FOR SERVICES RENDERED
THE man wha wants to get mairied again efter bein mairried for thirty years is in need o a brain operation-at least that's my opeenion, but I think I'm in the minority.
Oh, dinna think I'm runnin' doon my Maggie; she's been as guid a wife as ony wumman can be, wi their naitral fauts an failin's, superiorities, an jealousies; but leukin back on the days o my single blessedness I can see noo boo glorious a blessin is freedom.
An that's what I telt wee Sandy Smith when he cam to me askin' advice aboot a saicont venture. Sandy's wife haedna been a bad wee sowel, a bit o a nagger, which is only naitral, an aye dustin' an polishin' an chasin' a man oot, which the puir bodies canna help, an he could hae been much worse aff, to tell ye the truith. But what happens is that when a man starts thinkin aboot a saicont yin he aither thinks he'll get yin the same as the first, if she haes been a guid yin, or better than the first if she haes been a bad yin, which, o course, never happens.
Sandy's wife haed only been deid for six months when he knocked on my door an asked if he could speak to me-in private, which decided my Maggie to sit doon at the fire wi her knittin'; an as it was the winter time an there was nae fire in the room I haed to tell Sandy that he could forget aboot her for Maggie haed the great gift o hearin' withoot listenin.
Sae he teuk aff his bunnet, ran his hand ower his bald heid, an sat doon. "There's a wumman in the toon haes taen a desperate notion o me," says he, "an I'm no shuir whether I should reciprocate or no."
Sandy used to dae the schulemaister's gairden an picked up a lot o big wirds in the course o conversations wi the dominie.
Maggie leuked at him ower her specs. Sandy wisna what ye could ca' a handsome man-especially wi me sittin there - wi three hairs on his heid, yin in the middle an yin at each side, but they haed been carefully brushed; yin o his e'en leuked up a wee an the ither leuked doon on a nose that was fairly weel spreid ower his face; his moustache covered a guid bit o his nose, an his chin was like the sherp end o an egg. An efter takin a mental photograph o him Maggie leuked doon at her knittin' again an put a guid lot o pith in her needle-work.
"Dae I ken the guid lady, Sandy?" says I. "Maisie McConker," says he. Maggie stopped knittin', rose to her feet, an said she'd be better oot. Sae that's what she thocht o baith her an him. Left to oorsel's I said to him, "Maisie McConker is a big, strang, strappin wumman, Sandy." "Aye, dee ye no think I'm profoundly venerated?" says he.
I didna ken what he was talkin aboot but I could see by the smile on his face, an the wey he stuck his thoums in the airm-holes o his fancy waistcoat that it wisna advice he was leukin for but congratulations. Hooever, I thocht it was my duty, as yin fellow man to anither, to advise him strongly against lettin' his hert get the better o his common-sense. Sae I says to him, "Ye hae a bit o property in the toon, Sandy, an, nae dout. a pound or twa in the bank?"
"I have been Providentially fortuitous in my time, Tam" says he. "O course, Maise'll no be thinkin aboot that," says I, "it'll be a pure love ?" "Undoubtedly-irrevocably sae," says he. "Frae the lady's own lips ?" says I. "Oh, no, Maisie is too modest to leuk beyond the ideal aspect o love."
I could see by the leuk in his e'en that he was picturin' her in his chloriformed imagination as a wee, modest, crimson-tipped flo'er; but I saw her as what she was, five feet ten o solid flesh, rowin up her sleeves an grippin' a rollin' pin to show him hoo much she loe'd him. Sae to try an get him back to normal I started talkin aboot the days when we were baith young an as free as the birds o the air. "Yon were the days, Sandy," says I, "before we were bound by the bonds o matrimony." But Sandy wisna listenin. He was imaginin' himsel twenty years younger than he was in the airms o Maisie in some busky glen, the Cree ripplin by wi a lilt as sweet as a cradle sang ; the birds leukin doon on them an singin like the auld Orpheus choir at its best, an the sun shinin on her hair turnin it into a croon o gowd. Sae he got up on his feet, held oot his hand, an telt me that he haed absorbed my infinite wisdom an was overpoweringly happy that I haed gien my unqualified assent to the union. I haed duin naething o the kind, o course, but it juist lets ye see what a dangerous thing this love is. Hooever, I didna say a wird, juist sheuk his hand an wished him the best o luck, which I kent couldna happen.
Weel, they got mairried, an a great affair it was Maggie an me were baith invited, an the bride seemed sae happy that Maggie said, "It micht turn oot weel eneuch efter a', Tam ?" Ah! But I've seen ower mony waddin's in my day, an I juist said, "Imph!" But we teuk the drams, an we ett the steak pie, an we clapped oor hands at the speeches. Sae as far as we were concerned it was a very enjoyable occasion.
It wad be aboot twa months later, when Maggie comes into the hoose yin nicht wi a great big box o chocolates. "A present frae Sandy Smith's wife," says she, "for services rendered." She telt me that the saicont Mrs Smith was mair than pleased wi her bargain; she'd haed a lovely honeymoon in London; was wearin' a very expensive fur coat, an was the envy o a' her neebors.
"An what aboot Sandy?" says I. "She never mentioned him," said Maggie, "sae I dinna suppose he maiters much-noo."
I gae Maggie a hand to eat the chocolates, an I must say they were very expensive yins. An when a knack cam to the door I was aetin yin when I went to see wha haed cam. It was Sandy Smith himsel, which was a surprise to me. "Come in ! Come in !" says I heartily, thinkin he haed come to thank me, tae, for the services I haed never rendered.
Ah! But it was a different Sandy Smith that forced himsel by me into the kitchen. "Can I speak to you in private ?" says he in nae uncertain mainer. Maggie saw that the man was in a temper, sae she went ben the room to eat the chocolates in peace. "Weel, Sandy," says I, "an what can I dae for ye?" "Dae for me, sir!" says he, speakin' like a corncraik wi a cauld in its chest. "It's what you have duin to me that haes brocht me here; an to warn you that I'm takkin legal action in the coort o justiciary against you for furnishing me wi false credentials concerning that wumman wha is nou, unfortunately, my wedded spouse."
"Credentials'" says I. "Me-gie ony wumman credentials!" "What did you tell me when I cam here soliciting your advice regarding the said, wha was then, Maisie McConker ? Did you not venture to express the opeenion that she was everything that a man could desire as a helpmate ower the stony weys o life ? Did you not praise her beauty to the skies ? Did you not ashuir me that the hert embedded in her lily-white bosom was a hert o gowd ? Did you not compare her smile to the dawn o mid-summer morn ? Her lauchter to the muisic o a heevenly choir o feathered warblers ? Did you not ashuir me that I could deliver my very saul to her keepin an ken that it haed been placed in the care o an angel?"
I wanted to get a wird in in my defence, but he said, "I advise you not to say a wird for it could be used in evidence against you. To-morrow I will seek legal advice, sae be prepared to receive a writ. Guid-bye!"
The bang o the door sheuk every winder in the hoose. Sae there ye are, provin' that love isna juist blinnd, but deif as weel, an, as Sandy himsel wad say, fraught wi mony hallucinations.
But I must say that the chocolates were extraordinarily superb.