Read CHAPTER XI - AN INVITATION of Wee Macgreegor Enlists, free online book, by J. J. Bell, on

After considering the matter at intervals for about thirty years, Miss Tod, Christina’s employer, decided to take a short change of air by accepting the long-standing invitation of an old and aged friend who dwelt in the country. The hour of departure arriving, she shed tears, expressed the fear that she was going to her death, embraced the girl, handed her the keys of the premises, and requested her to make any use she pleased of the rather stuffy living-room behind the shop.

Christina had no notion of accepting the offer until, an hour or two later, the idea struck her that it would be fun to give a little tea party for Macgregor and Willie Thomson. She knew Willie but slightly, but though her respect was no greater than her knowledge, she had kept a softish corner for him since the day, two years ago, when he had gone out of his way to inform her, impudently enough, that his friend Macgregor was not courting a certain rather bold and attractive damsel called Jessie Mary.

So she wrote forthwith to Macgregor and enclosed the following invitation, in her neatest writing, for his friend:

Miss Christina Baldwin requests
the unspeakable pleasure of
Pte. William Thomson’s company

to T. T. Tea

on the first evening possible
(Sunday excepted) at 5.
precisely till 7 prompt.


Sandwiches, Sausage Rolls,
Hot Cookies, Cream Dittos,
Macaroons, Cheesecakes,
Currant Cakes, Jam Puffs,
Imperial (nee German) Biscuits,
God Save the King!

P.S. Miss C. B. will expect
Pte. W. T. to Ask a Blessing.

It took time and patience on Macgregor’s part to persuade his friend that the missive was not a ‘cod’; but once convinced of its genuineness, Willie took the business seriously. He swore, however, to have nothing to do with the matter of the P.S. Nevertheless, in moments of solitude, his lips might have been observed to move diligently, and it is possible that he was mentally rehearsing ‘For what we are about to receive, etc.’ His written acceptance was a model in its way.

‘Coming with thanks, Yours truly, W. THOMSON.’

By the same post he wrote to his aunt for cash; but her reply consisting of a tract headed with a picture of a young man in the remnants of a bath towel dining in a pig-sty, he was compelled once more to appeal to Macgregor, who fortunately happened to be fairly flush. He expended the borrowed shilling on a cane and a packet of Breath Perfumers for himself, and for Christina a box of toffee which, being anhungered while on sentry duty the same night, he speedily devoured with more relish than regret.

Unless we reckon evenings spent in Macgregor’s home in the small boy period, and a funeral or two, Willie’s experience of tea parties was nil. Despite his frequently expressed contempt for such ‘footerin’ affairs,’ he was secretly flattered by Christina’s invitation. At the same time, he suffered considerable anguish of mind on account of his ignorance of the ‘fancy behaviour’ which he deemed indispensable in the presence of a hostess whom he considered ‘awfu’ genteel.’ With reluctance, but in sheer desperation, he applied to his seldom-failing friend.

‘What the blazes,’ he began with affected unconcern, ’dae ye dae at a tea pairty?’

‘Eat an’ jaw,’ came the succinct reply.

‘But what dae ye jaw aboot?’

‘Onything ye like as long as ye leave oot the bad language.’

‘I doobt I’ll no ha’e muckle to say,’ sighed Willie.

‘She’ll want to hear aboot the camp an’ so on,’ Macgregor said, by way of encouragement.

‘But that’ll be piper’s news to her. You’ve tell’t her ’

‘I’ve never had the time.’

Willie gasped. ‘What the dae you an’ her jaw aboot?’

‘Nane o’ your business!’

‘Haw, haw!’ laughed Willie, mirthlessly. ’My! but ye’re a spoony deevil! nae offence intendit.’ The apology was made hastily owing to a sudden change in Macgregor’s expression and colour.

Macgregor lit a cigarette and returned his well-stocked aluminium case to his pocket.

The silence was broken by Willie.

‘Savin’ up?’


’It’s a dashed bad habit, Macgreegor. Dinna let it grow on ye. If naebody saved up, everybody wud be weel aff. . . . Aweel, what maun be maun be.’ And, groaning, Private Thomson drew forth a packet which his friend had ‘stood’ him the previous day. ‘Regairdin’ this tea pairty,’ he resumed, ’are ye supposed to eat a’ ye can an’ leave what ye canna if there’s onything to leave?’

‘She’ll expect ye to eat a’ ye can.’

‘It’s easy seen she doesna ken me.’

‘Oh, she’ll be prepared for the warst, Wullie,’ said Macgregor, his good-humour returned. ‘I can shift a bit masel’ when I’m in form.’

Whereat Willie’s countenance was illuminated by a happy thought.
‘I’ll bet ye a tanner I’ll shift mair nor you!’

Macgregor laughed and shook his head. ‘If you an’ me was gaun oor lane to restewrant, I wud tak’ ye on; but ’

‘Aw, ye mean it wudna be the thing a tea pairty?’


‘Weel, weel,’ said Willie, with sorry resignation, ’honest money’s ill to earn. It wud ha’e been a snip for me. Ha’e ye a match? ’Having lit up: ‘Tell us what else I maunna dae at the pairty.’

Macgregor scratched his head. ‘If it had been a denner pairty,’ he said slowly, thinking doubtless of Aunt Purdie’s, ’I could ha’e gi’ed ye a queer list; but ye canna gang faur wrang at a tea pairty.’

‘I dinna want to gang an inch wrang.’

‘Weel, then, for instance, some folk objec’s to a chap sookin’ his tea frae his saucer ’

‘I’ll note that. Fire awa’!’

‘An’ if a cream cookie bursts ’

‘Dae they burst whiles?’

‘Up yer sleeve, as a rule,’ said Macgregor very solemnly.

‘Guid Goad! I’ll pass the cream cookies.’

‘But they’re awfu’ tasty.’

‘Are they? . . . Weel, what dae ye dae if it bursts?’

‘Never let bug.’

‘Ay, but but what aboot the cream?’

‘Best cairry an extra hanky an’ plug yer sleeve wi’ it.’

After a dismal pause, Willie inquired: ’Could ye no get her to leave the cream cookies oot o’ her programme, Macgreegor?’

Macgregor looked dubious. ‘She’s gey saft on them hersel’, an’ she micht be offendit if we refused them. Of course they dinna scoot up the sleeve every time.’

’Oh!’ more hopefully.

‘Whiles they explode doon the waistcoat I mean tunic.’

‘That’s enough!’ wailed Willie. ’If the Clyde was handy, I wud gang an’ droon masel’!’

On the third day following, they obtained late passes. Willie’s uneasiness was considerable, yet so was his vanity. He affected an absurdly devil-may-care deportment which so stirred Macgregor’s sense of pity that he had thoughts of taking back what he had said about the cream cookies. But at the last moment his bootlace snapped. . . .

Willie’s toilet was the most careful he had ever made, and included an application of exceeding fragrant pomade pilfered from his corporal’s supply and laid on thickly enough to stop a leak. Finally, having armed himself with his new cane and put seven breath perfumers and a cigarette in his mouth, he approached the stooping Macgregor and declared himself ready for the road.

‘What’s that atrocious smell?’ demanded Macgregor, with unwonted crustiness.

For once in his life Willie had no answer at hand, and for once he blushed.