Read CHAPTER XIX - A SERIOUS REVERSE of Wee Macgreegor Enlists, free online book, by J. J. Bell, on

The fact that Christina had not written was a paralyzing blow to Macgregor’s self-confidence and left him altogether uncertain of his ground. For the time being his sense of guilt as well as that of injury was almost swamped by the awful dread that she had simply grown tired of him. He entered the shop with foreboding and received another blow.

A smartly dressed young man was lounging at the counter, apparently basking in Christina’s smiles. As a matter of fact, the young man was merely choosing a notebook, and until the moment of Macgregor’s entrance had been treated with the slightly haughty politeness which Christina made a point of administering to males under fifty. But with amazing abruptness she became so charming that the young man, a sensitive, susceptible creature, decided that an ordinary penny note-book would not do.

‘Well,’ said Christina sweetly, ’here are some at twopence, threepence and sixpence. The sixpenny ones are extremely reliable.’

After some desultory conversation in low tones, during which Macgregor writhed with frequently averted gaze, the young man chose a sixpenny one and put down a florin, regretfully remarking that he had to catch a confounded train.

With a delicious smile Christina handed him his change, and with a graceful salute he fled without counting it. Immediately the door had closed Christina realized that she had given him one and ninepence. A small matter at such a time, yet it may have been the last straw. She had no word for Macgregor as he came to the counter, his uncertainty increased by that delicious smile given to another.

‘Weel, ye’ve got back,’ was all he could utter, and her attitude stopped him in the first movement of offering his hand.

‘Yesterday afternoon,’ she returned coldly.

‘Ay, I ken. I wish ye had sent me word,’ he managed to say after a slight pause.

‘It did not seem necessary. I suppose your mother told you.’

’I heard it first frae Aunt Purdie. I missed ye by less nor an ‘oor. It was gey hard lines.’

Christina stared.

‘I got leave yesterday mornin’ an’ catched the first train to Aberdeen ’

‘Oh! . . . What on earth took you to Aberdeen?’

‘Christina,’ he exclaimed, ’dinna speak like that! I gaed to Aberdeen because I couldna thole it ony mair.’

‘Thole what?’

’Oh, ye ken! . . . Maybe I had nae business to be vexed at ye for gaun wi’ Aunt Purdie, but oh, Christina dear, I wisht ye hadna gaed.’

He dropped his gaze and continued: ‘I’m tellin’ ye I gaed to Aberdeen because something seemed to ha’e come betwixt us, because I ’ He stuck. Confession in the face of stem virtue is not so easy, after all.

‘Pity you had the long journey,’ she said airily, ’but you ought to have stopped for a day or two when you were there. Aberdeen is a delightful city.’ She turned and surveyed the shelves above her.

His look then would have melted the heart of any girl, except this one who loved him.

‘Christina,’ he said piteously, ‘it wasna a’ ma fau’t.’

Leisurely she faced him.

‘May I ask what you are referring to?’

’Ye never said ye was sorry to leave me; yer letters wasna like ye, an’ I didna ken what to think. An’ then the cocoa-nut fairly put the lid on. I tell ye, a chap has to dae something when a girl treats him like that.’

‘Has he?’

He winced. ‘But I forgive ye ’


‘ because I’m gaun to tell ye a’ aboot it, Christina, an’ ask ye kindly to forgive me. Ay, I’m gaun to tell ye everything everything! But I canna think,’ he blundered on, ’I’m sayin’, I canna think hoo I happened to get yer monkey up to begin wi’ ’

‘Excuse me!’ she cried, indignant. ‘My monkey up, indeed!’

’Weel, maybe it wasna exac’ly yer monkey up; but I want to ken what way ye didna write a nicer letter afore ye gaed awa’. Nae doobt ye was in a hurry, but it jist seemed as if ye didna care a button for me. Maybe ma letter to you wasna the thing, either, but I was that hurt when I wrote it, an’ ye might ha’e understood hoo I was feelin’. Christina, tell me what was wrang that ye gaed awa’ like yon. Was ye was ye fed up wi’ me?’

Christina took up a pencil and began to spoil it with a patent sharpener. ‘Really, it is not worth while discussing,’ she said.

’What? No worth while? Oh, hoo can ye say a thing like that! . . . But maybe I best tell ye ma ain story first.’

’Many thanks. But I’m afraid I’m not deeply interested in any story of yours.’ She was almost sorry the next moment. It was just as if she had struck him.

Presently he recovered a little. ‘Christina,’ he said quietly, ‘that’s no true.’

‘Hoo daur ye!’ she cried, forgetting her ‘fine English’ as well as her haughty pose.

‘If it was true, it wud mean that ye’ve been judgin’ me unfair, kennin’ it was unfair, an’ I’ll never believe ye wud dae that. . . . So, Christina dear, listen to me an’ gi’e me a chance.’

‘Oh, what’s the use,’ she sighed with sudden weariness, ’what’s the use o’ pretendin’, Macgreegor?’

‘Wha’s pretendin’?’

‘You! What’s the use o’ pretendin’ ye’re hurt? Fine ye ken I’m no the the only girl in the world.’

‘There’s no anither like ye!’

‘Weel,’ she said drily, ‘that means variety, does it no?’ She drew a long breath and moved back from the counter. ’I want to be as fair as I can, so perhaps I’d best ask ye a straight question.’

‘Ask it!’ he said eagerly.

‘Wha’s Maggie?’

He was taken aback, but less so than she had expected, and possibly that increased her bitterness.

‘She’s a girl,’ he began.

‘I could ha’e guessed that much. What sort o’ girl?’ she demanded, and wished she had held her tongue.

‘She she’s kin’ o’ fat ’

‘Fat!’ Christina uttered the word with as much disgust as she would have evinced had she been handed a pound of streaky bacon without the paper. ’How delightful! Anything else in the way of charms?’

‘Christina, gi’e me a chance, an’ I’ll tell ye a’ aboot it.’

’Not another word! How long have you enjoyed the young lady’s acquaintance?’

‘Only a couple o’ evenin’s, but ’

‘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.