Read CHAPTER XII - A TEA-PARTY of Wee Macgreegor Enlists, free online book, by J. J. Bell, on

Christina was serving a customer when her two guests entered the shop. Unembarrassed she beamed on both and signed to Macgregor to go ‘right in.’ So Macgregor conducted his friend, who during the journey had betrayed increasing indications of ‘funk,’ into the absent owner’s living-room, which Christina had contrived to make brighter looking than for many a year.

At the sight of the laden table Willie took fright and declared his intention of doing an immediate ‘slope.’ ‘Ye didna tell me,’ he complained, ‘there was to be a big compn’y.’

Macgregor grabbed him by the arm. ’Keep yer hair on, Wullie. There’ll be naebody but the three o’ us. There’s nae scrimp aboot Christina,’ he added with pride.

‘I believe ye!’ responded the reassured guest. ’Gor, I never seen as much pastries in a’ ma born days no but what I’m ready to dae ma bit.’

Just then Christina entered, remarking:

‘It’s an awfu’ job tryin’ to sell what a person doesna want to a person that wants what ye ha’ena got; but I done it this time. Evenin’, Mac. Mr. Thomson, I am delighted to meet ye.’

‘Aw,’ murmured Willie helplessly.

‘Dinna terrify him,’ Macgregor whispered.

‘Sorry,’ she said with quick compunction. ’I’m gled to see ye, Wullie. Sit doon an’ feel at hame. The kettle’s jist at the bile. See, tak’ Miss Tod’s chair. She’ll like to think that a sojer sat in it. She’ll never ha’e been as near to a man. I was askin’ her the ither nicht if she had ever had a lad. The answer was in the negative.’

‘Maybe,’ Macgregor suggested, ‘she didna like to tell ye the truth.’

Christina smiled gently, saying, ’Ye’ve a lot to learn aboot us females, Mac.’

‘By Jings, ye’re richt there!’ Willie exploded, and immediately subsided in confusion.

‘Ay,’ she agreed placidly; ’he’s no a connoisseur like you, Wullie. Talkin’ o’ females, hoo’s yer aunt keepin’?’

‘Rotten at least she was fine the last time I seen her ugly.’

’The decay seems to ha’e been rapid. But, seriously, it’s a peety ye canna love yer aunt better ’

Love her! Oh, help!’ The ‘p’ was sounded just in time, and Willie glanced at Macgregor to see whether he had noticed the stumble.

Macgregor, however, had forgotten Willie unless, perhaps to wish him a hundred miles away. Christina was wearing a new white blouse which showed a little bit of her neck, with a bow of her favourite scarlet at the opening.

‘D’ye ken what ma aunt done to me the ither day?’ Willie proceeded, craving for sympathy. ‘I was terrible hard up, an’ I wrote her a nice letter on a caird wi’ a view o’ Glesca Cathedral on it, includin’ the graveyaird cost me a penny; an’ what dae ye think she sent me back? A bl oomin’ trac’!’

At that moment the kettle boiled, and Christina, exclaiming ’Oh, mercy!’ sprang to the hearth. Over her shoulder she said in a voice that wavered slightly:

’That was hard cheese, Wullie, but ye maun send her a cheerier-like caird next time. I’ll stand ye an optimistic specimen afore ye leave the shop.’

‘Thenk ye! A of course we’ll ha’e to draw the line at picturs o’ folk dookin’ in the sad sea waves or canoodlin’ on the shore ’

Christina, teapot in one hand, kettle in the other, burst out laughing.

‘Mind ye dinna burn yersel’!’ cried Macgregor, starting into life.

‘Haud the kettle, Mac,’ said she. ‘It’s no fair o’ Wullie to be sae funny.’

‘I wasna funny!’ Willie protested.

‘It’s yer notion o’ the optimistic that tickled me,’ she said. ’Pour, Mac; I’m steady noo. But ye’re quite richt, Wullie. We canna be ower discreet when cash is involved. I’ll get some high-class cairds for ye to inspect till the tea’s infused.’

Macgregor would dearly have liked to follow her into the shop.

‘She’s a clinker,’ observed Willie under his breath.



Which was all the conversation during the absence of the hostess.

She returned with a tray. Willie was tempted by a card with the ‘V.C.’ emblazoned on it, but feared it would look ‘swanky’ on his part. Though hampered by the adverse criticisms of Macgregor, who naturally wanted to hold Christina’s hand under cover of the table as long as possible, he succeeded at last in choosing one entitled ‘The Soldier’s Return,’ depicting a bronzed youth running to embrace an old lady awaiting him in a cottage porch.

‘If that doesna touch the spot,’ said Christina, ‘I’m a duchess.’

They sat down to tea.

Much to Willie’s relief, Christina apparently forgot all about a blessing. Anxious to please, he expressed admiration at the abundance of good things.

‘I like to see a table groanin’,’ said the hospitable hostess.

‘There’ll be mair nor the table groanin’ afore lang,’ observed Macgregor.

They all laughed like happy people, especially Willie, until with a start he remembered the cream cookies and his omission to bring an extra hanky. All the same, he proceeded to enjoy himself pretty heartily, and did the agreeable to the best of his ability, furnishing sundry anecdotes of camp life which were as new to Macgregor as they probably were to himself. At last

‘Try a cream cookie,’ said Christina.

But he could not face it. ‘Cream,’ he said mournfully, ’doesna agree wi’ me. The last time I had cream ma aunt had got it in for her cat that had the staggers I lay in agony for three days an’ three nichts an’ several ’oors into the bargain. Ma aunt feared I was gaun to croak ma last.’

Macgregor made a choking sound, while Christina gravely hoped that the cat had also recovered, and passed the macaroons.

‘Thenk ye,’ said Willie, and readily resumed operations. But he was not a little disgusted to note presently that Christina and Macgregor enjoyed their cream cookies without the slightest mishap.

His geniality was not fully restored until, at the end of the meal, Christina laid a box of superior cigarettes between her two guests.

‘May I drap deid in five meenutes,’ he declared, ’if ever I was treated like this afore! Macgreegor, ye’re jist a damp lucky deevil!’

‘Oh, whisht!’ said Christina smiling.

‘Ye should get a girl, Wullie,’ Macgregor remarked with the air of an old married man.

‘I ha’ena your luck, ma lad. If I was trustin’ a girl, I’ll bet ye a bob she wud turn oot to be yin o’ the sort that pinches a chap’s wages afore they’re warmed in his pooch, an’ objec’s to him smokin’ a fag, an’ tak’s the huff if he calls her fig-face.’

‘I’m afraid ye’re a pessimist,’ Christina said. ’I used to dae a bit in that line masel’. Ma favourite motto was: “Cheer up ye’ll soon be deid!” But I got past that, an’ so will you.’

With a sardonic smile Willie shook his head and took another cigarette; and just then Christina had to go to attend to a customer.

Willie turned to his friend. ’Thon was a dirty trick aboot the cookies. I’ve a guid mind to bide here as lang as you.’

’I didna think ye wud hae been feart for a cookie, Wullie. Of course, I’ll never tell her.’

‘Weel, I accep’ yer apology. Can ye len’ us thruppence? I want to purchase some War Loan. . . . By Jings, ye’re no a bad sort, Macgreegor. . . . Hoo dae ye think I behaved masel’?’

‘No that bad.’

‘Weel, I want ye to tell her I ha’end enjoyed masel’ sae much since ma Uncle Peter’s funeral, ten year back.’

‘Tell her yersel’.’

Willie pocketed a few of the superior cigarettes, and rose. ’It’s sax-thirty,’ he said. ‘Her an’ you’ll be nane the waur o’ hauf an’ ‘oor in private. See? So long! She’s a clinker!’

And before Macgregor realized it, Willie had bolted through the shop and into the street.

Christina returned, her eyes wide. ‘What gaed wrang wi’ him, Mac?’

‘Come here an’ I’ll tell ye.’