‘Case of love at first sight, I suppose!’
He flared up. ’If ye hadna left me I wud never ha’e met her. If ye had wrote me a dacent letter——’
‘Whisht, man!’ she said in momentary pity. ‘Ye’re talkin’ like a wean.’
‘I canna help it. I’m that fond o’ ye. An’ it’s no as if I had done a black crime. It was a pure accident——’
‘Jist like a penny novel,’ she interrupted merciless again. ’Weel, I’m sure ye’re welcome to ha’e as mony girls as ye like—only, ye’ll ha’e to leave me oot. That’s a’!’ She took out her purse and from it something small which, stepping forward, she laid on the counter near him. Her engagement ring!
After a moment of strained silence—’Christina!’ he gasped; ‘Christina! ye canna mean it serious!’
‘Good-bye,’ she said stiffly, stepping back.
‘But—but ye ha’ena heard ma story. It’s no fair——’
‘Oh,’ she cried harshly, ‘dinna keep on at that tune!’
All at once he drew himself up. ‘Noo I see what ye mean,’ he said in an almost even voice. ‘Ye had made up yer mind to be quit o’ me. Still, it wud ha’e been honester to say ye was fed up to ma face. Weel, I’m no blamin’ ye, an’ I canna force ye to listen to ma story, no that it wud be worth ma while noo to shame masel’ wi’ the tellin’. I’ll no even ask ye hoo ye cam’ to hear aboot Maggie. Maggie’s jist an or’nar’ girl, an’ I’m jist an or’nar’ chap that done a stupid thing because he couldna think what else to dae. Weel, ye’ll sune forget me, an’ maybe I’ll sune forget you—wi’ the help o’ a bullet——’
‘Oh, dinna!’ she whispered.
‘An’ as for this’—he picked up the ring and let it drop on the floor—’to hell wi’ sich nonsense!’—and ground it under his heel. ‘So long!’ he said, and went out quickly.
THE REAL THING AT LAST
For an appreciable number of seconds after the door had closed Christina continued to gaze in its direction, her head well up, her face stern and rather pale. Then, quite suddenly, her bosom gave a quick heave, her lips parted, trembling, her eyes blinked, her whole attitude became lax. But she was not going to cry; certainly not! She was far too angry for tears; angry with herself no less than Macgregor. He had actually departed without being dismissed; worse still, he had had the last word! An observer—the thought struck her—would have assumed that she, weak wretch, had humbly allowed him to go and leave her in the wrong! Her maiden pride had somehow failed her, for she ought to have sent him forth crushed. And yet, surely, she had hurt, punished, humiliated him. Oh, no doubt of that! And for a moment her illogical heart wavered. She drew out her hanky, muttering ’how I hate him!’—and blew her pretty nose. Then she clenched her hands and set her teeth. Then she went lax again. Then—oh, dear! he had even insulted her by leaving her to pick up the cast-off ring!—for, of course, she could not leave it there for Miss Tod or a customer to see.