Gideon sang the first verse.
“And it’s westering home, and a song in the air;
Light in the eye, and it’s goodbye to care.
Laughter o’ love, and a welcoming there;
Isle of my heart, my own one.”
Gideon had a lovely tenor voice. They were all impressed.
Paul turned to Cassie.
“We might have the winner right there,” he murmured.
Any further proceedings were interrupted for a while by the late arrival of Mary Jordan with Donald Gowrie in tow.
“Sorry we’re late, everyone,” Mary said.
If Paul was disturbed by Mary’s use of “we” he didn’t show it.
“Not at all,” he said. “You’re here now and Donald can give us some idea of his banter and patter as the host of the show.”
Cassie decided Paul was either giving Donald free rein or enough rope, and she suspected that Miss Mary Jordan was rather enjoying the rivalry of two suitors. Well, what girl wouldn’t?
“I won’t, if you don’t mind,” Donald said. “I mean, you can’t tell the same joke twice. If it’s all right with you.”
“Yes, fine,” Paul said. “Mary has every confidence in you, so that’s fine with us.”
He beamed at Mary, who looked a little worried.
They were interrupted by the arrival of the last contestant, Mrs McDougal of Drumnagar. She brought a chair on stage and sat on it. She was a substantial middle-aged lady and on her knee she balanced a ventriloquist’s dummy.
“Good evening to you,” she said and her little audience returned her greeting. “The doll was my husband’s. He performed semi-professionally for many years as Jimmy and Jock. Jock was the doll, you understand. Jim’s not up to it now but I thought I’d come along.”
“You’re very welcome, Mrs McDougal,” Paul said. “I must say Jock doesn’t look very Scottish.”
“No, sir,” Mrs McDougal replied. “His name is now Abdul. As you can see I’ve put a white tunic on him, a sash around his waist and a bit of tea towel as a headdress. Abdul is now an Arab, a son of the desert, as you may say, and the act is now called Fatima and Abdul. I’m Fatima.”
There was silence for a moment, no-one quite knowing what to say. Paul rallied first.
“Excellent. Quite, er, novel. Please begin, Mrs McDougal – Fatima.”
“Now, Abdul, what have you been up to the day?”
The doll replied in a strong Scottish accent, but what the watchers immediately noticed was that Mrs McDougal was making no attempt to hide the fact that she was speaking for the doll. Every movement of her lips was clear.
The onlookers exchanged glances. After a while Paul had to interrupt.
“Mrs McDougal, the patter between Fatima and Abdul is very amusing but, well, we can see you speaking. There is no ventriloquism. Everyone can see your lips move; quite plainly, I’m afraid.”
“Och, dinna fash yersel’, Reverend. There’s a show-business saying – ‘it’ll be all right on the night’.”
And she exited stage left, with the chair and Abdul.