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SCHOOL-DAYS AND HOLIDAYS
"HERE is good news for you, laddie. Whom do you think we shall have with us for the New Year?" said Doctor Gordon, looking up from a letter he was reading, as Don came into the breakfast-room.
"Oh, father!" cried Donald, trying to reach the letter, as the doctor held it high above his head, "it's from Uncle Clarke, I know. When is he coming? and won't we have a good time?" he said, all in one breath, as he tried to dance a Highland fling about the room.
"Now, if you will sit down to your porridge, perhaps I can read it to you."
"Why didn't he write to me, too?" asked Don, as he took his place at the table, for next to his father and mother Don thought there was no one he cared more for than this uncle. He was a younger brother of Doctor Gordon's, and also a doctor. Just now he was in Paris, taking a special course at the University there, and he wrote to tell them that he had been offered a post in one of the government stations for the study of tropical diseases, but that he would spend some weeks with them before taking up his new duties.
Don put down his spoon in dismay. "I wish he didn't know anything about nasty old microbes, if he is going way off there," he said, half-crying, "I think he might stay here in Scotland like you, father."
"There, there, you must not mind, dear; this is the chance your uncle has always wished for. It is a distinction, too, for a young man like him to be offered this position; and when he comes to see us, think how much that is new and strange he will be able to tell you," said Mrs. Gordon.
"All about lions and elephants?" questioned Don, his spirits rising.
"Maybe," said his father, laughingly; "only I don't know that he will hunt big game like that in his profession; but he will tell you all about it when he comes."
"And he will be here for 'Hogmanay;' won't we have the fun?" said Don, making his porridge-bowl dance a jig this time.
"Hurry, dear, or you will be late for school," said his mother, and Don dived again into his porridge, which American cousins call oatmeal.
All well-trained Scotch children eat porridge for their breakfast, though it is going a little out of fashion these days. But Don ate it each morning, served in an old porridge-bowl which his father used when he was a lad. Around the rim of this rare old bowl was the inscription, "There's mair in the kitchen," "mair" being the old Scotch word for more.
You must know porridge is a good thing to begin the day on in winter in Scotland. Donald was eating his breakfast by gaslight, even though it was eight o'clock, while in midwinter it does not grow really light until ten in the morning, and is dark again soon after three in the afternoon. In summer, things are turned around, and the light of day lingers well on into the night, and begins again at an astonishingly early hour in the morning. You may read out-of-doors very often, in the northern cities and towns, at eleven o'clock at night. All this is because Scotland is so far north, but some day you will understand more about this strange thing.
There were other things for breakfast besides porridge. Eggs and bacon and fish and nice brown toast, and sometimes toasted cheese on bread, which seems a funny thing to have for breakfast; and always plenty of marmalade, for the best marmalade is made in Scotland.
It is said that the word marmalade comes from the word "marmalada," which is a jam made in Portugal from the quince, which fruit the Portuguese call the marinello. The Portuguese think it strange that the Scotch make their marmalade from oranges.
"There is Sandy calling to you at the gate," said Mrs. Gordon, and Don, hastily swallowing his last bit of toast and picking up his strap full of school-books, joined him at once.
The two lads ran up the street quickly, for school began at nine o'clock, and they were already behind their usual time. At the corner Don turned and waved his hand to his mother. He never forgot to do this, for he knew that she was always waiting there to bid him good-bye. Though Donald was the only child, he was not a bit spoiled; he was a warm-hearted laddie, and staunch in his affections and friendships.
The schools and colleges in Scotland are among the best in the world, and there is nothing a Scotsman prizes more, whether he be rich or poor, than a good education. Many a lad who has not enough money will go through all sorts of hardship, and live on a little porridge and milk, in order to save enough to put him through one of the four famous Scotch Universities.
All little American cousins must have heard of the wealthy Scotsman, Mr. Carnegie, who is so fond of making presents of libraries to the cities and towns throughout the English-speaking world. Well, he has greatly helped the Scotch boys to get an education by giving large sums of money to the Universities of Scotland, in order that they may be able to lend substantial aid to those entering their colleges.
"Let's play 'beezee;' there's Willie and Archie now with the ball," said Sandy, as he and Don came out of school for the half-hour's recess at eleven o'clock.
"Beezee" is a game which would remind American boys of baseball. The boys wrap their mufflers around their hand and throw the ball, which is an India-rubber one, instead of using a bat, and run to bases in much the same way as in baseball.
At two o'clock, when the school work is over for the day, Donald and Sandy lost no time in getting home for dinner, which was awaiting them. And so was "Rob Roy," who soon learned just what hour Donald might be expected, and rushed to meet him the minute Don opened the door.
To-day, when Don had finished his soup, his father helped him to some of the "jiggot." You probably wonder what that is. Well, it is simply a leg of mutton, and comes from the French word "gigot." You will find that the Scotch use many words which must have come originally from the French, though most of them have been changed so much that the real French words wouldn't know them for cousins even.
In the old days there was a strong friendship between Scotland and France. One of the early French kings, Louis XI., had a body-guard of Scottish archers; for the Scotch soldiery have always been famous for their bravery. Mary, Queen of Scots, was partly French herself, and was the wife of a French king, François II, as well as Queen of Scotland. When he died she came back to Scotland to live, and with her, no doubt, came many French people and French customs. So this may account for many of these French words in the Scotch speech of to-day.
Don called his napkin a "serviette," which is just the same as in French; and was very fond of eating "petticoat-tails" at tea-time, a name which you would never imagine came from the "petits-gateaux" of the French, meaning "little cakes."
Also he would get very "fash," which means angry,- or "fâché," our little French cousin would say, -- if a boy struck him a "coochard's" blow; that is, a cowardly blow. This word, too, seems likely enough to be French, and to come from "coup," meaning a blow, though where the coward comes in, it is difficult to see.
If Donald, while playing a game, found things growing too hot for him, and wanted a breathing-spell, he often would call out, "barley." He did not mean that he wanted barley at all, but to parley, which is the way the Scotch have changed the French word " parlez " -- speak.
Afternoons Donald and Sandy generally spent together, and very good times they had, too, for they were very "chief," or chummy. They played games with their little neighbours, or took long walks into the country, which could be easily reached from Kelvin House. Often they went fishing. At other times, Sandy's chickens took up some of their spare hours. Sandy had an idea that he could make a lot of money raising chickens; so he talked it all over with his father, who was much amused, but gave him the money to buy his first chickens. Then Sandy himself built a little house for them in the back-garden, and fenced off a piece of ground for his three hens and one cock, and even got his mother to subscribe for a paper which told all about "Poultry for Beginners."
All Sandy had to show for his summer's work, however, was one little "tewky," which is the Scotch cousin's name for a chicken. Sandy was very proud of his one little chicken, and made quite a pet of it. It would eat out of his hand, and even from his mouth, and would go anywhere with Sandy, perched upon his shoulder.
But the best holiday for Donald and Sandy was when their fathers would take them to the beautiful golf-links along the seashore at Gullane, not far from Edinburgh.
Golf is the great national game of Scotland, and is played both by old folk and young people alike. Some one tells the story that it was first played by the shepherds, who would take a small round stone and knock it about with their sticks, as they strolled behind their flocks, over the moors and along the seashore. All any one really knows about the game, however, is that it has been played in Scotland for a very long time.
Once, as a very great treat, Donald's father took him to play golf at St. Andrews, where the links are so fine that they are known the world over as being the most famous of all these playgrounds.
There is a saying that the people of St. Andrews do nothing but play golf, but this cannot be true, as St. Andrews has one of the four great Scotch Universities, and many very great and wise men have come from there; and you don't get to be a wise man by playing any kind of a game all of the time.
Another favourite excursion for Edinburgh children was to go to Newhaven for a fish dinner. Newhaven is a little old fishing-town not far distant, on the Firth of Forth.
A Newhaven fishwife, or fisherwoman, looks funny and dumpy in her short petticoat with her dress pinned up about her waist, a white cap on her head, and over all a big shawl; while on her arm she carries a great basket of fish.
The fisher-folks' cottages are queer little houses built of stone, with a stairway on one side.
You have already heard what nice things Donald had to eat at his afternoon tea. Oh! and there were currant buns, also, just black with currants. After tea Donald would read, or, better still, his father or mother would read aloud some of his favourite stories from the "Tales of a Grandfather," which tell a great deal about Scotch history. Between eight and nine o'clock there would be supper, of cold meat, cheese, bread and butter, and sometimes fish, with plenty of milk for Don, after which he was ready for bed.
Little Scotch children are more careful how they spend their Sundays than the children of most other nationalities. The Scotch keep Sunday, or the Sabbath, as it is usually called, in a very strict manner indeed, though they are not as strict in these days as formerly.
When Donald's father was young no trains were run on Sundays, and even now there are no trains in some parts of Scotland on the Sabbath. In those days children did not even take a walk on Sunday, but went three times to "kirk," as church is called. But Donald often took long walks with his father after Sunday school in the afternoon. His father did not, however, approve of their riding in street-cars, which in the great cities have only recently begun to run on Sundays, and many people even now will not make use of them on that day.
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