FLORA. Is it to be a religious theme this time, pet?
PEARL. In a manner of speaking. Classical mythology.
FLORA. I’ll no’ be a pagan, Pearl.
PEARL. It’s purely symbolic, Auntie [handing her scissors and a ball of yarn]. You’re one of the Fates.
FLORA. What am I knitting?
PEARL. You’re capriciously toying with the life of some poor sod.
FLORA. Aren’t there any nice myth women?
PEARL. No. None of any importance.
FLORA strikes a pose, scissors poised to cut a length of yarn.
Don’t smile, Auntie.
FLORA. Well how do you want me?
PEARL. Dispassionate. This is a scientific journal. Hold still, now.
PEARL goes to the take the picture but FLORA cocks an ear.
What is it?
FLORA. Nowt. Thought I heard something.
PEARL [about to take the picture again]. Ready? And –
FLORA cocks an ear again.
You’re not going dafty on me now, are you, Auntie?
FLORA. No, dear, I’m a touch forfochen this morning is all.
PEARL [matter-of-fact]. Up half the night worrying about Victor, damn him, you look dreadful. Ready now? one, two, three –
VICTOR enters, wearing a kilt, causing FLORA to smile the instant PEARL takes the picture with a poof and a flash.
VICTOR [to FLORA, playfully passionate]. My God, what Attic vision; what vestal beauty stands here poised to cut or to extend a mortal skein? Fly, maiden, and transform thyself into a tree, else must I taste thine antique fruits, for I am the Highland Pan!
They hug. FLORA embraces him fervently.
FLORA. Victor, ma bonnie, you should have let us know, we’d’ve sent Young Farleigh with the cart.
VICTOR. Hello, Pearl.
He opens his arms, beaming, but she does not embrace him.
PEARL [arch]. What are you doing, gadding about in that savage raiment?
VICTOR. Airing my privates.
PEARL. Don’t be disgusting.
VICTOR. Don’t start.
PEARL. You started it.
VICTOR. I did not.
PEARL. Indeed you did.
VICTOR. A didna.
VICTOR. Didna —! PEARL. Dididid —!
FLORA [making peace]. Noo where’s yer fit bin gangin’ this time, laddie? London? Paris? Rome?
PEARL [dismissive]. Ha.
VICTOR. I was looking to trace Mother’s ancestors.
PEARL. And what did you discover swinging from the family tree? A backward lot of Highland crofters with an unwholesome fondness for things Fr-r-rench; blood-thirsty and Catholic to boot.
VICTOR [grand]. A martyred race: soaked in glory, culture –
PEARL. And whiskey.
VICTOR. The Highland warrior was the ideal man: fearless, faithful; and failed.
FLORA. If only your mother could see you got up so braw in her family tartan.
PEARL. He looks well in a skirt.
VICTOR. It is a kilt, Madam.
PEARL. You can romanticize failure all you like, Victor, but the fact is, we bear the mundane burden of success, with all its rights and responsibilities. If you’re genuinely interested in your heritage, why not learn Gaelic? I’ll tell you why not; because that would take work. The truth is, all the Highlanders with any get-up-and-go, got up and left years ago. They now run banks and shuffle documents. A waist-coated legion armed with briefcase and pince-nez.
VICTOR Poch ma hohn [pron. pog ma hoyn] [trans: “kiss my arse.”]
Begging your pardon, Auntie. See, Pearl? I’ve been learning Gaelic.
FLORA. Ainaibh ri cheile. [pron. Eh-nev ree kaylee]
VICTOR. What does that mean?
PEARL. “I’ve been learning Gaelic.”
VICTOR. Shutup. [Nearly overlapping: ]
VICTOR. Pearl — PEARL. Pearl –
VICTOR. Act your age — PEARL. Act your age –
VICTOR. Auntie —! PEARL. Auntie —!
FLORA [suprising fury]. Eneuch!
PEARL and VICTOR stop, startled. FLORA is in deadly earnest.
You’ve naebody but ilk ither noo. There’s nane left but you twa. You maun look after one another. [A beat. Cheerful once more: ] Victor, you must be faimished after your journey, and look at ya, ya wee skinnama-link, I’ll go fix a plate –
PEARL. Auntie, don’t bring the winkles in here, they’re revolting.
PEARL. Ay, winkles. You said Young Farleigh –
FLORA [remembering her lie]. Och ay, winkles! They were nane of ’em any good. Shells were empty.
PEARL. All of them?
FLORA. Pixies. Belike gobbled ’em up.
PEARL. “Pixies”? Why not fairies?
FLORA. Fairies dinna eat winkles.
PEARL. Auntie, you find evolution far-fetched, yet you’ve no difficulty with your taxonomy of fairies, pixies and werewolves.
FLORA. There’s no such thing as a werewolf.
VICTOR. No matter, Auntie, I’ve gone vegetarian.
PEARL [muttering so Auntie won’t hear]. Got to be difficult, haven’t you.
FLORA. Ma poor lad, shall I send for Dr Reid?
VICTOR. I’m fine, Auntie. I saw a play in London by an anti-vivisectionist; he annoyed so many people with his socialists, sensualists and suffragists that I wound up converted in spite of the fact he’s an Irishman. So I’m no longer eating animals.
FLORA. I’ll fetch a bit of cold mutton, then, shall I?
VICTOR. Any of your shortbread about?
FLORA. Fresh this morning! Now behave yourself, your sister’s working.
FLORA exits. VICTOR takes a silver flask from his sporran and offers it to PEARL. She merely stares at him.
VICTOR [toasting her]. “Scots wha’ hae.” [drinks]
PEARL. Don’t let Auntie see that, it would kill her.
VICTOR. What’s ailing her?
PEARL. She’s cranky.
VICTOR. She’s grieving, her brother died.
PEARL. Why ask, if you know? Auntie and I have been slaving here in a legal limbo with one foot in the poor house, waiting for you so Father’s estate can be settled. Belle Moral doesn’t run itself, you know. She’s getting on.
VICTOR. Nay, she’s spry; and she’s got the full abacus upstairs, I can hear the beads rattling back and forth.
PEARL. Time does not stand still in your absence, Victor. You may manage to avoid growing up, but others do not. People age, fathers die.
A beat. He drinks.
VICTOR. What are you working on these days?
PEARL. I’m searching the coast for fossil evidence of transitional species.
VICTOR. Why not search the family plot?
PEARL. What have you done with yourself since the funeral? Apart from “roamin’ in the gloamin’”?
VICTOR. I’ve been working.
PEARL. Really and truly? Victor Maclsaac, if only Father could hear you say that. So you’re finally taking your accountancy articles at MacVicar, MacVie, and MacVanish.