[Illustration: Decorative chapter heading]
YARNS: THE CABBAGES WHICH HUNG THEIR HEADS—THE RAFT OF SPRUCE—VOYAGE OF THE “DEWDROP”—A LUCKY FAMILY—A DEEP, DEEP DRAUGHT—THE MAIRE’S CAT.
Alec behaved splendidly while I was unable to help myself. He fished, and by hook or by crook—or rather, by hook and by net—procured whatever I cared for, beside which he killed the surviving pig, which had now grown into an immense fellow, so that we had a good supply of meat, although somewhat fat; but of this I ate little, preferring a more vegetable diet, although at times I took a little meat, but not often. When the day’s work was over he would sit in the twilight and spin yarns to me of his own curious experiences, one or two of which I cannot refrain from repeating here.
“Did you ever do any smuggling?” I asked him one day.
“Well,” said he, “that’s rather personal, is it not? But still, I may as well tell you truly—I have. But as it is now very risky work, and some of my experience is recent, I shall not tell you of my own adventures in that line of business, though I see but little harm in outwitting a revenue officer, and at the same time enabling your neighbours to obtain a luxury or two, which otherwise they would never have. Did I ever do any smuggling? Rather! and my father and grandfather before me. In fact, in the village of my birth a man is thought little of who has not, at some time or other, been ‘smarter than a revenue officer.’”
These remarks aroused my curiosity, so I asked, “Were you ever caught at the game?”
“No,” said he, “but I’ll tell you how my father was once bowled over by the sun taking part against him. It was in the month of August, 185-, that he had, by manoeuvring, brought ashore quite a nice little lot of contraband during the night, and not liking to keep it in the house, placed a couple of men on watch while he buried it in the garden. He had a little plot of cabbages near one side of the garden, and he uprooted about a dozen of these in the middle of the patch; then, digging a somewhat shallow hole, he placed his goods in, and re-casting the mould back, replanted the cabbages, not forgetting to remove the surplus mould in pails. So far so good; but early the next morning a customs officer had, by some means, heard that my father had been seen in his boat on the previous day, in close proximity to a trading vessel which had signalled for water, one of her casks having been started by the heat. Of course my father was very pleased to see the officer (or apparently so), and after showing him over the place, invited him to stay to breakfast, which he gladly did. About ten o’clock he took his departure, apparently quite as satisfied with his visit, as my father was pleased at his departure. All seemed very easy now—simply to wait till dark, when one or two friends would divide the haul and take it away in some secret manner. But a little after noon back came the officer, accompanied by another. Here was evidently something in the wind, and my father felt very anxious.