Ten o’clock struck, and, to Macgregor’s ill-disguised delight, Christina rose and said she must be going.
Mrs. McOstrich accompanied the two to the outer door. There she took Christina’s hand, stroked it once or twice, and let it go.
‘Macgreegor has been a frien’ o’ mines since he was a gey wee laddie,’ she said, ‘an’ I’m rael prood to ha’e had his intended in ma hoose. I’ll never forget neither o’ ye. If I had had a laddie o’ ma ain, I couldna ha’e wished him to dae better nor Macgreegor has done—in every way.’ Abruptly she pressed something into Christina’s hand and closed the girl’s fingers upon it. ’Dinna look at it noo,’ she went on hastily. ’It’s yours, dearie, but ye’ll gi’e it to Macgreegor when the time comes for him to—to gang. Ma grandfayther was a dandy in his way, an’ it’s a’ he left me, though I had great expectations.’
Gently she pushed the pair of them forth and closed the door.
At the foot of the stair, under a feeble gas-jet, Christina opened her hand, disclosing an old-fashioned ring set with a blood-stone.
‘Ye never tell’t me she was like that,’ the girl said softly, yet a little accusingly.
‘I never thought,’ muttered he, truthfully enough.
WILLIE STANDS UP
It is not the most roughly nurtured of us who will rough it the most cheerfully. Willie Thomson, of harsh and meagre upbringing, was the grumbler of his billet. He found fault with the camp fare, accommodation and hours in particular, with the discipline in general. Yet, oddly enough, after a fortnight or so, he seemed to accept the physical drill at 7 a.m. with a sort of dour satisfaction, though he never had a good word to say for it.
His complaints at last exasperated Macgregor, who, on a certain wet evening, when half the men were lounging drearily within the billet, snapped the question:
‘What the blazes made ye enlist?’
The answer was unexpected. ‘You!’
‘Ye’re a leear!’
With great deliberation Willie arose from the bench on which he had been reclining. He spat on the floor and proceeded to unbutton his tunic,
‘Nae man,’ he declared, as if addressing an audience, ’calls me that twicet!’
‘Wudna be worth his while,’ said his friend, carelessly.
‘I challenge ye to repeat it.’
The tone of the words caused Macgregor to stare, but he said calmly enough: ’Either ye was a leear the nicht ye enlisted, or ye’re a leear noo. Ye can tak’ yer choice.’
‘An’ you can tak’ aff yer coat!’
‘I dinna need to undress for to gi’e ye a hammerin’, if that’s what ye’re efter. But I’m no gaun to dae it here. We’d baith get into trouble.’
‘Ye’re henny,’ said Willie.
Macgregor was more puzzled than angry. Here was Willie positively asking for a punching in public!