"Hold up thy head, Miley, my boy!" says papa. "I trust, Sir Miles, that, as a member of the House of Commons, as an English gentleman, you will attend his Royal Highness's levee to-morrow, and say, if such an offer had been made to us for that child, we would have taken it, though our boy is but ten years of age." "Faith, Miley, thou wouldst make a good little drummer or fifer!" says papa.
"I drummed for Captain Hill in Tennessee." The fifer immediately straightened himself, and, placing his fife to his lips, played the "Flowers of Edinburgh," one of the most difficult things to follow with the drum. And nobly did the little fellow follow him, showing himself to be master of the drum. When the music ceased the captain turned to the mother and observed: "Madam, I will take the boy.
"Are you then Glasgow-born, Jamie?" "Me! Glasgow-born! What are you thinking of? I am from the auld East Neuk; and I am glad and proud of being a Fifer. All my common sense comes from Fife. There is none loves the 'Kingdom' more than I, Jamie Logan. We are all Fife together. I thought you knew it."
Josie Fifer, scurrying along in the unwonted stillness, was prompted to throw a furtive glance over her shoulder now and then, as though afraid of being caught at some criminal act. She ran up the little flight of steps with a rush, unlocked the door with trembling fingers, and let herself into the cool, dank gloom of the storehouse hall.
The drawing-room, fourteen feet by ten, was fitted up as a ballroom, with two fiddlers and a fifer sitting in a corner and a country-dance was performing when we arrived. Over the mantle-piece was a square of laurel twigs, inclosing as a frame this couplet from the poetical brain of the master of the house, cut out in red paper, and bespangled with blue and yellow tinsel
Brocades and ginghams; tailor suits and peignoirs; puffed sleeves and tight dramatic history, all, they spelled failure, success, hope, despair, vanity, pride, triumph, decay. Tragic ghosts, over which Josie Fifer held grim sway! Have I told you that Josie Fifer, moving nimbly about the great storehouse, limped as she went? The left leg swung as a normal leg should.
The hollow square bristles with extended right arms; but ever faithful to fact is the fifer, ever wise as the serpent is the performer on that instrument, ever prominently buoyant and brilliant are all members of the band. I observe the player of the cymbals to dash at a sounding answer now and then rather than not cut in at all; but I take that to be in the way of his instrument.
Look alive at the weather earring! Cheery, my boys! Let go the sheet, now! Stand by at the braces, you! With a will, aloft there! Belay, starboard watch! Fifer! Come aft, fifer, and give 'em a tune! Forthwith, springs up fifer, fife in hand smallest boy ever seen big lump on temple, having lately fallen down on a paving- stone gives 'em a tune with all his might and main. Hoo-roar, fifer!
Her bosom rose and fell. She was breathing sharply. "But S.H.!" she cried, "S.H., I've got to have it. Don't you see, I want it! It's all I've got left in the world of what I used to be. I want it!" She began to cry, and it was not acting. Josie Fifer stood staring at her, her eyes wide with horror and unbelief. "Why, say, listen! Listen! You can have it.
Then he turned to the serjeant and said: "I believe you've got hold of the wrong man; for this is only a poor half-witted lad, not the man that you want. Don't be hard on him." "Not I, if he gives no trouble," said the serjeant. So he went on with his charge along the road to Kingstoke, the idiot staggering along on his mother's arm between the fifer and the drummer, and he himself walking behind.