Read CHAPTER XV - THE FAT GIRL AGAIN of Wee Macgreegor Enlists, free online book, by J. J. Bell, on

Macgregor dropped his reply to Christina’s unsatisfactory note into the pillar-box and, half wishing he had destroyed it instead, rejoined the faithful Willie Thomson. He still looked so gloomy that Willie once more demanded to be told what the was up with him. Receiving no response, Willie remarked:

‘If ye tak’ a face like that to yer girl, she’ll be wantin’ to play a tune on it.’

Macgregor held his peace. They had just arrived in Glasgow, but without a trace of the usual eagerness on his part.

‘I believe,’ said Willie, with an inspiration, ‘her an’ you ha’e cast oot.’

‘Clay up! She’s awa’ her holidays.’

‘Save us! Awa’ her holidays!’ cried Willie, uttering, unawares, his friend’s bitterest thought ’an’ we may get oor mairchin’ orders ony meenute! Weel, weel, preserve me frae the female sect! I suppose ye’ll be for gi’ein’ yer ain folk a treat for a change.’

‘They’re a’ at Rothesay, at Granpaw Purdie’s,’ Macgregor returned shortly, now half glad that he had let the letter go.

It was not a harsh letter, yet neither was it a humble one. In effect, it informed Christina that she was welcome to disport herself even though the writer lay dead in a trench. While intended to be freezing, it had been written in considerable heat, physical and mental.

‘Then what are ye gaun to dae the nicht?’ Willie pursued, his mind simmering with curiosity. Macgregor had been very queer since his aunt’s visit of the previous afternoon, and the arrival of a letter, eagerly grabbed, had by no means mitigated the queerness. Willie was convinced that something had gone wrong between Macgregor and Christina. He would not be sorry to see the engagement broken. Macgregor would have more time and cash to spend on his friends. On the other hand, Christina was undoubtedly a ‘clinker’ in her way, and Willie could do with more hospitality like hers. Well, there was no saying what might happen if she were free and Macgregor attached to another girl. . . .

‘What are ye gaun to dae the nicht, Macgreegor?’ he repeated, rousing himself as well as his friend.

‘Dear knows,’ came the dreary answer. ‘I think I’ll awa’ back to the camp.’ Yet if he did not greatly desire Willie’s company, he desired his own less.

‘Cheer up for ony favour,’ said Willie. ’If I could afford it, I wud stan’ ye a feed.’

The hint was not taken, and they strolled on, aimlessly so far as Macgregor was concerned.

About six o’clock, and while they were passing a large drapery warehouse, Willie gave his friend a violent nudge and hoarsely whispered:

‘Gor! See thon!’


’Thon girl!’ pointing to a damsel in a dark skirt and pink blouse, who had just emerged from the warehouse.

‘What aboot her?’ said Macgregor impatiently,

‘It’s her the fat yin the girl I burst the twa bob on!’

‘She’s no that fat,’ Macgregor remarked without interest. Then suddenly ’Here! What are ye efter?’

’Her! She’s fat when ye’re close to her. Come on! I’ll introjuice ye.’

‘Thenk ye! I’m no takin’ ony.’

‘Jist for fun. I want to see her face when she sees me again.’

‘Weel, I’ll no prevent ye. So long.’ At that moment the girl was held up at a busy crossing.

‘Hullo, Maggie!’ said Willie pertly.

‘I’m off,’ said Macgregor but his arm was gripped.

The girl turned. ‘Hullo,’ she said coolly; ‘still livin’?’ Catching sight of Macgregor, she giggled. It was not an unpleasing giggle. Lean girls cannot produce it.

‘This is Private Macgreegor Robi’son,’ said Willie, unabashed.

She smiled and held out her hand. After a moment she said to Willie: ‘Are ye no gaun to tell him ma name, stupid?’

‘I forget it, except the Maggie.’

‘Aweel,’ she said good-humouredly, ’Private Robi’son’ll jist ha’e to content hissel’ wi’ that, though it’s a terrible common name.’ She did the giggle again.

The chance of crossing came, and they all moved over; on the crowded pavement it was impossible to proceed three abreast.

‘Never mind me,’ said Willie humorously.

‘Wha’s mindin’ you?’ she retorted.

‘Gettin’ hame?’ said Macgregor with an effort at politeness, while fuming inwardly.

‘Jist that. Awfu’ warm weather, is’t no? It was fair meltin’ in the warehoose the day. I’m fair dished up.’ She heaved a sigh, which was no more unpleasing than her giggle. ‘It’s killin’ weather for you sojer lads,’ she added kindly.

Macgregor experienced a wavelet of sympathy. ’Wud ye like a slider?’ he asked abruptly.

‘Ye’re awfu’ kind. I could dae wi’ it fine.’

Presently the three were seated in an ice-cream saloon. The conversation was supplied mainly by the girl and Willie, and took the form of a wordy sparring match. Every time she scored a point the girl glanced at Macgregor. He became mildly amused by her repartee, and at last took a cautious look at her.

She was certainly stout, but not with a clumsy stoutness; in fact, her figure was rather attractive. She had dark brown hair, long lashed, soft, dark eyes, a provocative, mobile mouth, and a nice pinky-tan colouring. At the same time, she was too frankly forward and consistently impudent for Macgregor’s taste; and he noticed that her hands were not pretty like Christina’s.

She caught his eye, and he smiled back, but absently. He was wondering what Christina was doing and how she would take his letter in the morning. . . . He consulted his watch. A long, empty evening lay before him. How on earth was he to fill it? He wanted distraction, and already his companions’ chaff was getting tiresome.

On the spur of the moment ’What aboot a pictur hoose?’ he said.

‘That’s the cheese!’ cried Willie.

But Maggie shook her head and sighed, and explained that her mother was expecting her home for tea, and sighed again.

‘Ha’e yer tea wi’ us,’ said the hospitable Macgregor.

She glanced at him under lowered lashes, her colour rising. ’My! ye’re awfu’ kind,’ she said softly. ‘I wish to goodness I could.’

‘Scoot hame an’ tell yer mither, an’ we’ll wait for ye here,’ said stage-manager William.

‘I wudna trust you . . . but I think I could trust him.’

‘Oh, we’ll wait sure enough,’ Macgregor said indifferently.

‘I’ll risk it!’ she cried, and straightway departed.

Willie grinned at his friend. ‘What dae ye think o’ fat Maggie?’ he said.

‘Naething,’ answered Mac, and refused to be drawn into further conversation.

Within half an hour she was back, flushed and bright of eye. She had on a pink print, crisp and fresh, a flowery hat, gloves carefully mended, neat shoes and transparent stockings.

‘By Jings, ye’re dressed to kill at a thoosan’ yairds!’ Willie observed.

Ignoring him, she looked anxiously for the other’s approval.

‘D’ye like hot pies?’ he inquired, rising and stretching himself.

An hour later, in the picture house a heartrending, soul thrilling melodrama was at its last gasp. The long suffering heroine was in the arms of the long misjudged, misfortune-ridden, but ever faithful hero.

‘Oh, lovely!’ murmured Maggie.

Macgregor said nothing, but his eyes were moist. He may, or may not, have been conscious of a plump, warm, thinly-clad shoulder close against his arm.

Hero and heroine vanished. The lights went up. Macgregor blew his nose, then looked past the fat girl to make a scoffing remark to Willie.

But Willie’s seat was vacant.

Maggie laid her ungloved hand on the adjoining seat. ‘It’s warm,’ she informed Macgregor. ‘He canna be lang awa’.’

‘Did he no say he was comin’ back?’ Macgregor asked rather irritably.

’He never said a word to me. I didna notice him gang: I was that ta’en up wi’ the picturs. But never heed,’ she went on cheerfully; ‘it’s a guid riddance o’ bad rubbish. I wonder what’s next on the prog

‘But this’ll no dae! He he’s your frien’.’

‘Him! Excuse me for seemin’ to smile. I can tell ye I was surprised to see a dacent-like chap like you sae chummy wi’ sic a bad character as him.’

‘Aw, Wullie Thomson’s no near as bad as his character. A’ the same, he had nae business to slope wi’oot lettin’ us ken. But he’ll likely be comin’ back. We’ll wait for five meenutes an’ see.’

Maggie drew herself up. ’I prefer no to wait where I’m no welcome,’ she said in a deeply offended tone, and made to rise.

He caught her plump arm. ’Wha said ye wasna welcome? Eat yer sweeties an’ dinna talk nonsense. If ye want to see the rest o’ the picturs, I’m on. I’ve naething else to dae the nicht.’

After a slight pause. ‘Dae ye want me to bide Macgreegor?’

‘I’m asking ye.’

She sighed. ‘Ye’re a queer lad. What’s yer age?’


‘Same as mines!’ She was twenty-two. ‘When’s yer birthday?’

‘Third o’ Mairch.’

‘Same again!’ She had been born on the 14th of December. ’My! that’s a strange dooble coincidence! We ought to be guid frien’s, you an’ me.’

‘What for no?’ said Macgregor carelessly.

Once more the house was darkened. A comic film was unrolled. Now and then Macgregor chuckled with moderate heartiness.

‘Enjoyin’ yersel’?’ she said in a chocolate whisper, close to his ear.

‘So, so.’

‘Ye’re like me. I prefer the serious picturs. Real life an’ true love for me! Ha’e a sweetie? Oh, ye’re smokin’. As I was sayin’, ye’re a queer lad, Macgreegor.’ She leaned against his arm. ’What made ye stan’ me a slider, an’ a champion tea, an’ they nice sweeties, an’ a best sate in a pictur hoose when ye wasna extra keen on ma comp’ny?’

‘Dear knows.’

She drew away from him so smartly that he turned his face towards her. ‘Oh, crool!’ she murmured, and put her handkerchief to her eyes.

‘Dinna dae that!’ he whispered, alarmed. ‘What’s up?’

‘Ye ye insulted me.’

‘Insulted ye! Guid kens I didna mean it. What did I say?’

‘Oh, dear, I’ll never get ower it.’

’Havers! I’ll apologize if ye tell me what I said. Dinna greet, for ony favour. Ye’ll ha’e the folk lookin’ at us. Listen, Mary that’s yer name, is’t no?’

‘It’s Maggie, ye impiddent thing!’

’Weel, Maggie, I apologize for whatever I said, whether I said it or no. I’m no ma usual the nicht, so ye maun try for to excuse me. I certainly never meant for to hurt yer feelin’s.’

She dropped the handkerchief. ‘Ha’e ye got a sair heid?’

‘Ay something like that. So let me doon easy.’

She slid her hand under his which was overhanging the division between the seats.

’I’m sorry I was silly, but I’m that tender-hearted, I was feart ye was takin’ yer fun aff me. I’m awfu’ vexed ye’ve got a sair heid. I suppose it’s the heat. Ony objection to me callin’ ye Macgreegor?’

‘That’s a’ richt,’ he replied kindly but uneasily.

Her fingers were round his, and seemingly she forgot they were there, even when the lights went up. And he hadn’t the courage shall we say? to withdraw them.

The succeeding film depicted a throbbing love story.

‘This is mair in oor line,’ she remarked confidentially.

Every time the sentiment rose to a high temperature, which was pretty often, Macgregor felt a warm pressure on his fingers. He had never before had a similar experience, not even in the half-forgotten days of Jessie Mary; for Jessie Mary had not become the pursuer until he had betrayed anxiety to escape from her toils. And he had been only seventeen then.

The warm pressure made him uncomfortable, but not physically so and, apart from conscience, perhaps not altogether spiritually so. For, after all, it’s a very sore young manly heart, indeed, that can refuse the solace, or distraction, offered in the close proximity of young womanhood of the Maggie sort and shape. In other words, Macgregor may have been conscientiously afraid, but he had no disposition to run away.

About nine-thirty they came out. While he looked a little dazed and defiant, she appeared entirely happy and self-possessed, with her hand in his arm as though he had belonged to her for quite a long time. But at the gorgeous portals she stopped short with a cry of dismay. It was raining heavily.

‘I’ve nae umburella,’ she said, piteously regarding her fine feathers. ‘Ma things’ll be ruined.’

‘I’ll get ye a cab,’ he said after some hesitation induced less by consideration of the expense than by the sheer novelty of the proceeding. Ere she could respond he was gone. Not without trouble and a thorough drenching he discovered a decrepit four-wheeler.

Maggie had never been so proud as at the moment when he handed her in, awkwardly enough, but with a certain shy respectfulness which she found entirely delicious.

He gave the man the address, learned the fare, then came back to the door and handed the girl the necessary money.

‘Na!’ she cried in a panic, ‘I’ll no gang unless ye come wi’ me. I I wud be feart to sit ma lane in the cab. Come, lad; ye’ve plenty time.’

He had no more than enough, but he got in after telling the man to drive as quickly as possible.

‘Sit here,’ she said, patting the cushion at her side.

He obeyed, and then followed a long pause while the cab rattled over the granite. She unpinned and removed her hat and leaned against him heavily yet softly.

‘Ye’re no sayin’ a great deal,’ she remarked at last. ’What girl are ye thinkin’ aboot?’

Ach, I’m dashed wearit,’ he said. ’I didna sleep a wink last nicht.’

‘Puir sojer laddie!’ Her smooth, hot cheek touched his. ’Pit yer heid on ma shouther. . . . I like ye because ye’re shy . . . but ye needna be ower shy.’

Suddenly he gave a foolish laugh and thrust his arm round her waist. She heaved a sigh of content.

By making all haste Macgregor managed to get back to the camp in advance of Willie. He was in bed, his eyes hard shut, when his friend appeared in the billet.

Willie, who was unusually flushed, bent over him and, sniggering, asked questions. Getting no response, he retired grinning and winking at no one in particular.

Macgregor did not sleep well. If you could have listened to his secret thoughts you would have heard, among other dreary things

‘But I didna kiss her; I didna kiss her.’