Read CHAPTER IV - THE RING of Wee Macgreegor Enlists, free online book, by J. J. Bell, on

‘Wha’ was chasin’ ye?’ Christina inquired, as Macgregor came breathless to the counter, which she was tidying up for the night.

‘I was feart I was gaun to be late.’ he panted.

‘I wud ha’e excused ye under the unique circumstances,’ she said graciously. ‘Sit doon an’ recover yer puff.’

He took the chair, saying: ‘It was Wullie Thomson. He’s awa’ to enlist.’

’Wullie Thomson! Weel, that’s a bad egg oot the basket. Hoo did ye manage it, Mac?’

‘It wasna me,’ Macgregor replied, not a little regretfully. ’He’s enlistin’ to please hissel’. He says he’s fed up wi’ his aunt.’

‘She’s been feedin’ him up for a lang while, puir body. But ye’re a queer lad,’ she said softly, ’the way ye stick to a fushionless character like him. I was tellin’ Miss Tod,’ she continued, ‘aboot ’

‘Oor engagement!’ he burst out, scarlet.

‘Whist, man! ye’ve a wild imagination! aboot ye enlistin’. She’s been in a state o’ patriotic tremulosity ever since. Dinna be surprised if she tries for to kiss ye.’

‘I wud be mair surprised,’ said Macgregor, with unexpected boldness, ‘if you tried it.’

‘Naething could exceed ma ain amazement,’ she rejoined, ‘if I did.’

‘I’ve got the ring,’ he announced, his hand in his pocket.

‘Order! Remember, I’m still at the receipt o’ custom three bawbees since seeven o’clock.’

‘I hope ye’ll like it,’ he said, reluctantly withdrawing his hand empty. ‘Miss Tod canna hear us, can she?’

’Ye never can tell what a spinster’ll hear when she’s interested. At present she’s nourishin’ hersel’ on tea her nineteenth cup for the day; but she’ll be comin’ shortly to embrace ye an’ shut the shop. I micht as weel get on ma hat. . . . An’ ’what did yer parents say to ye?’

‘They said ye was an awfu’ nice, clever, bonny, handsome lassie ’

‘Tit, tit! Aboot the enlistin’, I meant. But I’ll no ask ye that. They wud be prood, onyway.’

‘Ma uncle’s raised ma wages, an’ they’re to be payed a’ the time I’m awa’.’

’Shakespeare! That’s a proper uncle to ha’e! But dinna be tempted to stop awa’ till ye’re a millionaire. Oh, here’s Miss Tod. Keep calm. She’ll no bite ye.’

The little elderly woman who entered had made the acquaintance of Macgregor in his early courting days, especially during the period wherein he had squandered his substance in purchases of innumerable and unnecessary lead pencils, etcetera, doubtless with a view to acquiring merit in her eyes as well as in her assistant’s.

She now proceeded to hold .his hand, patting it tenderly, while she murmured ‘brave lad’ over and over again, to his exquisite embarrassment.

’But ye’ll bate the nesty Rooshians, dearie I meant for to say the Prooshians, Christina an’ ye’ll come marchin’ hame a conductor or an inspector, or whatever they ca’ it, wi’ medals on yer breist an’ riches in yer purse ’

‘An’ rings on his fingers an’ bells ’

‘Noo, noo, lassie, ye’re no to mak’ fun o’ me! Whaur’s his case?’

Christina handed her an aluminium cigarette case the best in the shop and she presented it to Macgregor, saying: ’Ye’re no to gang an’ hurt yer health wi’ smokin’; but when ye tak’ a ceegarette, ye’ll maybe gi’e a thocht to an auld body that’ll be rememberin’ ye, baith mornin’ an’ nicht.’

‘If he smokes his usual, he’ll be thinkin’ o’ ye every twinty meenutes,’ remarked the girl, and drawing on her gloves, she came round to the door in order to close an interview which threatened to become lugubrious for all parties.

‘Everybody’s terrible kind,’ Macgregor observed, when he found himself alone with Christina on the pavement. ’Will ye look at the ring noo?’

She shook her head and stepped out briskly.

After a little while he revived. ’I hope ye’ll like it, Christina. It’s got pearls on it. I hope it’ll fit ye.’ A long pause. ’I wish ye wud say something.’

‘What’ll I say?’

‘Onything. I never heard ye dumb afore.’

‘Maybe I’m reformin’.’


‘That’s ma name, but ye needna tell everybody.’

‘Dinna tease. We we ha’e awfu’ little time. Tak’ aff yer glove an’ try the ring. Naebody’ll notice. Ye can look at it later on.’

‘I’m no in the habit o’ acceptin’ rings frae young men.’

‘But but we’re engaged.’

‘That’s news, but I doobt it’s no official.’

‘At least we’re near engaged. Say we are, Christina.’

‘This is most embarrassing, Mr. Robinson.’

‘Aw, Christina!’ said the boy, helplessly.

She let him remain in silent suspense for several minutes, until, in fact, they turned into the quiet street of her abode. Then she casually remarked:

‘Ma han’s gettin’ cauld wantin’ its glove, Mac.’

He seized it joyfully and endeavoured to put the ring on. ’It’s ower wee!’ he cried, aghast.

‘That’s ma middle finger.’

It fitted nicely. Triumphantly he exclaimed: ‘Noo we’re engaged!’

She had no rejoinder ready.

‘Ye can tak’ ma arm, if ye like,’ he said presently, just a little too confidently.

‘I dinna feel in danger o’ collapsin’ at present,’ she replied, regarding the ring under the lamp they were passing. ’Ye’re an extravagant thing!’ she went on. ‘I hope ye got it on appro.’

‘What dae ye no like it?’

‘I like the feel o’ it,’ she admitted softly, ‘an’ it’s real bonny; but ye ye shouldna ha’e done it, Mac.’ She made as if to remove the ring.

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!’

‘Oh, mercy!’

But he had none. . . .

‘Are we engaged or no?’ he whispered at last.

‘Let me get ma breath.’

‘Hurry up!’

She laughed, though her eyes were wet. ‘Oh, dear,’ she murmured, ‘I never thought I wud get engaged wi’oot a a . . .’

‘A what?’

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.’