(James Wylie is about to make a move on the dambrod, and in the
little Scotch room there is an awful silence befitting the occasion.
James with his hand poised--for if he touches a piece he has to play
it, Alick will see to that--raises his red head suddenly to read
Alick's face. His father, who is Alick, is pretending to be in a
panic lest James should make this move. James grins heartlessly, and
his fingers are about to close on the 'man' when some instinct of
self-preservation makes him peep once more. This time Alick is
caught: the unholy ecstasy on his face tells as plain as porridge
that he has been luring James to destruction. James glares; and, too
late, his opponent is a simple old father again. James mops his head,
sprawls in the manner most conducive to thought in the Wylie family,
and, protruding his underlip, settles down to a reconsideration of
the board. Alick blows out his cheeks, and a drop of water settles on
the point of his nose.
You will find them thus any Saturday night (after family worship,
which sends the servant to bed); and sometimes the pauses are so long
that in the end they forget whose move it is.
It is not the room you would be shown into if you were calling
socially on Miss Wylie. The drawing-room for you, and Miss Wylie in a
coloured merino to receive you; very likely she would exclaim, "This
is a pleasant surprise!" though she has seen you coming up the avenue
and has just had time to whip the dustcloths off the chairs, and to
warn Alick, David and James, that they had better not dare come in to
see you before they have put on a dickey. Nor is this the room in
which you would dine in solemn grandeur if invited to drop in and
take pot-luck, which is how the Wylies invite, it being a family
weakness to pretend that they sit down in the dining-room daily. It
is the real living-room of the house, where Alick, who will never get
used to fashionable ways, can take off his collar and sit happily in
his stocking soles, and James at times would do so also; but catch
Maggie letting him.
There is one very fine chair, but, heavens, not for sitting on; just
to give the room a social standing in an emergency. It sneers at the
other chairs with an air of insolent superiority, like a haughty
bride who has married into the house for money. Otherwise the
furniture is homely; most of it has come from that smaller house
where the Wylies began. There is the large and shiny chair which can
be turned into a bed if you look the other way for a moment. James
cannot sit on this chair without gradually sliding down it till he is
lying luxuriously on the small of his back, his legs indicating, like
the hands of a clock, that it is ten past twelve; a position in which
Maggie shudders to see him receiving company.
The other chairs are horse-hair, than which nothing is more
comfortable if there be a good slit down the seat. The seats are
heavily dented, because all the Wylie family sit down with a dump.
The draught-board is on the edge of a large centre table, which also
displays four books placed at equal distances from each other, one of
them a Bible, and another the family album. If these were the only
books they would not justify Maggie in calling this chamber the
library, her dogged name for it; while David and James call it the
west-room and Alick calls it 'the room,' which is to him the natural
name for any apartment without a bed in it. There is a bookcase of
pitch pine, which contains six hundred books, with glass doors to
prevent your getting at them.
No one does try to get at the books, for the Wylies are not a reading
family. They like you to gasp when you see so much literature
gathered together in one prison-house, but they gasp themselves at
the thought that there are persons, chiefly clergymen, who, having
finished one book, coolly begin another. Nevertheless it was not all
vainglory that made David buy this library: it was rather a mighty
respect for education, as something that he has missed. This same
feeling makes him take in the Contemporary Review and stand up to it
like a man. Alick, who also has a respect for education, tries to
read the Contemporary, but becomes dispirited, and may be heard
muttering over its pages, 'No, no use, no use, no,' and sometimes
even 'Oh hell.' James has no respect for education; and Maggie is at
present of an open mind.
They are Wylie and Sons of the local granite quarry, in which Alick
was throughout his working days a mason. It is David who has raised
them to this position; he climbed up himself step by step (and hewed
the steps), and drew the others up after him. 'Wylie Brothers,' Alick
would have had the firm called, but David said No, and James said No,
and Maggie said No; first honour must be to their father; and Alick
now likes it on the whole, though he often sighs at having to shave
every day; and on some snell mornings he still creeps from his couch
at four and even at two (thinking that his mallet and chisel are
calling him), and begins to pull on his trousers, until the grandeur
of them reminds him that he can go to bed again. Sometimes he cries a
little, because there is no more work for him to do for ever and
ever; and then Maggie gives him a spade (without telling David) or
David gives him the logs to saw (without telling Maggie).
We have given James a longer time to make his move than our kind
friends in front will give him, but in the meantime something has
been happening. David has come in, wearing a black coat and his
Sabbath boots, for he has been to a public meeting. David is nigh
forty years of age, whiskered like his father and brother (Alick's
whiskers being worn as a sort of cravat round the neck), and he has
the too brisk manner of one who must arrive anywhere a little before
any one else. The painter who did the three of them for fifteen
pounds (you may observe the canvases on the walls) has caught this
characteristic, perhaps accidentally, for David is almost stepping
out of his frame, as if to hurry off somewhere; while Alick and James
look as if they were pinned to the wall for life. All the six of
them, men and pictures, however, have a family resemblance, like
granite blocks from their own quarry. They are as Scotch as peat for
instance, and they might exchange eyes without any neighbour noticing
the difference, inquisitive little blue eyes that seem to be always
totting up the price of things.
The dambrod players pay no attention to David, nor does he regard
them. Dumping down on the sofa he removes his 'lastic sides, as his
Sabbath boots are called, by pushing one foot against the other, gets
into a pair of hand-sewn slippers, deposits the boots as according to
rule in the ottoman, and crosses to the fire. There must be something
on David's mind to-night, for he pays no attention to the game,
neither gives advice (than which nothing is more maddening) nor
exchanges a wink with Alick over the parlous condition of James's
crown. You can hear the wag-at-the-wall clock in the lobby ticking.
Then David lets himself go; it runs out of him like a hymn:)
DAVID. Oh, let the solid ground Not fail beneath my feet, Before my
life has found What some have found so sweet.
[This is not a soliloquy, but is offered as a definite statement. The
players emerge from their game with difficulty.]
ALICK [with JAMES's crown in his hand]. What's that you're saying,
DAVID [like a public speaker explaining the situation in a few well-chosen
words]. The thing I'm speaking about is Love.
JAMES [keeping control of himself]. Do you stand there and say you're
in love, David Wylie?
DAVID. Me; what would I do with the thing?
JAMES [who is by no means without pluck]. I see no necessity for
calling it a thing.
[They are two bachelors who all their lives have been afraid of
nothing but Woman. DAVID in his sportive days--which continue--has
done roguish things with his arm when conducting a lady home under an
umbrella from a soiree, and has both chuckled and been scared on
thinking of it afterwards. JAMES, a commoner fellow altogether, has
discussed the sex over a glass, but is too canny to be in the company
of less than two young women at a time.]
DAVID [derisively]. Oho, has she got you, James?
JAMES [feeling the sting of it]. Nobody has got me.
DAVID. They'll catch you yet, lad.
JAMES. They'll never catch me. You've been nearer catched yourself.
ALICK. Yes, Kitty Menzies, David.
DAVID [feeling himself under the umbrella]. It was a kind of a shave
ALICK [who knows all that is to be known about women and can speak of
them without a tremor]. It's a curious thing, but a man cannot help
winking when he hears that one of his friends has been catched.
DAVID. That's so.
JAMES [clinging to his manhood]. And fear of that wink is what has
kept the two of us single men. And yet what's the glory of being
DAVID. There's no particular glory in it, but it's safe.
JAMES [putting away his aspirations]. Yes, it's lonely, but it's
safe. But who did you mean the poetry for, then?
DAVID. For Maggie, of course.
[You don't know DAVID and JAMES till you know how they love their
ALICK. I thought that.
DAVID [coming to the second point of his statement about Love]. I saw
her reading poetry and saying those words over to herself.
JAMES. She has such a poetical mind.
DAVID. Love. There's no doubt as that's what Maggie has set her heart
on. And not merely love, but one of those grand noble loves; for
though Maggie is undersized she has a passion for romance.
JAMES [wandering miserably about the room]. It's terrible not to be
able to give Maggie what her heart is set on.
[The others never pay much attention to JAMES, though he is quite a
smart figure in less important houses.]
ALICK [violently]. Those idiots of men.
DAVID. Father, did you tell her who had got the minister of
ALICK [wagging his head sadly]. I had to tell her. And then I--I--
bought her a sealskin muff, and I just slipped it into her hands and
JAMES [illustrating the sense of justice in the Wylie family]. Of
course, to be fair to the man, he never pretended he wanted her.
DAVID. None of them wants her; that's what depresses her. I was
thinking, father, I would buy her that gold watch and chain in
Snibby's window. She hankers after it.
JAMES [slapping his pocket]. You're too late, David; I've got them
DAVID. It's ill done of the minister. Many a pound of steak has that
man had in this house.
ALICK. You mind the slippers she worked for him?
JAMES. I mind them fine; she began them for William Cathro. She's
getting on in years, too, though she looks so young.
ALICK. I never can make up my mind, David, whether her curls make her
look younger or older.
DAVID [determinedly]. Younger. Whist! I hear her winding the clock.
Mind, not a word about the minister to her, James. Don't even mention
religion this day.
JAMES. Would it be like me to do such a thing?
DAVID. It would be very like you. And there's that other matter: say
not a syllable about our having a reason for sitting up late to-
night. When she says it's bed-time, just all pretend we're not
ALICK. Exactly, and when--
[Here MAGGIE enters, and all three are suddenly engrossed in the
dambrod. We could describe MAGGIE at great length. But what is the
use? What you really want to know is whether she was good-looking.
No, she was not. Enter MAGGIE, who is not good-looking. When this is
said, all is said. Enter MAGGIE, as it were, with her throat cut from
ear to ear. She has a soft Scotch voice and a more resolute manner
than is perhaps fitting to her plainness; and she stops short at
sight of JAMES sprawling unconsciously in the company chair.]
MAGGIE. James, I wouldn't sit on the fine chair.
JAMES. I forgot again.
[But he wishes she had spoken more sharply. Even profanation of the
fine chair has not roused her. She takes up her knitting, and they
all suspect that she knows what they have been talking about.]
MAGGIE. You're late, David, it's nearly bed-time.
DAVID [finding the subject a safe one]. I was kept late at the public
ALICK [glad to get so far away from Galashiels]. Was it a good
DAVID. Fairish. [with some heat] That young John Shand WOULD make a
MAGGIE. John Shand? Is that the student Shand?
DAVID. The same. It's true he's a student at Glasgow University in
the winter months, but in summer he's just the railway porter here;
and I think it's very presumptuous of a young lad like that to make a
speech when he hasn't a penny to bless himself with.
ALICK. The Shands were always an impudent family, and jealous. I
suppose that's the reason they haven't been on speaking terms with us
this six years. Was it a good speech?
DAVID [illustrating the family's generosity]. It was very fine; but
he needn't have made fun of ME.
MAGGIE [losing a stitch]. He dared?
DAVID [depressed]. You see I can not get started on a speech without
saying things like 'In rising FOR to make a few remarks.'
JAMES. What's wrong with it?
DAVID. He mimicked me, and said, 'Will our worthy chairman come for
to go for to answer my questions?' and so on; and they roared.
JAMES [slapping his money pocket]. The sacket.
DAVID. I did feel bitterly, father, the want of education. [Without
knowing it, he has a beautiful way of pronouncing this noble word.]
MAGGIE [holding out a kind hand to him]. David.
ALICK. I've missed it sore, David. Even now I feel the want of it in
the very marrow of me. I'm ashamed to think I never gave you your
chance. But when you were young I was so desperate poor, how could I
do it, Maggie?
MAGGIE. It wasn't possible, father.
ALICK [gazing at the book-shelves]. To be able to understand these
books! To up with them one at a time and scrape them as clean as
though they were a bowl of brose. Lads, it's not to riches, it's to
scholarship that I make my humble bow.
JAMES [who is good at bathos]. There's ten yards of them. And they
were selected by the minister of Galashiels. He said--
DAVID [quickly]. James.
JAMES. I mean--I mean--
MAGGIE [calmly]. I suppose you mean what you say, James. I hear,
David, that the minister of Galashiels is to be married on that Miss
DAVID [on guard]. So they were saying.
ALICK. All I can say is she has made a poor bargain.
MAGGIE [the damned]. I wonder at you, father. He's a very nice
gentleman. I'm sure I hope he has chosen wisely.
JAMES. Not him.
MAGGIE [getting near her tragedy]. How can you say that when you
don't know her? I expect she is full of charm.
ALICK. Charm? It's the very word he used.
DAVID. Havering idiot.
ALICK. What IS charm, exactly, Maggie?
MAGGIE. Oh, it's--it's a sort of bloom on a woman. If you have it,
you don't need to have anything else; and if you don't have it, it
doesn't much matter what else you have. Some women, the few, have
charm for all; and most have charm for one. But some have charm for
[Somehow she has stopped knitting. Her men-folk are very depressed.
JAMES brings his fist down on the table with a crash.]
JAMES [shouting]. I have a sister that has charm.
MAGGIE. No, James, you haven't.
JAMES [rushing at her with the watch and chain]. Ha'e, Maggie.
[She lets them lie in her lap.]
DAVID. Maggie, would you like a silk?
MAGGIE. What could I do with a silk? [With a gust of passion] You
might as well dress up a little brown hen.
[They wriggle miserably.]
JAMES [stamping]. Bring him here to me.
MAGGIE. Bring whom, James?
JAMES. David, I would be obliged if you wouldn't kick me beneath the
MAGGIE [rising]. Let's be practical; let's go to our beds.
[This reminds them that they have a job on hand in which she is not
DAVID [slily]. I don't feel very sleepy yet.
ALICK. Nor me either.
JAMES. You've just taken the very words out of my mouth.
DAVID [with unusual politeness]. Good-night to you Maggie.
MAGGIE [fixing the three of them]. ALL of you unsleepy, when, as is
well known, ten o'clock is your regular bed-time?
JAMES. Yes, it's common knowledge that we go to our beds at ten.
[Chuckling] That's what we're counting on.
MAGGIE. Counting on?
DAVID. You stupid whelp.
JAMES. What have I done?
MAGGIE [folding her arms]. There's something up. You've got to tell
DAVID [who knows when he is beaten]. Go out and watch, James.
[JAMES takes himself off, armed, as MAGGIE notices, with a stick.]
DAVID [in his alert business way]. Maggie, there are burglars about.
MAGGIE. Burglars? [She sits rigid, but she is not the kind to
DAVID. We hadn't meant for to tell you till we nabbed them; but
they've been in this room twice of late. We sat up last night waiting
for them, and we're to sit up again to-night.
MAGGIE. The silver plate.
DAVID. It's all safe as yet. That makes us think that they were
either frightened away these other times, or that they are coming
back for to make a clean sweep.
MAGGIE. How did you get to know about this?
DAVID. It was on Tuesday that the polissman called at the quarry with
a very queer story. He had seen a man climbing out at this window at
ten past two.
MAGGIE. Did he chase him?
DAVID. It was so dark he lost sight of him at once.
ALICK. Tell her about the window.
DAVID. We've found out that the catch of the window has been pushed
back by slipping the blade of a knife between the woodwork.
ALICK. The polissman said he was carrying a little carpet bag.
MAGGIE. The silver plate IS gone.
DAVID. No, no. We were thinking that very likely he has bunches of
keys in the bag.
MAGGIE. Or weapons.
DAVID. As for that, we have some pretty stout weapons ourselves in
the umbrella stand. So, if you'll go to your bed, Maggie--
MAGGIE. Me? and my brothers in danger.
ALICK. There's just one of them.
MAGGIE. The polissman just saw one.
DAVID [licking his palms]. I would be very pleased if there were
three of them.
MAGGIE. I watch with you. I would be very pleased if there were four
DAVID. And they say she has no charm!
[JAMES returns on tiptoe as if the burglars were beneath the table.
He signs to every one to breathe no more, and then whispers his
JAMES. He's there. I had no sooner gone out than I saw him sliding
down the garden wall, close to the rhubarbs.
ALICK. What's he like?
JAMES. He's an ugly customer. That's all I could see. There was a
little carpet bag in his hand.
DAVID. That's him.
JAMES. He slunk into the rhodydendrons, and he's there now, watching
DAVID. We have him. Out with the light.
[The room is beautified by a chandelier fitted for three gas jets,
but with the advance of progress one of these has been removed and
the incandescent light put in its place. This alone is lit. ALICK
climbs a chair, pulls a little chain, and the room is now but vaguely
lit by the fire. It plays fitfully on four sparkling faces.]
MAGGIE. Do you think he saw you, James?
JAMES. I couldn't say, but in any case I was too clever for him. I
looked up at the stars, and yawned loud at them as if I was
[There is a long pause during which they are lurking in the shadows.
At last they hear some movement, and they steal like ghosts from the
room. We see DAVID turning out the lobby light; then the door closes
and an empty room awaits the intruder with a shudder of expectancy.
The window opens and shuts as softly as if this were a mother peering
in to see whether her baby is asleep. Then the head of a man shows
between the curtains. The remainder of him follows. He is carrying a
little carpet bag. He stands irresolute; what puzzles him evidently
is that the Wylies should have retired to rest without lifting that
piece of coal off the fire. He opens the door and peeps into the
lobby, listening to the wag-at-the-wall clock. All seems serene, and
he turns on the light. We see him clearly now. He is JOHN SHAND, age
twenty-one, boots muddy, as an indignant carpet can testify. He wears
a shabby topcoat and a cockerty bonnet; otherwise he is in the well-
worn corduroys of a railway porter. His movements, at first stealthy,
become almost homely as he feels that he is secure. He opens the bag
and takes out a bunch of keys, a small paper parcel, and a black
implement that may be a burglar's jemmy. This cool customer examines
the fire and piles on more coals. With the keys he opens the door of
the bookcase, selects two large volumes, and brings them to the
table. He takes off his topcoat and opens his parcel, which we now
see contains sheets of foolscap paper. His next action shows that the
'jemmy' is really a ruler. He knows where the pen and ink are kept.
He pulls the fine chair nearer to the table, sits on it, and proceeds
to write, occasionally dotting the carpet with ink as he stabs the
air with his pen. He is so occupied that he does not see the door
opening, and the Wylie family staring at him. They are armed with
ALICK [at last]. When you're ready, John Shand.
[JOHN hints back, and then he has the grace to rise, dogged and
JAMES [like a railway porter]. Ticket, please.
DAVID. You can't think of anything clever for to go for to say now,
MAGGIE. I hope you find that chair comfortable, young man.
JOHN. I have no complaint to make against the chair.
ALICK [who is really distressed]. A native of the town. The disgrace
to your family! I feel pity for the Shands this night.
JOHN [glowering]. I'll thank you, Mr. Wylie, not to pity my family.
JAMES. Canny, canny.
MAGGIE [that sense of justice again]. I think you should let the
young man explain. It mayn't be so bad as we thought.
DAVID. Explain away, my billie.
JOHN. Only the uneducated would need an explanation. I'm a student,
[with a little passion] and I'm desperate for want of books. You have
all I want here; no use to you but for display; well, I came here to
study. I come twice weekly. [Amazement of his hosts.]
DAVID [who is the first to recover]. By the window.
JOHN. Do you think a Shand would so far lower himself as to enter
your door? Well, is it a case for the police?
JAMES. It is.
MAGGIE [not so much out of the goodness of her heart as to patronise
the Shands]. It seems to me it's a case for us all to go to our beds
and leave the young man to study; but not on that chair. [And she
wheels the chair away from him.]
JOHN. Thank you, Miss Maggie, but I couldn't be beholden to you.
JAMES. My opinion is that he's nobody, so out with him.
JOHN. Yes, out with me. And you'll be cheered to hear I'm likely to
be a nobody for a long time to come.
DAVID [who had been beginning to respect him]. Are you a poor
JOHN. On the contrary, I'm a brilliant scholar.
DAVID. It's siller, then?
JOHN [glorified by experiences he has shared with many a gallant
soul]. My first year at college I lived on a barrel of potatoes, and
we had just a sofa-bed between two of us; when the one lay down the
other had to get up. Do you think it was hardship? It was sublime.
But this year I can't afford it. I'll have to stay on here,
collecting the tickets of the illiterate, such as you, when I might
be with Romulus and Remus among the stars.
JAMES [summing up]. Havers.
DAVID [in whose head some design is vaguely taking shape]. Whist,
James. I must say, young lad, I like your spirit. Now tell me, what's
your professors' opinion of your future.
JOHN. They think me a young man of extraordinary promise.
DAVID. You have a name here for high moral character.
JOHN. And justly.
DAVID. Are you serious-minded?
JOHN. I never laughed in my life.
DAVID. Who do you sit under in Glasgow?
JOHN. Mr. Flemister of the Sauchiehall High.
DAVID. Are you a Sabbath-school teacher?
JOHN. I am.
DAVID. One more question. Are you promised?
JOHN. To a lady?
JOHN. I've never given one of them a single word of encouragement.
I'm too much occupied thinking about my career.
DAVID. So. [He reflects, and finally indicates by a jerk of the head
that he wishes to talk with his father behind the door.]
JAMES [longingly]. Do you want me too?
[But they go out without even answering him.]
MAGGIE. I don't know what maggot they have in their heads, but sit
down, young man, till they come back.
JOHN. My name's Mr. Shand, and till I'm called that I decline to sit
down again in this house.
MAGGIE. Then I'm thinking, young sir, you'll have a weary wait.
[While he waits you can see how pinched his face is. He is little
more than a boy, and he seldom has enough to eat. DAVID and ALICK
return presently, looking as sly as if they had been discussing some
move on the dambrod, as indeed they have.]
DAVID [suddenly become genial]. Sit down, Mr. Shand, and pull in your
chair. You'll have a thimbleful of something to keep the cold out?
[Briskly] Glasses, Maggie.
[She wonders, but gets glasses and decanter from the sideboard, which
JAMES calls the chiffy. DAVID and ALICK, in the most friendly manner,
also draw up to the table.]
You're not a totaller, I hope?
JOHN [guardedly]. I'm practically a totaller.
DAVID. So are we. How do you take it? Is there any hot water, Maggie?
JOHN. If I take it at all, and I haven't made up my mind yet, I'll
take it cold.
DAVID. You'll take it hot, James?
JAMES [also sitting at the table but completely befogged]. No, I--
DAVID [decisively] I think you'll take it hot, James.
JAMES [sulking]. I'll take it hot.
DAVID. The kettle, Maggie.
[JAMES has evidently to take it hot so that they can get at the
business now on hand, while MAGGIE goes kitchenward for the kettle.]
ALICK. Now, David, quick, before she comes back.
DAVID. Mr. Shand, we have an offer to make you.
JOHN [warningly]. No patronage.
ALICK. It's strictly a business affair.
DAVID. Leave it to me, father. It's this--[But to his annoyance the
suspicious MAGGIE has already returned with the kettle.] Maggie,
don't you see that you're not wanted?
MAGGIE [sitting down by the fire and resuming her knitting]. I do,
DAVID. I have a proposition to put before Mr. Shand, and women are
out of place in business transactions.
[The needles continue to click.]
ALICK [sighing]. We'll have to let her bide, David.
DAVID [sternly]. Woman. [But even this does not budge her.] Very well
then, sit there, but don't interfere, mind. Mr. Shand, we're willing,
the three of us, to lay out L300 on your education if--
JOHN. Take care.
DAVID [slowly, which is not his wont]. On condition that five years
from now, Maggie Wylie, if still unmarried, can claim to marry you,
should such be her wish; the thing to be perfectly open on her side,
but you to be strictly tied down.
JAMES [enlightened]. So, so.
DAVID [resuming his smart manner]. Now, what have you to say? Decide.
JOHN [after a pause]. I regret to say--
MAGGIE. It doesn't matter what he regrets to say, because I decide
against it. And I think it was very ill-done of you to make any such
DAVID [without looking at her]. Quiet, Maggie.
JOHN [looking at her]. I must say, Miss Maggie, I don't see what
reasons YOU can have for being so set against it.
MAGGIE. If you would grow a beard, Mr. Shand, the reasons wouldn't be
quite so obvious.
JOHN. I'll never grow a beard.
MAGGIE. Then you're done for at the start.
ALICK. Come, come.
MAGGIE. Seeing I have refused the young man--
DAVID. That's no reason why we shouldn't have his friendly opinion.
Your objections, Mr. Shand?
JOHN. Simply, it's a one-sided bargain. I admit I'm no catch at
present; but what could a man of my abilities not soar to with three
hundred pounds? Something far above what she could aspire to.
MAGGIE. Oh, indeed!
DAVID. The position is that without the three hundred you can't soar.
JOHN. You have me there.
MAGGIE. Yes, but--
ALICK. You see YOU'RE safeguarded, Maggie; you don't need to take him
unless you like, but he has to take you.
JOHN. That's an unfair arrangement also.
MAGGIE. I wouldn't dream of it without that condition.
JOHN. Then you ARE thinking of it?
DAVID. It's a good arrangement for you, Mr. Shand. The chances are
you'll never have to go on with it, for in all probability she'll
JAMES. She's tremendous run after.
JOHN. Even if that's true, it's just keeping me in reserve in case
she misses doing better.
DAVID [relieved]. That's the situation in a nutshell.
JOHN. Another thing. Supposing I was to get fond of her?
ALICK [wistfully]. It's very likely.
JOHN. Yes, and then suppose she was to give me the go-by?
DAVID. You have to risk that.
JOHN. Or take it the other way. Supposing as I got to know her I
COULD NOT endure her?
DAVID [suavely]. You have both to take risks.
JAMES [less suavely]. What you need, John Shand, is a clout on the
JOHN. Three hundred pounds is no great sum.
DAVID. You can take it or leave it.
ALICK. No great sum for a student studying for the ministry!
JOHN. Do you think that with that amount of money I would stop short
at being a minister?
DAVID. That's how I like to hear you speak. A young Scotsman of your
ability let loose upon the world with L300, what could he not do?
It's almost appalling to think of; especially if he went among the
JOHN. What do you think, Miss Maggie?
MAGGIE [who is knitting]. I have no thoughts on the subject either
JOHN [after looking her over]. What's her age? She looks young, but
they say it's the curls that does it.
DAVID [rather happily]. She's one of those women who are eternally
JOHN. I can't take that for an answer.
DAVID. She's twenty-five.
JOHN. I'm just twenty-one.
JAMES. I read in a book that about four years' difference in the ages
is the ideal thing. [As usual he is disregarded.]
DAVID. Well, Mr. Shand?
JOHN [where is his mother?]. I'm willing if she's willing.
MAGGIE. There can be no 'if' about it. It must be an offer.
JOHN. A Shand give a Wylie such a chance to humiliate him? Never.
MAGGIE. Then all is off.
DAVID. Come, come, Mr. Shand, it's just a form.
JOHN [reluctantly]. Miss Maggie, will you?
MAGGIE [doggedly]. Is it an offer?
JOHN [dourly]. Yes.
MAGGIE [rising]. Before I answer I want first to give you a chance of
MAGGIE [bravely]. When they said that I have been run after they were
misleading you. I'm without charm; nobody has ever been after me.
ALICK. They will be yet.
JOHN [the innocent]. It shows at least that you haven't been after
[His hosts exchange a self-conscious glance.]
MAGGIE. One thing more; David said I'm twenty-five, I'm twenty-six.
MAGGIE. Now be practical. Do you withdraw from the bargain, or do you
JOHN [on reflection]. It's a bargain.
MAGGIE. Then so be it.
DAVID [hurriedly]. And that's settled. Did you say you would take it
hot, Mr. Shand?
JOHN. I think I'll take it neat.
[The others decide to take it hot, and there is some careful business
here with the toddy ladles.]
ALICK. Here's to you, and your career.
JOHN. Thank you. To you, Miss Maggie. Had we not better draw up a
legal document? Lawyer Crosbie could do it on the quiet.
DAVID. Should we do that, or should we just trust to one another's
ALICK [gallantly]. Let Maggie decide.
MAGGIE. I think we would better have a legal document.
DAVID. We'll have it drawn up to-morrow. I was thinking the best way
would be for to pay the money in five yearly instalments.
JOHN. I was thinking, better bank the whole sum in my name at once.
ALICK. I think David's plan's the best.
JOHN. I think not. Of course if it's not convenient to you--
DAVID [touched to the quick]. It's perfectly convenient. What do you
MAGGIE. I agree with John.
DAVID [with an odd feeling that MAGGIE is now on the other side].
JOHN. Then as that's settled I think I'll be stepping. [He is putting
his papers back in the bag.]
ALICK [politely]. If you would like to sit on at your books--
JOHN. As I can come at any orra time now I think I'll be stepping.
[MAGGIE helps him into his topcoat.]
MAGGIE. Have you a muffler, John?
JOHN. I have. [He gets it from his pocket.]
MAGGIE. You had better put it twice round. [She does this for him.]
DAVID. Well, good-night to you, Mr. Shand.
ALICK. And good luck.
JOHN. Thank you. The same to you. And I'll cry in at your office in
the morning before the 6:20 is due.
DAVID. I'll have the document ready for you. [There is the awkward
pause that sometimes follows great events.] I think, Maggie, you
might see Mr. Shand to the door.
MAGGIE. Certainly. [JOHN is going by the window.] This way, John.
[She takes him off by the more usual exit.]
DAVID. He's a fine frank fellow; and you saw how cleverly he got the
better of me about banking the money. [As the heads of the
conspirators come gleefully together] I tell you, father, he has a
grand business head.
ALICK. Lads, he's canny. He's cannier than any of us.
JAMES. Except maybe Maggie. He has no idea what a remarkable woman
ALICK. Best he shouldn't know. Men are nervous of remarkable women.
JAMES. She's a long time in coming back.
DAVID [not quite comfortable]. It's a good sign. H'sh. What sort of a
night is it, Maggie?
MAGGIE. It's a little blowy.
[She gets a large dustcloth which is lying folded on a shelf, and
proceeds to spread it over the fine chair. The men exchange self-conscious
DAVID [stretching himself]. Yes--well, well, oh yes. It's getting
late. What is it with you, father?
ALICK. I'm ten forty-two.
JAMES. I'm ten-forty.
DAVID. Ten forty-two.
[They wind up their watches.]
MAGGIE. It's high time we were bedded. [She puts her hands on their
shoulders lovingly, which is the very thing they have been trying to
avoid.] You're very kind to me.
JAMES [but this does not matter]. Havers.
MAGGIE [a little dolefully]. I'm a sort of sorry for the young man,
DAVID. Not at all. You'll be the making of him. [She lifts the two
volumes.] Are you taking the books to your bed, Maggie?
MAGGIE. Yes. I don't want him to know things I don't know myself.
[She departs with the books; and ALICK and DAVID, the villains, now
want to get away from each other.]
ALICK. Yes--yes. Oh yes--ay, man--it is so--umpha. You'll lift the
big coals off, David.
[He wanders away to his spring mattress. DAVID removes the coals.]
JAMES [who would like to sit down and have an argy-bargy]. It's a
most romantical affair. [But he gets no answer.] I wonder how it'll
turn out? [No answer.] She's queer, Maggie. I wonder how some clever
writers has never noticed how queer women are. It's my belief you
could write a whole book about them. [DAVID remains obdurate.] It was
very noble of her to tell him she's twenty-six. [Muttering as he too
wanders away.] But I thought she was twenty-seven.
[DAVID turns out the light.]