RUTH AND JOHN
Ruth and Aggie stood round the travel case, and in the bottom, they saw a package of documents.
“What are these?” asked Ruth.
Before Aggie could answer, there came the sound of John returning early.
“Hello,” he said as he entered, “What’s going on here?”
He looked around and saw the chamber pot full of coins sitting on the floor.
“Well,” he laughed, “I wondered why my clothes were always lighter in the morning, either that or someone’s been shitting money.”
“John,” said Aggie sternly, “We’ll have nane of that talk here.”
“Sorry mother,” said John. Then he lifted the pot and poured the coins on to the bed. “How much money is here?”
“I’m not sure,” admitted Ruth, “I just put all your change there when I took your clothes to the wash. We were looking for somewhere to keep it safe. We could take it the bank.”
“Nae lassie,” said Aggie. “I dinnae trust banks.”
“Well, it’s safer there than under the bed,” said Ruth.
John, who had been counting it out, said “There must be almost fifty pounds here. That would make a good stake at a poker game. I could double it or treble it.”
Aggie, who had been holding the twins, handed them over to Ruth and stood in front of John.
“We’ll no be hae’in the Devil’s cards in this hoose,” she said indignantly. “We had enough o’ that nonsense wi yir faither.”
“Now mother,” said John. “This is my house; Grandfather left it to me when he passed on, together with the big house. If I want to play cards here, then that’s up to me.”
Aggie reached up and grabbed John by the ear. “Noo, you listen tae me.” She said. “You’re nae too big for me to gie ye a skep.”
“I’m sure John wouldn’t want to do anything to upset you,” said Ruth trying to keep the peace between John and his mother.
“Gambling has been the ruination of the Stewarts for generations,” said Aggie, “I’ll no have it.”
“And neither will I,” said Ruth firmly.
“Oh really,” said John, “My wife and my mother think they can tell me what to do in my own house. Last I checked. I’m the man here.”
The two women looked at each other, and then turned to glare at John. No words were spoken, but a wise man would have known better than to cross them.
Poor John, wisdom was never one of his virtues. He smiled happily at the two women as if he hadn’t a care in the world.
“So,” he said, “I’ll play with the wee ones, while you too make my tea. I’ve come home early, but I’m so hungry. I had a busy day at the racecourse; I had to repair the greyhound traps.”
“Get yir ain dinner,” said Aggie, “last I checked, you had two hands, big man.”
“Yes,” agreed Ruth, “Your mother and I are taking the twins out for a walk. Aggie says there’s an old pram in one of the sheds, so we’re going up to Camberwell Green.”
With those words, she reached over to the pile of coins that John had been counting out and grabbed as big a handful as she could, making sure that she took mostly silver coins and not coppers.
“That,” she said, “is for our tea.”
“Sounds great,” said John, “I’ll just get my cap, and we can head out.”
“You’re not invited, big man,” said Ruth. She handed one of the twins to Aggie, she thought it might be Charlotte, she never could tell which was which, and the marched out with Aggie following behind.
The old pram could have done with a clean out. Ruth held the twins while Aggie got a basin and gave it a wipe down. Then she put the twins in the pram, one on either end, propped up with blankets and cushions.
“It’ll have to do,” said Aggie. “We’ll get John to give it a good oiling tomorrow.”
The two ladies set off for Camberwell. The twins, as usual, sat silently watching everything with those golden eyes.
“I wonder what they’re thinking,” said Ruth.
“They’re probably thinking it’s about time for a nap,” said Aggie and sure soon enough the swaying motion of the perambulator rocked the children to sleep.
When they arrived at the gardens, it was still early afternoon. Ruth who had been so tired of staying in the house suggested they might want to take a stroll through the green then perhaps sit by the bandstand, or by the boating pond.
“No by the water,” said Aggie. “You’ll get midgies eating ye alive.”
So after a brisk stroll around the park, Ruth and Aggie sat listening to a brass band playing.
“Whit an awfie noise,” said Aggie. “Can they no quiet it doon a wee bit. They’ll wake the wains. Maybe we should head home.”
Ruth, who quite enjoyed brass bands, could see the point in Aggie’s argument. The last thing she wanted was the twins to wake up and stare at her with those knowing and demanding eyes.
“All right,” agreed Ruth, and stood up. She began pushing the pram to the park exit.
“We better get back and make John something to eat,” she continued.
“Aye,” agreed Aggie, “if the daft galoot has nae burnt the cottage doon.”
They continued merrily along the path through the trees when suddenly Ruth stopped and gasped.
“Whit’s wrang?” asked Aggie.
Ruth looked at Aggie and then turned and looked back. There was no mistake. Walking towards them, was Mr and Mrs Queervish.
END OF PART ELEVEN