CHAPTER II (continued)

Two hours later, Janet, who had been alarmed by the return of the pony without either master or bridal, and fearing that some accident had befallen him, found him on the bank sleeping of the effect of his recent exertion.

“Mercy me, what a sight,” she exclaimed, her face flushing with indignation. “Ye lazy, drucken, brute, can ye no gang oot ae night in yer life without makin’ a beast o’ yersel’ before coming hame? Little did I ken the day I mairrit ye what I wad hae to pit up wi’. I’m shair my mither tell’t me aften an’ aften what kin’ o’ a’ husband ye wad turn oot. Had I ta’en her advice I wadna hae a sair heart the nicht,” then seeing the bridle lying on the bank beside him she took it up and converted the rein into a tawse, with which she belaboured him most unmercifully, accompanying each stroke with an explanatory admonition.

“Tak’ that (whack) for yer unfeelin’ conduct in staying oot at nicht, an’ that (whack) for leavin’ yer wife to mind the hoose her lane,” and so she continued until her arm was tired.

“Wha-what’s the matter?’ cried Donald at length sitting up and rubbing his eyes, then suddenly recollecting his encounter with the water kelpie, and thinking the combat was still being continued, he started to his feet with a yell, and dashed homewards at the top of his speed.

As he ran along, expecting every moment to be overtaken by the kelpie, the whole scene of the encounter flashed before his imagination with tenfold minuteness. He could see the gigantic form of the kelpie in the person of Janet towering over him, and hear its awful roar in Janet’s admonitory ejaculations. These thoughts only served to increase his speed, and in half an hour he arrived home almost sinking from fatigue, and without considering Janet’s absence or presence for a moment, quickly undressed and jumped into bed – nor did he feel safe until he had the bedclothes tucked over his head.

Donald was awake early in the morning, and slipping cautiously out of bed without awakening Janet, and after dressing proceeded to the stable to assure himself that the previous night’s escapade after leaving Maggieknockater was not all a dream. Here he found the pony alright, and he glanced up at the peg where the bridle usually hung and found it missing. This puzzled him, as did also the scratches on his hands, and a very uncomfortable feeling took possession of him.

In this uncomfortable frame of mind he began a general search for the missing bridle, which he at last gave up in despair, and was returning disconsolately to the house, when he espied it lying on the ground some distance from the stable door, where Janet had thrown it on her return.

He pounced upon it with avidity and examined it minutely. No, it was not Meg’s bridle, of that he was certain. Then whose could it be? Donald examined it closely – no he had never seen it before. All at once a sudden inspiration took possession of him.

Why! It was the Water Kelpie’s!

As this discovery flashed through Donald’s brain, a broad smile overspread his features, and he hastened to hide it least anyone should know he possessed such a powerful ally. Going to the corn bin he cleared it of whatever oats it contained, and depositing the bridle in the bottom again filled in the oats on the top leaving the bridle securely covered.

Donald could scarcely contain his joy. He would now have no difficulty in going wherever he pleased. One shake of the bridle and he had a horse ready for his mounting. He determined, however, to keep the secret from Janet, as she might put the bridle to an improper use.

Donald had an opportunity of testing the magic powers of the bridle sooner than he expected, for returning to the house he found his spouse up and bustling about in the preparation for breakfast.

One glance at Janet’s face informed him that she was not in an amiable mood – she was in what he termed one of her “no canny” moods – and he knew from bitter experience that at such a time it was safer to give her a wide berth. Hewever, he was so elated by the possession of the bridle that he could afford to forgive a little of Janet’s outpourings.

“Janet, lassie” he began, “hae ye the breakfast near ready yet? I’m near famished.”

“Dinna lassie me, ye good-for-nothin’. It’s aboot half deid I am wi’ yer cantrips. It’s the auld, auld story when ye get oot o’ my sicht, but I may tell ye I’ll no’ pit up wi’ it muckle langer. The neist time ye gang awa’ an’ mak’ a beast o’ yersel’ amang yer drucken cronics ye can stay wi’ them, for into this hoose ye dinna come again. The hoose an’ croft belang to me, an’ you can ‘whistle ower the lave o’t.’”

In vain did Donald plead that he “wasna fou,” Janet was inexorable, her long experience of his goings on when out of her presence rendered an immediate reconciliation impossible. Donald, on the other hand, used all the eloquence at his command to elect an amicable settlement without disclosing the fact of his possession of the kelpie’s bridle.

Janet’s anger, however, was more assumed than real; she wanted to get the minutial of his proceedings from the time he departed on the preceding evening until she found him sleeping on the bank of the Fiddich. To all her carefully selected, but apparently uninterested, questions Donald returned most unsatisfactory answers, so that in the end Janet’s anger was thoroughly roused, and she treated Donald to such a tirade of abuse that he was glad to leave her in sole possession of the house.

“I dinna ken what to dae wi’ her,” he soliloquised when he got outside, “she’s aye getting’ waur. It dinna matter a bawbee whether I come hame drunk or sober its aye the same, I must hit upon some plan to pit a stop to it. Let me see,” and he hung his head in deep thought. Suddenly raising his head a few moments later, a bright smile overspreading his face, he exclaimed joyfully:

“I have it! The bridle!

As he uttered these words he directed his steps, and began scooping out the oats from the bin in which the bridle was deposited. In a few seconds he had the bridle in his hand ready for action. 

“Now,” he muttered triumphantly, as he returned to the house, “I think this will pit the fear o’ death on her, at ony rate it’ll gi’e her a guid fleg.”

(It may be here mentioned that anyone possessing a kelpie’s bridle need never be without a good steed, as its power was supposed to be such that by shaking it over any live animal, and uttering a certain incantation it was immediately changed into a horse, subject to it’s control like an ordinary natural horse.)

Donald opened the door and strode boldly forward, shaking the bridle in his hand. “Noo, ye ill-tongued jaud!” he cried., “I think I hae stood eneuch frae that ill-scrapit tongue o’ yours, an I’m noo determined to put a stop to it aince an’ for all. Ye canna blame me for what I’m aboot to dae, but rather blame yer ain ungovernable temper,” and he gave the bridle a fiercer shake than before.

Janet looked at him in astonishment, she could not conceive what on earth he was going to do with the old bridle. Indeed she thought a fit of the blue devils (delirium tremens) had taken hold of him, so her former wrath was now changed to pity. She inquired in a subdued tone:

“What are ye gaung tae dae wi’ that, Donald?”

“What am I gaun tae dae wi’ this, woman?” he cried, “Why, I’m gaun to turn ye into a cuddy, pit it ower ye rheid, an’ bring ye doon to the smiddy an’ get ye shod. Ye see this is a kelpie’s bridle, I found last night, an’ ——–”

What Donald was going to say further will never be recorded, as during his last speech Janet’s face underwent various changes; it first turned scarlet, then deepened into a crimson, and finally became black as thunder. Seizing the poker she hurled it at him with such energy that had he not immediately ducked his head and beat a hasty retreat, amid a shower of half-burned peats, there would have been no necessity to write any further history of him on this earth.