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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 7 (December 15, 1926)


When Jock MacKechnie and the New Zealanders, with the help of the Australians, Canadians and the British army, had defeated the Central Powers, he returned to God's Own and to Jeanie, the Dunedin lassie who had been faithful to him in his absence and had kept his allotment intact in the P.O. bank—in her own name, of course. Being a true Scot, the latter fact helped Jock considerably to make up his mind to settle down, as marrying Jeanie seemed the easiest way of getting her to settle up. So the knot was duly tied in the good old Scots-byterian fashion. Well, as sometimes happens, MacKechnie had been scarcely a year married when a big bouncing boy came home, “both doing well,” as the advertisement said. Jock somewhat bashfully entered the bed-room to make the acquaintance of his newest and nearest relation, and when the nurse placed the baby in his arms, he keekit shyly, but fondly at the wee thing's chuffy face, and stood holding it gingerly and looking as though he was afraid it would break in two and fall with a bang on the floor. Nathless, when the “howdie” (Scots for midwife) left the room for a moment, Jock unco cautiously laid the bonniest bairn in all the world in its mother's arms, and, after a hurried glance round, kissed his wife (a concession from a Scotsman), but his he'rt was lippin' fu' and his tongue owre blate to articulate the thoughts that welled-up within him. The return of the nurse brought Jock back to earth and turning to his wife he said:—

“Jeanie, lass, I'll gang but the hoose an' write oor folk gi'ein' them the news.”

“Naw, Jock,” said Jeanie, quietly, “a letter'll tak' owre lang an' ye ken oor mithers are baith unco anxious aboot us, sae ye had better sen' them baith a telegram.”

“But, Jeanie,” said Jock, “telegrams, like a' thin' else sin' the war, except my wages, ha'e gane up considerable. Twa telegrams 'll cost a bittock. Micht we no gar ane dae, lass?”

“Never mind what it'll cost, my man. Ye'll surely no' grudge to splash an extra shillin' or twa,……on him,” she added after a pause, looking fondly down at the little one.

“Govie Dick, no' Jeanie! I dinnae an' winnae grudge it, but still an'on, I think ae telegram micht suffice. Flee laich an' flee lang, ye ken. We're no' that rich.”

“An' we wad ha'e still less gin you had had aye the warin' o't,” said Jeanie, wi' a significant pause that lent force to her words. Then laying her hand caressingly on her “man's” arm, she added: “As for makin' ae telegram dae, wha are we to sen't to—your mither or mine?”

Thus Jock, not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, saw the wisdom of letting a wilful wife have her way. Then he had an inspiration, so he wrote out the message and counting the words told his wife that to send it to both mothers would cost five shillings.

Jeanie, who, unlike Jock, was a prohibitionist, had insisted on being chancellor of the household exchequer, also counted the words, took her purse from below her pillow and, opening it took out two half crowns which she handed to her man. Jock, turning the siller over in his hand, said, “Ye're unco near the bane, Jean. Ye micht ha'e sprung an extra ‘bob’ considerin' the occasion.”

“G'way,” said his wife, “ye'll get naethin' for whusky frae me. Gang an' get the telegrams aff as fast as ye can.”

Jock went off meekly, but, much to his wife's concern several hours passed without him putting in an appearance. Then, when the last caller had departed, and the nurse was preparing to make mother and baby comfortable for the night, a well-known, but somewhat hiccuppy, voice was heard singing, and as the singer drew nearer the house, Jeanie was able to make out the words. This is what she heard:

I've drunk his health in watter,
In whusky an' in wine,
An' I'm gled he's no' a dochter
This bonnie wee son o' mine.
He's got his faither's foreheid,
His mither's cherry mou';
Ye wadna fin' his marrow gin
Ye'd search the wide warl' through.
He's a braw, braw bairn!

When Jock came in he was a perfect impersonation of “Fu' the Noo.” Jeanie looked at him, and Jock read in her eyes the wireless message they flashed at him, and fuddled though he was, understood its import. Making a stammering apology, he went out of the room saying “It's time (hie) a' dacent folk were (hie) in their beds.”

When he had gone, Jeanie said to the nurse, “I wonner whaur he got the siller for the dram?” But that lady, being colonial born, and a Sassenach to boot, was unlearned in the subtle ingenuity of the Scot when the desired object is a quantity, less or more, generally more, of his native “Mountain Dew.”

page 95

Next day the two mothers-in-law, now grandmothers, arrived, each prouder than the other of the first grandson in the family. While they were having a cup of tea, Jock's mother said to Jeanie's mother, “Whit did ye think whan ye got the telegram, Mrs. Broon?”

“Lorie me, I was fair bambaized, Mrs. MacKechnie. I thocht it was my brither Jake, wha's in the Salvation Airmy, ha'ein' a baur wi' me.”

“Ay,” said Jock's mother, with motherly pride, “Oor Jock was aye a brainy callant!”

The young mother was an interested, if a little perplexed, listener to this somewhat cryptic conversation. She had read Jock's telegram before it was sent, and, while she remembered it was a bit long-winded, she failed to recall anything in its phraseology that specially denoted its composer as “brainy by-ordinar',” as the Scots say. Curious to know upon what ground her “guidmither” based her claim that this son of hers was “giftit abune the lave,” she asked, “Ha'e ye the telegram wi' ye?”

“Ay, mine's in my haunbag,” replied her mother.

“See's ‘t,” said Jeanie, laconically, bent on tracking the mystery to its lair, for a grave suspicion of her husband's honesty was shaping itself in her mind.

Her mother drew a crumpled piece of paper from her handbag and, with the monosyllable, “Ha'e!” handed it to her daughter.

Jeanie smoothed the crumpled missive out on the counterpane and read its message. But it wasn't the same long-winded screed that Jock had written and she had read and paid for the previous day. The message she held in her hand read:—