles fa in towe wi mony shades o tragedy in a year's wark, an the myndin of puckles o these, dee fit ye micht tae rid yersel o them, bides wi ye aa yer life lang. I hae gweed reason tae mynd the case o ae young quine. She'd bin merriet at the age o echteen tae a shore labourer, bit efter three year o waddit life wis an invalid. The lassie'd gien birth tae a bairn that anely lived a few months, bit efter bein nursed in the Infirmary a lang time, she wis sent hame tae dee. She wis sufferin frae an abcess that cudna be cured.

Her hame wis a peer sunk chaumer in a roch quarter in the slums o Aiberdeen an the anely licht in the place wis the fite, thin licht that treetled throw her windae frae the gas licht in the street abeen. Her man wis a muckle, strang bully, a boozer fa didna care a snuff fur her wints an sufferin. A gweed-hairted district veesitor come tae ken o the lassie's plyter, an got a district nurse tae luik in eence a day. Apairt frae yon, the quine wis left her leen unless the antrin neebor cried in tae see foo she wis daein. It wis ay aroon midnicht afore her man cam hame, if at aa, an fin he did cam hame he wis ay bleezin. The district veesitor, rale consarned bi noo, speired gin I'd luik in on her.

Late ae wintry nicht, wi blin drift dingin doon ower the toon, I pit on my thick jaiket, ma worsit mochles, ma scarf and gweed stoot beets, an set aff throw the fite streets, fullin wi snaa, tae the quine's hoose. I fand the sunk far she bedd bi gaslicht, an doon the snawy steps I gaed haudin onno the railins fur fee that I'd skyte, ma beets crunchin an sinkin inno the fite poodery flakes. I chappit at the door, an a weak voice telt me jist tae wauk in. It wis ay aff the latch, there bein naethin in yonner wirth stealin. She wis lyin on her side in a makk-shift bed. I wis strukk bi foo young she luikit, an foo dweeble, jist a bit lassie, really. She didna luik aal eneuch tae be coortin, let aleen merriet.

There wis a bit fire in the grate, an the room wis hett eneuch, bit it wis late, late fin I cried in, an there wisna a livin sowel aroon her. I made her as comfortable as I cud, an set aff tae chap up the neebors tae speir far her man micht be. Naebody kent. Dweeble tho she wis, she cud still spikk a bittie, an cud tell me aboot losin her bairnie, an faain ill efter. Bit fin I lat slip that I'd heard her husband wis a ne'r dae weel, the colour rose in her chikks an her voice drappit , low. ''He wisna ay like this,' she telt me.

Kennin bi the luik o her she hidna lang tae live, I speired if she'd like tae be teen tae the hospital. A bit o spunk flashed in the pale blue een sunken inno her face. 'I'll ging onywye ye like...oot o this!' Neist foreneen, the district medical officer cried inbye an examined her. She wis tae be admitted tae the hospital at noon that day. A heid bummer cam wi me, tae win roon the reid tape o admittin the wife o an able-bodied chiel inno an institution tae dee. Her man bedd at hame jist lang eneuch tae see her ower the door. She priggit tae be let takk twa wee treisurs wi her frae aneth her pillow, her merriege lines an the birth certifuicate o her deid bairn, proof that in even in yon roch airt, she wis a decent quine an hid bin legally wed tae her man, peer stock tho he wis.

The stricken lassie laisted a twa three wikks in hospital, an deed there. Her man niver veesited eence, nur troubled tae speir fur her health ava. The nicht she deed, we sent fur him.

'Fit kinno funeral arrangements dae ye wint made fur yer wife?' we speired.
'Ye can dee as ye please,' quo he. ' For I've nae siller tae pye for't.'
I luikit inno the maitter. Sure eneuch, there wis nae funeral -society siller or ony ither funds tae draa on. It wis a pairish beerial, pyed fur bi the toon, arranged for the neist Setterday efterneen.

Kennin fit kind o a chiel her man wis, I gaed roon the nicht afore the funeral tae remind him that his wife wis tae be beeriet the morn. For eence, he wis sober. I wis clean dumfounert fin he said 'Och I dinna think I'll bother gaun!'

I sat awhile an priggit wi him tae think again, an at the hinnereyn he gied a half-hung-tee agreement tae turn up.

I dinna ken fit made me ging tae the funeral. She wisna ae drap's bleed tae me. Ill-faschence, mebbe, tae see if her breet o a man wid come tae see her aff . There wis nae heidsteen, of coorse, nae marble angels or black plumed shelts, or even a flooer or twa in passin. The snaa clung tae the grun, an there wis a fite mochy haar that grippit yer thrapple an near froze the braith in yer moo. Nae a single body wis there bar me, the Depute Inspector o the Peer, tae see the dirt shovelled doon on her, tae witness the last rites. It wis a fey experience yon. I left the peer quine's grave wi strange emotions.

Later yon nicht I tuik a turnie roon her side o the toon, tae streetch ma legs. Twa hunner yards frae her hame, I saw her man fechtin in the street wi anither three drunken breets. Sae muckle fur the sancitity o merriege! Sae muckle fur the power o drink tae connach the finer side o a man's nature.

I cud screive o mony sic tragedies, ay, o men an weemin far, far, farrer up the social ledder than yon peer vratrch o a quine an her man... Fowk fa'd gaen doon the same derk gait as himsel...ay, screivers, artists, sangsters, men an weemin o pouer an industry. Bit it's a dreich business, tragedy. I'll leave oor national bard tae set the seal on't:
'Then at the balance let's be mute,
We never can adjust it;
What's done we partly may compute
But know not what's resisted.'