Big Lou knew the three of them were up to something, but she wasn’t sure exactly what it was. It pleased him, however, to see Angus and Matthew get along so well with Fat Bob. They came from such different worlds, with Angus being a portrait painter, Matthew being the director of an art gallery and Fat Bob being a strong professional or semi-professional man. and polished marble for kitchen surfaces. The democratic traditions of Scotland, however, meant that people spoke to each other as equals regardless of their level of education or their situation in life, and that was exactly how it should be. Big Lou thought. It didn’t matter what bed you were born into – what mattered was who you were inside. People in England, she suspected, sometimes just didn’t understand this, and it was a shame: their society was more stratified than that of Scotland; they needed to read Robert Burns A man is a man for thatshe felt, for that said all there was to say about it. If you understood what Burns was saying in this poem, then you understood how Scotland felt – deep down.
That morning his curiosity won the day. “You boys,” she shouted, “you sit there like a pickle of conspirators. What are you talking about?”
Angus looked at Fat Bob, expecting him to answer.
“Just a little series from Highland Games,” Bob replied.
“In the gardens of Drummond Place,” added Angus.
Big Lou came to find out more. They were planning, he was told, to have a Highland Games afternoon the following Saturday. “It will be for the benefit of charity,” said Fat Bob. “We will charge a pound to enter …”
“And two books to come out,” Angus said. “It was my idea.”
“And I approached the George Watson Pipe Band,” Matthew added. “They agreed to come and play.
Fat Bob reviewed the events they had agreed to include. There would be a standoff, he said: lawyers versus accountants and Catholics versus Protestants.
Big Lou raised an eyebrow. “What a great idea,” Big Lou said. “Who thought of the latter? “
“I did, actually,” Angus said. “These things build community.”
Fat Bob nodded. “And then toss the caber and toss the hammer, sure. And a few track events for the weaners. A sack race, maybe.
“Good,” Big Lou said. “It should be a very good afternoon.
Big Lou got up to attend to a client, leaving Bob, Angus, and Matthew to their planning. She looked at Fat Bob over her shoulder; she was so proud of him. His previous men were loners, for the most part – rather moody types who would never have sat down with people like Matthew and Angus and hatched a plot to host the Highland Games. She had known Bob for a few weeks now and there hadn’t been a single day, or even a single moment, that she hadn’t had the slightest doubt about him. He was a man of total honesty – it was so obvious – and he was also kind and caring. The night before, he had insisted on cooking for her and had persuaded Finlay to help him prepare the meal. She had heard them both laughing in the kitchen, and she had seen the look of pride on Finlay’s face when he and Bob had served the meal.
And then, before Finlay went to bed, she had seen Big Bob on the floor playing with the spikes of Finlay’s train, as the young boy adjusted the little benches and wagons on the miniature platform.
“It should do it,” Bob said. “There, it works now. “
And she heard Finlay say, “Thanks, Fat Bob. I like it when you come to us.
“Yeah, and I like that too,” Bob said. “And thank you for making me so welcome, Finlay.”
Big Lou took a deep breath. She wanted to cry. The sight of a man who is gentle and kind to a child is something that touches women deeply – it simply is. And she knew that she would never find someone like Fat Bob again, and that if he asked her to marry her, she would give a positive response, immediately, on the spot, without waiting to think. She would say yes, and then, in case he hadn’t heard, she would say yes again.
That’s exactly what happened two hours later when, with Finlay in bed and the two sitting together on the couch, Fat Bob turned to Big Lou and said, “Lou, I have a question. important to ask yourself. “
And she had said, rather quickly, “Yes” as if to answer a question he had, in fact, not asked. She corrected herself by saying, “Yes? “
He said, “Will you marry me, Big Lou?” I am not much to watch. I don’t have much in this world – not when you think about it. But I have a good job, and we’ll make do with what I earn, and I’ll try to make you happy – I promise you, Lou, I promise God.
She gave him her answer, and he took her hand and pressed it to her chest, where he believed to be her heart. And it was a big heart, and strong too, and she felt it beat, which was such a strange and wonderful thing – another’s heartbeat.
She looked at him, and he looked at her. Their happiness required nothing else; it was full.
“Bless you, Bob,” Big Lou whispered.
She thought so. Whatever power there was to bestow a blessing, she would call upon it now, in the sure and certain conviction that it was the right thing to do.
© Alexander McCall Smith, 2021. A Pledge of Pegs (Scotland Street 14) is available now. Love in the Time of Bertie (Scotland Street 15) will be published by Polygon as a hardcover book in November 2021.