Clearly Lewis was not meant by Providence for a tailor. He made lamentable work with the needle. It slipped and pricked his fingers, while his unfeeling friends jeered and Tam turned great eyes of sympathy upwards from his Sunday garments.
“Patience, patience, man!” said the old herd. “Ca’ cannier and be a wee thing quieter in your langwidge. There’s a wheen leddies comin’ up the burn.”
It was too late. Before Lewis understood the purport of the speech Lady Manorwater and her party were at the folds, and as he made one final effort with the refractory needle a voice in his ear said:
“Please let me do that, Mr. Haystoun. I’ve often done it before.”
He looked up and met Alice Wishart’s laughing eyes. She stood beside him and deftly finished the bandage till the ewe was turned off the stool. Then, very warm and red, he turned to find a cool figure laughing at his condition.
“I’ll have to go and wash my hands, Miss Wishart,” he said gravely. “You had better come too.” And the pair ran down to a deep brown pool in the burn and cleansed from their fingers the subtle aroma of fleeces.
“Ugh! my clothes smell like a drover’s. That’s the worst of being a dabbler in most trades. You can never resist the temptation to try your hand.”
“But, really, your whole manner was most professional, Mr. Haystoun. Your language—”
“Please, don’t,” said the penitent; and they returned to the others to find that once cheerful assembly under a cloud. Every several man there was nervously afraid of women and worked feverishly as if under some great Taskmistress’s eye. The result was a superfluity of shear-marks and deep, muffled profanity. Lady Manorwater ran here and there asking questions and confusing the workers; while Mr. Stocks, in pursuance of his democratic sentiments, talked in a stilted fashion to the nearest clipper, who called him “Sir” and seemed vastly ill at ease.
Lewis restored some cordiality. Under her nephew’s influence Lady Manorwater became natural and pleasing. Jock was ferreted out of some corner and, together with the reluctant Tam, brought up for presentation.
“Tam,” said his patron, “I’ll give you your choice. Whether will you go to the Sabbath-school treat, or come with us to a real picnic? Jock is coming, and I promise you better fun and better things to eat.”
It was no case for hesitation. Tam executed a doglike gambol on the turf, and proceeded to course up the burn ahead of the party, a vision of twinkling bare legs and ill-fitting Sunday clothes. The sedate Jock rolled down his sleeves, rescued a ragged jacket, and stalked in the rear.