A fell cauld wind wis sauchin ower the muir as the bonny wumman gart her wey tae tryst her jo. For the necht wis Februar the fowerteen, an aabody kens at’s the necht for luve.
She wis winsome eneuch, tho the first blush o youth, it maun be said, was left ahent her a lang while syne. A body mecht hae speirit at himsel how comes a lass o sic natral attractions hidnae been wad this mony a lang year.
At last she reached the spot ablow an auld aik whaur she an her jo hiv met this necht mony mair years nor either of them wad care tae hink on. Her jo wis aaready there, a puckle fashit, ye mecht hink, wi the wye he wis stridin up an doon, his een flashin faniver he luikit up.
“Ah, here you are, at last,” he intoned, as the lass presented hersel.
“Aye,” quo she, plain eneuch. “An wis ye hinkin A widnae come?”
“Well, my dear, there’s much talk, you know.”
“Aye, talk’s cheap eneuch.”
“They say you’re not happy. Some say you want – well, that you don’t want to go on.”
“Hiv A no been here ilka fowerteen Februar these past thrie hunnert year? Thrie hunnert lang year at yer beck an call, ma bonny jo, thrie hunnert year A’ve spread ma hurdies an let ye hae yer wey wi me, an daa ye furgit it.”
“They say things have changed. That perhaps you might,” and at this the man’s voice drappit tae little more nor a wheesht, “There are some who say, my dear, that you would be happier alone.”
“Weel, A cannae deny A hivnae thochten on’t. A mean thir no muckle left o ma dowry but still A trow A cid ging ma weys wi’oot ye gin A needit till.”
“Oh but there’s no need for such words, my dear. And as for your dowry, well, you know you’d be much worse off without me. And who would listen to your pretty little voice at the great tables of the world? It is only because of me that you are heard at all.”
“An fit his yer braw voice brocht? Why nothin but the weepin o wives an mithers fa’s husbands an sons his deed in yer leel service an the girnin o bairns that wants for a faither; or the sad een o mothers an faithers fa’s bairns maun tak the lang suddron gait furtae find a bit darg. Fit ye ken fine weel, bein as aa yon darg wis bochten wi ma siller, caad fae the land that’s ma ain.”
“Oh, but my dear, hush. These are the matters of the world and you don’t understand them. You are so small and vulnerable, how could you?”
“A unnerstaun weel eneuch tae ken at fittiver ye daa want i yer ain houss ye fling intil mine an A jist hae tae thole it. Like yer bluidy atomic soomarines an yer weapons o mass destruction.” The woman shook her head. “Ye’ve aye been fascinated be swords an guns and bombs an ither sic hings for killin fowk. An ye hae the brass neck tae cry ma loons violent!”
“Please let’s not fight, my love. ’Tis the fourteenth of February and it is our tradition that lovers should be together this night.”
“A tradition A sterted, A’ll ask ye tae kindly no furgit, an A’ll hank ye tae no lecture me aboot luve forbye. Luve’s mair nor a kiss an a quick towsle aince a year. An gin A hinnae showed ye luve these past thrie centuars A daa ken fit.”
The man sighed. “You know, my dear, it would have been so much better if we’d been properly wed all those years ago. It is only because you held back that we have these differences.” He sighed. “But you insisted on keeping your own church and education system and even your own laws. That hardly showed commitment.”
“Commitment? A’ll gie ye commitment. Fit ye mean is, gin A’d been skellie eneuch tae gie masel tae ye entirely ye’d hiv obliterated ilka trace o me that thir iver wis an A wid jist be anither pairt o youse bi nou.” The woman snorted, her eyes flashing.
“That’s not true. I have never denied you your rights.”
“Aye, as lang’s A’ve niver ettled tae insist on thum. Or fit wis it happened back in ’seventy-nine, exactly?”
“Yes, perhaps. But you must see I have changed, my dear. Have I not given you so much more freedom? Why, you are practically an independent woman these days. Why do you so long to separate from me?”
“Thir a lang road atween ‘practically’ an actually, ma bonny jo, so daa ettle tae flannel me. Ye gie’d me the recht tae choose the duds A pit oan ma back an at’s aboot it. Some indiependence at.”
The man stood up and stamped his foot. “I thought I told that damn fool — what’s his name — Darling — sorry, I meant that blithering Edinburgh lawyer with the eyebrows, not you, darling — to put these ideas out of your head once and for all! Good grief, what was the point of giving you that priceless talking shop — I mean parliament of your own — if we were not to have an end to all this nonsense?”
“Weel, yer man’s been ettlin his best, A’ll grant ye. Jist thir a big pert o me misbelieves him. Somehin aboot yon billy minds me on a puddock, an A’ve niver been able tae recht lippen on a puddock.”
“You’d be worse off without me, I swear. I’ve looked into your affairs. Why, the oil’s only got another thirty years or so, and this wave and wind power—it’s still not a sure thing.”
The woman shook her head. “It’s jist like ye tae try an bring it aa doon tae siller. It’s aa ye iver hink aboot, an aa ye’ve iver thochten aboot. Ye managed tae buy me the aince, A’m no sae shair A’m fur sale nou. An onywey, fit aboot the thrie hunnert year worth o coal ye left unner ma bosom fan ye decided tae pit the miners’ gas at a peep? A wis spikkin tae a laddie no lang syne at said they wis workin on a new wey o burnin the stuff that wisnae as clarty.”
“Pie in the sky, my dear. We made sure…Rather, the mines are unsafe and can’t be redeveloped, so never bother your pretty head about that. No point in crying over spilt milk, now is there? No, the future is nuclear and you, my dear, are a big part of that. And anyway, what about defence? How would you look after yourself in this dangerous world?”
“Aye, a world gart muckle mair perilous acause o youse an yer shenanigans. Ye’d nae cause tae ging an stert yon stramash in Iraq. It wis aa done fur vanity, yer ain an at orang-utan yon galoot Tony B Liar wis furiver bumsuckin up till.”
“You mean George? Oh no, he’s a good man, and one of principle.”
“Principle? Hiv ye been bousin again? A’m no hingin aboot gin ye hiv. A ken fit ye’re like wi a drink on ye. Took me lang eneuch tae get ower the hammerin ye gie’d me the last time. Brunt Dundee tae the grun, ye did, an a wheen o ither touns forbye. Mind A’m no sayin it wisnae needin a bit redd up but ye’ve aye teen hings ower far, so ye hiv.”
“Your name is famous because of me. Your sons and daughters have spread across the world.”
“Ma name? A cause o youse? A daa hink sae. You wis the een chose the name for yer bluidy Empire on the whilk the sun niver setten, no me. Jist like aahin else. An jist dinnae get me sterted on ma sons an dochters. Eneuch o them wis forced oot at the point o een o yer bayonets.”
The woman paused and sighed, and then smiled. “Ach, daa tak oan. Ye ken how fond A am o ye. We’ve gotten at close ower the years an A’m no sayin it wis aa bad. It’s jist….As soon as A ettle an hae a wee bit indiependence ye ging loupin aff the deep end as yaseyell. An noo the cairds his been dealt, an wi’ll jist hiv tae see fit wey thi faa.”
The man lauched and luikit awa. “How well you know me, my dear, after all these years. We really are made for each other.” He set doon aside the wumman and pit his haun up her frock. She loupit a wee, but didnae move awa.
“Aye. Ye’ve aye had a wey wi wummen, A’ll gie ye that. An the years hae teen thir toll, but ye’re still a bonny loon for aa that. It’s jist…”
“What, my darling?”
“Weel, gin A wid be at useless on ma ain, an no hae eneuch siller, an be shair tae mak a recht midden o ma ain baid wi’oot ye, an’ gin ye’re aye haein tae spik for me an bail me oot, thir somehin A still dinnae recht unnerstaun.”
“Weel, if A’m really at fushionless, how come yer at keen tae keep a hud o me?”
“Oh, because I love you, my dear.”
The wumman lauched. “Ye ken somehin? Ye’ve been sayin at mair years nor A cin mind. An ye ken something else? A still daa lippen on ye. Na, na. Ye hiv some ither idear. Ye’ve either cookit the books or thir mair oil nor A ken or yer hinkin ye’ll hae nae place tae hide yer precious atom bombs or dump yer nuclear waste or somehin. Or aiblins yer hinkin ye mecht jist run a string wave poo’er generators fae John o’Groats tae Sumburgh Heid an sell the electric tae the Frogs. Aa daa ken. But A dae ken ye’ve got somehin ahent yer back an ae hing’s certain, ye’ll no be the loser, no gin ye cin help it. An yer weys wis aye dark an deeficult tae descry.”
Suddenly she reached up and pinched his cheek, smiling. “Ach, daa fash yersel, ma loon. Ye’re a bonny jo yet an A’m still switherin tae lave ye or no, despite it aa. A’m a wumman an at the bit o’t A’m no sayin ma mind’s settled yet. Ye ken fit wey tae towsle a lassie, A’ll gie ye at.”
“Really? You mean…?”
“Hud yer horses, ma loon, A ken fine fit yer efter. Me tae be yer hooer agin. Same as A wis last year an aa the years afore at. Aye, A’ll be yer hooer agin the necht. But fur aa that, dinnae coont on’t next year, at’s aa A’m sayin. A’ve aiblins a wee bit fire left in ma wame at’s no been drounded bi the lees an hammerins ye’ve gied me aa the time syne wi’ve kent ilk anither.
“Yi’ve gied me the chaunce tae tak ma futur back intil ma ain neive an ma bairns’s, no cause ye wanted till, but because ye hud till. Ye kent fine thir wis nae ither gait, an at’s how ye’ve been aa ower the toun whisperin yer lees an ettlin tae get yer pals tae spik oot agin me, an cookin the books an leein about the siller ye’ve teen. But fur shame! At slimy wee shite Putin! Fit dae ye tak me fur? Did ye no realise A’d find oot? We’ll ken soon eneuch gin yer connivin an contrivin, yer cantrips an covenants will gar ony deefrence or no.”
The wumman poo’ed awa an laid hersel doon on the gress ablow the aik, liftin her skirt an spreadin her hauchs.
“Weel, ma bonnie jo, ye maun hae yer fun wi me the necht; but see an mak shair ye mind it, fur aiblins it’ll be the last time ye feel the doucie touch o ma lips nor the sweet warmth o ma fud. – Aye an daa act aa discomfited. Ye ken fine gin ye’d done recht bi me an mine, we widnae be whaur we are the necht. Aa ye hud tae dae wis be a jonnick jo tae me, treat me fair an no ettle tae gar me yer gomeral or thieve ilka penny ye cid aff me. But ye cannae help yersel; wi youse, it his tae be aahin. Aye his been.
“Weel, ma jo,” she wheeshed as the man lay doon upon her, “Here’s tae nuthin. Aiblins A’ve been a feartie wee mousie lang eneuch, but e’en a mousie cin turn.”