’I’m a year aulder nor you . . . Christina, let’s get engaged afore I gang—say ye will!’
She moved a little way up the counter and became engrossed in the lurid cover of a penny novel. He moved also until he was directly opposite.
’Christina! . . . Yer third finger is aboot the same as ma wee yin.’
‘Ay; but ye needna remind me o’ ma clumsy han’s.’
‘Play fair,’ he said. ‘Will ye tak’ the ring?’
‘I dinna ken, Mac.’
But her hand was in his.
Too soon they heard Miss Tod stirring in the back room.
‘If ye spend mair nor a pound on a ring,’ said Christina, ’I’ll reconsider ma decision!’
‘Ye’ve decided!’ he almost shouted.
‘No yet,’ she said, with a gesture of dismissal as Miss Tod entered.
The quest of the right ring occupied the whole of the forenoon, and Macgregor reached his home in bare time for the family dinner. He desired to break his news as gently as possible, so, after making, to his mother’s annoyance, a most wretched meal, he said to his father, who was lighting his pipe, in a voice meant to be natural:
‘I got five pound frae Aunt Purdie the day.’
‘Ye what!’ Mr. Robinson dropped the match, and shouted to his wife, who, assisted by their daughter, was starting to wash up. ’Lizzie! Did ever ye hear the like? Macgreegor’s got five pound frae his Aunt Purdie! Dod, but that’s a braw birthday——’
‘She said it was for accidental expenses,’ stammered the son.
Lizzie turned and looked at him. ‘What ails ye the day, laddie?’
‘Uncle Purdie’s gaun to keep ma place for me,’ he floundered.
‘Keep yer place for ye!’ cried John. ‘What’s a’ this aboot accidental expenses? Ha’e ye got hurt?’
Mrs. Robinson came over and laid a damp hand on her boy’s shoulder. ‘Macgreegor, ye needna be feart to tell us. We can thole it.’ She glanced at her husband, and said, in a voice he had not often heard: ’John, oor wee Macgreegor has growed up to be a; sojer’—and went back to her dishes.
Later, and just when he ought to be returning to his work, Mr. Robinson, possibly for the mere sake of saying something, requested a view of the five pounds.
‘Ay,’ seconded Lizzie, cheerfully, whilst her hand itched to grab the money and, convey it to the bank, ‘let’s see them, laddie.’ And sister Jeannie and small brother Jimsie likewise gathered round the hero.
With a feeble grin, Macgregor produced his notes.
‘He’s jist got three!’ cried Jimsie.
‘Whisht, Jimsie!’ whispered Jeannie.
‘Seems to ha’e been a bad accident already!’ remarked John, laughing boisterously.
‘John,’ said Lizzie, ’ye’ll be late. Macgreegor’ll maybe walk a bit o’ the road wi’ ye.’
They were well on their way to the engineering works, where Mr. Robinson was foreman, when Macgregor managed to say: