He caught her hand. ‘But we’re engaged!’
‘Ye’re ower sure o’ that,’ she said a trifle sharply.
He stared at her.
‘Firstly, I never said I wud tak’ the ring for keeps,’ she proceeded. ‘Secondly, ye ha’ena seen ma uncle yet——’
‘I’m no feart for him—if ye back me up. Him an’ yer aunt’ll dae onything ye like.’
‘Thirdly, ye ha’e never. . . .’ She broke off as they reached the close leading to her home.
‘What ha’e I no done, Christina?’
‘Never heed. . . . Leave go ma finger.’
‘Will ye keep the ring?’
‘Hoo can I keep the ring when ye ha’e never. . .’ Again the sentence was not completed. She freed her hand and stepped within the close.
‘Tell me, an’ I’ll dae it, Christina,’ he cried.
She shook her head, smiling rather ruefully.
‘Tell me,’ he pleaded.
‘I canna—an’ maybe ye wouldna like me ony better if I could.’ She took off the ring and with a wistful glance at it offered it to him.
He took it, and before she knew, it was on her finger again.
‘Ye’ve jist got to keep it!’ he said, desperately. ‘An’ Christina, I—I’m gaun to kiss ye!’
But he had none. . . .
‘Are we engaged or no?’ he whispered at last.
‘Let me get ma breath.’
She laughed, though her eyes were wet. ‘Oh, dear,’ she murmured, ‘I never thought I wud get engaged wi’oot a—a . . .’
Suddenly she leaned forward and touched his cheek. ’Dinna fash yersel’, Mac. Bein’ in war-time, I suppose the best o’ us has got to dae wi’oot some luxury or ither—sich as a proper High-Class Proposal.’
There happened to be a little delay in providing the later batches of recruits with the garb proper to their battalion, and it was the Monday of their third week in training when Privates Robinson—otherwise Macgregor—and Thomson saw themselves for the first time in the glory of the kilt. Their dismay would doubtless have been overwhelming had they been alone in that glory; even with numerous comrades in similar distress they displayed much awkwardness and self-consciousness. During drill Willie received several cautions against standing in a semi-sitting attitude, and Macgregor, in his anxiety to avoid his friend’s error, made himself ridiculous by standing on his toes, with outstretched neck and fixed, unhappy stare.
As if to intensify the situation, the leave for which they had applied a few days previously was unexpectedly granted for that evening. Before he realized what he was saying, Macgregor had inquired whether he might go without his kilt. Perhaps he was not the first recruit to put it that way. Anyway, the reply was a curt ‘I don’t think.’