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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1147

The Wylies, like most Scotsmen, were a clannish lot. They had built up their business, a granite quarry, on the spot where their father once worked as a stonemason. They called it Wylie and Sons. Alick Wylie wanted it called Wylie Brothers, but David, his brother James, and their sister...

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The Wylies, like most Scotsmen, were a clannish lot. They had built up their business, a granite quarry, on the spot where their father once worked as a stonemason. They called it Wylie and Sons. Alick Wylie wanted it called Wylie Brothers, but David, his brother James, and their sister Maggie all insisted that first credit for the business should go to Alick, their father.

Maggie, who kept house for her father and two brothers, was their only problem, for she had reached twenty-seven years, an age when a woman must marry or be regarded as an old maid, and they were considerably downcast because their latest prospect, the minister at Galashiels, had married another woman. There was no question but that Maggie was plain, a fact of which she herself was only too conscious, and the brothers realized that if their sister were to find a husband they would have to do everything in their power to help her.

The opportunity came while the Wylies were at the dambrod board, their favorite pastime on Saturday evenings. Maggie was seated in a chair in the corner knitting, and the brothers were trying to get her off to bed so that they could be on the lookout for a burglar they thought they had seen prowling about the house the night before. At last the burglar appeared, but to their astonishment they discovered the intruder was young John Shand, a neighbor, who confessed that his purpose in entering the house was to read. He was a student preparing for the ministry, but since he was too poor to buy books he had to choose that method of study. David was impressed at such earnestness. After a brief conference with his brother he made the boy an offer. He promised to pay up to three hundred pounds for John Shand’s education if, at the end of five years, he would marry Maggie, providing she were at that time still unmarried and wanted him. After some quibbling to decide whether the full three hundred pounds would be deposited in his name at the bank immediately, John Shand agreed to the transaction. Maggie, wanting him to go into the deal with his eyes open, admitted that she had never had an offer of marriage, and that she was five years older than he. But those matters meant little to ambitious young John Shand, who left the house content that he was free to browse in the Wylie library without being mistaken for a burglar.

Six years later, having in the meantime abandoned his ambitions for the ministry, John Shand was standing for Parliament. His great hour had come, the hour for which he and Maggie had waited. She might have forced him to marry her one year before, but they both agreed to wait for his triumph. Maggie was almost frantic between hope and anxiety. At one time, certain that John had lost, she promised herself that she and John would begin another six years of waiting that very night.

Her fears were groundless, however, for John Shand won the election by an overwhelming majority. Her real problem lay in his victory. Immediately after his election John was taken up and lionized by women with whom plain little Maggie could not hope to compete. Among these was Lady Sybil Tenterden. Maggie, overwhelmed by a sense of her own inferiority, offered to release John from his contract and tore up the document which bound him to her. But John Shand was a man of his word, and in his speech to the Cowcaddens Club he announced his forthcoming marriage and introduced Maggie as the Mrs. John Shand soon to be.

Before long it was apparent that Lady Sybil’s aunt, the Comtesse de la Briere, had been perfectly right when she warned Maggie against allowing John to see too much of her niece. For John, tiring of his plain wife, fell in love with Lady Sybil. They spent most of their time together, and as a consequence John’s speeches in the House of Commons grew more dull. Essentially a humorless man, John had nevertheless built up a reputation for sudden flashes of humor which were called Shandisms, and which won him great popularity. There was a simple reason for his success. Maggie, who typed his speeches, supplied the humor without letting her husband know it. The Comtesse saw through the subterfuge, and thereby named Maggie The Pin, meaning that she was like the pin every successful man is supposed to pick up at the beginning of a successful career.

By that time John was so absorbed in Lady Sybil that he considered her his sole inspiration, and he even went so far as to forget completely his wedding anniversary. Maggie’s brothers were shocked at his neglect, but Maggie covered the situation perfectly by reaching out her hand to Lady Sybil for her ruby pendant, displaying it as her anniversary present. She then forced John to admit that he had given the pendant to Lady Sybil. John was defiant, declaring to Maggie and her brothers that Lady Sybil was the great love of his life, and that he would sacrifice everything for her sake. The brothers reminded him that if he deserted Maggie he could count on no career. A short time before, Mr. Charles Venables, a cabinet minister and John’s political mentor, had offered him the opportunity to be third speaker at Leeds on the same platform with two ministers, an occasion which would mean John’s appointment to a ministerial post. Maggie suggested that John go away for a few weeks with Lady Sybil and write the speech under her inspiration. When Maggie promised to keep silent concerning the marital difficulties between them, John agreed to the arrangement.

When John read to Mr. Venables the speech he had written, the minister was greatly disappointed and said it lacked the spark of life his earlier speeches had contained. Maggie, realizing what was at stake, informed Venables that her husband had written another speech which she had typed for him; it was a speech Maggie herself had written from notes John had left at home.

In the meantime, Lady Sybil admitted that she had tired of John and had no intention of going on with the affair. Her decision was a jolt to John’s vanity, but the final blow came when Venables congratulated him on the speech which, he realized, only Maggie could have written for him. When they were alone, Maggie told him that every man who is high up likes to think he has climbed there by himself, but every wife knows better. It was, she said, every woman’s private joke. Whereupon Maggie laughed, and for perhaps the first time in his life John Shand laughed at himself. His marriage and career were both saved.

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