Document 1340

The Ill Guidmither

Author(s): David Purves

Copyright holder(s): David Purves

This document contains strong or offensive language



A Play in Two Acts

By David Purves


THE ILL GUIDMITHER black comedy/fantasy, 100 min. (3M4F)

This is based on a rather grisly Highland tale set in the eighth century AD. The language is Scots, and slthough Gaelic would have been the language spoken in this area at this time, Scots places the action firmly in Scotland and produces some powerful emotional effects. It concerns Malcolm, said to be brother to Fingal, King of Morven, who had a beautiful daughter called Moula by his first wife. Moula’s wicked stepmother, Shona, is naturally jealous, and plots Moula’s downfall by committing a series of ill deeds and blaming them on Moula. Her most horrendous evil deed is to murder her own baby son by Malcolm and place the corpse in Moula’s bed. Despite Moula’s protestations of innocence, Malcolm is persuaded of her guilt and she is taken into the forest, seriously wounded and mutilated by Malcolm, who leaves her there for dead. However, her life is saved by an errant knight who discovers her, rescues her and eventually marries her. The knight visits Malcolm, who then discovers Shona’s perfidy and has her imprisoned and tortured to death.

The play has a gothic character and raises important moral questions about the validity of the concept of punishment and the justification of violence in role playing in our society. As in so many folk fairy tales, the grisly character of the story is mitigated by its folk character. It has been publicly read by the Edinburgh Playwrights’ Workshop in the Traverse Theatre.


Eilidh, Moula’s kimmer

Moula, Malcolm’s dochter

Malcolm, brither til Fingal, Keing o Morven

Shona, Moula’s guidmither

Jek, Malcolm’s jylar

Meg, a spaewyfe

The Knicht, Meg’s son


ACT I Scene 1 The Mukkil Haw, Malcolm’s Touer, Appin, Alba, a lang whyle syne, in Mairch

Scene 2 The Mukkil Haw, twa month eftir

Scene 3 The Mukkil Haw, seivin month eftir, in December

Scene 4 Twa neiborin chaumers in Malcolm’s Touer

Scene 5 The forest, the neist morn

Scene 6 The forest, later the same day

ACT II Scene 1 Malcolm’s chaumer, thrie month eftir

Scene 2 Malcolm’s chaumer, twa day eftir


Scene 1

The Great Hall inside the tower where Malcolm lives. The year is around 800 AD. Some say Malcolm was brother to Fingal, King of Morven. His daughter, Moula, is conversing with her companion, Eilidh, who is working fitfully at her spinning wheel. It is early March, in the morning. Moula is standing up.

Eilidh: This is no yeir bonnie face, Moula! We maun birk up nou, for yeir faither wul be hame frae Mull onie meinit, an he’l be bringin his new wyfe, Shona, wi him.

Moula: Ah hear tell she’s Inglish.

Eilidh: She’s no Inglish, but she wes bydin in Ingland for a whyle whan she wes a bairn. Hir mither wes Sassenach – sumwhaur aboot York.

Moula: Wul Shona be bonnie, dae ye think?

Eilidh: Yeir mither wes rael bonnie, wes she no? An yeir faither haes aye been pairtial ti bonnie weimen. Ah daursay Shona wul be weill–faured aneuch.

Moula: An wul she be kynd?

Eilidh: Hou the mischief wad Ah ken that? Ah ken naething aboot the wumman. Ah daursay she wul be kynd tae – Ah canna imagine yeir faither takkin til a wumman that wesna kynd. No eftir yeir mither—

Moula: Ah’l weiger she’s no as kynd as ma mither wes.

Eilidh: The’r no monie lyke hir. That wad be ower mukkil ti ask, awthegither, but gin she’s middlin kynd, we’l settil for that.

Dae ye ken, Moula, it’s a year cum Lammas sen yeir mither dee’d. Ah think Ah hear hir sayin aboot this tyme lest year: “Ai, thae trees is that bonnie,” she wad say. “That bonnie---! But A lykena this stound in ma wyme. Ah dout, Eilidh, Ah’l no be here ti see thaim, cum anither year, this tyme!” Thae wes hir verra wirds!

Moula: Did she say that, Eilidh? Ah didna ken.

Eilidh: (Nods) Ai, she did lyke ti sit an watch the trees throu the windae, in the Spring an at the Faw. Whitna guid sowl she wes, yeir mither! Never an ill wird aboor oniebodie---! She kent she wes deein, but Ah never heard hir mak a wurd o complaint. She wes the kynd that’s ower guid for this warld.

Ah think A see hir sittin thare yit. (She points to an empty chair)

Moula: Eilidh, ye’l stert me greitin. Whanever Ah think on ma mither, Ah feel ma hert is lyke ti brek. Ilka day Ah wauken up i the mornin, Ah feel the’r sumthing no richt, kis she’s no here.

(Moula moves to Eilidh, sits on her knee where she receives a cuddle)

Ah div miss miss hir, Eilidh. (Sobbing) Eildh, Ah wush Ah coud gang back ti whan Ah wes wee again. Ah dinna think Ah want ti growe up. Ah want ti be wi ma mither, an hir yung again, wi hir bonnie heid o thick blek hair an hir gled airms. That’s the wey she wes meant ti be foraye. Ah canna beir ti think on hir be-in deid at aw. Ah canna thole the thocht Ah’l never see hir again. A rikkil o banes ablo the mouls i the kirkyaird -- is that aw she is nou, Eilidh?

Eilidh: Nounae, nounae! The’r nae gaun back, Moula. That’s ae thing ye canna dae. Naebodie can gang back.

(Moula moves and sits on a chair)

Moula: Ah fand a deid blekkie, lyin in the gairden this mornin, Eilidh. The heid hung lyke a knotless threid. Its craig wes broken. Ah mynd seein it yestrein, eydent howkin wurms on the green, an monie’s the tyme Ah hae heard it liltin amang the fulyerie. It haed a whyte feather in its weing. That’s hou Ah kent it frae the ither blekkies. It wes that fou o lyfe. An nou it’s deid – it wul sing nae mair sangs.

Ir the onie difference atwein ma mither’s corp an the blekkie’s?

Eilidh: Yeir mither wul be an angel bi nou, Moula, eftir the guid lyfe she led. She wul be in Heivin.

Moula: That’s whit awbodie tells me, but whit wad Ah dae wi an angel? It’s ma mither Ah want? An angel fliein aboot, wad be nae uiss ti me at aw.

Eilidh: Howt, a yung lassie lyke you maunna murn hir mither foraye? We aw loss oor mithers. It’s the wey o the warld. This is no your tyme for greitin. Ye’l hae a fek o tyme for greitin, an ferr mair for ti greit aboot whan ye’r an auld cailleach lyke masell.

Moula: You’r no auld, Eilidh. Ye’r juist richt. A hantil men wad be gled o a wyfe lyke you! Ah canna unnerstaun whit ye dinna git mairrit for.

(She moves to the window and looks out)

Eilidh: Naebodie haes askit me this whyle back. Whyles Ah feel auld in ma banes. It’s nae uiss pretendin. Thir days the yung callants never looks the road o me. Ah uist ti be vext whyles Ah didna gie thaim mair encouragement whan Ah haed the chaunce, but Ah haurlie think aboot lads thir days. The thocht o thaim haurlie ever enters ma heid. Ah’ve lost the notion o thaim. Ah coudna dae wi thaim fummilin aboot me.

Moula: Mercie, Eilidh---!

Eilidh: C’wa nou, this wul no dae at aw. It’s a fyne Spring mornin an ye can see richt ti the heid o the ben. Ye hae yeir haill lyfe afore ye an ye wul aye cairrie yeir mither wi ye in yeir hert. Ye bring me in mynd o hir whanever Ah set een on ye. Yeir mither wul never be deid as lang ‘s your’r spared an weill.

Moula: Ah ken, Eilidh, but Ah’m that dowie the-nou, Ah dinna ken whit’s wrang wi me at aw. It’s lyke the haill warld wes turnt ti stour for me – blawin naewhaur, forever an foraye.

Eilidh: We maun coont oor blissins, Moula! We maun coont oor blissins! Here we ir sittin here oor twa sells, warm an bien, wi a guid pikkil meal in the girnel. They’r no monie fowk as weill aff.

Moula: Ah daursay that’s true.

Eilidh: Believe you me, it is! Juist listen til that blatterin wund ootby! The’r a storm blawin up, Ah dout. It’s fair teimin doun haill wattir an the’r a pikkil sleet anaw. It’s byordnar cauld for the tyme o year.

Juist think, Moula, hou luckie we ir wi oor cosie beds an a guid ruif ower oor heids ti keep oot the blashin rain! Think on the puir birds up on the trees, sittin on the frozen brainches, wi thair heids ablo thair weings, chitterin in the cauld an nae beild frae the snell wund.

Moula: Puir things---!

Eilidh: The’l be tramps an gaun-aboot bodies ettlin ti sleep at the hedge ruits the-nicht: pallie auld men, nithert an cruppen thegither wi the cauld, aw thair lane, wi whyte baerds an stiff banes, an buits that ir lattin in, an mebbe nae mair nor a bit wrappin sek cuist aboot thair shouthers for ti keep the rain oot. Nae warm houss to gang hame til, an naebodie in aw the warld ti care for thaim --- naebodie ti cry thaim ben --- naebodie ti gie thaim as mukkil as a het drink for thair supper an hap thaim up for the nicht. Naething ti fill thair empie crappins but a bit frostit neip or aiblins a crust o stale breid for ti chowe at.

They war aw sumbodie’s wee bairn aince an nou the’r naebodie ti say a kynd wurd ti thaim.

(Moula is affected)

Moula: Ah ken, Ah ken, Ah hae naething ti greit aboot bi whit sum puir fowk haes ti pit up wi.

Eilidh: Ir the nae sign o yeir faither yit?

Moula: The’r sumthing gaun on doun in the coortyaird.

Eilidh: Ah’m no gittin aff the bit wi this darg ava!

(She spins for a few seconds, vigorously)

(Enter Malcolm an Shona)

Moula: Faither, is it really you at lest?

(She runs up to Malcolm and embraces him)

Malcolm: Mercie, Ah haena been monie days awa! But Ah canna say Ah’m no gled ti be hame. We haed a gey toozie crossin lest nicht. Aince or twice Ah thocht the boat wes gaun ti foonder hauf-wey ower the Firth. Ah thocht at ae tyme Ah wes gaun ti hae ti soum for’t, an ye ken Ah’ve never been guid at the soumin.

Moula: It’s a blissin ye didna hae ti dae that, Faither. Maist fowk wad say ye canna soum at aw.

(Malcolm stands back from Moula to admire her. Shona glares)

Malcolm: Juist luik at ye! Ye’r as bonnie as a Spring flouer. Is she no the bonnie ane, Shona? (Shona nods)

It’s a guid job Ah mairrit again, Ah’m thinkin. Aince the yung callants finnds oot aboot you, they’l be roond here lyke sae monie bees aboot a hinnie kaim, an it wul no be lang or ye’l be up an awa ti leave yeir auld faither aw forlane Ah wadna hae lykit ti byde the lave o ma days ma lane in this mukkil cauld houss, naither Ah wad.

But cum you an meet Shona, yeir guidmither! Shona’s been fair luikin forrit ti meetin wi ye. Ah’m shuir you an Shona wul git on brawlie thegither. It’s the luckie man Ah im, richt aneuch, wi twa sic lousum weimen aboot me.

Moula: Ah’m gled for ti mak yeir acquantance, Guidmither. Ye’r verra walcum here Ah’m shuir.

(She points to Eilidh) This is ma kimmer, Eilidh.

Shona: Eilidh, is it?

(To Eilidh) Ye dinna seem ti hae mukkil ti dae wi yeirsell, kimmer. Gang fesh us a pikkil wyne, for this is shuirlie a day ti celebrate!

(Eilidh leaves her spinning wheel and goes out muttering, to fetch some wine)

Dis this kimmer git peyed for whit she dis, Malcolm?

Malcolm: She gits hir keep, an whyles sum claes. She helps aboot the houss whyles.

She’s nae bather, Shona.

Shona: She bathers me!

Malcolm: Howt, she’s an auld frein. (He turns to Moula)

Moula, Ah hae ti tell ye. Ah hae brocht sum graund wird hame wi me. Ye’l never guess whit it is.

Moula: Whit is’t, Faither?

Malcolm: Dae ye mynd whan ye war wee, ye aye wantit a littil brither or sister? (Moula nods)

Weill, yeir wush is ti be grantit at lest. Shona is expekkin a bairn at the Back End. She haes been exemined bi the howdie-wyfe at Tobermory, an altho the wumman coudna tell whuther it wad be a laddie-bairn or a lassie-bairn, the’r nae dout aboot it --- she wul be in jizzen neist October for shuir. Whitna blissin this wul be til us aw!

Whit dae ye think o that, eh? Whit dae ye think o that?

Moula: (Without much enthusiasm) Ah’m rael gled ti hear that, Faither.

Malcolm: Ah’m howpin it wul be a son. We’r baith howpin for a son, eh Shona?

(Eilidh enters with four goblets of wine on a tray. Shona, Moula and Malcolm each take a goblet.)

Shona: (To Eilidh, pointing to the fourth goblet) Wha said ye coud pour ane for yeirsell? Tak it back ti whaur it cam frae! It’s no your place ti drink wyne wi us. Ye can drink it in the back kitchen seein ye hae poured it, but Ah’m no shuir ye soud be drinkin wyne at aw.

(Eilidh takes the tray away indignantly. Moula bites her lip. Malcolm looks ill at ease.)

Malcolm: Eilidh’s aye been lyke ane o oorsells, Shona.

Shona: Aweill, haes she nou? She soud ken hir place! Ah canna think whit’s wrang wi cauld wattir for the lykes o hir.

(Malcolm shakes his head and shrugs the matter off)

Moula: Here ti yeir new mairriage, Faither! A howp that you an Shona wul hae a lang an blythsum lyfe thegither, wi aw ma hert.

(She drinks)

Malcolm: Ah’l drink ti that. (He sips his wine)

An here ti ma son whan he cums inti this warld! Ah’l be guid an ready ti luik Daith strecht in the ee whan Ah see ma son an ken he is weill.

(They all drink. Eilidh returns, looking sullen)

Malcolm: But Shona, ye haena seen roond the houss an steidin yit. Ye wul want ti see the chaumers an the kye an the bern ootby. The houss hae been a wee thing neglekkit sen ma aukld wyfe dee’d, but we’l suin git it redd up for ye. Oniething ye wad lyke sortit, ye juist hae ti say ti the Grieve. Ah’ve duin gey weill wi the cattle beiss this year.

Shona: That’s guid news, oniewey!

Malcolm: Moula, haund you Shona the chaumer keys! Shona, ye wul be wantin ti hae a wurd wi the sairvants?

(Moula takes a ring of keys from a hook and hands it to Shona)

Shona: Ah’l hae sumthing ti say ti thaim richt aneuch. Ah mean ti stert here the wey Ah ettil ti gae on. The’l be a whein chynges here, Ah can tell ye!

Malcolm: You’r the mistress, Shona. You’r the mistress. The houss wul be run the wey you want it ti be run. Ah’l no middil oniething ye want ti dae i the houss. Naebodie wul conter ye in here.

We’l see ye at denner tyme than, Moula.

Moula: Ay, Faither. Ah’m no gaun oniewhaur the-day.

(Exit Malcolm and Shona. Eilidh sits down again at her spinning wheel)

Eilidh: We’r no gaun ti hae oor truibils ti seek wi this ane, Moula.

Moula: Shona wes gey ill on ye Eilidh, but Ah dout she sees ye as juist anither sairvant bodie. But she wesna ti ken ye’r juist lyke ane o the faimlie. Aiblins she’l no be sae bad aince we git ti ken hir richt.

Eilidh: Ma grandfaither aye uised ti say, “Rats is no sae bad – aince ye git ti ken thaim richt!” Ah’m no shuir he wes richt aboot that in hir case. Ah’m thinkin she’l mebbe be a sicht waur whan we git ti ken hir better. That’s the verra thing Ah’m feart for.

It wesna juist masell Ah wes thinkin aboot, Moula. But Ah can see she fair hates you. Ah coud see it in hir een. Did ye see hir een? Did ye ever see sic een?

Moula: Ah think they war gray. Whit wes wrang wi hir een?

Eilidh: She haes cauld een lyke the gray gled. Whanever ye see a wumman wi een lyke yon, look oot! It’l no be lang or she’s up ti sum mischief or ither.

Moula: Ah ken she’s no verra joco, an naebodie coud say she wes an innerlie bodie, but whit coud she hae agin me? Ah’ve never duin hir onie ill!

Eilidh: Moula, the’r a certain kynd o wumman canna byde hir man ti tak pleisir in oniebodie or oniething but hirsell. This kynd o wumman is waur in sum weys nor a wutch, for she feeds on jaelousie an wul growe ti hate awthing hir man loues, richt doun til his dugs, or even his pet mouss. Ah aince hear o a wyfe in Ingland that hut hir man’s pet tortoise wi a spade, kis he peyed it ower mukkil attention. She dirdit it wi the spade or it wes deid.

Moula: She wes jaeluss o a tortoise---?

Eilidh: Ay, she wes that, an you’r nae tortoise!

Moula: Whit dae ye mean?

Eilidh: This Shona kens in hir hert that Malcolm loues you mair nor oniething in aw the warld – better nor hir even – sae ye can be shuir she wul hate you mair nor oniebodie.

Watch oot for hir, A tell ye! For hir condeition, the’r nae betterment Ah’m aulder nor you an Ah ken whit Ah’m speakin aboot.

Moula: Ah’m shuir ye’r makkin ower mukkil o this Eilidh. Ye’r drawin the lang bou. We haaurlie ken the wumman at aw. We maun gie hir a richt chaunce.

Eilidh: She’s haed aw the chaunce she’s gaun ti git frae me.

Moula: Ah’m gaun ootby. It’s ferr ower guid a day ti byde mumpin in here. Ir ye no lyke cummin oot wi me doun ti the lochsyde? It wul be braw on the loch the-day. We coud gang oot in the boat thegither wi the net. We micht kill a troot or twa atwein us.

Eilidh: Ah’m no shuir that wad be in keepin wi ma place at aw. Ah’d better juist byde here whaur Ah belang an git on wi ma darg. Ah’l try no ti bather oniebodie.

Moula: (Shakes her head) Listen til hir!

Awricht, gin ye want ti be an auld soor douk. Ah’m awa, oniewey!

Eilidh: Dinna lat me keep ye! Never you heed aboot me!

(Exit Moula)

Eilidh: (To herself) She haes the gray gled’s een, an she’l cum til a bad end. The quaisten is, whit ill wul she can dae afore than?

(She works vigorously at her spinning wheel)



Scene 2

The Mukkil Haw, two months later. Shona is seated at the table by herself. An axe leans against the wall. There are the remains of a roast on an ashet on the table. She picks up a knife from the ashet and toys with it. She looks angry. Moula enters.

Moula: Whit’s wrang, Guidmither? Ye’r luikin gey doun i the mou aboot sumthing.

Shona: Yeir faither haes gaen an left me in this mukkil houss ma lane again. He’s been oot aw day. He’s aye oot.

Moula: Mercie, Guidmither, he’s juist awa til the huntin lyke ither men. An ye’r no yeir lane, for Eilidh an me is baith here for ti keep ye companie.

Shona: He’s aye leavin me ma lane.

(She jabs the point of the knife several times into the table)

Whan is he no oot?

Moula: It’s an awfu job ma faither canna set fuit ower the houss door athout ye. Can ye no content yeirsell, Guidmither? Ye’l finnd plenty for ti dae here gin ye hae a mynd ti dae it. We’r verra near oot o meal. It’s mair nor tyme the girnel wes plenisht again.

Shona: (Loudly) Weill, you see til’t See til’t yeirsell!

(Grimly) Ah’l no be traetit lyke this!

Whaur is that aix Ah saw ye chappin sticks wi this mornin.

Moula: Thare it is ahint the chair!

(Shona strides across the room and lifts the axe)

Whit ir ye gaun ti dae, Guidmither?

Shona: Never you mynd whit Ah’m gaun ti dae!

(She leaves with the axe. Moula moves to the window and looks out. Eilidh enters)

Eilidh: Whit wes aw that stramash aboot? Ah coud hear ye bickerin in the yaird.

Moula: Shona is in an ill tid again. She’s awa oot inti the gairden wi the aix.

Eilidh: Whan is she no in an ill tid? She’s been lyke a hen on a het girdil ever sen yeir faither gaed oot.

Moula: Guid sakes, whit’s she daein? That’s ma faither’s wee tree.

Eilidh: Whit’s she daein?

Moula: She’s haggin doun ma faither’s favorite tree!

Eilidh: She’s no!

(Eilidh joins Moula at the window)

The ill jaud that she is – ti chap doun a braw tree lyke that whan it’s it ful bloom.

Thare, the tree is doun. Ai, Malcolm did loue that tree!

Moula: Ma faither is gaun ti be geyan roused aboot this.

Eilidh: See! She’s sneddin aff ane o the brainches. Juist see hir! She’s lyke a wumman taen wi an ill speirit. She’s fair possesst!

Moula: Ah canna credit this.

Eilidh: Here she cums back wi the aix again! Here! This is nae place for me! Whit wul she dae neist?

Moula: Dinna rin awa an leave me, Eilidh! Eilidh---!

(Eilidh runs out of the room. Moula walks up and down wringing her hands. Enter Shona carrying the axe She puts it back in its place.)

Moula: Ai, Shona, whit hae ye duin? Whit hae ye duin?

Shona: War you watchin me oot the windae the-nou? Did ye see me?

Moula: Ay Shona, Ah’m vext ti say Ah did. Whit cam ower ye ti dae sic a thing?

Shona: You wul say naething aboot this til yeir faither!

(Moula does not reply)

You’l promise me ye’l say naething o whit ye saw! Ah’l kill ye gin ye dinna.

Moula: (Horrified) Ye’l kill me!

Shona: Ah mean ilka wurd Ah say!

Moula: Ah canna believe that, Guidmither.

But awricht, Ah promise. Ma faither wad be brukken-hertit gin he kent his ain wyfe haed duin sic a thing. Ah daursay ma faither wul finnd oot suin aneuch athout me tellin him. Ah wesna gaun ti say oniething, oniewey.

Shona: Say, “Cross ma hert, an howp ti dee!”

Moula: Cross ma hert an howp ti dee!

Shona: (Jabbing her finger towards Moula) Dinna you forget! No a wurd aboot the tree---! No ae wurd---! Dinna you daur clype on me!

(Shona glares at Moula and leaves. After a few seconds, Eilidh enters)

Moula: This is terrible!

Eilidh: Ah saw Shona cum oot. Is that bad besom weill oot the road, dae ye think? She’s no cummin back, is she?

Moula: Ah dinna think sae! Ah’m stertin ti wunner whuther ma Guidmither is richt in the heid. Sum weimen is no thair richt sells whan they ir cairriein a bairn.

Eilidh: Ah dinna think she is a heid case! She’s juist a bad egg, mair lyke.

Moula: She canna be lyke this aw the tyme or ma faither wad never hae taen til hir.

Eilidh: Men never sees whit they dinna want ti see. She wad be as sweet as hinnie afore they war mairrit, ye can be shuir o that. She’l aye be ready ti blaw in his lug.

Moula: Whit’s ma faither gaun ti think aboot this? Ah’m feart ti think.

(There is an angry shout from offstage. Eilidh goes to the window)

Eilidh: Thare yeir aunsir! It’s yeir faither hame again an Ah dout he’s fund oot aboot his tree.

Moula: Eilidh, Ah’m feart! Ah dinna ken whit ti say til him. He’l be wyld aboot this, Ah’m shuir.

Eilidh: An Ah war you, Ah wadna say ower mukkil til him or he’s settilt doun a bit! Whan he gits wurkt up he disna ken whan ti stap whyles. We maun try an keep a caum souch.

(Malcolm storms into the room)

Malcolm: Wha cut doun ma tree, Moula?

(No reply)

Wha haes duin this thing? Wha wes it?

(Shona enters quietly. She motions Eilidh out of the Hall. Eilidh leaves dicreetly)

Malcolm: Ah’m gaun ti finnd oot aboot this. Whaever did this is for the hie jump! Ah’m rael mad aboot this, Ah can tell ye.

(Malcolm paces up, and down in a rage, clenchin his teeth)

Wha wes it? Wha wes’t?

(Seeing Shona) This hae gien me a richt sair hert, Shona.

It’s littil pleisir Ah git thir days. Ma bonnie tree---! Ah plantit that tree ti merk the tyme Ah wes first mairrit. Dae ye no mynd me tellin ye that? That tree aye brocht me in mynd o whan Ah wes yung an blyth.

Wha wad dae siccan an ill thing, dae ye think? Div ee ken ocht aboot this?

Shona: It’s nae guid speirin at me. Ah ken naething aboot it, for Ah wes ben the houss whan it happent. Ye’d better ask that dochter o yours, for Ah saw hir ootby wi the aix in hir haund this mornin.

Malcolm: Moula, is this true? Wes it you that cut doun ma bonnie tree? Gin it wesna you, wha wes it?

Moula: God abuin kens wha kens aboot the tree.

Malcolm: That’s nae aunsir. Whit kynd o aunsir is that?

Is this aw ye hae ti say ti me Moula?

Moula: God abuin kens aboot the tree.

Malcolm: (Angrily) Ah see! Ay! Ah see! Ye’r no gaun ti gie me a strecht aunser. Cum awa, Shona, oot o this afore Ah loss the heid! We’l leave this limmer til hersell ti think ower whit she haes duin. She canna be richt i the heid ti dae sic a thing. Gin she wes yungir, Ah’d ken hou ti dael wi hir. She’d feel the wecht o ma belt. Ah’d gie hir sic as lounderin for this.

Shona: Never you heed, Malcolm, Ah can git ye anither tree.

(Exit Malcolm and Shona. Moula sits down and sobs. She continues to sob and moan for several seconds. Enter Eilidh)

Eilidh: Mercie, whit’s wrang?

Moula: She telt ma faither it wes me that cut doun the tree.

(Eilidh puts her hand on Moula’s shoulder)

Eilidh: The jaud---! An yeir faither believed hir.

Moula: He did! He believed hir, Eilidh!

Eilidh: Did ye no tell him it wesna you? Did ye no staun up for yeirsell?

Moula: Shona thraetent ti kell me gin Ah clypit on hir.

Eilidh: She did, did she? Whit she disna ken, Moula, is that Ah saw hir cut doun the tree. Ah saw hir dae it.

Moula: Whitever ye dae, Eilidh, dinna lat hir ken that! Gin she finnds oot that you ken whit she did, Ah’m no shuir yeir lyfe wad be safe. As lang as Ah leeve, Eilidh, promise me ye’l say naething aboot this til oniebodie.

Eilidh: Moula, Ah’l say naething nou. For the tyme be-in, we maun jouk an lat the jaw gae by. But Ah’m no lyke ti forget whit Ah saw wi ma ain een. Ah’l no forget that.

Ah ken hou ti byde ma tyme.



Scene 3

The Mukkil Haw, seven months later. It is evening. Eilidh is back sitting at her spinning wheel. Moula, who is with her, is sitting by a cradle with the new baby in it. She rocks the cradle gently with her foot.

Eilidh: Weill, whit dae ye think o yeir wee brither , Moula?

Moula: Ah think he’s the bonniest littil bairn Ah ever saw. He’s a perfit littil darlin.

Eilidh: He’s aw that! He is a byordnar guid bairn, sae he is. We’l juist hae ti howp that whan he growes up, he’l no tak eftir his mither.

Moula: Ah dinna think sae. Ah’m that taen up wi him, Eilidh, Ah’ve wrutten a poem aboot him.

Eilidh: Aboot the bairn---? Ah never kent ye wrate poetrie!

Moula: A dinna verra aften. Whyles A try. It’s juist a wee ane.

Eilidh: Lat’s hear it than!

Moula: Ah’l recite it whan ma faither cums in. Ah wad lyke for him ti hear it.

(Eilidh rises and looks into the cradle)

Eilidh: He’s sleepin, the wee man! He’s no a care in aw the warld.
If he onlie kent, eh?

It’s a funny thing his mither disna tak mukkil interest in him. She winna feed him hirsell, an she seems content ti leave him wi you the fek o the tyme.
(Eilidh puts a finger into the cradle)
Juist luik at you nou! Juist luik at you!
(She returns to the wheel)
Div ye ken whit they’r ettlin ti cry him yit?

Moula: Ma faither wants ti caw him ‘Seumas’, eftir his ain faither, but they canna grie aboot that. Shona maks oot she wad raither caw him eftir hir faither -- Auld Reid Angus – but she’s never gotten on weill wi hir faither.

Eilidh: Ah’m no surprised ti hear that. Wha dis she git on wi?

Moula: An the truith war kent, Ah dinna think she mukkil cares aboot the bairn’s name aither wey, but she lykes aye ti be different dis Shona.

Eilidh: She dis that! They’r aye argie-bargiein aboot sumthing, the perr o thaim. Whyles Ah hear hir rantin an raenin at yeir faither in the middil o the nicht. For aw the waws is thick, she’s waukent me mair nor aince i the wee smaw oors. Ah dinna ken hou yeir faither pits up wi hir.

Moula: Ah dinna ken aither, wi his temper.

Eilidh: She haes a tung that wad clip clouts.

Moula: She’s gey sherp, lyke, richt aneuch, wi hir tung.

Eilidh: She’s a richt randie whan she gits stertit. Ah thocht she micht tak a turn for the better eftir hir bairn wes born, but no a bit o it. The’r nae betterment an if oniething, she’s waur.

Moula: Div ye think sae, Eilidh?

Eilidh: That’s whit Ah think. She’s growein waur.

Ye mynd whan Breinger, yeir faither’s favorite hoond, wes fund lyin deid wi his thrappil cut lest month. Ah’m thinkin yon wes Shona’s daein, tae. She wesna content wi haggin doun his favorite tree. She haed ti kill his favorite hoond anaw, an it a mukkil cannie beiss. Breinger uised ti lick yeir faither’s haund eftir, whanever he gied it a guid leatherin. Ah mukkil freinlie cannie craitur it wes.

Moula: Ye dinna ken Shona killed the hoond, Eilidh!

Eilidh: Ah canna prove it. Ah didna see hir dae it, but Ah ken she did it, for aw that. Ah’l sweir yon wes hir haundiwark. An whit is mair, it wadna surprise me if she’s putten the notion intil yeir faither’s heid that it wes you that killed the hoond.

Moula: It’s funny ye soud say that. Nou that Ah cum ti think on’t, ma faither is gey cauld wi me thir days, the mair sae, sen Breinger wes killed. He’l haurlie luik near me ava. He wes never lyke that afore.

Onie gait, he’s pleased aneuch wi his wee son. He’s fair the aipil o his ee.

Eilidh: The’r nae dout aboot that----! He fair dotes on the bairn.

Moula: Eilidh, Ah’m no jaeluss bi naitur – you ken that – but Ah canna help be-in vext at the wey ma faither traets me.

(Sobbing) This soud hae been a blythsum tyme for us aw: ma faither wi a wyfe again an a son o his ain for the first tyme, but awthing’s gaen wrang. Aw ma days the-nou, is dreich an fou o dreid. Ah’ve an awfu dreid at ma hert. It’s lyke as if ma hert haed turnt intil a mukkil dad o leid. Ah think God maun be roosed at me for sumthing Ah hae duin.

Eilidh: Mercie, whit hae ye duin? Whit coud you dae that wad roose God.

Moula: Ah dinna ken. Ah wush Ah did ken. Ah wad gang an confess it, an Ah kent whit it wes.

Eilidh: Aweill. Ah suppose Ah ken whit ye mean. Ah feel the same wey whyles.

Moula: (Laughing) Ah’m shuir Ah dinna ken whit ye coud dae wrang aither, Eilidh. Aw ye dae is eat an sleep an keep me cumpanie.

Eilidh: Here, cannie on! Ah spin whyles an dern claes.

(Enter Malcolm and Shona. Malcolm walks up to the cradle and looks in)

Moula: An hou’s ma littil son the-nicht? Ah’d better no kittil him. He’s soond sleepin, bliss him! Ah’d better watch an no wauken him up oot his sleep.

Moula: Faither, Ah’ve wrutten a pome aboot ma wee brither. Wad ye lyke ti hear it?

Malcolm: A pome, is it? Ah’m no ane for pomes. Maist o thaim soonds lyke haivers ti me. But ach, lat’s hear it , if it wul please ye!

Eilidh: Ah wad lyke ti hear it, Moula.

Moula: (Stands over the cradle and recites)

Cuddil doun ma bairnie;
the dargie day is duin:
Yon’s a siller sternie
ablo a siller muin.

Lyke a wabstar bodie
hingin on a threid,
ferr abuin ma laddie
an his wee creepie bed.

That’s aw. It’s no verra lang.

Eilidh: That’s a guid pome, Moula! A richt guid pome! It wul be a whyle afore the bairn is creepin yit, but Ah did lyke that bit aboot his wee creepie bed.

(Silence from Malcolm and Shona)

Moula: Hou did ye lyke it , Faither?

Malcolm: Fyne, fyne, no bad---! Ah hae heard waur! It soonds awricht. Whit daes it mean?

Weill, Ah’ve made up ma mynd ti caw the bairn, ‘Seumas’ eftir ma faither. Ma faither wad hae been geyan pleased gin he’d been spared an weill.

(He looks into the cradle again)

He fairlie kens hou ti cuddil doun, richt aneuch. Ah’m shuir Ah dinna ken wha he’s lyke. Nou that Ah hae a richt luik at him, Ah think he taks eftir me.

An hou’s littil Seumas the-nicht? Ah think he kens his name areddies. Whit a guid littil fallae he is!

Shona: (Contemptuously) Seumas! Huh!

Malcolm: (Points his finger) That wul juist dae, Shona. That’s aneuch oot o you. You keep a ceivil tung in yeir heid! Ye’l try ma patience ower ferr. You speak back ti me lyke that again, Ah’l tak the back o ma haund til ye, sae Ah wul.

Shona: (Livid with anger) Ye’d better no! Ye’d juist better no!

Malcolm: Gin ye want yeir jaw brukken, juist try me oot!

(Beckons) C’mon Wumman, try me oot!

(Shona says nothing, but clenches her jaw and fists)

Ye dae weill ti say naething.

(He unbuckles his belt)

Anither wurd oot o you, an Ah’l gie ye a taste o this.

(Shona remains silent and furious. Malcolm rebuckles his belt)

(More gently) Howt, Ah maunna gang ower the score. Awricht Shona, A didna mean that, Shona, but ye soud ken better nor ti rub me up the wrang wey. Ah’m vext aboot that. Ah soudna spoken ti ye lyke that.
(Shona remains sullenly silent)

Malcolm: Shona, Ah’m wearie the-nicht. Whan A’m wabbitie, A’m no lyke masell. It’s been a lang day the-day, an it’s turnin gray derk ootby. Ah’m mair nor ready for ma sleepin bed. Cum awa wi me ti the chaumer an lat’s see gin we can be better freins i the bed nor we hae been aw day! Ah canna say fairer nor that, can Ah?.

C’mon, you an me wul pit awa the-day’s fasherie thegither!

(Malcolm moves to go, followed by a silent, resentful Shona)

Moula: Guidmither, whit aboot the bairn? Ir ye no gaun ti tak the bairn inti the chaumer wi ye?

(Malcolm and Shona pause and turn round)

Eilidh: The bairn needs his mither, shuirlie? Shuirlie the bairn needs his mither?

Shona: (To Eilidh) Kimmer, ye ir ower forritsum. Juist you speak whan ye ir spoken til! Whit concern is this o yours? Whan Ah want coonsel frae you aboot ma bairn Ah’l speir for it. Ye’l wait a lang tyme afore ye hear me dae that. Ye ir aye pittin yeir tung in whaur it’s no wantit. You keep yeir tung atwein yeir teeth or Ah’l gar Jek pit the branks on ye.

Ah mean whit Ah say. (Eilidh is flabbergasted)

(To Moula) An YOU can tak the bairn inti yeir ain chaumer for aw Ah care. As ferr as Ah can mak oot, ye see the bairn as yeir ain, oniewey. Wrytin pomes aboot it---! Ye micht as weill luik eftir it an be duin wi’t.

(She pauses as an idea strikes her) Na, on saicont thochts, Ah wul tak the creddil inti the chaumer wi me, juist ti mak shuir the bairn is safe frae herm.

Malcolm: Whit dae ye mean bi that, Shona?

Shona: Naething! Naething awa!

Malcolm: Mercie Shona, the bairn wul be safe whaurever he is in oor hame? Whit ill coud the bairn cum til in this houss?

Shona: Nae ill, at aw, Ah’m shuir! Ah wesna thinkin whit Ah wes sayin. It wes juist a feelin Ah haed. Shuirlie the canna be ocht wrang wi me wantin ti keep ma ain bairn near me?

Malcolm: Ah daursay no! C’mon than Shona. Ah’m gled ye want ti keep the bairn for aince. Whit coud be mair naitral?
(To Moula and Eilidh) Guidnicht ti ye baith!

Moula: Guidnicht, Faither!

Eilidh: Guidnicht, Syre! (She curtseys)
(Exit Shona and Malcolm carrying the cradle)

Eilidh: Did ye hear that? She thraetent ti pit the branks on me. That’s whit they pit on weimen that winna stap yatterin. It’s a richt deivilish contraption.

Moula: Ah ken. Ah’ve seen it. It’s a gret airn thing. They fessen it ower yeir heid wi mukkil screws an it hauds ye bi the chafts.
(She demonstrates)
The’r ane in the stables, but it’s gey roustie. It’s a lang whyle sen it wes uised.

Eilidh: Ah hae serred in this houss ever sen Ah wes a lassie an naebodie haes ever spoken ti me lyke that afore. Aw Ah said wes that the bairn needs his mither. Whit wes wrang wi that?
(She holds her tongue) The’r a sherp airn spyke jags inti yeir tung for ti haud it doun an stap ye frae speakin. It’s an awfu sair thing the branks!

Moula: Ah wadna allou hir ti dae that ti ye Eilidh.

Eilidh: That woman is as coorse as cats’ dirt. She tryit ti mak oot that YOU micht herm the bairn. Whit the Deivil is she on aboot? Ah never heard the lyke. Ah dinna lyke the smell o this at aw. The Deil haes sum mischief in mynd for hir ti dae an Ah’m no mistaen! As shuir as Daith!

Moula: Whitna lyke lyfe this is in here thir days! It’s lyke the war sum blek spell on the houss. Hou coud ma faither cum ti mairrie sic a wumman? Bliss ye, Eilidh, Ah hae naebodie but you ti turn til. This is ma hame, but Ah dinna think Ah coud byde here anither meinit an it warna for you. Wul ye gie me a bosie? Ah’m sair needin it the-nicht.
(Eilidh holds out her arms and Moula sits on her knee. They embrace)

Eilidh: Thare no---! Ah’m aye here, Moula, as lang’s ye need me,
(They embrace again) As lang’s ye need me



Scene 4

Two adjoining bedrooms, later that night. Moula is asleep in bed in one room and Malcolm and Shona are lying in bed in the other. The cradle with the baby is at one wall in Malcolm’s room. There is a chest of drawers at the head of the bed in this room. A door links the two rooms.

Malcolm: Ah’l say this for ye, Shona, ye fairly ken hou ti please a man in the bed. Ah canna think whaur ye lairnt sic tricks.

(Yawning) Whit did ye mean bi sayin ye war bringin the bairn in here the-nicht for ti be safe? Shuirlie ye didna mean that Moula or Eilidh wad ever herm the bairn?

Shona: Eftir dingin doun yeir tree an killin yeir hoond, the’r nae tellin whit yeir dochter micht dae neist.

Malcolm: Naebodie ever saw hir dae thae things, Shona. For aw Ah ken it micht hae been ane of the sairvants that beirs me a grudge for a lounderin he’s haed that Ah’ve forgotten aboot. Moula haes aye haen a douce naitur. It wadna be lyke hir at aw ti dae sic things. Whit wad she want ti herm the bairn for, for the luiv o Guid? It disna mak sense. Ah ken ma ain dochter an if ye hae sum notion she wad ever herm wee Seumas, ye can pit it oot yeir heid.

Shona: She didna deny fellin the tree.

Malcolm: Ach, dinna yerp on aboot the tree! Ah’ve verra near forgotten aboot the tree. Ah want ti forget aboot the tree. Ah canna byde roosed aboot the tree for the lave o ma days. Ah can aye plant anither tree.

Yon wes months syne! We hae ti move on, Shona! We aye hae ti move on!

Anither thing, Ah dinna think Ah coud lat ye pit the branks on Eilidh. Ah’l no hae that.

Shona: That’s whit she wants. She’s a massielyke besom. She’s ferr ower forritsum. Ye said Ah wes ti be Mistress in this houss.

Malcolm: Sae ye ir, Shona! Sae ye ir! But the branks – that wadna dae at aw! The branks is an auld-farrant raukil thing. That wadna be genteil at aw. Mercie, she’s a wumman, Shona, lyke yeirsell! (Yawning) Ah canna think onie mair aboot it the-nicht.

(Malcolm turns over to go to sleep)

Shona: It wes Moula that did thae things. Ye’r no cawin me a leear ir ye?

(There is no reply but an incomprehensible mumble)


(There is no reply and after about 15 seconds, there is the sound of gentle snoring from Malcolm. Shona shakes him, but he does not awaken)

Ye bastard that ye ir---

(After a few seconds she slips quietly out of bed and paces up and down indecisively. She goes back to the bed and looks down at Malcolm)

Ye fuckin Bastard!

(Shona opens the door between the two rooms and goes through into Moula’s room. She inspects her closely to see she is sound asleep and returns to her own room, where she take a large carving knife out of a drawer. She then lifts the baby and carries him into Moula’s room, where she holds her hand over his mouth and stabs him three times with the knife. She then places the dead baby in the bed beside Moula, together with the bloodstained knife, and returns quietly to her own room, leaving the door open. She climbs carefully into bed and lies down quietly for several seconds. She then sits up abruptly in bed.)

Shona: Whaur ma bairn?

(She jumps out of bed and goes over to the empty cradle)

Whit haes befawn the bairn?


(Malcolm sits up in bed)

Malcolm: Mercie, whit is it nou? For the luiv o Guidness, whit’s wrang?

Shona: Sumbodie hae stown the bairn!

(Malcolm leaps out of bed and goes over to the cradle)

Malcolm: Wha wad steal the bairn?

Shona: Ah ken, that dochter o yours haes taen it awa an murdert it!

Malcolm: Shona, dinna say sic things! Ah canna believe that. Ah canna!

Shona: (Pointing) Look the door’s open! That door wes on the snek whan we gaed ti bed.

(Shona rushed through the doorway, followed by Malcolm and ‘discovers’ the dead baby and knife lying in bed beside Moula. She puts her hand into the cradle to touch the baby and when she withdraws it, it is covered with blood.)

Shona: (Screaming) THE BAIRN IS HERE LYIN DEID! Ma bairn is deid. Whit did Ah tell ye? She’s murdert oor bairn. See, thare a gullie knife cuivert in bluid in the bed asyde hir!

(Moula wakes up and sits up in bed. She is terrified to find the dead baby in bed beside her. She screams.)

Moula: Dear God, whit’s happenin? Ah dinna ken whit’s happenin!

Malcolm: Na, na, Christ, this canna be! Ah canna drie this! This is mair nor Ah can beir!

Shona: Ma wee unchristened bairn---!

(Moula rises out of bed)

Moula: F-F-Faither. Ah-Ah ken naething aboot this. Ah’ve been lyin here sleepin ever sen Ah gaed ti bed.

Malcolm: God, whit hae Ah duin ti deserr this: first ma tree, syne ma hoond an nou ma son – ye hae chynged inti sum fient Ah dinna ken at aw. Ye maun hae tint yeir wuts. Ye’ve gaen gyte, that maun be it.

Whitna grief is this! Things wul never be the same for me eftir this. (He moans)

(He calms himself) Shona, gae fesh Jek ti me at aince an tell him ti bring his haund airms wi him!

(Shona leaves urgently)

Moula: Please Faither, Ah hae duin naething! Ah dinna ken whit’s happent here.

Malcolm: Ye hae duin naethig! Moula, ye’r aw slaigert wi bluid. The gullie knyfe ye uised ti kill yeir brither is lyin thare in yeir bed. Say nae mair ti me! Ah’l no hear anither wurd.

Ye hae duin naething, eh? (He raises his fist to strike her)

Ah’l caw yeir heid aff.!

Moula: Faither, please---!

Malcolm: (Lowers his hand) Ah’l dael wi you the-morn’s mornin. Ye can say yeir prayers for whit’s left o this unco nicht,

(Enter Shona followed by Jek, carrying hand irons)

(Pointing to Moula) Pit the airns on her, Jek, an tak hir doun til the sooth dungeon!

(Jek fastens the irons on Moula’s wrists)

Jek: Dae ye want me ti wurk on hir the-nicht, Maister?

Malcolm: Na, Jek, juist leave hir alane! She’s ti be left hir lane ti say hir prayers the-nicht. Ah’l dael wi hir masell the-morn. You an me wul tak hir for a walk in the wuds the-morn’s morn.

Jek: Ah’l be ready, Maister. Wul ye be wantin me again the-nicht?

Malcolm: Na, Jek, but you gie me a caw at first licht.

Moula: Ah’l pray awricht, Faither, but no for masell: for ti richt whit fell curse haes befawn this houss.

(Jek takes Moula by the arm and leads her away)

Moula: (Looking back) Faither, dae ye no ken me onie mair? Dae ye no ken me?

Malcolm: (Groaning and clenching his fists in the air) Ye’r nae dochter o mynes.

(Exit Jek and Moula)
(He sobs) Ah hae lost ma son. Ma dochter is as guid as deid. Ah hae tint baith ma bairns i the ae nicht!

Shona: Yer maunna be ower sair on hir, Malcolm? The lassie’s no wyce! She’s no richt i the heid! Ah’ve seen this cummin on for a whyle. Coud she no be lockit up sumwhaur bi hirsell ti keep hir oot o herm’s road?

Malcolm: Dinna be ower sair on hir, ye say! Shona, yeir feelins dis ye credit. No monie mithers wad ask for mercie whan thair bairn haed been murdert. She’d better listen weill for the birds liltin the morn’s mornin, for eftir the-morn, she wul hear thaim nae mair. Dinna be ower sair on hir, ye say! Nou Ah maun growe auld an dee an gae doun intil ma lair wi naebodie ti follae on eftir me. Whit hae Ah ti luik forrit til? Dinna be ower sair on hir, ye say!

Shona: Ah dout the’l no be monie birds liltin the-morn. The birds haes mair sense nor ti whussil in December.

Shona: Malcolm, Ah coud aye hae anither bairn.

Malcolm: Na, Na, Na! (He shakes his head)

Shona: Gin that wad please ye---!

Malcolm: Wumman, hou can Ah think aboot anither bairn the nou---at sic a lyke tyme! Hae sum sense! Ah canna think strecht. Wul ye hae sum sense?

Eftir this, A dout the wul be nae mair bairns.



Scene 5

The next morning in the depths of the forest. Malcolm, Moula and Jek have arrived in a clearing after walking from the Tower. Moula is dishevelled and is still wearing her irons. Malcolm is wearing a sword and has a small knife with him. Jek has an axe at his belt.

Malcolm: This steid wul dae weill aneuch, Jek, for whit Ah hae in mynd ti dae. Tak the airns aff! We’l need thaim nae mair.
(Jek removes the irons from Moula’s wrists. He then takes the axe from his belt. Malcolm waves him aside.)

That wul be aw, Jek.

Jek: Ir the nocht Ah can dae for ye, Maister? Ah’m better uised wi this kynd o darg nor yeirsell. This wad be aw in a day’s wark wi me. Coud ye no leave hir ti me – yeir ain dochter?

Malcolm: Na, Na, Jek, Ah hae thocht weill aboot this. Ye needna byde! Gang you hame til the Touer an tell Mistress Shona Ah’l no be bringin Moula hame wi me! Ye can tell hir, tae, ti burn Moula’s claes an hir falderals. Tell hir ti gie hir rings an brotches, an bangils an beads ti sum puir dounhauden bodie! Monie a ane wad be gled o thaim. Ah want naething belangin hir left in the houss ti bring me in mynd o hir.

(He puts his hand on his sword hilt.

This is ae thing Ah maun dae masell. A deserr ti be punisht tae, for haein faithered sic an ill bairn

Jek: Ah’m rael vext aboot this, Maister. Ah aye lykit Moula whan she wes richt in the heid.

Malcolm: Gang hame, Jek! (He points) Hame---!

(Jek sighs and walks away with the irons. Malcolm and Moula watch them go in silence)

Malcolm: (Drawing his sword) Nou, ye hizzie!

Moula: Faither, this is the birkenshaw. This is whaur Ah uised ti play as a bairn!

(Falls to her knees) Faither, hae mercie on me!

Malcolm: Mercie, is it? Whit mercie did ye shaw til ma hoond an ma infant bairn? Ah wunner ye daur speir at me for mercie.

Moula: But Faither, Ah hae duin naething. Ah im saikless. Ah wad never hae duin oniething ti herm ye. Whitfor wad Ah want ti dae onie skaith ti Breinger, or ti ma ain Faither or ma ain wee brither.

Malcolm: Saikless, ir ye? Ir ye no gaun ti say, “God abuin kens wha kens aboot the bairn?” Ir ye no gaun ti say that?

(Grimly) Ah’l hear nae mair o yeir lees.

(He raises his sword)

Moula: Awricht Faither, whit maun be, maun be. Ye ken that whyles Ah hae a glisk o the saicont sicht. This is ane o thir unco tymes, an Ah can see that aw this is ill that is weirdit, an canna be chynged. Ah maun truist in God’s mercie nou.

Malcolm: Ay, ye’d better dae that, Moula! Ye’l git nane frae me.

Moula: An Faither, Ah can see it in ma mynd’s ee that on yeir wey hame the-nicht, ye wul jag yeir fuit, an a sherp skelf wul stick anaith yeir skin. Syne yeir fuit wul stert ti beil, an beil, an ye wul mynd whit Ah’m sayin the-nou. Syne ye wul ken in yeir saul that Ah im saikless. The festerin fuit wul git waur an waur or the skelf is poued, but naebodie wul can draw it oot or Ah cum hame ti cure ye.

The day wul cum whan ye wul rue whit ye ir aboot ti dae. Ye wul rue aw the hairs o yeir heid. Mynd an dinna forget whit Ah say!

Malcolm: (Sobbing) Ah hear ye!

Bletheration---! Awa wi ye an yeir styte!
Ye cruel jaud, ye wad murder ma son, wad ye?
Ye bitch that ye ir---!

(Malcolm strikes her several times with the sword and she falls to the ground)

Moula: (Moaning) Faither, Ah im sair mittilt! Ah im saikless, Faither. God’s mercie, Faither!

Malcolm: (Furiously) Ye wad murder yeir ain flesh an bluid as weill’s ma ain, ye limmer that ye ir! Ah’l hear nae mair o yeir lees!
(Malcolm puts his sword back in his scabbard and draws his small knife. He kneels down and cuts at Moula’s tongue)

Ye leein jaud, ye’l tell nae maur lees!
(Moula can no longer speak, but she makes agonised sounds and hold out her arms to her father, who starts to walk away, but hesitates)

Malcolm: The’r a hantil wolves an ither beiss in thir wuds.

They’r no freinlie an they’r aye hungirie for meat i the wunter. They’l no be lang in feinishin ye aff. Aw that’s left o you wul be guid aneuch for thaim.

Ye’l tell nae mair lees!

(Exit Malcolm)



Scene 6

Several hours later in the same clearing in the forest. Moula is still lying injured on the same spot. Enter the Knicht and his mother, Meg .

Meg: Weill Son, the Lord Hie Steward wes that pleased wi whit Ah did for the Keing, he says ti me, “Spaewyfe,” says he, “Tak you this poutch o gowd! Gin ye’r ever doun Perth wey, be shuir an caw in an pey yeir respeks!”
(They see Moula)
Mercie, wha’s this? It’s a yung lass. Crivvens, she’s aw cuivert wi bluid! She’s bluidin lyke a sheep. Whit’s wrang wi hir?

(The Knicht goes up to Moula, kneels down and examines her. Moula moans and gabbles at him)

Knicht: She’s gey sair mittilt, Mither. She’s been sair haggit aboot the bodie wi a sword. An sumbodie haes verra near cut oot hir tung awthegither. She’s been spittin bluid. Ah dout she canna speak at aw, puir lass.

Meg: Mercie, Ah can see aw that!

Knicht: It wad be kettrens, verra lyke. MacDougals, nae dout. Wha ither? This luiks gey lyke thair wark.

(Moula gabbles and makes signs she wants to write something down)

Knicht: Whit’s she thrawin hir airms aboot for?

Meg: Ah think she wants ti skreive sumthing. Hae ye ocht she coud wryte wi?

Knicht: Ah hae a bit pairchment an a crayon in ma poutch,
(He rummages in a satchel at his waist)
Ah thocht Ah haed it here.

(He eventually extracts a piece of paper and a crayon from the satchel and gives them to Moula. Moula writes something down with difficulty, while the Knicht supports her. The Knicht examines what she has written.)

Meg: Whit daes she say?

Knicht: (Reads) “Ma name is Mou-Mou,” Whit’s that wurd? Is that “Mona?” Ach, Ah’m no verra guid at the readin, naither Ah im! Wul ye read it oot ti me?

Meg: (Points at the paper) Gie me that!

(He hands the paper to her)

Knicht: Mither, Ah ken ye can sort hir. Ye can dae oniething, Mither, gin ye set yeir mynd til’t.

Meg: Haivers---! She’l dee suin gin she’s left oot here in the cauld mukkil langir. We’l hae ti tak hir inby oot the cauld.

Ah wunner wha she is. She’s nae gaun-aboot bodie, oniewey. Thir is braw claes. This is sumbodie genteil, lyke. This is a Leddie!

Knicht: She’s rael bonnie, Mither, dae ye no think sae?

Meg: Ah hae seen waur, monie a tyme. She’d luik a sicht bonnier gin we gat hir richt sortit. Hir mou wad be the better o a guid dicht for a stert. She’d be nane the waur o a guid wash, Ah’m thinkin. C’mon, dinna pit aff onie mair tyme! Heize hir up an cairrie hir inti the houss an we’l git hir cleaned up richt awa! The suiner we win hame an hir gaws is tendit, the better!

(The Knicht lifts Moula in his arms)

Knicht: (Looking admiringly at her) Ah think she’s juist aboot the bonniest wumman Ah’ve ever seen.

Meg: Ah daursay. Ye haena seen monie.

Knicht: She’s a sicht bonnier nor the henwyfe at hame, Ah can tell ye.

Meg: Wha isna? Mercie, ye coud say that aboot oniebodie!

Knicht: Wul ye sort hir for me, Mither?

Meg: Gin Ah sort hir, it wul be for hir ain sake an no for yours.

Knicht: She’s a rael bewtie.. Mither, she’s verra near as bonnie as you.

Meg: (Shakes her head, impatiently) That’s ae wey o gittin roond me. C’mon, dinna daidil nou! Cairrie hir, dinna cuddil hir! Ye sumf that ye ir, WUL YOU stap fouterin aboot wi hir! Dae ye want hir ti bluid ti daith?

(The Knicht carries Moula out, followed by Meg)


Act II

Scene 1

Malcolm’s chaumer, three months later. Malcolm is in bed with a suppurating foot caused by a splinter he picked up on his way home after injuring his daughter. He lies groaning with pain for several seconds. There is a knock at the door.

Malcolm: Cum in, cum in! (He sits up)

(Eilidh enters carrying a tray of food)

Eilidh, Ah’m no shuir Ah coud eat a thing. Ah’ve been seik as a dug this mornin..

(Eilidh puts the tray down at his bedside)

It’s awfu cauld in here anaw. Is that ooter door unsteikit again.? There a fair wund blawin in here.

Eilidh: The ooter door haes haurlie been aff the snek aw day. But ye maun keep yeirsell warm. Haud you this plaid aboot yeir shouthers!

(She puts a plaid around his shoulders and stands back to look at him)

Man, ye’r sittin thare lyke a craw in a mist! Is the fuit aye sair again, the-day?

Malcolm: Sair---! What---! It’s halie murder! Can ye imagine a reid-het needle jaggin inti ye aw the tyme? That’s whit it’s lyke an it’s gittin waur bi the oor. It stertit near ma big tae, but nou it’s lyke the haill fuit wes on fyre.

(He exposes the bare foot from below the blankets)

Juist look at the color o’t! It seems ti be turnin blek aw ower. At ae tyme it wes aw the colors o the rainbow. An it spreids onie mair, Ah’l hae a leg on me lyke a blekamoor. The mediciner says if it disna tak a turn for the better suin, Ah micht hae ti loss ma haill leg.

(Eilidh examines the foot)

Eilidh: It’s no verra bonnie, richt aneuch. Ye maun try an forget aboot it!

Malcolm: Forget aboot it? The’r no mukkil chaunce o that. Naebodie coud forget aboot this!

Eilidh: (Sniffing) Whit’s that? The’r a funnie kynd o whuff.

(She walks around the room sniffing)

Ye haena been eatin gorganzola kebbok in here?

Malcolm: No me --- Ah dinna even lyke the stuff!

(Eilidh looks suspiciously at Malcolm’s foot

It maun be ma fuit. A whyles suffer frae sweitie feet.

Eilidh: Mercie, that’s terrible! Ye’d better pit that fuit back ablo the bed cuivers! (Malcolm does so)

Malcolm: The mediciner said Ah wes ti lat the air git at it.

Eilidh: Weill, ye’d better wait or Ah’m safe oot the road afore ye dae that again.
(She motions to the tray) C’mon Maister, try an tak sumthing! There a pikkil cauld mutton an tatties thare. It’s the verra thing ti set ye up. Ye haena etten a thing for days.

Malcolm: Ah micht try a wee skuddok o breid eftir. Juist you leave the tray here! This beilin fuit o mynes is affekkin ma haill seistem. It’s no unlyke a carbuncle but a sicht waur. Ah can feel the puzzin wurkin its wey up ma leg.
(He feels his leg anxiously)

Eilidh: Ah wadna wurk on it! Ye’l juist help the puzzin on its road til yeir hert.

Malcolm: (Pathetically) Moula foretauld afore she dee’d that this wad happen ti me. She telt me Ah wad pick up a skelf an ma fuit wad stert ti beil. An that’s juist whit’s happent. It’s fairlie beiled awricht – ma haill leg is lyke ti fester aff.
(Sobbing) Naebodie can help me. Naebodie kens hou ti draw the skelf ava. The mediciner telt me yestrein gin it isna drawn suin, he’l hae ti tak aff ma leg abuin the knee jynt. He says he’l want sax men ti haud me doun, whyle he saws aff ma leg. Can ye imagine that? Can ye imagine? It disna beir thinkin aboot.

Eilidh: Ah dinna need ti imagine. Ah hae seen it duin. Ye’d better tak a guid dram whan it cums ti that, Ah can tell ye. A haill bottle o whuskie wul no be aneuch ti quaeten ye doun aince the mediciner gits stertit wi his saw. (Malcolm winces)

Malcolm: Moula telt me that naebodie but hir wad coud pou the skelf an cure me. But hou coud she dae that whan she’s deid? Naebodie can help me nou! Gin Ah’d kent whit Ah ken nou, Ah wad never hae killed hir --- for aw she deserred weill ti dee. It’s a queerlyke thing, ever sen A mairrit again it’s juist been ae thing eftir anither.

Eilidh: Maister, nou that Ah’m shuir Moula is deid, the’r sumthing Ah maun tell ye.

Malcolm: Whit’s this, Eilidh? Ye hae been keepin saicrets frae me?

Eilidh: Maister, it wesna Moula that haggit doun yeir favorite tree.

Malcolm: Wha wes’t than, no that it mukkil maitters nou? Whit div Ah care aboot the bluidie tree nou?

Eilidh: It wes Shona.

Malcolm: Shona---! Watch whit ye’r sayin! Juist you watch whit ye’r sayin! It coudna been Shona. She telt me she wes ben the houss whan it wes duin, an that she saw Moula in the gairden wi the aix. Moula didna deny daein it. It coudna been Shona.

Eilidh: Moula didna deny it, kis Shona thraetent ti kill hir gin she said oniething ti ye.

Malcolm: That’s ill ti credit. Ye dinna mukkil lyke Shona, dae ye?

Eilidh: That haes naething ti dae wi whit Ah’ve been tellin ye/

Oniewey, it’s hir that disna lyke me.

Malcolm: Aweill, the’r aye twa sydes. But hou ir ye sae shuir it wes Shona that dang doun the tree? Juist watch weill whit ye say!

Eiolidh: Ah saw hir dae it. Moula an me baith watcht hir cut doun yeir tree throu the Haw windae. Ah saw hir dae it – that’s hou Ah’m shuir.

Malcolm: (Holding his head) Ye saw hir dae it? Aweill, Moula is no here ti back ye up! Ah canna richt tak this in. A’l hae ti git til the ruit o this, gin it’s the lest thing A dae.

(Enter Shona)

Shona, thare ye ir Wumman! Ah want ti hae a wurd wi you.

Shona: We haena tyme ti speak the-nou, Malcolm. Ye hae a veisitor frae Kintyre. It’s a yung knicht. He says he brings wurd frae a frein o yours. He says he haes guid news for ye.

Malcolm: Whit news---? Ah coud sair dae wi sum guid news.

Shona: Ah speirit whit it wes, but he wadna tell me.

Malcolm: Gin he haes guid news, ye’d better shaw him inti this chaumer richt awa! But Ah’l want ti speak wi YOU eftir he is gaen

(Shona looks puzzled and leaves followed by Eilidh. In a few seconds the door opens and Shona’s voice is heard from offstage.)

Shona: Himsell is in thare. He is lyin in his bed.

(The Knicht enters and bows)

Knicht: Syre, Ah’m honored ti mak yeir acquantance.

Malcolm: Ir ye? Ye hae me at a disadvantage. Ye seem ti ken me, but Ah dinna ken you.

Knicht: Syre, Ah hae grand wurd. Yeir dochter Moula is alive an weill an sends hir luiv.

Malcolm: Ma dochter Moula---! Hou coud she be? Ah left hir for deid in the wuds lest wunter, myles frae here. Oniewey, she wes as guid as deid. It wes me that killed hir. Hir ain faither---! Can ye credit that?

Knicht: Ah ken aw aboot it, Syre.

Malcolm: This sair fuit Ah’m laid up wi is God’s serrin for whit Ah did til ma ain dochter. God’s curse is on ma heid. Ma lyfe’s no wurth leevin thir days.

Knicht: Ai, but ye didna kill hir. Yeir dochter didna dee, tho it’s a wunner she didna, eftir whit you did til hir. She is hale an hertie an she says she forgies ye for the skaith ye did til hir. She telt me ye wad hae a sair fuit bi this tyme.

Malcolm: (Excited) Moula is no deid? She telt ye Ah wad hae a sair fuit? Mebbe she wul can pou oot this unco skelf? Hou dae ye ken she’s no deid?

Knicht: Juist haud on nou! Ae thing at a tyme---! Ah’m sumbodie that haes a ludge, a stane’s thraw frae whaur ye tryit ti kill yeir dochter.

Malcolm: She forgies me, did Ah hear ye say? Whitna blissin---!

Knicht: Ay, she forgies ye for tryin ti kill hir. That is whit Ah cam here ti tell ye.

Malcolm: That wad be in hir naitur richt aneuch: the wey she aye uised ti be. She aye haed a kynd naiture even whan she wes a littil bairn. Ah’m stertin ti wunner whuther it coud hae been hir that killed ma son eftir aw. She threipit on at me she wes saikless an Ah wadna listen til hir. Ah’m stertin ti wunner whuther she wes mebbe no tellin the truith.

Knicht: She wes tellin the truith richt aneuch. Moula haes telt us the haill storie. Ye dinna ken yeir ain dochter, gin ye think for a meinit she wad tell ye a pack o lees an murder hir ain wee brither. Moula wadna hurt a flie, lat alane an infant bairn.

Malcolm: (Angrily) Ah kenna wha ye ir, loun, but ye hae nae richt ti speak ti me lyke that in ma ain houss. You watch yeir tung!

Knicht: Ah’d better watch ma tung richt aneuch whan you’r aboot. It’s better ti fleitch fuils nor flyte wi thaim!

Malcolm: Wha the Deil ir ye? Ye daur ti speak ti me lyke that in ma ain steid! It’s luckie for you Ah canna staun on this fuit. Ah’m wairnin ye, dinna you push me ower ferr! An it wesna for ma puzzint fuit, ye wadna hae mukkil chaunce in a fecht wi me, Ah can tell ye. Dirk or broadsword it wad end up the same wey: ye’d be deid! Deid, dae ye hear?

Knicht: Sae ye say! Ye’r a bit ower het for a seik man, Ah’m thinkin. It’s mebbe luckie for you ye hae a sair fuit.

Malcolm: Juist wha ir ye?

Knicht: Ah’l tell ye wha Ah im. Ah’m yeir guidson.

Malcolm: Ma guidson---? Whit’s this? Ye’r mairrit on Moula? That’s hou ye ken aboot hir tung.

Knicht: Ah im that, an ye’d better no push me ower ferr as lang’s ye hae that beilin fuit. Ah wadna forget aither, that ye’r no sae gleg as ye uised ti be. An Ah war you, Ah wadna try ti lowp aboot ower mukkil the-nou, binna ye dinna want ti aggravate that fuit..

Malcolm: Aweill ye’r mebbe richt. Ah hear ye. Moula is mairrit – ti you? Ah never gied hir ma permeission.

Knicht: Ye never gied hir yeir permeission! You ettilt ti kill hir. Ye tryit ti cut oot hir tung. She coud haurlie speir for yeir permeission ti mairrie me an hir wi nae tung!

Malcolm: For the luiv o Guid, dinna yerp on aboot it! Ah’m vext A tryit ti kill hir. Ah wes roosed, Man! Ah lost ma heid. Ah gaed ower ferr. It wes a mishanter! Hae you never lost the heid? If Ah hae a faut, Ah’m whyles inclyned ti be heidstrang..

Knicht: Heidstrang---! Is that whit ye caw it? It’s in ma mynd that Moula wad mak better uiss o hir tyme bydin at hame wi me, nor trauchlin aw the road here, aince eirant juist ti tend your fuit. Eftir whit ye did til hir, mebbe ye deserr aw ye git. Mebbe Ah soud juist tell hir ti forget aw aboot you an yeir skelf.

(He turns away, evidently to leave)

Malcolm: Dinna dae that, Son! Byde a wee! Ye maunna dae that! Sit doun, Man, draw in a chair! The’r nae need ti be hastie. Ah’m a wee thing testie the-nou wi this fuit.

Knicht: Awricht, Ah’l byde for a meinit, but juist listen ti the lave o whit Ah hae ti say! (He draws in a chair)

Malcolm: Ah’l listen, Son. Ah’l listen.

Knicht: Ah fand Moula lyin sair mittilt in the wuds near ma ludge whaur ye left hir ti dee lest wunter, an Ah taen hir hame wi me. Ma mither is a spaewyfe that kens o a byuss wal in Ardnamurchan whaur the wattir haes magic pouers. It didna tak hir verra lang for ti hael Moula’s mittilt bodie. Hir tung taen langir ti sort, but she can speak nou, God-be-thenkit, an she’s amaist as guid as new. She’s a slow speaker nou, tho, an she haes a wee bit hirpil. Ah wadna caw it a gammie leg—juist a hirpil.

Malcolm: That’s guid news. Ah’m rael gled ti hear it.

Knicht: It’s weill for you she can speak again or you an me wad hae a score ti settil.

Malcolm: Caw cannie, lad! Mynd Ah wes sair provokit at the tyme! Ah’m vext aboot it. Whit mair can Ah say? Ah howp Moula disna herbor onie grudge.

Knicht: Ye’r vext aboot it! (He shakes his head)

Malcolm: (Astonished) Ma guidson---? Ah’m fair dumfounert! You ir ma guidson!

Knicht: Ah’l tell ye sumthing else, tae. Ye’r gaun ti be a graundfaither afore the year’s oot.

Malcolm: (Jocularly) Oho--! Ah’m gaun to be a grandfaither? Man, Ah’m haurlie auld aneuch for ti be a grandfaither. Ah haena a gray hair in ma heid. Still an on, wi this fuit o mynes, Ah daursay Ah hae the richt gait for it.

Knicht: Moula is cairriein ma bairn.

Malcolm: Ah wad howp sae! Ye mean oor bairn, shuirlie? Ah’m gaun ti be a graundfaither! Me, a gutcher---! Aye the clock rins on. Aweill, mebbe Ah’l be a better graundfaither nor a faither. Knicht, ye hae gien me anither chaunce in lyfe. Ah’m mukkil behauden til ye. Ah’l need a wee whyle ti think ower awthing ye hae telt me. Ah’l hae ti raivel aw this oot in ma mynd. The’r sumthing Ah hae ti unfankil here.

Knicht: Ay, ye’l hae ti think aboot Moula’s tocher for a stert!

Malcolm: Tocher, wul ye be wantin a tocher?

Knicht: Ay, Ah wul that. It’s the laest ye coud dae.

Malcolm: (Hesitates) Howt, Ah’l no see ye stuck for a bit bawbee. That’s a maitter we can settil eftir. We’l lat that flie stick ti the waw the-day.

Knicht: Awricht---! The’r nae hurry.

Malcolm: Wul ye gang nou as quick as ye lyke an ask Moula ti cum an see me? Is she fit for the traivil? Gin she disna cum suin, Ah’l aither be deid or Ah’l hae lost ma leg. That wul be waur for me nor be-in deid. You tell hir she haes naething ti fear frae me! Ah’l no herm hir.

Knicht: Ah’m shuir ye winna. Ah wad howp no!

Malcolm: Ah’d ask ye ti byde for a dram wi me, but the mediciner says the whuskie wad be the verra warst thing for ma fuit.

Knicht: Aweill, sum ither day---! Syre, Ah’l obleige ye. Ah’l dae as ye ask. Moula is weill aneuch ti traivel. Ah wul richt awa an saidil ma horse.

Malcolm: (Groaning with pain) Tell hir ti mak haste an pou this infernal skelf! Ah dinna think Ah can lest oot mukkil langir lyke this.

Knicht: Ah’l tell hir. Fare-ye-weill, Syre. Ah’l be back as suin as Ah can wi Moula.

Malcolm: Thenkye ma laddie! Waste nae tyme! Ye wadna want me ti dee afore Ah haed skowth ti settil yeir tocher.

(The Knicht bows and leaves. Malcolm stares thoughtfully after him.)

(Enter Eilidh)

Eilidh: Ye haena touched the cauld mutton, Maister?

Malcolm: Ah’m aff ma meat, but even gin Ah felt lyke it, Ah haena tyme ti eat it. Eilidh, Ah’ve juist heard the graundest word. Moula is still alive an weill. She’s cummin here for ti draw ma skelf. The’r howp for me yit, Eilidh.

Eilidh: Moula’s no deid! Ai, Ah im gled ti hear that! Thenk God---! That’s the best word Ah ever heard, sae it is.

(Enter Shona, looking uncertain)

Shona: Ah see yeir veisitor’s awa. Weill, whit did he want wi ye? Whit wurd did he bring?

Malcolm: Ah’m no shuir ye’l be pleased ti hear the wurd he brocht. Shona, Moula is still leevin.

Shona: (Aghast) What---! She’s no---! She canna be!

Malcolm: She is that! Yon wes hir Guidman that wes here.

Shona: Hir Guidman---! She’s mairrit? Ye telt me she wes deid.

Malcolm: Weill, seeminlie she’s no deid. She’s recuivert an she’s mairrit. She’s cummin back here wi hir man in a day or twa. Eilidh haed anither thing ti tell me the-day, ye’l no lyke ti hear. She wes tellin me that she an Moula baith saw you hag doun ma bonnie tree lest Spring. Ye pat the blame for that on Moula an ye tryit ti blame hir for the daith o Breinger anaw.

Shona: Malcolm, dinna believe hir! It wes Moula. Moula maun hae putten hir up ti tellin this lee. Naither o thaim wantit me here ever sen Ah set fuit in this houss. Ah hae never been walcum. They caw me “the Inglishwumman” ahint ma back.

Eilidh: Ah’m tellin nae lee.

Malcolm: Aweill, we’l forget aboot the tree. Whit Ah maun ken nou, Shona, is wha killed ma son, an that is sumthing Ah mean ti finnd oot whitever Ah hae ti dae. It is in ma mynd that mebbe Moula haed naething ti dae wi it. Wes it you, Shona?

Shona: M-M-Me----? Wh-Whit dae ye mean? Dinna be daft! M-Malcolm, ye ken it wes Moula. Ye saw for yeirsell.

Malcolm: (Looks long at Shona) Eftir whit Ah hae juist heard, Ah dinna believe it wes Moula.

Shona: Malcolm, ye saw…..

Malcolm: Ah didna see Moula dae it wi ma ain een. Ah wes soond sleepin at the tyme. It’s no easie for me ti think that ye wad kill yeir ain bairn, Shona, but Ah dinna think ye ir tellin me the truith. Ay, Ah can see the lee wrutten on yeir face. Na, Ah dinna think sae! We’l finnd oot for shuir aboot this. Eilidh, gang you doun an fesh Jek up here!

(Turns to Eilidh) The lee is wrutten on hir face!
(Eilidh leaves purposefully)

Shona: Na, Malcolm, dinna! Please, dinna!

Malcolm: Dae ye ken, Shona, Ah hae suffert mair pyne wi this beilin fuit nor ever Ah did in the haill o the lave o ma days. Ah’m stertin ti think that this haes aw been ower the heid o you an yeir jaelousie. Ma lyfe haesna been wurth leevin for months. Nou Shona. you ir gaun ti lairn a wee lesson aboot pyne. Whan we war mairrit, ye promised ti share awthing wi me. Seein as ye’r ma Guidwyfe, ye’l be gled ti share a hantil pyne wi me nou.

Shona: Please dinna, Malcolm! Malcolm, Ah haena been ma richt sell ever sen Ah stertit ti cairrie the bairn.

Malcolm: Aweill, nou’s yeir chaunce ti finnd oot whit yeir richt sell is lyke

(Eilidh enters with Jek)

Jek: Maister---?

Malcolm: Jek, Ah want ye ti tak Mistress Shona dount til yeir wurkin chaumer an speir at hir wha it wes that murdert ma littil son, an whitfor. Cum back here whan ye hae a wycelyke aunsir frae hir! Ah dinna want ti hear it wes Moula. Ah’ve heard that yairn afore an Ah dinna lyke it onie mair.

Jek: Daes it maitter gin she’s merkit, Maister?

Malcolm: Ah dinna want hir merkit the-nou, Jek. She wes the Queen. That wul keep for eftir. Juist the uisual treatment for a stert---!

Shona: (Whimpers) Malcolm---! Please, Ah’m no weill! Ah’m no a weill wumman! For the luiv o God, Malcolm---! Ah’m the Queen! For the luiv o God---!

(Jek leads her away to the torture chamber)
(Screaming) Na! Na! Na! For Christ’s sake, Na!

Malcolm: Ah dinna think it wul be verra lang or Jek finnds oot the truith frae hir. He’s a richt professional, is Jek. He wes aince a saidlar in Stirling. He’s aye been guid at warkin wi the skins an Shona disna lyke pyne. Ah dinna think Jek haes ever lat me doun yit!

Eilidh: Maister, wul ye no try ti eat a pikkil o this cauld mutton?

(Malcolm rises from the bed and hobbles slowly to a chair. He inspects the food. There is a blood-curdling yell fron Shona offstage. Malcolm ignores this.)

Malcolm: Na, Eilidh, tak it awa! Thare been ower mukkil steir for me the-day. Ah’m still aff ma meat. Oniewey, the tatties is cauld.

(There is a series of blood-curdling yells)

Tak you the tray awa!

(Eilidh moves to lift the tray)

Haud on! Byde a wee! Ah’l try a morsil.

(Malcolm has a few mouthfuls)

Ah’m shuir Jek wul no be lang nou, Eilidh, but Ah think Ah ken the truith o the maitter areddies. It’s been at the back o ma mynd for a whyle nou, but Ah wes sweir ti think that Shona wad kill hir ain littil bairn. Ah wadna lat masell think sic a thing. Sic a thing is no naitral. Ah’ve kent wutches that war guid til thair bairns.

Even sous is whyles guid wi thair bairns.

(He takes more mutton and some potato)

(With his mouth full) Even sous---!

This mutton is no bad. No bad at aw---! That wes rael tastie!

Eilidh: Ah thocht ye’d enjey that. Ye aye lyke it guid an sappie.

Malcolm: Ir they oor ain tatties (There is a knock at the door) That wul be Jek, verra lyke! Lat him in, Eilidh!

(Eilidh opens the door and in comes Jek, carrying a pair of blood-stained pincers)

Malcolm: Weill Jek, whit hae ye ti tell me?

Jek: Maister, she’s telt me the haill storie.

Malcolm: Uh-huh?

Jek: Yon nicht the bairn wes killed, she cairrit it inti Moula’s chaumer whan ye war soond sleepin; syne she murdert it wi the gullie knyfe an laid it alang wi the reikin gullie in Moula’s bed.

Eilidh: Ah kent it! The Deil that she is!

Malcolm: Ah thocht it wes sumthing lyke that. Ah thocht sae! Ah can see it aw nou. Ah hae been blinnd, Eilidh. Whit did ye hae ti dae til hir, Jek?

Jek: No mukkil---! The’r no a merk on hir ye coud see.

Malcolm: That’s guid, Jek. Weill duin!

Jek: Ah juist skelpit hir aboot a bit wi ma nivs, syne poued fower o hir back teeth. She wesna lang i cummin roond. Aince she stertit ti speak Ah coud haurlie shut hir up.

(He holds out his free hand and reveals a tooth)

Jek: A richt braw set o teeth she haes. Whit wul Ah dae nou, Maister? She says she’s vext for whit she did. She says she didna richt ken whit she wes daein. She says she aye loues ye, Maister.

Eilidh: Huh---! Ah daursay she wad say onie mortal thing nou!

Malcolm: She’l no be needin hir braw set o teeth whaur she’s gaun.

Jek: She says she disna want ti dee, Maister. She pled on me no ti kill hir---she’s no twantie year auld yit!

Malcolm: She’s haed a better lyfe nor maist. Ah dinna suppose she’s wantit for hir denner aw hir leevin days. Weill ye can tell hir she’s better aff nor me. At laest she haes peace ti luik forrit til in a day or twa. Eftir aw that’s befawn me ower the heid o hir, the’l be nae peace for me. In a wey, she’s lucky she’l never ken whit it is ti be auld an waek an duin an in awbodie’s road. Whit did she dae it for, Jek?

Jek: She said she wes jaeluss. She said she kent ye loued Moula an the bairn better nor hir. She says she haesna been weill for a whyle. She said she coudna help hirsell.

Eilidh: She coudna help hirsell? Oniebodie coud say that.

We coud aw say that!

(Malcolm rises uncertainly to his feet and stands with his weight on one leg)

Jek: She says: Coud she no see ye for a meinit, Maister?

Malcolm: She wants ti see me?

Jek: Ay, she daes that!

Malcolm: (Pats Jek on the shoulder) Ay, Ay, Jek, she wants ti see me, dis she? Weill ye can tell hir frae me, Ah dinna want ti see hir; no ever again! Gin Ah never see hir again it wad be ower suin. Ye can say this til hir frae me, Jek: “Fareweill, Shona ma dou!” You say that til hir frae me! “Fareweill, Shona ma bonnie dou!” That’s guid! (He laughs bitterly) That’s guid, eh, Jek? “Ma bonnie dou!”

Jek: Ah ken, Maister, Ah ken. Ah’m vext for ye.

Malcolm: Shona, ma bonnie dou, eh!

(Grimly) Jek, Ah want ye ti gae back doun til hir an pit hir ti the torment. Ah want ye ti stert wi the doucer kynds o torment an wurk up slawlie til the maist dour. Stert wi the pirliewinkies! Syne the nippers an het airns, but leave hir een til the feinish! Tak yeir tyme, but dinna spare or she’s deid! For aw, Ah want hir ti hae rowth o tyme ti rue aw the ill she haes duin in this houss.

Jek: (Dully) Gin that is yeir wull, Maister--- Sae ye winna see hir again?

Malcolm: Na Jek, Ah daursay no! Ah’m ower sweimish for that kynd o thing. It wad juist upset me.

Jek: Ay, she’s a waesum sicht nou, Maister. She’s a puirlyke craitur nou, richt aneuch. Hir back’s at the waw nou. She said she wantit ti tell ye she wes sorrie for awthing.

Malcolm: Aweill, she soud hae thocht o that afore. Things is past mendin nou. Jek, ye soond a bit sweir ti dae whit Ah telt ye. Ah want ye ti forget ye ever kent hir. Juist think o hir as deid areddies.

Jek: It wad be better for hir gin she wes. Can she hae oniething ti eat, Maister?

Malcolm: Na., no a thing---! A fou wame maks a steive back Oniewey, it wad juist be a waste o guid meat ti feed hir nou.

Jek: (Looks upset) Maister, it’s no for me ti quaisten whit Ah’m telt ti dae, but Ah’d raither no ken the fowk A hae ti rack an mittil.

Malcolm: That gauns wi the job, Jek

Jek: The’r naething personal aboot the wark Ah dae. Ah beir nae grudge agin onie man or wumman in aw the warld. Ti me, this is juist a job lyke onie ither. But ye maun allou, Maister, it gars me tak a pryde in aw ma wark, for aw it’s no aye neiborlyke. We aw maun ettil standards ti uphauid, an mynes, Ah dout, wad faw richt doun gin Ah war vext for Shona, even but a whein.

Malcolm: Ye maunna be vext for hir, Jek. Ye canna dae yeir wark richt an ye’r vext for fowk.

Jek: Maister, it’s ill for me no ti be vext for the wumman whan Ah ken hir sae weill. Mercie, Maister, juist yestrein she speired at me whuther Ah haed lykit the stovies she haed sent doun ti me for ma denner.

Malcolm: That’s juist whit Ah mean, Jek. Forget ye ever kent hir! Forget hir verra name! Juist think o hir as onie ither bodie --- as a naebodie! She’l no be sendin ye onie mair stovies.

Jek: Maister, whyles Ah wunner whuther this is the richt job for me --- whuther Ah’m richt cut oot for this kynd o wark. Ah never wantit ti dae this kynd o wark. Ah wantit ti be a saidlar.

Malcolm: Haivers, Jek---! It’s the same wi onie job, Jek. Sum things ye lyke better nor ithers.

(He pats him on the back) Whyles it’s a sair fecht for us aw, Man. It wul be aw the same a hunder year hence, an we’l no be here ti see it.

Jek: (Dully) Ay, Ah daursay!

Malcolm: Oniewey, whaur wad ye finnd anither job? Jobs is ill ti finnd thir days. Guid meat---! A warm bed at nicht wi clean strae--- Whit mair coud a bodie want? Aunsir me that!

Jek: (Shakes his head) Awricht Maister, you tell me whit ti dae an Ah’l dae it!

Malcolm: That’s the stuff, Jek! It’s as sempil as that. Juist dae as ye’r telt an ye’l no gang ferr wrang! Juist dae a guid job!

Jek: Ye can aye depend on me ti dae a guid job, Maister.

Malcolm: (Pats him again on the shoulder) Ah ken that Jek. Ah ken! Yeir wark is aye up ti standart. Ye ir aye up ti the merk. Cairrie on wi yeir darg than! Naething else maitters. Caw yeir gird, Jek! Caw yeir gird!

(Jek walks off heavily with his pincers)



Scene 2

Malcolm’s chaumer two days later. Malcolm is sitting on a chair, with his sore foot on a stool. He is wearing a nightgown. His plaid is hanging over a chair. Enter Eilidh in a state of excitement.

Eilidh: Maister, Ah coudna credit it whan Ah saw hir! Moula is here wi the Knicht, hir man, an his mother. They’r aw ootby in the Mukkil Haw.

Malcolm: The Lord be praisit! Help set me up strecht wi this cushin at ma back!

(He picks up a cushion from the floor and hands it to Eilidh. She adjusts his position with the cushion at his back.)

Watch ma fuit, wul ye! Cannie---! Wul you watch whit ye’r daein? That’l dae fyne! Richt, shaw thaim in at aince!

(Eilidh leaves and returns in a few seconds with a limping Moula, the Knicht and Meg)

Moula: Faither, Ah’m that gled ti see ye.

(She kisses him) That gled---!

Malcolm: Ye canna be sae gled as Ah im ti see you, Moula ma lassie. Ah never thocht ti see ye in this warld again. Ye ir a sicht for sair een, sae ye ir! This is a fair meiracle.

Moula: Faither, ye’ve met ma man areddies?

(Malcolm nods at the Knicht)

Knicht: Whit lyke fettil the-day, Syre? Is the fuit nae better?

Malcolm: It’s guid o ye ti speir, but Ah’m nae better, lad. If oniething, Ah’m waur, but Ah want ti thenk ye for cummin back wi Moula sae suin. Ah’ve been coontin the meinits lyin here an ye haena putten aff onie tyme. Moula, Ah think yeir man an me is gaun ti be freins.

Knicht: Ah’m shuir o’t.

Moula: Ah’d lyke ye ti meet ma guidmither, Meg. Meg is a spaewyfe an she’s cum alang wi us for ti see if she can be o onie help wi the fuit.

Malcolm: A’m rael gled ti meet ye, Meg. It’s aye a pleisir ti meet a bonnielyke wumman. Ah’m behauden til ye for reddin maist o the skaith Ah did ti Moula.

Meg: Howt, Ah wes gled ti dae it, Syre. Ye’r blisst in yeir dochter. She is a richt guid lass, is Moula

(There is blood-curdling scream of agony from Shona, offstage)

Mercie, wha’s that?

Knicht: Whit the leevin Hairrie wes that? That soondit lyke sumbodie in unco pyne.

Eilidh: That’s Moula’s guidmither yowlin. That’s Shona. She’s awned up nou til aw hir ill-daein an she’s been putten ti the torment. Jek is wurkin on hir the-nou. She’s been skellochin lyke that for days. Ah dinna think she mukkil lykes hir ain medicine frae the soond o hir.

Meg: Wha is Jek?

Malcolm: Jek is ma jylar an he daes orra jobs aboot the steidin. He wurks whyles in ma killin-houss an Ah uise him whyles for quaistenin prisoners, an whyles for lairnin kettrens a lesson. The’r a whein MacDonalds whyles gies me fasherie in thir pairts. Afore Jek is feinisht wi thaim thay aw curse the day thay war born. He haes aw his back teeth, haes Jek. Heh, Heh! That’s mair nor ye can say for Shona, nou!

Meg: He soonds a coorse lyke cheil!

Malcolm: Ye micht think sae, but Jek’s a rael guid-hertit loun aince ye git ti ken him richt. Jek wadna hurt a flie whan he’s no eydent at his trade birslin fowk wi reid-het airns. Ah aince saw him cairrie a puddok that haed lost its wey, hauf a myle back ti the lochan whaur it bade. He’s aye vext gin he cuts a wurm in twa wi his spade whan he is diggin his gairden.

Moula: Sae Shona haes confesst awthing?

Malcolm: Ay, she haes that. She awned up ti cawin doun ma tree, ti killin ma hoond an murderin ma son.

Moula: Sae nou ye ken, Faither, that Ah wes saikless? Hou coud ye ever think Ah wad herm an infant bairn?

Malcolm: Moula, Ah haurlie ken whit ti say, Ah think sae mukkil shame. Ah kenna hou Ah ever doutit ye, but Ah coudna see things strecht at the tyme. Ah haena been able ti see things strecht ever sen the day Ah brocht that wumman inti this houss.

(There is another series of agonised howls from Shona. The guests look a little embarassed)

Moula: Puir wumman---!

Eilidh: Ah think she kens ye’r speakin aboot hir. Juist listen til hir skirlin. She’s guid at the skraichin, Ah’l say that for hir. She’s a lang tyme i deein eftir aw that Jek ‘s duin til hir.

Meg: It soondit lyke she wes cryin for hir mither.

Malcolm: Ay, at the end they cry thair mithers aye. Mukkil guid that wul dae hir! Hir mither’s been deid an gaen thir monie year.

(There is another fearful cry from Shona)

Moula: Coud ye no stap it, Faither! Ah canna byde hearin hir. It gars me grue. Ma skin haes turnt aw hen flesh. (She rubs her arm)

Malcolm: Ach, never heed hir! She canna lest mukkil langir.

(Apologetically to guests) Ah’m rael vext aboot this dirdum. Ah dout the deifenin in this auld keep is no aw it micht be. Ah wul hae ti hae it seen til. Shona wes never duin complainin aboot it. Moula, ma lassie, dae ye think ye coud pou this skelf richt awa? Ma fuit’s awfu sair. Ah hae been in agonie thir lest twa month, an it wes sair for a whyle afore that.

Moula: Faither, that’s whit Ah’m here for. Eilidh, wul ye fesh me a pikkil het wattir an a clout in a bowle?

(Eilidh leaves smartly)

Lat me hae a keik at this fuit!

(Moula inspects the foot while Meg looks on)

Meg: That wul hae ti be drawn suin, an the suiner the better. Ah dout the’r no mukkil tyme left, an we’r ti save yeir fuit. Mercie, juist luik at that!

Moula: This is waur nor Ah expekkit. Faither, this is gaun ti be sair ti cum oot.

Malcolm: Ah canna mynd a tyme whan it wesna sair.

(Eilidh returns with the bowl of hot water and a cloth. Meg takes the bowl and bathes the foot with the cloth. Moula then grips the foot firmly with her right hand.)

Moula: Ir ye ready, Faither?

Malcolm: Na, Na, for the luiv o God, Ah canna beir it!

(Moula relaxes her grip)

Moula: Ye’l juist hae ti beir it, Faither! This skelf wul hae ti cum oot nou, an Ah’l hae ti birze yeir fuit ti dae it. Wad ye raither they sawed aff yeir haill leg? C’mon, ye soud think shame o yeirsell gaun on lyke this! Ah’m shuir it’s no hauf sae sair as haein yeir tung verra near cut oot. C’mon Faither! Shaw sum smeddum!

Malcolm: Awricht, awricht, Ah hear ye! Juist gie me a meinit ti gether masell!

Moula: We canna pit aff onie langir.

Malcolm: (Smiling bitterly) Awricht than---! Ti tell ye the truith, Ah’m that easie fleitcht, gin Ah haed been born a wumman, Ah’m shuir Ah wad hae turnt oot a hure.

(There is a final rather weaker cry from Shona)

Moula: Faither, grit yeir teeth thegither! Try an think whit ye wad lyke for yeir denner!

Malcolm: O ay!

(Moula squeezes with her right hand. Malcolm roars with pain and Moula deftly pulls out the splinter with her left hand.)

Moula: (Holding up the splinter) Nae ither wunner this gied ye truibil! That wesna sae bad, wes it?

Malcolm: A-A-A-Ah, Govie Dick that wes fell sair! Michtie, the sweit’s fair hailin doun ma back!

(Meg offers to bathe the foot)

For the luiv o Guid, leave ma fuit alane! Ah canna byde oniebodie ti touch it onie mair. It’s fair stoundin.

Meg: C’mon nou, we maunna eat the cou an worrie the tail! Ah juist want ti plot the sair bit on yeir fuit aince or twyce wi this het clout. (Meg bathes his foot gently. Malcolm grimaces and winces occasionally) Thare nou---! That wes better, wes it no?

Malcolm: Eftir this, Ah dinna think Ah’l ever mairrie again. Ever sen Ah mairrit again, it’s been ae mishanter eftir anither. Ah’ve haen ae guid wyfe an an ae ill ane. Ae wumman soud be soud be aneuch for onie man.

Meg: Ah’ve heard that storie afore! Gin it’s turn aboot for guid an ill wyfes, yeir neist wyfe wul shuirlie be a guid ane.

Malcolm: Thare a thocht nou. Aweill, whuther Ah mairrie again or no, Ah lyke aye ti keep bonnie weimen aboot me. Meg, wad you, Moula an yeir son aw lyke ti byde on here for twa-thrie week an keep me companie? Ye’r gey guid wi sair feet anaw.

Meg: (Archly) Sae that’s aw ye think Ah’m guid for?

Malcolm: We’l think o sum ither thing, ti be shuir. Nou that ma fuit’s on the mend, Ah’d lyke fyne ti hae a bit splore – a celebration lyke. Ah tell ye whit Ah’l dae. Ah’l kill the broun stirk. He wes luikin rael sonsie the lest tyme Ah saw him. It wul be fill an fesh mair in here for a week or twa. Wul ye byde?

(Meg nods and looks at the Knicht)

Knicht: That’s awricht wi me. Ah’m shuir Moula wad lyke fyne ti be hame again for a wee whyle.

Moula: Ay, Ah’d lyke that fyne. A chynge is lichtsum.

Malcolm: That’s settilt than.

Moula: Ye’r finndin sum relief nou, Faither?

Malcolm: Ma fuit feels a sicht better areddies. Mynd ye, it’s gey sair yit, but it’s a pleisir bi whit it wes. Ah hae fairlie gotten sum easement.

Meg: Gin ye plot yeir fuit nicht an mornin wi het wattir, it wul suin be richt as rain again, but ye’d better no try an pit yeir ful wecht on it for a day or twa. The wattir maun be as het as ye can thole.

Malcolm: Ay, awricht---! (There is a knock at the door) Wul ye gang an see wha that is, Eilidh? Dinna lat oniebodie else in here! Ah canna see oniebodie the-nou.

(Eilidh goes to the door, looks out, mutters to somebody and leaves the room)

Malcolm: Ah’m mukkil behauden ti ye, Meg, for helpin wi this fuit.

Meg: Mercie, whit did Ah dae?

Malcolm: Ah’m lyke a man reborn. Awthing kyths brichter ti me the-day. Wes that a maivis Ah heard singin ootby? The Spring canna be verra ferr awa nou.

(Eilidh re-enters the room)

Eilidh: Syre, that wes Jek ootby in the haw the-nou. He’s feinisht his wark wi Shona. She dee’d a wee whyle syne.

Malcolm: Tell Jek ti cum in!

(Eilidh goes to the door and mutters to someone.)

(Enter Jek. There is blood on his arms.)

Malcolm: Sae it’s aw by wi Shona?

Jek: Ay, she’s deid. She taen langir langir ti dee nor A expekkit.

Malcolm: Haed she oniething ti say for hirsell i the feinish?

Jek: Apairt frae hir yowlin an skraichin, she keepit sayin, “Ah’m be-in crucified wi pyne!”

Malcolm: Uh-huh! Crucified, eh? Aweill, wi hir be-in a Christian, she wad ken whit that wes lyke.

Jek: She keepit tryin ti sing sum sang in the Sassenach tung.

Malcolm: Ay, she wes born doun Sooth. She bade thare a whyle whan she wes a lassie.

(To Moula) You ken hou ti speak that leid, Moula?

Moula: (Nods) Ah ken a bit.

Malcolm: (To Jek) Hou did it gang, this sang?

Jek: Ah didna ken whit it meant. The tuin wes sumthing lyke this.

(He hums a few bars of “The King of Love my Shepherd is”)

Moula: Ah ken sum o the words o that sang. It’s an Inglish hymn. It gaes lyke this: (She sings)
The King o Love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his
And he is mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul He leadeth,
And where the verdant pastures grow
With food celestial feedeth.

Moula: Losh, Ah canna mynd the feinish!

Jek: That wes it! Ay, that wes it!

Malcolm: Ah canna unnerstaun a wurd o that leid.

Eilidh: Ah dinna ken a wurd o’t aither. That tung aye soonds ti me lyke sae monie jeuks quack-quackin in the stank eftir a shour o rain.

Malcolm: It soonds kynd o sentimental lyke. Ah div lyke a sentimental sang. Sae that’s hir deid! We’l hae sum peace nou. That’s an end til aw hir ill-daein. She maun hae gien up the gaist aboot the tyme ye poued the skelf, Moula. The’r sum glaumerie here Ah dinna unnerstaun.

Eilidh: Guid riddance ti hir an the skelf baith. She wes an unco bad besom.

Moula: Did ye need ti torment hir sae lang, Faither? Whit guid did it dae i the end?

Malcolm: Gin it didna dae Shona onie guid, it did me a warld o guid. Ah wes gled aneuch whyles, ti hear hir skraichin. It taen ma mynd aff ma sair fuit. she wes the means o me haein a puzzint fuit.

Eilidh: She deserred aw she gat. She soud hae been drouned at birth, yon ane.

Malcolm: Dae ye ken, whan Moula wes wee, it uised ti mak hir seik ti see a pig killed. Whit war pigs putten inti this warld for, gin it wesna ti be killed an etten? She wadna even gang ti see a wutch brunt. She’s aye been a saft-hertit lassie. Ah uised ti wunner whit ailed hir. Mercie, dis it no tell ye in the Bible no ti suffer wutches ti leeve?

Meg: We aw hae ti thole pyne, Moula. That’s the wey o the warld. Is it no wrutten doun: “The wul be greitin an girnin an cherkin o teeth.”

Moula: Ah suppose sae!

Meg: Awbodie kens a fee haes ti be peyed in pyne for awthing in this warld, suiner or later. Yeir mither wad hae a fee ti pey in pyne for you at the tyme ye war born, Ah daursay. Dis the Halie Bible no say: “An ee for an ee, an a tuith for a tuith?” Dis it no say: “A wyfe discuivert in hochmagandie maun be staned ti daith.?” Wha ir we ti quaisten thae halie wurds?

Moula: Ah juist dinna want oniebodie ti suffer, that’s aw,

Meg: Didna oor blissit Lord himsell no allou himsell ti be nailit til a cross for ti save us aw? Did He no hae ti pey the fee in byordnar pyne?

Moula: Ah wad raither he haedna duin it for me. Ah never askit him til – ti dee lyke yon. Ah wadna want oniebodie ti dae sic a thing for me.

Meg: That’s an unco wey ti speak, Moula. The Lord kens best whit’s guid for ye. Ye haena been speakin ti sum heretic that kens he deserrs ti be burnt?

Moula: No me---! It’s juist the wey Ah feel.

Knicht: Ah think Ah ken whit Moula is on aboot. It wes ower mukkil for Christ’s Faither ti ask him ti dae, ti lat himsell be nailit til a cross.

Meg: (Glaring at him indignantly) It’s a wunner ye’r no struck doun for sayin that!

(The Knicht raises his eyes to Heaven and protects himself with his hands)

(To Moula) The Lord’s ma shepherd, Moula. The Lord’s ma hird! Lyke the puir sheep, we maun aw thole the sherp knyfe at oor thrappils whan the tyme cums. We ir aw born in mortal sin. Even the wee bairnikies haes it bred in thaim. We maun fash the flesh for ti sain the sowl. This lyfe’s oor punishment for wickedness—a weirie darg ti warsil throu until the end…..but in the end, oor rewaird wul shuirlie cum in Heivin.

Knicht: That’s aw verra weill, Mither, but A’m nae sheep. Demn it, Ah dinna want ti be a sheep! Ah’m no cut oot for it, an Ah’m no wantin a hird. Ma Guidfaither, thare….he’s sum sheep!

(Points) Can ye see him as a sheep?

(Malcolm is preoccupied with his foot)

Whit if Heivin is here the-nou amang the laiverocks in the lift? Can the be brichter flouers nor in the gairden ootby? It’s an unco chaunce ti tak ti thraw awa this lyfe for howp o Heivin the-morn. Even if A coud be shuir o gaun thare, Ah’m no shuir a herp wad suit me. Whit uiss wad a herp be ti me whan Ah canna play it? ….Or weings whan Ah canna flie?

Meg: (Shakes her head sadly) Son, ye dinna ken whit ye ir sayin. A howp the guid Lord wul forgie ye whit ye juist said. Ah’m vext ti hear ye speak lyke that.

(Malcolm struggles to his feet)

Moula: Faither, whit dae ye think ye’r daein?

Malcolm: (Standing with his weight on one leg) Ah’m juist tryin ma wecht oot on this fuit. It’s lyke a new fuit ti me.

(He hobbles around the room crying “Hooch” an then supports himself on Meg’s shoulder)

Malcolm: It’s no bad at aw!

Moula: Juist you caw cannie! Ye maunna owerdae it!

Malcolm: Ay, Ay, it’s a sair fecht. We’r aw puir craiturs whan ye think aboot it. It’s a blissin whyles we canna see whit lys afore us. Whit wes that sang again, Moula? Ah fair lykit the tuin.

Moula: Ah can mynd the end o it nou.

(She sings:
And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
Within Thy house forever!

Malcolm: It soonds lyke a whein haivers ti me, but it haes a douce lilt til’t, whitever it means. Aweill, whitever, Shona haes peyed hir dues. Naebodie wad quarrel wi that.

Eilidh: Ah’m no sae shuir aboot that! Aiblins she’s no duin peyin yit! Ah dout she’s skellocht hir wey inti Hell – inti the blek burnin pit, whaur she shuirlie belangs.

Meg: That’s no for us ti juidge. (She crosses herself)

Malcolm: We maunna speak ill o the deid, Eilidh! We maunna speak ill o the deid. That wadna be genteil!

Eilidh: She haed the face ti say she coudna help hirsell, kis she wesna verra weill. She said she didna ken whit she wes daein. Ye can swallae that if ye lyke.

Malcolm: Weill mebbe she did an mebbe she didna. Wha can tell? But ae thing’s shuir.

Moula: Whit’s that, Faither?

Malcolm: She kens nou!


This work is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

The SCOTS Project and the University of Glasgow do not necessarily endorse, support or recommend the views expressed in this document.


Cite this Document

APA Style:

The Ill Guidmither. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 17 June 2024, from

MLA Style:

"The Ill Guidmither." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 17 June 2024.

Chicago Style

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "The Ill Guidmither," accessed 17 June 2024,

If your style guide prefers a single bibliography entry for this resource, we recommend:

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2024. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Information about Document 1340

The Ill Guidmither


Text audience

General public
Audience size N/A

Text details

Method of composition Wordprocessed
Year of composition 1987
Word count 18119
General description Play - tragedy

Text type

Script (film, play, radio, tv etc.)


Author details

Author id 17
Forenames David
Surname Purves
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1920
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Retired Biochemist
Place of birth Selkirk
Region of birth Selkirk
Birthplace CSD dialect area Slk
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Edinburgh
Region of residence Midlothian
Residence CSD dialect area midLoth
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Master Grocer
Father's place of birth Selkirk
Father's region of birth Selkirk
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Slk
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Housewife
Mother's place of birth Selkirk
Mother's region of birth Selkirk
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Slk
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes All circumstances
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes